Conspiracy Gives a Writing Lesson

Pete texted while I was at work to see what I was up to tonight, and I reminded him that I had a Conspiracy event to go to. He texted me back saying that he wanted to go. At first, I wasn’t too keen on this as it would mean I’d have to pay his bus fair to the event out in the back end of nowhere Fife, and I wasn’t sure if I could expense his ticket. Then I remembered that I’d left the box of books at the flat, and I kind of needed him to bring them to me so I didn’t have to go all the way home. I then also realised that it would actually be helpful if he could just haul around the books for me. I had them stuffed in an old lady trolley, but they’re still heavy and unwieldy, so I said he could come — if he brought the book trolley.

In fact, this whole book sale malarkey is a bit of a pain. I’m not sure how we got this box of books, but would have received them in one of three ways:

  1. They were given to us by the publisher to use as marketing copies.
  2. We bought them from the publisher at a discount.
  3. We have been given them by the publisher, but we’ve got to return those that don’t sell along with the cash from those that do sell. (This is pretty unlikely, and we only did this sort of thing at MNM if the agent or festival or author or whatever was selling a load of different books at a really big event. Then they’d also keep a bit of the profit, like a retailer would. So the first two are more likely to be the case.)

But even so, we’re not going to make tons of cash off any of these situations. Let’s consider the better of the situations, number one: free copies. Before we even left the office, I assumed that there might be about ten people at this reading, and if they all bought a copy of the book, we’d make £100. Not bad you say, but nearly twenty quid is going to bus fair.  Still, £80, not bad. But remember that £80 is a pretty small drop in the bucket when you think about the general overhead of running an agency, and the amount of money that is probably needed to keep the Agency going. Plus, I didn’ t think it was likely that ten people were going to buy the book.

I guess what I’m saying is that hauling around these books is a hassle with little return. It’s all about hoping one person buys the book, reads it, loves it and recommends it to a friend, who recommends it to a friend and so on. Otherwise, if you look at the profit margin, it’s just a pointless endeavour.

Pete and I got to St Andrews and we were standing about waiting for the next bus, when he asks, ‘What’s St Andrewswas like?’ and ‘Doesn’t a Prince or something live here?’ I laughed and said that Wills and Kate met at Uni in St Andrews, and he actually asked, ‘Who’s Wills and Kate?’

Sometimes I think he acts like he doesn’t know pop culture just to sound above it all or something. There is no way he doesn’t know Wills and Kate. But just in case, I rephrased it, ‘Price William and Kate Middleton’. He just shrugged an ‘Oh.’

We sat in silence waiting for the bus while I thought about that weekend in St Andrews with HarryPotter. Sitting on the cold windy beach and stumbling across the student flat party. Having a scrumptious all day breakfast after a night of drinking and that long walk through the woods from the caravan site.

I thought about suggesting that Pete and I visit St Andrews, but for some reason – some weird reason –St Andrews kind of feels like HarryPotter and I’s place. Like if Pete and I spent the weekend there, I’d be cheating on a memory. Yes, I know, silliness.

Then, as if Pete could read my mind, he suggested a weekend in St Andrews, or even a day. Just to discover it. It was time to get over my memory guilt, so I agreed, and Pete and I have made plans to spend next Saturday in the Drews. I think it’ll be good.

We got to the writing group, which was being hosted in a local primary school. There were nine older women there, all sitting in those little plastic primary school chairs. Conspiracy hadn’t arrived and I introduced myself. Pete, who’s as loved by older women as he is by young posh art students, was swarmed. He turned on the charm, chatted and flirted, and even sold three books before Conspiracy arrived.

As we waited for Conspiracy it dawned on me that Fife might be coming with Conspiracy. I looked over at Pete and suddenly, for a reason I can’t figure out, I didn’t want Fife to meet him. I got kind of nervous, and kept hoping that Fife wouldn’t turn up. But also kind of hoped he would come along as well…just to make the place look fuller. As Pete flirted with little old ladies who I assumed looked to the People’s Friend for writing aspiratin, I wondered not where Conspiracy was, but where Fife was. I don’t know how this guy has gotten into my head. Perhaps it’s just that he reminds me of Greece and a lovely few summer days in the Mediterranean, and the early days of the gap summer when it all seemed so easy.

Conspiracy finally turned up without Saint this time, and we all settled into the plastic kid chairs while the ladies began their questions. The questions started pretty basic, ‘What time of day do you write?’ and ‘Do you write every day?’ That sort of thing.

It was all a bit ho hum, so I suggested that perhaps they move onto the writing prompt, and then they can ask Conspiracy some more specific questions about their writing. They all scribbled and scratched for about ten minutes, including Pete, before they went around the room and read their work.

I was shocked, they hadn’t written scenes in which the fireman rescues the kitten from the tree, or the tale in which the granddaughter snags the green grocer’s son. No, these old gals were brutal. They all seem to be writing crime fiction that would made Stieg Larsson blush – if he weren’t already six feet under. In fact, I think one wrote about a blushing corpse. Now, Conspiracy doesn’t write crime fiction, but he does do that whole brutal edgy Scottish noir thing, and he loved the ladies’ writing. He listened intently as each read, gave advice that was positive but also useful. They then asked him to read, which he did, and the questions this time came more freely. The group was only supposed to last and hour and a half, but it was getting close to two hours when the janny came in and told us we had to pack it up.

Everyone bought a book, and we all shuffled out. As Pete and I were heading out the building Conspiracy stopped us. I was hoping he’d offer us a ride, but instead said, ‘Fife told me to say he’s sorry he couldn’t make it, but he had to look after the kids tonight.’

He then waved good-bye and wandered to his car leaving Pete and I to bus it home.

As it was so late, we waited ages at each bus stop (in the rain and the blustering Scottish wind) and it took us over two hours to get home. Pete yammered most of the journey back, how good Conspiracy was, could he borrow the book to read, he might take up writing. I really wasn’t listening.

So, Fife did have children? I thought I remembered him saying something about a son, but I couldn’t be sure. Greece was so long ago, and he did say it oh so casually. Did he have a wife as well? I’m feeling quite certain he’s never said anything about a wife, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. He could be a single Dad sort of thing, lost his wife in a horrible hang-gliding accident. He loves her dearly and misses her adventurous ways and vivacious laugh. But over the years he’s grown accustom to raising little Lotty and Jacob on his own. In fact, they see him as a father and a mother, and they go to him with all their problems. But, still he knows something’s missing. Not just a mother for his children, but also a ….

Pete woke me up from my ridiculous made-for-television-movie daydream (sometimes I do wonder why I’ve given up the idea of being a novelist…oh yeah, because my ideas are all melodramatic pish) to ask who Fife was. I just said that he was a friend of Conspiracy’s and a big fan. That’s all. And honestly, that is all. So, why did I feel like I was lying?

We got home and could hear music blaring from PoshPhD’s flat as we came up the stairs pulling a trolley nine books lighter behind us. (Or so Pete was pulling the trolley up the stairs.) No sooner than we put the key in the lock did she pop her head out, to see if we wanted to come around. She had put her thesis aside for a moment because she had ‘a burst of creative inspiration that tastes like a breeze’. She then stepped out from behind the door completely. She was covered in splatters of paint, and, you guessed it, pants only, no trous. We could help her ‘instigate a pattern of randomness through controlled chaos.’

I declined as I have to work in the morning, but Pete’s over there just now controlling chaos. Well, I’m off to bed, but I think it was an interesting day after all. I hope the old dears from the writing group pass on the word about Conspiracy’s novel.

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