Posts Tagged ‘the road from langholm avenue’

eleanorThe thing with self publishing online is that, unlike the traditionally published stuff, the manuscript – if you can still call it that – is never actually finished; it’s always open to review. And from time to time one of my stories will draw me back for another look. This week it’s been The Road From Langholm Avenue, a story that predates the Internet, and came out of a much younger me.

The gist of the story is that our hero, Tom, has been cuckolded and chucked out by his wife, so he’s moved back in with his long time widower dad, who has just entered into an unusual marriage of convenience with a much younger, emotionally fragile woman called Eleanor.

Tom’s job is also on the skids, and he must choose between redundancy, or transferring to an office abroad. An easy choice one might think but Tom’s a small town boy, early middle aged and having an emotional crisis, so he sticks his head in the sand and sets out instead to find Rachel, a girl he had a crush on at school. Why? Well, he’s feeling that the fact he never asked her out has left a piece of her inside of him, and that the only way to free himself and clear his head is to find her and ask her out. Irrational? A little crazy even? Yes, but then people are like that.

The story explores Tom’s relationship with Rachel, both past and present, the story of an unrequited love that left him scarred. But the story of Rachel herself is also intriguing, revealed in glimpses as Tom’s search for her progresses, and he realises how little the real Rachel resembles the idealised image he’s held of her all these years. The obvious question though is, if he does find her, and he asks her out, what then? I mean, what if she says yes?

His friend and ally in all of this is Eleanor. Naturally supportive, nurturing and sisterly, her often surprising wisdom helps him navigate the emotional maze his life has now become. But their relationship is not without its dangers, given Eleanor’s traumatic past. Mentally scarred, horrifically abused in her youth, Eleanor’s story resembles Rachel’s in many respects, being one of courage, and a struggle for personal integrity and dignity in a world and in a period when dignity and integrity are no longer familiar concepts. Unlike Rachel though, who lives very much on the surface of her being and is rooted firmly in the world, Eleanor is a woman of secrets cast adrift on stormy seas.

I began this story long ago, when I was still in love with Rachel, looking for traces of her in my own past. I don’t know where Eleanor came from. She is symbolic in a way, consort to the Senex of Tom’s father for a while, and linked to my own quest for an unearthly wisdom. I also ended the story very much in love with her. Rachel was my beginning, a bit like Tom, but Eleanor was the one who opened up the road from Langholm Avenue, led me away from the past. It’s a journey that continues to this day.

In the process of reading, I’ve been able to sweep up yet more typos, fiddled about with commas and colons, but I’ve let the text lie. The story is stable. Mature. No sense in messing with it now. In the process of reviewing it, I began posting chapters on Wattpad to see if I could tease out a few more readers, but engagement has been disappointing. No surprises there – my characters are middle aged, and Wattpad is still predominantly a platform for Emo teens, with just the occasional bewildered adult roaming lost, as if in a desert. Elsewhere though, on Feedbooks and Smashwords, it’s done much better. It was even pirated on Amazon for a while!

I’ve had a lot of mails about this story, and that’s always welcome. There’s nothing quite beats hearing from a reader, if only because it’s evidence a real person is actually reading my stuff. I’ve been asked more than once when the sequel is coming out, but I’m sorry to say I have no immediate plans. It’s clear something about these characters has touched a nerve – in particular the ethereal Eleanor – but I would have to delve back in time some fifteen years to pick up the voice and the soul of it and I’ve come to realise the guy who wrote it is no longer there. He changed into the me that I am now.

I think when we write, one of the motivations is we want to leave something behind, a marker of our one time presence here in material reality, a kind of digital graffiti on the wall of the metaverse; a cheeky: Michael Was Here! Of course, a hundred years from now no one will be fingering dusty editions of Langholm Avenue in the back rooms of quaint second hand book shops. For one thing, there will be no second hand bookshops – but I trust searches of whatever passes for the Internet in the future will still serendipitously reveal the story to fresh eyes, that it will live on in some form.

A writer is not the best judge of his work. What he is happiest with, others might find excruciating, while what he thinks trivial and worthless, others might enjoy. Langholm Avenue is whatever others take away from it, but whatever that is I am not ashamed to admit that it still touches me, containing as it does by far the most semi-autobiographical material of all my novels.

Is it foolish to hope? It’s a long time since we spoke, but she has yet to return my key, and sometimes in life, as in love, the most we have to go on is a feeling.

Yes, Eleanor still has my key.

But the key to what?

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