Tag Archives: Writing

On an indigo night

By MJ Edmunds : I glimpsed the moonlit sky in the last hour of darkness. For this I give gratitude to the cat that found me at my early desk and brushed by my legs to say he had a night mission. As I slid the door open I spotted the moon just up there and liked how it glimmered on the roof of the house next door and onto the road. Barefoot, I crossed the deck and leaned on the railing to crane to take in  the  indigo sky. I drew in a deep breath at the pleasure of it. As light as it was, you (if lucky) could see stars still strewn across the sky, and what I call in all of my stories a dance hall sky. Some were dimmed by now. A car came up the hill, two white orbs showing the way although almost not needed. This driver was making an early start, a nurse heading for a shift, a lover stealing home before dawn, a traveller heading for the airport to go south for weekend, or a surfer racing to catch a wave at daybreak…
The Paradigm Shuffle~MJ Edmunds

Indigo night : MJ Edmunds
Indigo night : MJ Edmunds

The impressive sands of St Ives, June 1985 - Marian Edmunds

The St Ives etiquette book for reading in cafes

MJ Edmunds

I headed to a favourite café the other day, book under my arm. There is time enough to digest a short story at one sitting. As I entered the café an acquaintance greeted me warmly. Wrapped in a bright shawl, she sat alone at a kitchen table. I smiled and greeted her and made a note to self that if I sat there I could forget my intention to read.  I was writing well that day and wanted to oil the wheels with some good reading.

The remaining small table in the café was taken and the other big table was almost full with a couple chatting quietly and three others eating and reading newspapers. I found a place, set down my book and scarf, hoping my acquaintance would not feel slighted. Then I thought to myself, it’s a free country and I am entitled to read.

I ordered, sat, poured some water, and opened the book choosing a short story because of it’s title, Green Bus to St Ives by Salley Vickers. I once took a train to St Ives, and somewhere  is a diary that records who I met that day and my visit to the Barbara Hepworth home and studio oblivious that not so many years later I would live amid a garden of smooth carved stones. Greedily I lapped up the spectacle, smell and sounds of the beaches that were alike yet far different from home.

As I slipped away with the story characters on a bus to the Tate and rediscovered Barbara Hepworth’s garden, I heard the voice of my acquaintance. “Where do you live?”

The impressive sands of St Ives, June 1985 - Marian Edmunds
St Ives Panorama, June 1985

A male voice replied, “We live up the coast but I would like to live here.”

“I wouldn’t like to live here as everyone knows your business,” said my acquaintance. I glanced around to see a man and his wife sitting at a small table, a walking frame parked in front of the table.  My acquaintance sat at the far end of a big table.

For the next few minutes as I tried to keep reading I learned where the man, and my acquaintance were born and had lived and why each had moved. I learned that my acquaintance had left an affluent city area and  was “not like” those people she had left. In a few short minutes I had learned a great deal about my acquaintance’s life. I learned nothing  about the man’s wife. She appeared frail and said little. The man seemed glad of the conversation so I thought that was a good thing.

Their talk turned to the economy. I determinedly kept on reading about the unexpected alliance of the characters in the story. Why  hadn’t my acquaintance moved closer to her new friends instead of broadcasting across the café?

“My kind of business is not affected by the downturn,” said my acquaintance.          “Everything is affected by the downturn,” said the man. For a moment I was tempted to weigh in to agree with him and I suspect they wouldn’t have minded a bit.

“What are your names?” said my acquaintance to the couple. And so it went on.

As I finished my tart, a warm tumble of cheese and vegetables, I checked the pages of my book and saw I still had a number of pages to read.

My acquaintance stood up and issued a fond farewell to her new friends and it was quiet again. I ordered coffee, and made my way back to St Ives.

Plotting a novel escape

I once heard  novel writing described as the writer setting themselves a puzzle or trap from which they must escape. Over the past few months I have been redrafting my novel Sapphire Day, one of several in progress, and am now 30 pages from the end. That makes it sound easy. And yet I only need to buckle down and finish it.

The bad news is that this 30 pages needs a bit of work as  I seem to have switched styles. The first chapter was decided more or less five years ago. The world and me has changed a great deal in that time. For a year or so I had a new redrafted chapter but we are back at Plan A, albeit more sleek.

The good news is that there is still suspense  30 pages from the end. The story could end in a number of ways. It could be open or a neat bow.The lesson for the future is to have sorted the ending out first.

I planned to submit this redraft to a couple of publishers this week. But first I am going to have it proofread, again. I am lucky to have good support in this way.

When reading a novel, part of me wants a happy ending and part of me accepts that life is not like this, that happiness is for only  a moment, and that the key to life is in having a good many good moments.

Do you like your stories tied up in neat bows or do you like to wonder about what might still happen?

Christmas search for meaning and a chopper

Merry Christmas!Christmas Day passed in quiet excesses until I had to search snake-infested rainforest for a missing chopper….

On Christmas Eve I whipped through 45 pages of redrafting my novel, Sapphire Day, and it was going beautifully. Funny how soon you can go from this to thinking it may be best to set this novel aside. I am not being negative. I am looking at this as honestly as I can.

I may be wrong.

It may be close to ready being a perfectly publishable novel that will be enjoyed by a large number of readers. All was well until I hit Chapter 9 and realised it made little sense. Everyone of us who has read this, and edited it had missed a glaring continuity issue.

So I thought about it while I should have been thinking a little bit harder about getting the house ready for Christmas. And I found a solution but in doing so, though of an entirely new direction that could be developed later in the book. It seemed brilliant, then it seemed very complicated, then it seemed almost brilliant and then all the questions arose. If I make this character C play a bigger role what should I do with Character A. Well, I could have him go there.….No, that’s ridiculous.

I ended up housing cleaning and wrapping gifts at 1 am.
Christmas Day slid along in quiet excess. Amazing how on a modest budget, we end up again with so much.

I was at the point of trying to make myself stop reading and dozing, and reading and dozing when word came of a helicopter lost at the bottom of the road. I slipped off new blue beads and  my sweet cherry red and mint sweet cotton frock and pulled on long and very hot trousers and t-shirt and searched out the bushman repellent. I listened as the search party explained they had searched “everywhere” and were certain it was in this area, they said pointing. I immediately went the other way for it seemed too far, too high where they were saying it was,. Soon I was moving branches aside, twigs and leaves crackling beneath me. calling out to the others see if they had seen anything. I was baking hot, the fabric so oppressive, so wintry, I just wanted to peel them off.

The bushman repellent was doing the trick. There was no bushman in sight.  And if the mosquitoes screamed in, they  hit the brakes when they reached the exclusion zone.  The light was fading and we resolved to search just five more minutes and return in the morning.

Then we spotted it, a small light flashing, its yellow bodywork and rotor blades caught high in a tree. We shook the tree. The chopper stirred. We shook again. It came down. Intact. We smiled in quiet satisfaction.

I washed off the dust and sweat off the  jungle with a swim , by lights that flashed green, white, red, blue, pink, purple.

There was nothing on TV, and a movie or TIVO seemed too long, so I opened Chapter 10 of Sapphire Day. There we meet Laurence. He is a wonderful concoction and that is the problem. He is a concoction. And so there I am, a night on after solving the plot hole of Chapter 9 and asking yet more questions. Would he really say that? If I take Laurence out of the equation then I have to change here and here, and here! Do I need to do all that? Can’t I just work on him a bit? I will shake the tree and see what stirs.

Merry Christmas.

Welcome to The Paradigm Shuffle

Welcome to The Paradigm Shuffle. I had a newspaper column of my own when I was 19 years old, some time before blogging and the Internet ever existed (which is a mercy). I didn’t know how lucky I was. I write and edit business and corporate material and work with writers at The Writing Business.  I write for  major newspapers and had a long career with newspapers in Australia, Hong Kong and the UK. I am very glad of it and all that I learned, the places travelled to and within, and most of all the people.  I occasionally write personal pieces in the newspapers that usually attract (positive) mail. I’ve co-authored a self-help book that can help you see that you are all as you are, if only you knew it! It is intended to help you see and enjoy this with very little reading and without a list of impossible rules.

In 2011 I wrote a memoir piece, ‘Blue, Blue Sky’ in the literary travel anthology, city-pick New York. It felt like an honour as my story appeared alongside excerpts from that Great Gatsby man and Jonathan Franzen and so many more. In April 2013, my tale of the Turkish bath ‘Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush’ appeared in City-pick Istanbul. It features Orhan Pamuk of course but it’s a great way to discover many of Turkey’s great writers all in one little book.

 What else is there?   I write novels and short stories this blog will explore that path of oh so hard work and my ongoing grappling with that. So this is my column circa the noughties.  Welcome.

Marian Edmunds

The P.S. Thanks to Monica Marcil for helping me to arrive at the title The Paradigm Shuffle.