Friday, 17 October 2014

Writer's block... Are you buying it?

There are as many reasons for writer's block as there are writers but at the heart of it is often one simple fact... you don't buy it!


i'm not buying it
Are you buying it?

Writer’s block is so ubiquitous that it’s a cliché. Non-writers know about it, films have been made about it but we live it. We know how crushing it can be to watch the cursor blink, mocking us in our ineptitude, like a rabbit in the headlights. Everyone has some advice on how to deal with it and sometimes I feel like more has been penned on the subject than chain-smoking detectives. 


The fact is that there are a myriad of reasons for it, as individual as you are. It may be distractions, the kids screaming, Facebook, a tense moment in the book you are reading or piles. This is easy, disconnect, go to a haven, be it your private space or an anonymous café, apply cream and write. What I want to address is when you just can’t get your characters onto the next page, when you just aren't buying it. 

I was sat there recently, goaded by the cursor when I decided to take a break to regroup and battle on. I took myself onto the veranda for a smoke and started cruising goodreads looking for the next good thing to read. Instead of checking out the reviews, which is as helpful as it is baffling, I started with the back cover summaries. After two or three I got really hooked by one in particular David Wong's "John dies at the end. It didn't try to tell me anything, it spoke to me, it invited me in without summarising and I bought it. It made me think about my work and made me think about why I had seized; I didn't buy it. I had lost my connection with the story and the characters, characters I had loved and loathed. And if I didn't buy it why should you. I began to compose a pitch for my story, I tried to summarise it, I tried to describe it; I still wasn't buying it. Then I started selling it to myself inviting myself into the story and introducing myself to the characters not as written protagonists but as people as friends who were having a shitty time of it, friends like you. I am now back into it throwing them back into conflicts with each other then taunting them with saviour. My block has gone because I am buying it again and so will you.

There are so many reasons for seizure but confidence and involvement are at the root of many of them. Get beyond the page and stand shoulder to shoulder with your people and make their case for existence then get back into the frey. If you don’t buy the ride then no-one else will. 

Now, get back to it and write something you buy. Post a pitch in the comments, if you like.
      
Next time: How to find your way when your story has left you in the dark without a candle.
                       

Don't forget to join the blog and sign up for subscription (to your right) then share with a friend, they'll love you a little more for it (tiddly little buttons below)

  


Note: The image above was borrowed from the anti-human trafficking campaign Traffick 911. Please lets not forget that slavery is unacceptable, irrelevant of where the person is taken from.    


Monday, 13 October 2014

Episode 20: A New Day, A New Man


from under dark clouds
From Under Dark Clouds

Check out previous episodes of

From Under Dark Clouds


'From Under Dark Clouds...' is a Gonzo fictionalisation of current events in Greece. The story is seen through the eyes of our unnamed hero as he fumbles from paranoia to public office, under the mentorage of the shady Socrates.

Each episode is based on real events. Readers are invited to share their experiences for the Under Dark Clouds treatment. Many have been included in cameo roles.





See link below for contributions


I awoke with a Jimmy Saville of a hangover, that tsiporo is a sneaky bastard, like junkie burglars it breaks in when you think you're safe, turns everything upside down, goes through your draws then shits in your bed.

It had snatched a few memories but it had left me with most of what had lead to me being posted back home and bundled out of a cab.

I dragged myself out of my bed which now resembled a dog basket, I had always felt sympathy when the kids asked for a pet but the wife had maintained that we had enough with me.

Today would be a change, a new man. I pulled the sheets from the bed and searched for the washing machine , they're not small enough to hide but can be wily fuckers, for sure. I tracked it down in a small room under the stairs and sprung the portal. The offending articles fit nicely in and I decide to chance the pillows as well but they refused to go through the hole, how did the Lady mayoress do it, more to this housewifing than I had credited her for. Maybe she could do the same down at the town hall. All that remained was to hit the ignition switch, light the blue touch paper, whatever you do with these things and I would be the hero of the hour. Fuck. The dashboard was like an ambulance, all flashing lights and little draws. But this was the new me, the fixit me, the man people could rely on, the… it was me, I was truly PWNED by a domestic appliance. The house was empty so there were no witnesses to my shame except me and for once that was enough.

I went into the kitchen for some coffee, opening the can I could see that what was left was going to be tricky to get out so I poured the boiling water straight in. A realisation struck me; that's how mike manages it. I was alone in a warm house with BBC 6 music on the sound system and a hot cup of Nestlé' s hate. Where had Mike and Tasos gone to last night. We had lost the town hall plaza to the man with clubs and masks and they had nowhere else to go. They? where had Despina taken her fine young boy. Back to the basement of the town hall? I hoped, well I hoped not. I hoped I had for once come through. Socrates had the lawyers on his back, toss up who would talk to me first, him or the lady mayoress. Probably her, she wouldn't miss the chance to drag my self esteem through the cat litter; got a thing with pets today.

I smoked whatever I could find and took a hot shower, being careful to put the ashtray at the far end away from the spray, see an old dog can learn new tricks. I heard a clunk as I was brushing my teeth which would have worried me if it were not caused by the wife returning from taking the kids off to receive a sterling education at the local primary. I was, however, worried by the fact that the wife had returned from taking the kids off to the local primary. I quickly rubbed the towel around my person, the surfaces around the bath and injected it through the portal of the washing machine along with the soiled ashtray for good measure. I greeted her with a huge smile and proudly displayed my cleanliness to her; as clean and bare as the day I was born.

Funny thing, she didn't yell or scream. She smiled and held out her arms.

She told me that she had heard of the commotion down at my Town Hall plaza initiative, yeah she called it an initiative and was proud of me for doing it then standing up to the bullies who tried to take it away from me and the poor people I was trying to help. I was so tempted to tell her that my standing lasted precisely up to the point when I was knocked down and pummelled like cookie dough but I smiled coyly instead.
She gave me a hug that hurt and invigorated me at the same time and told me that she was proud of me, again.

I grabbed my keys and ran for the door; I would make a difference and carpe fucking diem, I would do it today. She called my name and looked at my dangling nethers; I may need to get dressed first.

I formulated my plan on the Vespa heading for the town hall, by the time I arrived it was bulletproof.

Spyros, down at the supermarket had a bunch of unleased apartments, he’d refused to drop the rent when the bottom fell out of the market like a Friday-night curry and by the time he’d seen sense no-one was in the market to pay. Now that was bad enough but the government was in the process of clawing back 40 years of taxes to pay the IMF and ECB and would tax your hair if they could only find a way to count it. Result was that spyros was being taxed left right and centre on income for apartments he couldn’t let. And this was my IN. I would pull some strings through the party to get him some leeway AND take on the maintenance with Tasos and the boys, in return he would house our people for free. He gets a tax-load off his shoulders and his apartments occupied and maintained, my people get their Town Hall plaza; win, win, win. I rubbed my palms with glee.

Mike was looking no worse than usual, I guess he has age on his side, and offered me a cup of coffee as I rolled into the office. The well assembled secretary looked up sharply and firmly stated that she would attend to it, a lucky day for a new man.

When the coffee arrived I took my time enjoying the aroma then asked her for a telephone number for Spyros the supermarket. Within seconds she told me to pick up line 4, it was already ringing, I ready myself for history.

Spyros was as cheerful as ever, in other words, not at all. I reminded him of his woes and held the phone from my ear as he wailed and bleated. The well-assembled secretary rolled her eyes knowingly. He finally began to lose momentum and sighed what am I to do, not really looking for a solution but affirmation of his uniquely woeful predicament, I began my pitch. I pointed out each of his predicaments asking him whether a solution would interest him, he replied positively. I brought up the subject of maintenance on vacant apartments; he had never considered this but agreed, all the same. I went for the close. My secretary was now watching me with eyes as round as tea plates. I told him I could pull some strings with the tax situation, he asked with obvious incredulity whether this was within my power, I assured him that it was but said I would just confirm it with the experts.

“I have the power to reassess a constituent’s tax status, don’t I?” she was now looking at me with eyes like someone seeing Internet porn for the first time, her jaw clamped jerking her head from side to side. “Yes, of course I have.” He paused, told me that they would have to get out when he got a paying tenant, I agreed. My secretary was now standing very close to her head in spasmodic jerks mouthing the word NO! He asked if we could have this in writing, I laughed. This agreement was strictly under the radar any paper trail could seriously compromise him. He saw the sense in that. He asked for concessions on his supermarket, I told him not to be greedy. He paused some more and some more. He demanded a lick of paint, I agreed and so did he. The keys would be at the supermarket and they could move in that very day. I told him he would not regret it, for long and bade him good-day.

I really was a new man, I punched the sky and did a little river dance round the office. The secretary slapped my face, I think I was growing on her. What followed was a barrage, the like I had only ever experienced at the end of my wife’s tongue; I really was growing on her.

Now all I had to do was share the good news with the good and dispossessed people of the town hall.



previous
next


Don't forget to Follow and share with a friend, they'll love you a little more for it.

Click the social links or send me your experiences through comments or Mail

 











         

Friday, 10 October 2014

Roundabouts in Greece, a real tragedy.

Is it just me or has Greece really missed the whole idea of the roundabout as a safe way to keep traffic flowing without the frustration of traffic lights.

Now follows a rant but this really needs to be addressed before a major death toll is caused by these relatively simple junctions.


There seems to be a prevailing belief here, prevailing but by no mean unanimous, that drivers on the roundabout should give way to those entering in accordance with the give way to the right law that applies generally on the highway. Thing is though, that if priority is given to those entering but not to those trying to exit a roundabout will quickly fill with no one having the right to leave. This often happens and while it is frustrating it is nowhere as dangerous as those who feel they can attack a roundabout at full throttle expecting those on it to make way for them. Just think, you are 2 or 3 metres from an entrance to the roundabout and someone 50 metres away will boot it with no concept that you may not give way to their righteous path. 

The other matter is the usual belief that any road with more than one lane is there expressly for parking. Watch this to see the calamitous results of a coach using the junction to drop off passengers, or go for a sandwich.  
Watch this: 
Thanks to David Woodhead

This is an American video showing how to use a roundabout from the wrong side of the road perspective:


I know that roundabouts are not common-place in the States but the concept is the same.

An Irish video, simply cause is sounds nice. 


I found plans for a double roundabout in Athens.... mercy!

Rant over. Share this to everyone you know in Greece, natives and ex-pats alike.  
  

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Episode 19: Smoke gets in my eyes

from under dark clouds

From Under Dark Clouds




From Under Dark Clouds

'From Under Dark Clouds...' is a Gonzo fictionalisation of current events in Greece as seen through the eyes of our unnamed hero as he fumbles from paranoia to public office, under the mentorage of the shady Socrates.

Each episode is based on real events. Readers are invited to share their experiences for the Under Dark Clouds treatment. Many have been included in cameo roles, can you spot them?




See link below for contributions






mexican greek standoff
Mexican Greek standoff

It was a Mexican stand-off, we had the old, the infirm, women and even Despina’s boy. Well I say we but I mean them because I was vehemently adhering to the advice of my legal brief and remaining uninvolved. So, they had the innocents and the others had batons, helmets and shields. My dear blogees, this was the righteous against THE MAN and we, they held the trump card; the power of the press. THE MAN would not dare be caught in the act, they would not act up with the eyes of the world watching. They would, no doubt, make some noise and finally stand down and regroup. How wrong I was.


Out of frustration one of the policemen lobbed a drinks can. This must have been their way of letting off steam ‘cause soon after another couple followed. I couldn’t make out what brand it was until it fell to the floor rebounding off the rapidly closed windows. First one then the others began spouting thick smoke, I could see the photographer shooting from behind a gas mask. I stood, an innocent observer, uninvolved but not unmoved as hot tears began to stream down my cheeks. Not the tears of sadness like when I found out Santa was a fat drunk who only worked once a year (and there were no vacancies)or when I found my wife had replaced my cache of weed with oregano. I had woken to find myself in Gaza or some US state. 



This wasn’t the first time I had come up against this kind of behaviour, and I’m sure if you’re married you would have spent a night on the doorstep sobbing. After a suitable period of pain and suffering, she’ll let you back in if only to avoid the postman gossipping.     

This was their noise, their stomping on the Genesis CDs (but only the post Peter Gabriel), their threats to send the dog pound to take me away. It would pass, they would go to eat donuts. I stood upwind with a damp towel over my head. 

The sergeant pulled out his bullhorn and issued a final warning, yeah right! Then silence. Then 100 heartbeats in slow sync. Then more silence. Then a shit storm. 



Riot police vs pensioners - Thessaloniki, Greece
Riot police Vs Pensioners
The damp towel was now round my neck pulling me across the pavement, the door pulled from its hinges. I was trying to swim to the surface but only sank deeper, starving for air. Waves of flotsam and jetsam broke on my body. I braced in the knowledge that like any ride at the fair, it would end before I soiled myself. I managed to gulp enough breath to voice the words that would put an end to this maelstrom, they only needed to be heard and all this would end. I repeated them over and over, I am the mayor. Then soiled myself. 



The storm moved on but showed no sign of abating. Green uniforms were now visible at the windows, smoke seeping through the broken glass. I picked myself up to, to, to do something and fell on a leg that refused to bear my weight. The sergeant was sending orders via the bullhorn but we had brought a peashooter to a baton charge. It wasn’t long before 4 tonnes of waif, stray and pensioner littered the street outside the erstwhile Town Hall plaza. The evacuation of the building culminated with a church bazaar of belongings thrown from the open windows only missing some of those gathered below. We were beat and beaten. 



There was silence in the back of the van but not in my head. I could have done something, I should have done something; I didn’t. 


The long wait
The long wait
We were left a couple of blocks short of the police station and told we were lucky. I felt as lucky as a rabbit’s foot (dismembered from its rabbit). Mike and I found Tasos sporting a swollen eye a few blocks later. We decided to go to the hospital to get checked out. The emergency room was full to the gills with wailing, complaint and the smell of infection. After nearly two hours we decided to self-medicate; tsiporo and ice, one for the pain the other for the swelling. The three of us licked our wounds round a quiet table in the corner of a forgotten taverna. We told each other our stories over and over, swore and asked why. We drank until the pain became someone else’s. We resolved to get our own back and swore some more. We agreed that we were not afraid but I did confess to a mild apprehension at facing my wife. Socrates and maybe my lawyer. Tasos banged his fist on the table and declared a fear of no-one, adding that he was a widower and had no home to go to. Mike made no declarations so I told him that I was afraid of his coffee. 

The waiter continued to bring tsiporo until I realised that none of us could pay the bill. He threatened to call the police. Mike and Tasos ran, I fell over a sneaky table. 

If you were to ask me now, I would deny it but at the time I swear I watched my body being frisked and plundered. It was floated out onto the cold pavement and loaded into a cab. I was willing it to listen but it slumped void and vacant like a drooling pile of laundry. 

Home, safe at last. I snivelled in my wife’s arms not giving a second thought to those who weren’t.


Fade to credits...



Images by kind permission of TeacherDude





Don't forget to Follow and share with a friend, they'll love you a little more for it.

Click the social links or send me your experiences through comments or Mail

 

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Greek republic of WTF



So there I was, scurrying along late and lost, as usual. It was a balmy moonlit night and I was going to pick up a friend's kid from night classes. I had circled the neighbourhood and finally found a space miles away from the music academy. Looking at my watch, it was 10.30 and getting close to the time when the kid would be looking for me and making panicked calls to his parents.


Greek police
Papaki Squad
I was in full scurry when I heard the farty toot of a police horn, I looked round in curiosity. It was Papaki squad, two bikes loaded with four officers locked and loaded. Who were they after? I doubted they were going to ask for directions but maybe I might have seen some suspicious type running away from a crime scene. One of the pillions was standing and they tooted again. I stopped in a who-me-? stance. The standing officer alighted and approached, was this really happening?

He told me they just wanted to do a little check; blood pressure? customer satisfaction? 

He asked me if I live in the area, I told him I didn’t. I told him to make it quick as I was going to pick up a kid from classes. He told me it would take 2 minutes, so I played ball.

I was asked if I was carrying anything illegal, I said I really hoped not as this wouldn’t be the best time. He deadpanned the same question again until I told him that I was not carrying. I turned out my pockets and everything was carefully scrutinised. It was about this point when I realised what was really happening. No just cause, no suspicious behaviour, just a 40-something late and lost.

I raised my arms and accepted a full body frisk. Thankfully he had gentle hands.

Once they had satisfied themselves that I was no immediate threat to society they asked me if I was from round here, I told them again where I live. He looked at me and asked the question again. I knew the question he wanted to ask, my accent had set off alarm bells. He persisted with variations of the are-you-local question without directly mentioning ethnicity. I told him that I’m British and he corrected me saying Greek-British, I told him English-British. Then the short one next to him started demanding papers. Now, I rarely carry ID as such, credit cards maybe but if you’ve ever lost your passport or driving licence you’ll understand that the risk of a night in the cell is worth all the hassle and cost of getting it replaced.

handcuffs
Porridge time
I told shorty that I took them on holiday abroad and I didn’t realise that I would need to prove my identity crossing the municipal line. Shorty tells me that I am abroad and have to prove my legal status in the country. Yes, this really is happening. I told him that I’m a Greek tax-payer and European citizen. He asks me again if I have any ID, I tell him again that I was under the assumption that I was free to move around as I would be in Britain, yes I know this was taunting but by this time I had had enough of their bullshit. He told me that they would have to take me down the station if I wanted to continue (read: keep it up, sonny!) I offered my hands ready for cuffing.

They had two bikes and two pillions, how they would get me there was anyone’s guess.

Finally, shorty told me that due to having to pick up the kid they would let me off… Let me off for doing nothing, stopped with no just cause and after discovering no illegals on me; how gracious!

I told them how grateful I was for their kindness and wished them a good evening, whatever that may entail.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this and nothing came of it in the end but when the police get used to this kind of arbitrary power of stop and search where do they go next. And what if shorty had really taken my bait and taken me down the cells.

Let me know of your experiences.     

From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY