I was going to post a serious blog about giving to charity and how dreadful I felt having to choose just one to vote for only this afternoon. But that would no doubt make everyone reading feel dreadful too and I don’t want to do that any more than I want to vote for one worthy cause among many equally worthy causes.
So instead, because it’s a dreary October weekend and the cold weather is really kicking in, I thought I’d share a bit of silly fiction instead. All new and expecting parents should take note:
“Aren’t you getting big?” Yes, but there’s no need to shout. I’m young, not deaf. You only hear baby burble when I tell you. I’m bigger than I was, yes. Still not exactly big though. Unless you’re comparing me to, say, this rusk.
“Shall we go for a nice walk in the park?” Well, really that’s more fun for you than for me. You’ll be walking and I’ll be lying there in the pram with nothing to look at but the clouds and that stupid smile you put on whenever you look at me. Then you’ll meet someone you don’t even know and they’ll ask if they can hold me and you’ll say yes. I’ll scream and squall because I really don’t want to be pawed at by strangers. They might have all sorts of germs! Then you’ll say you’re sorry, poor baby must be tired.
I’ll be tired alright. Tired of being treated like a baby. Okay, so I know technically I am a baby and I haven’t quite mastered the controls of this body yet, but I wish you’d realise that just a few months ago I was the greatest mathematician in the world who happened to get hit by a bus. Perhaps I should have calculated its speed better. You know that thoughtful look you tell everyone about? That’s calculus that is. Calculus in my head. And according to the contract I’ll forget it all before I can talk. Next time I’ll be ready for the bus.
The charity vote is here in case you’re still reading. £50,000 pounds for the winner. I voted MS Society because I know them well, know they’re often forgotten and know every penny counts.
Enjoy the weekend!
Nearly October. How did that happen? You get distracted by one thing and another then by the time you look round a whole month and more is gone. High time I dusted off this blog before it becomes a haven for spiders, wood lice and death watch beetle taking advantage of my neglect!
First of all I’d like to thank and introduce you to William Martin, a talented writer and educator whom I’ve come to know during my nocturnal forays into discussions among fellow writers and creative minds. You can find some of his short stories and his blog on his website at authorwilliammartin.com and might come across a blog entry by yours truly based on my activities of the last week or two especially.
William recently read one of my short stories that I haven’t yet released. It failed to be noticed in a competition for which it was entered and I wish I’d had his feedback before I submitted it. There’s alway been a niggling doubt about it in the back of my mind but I could not see what it was that I needed to address. William hit the nail(s) on the head. It doesn’t need any massive changes, but in a few places needs some refining.
Now what this story suffered from was a combination of two factors: slavish adherence to word count and good old writer too close to the work to see. So this is a very writerly blog. That’s still not a word and still definitely should be. if you can be motherly or fatherly, why can’t you be writerly? It’s a very similar thing when it comes down to it. Anyway, yes, the issues with the story:
Slavish adherence to word count. I had a maximum of 5,000 words that I absolutely had to stick to. 5,001 and it would have been rejected without reading. What I’d cut was not completely necessary to the story, but did make it very much subject to reader knowledge and reader assumption. Not good things. While I like to credit my readers with the ability to know, use Google and make assumptions, not all of them will and this doubtless made it a rejection pile candidate. Something to bear in mind for anyone writing to a strict limit.
Writer too close to the work. This is the bane of so many writers, especially with regard to short fiction and poetry. For me, those happen in the moment, usually come from a strong and sudden urge to write and have a strong emotional attachment because they came from such a surge of passion. Because I know what I was thinking or feeling in the moment and haven’t forgotten does not mean I’ve captured things perfectly so that anyone can understand. It’s almost like looking at your child and seeing only the good. You just can’t see the bad no matter how you try, especially when they’re young. Always helps to get some input from someone who has no bias.
These things have been picked up by a fresh pair of eyes that was new to my work, new to me and had no reason to be anything less than completely frank. I’m taking a break from fixing the story to write this post then I’m going to set about revisiting the stories that have been listed to the right for some time now because I know I can do better for them. I’m un-feasibly tired though, so I’ll not re-release without pause!
Thanks again to William. Don’t forget to check out his work at authorwilliammartin.com and I’ll be back soon to keep those spiders at bay!
A little flash fiction for your Friday frivols 🙂
I woke up yesterday morning with a bite mark on my neck. Not a tiny mosquito bite, not a flea bite. No, this is a full human-sized bite with a whole lot of teeth. I suppose it could have been the cat, but she has very sharp teeth and would not only have drawn blood but woken me up.
All day I spent trying to figure it out. I mean, the window was open all night but locked in position and no-one could get through without making a hell of a racket. It’s a mystery.
I can’t find anything online about blood disorders or infections, even of the nasty fungal sort that would cause this pattern of bruising. Imagine you’ve bitten an apple and rather than leave puncture marks, you’ve left little bruises. That’s my neck.
So I went to bed deciding not to worry about it, window open just a crack, and drifted off quite happily. I’d probably been asleep about an hour when I woke up with a start. Something was biting my neck! I shrieked and twisted away.
My attacker jumped back looking rather embarrassed. He stood there, in his black cloak with its standing collar and red lining, white frilly shirt, one hand clamped over his mouth. He pointed at something on the bed and I thought he might burst into tears. A set of dentures had dropped to the coverlet as I pulled away.
“They’re jutht temporary until the cuthtom thet ith ready,” he wailed.
JAM May 2013
Nothing at all to with TV shows of the same name or indeed astrophysics, fascinating though it is. I need to make a big bang (on paper) and know nothing of the theory.
For some time I’ve had an idea for a story largely inspired by my Granddad. I wrote a quick thought down when it first came to me, intending to come back to it when other projects were complete. It’s one of those ideas though that won’t be quiet and since late yesterday has been taking shape.
Initially I’m writing it as a short story but can see that I’ll come back to it and take it much further. It has the scope to cross decades and continents and it would be a shame to leave it at just a handful of pages. There is one small problem possibly leading to a far bigger problem if I don’t watch what I say and where. I need my main character to blow up a building.
Not so easy for one man who, although he possesses the know how, is travelling from England to Antwerp in 1953. I assume he knows how to make a bomb because I don’t. Perhaps foolishly, I typed it into Google before I even thought about what such Internet activity might trigger. My sane and rational side says at the most my other searches might be looked at by some poor sod somewhere. My highly imaginative side envisages black helicopters, snipers at the neighbour’s attic windows and masked men abseiling down the chimney to arrest me at gunpoint. Please let it be coincidence that my Internet connection slowed right down after the fact. Please let it be that the entire North East only just logged on after the sun went down and volume of traffic is to blame.
What kind of world do we live in now where I find these things occurring to me whether by dint of imagination or not? I mean when my Facebook account browses my cookies and tries to sell me more of the things I already bought (surely self-defeating, Facebook if you think about it), should I not be slightly paranoid that everything I do is scrutinised if not by the authorities by marketeers? Will someone now try to sell me a bomb making kit via social media? I wouldn’t be surprised!
I’ve enlisted the help of a friend who knows about these things (in a licensed and responsible way) because I really am that irrationally concerned about who might get their hands on my search data and although it would all be a terrible misunderstanding, what would happen in the meantime? While it might in itself provide a plot of topical interest, I don’t especially want to be the main protagonist! And if they took a search to be indicative, what of the writing? Would they dig up my yard in case I really did kill Phil? Would they make sure my gas meter had never gone missing?
As far as I’m aware my Granddad, God rest him, never (intentionally) blew anything up. That is not how he came to inspire this story. It touches upon certain aspects of his life and I think he would really like where I’m taking it. That is if he were watching me as well. I wouldn’t be so nervy about that though!
Call me crazy, call me paranoid. My big bang theory is sometimes they really are watching you and there’s no telling what you might spark in the most innocent of circumstances these days. Now I’m about to make a phone call and if there’s a crackle on the line, I’m grabbing the cat and running!
I have a new addiction. It’s not chemical, which is no doubt a good thing. It’s Flash. Not FLASH! Ah-ah! of the infamous movie that has over the years made it so that whenever I hear Brian Blessed speak, all I can hear is “Gordon’s alive?”. Nor is it the multimedia software, although sometimes I find a game on a website and I’m there a while. No, I’m talking about Flash Fiction.
So am I any good at it? Well, I don’t know. I’m good at keeping to a strict word count – some groups and competitions set a tight limit of 250 words, others 100. But years of writing limericks and haikus as an exercise in word play and certain other pursuits have fine tuned writing within a limit. When I write to a restricted count, I like to be bang on the total; not one word under, not one over and that, I think, is the addictive part.
It’s the Wiki of fiction. But I was struck by something about it that reverberates with the warnings expounded by one of my favourite novels of all time. Fahrenheit 451 by the late Ray Bradbury tells how the world in which books are burned evolved from a world where people demanded ever shorter, more concise versions of everything.
So is flash fiction a good thing, or is it the flash point of the fire that burns our literary heritage? As a warm up exercise, no pun intended, it works for me. It takes far less investment of time and deliberation than a traditional short story. It’s far more throwaway. But that’s the thing that scares me a little about it’s growing popularity. In the world of wikis and tweets, will we soon forsake the book? Or is it all just a flash in the pan..?
One minute I was tired but couldn’t sleep, the next I’d written several thousand words and by some subliminal means become convinced I needed an X5 steam cleaner, an X-Hose and an Octaspring mattress. I switched the background TV off when Victoria Principal started trying to sell me something to put on my face. She does look pretty amazing for 63 so maybe I’ll regret that later. In thirty years or so.
I don’t clearly remember what I wrote. It was another one of those sessions of switch off conscious thought and let the story write itself. Of course it still has to use my fingers to tap out the words but when I come out of it, I feel as rested as if I’d been in a deep sleep. That makes me wonder if it is a sub-conscious thing altogether and while it goes on my conscious mind is indeed asleep. I know I killed people. I should probably hope I was here writing the whole time and not in fact in the throes of some psychotic break brought on by stress and an accidental overdose of pills. I’ll keep an eye on the local news just in case.
There was an entire sub-plot that I didn’t like which I think I completely deleted and replaced with something totally different. So I killed three minor characters there too. Well, they served no real purpose. I can remember writing their pitiful part in proceedings and remembering is never a good thing. Remembering means I had to try too hard to write it. Not remembering has its own inherent problems of course. I have a lot of reading back to do before I go on or I won’t know what’s going on in my own story. Might be pleasantly surprised or might be horrified. Although if it’s supposed to be horrific and it is, that’s a good thing, right?
The more I think about it, it has to be a sub-conscious thing. I didn’t so much as move except to type in all that time. I’m someone who always has to have a drink to hand, usually a cup of tea, and not only did I not take a sip but there was more than half a cup of stone cold lapsang souchong beside me when I stopped. Wasn’t aware of any aches and pains but it turns out my back is killing me and I didn’t notice. I was in effect not really here.
I’ve read about automatic writing as a means to contact the hereafter. To do it you must enter an altered state of consciousness. How different then is it from this? And if it isn’t any different, which of these is true: that people for hundreds of years have scribbled from their own sub-conscious believing it to be a spirit, or that I am not in fact writing this novel but am channeling the spirit of a writer?
Now I must make breakfast before my state of consciousness becomes easily defined as ‘un’.
For a limited time only. Today and tomorrow in fact (10th & 11th April 2013).
The brilliant J.D. Hughes has organised a free download extravaganza on his fantastic novel Northman.
To quote from my own review, Northman is a “tense supernatural thriller steeped in history with some interesting perspectives on life, existence and the meaning of it all.” Even time itself has no power over the Northman. “Hughes writes with intelligence, knowledge and skill to weave a tale that fills many shoes. Decide for yourself whether I mean fits many profiles or makes you that afraid.”
But don’t just take my word for it. Some bites (bytes?) of what others are saying about it:
“The ending is stunning, something I hadn’t predicted at all – isn’t it great when that happens?”
“A delightful work, and I could gladly read it again.”
“The prose reminds me of Ernest Hemingway, John Masters and other writers of the first half of the 20th century, while the explorations of life’s meanings brought to mind Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.”
“A scarily good thriller that deserves a place on your Kindle.”
“If you want to read a good thriller then this is for you! Loved it.”
Yes, he’s a fictional character and one of my own creation, so technically a figment of my imagination, but think he’s my new best friend.
I knew where I was taking things. I knew who would do what. I just didn’t know where the key point would fall. Now, William is a favourite of mine and I was reviewing his thread because I thought there needed to be more of him, and wouldn’t you know but he told me what to do.
Whatever I’ve done in my life, whichever field I was in at the time, I’ve always written. Only recently have I started to share what I write, but I think I’ve explored all of that in past posts. Never, in all the years I’ve spent scribbling away at one thing or another has a character ‘spoken’ to me like William Walker.
Maybe I’ve just never been quite so close to insane before. Maybe it took being broken right down in myself to come back with more clarity. Maybe it’s just time. Whatever the cause, I’m very glad of the effect.
Now, I can almost hear people saying I’m in reality thanking myself, because Walker only exists in my head. But I’m not so sure. When I’m writing, especially writing Walker, I’m quite apart from myself. I don’t know what’s coming next. I certainly don’t know what anyone will say next. I’m nothing but a conduit for the story and if I didn’t know better, I’d say William had tapped me on the shoulder and said “Look, here, this is where you hide the key.”
I’ve heard that other writers have these experiences sometimes and that makes me feel somewhat less inclined to call the doctor. In fact I’ll probably not mention it to him at all. I don’t want the phenomenon to go away. Walker is a good influence, quite clearly, and I’m oh so thankful because now I see the way clearly and nothing can stop me finally finishing this piece.
Inkredible was initially a Max Markham novel, but I think it just became a William Walker novel. And he’s an older guy. There’s room for a thousand prequels in his life and a couple of sequels before he retires. I’m so happy he gave me the answer!
When you’re bashing your head off a number of them consituting a wall, they seem even harder I find. I picked up Inkredible and tried to make progress but kept taking myself round in circles. So I went and made food instead and while I was eating thought start again. Not with the food of course. That would be impossible without some pretty digusting shenanighans. With Inkredible. Not the entire thing from Chapter One. With the part I’ve been working and reworking for far too long.
It’s part seven, so it’s quite a way in and falls at that point just before the pivot. Just before that point where the pennies begin to drop. I changed tack a little to sew things up and this part seven was suddenly nonsense. Beyond part seven it makes sense again. And I always thought seven was meant to be a lucky number.
So it’s about to be trashed and restarted, hopefully flowing seamlessly between six and eight.
In the meantime, something else I’ve redone is the Short Stories page here. Again. There’s now the option of downloading from that page or reading the tasters on the title pages and downloading from there. One day I might do something and be happy with it straight away. Whether that will be before or after Engand win the World Cup again, I couldn’t say.
Having moved the bricks out of the way, ideally the next post that mentions Inkredible will be one that also mentions good progress on the same. Commencing operation No Bricks now…
Oh dear. Maybe it was the medication. It gives me a fever and I have some very obscure ideas. Wrote that short story I was thinking of yesterday, the “Go to Hell” one, and I really hate it. Twee is just not me! It came out at nearly 4,000 words of unoriginal, Disney-movie drivel that I’ll never allow to see the light of day. I’ll have to delete the whole thing so that no-one ever finds it accidentally and thinks I usually think along those lines. It has to have been a hallucination. There is no other plausible reason.
I suppose there is one good thing to come out of it and that is that I was so absorbed in that maudlin rubbish that I didn’t spend any money under the influence of the evil fever. The Internet has the ability to draw me in to shopping sprees at these times, especially Amazon and that “Buy now with One-click” thing. The nemesis of bank accounts everywhere.
It’s always disappointing though when you read something back and your only reaction is a facepalm. Really saps your confidence and makes you wonder whether everything else you ever wrote was that bad but you were blind to it at the time. I suppose it’s necessary to have off days (or nights as this mixed up sleep pattern demands). If you only ever had great days of blindingly good creativity, you’d be so full of yourself you’d burst something vital. So I should be glad I wrote a load of awful rubbish and step away from the keyboard at least until I’ve had another good sleep. I think. I might still be hallucinating though.
I remember once, I had a raging fever and thought there were pigeons on the coffee table, and I talked to those pigeons for some reason in an American accent. Pigeons make me smile to this very day because of that ridiculous figment of my imagination. But should it then be good or bad for my writing to be consciously working from my sub-conscious? Is imagination conscious or sub-conscious? When I write, whatever it is I’m writing, I have no concept of time. I don’t hear anything from outside my own head. It can go on for hours and I won’t eat, drink, move until it lets go of me. Is that not on some level the same as hallucinating? Why all these questions?
Sometimes I do have a thought without asking a question. Just not very often. Zen and the art of writing rubbish. But I did right 6 pages of piffle, no question about that. What an embarrassing waste of time. Of course, no-one would know if I hadn’t said anything but it feels like the universe is pointing down, laughing and won’t let up until I confess it to anyone who’ll listen. Maybe I should speak to the doctor about the side effects of this stuff. It clearly makes words come out that should have been kept firmly locked in. Still, it won’t give me back all that time wasted on a terrible night’s work.