Unwinding with a friend…

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Fearghus Fall observes the liquid in his glass. Sun from the window beside him catches the crystal and replicates amber warmth across its angular cut – tiny triangles of a more elusive whisky hover like mirages before his eyes. He passes it under his nose, breathes in its promise and lets the anticipation speed his heart, calm his soul.

After a long working day a man needs something familiar into which he can relax. Switch off. Unwind. Some have a special place – a room, an armchair by the fire perhaps, a favourite book. Others favour home-cooking, or the soft grip of a woman’s thighs. For Fearghus, it’s a drink. His companion of choice.

The whisky smiles at him. He smiles back.

Yet it is not the end of his working day. The point at which he needs his friend moves ever forwards. Not a problem, of course, he just has a stressful job. His responsibilities grow daily. Especially since Bertie’s taken to hiding out in his castle – or, more accurately of late, the private chapel. What’s wrong with the man? To where have centuries of inbred stoicism fled? It now falls solely on Fearghus’s shoulders to keep things stable.

It’s ten o’clock in the morning. Even by his own ever-creeping standards it’s a little early for unwinding with a friend, but he slugs down the whisky and pushes the empty glass to one side. Its triangles now pick out the dark oak of his desk, a slight shine of grey filing cabinet to one side, a flash of white from the morning post which sits, unopened, in a neat pile to his right.

With the murderer caught, life should now return to normal. Work here on the estate should now return to normal. That is, if someone can rouse Bertie back into the cycle of things. But Fearghus does not yet believe the estate is heading to even keel. The murderer was employed by them – indirectly, of course, but hired to work on the estate nevertheless – and that bitch of a journalist won’t let go. Now she’s suggesting Lizzy, the earl and her murderer were in some sort of sordid love triangle.

It never ends.

A cloud crosses the sun, stealing its rays and casting a gloom over his office. It’s a mess. The whole sorry situation, it’s a terrible mess. He slides the glass back across the desk, opens the whisky and pours another shot. A man needs his friends at times like this.

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After the writing stops…

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… and you switch to publisher mode, comes the editing, the arguing debating, amendments, then the formatting, the proofing, the re-formatting, the tweaking of every single page, slowly, painstakingly coaxing paragraphs to fit without gaps, without bitty hanging words – miniscule kerning adjustments that test both eyesight and patience.

Then the editing stops and you switch to designer mode – now come the cover ideas, the arguments collaborative discussions, trials, the scrapping of these attempts, the starting over, the arguments slight differences of opinion… blurb must be written, blurb must be changed, blurb must be re-written… blurb must be argued over discussed… fonts, images, colours, placement, size, guidelines, standards, rules…

After the writing stops, there is a hell of a lot of work still to be done before a book reaches its intended customers.

It can be very satisfying though, after the publishing stops and the postman knocks. If a writer imagines how thrilling it is to hold their published book in shaky hand, and multiplies that by, say, 100% for a book you’ve invested in throughout the whole process… well that’s what it can feel like on a good day.