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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 16: “Deadlines”

2015 WORD COUNT = 22146 words


The gears turn, the arm moves, the clock ticks, and another minute of our time goes by.

I always feel like I’m busy. I get up and get my son ready for the childminders before heading off to work. Once home its son to bed, chores, dinner, something good on television (nearly finished Daredevil season 1) or maybe a little play time on the Xbox (loving Assassins Creed IV at the moment).

And I also like to write.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t plan my time perfectly. It vexes me that my brain is over productive while I’m busy and I find ideas hitting me left, right, and centre with no way to jot anything down. Then I get home and stare at a blank Word doc while I’m dodging tumbleweeds.

I use some of my annual leave throughout the year to have writing days. I love these. Say goodbye to wife and son for the day, get breakfast and then get stuck in. Maybe a movie around lunch time before diving straight back to the story. I was most productive during both last year NaNo projects on days off.

But, for the rest of the time, I find my writing mood fleeting.

Thank God for deadlines.


Nothing gets my creative juices pumping like a good deadline. I used to pop in and out of the writing mood but I changed my habits a little when I started to write this blog. No matter what else was going on, no matter what I was working on, I had a post to put up on a Wednesday evening come hell or high water.

And so far (touch wood) I’ve done it. Sixty Five posts with no breaks.

This year I took it to the next level. Inspired by Betsy Streeter (check out this fantastic interview with her here) I decided to post a story in instalments. So far it’s going well but I will let you in on a little secret.

I am working off the first draft I wrote last November. Each few weeks I take a chunk of the story and see how the flow can be divided up into episodes. Sometimes I need to add stuff to a scene while other times (like episodes 2 and 3) I have to write from scratch because I realised something was missing from the original draft.

But, even though I have a 50,000+ word draft and even though I have more detailed plans going up to episode 14, I don’t seem to be able to knuckle down and get it written. I’d like to have ‘banked’ episodes so that I can work further down the line. I’d honestly like to release them weekly. But for some reason I don’t. Even now, with episode 7 due in 48 hours, I still don’t have a version I’d like to hand over to my two editors.

It was the same in school. It didn’t matter if it was just a weekend or the summer holidays; that homework got done on the Sunday before I went back to school.

I know I’ll get it done. I have for the last six episodes, after all. But I just wish I was better. I started this whole thing last year because I wanted to write regularly and get my work out there. Well, mission accomplished. Now I think it’s time to turn up the gas and produce more. I need to have that stuff in reserve. It’s not about multiple projects; it’s about being ahead of myself and not leaving things to the last minute.


The one plus to the deadlines is that I find I’m most creative under that pressure. Take the upcoming FlashDogs Anthology 2, for example. Once the prompt photos were handed pout I spent the first two weeks with diddly squat. And then, when ideas did come they were, in my honest opinion, crap. Ten years ago I would have been happy with them. Hell, maybe even this time last year. But I can do better now, I’ve proved it.

I panicked a little, sure. But the closer I got to the dead line (less than four weeks now including final edits) the better it got. Old ideas fell away. Something new burned inside my imagination. I’m hoping to get two drafts sent for proofing this weekend while I work on another two.

I have butterflies, my nerves are jangling, as I get closer to the end of May. But there’s something else there, something like inspiration. The pressure is helping.


How about you guys? Do you grab an idea and let it flow onto the page in its own time? Or, like me, do you need that date marked on a calendar to light a fire under you but. And for you readers out there, how often do you want stories fed to you? Do plots fade away if the intermissions are too long? Do you like to binge and plough through story after story?

Feel free to let me know in the comments or on twitter. I’m off now to get stuck into episode 7 of FRACTURED DAWN (48 hours and counting).

See you in seven.



Sunday, 26 April 2015

Flash Fiction Roundup

Welcome to this weeks roundup of my Flash Fiction entries.


MICRO BOOKENDS

As sure as bears s**t in the woods, Thursday brings the challenge of concocting another 'Chris and Mike vs' story.

This week I decided to carry on from where I left off and have our two monster hunters still stuck in the labyrinth. For now they have evaded the mad man who is chasing them down but that doesn't mean they're safe.


CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE CHAMBER OF FLAMES

“George says it’s this way,” said Chris as they entered a cavernous chamber.

Mike hoped so. They’d been following this mysterious spectral knight for several hours; this pale guide with his glowing cloak. And somewhere out there a maniac was still hunting them.

Mike joined Chris who was looking up. High above he could just see a tiny shaft of daylight.

“Freedom,” he said.

The knights cloak dropped to the ground. The air shifted and a deep growl danced across their chests.

Mike raised his torch. “The wall’s moving.”

A sudden jet of flame illuminated the chamber.


“That’s no wall,” said Chris. “That’s a dragon.”



FLASH! FRIDAY

After seeing this weeks Flash! Friday photo I couldn't rid my mind of the old black and white comedy movies of the forties and fifties. With this still lingering, and my friends suggestion to incorporate the Avengers (as I was seeing the new Marvel movies that night and was quite excited about it) I put together an alternate 1950's Avengers. The revamped names were a lot of fun and I hope I get to expand the idea in the future.

By the way, Avengers: Age of Ultron was awesome!!!


THE RETRIBUTIONERS

“Oh, James,” says Sophia. “I’ve had a wonderful time. When will I see you again?”

“Well, how about we drive out to the country this weekend?”

Sophia smiles as James opens the apartment door for her to leave. A plump, middle aged man stands waiting.

“Professor Banter,” says James. “Long time, no see.”

 “Mr Park, I’m here to ask for your assistance. There is an imminent threat to our great city.”

“No dice, Professor. I don’t do that anymore.”

“What’s he talking about, James.”

“Nothing, Sophia. He’s talking crazy and about to leave.”

“Ganesh and Lt. Liberty are standing ready over at Central Park. I’m joining them now.”

“Well, I wish you good luck.”

“We could really do with the Mighty Man of Steel by our side.”

“War’s over, Professor. I’m not that guy anymore.”

Banter sighs as he turns to leave.

“Out of interest, Professor,” says James. “Who’s this week’s villain?”

Banter stops in the doorway. “Our greatest nemesis has returned. He left Russia this morning and has crossed the Atlantic with an army of mechanical men.”

“Killer Kremlin is coming here, to New York City? I owe that man a right hook full of justice.”

“My hero,” says Sophia.


“Let me suit up, my old friend. Retributioners unite!”



ANGRY HOURGLASS

As always I sat on this one at first and couldn't come up with much. But that changed once I fired the laptop up. The idea of the two brothers changed only slightly as it spilled onto the page and hardly changed in edits.

Just to warn you folks; it's another depressing one. Sorry.


At The Finishing line

Do you remember the day it all changed for us, Elliott? Do you remember when we cut the ribbon on that crappy little building, our first company headquarters? We were just two brothers setting out to change the world. We were going to do it all. We were going to live like kings.

What happened, little Elliott? What went wrong?

We had the money, the fame, the success. Our company still dominates the globe. We were fixing it, making the world a better place for the people living in it.

So why am I sitting here, now, feeling like I lost.

Of course, you don’t know what I’m going through, do you? The coin always turns up heads for you, little Elliott. You lived the dream and then some. What I don’t get is why I didn’t get the same. Where is my super model wife? Where are my beautiful children? What did you have, little brother, what did you have that I didn’t? Why did the whole God damn world love you and not me too?

I wasn’t a bad person. I never gambled. I never fought. I never cheated. Hell, how could I? I’d need to be with someone in the first place to be able to cheat on them.

It’s, it’s not that I hate you. I’m not jealous of you, merely your success. I did everything right, I was with you for the whole journey, brother. So why am I sat in my penthouse apartment all alone?

I can’t handle being your shadow anymore. It wasn’t enough to have the success. I wanted more. I wanted to be someone. I wanted to mean something.

I love you brother. Guess I’ll see you on the other side.

BEEP. END MESSAGE

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 15: “FlashDogs: The Return”

2015 WORD COUNT = 21538 words


FLASHDOGS EPISODE II
A NEW MASTER

Alone in the quiet village of Portchester, a young writer
struggles with his dreams of finishing just some of the
many stories that fill his notebooks.

Taken in by a mighty Dragoness with the hopes of honing
his skills and controlling his vivid yet wild imagination, the
young writer discovers that he is not alone.

The FlashDogs, a mighty writing alliance, is soon formed.
Using their skills for good they band together to produce
an Anthology that could save the entire galaxy.




FLASHDOGS EPISODE II - THE FLASHDOGS STRIKE BACK

Last year had an awesome ending what with the release of the FlashDogs first Anthology. What’s that you say? First? But wouldn’t that mean . . ?

Yes, yes it would. Another is coming. In fact two more are coming. You see, the FlashDogs didn’t create an exceptional collection, put it up for sale, pat each other on the backs and then go our separate ways. Oh no. That’s not what FlashDogs do.

While most of us got back to personal projects (see FRACTURED DAWN) and our relaxing routine of Flash Fiction contests, all filled with newfound found optimism, the folks over at FDHQ were busy concocting a plan to create something better than that first Anthology.

It can’t be done, you say.

Ha! Ye of little faith. Did you see what we did before? Did you turn page after page of that first Anthology and weep/laugh/gasp?

That was the rookie book; something created by a talented group of people finding their way. But now they, now we, know what we’re doing. As I type this I don’t hold a finished product because there isn’t one. And I lack precognitive powers too. But I know the plan. I know what the FlashDogs have been asked to do and the idea . . . well, just trust me, if you like Flash Fiction and if you like collections, then you’re going to love this.



MY PART IN ALL THIS MADNESS

We’ve had the photo prompts for a while now and I’ve spent weeks brainstorming, trying to come up with something that will blow readers clear out of the water.

I’ll admit I’ve struggled. It’s been tough. I’ve mentioned before that it’s that whole ‘second album’ syndrome. I don’t want my work to be deadweight to the book. I want to impress both the readers and my peers.

I had some ideas early on but they felt clich├ęd. I tried to walk away from them but my mind was stuck in the tar pit of those loose plots and I struggled to free myself, to clamber away and start a fresh.

Thank fully I was lifted when I saw on Twitter that others were in similar situations. I’d fallen back into that world of the lonely writer, completely forgetting that the FlashDogs aren’t just about publishing, they’re a support group first and foremost. Seeing others talk about their frustration or moaning that they must find more time while our fearless leaders calmed nerves (mine included – thank you Mark) allowed me to take a deep breath, relax my imagination, and remember why I’m doing this.

It’s not about impressing. It’s not about being published. Not yet.

Right now it’s about doing what I love and that’s taking a prompt, letting it loose in my mind and seeing what craziness comes out the other side. And then just running with it. How do you think I came up with that story last year about a guy in a post-apocalyptic world driving across the country in a tank that has his dead mothers consciousness merged with the vehicles AI control system.
So far I have one story in a good draft and an idea for the next. I’m feeling it now. I’m finding my groove (just like Stella!).

Obviously at this early stage I don’t want to be the one that spills the beans regarding the plans. As before, information will be released as and when it needs to be.

Until then, I will leave you with the new Anthology banner designed by the ever skillful, Tamara Rogers.

See you in seven.


Sunday, 19 April 2015

Flash Fiction Roundup

Welcome back to another round up of a weeks worth of Flash Fiction.


MICRO BOOKENDS

The saga that is Chris And Mike vs continues and I'm in awe at fans suggestions for producing novels, flash collections and graphic novels. It's humbling when a group of people get behind a writer so positively. I'm grateful to everyone who has said a nice thing about my mini project that is soon to become one of my main projects (more on that in a future post).

This weeks was interesting. I decided not to look to much into what the picture was of and, instead, what I saw in a quick glance.

I struggled for a while to get a cohesive plot and then decided I do something crazy and write it in the form of a poem.


CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE LABYRINTH OF SHADOWS

Silent was the labyrinth as the boys stirred from slumber.
In the darkness they were trapped and in much perilous danger.

They’d been plucked from their beds by a grey feathered crow.
Now their predicament was delivered by their most heinous foe.

“I warned you my task was to hunt you and kill you.
Now a fight to the death in this maze shall ensue.”

Unmasking this villain would be their reward.
As Chris gripped his bow and Mike grabbed his sword.

They summoned their courage and prayed for good luck.

And if they got out alive this tale would make a great film.



FLASH! FRIDAY

It was another busy Friday at work and that, coupled with the fact that I saw the picture as a bridge instead of a prison wall, meant I was struggling to get something decent done that evening.

I don't think these are my best pieces but I do like how different they are to each other.


YUCK

Why does she do it?

It’s because she hates me. What other reason is there?

I tell her every time that I don’t like beef stroganoff but she keeps cooking, keeps making me eat it.
There’s loads of foods I don’t like but this is the worst. It tastes disgusting, it looks disgusting and it smells like a word I’m not allowed to say.

Okay, so I can see the joy on her face as she dances around the kitchen. Since dad left this room has become her happy place. Most nights we sit at the table, just mum and me, and all she needs is my yummy noises.

Fish and chips.

Shepherd’s Pie.

And Sunday’s tasty, tasty roast.

But every now and then she makes beef stroganoff and then she makes me eat every last bit.
I normally don’t have any bad feelings against our dining room table. It’s where I draw, or build Lego or where we play our board games.

But when beef stroganoff is on the menu it becomes my prison, a place I can’t leave until the warden is happy. I’m trapped at the table until I finish every last chunk.

Yuck.



SPOIL THE BROTH

I’ve got three years left on my sentence.

To some that sounds like a lifetime. But I’ve crossed off twelve years already so it’s nothing more than the home stretch.

At least it was.

I blame them, obviously. It was their fault, their ‘clerical error’ that put me into a compromising situation. I mean, come on! Look at my record. I was put away for murdering my wife’s family with poison. I feed them a tasty roast dinner that was laced with poison.

Poison!

So was it the best idea to put me in charge of the prison kitchen when the regular guy called in sick? Of course not!

You stick a steak in front of a lion, he’s gonna eat it.

You put a football in front of a young boy, he’s gonna kick it.

You place a vat full of soup in front of a man who doesn’t like many of his cellmates and he’s gonna do something about it.

Warden got fired. Couple of inmates found their freedom via body bags.

Me? I’ve had ten years added to my sentence.

Think I might take cookery class to pass the time.



ANGRY HOURGLASS

For most of the weekend I couldn't come up with anything that wasn't close to my previous entry HIS MASTERS VOICE.

However, a therapeutic walk with my wife and son managed to clear my head and the magic came one again.


FROM BEYOND THE GROOVE

I set the needle down and took a step back. I didn’t know what to expect.

There was a low humming sound as the groves of the record glowed electric blue. Smoke began to trail from the needle, collecting next to my dining room table and forming the shape of a person.

A person I hadn’t seen in a long time.

The needle reached the centre of the record and the process was complete. The man coughed a little and rubbed his eyes, looking around and trying to get his bearings.

Then he looked straight at me.

“Who the hell are you?”

I hadn’t really expected this to work so I hadn’t thought about what I should say first. I didn’t want to startle him by just blurting out the facts; he’d been trapped in that record for a long time.

“Perhaps you should sit down?”

“Screw that. Only a few people knew about my trick. How did you know to release me?”

So much for being gentle with him. “It’s me, dad. It’s Anthony.”

“Anthony? My Anthony? No, that can’t be right. You’re old enough to a pensioner.”

“It’s me, dad. Little Ant Man.”

That did it. He stepped a little closer, searching for that something that spoke to him on a much deeper level. His eyes widened when he found it and he rushed forward. It was good to feel his arms around me again. It had been a long time since my dad had hugged me. After a couple of minutes he stepped back, trying to take it all in.

“What happened? Why are you so old?”

“It’s been almost fifty years since you sealed yourself in that record.”

“Fifty years! Fifty years! It was supposed to be for a couple of weeks, just until the bookies gave up chasing what I owed. Why the hell would your darling mother leave me in there for fifty years?”

“She found out you’d been gambling again.”

“That bitch. I knew I couldn’t trust her.”

He walked over to the dining room window and gazed out.

“So, this is the future?”

“It’s kinda the present, dad. I’ll fill you in.”

Friday, 17 April 2015

FRACTURED DAWN - episode 6

Previously on Fractured Dawn . . .

A man wakes on a beach with no memory and discovers a strange purple stone embedded in his chest. Through a series of altercations he finds himself in the town of Bridgewood, a tree farming community far from the larger cities of the state.
To pay off damages caused in a bar fight, the man now known as Cook works in the kitchen of the Highwayman’s Hat.
But people are nervous of the stranger and are not afraid to let him know.




Cook stared at himself in the mirror. The face looking back was still new to him, still a stranger. He traced a light scar from his left brow to the cheek below. His nose looked like it may have once been broken. Even one of his teeth had a tiny chip.
His face had a history, a tale laced with experiences, and he knew none of it. All he could account for was the bump on the back of his head courtesy of Tanel and the bruise on his forehead from his recent bar fight.
He splashed water over his face and stared again at the man looking back. The grinning man with the purple glowing eyes.
Before Cook realised anything was wrong the reflection reached through the mirror and stabbed him in the throat with an ornate knife. The room filled with evil laughter as blood flowed down Cook’s chest and dripped onto the floor.
The world faded to purple.

R

Cook sat up in bed and reached for his throat. There was no wound, no knife. Only sweat. He threw off the sheets and got out of bed. He caught his breath as he crossed the room and stood looking at himself in the room’s only mirror, a man highlighted in the faint tint of the night’s moon, the purple stone in his chest glowing softly. He balled his fist and punched the mirror. A spider web of cracks spread from beneath his knuckles.
He returned to bed, content.

R

It was still early morning when Cook arrived back at the beach. With no real knowledge of the towns surrounding area, he’d figured the best place to get away from people was also the only other place he knew.
Things had changed dramatically since the afternoon he’d woken up in the sand. While the spot that he’d woken was host to a few small objects, further down the beach the rest of the ship wreck was clawing its way up into the sands. It was as if a God had scooped the ship from the seas and thrown it towards the nearest landmass. Timber, sails and furniture littered the beach As far as Cook could see.
Not knowing where to start, Cook walked among the wreckage sifting through anything and everything, trying to find something familiar. All it would take was one thing to cause everything to come flooding back; something with his name on or a picture that might cause some small memory to unravel just enough.
Or maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t he only survivor to wash ashore. A person or persons could be hidden out there among the wreckage, someone with answers.
“Hello?” he called out.
Nothing.
He headed to his left and climbed up a small, rocky outcrop to get a better look. On the other side of the outcrop was a large section of the ship’s bow that rested against the rocks like a head laying on a pillow.
Cook surveyed the carnage.
“Hello?”
Still nothing; no reply, and no movement. His hopes were slowly dashed. He sat on the rocks and looked out to sea, wishing he didn’t have this hope, this need for unlocking his mind. It hurt too much each time that he begun to realise the futility of it all. There was nothing there, nothing at all. His past wasn’t on the edge, just out of sight. It wasn’t teasing him with small glimpses. There was nothing at all. Nothing except this beach and the town of Bridgewood.
“Why are you looking so glum?”
Cook turned to see Tanel making her way through the ship’s wreckage.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Nice to see you too.”
“Are you following me?”
“In a way, yes,” she replied with a smile. “Father thought it was best you not be left alone in your current state.”
“My current state?”
“I know you think you’re big and tough,” she said as she climbed the outcrop to join him, “but you’re lost in a big, big world and you don’t know the rules that surround you. You’ve got into two fights in as many days.”
He tapped his chest. “I’ll be fine, remember.”
Tanel stepped up closer. “You might want to keep that little fact to yourself. If I had a strange rock stuck in me that granted mysterious powers I’d worry about what kind of people found out about it.”
“You mean like your sheriff?”
“Sheriff Lenton?”
“He came to see me last night,” said Cook. “Made it clear what he thought of me.”
“Sheriff Lenton can be a bit of a tough nut but he only has the town’s interests at heart.”
“That much was clear.”
“What did he say to you?”
Cook turned away from Tanel and gave his attention back to the sea. “He said enough for me to know that once my debt with Dusty is clear I’ll need to look for somewhere else to lay my head.”
“He would never kick someone out of town,” said Tanel. “Especially someone who was in trouble.”
“Why would I make it up?”
Tanel went to object but thought better of it. “Maybe you could speak to my father. He can say something.”
“I’m not here to cause trouble, Tanel. I may not know where I am from but it’s not here, it’s not Bridgewood. There’s no point in fighting to belong. The sooner I go looking for answers the sooner I’ll find them.”
“Fine,” said Tanel. She looked around at the shipwreck they were both stood at the centre of. “Did you find anything among all this crap?”
“Nope,” he replied. “Nothing at all.
“It looks like it was a big ship,” said Tanel. “It’s strange you were the only survivor.”
“Right now I’d be happy to find a body,” said Cook. “Just to know I wasn’t alone on this ship.” He started to climb down the rocks when movement caught his eye. “Hey!”
“What is it?” said Tanel. She followed the direction Cook was looking but saw nothing.
“There was someone there,” he said. “By those crates.”
“Are you sure?” said Tanel, but Cook ignored her and scrambled down the rocks. She chased after him. “Wait. It could be those bandits. News of the wreckage will travel fast. Looters will take everything they can.”
Cook continued to ignore her. He jumped down to the sand and sprinted towards where he’d seen the person. “Hey!” he yelled. “I need to talk to you.” He could hear Tanel cursing as she struggled down from the rocks but he didn’t care. If it wasn’t a bandit or a looter then it could be someone with answers. Hope burned alive in him again. He leapt a pile of shattered barrels still roped to a pallet and ducked under the large side section of the ship. He came to a sudden stop when he saw who it was.
The woman with the red hair.
“You again.” He felt his anger rising. This mysterious, silent woman who’s only purpose was to taunt him. “Why are you doing this?”
She gave a hand gesture but it meant nothing to him.
“Just tell me who you are.”
The woman shook her head and gave the gesture again.
“Damn it!”
“Cook,” called Tanel from somewhere nearby. “Where are you?”
The woman with the red hair put her finger to her lips. Shhh.
“Cook?” called Tanel.
He looked behind as she found her way behind the section of the ship. When he looked back the woman with the red hair had vanished.
“Did you find anyone?” asked Tanel.
“I . . . no.”
“I was serious about the looters. We’d better get out of here.”
“I think you’re right.”

R

It was nearly midday as they made their way back through the woods towards town. Clouds had stolen away the sun and shadows spread out from every tree. With a little walking still to go the sky opened and rain poured down.
“Great,” said Tanel. “This is what I get for helping with our town’s new charity case.” She gave him a teasing smile to make sure he got the joke.
“Could do with a little rain,” said Cook. “I can’t say I find the heat very comfortable.”
“There you go.”
“’There I go’ what?”
“Maybe where ever you’re from it’s somewhere cold.”
Cook shrugged his shoulders. “It’s a start.”
Tanel smiled and nodded looking content that she’d lifted his mood. Cook liked her company. But then she wasn’t trying to run him out of town.
He thought of apologising for his earlier attitude as he bumped into her after she stopped walking.
“What’s up?”
Tanel didn’t reply. She slowly raised her hand and pointed to something in amongst the trees. Cook followed her finger but couldn’t see anything.
“Are we in danger?” he whispered.
Finger still pointing, she nodded.
He felt the warmth from the stone start to spread throughout his body. His skin started to harden. He felt taller, stronger, and close to invincible. He kept looking between the trees trying to see what Tanel was fearing.
And then it moved. Just a little, just enough. If you weren’t looking for it you would never notice it, at least not until it was too late. It was some kind of creature that looked like it belonged in nightmares. Taller than a horse, its green and brown fur hiding it well from plain sight, and teeth that could rip you in half. And it was staring straight at them.
“I’ll draw it’s attention,” said Cook. “You run.”
Tanel shook her head.
“It wasn’t a suggestion!”
“Look in its mouth.”
“What?” said Cook but he understood straight away. Though mostly hidden by the grass the creature was creeping through, he could make out an arm, a head, and legs. A body was cradled in the creatures jaw. It wasn’t a large body either, it could only have been a child.
In the distance a horn sounded. The creature growled and then fled.
Tanel fell to her knees and wept.