Monthly Archives: January 2013

Fallen Past – Chapter 4. A free read for you all.

CHAPTER FOUR

As things turned out, only a couple of days went by before Ray came around again. That same, happy grin made it seem as if the incident with the football had never happened. To be fair, in many ways what did it matter. A silly little thing, to be honest. No one had been hurt, so why should a friendship suffer simply because Craig hadn’t been able to throw a ball over a garden wall? Well, for Ray at least, none of it seemed open for discussion, being far more concerned with showing off his new Action Man.

Both of them had these toys and would spend most of their spare time brewing up different scenarios for their Action Men. These often entailed any number of barbarous acts, such as being hanged, submerged in water, buried alive or dropped from great heights. They balked at actually setting the models on fire; an irreversible process, ruining any plans for future carnage.

On this particular day, having driven a metal rod through one of the model’s foreheads, they tied a noose around his neck and suspended him from the ceiling light and left him to dangle, miserably, in front of the window, swinging slightly to and fro. The reason for this was simple – today was window-cleaning day.

They heard the arrival of the cleaners and hastily drew together the bedroom curtains, leaving enough gap for the hanging model to be seen when the window cleaner came up on his ladder. They waited with an expectant hush, and the two of them giggled madly as the man appeared and began to wipe the glass with his cloth. He stopped for a moment as the Action Man came into view, no doubt contemplating the terrible plight of the poor little figure, helplessly swinging from the noose. A laugh, followed by renewed cleaning, but no cries of anguish or alarm. The moment had gone, leaving the boys deflated.

“We’ll have to think of something much better for next week,” muttered Craig as he untied the doll from its gibbet.

“I’m going home,” said Ray as he packed away his things. “Mum’s organised a special lunch with grandma. She visits every week, you see, so we’re all expected to be there. I’ll call sometime tomorrow.”

Craig saw him out and stood in the doorway. He raised a hand as his friend got to the corner, but Ray didn’t return the farewell and Craig let his head hang down. A few brief moments of fun and laughter, nothing more. So, heavy feet dragging on the hallway carpet, he went to the kitchen, poured himself a glass of milk and decided he would go for a short bike ride down to the seafront. He’d watch the fisherman chancing their arm in the choppy Irish Sea.

He went out to the backyard shed. Whilst he busied himself extracting the bike from the various pieces of wood and debris that Dad had left behind, he looked up to see one of the window cleaners, face over a steaming bucket of water, wringing out his cloths. Craig hadn’t noticed him at first, and he wondered if the man would say anything about the Action Man. He appeared too preoccupied, so Craig gave a heave and pulled out the bike with a powerful yank, dislodging it from the last few pieces of broken timber. A plank fell down and glanced off his hand. He swore, rammed his knuckles in his mouth to stem the blood.

“You all right?”

Craig gave a nod and grunted as he pushed the shed door closed. He stared at the wound, which filled up nicely with more blood.

The man came up beside him. “You-er-lost your dad, didn’t you?”

Craig stopped and forced a smile, not wanting to appear in any way weak. He studied the cleaner closely, who had the air of aging rock-star about him. Long, lank hair, tattoos, ripped t-shirt and jeans. A face deeply etched with lines; not wrinkles, but creases of laughter…or, perhaps, pain? Gnarled, hard hands conveyed a dangerous quality, a nonchalant strength giving warning that here was someone not be messed around with.

“How did you know that?” Craig asked, unable to keep the slight tremble from his voice. The man made him nervous, and he wasn’t sure what reaction his question might bring.

“Common knowledge really. I’m Sorry. Sorry about your dad, I mean.”

“Thanks.” Craig watched as the man went back to the bucket to squeeze the very last drop of water from the cloth. A sudden thought came to him. “Did you know him? My Dad?”

The cleaner threw the cloth over his shoulder and straightened up. “Oh yeah, everyone knew him. Bit of a lad, your old pa.”

Craig had not heard this expression before. He frowned. “A bit of a lad? What does that mean?”

The man shrugged. “You know, handy like.”

“Handy?”

“Yeah. In a scrap.” The man frowned, shook his head. “In a fight is what I’m saying. Your Dad was hard, if you know what I mean.”

Stunned, Craig took time for the revelation to filter through. “Are you sure? I mean, my Dad?”

A broad grin. “Oh yeah, absolutely. Didn’t you know?” Craig shook his head. “Used to box a bit, your dad, same as me. He was good. Bloody good. Dumped me on my behind a few times, I can tell yeh.”

Craig couldn’t quite believe what he’d heard and mulled it over in his mind. Mum had never mentioned this aspect of Dad’s past. In fact, she hardly ever spoke about him at all. Too much pain probably. The accident, so unexpected, so dramatic, stunned everyone, especially Mum. She continued to grieve, still in shock despite it being well over a year since it happened.

He stopped. No, that wasn’t right. Eighteen months, to be more accurate. Where had the time gone? The window-cleaner’s words had brought back images of Dad, images which Craig had tried to subdue for so long. And now this, a new detail to add to the memories. It pained him to admit he knew so little about his father’s early life. Anything gleaned had been picked up through half-listened to conversations, or comments not unlike those of the window cleaner.

“Still,” the  man continued absently, lifting the steel bucket with care to prevent any water slopping over the rim, “just shows you, doesn’t it. You never know what’s round the next corner. Life. Who’d believe it, a thing like that?” He gave a thin smile. “Like I said, I’m sorry.”

Craig followed him into the alleyway, leaned his bike against the wall and closed the back door behind him. “Can I ask you something?”

The man stopped, raised an eyebrow, “Dodgy is it?”

“Dodgy? No, of course not. I just…” He didn’t know if he should continue. The man seemed friendly enough, but every now and then something passed across his eyes; anger, threat, Craig didn’t know which. He wanted to trust him, so he took a breath. “When you were my age, did you fit in? With your mates and stuff?”

The man frowned, chewed his lip. “Yeah, suppose so. The ones that mattered.”

“Mattered? I don’t understand – which ones mattered?”

“The real ones, the ones who were there when things went wrong. The ones you didn’t have to try too hard with.”

“Yes, yes I understand, so…Things went wrong with you, did they?”

A sudden flash of something in those eyes and, for a moment, Craig thought he had asked one question too many. The window cleaner studied him, then smiled. “Lots of times. Mainly in the early days.” He settled the bucket on the ground. “I didn’t do anything at school, except bunking off. Spent time in lots of different foster homes, got into loads of trouble. I didn’t have anyone, you see. No mum or dad. I felt cheated, cheated by life. So, I was always angry, and I couldn’t control it, and school…Well…” His eyes glazed over. “Wasted my life really. But,” he paused, as if not really sure how to pursue this heavily edited version of his life story. A long sigh. “I always had good mates, mates who stood by me. Who still stand by me. With no parents, it was they that got me through it, every time. The thing is, mates, real mates, that’s what really matters in life.”

“Not a wife, or a girlfriend?”

He grinned. “Well, a girl can be mate too, you know.”

Craig nodded. An uncalled picture of Samantha Lloyd came into his head. He coughed, pretended to scrape something off the saddle of his bike. “So, things worked out for you, in the end?”

“Well, all depends what you mean by ‘worked out’. I don’t own my own place, I don’t drive a car, I have to scrimp and save every penny I make out of this,” he kicked the bucket gently with the toe of his boot. Another brief moment of reflection. “Listen, if you’re looking for advice, then stay at school and do the best you can. It’s tough, but getting educated is the only way. Trust me,” he picked up the bucket, “it’s the only way.” He turned and began to saunter down the alleyway.

Craig grabbed his bike, and quickly caught up with the cleaner. “Wait.” The man raised an eyebrow. “You said yourself, friends are the most important thing of all. More important than school, is that right? Is that what you meant?”

“Friends are important, for sure. In a personal way. They help you get through the bad times, but they won’t put money in your pocket. Only a good job will do that. I came out of school with nothing and I’ve still got nothing. Never likely to, either. Probably the only thing I’ve got to look forward to is Saturday night when we all go down to the pub and get drunk. Still, I suppose that’s more than a lot of people have got.” He patted his pockets and found a crumpled pack of cigarettes. “You having trouble with your mates are you?”

Craig told him of the incident with the ball, how he’d let everyone down, ruined their game, made himself look like an idiot.

He lit his cigarette. “Well, that wasn’t that bad. They’ll get over it. No one ever lost their lives playing a game of football. Where did you say you were playing?”

“Down Station Road, far end. In one of my mate’s streets. The old guy in the house was really…mean. Some bloke called Baxter.”

The man’s face grew a hard. “Billy Baxter?” He blew out a stream of smoke. “Did he have a dog?”

“Yeah. Little brown thing, dead vicious.”

The man nodded. “Yeah, that’s him. Billy Baxter.”

“D’you know him?”

“I know of him. Grumpy old fart he is.”

Craig laughed. He liked the window cleaner. He wasn’t a bit like he’d imagined him to be. Not mean or nasty at all, quite open and friendly. “Well, I didn’t see him, just heard him. That was enough.”

“Well, he’s well known around here. Always in a nark. He’s lived here for years and years, ever since I can remember. You’re lucky to have got that ball back, he normally keeps ‘em. You be careful next time you’re round there.”

They stood at the end of the alleyway. Craig prepared to ride off. “Thanks for the advice.”

“Ah, you’re welcome. Just try and follow it, yeah?”

“Yeah, I will.”

He winked and walked away.

 

Craig had a sudden urge to call after him, remembering he hadn’t asked the man his name. Already by the sweet shop, the chance lost, the cleaner went out of sight. For a few moments, Craig chewed over what they’d spoken about. Baxter, old man Billy Baxter, with his nasty temper and little dog.

He wondered if Baxter might have been the same man he’d seen at the Pit the other day, the one Crossland and Samantha had tormented. He could have been, he was angry enough. As Craig pushed himself out into the street, he wondered what made the old man so angry. A right nark the window-cleaner had called him. What had happened to make him so bitter towards everyone? Could it be that he too had lost his parents, had become resentful towards everyone, blaming the whole world for his loss, just as the cleaner had? Or was there something else, something a lot more complicated? He shook his head. No point in wondering about any of it as they were all questions that he would never find the answers to.

How wrong that assumption soon proved to be.

 

If you’d like to find out more, please visit my website: http://www.stuartgyates.com

AND, if you like your stories more spicey and explicit, visit a friend of mine’s website: www.gsstewart.moonfruit.com. At the moment, her latest novella DEEP IN THE FOG is FREE!!!

 

 

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Fallen Past – Chapter Three by Stuart G Yates

CHAPTER THREE

The two friends decided not to play at the Pit for the next few days, just in case the ‘bullies’ made another appearance. Instead they met up with some other boys they knew, one of whom lived in a small cul-de-sac where the houses provided them with a perfect target for playing SLAM.

Craig had never been to the street before, despite it only being down the road from his own home. At the far end of Station Road, well away from where Copeland lived, it was quiet and secluded. The road split in two halves, separated by another, broad street that led down from the town centre. This part of Station Road proved much different to Craig’s end. Here the houses loomed larger, with expansive gardens at the front. Not unlike Ray’s house, but far grander. Perhaps that was why Craig felt like something of an interloper. These people owned cars, had driveways and garages. When he thought of his own, squat little terrace, he realised the gulf between his world and this. Nevertheless, he had been invited, and the opportunity was not one to be missed. If things turned out well, it could become a regular thing. He’d like to be accepted, have the chance to return to normality. Push the memories way back.

Craig waited whilst Ray went to the front door of the house and rang the bell. Soon, a gaggle of boys came outside, all smiling at Craig who returned their greetings and his heart began to swell. The day promised to be a good one.

They gathered around, the five of them. A good bunch, all happy to be off school, enjoying the fine weather. One of the boys, Davey, had provided the football, and proceeded to place it on the ground to begin a game of SLAM. To win you simply had to kick a ball on the first bounce against a wall repeatedly, each successful strike spelling out the word S-L-A-M. If you managed to succeed, without missing the ball or letting it bounce twice, you next had to try to spell out your name. Craig thought this slightly unfair, as most of them had bigger names than Ray, but nobody seemed to mind, least of all Ray himself.

‘Slam’ was a good game, and they took turns to play. Craig went third, after Davey and another boy called John. Neither managed to make it to the last ‘M’. Craig noted the various techniques. He wasn’t the greatest of footballers, but he could kick. Believing he had the game worked out, Craig positioned the ball with great care, ran his palms down the sides of his trousers, and proceeded to make a sudden, wild kick, hoicking the ball straight over the wall of someone’s back garden. Everyone laughed.

“You’ll have to go fetch it,” said Davey between guffaws. “But watch out – that’s old man Baxter’s house, and we all know what he’s like.” The group exchanged looks, more giggling.

Craig had little idea what Davey meant by that, and nobody offered any explanation, only further bursts of laughter. He turned to Ray, in the hope of support, but Ray gave no words of comfort, merely a shrug and a smirk. All of them seemed to be possession of some dark secret about this man Baxter. Was he a sort of ogre, a violent weirdo?

Craig’s stomach lurched. There was little choice but to get the ball back. After all, he’d lost the ball, and everyone stood and glared, impatient for the game to continue. The pressure mounted. He took a breath, moved over to the garden wall, looked up to measure its height, and groaned. Hopelessly high and nothing like Eagle’s Rock; not a single foothold to be had.

After a moment’s thought, he decided to try the back door. He took his time and eased down the latch.

Locked, he should have known.

With no other options available, he would to use the handle as a scaling aid. He glanced over to the assembled group, “Can one of you give me a leg-up?”

The boys shuffled around, heads down, some of them giggling. Not one seemed eager to commit to helping out, enjoying Craig’s discomfort. Finally, with obvious reluctance, Ray sauntered over.

Ray bent down and cupped his hands together. Craig put his foot in the makeshift hold and managed to get his other on the latch. Ray lifted his arms and, with a grunt, Craig hoisted himself to the top of the brick wall, and sat for a moment. He gazed down into the back garden to see a large, with well-manicured lawn surrounded by bushes and masses of different flowers, the ball nowhere in sight. He turned to the others, who jeered and beckoned him to jump down. “Hurry up,” said Ray, who rubbed his hands together, “we want to carry on with the game.” Craig blew out his lips, knowing he had no choice. His heart pounded in his chest, setting off a terrible throbbing in his ears. With no sign of anyone, Craig still had the feeling that lurking inside the house, someone watched and waited. Another shout from his friends caused him to move. He twisted around and, keeping his grip on the top bricks, lowered himself gingerly into the garden below.

He took a moment, breathing through his mouth, and listened out for any signs of someone coming to investigate his arrival. Nothing, only the gentle chirping of birds amongst the trees.

Thinking it best not to hang around for too long, Craig moved forward along the little winding path which led from the backdoor into the centre of the lawn. An ornamental fountain stood there. Not switched on, it appeared strangely sad and lonely, almost abandoned. Black slimy trails ran down the arms and face of the statue in the middle. A naked woman, with an urn on her shoulder. A Greek thing, Craig decided. He studied it for a moment and realised that although well tendered, the statue and the garden had known better, happier times. He sighed slightly and moved forward.

He kept glancing over to his right to where, across the spread of lawn, Baxter’s home stood, grim and silent. Large French windows dominated the back of the house, opening out onto a patio area, with an iron table and two matching chairs the only clue that someone lived there. Everything appeared orderly and very quiet. Perhaps there wasn’t anyone inside. And yet, that awful sense of being observed remained. Craig forced himself to relax, ease his breathing, and continued, but keeping low just in case.

Craig got to the fountain and crouched down. Surveying the bushes and flowerbeds he realised the ball might be anywhere. So many trees and shrubs marred his view, he had no choice but to get down on his hands and knees and rummage about under them. The whole thing was hopeless. His stomach knotted as the panic mounted. How long was this going to take? As each successive search proved as pointless as the last, he grew frantic, and pulled and ripped away at the undergrowth, desperate to find the ball. He began to curse, all sense of being careful gone, and the sound of breaking branches and ruffled leaves filled the once quiet space. At any moment, Baxter might appear, voice raised in a scream of outrage and that would be the end of everything. Police, Mum, a nightmare.

He stopped, breathing hard, slumped down and put a hand through his hair. An awful sickening dread filled him, coming from deep inside, the hopelessness of the situation, the shame. How to explain his failure to the others, waiting on the other side of the wall? He ran the back of his hand under his nose, the soil and snot smearing across his face. He didn’t care. His ‘new’ friends had invited him into their little gang, and he’d let them down. They’d never invite him again, for sure.

Scanning the far side of the lawn, he noticed a wheelbarrow, heaped up with old grass cuttings. A shape, a rusted bucket or something, caught his eye. Craig craned forward, eyes half closed to get a better view. His heart gave a little leap. Wedged beneath the barrow sat the ball.

He stifled a cry of triumph. Not pausing for a second, he got to his feet and ran over to the barrow. He attempted to kick it free, but only succeeded in wedging the ball ever more tightly, jamming it hard. He rocked back, and took a deep breath. Taking the strain, he tried to drag the barrow forward. But the old thing proved too heavy and awkward, ancient timbers groaning as if they might break apart at any moment. The reason why the barrow had not been moved for such a long time becoming clear.

Craig had little choice. If it collapsed, then so be it. He had to get the ball. He gritted his teeth, put his shoulder against the end rather than using the handles this time, and pushed. He grunted with the effort, determined not about to give in, not now. A tiny movement, a fraction at first, gave him a new surge of strength. The wheels slid rather than ran over the damp grass, and it began to travel. One last grunt and the ball drew closer to the rear end of the barrow, still lodged underneath, but not as tight. A well-aimed kick and it shot out towards the far wall. He didn’t pause, scooted across the grass and picked up the ball. He lifted his new trophy and grinned, the relief flooding over him. He drew back both hands, ready to throw it over the wall to his eager friends waiting on the other side. With a loud, guttural yelp, he launched his projectile high and wide into the air.

Craig was not a great one for football. He could kick, but only in a wild, un-schooled fashion, as proven by his ludicrous attempts to play the game of SLAM. Throw-ins were an even worse failing. The ball went up all right, high up, far too high up. He had totally misjudged the trajectory and he watched in wide-eyed horror as the ball began its all too rapid descent, hit the near edge of the wall, and ricocheted back at an impossible angle towards the French windows.

His closed his eyes, waiting for the sound of breaking glass. A fearful thud, nothing more invaded his ears. He sighed, the weight lifting from his shoulders, and opened his eyes again. Relief at the glass not being smashed proved short-lived, as everything happened very quickly from that point on.

A dog appeared, and threw the world into confusion. It bounded up to the windows, and yapped like it had lost its mind, hurling itself against the glass, out of control, teeth bared, saliva drooling, eyes mad with rage. Craig didn’t wait to see what would happen next. He rushed over and retrieved the ball. No football antics this time, just a desire to get away as quickly as possible. He almost reached the backdoor when the French windows tore open and a voice cried, “Oi, you! What the hell are you doing?”

With no time to stop or think, Craig threw back the bolt, ripped open the door and bounded out, the terrier dog close behind, snarling and snapping at his heels. In his rush to escape, Craig didn’t pause to close the door firmly. The latch hadn’t engaged and the little dog ran out in the street.

For one awful moment, he didn’t know what to do. Should he continue running, or turn and face his attacker. The thought of those vicious looking teeth decided it for him. His friends must have believed the same and when John screamed the only practical word, “RUN!” and they all did just that.

Barking maniacally, the dog rushed after the boys, first one way, then another as each of them zigzagged and took different directions.

Craig was one of the fastest, head down, football under his arms, and he made good his escape all the way down Station Road towards the safety of his own, wonderful alleyway. He dared not look back. A simple, but dreadful thought, consumed him, ‘I’ve done it again – I’ve let everyone down!’

 

Later on, Ray came round. He didn’t appear pleased, saying he only wanted Davey’s football. Craig handed it over, the misery making his movements heavy, slow.

“I’m sorry, Ray,” he said in a small voice.

“Yeah…well…” Ray took the ball without another word and disappeared into the warm, summer night, bouncing the ball as he went.

Craig knew he had lost the only real friend he had left.

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Adventures in Writing…a personal journey by Stuart G Yates.

Being prolific is an interesting handle to have been given. I’ve never really thought about it very much. I suppose the first time I considered it was when I visited my local bookstore, requesting that they stock two of my books. I had been there a month or so before, and noted that the shelf where my first book had been placed, was empty. “I have two new ones,” I said.

The shop owner arched an eyebrow. “Two new ones? My, you’re working hard.”

I smiled, thinking nothing of it. Then came the low punch. “You want to take it easy. You don’t want to swamp the market, do you?”

I had no idea what this meant. Swamp the market? With three books?

Since then, my tally of published novels has reached 14. My first book was published late 2009, so within three years that’s not a bad achievement I feel. Prolific, perhaps.

Now, I can understand what some people might think. That the quality of the written work has suffered. But each book has been accepted by publishers, who have worked with me in the editing process, and the words have been well polished. Naturally there is the occasional typo. I remember a friend of mine who showed me a silly typo towards the end of an edition of Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, a book some people believe is the finest ever written. Now, if they can get it wrong, so can anyone. But silly typos apart, I feel my writing is fairly good. It’s suspenseful, flows well, has satisfying resolutions. People seem to like what I do, those who have read my books. So, I don’t see it as quality making way for quantity. I just view it all as an absolute joy.

I’ll give you an example. I had an idea for a novella. A small book about a young veterinary nurse, set on the wonderful island of Alderney. As soon as I finished it, I had to write the next two in the series. There was no argument. These stories buzzed around in my head, and they wouldn’t leave me alone. I worked furiously at them, watching them all play out in my head like a film, and within a month I had them done. Overall, two months saw three novellas of 30,000 words each completed; edited, checked, ready for publication.

The second part of my trilogy of paranormal thrillers set on Alderney.

The second part of my trilogy of paranormal thrillers set on Alderney.

And that’s it. When I’m gripped with an idea, I can’t shake it off. The words tumble out, an unstoppable cascade. Perhaps not Niagara Falls, but certainly a force of nature!

Another example. I’ve only just completed a thriller, entitled ROAD KILL. Eighty thousand words. When I say ‘completed’ I mean just that. Re-drafted four times, proof read and submitted. At the same time that I was going through the final edits, I was writing another thriller, entitled MINUS LIFE, which at this moment has the final chapter left to do. I’ve got WHIPPED UP, the next Paul Chaise thriller, waiting its final edit, and I am planning out a historical novel based on the mysterious death of William II in the year 1100. Each book is substantial, averaging out at around 80-90,000 words. It is almost a full time job. As one project is completed, another comes along, a conveyer belt of stories. Inspiration is another thing entirely, this is to do with output. I am not young anymore. Time does not wait. I should have done all this twenty years ago, I know that. But life was different then.  Now I push myself, on and on, to get it done. My aim is to get out at least three books a year, if I can do more, so much the better. The biggest problem is, that publishers don’t work all that fast. Obviously, they have other authors to consider, but that doesn’t lessen my frustration.

So, I do the best I can. I write quickly, I work hard at it. I do not skimp on the quality. I look at every sentence, envisage every scene, every piece of dialogue. I write and I write and I write. Some people grow flowers, others tinker with classic motor cars. I write. There really is nothing more to it than that.

If this little piece has made you curious about my work, please visit my websites and take a look at what I have done so far. My books are available on all the Amazon sites, as well as Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. My websites give all the details.

For adult materials, please visit: www.stuartgyates.com

For Young adult paranormal mysteries (including those little, but very terrifying stories about Jenny the vet), please visit: www.glennstuart.co.uk.

Also, take a look at my accompanying blog, ‘Fallen Past’ which is an unpublished work of mine serialised in chapters. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks to everyone for taking the time to have a look at what I do.

Keep reading!

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Fallen Past, Chapter 2…an adventure in writing just for you!

Here is Chapter 2 of ‘Fallen Past,’ a little story which I hope you enjoy.

CHAPTER TWO

The Sun beat down as Craig stopped at the top of the steps, breathing hard. He’d run all the way, but Ray had still managed to beat him. He dragged the back of his hand across his brow, and scanned the old quarry. Nature had reclaimed it, gorse growing thick, a profusion of thistle and cow-slips, overgrown tracks created by the tramping of numerous feet. ‘The Pit’ was one of those wonderful, almost mystical places that held new discoveries every time you went there. A little untouched copse, a hidden tangle of bushes, an abandoned cave. All perfect for adventure games and den building.

At the centre stood a large, imposing rock of granite. Known locally as ‘Eagle’s Rock’, every boy dreamed of climbing it. Craig had already done so, Ray too, now the competition was who could scale it the quickest.

Ray had always been a good climber. Bags of self-confidence meant he tackled problems head on, hardly ever worrying about the outcome, always assured of his own abilities. Craig was a touch more circumspect. This meant he was often more reluctant to ‘have a go’, but he always seemed to get there in the end. Taking a deep breath, he slumped forward towards the rock and peered up.

Ray grinned down at him from his perch. “Come on,” he urged, and then he waited, eyes glued on Craig.

Inside, Craig groaned. Another test, with the inevitable result. Ray was a good friend, but Craig always heard the silent criticisms, saw the mocking half-smile. He closed his mind to it, looked down at the rock face and searched out the first foothold. He moved forward.

It took time, and he moved with caution, keeping his grip firm as he pressed himself flat against the hard, unforgiving rock. He knew not to look down, or indeed up. That way led to certain disaster. Just concentrate on the next step. That was all you had to do. Grit your teeth. Press on.

He sensed his heartbeat increasing, fought to control it; the higher he got, the more the stress increased. Failure was not an option, not now, not here. Better to slip and fall than not succeed. Jeers, loud, painful. He’d had enough of those. A belly-full. He closed his eyes, settled himself, ignored his screaming muscles, hoisted himself on.

Before he knew it, Craig had made it to the top. A final lunge and he rolled over onto his back to stare up at the clear, blue sky. Safe. Success. Victory. He gulped in air, allowed the happiness and relief to overwhelm him. He’d made it, for about the third time. None of it made him more confidant in his abilities. Climbing was so difficult, and was never going to get any easier. He knew that, accepted it.

He sat up with a sigh, took a moment to settle himself, and pulled open the small shoulder bag he had brought with him. He glanced across to Ray, who sat there, like Buddha, cross-legged, checking his watch. His mouth moved soundlessly, calculating their individual times before he grinned and declared that he had won – by the staggering amount of twelve seconds.

Twelve seconds!” Craig took a bite of the ham sandwich his mum had made him as part of a picnic lunch. “Cor…I could easily do it quicker next time.”

“Yeah. I’m sure.” Ray studied his own sandwich and smiled in expectation of the taste of the delicacy he was about to put into his mouth, “Golden Toms,” he said musingly.

“Golden what?”

Toms. Me Da’ grows ‘em in his greenhouse down his allotment. Lovely,” and he sank his teeth into the soft, white bread and munched away ravenously.

Craig eyed his own, rather pathetic looking sandwich again and sighed. He wished his family had an allotment. Even a garden would do. He lived in a small terrace house with nothing more than a postage stamp for a backyard. Ray, on the other had, had a large, well-stocked garden at the back of his house and a beautiful front garden, piled up with roses. An allotment up in the Park, growing everything from tomatoes to potatoes. It didn’t seem fair really, to have a dad who was so good at everything.

“What does your dad do again?” asked Craig, now not at all interested in his ham.

“Electrician. Think I’ll be one when I grow up.”

“Really? Don’t you have to be clever for that?”

Ray peered at his friend, and for a moment his icy blue eyes sparkled with something like menace. Then he caught the joke and laughed. “Yeah, well I am clever, aren’t I?”

It was Craig’s turn to smile. It was true, Ray was clever. Much cleverer at maths than Craig was anyway. Perhaps that’s what it took to be an electrician, who knows. He shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve no idea what I want to do when I grow up. Tank driver maybe.”

“Tank driver? What’s that?”

Craig looked at his friend for a long time. “Er – someone who drives a tank.”

“What, like in the army?”

“No, in the air-force, you divvy!”

Ray laughed again. “OK, yeah, I get it.” He contemplated another sandwich before putting it back in the little Tupperware box his mum had provided. Then he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and lay back on the rock. It was a lovely, warm day, the kind of day everyone wished would never end. Ray put his hands behind his head and gazed up at the clear, blue sky. There wasn’t a cloud to be seen. “I used to think I’d like to join the army. But me Da’ says it’ll be stupid, if a war was to come. We’d all be killed, he said.”

“A war?” Craig, worried by this remark, peered intensely at his friend. He needed some explanation. “What sort of war?”

“Dunno. Any sort of war, I suppose.”

“Against the Germans?”

“Nah, shouldn’t think so. Me Da’ says we’re friends with them now. On the same team, he said. Nah, he said it would be against the Ruskies. Said they had thousands and thousands of tanks, all lined up and ready to go.”

“Go where?”

“Over here, daft. Me Da’ says we couldn’t stop ‘em and that the only way we could ever manage that would be to drop atomic bombs on ‘em.”

“Atomic bombs!” Craig’s stomach turned inside out as Ray’s words bit deep inside him. He wiped a trickle of sweat from his brow. This was not something he knew much about, and it scared him. Again, he wished he had a dad, like Ray, who would tell him such things, explain it all, lessen the fear. He swallowed hard. “They can kill thousands, those bombs can.”

“Millions, more like. And they blow up houses and stuff. No one could survive.”

“We might be able to. We could go up to Scotland or somewhere like that.”

“Scotland? How would that help?”

“I dunno. Lots of mountains and caves and… We could hide in a cave, or something.”

“A cave? What would you do in a cave?”

“Dunno. Survive.”

“On what?”

“I…I dunno. I’d find something. Make myself a bow and arrow, hunt rabbits.”

Ray gaped at him. “And how would you get all the way up there? You haven’t got a car.”

“Yeah…well…” Craig looked out across the old quarry. On a day such as this, with the air thick with Sun, insects playing around the wild flowers, birds singing so beautifully, it was difficult to believe it could all be wiped out. He wished he’d never mentioned anything about the army now.

“Still,” said Ray, closed his eyes and breathed out a contented sigh, “they’ll be needing lots of tank drivers when the war comes.”

Craig shot him a glance, then dug his friend in the ribs playfully, “Shut up, you!”

They both laughed and when Craig finished his sandwich, he threw away the crust and then settled down next to his friend to enjoy a few golden moments of peace.

Raised voices stirred them from their slumber and they both looked across the expanse of quarry to see two figures waving madly at them. Ray groaned and Craig felt a little tremor of fear ripple through him.

Adam Crossland was the meanest boy in school. Small, tough and a complete torment, he always made Craig’s life a misery in the playground as he pushed him, called him names, and basically caused every school day to be like hell. Craig had wanted to tell his mum, but thought better of it. He didn’t want to appear weak, not to anyone. Besides, no one liked a tell-tale. Ray was slightly more pragmatic and had stood up to Crossland on more than one occasion. He’d received a punch in the jaw for his troubles. Strangely, however, this had resulted in Ray receiving no further problems. Craig often wondered if he could do the same, but knew deep down that he couldn’t. Ray was quite tough and Craig wasn’t. Anyway, on this day, Crossland was with another school bully, Samantha Lloyd. Taller, older and infinitely more cruel.

The two unsavoury characters swaggered forward, until they were at the foot of the rock. Crossland peered upward, hand shielding his eyes from the Sun’s glare. “Is that you there, Craig? What yer doin’?”

“With his boyfriend,” snarled the girl. “That’s right, isn’t it Raymond?” Samantha enjoyed emphasising the last syllable of Ray’s full name. She always thought it was hilarious.

Craig could feel Ray bristling next to him. “Go away,” said Ray, and his voice sounded surprisingly confident.

“Don’t be like that, Raymond,” laughed Samantha. She tested the rock face with her foot, but thought better of it. “Why don’t you come down?”

“Why don’t you come up?” Ray shouted back, knowing full well that neither of them could. It was a small victory, but a sweet one nevertheless.

Crossland chewed his lip, and grew slightly red in the face. “We said, come down!”

Craig looked at Ray, who shook his head slightly. “No.”

The two below exchanged their own, infuriated look. “There’ll be another time,” spat Crossland and reached down to pick up a stone. He hurled it upwards and it sailed harmlessly past the two boys’ heads.

Ray giggled, “Not much good, are you Crossland?”

“I’ll fix you,” said Crossland.

“And me,” chimed in Samantha. She waggled her finger towards the boys. “I’m going to hurt you, Craig. Get you down in the dirt, and make you beg for mercy.”

Without thinking, Craig scrambled backwards, putting more distance between him and the tormentors. If anything, he feared Samantha more than Crossland. Perhaps it was because she was a girl, and the humiliation of being knocked down by her.

He stopped then, and thought about that. Humiliation, being on the receiving end of a good beating from Samantha. He didn’t understand why, but the thought of that wasn’t so terrible. Craig looked at her, as for the first time. Her face. Lovely eyes she had. The purest blue, and a mouth…

“What you looking at little Craig? See something you like?”

Craig felt his face begin to burn and looked away from those penetrating blue eyes of hers, forced a cough.

Samantha said something to her friend, then they turned to go. At that moment, an elderly man appeared, breathing hard as he came over the top of the steps that rose up from Pit Road. He used a stick to help him walk and around his feet scurried a small, wiry looking Border Terrier. This was much better sport for the two young bullies, and they began to dance around the dog, called it names and waved their arms about. The old man brandished his stick, but this only caused more uproarious laughter and they ran off, rude words fired off as they went.

Craig breathed a sigh of relief. “I’d forgotten about them two, how horrible they are. Especially her.”

“I think she’s quite nice.”

Craig gaped at his friend. He’d actually voiced exactly what was in his own mind. Could it really be true? He knew, however, he couldn’t give too much away, so he said, “Nice? Are you serious?”

“She’s the prettiest girl in school, Craig. There’s no argument about that.”

Craig had to admit that much was true, certainly as far as their school was concerned. Slowly, thoughts turned to the girl at the tennis court, and Craig knew that Samantha wasn’t the prettiest of them all. There were other schools in town. He wished he knew which one she went to. “Do you think all girls are like Samantha?”

“Eh?”

“You know, the way she is. Like she has to prove she’s tougher than us boys? I thought girls were supposed to be softer.” He caught Ray’s look and again he felt the heat rise to his cheeks. He rushed on, “I think it’s all a big act, that she’s not really that tough. I think she puts it on, for Crossland. She must fancy him like crazy.”

“Yeah…well…” Ray looked troubled. “Big act or not, we’ll have to take care going home. We’ll have to wait here for a bit longer, just in case. They may not have gone.”

Craig nodded. He noticed the old man stooping down to rub his dog’s flanks. Had the others hurt the little dog, he wondered? Craig took a breath, “Is he all right, mister?”

The old man looked up, face a mask of fury. “You mind your own damned business! I’ve a good mind to call the police, you snivelling little runt.”

Taken aback, Craig gawped at the man, “It wasn’t us, mister. We didn’t do anything.”

“You’re all the same you young people, causing trouble. You’ve got nothing better to do with your time, that’s what it is. Why aren’t you at school?”

“Holidays.”

“Bah!” The old man brandished his stick, walked off and muttered something under his breath. The little dog ran off to explore the nearby undergrowth with great enthusiasm. He seemed fine, with no apparent injuries.

“Caw,” said Craig and shook his head, “he’s a bit of a nark, isn’t he?”

“Old and bitter,” said Ray. “That’s what my Da’ says. Old people get like that, he says. It’s not their fault, just the way it is.”

“He looked old,” said Craig softly, “but I don’t think he really was.”

“Eh? What d’you mean?”

“Dunno. Something about him. Maybe he’s ill or something. He didn’t have grey hair.”

“My Da’ says that people can be old before their time – smoking and drinking he says, they’re the worst.”

“Your dad knows a lot, doesn’t he?”

“Yeah,” Ray smiled.

Craig felt worse than ever at that simple remark, but didn’t say anything, not wanting Ray to feel bad about mentioning his dad all the time. It made Craig miss his own even more. He hoped Ray hadn’t noticed his change of mood. But even if he had, Craig knew that being such a good friend he would never say anything. The pain, however, bit deep and he had to struggle to keep the tears at bay. Just like he always did, every single day since it had happened. If only he could make amends, undone it all, turn back the clock, make life good again. If only Dad were still here…

If you’d like to investigate some my writing still further, you can visit my websites. Young adult novels can be found at www.glennstuart.co.uk. Adult materials is at www.stuartgyates.com.

I hope you enjoy what you find there.

I’ve been interviewed, and you can pop along to http://nickwale.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/stuart-yates-is-back-nick-wale-heralds-the-return-of-stuart-yates/ and read what I think about writing, and get some insights into my own, personal journey.

Keep reading!

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Adventures in Writing – a personal journey by Stuart G Yates

 

Writing is difficult.

Even when you are good at it.

Robert B Parker famously said he loved nothing better than to write but the redrafting and the editing, he hated.

I can understand that. I don´t find the creating part all that difficult. I have stories in my head, in my notebook, on my computer. Some of them have been planned, some have been partially written. Many others are waiting for that momentous day when I put fingers to the keyboard and dive straight in.

BUT…

Afterwards, with the story done, and that moment of relaxation and elation at knowing that it has all ended up as I dreamed it would…I then have to re-draft. Not just once, or twice. Three times usually. Constant editing, reviewing, it never seems to end. I´m better than I was, but I still hate it.

The problem is, it is actually necessary.

I often find that reading out dialogue aloud helps me with that. I’ve done some acting back on Merseyside, visiting schools to put on original productions for the kids, as well as appearing in a wide range of other theatre productions, so I know a little about what I speak of. Pacing, pausing, intonation, dramatic effect. All of that can be fine-tuned by reading your own words aloud. The rest, however, that is painful. That first flush of creativity has gone, and all I am left with now is the polishing.

Does it help?

I was given ‘Redemption’ for a Christmas present. I read it in two days. ‘Appaloosa’ in one. I have often stopped and wondered why. I read ‘Wilt’ in one day too, clutching my stomach in hysterics, Sometimes I can’t get into a book. They all say, don’t they, those who know; you have to hook your reader, that the first paragraph, sentence, even word has to be so good that the reader simply can’t put it down. It´s such a personal thing though, isn´t it. I picked up a book the other day. All the critics were raging about it, saying how wonderful it was. After the first sentence I wanted to give it back. Another book was given to me. ‘You must read it, it’s wonderful’. Same outcome. I was so bored that by the end of the first paragraph I fell asleep. I haven´t touched it since.

Why is that? I don´t know, I can’t analyse the reasons. Perhaps it really has got a lot to do with making it perfect. Graham Greene wrote 300 words a day, then went over and over them until they were absolutely right.

It’s not a genre thing. I remember listening to Melvyn Bragg, and he said that everyone should read ‘Jude the Obscure’. So, I dug out a copy, started it, and was absolutely riveted by every word. Then again, that is Thomas Hardy, one of the great literary geniuses of the world. Not many of his calibre knocking about today, but surely we can try. I glance through a lot of self-published books and I shudder at what I read. If you are forced to stop every few words because of incorrect spelling, the flow has gone, enjoyment lost.

I know what I like, and that is that. It´s the same with what I write. I enjoy what I write, get caught up in it, and if I don’t then I cross it out and start again. I’ve done that with entire books. They are still on my shelf (or on my computer hard-drive) and will stay there until such time as I have the courage to begin them again. The great re-draft.

All I know is, that we have to try our best. Our best. You should only write for yourself, if you are a fiction author. It might be different for non-fiction, but as a novelist I believe you should write what you’d like to read. That way your enthusiasm comes across through every page. I tried to write a romance once. Hah! Two sentences and I knew I never could. But plenty of action, murder, mystery, that’s what rocks my boat. Of course, a little bit of sensuality adds so much to a story, but…full blown romance? Not for me, I´m afraid, even though there is a ton of money to be made out of it.

Well, until the ‘Mills and Boon’ bug gets hold of me, I will continue to write what I like, draft and redraft, trying to do my very best and improve my craft. Because that is what it is. Nobody buys my books. I’ll never make any money. However, in the end that doesn’t matter. I create, and it is that which makes me happy, and if I can create something good, solid and worthwhile then I am even happier..

But boy, this writing, it’s hard work!

If you would like to learn a little more about what I write and where to purchase copies in all formats, visit www.stuartgyates.com.

I hope you like what you find there. Thanks for reading.

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Adventures in Writing…a personal journey by Stuart G Yates…how I start

I had an idea for a book. This is how it begins, my writing process. An idea, just a grain. I didn’t think about it too much. Ursula K. Le Guin is good on that. Let it go, she advises, don’t analyse, simply let it develop in its own space and time. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist.

This is how I normally start.

I sit back and let it fly.

Next, I try to rough out ten basic, progressive steps. I’ve never had a course on creative writing, nor did I major in English Literature. I don’t know how to critically dissect a novel, play or poem, but I can tell a good story. Always have been able to. Don’t ask me why, perhaps it’s a gift. If it is, I’m grateful. Very.

I can usually envisage a story to the end. It may change in the middle, of course, as characters and scenarios develop, but the ending is always very clear in my head. Not so with the beginning. Beginnings are hard. I simply write, get anything down, and later – sometimes much later – I go back and add a new beginning. I did this with Road Kill and I did it with Burnt Offerings. Not preludes or prologues or whatever they are called, just a simple re-working in order to hook the reader.

Long ago, I remember reading an article about Dick Francis. He used a simple diagram of a book to show how he paced his stories. A book, standing on its own, with bookmarks sticking out from between the pages. They indicated those all important peaks and troughs of action. Some were huge, others small, but it kept the reader on their toes, left them breathless and desperate for more.

I’ve always remembered that diagram and I think it has taught me more than any tutorial  ever could. Besides, I’ve had enough of those. I spent six years trying to become a teacher, firstly at night school, then at university. Sometimes I felt like eating my own head.

So, the ten point plan is sketched out, the end is known, and then comes the actual writing. I tend to pitch straight in and write like a demon. Soon, I am totally immersed in this new world, a world of my own making, and it is one which is rich in character, dialogue and lots and lots of wrong turnings.

But it changes. It grows, sometimes on its own. Characters do things I never envisaged, scenes arrive from out of thin-air. It can sometimes be exciting, often it is nerve-wracking. And I’m always looking at ways to improve the story.

I woke up with a new ending for Road Kill one night. I don’t know where it came from, but it made perfect sense. So, even though the book is on its final draft before sending it off to the publisher, I have to rewrite the end. It’s better. More sudden, unexpected.

And that’s the thrill of writing. The unexpected. I’ve done it again with a new book I’m writing. I couldn’t figure out how to develop the central theme of a power-thirsty politician conning his entire country. No, not country. The world! And then, it came to me. I was in a shopping mall of all places, wondering what to buy people for Christmas and BANG! There it was. Why hadn’t I thought about it before? So damned simple, but so out of the blue.

You see? That’s what being a writer does to you. It takes you by the scruff of the neck and shakes you very hard. It never ceases to amaze me, and always makes me smile.

 

You can learn a lot more about my work by visiting my websites.

For Young Adult novels of the paranormal, visit: www.glennstuart.co.uk.

For adult orientated fiction, see www.stuartgyates.com.

I hope you like what you see.

Oh, by the way, I’ve been interviewed, by Nick Wale. Visit his excellent blog series, and this one in particular, which is all about me!

http://nickwale.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/stuart-yates-yammers-about-the-wonders-and-pitfalls-of-publishing/

 

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