Monthly Archives: April 2014

Blog Hop – My Writing Process

There are some people who, when they make you an offer, it’s most unwise to refuse. Don Corleone. Darth Vader. The Terminator. So when Willow Becker asked me if I would like to contribute to this Blog Hop Writing Process project, you can perhaps see the position I was in ūüėȬ†How could I resist dear Willow, though? She’s charm and good humour wrapped up in splendid and topped off with a shiny bow of awesome. She’s also one of the driving forces behind fridayphrases.com¬†, which means that I love her lots. You can read her own take on the Writing Process here, as well as her fiction and many wonderful articles on Life, the Universe and Everything.

My sincere thanks to Willow for asking me to participate in this blog hop. It’s a great opportunity to connect with other writers, and to get a little sneak peek into how their creative minds work.

So …

WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

Right now my writing time is divided between a couple of ventures. In the next few months, I have two projects scheduled to come to fruition that I’m very excited about. I have a short story entitled ‘No Man’s Land’ due be published in an anthology from¬†Grey Matter Press¬†called Equilibrium Overturned (love that title!), and also a novella which, all being well, should see the light of day sometime in the summer. This one is with another publisher, and interestingly is in a “dual-novella” format, in that my work is being paired with a piece from another, and very exciting, author. I love an old-school double bill, so I’m looking forward to sharing more details about this as publication draws nearer.

It’s been really interesting to me to work on both of these projects, in that they’re the first times I’ve worked in any formal capacity with an editor. Having someone cast a professional eye over my work like that was an intriguing experience, and enlightening in that it highlighted to me certain stylistic quirks that I didn’t know I had, some of which I’m happy with, and others which I shall be happy to lose.

Ongoing alongside these projects, I’m currently working on my first full length novel. I suppose if I had to describe it I’d go with “Urban Horror Thriller”. It’s set primarily in a crumbling, mostly-abandoned Tower Block, and what I’m hoping for is to give something of a gritty feel to the supernatural aspects. I’m around 25 thousands words from the end and I’m hoping to have it finished sometime around June/July of this year.

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

At first I thought this was quite a tricky question to answer, but ultimately it’s as simple as “It differs because it’s me writing it.”

To me, writing is like seeing shapes in the clouds. You and I might lay back on the warm grass, watching those little crystals of water or ice embrace tiny particles of dust in the blue sky, and, wondrously, this cold and unstoppable physical law will inspire you to see unicorns or angels, cats or dogs, the famous or the infamous, whatever your mind is wired to see.

If your mind is wired like mine, or if you’re meeting me halfway by reading the ink on a page or the pixels I’ve arranged on a screen, all I can hope to do is use my own experiences and emotional view of the world to convince you we’re seeing pretty much the same thing. That’s all any writer does. All our work differs from others in its genre.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

As I say I’m wired to see what I see, and to imagine what I imagine. As a kid, my earliest stories were superficially science-fictional, cherry-picking concepts from my favourite films and TV shows and comic books and mashing them into tales that didn’t so much explore strange new worlds as recycle them ‚Ķ many is the story from that time that saw a Doctor Doom/Darth Vader hybrid commanding an army of “like Cybermen but not really Cybermen” against a brave band of Mutant mercenaries armed with laser swords (definitely NOT lightsabres). Incidentally, I used to draw fake movie posters for these stories, crazy, sprawling artwork crammed with all the elements I’d stolen from my influences. Thankfully, none of these drawings survive, but they tended to be a variation on this:

I have this album ... and it's brilliant!

I have this album … and it’s brilliant!

 

The thing is, if I was writing about a cyborg, say, I started to realise how much more I enjoyed writing about the seeping, decaying remains of his or her flesh than the sleek, mechanical aspects of the cybernetics. Eventually, I came to understand that my science-fiction efforts were Horror stories in disguise, and that if I was going to write, that was the territory in which I could have the most fun.

I’ve written elsewhere about my love for the Horror genre, but the short version is that I honestly believe it’s the most flexible field I could ever work in. I can have my zombies and demons and killers (oh my!), but if I want I can also have comedy or erotica or teen angst or political drama or whatever I need. I don’t think it works the other way. Any of those genres can exist brilliantly on their own, but make the President a vampire or the angst-ridden teens serial killers and the story’s heart begins to blacken, to turn to the Dark Side.

For me, the genre remains honourable and undiluted no matter what other themes and elements it can comfortably incorporate. That’s why the Horror element always comes first when people talk about mashing it up with another genre. Zombie Western, Zombie Romance, never the other way around. Horror defines itself, and the stories it tells, and that’s why I love writing it.

HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

Unfortunately, my day job doesn’t allow me the luxury of a fixed time to write, or indeed a great deal of free time at all, and so any creativity tends to be left to the end of the week for Friday Phrases, and as much novel-writing as I can manage to fit in over the weekend.

If I have a whole day, I’m at my most creative in the mornings. I’ll aim for around two thousand words of new stuff then, and spend the afternoon checking through what I’ve already written. I usually find this PM editing a relatively painless process, as I’m in the habit of editing the work as I write it. I know many writers might shake their heads at this, considering it a great sin against productivity and creativity. It’s far better, they might argue, to let the prose flow, to let one’s imagination spill unrestrained on to the page, and later to use craft and skill to shape the words into the best they can possibly be.

For the record, those writers are absolutely 100% correct, but generally speaking it’s not how it works for me. There is a reason for this, I think.

A few years ago, I tried my hand at a little stand-up comedy. I’d been writing a few jokes for radio shows and the like and thought it might be interesting to see how my material played to a live crowd. Believe me, though writing is a solitary, sometimes lonely endeavour, it can feel like a party compared to standing alone on stage in front of a cold audience daring you to make them laugh.

The material was a weird stream-of-consciousness thing which wondered what might happen if – and those of you of a sensitive disposition might want to look away now – an adult movie was created by the cast of Sesame Street.

It was strange. I fully suspect anyone still reading can guess the kind of things the beloved Count was so joyfully enumerating, and even deduce what appallingly inappropriate selection of letters and numbers my imagined episode was brought to you by. What role I speculated that the renamed Cookie Monster might play in these sordid events is perhaps best left consigned to history.

The material got a few laughs, but the guy behind the microphone was an idiot, so I stopped. The experience did leave me with a curious learning curve that informs my writing today, though. All those times when I stumbled over a line, or ducked a thrown beer bottle, or misplaced one of the events in my routine and had to backtrack in as naturalistically a fashion as possible ‚Ķ all those things meant that I learned to cut and paste my thoughts, and quickly. To edit and shape as I went along, rewriting “as live”, if you like. It’s one reason why the shoot-from-the-hip nature of writing the Friday Phrases really appeals to me. Many of mine share the same structure as a joke, I think, albeit a joke where the punchline involves a demon or a dismemberment.

So that’s about it for my Writing Process ‚Ķ thanks for reading!

WHO’S UP NEXT?

I’m really excited to learn more about how this next group of writers work. All of them are immensely talented, and I’m very grateful to them all for accepting my request to participate ‚Ķ

HEATHER COLLEEN          qQ7xCfgf

Heather is a wonderful writer who describes her WIP as “Urban Paranormal¬†with Romantic Elements”. Her blog is full of surprises, from brilliant flash fiction to startlingly incisive articles on creativity and the Human Condition.

JUSTINE WINTER               fxLKGDd-

Justine’s blog is filled with short fiction and inspirational articles about the trials and triumphs of writing. Her own latest triumph, the very well received “Nature’s Destiny” is available now.

    CL RAVEN         raven twins

CL Raven are prolific writers of great dark fiction, samples of which can be found on their blog along with brilliant articles on their fascinating lives as Ghosthunting thrillseekers with a love of Red Bull.

 

Thanks again to Willow, and thanks for reading ūüôā


#FP – An Archive Within An Ark Hive – Part 01

Ladies and Gentlemen, another brief collection of FPs for your consideration. I’ve done this sort of thing before, here and here. I’ve started to collect them together (in a journal … like a grown up!), and the ones below are a mix of the relatively recent and some from waaaaaay back. Some are from that dark, terrifying¬†time¬†before the splendid @willowbecker and @amicgood created an archive via the wonderful fridayphrases.com, allowing us all to enjoy these golden days of creativity without any Bothans dying to bring us the information.

Being able to catch up with the genius of my fellow FP-ers aside, the archive has been really useful to me in collating my own fictions, but the whole “shoot from the hip” nature of my FP efforts¬†means that I don’t have any notes or record of¬†the earlier stuff¬†except for the e-mail notifications that Twitter kindly provides. They’re all there, somewhere, and¬†I’m using¬†this blog to help me keep track of the ones that I find, an archive within An Ark Hive (Do you see what I did there? Of course you did, you’re brilliant!)

Aaaanyway …

Trapped in the car, stunned, he managed to dial 999. He didn’t realise the phone was upside down until the demon paramedics arrived.

They ran, and screamed, and one even tried to shoot her in the head, but the vegetarian zombie just wanted a hug.

The money from his will paid for ballroom lessons. She was determined that when she danced on his grave, she did it well.

Lost in fog and boarded by pirates. One of them even had an eyepatch, its leather strap looped around the curve of his horns.

The Ferryman cued the ipod, the one he’d taken from the last girl across the river. Music filled the cavern. “You know it’s you, babe …”

The puppets danced and played, their strings ascending into empty shadows. The puppeteer had died ten years earlier.

She twitched, half conscious, the blisters covering her flesh bulging liquidly. The demon watched her, the nervous, expectant father.

“You see, Mr Logan AKA Wolverine, we are good mutants fighting an evil mutant with whom I used to be friends.” said Professor Xposition.

He’d bled a great deal for such a small boy. “Now, where were we?” said the Teacher to the children. “Oh yes! Finger painting!”

A month too long & too short, too busy and too quiet. He disturbed the dust on the mantle replacing Get Well cards with words of Sympathy.

She moved from patient to patient with the syringe. When the real nurse returned, she found a ward full of corpses.

“So, John is this week’s ¬£1000 winner with his cyanide-filled dessert, with a score of 5 bodies! Stay tuned for more Come Die With Me!”

A sky full of fire and smoke and sulphur. Everyone thought the fireworks had ignited too early, but the invasion had already begun …

They touched slashed palms, as blood brothers do. But when Ben couldn’t move, his life drawn from one cut to another, he screamed …

The Zombie had been buried in 1986, in his best suit, and now his victims saw past the rot to mock him. “Dude … Is that a piano tie?”

The car finally stopped, amid a fiery maelstrom of sulphur and screams. “You have reached your destination.” said the Satan-nav.

She feared that when she died the cats would feed, rough tongues polishing flesh from bone. That’s why she ate them first.

He was the King of the Werewolves, a fearsome beast, but every full moon, he turned into a human with an insatiable hunger for ice-cream.

He recorded screams and sampled the best, changed pitch and speed until the track was finished, a karaoke for killing.

My nerves were frayed, but I had to laugh when my own reflection in the window made me jump. Then I realised there wasn’t any glass.

A vampire in Vegas. He’d hide now, maybe fake his own death. Leaving the building, he drawled a clue. “Fang you … Fang you very much.”

His final wish was a burial at sea. They sailed into a gently glowing fog. One by one the mourners perished. Only the corpse came back.

I put down my toothbrush and rinsed my mouth at the tap. After a minute, I spat the cold water out. Incredibly, the spider had survived.

Maybe a superhero-themed pub crawl wasn’t the best idea, but we DID get to see Wolverine get his ass handed to him by Bananaman!

A bath of ice. A hangover. Crude stitches. Thoughts of organ theft. But no, his belly was swelling, the stitches popping one by one …

 


Short Story – My Family and Other Vampires

It was Bethany’s idea to kill the baby.

She was smiling at me when she suggested it, distractedly plucking a strand of tendon from between her fangs. Even had the circumstances been different, my response to her proposal that we feed on the child would probably have been the same. I don’t much like the taste of infant’s blood; untainted by time and ingested chemicals it’s too sweet, like overripe fruit, and it gives me the most godawful stomach cramps.

‘We can’t.’ I said.

‘Why not?’ Bethany squatted gracefully beside the remains of the babysitter and started rooting through the girl’s pockets. After a few moments she found what she was looking for. Casually she flipped one of our victim’s cigarettes into her mouth and lit it with the silver petrol lighter I’d gotten for her for her birthday, her eightieth or eighty-first, I think.

‘Ah,’ she sighed, blowing out a long stream of grey like something she’d seen in a Bette Davis movie. ‘Nothing like a smoke after a hearty meal.’

‘We can’t.’ I said again. ‘We won’t.’

My kid sister smiled at me through the smoke. ‘Oh, you’re no fun anymore, Tim. You weren’t such a killjoy that time we carved up Little Orphan Lucy.’

I bristled, regretting it instantly as I watched Bethany’s red smile broaden. She loved scoring points off me about Lucy. Lucy was a homeless human girl I’d met in London, and beneath the grime she the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. I gave her the cover story that we were using at the time, the one about me and Bethany being orphans, and Lucy had surprised and delighted me by telling me that she was one, too. I had wanted to turn her, to make her a part of my family, but Bethany had gotten to Lucy first. Where I would have been gentle, piercing the soft, dark skin of Lucy’s throat with all my tenderness, my sister had torn and chewed and savaged. I suppose I might have loved Lucy, though I only knew her for a few hours. I suppose I shouldn’t have fed on her, though my hunger had been very bad that night.

‘Oh, come on,’ Bethany tapped her cigarette over the babysitter’s chest cavity. Embers glowed briefly on the exposed muscle of the girl’s heart and were gone. A bountiful winepress to an ashtray in one gesture. ‘I’ll let you have the tasty bits.’ She considered, pouting. ‘Some of them, anyway.’

No.’ I said, with as much finality as I could muster.

Bethany glared at me for a long moment. ‘The hell with you, then.’ she snapped, rising. ‘I’m going to find some dental floss.’

She stormed out, leaving me alone with the babysitter. I studied the girl. She was sixteen or so, and quite pretty. Her face was the most intact area of her remains and I recognised the expression she wore. It was the frozen mask of almost comical surprise that humans don when confronted by creatures they’ve only ever seen in movies or nightmares. They expect us to be different. They expect Max Schreck or Christopher Lee or Robert Pattinson (My Father, who in a certain moonlight looks a little like Christopher Lee, calls this “a scandal of cinematic evolution”, usually when he’s drunk). The humans certainly don’t expect a nine-year old girl in a One Direction T-shirt or her almost painfully shy thirteen year-old brother.

Can you imagine what that’s like? To be over a hundred years old and not look a day over thirteen? Think about it. I mean, how do you feel when you look at old photographs of yourself? Pretty embarrassing, right? It’s not just the way I look that bothers me sometimes. It’s knowing that my voice will never deepen, or that I’ll never get any taller. It can be really disconcerting to have memories of the Great War and know those memories are stuck forever behind the face of some gawky little brat. Even if I had a reflection, I honestly don’t think I could bear to look in a mirror anymore.

But enough of that. If you want an interview there are plenty of books available for that sort of thing. I want to tell you about Bethany, and the baby.

There I was, standing over the dead girl and thinking about how pretty she was when, from above me, I heard the child crying.

I sprang over the corpse and ran upstairs. As I came to the open doorway of the nursery I heard the baby’s yells dwindle and cease, and looking inside I saw Bethany, cradling the infant like a doll, her bloody lips making quiet soothing sounds.

‘What are you doing?’ I demanded.

Shush,’ Bethany hissed. ‘He’s quieting down again.’

Carefully, I approached them. The baby’s face, round and pink in the glow of the night light, was awake and alert now, his blue eyes wide and curious. He gurgled pleasantly, and I marvelled at how calm he was clasped to the breast of a predator.

‘What happened?’ I whispered.

‘He heard me in the bathroom, I think.’ Bethany told me, and right away I knew she was lying. ‘He just started crying, so I thought I’d better come in.’

‘Put him back in the cot. We don’t have time for this.’

Bethany had begun to stroke the child’s soft, fine hair with her fingers, and I noticed how, in this dim light, it looked almost the same reddish-blond as my own. ‘Look how plump he is,’ breathed Bethany. ‘So full of life.’

‘Put him back.’ I said, suddenly angry with her. ‘Now, Bethany.’

‘You can’t make me!’ she snapped, a little too loudly, and the shape in her arms stirred fitfully.

‘Maybe I can.’ I took a pace towards her. ‘Maybe I will.’

Her fingers, cupping the baby’s skull, tightened fractionally. ‘And maybe I’ll take his head off his shoulders right now if you even try.’

‘Bethany, for God’s sake …’

She raised an eyebrow at me reprovingly. ‘Language, Timothy.’

My lips felt as if they were coated in fine sand. ‘Look,’ I ventured. ‘If you’re still hungry then I’ll go out and find you someone to eat. But not the baby. Believe me, he’ll taste awful anyway. Kids always do.’

‘Who says I’m hungry?’ she whispered.

‘What?’

‘Maybe …’ Her eyes glittered. ‘Maybe I just want to kill him.’

‘What?’ I repeated, shaking my head. ‘Why?’

‘Because I hate him!’ And though there was venom in her voice, I saw tears glimmering at the corners of her eyes. I hadn’t seen Bethany cry in a long time, maybe thirty years, and to be honest I’d forgotten how painful it was to see. ‘I hate the way he cries all the time. I hate how whenever I want to talk to Mum she’s always too busy opening a vein for him, and even Dad doesn’t take me out hunting anymore.’

As she spoke, she was squeezing our as yet nameless baby brother tighter to her chest, though not hard enough to hurt him, I thought. He smiled up at her, the little points of his fangs already beginning to break through his smooth pink gums.

‘I’ll talk to them,’ I promised. Sometimes I felt guilty about being our parents’ favourite, but that didn’t stop me using that favouritism to my advantage, or in this case, Bethany’s. ‘But only if you give me the baby.’

Bethany regarded me silently, her blue eyes unreadable. Then she said, ‘Mum and Dad are going to be mad when they see the babysitter, aren’t they?’

‘Probably.’ I replied, thinking there was no probably about it. ‘But it’ll be okay. We’ll just move again, no problem.’

She glanced down at the baby. He wriggled in her arms, making the little nonsense noises that infants do, and Bethany said something that I didn’t quite hear.

‘Say again?’

‘I said he’s cute.’ she repeated. ‘Don’t you think so?’

‘As a button.’ I agreed, moving closer.

‘I don’t hate him really,’ she said as I took him gently from her unresisting arms and returned him to his cot.

‘I know.’ I turned to face her. ‘C’mon. Let’s go downstairs and clean up.’

We did. We washed and wiped and folded the babysitter’s carcass into a black plastic bag for Dad to dispose of, then sat and watched television, waiting for our parents to come home from the theatre.