Wednesday, 28 December 2016

(vol 3) EPILOGUE: “TIME FOR A REBOOT!”



Well, I’m glad that year’s over. Not only did my writing take a dramatic nose dive in both quantity and quality, and my personal life took a beating, but the onslaught of celebrity deaths has left no stone unturned in its vengeful quest for misery. And while every death is a loss to our world, we can all agree 2016 took out some of our brightness lights.

It makes me feel a little shallow talking about my own lows. That was the original plan for this final post of the year; a look back at my failures, and the events that have dragged me down, because this year has been my worse since I started taken writing more seriously; a big step back.

But I don’t think I can do that now, not in the Eeyore style that the first draft came out like.

So, instead, this will just be a look back, with the moaning kept to a minimum. Because at the end of the day, even though I failed on my writing goal once more, and even though my emotional state took a hell of a hit, I am alive, and the people I love most are alive.

And for that, I’m ever so grateful.



FIRST QUARTER

Films of interest -Deadpool’, ‘Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice



The year started sad with the loss of two Flash Fiction contests that had been the centre for the FlashDog group. I’m a man of routine, and suddenly my Thursdays and Fridays were empty of imagination and writing.

So it was good that Microcosms popped into the world just when we needed it. With a fresh take on the method (a spinning wheel for character, setting, and theme!) it not only pulled the group back together and gave us a new home, but new FlashDogs joined along the way.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, I managed a win with only my second entry, A GLASS DIVIDE.

There was also the release of the third (yes, third!!!) FlashDogs Anthology; TIME. Once again I was lucky to be invited in, and have three tales included. Still find it hard sometimes to comprehend that my writing is out there in the world in paper form. While I’m still letting myself down in my major goal, I have to remember that I have my foot on the ladder.

Unfortunately other writing took a back seat, as the CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE WORLD books I was working on started to bog me down. I was working on the second drafts for books 1-3, but with the overall series planning weighing me down and tangling things, I slowly pulled away from the project. At first I didn’t notice it. Then I did, but I denied it. Then I just stopped.

For a short time, I just didn’t know what to do. I felt suspended in air and aimless.

And then a man came along with a plan, and with the help of social media, I had a new project to pick me up.

David Shakes spent an evening on twitter blowing up a small idea until an Anthology was born, and twenty-four writers (me included) were signed up and rearing to go. THE INFERNAL CLOCK is a collection of horror stories spread over a twenty-four hour period; a day in hell, so to speak. Each author was given an hour slot, an hour that their story must mainly take place in. I got 6am, and got stuck into a story called DELAYED, born from my morning commute to work.

The book is due out 2017, and I'll be sure to keep you all posted.



SECOND QUARTER

Films of interest – ‘Captain America: Civil War’, ‘X-Men: Apocalypse




The low points kept coming as the months passed. The word counts dropped considerably (see word count totals). I began to realise where I was going wrong, but it took a lot to admit it to myself. It took a lot more to do something about it. In the end I decided to take a hiatus from the blog. I’d already dropped from weekly Wednesday to fortnightly, but I was still not only struggling with content, but fed up of talking about progress when none was really being made. As I mentioned in that last post of June, how could I blog about a process I had yet to write about. So I couldn’t, not until I was worth listening to.

The final post, prewritten and dated, went out automatically (thank you Blogger) while I was sunning it up in Corfu, enjoying my first family holiday abroad since becoming a father. It was tough, due to my son’s autism; three hours on a plane, high temperatures, lots of people, lots of noise, and routines thrown out the window. Yet despite all this, we made it. He made it. And despite some ‘red’ days, it was an experience I look back on fondly. Corfu means a lot to me and the wife. But it never felt right until all three of us could be there together.



THIRD QUARTER

Films of interest – ‘Suicide Squad’, ‘Star Trek Beyond’



July 1st should have been the start of CampNaNo, and the fruition of the forth CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE WORLD book. Instead, dragging myself down further, and avoiding new projects, I dropped out at the last minute (and by last minute, I mean 8am July 1st).

And it wasn’t only my own writing that suffered. I was letting other authors down, authors I considered friends and had promised to help. I was taking on a lot of beta reading, something I enjoyed at the tail end of 2015. But with real life intruding, I probably should have said no. Instead, fearful that they’d remember that I’d turned them down, I just said yes, yes, yes. And suddenly I had my project, and four other authors’ projects, all spinning on plates. And instead of turning them down first off, I let them down much later (Craig, I’m sorry I never fully beta read THE COLONY, but I’ve read it now, and it’s awesome).

And while it’s not an excuse, my personal life was getting its arse kicked.

A moment of lost temper at work with someone who took pleasure in pushing my buttons, and I was put on paid leave and advised to seek help. It was tough. And embarrassing. But seek help I did, through italk. Phone meetings followed. Then I was sent on a four week class for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress.

Like I said. Arse. Kicked.

So thank god another mighty FlashDog stood up and created something new, something fun, for us writers to get our teeth stuck into.

#VSS365.

Mark A King devised a project where one word or phrase was dished out each morning and we had a single tweet to tell a story.

Very. Short. Story.

It’s a breath of fresh air, and has my creative juices working again, just like in the good old days of 2014/15. Routine was back. Quick ideas were back. Word count limitations were back. And I loved it. Am loving it. It’s still going, has been since September 5th. Over a hundred twitter stories under my belt. And I’m aiming for the whole 365.



FOURTH QUARTER

Films of interest – ‘Dr Strange’, ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’



After avoiding CampNaNo in July, I almost did the same again in November. I wanted to focus on something else. Personal things were bringing me down, and I just didn’t think I could handle a month writing something from scratch. I was low.

And then, with less than a week to go, I changed my mind. Because, though I don’t have anything published, NaNoWriMo is one of the few things I do that makes me happy and makes me proud of myself. And this year was to be my 10th entry. My love of stats and figures couldn’t let that go by.

So I scrambled together a plan for a book I’d started several months previous. I set up my spreadsheet, threw together a quick cover, and waited for November 1st to roll round.

Looking back now, I’m so glad I did it. I’ve never felt so alive, so confident, and so happy while working on a project. I hit no walls. I never once tied myself in loops. I didn’t end the month with chapters missing, nor did I reach the finale with time to spare. It all worked out perfect, and I smashed a lot of personal records along the way. It ended up being my highest word count for a NaNoWriMo. I hit 50,000 earlier in November than I ever had before. I even donated for the first time ever (don’t worry, I’m wracked with guilt).

NaNoWriMo has given me so much in the last decade and I’ve never once said thank you (I have promised that when I sign my first movie adaptation deal, they’re getting a large cheque).

So now I have a first draft of UTOPIA FOR PEARS (working title). I’m beginning the second draft on New Years Day. And I’m getting through it. I’m finishing it. I’m releasing it. Because, as I’ve said before, if I don’t do it now, I don’t think I ever will.



And that’s it really. A brief look back at 2016. Not how I’d envisioned it, but I hope that it’s a year that I look back on as the only low point, the only glitch, in a healthy writing career.


I hope you fared better, I know some of you did. Keep writing, keep editing, and keep publishing. I’m right behind you, and your success is what I’m holding onto.



See you in 2017.








Wednesday, 26 October 2016

(vol 3) CHAPTER 14: "Another NaNo, Another WriMo"

Hello.

So I mentioned back in June that I was taking a break, that there would be no blogging until I had something novel like to release into the wild.

And then I broke that promise in August by lifting my head out of the sand, telling an anecdote about my then WIP, before hiding away once more.

Well, I’m doing it again.

2016 has been a bit of a downer year, both on the personal front, and also with the writing. Though I’ve still to finish a project in anything close to a published manner, in the past I was at least always writing. 2014 saw me stumble into an online group and discover a new form of writing that I took too quickly, while 2015 was all about anthologies and expanding projects.

But this year has been meh. Part of that was the loss of the Flash Fiction contests at the end of 2015 that had sustained me. But I also lost faith in myself and my abilities and slowly began to hide from my stories and ideas, all while other factors in my life assisted becoming the ammunition for this process of closing.

It’s the final quarter of the year which means NaNoWriMo is right around the corner. A few months ago, at my lowest, I’d decided to drop this annual activity like I had most of my other writing. I didn’t feel like I had a good idea anyway, and the motivation to write 50,000 words was stuck in traffic somewhere, ETA unknown.

But on October 1st something happened. The e-mail came through, the one I used to look forward to, the one that announces that the website is set up ready to prep your NaNoWriMo profile for another year. I almost deleted it, my thumb hovering over that negative decision. But then a little voice spoke up from deep inside, a voice I had not heard from for many months. It showed me something from my ideas folder, hidden deep within my imagination, and told me not to give up.

Sounds stupid, right?

Well, maybe it is. But that little voice sounded desperate, like it wouldn’t be around much longer if I kept ignoring it. Like it had better places to be, better minds to encourage. I think this November is my last chance, I really do.

So, NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words. 30 days.

Let's see if I can not only add to my growing collection of first drafts collecting dust (see below), but actually so something about it this time.

Fingers crossed.


________________________________________



2007 - DEATH IS JUST A DAY JOB

Back in the summer of 2007 I had a short term fling with my first online writing group, while also taking part in my first SFX Pulp Idol competition, when someone pointed me in the direction of www.nanowrimo.org. I was told that it might just hold the key to dealing with my inner editor.

It seemed simple enough. Sure, 50,000 words looked like a large figure but I didn’t, at the time, have any concept of how much writing that was. I’d never written that much before and I had no idea what the word counts were of books I read.

As I passed through October of that year I signed up to the site (under the now deleted Briman79 profile) and started looking at my ideas folder (my ‘ideas’ for stories greatly outweighs actual written product). I settled on something I’d been toying with for a few months that involved a down on his luck guy who becomes friends with the Grim Reaper. All I had was a pub scene that I'd written while bored in the office one weekend, so decided to take it from there. No other characters, no setting, and no plot.

And then November 1st hit.

It started well. I’d spend the work time just daydreaming ideas before getting home, booting up the PC, and writing whatever my brain felt like ejecting; a little before dinner and then a lot after. My wife loved it because she owned the TV for those first few weeks.

I did hit some road blocks along the way but, instead of stopping, I thought about where I was heading next and just started from there, knowing I could go back later. Of course, this led to some strange happenings, especially when a character was killed off and then returned five chapters later with no explanation. I guess that’s what editing’s for.

So I ploughed on until I hit a much bigger road block in the form of an Xbox 360. It was a stupid time to get one and my word count took a massive hit because of it. As I neared the end of the month it looked like I wouldn’t cross that finish line on my first attempt.

And that made me mad. So the video games stopped and I knuckled down. Three very late nights later and I crossed the finish line on November 29th.

Of all the things I have written or will write, DEATH IS JUST A DAY JOB will always be the piece I’m most proud of. While it still lingers in first draft limbo I always have an eye on it and am determined to dust it off one day and release it into the wild.



2008 - THE ADVENTURES OF MAXWELL COOPER

With something now complete, I moved straight onto my next project and began planning a superhero novel. I’d just finished reading Austin Grossman’s ‘Soon, I Will Be Invincible’ and had an urge to novelise a comic book I’d written in college.

Unfortunately when November came around I wasn’t feeling it and instead started a project I felt was more manageable; THE ADVENTURES OF MAXWELL COOPER. This was a YA fantasy that was designed to be built of five different adventures across one single quest. I thought I could write it bite sized and get through it a little easier.

Wrong.

I didn’t make it past day one, and have never really counted it as taking part that year.



2009 - JUSTICE

I was determined to not miss another year and so I went back to my super hero novel called JUSTICE. This went smoother than my previous two attempts with only three days of non-writing across the month. Unlike 2007, I never found myself stumped and went straight from beginning to end in a nice, cohesive manner. Probably the smoothest NaNoWriMo project to date.



2010 - I AM BROKEN

By the time this NaNo rolled around I had received some bad news that inadvertently lead to a very nice silver lining. In September of 2010 I was made redundant and put on Garden Leave. This meant that for three months I was still getting paid but was not allowed to look for another job. With November approaching I found myself with a lot of time on my hands and was determined not to waste it.

With thirty whole days and nothing else much to do, I got on with I AM BROKEN, another of the many, many stories I'd started years before. This was the first NaNo that I began with anything close to a full cast and not much more was added. The plot however exploded thanks in part to the music I was listening to. 

I’d been using movie soundtracks as the background to a lot of my writing including all the previous NaNo’s. But 2010 was the first time I picked one specific soundtrack and played it on a loop as I wrote. I think this helped keep things coherent theme wise.

Thirty day later I was done. At 57149 this was the most I’d managed to date and I only had one lull around the two thirds mark. I crossed 50,000 on the 24th and just kept going. Despite the free time I had though, I AM BROKEN still doesn’t have an ending.



2011 - THE ADVENTURES OF MAXWELL COOPER

After 2010 I went into the following NaNo with a lot more confidence. Other than a new job I’d started a few months earlier, I had no other commitments.

I decided to take another stab at my failed 2008 attempt. I planned a lot more this time with character sketches and chapter plans, something I hadn’t really done in previous years. There was a hell of a lot of ‘Pansting’ in the first few effortds but I decided to give ‘Planning’ a try.

Once again this story beat me, although I managed to get further. Still, I knew it wasn’t working and, two weeks and 15,000 words later I gave up.

One day I will finish Maxwell’s story.



2012 - DEAD DOLLARS

If the last year was bad, this one was much worse. I don’t like excuses, but for this one time I think you’ll agree that failing wasn’t much of a choice.

With another idea from the vault, I dived into DEAD DOLLARS, a zombie western inspired by the scene from ‘A Fistful Of Dollars’ where Eastwood is shot several times but just won’t die.

I say dived in but, due to the circumstances surrounding November 2012, I’m surprised I even thought about trying to write anything at all.

The wife and I had chosen to move in with her father while she was pregnant, and we looked for a bigger place to live. The space we had in my father-in-laws bungalow was limited as was TalkTalk’s excuse for Broadband. This is in itself would have been a challenge for most NaNoWriMo participants but for me it was just the tip of the iceberg.

Add that to another redundancy, and suddenly writing a zombie western didn’t seem like a priority in life. During the last week of October I decided to skip it and focus on other things but, fickle as I am, I changed my mind back by Hallowe’en. Why not, I thought. It will give me something to focus on during all the crap.

So I began. It was as tough as I thought with limited internet access and nowhere to sit down and write comfortably. But none of that mattered by the middle of the month. Our son was due at Christmas of that year, but he decided that that was too far off and wanted out sooner. Right in the middle of November.

Needless to say, DEAD DOLLARS didn’t get much further.



2013 - MIGHTY GRAY: SEASON ONE

A year into a new job, still stuck in a bungalow with no room to move and now I had a one year old son.

I should have failed.

Instead, my episodic ode to Buffy became my most successful NaNo project to date, breaking all kinds of personal NaNo records on the way.

Somehow, by taking my crappy Samsung NC-10 Netbook to work, and writing a little before shift and a lot during lunch, meant I hit the daily target of 1667 before I even got home in the evenings. Sometimes I was managing  up to 3000-4000 words a day which for me is impressive.

I powered on with each ‘episode’, hitting around 17,000 words and finishing on a climax before moving onto the next and the next. These mini endings made it easier to move on instead of aiming for that one finale that was miles off in the distance.

Even now I don’t know how I managed to accomplish what I did that year. Not with so much against me when I struggled on much easier years. The main thing is it became another project under the belt and another NaNoWriMo certificate on the wall.



2014 - FALLEN SWORDS FRACTURED DAWN

During the summer of 2014, while working on my CampNaNoWriMo project TATTOO, I looked at projects I might want to pick up when that year’s November rolled around. Was it worth taking another stab at my 2011 or 2012 failures? What about the planned sequels to several of my projects?

No and no.

I decided, instead, to try a different approach. Inspired by fellow Flash Fiction writer Betsy Streeter’s excellent ‘Neptune Road’, I planned to write a long story that would be released throughout the following year as weekly episodic. Inspired by Game of Thrones, mixed in with the backstabbing and politics of the offices I worked in, I molded the company who employed me into a Fantasy novel continent, and transformed my work colleagues into witches, warriors, monsters, and bandits. The idea was to build up 50,000+ words as a head start, and then release each chapter (roughly 2000-3000 words) once a week, while continuing to write more and more.

So how did this backfire, I hear you ask?

Well, quite simply, things changed too much between December 1st 2014 and February 6th 2015. And not just the name (turns out that Fallen Swords was an online Fantasy RPG). I altered a massive chunk of the pre-story, some characters were expanded upon, the start point was altered. It turned out that by the second episode, I already didn’t like the MNA having amnesia, and the rewrites were so extensive, I was pretty much writing from scratch instead of having a healthy back log to present as I carried on writing.

By the time Episode 11 came around on June 26th 2015, I was switching my attention to starting my CampNaNo project, and the Fractured Dawn project was pissing me off.

And that was all I wrote.



2015 - CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE FOREST OF DEATH
            CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE TEMPLE OF GLOOM

Last year was a continuation of a huge output of Flash Fiction. It was from one of these story ideas, the 100 word, weekly adventures of CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE WORLD, that all of my larger 2015 writing projects were ironically spawned from.

July’s CampNaNo was the expansion of the first Chris and Mike Flash Fiction story. I aimed for novella length with the first book, ‘CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE RISING DEAD’, at around 25,000. So I figured November’s word count allowed me to write two more novellas back-to-back.

While editing the first book through August and September, I had one eye on where things could expand for the future adventures. Everything went smoothly. I finishing book 2 halfway through November, before getting the majority of book 3 complete in the remaining two weeks.

Again; big plans, but nothing to show for it. I spent the end of last year planning the remaining novellas and short stories. But you’ll notice a common theme with me; ideas don’t pop into my head to be born. It’s where they go to die.



2016 - UTOPIA FOR PEARS (working title)

Having over 200 Flash Fiction stories written means I have fertile ground for book ideas. Couple one of my Flash Fiction stories from 2015, with enthusiastically published Author Liz Hedgecock’s placeholder name for her 2015 NaNoWriMo project, Utopia for Ducks, and I now have a Huxley/Bradbury-esque sci-Fi novella ready to get stuck into in less than a weeks’ time. 

The Scrivener file is almost ready to go. I have the lunch breaks almost freed up (just have two books to finish reading).

And then who knows, maybe, just maybe, this’ll be the one.

Because you know what they say; 10th time’s the charm.


(This is an updated version of the October 29th 2014 post, “Never Forget Your First NaNo”)


________________________________________


UTOPIA FOR PEARS

Selena is a worker. She spends long days in a factory making stuff she'll never use. All she does is build, eat, and sleep. But she is different than the others; intelligent, inquisitive, rebellious.

Then one day she is moved to a new site to assist with low quotas, a site where her peculiar ways attract the eyes of the staff, and where she finds herself in real danger for the first time in her life.

And so begins a journey as Selena discovers fear, friendship, and the truth behind a world she didn't even know existed.

A world beyond the factories.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

(vol 3) CHAPTER 13 – “Unraveling (Editing Gone Wrong!)”

First off, let me state right off the bat that I’m not ‘back’. I’m still working on my super-secret-super-awesome project. Blogging is not up and running again. But I just popped in to check for mail, make sure the fridge was still running, and that the blog hadn’t burned down in a freak digital fire.

I didn’t plan to write a post, honest. But while I was dealing with an issue on said super-secret-super-awesome project, something came up, something that wouldn’t require me to give advice, but that I wanted to talk ‘out loud’ about.

#

While recently reworking a chapter in my super-secret-super-awesome project I made a change to an early scene affecting the main character. I thought I’d solved a problem that had been nagging me for ages and felt quite good about it.

And then I re-read that scene and the few chapters around it and noticed a massive mistake had emerged. You see, by removing one early scene, the main characters ‘path’ was redirected. This in turn led to another scene being unnecessary, which diverted the main character even more from a scene where he meets an important secondary character.

And if they never meet . . .


And that’s when I realised the difficultly of rewriting, of editing, and how similar it is to the rules of time travel.

You see, I’d plonked my size eleven down off the track and squashed the ‘butterfly of narrative’, causing a wave of change to spread throughout the story and undo a lot of things, until all the characters were suddenly talking dinosaurs and the Antarctic Empire ruled the world!!!

Like a madman using a holey bucket to scoop water from his sinking rowing boat, I spent an afternoon with only panic for company while trying to fix as much as I could. I couldn’t undo the original change because it honestly didn’t belong. But I had a lot of writing that I wanted to keep, and that I could keep . . . if I could just work out a way to ‘bend’ things to how I needed.

#

Spoiler; I did it (though the reader can be the final judge of that).

It was a lot of work, especially without a Doc Brown to guide me. I’ve gone back to the planning level, the very foundation of the story, and am moving pieces around here and there to make sure it all fits. A lot of chapters are staying, though they’ll need a little rewriting to accept the change.

That was a close call. Guess I’d better head back in.



Wednesday, 22 June 2016

(vol 3) CHAPTER 12 - "What's More Important?"


A writer friend commented recently on last weeks blog post and said that, while she loved reading my blog, she wished it would go back to weekly. To be honest, I wish it could to.

So what comes next was part of a tough decision.



WHAT?

This will be my last blog post for a while. The blog itself won't go anywhere; I will still be updating my reading list, other authors works, and sometimes posting the occasional short work. But as far as talking about the process of writing itself, about my own projects, and the about the craft in general, well that's going to hibernate.

Just for a while.



WHY?

I recently finished an awesome non-fiction book called 'Iterate and Optimize'. If you've followed the blog for a while then you'll know that the guys who wrote this book (Johnny B Truant, Sean Platt, and David Wright) are authors I aspire to. Their work ethic, their production, and (most importantly) their stories, are extremely impressive. If in ten years I could be just a quarter as prominent as them, I would be VERY happy.

While reading 'Iterate and Optimize' I started to think about what it really is that I'm trying to do. And more importantly how much I'm letting myself down, and how much I'm clearly failing.

You see, all the talk I do here about planning and what needs to be done to get a book out there sounds like crap when you realise I don't actually have any experience of an end product. I've spent two years working around my true goal by talking about it and writing other works. But I still don't have a book in my hands with just my name on it. Worse still, no one in the world does; because it's yet to exist.

I'm promoting and not writing. I'm giving advice based on limited experience. And I'm watching other writer friends around me move from where I am, to where I want to be.

So I'm stepping back. There won't be any more blog posts about how to publish until I'm published. There won't be any more posts about how to do a cover until (guess what) I've done a proper cover.



WHEN?

This is it; last post for a while. Like I said in WHAT, I will be updating other parts of the blog, I just won't be 'blogging' until it's to say "Hey world! Check out this book I wrote. Now let’s talk about how I got here."

I hope its sooner rather than later, I really do. But my writing time must be spent on putting fiction to paper, and not in just talking about the dream version of my life that keeps slipping further away.



WHERE?

I'm hoping I've obtained and learnt how to use my own website by the time I need to. While blogger is great, it's not mine. I hope that when I finally have something important to say (with experience backing it up) that it's on my own website where I feel I can do so much more. For those of you out there who already have your own websites, I'll be knocking on your doors for help somewhen in the future. Just giving you fair warning.

Info will no doubt arrive via this space and my twitter (@BrianSCreek).



HOW?

While I don't feel like I should be spouting writing advice without an end result to show it works, I've been busy reading others advise who are already there. From fellow writers I've run with in the last couple of years (Craig Anderson, Liz Hedgecock, Tamara Rogers, and Michael Blackbourn to name a few), to those I revere and hope to one day meet (Johnny B Truant, Sean Platt, David Wright, Garrett Robinson, and Joanna Penn), and all the way to the big man himself, Stephen King.

I have a plan, one that I won't be derailed from, one that WILL get me where I want to be, sooner rather than later. I just need to do it, and nothing else.

And don't worry Stella, the Chris and Mike vs The World books are a big part of that plan. :)



UNTIL NEXT TIME

So that's it for now. Like I said, I don't know when I'll be (proper) back; a miracle if it's less than a month, but I hope it's not too long into 2017 if I go past Christmas. The important thing isn't when I'll be back, it's that I will be back, and that I'll have something awesome to show for it.

Thank you for all the support from those that come back and read each time I've posted. I will throw some short pieces up from time to time (I still dabble over at Angry Hourglass and MicroscosmsFic).

Good luck to anyone out there trying to publish your first work (or second, or third). I'll get there soon.



Wednesday, 8 June 2016

(vol 3) CHAPTER 11 – “Coming Up”

MEANWHILE . . .

So, projects are currently boiling away, with the second half of the year planned to be where all things writing start to escalate (I have a proper, grownup plan and everything). There’s also beta reading done, and more to do (sorry Michael; I haven’t forgotten).

Outside of that though, things have been quiet. It’s been a couple of months since I wrote a Flash Fiction story (the very form of writing that got me back into writing just over two years ago). I’ve been meaning to jump back in but either time doesn’t allow it, or the ideas just keep evading me. I still keep my eyes on the current contests though; it’s nice to see the old writing buddies continue to produce awesome work.

And talking of Flash Fiction . . .



#NFFD

Coming up in a little over two weeks (June 25th to be exact) is National Flash Fiction Day. Still a young event, NFFD is a promotional event day of the form of short (short) writing. As well as a couple of things taking place in Bristol this year, there’s also a collection of Flash due to be released on the same day. For more info check out:



Also, if I remember correctly, a fellow Flash Fiction author is releasing their second collection into the world on the same day. Check out Liz Hedgecock's BITESIZE, available to preorder on Amazon now.



OFF TO CAMP AGAIN

And finally it’s that time of year again when I drop words over at CampNaNo. That’s right, despite everything else going on, I plan on being busy writing a 25,000 word story. And what’s the plan I hear three people at the back mutter? Well, this time last year I had yet to write anything longer than Flash Fiction for Chris and Mike vs The World. Last year’s CampNaNo saw the birth of book one; vs The Rising Dead, while Novembers NaNoWriMo carried on with books 2 and 3. So, you can see where I’m going with this, right? No? Oh. Then let me tell you.

This July I will be working on book 4 in the series; Chris And Mike vs The Clockwork Killer. As I’ve mentioned before, the series has its shape now, its overriding plot. With all the early books backed up and worked on, the plan is to release them close together (not too close, but comfortable enough that readers are waiting ages for the next instalment.

For the last couple of NaNoWriMo’s I’ve talked through the process and plot as I write each project. But now, with the hope of releasing actual books with actual plots, it seems unwise to talk you people through book 4 while dropping major spoilers to books 1-3. I’ll take a different method me thinks.



SHORT BUT SWEET

Anyway, that’s’ all fore this week. Lots going on but not many things I’m ready to talk about at the moment.

Hope everyone is happily working through their own projects. Never forget that a story is made from words, and no matter how tough it gets, we only need to write a word at a time; the rest will take care of itself.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

(vol 3) CHAPTER 10 – “There is a King”


LATEST READ

Today I am off work ill. This blog post will be the only output of my day.

Unfortunately lack of output has been common recently for me. Due to an INSANE time at work the last couple of weeks with training and system upgrades (and a 24-hour straight shift!), all the while accompanied by some sleepless nights, writing has been low down on my agenda. Which annoys me. 
A lot.

Yet I’ve still found time to read.

This morning I finished my latest; Stephen King’s From A Buick 8.

It’s an interesting story, one that has effortlessly earned its place in my all-time favourite King novels. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly it is about it that I like, but I didn’t hesitate with the five stars on Goodreads. When I looked online, however, I found a lot of reviews that online came in from the extreme angles; people either really liked it, or really, really hated it.

The main issue the 1 stars have with it is the lack of explanation, of resolution. This is ironic, because that’s what the whole book is really about. From A Buick 8 is a tales made up of tales all leading to the point that life doesn’t always work out like the stories we enjoy reading so much. Life doesn’t always end well, it doesn’t give all the answers, and it doesn’t all have meaning.

I liked it, though. But then, I’ve read enough King to enjoy something a little different. I like how he writes his characters (all of them, not just the main ones). I could read about a character’s day, where nothing really happens, if it was written by Mr King. He writes so much detail into his worlds; some of it obvious, some of it subtle. He writes characters as if they’re real people.

Of course, while I’d recommend it in a heartbeat to any King fan who hadn’t gotten around to it yet, it isn’t (in my opinion) a good place for someone new to Mr King’s work.
Which brings me to . . .



WHERE TO START

While my toast was cooking on another lunchbreak earlier this week, a work colleague noticed the book on my table. She asked if I liked Stephen King (absolutely) and then told me she was planning on reading It soon. I mentioned that I hadn’t gotten around to that one yet but was looking forward to it.

Then I asked her what other King books she’d read to which she replied, “None”.

What?!?!

My immediate reaction was that she was crazy to start with one of King’s biggest works. If it went wrong, it could put her off the master writer for life. That first King read is important; it’s the one you’ll always remember (like that first love, remember him/her?), it’s what you’ll judge all the rest by, and it will hopefully open you up to all the things that make King such a mighty author.

So, what did I tell her? Well, with the help of a fellow King fan (hello Steve), we compiled a list of where we thought she would be better of starting.

I started with The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, an odd one, I know. You see back then (around 2005) I was adamant that I would avoid mainstream authors. And you don’t get much more mainstream than Stephen King. But one day, while the future Mrs Creek was busy perusing in our local TESCO, I spotted a King book I’d never heard of before, or expected to be something he would write. It was part western and part fantasy. I was very, very interested. Yet there was that name on the cover, a name I’d stubbornly sworn not to read. And the price, that was . . . cheap actually. On sale for £1.99.

Sold.

Of course I later found out that it was more than one book, and despite the Dark Tower series being my favourite story of all time, there were many reasons why that shouldn’t be my colleagues first King read. And after the Gunslinger

Next up was Cell. This was a simpler book in King terms, an interesting premise with a zombie story turned on its head. Excluding the Dark Tower, this was my first proper Stephen King novel, and when I finished it I felt guilty for that earlier stubbornness. I immediately found his writing interesting and smart, and knew then and there that I would be reading many more of his (to date, I’m not even halfway, but I’m enjoying taking my time with them).

After that I went with his first, Carrie. I thought that, for my colleague, this would be a good start due to its size and simplicity. Steve also suggested ‘Salem’s Lot and The Shinning (we both agreed she should skip around for The Stand for now), but our worry became that these was all his old (oldest) stuff, and some people can be put off of period stuff. It’s like movies; I know some people that avoid films made before they were born like the plague.

So Steve and I started thinking about more recent works (all while my colleague eyes started to glaze over as she began to regret the question she’d asked me). I mentioned Cell, but tought things like Lisey’s Story and Duma Key were a little too involved for a first time.  

Of course there was Blaze, the Bachman book released not long after Cell. This was another easy read (and another of my favourites).

But as I mentioned, my colleague started to feel comatose, and the conversation ended there. I don’t know if she started It, or if she picked another (or if we scared her off of Stephen King altogether).



OTHER FANS

I know a couple of people who read this blog are King fans. What would you guys have suggested? Do you agree that I should have diverted her away from some of the heavier stuff for her first time, or should she just have dived straight in to a doorstop? And what was your first King novel?

Apologies for the short and random nature of the post today. As I said at the beginning, illness is hugging me. Hopefully it will go away quickly, work can get better, and writing can rear its beautiful head once more.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

(vol 3) CHAPTER 09 – “In This Together”



YOU ARE NOT ALONE

When I was a kid I used to write. A lot. Sometimes I would take my favourite movies and cartoons and cannibalise them, before mixing myself and my friends in (yes, fan-fiction). Other times I would create my own originalish characters and pit them against each other in epic fights.

My stories changed a lot in those first few years. I experimented across all genres and tried different styles. Yet the one thing that stayed constant was that I wrote everything in a vacuum. The stories were mine and either people wouldn’t enjoy them, or they wouldn’t understand them. And whatever happened, the world was not allowed to interfere with my process, least it ruin my creativity.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Because how can a writer learn and grow with nothing of outside influence assisting in its creation. Sure, it remains our true vision, the finished product put down on that page being exactly how we imagined it. But it’s a process of sharing, if you want to go the whole way. If you write for only yourself then that’s fine. But if you want to be published, if you want to earn money, if you want people to want to read your work, then other people will have to be involved.

Also known as interaction.

So you’re writing this story and in your head it’s the GREATEST THING EVER™. But maybe there’s that one character, what’s known as a secondary character, and he’s hung around since an early draft of book one, and you can’t see that he needs to go. He does nothing much, nothing important to the plot, anyway. But the reader, they notice that this odd little secondary character serves no real purpose, and really shouldn’t be lingering like a bad smell in book four.

In your own little world, behind your closed door, you wouldn’t see this. And if you did, you’d fight with yourself to justify it. But let another pair of eyes (or several, if you have more than one friend, or just one friend who has lots of eyes) glance over your work before the rest of the world sees it. Then perhaps they will spot any excess, any holes, and any mistakes (like a character dying in chapter eight but randomly being alive in chapter twelve! – thank god I never released that novel).

I guess what I’ve spent 393 words trying to say is, it would be really useful and productive to find like-minded people and interact with them when it comes to writing.





RUNNING WITH THE PACK

So you’ve found your online (or real world, you lucky bastard) writing group and they really are a nice bunch. The first thing to remember is that word I used earlier; interaction. By this I mean that the relationship you form with these like-minded people really should be a two-way street. You cannot expect people to all gather together to help you with your own project and not even consider returning that favour.

Now, I’m not saying that it should be a ‘you-scratch-my-back’ kind of situation. You shouldn’t be keeping a tally of who has helped you and recording mental vouchers that equal one-for-one.

Instead, think of the group as the one, and you as the other. Adam helps with your story, taking a look over, and suggestion some very wise changes that make that ending really pop. But Adam isn’t at a stage yet where’s he wants the same in return, so you feel like you will just sit and wait until he’s ready. Wrong. You see, Bob is over there and his book needs a critical eye. Well, why not make your eye that critical eye. Because if you do, you’ll have Bob’s gratitude going forward, and while he’s waiting for your thoughts on his project, he uses the spare time to take a look at Colin’s short story collection.

And round and round it goes. Because you’re a group helping each other and really supporting each other. And you’re all bathing in the golden syrup of karma.





HOW CAN WE HELP?

But let’s not stop at writing and beta reading. There are other ways for you to support your fellow authors. Just the other day, Mark A King posted an interview with me on his website. He’s currently waiting for his debut novel to come back from the editor and decided to use that time by promoting his fellow FlashDog authors. I’m not the only one (I believe I was interview six on the playlist, with more to come). You should pop over to his website and check out the interviews. And while you’re there, check out his fiction too. There’s a reason the people I write with respect Mark and are all looking forward to that debut of his; he’s good. Go on, check it out. I’ll wait. . .

.

.

.

Okay, you’re back. Mark’s not the only one you know. While some of the quieter writers (meaning the one’s like me that are unpublished but working on it) don’t do it yet, but several of the FlashDogs that have expanded into the larger writing world have taken the time to support those of us coming up fast behind them. I’ve read quite a few author interviews; some to mark debut book launches, others to celebrate contest wins. But they all let us know a little more about those we write beside.

It’s awesome, right? The stronger ones lead the way, but they don’t leave behind those that read, commented on, and enjoyed all those weekly contest stories spread over the last few years.

I recently finished reading a collection of short stories by fellow (awesome) writer Tamara Rogers called DOUBLE VISION (I highly recommend). In the acknowledgments she thanks her mother, and then goes on to thank the #FlashDogs. She has some very kind words to say about them.

I myself was lucky enough to get personal acknowledgments in a couple of books recently, books I was asked by the authors to beta read. I didn’t expect anything like this from them, and was just happy to help. But damn it if seeing my name followed by a thank you didn’t make my week.

I guess what I mean by all this is don’t write alone. Find a group and start working together to make everyone in it a success. You won’t regret it. I haven’t. I’ve grown in confidence so much in the last two years and it’s ALL down to the people I’ve met; those who have helped me, and those who have let me help them.

And if you have trouble finding a group . . . then check out the FlashDogs.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

(vol 3) CHAPTER 08 – “The First Words Are The Hardest”

THINGS

I’ve had a slow start to the year writing wise. This is mostly due to my work life going through some tough changes, and my son earning the nick-name ‘three-nager’. But things are getting better.

I’m currently compiling my answers to some damned fined questions courtesy of FlashDog Emperor, Mark A King. I’m also getting stuck into a horror short that will hopefully sit proud in a special project being devised by the other FlashDog Emperor, David Shakes.

On top of this, I have another story that I’m working on, which is more of a B project. It’s in a notebook I take to work, and it’s mostly for when my main project stumps me, or for when I don’t have my laptop with me. More on that project soon.



CHRIS AND MIKE? CAN YOU HEAR ME.

Of course my main project, the centre of my writing universe at the moment, is CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE WORLD. Frustratingly my perfectionism is kicking in, and while I know I could have book one done and out in just a couple of months, I want so very much to have it not only tie in with books two and three (both sat at a nice stage), but I also want to make sure the series as a whole fits together nicely; no holes or snaggy bits.

Because of this, writing their adventures is running alongside planning their adventures. I want to stick little bits here and there in all their stories that show up later and scream ‘did you see that coming? How cool was that?’.

So the project is slower than I’d like, but it’s the speed it needs to be.



SNEAK PEEK

However, I feel like I’ve been going on about it long enough that perhaps it’s time to show . . . something. So, what follows is the first two chapters of book one. I hope you like them and maybe it’ll give you a flavour of what I’m going for.

And if you want to leave any feedback, please do, either in the comments or on twitter (@BrianSCreek).

So without further ado, here is the first reveal of a Chris and Mike story not confined to Flash Fiction. Here are the opening chapters to . . . CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE RISING DEAD.

Enjoy.




 CHAPTER ONE
It was one of those nights.
Dark clouds blocked out the stars. A vicious chill raided the air. Evil deeds were being committed by evil persons, totally in their element.
Not many folks visited St Barnes Christian Church in the middle of the night. Maybe school kids on a dare, or perhaps a homeless person looking for somewhere quieter to sleep than the usual city centre doorways.
Cherub Pesci was neither.
Cherub was a henchman, and proud of it. A snivelling wretch. A dirty, rotten man. A pathetic excuse for a human being. His clothes were long past their sell-by-date, and he hadn't seen anything resembling soap in more than a decade.
But he didn't care how he appeared to the world. His loyalty to his master was the centre of his universe, and everyone else could just roll over and die. His repulsive appearance allowed him to be ignored, to be avoided, making things so much easier for him to get things done. He stuck fast to the belief that one day he would be rewarded for his devotion to the cause, that one day he would be selected by his master, and made mighty. And when that day finally came, he would exact revenge on all those who had constantly ridiculed him.
Until that time came, he would just have to put up with carrying out random, menial tasks in the middle of the night.
Now, Mrs Pesci's only son had never been the fittest person in the world, and tonight's task was testing him. With a shovel in one hand, and a bulging sack in the other, he made his way up the gravel path towards the main doors of St Barnes Church. His breaths were short, sharp, and sweat added an extra layer to his skin, like a shiny, moist force field.
Upon reaching the steps, Cherub let the sack drop to his left, the shovel drop to his right, and prioritised getting his breathing back under control. Anyone passing would have thought Cherub had just reached the summit of Everest. He pulled a handkerchief from his trouser pocket, a piece of material so grubby it looked like it had spent most of its existence at the bottom of a bin. Like dogs that looked so much like their owners, the handkerchief could only belong to Cherub.
It was several minutes before his lungs were less than stressed. Once he felt he could continue with his task, he stuffed the personalised snot rag back into his pocket and then pulled out a scrap of notebook paper from another. Cherub unfolded the paper to reveal a hastily scribbled map. Using the glow of the lamp hanging above the church doors, he checked over the diagram and counted from one point to another. He then looked up at the graveyard before him. His face gathered into a quizzical look as he realised things didn't match up. He panicked then, fearful of his master’s response to failure. He couldn't go back and explain that something had gone wrong, that-
The map was upside down.
Cherub inverted the notepad paper and thanked the dark lords that he was given this task to carry out alone. It was little moments like that that gave others the ammunition to ridicule him.
Content that he now knew where he was headed to, Cherub pocketed the map, took a couple of deep breaths, and grabbed the sack and the shovel once more. Resigning himself to another near death experience within the next few minutes, he headed off away from the church and across to the gravestones that stood to attention over to his right.
Things started to look a little speckled as Cherub's body was once again put under the considerable strain of carrying anything heavier than chocolate cake. He wished that the corpse his master wanted had been an older one, someone buried nearer the church. He zigged and zagged between the headstones as they got newer, less aged. He thought about taking a break, but the night wouldn't last forever, and he had to be out of sight with his new friend before sunrise.
So many dead lay beneath the grounds of St Barnes, but Cherubs master was only interested in one.
Thirty rows back, and fifteen plots to the left. The dedicated henchman once again dropped his baggage and fought desperately to fill his lungs. Eventually he pulled out a tiny key chain torch, something he'd found in a discarded Christmas cracker once, and shone its pathetic blue light over the black marble headstone before him.

HERE LIES JACK REDIT - TAKEN TOO SOON
BORN JANUARY 17th 1972
DIED SEPTEMBER 11th 2009

Cherub spotted an engraving of an angel mounted on the top right corner of the headstone and chuckled. He hung the key chain torch from the angel's wings, picked up the shovel, and proceeded to dig. Once more, years of laziness and dietary abuse made a physical chore close to an endurance event. Yet, slowly but surely, a mound of dirt rose up beside the grave plot and, inch by inch, Cherub closed in on the final resting place of Jack Redit.
Just as Cherub's black, twisted heart began to wonder just why it was being punished so much, the tip of the shovel hit something solid. A couple of hollow thuds accompanied Cherub's wheezing breath as he knocked on Jacks front door. Taking the opportunity to dial the physical activities down a notch, Cherub scraped the dirt off of the coffin until the smooth mahogany lid was fully revealed. He then used what was without doubt the very last of his strength to prise the lid off. Feeling light headed, Cherub had to lean against the side of the hole he'd somehow managed to dig, and steady himself. What a way to spend the night, he thought. Face down dead on top of another corpse after suffering a heart attack. Some would suggest that it as a fitting end. Most people would probably just point and laugh.
Jack had been dead for five years, and it showed. Decomposition had sunk it's claws into Jack's earthly remains and rid him of most of his skin, and a lot of his flesh. His suit too had seen better days. He looked bad enough to cause your dinner to repeat on you. And yet, next to Cherub, he came out on top still. No doubt the smell would have caused a normal person to pinch their nose, or even run for the hills. Again, Cherub was used to bad smells, being the cause of some of the world’s most offensive ones, and didn't flinch. Cherub looked down at Jack's remains, sighed, and then proceeded with the final stage of his instructions.
The henchman reached up to the sack he had dragged through the night, and pulled out an arm. An arm that had been roughly, one would say aggressively, separated from its previous owner, at just above the elbow.
Cherub was about to place it in the coffin with Jack when a glint of gold caught his eyes. There was a nice looking watch still attached to the previous owner’s wrist. Cherub held it close to his ear and could still hear it keeping time; still tick, tick, ticking away. He looked at his own watch, a battered and faded Thomas The Tank Engine watch with a cracked screen. He decided it was time for an upgrade and quickly fiddled with the gold watches clasp, relieving the arm of its decoration. He pocketed the time piece.
With his bonus secured, Cherub carried on with his task, placing the arm alongside Mr Jack Redit. But the arm alone was not enough. Cherub returned his grubby hand to the sack and this time pulled out a foot. It didn't take him long to empty the sack of its grizzly collection of body parts. With the assorted remains placed neatly around the body, Jack lay snug in his coffin, looking like a fragile doll who had been tightly packed for transit.
Now there was only one more thing left to do, but Cherub remembered his master stressing that it was the most important. He reached into a pocket on the inside of his tatty jacket and pulled out a small vial. Inside the vial was something that could only be described as black smoke. Yet it wasn't, not really. It was something else, something alive. Blacker than black. The blackest. And it behaved like it wanted out of that small glass vial. It moved around gracefully, occasionally poking and prodding, like a prisoner searching for that one weak spot to aid its escape.
Using knees and thighs no longer fit for purpose, Cherub crouched over the body of Jack Redit. With fat, dirty fingers, he slowly unscrewed the lid. The contents began to whirl around inside, full of excitement, of expectation. The open end of the vial was tipped towards Jacks cold, mouldy lips. The smoke that wasn't smoke moved then, slowly, cautiously. It crept towards the opening. Then, in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, it bolted from the vial, prised open Jacks mouth, and disappeared inside.
Satisfied with a job well done, Cherub placed the vial away. He then defied gravity by slowly, and painfully, pulling himself out of the grave. It took several attempts. Once out, he clambered over to the plot next to Jack's, and proceeded to use the gravestone of the late Gerald Alexander Thornby to rest against.
Cherub checked his new watch to discover that it was still a little way off until sunrise. He pulled his battered tin lunch box from the sack that had recently contained body parts, and got stuck into his breakfast; egg sandwiches and chocolate cake. He expelled only sounds of contentment while he stuffed his face, appearing like someone who had not eaten in days.
With a mouth full of cake, Cherub glanced over at Jacks open grave. He smiled at the sounds of someone else eating a well-deserved meal.
"Eat up Jack," said Cherub. "The boss has got plans for you."



CHAPTER TWO
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Reluctantly, Mike stood up and reached to open the microwave door. Steam poured out like a ghastly prison escapee, desperate to get as far away from its tiny cell as possible. Mike waved the light cloud away, put on oven gloves, and reached in to retrieve his dinner for the evening.
It was unhealthy, he knew that. And previous experience told him that it would taste odd, and probably be as chewy as hell. But damn it if he didn't love the convenience of it.
You see, Mike was lazy. He hadn't always been, but things had just turned out that way. And recently he didn't really do much at all.
He grabbed cutlery from the drawer and sat back down at the kitchen table. The smell of the over processed ready meal filled his nostrils. He looked across to the other side of the table.
"Work was okay," he said. "Not much to get excited about, if I'm honest. My boss still has me crunching those numbers. All I can see these days are rows and columns." He picked up the fork and loaded it with something that resembled a potato. Several blows of air were given to the nuked chunk before he risked putting it in his mouth. It was hot. Really hot. He juggled it around on his tongue, not letting it sit still for more than a second. He sucked in cool air and then conceded, rushing to the sink and getting himself a glass of cold water. Once he had the balls to swallow the hot potato he chased it with several gulps of chilled H2O.
Mike sat back down and waved over his dinner. "That Graham prick is still working in my department. I swear to God I'm going to smack him one soon if he doesn't stop prattling on about worthless crap all day long. Some of us are there to work. And you know what really pisses me off?" He tested another potato, finding the temperature more to his liking this time. "He still gets all his work done. How is that possible? You could watch him all day and he never stops turning around and chatting. Yet the little hand hits five, and he's up-to-date, grinning all round, and out the fucking door."
The chicken tasted like a twenty-year old shoe.
"I know, I know, I need to get a better job. But my boss has hinted at a promotion coming up. I've put in so much time at the bank, it would be a shame to kiss it all goodbye and have to start from scratch somewhere else. If nothing's happened by your next birthday, then I promise, I'll spruce up my CV and put myself out there. But a promotion? That's a game changer."
The vegetables tasted like . . . Well they tasted like vegetables, he thought. Only ones that had been left outside in the rain for a week. He really had to start cooking proper meals. He couldn't go on eating crappy ready meals for the rest of his life. It was expensive and unhealthy.
No, he needed to buy a cook book and start taking better care of himself. His wife would agree.
He looked across the table to his wife to see if she agreed.
But she wasn't there.
Michelle had died six months ago.
That was the last time he'd had a proper cooked meal.

#

Mike placed his clean knife and fork in the drawer and took a mug from the cupboard above it. He liked getting everything ready the night before so that he could just move through the morning uninterrupted; breakfast, shower, dress, and out the door. His routine had been that for years. It was something Michelle said she'd found cute about him.
He checked the fridge and found that he was out of milk. Shopping was something else he hadn't really gotten into since Michelle's passing. Years spent looking after half the house, and now his colleague, his roommate, his love, wasn't around anymore. Now half the stuff wasn't being done.
Mike was a creature of habit, a master of routine. He knew stuff had to be done, the basic day to day stuff, but he'd been running on auto pilot since Michelle's funeral and things kept slipping his mind.
He looked at the clock hung above the sink. The corner shop didn't close for another twenty minutes. Could he miss coffee in the morning? Not bloody likely.
Mike sighed.

#

It was cold out and Mike started to regret not bringing his coat. If the shop hadn't of been less than a five-minute walk away, he would have headed back for layers. Of course, if the shop wasn't as close as it was, Mike doubted he'd have left the house.
The streets were quiet due to the hour. Cars could be heard elsewhere, several streets over, perhaps the motorway in the distance.
Mike clenched his fists tight in his pockets and tried not to think about the fog escaping his mouth with each exhale.
In no time at all he was heading up aisle two of the corner shop, a direct path set towards the chillers at the back. He reached for the green top but hesitated. Tomorrow was Friday, end of the week. Perhaps he could treat himself. His hand drifted left, and he grabbed two pints of blue top; full fat milk, the good stuff.
At the counter a small Asian man Mike knew as Balloo greeted him with a good evening as he scanned the milks bar code. Mike handed over the money and wished the shop assistant a good evening. As always, that was the limit to their relationship.
A deep breath and Mike stepped back out into the chilly November night. He was starting to picture his nice warm bed, like a man lost in the desert dreaming of a glass of water, when he remembered he needed some more deodorant. The corner shop sold that too, might as well head back, he thought.
He turned and nearly bumped into a man who must have been following close behind him.
"Sorry," said Mike, as he stepped to the side. "My fault."
"Mrrgh," said the man.
Mike couldn't see the man's face too well due to a hood covering it well. The man was hunched and, if Mike was being brutally honest, smelled like shit.
The man had stopped and, despite not having a visible face, seemed to be staring at Mike. This made Mike more than uncomfortable. The man leaned forward and, if Mike wasn't mistaken, proceeded to sniff, like a dog checking for food. Mike took a step back and weighed up the need to smell good in the morning with the need to get away from a man who did not smell good right now.
"Sorry," he said once more, mostly out of habit born from a disciplined upbringing. He turned and walked away. A quick glanced over his shoulder showed that the man was following, though at a considerably slower, almost shambling pace.
Projecting a million different outcomes to the next two minutes, most of which ended with police tape and a photo of himself on the mornings news as a murder victim, Mike doubled, then tripled his walking. Home suddenly seemed miles away, and a weirdo was very close indeed.
In crossing the street, Mike had to check for traffic (look left, look right, look left again). He noticed then that the man was gone. His heartbeat, recently hammering away in his chest as if it was matching a nightclub's beat, started to settle. Still, thought Mike, you can't be too careful. And so his walking pace did not slow down.
Two minutes later Mike was on the safer side of his front door. With the chain across. And the two bolts secured; top and bottom.
Mike placed the milk in the fridge and headed up to bed. Teeth brushed, changed into pyjamas, and a quick glance out of his bedroom window to make sure the man wasn't lurking. Then his head was on the pillow and thoughts of danger slowly drifted from his tired mind.
And Christina the Cricket bat leant silently by the bedroom door. Just in case.