Not a Job

I have a confession to make, well several actually. The main one is to do with my mistaken belief that writing certain combinations of fiction at once is actually doable, and there won’t be any clutter or overspill in my brain. This, sadly, is utter bollocks. As a result, EX/WHI is on hiatus for November. I cannot cope with two lots of sci-fi simultaneously and so summat has to give. I’m also aware that last month’s short story needs publishing, and there’s a backlog of stuff to archive. I’ve spent a lot of today making sure that’s easily doable, and we’ll have October’s story up on site for Monday.

All in all, we’re off to a comfortable start.

I am planning to write 2k a day, give or take, which will happen as the first thing I do every morning. That means front loading as much of the rest of the month’s content as possible, which should hopefully come to pass by this time on Monday. Therefore, after that point if there’s more than 2k a day in me I can just have a go, and the house does not disintegrate around me from inactivity. There’s an important secondary point to all of this too: this is a good idea, it is sound and deserves the effort, and I need to prove to myself again that this is doable.

On the flip-side, I’ve also committed myself to edit and finish a previously unused NaNo project, which was submitted for a contest last month. I’m 100% confident I won’t make the shortlist, but regardless of this it would be nice to have the story completed and at the 40k limit required to be a novella. Once that’s done, I’ll have two things I can pitch at people, and not just one. The two things are different enough that I shouldn’t get my brain confused as is the case with Taeken and EX/WHI. It’s all part of a long-term plan to change the world, a piece of work at a time.

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There’s still poetry, of course, and I have a Monday deadline for two pieces. For now, however, as you read this I’ll be out in the dark, taking pictures for a project I’m working on for 2019…

In Pursuit of Happiness

Yup, it’s that time again. November is (checks calendar) NEXT WEEK and so, we need a graphic for the upcoming ‘write a novel in a month’ journey and some definitive idea of what the fuck is going on. Fortunately, both of these things are well in hand.

NaNoWriMo

If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, here’s my mate Tessa explaining why 50k words in a month is such a big deal. For me, this is my eighth year taking part, and (hopefully) the fifth year required wordage will be complete at the end. We’ve discussed the plot here, and I’m not going to spend any more time going over details. However, I will find the time to share some of my personal insights over a decade, including that horrible moment when all the planning goes to hell and characters rebel against your well-organised planning.

It’s happened for the last three years and already, I’m hearing mutters of discontent from my major players…

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However, there’s a ton of stuff that needs to happen beforehand, including a rather important submission that is likely to take up all of my Monday. Therefore, it’s high time I got the backlog of work sorted and the new stuff prepared. All things being equal, we’re going to move into a new phase of work (and visuals) beginning on November 1st.

I’ll see you there 😀

Art for Art’s Sake

It’s twenty-one days before my holiday begins: not that I’m counting days or anything, but last night the dates were put in the Work Diary, which has somehow made the entire experience a bit more real. The poetry deadlines are looming for the first couple of awards/contests that I feel are feasible to enter, and last night my work to show for this was woeful. As of typing this (12.07 p.m.) there’s FIVE pieces of work whose foundations I’m very proud of. There is, I think, a way forward.

It’s as if my brain finally turned up and got with the programme.

I edited some novel last night, and today I’ll prune and organise a portion of the scheduling backlog. Wednesday is the World Cup semi-final so as much as I can get done before 7pm will be great, and then a part of me is considering cycling to the entire thing in the shed, because then I have to focus on something other than worrying about whether we win or not. The week’s been planned out, but already today has come the need to throw that away and focus on the poems. Once upon a time, this would have ruined the rest of my week. Things are slowly becoming easier to deal with.

It might not seem like much to you but its a big deal to me.

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If I can keep this impetus up for the rest of the week, there should be space on Friday to begin planning for August’s scheduling…

Welcome to the Working Week

I like setting myself ridiculous challenges, and it has been a while since one’s been put on the table. With the Novel [TM] moving happily towards first draft, complete to my satisfaction (and it is, will be working on it over the weekend) it is time to push the creativity in other ways. Both of my Bond fictions were initially written in episodic format, and with the short stories now beginning to flower in their own space on Twitter… I think it is time to see if this site could support a weekly, longer-form project.

Hence, we present Fridays as the day I’ll be attempting to bring you EX/WHI.

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Right now, all you need to know is this story involves ALIENS. There is, of course, far more to it than that: the basic plot is blocked and roughly written, but as this will be very much a live WiP I have no idea where it is going to go. Also, and this is crucial, there is no beta reader. I’m not getting anyone to check this or see if it makes sense, it is just happening, from brain to screen, on a weekly basis. Therefore, if you spot a typo or there’s a glaring WTF moment, feel more than free to tell me in the comments 😀

This is an exercise in patience for you guys and ability/dedication for me. I love this idea enough not to get bored and wander off. It’s not just a bog standard science fiction story, either, and I promise that you’ll get your money’s worth. The only way to see if this works, of course, is to just start writing the damn thing and see where it goes… so after this gets posted, Prologue to the story will appear.

I’d love to have you along for this latest part of my journey 😀

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.

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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.

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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.

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.


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.

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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.

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