Fighting Monsters

filius

I must admit the past year has led me to spend most of January in deep denial about what is going on outside in this rather scary world. I’ve seen heroes die, and monsters rise to positions of power. I blocked out the news, and my anger, and decided I would spend the next four years living in blissful fiction. Unfortunately, fighting monsters is a pastime in the fictional universe I call my other life, so I read the news and exposed myself to all the horrors. It’s the end of January and some very diabolical things are going on, and I can’t keep silent any more.  Walls are being built and vulnerable Syrian refugees are being denied refuge, women’s rights are being eroded. It’s easy to use the word ‘monster’ to describe someone (or a group of like minded people) who incite intolerance and hate, in order to acquire and maintain power, but I can’t quite see how any other word would be more apt. Monsters traditionally play to people’s fears, and there is now a real threat to the civil rights and liberties of large groups of innocent people, based on their religion, nationality, gender, race and sexuality. Yes I’m angry that my uncle, who happens to be Muslim may find it hard to go on holiday to the USA simply because of his religion. I’m angry that the LGBT community may have to continue to fight, for rights to marry, rights to have equality in the work place. I fear that this may leak into other cultures, that my own rights as a bisexual woman may be threatened, as the post Brexit government get pally with those of questionable morality, in order to secure trade deals, (which are obviously more important than human rights.) I have many friends from all over Europe, who want to feel safe and welcome in Britain, but is this just a dream now? I can’t sit back and write myself out of reality, like I’ve done for many years. I will march, I will speak out when I feel something is wrong. I will fight for my own rights and the rights of others. We need to stand up for one another, and recognise blind intolerance. I’m going back to fiction now, but I will be vigilant, and I will keep fighting monsters, real and imagined, not only through my words, but through my actions.

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In The Beginning – Revisited

Just under twenty four years ago, I was 17 years old. I was taking a walk in a park called Borelli’s in Farnham, escaping from a theatre studied class, that I really didn’t want to take part in. I sat on a bench and blocked out the noise of the traffic, from a nearby road, put on my head phones and listened to Cyndi Lauper’s “The World Is Stone.”

Sam and me

Sam and me

There was a river nearby, and a bridge. It was Autumn, but still hot enough to pass as summer. In my left ear, instead of the cars, I heard a woman talking to me. I didn’t know her name, and couldn’t see her. There was something different about her. She understood why I’d walked out of that classroom. She told me she wanted to take me with her to a place far away from my own world. Her name was Alexand Merek. I consider her my fictional child. She was in a way, born on this bench in Borelli’s Park.

Alexand Merek

She has become one of the most important parts of my life. I write about her, draw her, translate what she has told me, and she is now a living breathing woman, with stories and dreams. I’ve met her wife. She’s left handed, like me. We have things in common, but she exists outside of me. When I die, she, and her stories, will live on. Today, I took my real baby, Sam, to the bench my fictional baby, was conceived.

Sam

Sam

This may seem a bit odd, and you can tell from his face, he was patronising me. It wasn’t something I had planned. We just happened to be in Farnham, and were passing by the park. I hadn’t even visited Alexand’s bench in decades. But here am I, sitting on her bench, with my son. The river and the bridge are still exactly the same as they were back then. The sound from the road, and people walking along the pathway, probably similar to how it was, when Alexand had introduced herself to me. I wanted to mark a moment, in time. My son and my daughter. Two very different and precious worlds, sitting on the bench with their mother.

2016 – Part 2

iss1Feeling a bit better today, but still quite apathetic. I need to take some time out to re assess what I’m going to do next year. I am going to continue the series, but may give myself more breaks. I need to rest, especially from drawing, and concentrate on what matters most. Writing. It’s coming up to the 20th Anniversary of my dad’s death, and to be honest I’m not feeling great, but will try to continue writing Unbound Boxes. I realise I’ve been writing this for 5 years without a break, which is actually a bit worrying. Anyway, I’m trying to force myself to feel better. Running away from reality is actually quite tiring and it’s very easy to give up. I’m trying not to give up.

2016

filiusFeeling tired and apathetic today, in regards to writing, which is a change from yesterday. Yesterday I was enthusiastic about finishing another drawing, to illustrate the series. Today, I couldn’t give a F£4@ if the ceiling fell on my head and knocked my stupid artwork into shreds. I hate it. I hate everything. I don’t hate writing, but I really don’t enjoy illustrating. It’s time consuming and makes the short stories so frustrating for me to produce. Tomorrow I’ll feel different, maybe, but I need a break, not from writing, but from drawing. It’s making my hand hurt. It’s stopping me publishing my book. I hate it. My plan for 2016 is… to have a break from writing these short stories and that means (maybe) break them into seasons so I don’t have to produce them every bleeping week. I’ll be dead one day anyway and won’t be able to write them then. It’s an odd thing to think about that the reason I write so many is that I know I’ll be dead one day and that I have to produce loads while I can. Say I have 20 -50 years left, that’s 52 stories, averaging 100 bleeping drawings each year, times that by 20 it’s 1040 stories and ridiculous amounts of illustrations, which looking at it logically will give me RSI by the time I’m 60. I’m a fu£4i@% human. I enjoy writing novels. I miss writing novels. Think I’ve just remembered that. There needs to be a change for me in 2016. I’m feeling trapped…

Choosing the right name for your characters.

Now I’ve got myself a job I enjoy, I’m able to not only think about writing again, but can get back to talking candidly about the processes behind my writing.

Ancille Merevija

Ancille Merevija

When a character is born, just like any human in this physical world, they need to have a name. Some names come naturally, but others have taken time to reveal themselves to me. I’m going to tell you about a few of my characters who were either named after or dedicated to, people in the real world.

Almost twenty years ago, my father was training to be a lay reader in the church. He had, at the time, already survived two heart attacks, and a triple heart bypass. My mum, (a nurse – who had saved his life on previous occasions -) and my brother and I knew we were lucky to still have him around. I was away at university at the time, doing fine art (and writing a very scruffy prototype for Unbound Boxes) Well, my father was an academic, an artist, an engineer, he could build anything from telescopes to garages, and despite his bad health, he really did take every opportunity to throw himself into life. He was the type of man who would go on a holiday to Turkey, and end up meeting someone who knew him.

Experimental

Experimental

To be quite honest, I was in awe of him, and getting back to the point, his latest project involved training at a convent to become a lay reader.

I spent my 21st birthday at university, writing and painting, blissfully unaware that two days later, I’d receive a knock at the door, (mobiles were like breeze blocks back then, and my land lord didn’t allow incoming phone calls) so I answered the door, and unceremoniously my friend, (who my mum had managed to contact) said “Cheryl, your dad’s dead,” so one very surreal journey later, I arrived back home and my mum told me that he had another heart attack, barn dancing at a convent. In retrospect it was a very good way to go, but back then, it didn’t seem so great. Anyway, the nuns at the convent invited my mum, my brother and I to visit, as they were very upset about what had happened too, and wanted to offer us some support. So we drove up to the convent where he had died. (Yes my dad died, barn dancing at a convent) anyway, one of the nuns, was a very kind lady called sister Ancille. She showed us around the gardens, made us coffee, and told us we were welcome to visit them any time. She took us to the hall, where dad had died, and let us have our own time. I suppose, that sort of kindness has a lasting effect and so I decided to name Alexand’s daughter, after sister Ancille. Ancille means God’s handmaiden. If you knew a little about the story of Ancille in Unbound Boxes, you’d realise that this is a woman who offers hope in very bleak times, to Alexand, after she almost loses the will to live.

Jarad Vijay

Jarad Vijay

Moving swiftly on, to another character named after a real human being, Jarad Vijay, (Ancille’s father and Alexand’s husband.) I’m not sure whether this is before or after my dad died, because that time was very surreal and I’ve blocked a lot of it out, but I was in Cardiff, on a night out with some friends. We stopped to get some chips, and there was a homeless man sitting outside of Macdonalds. I got talking with him, and it turns out he was an ex gurkha, who had been made redundent from the army due to mental health issues. I remember thinking how disgusting it was that someone who had served in the British army was now sitting on the streets with a hat full of coins. He told me he had a son and a wife, but he didn’t know where they were. He had a scar across his face, which looked like it had been made by a knife. But we sat and talked, and he asked me if I could guard his coins whilst he went to the back of Macdonalds. Apparently the staff at Macdonalds knew him and used to give him the left overs, that time of night. So true to my word, I stood and guarded his money, my friends hanging around patiently for me. A few minutes later, Vijay walked back with a Big Mac in his hand, and thanked me for looking after his money. I had sneaked a few coins from my pocket in there, possibly to relieve my own guilt, and he began to eat his burger, grinning at me as we parted company. I made a promise silently that I would name a character after him. It was the least this ridiculous, privileged, white girl could do under the circumstances. I’ve never forgotten Vijay, or the guilt I felt, at not being able to do anything for him. I still wonder about what happened to him, and hope that somehow he was able to build his life back up, and that he found his family. I’ll never know, but I’ll always remember him through his namesake, Jarad Vijay.

Salma Hayek as Frida Khalo

Salma Hayek as Frida Khalo

Other characters are named after people I haven’t met, but admire. One of my favourite actors, Salma Hayek, is the inspiration for Heyem Merek’s name. I changed it a lot, but I like the sound, it rolls around so easily, and to be perfectly honest, Frida Khalo is one of Heyem’s heroes. Apparently Salma Hayek spent a long time trying to get that film made, and I have a lot of respect for her work. Heyem, in the Unbound Boxes world, means “Home,” whereas (her identical twin sister) Alexand’s name means “the People’s defender,” Alexand’s middle name is Heyem and Heyem’s middle name is Alexand. Heyem became a lecturer, in women’s herstory, in Hong Kong University, before the Amanojuko took power and banished the humanities. Occasionally, a few historical figures appear in the stories. Women such as the pirate queen of Rockfleet Castle, Grace O’Malley, Boudicca, and Queen Elizabeth the 1st, but that’s skipping too far ahead…

Eldenath Balsara

Eldenath Balsara

The Balsara family, which consists of Eldenath, Giselle, Bernadette and Yemi, were all named after Freddie Mercury, whose real name was, Farrokh Bulsara. I think I’ve mentioned before about how adorable my mum is, and how she is the kind of person who brings happiness with her, wherever she goes. She loves to sing, and when I was growing up, one of her favourite renditions was the complete works of Queen. I had a very happy childhood, and can remember my mum dancing and singing “I want to break free,” at the top of her lungs, as she cooked us dinner. Or she would occasionally sing to her cat, “All we need is Radio Ga Ga!” whilst clicking her fingers and dancing. Alexand Merek isn’t named after my mum, whose name is Barbara, but she certainly has a lot in common with her, personality wise. Anyway, getting back to the point again, Freddie Mercury reminds me of my mum, and a very happy childhood, and so I honoured him, (and mum) by lending Eldenath and her family his name.

Farokh Merek

Farokh Merek

Alexand’s brother, Farokh is also named after Freddie Mercury, in honour of my mum. Farokh is eight years younger than Alexand and Heyem, and he’s quite an immature and wayward boy. He’s nothing like my own brother, (my brother is a lot like our dad.) I named Alexand’s father, Eric, after my dad, as there’s nothing like fiction to keep someone alive. In a way, when you’re writing for multiple characters, parts of the real world merge together with what you’re creating, so that eventually you can’t tell the difference between who is real and who isn’t. To be honest, I’ve had far too many people die in my life, and I will admit that writing is a very easy remedy to bereavement. When I name a character, I am naming a real person. I’ve even done the reverse and named my own son, Sam, after Alexand’s son, Sam (although my ex swears he’s named after his dog). For me, Unbound Boxes Limping Gods is a part of life, it’s where I go to escape. I am a conduit, nothing more than that, but if I can throw a name into the mix, then that person is essentially immortal. I don’t like death, in fact I’ll do anything to avoid it. I’ve named characters after my friends, my best friend, Rachel has a place in my book, Alexand’s best friend (or one of them) is called Rachel. Anyway, I feel I’ve written enough. I’ve shared too much, and I’m going to stop. My ex told me once, that everything ends. Not if you capture that person, and put them inside a story. You can make them live forever.

Life and Other Distractions

Alexand Merek

Alexand Merek

I used to be able to write effortlessly, but recently I’m having trouble. This is the first thing I’ve written for about two weeks. I managed to finish a micro story recently, but work is really messing about with my head. It’s really stressful, and instead of dreaming about my characters, I’m stumbling about attempting not to think about my day job, and all its mundanity and aggression. This is going to be a brief entry. Hopefully, Alexand Merek will save me eventually from becoming another casualty, an office grunt. I’m feeling depressed about it, and no amount of self publication will allow me to escape from the fact this job is slowly eroding my creativity, and making me feel nothing. I have to make money, I just wish I could make it writing. I don’t feel alive anymore. It’s as if the world is broken and I want it to end.

 

Unbound Boxes Limping Gods: Stumbling Through Reality

Alexand Merek and Katherine De Somme

Alexand Merek and Katherine De Somme

It shouldn’t be difficult to guess that as a writer, I much prefer living in fiction. The real world has a rather caustic aftertaste, people die, they desert you, there’s disappointment and loads of other words beginning with ‘d’ which build up, until there really is no other option than to retreat into fantasy. Of course this is just one reality. It didn’t start this way. I’ve just been going through a bad patch. It’ll get better etc.. The truth is, I use my writing to escape from having to deal with complex things in my own life, which I can’t really talk about here. It’s good for the stories, but for the past five years, I’ve been reclusive. Instead of trying to fix my situation, I’ve been skilfully avoiding having to deal with it. *Clicks fingers,* this is your cue, Katherine.

Katherine De Somme and Alexand Merek

Katherine De Somme and Alexand Merek

If only I had my very own Katherine De Somme! In my head, at least, she is the earthy and practical solution to Alexand’s airy turbulence. I’ve only ever experienced this sort of love through watching other people. According to a lot of exes I’m remote, and distant (oh another ‘d’) and couldn’t therefore function in a ‘proper’ relationship, be it with a man or a woman. Cats seem to like me though. In fact I’m surrounded by them as I type this, as well as many fictional characters. Maybe I need an Alexand in my life instead? I don’t think Katherine could put up with my nonsense. I need someone who can drag me back into reality, wake me from this perpetual flickering in and out of fiction. Or is this just a dream within a dream? I feel depressed. Too many ‘d’s.