Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Writers Toolbox

I got a copy of The Writers Toolbox for my birthday, as a way to help my creative mind. So, as I thought I needed a bit of a break (kids, wife and dog are asleep) I'd give it a go.

It's just what came out and onto "paper"! I've not edited it, tidied up or made it flow nicely.  It kind of does, but it would need work to make real sense. It's actually given me a great idea for a story!

FS = First Sentence (highlighted in bold)
NS = Non-sequitur (highlighted in bold)
LS = Last Straw (highlighted in bold)
SS = Sixth sense, supposed to bring out feelings

PS. This is copyright now, so don't go getting any ideas! ;-)


    He swore on his mother's grave, but then he swore on just about everything. Max looked intently at Karen.
    "I promise! If swearing isn't enough, what else is there?" he said.
    "I guess there's nothing but to take your word for it then," Karen said gritting her teeth and wincing at the thought of what was about to happen.
    "Now what ever you do, don't let go."
    "Yeah, cos that's the first thing that comes to mind!" she said.
    Max gripped Karen firmly by the hand and stepped from the ledge overlooking the Hoover dam below them. Karen squeezed his hand hard and shut her eyes as tight as they would possibly go. Her faith in Max's promise was justified. Rather than falling to their deaths, they were lifted as though feathers on the breeze.
    "Shit!" Karen cried as she opened her eyes and looked down on the river and rushing water far below them.
    "See I told you," he said smugly.
    "You couldn't have just shown me that you could fly, you had to make me crap myself!"


    She may be young, but she's not stupid, Max thought. Karen had followed him around at school like a lost puppy. She knew there was something about him that she just couldn't work out and she had to know what it was. The way Max seemed to move, his effortless motion, that was what drew her to him. At first Max was annoyed, some young girl doting on him. Then it became sweet. Eventually they spent time talking and became the best of friends.
    "I wish you had shown me this sooner," Karen said over the sound of rushing air. Max had taken them higher and the valley view below was spectacular. Karen had been in a helicopter before, her father being a pilot in the army had taken her up in the past. Being in the air without the sound or vibration of the helicopter engines was an indescribable feeling.
    "What do you think?" Max asked. Having finally given in to his personal trepidation about anyone knowing about his ability, he felt more relaxed and himself than ever before in his life.
    "It is amazing. Scary as fuck, but amazing!"


    She was standing behind the counter, giving him this root beer-float kind of smile.
    "Hey Max," Karen said beaming from ear to ear. "The usual?"
    "Sure, whipped cream too if there is any," Max said.
    Karen had not stopped smiling since their trip down the Hoover dam yesterday. She hardly slept all night, writing in her journal about the amazing man that Max was. He had pleaded with her not to tell anyone, for fear of what might happen to him. Everything Hollywood had told him about people with super-powers scared him out of his wits. If it wasn't the secret identity, or the persecution of those with abilities, it was the sheer terror that he would have to find a purpose in all of this and do something with it.
    I'm just a kid, he'd told himself. Can't I just be a kid and deal with this later?
    Karen set the root beer-float down on the counter in front of him, snapping him out of his daydream.
    "So where are we going tonight?" she asked him.
    "Shhh, keep your voice down," Max replied sternly.
    "Why, don't people go out these days?"
    "Sorry, I thought you meant - you know," and indicated towards the ceiling with his eyes.


    "He was skating on thin ice - that's all I can say," said a large built man dressed in a army uniform to a colleague as they walked in the door of the diner.
    "Hey dad," Karen said to her father when she saw him.
    "Hi sweetheart," he replied. He turned and addressed his colleague, "See to it that you find out exactly what they saw. And keep it quite for Christ's sake."
    "Yes General," the soldier replied, saluted and took his leave.
    General Taylor walked over to the counter in front of his daughter and put his hat down. She leant over to give him a kiss, but her father wasn't overly keen on public displays of affection. He reluctantly leant over, as Karen stood on tip toes waiting and kissed her on the cheek.
    "Doesn't that feel better," she said, knowing full well it embarrassed him. A two star general, being embarrassed, she thought it was hilarious.
    "Dad, this is Max. He's a friend from school. He's been helping me with my math,"
    "Sir," Max said straightening up and putting out his had to shake.
    The General stood and looked at him with a dead-straight face, no sign of emotion at all. Max swallowed hard and started to sweat. Did he know something about him? Did he make people who got close to his daughter disappear?


    The General was thinking, "Does he know about the thing she did to the brakes on the Honda?" He decided that he'd made him stew long enough and shook Max's hand. Max visibly relaxed and started breathing again. There was no evidence, but the General suspected that Karen had tampered with the brakes on the Honda belonging to Jake, a fellow student who had been harassing her at school. She had reported it of course, but nothing had been done about it for months.
    One day, Karen confronted Jake at school when he was being particularly unpleasant towards her and people say she made some threat about him dying horribly in his penis-mobile, that was what a lot of people called his Honda.
    He was found dead at the bottom of a gorge the next morning. The investigation say the brakes failed, but apart from some wild accusations, nothing was proved. The General had kept an eye on Karen since, and for a whole year she seemed to have been fixated on the teenager who now stood in front of him. Max.
    "So Max, I appreciate you helping Karen with her studies. You are in your final year aren't you?"
    "Yes sir, I am."
    Karen wondered how her father knew anything about Max at all, as they'd only just met.
    "Dad, can I have a word with you for a minute?"
    "Sure thing sweetheart - Max," he said fixing Max with a quick stare before walking towards the end of the counter where Karen was waiting for him.
    "You've been spying on me haven't you," she exclaimed as loudly and as quietly as she could.
    "For your own protection sweetheart. Since the thing with Jake -"
    "There was no thing with Jake. I didn't do anything to the bloody car!" She said this a little loudly towards the end and drew the looks of a few people sitting in booths eating breakfast.

SS (the smell of fresh mint)

    She looked around at those eating and for a moment lost herself in the smells from the kitchen. Pancakes with cinnamon, iced teas with mint that reminded her of her mothers garden. She missed her mother so much. Karen was only eight when her mother died, killed by a drunk driver. The one smell that reminded her so much of her mother, oddly, was mint. The summer herb garden was always fresh with it. Normal mint, lemon mint and some other kind that just became mint in her memory.

SS (someone's red leather journal)

    For a moment she found herself standing outside her own body, looking back at herself arguing with her father. Although she could see what was happening, she realised everything was in an almost perfect balance of black and white. Like looking at an old silent movie.
    She looked around, lost in the lightness she felt from the detachment of her mind and body; someone sitting at the counter drinking coffee, Max pretending not to listen to her fighting with her father.
    And as if from nowhere a dash of colour dazzled her, not in its brightness, but in its bold intense redness. A booth at the far end of the room stood out and she could now see the book or perhaps a journal laying on the table in front of the man enjoying his morning coffee.

SS (the sound of the dishwasher)

    Hurriedly walking towards the beacon of colour, she felt as if she was loosing a grip on this reality. As unreal as this view of her world seemed, the reality she felt herself being drawn back to now felt as equally unreal. It felt like she was dreaming, walking through treacle to get to that damn journal. Sounds started to bleed back into her mind, the drone of the dishwasher, the clinking of glasses and cups. The horrible prrftt noise the coffee machine makes when you froth the milk.


    She found him in the Terminal Bar and Grill. He was sober, for a change. In the year since Karen and Max had run away together, things had become strained between them. Their relationship blossomed, initially. Passion and romance gave way to confusion and fear.
    Max had started to drink, for reasons a plenty. They had discovered that Karen's father had been keeping very close tabs on both Karen and Max since they met. They were convinced that it had something to do with Max's ability, but they found it hard to accept at first.
    "Why did you leave like that last night?" she asked him, sitting next to him and putting her hand on his.
    "You know why. You promised you wouldn't do it again," he said staring at a scotch on the rocks in front of him.
    Karen removed her hand slowly and looked down at it. "I can't always control it. You know that."
    "But you are aware when you start, you can stop if you try. At least try," he pleaded without looking up from his untouched scotch.
    "I wish it were as simple. You can control your ability, mine is - it's not me, at least that's what it feels like," she tried to explain again. They had had the conversation before, it never makes much sense.


    "Can I get you a drink miss," said the tall bar man as he wiped the bar top in front of them.
    Can I get you out of that top and into my - The bar man froze and locked eyes with Karen. His mind was suddenly not his own and he was very aware that he was bearing down on his subconscious for the comment she was not supposed to hear. It was tucked away inside his mind after all.
    They were all the same, she decided. Men were men, they all had the same primordial thoughts. She could just see them now. Just like Max had kept his ability hidden from the world, Karen had begun to discover a secret she had not realised she was keeping until that morning in the diner with her father.
    The black and white world she witnessed, was an amalgamation of peoples thoughts and feelings projected into a reality that she could move around in and later discover, manipulate to some degree.
    The bar man was released from Karen's mind, berated suitably and came back with her lemonade and lime moments later.
    "See, you did it again didn't you?" Max said. "What did he think? Or did you just plant the idea of your drink in his mind for fun?" Max picked up his drink and took a large swig.

Note: To late to write any more but I got "the day Lillian learned to drive"

A Couple of updates

Film Stuff

I got an email last night from Zach Braff (yeah he emailed me personally*) about the advance screening of Wish I Were Here in London. Looks like this is happening on the 12th September, but the venue has yet to be confirmed. Am looking forward to it and the Q&A with him afterwards.

Book Stuff

I've done another info-graphic of the word count for my manuscript. Am now just over 53 thousand words. Such a long way to go! Just worked in the first major plot twist, I hope it makes sense. Felt like the right thing to do, although I think in the first edit, it may need a little work to make it sound more plausible. I like the idea though, so it stays :)

I've got a long weekend away in a few weeks to shut myself away from everything and crack on. Hopefully I can get 6,000-10,000 words done ... or I'll drink my body-weight in coffee, either way it will be a good weekend.

*That bing-bing-bing you heard in the background was your bullshit detector going ape!

Monday, 23 June 2014

A new toy

I purchased a refurbed ASUS MeMO 7" tablet to do all my Social Media stuff on. My old HTC One phone does everything I need a phone to do, but I'm not spending hundreds of pounds on a new one when this one works fine. Remember when a phone had buttons, actual real buttons? Anyway, I use WiFi where ever I am rather than data on my phone contract, and that costs me about £9 per month for the privilege (rather than £30 to £40 for a contact with new phone). If I do need to use data, I can use the WiFi hotspot on the phone for the tablet.

But I digress. The tablet is actually not bad at all. Some of the reviews said that it lacked power in the higher end 3d games, but as I don't play games, it's plenty fast enough for the UI and it's nice, smooth and responsive.  I saved about £50 getting a refurbished model, although it does have some cosmetic scratches on the back (which I'll only add too), it's fine otherwise.

The basic spec:

  • 1280x800 pixel IPS Screen
  • Quad-core 1.3Ghz Mediatek MT1825 CPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16GB Internal Storage
  • microSD Card slot
  • Android 4.2
It's not as powerful as many other models, but for the price it's not half bad.  It's nice to hold and I agree with the plasticy feel, but I don't mind that at all. It has a decent weight to it, not too light or too heavy, but I've not used many 7" tablets, so others would probably have a different opinion.

I just need to make a sleeve for it now and have a few ideas about that. I purchased a box of leather off-cuts a couple of years ago for some Steampunk stuff I was going to create. I never did. So I have lots of really nice leather that I'll make a sleeve for the tablet, make it a bit unique.  Although it may take me a while to find some time to squeeze that into my schedule!

Bonus Book Update

I've managed to squeeze a bit of writing into my paternity leave and have now got to 52k words in my manuscript. Getting to some good bits now, twists and turns a plenty. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

39 is the new 38

Well, brushing that fact aside and a Happy coming-out-of-your-mothers-vagnina day to me, it's about time I wrote another blog entry.

(That all sounded like an intro to a sitcom episode in my head)

So, what's happened in the last year (a reflection?)

It's been a long year, but no longer than any other (I don't think it was a leap year?). Another orbit around the sun, another 365 days of everyday-ness.

The highlights of the last year though, obviously have to be the birth of baby number 2, who is a couple of weeks old now and eating like a trooper; deciding to write a novel, finding a publisher and avoiding any planet destroying comets (well we all did that one).

I lost touch with a few old friends (I think "unfriend" is the word the cool kids use these days) and kept in touch with a few others. I've avoided politics, the media's persistent coverage of hacking (would we really qualify guessing PIN numbers "Hacking"?  I guess I'm just old fashioned) and most of the Royal stuff, although Philip still makes me laugh.

We were a rest-bite for relatives escaping the floods and helped our Newfoundland dog through her knee surgery. She now has as much energy as she did when she was 2 years old (she's 4 now, in case you wondered). She had a Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA), go look it up, it's amazing!  Would certainly recommend it if you have a dog with a Cruciate Ligament that has gone walkies (best make sure your insurance covers it though, it ain't cheep!).

I've submitted my cover design ideas to my publisher, so am waiting now for some preliminary concepts. Very exciting stuff, but think they'll be saying "I wish he'd stop emailing" before too long. I can be an impatient person when I'm excited about something. I've been waiting for a KickStarter item to be delivered for nearly a year now. One was a gift for last September, then Christmas, then Valentines ... might get it for this Christmas at this rate. I know the product will be unique and well made, it's just the waiting ... arrgghhh!

I'm also very excited about the release of Zach Braff's new movie Wish I Was Here, which I sponsored and "Helped make". Looking forward to the UK screening later this year in London and the meet afterwards. The website is here if you haven't seen it yet. I'd also recommend seeing Garden State if you haven't as well. From what I've read, it went down really well at Sundance and is getting some pretty good reviews already.

I'm just enjoying the last couple of days of paternity leave (well holiday, as Statutory Paternity Pay SUCKS). Back to work on Monday and a bit more of a regular routine.

Oh, I'm up to 51,100 words now in my manuscript, so things are progressing nicely. I'm about halfway through, although I'm not sure how the second half will pan out just yet. I'm sure something else will blow up and someone else will die ... we'll have to see.

Anyway, that'll do for this recap of the last 8,760 hours and I'll start posting regular ... posts now that I'm heading back to work.