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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

(vol 1) EPILOGUE: “Looking Back: Highs & Lows”



On Wednesday 5th February 2014 I posted my first blog post.

I had decided back then that I had to take writing more seriously. I’d been doing it half-heartedly for years but nothing had ever really come from it and I’d wasted more time than I was comfortable with.

I’ve got big goals, bigger than I’ve talked about so far, but I’m aware of baby steps. To start all I wanted was to have something I’d written available to purchase and read on an e-reader. I had 11 months. It shouldn’t have been too difficult.



PLAN A



I spent the first few months introducing myself and my plans to the world while working on several short stories. I honestly thought back then that it would just be about those seven stories and everything they needed. I planned the format, designed the cover and even drew up extra content to help fellow writers with its background and conception. But things change and you have to roll with the punches.

On the plus side I have technically had my work made available in e-book format. But I ended up going down a completely different path. Like an adventure.



WHAT WENT DOWN

Due to my fear of editing big stuff (I have the first drafts to three novels still sat on a shelf in my dining room) I had planned 2014 to be the year of short stories. It is ironic then that my year ended with something even shorter being my first rung on the publishing ladder.

Thanks to taking the plunge with Flash Fiction I found myself taken in by a newly formed group of Flash authors called the FlashDogs. I began taking part in several weekly contests and, although I’m yet to obtain top honours, my writing was good enough to get an invitation, a golden ticket to join an Anthology project a few of the Dogs were working on.

Only a few weeks before I received my invite I had begun to doubt that I would complete my goal. I had all but given up on having something I was comfortable with being released into the e-book wilds.

The stories were there but I was being put off on a weekly basis. In an effort to learn the path of self-publishing I had tagged onto a few talents out there that had succeeded. Each time I would think I was ready there would come an article or podcast that would make me spot shortcomings in my own work and my own skills.

I think it’s worked out for the best though. Being part of the anthology allowed people more skilled than I to bring their strengths to the project. Editing, formatting and cover design were well above anything I could have accomplished on my own works.

So, although the result isn’t what I’d first proposed to myself, at the end of the day my writing is out there right now, available to down load on an e-reader. And my confidence is higher than it was when I started.



LET’S NOT FORGET



Of course the whole year wasn’t just about Flash Fiction.

Although I never got my own short story compilation finished, a few of the pieces that were going to be included are a lot further on. A couple are available to read on Wattpad.

I also entered a couple of short story competitions which is something I haven’t done for a while. CONDOLENCE (also available to read on Wattpad) was entered into SFX magazines ‘Writing Dead’ competition. GLASS OF MILK was a piece I wrote for Tiny Owl Workshop and is included in the FlashDogs Anthology (available for Kindle).

I managed not one but two projects under NaNoWriMo. In July I completed the first draft of a novella called TATTOO. This is the first part in an ongoing story about a girl who is given a magical piece of body art that leads to a world of trouble. And in Novembers NaNoWriMo I worked on FALLEN SWORDS, an episodic fantasy story that I plan on releasing from early next year.



STATS



Here is 2014 in word count.

FLASH FICTION:      60 stories                  13910 words
SHORT STORIES:     3 stories                   14229 words
NANOWRIMO:         2 stories                    72614 words
                                                                    100753 words

These numbers make me happy. I normally take part in NaNoWriMo but don’t do much else for the rest of the year. So I’m over the moon that 2014 has doubled my annual average word count and I feel like I still had loads more in the tank. Obviously I tried to avoid the ‘Demons of Distraction’ but there have still been things that have had me distracted this year (my son, car accidents, house move). 

What’s more, from those 60 pieces of Flash Fiction I already have ideas to expand and explore. It’s like having a weekly ideas factory on tap.

All in all I’m happy with my first year of writing seriously and can only see things improving as I move into 2015.



ROUNDUP

Before I go just a big thank you to you guys who read this week in and week out. Thank you for your comments. Thank you for reading my fiction. Thank you for taking the time to follow what has been a very meandering journey.

I would like to thank several people by name but I'm worried that I may miss someone out and cause offence. Instead I'll just say that there were several people that have helped me get through this year. Some are friends and family, others are people dotted around the globe who I have not yet met in person. Some helped me in big ways while for others it was just a couple of blog comments or a quick 'Well Done!' via twitter. To everyone that spoke or typed even a single positive word in my direction - you're awesome and I wouldn't be looking forward to more writing in 2015 without you.

Don’t forget to check out links to fellow writers and their work (dotted around the blog). There is some fantastic talent out there.

I hope you all have a good New Year.

See you in seven.



Saturday, 27 December 2014

Flash! Friday

FF – 26th December 2014

This week there was no prompt, only the following picture.

Enjoy.




TROPHIES

For seven centuries the Dragons Three had watched over my people. They were the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. When I was a little girl I would spend many an afternoon up in the hills in the hope of catching a glimpse. Nothing made me happier than watching them soar like dancing rainbows in the sky.

The man who would be king feared our protectors. He saw challenge where there was none. As the summer left our world for another year he dug deep and paid highly for the best hunters in the land.

It saddens me to know my own children will never know a world with Dragons. All they will have are the stories passed down and the three heads that now sit in our village square.

The king calls them trophies.

We call it a warning, one that we’ve decided to ignore.



Wednesday, 24 December 2014

(vol 1) CHAPTER 46: “Liebster Award”


Back in October I was nominated by Sarah Foster over at The Faux Fountain Pen (big thanks) for the Liebster Award, a kind of “welcome to blogging / talk about yourself” thing.

I wanted to post my answers and questions earlier but what with this years NaNoWriMo and the FlashDogs Anthology release, time in front of the keyboard has been limited for these other projects.
Anyway, I thought it would be nice to do as my penultimate post of the year. Below you’ll find 11 facts about me, my answers to Sarah’s 11 questions (which are cracking) and finally my 11 questions that I will be sending out to fellow bloggers.

So let’s get going then.


JUST THE FACTS




1
My favourite movie, without doubt, is THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. I’ve loved it since I first saw it on video in 1999 and cannot switch it off if I stumble across it while channel surfing. It’s so powerful and Red’s journey at the end is perfect.


2
In 2009 I asked a couple of mates if me and the wife could tag along to their Pub Quiz night. Have been going ever since.


3
I cried at the end of the IRON GIANT. I’m man enough to admit when films have an effect on me and this animated classic did. “I go. You stay. No follow.” Gets me every time.


4
I only eat one vegetable (carrot) and one fruit (apples).


5
I have each DVD of my Star Wars Original Trilogy boxed set signed by an actor from the films.
STAR WARS – R2D2 (Kenny Baker)
EMPIRE STRIKES BACK – Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch)
RETURN OF THE JEDI – Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams)


6
My favourite band of all time is JIMMY EAT WORLD. Heard their song “The Middle” on a music channel and bought the album Bleed American that weekend. Now have all their albums and have seen them live twice (the first time was in my home town which I never thought would happen in a million years).


7
The shortest I’m worked in a job is four hours. Blockbuster took me on and then decided to ignore that part of the application form where I’d written what hours I was available to work (it was a second job and they thought I could travel 10 miles and change into uniform in a thousandth of a second).


8
I couldn’t be happier with my wedding day. I’d never given it much thought growing up (I’m a bloke so what do you expect) but when the wife and I agreed on Corfu and our closest family all said they would make it then it became more than perfect. And where did we go the day after the wedding? To the island’s water park. Awesome.


9
They say that when one door closes another opens. But what if when the door closes you just wait two years and the same one opens again. You see I worked for Company X who were based next door to their rivals, Company Y. One day Company X went bust and we all lost our jobs. Luckily most of the customers and staff moved over to company Y who even took over the property. Now, two years later I’m still working for Company Y but I’m sat back in the office I used to sit in when I worked for Company X. And I’m about five meters away from my old desk. And I do the same work. And I can see four people I used to work with at Company X from where I sit. It’s weird.


10
I’m a massive comic book fan and, as such, have a large comic collection. Although I have all the Graphic Novels a geek should own (Watchman, Batman: Year One, Sin City) my comics collection focuses on X-Men. After my brother didn’t want issue 17 of the British reprint he’d bought from out local newsagents I read it though and carried on. Once I’d found out I could buy the American issues in this country (thank you Forbidden Planet) it just exploded. Pride of my collection? Issue 300 of Uncanny X-Men signed by John Romita Jr.


11
I’ve met Stan Lee. ‘Nuff said.




ANSWERS

When I was nominated by Sarah Foster, one of the things she supplied was her own 11 questions to be answered. So here goes.

If you could dress up as anyone/anything for Halloween, what would it be?
I actually managed this two years ago when I went to a party as Max Payne. Normally I couldn’t have pulled it off with the characters original look but when Rockstar  brought out the 3rd game it was too easy. No hair on top? Check. Messy beard? Check. Tacky Hawaiian shirt? Check. With a quick trip to Toys ‘R’ Us for some plastic guns I was good to go.

If you could only write one genre of books for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Sci-Fi. My brain doesn’t stop asking ‘why’ and I love where solutions to everyday problems and issues can lead a story.

Where were you when you were struck with the idea for your current WIP? Did something trigger the idea or did you pull it out of thin air? My current project, FALLEN SWORDS, was inspired by a member of staff getting fired in front of the whole office. It looked like one thing but the following couple of days churned up rumours and speculation. It began to sound like something from Game Of Thrones. A week later I started planning a Fantasy story but using key moments and staff from my workplace as a springboard.

Who is your celebrity crush? It’s a tie. I’d drop everything for Natalie Portman but I also have a thing for Patrick Warburton’s voice. I want that voice.

What literary character would you want to be best friends with? It has to be Samuel Vimes from the Discworld novels. He’s one of my favourite literary characters of all time and I took my middle name after him.

You have to pull off a huge heist (such as robbing a casino like in Ocean's Eleven). Who do you want on your team? You can pick people you know, celebrities, or any fictional characters (but no magical powers!). James Bond, Batman and did I mention I love Natalie Portman?

What is your least favourite household chore? Cooking.

Has there ever been a book/movie/TV show that made you sob uncontrollably? I never sob uncontrollably but I damn well shed a tear on the last page of the Dark Tower. The culmination of six months reading seven epic books, staying up until 3am to get to the end and that moment when Roland opens the door and . . . no I won’t spoil it. I’ll just say that it’s so sad for the character but it was the only way it could have ended. Can’t recommend that series enough.

Has one of your favourite books ever been made into a movie and you hated it? Somehow the Lovely Bones has been on my top ten books list since I finished it. It’s so unlike anything else I read and enjoy. I was over the moon when the announced the film and felt even better when Peter Jackson was revealed as the Director. So what the hell went wrong? It’s not crap (not like The Shinning, The Phantom Menace or 8mm) but it’s just meh.

How do you take your coffee? Do you like flavoured coffee? Latte. It was my first date drink with the woman I married.

What would your demise be that gets you kicked out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory? I’m addicted to TWIX so I’d probably get cut in half.





Well that’s my part done. Now it’s time to pass this onto the three fellow bloggers and unleash eleven devious questions upon them.

My nominees are:

Mark A King at MAKING FICTION

Sinead O’Hart at SJ O’HART

Natalie Bowers at STORY SCAVENGER


QUESTIONS


01) If you could have any super power for a day, what would it be?

02) Who is the most famous person you’ve met?

03) If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be and why?

04) What was the first story you can remember writing?

05) Which book do you wish you’d written and why?

06) If you could write a sequel to a movie that doesn’t already have one how would it go?

07) If you could be on a writing panel with three other authors, who would they be?

08) You’re given a time travel device that allows only one time jump. What date do you go to?

09) What’s your biggest regret to date?

10) If you could live in any fictional world (filmed or written) where would it be?

11) What are your goals for 2015?


I’m looking forward to what answers those three come up with. If you have a free second I urge you to jump over to their sites and check them out. Great people and great writers.

Hope you enjoyed finding out a little bit more about me. Have a good Christmas; eat drink and be Merry.

See you in seven.



Friday, 19 December 2014

Flash! Friday

FF – 19th December 2014

This week there was no prompt, only the following picture.

Enjoy.


WHAT’S BETTER THAN A MILLENNIUM FALCON?

Santa looked at the grizzled detective sat across from him. “Hello Peter.”

“Hello Santa.”

“You want to tell me what I’m doing here? It’s Christmas Eve and I’ve still got places to be.”

“You’re not going anywhere. I’ve been chasing you for 32 years and I’ve finally got you.”

“Are you still mad about that? Christ Peter, you have to let it go.”

Peter ground his teeth, his mind taking him back to that Christmas morning when he was seven. “You’re going down, Claus. I’ve got you on B&E, tax evasion, illegal import of goods. You think you’re above the law? Well this is the end of the road.”

“Peter, I do my best every year but even I have my limits.”

“Excuses.”

“I’m sorry you never got your Millennium Falcon. But you can’t let your hatred ruin future Christmas’ for others. Especially your son.”

“I don’t have a son. My wife can’t . . .”

“Merry Christmas, Peter.”




GET OUT CLAUS

The large door moans as it opens. The man’s heavy, steel chains rattle as he flinches.

A large, grey skinned man in a robe walks in and sits opposite. He slams a pile of parchment down on the stone table.

“Claus Atnas, you have crossed over to the other side and now stand judgment. You’ve persisted with a life of theft. You have taken from others with no remorse. What have you to say?”

“It was steal or die. I had no choice. I’ll face my verdict.”

“Perhaps you’d like a chance to make things right? I’m here to offer you a choice; you may go to hell as a sinner. . .”

“Or?”

“We have a new role opening up topside. Something that would require someone of your . . . skill set.”

“What would I have to do?”

“How good are you at breaking in and putting things back?”



Wednesday, 17 December 2014

(vol 1) CHAPTER 45: “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”

This weekend was nothing short of an emotional roller-coaster.


THE GOOD


Let’s start with the high point. Saturday was the release of the FlashDogs Anthology. From 12:01am on Saturday 13th December, the book has been available to purchase from Amazon.

I spent that morning promoting the book via several social media channels (all while taking a train with the wife and son to go do some Xmas shopping) and watched as my fellow FlashDogs did likewise.

Yesterday we sold the 100th copy and we’re not done yet.

It’s so exciting that there is finally something out there that people can download, something that contains my work. I know that there are 33 other talented authors involved and 106 masterly crafted Flash stories surrounding my 4 but I’m in there and that’s what counts.

I’m so grateful to the friends and family who stepped forward and supported both me and the project (and charity) since Saturday. Big, big thank you to each of you.
If anyone hasn’t yet but would like to then I will stick the link at the bottom of this post.


THE BAD


I slap my wrist as I near three weeks since NaNoWriMo and I haven’t started the editing process of FALLEN SWORDS yet.

That’s not to say I haven’t done anything. I’ve spent a lot of time running things through my head moving parts around and reshaping characters. Of course I have nothing physical to show for it; nothing is on paper.

Yet.

I have some other things I need to get done this weekend regarding the blog and my usual Flash contests (as well as getting ready for some big event thing next week) but I’m hoping to be stuck into the second draft before Santa comes down your chimneys on Wednesday night.


THE UGLY


They say bad things come in threes and car accidents are no exception. First there was the VW Passat that wanted to get cosy at 30mph on a bend. Then there was the little blue Peugeot that felt like high-fiving my left wing mirror the next night.

And now the trilogy is complete. Due to bad weather conditions and what can only be described as my complete blindness, I had a coming together with a cyclist on my way to work Friday morning. I’m fine and he’s fine (and he’s also one of the nicest blokes I probably ever meet) but to say I was a little shaken up would be an understatement.

For about eight hours I was a mess. I didn’t manage to pull myself together until late in the afternoon when I decided to use last week’s Flash! Friday entry to get it all off my chest.

I took the prompt and tied it together with the accident to produce something that fellow FlashDogs called “raw”, “haunting” and “painful”. I’ve never taken emotion like that and put it into writing before. To be honest, I was a little ashamed of it (hence why I still haven’t published it on this blog). But it did the job I needed from it. I felt better.

Unfortunately, although I managed to focus some time on the Anthology release, I was extremely absent from the Flash Contests, something I’ll damn sure rectify next week. I’m missing out on so much good fiction.


FADE TO BLACK

So that was the week that was. Hopefully I’m done with accidents and I can focus on my writing. The year is nearly up and there isn’t much left to do.

Next week I’ll be posting my Liebster Award answers after being nominated by Sarah foster over at The Faux Fountain Pen. After that is my 2014 roundup and then it’s onto a new year where, if the last 12 months are to go by, anything can happen.

See you in seven



Sunday, 14 December 2014

Flash Frenzy

AH – 14th December 2014





NATIONAL PRIDE

I’m a man of action, a man of duty. Waiting is for patient men and I’m not one of them. I do everything in my power to get the job done. Of course there will always be things out of my control. Today it’s flights delayed by weather.

I consider a fix from the Starbucks opposite when I see him. He follows the tide of civvies’ as they flow out from the arrivals area. He blends in well; simple haircut, cheap glasses and a coat that screams ‘practical’. He looks like a banker on holiday.

I tuck my newspaper under my arm and head over to greet him.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag,” I say.

“Liberty and Justice for all,” he replies.

Agency talk becomes habit when you’ve been in the business as long as we have. With the formalities out of the way we hug. I take his bags and direct him to the airports nearest exit. “Nice jumper Dad,” I say. “Is that in case you forget who you work for?”

He looks down at the stars and stripes that adorn his chest. “Nothing wrong with a little national pride.”

I smile.

We near the doors when he stops. “Mind if we pop to the bathroom before the drive?”

“Of course not.” I look around and spot the universal silhouette for the men’s room off to our left. He hurries over. As I follow him in I can see he’s checking the blind spots. I want to say its habit but there’s something off about his movement.

“Everything okay, Dad?”

He turns back to me and I can see the panic on his face. “Someone is after me, son. I’m a marked man.”

“What have you done?”

“Nothing.”

I pull my pistol and aim it at his head. “Now that’s a lie.”

The wind is knocked out of him as he realises his situation.

“Not you. Not my own son.”

“You sold out your country, dad. What did you think would happen?”

“Not my own son!”

BANG!

I’m a man of action, a man of duty.



Friday, 12 December 2014

Flash! Friday

FF – 12th December 2014


This week there was no prompt, only the following picture.


While I managed to write a story for this weeks Flash! Friday (called AND OVER AGAIN) and enter it into the contest, for the moment I don't feel comfortable posting it on the blog.



Wednesday, 10 December 2014

(vol 1) CHAPTER 44: “Flash Dogs”



EVERY SAGA HAS A BEGINNING

I’ve been writing for a long time.

I went through a script phase in the late 90’s, I started proper novel length works in 2007 with the discovery of NaNoWriMo, I even once attempted poetry. And dotted through it all are a lot of short stories.

Despite all that, I discovered this year that there was another form of writing I’d never heard of called Flash Fiction. So far I’m loving it.

Through a fellow writer named Craig Anderson, I found myself taking part in Flash! Friday’s weekly writing challenge; 24 hours to write a 150 word piece of fiction based on a photo and a prompt.

It’s been great flexing my creative muscle in this new method. Before discovering this style I just wrote stuff when ideas came to me and whenever I could find the time. But with Flash Friday I had deadlines and a fixed starting point. My brain was forced to create a story from something not of my choosing.

Several months in and another Flash Writer, Jacki Donnellan convinced me to try another contest and so I found my way over to Angry Hourglass. Similar rules but with 36 hours and 360 words.

As I became more involved in these contests I began to build friendships with various Flash Fiction writers. One day a couple of them started a movement; a group that all worked together to share and inform, to help make each other better writers.



THE GOLDEN TICKET


In the early days I wasn’t sure if I could consider myself a Flash Dog. Sure, I labelled my stories ‘#FlashDog’ and took part in the Flash Fiction contests, but was there an application form I needed to fill out or an initiation to go through?

These thoughts vanished towards the end of September. Rumblings began of an anthology brewing, something FlashDog HQ was thinking about putting together. There was a message that talked about Golden Tickets being e-mailed out to the lucky authors they wanted to be part of the first collection.

And that’s when I realised I was an official FlashDog. One evening I received a DM on Twitter asking me to be involved. I replied yes so quickly that a small sonic boom erupted just above my laptop keyboard.



THE HARD WORK

And so it began. The rules were drawn up and the Dogs were let loose.

The plan was that people could submit a long piece of their own choice between 1500-5000 words or three shorter pieces of up to 500 each. That would be part one of the project. Part two would follow the format of the many Flash Fiction contests the writers taking part loved so much. A picture was chosen and sent out to us with a 500 – 1500 word limit.

This is the part I’m looking forward to most; seeing what the other 33 authors have come up with using that image.



THE PITCH

Which brings us to the sell.

There’s no two ways about it; if you’re reading this blog post and you enjoy the weekly Flash stories I post every Friday and Sunday then you will love the Anthology. I may only have read 4 of the 110 stories that have been included (mine!) but I have read enough work by the 33 other authors to know that it’s going to be something special.

So, this Saturday, when you find yourself wondering what to do next with your day, while it’s wet and cold outside and there’s nothing on TV, why not boot up your Kindle or your Kindle app and download the Flash Dogs Anthology and get stuck in.



PREVIEW


Just a quick lowdown on the four stories I have going into the Anthology.


If You Go Down To The Woods Today

This is the shortest of my entries but also the one I’m proudest of. Back at the beginning of July I wrote it as my entry to that week’s Flash Fiction. Not only did it get me my highest finish (since matched but not yet beaten), it also gave the wonderful Rebekah Postupak the chance to talk through what she liked about the piece, an article that put a lump in my throat.


Glass Of Milk

This was the Krampus story I wrote for the Krampus competition back in August. I originally planned to post it on my blog as the festive season closed in but as soon as I got the call from FlashDog HQ I knew that I wanted it in.


My Nemesis

The first of my two original pieces written for the anthology, My Nemesis was an idea I thought up on the spot after dropping another story I wasn’t happy with. More than anything else, I love superhero stories, whether it’s in comic book or novel form (I’m a massive X-Men fan!) so I thought it best if that small genre was represented.


Tanks For The Help

The other original piece, this is the story based on the prompt. I’m extremely proud of the result and already have ideas to expand the story itself into something bigger. It’s a little weird and sci-fi but I think it’s something that conveys the kind of stories I like to tell.



3 SLEEPS TO GO


And that’s it. I know I’m looking forward to reading the other 106 stories contained within. I’m extremely proud to be part of the project and, no matter what else happens down the road, this will always be the first electronic release to contain my work.

A massive pat-on-the-back to the wonderful folk over at FlashDog HQ who have worked so hard that I think we should come up with a new word to sum up their efforts. From cover and poster designs to proof reading and formatting, they have been the glue that has kept the rest of the Dogs together.

And of course let’s not forget the rest of the Dogs themselves who have worked so hard with each other to bring you, the Flash Fiction reading public, the best bang for your buck (a buck that will be going to a fantastic charity – the IBBY).

May this be the first of many Anthology’s for this intrepid group of flash fiction adventurers and who knows, in 10 years’ time wouldn’t it be great to be releasing books under the FlashDog Publishing House.

Just a thought.

See you in seven.



Sunday, 7 December 2014

Flash Frenzy

AH – 6th December 2014





WHERE’D HE GO?

“I don’t understand,” says Jake. “I can’t see the trail on the other side.”

He’s right. He usually is. Of course my brother don’t do much else than state the obvious so he’s rarely wrong by default.

“He musta stayed in the water,” I say. I look left and right, up and down the icy stream. Clever bastard is trying to lose us by not leaving prints in the snow.

“What do you wanna do now?” says Jake.

“You cross over. We’ll follow it downstream from either side.”

“What if he went thataway?” says Jake. He points in the opposite direction to the one I’ve proposed.

“He’s dumb but not that dumb. Upstream takes him back towards town. No, he’s going this way. Let’s not waste time chatting about it.”

Jake nods and that’s when the Wendigo drops from its spot high up in the tree. The thing should have flattened my brother straight into the ground only Jake’s  been dead going on seven years now and his corporeal form don’t feel a thing.

As for the Wendigo, the bastard was more clever than I’d thought, doubling back and hiding up with the squirrels like that.

Jake tries to keep the thing distracted while I reach into my jacket pockets

I pull a glass jar from my left pocket and throw it at the Wendigo. The jar smashes against its chest and the liquid contained within spills out and soaks its patchy fur. The creature’s attention is on me now and it looks pissed. It bares its teeth and starts wading through the snow towards me.

I pull my other hand from the right jacket pocket and hold up my trusty lighter. I spark it up, the tiny flame now the only source of heat for miles around.

I wonder if the person the creature used to be can remember what gasoline smells like.