“The Last Page of Friendship” – why is friendship a combat sport?

friend-best-friendEveryone knows the scenario. You make a new friend, or you have an old friend you want to hold onto, but how to keep in touch? What happens when someone drops the ball? Is it your turn to make contact, or theirs? Who’s the bad person?

Friendship is one of the greatest loves, Platonic. It’s free of the often volatility of romantic love, whose intensity that can breed suspicion. Friendship is known as a calmer, more rewarding, often more long-term affair. Your best friends can be with you for life, longer than many relationships, even longer than your family. The demands are few, the support long-term; plus you picked your friends, so presumably you enjoy their personality, their humor, their giving emotional support. They’re just fun to be around.

But throw in a little business, a little competitive spirit, and what have you got? Yup, a mixed metaphor, a ticking time bomb and recipe for absolute disaster. Such is it in the third story of my first collection of three stories, Trio 1, The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes.

In “The Last Page of Friendship,” Judy and Soo are successful middle-aged women living the American Dream (big homes, families, money to spare). They live on the beautiful Bainbridge Island near Seattle. But they have reached a level where dissatisfaction creeps in, with only coffee mornings to complain how drab and predictable their lives have become. To gain attention, meaning, maybe a little fame, why not become writers?

Aside from the incredible difficulty of this pursuit, of making the world sit up and care, they don’t dwell too long on how it might affect their being pals. But it does…and badly. Check out my website to read the first page of “The Last Page of Friendship,” a horror story to put you off being a writer for life (and that’s a good thing).

Judy and Soo made the mistake of picking the same dream. That’s what makes friendship a combat sport — it works best when your circles intersect, but don’t completely overlap. Instead, their friendship turns inward, self-consuming, nasty. Toxic, as the Americans say. Who will get the upper hand? Write the best story? Resist not plagiarizing her friend’s story? Try and be the one to stay above ground a little longer? BFNs: best friends for never.

Who needs friends when you have best friends?

“(He) Said, (She) Said” – why is getting the last word so important?

he-said-she-saidWhat is it about getting the last word? Sometimes people don’t care if they are right or wrong, or how much they hurt each other or themselves. Ending a conversation, or hurtful action, on a dismissive note  is all they need. That’s why getting the last word is so important: it reinforces who you are, that you matter, and that your vision of the world is the true one. (To hell with someone else!)

Such is the case with the two characters, young professionals Danny and Meredith, in the second story of my first collection of three stories, Trio 1, The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes. As the title suggests, who do you believe? It’s a ‘he said, she said’ situation. But doesn’t the person with the last word often get to re-write what happened? Isn’t history written by the victors, and the quieter, smaller voice, gets erased?

Danny and Meredith, old school fiends who lost touch during ‘the university years,’ meet up for a drink in a London pub. They were never romantically linked, but outside of the friendship circles of their younger days, dressed formally and working, and with a little alcohol in their bellies, perhaps now is good as time as ever. But do sparks fly, or signals get misread? Are they being friendly, too friendly, or just plain abusive?

And who do you trust? Who encourages whom? Who gets seduced, and who goes along for the ride? Everything looks so much worse in the morning, when explanations are needed, and self-justifications. Social shame can be a powerful force, not to mention having to text with the same person the morning after about the night before. Who wants that?

To see how far Danny and Meredith go in the battle of the sexes (and of whose story is to be believed), my website has the first page of “(He) Said, (She) Said.”

More importantly, will they talk again after the fact?

“The Man in the Gray Tie” – what’s behind the tie?

auction-houseWhat is it about a man in a gray tie? The blandness, the dullness, the downright boring person behind the clothing item? Well, yes, but also the mystery, the possibility that they are not who they seem.

Such is it with the title story of my first collection of three stories, Trio 1, The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes. The man in question is Dr. Sidney Holton, a chiropractor with a peculiar hobby behind his demure dress sense…he likes to provoke people. But not directly. He likes to visit auction houses and push up the prices, for fun, to make people buy things at elevated prices. It gives him a devious thrill.

There are consequences, of course, and escalation. First he meets a mysterious woman, Valerie Eden. She chats to him at the drinks table during a break in the bidding. She’s seductive, middle-aged like him, and very soon she’s sitting near to him as the auction restarts. Except she’s a distraction. What will happen to his hobby? Will he buy her something he can’t afford? Will he get stung by the auction house? Will she seduce him? To check out how deep Sidney gets into hot water, the first page of “The Man in the Gray Tie” is available on my website.

I see Sidney as one of life’s daredevils who has no conception that there are professional fraudsters and conmen out there, hiding in plain sight. He thinks he can roll up to any business or individual and have his fun, a selfish thrill that actually causes a little harm: that’s how he gets his pleasure.

But when the tables are turned, it’s not quite so much fun, is it?

Check out what happens to Sidney when he gets ‘backroomed.’ The boss of an auction house can be worse than the boss of a casino!

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? What makes a good title?

rose-by-any-ther-nameWhat’s in a title is like asking what’s in a name? As the Bard famously told us, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” It would, Willy Shakespeare, but it wouldn’t sound the same.

Titles are a lot of fun to create, and play with, turn upside down and inside out, but sooner or later, you have to settle on one. This is a challenging process. Did you make the right choice? What about that other title you still like?

There are many famous examples of novels that seem unimaginable under alternative titles. Here’s a great list by Lynn Shepherd. Given all the focus on vampire fiction these days, it seems fitting that Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in its original contract, was referred to as The Un-Dead. One of the most infamous (and head-scratching) is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, such a simple and sleek title, was possibly going to be called Trimalchio in West Egg. Hardly rolls off the tongue.

Ultimately, that’s the point. Choosing a title is about simplicity over complexity, brevity over length. Clarity and concision, with a hint of rhyme, even better. Think of some of those other titles in Lynn’s list: War and Peace, The Good Soldier and Jude the Obscure. Confident, elegant, and memorable.

Isn’t that what you’d want from a title?