…which in time, I hope, will become a physical poem in its own right, based on the digital.
Art goes round and round. And the words swirl in a dervish with it.
Image: Remedios Varo
The love of a woman will undo a man’s very sanity. It will pick him apart at the seams and restitch him in a way that only he can feel. And the world will carousel around him as if nothing has changed. But different he is, for to love is to gain and lose the entire world in a heart beat. ~David Ramsey
As a storm bears down on my corner of the world, just as there’s also a storm brewing in Dalhousie.
Today I reached the midpoint of the novel. Coming in at 36.5K this means the novel will be somewhere in the vicinity of 75K when finished. That means I am literally in the middle and if I keep writing, there will be time aplenty to end this before the month.
Today I got to delve into the other side of Ramsey and I was surprised at what I found. All manner of truly smart things come out of his mouth (and Christian too making me realise more than ever how much of a CHANNEL I am for characters. I couldn’t think this stuff up if I tried!)
David Ramsey is modeled on a real life man from the mid 17th Century. He was the first master of the Guild of Clock and Watchmakers. He was Clockmaker to James the First but fell from favour, ended up in debtor’s prison and his death is recorded as a post script in a letter from his son.
While Ramsey loved his cogs and springs, he like most of the other scientists of his time made all manner of ‘instruments’ and was deeply interested in the occult. When I stumbled across him back in April looking for information on clock making I had no idea he would end up front and centre of my story.
And now, after all this time, I know what motivates him. Plus, how it is possible that Christian may become the next Ramsey.
The scene that ran through my head in the depths of the night, I’m not sure if it will play out just the way I saw it. It’s a bit like the scene with Tabitha and the Sculptor. It came to me in the dead of night and I thought it far too awful to work within the story. But I made it happen and I suspect, given it’s the same antagonist the same will happen with Christian. But that’s all saved up for tomorrow.
Yesterday I gave you a look at the Brothers Hammond, today it is my pleasure to present Ramsey!
* * *
“Do you love Tabitha,” Ramsey asked, swinging the lamp off the bench and holding it beneath him so the light played tricks with his face.
“I am afraid to know my heart.”
“Afraid you should be.” He caressed the music box briefly and turned back to Christian. “I loved a woman. Her name was Antoinette. That was Antoinette’s silhouette in the music box. There is another of her buried somewhere in this house, a portrait, painted by Paul van Somer, not a silhouette.
“Why not put it front a centre where everyone can see it, such a fine painting that it is? To do so would be to place it where I would pass it every day. Two, three, a dozen times a day. Do I wish to say to the world this is what I loved a lost. To relive each time that loss as I gaze up at her. No. I took her painting and put it somewhere safe. And as long as I live, so does she. To die is to truly lose her forever because only I am left to remember her.”
Ramsey looked up and realised he was talking aloud.
“Where did you meet her?”
“I applaud you Mr MacLeod either as an ignoramus of merit or an astute scholar of time. For you ask where and not when. Good, good.”
He began to pace and the lantern threw chaotic shadows against the walls. The machines at the back appeared to momentarily live and then die.
“We are not so un-alike, Mister MacLeod.”
He stopped pacing as though he needed to halt the forward momentum for his thoughts to catch up with him.
“Where? Yes, Where? I met Antoinette at the King’s court. She had come to be lady-in-waiting to the Queen. And both Paul and I fell passionately in love with her. Only I was married and Paul wasn’t. The painting, it is his. Forever am I tormented to see her through the eyes of the man who was my friend, who did not have the tenacity or imagination to be her lover for all time.”
He began to pace again and his mechanical minions lived and died by the swing of the lantern.
“I lost everything to try and win her: my commission at court, the small amount of money I had saved, my house, my reputation, everything until I was thrown in debtor’s prison. And it was there she finally came to me and confessed her love. By the time I had bought my way out of debtor’s prison, it was too late. She was dead from a fever. Paul had returned to Brussels and I was alone again in a life I didn’t want to be part of.
“I was old before my time. Worn out. Prison had leached from my will to live. I thought I was dead inside. Rather than go home and attempt to resurrect myself I died in a fire. Easy enough to do back then, not so much poking around in the ashes to decipher the who, what, when and why. And David Ramsey, the first Master of the Clock and Watchmakers Guild died and I was born in his ashes.”
He lifted the wick of the kerosene lamp and unlocked a door on the far wall, motioned for Christian to follow him.
“I have spent the rest of my life experimenting with the parameters of time…” Christian stepped into a huge circular room. The light bounced off a massive clockwork mechanism in the middle. “…trying to find my way back.”
…or how I came to hold the hearts of others in my hand.
When I started work as an editor I thought it was all about the words on the page. Perhaps it was the nature of the projects I was working on, perhaps it was the sheer amount of blood, sweat and tears I ground out of authors to get the best story possible, perhaps it was just circumstances or the fact that eP’s unpublicised motto has always been ‘life happens’…but I quickly found editing was more than just words on a page. I became privy and confidante to much of what went on in the lives of the authors I worked with. Things they didn’t publicly talk about as versions of their world fell down around their ears.
I always said I was there – an open door policy for email or Skype. I held whatever was told to me in a sacred trust. Over the years I’ve travelled death, disability, unemployment, depression, illness, relationship break ups and family problems (to name a few) with authors, but on the flip side I’ve been able to rejoice as babies were born, new relationships blossomed and careers took off.
Like embarking as an editor, I was perhaps a little naïve about what writing Post Marked Piper’s Reach might actually entail further down the track, or under the obvious layers of ink on paper. When we started writing it was all about me: finding a writing niche again, rediscovering my love of writing and doing it with someone I trusted and admired. Letting it all play out in a medium I missed.
The first email that arrived was a bit of a surprise, as one of our readers opened up to share their experience of the one that got away. I should at that point have had an inkling of what was to come.
This morning another email arrived. I’m not sure how many that brings us up to now, but there have been a few since April last year.
It is humbling to be entrusted with these very intimate stories of love lost, of regrets, of yearning, guilt and wondering. The pull of the past and the question ‘what if’ is powerful. In these emails are best of times and the worst of times, the best of humanity and the worst of it. The memories are still vivid, feelings raw despite the time elapsed. The writers tell of their own piles of paper and ink held together with faded lengths of ribbon, decaying sticky tape and disintegrating rubber bands. Letters accidentally stumbled upon, letters purposely found again.
Like Ella-Louise and Jude’s letters, the emails received are filled with songs, lyrics that echo across decades with such resonance they are accompanied with the sting of tears when I read them. A lot of the time these lyrics could be pulled straight from one of Ella-Louise’s letters. There are confessions of playlists from that time, of music hoarded to be played across the strings of badly mended scars.
Each email throws up new questions about how Ella-Louise and Jude respond and react to each other, of the mysteries of the past, present and future. Most recently themes of resurrection and motivations for stirring sleeping dogs are in the emails as Ella-Louise and Jude ponder the same things. If I ever have moments of doubt, or question the authenticity of Ella-Louise and Jude’s narrative, I only have to turn to these missives to know it nails it in the most confronting of ways. It’s why our readers react the way they do.
A RESPONSIBILITY BORN OF INK
I understand with deepening compassion and empathy and intrigue, the public response our readers have to each letter. And those whose stories I know, I want to crawl through the screen to their desk, or where they sit reading the letter on their phone or computer or the pages they printed out, on the bus, in a cafe or on their couch and give them a hug each week.
See, it’s not just Ella-Louise and Jude’s hearts we hold in our hands.
This charges us with responsibilities beyond just throwing words at a page and doing it with a degree of finesse (and legibility). The responsibility doesn’t lie just in writing authentically (ie. we’ve said many times, there will not be a happily ever after for these two regardless of the outcomes of their affair) and avoiding falling into the needs of our readers, to have the ending they didn’t get in real life, to stay true to our characters. The responsibility extends further: to be there to offer sanctuary for those tossed upon their own retrospective storms as they read the letters. To hold a space, bare witness and sometimes, to just be there at the other end of an email.
One day, when it is all over, perhaps I’ll take up Ella-Louise’s pen and dip it in the ink of my own story and let those who have written to me know I understand. I so absolutely understand.