A close-run thing
Yes, my tale of Ellie and her Dance Gang Friends is finished – and I have a date to publish it on the Amazon Kindle Store. I still have some editing to do (more about that later), but I have set Saturday 19 June 2021 as the date when I hope to publish. I already have what is called a Kindle Direct Publishing Account, so I just need to load the finished article onto the Kindle site.
I have felt from the very start that my novel would provide the Modern Jive and Ceroc Dance Community a much-needed dance fix and remind us all what a great time we had on the dance floor. When I started writing my novel 12 months ago, I never thought that dancing might resume before I published it. Any further delays and it will be a close-run thing.
I have to try and cut it down
Now that the story is finished I can look at doing the final editing. I have two major issues to address. The first is the length. It’s just over 600 pages and 208,000 words long. I was advised to make the story half that length but the long lonely days of lockdown saw me finding new aspects of Ellie’s dance journey to write about. In the extracts that follow I explore a couple of these aspects and I hope, along with all the other extracts I’ve published in previous articles, they give you a flavour of what you can expect from reading the book.
The second issue relates to song lyrics. The words to songs can have great individual significance for us. A great example of this is Candi Staton’s Young hearts run free. It is, without doubt, one of the all-time great Disco tracks, but its words are quite poignant for many of us too. No wonder that when Tony Blackburn introduced it on Top of the Pops all that time ago, he says ‘Listen to the words of this one.’ The words to this Disco Classic convince Ellie that she is, after all, young at heart and help her to become the person she wants to be on the dance floor.
Sorry, you can’t use song lyrics
I’ve made great use of this and other song lyrics in my novel and herein lies a major problem. I have learnt that you can not publish other people’s lyrics without either getting permission or more usually paying for the privilege. The cost is quite prohibitive and so I’ve had no choice but to remove them all. While this is helping cut the word count down, I often have to rewrite whole sections where I relied on the lyrics to tell the story for me. I’m currently a third of the way through this major task – removing the remaining ones should keep me occupied for another week!
Final updates to the Website
I also need to make some final additions to the novel’s website. There is a section that gives details of all the songs I’ve referred to in the story and I need to add a couple more and write about the part they play in Ellie’s journey. I want this website to promote Modern Jive and Ceroc so one further thing is to add links to sites where people can find their local dance classes.
In the story, Ellie finds out about her local dance class almost by chance and I want to make it easy for people to find out where they can start their own dance journey.
I keep getting distracted
Back in the dark days of January, I like everyone else was housebound, and had little to do but write. Now, as things open up again I’m finding plenty of distractions and alternative ways to spend my time and this latest round of good weather isn’t helping either. Hopefully, I can turn down the offers of a walk in the sunshine followed by drinks and conversation at a pub and keep to my deadline.
I have been retired from work for some time and have loved that I can do something nice when the good weather comes along. In many ways, I’ve had to treat this writing project like having a day job again and accept the work ethic that goes along with it. So shall we have another peek into the story?
Flirting can get you into trouble
In this story, I have been at pains to show the positive side to our wonderful dance scene but to add some drama, I have dared to write about one aspect that I’m sure everyone will have had some experience of – flirting and the sometimes unintended consequences. In previous extracts that I’ve published, I used flirting to add some comedy to the story but in this peek into the novel, we see how Ellie’s flirting gets her into trouble.
The whole point of partner dancing is to interact with the person you are dancing with. Some of the worst kind of dances aren’t where the moves go wrong or you dislike the track you’re dancing to, but the ones where your partner just doesn’t look at you. Thankfully such dances are few and far between as it’s almost impossible not to smile at your partner. It’s also very difficult not to smile back and it’s very easy for smiling to become flirting or at least to be perceived as flirting. A friendly smile can sometimes lead to someone getting the wrong idea.
In this extract, Ellie has accepted an offer to dance with Martin in the Chill-out Room. She is worried that she’s not experienced enough to dance to the slower music that’s found in there but Martin reassures her that he will make it easy.
Martin gets the wrong idea
Martin did exactly what he said and Ellie was surprised how well she was able to slow her moves down and keep to the more relaxed beat. One of the moves that worked particularly well was the Mambo sequence that formed the core of the competition dance. As Martin rested his hand on her hip, Ellie tensed up but she relaxed when his hand stayed firmly on her hip and simply encouraged her to sway seductively to the music. Happy that her hip movement was now far removed from her first wooden attempts in the Funk Room to James Brown’s Sex machine, and of a standard that might even be deemed eye-catching by the judges next week, she beamed a smile of satisfaction at her partner. Martin simply smiled back.
Increasingly lost to the music, Ellie was oblivious to the danger and failed to notice that Martin had brought her in closer so that they were facing each other with little between their respective bodies. Suddenly, Ellie felt distinctly uncomfortable and instinctively tried to put a little distance between them but it seemed Martin had no intention of relaxing his hold. As politely as she could, Ellie spoke up.
‘Martin, that’s a little close, don’t you think?’
‘But it’s a move that goes with this type of slower music.’
‘I don’t care, it’s just too close.’
‘But I thought you’d like to get a little closer.’
‘No, now let me go.’
Martin was in no mood to release his hold.
‘Martin, let me go!’
‘So what’s with all the flirting, I thought you’d enjoy me holding you a little tighter?’
‘Well, I’m not, so let me go!’
At that moment, another male voice entered the fray.
‘I think the lady wants to end the dance.’
Martin immediately swung round to face his challenger.
‘Back off Bugsy.’
‘Calm down Martin or I’ll report you to Andrew. You know what his thoughts are about such behaviour.’
‘You have her then but watch out because she’s a f***ing tease.’
As Martin stormed off, Bugsy offered Ellie some comfort.
‘Are you OK?’
‘I feel quite shaken.’
‘Look come and sit down.’
‘Will you tell Andrew?’
‘I will if it happens again, but it won’t. He won’t want to get banned.’
‘He’d be banned?’
‘This is a lovely dance scene and Andrew wants all the ladies to feel comfortable. Andrew won’t think twice about banning him if he ever got a complaint.’
Things have to go wrong, Paul
When I was looking for guidance about how to write a novel, I read a book that suggested things must not go smoothly for the hero or heroine. Martin plays a key role in Ellie’s plans for the dance competition but after his unacceptable behaviour, she has no choice but to remove him from the team. This presents Ellie with a major problem just a week before the competition but she is even more cut up by being seen as a flirt or worse still a tease.
This allowed me to discuss the whole nature of smiling, flirting and your partner getting the wrong idea. As someone who has fallen victim to ‘getting the wrong idea’ in the past, I must admit to particularly enjoying writing the next passage. Hopefully, Ellie’s thoughts will offer an interesting angle to the debate about the place of flirting in social dancing.
Am I really a tease?
Still staring at the ceiling, Ellie knew there was a danger that Martin’s callous words would haunt her for some time unless she dealt with them quickly. She had long realised that she had developed a penchant for flirting and it had done so much to help rebuild her shattered confidence. Of course, she knew some dangers came with it. She only had to think back to her escape to the loo at the Motown Night, to know that men could easily get the wrong idea.
Over the past six weeks, she’d come to see that dancing itself was a joyous activity but it was so much more heart-warming when you shared your elation with someone else. Back at Disco Inferno, where she had first experienced the euphoria of connecting her body to the pulsating beat, she had shared her feelings of joy by smiling at the other girls in their dance circle. It was the same now that she had found Modern Jive, only now she was smiling at her partner. Smiles, of course, are infectious and it was little surprise when her partner smiled back.
Ellie fully understood there was a fine line between smiling and flirting and it was easy to understand how her joyful smiles might be misconstrued by her dance partners. She knew that she had to keep her smiling under control, but it wasn’t easy, particularly when enjoying a wonderful dance. There was the problem. Each week, as she added more moves and improved her general fluency, her dances became more and more enjoyable, so it was little wonder that her smiling multiplied.
Other than her dances with Andrew, Ellie’s most enjoyable were with Martin and her control mechanisms were easily overridden as he led her ever more smoothly through the moves. While she might be excused this sometimes uncontrollable behaviour, there were times when her flirting had been consciously deliberate. She thought back to the moment when she’d heard those five magical words for the first time.
‘Would you like to dance?’
‘Yes please, Martin.’
Ellie knew that this moment, when an attractive man had politely asked her to dance was the point where her confidence had turned a corner for the better. She’d also realised that she needed to constantly feed that confidence if it were to grow to a point where she could banish the hurt of Mike’s betrayal. For that reason, she’d knowingly flirted with many of the men she’d danced with. Of course, she’d danced with Martin more times than any other man and it was little wonder that he’d been on the receiving end of her flirting so often.
She’d had no intention of allowing these flirtatious indulgences to go beyond the wonderful dances she enjoyed with him but he had clearly seen it otherwise, hence his request to meet up with her for a drink before the Burton freestyle. That request hadn’t come as a surprise to her, but what had followed in the chill-out room had. She’d thought she could have prevented such a confrontation but looking back she realised how naïve she’d been. She was pleased that when the moment arose she’d preserved her self-respect along with her newfound confidence but what she had to deal with was being called a tease.
If there was a fine line between smiling and flirting, was the difference between flirting and teasing similarly blurred? Uncomfortably for Ellie, there was a big difference. While flirting might be seen as innocent fun, teasing was deliberately designed to provoke a reaction and sometimes a destructive one at that. Penny had been a tease and it had ultimately led to the breakup of two relationships.
Ellie quickly conjured up the image of Penny posing provocatively in her hotpants and knee-high white boots. In the dark days after Mike’s leaving, Ellie had tried to imagine how Penny had set about enticing him. It would have started with some seemingly harmless flirting that would have flattered Mike but not caused him to lose all his sensibilities. There would have come a point where she would have realised, that if she were to succeed she would have to disable his resistance by suggesting that there might be something more on offer.
In Ellie’s mind, that was teasing and she was certainly not guilty of such provocation and it didn’t take long to achieve another comforting resolution. Martin’s use of the word tease with the added spiteful expletive was more about putting a sticky plaster over his own damaged male ego rather than a deformation of her own character. No, she had no reason not to hold her head up high and what’s more, if her smiles were a little flirtatious at times, so be it. It was up to the men not to get the wrong idea.
Sex no, romance yes.
One of the early pieces of feedback I got from some of my female readers was a request to put some sex into the story. My answer was always a resounding no. This was a story built around the idea of building a new life around a group of new friends who all went dancing and seduction on or off the dance floor wasn’t necessary.
However, I occasionally allowed myself to dip into the realms of romance. There is no doubt that many people come dancing for the social side and many single people soon see the possibilities that partner dancing offers them to find a partner. In an early stage of the story, I actually describe the class format, where the lady moves up the line to the next male partner, as speed dating to music.
Ellie’s focus is very much on regaining her confidence as a woman after the cruel deception of her partner Mike and she initially decrees that there will be no male partner in her new life. As her confidence is slowly restored through dancing, she begins to think that she might be ready to find a partner for herself on the dance floor.
The romanticism of a Greek island
Ellie took another sip of her wine and reached for the remote control, but before she could even turn the TV on another more enjoyable thought drifted into her head. It was triggered by the message from Janice.
Roger’s coming round. We’re going to see about planning a holiday together.
For all her hatred of Mike, Ellie still held on to some wonderful memories of their time together. She brought to mind one such memory, an evening meal on a rooftop restaurant on the Greek island of Skiathos. The setting, overlooking the small harbour of Skiathos Town, was perfect for a romantic dinner for two, made more so by a bottle of beautifully crafted local red wine. She recalled how over the course of their meal, the light had slowly mellowed as the sun drifted effortlessly towards the horizon. As the sun had finally disappeared, the lights around the port had sent twinkling reflections across the still water and she saw the two of them looking out over the harbour at the wonder of it all.
For all dancing could promise her fun-packed nights with friends, fabulous music and the occasional flirtatious dance, it could not provide the romanticism of a Greek island. For that, she needed a partner, someone to look into her eyes as the sun went down and to take her hand for a balmy walk under the moonlight. She couldn’t help but picture Roger walking with Janice under a similar star-filled sky, with the air still warm from the heat of the day.
Could that have been her walking dreamily in the moonlight? While she knew she’d missed her opportunity, she knew in her heart that she’d not been ready when Roger had queried her status. She’d had other priorities, not least to build back her confidence but perhaps now she was in a place where she was ready to start looking for someone. Even though she knew where to start looking, it would still be a challenge and no doubt one with hidden pitfalls. She wondered if maybe she had already danced with her prospective partner, or did she still have to hear him proffer those magical five words?
‘Would you like to dance?’
‘Thank you, I’d love to.’
I need to get back to work!
Now I need to get back to the tasks of editing, removing the song lyrics and finalising the website. Once the novel is uploaded to the Amazon Kindle Bookstore I’ll be posting a final article with a link to my new Would you like to dance? website. Here you will find more details about the book and a Buy the Novel button that will take you straight to the book’s listing on Amazon.
More extracts to read
If you would like to read more extracts from Ellie’s dance journey, please click on the other articles in this series below. Hopefully, they will entice you enough to want to read the story in full.