The Restless Lost – Excerpt

 

An excerpt from my story “The Restless Lost”.

 

On the TV

 

I first saw her on TV.

   That’s where most people became acquainted with the pretty young woman with the boyish features, standing defiantly in a store in the gloom of Dublin’s city centre, wearing her muddy-green hooded bomber jacket, black cropped pants, black and white sneakers, and a respirator mask. She gripped in her hand a long-necked gas lighter as if it were a 10-inch machete with which she could inflict irreparable damage. She was short, and she was feisty—that much was obvious.

   I wasn’t feisty, not at all. If I had to pick three words to describe myself, I would reach for friendly, fastidious, and self-deprecating. The first I’m happy with—I was raised well by my mother, insofar as I was raised to respect others and treat them kindly. “It’s the least you can do,” said my mother, “and there’s no excuse for not doing it.” The second is something that feels beyond my control; maybe finicky is a better word? I obsess over minor details, like how the books are arranged on the bookshelf (alphabetised, divided into categories, all aligned evenly). This supposed flaw also works in my favour in my line of work. The third one, I’m not so crazy about. It’s in my nature, and I don’t know why. But I’m working on it.

   My assumption was that the news station’s cameraman was given orders by his director to regularly zoom in on the lighter whenever the opportunity presented itself, creating more tension; more action for the audience at home, I suppose, as if the flash of beacon lights and the barriers holding back the eager onlookers was insufficient entertainment. The news anchor had informed us viewers that after the girl had hurriedly cleared the premises, she locked the doors and proceeded to cover every item of clothing in the store—and her own clothes—in gasoline. The police—or the Guards as they’re known here—arrived shortly after that, and once word began to spread, the production trucks belonging to local television and radio stations arrived en masse and were scattered over the streets like confetti after a lively party. A crowd of curious onlookers, hungry for some drama to shake up their humdrum lives, joined them to watch events unfold.

   This was unusual for this city: It was an American event taking place in Ireland.

   I’d just returned from a trip to the supermarket, which was a mere ten-minute walk from our bungalow. Alanah had hockey practise after work, and I’d told her that morning that I’d take care of the few items we were short of: shampoo (Alanah insisted on a specific eco-friendly brand), almond milk, fruit (bananas, apples and grapes—the latter red, not green), toilet paper, kitchen towel, free range chicken breast (four), and dental floss (Alanah told me that flossing made no difference to the health of my teeth, but I enjoyed the feel of the strip of minty wire in the gaps; the authority I had over the scraps of leftover pieces of food camped in whichever nooks they could find—they were unruly criminals, and the floss was the law, and as Joe Strummer would tell you, the law won).

   I lowered Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto 2 which was playing on my phone, and hired the volume on the TV in the sitting room, so I could hear the news unfold while in the kitchen I put away the few items I’d purchased at the shop.

    The news anchor was putting another question to the reporter at the scene:

   ‘. . . and what do we know about this woman? Has there been any communication between her and Guards at the scene?’

   ‘We know little of the woman or what her intentions or demands are at this early stage, Bryan. What we do know is that about forty minutes ago, several phone calls were made to the emergency services reporting an incident at the Bastille store on O’Connell Street. As many of our viewers will know, Bastille is the popular Swedish multinational retail-clothing company with multiple outlets throughout Dublin. Many of the callers claimed that a young woman who was in possession of a firearm, and who, I quote, “spoke with a foreign accent,” entered the store and demanded that shoppers and staff leave immediately. When Guards arrived on the scene, witnesses informed them that the woman had proceeded to cover rails of clothes in gasoline before dousing herself. Garda have refused to comment on speculation that this is an act of terrorism. And as of yet there’s no evidence to suggest that the individual is affiliated with a terrorist group. Superintendent Rory O’Dwyer, at the scene, had this to say . . .’

   The buzz of my phone took my attention away from the sound of the television. I left the shopping and reached for the remote control on the brown laminate kitchen countertop, pointing it towards the TV in the sitting room and lowering the volume before answering.

   ‘Hello?’

   ‘Hi,’ said a familiar, soft, flat voice: It was Alanah.

   ‘I thought you had hockey practise?’

   She hesitated, before responding no.

   ‘It’s Friday, you always have hockey practise. That’s why I said I’d pick up the few bits we needed.’

   ‘I must’ve gotten mixed up,’ she said distantly.

   ‘Okay . . . So, where are you?’

   ‘I’m in town, outside Bastille. There’s quite a commotion here.’

   ‘You’re at the scene?’

   ‘Yep, it’s pretty crazy. Are they showing it on the news?’

   I took the few steps that were required to enter the sitting room from the kitchen, checking if I could catch a glimpse of Alanah at the scene on the television, but of course the camera was on the girl and the lighter in her hand. I flicked to one of the British news channels and they were also covering the story; anything taking place in Europe that was potentially terror-related was guaranteed to be headline news and receive round-the-clock coverage.

   ‘Yeah, that’s all they’re showing. What’s happening?’

   ‘I don’t know. There’s someone in the building and they’ve said nothing. One of the Guards went up to the door, but she held up a sign, or something, and told him to stay back. At least that’s what I gathered.’

   ‘So, no one knows what it’s all about?’

   ‘No one here, anyway. Unless the Guards know something.’

   ‘I’d be surprised . . .’

   ‘Well,’ she began, but didn’t finish.

   ‘Alanah?’

   ‘Sorry, there’s something happening. I think they’re moving people back.’

   ‘Has something happened?’

   ‘No, they’re just telling people to move back. I can see her moving around inside. She’s wearing a mask . . . a gas mask.’

   ‘Is it a terror attack?’

   ‘It’s something, that’s for sure.’

   I looked at the TV again; the yellow strip passing along the bottom of the screen read Breaking news: a woman has barricaded herself in a Bastille store in Dublin. Story unfolding . . .

   ‘So will you be home soon?’ I asked. ‘I can get cooking.’

   ‘I’ll be back in an hour or so.’

   ‘Okay,’ I said, making my way back to the kitchen. ‘See you in a bit.’

   After hanging up and putting away the rest of the groceries, I began to prep dinner. I placed the chopping board and knife on the countertop, boiled water in a pot, switched on the fan above the cooker. Before I began to chop ingredients, I returned to the sitting room and changed the channel to one of the music stations—Alternative Aces—which was playing The Jam’s A Town Called Malice. I hired the volume, returned to the kitchen, forgot about the drama and the gasoline-covered girl, and in the warmth and noise of the kitchen, I began preparing my dinner as the music seemed to dance around me.

 

 

Photograph courtesy of Gabriel on Unsplash.

Leaving Sadie — The Playlist

If any other writers out there are like me—and I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that they are—then music plays a part in their process. Maybe songs hum gently in the background as the individual types away on the computer or typewriter (hipster alert). Perhaps they write a scene and they connect to it a certain song, they think “this track would be prefect for this scene” (tip for new screenwriters: if you’re submitting a screenplay to a production company or a competition, don’t include songs in your script). Maybe some writers are like the great Haruki Murakami and, like him, go for very long runs and listen to music from a variety of genres (tip for everyone: read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running).

Well, for me, music is a constant companion (I didn’t get the word tattooed on my wrist in a foreign language for no reason…). Music is my first love, and it shapes my days and my mood to a degree. While promoting Leaving Sadie on Instagram, I’ve been adding tracks to Insta stories, and it got me thinking: I should create a soundtrack for Sadie… Or, a playlist on Spotify.

And here is that Spotify playlist. It’s filled with songs that capture the mood and playful nature of the novel. And I’m not gonna lie, I’m a fan of all these artists, even though certain characters did determine the tracks that muscled their way onto the playlist. I’ve made it public and collaborative—so if you do happen to pick up a copy of the novel and feel a certain song suits the story well, please go ahead and add to the playlist.

Here’s the list in full:

  1. “Lovefool” by The Cardigans
  2. “I’m Writing a Novel” by Father John Misty
  3. “Who Loves the Sun” by The Velvet Underground
  4. “Are We Still Friends?” by Tyler, the Creator
  5. “A Perfect Sonnet” by Bright Eyes
  6. “Satellite of Love” by Lou Reed
  7. “Love Street” by The Doors
  8. “Time After Time” by Chet Baker
  9. “Once Around the Block” by Badly Drawn Boy
  10. “Lost Cause” by Beck
  11. “Let Me In” by Snowmine
  12. “Two of Us on the Run” by Lucius
  13. “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” by Fleet Foxes
  14. “Lawman” by Girl Band
  15. “Little L” by Jamiroquai
  16. “Pale Blue Eyes” by The Velvet Underground
  17. “911/Mr. Lonely” by Tyler, the Creator (feat. Frank Ocean and Steve Lacy)
  18. “Prototype” by Outkast
  19. “War” by The Cardigans
  20. “Still Life” by The Horrors
  21. “Moving On” by James
  22. “The Time Is Now” by Moloko
  23. “Kodachrome” by Paul Simon
  24. “Sunburst” by Picturehouse
  25. “All In My Mind” by Lonnie Smith
  26. “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” by Ella Fitzgerald

Leaving Sadie – Now Available for Pre-Order on Amazon

 

Hello, hello,

The Kindle edition of Leaving Sadie is now available for pre-order on Amazon. If, like me, you prefer a physical book, you can order a copy when the novel is released on February 29th.

The always lovely and invariably talented Ellie O’Neill (bestselling author of Reluctanly Charmed) has kindly provided me with a quote for the book:

“Wildly charismatic and deeply funny . . . Wonderful, eccentric characters get tied up in an adventure of lost love, finding yourself and the mysterious mind of a playwright. Coules has a great gift for storytelling.”

So – following that rather flattering endorsement! – those of you who prefer reading on screens, order your copy now.

It’s a strange thing, sharing a novel with the world.

But maybe it’s a stranger thing to write a novel and not share it.

So here it is.

I hope you enjoy it.

S.J.

Leaving Sadie – available on the 29th of February 2020

 

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Publication date, Pryor, and Tyler.

“Don’t breathe no mo’!” Never have four words relating to a near-death experience been so funny. Anyone familiar with Richard Pryor’s legendary 1979 show Live In Concert will know the routine I’m referring to: Pryor walking through the yard when suddenly he suffers a heart attack. Not funny. But funny when the person telling the story is a comic genius.

After announcing the publication date for my novel Leaving Sadie (February 29), I’ve often had moments where I’ve heard those four words bellow between my ears; this all being relative to what I can only surmise is some form of very minor panic attack (Don’t breath no mo!”). Although panic attack is too strong a term for such moments; there’s no genuine anxiety coursing through my veins, no heart palpatations, no hyperventilating; just a recurring bout of what I’ve coined the Shit Fears.

Every writer experiences the Shit Fears. Not just every writer, any creative individual who shares someting they’ve made, experiences the SFs. To sum it up in a few words, it’s basically “what if people think this work is a piece of shit?” Cue Pryor: “Don’t breahe no motherfuckin’ mo’, you heard me!”

Richard Pryor - Live in Concert (1979)
Richard Pryor – Live in Concert (1979)

But the Shit Fears are not something to be ashamed of. They are only natural. Creative Anxiety Syndrome (CAS) is another term I’ve coined. This can be used as a more-appropriate-for-public-speaking Shit Fears synonym, although it’s valuable to note that while the terms might be used interchangably, they are, in fact, two different conditions. While the Shit Fears are relative to post-publication (or post-sharing) anxiety, CAS is a body-permeating apprehensiveness experienced intermittently during the creative process, from start to finish. After all, it’s not unusual for creative people to experience higher instances of anxiety, according to PyschCentral, at least.

However! I believe that I’ve found a cure to both the SFs and general CAS in the form of this individual:

Tyler 1
Tyler, the Creator . . . Tyler, the genius?

I first experienced Tyler, the Creator around eight or nine years ago when he appeared on Jimmy Fallon performing ‘Sandwitches’, accompanied by fellow Odd Future member Hodgy Beats (now simply Hodgy). The performance was raw, intense, full of energy, and it reminded me of the first time I’d encountered N.E.R.D; the heavy percussion being a major factor.

While Tyler’s quirkiness was apparent in his performance (and his debut record Goblin), nothing could have prepared me for his most recent effort Igor. With this album, blending hip-hop with funk and neo-soul, Tyler fully embraced his idiosyncratic creative nature. Donning a blonde wig and garish two-piece suit, Tyler presented to us his alter-ego, Igor. With this character, he delivered, for me, the most interesting and enjoyable album of 2019.

But how does Tyler act as the panacea for all things related to Creative Anxiety Syndrome? Well, simply, look at what the man has put out there; look at how he’s placed himself in the firing line. For Igor, he could’ve been mocked, ridiculed, laughed off of the Billboard Charts, never to return. Of course, Tyler must have had confidence in his work (how could he not?), but he was prepared to take risks, to take a different approach both musically and personally and artistically. And he did it.

For me, the SFs and general CAS can be alleviated, if not expunged, by looking at people like Tyler, and how they’ve been brave and bold enough to share their creations with the world.

My novel Leaving Sadie is ready to go. It will be available on Kindle and in paperback on February 29th, 2019. The SFs are almost gone, and Richard Pryor’s beautiful voice now speaks to me: Breathe, motherfucker. You heard me!

Leaving_Sadie_Final_NEW-01

Character Quotes #1 – ‘Leaving Sadie’

 

A little taste of my debut novel ‘Leaving Sadie’ with quotes from some of the characters…

 

 

“You become a slave to the life you carve out for yourself… and then you spend your time trying to escape it.”

– Miller Moore

 

“Only writers know the sheer torture of reading an exquisite piece of literature.”

– Ezra Cooper

 

“Had I known parenting was so important, I would have taken it more seriously.”

– Helena Cohen

 

“The little things. It’s . . . It’s what we do on most days. That’s the crux of any relationship.”

– Rachael Wilson

 

“We’re heroes to thousands; hundreds of thousands… Reverence. Heroism. And for what? There’s nothing heroic about what we do. There’s nothing heroic in spending time on your own doing what you love to do. What’s so heroic about that?.”

– Miller Moore

 

 

Read more about my debut novel ‘Leaving Sadie’ here. I’m currently submitting to literary agents (it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll), with a long, long list to get through. Self-publication is still a possibility, but not until I feel I’ve exhausted the submissions process.

I would love to know if the above quotes whet your appetite for the novel, or at least pique your interest. Drop a comment below if you have any thoughts!