What a phrase, eh? Volume II. Enough having fun with blogs, and background research, and James Bond moment with new characters in life; time to get back to the very serious business of writing. I've kept my fingers supple, kept the writing muscle limber, put (as my trainer at the gym used to say) 'the miles in my legs'. Now there's a thing. Is that why writing and running complement each other so well - each word a step, each step an exploration of a thought? It would be good to ask that question of Richard Long.
And that was a shameless digression. Back to Volume II.
Volume II is there, but now I look at it with proper close attention, it seems to be corralled behind a fence. It has a title (and we all know how essential that is), Volume II will be called The Dead Men, but I need to build a gate, I need to build a way in.
The trick that works most often for me in finding that way in is to forget I'm writing a book, but rather to view an opening or otherwise tricky or with-a-lot-riding-on-it scene as if I were directing a film. Where would I put my camera? Whose eye would my camera be? What would it shoot, to start with? Close-up? Panning out? Or zoom down in, from high above?
I see Volume II starting with a child's fingers, scrabbling to loosen something from the rubble of a fallen wall. I can feel the shards of mortar, and chunks of pulverised brick and stone. There's a little grass growing near the fingers - this wall fell some time ago. There are shadows round the fingers, the edge of a skirt and petticoat in frame, shadows beneath, around her feet - sun in the sky. The child is female, a little girl, and something sparkles there in the dirt, that's what she after. Something sparkling, and coloured - gold, red, green -
An embroidered ribbon round a cuff. She pulls the cuff. The sleeve comes up. The bony arm and hand within it, too. We don't see her reaction - we're left thinking, maybe this has happened too many times before for her to have one. What happens instead is there's a shout - another child's voice, but older, male, her brother, and the little girl stands up, we see her whole, for the first time, and looks at where her brother is pointing - and the whole world changes for them both.
I write to music. Cue John Lennon, 'Here comes old flat-top.'
There. I didn't know any of that was going to prove the way in. Now I will write it (and post it), and see where the camera goes next.