Hi guys,, we have T.J. Masters stopping by with his upcoming release Diary Dates, T.J. chats about Diary Dates & May/September relationships and we have a great excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
Postgraduate student Andrew Chin arrives in London not only to study, but to explore life away from his traditional family in Singapore. His adventure begins at the airport, where he finds the diary of a wealthy British businessman and endeavors to return it.
James Howard is twice Andrew’s age, and he’s not used to selfless youngsters. Despite a rocky first meeting, the two develop an unlikely friendship as James introduces Andrew to the city. James is looking forward to the festivities leading up to Christmas in London and maybe a celebration with Andrew. But will a nasty bout of the flu ruin their romantic holiday?
Not if Andrew has anything to say about it.
Characterisation and the May to September thing.
All of my fictional writing revolves around two guiding principles. First is a believable, credible story and second are realistic and credible characters. In Diary Dates we meet a small group of very diverse characters led by the principle couple Andrew and James. Andrew is a young Singaporean Chinese student who has travelled to London to study for his Masters degree. James is a wealthy older businessman whose drive has led to professional success but a poor work life balance.
I set the character of Andrew as a young Singaporean for two clear reasons. First was that there is a real life Andrew who came into my life while he was in London a few years ago studying for his Masters degree. The real Andrew and the fictional one share many common traits and I am better for having met him. The second reason for this choice is that one of the key virtues of Chinese culture is filial piety. This has its origins in Confucian philosophy and is the virtue of respect for ones parents, elders and ancestors known a xiáo.
Filial piety is so deeply embedded in Chinese culture that it has much broader implications than simply respect for one’s own parents. I have seen this same deference and respect extend to the wider community and in fact to almost any elders who the young Chinese come into contact with.
This is a driving force within the personality of Andrew who appears right at the start of the story, to be genuinely concerned that he should return the diary which he has found to its apparently important owner. More importantly it is the principle reason behind Andrew becoming the devoted carer for James when the older man falls ill. It simply would not occur to him to turn his back on His sick friend.
The train was packed, mostly with people traveling to their jobs in central London. They soon arrived at their destination and Jenny helped Andrew carry his luggage up a flight of stairs to the apartment. They spent the morning unpacking in Andrew’s room while they caught up on each other’s news.
Eventually, Andrew remembered the diary. Eager to get it back to its owner, he called the number he’d found in the book, but it went to voice mail.
A well-spoken masculine voice confirmed that it was the phone of James Howard. Suddenly feeling self-conscious, Andrew hung up while he decided what he was going to say. In the end he left a simple message telling Mr. Howard that he had found his diary at the airport and wanted to return it as soon as possible.
Jenny suggested they go out, so they left everything and ventured out into the busy London streets. After walking around, taking in the sights, they grabbed a sandwich for lunch from a coffee shop. Just as they were trying to decide where to try next, Andrew’s phone rang and he recognized the number on the screen as the same one that he had dialed earlier. Feeling a little nervous, Andrew answered. “Hello?”
“Hello, yes. You left a message earlier about my diary.” The man sounded businesslike.
“Oh, yes, I think you left it at the airport. How can I bring it to you?”
“Thank you for calling me. My whole life is in that book. I will pay you a finder’s fee, of course. Can you bring it to me at my office?”
“I’m sorry, what is a finder’s fee?” Andrew had never heard the term before.
“I will pay you a reward for bringing the diary to me.” The man sounded a little impatient.
“Ah, no, Mr. Howard, I do not want any reward. Just to give your book back to you.” Such a thing had never occurred to Andrew, and it was certainly not what he intended. “I have only come to London today, but if you can tell me where to come so I will bring the diary to you.”
“My office is near Euston Station. Can you come there?”
Andrew remembered the name from the journey earlier. “Yes, I think that is not far. When can I come there?”He hoped that the man would not say now, because Andrew needed to go back to the flat to collect the diary first.
“I’ve got meetings this afternoon. Can you come at five o’clock?”
“I’ll text you the address. When you come to reception tell them who you are. They’ll be expecting you.”
“Okay, Mr. Howard. I’ll go there at five o’clock.”
For a moment Andrew thought the man was going to hang up without saying anything more, but then he suddenly asked, “Can you tell me your name?”
“Oh, sorry, sir. My name is Andrew, Andrew Chin.”
“Yes sir, I arrived from Singapore today.”
“Okay, Andrew, I must go. Thanks for contacting me.”
“No problem, Mr. Howard.”
The man at the other end had already hung up. Andrew, in his usual kind way, assumed that the man’s abrupt manner on the phone was just because he was a busy, important person.
Andrew told Jenny what was going on, but she said she couldn’t go with him because she was having a tryout for a waitressing job later. A text from Mr. Howard provided Andrew the address of his office. After looking it up, he decided that he could make his way there on his own.
They wandered the streets for another couple of hours and then went back to the flat so that Jenny could get ready for work. While he was waiting, Andrew looked up James Howard’s company on the Internet. It was a world leader in technical ceramics and Mr. Howard was the company’s CEO.
Jenny had warned him that he would arrive at his destination far too early if he left just after four, but he was nervous about being late. So it was that just half an hour later he arrived at the address and found himself in front of a modern office building.
He still had another twenty minutes to wait for the appointed time. Not wanting to be seen yet, he carried on walking until he reached the end of the road, where a low wall marked the boundary of another building set back a little from the road. Sitting himself down on the wall, Andrew took off his rucksack and removed Mr. Howard’s diary in its protective plastic bag.
Beyond the initial search for the owner’s details, Andrew had left the book unopened. Once he had realized that the book was a diary, it became a private thing. Now, however, the thought that the diary was about to pass out of his hands again nudged Andrew to take a look at it. If nothing else, he wanted to see whether the diary would give him any clues about the man he was about to meet.
The thick band holding the book closed was essential, since it held so many loose bits of paper and business cards between its pages. Removing this carefully, Andrew ran his slender fingers over the spine and cover. The black surface felt almost like fine leather, although it was too thin to be real. All the entries in the diary were neatly written, probably with an ink pen. This idea seemed a bit old-fashioned, but at the same time quite stylish. The multiple appointments on almost every page showed that this James Howard was indeed a busy man.
One of the most telling things was the odd pages, which were full of doodles. These were either geometric patterns or tiny drawings, but all quite neat. Maybe some of those meetings were not so interesting.
Another curious observation was that there was little difference between some of the weekend pages and those for the weekdays. Did this man never take a day off? A closer look showed that many of the Sunday pages contained recipes. Maybe he collected them for his wife to cook at weekends when they had some time together.
The extra twenty minutes passed quickly. Andrew bound up the diary again and put it back in its plastic carrier. Tucking the package in his rucksack, Andrew walked to the office building and up the steps to the huge glass doors. Everything about the place made him feel small, including the reception desk in front of him. It seemed that they were expecting him, because as soon as he asked for Mr. Howard, the receptionist asked him to wait while she tapped something into a computer.
“Hi, Diane. It’s Josie on reception. Mr. Howard’s five o’clock is here.” She must have received a reply, because she simply said, “Okay, thanks.” She then turned to Andrew and asked him to take the elevator to the tenth floor and check in with the secretary there.
Soon Andrew was stepping out of the elevator to be greeted by a smiling woman who stood up and indicated that he should follow her. She knocked at a plain wooden door and opened it without waiting for an answer. Andrew was waved in, and the door closed behind him. There was only the briefest moment to take in his surroundings before James Howard looked up from his desk and greeted him.
Andrew was struck by Mr. Howard, who was not just a smartly dressed businessman, but a very attractive one. His warm smile and bright eyes put Andrew at his ease
“Are you Andrew? Yes, of course you are. Do sit down.” Mr. Howard indicated one of the stylish chrome-and-leather office chairs in front of his desk. “Do you have my diary with you?”
“Yes, sir. I do.” Andrew quickly sat down and started to pull out the bundle from his bag.
“Thanks for taking care of it for me. We use technology for everything here, but I still like to keep a written diary. My colleagues laugh at me. A youngster like you probably thinks I’m just old-fashioned.”
Andrew briefly appraised the man behind the desk. He had always gotten along well with people older than he was and he had to admit that Mr. Howard was a handsome man, probably in his forties but fit and well groomed with dark hair, graying at the temples and carefully styled.
“No, sir. I think a book is a really good idea.”
“Anyway, I’m grateful to you for finding it and taking care of it for me. How much do I owe you?”
“Your reward. How much do you want?”
“No, sir. That’s okay,” Andrew said, taken aback at the suggestion. He wondered whether it was something cultural that made the man want to pay him.
“Come now.” Mr. Howard reached into the top drawer of his desk to take out his wallet. “You must want something, or you would have just taken the diary away or handed it in at the airport. So how much?”
Andrew felt his cheeks grow warm with embarrassment. Why did the stranger think so badly of him? He started to get up. “No. I’m sorry. I just wanted to give the book back to you safely.”
“Why would you do that for nothing? Don’t you want some sort of reward in return?”
Now Andrew felt really offended. “I’m sorry, Mr. Howard, I am new in London today. In my country we respect our elders a lot. I think that you are important man and your diary important for you.” In his nervous state, his accent was slipping into the Singlish dialect of his countrymen. “I’m sorry if I did the wrong thing, sir.”
Andrew turned and almost ran to the door. The secretary looked up in alarm as he rushed past and punched the down button on the left panel. Luckily, the door opened immediately and he stepped inside, relieved to be away from James Howard and his strange diary.
Author T.J. Masters recently and somewhat reluctantly passed his 60th birthday. After a long and happy teaching career T.J. wanted to follow a new path before senility set in. Books and stories have been a lifelong passion and there are many tales waiting to be told.
As a happily partnered gay man T.J. chooses to write what he knows best. His overactive and ever exploring mind is probably described by the Oscar Wilde quote that “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”.