To vlog or not to vlog?

For the past ten years I have published stories on wordpress, and have contemplated releasing additional content for subscribers, such as story readings, behind the writing exclusives, in-depth character profiles and analysis, via vlog. The only problem is. I HATE WATCHING MYSELF. I hate having my photo taken unless I’m in disguise, and I HATE the sound of my own voice. It sounds very different when I’m writing. I’m able to become the characters, and disappear from my body for a while.

Vlogging, however is a quagmire of horrors, which I’m not sure I want to inflict on myself or any readers interested in Unbound Boxes Limping Gods.

My cat, Henry, disagrees with me and has been very supportive during a difficult time in my life. As you can see, he says, meeeeow, and prruuuuuurrrrp and that I should probably start meewrecording more footage before he destraooows my camera!

Would you like to learn more about Unbound Boxes Limping Gods? Do you think every vlog should feature me in a different disguise? I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Facing Fear

I have three big fears. The first is too awful to write about, the second is burning to death in a house fire (but I suppose at least I would be dead) and the third is being made redundant. Anyone who knows me, will realise that catastrophizing is a skill I have honed into a super power, exploding anxiety bombs inside me continuously, driving me to do my best work, or be my ‘best self’ in the hope that I can somehow prevent inevitable (or perceived) horrors from catching up with me months, even years before they actually do (or don’t). Unfortunately my third biggest fear has come true, and I am now facing redundancy during the pandemic, and those anxiety bombs have escalated into overwhelming mushroom clouds.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not going to curl up in the fallout. I’ve done this twice before. I take my iodine pills and get up. Please wish me luck for the future. I need it. Three redundancies in 13 years may be due to some sort of curse, but it sure does justify the catastrophizing. I like that word, but I could do without the curse.

The Fantastical Remedy to a Fragile Reality.

Eric Moore

There is a reason I have dedicated all of my stories to my father. He died far too young, and has left a lasting void in my life. I think about him every day, despite decades passing, and details fading, my writing is my own fantastical remedy to a fragile reality, broken by his death.

His name was Eric Reginald Richard Moore and he was born in Belfast on the 9th March 1943. My Nanna decided to give him two middle names, because she was one of eight siblings, and the only one not to have a middle name. Dad died before the internet became what it is today, so there is no virtual trace of him other than what I have written. It’s approaching the anniversary of his death again, (2nd December 1995) and I wanted to talk a little about what I remember of him.

Dad and me (1976)

 

He was a charming, but serious man, who was witty, and intelligent. He was thoughtful, and only spoke when he had something important to say, so people listened to him. He worked as an engineer for Marconi in the seventies and our family found ourselves transported to Iran, and we lived in Tehran for nine months, right before the revolution. I remember my father used to get alcohol from behind the counter, even though it was banned. We spent our time having pool parties, sitting on rooftops at curfew, exploring the mountains by cable car. We had a Jeep, there were camels walking past our window each day, I’d hear the call to prayer in the mosques and found those voices beautiful, as they echoed around the city. My parents would record tapes and send them to our family back in England. I had no concept of time back then, and because of my dad, I was learning to speak two languages, Farsi and English. I had American and Iranian and British friends, and my world was, so unlike England, rich and diverse and magical.

Dad, Mum, Richard and me

We had to come back to England, just before Christmas, due to the Iranian Revolution, but my dad stayed in Iran for another few months. I can’t remember missing him then as I was too young to understand the danger he was in, and I knew that he’d come home, but I do remember his absence. I had no concept of loss, and just as my mum had promised, he came back, safely, just before things got too dangerous. Living in England was a stark contrast, but I had my family back, my grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins. There was snow, and I had my dad back too.

I will skip ahead, and leave out a lot of the linear story of our family life together, and tell you that my dad was my hero. I looked up to him, he was constant, unbreakable; aloof and slightly broody; but I loved him and he made me feel safe. He spent a lot of time studying for the Open University, and was interested in every conceivable subject, from astronomy to religion. He built a telescope, made his own wine, he could draw, (he couldn’t sing though, he was completely tone deaf) he built a garage, a remote controlled plane, could rewire a house, do the plumbing, all the old fashioned skills. At the beach he would be the first in the water, snorkel ready, and he’d be in there for what seemed like hours. Once back on land, he’d build me and my brother sand palaces, and dig holes deeper than we were tall, with sand steps leading down (probably illegal now)

Dad, me and Mum (Turkey 1993)

I always felt an infinity with him. We were both quiet, and needed our own space. In another life, he may even have been a writer (like his own father, who was also called Eric, and was artistic) He loved science fiction, we’d watch Star Trek and Star Wars and Doctor Who, and Wonder Woman, and I’d like to think that my dad would be proud of what I’ve written, more than anyone else, he would understand why I can’t stop, why there are so many stories and illustrations, because if I stop, then so do I.

Dad died, in a convent at a barn dance, as I’ve written about before, but I haven’t gone into detail about the impact his death has made on my life. When I visit my family, on his side, I see his absence, so in a way it causes me to experience his loss over and over. It’s my own fault, I’m too emotional, and I love people too much, to the point I’d rather keep them at a safe distance than have them die, or leave or betray. I’ve become a character removed from the world, unable to properly connect with anyone, unless they are fictitious. I’ve named my protagonist (Alexand’s) father, Eric, after my dad, in an attempt to keep him alive in another world. This fantastical remedy disguised as Unbound Boxes Limping Gods, is like a drug enabling me to cope with reality.

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.

Unbound Boxes Limping Gods: Why I write about LGBTQ characters

Katherine De Somme and Alexand Merek

Katherine De Somme and Alexand Merek

I am in a privileged position, because my readers seem to be the most awesome and open minded people I’ve had the good fortune to meet (virtually.) In real life I’m a very private person and therefore won’t usually volunteer information about myself, unless someone asks me. Anyway.. being a writer, allows a certain anonymity and freedom to explore subjects such as gender and sexuality. Katherine De Somme and Alexand Merek, live in a world where their relationship is regarded as a normal part of the social structure. In fact a same sex relationship is something of a non event, in that it is quite ordinary. The other characters rarely comment on it. They are simply two people who have fallen in love.

Katherine De Somme and Alexand Merek

Katherine De Somme and Alexand Merek

I adore these two, for so many reasons. Alex is brazen and unapologetic when it comes to her sexuality. In fact I enjoy the ambiguity behind her orientation. It’s fluid. She is what we would describe in the 21st century as bisexual (with an overwhelming preference for a certain Katherine De Somme.) Alex identifies as female, is comfortable in her body, and to a large degree, encourages Katherine to celebrate her own physicality and strengths. Katherine however is more reclusive and shy. She isn’t comfortable in her own body. Her father always wanted a son and she never felt able to celebrate her womanhood. Don’t misinterpret her. She is a strong and intelligent person, but ‘librarian’ would be an apt description. She has a cat and surrounds herself with books. She’s exclusively attracted to women, and before she met Alexand, lived primarily in her laboratory. Technically (and without throwing in too many spoilers) Katherine is a trans character, in that she identifies as both male and female in various stages of her life, although that is fluid too.

Maria Thamian and Heyem Merek

Maria Thamian and Heyem Merek

Alexand’s identical twin sister, Heyem is also part of what we call today, the LGBTQ community. Although unlike Alexand, Heyem is exclusively attracted to women. Like her twin, Heyem is also unapologetic about her sexuality, but refreshingly, Heyem’s narcissistic tendencies allow her to be even more enforcing of her entitlement to live life openly and abundantly. But as in real life, being a non-heterosexual still encourages marginalisation, especially for Heyem, who isn’t the most socially accepted woman in my cast. Heyem isn’t as likeable as her sister, Alexand, and can be borderline intolerable. This can encourage hidden resentment and homophobia and as exemplified in a story called Maria Thamian Part 2, prejudice lurks beneath the surface of seemingly acceptant and educated groups of people. To be honest I don’t like to dwell on prejudice and instead concentrate on emancipation, but as a non heterosexual myself, I am constantly reticent to share too much with large groups of people. Ironically I’m doing just that now, and I have no idea who is reading this, but I thought I’d over share, so you don’t think me hypocritical for outing my characters and not mentioning anything about myself.

Poncherello (Erik Estrada)

Poncherello (Erik Estrada)

Let’s just say as a child I spent a lot of my time running around with my brother, pretending to be Poncharello from C.H.I.P.s (and although my Nana believed that I secretly wanted to marry Erik Estrada when I grew up, I actually wanted to BE Erik Estrada.) So from an early age I knew there was something different about the way people expected me to behave outside in their world. It contradicted what was going on inside my head. (Yes I am aware that the photograph to the left is frequently used in hilarious homophobic slants around the internet.) Anyway, after years of repression and self loathing (did I mention I was a Christian?) I became more and more introverted. I found I identified as male, and was attracted predominately to women, with some exceptions, (Johnny Depp to name but one) Anyway, backwards in time, there were very few positive LGBTQ role models in the 1980’s when I was growing up. I identified with or possibly was mesmerised by Doctor Who, I loved his independence and strangeness. (But that’s a whole thesis.) So I found myself drawn to strong independent female characters to compensate for the fact I couldn’t identify with many other character types.

Harriet Makepeace and James Dempsey (Glynis Barber and Michael Brandon)

Harriet Makepeace and James Dempsey (Glynis Barber and Michael Brandon)

And so there came…. Dempsey and Makepeace. Besides, hero worshipping Harriet Makepeace, or more specifically, Glynis Barber, (I actually wanted to marry her..but as James Dempsey would say, “Life is hard, ‘den you die.”) I realised I wasn’t like the other girls. I actually spent a whole year living like Sarah Connor when I was 17. I’d even rigged up my own prison cell to recreate the escape scene in Terminator 2, in my bedroom. I decided I had to do something other than consume snippets from fictitious people’s lives. I had always escaped into books, into writing my own stories, and illustrating them. I’d even written a very bad Dempsey and Makepeace novel in the hopes that I could persuade LWT to regenerate the show and bring it back to life with my magical scriptwriting. Of course that didn’t happen. I am the sort of person who faked my eye test so that I could go to school dressed like Clark Kent.

Cheryl Moore as Clark Kent

Cheryl Moore as Clark Kent

This is another example of conflicting realities. In my head, I would get to school and find that the other children would be awestruck by the uncanny resemblance I had to the undercover Superman. I would, like Clark Kent, have a double life. By day I was a misunderstood geek, and in reality I was actually a pretty awesome superhero, capable of great feats of courage. People would look at me differently. I wouldn’t be that weird kid who the popular girls only allowed to play with sporadically. I would take off my glasses and they would see, at that point, I was actually someone else. Someone they’d want to get to know. That didn’t happen. It turns out that my glasses were blue National Health glasses, and when I whipped them off in the playground and tried to find my cape, there was laughter (and tumbleweeds) instead of applause. What’s this got to do with non-heterosexuality you may ask? Seriously? Cheryl Moore as Clark Kent? (and yes I love Margot Kidder too) Cheryl Moore has a psychosis. She lived a lot of her childhood imagining herself, or himself, as someone else. This transference is fantastic, when you think about the genesis of becoming a writer. I have to become other people, I love becoming other people, male, female, trans, hetero, bi, etc, you get the gist… Empathy is a weapon, it has been slowly learnt over years of feeling like the outsider. Yes I am bisexual, and yes I identified as a boy when I was a girl, and yes I feel more like a woman now, but human beings are so complex, and I love that about our species.

Katherine and Alexand's wedding

Katherine and Alexand’s wedding

You are complex, whoever you are, if you’ve managed to read as far as this point. We may not get on, we may not share the same views about sexuality and gender. For example, I celebrated the fact that in the United Kingdom, Gay and Lesbian people can now get married, as of 29th March 2014. (Just as my characters Katherine and Alexand had done, written a few years before the act was passed) I was raised a Christian, and although I’m not a Christian now, I understand that there are so many ways of viewing sexuality from a religious perspective. To be honest, I try to avoid talking about religion in my work, replacing it with spirituality. Although I’ve met some very liberal Christians, (my mum being one of them) I know there are others who wouldn’t recognise me, or some of my LGBTQ friends as fully functioning people with the same rights as everyone else. Well, again, I use this as an example of why retreating from the world can be on occasion quite a cowardly but necessary thing to do in the life of a writer, who just so happens to be non-heterosexual. And no, it wasn’t a choice, as Lady Gaga likes to put it, I was born this way.

Giselle and Eldenath Balsara

Giselle and Eldenath Balsara

Anyway, the point is, from an early age I learnt that who I was on the inside was wrong. That it didn’t match what was expected of me. I’m talking generally here. No one person is to blame. I am lucky as my family are awesome, and when I came out (not by choice I may add) they were very supportive and accepting. However, society isn’t so accepting. From the comments you hear in the playground, to the slants you see written on the internet, to the general homophobic chatter which is used in everyday conversation, when large groups of friends get together. “That is so gay!” is used as derogatory, and probably will be for a very long time.

Katherine De Somme and Alexand Merek

Katherine De Somme and Alexand Merek

I can retreat into a world that is more accepting of me, and I can become someone happier. Just like my childhood self tried to be, when she faked her eye test in the hopes of being more accepted by the other children. I am still not comfortable with myself. Like Katherine De Somme, I feel awkward in my own body, and live a lot of my life inside my head. Thankfully I have found a place where I can feel safer, perhaps more displaced between many different people. I am a disembodied soul riding around in the ether. The Lawnmowerman of the 21st Century, minus the psychopathic tendencies to take over the world. I can share my world Unbound Boxes Limping Gods with people who want to travel there with me. I feel overwhelmingly excited that my characters are now living breathing people, and if you are another displaced soul, looking for a place to belong, you are welcome to join me there.

Unbound Boxes Limping Gods: Behind the Writing

cheryl4

I have problems fitting in. I won’t lie. I try my best, but somehow feel comfortable around smaller groups of people, or even fictional people. I like people, in fact I’d call myself a humanist, but from a very early age, connecting with most people has been something I’ve had to work hard at. In truth, most people have to work hard to talk to me, as I’m not the greatest conversationalist, and that is a severe disability in this life. Monitoring myself, gauging what’s appropriate to say can be tiring, so I’ve become quite quiet these days. Perhaps you think I’m oversharing? Maybe you’re right. But maybe a small part of you wants to read on? I might disclose something inappropriate? The thing is, I don’t really care what people think of me in this virtual world, but put me in a room full of strange or even familiar people and my mind begins attempting to scramble out of my body, out and up into a place I’ve made for myself in fiction. A place where my alter ego exists, a woman called Alexand, or maybe Katherine, or perhaps if I’m feeling brazen I can turn into a man, I’ll call him Juba Apfvarzian. I love the way his name rolls off my brain. These are my characters, my family and friends, as real to me as anyone I’ve met in this physical world. You may like to meet them? You can visit them here.  You see, the best part of being a writer, is becoming someone else, going places you couldn’t possibly travel to in reality, and taking people there with you. That’s when I truly connect with other people. Of course human emotions are the same in fiction as they are here, and I am a very emotional writer, but going to their world is so liberating, it’s almost like finding a part of the afterlife. (I’m a recovering Christian but I’ll talk about that some other time) In a way I have emancipated myself from having to exist completely in my physical body, bar the mundanity of an 8.30-17.30 job which pays the mortgage but is slowly draining me of creativity, and identity. When I write, I become part of someone else’s life. Cheryl stops existing, and finally people listen.