Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

I’ve finally done it – I’ve gone and self-published my first ebook.

It’s called The Horror in the Library and Other Stories, and it can be found over on Smashwords where it will cost you the princely sum of zero of your English pounds. That’s right, it’s completely free!

Why? Well, there’s only four stories in there – it’s a sampler, a taste of things to come, a sort of literary EP. If I can get people to read it, maybe they’ll enjoy it. And if they enjoy it, maybe they’ll want more. And if they want more, maybe I’ll be motivated to write harder to give them more.

How can you read it if you don’t have a smartphone, a Kindle or other such device! I’m glad you asked! My recommendation is to download a program like Calibre – it’s free and will let you read ebooks of all different types and formats (which means you can take advantage of the Humble Bundle book bundles more often!). I’m reliably informed that there are browser extensions that will let you read ebooks in your browser, but to be honest I’m not sure how much I trust them, so downloader beware.

I’d like to ask you all a quick favour – even if you don’t want to read the stories (which is fair enough), could you please spare a moment to spread the link to the book around a little? That way it might get in the eyes of people I don’t know, which is an absolute win as far as I’m concerned.

If you do read the stories, be sure to tell me what you think in the comments!

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Writing is hard. In my experience, it involves squinting hard at a screen then typing a handful of words, only to immediately delete most of them. Rinse, lather, repeat until braindeath. It’s nice when it comes easily, when you get into the flow of it, but that’s pretty rare for me.

That’s where writing exercises come in. I need to engage in these more often. They’re a way of flexing brain muscles that I’ve been letting atrophy. A drabble here, a stream of consciousness there. It doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I write.

One of my favourite exercises is the Six Word Story. The aim is to write a self-contained story that says everything it needs to say in just six words. The most famous one is attributed to Ernest Hemingway, though there’s doubt as to whether or not he actually wrote it : “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” There’s a whole story’s worth of sorrow in those six words alone.

I find it difficult to get a whole story in six words, but that’s why it’s a challenge. Here’s a few I came up with :

What goes up sometimes comes down.

I thrash, I flail, I sink.

I aim my gun. Still miss.

Since you left, I’ve been sleeping.

“Please don’t,” she said. I did.

“Please don’t.” I did it anyway.

Do Not Push? What could possibly-

No experience? No job for you.

Play it again, Sam. No? Ok.

Sad songs, empty glass. She’s gone.

Screams. Heart pounding. Crying. Baby boy.

“Look out for-!” SPLAT. “… never mind.”

My stomach hurts. Get it out.

Ate Dad. Could have tasted better.

Got super powers. Jumped. Couldn’t fly.

Dead on arrival. Why’s he moving?

Where’s the holy water? Oh shit.

I loved her. Now she’s gone.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Click.

Now cut the red NO WAIT

I should write. What’s on TV?

The stench of death. How lovely.

The words won’t come. Blank screen.

Plastic bottle, plastic bag, plastic flesh.

I bite down and drink deep.

The hunger burns. I eat more.

Feel free to share your own in the comments!

Just a short blog post this time, to share an idea I had a year or so ago that I wish I had the commitment and discipline to try. It’s probably been done at least once before, but it still would have been nice to try.

My idea was this – I would recruit 5 or so friends and set up Twitter accounts with them. Each of us would have a character, based in Nottingham and close enough to our own selves that it’d ring true. Those of us with actual proper Twitter accounts would introduce them as friends, and encourage their followers to connect with them. Naturally, all the fictional accounts would follow each other.

Things would proceed in a very normal, natural manner. Lunches would photographed. Movies would be live-blogged. Hashtag games would be played. Over time, a community would be built around them, a phenomenon which I’ve seen happen many times over Twitter.

This would take two years.

Two years of business as normal, with no one realising that they’re interacting with fictional characters. Until, one day, an Inciting Incident happens. Maybe one of the characters is bitten by a shambling stranger. Maybe someone checks a dusty old book out of the library and livetweets the contents. Or someone witnesses  strange lights in the sky, loses time and starts to doubt their sanity.

In short, things would get Weird.

It would spiral into chaos across the fictional accounts – and the proper accounts of those running the fakes ones. That would lend it a bit of credibility. Before you knew it, Twitter would be abuzz with talk of aliens, zombies, demons, who knows what. All because 5 or 6 supposedly real, credible accounts suddenly went consistently haywire.

It would be a small scale 30s War of the Worlds radio broadcast scenario and it would be beautiful.

There are, of course, three problems with it. Firstly, it’s a bit ethically dubious. All the interactions with real people would feel dishonest, deceitful. Is that justified by the art itself? Probably not. Secondly, I’d need to recruit a few friends and wrangle them efficiently. Which leads into the third point : I just don’t have the self-discipline for this.

A project of this scale would require more than just ambition, it would require iron will and strong focus. I’d need to stay consistent in characterisation, over a course of a year or more, interacting with as many people as possible both as myself and as a fictional character. And then to keep track of everything once the madness starts? Whew.

I might still do it. If I can find enough people to join me, and if I can convince myself I have the focus, and if I can be ok with misleading my Twitter followers a bit. Of course, if anyone actually reads this then they’ll instantly know what I’m up to when it starts, but I doubt that many of my Twitter followers read the blog!

So, there you have it. The Great Twitter Deception. If anyone thinks this is a good idea and would like to convince me to do it, I’m open to arguments! In the meantime, it’ll just stay as yet another interesting pipe dream. Along with my potential standup career and podcast.

I’m good at pipe dreams.

I’ve got something very special for you all today – in today’s blog post, I’m going to throw open the windows of my mind and let you peer in at my brain. Not literally, you understand, that would be dangerous and icky. It would also involve installing a window in my head, and then I’d have to measure it for blinds, and that’s just too much like work.

Anyway.

This blog post will allow you an exclusive insight into the thought processes of that most secretive of creatures, the Writer. Marvel at the astounding leaps of logic! Quail before the mysterious power of wordcraftery! Titter behind your hand at the rampant egotism! Come one, come all, and see the marvellous Writer in action! Tickets are £3.67 payable in all of your Earth currencies or by logging into Paypal in your dreams and imagining that you’ve sent the money across to me.

And now, with no further ado, I give you… Dave Daring.

Dave Daring

It was a dark and stormy night.

Wait, what? Shit. Shit no. I can’t start it like that. That’s the sort of thing a high-schooler starts a creative writing assignment with. That’s amateur hack cliché stuff. Dark and stormy night, fuck the dark and stormy night.

But I’ve got to set the mood. I mean, it’s a horror story, right? You can’t start a horror story with ‘It was a lovely sunny day,’ can you? There are rules.

Let’s see…

A blood-curdling scream ripped through the night.

Better! Blood-curdling scream, good stuff. Ok, who’s doing the screaming?

Barbara Devonshire pounded through the woods, her huge bosom heaving with-

No.

Steve Devonshire pounded through the woods, his massive cock heaving with-

NO.

The hideous monster pounded through the woods-

Ok, let’s drop the woods. And the pounding. Rethink this whole thing.

What’s scary? In terms of settings?

Woods. Caverns. Graveyards. Haunted castles. Empty hospitals. Abandoned amusement parks.

Graveyards might be good. Screaming in a graveyard, that could be a good mood-setter.

A blood-curdling scream ripped through the night. The graveyard, normally home only to the dead, was now teeming with life – terrible, horrible life, bent on the destruction of all humankind.

Nice. Grand scope. What does the bad guy want? Nothing less than the destruction of all humankind. The stakes are high.

I hefted my shotgun and aimed it at the lead creature.

“I don’t know what you are,” I drawled, “but I know what you’re gonna be – wormfood!”

I pulled the trigger and the creature blew apart, claws and tentacles flying, drenching me in ichor.

What the hell is ichor, anyway? Man, why do people have to use such stupid words for such simple things. Slime, I’ll say slime instead.

I wiped the slime out of my eyes and gritted my teeth heroically.

“No need to go to pieces,” I said.

Wait, does that even mean anything in that context? I mean, he blew it to pieces, so it’s gone to- oh, never mind, I’m sure it’s ok.

More hideous creatures gathered around me, surrounding me and hissing. This was not good.

More mood-setting, very important stuff, got to sell the danger factor here.

They were seven foot tall and covered with razor sharp teeth, but I wasn’t scared. It was all in a day’s work for Dirk Daring

Wait, has that name been used before? I get the feeling it’s been used before, like in a videogame or something.

It was all in a day’s work for Dave Daring.

Nailed it.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my collapsible chainsaw.

“All right, suckerheads,” I said snarlingly, “prepare to meet your maker!”

“They already have – me!” cried a mysterious voice from behind a nearby gravestone.

MYSTERY! Always add a surprise villain.

“What?” I cried with shock. From behind the gravestone stepped my arch enemy, the evil Doctor Medical.

“It is I, Doctor Medical!” said Doctor Medical. “You have fallen into my trap for the last time, Dave Daring!”

“I think not, Doctor Medical,” I said, starting my chainsaw. I whirled it around my head and lopped off several monsters’ tentacles and arms. They howled with pain and the floor became slippery with blood. I killed many more monsters but more kept coming, and my arms were tired from swinging the chainsaw. I was doomed.

Oh shit, I’ve written myself into a corner. How the hell is he going to get out of this one? Think think think think AHA

I threw my chainsaw to the floor.

“Alright, Doctor Medical, you have what you want. Come and get me.”

“I thought you’d never ask,” he cried, gathering me up into his arms for a passionate kiss. The monsters all clapped their hands and tentacles. Doctor Medical and I were married the next day, and we moved into the graveyard to live happily ever after with our family of monsters.

I’m the best fucking novelist since Ernest Hemmingway.

chimney swift by Ed Schipul

I have trouble letting go.

I have trouble letting go of preconceptions, of prejudices, of anger, of self-pity. I have trouble letting go of a lot of things.

Most of all, I have trouble letting go of my writing. I’m fiercely protective of it, knowing that if I spend more time on it I can polish it up and make it shine and sing and dance and do all the things that you expect a really dazzling piece of work to do. This is ultimately quite damaging, as the more I look at it the more flaws I spot and the more I resent it. Then I’m likely to never let it out into the real world.

I’m getting better, though. I’ve published a couple of short literary doodles on this very blog, and have managed to have enough scripts prised from my hands that we have a nice backlog of short films now. But still the temptation is there, the temptation to hoard and my work and clutch it to my chest and hiss ‘mine!’ at anyone who thinks I should actually do something with it.

This is a roundabout way of saying that I’ve just submitted 3 scripts to the Create50 The Impact competition. Are they perfect? No, and I have to be ok with that. Are they the best I can do at this moment in time? Yes, and that’s important to me. If I’d held onto them and tried to polish them, I’d have ended losing faith and never submitting them before the deadline. And not submitting anything at all would have been a crime. Nothing ventured, nothing something something etc etc, right?

So, with the help of a couple of beta readers (to whom I’m supremely grateful), I have finished the scripts to the best of my ability and sent them out, releasing them into the big wide world to fend for themselves. Will they soar above the heads of their peers? Will they stand out from the flock? Will they be torn to shreds or sucked into a plane engine? Will this extended metaphor never end? Who knows. Who knows.

Check out all the scripts (not just mine)(but do please read mine) over at the Create50 website. I think you’ll agree this project is shaping up to be a very interesting one indeed.

Stay tuned for the sound of your fingers tapping away rapidly at your keyboard as you write a comment on this post.

Picture: Chimney Swift by Ed Schipul, CC BY-SA 2.0