Sometimes, I just need to speak to Pete

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THE WRITER’S LIFE

I started writing a story with the most preposterous opening, simply because it was a challenge. As with everything I write – half of which ends up in the bin, a quarter in notes and the rest, works in progress – I considered each word as it assumed its place within the narrative and the story has now taken on a life: a lovely problem which I could do without but which I welcome. The story has not been published because it isn’t finished. I thought it was finished but then it took on a new direction when I considered the time of year and how I might affect some people. That’s partly why I’ve been so quiet. In my world, Christmas is crass but in the eye of the gullible consumer, the worship of false deities is blinding. The story I’m working on begins like this: “Bono imploded without warning and for no apparent reason…”

It’s a time of year that has not been kind to me or those around me for the last couple of years and I know that some of the teenagers who came under my wing while I was homeless will be struggling with the pressure. I’m not seeking invites for Christmas and I hope that none are forthcoming. I know people who wish they could be in the same position as me, where they are able to spend Christmas alone. The only people I would want to spend time with are my real children and I can’t, so I’d rather be alone.

I’ll not be depressed. I’ll actually be enjoying the pleasure of having no-one else around, pitying those who envy me because I am unburdened. I don’t know what I’ll do but it won’t be in keeping with an orthodox Christmas because Christmas Day is just like any other day to an atheist. I have no religion nor family who I wish to share anything with on a prescribed date. I can do as I please with whomever by mutual consent, whenever I want; such is freedom.

I may stock up at Lidl, have a fry-up for lunch and a microwave roast for one at dinner time: not because it’s ironic but because it’s what I feel like doing and which freedom from ties allows: some would call it a guilty pleasure. I might buy a bottle of cream liquor to sip while I watch a classic film. I have almost always eschewed Christmas “classics” but I make an exception with It’s a Wonderful Life. That film became a brief tradition with myself and the ex-mother-in-law watching it together when we all spent Christmas together in Northern Ireland.

I do genuinely miss those years but I’ve written enough of my regret. I really don’t have to apologise again, when the guilt will consume me for a long time. I hope that I can at least address the balance in the new book. It’s as brutal writing it as it was living it.

I should be so much busier on the writing front. I have a lot of projects on but my visible output is reduced because I’ve been working on paid projects. The three fiction books – Bloodstained Knaves, The Inner Leviathan and Paradoxica are a long way off, now that Forgive me No-one has taken over. The non-fiction, truthful re-telling of my time on the road is a painful thing to write and it’s something which has exasperated my recent woes but it’s a story which needs to be told.

Even before that, there are the webzines to write for. These can be furtive fields. Since A Girl, Frank Burnside and Haile Selassie won first prize in the Writing Magazine life-changing story competition, the process of turning that little “masterpiece” – as it has been called – into a children’s book is taking up a lot of background time. The other “…beautiful piece of [shock] writing…” – COGS – is being revised so that it can be submitted as a nominee for an award.

The writing life is becoming more consumed by work which I’ve already written, to the detriment of new material. Recognition of previous work is gratifying but I must admit to a little apprehension when I consider how many of my previous stories are now subject to revision, expansion and re-imagining to turn them into books, besides the children’s one.

I have two short stories in draft form at the moment, their markets uncertain. One of them is the one with the preposterous opening which has become something bigger. It could be published first as pulp, then improved. It could be yet another one which plants the seed for a novel. I need to get the pulp version at least out before Christmas as I know that it will save at least one life. The Alternative Nativity is obviously due out soon as well.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to have somewhere to live but I chose to spend Christmas Day with homeless people. The year before, I was just totally lost. The year before that, I spent Christmas with family. It’s amazing how quickly alcohol can destroy lives.

Merry Crassmas: it really means nothing to me but family and they are best off where they are: where I love them.

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