Monday, 19 September 2016

Good grief, every time I post here it's about writer's block, and the bastard thing doesn't change. Year on year, that's what's keeping me down, my own inability to write something worth writing. And I don't think it's the lack of ideas, because I'm an ideas machine, but it's the fact that the ideas come but the follow through isn't there. I wonder how I can finally nip this in the bud? Maybe I should stop aspiring, stop struggling, and just settle on the fact that I'll never be a writer of any worth. Maybe I did get all my potential, possible words out in the world with the three-ish Richard Faraday books I wrote. I'll think on this some more and let you know if I come up with an answer.


I had one of those perfect dreams where you wake up and every detail is so crystal clear to you, so much so that you can write down every bit and then sit back and reflect on what a messed up subconscious you must have. I had a dream, and the dream had a name, and the name was Coldheart. I dreamt an entire Landsdale-esque short story, or a film, and it was glorious.

But the thing is, I wrote every detail down and now the actual content eludes me. I remember it so well, the one-handed assassin with a heart of gold, the disgraced-police-officer-turned-long haul-trucker, and the new sheriff in town whose medical affliction is the undercurrent for not only the name of the story, but also the mystery he must solve.

I wish I could write my own god damn ideas. Everything seems to be done before, every genre sucked dry of anything you could hope to bring to the game. I guess I'm frustrated with nowhere to really vent, so that's why I'm doing it here, for posterity's sake.

I really like this story, but getting it down on paper is going to be an uphill battle, which makes me feel like it won't be a good story. Anything forced will read as forced, and that's not what I want to do with my time. But then maybe I have to kick myself up the arse to get these things done, power through, and get something that I think could be great to a place where it can be great.

I'll have a tinker and see what I come up with. Frustrating though, isn't it?

Saturday, 15 August 2015

When help isn't requested but given

I'm still in some kind of a rut, and it's an infuriating space to be in. It's more... an absence of space, maybe an actual void, where nothing of worth can grow. I'm stuck. In this void. And ideas flow freely (in my head) but fail to deliver (on paper). I stalled on Scarlett Faraday (I wish I hadn't) and I'm not producing anything of what I would credit 'worth' to, so I'm back here, frustrated, and not just at the outlined situation, but by other things.

Right. Okay, okay, so here's the thing, and anybody who knows me will know that it's by no stretch of the imagination for me to be labelled overweight. Now, that's fine, that's fine, because it's true, I'm not at the weight I should be to be healthy but I'm aware of this, and I try, through all my faults, to do something about it. I have good days and I have bad days and when the bad days come I eat because I'm depressed and that's something that makes me think I feel better but we all know that's not true.

So I'm overweight. I don't the label 'fat' because there's a connotation there that hurts and I don't want to hurt myself. Never have, never will. You call me fat and there's venom there. Poison behind the words. I don't need that in my life, and you shouldn't want to inflict it upon me. I could own the term. "Yeah, I'm fat, what of it?" but I don't have the character for it. It's not in me to accept that kind of hurt, and in accepting it, I feel like I'd be encouraging, accepting, cultivating the poison that damages me internally. Mentally.

I also know that I'm depressed. And that I don't do anything about that. And again I take the good days and the bad, but the drugs fogged me up, made things happen to me I didn't like, and I don't have as many bad days as I used to, which is okay, which is fine, accepting, learning, moving on.

I went to an outlet store today. 70% discount on everything, the sign read, and I thought "I can afford to make some mistakes here", and went in to look for a shirt or two that I can wear to work. I'm overweight, I have a gut, so while most of the clothes I wear are XL (standard, accepted, moving on), if I buy collared shirts (for work), I go 2XL because I do a lot of reaching up and I don't want said gut to show. You understand, I'm sure. I could do without any weight-based observations because they kill me.

I'm perusing the rack, see a blue shirt in XL and I think "this could work" and keep looking. I'm not paying attention to anything but this rack, but someone is paying attention to me. One of the people who work there. Big guy, tape measure around his neck, and he says to me: "just to help, that rail only goes up to XL and you know look like you'll need at least a 2XL, sorry."

I have a predicament now. Because I'm angry. I know what I'm looking for, and he's clarified that I won't find what I'm looking for. Okay, that's... helpful? But I don't need comments about my weight. Quantifiable comments. I don't need observations or 'help'. I didn't ask for it and therefore didn't want it or expect it. Unsolicited assistance is aggravating when I'm not doing my 'I-need-help-head-bob-for-attention', and the 'help' here... broke me. I just... it broke me. I don't like talking about my weight and I don't want him talking about my weight because my self-image is fragile and hard to maintain.

I put the shirt down-- which I was going to buy even if it was too small because it was cheap enough to make a mistake on-- and walk out without saying a word, and he shouts after me "sorry" but he's not sorry, is he? Fat boy came into the shop and deluded himself into thinking he could fit into something he couldn't and I had to put him straight so that's fine, is probably what he's thinking.

And I'm angry and I want to scream and I wanted to say something but what's the point of being cutting-- and I could have cut like a motherfucker right then, said something with spite and bile and venom that I don't like to think I'm capable of generating-- so I just left.

I'm upset. And that's a fuel I try to use, I try to rant and shout and I try to funnel it into something, but if I maintain the anger then it eats away at my inside and makes me even sadder at the end of the day.

I came home.

I came here.

And now I'm sat in my front room feeling like a fat dickhead.

At least I had strong hair game today.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

On "Words and their Meaning"

I've not been able to write a story for over two years. Nothing of substance, nothing of worth, blah blah blah, bitch and moan, bitch and moan.

Whatever. The best way to get back on the horse is to throw yourself on said horse and hope it doesn't buck so wildly that you fall back off and crack your school open, therefore leaving you worse off than before. ENOUGH WITH THE HORSE METAPHORS.

I wrote a story, and I'm going to tinker with it, make it tight and punchy, because the first draft feels like... well, it feels like I've forgotten how to structure a story, or that that muscle, the one where story structure lives, is weak. Atrophied. Again, whatever, I have to make this work.

I take these things quite seriously, and I always think what I want to do with a story while I write it. Sometimes I have an agenda going in, but other times these agendas form as I go. I thought I'd write... not a commentary... not a thesis statement... nothing like that... but I thought I'd write about my mindset, my intention, my approach to this story, and what I wanted to prove with it. This is the first chunk of that, because I only have one story to work with right now. I'll write a part one about the second story I'm working on in a bit, or maybe as part of this, because I have an agenda with my second story that ties into what I've done with the first.


On "Words and their Meaning", a Scarlett Faraday adventure

I haven't been able to really put a Faraday story together since I finished the third book. The third book is currently requiring heavy edits, then maybe I'll be able to self publish it. The maybe is mostly based around the fact I might have forgotten how to self publish. Another muscle I need to work on.

The thing is, the story ideas haven't really stopped coming. They're always there, big epics that I need to work toward, big stories that will pay off on things that were referenced in the first novel. But the big problem I have is that I need to earn those big epics, or write the connective tissue, the gammy threads that can link what came before and what's coming.

For example, I know I haven't mentioned once vampires in the mythos I've built. This means that they're either there, lurking in the shadows with the greatest occult investigator completely ignorant to their existence because they're that damn scary, or, they don't exist yet. Yet being a great story prompt and foundation to do stuff that hasn't been seen before. Maybe. At this point, you're either Dracula or you're not, and I think I'm way past the marker for Vlad the Impaler.

Regardless, I've really been struggling to get my head together, and there are loads of reasons for that, lots of personal stuff that's gone on these past few years, but that's by-the-by.

I know the way I left the board in Richard Faraday At The End Of The World meant that I couldn't just tell low key stories. I couldn't write a little story about an exorcism, or a monster, or any of the stuff I set the board up for in Richard Faraday, Ghost Detective. But the thing was... I wanted to.

!! SPOILERS for the end of Richard Faraday At The End Of The World !!

So, my main protagonist is dead, having saved the life of his wife and then dissipating into nothingness. I know how he's coming back*, and it's a topsy turvy mind fuck of a story that I've planted the seeds for throughout the books. But this means that Scarlett is back in the world, she's been missing for nearly three decades, and she's just lost her soul mate. She has a daughter she never knew she had! That daughter has so much baggage that it's crazy to even think about. There are so many story threads that need to be picked up, and yet, because I'm not ready to start writing the big epics, I need to earn my place back to them.

But how?

Firstly, I needed to relearn how to write these stories and who these characters were. That meant a soft reset on what I had done before, simply because it was such a long time ago that I wrote about them, now I'm in a position where that distance means I'm a different person. Scarlett was always there, sometimes more of an emotion than a character, more of a plot device for Richard than she deserved to be**, and while I think I did quite well with her in the chapters she appeared in (there was an early chapter in the second book which is her running around a haunted house that ends badly for her, but I think she comes off looking quite good, along with the entirety of the third book which only features Richard in the final act, the rest of the story featuring Scarlett being the main protagonist).

Relearning the characters meant… writing them. Just seeing if I could find their voice and go from there. Scarlett was the fun-loving one, the one who got excited about things while Richard was more withdrawn. To me, that set a tone for these stories that was somewhat different to Richard’s. In my head, Richard is a Ghost Detective. A paranormal investigator. Scarlett is an adventurer. An archaeologist. While Richard was wandering around haunted houses, she was on digs, discovering lost civilisations, doing things that were more action packed than the more dour mysteries Richard would be looking into.

So, there it was, the first thing that came into mind. Before the title fell into place, was the sub-title.

A Scarlett Faraday Adventure

To her, life is an adventure. But at the same time, does the world stop turning because she’s in mourning? When the phone rings and someone asks for the Ghost Detective, does she just apologies and hang up? No. She pulls herself out of her loss and does what needs doing.

Originally, I wanted to do something darker with Scarlett, something questionable. It didn’t happen, so it’s not really a spoiler, but I wanted her to know what was haunting the school before she even started unpicking the mystery she had been thrust into. Either she knew because it was an artefact from Richard’s youth, or because she’s that damn good. That meant she was going to do something to one of the other protagonists that left the latter changed for the worst. It didn’t happen and I had to unpick the teases and hints of it from inside the second act, because it just felt… wrong.

I don’t want to hate my protagonist, and even if it ends up with her being ‘interesting’, is that worth her being unlikeable?

So, anyway. Scarlett is the kind of woman who respects old debts. Who will do anything she can to help innocents. She’s also not judgemental. I found that out in the third act. She was going to be righteous in her indignation, but then her voice became very clear… if someone hurts someone else, then the former deserves to be punished by the latter. If you abuse that power, then yes, she’ll come back and put a stop to it, but if you didn’t throw the first punch, and you have moral righteousness on your side? Who is she to get in the way?

The story rolled out as they usually do. Characters talking, and then something horrible happening. I’m very much a fan of the television structure of narratives. A pre-credits sequence, and then BAM, something awful happens and you hit the main credits. It’s something I’ve done since my fan fiction days, and I do it with the Faraday stories too.

As I wrote the character, traits I had almost forgotten from her previous appearances materialized. Scarlett is flirty, she’s sultry. She’s American, so she’s a bit more brusque, which rubs up against the rural English setting the supporting cast exist within. When it comes to writing original characters, my ultimate fear is accusations of writing Marty or Mary Sue characters. The first fan fiction story I did involved an original character, and I didn’t even know I messed up so bad, but it was pointed out to me by the readers how badly I'd fallen into that trap. So, when I write Richard or Scarlett, they can't be this perfect example of altruism. They can't be cool for no other sake than cool's. They have to breathe, and I think I achieved that.

It’s through Scarlett that I rediscovered Richard Faraday too. It wasn’t just who he was, it was who she thought he was. That comes out more in the second book, which I found out, pretty quickly, was going to be about the two of them. He’s not back, that’s got to come later, that’s going to be an entire novel, which is going to be so continuity-heavy, I’ve resisted fully committing to it yet. If you write a story, and you self publish, can you expect readers to appreciate the massive web of threads you need to pull together and reference to deliver that final scene? I don’t know. We’ll see.

I also decided, in the final scene of the first story, that I had to put a post-credit scene in. Something that would act as an overarching story for all the little stories I’m planning on writing. You see, in the third book I wrote (Safehaven), I introduced a thread I wanted to pick up somewhere down the line, and because it had no place in the main narrative arc, why not here?

The other main aspect of my writing was the consideration of the internal voice. During Richard Faraday, Ghost Detective, you never knew Richard’s internal monologue. The world was relayed by an audience surrogate, and I did the same thing in the second book. I think I’ll always keep him as a closed book, but Scarlett.. I wanted her to be more open, I wanted you to know what was going on in her head. She’s been through so much, just having her stand there doing nothing, when internally there’s a war going on as to what she should do next, that can’t be a flat narrative. You need to see inside her, and hear her voice.

When Richard comes back (no spoiler there, he was always going to come back) I think he’ll remain a closed book. And maybe Scarlett will become the audience surrogate? I haven’t thought that far ahead. What I do know is that when Richard comes back, you will feel every single ounce of pain Scarlett does in that moment.

I’m still not sure what the story will be, but I know who the main players are. I know the stuff I’m avoiding (I’m writing the stories in real time, so it’s been two years since the events of the second book) and what I’ll need to pick up at some point, e.g:

- What does the world think happened to Japan?
- What about the rain of demons that hit England?
- What about the multi-dimensional prison that fell into the ocean near Norway?
- What about all the dragons?
- What about Marie-Ann, Richard and Scarlett’s daughter, who also happens to be the Anti-Christ?
- What about EVERYTHING?

I know how I’m going to address some of the above, but I also have no idea how I’m going to address the rest. Who knows, we’ll see, but I’m sure it’ll be interesting.

I best go now, because I just realised I forgot to jot down notes for the penultimate story of this new collection I’m planning (The Old Bones Society). I’ll get on that, and then see what’s next.

I hope this is the beginning of something brilliant for me and my stories.

* Energy doesn’t just dissipate! But what energy does is change...

** I don’t know if I actually believe that. I think I did quite well with her, and I also think I need to re-read the second book to get a feel for her, but that would go against the whole point of what I’m doing with these stories

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The heat these last few days has been unbearable. Real, non-British, bullshit heat. My general problem is that this isn't that hot, because I've been in Georgetown during a heatwave, and the only refuge I had during that holiday was the hotel, where air con ruled supreme. Over there it was horrifying, you'd step outside thinking that the hotel's temperature was representative of the rest of the world, but you'd leave the threshold of the hotel and then your skin would set alight.

I exaggerate.

So that was highs of late 40s, I think? Something stupid. Over here we're currently on 26 and in the grand scheme of things that's pathetic, but still.

Douse me in ice water.

Monday, 28 July 2014

I've always struggled with writer's block. I can go swathes of time without being able to put pen to paper (or finger to key, as the case may be in the world of laptops and tablets that we live in) but other times I'm a machine, churning out content relentlessly until I burn out after a productive period the likes of which I've never experienced before.

But that time fades and I'm no longer productive, and a cycle begins of lack of productivity, then lack of time, then lack of anything. Then I'll be productive for a while, because that's the nature of the thing we do, but then the cycle starts again. Lack of productivity then productivity, then lack of productivity. The thing is, the timeframes began to lean more toward the former than the latter and I'm stuck with an inability to come up with anything worth putting down to keep.

I've heard people say that writers write and that if they're not writing then they're not writers, but I hope that's not the case because that means that for lengths of time I'm nowhere near what I want to be. I don't think it's fair to dismiss someone's 'passion' because they're in a low spot, it's patronising, it's debilitating, and it's deflating. I want to write, I really do, I want to write narratives that draw you in and make you care, but I'm in a position where ideas don't mean that stories get written.

Now, I'm trying a few bits and pieces to get back on top of it. I'm writing this, which is the first, proper, long form piece of writing I've done in ages. It's four paragraphs (so far) and that means something (I think) but it's the same old shit written in the same old way but written at a different time. What's so good about that? At least I'm able to get to grips with writing proper sentences again.

I've started so many little projects, jotted so many notes, so many ideas, in the lucid moments, but those lucid moments are few and far between. That means I have a dozen or so stories percolating, ready to be rummaged around in when I have the time, but the time doesn't come. What can be done about that? I should write when I can write, I should make sure I note down every idea I have, and then I should keep powering forward.

Work keeps me busy, so much so that my life outside of work is pretty lacking. I work and I work and then I sleep. Sometimes I go to the gym. Sometimes I sleep. Not recently, though. That's a pain.   The weather over here has become suffocating, which is brutal when you have asthma. Waking up unable to breathe is not the best way to ensure you get back to sleep.

I could try and blog every single day but that would mean that I have to force myself to do something that might not bring rewards, and I tried before and failed. I guess I'll just have to do everything I said is difficult and make it easy.

Which isn't impossible, right?

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Safe Haven - Prologue

What follows is the prologue to my next novel. It's all written, all edited and formatted, and all I'm waiting for is the cover, which should be coming together at the tail end of the month. Exciting to get another book out. This one was written in November, part of National Novel Writing Month, and I'm pleased I was able to get another bastard book done in a month. Means that January 2012 wasn't a fluke. It does mean that the entirety of 2013 has been a fuck of a time, writing-wise, as I've not been able to get anything out of any worth. Damn frustrating. But I'm hoping that I'm going to start churning the third major novel of the Richard / Scarlett Faraday series again before the year is out. We'll see how it goes.


The following events took place over one hot Summer night in 1968

Truman MacMullan was running as fast as he could, but he had nowhere to go.
He’d only pulled up in the drive ten minutes ago, but then things had gone to pot faster than even he could have imagined.
His mother had asked him to check in on his Uncle Larry. Now, Larry had never been the nicest of his uncles. He’d been a complete ass to Truman on a number of occasions but if there was one thing that overrode all common sense in the world it was family, so he got into his car and drove three hundred miles, all at the request of his mother, just to knock on a door. He’d arrived in the town fifteen minutes ago, and had actually been quite surprised to find that there was no one around. He’d driven through the town square, popped his head into the bars, but no, there was nobody about.
“Weird,” he had mumbled to himself.
Now all he was doing was cursing. “Fuck, fucking, fuck!”
He’d finally made it to his uncle’s new house, knocked on his door, but received no response. He wandered around the back of the house but couldn’t get anyone’s attention. He couldn’t see anyone, but the television was on and showing some blank wall somewhere. The kitchen light was on. A glass of half-drunk water on the side.
Reluctantly, Truman had taken the spare key his mother had given him and began to unlock the front door. He didn’t want to go in unannounced. But his mother had asked, so he had no choice in the matter. He entered, and immediately began to call out.
“Uncle Lar? Uncle Lar?”
He looked around downstairs and saw that the glass on the counter was full of tiny, stale bubbles. How long had it been there? He poured it down the sink and turned off the television.
“Uncle Larry, are you up there?”
Truman looked up the stairs and wondered if he should go up.
He was utterly exhausted. The drive down had taken most of the life out of him, and the beers he’d downed since that last truck stop did him no favours.
He had bought two six packs, drank them one every few miles.
His friends had told him that he shouldn’t drink and drive, but apart from his eyes playing a trick on him when he found the right road that led to Safehaven, he’d been fine.
A light had blinded him for a second. He thought about the dirt that peppered his glasses and the way that headlights could sometime spiral into a kaleidoscope of discomfort, but he had blinked the light away and all was well.
But oddly, there had been no cars.
There had been no visible causes of the light.
But it had come and gone and he was fine.
Wasn’t he?
Truman had no luck upstairs. His uncle was nowhere to be found. Maybe he’d taken the boat down to the marina, maybe he was night fishing on the lake.
Night fishing for his family meant an icebox and beef jerky, and obscene amounts of littering in whichever lake they chose to float out on.
Truman then descended the stairs and looked around. He thought that he might as well collapse on the sofa and turn in for the night. If his uncle came in, he would hear him, and everything would be fine.
Sure, maybe Larry would get cranky at an uninvited guest, but he should have called or picked up the phone when Truman’s mother had tried him.
“Simple enough,” Truman thought to himself.
He had removed his boots when he saw the man in the window.
He swore loudly, put his glasses back on, but then saw nothing.
“God,” he whispered, catching his chest. His heart was pounding. “God.”
He stood, looked outside and then jumped out of his skin when the back door exploded with glass, a rogue fist smashing itself through the panes. The hand that reached through from the back garden was unlocking the door, Uncle Larry having handily left the key in the lock. There was a loud clunking sound and the door finally opened, and a man dressed in black and white stepped through. His face was a twisted expression of aggravation and rage. His hair was neatly parted, he had a mole under his bottom lip and his mouth was twisted into a sneer. The weirdest thing was the way he was framed by the sterile light of the kitchen. Light seemed to blur around the edges of the man. He looked like he was super-heated, like the air couldn’t stand the touch of him. Truman thought of summer barbecues, he thought of beef burgers on the griddle, and he thought of running straight out of the house.
“You’re not supposed to be here,” the man hissed.
When Truman scrambled out of his uncle’s house and into the front garden the first thing he had tried was his car.
After that initial eternity-long struggle to get the key into the door, and then the key into the ignition, he found that the engine wouldn’t start. He twisted and screamed and bucked against his seat, but the car made no sound at all, it was simply dead, like he would soon be if he couldn’t get out of this place. The man who had broken through the back door was now standing on his porch, breathing in and out deeply, his funeral attire covered in glass.
Truman threw open the driver’s side door and headed down the street, looking for help. His head darted from house to house, but he couldn’t see any movement at all. No sign of life. He ran, faster than he thought his legs could carry him, and during all of this he realised he was still drunk, that his perceptions were still blurry. He was hyper aware of the weight of his feet and how every footfall was silent because his boots were still on his uncle’s living room floor. He was struggling to breathe. He couldn’t think to scream, all he could do was run, completely absorbed in the action.
Truman found himself in the town square, and just up ahead there was a group of people who were, as he watched, wandering from one building to another. He stopped in his tracks, waved his arms, started to breathe in readiness to scream for help, but before he could draw their attention he was struck in the chest by an almighty force that drove the air from his lungs. His tired, aching legs were pulled out from under him, and he realised that he was being carried, lightning fast, from the middle of the street to one of the alleys.
Hidden from view, Truman was pinned down, one icy cold hand covering his mouth, the other driven deep into his side and against his kidneys, spreading agonising pain throughout his extremities.
Urine trickled down his inner trouser leg. He knew he was going to die any moment now, but he still felt shame at the action. The man on top of him laughed, and then moved very slowly toward his ear.
“Listen,” he said, menacingly. “Listen.”
A woman’s voice, far away but still audible under the silent conditions of the town.
“I thought I saw.” This was another woman’s voice. A girl, more like. They were both girls. They sounded so young. This one especially sounded so very scared.
You saw me, thought Truman. You saw me. Help. Help me.
“What?” pressed the first woman.
Yes, make her say. Make her get you to come find me.
The stink of urine filled Truman’s nostrils. He struggled to breathe. Vomit gagged up at the back of his throat.
Save me.
“A shape, something, I don’t know, something moving.”
There was a long moment of silence.
The man pinning Truman down laughed to himself.
“HELLO?” bellowed a voice. Strong. Male.
Oh thank God oh thank God. Come on. Find me.
Truman struggled under the grip of the man but his attacker drove his fist deeper into his side, causing Truman to wince and swallow the vomit, a thick, acidic tang filling his throat.
There was a fluttering of conversation. Truman couldn’t make it out under the sound of his own heartbeat hammering away between his ears.
“LITTLE PIG, LITTLE PIG,” shouted another, the words filled with laughter. “LET ME COME IN!”
“They will never save you,” said the man, the lack of oxygen finally beginning to drag Truman into the darkest recesses of his own body. His heart beat was a frantic percussion of loud bangs, until finally it wasn’t, and he was finally gone, no hope left for him in the land of the living.