Run for Home

For as many days as it has been possible this week, I’ve dragged myself into the Gym. Amazingly, only on two days has this been about exercise to a point. On the others, I’m there to use the treadmill as a writing tool. 

This is probably going to require some explanation.


Once upon a time, I’d have real trouble trying to work out how ideas would develop past that first massive burst of creativity. I then developed a means by which I’d use pieces of music effectively as the backgrounds for ‘narrative videos’ that would run in my head, roughly corresponding with the pace and timing of actions that would then be written down. It is the reason why that whenever I now hear ‘Whoops, I Did It Again’ by Britney Spears I don’t think about the music video that accompanies it, but my fanfic-created Bond heroine Ronni Flemmings bursting out of a control room using a chair as a shield and summarily killing Ernst Stavro Blofeld completely by accident.

I’ve ruined a lot of pieces of music this way, but the destruction of meaning is always worthwhile.

Before I got as serious about exercise as I have now become, being on a treadmill with a musical soundtrack used to be the means by which I’d sort out the kinks and holes in narratives. Returning to my novel over this last six weeks has made me grasp that there was no longer the time to do this: suddenly, whenever I’m doing physical stuff it is to meet a target or complete an objective. The simpler days of just walking and thinking have somehow gone amiss. Therefore this week, re-instigating the treadmill as a writing tool required a massive twenty-five track playlist, constructed in chronological order to match my action. Most significantly, none of the music must have been made after 2005.

On Tuesday I went into the Gym, plugged myself in and thirty minutes later had managed to solve three major issues that were holding me back in plot terms. Today, the last quarter of the book is blocked, with each major sequence ready to write. There’s also been a piece of music added, that forms a vital part of the late narrative, section I’ve been frightened to write for over a decade because of the intensely personal nature of the content. It is the means by which I tie past back to present, and remind the female protagonist of the life she once knew but has lost contact with. This track was the crack which burst the dam of writer’s block, once and for all, and I’ve not been able to stop writing since.

Every writer is different: how you maintain focus and drive as individual as eye colour or shoe size. For me, music is at the heart and soul of every piece written. Without it, I would be considerably less than a whole.

I predict a considerable amount of treadmill in my future.


There will now be an unscheduled deviation from experimental poetry to bring you TOP NOVEL NEWS…


I’ve exceeded 80k. I’m still not done. In terms of plot, I’m at the final location required (around which a fair amount will now transpire) but… well, the end won’t be here for a while. It may not take that many more words, but I have plans to completely rearrange what is the last lot of old/new content. Therefore, this Thursday will be an editing/confirming my timeline session plus the addition of some more key scenes. All things being equal, and assuming everything can be done that is desired this week…?

I’m hoping to say the plot’s done sometime next week.


It is odd watching my old self’s work become new again, and very satisfying. There’s also increasingly less fear at cutting out old things that don’t work and replacing them with more relevant content. Looking at the work every day, it is evolving at about the same speed that I am… not massively fast, but still good enough when placed against everything else that needs to be completed. So, the next time we talk about this, there should be completion in the air.

I’m not sure how that’s going to feel when I know I’m done, either.

You Oughta Know :: Two

Yesterday, quite frankly, was one of the most important days I’ve had since this whole project began.


Progress on the Novel had stalled. Twelve days of minimal movement, if at all. The problem, such as it stood, was my insistence that plot needed to go a certain way because that’s been the plan since I began in 2001. Except I couldn’t write what was needed, the narrative complexity was simply too much for my poor brain to cope with. This week, at the Gym, I’ve been doing negative repetition: this is when you make muscles work in a manner which feels contrary to what would normally build strength but in fact quite the opposite.

It was this reverse approach that finally allowed me to break the writing deadlock.

In the end, all the sparkle and glamour was unnecessary. What was required was understanding that showing and telling are far more flexible constructs than first considered, and I could do both without compromising anything. I don’t need to be at this point in the narrative anymore, and it is time to move on, and the cupboard allows all that frippery to become pointless. One more short scene and finally I’m into a bit of narrative that will be fun to write. That was the big issue: this bit needed to happen, but I didn’t want to.

Without the push to do stuff I don’t like, none of this would be taking place.


What looked like an improbable finish date of March 15th is now seeming far more doable. It will still require editing, yes, but only the second half. Completion totally with a measure of editing by Easter is now the next goal. This is totally unchartered territory to boot, close to 80k words of original work. I’ve already got people lined up to read once I’m done, too, and there’s no real fear or anguish over that either. Amazingly, I’m looking forward to feedback, and I frankly won’t care if people don’t like it. Right now, the bigger goal is to get to the end.

What matters more to me now than popularity is the completion. Writing has not become a means to change the World just yet. However, in my own part of that whole, it is more significant than at any point in the last 51 years, and that’s just amazing.

A reckoning is fast approaching.

You Oughta Know :: One

I’m not here for your benefit.

The more progress made, the further down the road travelled, comes a realisation that matters to nobody but me. Every time a personal record is bettered, or a target attained, this is not cause for celebration. A lot of the time, it isn’t fun either. Hard work is not, on certain days, its own reward, whatever the fuck the motivational posters might tell you otherwise. Those people who look comfortable and secure in their public personas… I have no idea how that happens. Faking it til you make it is a waste of good time and effort.


I’m here to admit some days this is horrible.

‘If you don’t like cycling, then stop’ my husband says, each time I do a ride where it is a struggle physically. His advice is based on a sound concept: he enjoys what he does hugely, but has never struggled with shortness of breath or a lack of physical strength. He is not stressed by large groups of people or the perception others have of him. He is lucky enough to have that easy comfort in abundance, and it would be fair to state that is one of his most attractive qualities. I don’t, and all the things he takes in his stride can often just stop me in my tracks. Yet, I’ll be back on a bike, and I’ll keep working on all those things that vex me, because I don’t like them.

Life is not just about being happy.


The most satisfaction gained, ultimately in my own head, is doing the stuff that’s difficult. That never used to be the case, of course, but as I’ve grasped the importance of using time well, that desire has risen and will not be quelled. Sure, it would be fabulous to just sit back and do nothing, but that achieves nothing. The real, tangible progress made on writing is in direct response to my determination not only to get fit but to stay there and do more. Without the physical exercise, none of this would ever have happened.

Sometimes to get what you want, you need to be unhappy.


There are two parts to this post for a reason, because the flip side of getting upset and angry when things go wrong is not, as my family sometimes believe, an attention seeking ranty pants moment. The oddest things count as motivation for writers, and I am only beginning to grasp the reality of why stories matter so much to me. It is creating worlds where I feel comfortable to live, that make sense in my head as not simply ideals, but what ought to be the norm going forward.

Writing is no longer therapy, but a way to gain long-term satisfaction.

Dark City

Ooh hang on, I don’t have a March Content header, lemme go fix that…

Today is all about the things that stop me doing what needs to be done. Some writers would consider them as ‘inner demons’ but they have many names: procrastination, fear, Imposter Syndrome… and the list goes on. This week, I can’t focus on completing tasks, and am limping through the week on a day by day basis. Each morning, I slowly chip away at a rapidly decreasing list of Things to Do and if by Friday that means that half the month is planned, I will probably still not be satisfied.

You really are your harshest critic.


If I use an exercise metaphor here, these are the days when you just have to do the miles. It becomes a rhythm, after a time, that is progressively easier to grasp. Call it muscle memory, simple familiarity in repetition, but the process of a daily blog post for many years has allowed the foundations of routine to grow from many different places, not simply with my writing. Putting in the words, even when you don’t want to, is not a waste of time if the next day you throw all that work away. Without the effort and impetus, nothing changes. It took me a while to grasp that intractable truth, but now I have it you can bet your life I am not letting go.


I have this slogan on a favourite, battered green t-shirt, bought for me by my husband at a cycling show. It is the reminder to me that it does not matter how long something takes to do, as long as when I start it is finished. This is the impetus to complete the Novel, to keep chipping away at entering contests, to refine my poetry technique and try new stuff like the Aesthetic Haiku. If it’s worth the time to think and plan, then it is worth the effort to complete. This has also taught a separate lesson over time; knowing when to stop something when it isn’t working.

You cannot be an expert at everything, however hard you try.

I started the J Word project as a means to learn to draw. Three months in from that start point, I’m still no closer to that goal… and it won’t happen, despite people’s assertions that it could. Ability is not holding me back. The problem, such as it is, comes from knowing that to do this well I’d have to stop writing to do so. There are simply not enough hours in the day left with everything else, and so then I have to make a choice. If asked to choose between drawing and exercise, or writing and drawing, there will only be one winner in both cases. Exercise and writing are what matter most right now. However, there is no denying the importance of the strip as a creative outlet (and stress relief) and therefore it stays… but in a different format.

This is part of the miles that needs to be done right now, so I find a way.


Therefore, I will limp my way through the week, celebrating the victories whenever they happen. Hopefully, by Friday I will be able to see the end to at least a couple of the long-term objectives on the table, and a sense of accomplishment as a result.

Whatever happens, the words will continue to make me stronger.

February Short Story :: The Shape We’re In

This story was first published in 28 parts via Twitter during February. It is now reproduced now in a complete form, and a number of small edits have been added to improve narrative flow.


The Shape We’re In

He’s been dreading this day for months. Lying awake, staring at the ceiling, there is no avoiding tonight’s inevitability. The annual Senior Year Five Dance is the undisputed highlight of his social calender; Charlie Fisher has never done ‘social’ in the same fashion as others. Maybe it’s because he’s the oldest boy in the year, or perhaps the notion of celebrating the most awkward phase of his existence has never sat well in a mind predisposed to overthinking. At least he doesn’t have to go to school today: thank the Deities for this small mercy.

There is the sound of raised voices above him: Tilly Craven is already complaining to her mother that shoes are nowhere to be found, and this day is, therefore, a disaster. Maybe if he didn’t live in a Communal Block he’d get more sleep at weekends… but it could be far worse. Lying in darkness, loneliness remains, nobody to share this children’s room with. His sister had died from Bird Flu before he could walk, no memory of her save the drawings his father had made. She’d never seen Year Five. He should be grateful for survival, especially today.

Things could be far worse. Charlie could be forced to wear the horribly restrictive outfits all the other boys were already being squeezed into, putting their manhood’s on show for all to see. His parents could embrace the Deity Doctrines: fortunately, both held no affiliations. Neither do they consider him the weaker sex, or a disappointing result at birth. Whilst everybody else asked for a daughter, his parents simply loved him as a person. Today he would wear his father’s antique dress, cut well below the waist, and that was the best thing of all.

Only then does he see his mother, dressed and ready to work in the woollen mill, sitting opposite on the sofa his sister’s bed had been transformed into. In her hand is his corsage: white roses, as it should be in Leeds. Even in darkness her smile beams, dark hair piled high.

She’ll be late, just to say goodbye.

‘I will never, ever get tired of your honesty and warmth in this house. Your father’s making breakfast. Just enjoy the day as much as you can.’

Leaving corsage on the sofa, she departs for her twelve-hour shift, as son heads for the bathroom.

Across town, in the Executive Zone, Lissa McIntyre’s 16th birthday party shows no signs of winding down. Birthday girl, however, left the Community Hall well before midnight, returning home for bag hidden beforehand. She’s abandoned the life that had become a prison and escaped. Neither parent will care or worry about her absence until it is too late. Her elder sister is of far greater significance, key to their aspirations of taking over all the Manufacturing Guilds in the county at month’s end. She left them all too drugged to consider anything at all.

Whilst the rich elite of their social circle smoked, injected and inhaled the fruits of their success using her coming of age as an excuse she’d been ready to run. Money was saved, transport quietly acquired and soon, Leeds would be a distant memory. However, there was a problem.

Charlie. Brilliant, individual, maddening; one boy who never saw the rich, spoilt brat everyone else thought she was by default. That poor kid on the School scholarship who’d changed the entire landscape for the better, whom she loved dearly. He had never been part of her plan. Love was for more worthy souls, this long-term future initially depending on leaving everyone else behind. Now heart grasped an essential need not simply to change direction but expand possibilities; everything willingly risked to not simply rescue him but both his parents too.

The Mill’s utilitarian cafeteria is packed: both sexes, mingling unhindered, unisex clothing the norm. There were no revealing tops or tights here, simply joy at being happy and relaxed, plus nobody cared who Lissa was. She existed as not simply independent but free of judgement. Looking up from her porridge and tea, the young woman meets Elizabeth’s gaze as she moves through the food queue. Charlie’s mother doesn’t seem that surprised to see her either, smile she gives making this change in plan worthwhile. The letter left at their home had been read.

Without the prosthetic breasts, coloured contacts and make-up, Lissa knows nobody will recognise her, not even the CCTV cameras will be able to make a positive identification. Elizabeth is the only other person who’s seen her without the trappings she was forced to wear by family. She’s already buying extra food, making sure the full ration of water is taken, quietly planning ahead. Charlie’s parents have already accepted the offer, now all that is needed now is to wait for him to return. If everything is going to plan he’ll have found his letter by now…

The boys are forced to line up against the School’s Gym wall, hands shackled above their heads. Many are in tears, and Charlie’s made the decision not to be one of them. The punishment for refusing to expose his manhood for public scrutiny is more palatable than this action. There’s no point in being here anyway, now he knows Lissa won’t be coming. She understands that bodies are irrelevant when minds matter more, and her plan… yes, it’s risky, but if his parents are willing as she believes to help them both, there is no need to worry about details.

Walking home in bright, uncompromising sunshine, Charlie thinks of mother at the mill, and that he could easily forget the last two years of School completely. He’d rather be working and contributing than spend another day being ridiculed. Life as a model student was overrated. This would be his first act of rebellion in five years, and once the punishment was served, he’d have gone anyway, because not another day would have been wasted pretending he was like everybody else. Lissa had ignited his spark of non-conformity: it burned now out of control.

He’s about to cross the road to his communal block when father appears unexpectedly, dressed as he did when working at the Community Centre. He ushers Charlie quickly into the alley next to the Corner Shop, away from the CCTV cameras: there’s a bag of clothing already waiting. He’d expected to have a chance to go back to the house one last time, but the clock is ticking. They need to be out of the town before the sun goes down, or else Curfew will keep them stuck here until tomorrow, and someone might then notice Lissa’s absence. It is time to leave.

At the other end of the alley, there’s a battered Range Rover in Manufacturing Guild dark blue. His mother watches from the driver’s seat, and in the back, Lissa’s blonde hair is hidden by a dirty brown wig. She has planned and organised everything, and Charlie loves her for it.

Charlie also loves watching Lissa sleep, tucked under his arm, more beautiful without the prosthetics than any woman he has ever seen. This future is now in their hands: he wonders if there will ever be a way to thank her for this as mother drives them into the Highlands and a new day. The flat chested girl and the boy with only one testicle were both damaged goods, in their own way. He’d never been whole, and she’d given up the right to live a lie in existence summarily left behind. No-one would come to look for them because neither were considered worthwhile.

Nobody would care if there were three fewer mouths to feed, one less cripple to make everybody else look bad. Polite society was more damaged than anyone wanted to admit. The future was away from the Empire and in Scotland, where diversity was joyfully embraced and celebrated. Lissa had freed them all with a mind that transcended what parents considered as her broken body. She was more than Charlie’s equal, and vice versa. The shape of them both together created a joyous and immutable whole, no more lies or deception.

The shape of things is perfect.

All or Nothing At All

I have had to sacrifice some Erotic Fiction to the Gods of Quality this week: the idea is still 100% sound but my execution? Not so much. However, I am planning some space to shove it into Thursday’s WiP Extravaganza, and so it will see the light of day at some point in March. It also makes me realise that I ought to carry on this series, but not at the expense of anything else. Therefore, I have decreed that April will be Short Story Month, and at least one thing I write during that period will be entered into a Contest.

Short Story Month.png

I already have some stuff on the table, but as we don’t have March scheduled as yet, it is going to have to wait. That’s been a bit hamstrung today by me spending close to four hours in the car as a taxi service in the snow, but I’ve made some solid progress, which means I am confident everything will be ready to roll on Thursday. Also, Novel Progress is STILL GO. That’s looking really positive, as it happens. I’m not ready to pitch this yet, not until it is done and I’m happy with it. After that, it is going to get sold for all its worth.


Optimism and creativity remain high. This should hopefully lead to some random shiz occurring in the next few weeks (looking at you, output from Experimental Poetry.)

Even if it is cold outside, I’m keeping the grey matter ticking over nicely.