The Timeless Whirlpool of the Talkers.

I can still hear them, at night, long after the bell has rung and the doors are locked. I lay, restless and buzzing from the constant hum that has followed me to bed. The echoes of a hundred simultaneous voices still reverberate in my weary skull, punctuated by the chink of glass on glass.

Sometimes, when I am not so tired and lay alert and listening carefully, I can almost make them out, as if I have the ability to listen again to everything that was said that night, even those words I paid no attention to before. But somehow the utterances evade me. They crescendo and fluctuate with the familiar cadence and rhythm of a million well-worn conversations, but not one syllable can I decipher.

It’s not every night I hear them, just those evenings where the energy generated in the public house seems to overcome the natural order of the silence that should follow. You can tell, when you are down there, a night like that. It is when the edges of the various social bubbles meet and begin to merge. Ripples of mirth, mayhem and intrigue can spread from pocket to pocket, through lounge to bar and back again in a circle of electricity, growing ever more potent and powerful. Fuelled by flowing confidence from tap and optic, sometimes it can be frightening, but always exciting.

The weak willed like me get swept away with it, well past the end of the shift and the hasty clear-up and into the after-hours when tips are turned to drink, and drink is put to good use. Those remnant handfuls of workers and the few favoured regulars, leaching off the residual glow in the last illuminated corner of the now barricaded sanctuary. Here we tell on ourselves, and others. Here we share secrets we ought not. Here the accumulated gossip of a good night is doled out and dissected. We take more from you than your money.

And here, when those of us who don’t retreat because we work for our board (and maybe, board for our work?), are all that’s left, one last door is locked behind us as we ascend to our dowdy refuge. In my room, directly above the epicentre, I try to unwind and the murmurs begin anew.

Now, it appears, they are growing ever more frequent and raucous. Even in the quiet midweek, when fever pitch is seldom reached, I have begun to hear them. I wonder how long the auditory afterimage of the last searing evening can actually last. Is it there all the time? Have I partook in one-to-many extra-curricular sessions so that I can no longer shake them? Is it only when hush is mixed with dark that my senses notice the ever-present drone?

Here on a quiet and almost forgotten Wednesday, alone in the flat, punters long departed and lines well drained, I cannot catch that sober and elusive early-night, thanks to the infernal chatter from below. Yet I know no one is there. I turned the keys and set the alarms myself, but for all the world, beneath the boards the night continues. Without intoxication or high spirits to blame, there can be no doubt.

It’s 2am. It’s been 2am forever, it seems. Whatever the point was of lying here, it has long gone, and all I can think about is the chatter. A laugh breaks out of the mumble soup, as clear as the day will soon be. I swing my legs out of the sheets and pull on the jeans that lay waiting where I stepped out of them an eternity ago. I wrap the rest of me in the tatty gown that smells of smoke so stale it’s almost become fresh again, like everything here, smothered in an amber film of nicotine.

I don’t like to go downstairs after the furore has been sent home and its fallout contained behind the frosted door at the top of the stairwell. I don’t even like coming up those stairs with the cloying darkness on my heels. I never go down, usually, until the daylight has worked its normalising charm. But I’ve got to exorcise this madness from my mind and  give my eyes chance to lay waste to this myth in my ears.

I light up the stairs from the single switch at the summit and make the dash down to the extensive panel at the bottom, around the corner, groping in the darkness for the top row. I realise I have my eyes closed as I do this, a fire-with-fire defence against the heavy black. I click the switches and open my eyes. Only the inside of the bar is lit-up, as it must be at this time of night, should a passing lawman suspect some unlicensed frivolities peeking through the heavy curtains. Beyond the polished and worn oak, shadows prevail.

I tread the extended horseshoe that links bar to lounge yet never has the full view of either. I round the last corner to the far end of the lounge. The sticky, sickly orange glow of the bar lights barely penetrates as far as the upturned chairs resting uneasily on the squeaky red leather benches that run the line of the outer walls.

There is no one here but me, of course, and I hear nothing but the wind in the streets and the slight hum of meters and machines in the cellar. Suddenly I feel awake, stupid and thirsty. Why not pour myself a drink? After all, I’m alone tonight, for a change, and I can put it on my tab to be paid for later by the cheap generosity of clients with too many coppers in their change.

The optic drains into the tumbler, once, twice, hell, let’s make it three times. The ice machine has a few flakes left to push the whisky even further, and a cigar from the tin next to the limes tops it all off.

I don’t really want to go around to the other side, with the shadows, but my bare feet are cold on the dampish tiles behind the bar, and the high-stools are still out, customer-side. There’s a small envelope of pitch black where the hatch lets me out into a small corridor that joins the bar, lounge and services. I skip through it and back to the lounge, a shudder running with me all the way. I take the first stool I come to that hugs the last trap before the door, partitioned by thin, carved pillars.

My drink waits for me on the bar. It feels reassuring to sit facing inwards, like any lonely regular drinking alone at early doors, lost in thoughts, or found in their absence. The whiskey stings at first as it runs on dry, cracked lips. A slither of the ice remedies that as I work it around my gums before taking that first retching gulp. It makes me draw breath through my teeth, and now I’m ready.

‘I never knew him, not really…’ a woman says from behind, from the corner where we normally huddle after hours, cackling and gossiping. My bad habit of ear-wagging kicks in, and then I remember: I’m alone.

‘That’s not what I heard’ a guttural, male voice says, mirthlessly, almost menacingly. I don’t recognise it, I don’t like it, and I won’t, no, I can’t turn around. My glass is frozen at my mouth, tilted but not pouring, I can feel small discrepancies in the rim of the glass tremble sharply against my lips. I can’t move it, no, I daren’t move it.

‘You hear too much, and not half of it true’ the double-negative woman says. Is this it? Has the senseless chatter finally crystallised in my delusion? There is no doubt now. I can hear them, but they can’t be there. For one thing, the rear of the bar is mirrored, and although it is hard to see past my own pale reflection into the murk beyond the reach of the lights, I find not even a hint of a silhouette.

‘I know more than you think’ the man says. ‘I know he wasn’t alone that night, even if that was how they found him. Even if all the doors were locked from the inside, like they said.’

‘Oh yeah, detective?’ the woman says, sarcastically. ‘How’s that then?’

‘There was the glasses, for a start.’

‘Glasses?’

‘That’s what I said. Two glasses, on another table.’

The woman laughs in a breathy cackle I feel I’ve heard before, in the dusk chorus.

‘It’s a pub!’ she finally manages to spit out. ‘So what?’

The man doesn’t seem to find it, or her, funny.

‘It was after hours. The chairs were put up every night, the tables polished, the ashtrays emptied. Every night. Without fail.’

‘So he missed one.’

‘And didn’t notice it when he came down? Sat hardly a yard away?’ The man was speaking to her like she was stupid, barely tempering the contempt in his voice. Something tells me these two knew each other too well. Well enough to hate and abide each other’s companionship until the miserable sun burned out. The kind of couple who come to the pub every night to get away from each other, but end up spending each and every night in the same corner, trapped in contemptuous companionship.

‘And there’s more’ the man continued while the woman scoffed and gulped something down. ‘The mirror was broken.’

‘Which one?’

‘Behind the bar, over there.’

My spine locks. They’re looking this way. I can feel it, them, burning through the back of my neck. But in the mirror, nothing.

The woman grumbles, unconvinced, but curious.

‘I thought they found him slumped over there?’ she says. Now the burning is right on me, all over and around me. The man grunts in agreement.

‘So how did he smash the mirror? Unless he had a funny turn first.’

‘And then sat down for a whiskey and cigar?’ the man pointed out.

‘Maybe to calm his nerves’ she says, sounding unconvinced. ‘Anyway, he never lit the cigar, I heard.’ The pair fall quiet as both take slurps from drinks.

Calm my nerves? She might be right. That’s what these people are, my nerves, at devilish play. Nothing more. The mirror isn’t broken, and I’m not leaving this cigar untouched, I’m having it right now, except… The matches. Not here. Not in my pocket. Behind the bar. No problem. I take the cigar and break it in two.

‘It was snapped in half, though. What was that about?’ says the man, followed by a long sucking noise of moisture being drained from a presumably hairy top lip.

Oh come on! This is beyond madness now. This is a joke. A joke on myself. The mirror already confirms what I know. There is no one there. A quick glance over my tense shoulder will further validate this absence of reality. All I need to do is turn, but the thought of doing so, of actually peering into that dark corner, is the same thought as my heart stopping. But look I must. I must.

I turn my eyes first. Slowly my head follows, hastened by the confirmation from my periphery. There is, thankfully, no one, nothing. The voices have stopped. They haven’t just taken a break from their gossip, they have ceased to be present at all. I can feel the settled ambience of the empty room and my eyes have adjusted to the dimness. It is, as usual, just another corner of a smelly, locked, abandoned pub, save one. I shall take my drink, and another, and what remains of my cigar to bed. I swivel fluidly on my stool back to the bar.

‘Last orders?’

The shock is automatic, the snap of my hand to the drink beyond any conscious decision. The intense, sepulchral face is inches from mine and the bottomless eyes are absorbing my own. I hurl the glass at the craggy faced man who has appeared before me. I take in the dirty blue apron, sweaty white shirt and crooked teeth of the foul barkeep as the vessel passes through, and crack! I blink heavily at the shattering impact. My eyes open. The mirror is broken. The spectre has gone. The drink, somehow, is still grasped tightly in my white, blood-starved fingers.

I try to relax my grip, but the messages don’t get through. The tumbler is at eye level. The cold oak veneer is pressed against my cheek. Am I resting? Did I fall asleep? If so, why can’t I sit up? I can only feel myself tipping backwards from the stool, falling out of myself, away, into the baying crowd who ramble noisily behind me. They claw at me with their fingers and their words, tearing me cell by cell into the timeless whirlpool of the talkers. All that is left of me out there is a husk, broken, like the cigar, in so many fragments and tatters.

I understand now. If you hear them, their stories, their musings and mumbling in the night, then they have you. If you know their words, they know you. They have you.

I am with them now. This was my story. Soon we will have you too.

THE END.

A note from the Author:

Thanks for reading! I really appreciate it, and it would be great if you could help me reach more people by sharing this on social media by using the buttons below, or copying and pasting the web address far and wide.

If you’re feeling really generous, you can support my writing by buying any of my books advertised in the sidebar, or donating £1 (or whatever you can spare) using this link:

https://www.paypal.me/GAbbottAuthor/1

Thanks. 

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The Book Marketing Diaries Part 3 – Asking for help

I’ve never been too proud to ask for help. I may sometimes be too British to ask for help, but that’s a whole different social anxiety altogether.

Over the coming weeks I will be asking many of my friends, family, acquaintances and the occasional tenuous contact to help me with my next book release.

Specifically, I will be asking a core group of people if they would like to have my book for free ahead of publication in exchange for an honest review so that on the day of the launch, other readers who I don’t know already have some guidance and (hopefully) reasons to pick my book out of the multitude on offer.

This will be happening soon. I will contact everyone who I think may want to help out with this, but I am also open to anyone letting me know that they would like to be part of this journey with me. If I am lucky enough to reach the golden number I am hoping for I may have to scale it back, but for now it’s open doors to early reviewers.

If you do, please let me know either through Facebook, or by emailing info@garryabbott.co.uk, and/or ideally by following this blog and leaving a comment with details of how I can contact you. I will be offering primarily digital editions in whatever format suits. I may consider providing a few printed copies if people are adamant! (but this will be limited… overheads and all. I got a marketing plan to try and fund here!)

In the meantime, in lieu of the real artwork that will be coming at some point, here is something I put together for a bit of fun (this in NO WAY represents the actual artwork… I just like messing in photoshop now and again, and skulls are cool, especially in space, with a bowler hat, a monocle, a galaxy and a planet for eyes, coming out of a supernova…These are nearly all images that you may encounter mentally if you become one of my treasured readers!)

tgc teaser layers 2 copy

The book marketing diaries Part 2.5 – A series?

Alluding back to part 2 of this diary (here: The Book Marketing Diaries Part 2 – What’s in a name?) what I came to realise from feedback and seeing those names laid out in front of me was that maybe I was looking at more than one title here.

I have a general idea of the plot of a second book, which I have left open as a possibility in the upcoming novel, and thematically, it would follow on nicely to have the following two titles confirmed, with any third part being left for another time (say, when I was anywhere close to writing it).

So my current thinking is this:

BOOK 1 (Autumn 2016):

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Book 2 (2018 – I have an unrelated title in progress at the moment slated for 2017):

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Book 3: (Who knows? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, but if I get a modicum of success from the first two, I would look at a trilogy).

Of course, as a free individual, I reserve all rights to not write another at all! But I do have enough confidence to think a second part would be of interest to my readers at least.

So, that’s my current thinking… But I am always open to having my mind changed (and have in fact, spent many years actively trying to do so), so PLEASE do comment in any way you can if you have an opinion and/or advice about this!

Thanks to everyone who has helped me out so far. even the littlest comment can make a big difference when you are doing something like writing, which despite everything else in life, can feel like a lonely endeavour sometimes.

 

 

The Book Marketing Diaries. Part 1

Hello there.

You may recall that in 2014 I launched my first book, ‘The Dimension Scales and Other Stories’, or you may not, I really don’t know.

Either way, I did. I secured an agent to release it as an eBook through all the usual digital channels (including, alas, some that are now no longer with us), and a year later I released the paperback (without agency assistance).

I was, and remain, proud of that achievement, but it was a first step into a larger world, a world that I didn’t and still don’t yet fully understand how to reach out to.

You know the world I’m talking about, because you’re probably on it right now (unless you do crazy things like print out blog posts onto dead trees) – yes, I am talking about ‘The Internet’.

For anyone looking to reach out to fellow human beings and promote work, it would be ludicrous to ignore it. However, the internet does have a hell of a habit of ignoring you – and that’s the challenge.

Apart from the odd curiosity (especially if they include cats), violence, porn, and high-profile (and highly funded) campaigns out there; for the average person the internet can be a frustratingly aloof resource.

Yes you can start a Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/LinkedIn/Website/Blog and spend 80% of your time trying to fill it with things to ‘build your platform’ and whatnot, but does it actually work?

I’m not going to say it doesn’t, as I don’ think I’ve got the hang of it all yet. I especially don’t want to spend 80% of my time trying to do so (as some self-professed expert guides will have you think).

So, this time, I will be keeping a little diary of what I’m doing, what it costs (because, yes, there will be costs), and how successful, or otherwise, my attempts are.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have already spotted that this is in itself, part of the experiment/marketing plan that I have just today decided I’m going to need, given that I’m not having luck with any of the agents this time.

So, part 1 of this blog leads me to item 1 of my marketing plan…

  1. Keep a marketing diary blog.

Pros: Hopefully people will follow your journey and offer assistance, maybe even buy your books and help circulate word of your existence to wider circles.

Cons: I have to remember to keep an online diary and find something to write about at least semi-regularly. Plus, savvy people will realise that they are being marketed at, but then, I will point this out to them, making it some kind of fourth wall breaking ‘meta’ marketing strategy. This will be cool and they will immediately become ardent supporters of your cause.

I of course don’t yet know if this, like any of my activities, will be of use, but let’s find out together, you and I.

Item 2 is quite important, and I’ll cover that in more detail soon (it is already under way):

2. Get a great book cover and titles design from talented people who know what they are doing…

So. There we go. It has started. The only thing that could stop it now is one of the agencies who are still considering my work coming back with an offer, in which case, I won’t really mind that this blog has been for nothing.

Oh! And very importantly, step 3:

3. Actually mention the name of the book and a bit of blurb.

The book is called ‘The Great Connection’ and is a future set ‘first contact’ science fiction novel about the exploration of space through a global citizen-science project that connects deep space observation satellites with virtual reality environments, enlisting the help of ordinary people around the globe to explore uncharted worlds as a form of home entertainment.

It is on one of these worlds that Raif Masters discovers the first signs of alien life in the ten years since the ‘Great Connection’ project was launched: but it is a discovery that could tear his family, and the Earth, apart.

… So there you go!

Marketing Budget To Date: £0.00

 

 

 

 

No War

It’s been a good while since I wrote something on here. As with most people, the distractions of everyday work and life have made demands on my time, and although I am still pursing my creative endeavours, I am having to balance them against other responsibilities.

I didn’t comment throughout the farcical general election, and the resulting bad punchline that is and remains the Conservative government. I’ve kept quiet even when I’ve seen the shoots of hope in an alternative vision through the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn, opting instead to watch cautiously from the sidelines, unable to believe that people like me may finally have a real voice in the world.

When the Paris attacks happened, I found myself searching for my response, both emotionally and outwardly. I knew it was a bad thing, and very, very sad, but adding my voice to the clamour of sympathy didn’t seem necessary. Some things go without saying.

What has finally made me feel like I need to ‘go on record’, for the sake of my own conscience rather than any expectance that my opinion is of any consequence, is this inevitable descent into war and the diversionary tactics of the elite to invert the argument against those of us who think there could be a better way.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the recent attacks and ensuing political posturing had been orchestrated solely to give the British media and political elite the excuse to further attack Jeremy Corbyn, who really stands less as an individual and more as a symbol for anyone who doesn’t buy in to the accepted narrative of vengeance and war.

In a bafflingly obvious rhetorical onslaught from the combined media machine, those who are anti-war are in some way anti-peace, or security, which have become somehow synonymous, as if security in itself is more important than liberty and humanity. Those of us who remember the last twenty plus years of woefully misjudged ‘interventions’ in the Middle East that have both added to and caused a lot of the ongoing violence and problems of today, are somehow apologists, rather than realists who have simply observed what is so and come to a sound conclusion.

What’s worse, if one is to dare mention our involvement in the causes of the atrocities that are taking place daily in this world, and the hypocrisy of the leaders who support the allies of our supposed enemies, and make allies of our supposed enemies to fight the enemies that were once allies, and so on, you are branded almost traitorous, unpatriotic or deluded.

Yet the evidence has not been hidden. There is no conspiracy. Even those people (bless them) who trust every syllable uttered by the BBC for example, can’t fail to recognise that in this case, the last time David Cameron tried to intervene in Syria, it was to fight Assad, and that this time it is to fight the enemies of Assad, who in themselves, have emerged from the ruins of other conflicts where rebel armies were armed and trained by ourselves and others.

For every inflated claim about rebellion in the Labour party that dominates the news headlines at this time, where are the reports into the questions Jeremy Corbyn and others have raised which are of so much more importance to this terrible situation? Such as:

Who is funding the ‘enemy’? Who is buying the oil that they apparently make million of dollars from a day? Who is selling them arms? Why will our bombs make any more difference that the bombs that have already been dropped over the past few years by others? Are ours ‘special’ in some way? Or do we just not want to be left out of the inevitable carving up of the spoils when the dust has settled and the indiscriminate thousands lay dead? What happens next? How long will this last? What do we do when we have killed the enemy of our enemy and they rise stronger for it? Were they really our enemies after all? Do we invade? Have we invaded already? Did we ever stop invading from the last time, or the time before that, or the time before that? Will we be safer when we further destabilise and decimate yet another part of the world? Does anyone really want this? Will we be asked? Can we vote on it? Can we hell.

I could write pages of these questions, yes still, one tabloid can print the word ‘Cowards’ and have millions of people agreeing with them because it’s easier not  to think about these things than it is to confront the complex and unsettling truth.

The only hope I hold is that despite the media’s efforts, the majority of us are just not as stupid as they have come to believe we are. I don’t think they are trying to sway public opinion, I think they create the illusion of it in order to justify whatever the hell they like and make us all feel that we are in the minority, because if the papers are saying it, or the nice man on the BBC, it ‘must be true’. They make it our problem, as an individual, make us worried to say what we think for fear of being branded the outsider to popular opinion. Just look at what they are doing to Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. They, apparently, are the dangerous ones, yet the ones with the stick, poking at the wasp’s nest, want to make us safer?

The inevitable comeback to this thinking is ‘what would you do instead’? And if you have read this, and are asking that question, then go back and read this again, and think about that small handful of pertinent questions I listed a few paragraphs ago. Just think damn it, and don’t let them do it for you. And if you do find yourself questioning anything, ask yourself why any sane person wouldn’t want to know the answer before committing to something as horrendous as war without knowing they have exhausted or even considered the alternatives beforehand. Write to your MP, sign a petition, attend a rally, educate an ignorant associate, don’t buy the papers, write a blog, just do something to send the signal: No War.

Blog Update and Rethink

Hello people who read this (I hope).

This is just a very short(ish) message to say that after the last six weeks of ‘Newsjack’ updates (a BBC Radio 4 Extra comedy show that I submit material for), I am now going to spend a little time deciding what is the best way  to continue this blog.

Having a run of six weeks with a set topic made my life a lot easier! I’ve posted over a hundred entries on this site from philosophy to comedy, spanning the last 18 months or so.

Some week’s it is easy, and some weeks I find myself scrabbling around for something to say.

This is one of those weeks, as you might be able to tell.

So, apart from Admin Cat, which I will continue to post every week (as long as I can still find new ideas for him… there have been nearly 60 cartoons already!) I am going to try and decide if there is a direction I want to take this page in that will make it a little more consistent for me to deal with and my audience (are you there?) to understand.

I will still post blogs if something specific occurs to me, but am going to relax the ‘new posts weekly’ (apart from Admin Cat) until I decide what’s the crack…

In the meantime I am currently happily writing my second book, and I hope to find a fun and interesting way to tell you more about that soon.

So thanks for sticking with me so far, and if you have any ideas or suggestions or feedback, please tell me either here, directly, or by email at gazamatazabbott@yahoo.co.uk.

Thanks everyone.