Monthly Archives: December 2014

If you’re going to San Francisco part 3, finale

Oh dear! julie pressed the trigger. What next? read on and find out.

A raspy wet feeling against my cheek woke me up. Woke me up? Hang on. I was dead. I’d just shot myself. I must be on the other side. In heaven, or God forbid, in hell. But if I was in hell, hell was a pretty comfortable place to be lying down. I moved my left leg. It felt like I was lying on something soft, like a mattress. “Julie?” A voice and someone leaning over me made me open my eyes. Annika was standing there with a worried expression on her face. On the bed next to me, was ruby, her little Chihuahua who was licking my cheek. “What’s going on?” I asked. My head was thumping as if an army was marching to a battle in there. “You tell me what’s happening,” Annika said and pulled a chair over to my bed. “What’s going on Julie?” “I should be dead,” I replied feeling anger rising inside me. However, I was too weak to project it, so I just put a hand over my eyes instead. “Why. What’s up?” “You gave me the gun,” I replied. “Julie, I gave you a soft gun that looks like a real gun. The kind we use onset in the series I’m in.” “But why?” “Julie. I know about Curtis and Ellen. Curtis called me because he couldn’t get hold of you.” “Too right. I don’t want anything to do with that asshole anyway.” “I understand and I’m furious with him as well. I said he should leave you alone and that he’d only make things worse if he tried to get in touch with you. But I was worried when you called me last night to ask if we could meet for breakfast. I didn’t want to mention what had happened. I thought that when you were ready, you would come talk to me about it. When you asked for a handgun, I became even more worried. I never bought that story about you needing it for research. But again, I played along. I could be wrong after all. I didn’t want to leave you earlier, but since I knew you couldn’t really hurt yourself with that gun, I decided to come back later. I stole your key card so it wasn’t hard to come back in. You probably fainted from the soft gun shot because you were in shock.”
I let it all sink in quietly and then I sat up, ignoring the pain in my head. “Why? Why? Why? Why?!” I shouted the last why, which made Ruby whimper and hide between my pillows. “I just can’t go on living anymore Annika. Don’t you get it?” “And do you think I’d have really given you a real gun? Come off it Julie. I know what Curtis has done to you has broken your heart. I’ve had this happen to me as well a long time ago. But that’s no reason to end it all now is it?” “It’s not just Curtis,” I said. “It’’s,” I paused, unwilling to pronounce the name of my death sentence out loud. “It’s leukemia,” I said finally. Annika’s mouth open in surprise and she stared at a point in the ceiling for a while before she said almost in a whisper, “I’m so sorry Julie.”
I told her everything. From the visit to the doctor surgery and the discovery of Curtis and Ellen’s ‘meeting’. “Oh my… I am so sorry. I wish you’d told me before.” I shook my head. “I couldn’t. It was too hard.” “But are you sure it’s an aggressive leukemia?” I shrugged my shoulders. “Anyway, I don’t know what to do now,” I said. “I don’t have an agent anymore and where will I live?” “The second question, I can help you with straight away. You can live with me until we find you somewhere nice you like. As for the agent, you’re a bestselling writer, so we’ll find you one.” “And this time, I want a female.” Annika nodded. “I have contacts. I’ll ask around.”

In that moment my phone rang. I had been avoiding all phone calls accept the one or two from Annika. I picked up my mobile which was on the bedside table to reject the call when I saw it was from the doctor’s surgery. It was 8 PM and the doctor calling this late could only mean that it was important. The last thing I wanted to do was to talk to my doctor, but since Annika and Ruby were here and I was still alive, I pressed accept.
“Julie!” My doctor was almost shouting into the phone. “Where have you been? I’ve been trying to reach you since yesterday.” “I’ve just not been able to answer the phone,” I said weakly pressing my knees to my chest. “Well, did you get my voicemails?” “No, I didn’t check them.” “Well, I have good news for you. Well, maybe not great news, but not bad either. “I swear he was almost laughing. “What?” I said sharply. I got the other tests back. Your Leukemia is the non-dangerous type. You will require some treatment, but you will be ok.” I sat frozen in disbelief, trying to take in the message. “Are you there?” “Yes, I said. “I am just…” And then the tears came.

Annika and I opened the mini bar and split the mini bottle of Pino Grigio between us. “I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or be angry,” I said trying to save a bag of peanuts from Ruby’s paws. “You’ll be fine. And you’ll meet someone who won’t cheat on you. Just concentrate on getting well and to get that novel out.” “You know what? Maybe I will write a novel about a female agent after all,” I said “Not a bad idea at all,” Annika replied “I have one question for you,” I said and sipped the wine. It was so much more pleasant than the whiskey and it tasted fresh and cool. “Who broke your heart?” “Well Julie, if you really wanna know, it was a long time ago. We were only 22 and fresh out of college. I thought he was the one, but he then one day, I came across him screwing some other girl at a party. He said it was because they’d both been drunk. But I decided I couldn’t risk him doing it again, so we broke up. I’m so glad I didn’t give him a second chance. And today we’re on speaking. It was Curtis.

If you’re going to San Francisco Part 2

Welcome to the second part of my shortstory If you’re going to San francisco. If you didn’t read part 1, it’s the post below. Enjoy!

Back in the present, I pick up the handgun. It still surprises me how heavy it is. It’s so tiny. It easily fits in the palm of my hand. It wasn’t hard to get hold of. Everything I’d read about America and how easy it was to get a gun had been true. Okay, so I hadn’t gone into a gun shop and said “Hi, can I have a handgun please? A small one, for dummies who don’t know how to shoot.” I had contacted Annika, close movie star friend who I’d made during my first few months of staying here. She’d naturally been curious and worried when I asked her where I could get hold of a handgun. I’d said that I needed it for some research for my second novel. Unlike Annika, my acting skills were terrible. And she’d looked closely before asking “Are you sure?” I giggled nervously. “My heroine is a secret agent and needs to be able to handle a gun, so I thought, well….” Annika had come back a few hours later with a gun. “I’ll need this back in two weeks max,” she said. “We use this onset of the new series I’m in.” Without knowing it, my friend had set my death date.

One of my dad’s favourite songs is Scott McKenzie’s if you’re going to San Francisco. I love the song too. When I was little, my dad would put me on his lap, and we’d sing along to the scratchy record and dream about San Francisco and the summer time over there, especially in the wet British winter when summer seemed like a distant dream in a fairy tale.
Although not everybody walked around with flowers in their hair, San Francisco certainly didn’t disappoint. The people I met were gentle and smiling, though at times that somewhat forced cheeriness Europeans perceive Americans to have, got to me. Still, I felt at home straight away. My career was also going well. Curtis was a very good agent, and soon two of the biggest publishing houses were bidding for my novel. In the end, it was sold for a six figure sum. More than I could ever have dreamed of I was busy doing interviews, going on book tours and with writing. I was so happy that writing was hard. However, I managed to start my second novel.
Things with me and Curtis were also going well. The chemistry between us was amazing. We would talk long into the early hours about everything and nothing. And the love making left me dazed and off track in a way I’d never before experienced. After six months of being together and working together, he proposed, on the Golden Gate Bridge at night.

Everything was going splendid until two days ago when two very bad things happened. The first thing was a phone call from my doctor. I had been feeling a little under the weather, so I’d gone for some blood tests. My doctor sounded serious when he asked me to come in to his office to discuss the results of what he found. He had an open spot, so I drove down there immediately. When I was comfortably seated, he delivered the news. That it looked like I had leukemia. My white blood cell count was very low and he said that treatment should start immediately. I remember fainting and waking up, the doctor and a nurse leaning over me. “How bad?” I asked after the nurse had made me drink some drops of water. “We can’t say how aggressive it is yet,” the doctor replied. We will be taking more tests. But just in case it’s bad, we want to get you on chemo as soon as possible.”
I left the surgery in a state of shock, promising that I’d call the doctor as soon as I’d spoken to Curtis about my illness. This would inevitably both delay our wedding plans and my second novel.
I drove straight to Curtis’ office without calling first. His door was closed, meaning he was either in a phone conference or a meeting. I usually respected his privacy, but this was an emergency, so I knocked before opening the door. I guess you could say Curtis was having a meeting. Only it wasn’t a meeting where two or more people were sitting around his desk with coffee cups and note books in front of them. This meeting involved Curtis and someone else, a woman, but I couldn’t see who, pressed up against his filing cabinet kissing passionately. They broke apart as soon as they noticed that their privacy had been disturbed. Now, I could see that the woman was Ellen Jones, Curtis’ latest writer. I liked both her and her writing style. Curtis and I had been over to her and her husband Will’s house one time for dinner. And it had been a good evening. I stared at them both disbelievingly, not able to utter a single word. “It’s not,” Curtis started to say. “Enjoy the rest of your meeting,” I finally managed to say through clenched teeth, turned on my heel and ran out.

I take yet another swig of Whiskey. Curtis had been trying to call me for the past two days, but I haven’t answered neither his calls, nor his desperate voice mails and text messages. After arriving home from his office, I’d packed a few things and moved to a hotel to figure out what to do next. I had just become more and more depressed and my self-loathing was growing. I saw death as the only way out. My aunt had gone through chemo therapy and it had left her a complete wreck. Dying, she’d said, was something she prayed for every time she received the treatment. And her prayers had been answered during the third round of treatment. I just couldn’t see myself go through this. And alone? Without Curtis? Cheating lying bastard Curtis!I managed to meet Annika for breakfast this morning not mentioning what had happened, although I’m sure she knew something was up. Two hours ago I got the handgun. Now, I was ready to do it. In the second of complete peace that came over me, I lifted the handgun to my temple and took a sharp intake of breath as I unsecured it. Then, I pressed the trigger.

If you’re going to San Francisco Part 1

It’s been a while since I’ve published any fiction on here, so thought I should do that. This is a three parts short story with the title If you’re going to san Francisco, just like the famous song. It’s a bit of a depressing read in the middle of this festive season, but I hope you’ll like it. Wishing you all a merry Christmas. My thought goes especially to those who are alone or grieving at this time of year.

It could have been any woman at any balcony in any big city at any time of the day and for any reason. But it was me, Julie Taylor 31, in San Francisco at 7PM. In front of me on the small table, there were two objects. A bottle of Whiskey and a small handgun. I don’t even like whiskey. The stuff makes me feel sick and nauseous. But I think I need it in order to get the courage to pick up that little handgun, put it to my temple, or perhaps in my mouth and press the trigger. I could have chosen so many other methods. Cutting my main artery was just too scary. I was too afraid of the pain. Even though I’d much rather handle physical pain than that dark nameless shadow of pain inside me.
I considered over dosing on pills. I’m not a crazy pill taking person, but I figure Tylenol, Yasmin or paracetamol, especially combined, would do the trick. But taking many pills would give me time to regret. I could stop, say after pill number five, and reconsider my action. But then I’d be in a pretty screwed position. I’d probably need pumping and then I’d have to explain why I was taking so many pills. “Yes doctor. You see my life is over so I decided to gently end it. But then I had second thoughts.” No. Not an option. So handgun it was. It would be quick and death would be instantaneous. I’d get a break. A never ending break. Because sometimes a holiday break is not enough. I just had to get a little drunker. I picked up the black label, took a sip and forced myself to swallow. A burning sensation spread down my throat and out to the tips of my fingers. And my mind was cast back to how and why I’d ended up here.

It had started two years ago. I’m British, so I was living in Manchester in my own little one bedroom apartment. I was fairly happy, but quite bored. I was working for a small PR agency that specialized in skin care and cosmetics PR and the job was very, very dull. Having always dreamed of being a writer, writing press releases felt like an insult to my intellect. I wanted to write a novel. Become the next young ish woman to win the literary Nobel price. I was single. My boyfriend Marcus of five years and I had ended it, on friendly terms the year before. It really was friendly. Not friendly in that obvious pretend way some couples exhibit when they try to convince themselves to everyone else that “it was all on friendly terms”. Marcus and I were so friendly in fact, that we occasionally met for coffee and we’d still kept all our friends since they didn’t have to take one party’s side over another.
Being single though, meant I had a lot of time on my hands all of a sudden. I spent that time doing ‘real’ writing. By the time my life was about to change, I had written 10 chapters of a thriller that was both fast paced and funny at the same time. I had a blog where I wrote banalities every so often. But since I thought my project was going so well, I decided to publish my novel chapter by chapter on the blog. Until I got an agent of course. But I knew getting published was hard. I’d tried when I was 21 and thought I’d written a master piece, but it had been rejected by so many publishing houses, I gave up hope. Back then, I’d not known having an agent was necessary. Or maybe I had known, but the arrogance I possessed at that age convinced me I could hold my own thanks. At 29 I knew that what I’d written now was a lot better. And perhaps creating some hype around this novel would make it easier to publish? So that’s what I did.Or at least get an agent who could lead me in the right direction.
My reader stats jumped from a few thousand to a few ten thousands. I got many comments on my work. People were crazy about my story. I got some bad comments to, but that’s always to be expected. My dad used to say that “You’re not truly respected unless you’re hated by at least a few”. So I didn’t let them discourage me.
One Saturday morning when I was moderating comments, I found one from a Curtis Harrison.

Dear Julie,
I’m writing to you because I love your novel. I hope you have thought of publishing it. If the rest of the story holds up as good as it’s doing so far, it would be my privilege to become your agent.
My name is Curtis Harrison and I’m based in San Francisco. I represent three other writers who are up and coming like you. One of them, Martin Garfield Brooks, is a name you may have heard of. His first novel Black hole, made it on the New York Times best seller list.
I realize my proposal might come a little unexpectedly. But please think about me and email or call me.
Curtis.
His email address and phone number was attached. I didn’t publish the comment since I gathered it was a way for him to email me. I thought about his offer for a few days before I wrote to him. I couldn’t really discuss the offer with anybody since I didn’t have friends or relatives who had been published.
That reply e-mail was the start of a close friendship between Curtis and me. And I would be lying if I –said there were no other feelings under the surface. After three months of talking and in which I also completed the novel and put everything on my blog except the final chapter, my work contract came to an end and I decided to risk it all, and go over to San Fransisco to live my dream. I’d had other agents write to me as well, but none were in the UK. One was in LA and one in New York.Looking back, I deeply regret not accepteing one of the offers from the two female agents who approached me. If only I had done that. If only!

Video star

I wrote this post for another magazine back in October. But I thought, since I haven’t written here in too long, I’d share it here.

I’ve always said that I wish there was a blind Rihanna. Why? Because I think disabled people too deserve to be portrayed as hot and sexy. Especially those who are hot, sexy and disabled. I am not claiming to be a blind Rihanna, but my singing career has recently started taking off and I am going through all the works. Writing songs and recording music is hard work, but it’s the easy bit. It’s all about sound. And sound is something I am good at. But there’s so much more to music than just recording. There are the live shows, the TV appearances and the music videos.

Yesterday I shot my first ever music video and as much as it was fun and exciting, it gave me a lot of wake-up calls I’m gonna share with you.

“So when I say action, you start performing to the camera. Just move a little. Touch your face. Don’t dance too much. This is a love song and we want it to look sexual.” The video director stepped back and I nodded that I’d understood his instruction. Maybe. I was very nervous. Apart from the director and his crew, I was surrounded by my own crew. People I know and love. But still, this video thing being completely new to me, I wish they’d all disappear so that they wouldn’t see how stupid I was probably gonna look. Oh come off it, I thought. If you think like that, it will look stupid.

“Action!” I was jolted out of my nervous thoughts by the first bars of my song Ifemi and I plastered a smile to my face and started singing while I made some moves. But I couldn’t relax. I was constantly wondering whether I was doing the right thing. Was I looking good?

“Cut!” I stopped singing, still keeping the smile. “You need to make more movement with your arms and not so much the body.” The director explained. “Do you mind showing me how?” I said. Experience has taught me that I understand things to do with dancing and movement better if someone physically shows me how to. Instead, the only other female in my crew came over and showed me a couple of things. Still confused, and starting to get annoyed with myself for messing it up, I tried doing some more variations after the next “action!” But it wasn’t really working.

Feeling slightly defeated I sat down as the other discussed in rapid Yoruba about what to do now. I realized that the first thing I’d need, was to invest in some serious dancing and movement lessons. My rhythm is good. But I need to learn finer routines and different ways of dancing.

“Hey.” A deep male voice and someone holding out his hand for a handshake got me out of my chair. “I’m your boyfriend for the day,” he laughed. I have rarely ever been so happy to see a stranger, but his personality and his “I’m an actor” had me convinced that the shoot was somehow going to be saved. “Oh baby, I’ve been missing you!” I replied in a mock dramatic way while laughing. His arm around my shoulder, we started walking towards the back of the room, where my solo disaster had started. “I must say, I love the song. Very Native and sweet.” “Thank you.” “I also saw the first shots you just made and, well, it just seemed like you wanted to sit down. And I said to the director, No we can’t do that.” I shook my head. “You know, the hard thing for me is those movements you sighted people find easy and natural, they don’t come automatically to me, because I’m never really sure how they look.” “I get that.” He said. And I could tell he really meant it. I was even more assured now, that the video, after all would be fine.

Everything became easier once the actor was on set. He very quickly understood how to relay information to me in a simple and quick way so that I always understood what I needed to do. He even showed me essential things such as how much I needed to turn my head to change my glance from him to the camera, And because Ifemi is a love song, meaning “My Love” in the Yoruba language” and because that again allowed a fair amount of touching, it and being close, it was easy to make an instruction look like he whispered sexy words into my ears. And if I forgot to look in the right direction, he’d tilt my head carefully towards where I needed to be and place a kiss on my cheek for effect.

Another thing I learned about music videos is that acting really is a big part of it. No matter how personal the song you wrote is, you are in character ones that camera is on, because you act out a story. And being in character, means you have to think talk and act like that character too. So another thing the actor did to make me feel relaxed between the takes was to talk to me in character, something I found very enjoyable. We made up a story for ourselves. He was a rich business man who traveled around the world, and loved buying nice jewelry for me. He even got into exclusive details about each piece of jewelry I was wearing. While I was a successful singer who loved dating my rich business man who gave me jewelry. We had each other in stitches many times throughout the shoot. So much so at times, that I actually forgot a couple of my lines. Because that’s another thing I didn’t know. You constantly have to sing to the camera so that, whatever else you are doing, you are performing the song all the way through.

When it came to my solo bit, the one we had given up earlier in the day, I was a whole lot more relaxed. And my saving actor sat behind me, out of the picture giving me hints every now and again. The whole thing was over only after a few hours.

Another aspect of being a musical star and being blind is that you are entirely at the mercy of your stylists. Their taste may not be the same as yours. And at times, I was not sure whether I looked strange, whether colours fitted together and so on. But at least if that’s the case, my defense is that it was a concept and that I did as I was told. I guess that clears me of any fashion crimes.

Being a blind Rihanna, or being Rihanna for that matter, means that you have to have everything on point. As a blind person, it’s not impossible, but there are, as you’ve seen from my experiences, added challenges that sighted people don’t have. However. This first video experience has been a very valuable one and though I have a long way to go to be anything remotely close to a Rihanna, I have learned a few things from this shoot that I’ll take with me. I was lucky to work with such a professional actor in the first shoot and if I worked with people who are less experienced, or just not as good at relaying information to me, I now know what information to ask them for. “Where’s the camera?” “Does this look convincing?” “Give me some hints if I’m not on point please.”

And I can’t wait to see the finished edited video. I hope it will look good.

Update: I had a music video shoot the day after writing this article and it was a whole different experience. The video director was much better at giving me directions all the way through. And if I didn’t understand a certain instruction, my manager or one of the other crew members helped supplying the explanation. This second shoot was in fact so enjoyable that I was sorry when it was over.