State of the Beecroft, update

So, I have finished the first draft of Blue Eyed Stranger. Which only convinces me that I was right to think that I can’t write contemporaries. That is, I clearly can write contemporaries because now I’ve written two of them – Shining in the Sun and Blue Eyed Stranger. But in both cases the struggle was epic. I don’t know how long it’s taken me to get these 37K words, but the mental wear and tear was considerable.


However, that might be health related. Last Monday I had the interesting experience of being carried off to hospital in an ambulance with suspected heart failure. (Pain in my chest under my breastbone, which got worse when I walked and stopped me from breathing.) I’d been feeling dodgy for a week before this and it had got to the stage where I was sincerely worried that something serious was going on. So when I phoned NHS Direct and they sent an ambulance, I wasn’t really surprised.

After an evening spent in hospital, however, it turns out that my EEG is very healthy, my blood tests rule out heart failure and gall bladder problems and an embolism on the lung. (“I’ve got swollen ankles,” I say, because they ballooned unexpectedly that very evening. “What’s that about?” “Normally that’s a sign of heart failure, but in your case we can rule that out.”  “Why?” I want to say, “why can we rule it out when I’ve got all the symptoms?” but I don’t ask, because they seem so certain about it. The swollen ankles worry me, but I let it go.)

They confessed themselves baffled. Said it might be ‘a muscular problem’ and told me to go home, rest and take ibuprofen.  Which is pretty much all I’ve been doing since, other than a little light Stargate fannishness.

The ride in the ambulance struck me as good research, though. I’d never been in the back of one of those things before, and I’m sure it will come in handy for a murder mystery or something further down the line.

If I’m late in answering an email, or haven’t been around as much as you might expect, I apologise. I’m still feeling dodgy, just with much less dramatic reason to, and I’ve only just started to pick up writing again. Other things may take a little longer to get back up to normal, and I wish I knew what it was, so that I would know how long it was likely to continue. But a general lack of heart failure is a thing I am not complaining about, though the possibility was quite a scare.

Anyway, to get back to my point, I really don’t think I’m going to write contemporary again. It’s just not me.

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10 years ago

You poor fing! It’s horrid when you’re feeling rubbish and they can’t identify what’s wrong. You end up wanting them to find something – anything! – rather than merely eliminating possible causes.

One of the NZ cricketers is said to be suffering from intercostal muscular strain, and it reminded me of when I had it. (The intercostals are the muscles between your ribs, and they contract to expand your ribcage when you inhale.) I do wonder whether this might be your problem because, depending on the severity of the strain, it can hurt to breathe at all or to breathe deeply.

That might lead to a tendency to breath only as deeply as won’t hurt, which might not be deeply enough for you to feel as well as you normally do. Although the most obvious cause of intercostal muscle strain is twisting the upper body, it can happen as the result of a fall, even a simple fall which you barely notice.

Back to the point (as you say) – in what way was it a struggle to write Blue Eyed Stranger? I was thinking about the difference between writing historical and contemporary, and it occurred to me that it might be to do with the mindset of the characters, their world view and ethical and moral approach, as well as dialogue etc.. What do you think?

Anyway – congratulations on finishing the first draft, and hope you feel better soon.

10 years ago

Yuk about your health, huge empathy facter here.
But about the writing, I go back & re-read your historicals, so why fight it?

Elin Gregory
Elin Gregory
10 years ago

Oh lor’ chest pains! So glad they say it’s not your heart but not giving you anything else to blame it on isn’t very helpful. I hope it doesn’t come back.

Shining in the Sun is a lovely book and I’m sure Blue-Eyed Stranger will be too. Looking forward to reading it. I too have theories about the difficulties of contemporaries as opposed to historicals, at least i know why I have problems and that’s definitely to do with mindset. I find it much easier to express a careful closeted individual cautiously reaching for a little happiness but always prepared to cut and run than an out and proud modern man cheerfully taking what he can get when he can get it with no apologies to anyone.

Char Newcomb
10 years ago

Oh my! I’ve been off the grid, or at least away from my blog reading for the last few weeks and missed your update. I hope you’re feeling better.

I had that similar pain in the chest but it extended into my left arm and hand/fingers back in March. Heart attack ruled out, but an MRI showed a cervical disc rupture and a host of other neck problems. Oh joy. Rest, cortisone shots and physical therapy these last 12 weeks have helped, but the symptoms (numbness & tingling) remain in my hand & fingers.

I loved Shining in the Sun & appreciate your efforts to write contemporary! Your historicals – at least the ones I’ve read so far – are wonderful. If those stir your passion for writing, then run with it!

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