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No, wait, I’m not ready yet. Damn it. Should’ve read the instructions before I started pressing buttons.
I should explain. The house move that's been consuming our lives since we started looking at locations back in March has finally locked into place. Over the space of a rapid Tuesday afternoon we went from feeling like we were never going to actually move to finding out it was happening in a week’s time. It was pretty dizzying. A happy flavour of panic.
Over the rest of this week, it’s been a case of getting things ready. Making sure the gas and electric people know. Getting some blinds ordered for the new place. Getting all our spare keys back and, of course, arranging to hook up the TV and internet.
It turns out we’re going to have to wait until November 3rd for an engineer. This means I won’t be able to post another blog until probably the week after that. Hey, that better not have been relief I just saw.
Apparently, the local pub has free Wi-Fi, but I can’t see an alcohol adjacent blog ending well. The last one didn’t.
Wonder if you can tell which one that was.
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Okay, focus, Long. You’ve got some things to say before this all switches off for a fortnight.
It’s strange to think we’re finally leaving this house. We’ve been planning it for so long. Once you start thinking of a new home, even before you know what it’ll look like or where it’ll be, you begin to check out of your old one. You untether yourself from the nest, bit by bit.
Since around May, when we found the first house we nearly moved into (and discovered the owner of that place was a new species of stupid), our home has started to feel a little less like home. The ignorable things have become a less ignorable. The standard chores have felt like punishments. Then, slowly, the rooms filled with boxes as the shelves and cupboards emptied. It’s felt like a waiting room since then. It’s the queue for the next ride. It’s a feeling that’s become even more pronounced since the contracts were exchanged.
I was coming home from visiting a friend the other night, when I stopped and looked at the house. All in darkness, waiting at the end of the path. That’s when I realised all my published stories were written here. All my horror stories, or ghost stories or whatever you want to call them, were written under this roof.
Before living here, I was living with my parents and writing a lot of escapist fantasy stories. I wrote that a lot of that stuff here as well, along with a couple of movie scripts and some poems, but it was here that I first put The Low Road on paper. My first ghost story. Not that it was ever meant to be a first when I started it. It was an experiment A quick ghost story, just to see if I could write one. I never would have guessed that I’d be writing supernatural stories for the rest of my time here. All my novellas were written in the room I’m now sitting in. Both my novels. My stories for Shadows at the Door. I think the last one I’ll finish in here is a ghost story for Kensington Gore Publishing’s charity horror Christmas collection.
At least they’ll know where to put the plaque, right?
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I can’t decide whether the move happening the week before Halloween is a good thing or not. I know we’re moving on the day Thor Ragnarok comes out, which means we’re going to be exhausted when we sit down in that cinema. Cancel the tickets? Not see a Marvel movie on its opening night? Be serious.
One advantage of the move turning up now is that it’s going to distract me from what’s coming. I’ve got just over a week until I stand in front of an audience and tell them a ghost story on Halloween night.
I got a story ready and I was pretty happy with it until a better one crept into my head at the beginning of this week. It’s a pretty sly and dark idea. Sly enough that it’s made me set aside the one I’ve already written. It feels like an incredibly dangerous thing to do, but I think it’s also the right thing to do as well.
You might remember, the other week, how I was saying I wanted to try and make my story more of a performance than a reading. Well, I’ve still got that idea in my head, but something struck me with the story I’ve already finished. The pretence of the performance was getting in the way of the story. It revolved around me reading a letter to the audience but, the more I honed the prose in that letter, the more I could see how forced it was. Let alone the fact no one would actually write all this down in a letter and put it through my door. I figured if I couldn’t suspend my disbelief for it, then I couldn’t ask an audience to do the same.
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All the comics, graphic novels, DVDs, board games and old toys I normally have in the room around me are all packed now. My typing is really starting to echo in here. There’s just my Hopper print hanging over my desk. Nighthawks at the Diner. I love this painting. I love the unanswered questions on it. I love the starkly rich and realistic tone. Between you and me, I wish I could paint.
We just watched a documentary on art through the renaissance and I had that same feeling I get whenever I watch a show like that: I’d love to be a part of an artistic movement. It can happen for writers. True, the artists and the musicians (and sometimes movie directors) have cornered the market, but I always love the idea of people saying I belonged to a certain style or movement after my time.
I’m quietly preparing for when I step just to the left of horror. I’ve got one novel left on my current contract and I’m thinking that’ll be the last full novel I write for quite a while. I’m going to focus on short stories and short story collections. I went to get some stories up with podcasts and magazines. I really like the idea of writing collections that hop genres. Like an album. I can’t see why people wouldn’t buy a collection that contains a ghost story, a science fiction story, a bit of character driven drama and maybe something poetic or written as a script. Let’s be honest, I’m sure that sort of collection exists somewhere already. There are no new ideas left.
The man with his back to you in Nighthawks really feels like the first question mark to me. The question to lead you into that world. The other two people at the counter are sitting together. The woman is looking at her nails. The man next to her is staring straight ahead. There’s a sense of something happening there. The guy behind the counter feels like he’s keeping back from them. But it’s that man who’s sitting alone. Is he with the others? Is he watching whatever is unfolding across the diner from him? It’s also the fact Hopper chose to paint the diner without showing the door. The building over the road clearly has a door. These people are trapped.
Is it incredibly vain to think that a short story has more potential to capture a normal seeming moment and twist it into something more open to interpretation in the same way as a painting?
Yep. Yep, it probably is.
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I’ll do my best to try and post something if I can, but I might have to vanish from the 21st century until the broadband comes to rescues me. I’m sure I’ll survive without blogs, Twitter and Facebook for a while. It’s not like I’ve fully converted to online living yet. I’ve never snapped a chat. I’ve never needed my grams to be instant. It’ll be like the old days. Just me and a laptop. That feels like a good way to write the Halloween story I’ve got growing in my head.
Although this does all mean I won’t have Netflix when the new season of Stranger Things debuts. Human suffering really does cover quite the spectrum of problems.
If you can come along and see me perform at The Gunmakers Arms on Halloween it’ll be great to meet you. I’ll put a link below. In the meantime, I better get to work finishing that Christmas story so I can email it off before I lose my emails for a while.
This really is the closest I’m going to get to living in I Am Legend.
I hope you all have a good couple of weeks. If I can fit some 21st century messages into 21st century bottles, I’ll be in touch. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to put the last of my life here into boxes and then put those boxes into a lorry next week. After that, everything’s heading into a brand new chapter.
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HIBERNATION MODE ENGAGED
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