#NaNoWriMo2016 Excerpt Update

Midwife Crisis

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Synopsis

Focusing around the newly appointed midwife of the small town of Strathgoyne, a pub quiz and a stranger in their midst, three women are due to give birth. One woman is looking to be premature; one is looking good for her pre-ordained time; and the third is already three weeks past her due date.

Elspeth McLeod will have to bear all the troubles of her new work while preparing for the pub quiz, all the time trying to work out the mystery of this strange figure in the night.

Excerpt

As the hail flooded the glens surrounding the small village of Strathgoyne, a man squelched through the biting wind and torrential rain, carrying a weighty brown-leather satchel which he had thrust over his aching shoulder. It was a cold night and he hurt from it all over but this was an important mission and there was nothing in the wet world that would stop him from carrying out his self-appointed task.

He had left the large city of Glasgow six hours previously and was exhausted from the arduous drive north. Barely able to keep his eyes open and aching with every step, he was close to collapsing in the muck and the mire. This was, however, something that needed to be done and it was he who had to do it; there were only two others in the world that knew that he held what was contained in his satchel and they were the ones from whom he had to keep it from. Things had gone too far and he couldn’t let these deranged men get their hands on the wares.

The sodden man struggled on, through the dreadful weather. He started to feel that God himself was punishing him for his sins and of course her had many. The man was nowhere near being a good man. He had done many wrongs in his life, some far back in the past and others not twelve hours ago. He had been lustful, greedy beyond compare, slothful in times of idle hands, angry to the point of explosion, envious of many and more prideful than anyone he knew. He had stolen, given out beatings and even killed in the name of ‘the job’ and even taken the honour of more than a few young ladies. The man knew that he was no saint and even considered himself lost to salvation but, as he trudged, stumbled and clambered through the marshy outlands, he was sorry for it all and meant to do this one small act to mark the end of his self orientated life. He had seen his life for what it was and, through the actions of the other two, he saw where the life of thieving and murder would lead. It had to stop some time and it was going to stop here.

As he reached the edge of a concealed grotto entrance, barely seen in the bad weather, he made a vow to turn his life around and leave the past behind forever. From now on, he would live the quiet life and keep away from all temptations of the mind and the flesh. Today was going to be the first day of the rest of his life.

On entering the grotto, the man worked his way to the back of the cave and lay the heavy satchel down on the muck strewn ground and dropped to his knees, worn-out and spent from his gruelling ramble across the saturated wetlands, and started to dig. Not having so much as a trowel to hand, the man used what he could, thrusting his fingers into the ground. He dug and he dug and he dug, till he could dig no more. When he stopped, a hole of around two feet wide and three feet deep lay before him. He roughly mopped the dirt off his hands, onto his shirt, and picked up the ominous satchel, opening it up to look one last time at the contents. His eyes gleamed at the sight but, knowing what he must do, he quickly shut it over once more and fastened it tight. He threw the satchel and its contents into the hole which he had just dug and pushed all the dirt back into its original space in the ground, patting it down for good measure.

The deed done, the man sat himself up against the wall of the grotto and closed his eyes as he waited for the storm to pass. He had completed what he came here to do and now he could rest. There was no way the other two were going to find it now. The contents of the satchel were safe and he could rest in peace.

“A happy heart does as much good as medicine,” Elspeth informed the sour looking expectant father, “but a broken soul dries your bones. Get a smle up on that face of yours and let’s see what can be done to move things along.”

When the previous midwife had left, she had completely emptied the place of all but medical files (of which there were many) and doctoral equipment (of which there was very little). Apparently, her predecessor had always use her own paraphernalia and as such all that was left for Elspeth were a few old and rusty height rods; a fetal stethoscope that should have been disposed of thirty years previously; an old Doppler that had seven missing buttons; a blood pressure cuff that looked like it had been used by Mary Evens back in the eighteenth century; a couple of broken new-born lancets; and one seriously manky bedpan. Elspeth reckoned the use of any one of these, even cleaned by one of those women from off the tele and sterilised with holy fire, would do more harm than good and so the very first thing she did, after finishing her tea, was to throw it all into a black garden binbag and place it out the back for disposal, not even knowing if medical refuse was even a thing this far north.

I hope you enjoyed my excerpts or at least found them interesting. Please comment below.

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Lessons Learned from Agatha Christie: Take Advantage of the Sweet Yet Unreliable Narrator.

Jean Lee's World

I admit that I still confuse “unlikeable” with “unreliable” every now and again. An “unlikeable” narrator is not so much a twit as an asshole. One we just can’t bring ourselves to care about. If the story swallows him up, good riddance. If he gets away with it, then we enjoy imagining how he’ll get his comeuppance in the unwritten pages thereafter.

Captain Hastings is NOT unlikeable. In fact, he’s one of the kindest, loveliest chaps you could ever hope to meet on the page. Affable, thoughtful, and never afraid when things get dicey, he’s the bloke we’d never mind having over for a long visit. Hugh Fraser was a brilliant casting choice for Hastings in the Mystery! presentations of Poirot that ran for decades, what with his bright eyes and sweet smile. In fact, he’s so sweet that we, the audience, can’t bear to smack him with a rolled-up newspaper until…

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Rabbi Burns’ “The Wedding Speech”

Friends,

I am finishing off my new novel, “Bjorn Again”, at present. This is the third in the Bjorn Trilogy and I am getting more excited about it as I reach the final chapters. In the book there is a wedding ceremony and the Theologian, Rabbi Burns has written a poem for the event. I would like to share this with you now. It is in Scots English but I am sure you will understand it all. Enjoy.

 

Rabbi Burns’, “The Wedding Speech

________

I welcome thee – intae this hame,

No’ fir gold, – success ‘r fame,

But tae rejoice – in twinship and hope,

Tho her faither’s just glad – they didnae elope.

In maist hearts, – there lieth a midden,

Secrets past – are aftimes hidden.

But here afore us – there standith two,

With souls kept open – and haerts so true.

 …

So look upon – these twa in love,

Say Cupid, Swan – and turtle dove,

And see in them – fit thee – may be,

Love here abounding – fir a’ tae see.

 …

So I ask thee now – tae be upstanding,

And mak’ thy pledge – to keep a haund in,

And help these twa – in front o’ me,

In times o’ need – be on land or sea.

If you like my work, feel free to check out some of my other blog entries or, if you would like something more substantial, you can find my books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as many other online bookstores.

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Lavenders Blue

Not so long ago, in a place close to home, there lived a widower by the name of Eli. He was eighty-three and all alone. His wife had died six months ago; at the age of seventy-five and things would never be the same again. They had been sweethearts at school and had grown to love each other with a passion that is seldom known, these days.

On this day, Eli stepped out of his country cottage, on the coast of Dover, in which the couple had lived, since Eli’s retirement some years previously. He was wearing an old cloth apron, wore a wicker hat upon his wrinkled, bald head and held, in his shaking hand a small trowel. As he stepped, he raised his head to the sky and took a long breath in, inhaling all the aromas of the day. Looking down and over to his left he admired the garden. It had always been his wife’s garden, really, but he took care of it every day, since her passing.

It really was something to see. There were Roses and Violets; Daffodils and Bluebells; but also, carefully planted and tended, in little rows around the circumference of the plants, were herbs of all kinds. Sage and Thyme were there, and there was an abundance of Rosemary and Basil. Also, placed strategically amongst it all, was his wife’s utmost favourite, Lavender.

The fact that Lavender was also the name of his late wife was purely a coincidence. She had loved the plants for their beauty and scent. She would have bouquets of it all over the house, because she believed that the perfume was relaxing and always kept them replenished, whenever possible.

Her favourite song was even “Lavender Blue”, which she sang constantly, while nursing her garden. He went through it in his mind; “Lavenders green, dilly, dilly, Lavenders blue – You must love me, dilly, dilly, ‘cause I love you – I heard one say, dilly, dilly, since I came hither – That you and I, dilly, dilly, must lay together.

It was a strange song, he had to admit, but it would always be stuck in his mind, as a reminder of her. The next verse was more of the same; “Call out your men, dilly, dilly, set them to work – Some with the rake, dilly, dilly, and some with the fork – Some to make hay, dilly, dilly, and some to make corn – While you and I Dear, dilly, dilly, keep ourselves warm.

As he went through the song, in his head, while he knelt and tended the herbs, he really thought that he could hear her voice, singing along with him. He stopped for a second, to wipe away a tear and found that the voice he thought he heard carried on without him. He listened. “Wedding’s for life, dilly, dilly, love is to share – And love must grow, dilly, dilly, with joy and care – Lavenders green, dilly, dilly, lavenders blue – I was your queen, dilly, dilly, when I wed you.” Yes, it was real, he could really hear it, and it was her voice. No doubt about it. He stood up and looked around to see where it was coming from.

In a trance, he followed the voice out of the garden and off in the direction he imagined the hypnotic resonance to be emanating from. He crossed the road and into the field, opposite. The song was constant along the way; “Close we did live, dilly, dilly, and when we die – Close in one grave, dilly, dilly, Close we will lie – Lavenders green, dilly, dilly, lavenders blue – We’ll be together, dilly, dilly, ‘cause I love you.”

He felt like he was in a dream. All manner of memories and feelings came flooding back to him, as he listened to the words and followed the transient voice along the way. Images of his beloved wife flashed through his mind; her face, glowing when she smiled; her golden hair, before the silver overtook, flowing alluringly down over her shoulders and her gentile laugh when he did something silly.

She had always been there to chastise him at the times when he needed it and lift his spirits in times of great sorrow or self-doubt. She had always been there, and that was it, wasn’t it? She had been there for him, in good times and bad, looking out for him, keeping him on the straight and narrow. He missed those days with all his heart and now that he was all alone he didn’t know how to carry on. Oh, he went through the motions and everything that needed to be done got done, but there was no joy in anything any more. He felt like a pre-programmed machine, which paid lip service to life, but never actually lived. He wished for the return of the days when he felt alive and, in every sense of the phrase, had something to live for.

The voice, as he tracked it across the fields, grew more and more clear. With every word sung to him, he felt a growing sense of elation, bubbling up inside of him, making him smile again as hope elevated his disposition.

He listened to the words as they came to his ears; “When you were at work, dilly, dilly, I brewed your beer – When you came home, dilly, dilly, I was your Dear – I served your meat, dilly, dilly, I baked your bread – I shared your board, dilly, dilly, I shared your bed.”

It was all true. She had looked after him all those years they were together. She had cooked his meals and looked after the house; she had tended the whole garden, front and back, and not just the small patch she called her own. Everything he needed in life, she had provided. She was the best thing to ever happen to him and he knew it. Now all he had was his routine, since they had no children, and that was no life.

The voice drew him out of the fields and up the small hill that he and Lavender had climbed many a Sunday afternoon, carrying with them a picnic of sandwiches and tea, to have while they looked out over the cliffs, to the never ending sea. Those were magical days for the both of them and Eli felt blessed, in every way, to have experienced them. They used to dream of sailing out into the vast waters and envisioned what they might find in the new lands they encountered. They joked about pirates boarding their craft and of natives imprisoning them in their villages; of big pots and red hot fires. It was all in fun, though. They knew that they would never do anything so adventurous, but the imaginings kept them amused for a short while.

As he reached the top of the hill, he looked around and saw, to his surprise, where the couple had previously sat and dreamt their dreams, assembled in the way he had always remembered, was a red and white chequered cloth, with a flask of tea; a Tupperware containing roast beef sandwiches and two small fishing stools. He feared that all this was just in his mind and that the bubble would pop, leaving him alone and in a saddened state, once more.

As he looked up from the laden cloth he saw, to his amazement, a figure, all in white, standing at the edge of the cliff, still singing as he watched; “If you love me, dilly, dilly, never to roam – And I love you, dilly, dilly, eternity must come – I’ll be your girl, dilly, dilly, you’ll be my boy – Binding us close, dilly, dilly, bringing us joy.”

As he looked closer, he could see the figure beckoning to him to draw nearer.  He did so and joy filled his soul, for it was indeed Lavender. She was young again, as she was when they first met and more beautiful than ever. Her smile was enchanting and he found himself moving towards her with more virtuosity than he had felt in many a year.

As he approached her, he noticed that she was not standing on the edge of the cliff, as he had first thought, but floated in mid air, just off of the edge. He paused and looked at her face. It was a picture of love, happiness and compassion; everything that she had portrayed in life. Her hand was outstretched and he moved closer to her, raising his own, in order to feel her touch once more. Her song continued as he did; “Come with me now, dilly, dilly, and we shall go home – No more to be lost, dilly, dilly, no more to roam – I am at peace, dilly, dilly, And you shall be too – For we have a love, dilly, dilly, that is honest and true.”

He reached out is hand further, with all the love in his heart, to clasp hers. She smiled her wonderful smile, as he did. With every step he got closer, until he reached the edge of the cliff, unseen now in his bliss.

Come,” she said, as his outstretched hand went to grip hers. He lifted his foot, once more and, as he tried to hold her had, he found that his own passed straight through. His balance lost, he looked down, to see that his foot had no place to stand.

As he fell, the dream snapped and he was suddenly faced with reality. He looked up at the figure of his beloved and saw her change from the striking features of Lavender, into a cackling creature of ferocious temperament. The fiend laughed and laughed. For the figure, as you will have guessed, was not the ghost of his wife, but an Evil Faerie that calls out to men’s souls and lures them to their deaths.

As Eli fell, the Faerie threw back her head in delight and, in a puff of smoke, vanished, until another heartbroken man could be found.

*

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Some New Old Books

Today I would like to talk about some of the books which I have recently purchased. Books can mean a lot of things to a lot of people and every new buy tends to be made for a specific reason, not counting those of us who can’t keep away from the old curiosity book stores.

I have recently bought six books but they are not all ones that would be readily available in the bookstores, real-life or web-based.

The first of my purchases, excuse the title, is, “The Cambridge Tart”. It is a selection of satirical poems relating to Cambridge University. This copy was published in 1823 and the title is a mocking of an old Oxford term, stating inside, “Oxford has its sausage and why not Cambridge its tart.”

The Cambridge Tart 2

The preface goes thus:

“For my part, seeing no legal objection, I shall turn cook and mould as delicate a Pasty as my slight knowledge in the art will permit; and I do hope that every Cantab will design to taste it. Should any individual find a kernel of spice rather too hot for his palate, I entreat he will forgive its biting quality and not turn Crusty on the occasion; but place the accident to my over anxiety, in wishing to indulge his appetite for the delicious.”

Basically, the author is saying that some of the poems inside may be a little naughty and he asks the readers forgiveness early on, in case he has gone a little too far in his attempt to entertain. I have yet to read through this and the others on this list but I am intrigued to read on and see what humours lie ahead.

The second of my new buys is “The Poetical Works of Longfellow”, published somewhere between 1850 and 1899. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet from Portland in Maine. His works have included, “Paul Revere’s Ride”, “The song of Hiawatha” and “Evangeline”. I enjoy a good poem, now and then, and am looking forward to reading the informative and talented efforts of this New Word Poet.

Longfellow 2

I will put books three and four together as they are both by the wonderful, Bombay born, Rudyard Kipling and they are, “Soldier’s Tales” (published in 1896) and “Wee Willie Winkie and Other Stories” (also published in 1896). Kipling has always been a favorite of mine and has become, because of the success of “The Jungle Book” and “How the Camel Got Its Hump”, one of the best known Late-Victorian Authors.

Soldier's Tales 2

Kipling is a wonderful writer who was most capable of writing for children as he was for adults. His work spanned poetry and novels; to articles and letters of encouragement. I can’t wait to get stuck into these two books and expect great things.

Book five is “Heroes and Martyrs” (Charles H. Kelly) and recounts the histories of famous Churchmen and Missionaries, from Wycliffe to Wesely. I enjoy a bit of Church history although I cannot say I am well read. My father, the Rev. Prof. ATB McGowan, is the man to speak to there. He has more theological history in his head than I could ever hope to imbibe. I do, however, like to stick my toe in the water every so often and this is a great book to give me some insights into the to’s and throws of the Christian Church and what the Churchmen went through for their beliefs.

Heroes and Martyrs 2

Finally, I come to “Sea Songs and Ballads”, published in 1923, by C. Fox Smith. Songs of the sea are endearing to me. I love the idea of sailors singing songs that get lost in the wind, in an attempt to keep themselves occupied during long trips. Also, drinking songs (of which most folk songs seem to be) are great in number.  If you are able to get a copy of this, I would advise it. A lot can be learned about a group or society by their songs and tales and this book is looking to be a good read, through and through.

Sea Songs and Ballads 2

I hope you found this interesting. Not having read the books yet, I am unable to go into great detail about them but I love old books and love to share my new purchases with others. Whether a book is old or new, enjoyment can be found and there are a great many wonderful tales out there. Delve into the old curiosity bookstores, rummage around in the back and see what you find.

*

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“Curse of the Anti-Santa”: Chapter 1 – Oot

It was two days before Christmas, and William walked out his cell for the last time. A cell he had occupied for the last three years.

Walking down the hard, cold corridors of HM Prison Barlinnie, he looked his last on his ex-inmates. This was one of the hardest prisons in the world. Situated in Glasgow, it housed some of the most dangerous men in Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales.

He had it fairly easy in here though, compared to some of the others who had braved these halls over the years. William cast his mind back a couple of years. Back to a small boy, no more than seventeen, who had been brought in. He was a small, skinny kid with bad hair and a face that looked like a lost puppy. He lasted three weeks before Stainless, an eighteen stone bank robber with a face only a mother could love, took a dislike to him and threw him off the balcony, smashing his skull on to the concrete floor twenty feet below, and breaking both legs. After that, they started putting up nets, to catch anyone who ‘slipped’.

There was always something going on in this place. Nobody was going to take on William though. Not unless they wanted a shorter life expectancy. His father was Billy Matheson, a local “businessman” in Bishopbriggs, Glasgow, and had a number of pubs and restaurants in the city. One of Scotland’s most notorious criminal kingpins, Matheson had risen from poverty in the east end of Glasgow, to being one of the wealthiest men in Scotland. He commanded thousands of committed gang members and workers alike. If you upset Matheson at lunch, you’d be under the dirt by dinner. 

Everyone said William took after his father. They both had the same build and facial structure and they both had more entrepreneurial skills than Bill Gates and Richard Branson thrown together.

As he passed the main reception, William stopped and turned to look at a large, bald man, sitting on the chair behind the desk.

“Well Mr Andrews Sir, I guess this is it then.” 

“It had better be!” Mr Andrews replied. “I don’t want to see you walking these halls again.” 

“So you want me to wait till you have that second heart attack then?” William replied, bouncing up and down on his toes. 

“Very funny Matheson.” He reached under his desk and pulled up a box. It was battered and office regulated brown. “This here’s your effects.” 

Not even looking at William as he continued. “One watch, broken. One cigarette, stubbed out. One pair of handcuffs, pink.” He looked up at this point. “You brought your own handcuffs?”

“Yeah, and don’t you just wanna life as exciting as mine.”

“Watch your mouth Matheson.”

“You could always unscrew that leg of yours, that’ll bring the ladies swarming.”

“You’re not out of here yet Matheson.” He put his face right up against William’s. “I could stick you in the hole now, and nobody would find you. You’ve been released, you see.”

William cleared his throat. “Good point, well made.”

“Right. Let’s see.” Mr Andrews continued. “Oh yes. One Pair of white briefs, a toy gun and a sombrero.” A smile came to Mr Andrews face. “And don’t forget, all prison clothes must be returned at he end of each visit.”

“You expect me to go out there in nothing but my boxers?”

If that’s how they come in, that’s how they go out.” He replied, as if reading an invisible rulebook. “Here’s your twenty quid. Now sod off!”

***

William walked out the main gate, in his old white briefs and sombrero, clutching onto the handcuffs and the toy gun. He stood still, looking out into Glasgow. Well, he was back, and back to stay. He turned right and continued on his way, back home.

..

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Virgil Killed the Radio Star

Virgil climbed the cold concrete steps, of the new flat he had just leased, namely number eight, Kenley Way, Birmingham, Alabama.

The last few weeks had not been his best and he was not in his regular state of mind.

 Three weeks ago, Virgil had returned home, from the horrors of Korea. He was bright eyed and delirious with anticipation, as he packed his kit with his comrades, the evening before. They had been ecstatic when they heard that their last tour was over and that they were now able to go back to their home towns; back to their families; back to an ordinary life.

The journey home which was long had been made longer still, by the eager anticipation of the lonely soldiers. They told stories and japed and fooled. The battles were over. Never again would they have to look down on a corpse and recognise the face. Before long they would be home again and everything would be good again.

His fiancé met him off the boat and had hugged and kissed him in ostensible joy. They took a cab back to their home, just across the water from where he found himself now.

Things had gone well, for the first week, until Virgil started to notice strangities in his fiancé’s behaviour. She would go out at the oddest of times; hang up the phone when he entered the room; and took the dog out for some extremely long walks.

To Virgil, who had been trained in how to spot lies, this was not the hardest nut to crack. It was clear to him that his fiancé had met someone else while he was away fighting to save their freedom.

This angered him beyond belief and, when she had returned one night from one of her dog walking stories, he confronted her, causing her to relent and tell all. She admitted that she was having an affair with a man whom she had met a few months before but refused to reveal his identity. She concluded the conversation by breaking down crying.

Not being a man to watch a woman cry he grabbed his bag which he had pre-packed along with his coat and left, slamming the door behind him so hard that a picture came off its hook and slammed into the glass table, below.

 After storming out, Virgil spent a long time with his own thoughts and in the company of a comforting Captain (straight-up, no ice). He thought long and hard about how he had first felt when he heard that he would be coming home and how he was feeling, right at this very minute.

It came to him, in a flash. He would hunt down this mystery man and express his disappointment, in no uncertain terms.

 He had spent the next week, peering down the lenses of a pair of binoculars. Every move of his ex-fiancé was his to record. He followed her to work; to the gymn; and to whatever restaurant she happened to dine in. Everywhere she went, he went. He would find his mystery man if it were the last thing he did.

It seemed, however that she had expected this of him and so they had rested their little love trists, until they believed that they were safe. On the eve of his third week home, it happened. He was sitting in his car as she slipped out of the front door, wearing a long black coat and big hat, to match.

She climbed into a cab, which had pulled up moments before and they took off in persuit. Virgil made sure that the cabbie followed at a safe distance, ensuring that she couldn’t see them him behind her.

Before long, within five minutes as it occurred, they arrived at their destination, number ten, Kenley Way.

Once she had entered, he had crept up to the apartment door and peered through the keyhole. They were both there, in the hall, their arms wrapped tightly around each other and their lips adjoined, in the throes of wanton passion. As they released each other and the man’s face became clear, Virgil saw that he recognised him. His face was up on banners and advertising boards all around the city. This was the Radio Dj, Billy-Boy Williams.

Virgil turned, put his back up against the wall of the building and slowly slid down, until he was seated in the mud, below.

This was awful. Where did this Bastard, excuse the French, get off taking another man’s fiancé? How did he have the nerve? Virgil had been out in the hell that was Korea for more time than was good for him; he had seen the horrors of war and come back again; he had done all this… and some smug radio star thinks that he can saunter along and steal another man’s girl, while he’s away.

No. It shouldn’t be. Men like that should be made to pay. They should not be allowed to carry on. It was on that day that he had made the decision and that was why he was climbing the steps of number eight, today. 

When he reached the top, he walked over to the door and opened it with his newly acquired key and entered the apartment. He walked straight into the sitting room and strode directly to the window, which faced the building to its side, dropping the bag he was carrying with him. It was a long thin bag, with different compartments and pockets.

Leaving the lights off, he looked through his small telescope at the building opposite him. From where he was, he could see straight into the bedroom of number ten. This Weasel was going to pay and nothing was going to stop him. This was where Virgil was most comfortable. He knelt down and opened the bag, pulling out a long nosed rifle, with a telescopic sight. He set it up, on the tripod, which he also pulled out of the bag and got into a good position, where he could see down the sights.

As he looked he saw the man himself, standing there, glass of whisky in one hand. He seemed to be staring at something on the wall. As Virgil watched, however, the man slowly raised the glass to his lips and turned away from what he had been so intently staring at. As he moved, Virgil saw that it had been a portrait of the Lord Christ, in all his Glory.

Not even the Jesus can help you now, Virgil said to himself, as he aimed his sights on the man, waiting for him to get into the right position. While he was waiting, the doorbell must have rung because the man had moved eagerly to the door, opening it quickly.

His ex-fiancé entered and they began to have a heated argument about something. She seemed to want to calm things down, as she kept trying to hold him, but every time she did, he moved away, crossing his arms high on his chest and shaking his head.

Well, thought Virgil, at least he’s got a conscience. No matter, he still has to pay for what he’s done. He waited patiently for her to leave and stared down the sights once more as he stood again at the portrait of Christ.

That’s right, pray, Virgil thought. It was to be his last opportunity. Nothing was to stop events, now. As Virgil peered down the sights and adjusted the scope, he pressed ever so slightly on the trigger, to get the biting point… breathed in… paused for half a second… and fired. As he did, the man took the opportunity to pray. As Virgil’s finger pulled the trigger, the man knelt down. The bullet grazed the top of the man’s head and went straight into the portrait.

Virgil was stunned. He suddenly remembered an old Army Pastor saying to him that Jesus Christ would take a bullet for him, if he would only bow down before him in prayer. Virgil had never given religion much thought but what he saw before him was a little too creepy even for him. He didn’t know if he was just losing his touch; or if it was a coincidence; or even if the Lord Christ had just spared the man’s life but one thing he did know was that he didn’t want to be around when the police arrived.

He quickly packed up his gear and left the apartments, before escaping Kenley Way and subsequently Alabama, to the sounds of the Police sirens, and fled to Mississippi. This was all something that he was going to have to put down to experience.

… 

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Understanding the Construct

I have recently come up with an idea to come to grips with the basics of a story and understand the underlying elements. Sometimes we as writers need to understand how other writers go about constructing a story, in order that we might learn to do the same or similar.

One of the things that I like to do is to take a classic story and, removing all the plumping, reduce the story to fifty words or less. This helps to see what elements are the basis for the story and, most likely, what the author had in mind when writing the piece.

As an example, I will give you one of mine. This is “Sleeping Beauty” in fifty words (exactly fifty).

“In the beginning, there was a boy. There was also a girl. She got into trouble. He had to pull her out. He fought through a lot of bad things to get there. When he did arrive, she was having a nap. He kissed her. She awoke. They got married.”

I hope you found this interesting and even give it a try for yourself. Feel free to post your own efforts below in the comments section. You can scroll down to read some of my more in-depth articles, poems and stories.

You can also follow me on Twitter: @AuthorMcGowan

Lyricism in Hip-Hop

This week I would like to discuss something that a lot of people do not think on. Hip-Hop has had a lot of bad press over the years whether good or bad. For many people, Hip-Hop is considered a crude form of music and others do not even consider it that. I however have been listening to Hip-Hop for a couple of decades now and, although I agree that there are many rappers out there who cannot write a lick, there are some who hold to a higher standard and can be very poignant and informative if we give them the chance.

 

A Brief History

In the 1970’s Jamaican born DJ Clive ‘Kool Herc’ Campbell helped to pioneer the genre that is known today as Hip-Hop. Through the medium of House Parties and later Street Parties, he borrowed from the Jamaican tradition of ‘impromptu toasting, boastful poetry and the use of speech over music.’ This then became widely coined as ‘MCing’, words and wordplay, put to a relevant rhythm. He also made use of the African style ‘Capping’ when men of the villages would try to out-do each other for the amusement of the onlookers. Melle Mel is often thought of being the one to be the first person to give himself the title of MC.

DJ Kool Herc’s house parties grew and grew and became very inspirational. Expanding in order to accommodate more and more people, the parties became a place for young people of the streets to go, in order to get away from the violence of the streets themselves.

Even N.W.A., considered the worst of the worst at the time, were trying to tell the story of what was going on in their neighbourhoods; trying to get people to see that America wasn’t this great happy smiley place that everyone wanted it to be. They wanted to let people understand that there were a great many places in the country where is wasn’t safe to walk down certain streets in daylight, never mind after dark. These rappers were the ones who brought it all to our attention and the emphatic language and lyrics were their way of showing the hurt and the strength of their will even after living in the areas where guns, drugs and more were slowly breaking down their society.

 

So, Lyricism?

Now to the point of this week’s blog, lyricism in Hip-Hop. Most people, if asked, would probably describe rapping as obscene and not think on it further. This is the case in many modern rappers who are after money and fans and little else but there are many others who are fighting the good fight.

Notorious B.I.G. once rapped, “Sky is the limit and you know that you keep on / Just keep on pressing on / Shy is the limit and you know that you can have / What you want. Be what you want.” In this statement, he is talking to all the youngsters who felt like their life wasn’t going to go anywhere; thinking “What chances do I have?”, a big problem, and let them know that they could have that chance of escaping the dangerous neighbourhoods, they just needed to be pro-active and fight the stigmas that were being pressed onto them; keep on keeping on, as they say.

In one of her songs, Lauryn Hill said, “Everything is everything / What is meant to be, will be / After winter must come spring / Change, it comes eventually.” Very poignant, yes? Hip-Hop has not been given a good name but there are people, like Lauryn, that still have something to say; advice, if you will.

Nas is another who speaks out against the stigmas of street life, saying, “If the truth be told, the youth can grow / Then learn to survive till they gain control / Nobody says that you have to be gangstas, hoes / Read more, learn more, change the globe.” I love these lyrics. I have always felt that the best rappers have always been the ones who speak out on the issues relating to their home areas and Nas does just that, in this.

 

The Rappers Themselves

Lastly, I would like to mention a few of the greats. Biggie and 2Pac will always be considered to be two of the greatest rappers of all time. They, along with DJ Kool Herc, Flava Flav, N.W.A., Snoop Dogg, Ice T, LL Cool J and others, were the backbone for the creation of Hip-Hop and the new expressive use of poetic language, for that is what is it is whether we can appreciate the form or not.

I myself am a huge lover of O’Shea ‘Ice Cube’ Jackson. He is a poet and has always spoken out on real issues. He uses words to express his emotions and the emotions of the people who grew up where he did. His life had been eventful to say the least and his careful and intellectual lyricism is great to hear. Even when speaking in interviews, you can tell that he is really thinking and not just rolling off the first thing that comes to him, in an attempt to gain followers. No, he speaks from the heart and addresses the issues that concern him, instead of the more usual derogatory use of language. When he does curse or use abrasive language, it is (most often) used as a way to enforce a point and make people listen. This works more with some than others but the point is that he is making the effort to speak on the issues surrounding America today and do that in a lyrical and intelligent way.

Just wakin up in the mornin gotta thank God,
I don’t know but today seems kinda odd.
No barkin from the dog, no smog,
And momma cooked a breakfast with no hog.
I got my grub on, but didn’t pig out.
Finally got a call from a girl I wanna take out.
Hooked it up for later as I hit the door,
Thinkin will I live, another twenty-four.
I gotta go cause I got me a drop top,
And if I hit the switch, I can make the ass drop.
Had to stop, at a red light,
Lookin in my mirror and not a jacker in sight,
And everything is alright.”

 

Some people will agree with me on all this and other will not, I have no delusions but, from what I have heard over the years, lyricism in Hip-Hop is really there and, if we give it a chance then sometimes we can find some real gems of wisdom.

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The First Revelation of John

This week I would like to present another one of my latest poems, “The First Revelation of John”. It is a retelling of St John’s first visionary experience, as dictated in the book of Revelations (The Bible). Now, I am not a theologian and do not claim any special understanding of what is described but I wanted to address it in some form and therefore decided upon what you are about to read. I hope you find it interesting.

 

“The First Revelation of John”

From an Angel, came the message,

Of the ending of the world.

A telling dream of many things,

“Be Blessed…” said the Herald.

Unto those who read the prophesy,

Untold blessings will be given.

And the rest will feel the burning

Of the whole/full might of Heaven.

He is coming with the thickening clouds.

He’s coming with a sounding fare.

Every heart will cry in anxious pain,

When all do see him there.

The Alpha and Omega both,

The Lord, God; Great I Am.

Who is and was, will always be,

Is soon to stalk this land.

Seven lights the seer first was shown,

Of domestic simple fare,

Though golden was their colour true,

He could not help but stare.

Among the light and standing tall,

A “son of man” was seen.

A long dress robe he wore therein,

With his golden sash pristine.

His head and hair were white as white,

Though his eyes they burned like fire.

His feet were bronzing to the eye,

A voice of water rushing air.

In his right hand holding seven stars.

Out his mouth, the sharpest sword.

His face was brighter than the sun,

On any given world.

When the seer saw what had been seen,

He fell flat on his knees.

The man put hand to the seer’s arm,

Saying, “Do not, please, fear me.”

“For I am the ever living one,

Who once had been dead, true.

But I hold the keys to Hades gates,

And now will outlive you.”

The seven lights being seven churches,

The truth was told and known,

The seer did what he was told,

And put it all to stone.

Please feel free to comment.

You can also follow me on Twitter @AuthorMcGowan