Finding material in the trash can

I think I want to be in a writing yurt at a writer’s retreat as I write the next book.  But the truth is, that would not necessarily work for me. I got married in the Yaddo Gardens – an artists’ retreat in NY and I never really understood what that was or why a writer would need one.  I scribble things on napkins – I have a folder full of them. I learnt this habit from Jilly Cooper. I was polo correspondent to The Independent at the time and we were at a polo match at the Royal Berkshire Polo Club. They had a fun Ozzie commentator who delighted in the presence on the field of a female polo player and announced ‘There goes Annabel with 15 hands between her legs.” Jilly screamed with laughter, then wrote it down, on a napkin. Sure enough that line went in her next book.

Having stalled on writing the ending for Wed, White and Blue, the event became monumental. I thought I would write it in the Elephant Café where JK Rowling initially wrote Harry Potter, but when I got there it was packed with Japanese tourists. I then found the National Library just down the road, but that didn’t feel right. So I went to a bar, the Wash Bar in fact on The Mound in Edinburgh. It was empty and perfect. One large glass of Pinot Grigio later and the final chapter and Epilogue were drafted. That felt really good.

You never know where material will come from – hence the usefulness of napkins, or if I’m organized a notebook I carry around, always assuming I have a pen. I was sitting in a cafe talking to someone yesterday about how sad it was when your dog dies. From there we got to ashes and urns. He was from Edinburgh and told me that when he was working on ‘the bins’ – garbage trucks – he found an intriguing wooden box. It was too nice to have been accidentally thrown out – and then it dawned on him, it wasn’t a box, it was an urn. Although it had been ‘binned’ once, he explained that although he had no idea who the occupant was he didn’t feel it was right to throw it away, so he carried it around for a day, feeling a heavy obligation had fallen on his shoulders.

After finishing his shift he went into the gents to change and placed the box on the back of the toilet. He forgot to take it with him when he left so in spite of good intentions, the box ended up on the top of a cistern, in a men’s toilet, in a bin yard. As of this day he says the final resting place of the box remains unknown. You can’t make stuff like that up and I quickly found a napkin and scribbled it down. It might make a scene in the next book…

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It’s not about the book

I spent the best part of three years in bed – and not with George Clooney. One of my friends, struggling to understand said: why else would you do that? And btw he’s not my type.

My illness wasn’t life threatening but sometimes made me want to threaten my life. My brother bought me Lance Armstrong’s book It’s not about the bike – and ironically in hindsight it really hasn’t been for him. His tale of cancer survival helped me though and I am still a fan despite his meteoric fall from grace. Eddie Izzard, the transvestite stand-up comedian, also cheered me up. I came across him while lying in bed and channel surfing. I laughed out loud for the first time in a while and it felt good.

Lyme Disease had its light moments. My ex-husband pushing me round the supermarket in one of those wheelchair/carts when my legs gave out, was pretty funny in a black comedy kind of way. Years later, him catching me as I ‘shut down’ making a cup of tea, putting me in my office wheelie chair and pushing me down the landing to my bedroom, hitting every ridge in the wooden floor en route and nearly catapulting me down the stairs. Actually I think those might have been the only really light moments. It was a miserable existence. Pumped full of antibiotics on a daily basis, trying to fight off the side effects of toxin build up, digestive destruction and depression. The thing is you learn to live with it and so do those around you.

The appliance repair man told me that his whole church was praying for my recovery on a regular basis. That’s how prevalent my illness was in the house. He must have come to mend the dishwasher twice in three years. All of that said, I was one of the lucky ones. Misdiagnosed for years prior to my pregnancy, I finally got the proof, much sought after by Lyme sufferers – when they found Borrelia spirochetes in my spinal fluid after being hospitalized with meningitis three months after my son was born.

I was given the standard four-week course of intravenous antibiotics and declared better. I felt better until I didn’t. Relapses are common in late stage Lyme disease and that’s when my fight really started. Going from doctor to doctor, being declared mentally ill as you can’t possibly still be infected. Then fate smiled on me and I met Dr Kule, an holistic doctor luckily enough living just a few miles from our home in South Carolina. He sent my blood to a lab in California and it came back positive for Lyme – some five or six years after I’d been told I was cured. He boosted my immune system, taking the fight from inside out and I improved.

I was able to work and began to ‘get out more’. That’s when I met Lee Brittain, the inspiration for Sterling. I was working on a major polo tournament and needed to get my hair done for the launch. Lee turned me into what he called a ‘sexy mama’. We arranged to meet for a drink…and the rest as they say is history. Several years into our friendship, I sat down and began to write a book, with the working title ‘Bangabrit’. It was based on an imaginary t-shirt design Lee and I had decided would be fitting for his first trip to the UK, a dream that finally came true last year – though we chickened out on the t-shirt. I wrote the majority of ‘Wed, White and Blue’ as it is now to be known, in three months. It took me several years, to arrive at the finish.

I still have the odd ‘Lyme episode’, most recently after a move from the USA to Scotland. I was semi-conscious and unable to move. My parents called an ambulance and pretty soon I was hearing the voice of Braveheart in my head “Sarah! Open yer eyes!” Eventually thanks to the paramedic’s insistence I did. I spent three days in bed, but I got over it and touch wood I’ve been healthy since.

I think it was that final episode that convinced me to finish my book. The fear of putting my work out there, was overshadowed by the fear of never finishing it. Pablo Picasso said, or possibly wrote: “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” It’s a bit extreme, but then so is the notion of being in bed with George Clooney.

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What had happened was…

I was reading Great Expectations the other day – my son has to read it for English and I thought I might be able to help him understand it since, being brought up in South Carolina, the Dickensian world of Pip and Stella is a bit of a stretch for him. I came across a quote and since this might be my only opportunity to link my work – albeit very tenuously – with the great Charles Dickens, I think I’m shamelessly going to take it.

That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.’

I did pause when I read it and remembered the first day I walked into the Imago Hair Salon and met Lee Brittain. We hit it off immediately. He quickly shared with me that he was an Anglophile and knew all the British sit-coms that I liked to watch. That was over ten years ago and we have been BFFs ever since. Anyone reading Wed, White & Blue who is lucky enough to know Lee, will easily recognize the inspiration for the main character Sterling Johnson. You couldn’t make him up, but I have, though he wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t met Lee.

There is one more quotation I’d like to pull out in reference to the book. It’s not high-brow like the Dickens one, but it is equally relevant. I wish I could remember the actress who said it, while being interviewed on a morning TV show. I can’t, but I remember what she said. “My mother always told me that not everything is for everybody dear, because if it was, everyone would be married to your father.”

This book is not for everyone – Great Expectations isn’t either. My advice is to judge this book by the cover and if you like that, then there’s a good chance that Wed, White & Blue might be a book for you.



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Chapter 1 – Wed, White & Blue

Wed, White & Blue

by Sarah Eakin


The Principal Characters

Sterling (aka Matthew Johnson)

Sterling’s mother

Savannah Jackson (Sterling’s half-sister)

Charles ‘Charlie’ Fanshawe

Ginny (Sterling’s friend)

Carole Dubois (Charlie’s mother)

Henrietta Lawton-Smythe (Charlie’s friend)

Philippa ‘Pip’ Fanshawe (Charlie’s sister)

Robert (Charlie’s ex)

Ginny’s mother

Oscar the Jack Russell (aka Edgar)

Billy (a Texas polo player)

Consuela (a Mexican housekeeper)

Billy’s father

Pierre Dubois (Charlie’s French father-in-law)

Henrietta’s mother

Earl of Fanshawe ‘George’ (Charlie’s father)

Rover (Sterling’s pit bull)



Sterling stood in the hotel room and stared in the mirror. He licked his finger and wiped away the smudged mascara below his eye, smearing it on the towel wrapped around his waist that he’d taken from Charlie’s bathroom. Waking up in the same bed as Charlie had spawned panic. He had carefully maneuvered himself off the bed and picked up his sequined dress, thigh highs, heels and fake boobs. His panic increased while searching for his wig and trying to collect the dollar bills that had fallen out of his clothing. He shoved as many of them as he could under the bed – hell someone might as well tip the maid – grabbed the towel tightly and left. Back in his room and staring in the mirror again he wished he’d looked a little harder for the wig so that he could wear it downstairs as a disguise and sneak out of the hotel.

Last night had of course gone according to plan. What bothered him was whether Charlie remembered any of it and if he did, whether it had meant as much to him as it had to Sterling.

There was no more time to think about it. Sterling had a wedding reception to plan and a day to do it.


Chapter One

In Sterling’s mind it was a ‘kill ‘em all let God sort ‘em out’ kind of day as he left the house that morning. Smile and nod at work – yes he was good at that – but when it came to getting there, his temper flared. The day had got off on the wrong foot that morning as his mother sat in her chair announcing in her pajamas, “I don’t want to participate anymore.”

“It’s not the Olympic Games for Lord’s sake,” Sterling had muttered under his breath, knowing with a sigh that it was life she was talking about.

It wasn’t as if she was that old – good grief she didn’t have a patch on the Queen, or the Queen Mother if it came to that. She was still in her 60s, her memory was stuck in the 60s and in her mind that was when her dreams of a medal or at least a decent finish in life had dried up, fizzled out.

She had nodded off in front of the TV. Sterling with control of the remote had found something that checked his gay boxes – a bit like Toddlers and Tiaras, he mused, only without the back stage drama. His mother woke up.

“What the hell are we watching?” she said in bewilderment.

“Synchronized swimming.”

“Good Lord I thought they was drowning. They look like hookers with all that make up on.”

“Okay mom we’ll watch something else,” he sighed.

“No leave it on,” she barked. “I’m interested now. Good Lord!”

He shrugged. She was nothing if not unpredictable at times. It was that quirky personality that had led her down a colorful path – three marriages, two children. But her life was more drama than fairytale and she had long since given up on finding a happy ending to her story, though she had searched quite hard in the bottom of her liter-sized Pinot Grigio bottle most nights.

Sterling quelled his frustration by getting up from his recliner and heading outside on the porch for a cigarette. No wonder I never had any ambition he stewed recalling the times as a teenager when she told him that some people have the starring roles in life and the rest of us, son – the rest of us note – are just filler.

Arriving at the salon, Sterling stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray of his SUV, trying hard not to resent the fact that the small removable piece of black plastic that had constituted ‘the smoking package’ when he bought the car ten years ago, had added $600 to the price. They get you everywhere he thought to himself. Smoking was for sure an expensive habit.

He also tried to ignore the fact that his car needed a service, the power windows no longer had power and his tires were… well tired and bald, like most of his recent dates. It needed to go on down the road without him but there was no budget for a new one, much as his passion for cars had him leafing through car magazines for hours on end – car porn he called it. His father had been a car dealer and his passion for automobiles had rubbed off on Sterling. It was the only really comforting thing he felt he had in common with his dad. His mom, when he finally came out, had simply said: “Well son, I hope you have more luck with men than I did.”

His father had been less philosophical. This was after all the south. Sterling had after all been raised a Baptist and no matter what brutal fate sinners faced in worshippers’ eyes… judgment day for a homosexual was guaranteed to be ten times worse. Fire and brimstone was probably way too good for them.

Changing his name to Sterling when he left High School and starting training at the beauty salon had been the first signs in the community that there was something ‘wrong’. Baptized in front of the whole of the First Baptist Church of South Oakville congregation Matthew Mark Johnson – only Luke missing – had been the instigation of his grandmother.

A large daunting southern woman who did not suffer fools, ‘Mammet’ ruled the roost and the rooster. Sterling’s grandfather would feign death before he said a contrary word to his wife. When she came in the room the feet would hit the floor at speed having been swiftly moved from the coffee table, backs would be straightened and the dog hurled off the sofa. It wasn’t as if she didn’t know what went on behind her back. But Lord help anyone who dared to disrespect her rules, her house, to her face. Sterling may not have had much growing up, but he had manners, even though there were times when he chose to forget that.

“Hello sunshine,” Savannah smiled. His sister – well half-sister technically, though his mother didn’t ever seem too sure – was in full flow in the salon mixing room at the shop she owned ‘Cut and Pluck’, where Sterling rented a booth. A bright red dye was swirling in the color bowl.

“It’s time,” she bellowed, “time to be fine!” Sterling rolled his eyes – in his mind. He was a little afraid of his sister too at times and when she was in this kind of mood – I am going to be beautiful no matter what – he knew better than to question. Her plus-size frame filled the small back room and Sterling decided there was nothing for it but to step outside and smoke. Text and smoke – that was his release.

As he closed the door he stuck a Marlboro red in his mouth – if you’re going to smoke you might as well smoke the real thing he always thought. He looked up at the sky and sighed, turned and went to go back inside when the sign above the shop caught his eye. He opened the door, walked past Savannah and stopped in front of a mirror shaping his bangs with his fingers.

“You might want to take a look at the front of the shop,” he said as he directed his eyes to the door. Savannah threw a towel on her head and went out. Two seconds later she was back, her face the same color as the intended color of her hair. Sterling turned away and smiled, amused at the local comedian who had overnight replaced a couple of letters with an ‘F’ – ‘Cut and Fuck’ the sign now read. How much more convenient that kind of salon would be, he thought, reflecting on the fact that he hadn’t had sex – at least with anyone else in the room – for months.

Wed, White & Blue
First of The Sterling Chronicles
Published by White Top Publishing
Copyright © 2016 Sarah Eakin


Sarah Eakin has asserted her right in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the copyright owner. All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Copyright © 2016 Sarah Eakin.wedDOG1

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