The Road Behind, The Road Ahead (From Summer Into Autumn)

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Banging your head against a brick wall would appear to be preferable to writing submission letters. In terms of simplicity and result it’s far quicker and easier with an obvious outcome.

Because your novel, which you now wonder if it’s not just a steaming pile of manure, has taken on the properties of a stone collar that’s clamped around your neck and is bolted to the floor. And so there’s a feeling like you’re still in the same f-ing place as you were several months ago.

Yet one must administer a hearty slap to oneself and reflect on the fact that it’s actually been a busy Summer.

Hasn’t Dave? Didn’t you get married or something? Oh yeah, about that……

NEW LIFE (or old?)

So a while back my partner say “let’s get married.” I was only half listening because I was playing guitar or reading or something. I said “okay.” And that was it, she was immediately arranging it for August.

It was a simple affair and inexpensive in comparison to the bizarre displays of affluence that net people an average cost of £31,974 in 2019 (according to website Hitched) – give or take a couple of thousand depending. We thought we’d DIY it, got some friends to help and had a simple ceremony at a registry office.

So here we are on the other side of that social ritual. We went into a state office (although secular still acting as the authority figure) whose “privilege” it was to marry us. With that done we got down to the important part: a party with some of the best people we know at a quirky little place called Little Bohemia. Food, drink, music and a silent disco to finish off. Cheap, simple and with all credit to my wife for pulling it off, what some people said was “one of the best weddings I’ve ever been to.”

Out the other side with a relatively clear head and plenty of photos. I was now a married man.

And do I feel different? Maybe……

The registrar had said one of those standard lines about a new phase of life as a married couple, but we’ve lived together for years anyway, so what is the difference? It’s hard to say, but there is something intangibly different about me as I go about my day, something subtle or subconscious about the change to the flow of life. Despite our familiarity with each other, there is a sense that we’re starting a new journey, or at least a new part of an old one.

It feels like we’ve moved forward, and if there’s one thing that life needs its a certain momentum to fend off stagnation.

With that in mind, I was eager for us to move our lives along to more fruitful endeavors, rather than the feeling that we’ve just been surviving. Even though my little one was on school holidays I was eager to press on with work.

The Mind-Thistle Run was a product of that, bashing away part time for a few hours a night. I was on a deadline, had to get it done because we were going away, but first there was a little matter of……..

THE SMELL OF NAPALM IN THE MORNING (Interlude)

I have had a fascination with Apocalypse Now since I was a teenager, but it’s not a movie that I can watch often. It’s just so….. fucked up, a crazy reflection of not only the Vietnam War but the crazy way the movie came together, what with all the problems they faced – typhoons destroying their sets, the lead actor having a heart attack, their borrowed helicopters flying off to make real life attacks etc etc.

With it’s 40th anniversary rolling around there was the chance to see the Final Cut, and I was going solo apparently. Not everyone’s cup of tea, to be sure.

Watching again for the first time in years was a thrill, and the big screen really brought the intensity and the madness to life as Willard travels up the river, learning more and more about Kurtz. The obsession, the ambiguity, the horror….. the horror.

(Interesting note, Kurtz has a copy of Frazer’s Golden Bough and Weston’s From Ritual To Romance on his table, and quote’s a section from TS Elliot’s Hollowmen. Elliot’s work The Waste Land was said to have been heavily inspired by Weston and Frazers books).

I won’t go into unnecessary detail – you’ve either seen it and know, and if you haven’t seen it then maybe take some time to check it out. My advice would be to stick to the original edit –  I’m still not 100% on these director’s cuts. I agree that the original is better in terms of pacing because sometimes less is more.

There is a strange confluence here that I can’t quite explain: the connection between the journey, the madness, the obsession and the mythological elements. That the word apocalypse comes from the Greek for reveal or revelation, there is a strange sense that this movie pops up along my new road like a sign post that tells me where I was coming from and the direction I’m going.

Maybe a touch melodramatic, but capturing the feeling isn’t a rational thing, it’s more a personal point of movement because I was focused on what lay ahead. I needed to do those submissions and I felt dead in the water.

What alleviated the strain was the fun I had writing The Mind-Thistle Run short – done for August’s Writing Challenge at the Fantasy Writers Forum. I didn’t have time to think, I just threw a load of random ideas down in the few hours I had each night after my little had gone to bed. I gave it only cursory edits. It was by no means perfect, but it was satisfying.

I submitted it to and then it was off to the End of the Road.

END OF THE ROAD 2019 (Honeymoon)

Still keeping it simple, we thought we’d pass on flying to the Bahamas and just do something that we both enjoyed: food, beer and music. The extent of our opulence was hiring a VIP bell tent, glamping it with some decent showers on hand. With a bit of cash from our friends (instead of wedding presents) we were set to have a carefree couple of days.

So we left the little on with his grand parents, loaded up the car and headed on out down the motorway.

First we passed Stone Henge on the A303. It just gives me a real sense of foreboding: the place is cold and creepy, built for Winter Solstice sunsets (and not Summer Solstice sunrises) – it’s meant to be a place of darkness, and I guess it shows you how the mind builds associations because the new age hippies want to touch the stones and feel the healing energy, but for me it’s a place built to stave off social collapse as society underwent changes that would prelude a period of warfare starting in the bronze age and which continued up to the present day.

It’s not a happy place anywhere but in fantasy, or perhaps at the summer solstice where the masses of revelers create a unique atmosphere.

Yet passing it was like another marker saying that we were leaving the world it heralded behind for a bit. I could take a moment off from the worry about the way the world turns and just relax for a little.

And that is exactly what I did. We got settled, grabbed some food and beer and there I lay on the grass, a gentle patter of passing rain touching my face even as the sun warmed my bones, and as I stared into the sky I lost myself in some jazz – the awesome saxophone of Nubya Garcia (who I had never heard of). It was a singular moment of peace and repose.

At times we just wandered about, checking out Steve Gunn, The Beths, Kate Tempest, Jessica Pratt, Flamingods, and Mitski who put on an awesome show (again, somebody I’d never heard of). There was a certain explicitness to her that was almost…. uncomfortable, but I loved the changing dynamics of her songs from gentle to intense.

Anyhow, amongst all these acts, both good and bad, was Israel Nash. Love this guy, and our first dance was to one of his latest songs. With a full band it was more rock than country, and he’s such a down to earth fellow that he was winning the audience.

But of course there’s always got be some wankers who want to try and talk the whole way through, despite how LOUD! it was. It wasn’t going to deter these guys. They were committed. You know the sort? You wonder why they don’t all just stroll on back to the bar area where they wont have to shout directly into each other’s ears to be heard.

Still, such foolishness didn’t possess the necessary oomph! to overcome the righteous volume and thankfully they moved away so I could just quietly rock my socks off in the sonic bath lapping over the crowd.

We joked about it later, the whole “oh, I’m sorry! Is the band interrupting your conversation?” thing.

And there was all the other stuff: the hipsters in their silly outfits, the amazing peacocks roaming around, the churros people who served the STRONG coffee, and the tropical atmosphere of the men’s urinal – the word “heady” springs to mind – and even the bookshop selling sci-fi Golden Age Masterworks for £2.99. I got three out of four of the E.E. “Doc” Smith Lensmen book at a snip. Nice.

And that was that. With our honeymoon over we headed home, eager to see our little boy again.

It was the End of the Road, the End of Summer holidays, and the start of the Autumn descent into Winter……

END OF THE ROAD, START OF A NEW ONE

I wont labour the metaphor. I probably use the damn thing every year. We transition from one phase of life into another. My boy went back to school, my wife went back to work and I’m now back in the seat and working.

Feels good.

The first thing I did was to finished making those damned submissions. A variety of agents now know about Red Star Rising. All I have to do is wait to see if anyone bites before making the next step. More on that later.

Anyhow, with that weight taken off my shoulders it was nice to reflect on all the things that had changed over the Summer holidays.

And with loads of exciting stuff lined up, I’m really looking forward to the road ahead.

DJC


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