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.

Keep on Running

It is high time we did a NOVEL UPDATE.

As you can see, the words keep going, and as the header shows, we have a NEW COVER for the book. Yesterday, however, during editing, there was a bit of a bump in the road:

The trashing, in the end, has not lost much progress, but I have gone backwards, so the hope today is to work once I’ve written this and then after exercise, and then (again) tonight so when we hit WiP day on Thursday I have a fighting chance of getting well ahead of my goal. Day 15’s plan is 57k but honestly, I need to be closer to 70k if there is any chance of having a successful result. Then I have to be writing a pitch for this thing to see if I have any chance of catching the eye of a publisher.


What will undoubtedly be a better use of my time is buying the book these guys have written and guaranteeing myself a free one hour pitch, which I’ve now done. However, it will be useful to see if I can do the business without, so I’ll be putting my stuff together at the weekend. Until then, it is time to focus on getting the narrative on a path that seems sensible, sorting out the dialogue, and working to the final word total. Needless to say, I’m still insanely confident this is all gonna get done in the timescale, AND IT IS STILL FUN.


As long as it stays that way, everything is going to plan…

The No. 1 Song in Heaven

This week has been the most important in some time.


The last time I edited something this significant it was fanfiction. I’ve never found the means previously to overcome individual inertia and have faith in my own narrative before but here we are, probably about a third of the way through. I might not end up at 120k but it feels that way right now, with absolutely tons of stuff cut away from the original plot. The problem now, however, is we are into the story-light territory which always stopped any real progress.

However, this time around, I know exactly where things need to go.

The soundtrack method, which got me through both Bondfics, has been employed here to stellar effect. It has become the means by which I saturate myself in narrative progression, and therefore don’t panic when a place is reached where it doesn’t exist. It also provides the opportunity for existing narrative structure to evolve, as has been the case over the last couple of days. The pictures in my head now exactly match the words on the page, and that means there is an overriding confidence that this isn’t simply the right path, but the best path.

I’ve reached a significant point in the story today: my protagonist is finally in a position to live alone, without supervision, but is unaware that her life cannot be as easily dictated, especially with the amount of emotional and physical baggage she carries. The next day or so will set up a couple of important set pieces. One has this a-ha song as a background, another is written with Duran Duran as the constant. These songs have absolutely no relevance to the action, in both cases. They are there to make things happen in my head, and it works.

There’s also an important point to make: the World, as you and I know it, ceases to exist in this narrative after 2005. That means all my musical choices are at or before that point, to allow me an additional means of getting inside the head of my protagonist. There’s another twist to this too: all of it is written in the first person, which I have found incredibly difficult to get my head around. However, that issue was addressed midweek and suddenly this seems like the most normal and correct form that’s ever existed. It has to be first person for a very good reason, too, but all that is revealed in time.

For now, I’m having a cuppa, making myself some lunch and then it will be 50k done before I consider stopping again. The chances are there’ll be a lot more words than that, but I’m trying not to let the domestic side of life slip completely into ruin. However, it would not be a lie to state that this is one of the most enjoyable things I have done for many years. The satisfaction gained from it is enormous, and the end result will, I know, be something I am immensely proud of. That’s why I began this journey, after all.

NaNoWriMo: Day Six

Nanowrimo 2017

Firstly, apologies for the backdated nature of this post, but scheduling is becoming a bit of a lifeline, both forwards and backwards through my existence. I have, effectively, become a time traveller, which I’ve often thought would be the only means by which everything I wanted to do would get done. Amazingly, this now proves to be 100% accurate. This post should have been written on Monday, but that was the day I rewrote a ton of other stuff, scheduled a bunch of pictures and had a PT session. Instead, it’s being fitted in between more Gym time, poetry and some Instagram faffing.


The main point of NaNoWriMo every year is to get people into the habit of writing consistently, to a deadline and to a word count. After you learn these techniques, nobody is then telling you that’s how to write everything. It is the same mentality that states there is more than one way to bake a cake, take a holiday, eat an apple or wear a shirt. Some things such as flying aircraft or splitting atoms require a very precise and well-documented set of directions. Writing, for a lot of people, is as much about instinct as principle. Once you ‘get’ what works best for you, being told this is bollocks and you have to do it this in a different manner is… well, not optimal.

The trick, as is the case with most things in life, is knowing yourself well enough to find the place and space that works for you. However, and this is vital, there are basic principles that need to be stuck to. This is the same framework that I remind my daughter of when she complains that her art teacher is being unfair when insisting she sticks to the principle of proportion and perspective. Once you’ve learnt the rules, then you get to break them. Understanding grammar, sentence structure, what’s surplus to requirement and what fiction needs to survive all have to be understood before you start fucking about with the presentation.


If I wanted to be more mainstream, for instance, the casual swearing would have to go, but I’ve spent so many years having to put up with that restriction that frankly now I don’t give a fuck. I’m not an educational website here, this is what I am, and that includes adult language and a Restricted rating on pretty much everything I write as fiction. Once you grasp that this is simply my means of taking the rules I was taught and setting fire to them? Everything’s cool. That means that I’m here to point out that this week I’m on schedule to complete earlier than anticipated, and that I’m not prepared as yet to let too much plot into the world.

However, I will be offering some asides to the process, which includes this one. If I’m too busy writing to write about writing, it is no longer an issue to go back in time to remind you how important scheduling can be, and that nobody is perfect. As long as everything gets done, you don’t let anybody down and everyone is happy? Frankly, in my mind, it doesn’t matter what order stuff gets done. If there are things that are utterly unavoidable then you use those as your markers, and simply work around them.

That’s what I’ll be doing for the rest of the month.

Blogging For Noobs :: Architecture and Morality

Blogging for Noobs

Once upon a time, I wrote something about someone in the white heat of extreme anger. This particular person had done something to me which, on reflection, I probably deserved. I’d been neither kind or understanding to them, and in fact I’d taken the piss out of not only how they’d acted, but how they chose to respond to me. Basically, it was the worst possible thing I could have written at that moment in time. Then, to make matters worse, if that was in fact possible at that point, I went ahead and posted it online where that person not only could see it, but respond if they chose. When did this happen, I hear you ask? 2001. This event took place sixteen years ago but I can remember it as if it was yesterday, because it resulted in a phone call to my home from someone I had never met.

When you write stuff on the Internet, you have to be prepared for the consequences.


When I watch certain people on Twitter, it becomes apparent that they genuinely don’t grasp the gravity of what happens when you press ‘Tweet.’ Of course, there are some people for whom having a Worldwide audience is the drug they’ve craved for decades, and those individuals are normally pretty easy to spot. They’re the ones that don’t care who they hurt, what they say or indeed if the truth is present in any of their output. When you blog, especially if there’s a decision to target specific people or a particular events, not naming names is really the best idea you’ll ever have. Don’t make things personal, use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’, ensure that you can’t be considered as libellous… there are long lists of what morally should be considered for any work longer than 140 characters, written by people far more worthy than me.

In the past, I’ve unintentionally upset someone totally and completely by accident. I’ve conversely called out a troll who wouldn’t take ‘go away’ for an answer. I’ve reported numerous people for abuse and I have a blacklist on all of my blogs, because sometimes you won’t upset people by accident but by the simple expedient of disagreeing with them. Doing that with conviction, and having the confidence to defend any viewpoint, is probably more dangerous than having a swipe at your best mate for standing you up last week or poking fun at the bloke who served you take-out when you were pissed. As a rule, there are those on the Internet who will never take kindly to you not agreeing with them. If that is upsetting, writing blogs is probably not for you.


I have been told, too many times now to remember, that my ‘rude and dismissive’ attitude is why people don’t like me. Many bloggers might be here to try and win popularity contests, but my personal work is the way it is for a very good reason. When I launch the Internet of Words project in June, that will have a completely differing tone and style, and it may become necessary to set up a separate site to accommodate that as time goes on. I’m well aware of how to write for separate and distinct audiences, and that those who have gotten upset at my words get upset by lots of other things too that are nothing at all to do with me to begin with. You will not please everybody, it is a physical impossibility. However as a blogger you have a moral duty not simply to your audience, but more importantly to yourself.

Your words, like it or not, are ‘out here’ pretty much in perpetuity. You might think you can delete posts, but you really can’t. All this stuff has been recorded somewhere, and the more contentious your subject matter is, the bigger the potential to never take it back. So, this week’s advice is simple and succinct: don’t write anything you’re not prepared to stand by a year, a week, a decade from now. When you write, make every word matter, but always be mindful that even though you’re doing this for yourself, that’s not the only audience who’ll potentially consume it. For every rant made in the heat of anger there is always a consequence, as is the case with everything you will ever write. If that’s something you’re not prepared to stomach, then it’s time to stop writing.

If you can cope with that responsibility? It all gets better from now on.

Blogging for Noobs :: I Love You

It is time, finally, to write stuff. Are you excited?


Number one in our Ten Things to Learn guide is, I’m afraid, NOT how to write gud. That I can try and help you with but, to be honest, you are mostly on your own. If you’ve reached this stage anyway the desire to write already very much exists (which remains half the battle on any given day) but developing a strong, individual style takes both time and effort to perfect. If, like me, you write for other people, their style will vary greatly from your own. That’s why learning to be your own Editor is great practice for when you end up having to deal with somebody else critiquing your work. There are however, certain things you really shouldn’t do, and it seems only fair to provide a list of those:

  • Take the first person out of your work. I did this and I did that is perfectly acceptable, in certain circumstances. The first person pronoun makes for a deeply personal insight, but often not for great writing. I’m going to use myself as an example of this: I think this post would be far better re-written without the excessive use of ‘I’ within it. The content’s sound, but the execution needs work. Using ‘we’ is a better idea for a lot of reasons, and it will make your whole blog resonate better with people you do not know.
  • Use a spell checker. Most blog interfaces provide one as standard anyway. Try to avoid abbreviations or excessive use of jargon/abbreviated speech. Imagine you’re talking to whoever you know personally who doesn’t have a clue about all this stuff and make it so they’d understand what’s going on. If you want people to notice your work, it isn’t just about what you write, but as much about how it is presented. 


  • Don’t make it personal. There’s going to be a whole week on this, because there’s been some notable legal events in the last couple of months that prove if you are libellous or slanderous to people, there are consequences. I’ve notably used a blog post to stop someone stalking me, but I can attest this is not to be recommended, especially not in the current climate. If you can’t keep it civil and pleasant, don’t write it. Go shout at people on Twitter instead… no, don’t do that either. Just be nice.
  • Explain yourself properly. The point of good blogging, at least for me, is making one point per post. After that you’ll find the retention rate of your audience tends to drop dramatically. Sure, you can make long complex arguments in blog posts, but the best work is when you set yourself a question to answer in X words, or you show your reasoning for something in Y words. Don’t waffle. Learn to work out what is useful in a sentence, and what’s just repeating the same point again.typing3.gif
  • Formatting is everything. If I had a business WordPress, which may well happen by the end of the year, SEO is a thing. If you have no idea what that means, here’s a guide Google made explaining how Search Engine Optimisation works. That, coupled with using formatting for improved readability (which the business version of WordPress will also offer as an option) gives you a better chance that people stay with your article and read until the end. For now? Don’t write massive blocks of dense text. Split it up, and stick pictures in between.

Having said all of that, I told you that ideas matter a great deal, and they do. A combination of information, entertainment and inspiration seems to be why people keep coming back to what I do. There’s stuff on daily events, things that matter to those playing the same games as me, and who maintain a comparable set of interests. I use the GIF as art, whenever possible, as a cheap laugh or to reinforce a bigger point. The fact I’m attempting self improvement via exercise, and that I suffer with mental health issues that I’m happy to discuss and dissect all form part of a complex landscape, that has become an online extension of my real-life self. I’m not expecting you to do all this when all you want is to help people play a game better or share your art. However, there should be a distinct part of you in every word you write. The passion is what matters most.


The enthusiasm and passion is what keeps the desire to write moving forward, even on the days when you seemingly have nothing to offer. For me, I’ve found a way to counter my lack of enthusiasm by creating a series of weekly ‘topics’: a banner headline under which I can write about an aspect of the general subject matter. That means, that once a week (unless a more important topic supplants it) I’m writing about my time in Warcraft, chronologically, from beginning to the present day. I have the headline, under which I’ve planned several months worth of potential subjects. What this gives me is a chance to both think ahead and know I have work to do even if the game is not particularly active and I don’t have a lot to say. This is a great way to keep your enthusiasm for work moving forward, by planning a larger subject to break down in parts. In fact, this Guide itself is being written on the exact same principle: weekly parts that will form an overall whole.


The other way that blogging is incredibly effective is if you have something in your life that you can react to/talk about. That trip to the end of the Earth, your battle with cancer, the problems starting a business, becoming a successful writer… all these things are subject matters someone will want to read about. It might be something that happened to you in childhood, or perhaps your attempts to find meaning in an increasingly complex world. If you have the time to talk to someone, you could write it down. If you find yourself spending more than three tweets in a day ranting about anything on line? That’s blog material, right there.


Blogs can do many things, the only limit being your imagination. If you have ideas, the best thing you will ever do is not just jump in without giving them form and focus. In fact, planning may sound utterly pointless but it is more likely to keep you from just giving up and not bothering. It is, for me, the very foundation of effective blogging. You have the passion to write, and all the ideas required to do so and now it is time to give yourself a framework on which to hang them. In that notepad that you’ve been using for recalling inspiration, you now need a planner on which they can be placed


Feel free to copy this and print it out on a sheet of A5/A4 or whatever size your notebook is. This is your first month of blogging. The launch date for your blog isn’t top left either: next week, using April 1st as our start point, I’ll show you how to prepare and plan a Blog launch in advance: from scheduling posts to engaging an audience before a word is even written. I hope, by suggesting this as a way forward, I’ll be able to keep enthusiasm going well past that first four weeks, and help you create and form good habits for years to come.

Blogging for Noobs :: Say My Name

Last week, I told you to think up a great name for your blog, and now you’re staring at the bit of paper with this written on and wondering what your next move is. Blogging does not demand you to have cash to begin (though the assumption you have a computer and reliable access is a given.) However, I do know someone who, for many years, possessed neither and still blogged successfully via the wonders of a Library. It is possible, if you want to write badly enough, to manage with nothing and still get the words out. Having established this, there are some things to note before suggesting a domain purchase is the way forward.


Any brand marketeer worth their click-throughs will tell you that as a successful website you’ll want a domain to match your product: however, with a finite number of sites available to purchase (and by definition the same with physical addresses) you are and will be somewhat limited in choices. HOWEVER I need to state here that as a blogger, a personalised domain is not necessary in the first instance. Many sites currently provide free, basic hosting at no charge, and you don’t need anything other than yourself. If you want to dry-run your writing experience and are worried that all this cost up front won’t be worth it, then it does not need to be spent. Assuming the name you chose is still available and you don’t mind the name of the hosting platform tacked on too? We can stop having this conversation and you can skip to the next part of the Guide.


For everybody else? You can buy a custom URL in all manner of places, and sites such as Worldpress will happily pretend they own the domain and point your webpages at it. Google’s Blogger service remains free at the basic level but will insist if you have an address that GoDaddy host it: for me this was the final straw to change providers after a seven year relationship. This is not the place to go into details about how huge companies do their business, but my shift to WordPress was a lot to do with having more personal control and owing/registering domains via a third party I choose and that isn’t forced on me. You don’t have to do this either: WordPress will do that job, Blogger’s perfectly acceptable as entry level publishing as indeed will any number of ‘independent’ website construction sites.

The bottom line is simple: if all you want to do is write? Get a free space and get started, and worry about registering a domain later. If you are serious about doing this long-term, initially register a domain via a third party for 12 months and pick a website provider that uses ‘web forwarding’ as a means of pointing that to your site. If, after a year of being ‘free’ you’re still happy with the situation and want to continue, then you can look at more concrete solutions. What you shouldn’t at this stage be doing is worrying about the mechanics, or throwing wads of cash at something you might give up at a later date. For me, WordPress’ choice of themes, their own hassle free setup and the fact I’ve used them since they were established was all I needed to finally consolidate all my online homes in one place.


There also needs to be a mention made of webpage suffixes. You don’t need a .com to be cool, kids, and if as I know some of you would like to remain as anonymous as possible online, having a US-based suffix may cause issues if registered elsewhere. When you register a domain, you will be asked for your name and address, and in most cases this cannot be spoofed to avoid people looking you up using ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.) However, if you register UK suffixes in the UK, Nominet (The Official Registry for UK Domain Names) will give you the option to hide personal details. I could hide my personal information but considering my .net’s been in the public domain for over a decade, it’s probably saved on so many cache pages as to be not worth the hassle. However, please bear in mind that registering adult stuff like domains means a measure of responsibility, which might be another reason to go free first before committing long term.


Okay, that’s the mechanics of the process sorted, but there’s one more question to ask. Does it matter what you call yourself? Did you not read last week’s introduction? Yes, OF COURSE IT DOES, but as we will discuss next week you are not necessarily doing this to become an overnight sensation. What the right name does is give you the opportunity to create your own brand, which is basically what everybody else in the World who wants to be noticed is also attempting to do. The difference between them and us is simple: we’re smart. This is, ultimately, your first lesson in branding, but right now what is far more important is CONTENT, which is where we start now. Your name, ultimately, will help get the word out once you’ve established a reliable content stream you are comfortable with controlling.

Next up therefore, you’ll need a word processing programme and something to type on. It doesn’t need to be flash or fancy, and all it really needs to be able to do is record your thoughts.