writing

Screenplay Progress Report

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It’s been a little while, so I thought I’d update all you lovely readers (both of you) on how my screen-writing is going.

If you follow me on any of my various social media accounts (I’m on Twitter, go click on the bird over on the right!) you’ll know that I submitted my short script The Tree to the HollyShorts Film Festival and Screenplay Competition and it did rather well. It was selected! It was a quarter-finalist! And then much to my astonishment it reached the semi-finals! I crossed my fingers and I crossed them hard – 2nd or 3rd place would net me a free copy of industry-standard writing program Final Draft, and 1st place? Well, if I won 1st place then a production company associated with the festival would film my script and screen it at next year’s festival!

Friends, I did not win the competition, nor did I come 2nd or 3rd. But I’m thrilled to have reached the semi-finals. A lot of competitions are bunk, will take your money and give you nothing but a warm glowy feeling if you win, but these guys have a very respectable festival and I’m honoured that they thought my script was good enough to reach the stage it did.

So what’s next? Well, I’m re-jigging my first feature screenplay (The Bride Wore Blood!) to get it to the right length and proper structure, then I’m working on adapting my spousal unit Rachel Tonks Hill’s book Novis (available now!) into a riproaring space opera movie. That’ll show I can write high budget, Bride will show I can write medium budget, and I’m tooling around with ideas for a low-budget feature. Once I’ve got those, combined with the shorts I’ve already written, I’ll have a portfolio strong enough to start shopping myself around.

My script-reading job is going well (touch wood) and I’m on the hunt for more clients, so for the moment everything is coming up Me!

Stay tuned for further updates…

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journal

General Housekeeping Notes

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Well, I suppose I should spruce the place up a bit, shouldn’t I?

After all, I’m working towards being a writer for a living and while I excel at the flighty flaky creative side of that particular profession, I do need to work harder on my online presence and the business side of things. So, some housekeeping is in order.

The site has undergone a complete overhaul, as I’m sure you can see if you remember what it looked like before. There’s now a home page, and a spruced up film page, and a link to my twitter and stuff and things. My Short Fiction page is still under construction, so just, er, don’t click on that link, ok?

Any suggestions, questions, comments, insults? Hit me up, I’d love to hear from you!

 

babbling, Uncategorized

I Was Almost an Incel, M’lady

a brown cat yawning in while laying on a wooden deck
Pic unrelated, but cute Photo by Sam Burriss on Unsplash

On Tuesday 24th April, Alek Minassian drove a van into a Toronto crowd, killing 10 people and injuring 14 more. He prefaced his attack with a post on Facebook declaring the below:

“The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

Since the attack, there have been a bunch of thinkpieces looking at incels (‘involuntary celibates’) and MRAs (‘Mens Rights Activists’) and there have been a lot of people wondering how this could have happened, how someone could be led to be so violently deluded. This isn’t your common-or-garden variety political terrorism, this is a much murkier ideology that’s being pushed here.

And, as in the aftermath of Elliot Rodger’s attack, all I can think is ‘that monster could have been me.’

I was an awkward kid growing up mixed-race in Jordan, a country whose kids didn’t seem to like me very much. In their defence, I didn’t work hard to make myself likeable. I kept to myself, didn’t work hard at learning Arabic, made friends with books and Amiga games instead of with people. I was not good at socialising, is what I’m saying.

And then came puberty.

I noticed girls and girls didn’t notice me. I was scrawny and had weird hair and mumbled a lot because my confidence was through the basement. It didn’t really help that my mother had told me she’d cut my penis off if I so much as went on a date before I turned 18. She later pointed out that this was obviously a joke, but at 13 or 14 it really didn’t feel like one!

I remember that the only real conversation I had with my first crush was a mumbled ‘yeah I like him too’ when she noticed I was reading Stephen King and said she was a fan. Smooth, young me. Smooth. There were other crushes, and I was just as charming to them. Astonishingly, no girlfriends were forthcoming.

When I got to IB stage in Palestine (think A-levels, or last two years of high school in the US) I started learning how to actually get along with people. I had friends! And acquaintances! And some of them were girls. Not bad for a nerd in a war zone. I fell in love (but not really, you know) with a beautiful girl who made my heart do somersaults. And, being the lovesick fool I was, I wrote her a love letter.

She wrote a reply saying she was flattered and firmly hoping we’d be good friends. And I was happy she replied… until it wasn’t enough. I was a nice guy, there’s no reason I wouldn’t be able to woo her and win her affections. That’s what they do in the movies, right? And they get the girl, so why shouldn’t I?

I wrote two further letters, and she firmly but politely rebuffed my advances again. And I crossed a boundary by kissing her on the hand when that kind of relationship was firmly off the table. Like an idiot, I put a good friendship in danger through my lack of respect for her, and I’m astonished she’s still friends with me. If you’re reading this, you’re a saint and I’m sorry for my hormone-driven nonsense. But that’s how it starts, with hormone-driven nonsense. You overstep a boundary, are rejected and are hurt – and it’s natural to be hurt, even if you know you did wrong. But dwelling on it is unhealthy, and that’s a pattern I’d fallen into.

When I got to England in 2001 at the age of 17, my hormones went into overdrive. I found myself falling for each of my closest female friends, one after the another, pushing and pushing for them to enter a relationship with me. Each time I was… not rejected, per se. I don’t recall any ‘let’s go out’ ‘no let’s be friends’ conversations with them. But it was made increasingly clear that I was a friend and nothing ‘more’. As if being a friend to these women wasn’t an immense privilege already. Today we’re still close, though less so after we’ve drifted to different parts of the country, and I can only be grateful that they put up with my lovesick puppy routine each time it happened.

a black pug looking quizzical with head tilted
Pictured : A lovesick puppy Photo by Charles Deluvio 🇵🇭🇨🇦 on Unsplash

The ‘nice guy’ narrative was running around and around my head more and more. Nice guys finish last. Women like bastards. Why am I alone when that guy has a girlfriend? I’d have coffee with friends and sit and sulk because a couple was being couple-y at the next table. I’d say things like ‘I don’t want to see gay people kissing because I don’t want to see anyone kissing, it reminds me how alone I am’ (yay for underlying homophobia). I once even wrote a godawful couplet about skies vomiting something or other as I stew in my loneliness, or something. Vom.

I went to uni and almost immediately fell in love (again, not really, if it’s not mutual it’s not love) with someone who just seemed to click perfectly. We were almost inseparable and we seemed to understand each other perfectly. I wanted her badly (listen to that language, ‘I want you’, how possessive). And she didn’t want me back. Sorrow and self-pity and, yes, rage were swirling around inside me.

And that’s when I could have been lost.

The difference here is that the rage was directed inwards. It became a part of my depression, because depression isn’t always sadness, it’s anger and hopelessness. No woman would ever like me the way I like them, how could they, I’m disgusting, I’m a slob, I’m a loser. Because these feelings were internalised, they just fed on my insides and were quite happy wrecking my psyche.

If I’d found a community of people of men who’d felt the same way, I’d have felt accepted and understood. We would have shared jokes and memes about women who won’t give us a chance (the so-called ‘Stacy’) and the men they choose over us (the so-called ‘Chad’). I’d have felt like I found people who would care for me even if the women I fell for wouldn’t.

I’d be ripe for the red pill.

Instead, I threw myself into the community of nerds and geeks in the scifi society and tried to swallow my loneliness. In retrospect, it was silly to feel lonely when I was surrounded by friends and people who loved me – they just didn’t love me in the way I felt entitled to be loved.

And that’s the rub, isn’t it? Entitlement. No one is entitled to a partner. No one is owed love. But we’re flooded with imagery and messages that tell us that yes, we are entitled to it all. Rescue the damsel, bestow the kiss. Give her a diamond, get sex. Rub her feet, she’ll give you a blowjob. Put more favour tokens in, go on, she’ll pay out eventually. She dumped you? Stand outside her window with a boombox, that’ll convince her to take you back.

The incels and the MRAs and the Men Going Their Own Way and so on, they scare me. Because I can understand them. I understand the anger and the hatred, because I’ve felt them too. We just directed it in different directions. If I’d directed my anger outwards more often and lashed out at more people, who’s to say I wouldn’t be hailing Elliot Rodger and calling for the death of women who’d dare to choose not to fuck me. I’d like to think it’s not in my make-up, but I’m learning more and more that people change and the psyche is a strange dangerous thing.

This is not to say that I’m a saint for not going that direction. I’m not better than anyone, I’m just me. I’m still growing and I’m still unlearning those patterns. I do still overstep boundaries occasionally, and to any woman I’ve ever made feel uncomfortable: I’m so sorry. I will do better. I know that being sorry isn’t enough, you have to actually make good with action.

And I will.

social media, Twitter, Uncategorized, writing

Extraterrestrial – A LiveTweet

Actress Brittany Allen covered in alien goo, a screenshot from 'Extraterrestrial'
“Why couldn’t I have been in ET: The Extraterrestrial instead?!”

A while ago, I saw the trailer for a B-movie style flick called Extraterrestrial. It looked like it might be a fun diversion for a couple of hours, so I stored the title in my memory and got on with my life.

After discovering that you can buy BluRays from CeX from 50p (I’m a sucker for a bargain bin, I make no apologies), I thought I’d splurge on it and give it a try. I fired it up yesterday and decided I’d ‘treat’ Twitter to a running commentary of my thoughts on it.

Make no mistake, I enjoyed watching it. I like bad movies, movies that showed promise but failed to live up to it. This could have been a superb film, but there were several bum notes that just left me cold. There’s one moment when they enter a scene so late (for comedy ‘say-one-thing-then-cut-to-a-shot-of-the-opposite-thing-happening’ value) that it made no sense at all and I had to go back a scene and rewatch it to make sure I hadn’t sat in the controller and skipped ahead with my buttocks.

But for all its flaws, it had good moments, and it’s worth remembering just how difficult it is to make a movie, let alone a good one. They did well with what they had, and I might even watch it again one day.

I’ve included my tweets below for any who don’t follow me on Twitter and are interested in my thoughts (you weird buggers). Feel free to follow me over there if you like!

I was going to complain about Storify no longer being a thing, but it turns out WordPress has an ‘Insert Tweet’ function, so that’s all worked out then. It doesn’t seem to handle threaded tweets well, mind, unless I’m just an idiot who can’t work out how to use it properly. Either way, I apologise for the weird formatting in the tweets below.

It’s still better than what I did last night, which is embed every tweet individually, which ended up looking more like quotes than tweets. Blogging is hard, people. Blogging is hard.

Beware mild spoilers – I tried to keep it context-free as much as possible because someone may actually want to watch this, and there’s no need to be a dick.

absurdity, dreams, fictional, story

The Farmer’s Dream – A Story

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It’s been a while, so I thought I’d share a little something I wrote a while back. Remember, when opportunity knocks you have the option to hide behind the sofa and pretend no one’s home.

 

The Farmer’s Dream

William was sleeping when the angel came to him.

He had been dreaming of hard labour in the field, ploughing and sowing. It was a common dream of his, one he’d often pondered the meaning of. He thought it was probably something to do with rebirth, or renewal, or fertility. More likely it was just too much cheese before bed.

In this dream, as in every previous dream of its kind, his plough would strike something hard, twist and buck in his hand. The dream would usually end there, but not tonight. Tonight the plough wrested away from his grip and sped off, leaving a deep groove in the soil behind it, merrily ploughing the rest of the field on its own.

He looked down at the ground, searching for whatever it was his plough had struck. A sharp corner poked out of the dirt. He dug away at its edges with his fingers, freeing it from the earth. He pulled it out to examine it more closely.

It was a box, about the size of his head, made of granite and marble but lighter than it should be. He was suddenly overcome by a strange feeling he hadn’t had on previous nights – he knew that this was a dream. He could feel the soft earth beneath his feet, could feel the cold rough surface of the box, but something was off; he was certain that he was actually asleep and in his own bed in the farmhouse.

“How curious,” he said to himself.

He looked around. The field was just as he remembered it from his waking hours, as far as he could tell. He wondered what would happen if he attempted to take control of the dream, perhaps to take flight or to change his surroundings. He looked at the plough retreating into the distance and willed it to come back. It didn’t.

“Perhaps I need a bit more practice,” he thought. “Let’s start with something small. Like opening this box.”

He opened the box.

A burst of bright light spilled out, blinding him. A great booming voice rang out in such rumbling tones that he could feel the soles of his feet vibrating.

WILLIAM, said the voice. HARK, WILLIAM.

William dropped the box in shock.

OW.

He nudged it gently with one toe. What was it?

WILLIAM, the voice resumed. ARE YOU HARKING?

“Um, I think you mean harkening?” William suggested.

GOOD, YOU ARE HARKING. PICK THE BOX UP, AND GAZE INTO THE LIGHT.

William did as he was told, though his hands were shaking so much he thought he would drop the box again. The strange voice rattled his back teeth.

I AM THE ANGEL OF DIVINE INTERVENTION. I AM TASKED WITH INTERVENING, DIVINELY. DO YOU COMPREHEND?

“No,” William answered honestly. The voice sighed, blowing the farmer’s hair back.

THEN I SHALL ELABORATE. I AM TO SET YOU ON AN ADVENTURE TO SEEK A GREAT FORTUNE. THE JOURNEY WILL SEND YOU FAR FROM HENCE AT GREAT PERIL, BUT IT IS OF HUGE IMPORT.

“What will I be importing?”

WHAT? NO. NO, I MEAN IT WILL BE HUGELY IMPORTANT. BECAUSE YOU WILL BE RICH.

“Well why didn’t you say that, then?”

BECAUSE… BECAUSE… BECAUSE IT JUST SOUNDS BETTER.

“Seems to me that sounding good isn’t quite as important as making sure you’re understood, don’t you think? Especially if you’re meant to be sending people on important quests.”

LOOK, DO YOU WANT TO GO OR DON’T YOU? BECAUSE WE DON’T HAVE ALL NI-

“No, thank you.”

There was a moment of stunned silence.

I BEG YOUR PARDON?

“I said no, thank you. See, I’m asleep at the moment and I don’t really know how long I’m likely to be. I can’t go on a long quest and then have to oversleep in order to finish it. Who’ll feed the pigs?”

OH, AHAHAH, I CAN SEE THE CONFUSION. NO, SEE, THE QUEST IS FOR WHEN YOU ARE AWAKE.

“Eh? How’s that work, then?”

WELL, SEE, I TELL YOU ABOUT THE TREASURE AND WHERE IT IS, AND YOU WAKE UP THINKING IT’S A DREAM ONLY I’VE LEFT A SHEAF OF WHEAT OR SOMETHING UNDER YOUR PILLOW AS A SIGN AND SO YOU GO OFF AND SEEK YOUR FORTUNE, GROWING AND MATURING ALONG THE WAY UNTIL YOU RECEIVE YOUR FINAL REWARD OF A KINGDOM AND A BEAUTIFUL WIFE AND SO ON.

“Oh, so the quest is for after I wake up?”

YES.

“I see. Well, in that case… no, thank you.”

LOOK, WILLIAM, I DON’T THINK YOU’VE GRASPED THE BASIC CONCEPT OF-

“Oh, I have, it’s just that I don’t want to do it. I simply haven’t the time.”

There was no reply; the voice seemed to be pondering this. William felt more was needed.

“Like I said, who’d feed the pigs? And the cows would need milking, and if I don’t get the field ploughed in time for sowing then I’ll be buggered. I can’t just up sticks and travel off to foreign lands seeking my fortune and battling monsters and outsmarting evil viziers. It wouldn’t be fair on the livestock, or the people who’re counting on my crops. So thank you, but if it’s all the same to you, I’ll have to decline.”

He laid the box gently on the ground.

NOW SEE HERE-

“No, I don’t think so,” William replied firmly, slapping the lid shut. The voice continued, muffled and confused.

wait, what are you doing? william?

William placed the box back into the hole and started to shovel dirt back over it.

are you serious? this is ridiculous … stop, william. william.

William didn’t stop. He filled the hole and smoothed the dirt over until the spot was indistinguishable from the rest of the field. He patted his hands clean on his trousers.

“Now then,” he thought. “Let’s give flying a try.”

And with that, William flew off into the clouds.

The next morning there was a long white feather under his pillow. He threw it away.

THE END

creativity, film making, Uncategorized, writing

No Regrets

Here we are again.

I’m not going to apologise for the hiatus this time. It’s a new thing I’m trying called No Regrets. It is what it is.

I think my creativity and my drive come in waves. I get bit by the bug and have a brief brilliant burst of productivity, get complacent, get tripped up by something and stop trying. It’s the ‘stop trying’ step that I’m working on. No regrets.

My last post advised I was setting up Splendiferous Films so I could keep making short films and pushing myself. So far, I’ve made one and a half in nearly three years. Considering the pace I was cranking them out before, this can be considered to be Not Good.

But here’s the thing – circumstances change. Everything has to be taken within its context. I can’t judge myself now based on my actions then. A very specific set of circumstances were in play, to do with people and responsibilities and energy. Over time, things have changed. I’ve been punishing myself for not pushing harder, when really I just need to work out the right amount to push.

No regrets.

I’m proud of Going Down. It’s a funny little flick, and I’m proud of everyone who helped make it. Is it an amazing game-changer of a film? No, hardly. It was the best film we could make at that time. Was it worth submitting to festivals? Probably not, but it at least got it in front of people who are out of my social circle, even if those people didn’t pick it for inclusion in their festivals. And that’s quite right – it’s not quite at that quality yet. We’re getting better.

But we won’t get any better if we don’t make any more films.

Snapshots has been stuck in post-production for about a year now. We’ve got a rough cut and some ideas for where to go, but we haven’t been able to finish it. I don’t think it’s been looked at in 6 months or so.

There are personal reasons for this, partly to do with being a little too close to the subject matter and partly to do with a whole host of internal and external factors. I’m not going to go into them because they’re quite personal, but suffice to say I’m done beating myself up about it. I’m not the same person I was five or six years ago, and I’m not in the same position.

I didn’t work as hard as I could have to stay on top of creativity, and I can’t change that. But I can forgive myself and move on.

I’ve been kickstarting my creativity lately. I took an excellent screenwriting course and a fascinating body-casting workshop. I’ve been reading about creative people doing creative things and thinking about the creative process. It’s disheartening to realise that I can’t take many of the risks that creative people do to get themselves out there, but this is 2017. I have the internet and a functional body and a (mostly) capable brain. And I have friends.

We’ve been moving house and that’s taken a lot of energy, but that’s nearly over. We’re going to finish  Snapshots, get it out there in front of the eyeballs of the world – and then we’re going to make another short film or sketch. And then another. And then another.

Can I get to the ‘3 projects in a year’ position I wanted to be in? Maybe. Maybe not. And if not, that’s fine. Life happens, and as long as we don’t give up altogether then all will be well.

No regrets.

Uncategorized

Splendiferous Films

I’m bricking it.

Those who know me know that I have tried my hand at making short films with friends as part of a group called Black Stump Films. I found that I really enjoyed the challenge and the satisfaction of being a part of a group project that produces something that can entertain people.

Life has a way of getting in the way of creativity, though, and I’ve found myself making short films less and less frequently while growing frustrated at the lack of a creative outlet. It was only a matter of time (and confidence) before I took the logical next step and started working towards doing this properly.

And so Splendiferous Films is born. I’ve not registered it as a company yet, there’s still research to do before I’m ready to take that particular plunge yet, but for now it’s a place where I can start to build something beautiful, something that I can call my own and share with the world. I hope to still involve my friends as much as possible as I work my way towards eventually being a professional filmmaker, and I hope that you’ll all come along for the ride with me. There will be ups, there will be downs, but I’ll do my best to make sure you’re entertained. Because that’s what I’m here for. I’m here to make you smile.

So wish me luck, and be patient with me if I start screaming incoherently, rocking backwards and forwards or hiding under my duvet to avoid the pressures of actually living up to this monster I’ve created. I’m an artist, we’re sensitive delicate types.

Now, who wants to make movies?

Uncategorized

The Featureless Man

Ah, October! Where the nights come quickly and the wind grows cold!

‘Tis is the season for ghosts, ghouls, goblins, gremlins, gribblies … gvampires… gwerewolves? Alliteration is hard. You get the picture.

I’m trying my hand once again at the delightful Whimword flash fiction competition. I aim to submit one every week if I can, to keep my hand in. The benefit of this is that you get to read my attempts at literary greatness – lucky you! Oh to be blessed in such a manner!

This week’s word is ‘featureless’, chosen by my very own spousal unit.

Without further ado, I give you a creepy story I just chucked together tonight. Tonks bribed me with some Mass Effect 3 time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with Commander Shepherd.

The Featureless Man

The featureless man will come again tonight.

I sharpen my spear as I crouch by the fire, the burning wood crackling and sending sparks up into twisting currents of air. My knife snicks through the wood, shavings fall at my feet. The point is growing sharp.

It will not be sharp enough.

The featureless man comes every night, or at least he has come every night that I have been here. Since I pulled myself, broken and bleeding, from the wreckage. Since I dragged myself to the beach. Since I built this small fire. Maybe even before then. Who knows if he was watching me as I slipped in and out of dreamless sleep those first few nights?

The featureless man does not speak, because he does not have a mouth. He can see even though he has no eyes. I know because his head follows me when I move and he cranes his neck to follow the movement of a waved arm. He can hear even though he has no ears. I know because he cocks his head when I speak, when I cry out or when I whimper.

Every night he creeps closer, and I can see more of him. There is nothing to see. He has no face. He has no clothes. He is not naked. He just is. My eyes slide off him when I try to focus them, to see the distinguishing characteristics he surely has, he must have, all humans have.

He is not human. He has two limbs that look like arms. He moves them like arms. He has two limbs that look like legs. They move him like legs. But he is not human. He smells wrong. He looks wrong. He is wrong.

Light bends around him. The world bends around him. As he gets closer, the air gets darker and colder. Every night is darker and colder than the last. Every night he comes closer than the last.

Last night he came and stood at the edge of the ring of light cast by my fire. He stared at me with his lack of eyes and listened for me with his lack of ears. I didn’t move. I didn’t speak. I could do neither. We stayed still, silent and unmoving statues, for hours.

I watched as a crab scuttled across the rocks and crossed the light of my camp. As it passed by the featureless man it began to shake violently, and with a terrible cracking noise it began to fold in on itself. The featureless man’s shadow reached for the crab and consumed it. As daylight came, he faded away, leaving behind nothing but the indentations in the sand where he had stood.

The featureless man will come again tonight.

I am sharpening my spear.

It will not be sharp enough.

But it is all that I can do.

Uncategorized

Somewhere Beyond the Sea

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Apologies for the radio silence over the past week or so – I had intended to start up another 30-Day-Challenge, this one horror-related in honour of October being Halloween season, but I got a bit sidelined.

BY A CRUISE!

Tonks, my long-suffering spousal unit, has finally handed in her thesis after 4 long years of blood, science and tears. To celebrate, her parents took us with them on a cruise up to Holland, Germany, Sweden and Denmark! We’re both hugely grateful for this, as it’s been a tough year (or two) (or three) and we badly needed to let off steam.

We sailed on the CMV flagship Magellan, a luxurious ship with everything that we could ask for – except free wifi, of course. We managed to snatch a few minutes here and there to keep in touch and let everyone know we weren’t dead. Pirates  could happen to anybody, you know.

The ship was wonderful – the staff were super-friendly and the food was AMAZING. There was a choice of the all-you-can-eat buffet (or the ‘bearpit’ as it came to be known) or the rather more posh Waldorf Restaurant, a sit-down meal with waiters and napkins and multiple sets of knives & forks. I felt very intimidated eating there the first time, but after that it was a breeze. Even if I did eat dessert with a soup spoon once. I AM A REBEL. The food was sumptuous and pretty much perfectly cooked. Even the more down-market buffet was great. The kitchen staff worked very very hard.

There were outdoor swimming pools, which I did not use because ARE YOU KIDDING WE WERE IN THE BALTIC SEA. There was a gym, which I did not use because, well, you’ve met me, right? And if you haven’t, you should just know that one doesn’t get a physique like mine by going to the gym, dahling. I earned this figure with lots of pizza, I’m not burning that off. I did keep fit by eschewing the lifts and using the stairs wherever possible – there were a lot of elderly and disabled folk on the cruise, and their needs were greater than mine. There was, however, a spa which I did use – I had a lovely massage that loosened muscles that had been tense for years.

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First stop was Amsterdam, city of canals and chips. And other things as well, but we didn’t indulge in anything dodgy because, you know, the in-laws were there. It’d be a bit rude to nip into a coffee shop and come back giggling and craving chocolate. It’s just not done. We did visit possibly the oldest café (and actual café) in Amsterdam, which is a nice 17th century building with sawdust on the floor. Fantastic coffee, as expected. After some strolling and the mandatory giggling at the sex shop windows (we are mature adults) we picked up some Gin and headed back to the ship.

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Hamburg! Home of hamburgers! That is, of course, why for lunch we had … ice cream. Ok, well, that may not have been the most appropriate lunch, but it was exceptionally good ice cream. More town exploration, but it was a public holiday in Germany the day we were there so most of the shops were closed. As with all the places we went to, though, the architecture was beautiful.

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Next stop, Helsinborg in Sweden … where we immediately jumped on a ferry and left to go to Helsingor in Denmark – otherwise known as Elsinor, home of Hamlet, pictured right at the top of this very page. I couldn’t pass up the chance to see that place, could I? We walked through the incredibly pretty town to get to the castle, which was actually a surprising distance away. We were pretty knackered after that, but on the way home we got a small bus tour of Helsinborg itself so that was nice.

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Copenhagen! Land of mermaids! This is, of course, not the famous Little Mermaid statue, but I like it just the same. Can’t imagine why. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with that. Get your mind out of the gutter, this is art. Anyway, Copenhagen was wonderful – it was very cold and windy and blustery, but everyone seemed smiley and happy nonetheless. We also ate in town rather than on the ship, as we were visiting an old school friend of Tonks’. We had something called Stegt flæsk, which was a sort of deep-fried pork belly that was gorgeous – and the serving was massive! I was very happy that evening.

After that came Aalborg, where I didn’t take pictures because it was a bit gloomy and drizzly – the first properly bad day of the trip, in the last destination. We did really well, weather-wise. Aalborg is nice, also quite small, and doesn’t seem to be very tourist-centric, though it does have a lot of pubs. Definitely the sort of place to visit if you want to avoid tourist traps.

And then it was home sweet home, terra firma, no more swaying decks and rich food. It was a wonderful time, but it’s good to be home.

And what will I do for Halloween? I’ll probably do a couple of horror themed posts, just to keep things going. The wind is howling and the shadows are growing longer…

BOO!

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The Locket + A Doodlepoem

Yesterday I wrote a piece of flash fiction for Whimword, an informal flashfic competition. Every week, they give you a word and you give them a story or poem of up to 500 words for their site. The winner chooses next week’s word.

This is my first time writing one, and I suspect it won’t be my last. This week’s word is ‘Locket’, and yesterday I at down and penned a Lovecraft pastiche that I was actually quite proud of. It’s not exactly stunningly original, far from it in fact. But I like it. Only problem? It was 600+ words.

Today I took a scalpel to the story, paring away anything that could be classed as surplus fat. After several goes, I took a machete to it. Turns out 500 words is difficult to stick to. Who knew? The mood changed as the cadence of the writing changed. I like the finished product, though in some ways I prefer the bloated one. Maybe I just need to mature as a writer.

I will post the story below, but first, I will also share a piece of what is becoming my writing process. When I need to sit down and write, I am getting into the habit of writing a sort of freeform stream of consciousness ramble, just to get words flowing before I light upon whatever I actually intend to write about. Tonks has said they look a bit like weird poetry, and as this is the literary equivalent of doodling, I shall call them Doodlepoems. Below, I share the one I wrote yesterday that lead me to write the story below it.

Test

Test vest rest guest quest

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy wait is the fox brown I thought they were red what the fuck

I don’t have a aim for this, I’m just going to doodle

I’m too tired and sad and hungry to focus

Focus hocus pocus louc louctus of borg

Typing until something sticks

Just waiting for the hooks to sink in and drag me aklong with them

This week’s whimwword is Locket

Locket

It’s a necklace that opens up

no shit sherlock

usually there’s a picture inside

a picture of a loved one

a picture of yourself

a picture of a toaster

it’s almost never a toaster

Doesn’t have to be a picture

a lock of hair

a tiny pebble

a grain of sand

Why would there be a grain of sand n the locket

to commemmorate th beach

a beach where something important happened

a long time ago

locket motherfucker

lock it

a lock of hair in the locked locket

the locket is locked and must never be opened

inside the locket is a secret

the secret must never be let out

david cameron fucked a pig

that’s not the secret

i just wanted to type that

The Locket

The locket belonged to my mother.

She told me never to open it, to keep it safe in its box in her basement. I forgot all about it until she died.

I ‘d been going through her things, sorting out what to give away and what to keep. The box was in a corner, small and insignificant. I opened it and found the locket tucked into a nest of papers. The papers were journal entries.

They told of a journey my mother had taken when she was a young anthropologist, a journey that took her all over the Pacific in study of local rituals and religions. That’s where she was given the locket. Her notes described the terrified people who begged her to take it far away from the sea. It was said to be connected to a series of deaths by drowning.

The notes didn’t specify what the locket contained. My mother received conflicting reports. She was told that it contained a grain of sand from the world’s first beach. The tear of a god from beyond the stars. A demon’s last breath. The soul of the sea itself.

I scoffed and didn’t read any more. I didn’t return the locket to its box, choosing instead to wear it.

That night the dreams began.

They started innocently enough. I dreamed of walking along a beach, letting the waves wash over my bare feet. As the nights went on, though, the dreams continued. I found myself wading out to sea until the waters closed over my head. I sank down to a ruined city of ancient cyclopean towers. The city was home only to fish that watched me with strangely human eyes.

By day I was exhausted, calling in sick to work, cutting off contact with my friends. Days blended into each other and I fell into a deep depression. By night I kept exploring, walking the streets until I found what I didn’t know I was looking for.

I found a temple.

I drifted up the aisles to a wide, squat altar. There was a groove in its surface where something would fit, needed to fit. In the last dream, I removed the locket and placed it on the altar. It fit.

There followed a terrible earthquake. The buildings came crashing down around me as the city rose above the waves. The sky was a maelstrom of clouds and fire, and on the distant shores I could see that the world was burning. It felt right. It felt good.

I awoke in a cold sweat, the locket clutched in one fist. It was open. It was empty.

I raised it to my ear. I could hear the sound of waves gently lapping. If I closed my eyes, I could smell seaweed and saltwater. The locket wanted to be returned to the sea. It needed to be returned to the sea.

Yesterday I booked a ticket aboard a Pacific crusie ship.

I’m sorry.

I’m so sorry.