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…

The No. 1 Song in Heaven

This week has been the most important in some time.

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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.

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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.

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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.