Right Now

For Short Story Month, I’m writing three separate pieces with a single theme. It is time to admit we’re moving into a science fiction phase: I’ve always been a bit of an alternate history girl, when all is said and done. This triumvirate of stories all offer divergent timelines to the one you’ll be used to, with the possible consequences of women meddling in the affairs of nature:

All these stories have female protagonists. They could be written as men if I chose, but I’d like to believe that it is not just them sending this Planet to destruction. Everybody has their culpability in a massive ecological and sociological mess to shoulder. The subjects of the stories are, in order of the images shown: alien invasion, genetic manipulation and time travel. Occam’s Taser is the result of a conversation had several years ago with my friend Steve (who’s a morning US Television producer) about Vienna in 1913… and that’s all I’m prepared to offer.

The plan initially was to use one of these stories to enter in a Short Story Contest later in the year but instead, the project’s a platform to get my word count and writing style refined, before I work on two separate pieces for entry. This is being handled in tandem with editing my novel, which is finally in what could be considered a complete state. Today, that will be read completely and edited as that happens. I hope to have the first of these short stories available to read by this time next week, with them all finished by the end of the month.

March Short Story :: I Love You

This story was first published in 31 parts via Twitter during March. It is now reproduced now in a complete form, and a number of small edits have been added to improve narrative flow.

Enjoy.


I Love You

The last group of students chatter and squeal their way through the European History Gallery, more focused on mobile phones than the art their teacher brought them to study. In fifteen minutes, the Museum closes for another day, leaving only the security staff remaining within. There’s space in the room, marked off by temporary partitions, that finally can be filled. Alexis Grieg, Acquisitions Manager, has waited all month for this moment. Tomorrow, the newest piece of Museum content will finally be unveiled to the public, after months of speculation.

It is a controversial and divisive piece of European sculpture, which caused considerable debate even before being borrowed by the Museum from the collection of one of the richest men in Britain. Advanced ticket sales for the Gallery are at their highest level for several years. As July sun sets on London’s iconic skyline the sculpture is slowly wheeled from darkened basement; Gallery bowels to the only service lift, from back of building to its new, high prominence resting place. It is a journey of just under an hour, due to the fragility of the piece.

‘Icarus’ Wings’ is the last piece by celebrated Revolution artist Wilberforce Christie, completed weeks before death from natural causes aged 102. At his height in the 1960’s Christie was the wunderkind of British Pop Art: close friend of Andy Warhol, darling of Swinging London. His demise in 1994 was the least controversial thing completed in nearly thirty years. Everything else was either shrouded in contention or remains subject to various legal restrictions. He went to his grave carrying many secrets: this piece is very much a part of that mystique.

Finally, sculpture is in place with screens removed. This part of their job complete, Grieg and the rest of the Acquisitions staff retire back downstairs for a much-needed coffee and food break before the task begins of constructing a glass casing around flimsy parchment wings.

==

Only when it is clear that the staff are long gone, no-one remaining in earshot, do the wings themselves slowly stretch and rise; extension of the wingspan releasing tiny eddies of dust. It will be some time before the piece can move unrestricted, so time is of the essence.

The Gallery’s various inhabitants, previously immobile, slowly come to life with a new arrival. Renaissance art isn’t sure what to think of this odd interloper, 16th Century portraits awakening and observing in both confusion and disbelief. Impressionists are truly lost for words. Icarus rises above the already obvious waves of perceived snobbery: wings used to being abused and derided, part and parcel of their conception, construction and final completion. Born into the white heat of intense controversy, the delicate structure hides a cast iron soul.

When your wings are made from tax demands, sanitary towels and toilet roll, plus hundreds of other items that are daily thrown away, there is going to be some discussion on whether art is even an appropriate term to describe you. Icarus has heard it all, and knows how to react. Their owner spent considerable time explaining the ins and outs of the art word: highlighting perceived snobberies, various truths around why beauty has become the most subjective of discussion topics. Most significantly of all, Icarus’ patron’s devotion to them was obvious.

‘One day, I will let you be exhibited, and when that moment comes there will need to be preparation for the torrents of abuse and derision you will receive. These people do not grasp aesthetics, no real comprehension as to the significance of your creation. They are fools.’

The wings settle, preparing themselves for the worst.

Francesco Laurana’s pale marble bust shifts, before breaking into a smile: long, oval face tilting slightly in undoubted approval. Then their opinion is presented with a deep, rich Italian cadence: ‘Sei propria bella, cara.’

‘Beautiful’ is the last word wings had expected to hear uttered, a murmur of disbelief ripples up and down the main Gallery space. Figures in the Realism paintings are jostling at the edges of their gilt frames, looking for the best angle at which to view the newcomer’s form. The Neoclassical section is arguing amongst themselves at the significance of contemporary objects being utilised in any artistic setting. Both of the Impressionist paintings remind each other that they caused similar controversy when initially created, which is not a bad thing.

The Matisse turns to Kirchner, hearing the Impressionists’ mistaken belief they were in some way contentious, before bursting into a torrent of expletives. The French Polynesian woman in Gauguin’s landscape stares at the painting’s outburst, before putting hands over her ears. However, one part of the Gallery continues to remain silent. The space’s oldest resident, piece of Celtic Art from the 9th Century, simply hangs watching. The room slowly quells its animation, knowing it is difficult to hear the figure of Christ unless everyone is totally quiet.

The simplistic human figure stares at what counts as the apex of humanity’s expression and does not see a jumble of inappropriate objects pinned together. After thousands of years watching artists find means to express existence on the planet, this concept makes complete sense. No longer is art the preserve of simply the privileged or rich. Each day the Celt watches children as they stand in awe, making pictures on the devices that allow communication in an instant, unaware they too are creating their own expression. Everyone has now become an artist.

What makes objects in this Gallery any more or less significant than the children’s work? It is only the choice of those with enough money to possess past, claiming to show these works of historical enlightenment but more often than not exhibiting ownership as status and power. The Wings undoubtedly remain a product of this consumer-driven, disposable age. Its plumage is recognisable as what most would consider rubbish. From wing-tip to wrist, primary feathers and coverts appear perfectly engineered: beautiful and faithful reproduction without fault.

When the Celt speaks, an entire Gallery is stunned with its utterance:

‘You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, as much a symbol of your age as I am of mine. Between us now all art is measured and will be compared. I love you.’

Icarus’ frame shudders in response.

The murmurs begin almost immediately: frantic whispering between aesthetics, groups of historical landmarks in art and history are confused, uncertain. Has the Celt somehow lost it and gone mad? Is this rubbish-built interloper casting some kind of spell upon the Ancient One? Then, slowly, implication of these words begins to register with the more self-aware pieces. Art is simply a reflection of those who produce it. Beauty is measured individually by what is seen, how history considers significance. Substance is fleeting: passing, ephemeral interest.

The less alert works of artistry take their cues from those they trust: the newcomer might not look or feel like the rest of the Gallery, but that is not at issue. It is still very much art, only mirroring the world in which the sculptor lived and worked before he passed away. The gallery begins to move, facing Icarus as much as possible within their own artistic frames. One by one comes acknowledgement of sculpture’s presence as part of a collective whole. The Celt, as the oldest piece in the room, remains final arbiter of what is considered creation.

Having spent its entire sentient existence expecting to be ostracised the moment they had appeared in public, Icarus’ Wings still cannot believe what is happening. This acceptance from other art-forms alters the entire landscape, becoming increasingly easier to accept as truth. This is all that the sculpture has ever wanted or desired: espousal by its creator was implicit, comforting but not enough. Having accepted there would be derision and abuse wherever they were placed, to have this credence from their peers before the public have been admitted…

Icarus has come home.

For the first time ever, fragile sculpture shifts on its pedestal. Wings begin to extend and stretch, far further than they have ever moved: as they do there comes a sound never to be heard by human ears. It is the artistic embodiment of pure, unbridled joy. At their highest extension, the furthermost fragile feather constructed from toilet paper and string brushes an overhead LED spotlight.

In a moment, wing-tip bursts into flame.

==

As the fire alarm sounds, museum staff stare at each other in sudden terror.


 

 

Finally

At 5.30pm on Friday, March 30th, I was confident enough to make this claim:

When I stopped this afternoon, after removing everybody else from the house so I could concentrate, this is where things stand:

The last 40 pages are rough, but the narrative is complete. I’m going to spend Saturday night going through this to fill in the gaps and create a more consistent foundation. Then, it’s being left well alone until next week, where I’ll go back to the start and do a full edit pass. After THAT it’ll get sent to those people who’ve expressed an interest in reading it. So, if you happen to be reading this and haven’t made noises yet about wanting to help me out, shove a message in the comments.

Once other people have passed some initial comments, we can start thinking about how the damn thing gets published.

know_nothing

I have zero idea how to formally approach a publisher: there’s no point in lying, and I totally understand just what a ridiculously cutthroat market I’m about to enter into. I am nobody, and this concept has to sell itself. Part of me is tempted to blog the process for the hell of it because I suspect it might make interesting reading. For now, however, this needs to be the best thing it can be before any form of selling takes place. I’ve got some books to read, and people on my feed I can ask. It’s not like I’m COMPLETELY dumb.

YAY_arms

Mostly, I am happy it’s done. It isn’t hyperbole: I have files with timestamps which date the original manuscript to 2001. It’s lasted longer than nearly half a dozen PCs and Macintoshes. My daughter’s been born, grown up, and is now at Secondary School in the time this has taken to complete. I’ve had major surgery. Friends have passed away.

Considering the narrative has time at its base, this all seems rather appropriate.

Wondrous Stories

I only realised quite late in the week that I’ve not given any indication of what you can expect via Social media for April. The removal of Facebook and Instagram from my equation is still requiring a bit of work, and there’ll be some additions to the website as result starting on Monday. However, let us not look upon the negatives and concentrate on what is Coming Soon (TM)

#LookCloser#MoreFoolYou

For our #Narrating2018 and #Soundtracking2018, there’s a bit of a diversification of interest: 30 days of details (including the very small and extremely large) and a month of Comedy Songs because frankly there is not enough laughter in the World currently. We’re calling this Short Story Month because once the novel’s done, I’ll want a few weeks to let it rest before going back for a second, concerted edit. Therefore, there’ll be a couple of short stories started for a contest later in the year, alongside one for publication here AND the monthly Twitter story.

THRILLER

A woman goes to a Wiccan Faire in her local Sports Centre and askes an odd request of a seller she finds within… You can expect part one on April Fool’s Day, which in a rather odd clash of interests also takes place on Easter Sunday. There’ll be the normal selection of weekly poetry too, plus possibly some extras to boot.

Now, let’s get started on organising those images from Instagram…

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.

gorillaleaves.gif

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.

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.

Enjoy.


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.


The Last Time

As we head towards the end of the month, things have (on reflection) gone remarkably well. Next month is already well in hand, and there are plans on the table for April too.  However, it is becoming apparent that after yesterday’s post on the Novel, and some quite serious poking of said manuscript both Thursday and today, it won’t be finished by the end of February. In fact, if truth be told, it won’t be anywhere close to being done.

nastytaste

Rather reassuringly, it has nothing to do with me giving up and losing interest: in fact, quite the opposite is true. What I’ve now discovered is that what was the middle third of the action does not have nearly as much solidity and structure as was first believed. This means that I’m now laying down foundations instead of finishing decoration and placing furniture. As a result, my rather optimistic ‘yeah we can do this in four weeks’ now looks like a complete pack of lies.

It also means that pitching a work that’s not done seems a bit fraudulent, to be honest. So, I think we’ll pass on this one, make this work really solid and special, and then I can read the book I got on how to publish shiz and work from there. Right now, all that matters is to finish something. That’s the goal not yet achieved, the prize that matters personally more than anything else, and with a head full of fuzz as has been the case for the best part of a week thanks to menopausal hormone overload? That really will be an achievement.

delusional

So, next week’s WiP Day will be to get me to 80k with some actual structure. I’m working on the foundations until then. I’ve even altered the counter because honestly, it has to be done. I’m aiming for Easter to get this out to people to read, as in an Alpha Reader kind of way. March 15th is D-Day now, and I’m feeling supremely confident. No really, I am.

amended_tracker

Watch this space. No really, cool stuff is and will happen. There’s no stopping me now 😀