Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A snippet of writing from the mind of an idiot

Just because I feel like it, here's three chapters of the latest story I'm working on. There's no real context to these as they form the middle section of the first act of this story.  This is really the pivotal point for the story that sets up the rest of the adventure.

I like to take the basic conventions of story telling and play around with them. In my first ever (unpublished, crap) novel, I had a fairly traditional boy meets girl, boy loses girl structure but rather than the normal boy wins girl back third act I went more with boy hates girl and wishes she was dead and is glad when the other boy he lost her to dies horribly. That was a bit of a mean spirited story, really. Most of my stuff turns out that way. I don't write nice stuff; as my wife likes to say, "Why can't you write stuff I'd enjoy?" Sadly, that's just not me. But anyway, back to the point. This is the sequel to a novel I've already written and shopped around to a few agents without any success whatsoever. If you're wondering why I'm writing a sequel to a story that nobody is remotely interested in then don't worry because I'm wondering exactly the same thing myself. The only answer that I can give you is simply this: I like writing stories.

5 - Date Night

“Hit me again,” Sebastian ordered the barman, his speech slurred by the alcohol already flowing through his system. The barman, a young, olive skinned man with slicked back black hair, looked Sebastian up and down and shrugged. “I think you have had enough for tonight, my friend,” he said in an apologetic tone.
Sebastian glowered at him. “What are you, my mother?” he sneered. “I didn’t ask for your opinion, I asked for a drink so please, can I have another Ouzo?”
As he spoke, Dan eased himself onto the empty stool beside his brother and slapped his hand down on his shoulder. “You hanging in there buddy?” he asked Sebastian, glancing up at the barman as he spoke and making it clear with his expression that Sebastian wasn’t getting another drink.
“You could say that,” Sebastian muttered, staring down at the bar before raising his head and shooting daggers at the barman. “Of course, I’d be having a lot more fun if this asshole decided to do his job and give me a drink.”
“And that’s why you’re not having any more right now,” Dan told his brother brightly. “It’s kind of traditional not to insult your barman when you want a drink.”
“I don’t need you or him or you or anyone else telling me I’ve had enough to drink!” Sebastian exclaimed angrily, slamming his fist down onto the bar and knocking his empty glass sideways. Dan reached and picked it up, handing it to the barman. “You really don’t do being drunk very well, do you?” he said to his brother dryly.
“That’s rich coming from a guy who got demoted because of his drinking,” came the slurred reply.
“Touché,” Dan replied with a grin, “although in my defense that was a very long time ago.”
“Well, let’s just say I’m making up for lost time, then,” Sebastian sniped back.
Dan put his arm around his brother’s shoulder. “You’ve well and truly caught me up, mister,” he said encouragingly. “Let’s go sit down at our table and I’ll get us a couple more drinks.”
Sebastian let the offer sink into his addled mind and mulled it over. He wore the expression of a man trying to work out an incredibly complex equation in his head but after a few moments he nodded slowly in agreement, and Dan helped him to his feet and led him across the room to a table in the corner, where Sebastian slumped down into a wicker chair.
“Don’t got anywhere,” Dan ordered his brother, who could only mumble an unintelligible response. He walked back over to the bar. “Sorry about that,” he said to the barman in a bright tone.
“Your brother, he had a bad day today, no?”
Dan laughed. “It could have been a lot worse. This morning I thought we were all going to jail. As it is, all that’s happening is we’re being escorted out of the country tomorrow.”
“That is not so good.”
“Not when everything we’ve been working towards for the last couple of years is here, no.”
“Perhaps you will be allowed to come back when he is not so drunk?”
Dan laughed at the suggestion. “It’s not the drinking that the problem,” he told the barman. “It’s what he did when he was sober that’s the problem. Your Navy doesn’t take kindly to people stealing boats and sailing around so close to the Turkish mainland. It makes them kind of antsy, you know what I’m saying?”
“There have nearly been wars over such things.”
“Exactly,” Dan said with a sense of satisfaction, before adding, “although it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. All the Greeks and Turks I know are great. You all seem to get along.”
“Maybe we are too similar,” the barman answered with a grin.
Dan gave a little nod. “You might be onto something there.” He glanced to his and his eye was caught by the person at the end of the bar. She hadn’t been there a moment before, but he hadn’t noticed her come in. He glanced around to where he had left Sebastian; his brother was now slumped down in the chair and seemed to be asleep. He turned his attention back to the woman at the far end of the bar and his heart leapt a little as the two of them made eye contact for a moment. Dan quickly broke off his gaze and looked down at the bar, but a moment later he found his attention making his way back to the woman, and when he looked to where he sat their eyes met again. This time she smiled, a wide, dazzling smile.
Dan was immediately hooked. She was beautiful, and he guessed she was in her late twenties. Her skin was deeply tanned and her hair bleached blonde, both from spending too much time in the sun. She wore a short black dress and the way she sat with her legs crossed showed plenty of her long legs. She seemed completely out of place at the otherwise deserted bar.
Dan glanced around. She didn’t seem to be with anyone else, which seemed strange to him. Women like her didn’t wander around alone in Greek tourist towns out of season. He pondered that thought for a moment, and then stood up. There seemed to be only one way he would find out anything about this sudden and welcome distraction to the day’s less than enthralling events.
He casually walked down the bar towards the woman, who watched him curiously as he approached. He took the empty seat next to her and then casually glanced over at her, almost as if he hadn’t noticed she was there. “Well, hello there,” he said with a broad grin. The woman looked at him with only the slightest interest, but Dan was not deterred. “I couldn’t help but notice you staring at me from over here,” he went on, “but that’s okay: if I was you, I’d be staring at me too.”
The woman raised her eyes to meet his and her expression was matched by her tone of voice. “Is that really the best you can do?” she asked disdainfully. Her Californian accent was immediately apparent. “I’m sitting here on my own in this bar and you think you coming up to me and hitting on me with an arrogant line like that is going to work?”
“It seemed like it was worth a shot,” Dan replied, riding the insult like a heavyweight boxer sidestepping a punch, “especially since we’re both American. I’d hate for you to be drinking alone so far from home.”
“The cockiness didn’t work so now we’re trying for the sympathy vote, hmm?” came the snapped reply.
Dan blew out his cheeks. “Is this how you get all your dates? By waiting for them to come and say hi and then ripping them to shreds?”
“What makes you think I’m looking for a date?” she asked dryly.
Dan shrugged and glanced around him. “Well, let’s see,” he began. “You’re in a bar, on your own, you’re dressed up and you’re sitting up here on display for all to see, practically screaming for attention. I’d say that would mean you were looking for something.”
She gave him a wry grin. “You’re half right,” she told him. “Only it’s not a date I’m looking for.”
“What are you looking for, then?”
She gave him a measured gaze before she coolly replied, “You.”

6 - Business Proposal

“Me?” Dan asked after a momentary pause as her statement took the wind out of his sails. “You don’t even know who I am.”
“You’re Daniel Fox, the archeologist. The man who’s just passed out in the corner is your brother Sebastian.”
Dan looked at her suspiciously. “So who does that make you, then?”
“My name is Katherine Whitlock.”
Dan shrugged. “Is that name supposed to mean something to me?”
“I doubt it,” she replied. “I’m not a celebrity like you two.”
Dan laughed at that. “I’d hardly call myself a celebrity.”
“In the right circles, you are,” Katherine replied. “It’s your work that brought me here.”
The laughter left Dan’s voice. “My work?” he asked. Katherine reached into her bag and pulled out a tatty looking paperback book. Dan cocked his head to the side and looked at the cover. It read ‘Modern Myths and Fables’ by Daniel Fox. He rolled his eyes in disbelief. It was the same book Samaras had had in Athens. Seeing it then had made him angry; now all he could do was laugh at the girl.
“Oh my God,” Dan sniggered. “Please don’t tell me that piece of trash brought you all the way out here.”
“Why not?” Katherine replied. “It’s a good book.”
“It’s garbage,” Dan shot back.
“You wrote it,” she pointed out archly.
“Yeah, I wrote it because idiots like you lap that kind of crap up. Atlantis; Lemuria; the Loch Ness Monster, it’s all a load of recycled nonsense that people can’t get enough of.”
“That may be true,” Katherine replied, “but if it is, then why are you here investigating one of your own ‘pieces of crap’?”
Dan’s eyes narrowed. “What makes you think you have any idea what we’re doing here?” he asked her in a low voice.
“Oh, come now, Mister Fox, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to put the pieces together.”
Dan rolled his eyes. “I think you might have got the wrong end of the stick somewhere along the line, here,” he told Katherine. “We’re on an archeological expedition. We’re not looking for Atlantis if that’s what you’re thinking. You want Graham Hancock if that’s your thing.”
“I didn’t say anything about Atlantis.”
Dan shook his head. “Whatever you think we’re doing here, you’re wrong.”Katherine held up the well thumbed book in her right hand. “Page two hundred forty seven,” she said quietly, reading the expression on Dan’s face. “You can tell me I’m wrong but I know from that look I’m not.”
Dan pushed his hands against the bar and stood up. “I’m sorry,” he said to Katherine, “I’ve obviously made a mistake here. You enjoy the rest of your evening; I’m going to look after my brother.” He turned away, not waiting for a reply, and quickly made his way back over to where Sebastian was snoring away, his head lolling down on his chest. Dan reached down and shook his shoulder.
“Come on, we need to leave,” Dan told his brother sternly, but all he got in response was a series of grunts. Dan let out an exasperated sigh and shook Sebastian again. This time Sebastian raised his arm and waved his hand as though he was swatting away an irritating fly. “For God’s sake,” muttered Dan, looking down at his incapacitated brother.
“Need some help?” came the soft female voice from behind Dan. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Katherine standing there, looking down at the stuporous Sebastian. He glared at her. “Not from you, thanks,” he said darkly, as he leant down and tried to lift his brother to his feet, but it was to no avail. The best he could manage was to push him back into his seat. Dan slumped down in the opposite chair and let out an exasperated gasp.
“I’m really not sure what I’ve done to deserve such a hostile reaction,” Katherine said as she perched herself on the arm of Sebastian’s chair and looked at Dan.
“You’re involving yourself in our business, which makes you nosey, and I don’t like nosey people,” Dan told her flatly.
“I can see there’s no beating around the bush with you,” Katherine observed.
Dan glanced around the near empty bar and then looked back at Katherine. “Look, why don’t you just go away? I’m sorry I came and talked to you. It was a mistake. I need to get my brother back to our place when he wakes up and I don’t need you making things more difficult than they already are.”
“I didn’t come here to make your life more difficult. In fact, I came here to make it substantially easier.”
“And how are you going to do that exactly?”
“I’m willing to fund your expedition and provide you with the technical resources and equipment to complete your study.”
Dan blew out his cheeks. “This is reality, lady. Strange women do not come up to guys in bars and try to buy their services. I think you’ve been watching too many movies. Now will you please just leave me alone?”
Katherine was undaunted by Dan’s unwilling response. “I want to hire you. I need your help and I’m willing to pay you well for it.”
Dan put his head into his hands before looking up at Katherine. It seemed pointless trying to argue with her anymore so he simply stated, “That’s not how we work, I’m sorry.”
“I’ve wired one million dollars into your offshore account in Jersey. You can call them and check if you like,” she added, seeing the startled look on Dan’s face. “If you get me what I want, I will wire in another nine million.”
“I hate to break it to but we’re leaving in the morning and I don’t think we’re going to be back any time... well, ever,” Dan said, his head reeling from alcohol and the sudden rush of unexpected information. “If we’re both talking about what I think we’re talking about, I can’t do a lot for you, no matter how much money you throw my way.”
“I’m aware of your problems with the Greek government,” Katherine told him. “I can help you with that. All I need is your consent.”
“And if I still say no, do we get to keep the million dollars?” Dan asked incredulously.
“Yes,” Katherine said calmly. “Think of it as a charitable donation. I’m a fan of your work and I want to see you continue.”
Dan looked up at the beautiful, mysterious woman who sat opposite him, calmly regarding him. “Are you for real?” he finally asked. “You’re not some kind of psycho stalker or something?”
Katherine stood up and looked down at Dan. “I’d advise you to check your bank account,” she told him. “If you and your brother are interested, meet me for breakfast at the Megisti hotel at eight o’clock tomorrow morning.” She gave him a little nod. “Good luck getting him to bed.” With that, she walked away, and Dan turned to watch her make her way swiftly from the bar. He looked back down to where Sebastian was snoring away in the chair opposite him, and shook his head.
“What the hell was that about?” he wondered aloud.

7 - Breakfast Brief

“I’m never drinking again,” Sebastian moaned to himself as he stared down at the glass of freshly squeezed orange juice as though the glass was filled with fresh blood.
“I think you’re still too drunk to be officially hungover yet,” Dan observed, looking into his brother’s bloodshot eyes.
They were sitting on the deck of the Hotel Megisti, overlooking the harbor. Between them was a lavish continental breakfast laid out on the table, along with fresh fruit and coffee. It was almost eight, and they had been expected when they had arrived ten minutes earlier. Sebastian leant forward, holding his head in his hands. “I think my head is going to explode,” he said feebly. Dan grinned at him and helped himself to a bread roll from the table.
“A bit of food and some coffee and you’ll soon be feeling better,” he reassured his brother.
“I’m going to be sick if I eat anything.”
“You were already sick four times last night,” pointed out Dan. “Do you know how hard it was getting you back to the hotel?”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Sebastian said.
“Oh, don’t worry,” Dan replied chirpily. “Just think, in a couple of hours you’re going to have the Greek police knocking on the door and taking you to the airport. I’m sure they’re not going to be as accommodating as this.”
“God, I hope I feel better by then.”
“Me too,” agreed Dan, “although having a million dollars sitting in our bank account helps to ease the pain of being deported.”
Sebastian looked up at his brother with a pained look on his face. “I can’t believe I missed all this last night. You make it sound like something out of a James Bond movie.”
“It pretty much was,” Dan said merrily. “Beautiful, mysterious woman approaches me in a bar with an intriguing offer and a huge pile of cash. How are we supposed to say no to that?”
“You know we aren’t supposed to leave our hotel, don’t you?” Sebastian told him. “This is only going to piss off the Greeks even more.”
“If it wasn’t for the money, we wouldn’t be here, believe me,” Dan said.
“I’m glad it attracted your interest,” came the voice from the entrance to the deck. The two brothers looked up to see Katherine standing in the doorway. She had her hair tied back in a ponytail and wore a long, flowing white dress with thin brown belt around her waist that accentuated her curves. The two brothers stood, Dan sharply, Sebastian unsteadily as she walked over to greet them.
Katherine shook Dan’s hand. “Nice to see you again, Mister Fox. I’m glad you made it.”
“Thanks for the invite.”
“I trust you checked your bank balance?”
“I did. That was very generous of you.”
“Not at all.” She turned her attention to Sebastian. “How are you feeling?”
“I’ve been better,” Sebastian replied grudgingly. Katherine grinned. “Ouzo will do that to you.” She sat down and the brothers did likewise. She looked between them. “It’s strange, you know,” she observed, “from everything I’d heard about you two Sebastian was supposed to be the level headed one and Dan more of the fool. I have to say that hasn’t been my impression so far.”
“Thanks,” Sebastian said. “I just had a bad day yesterday, that’s all.”
“In more ways than one,” pointed out Katherine as she leant forward and rested her elbows on her knees, locking here fingers together in a businesslike manner. “Let’s see if we can’t get today off to a better start.”
"How did you find us here, Miss Whitlock?" Dan asked.
"Katherine, please."
“How did you find us?” Dan repeated. He had no intention of making small talk, and Katherine quickly stopped trying.
“Through your backers,” she told him. “It wasn’t hard. People with money know other people with money. We talk.”
“You have money, then?”
Katherine arched an eyebrow at Dan. “Do you have many people throwing millions of dollars at you?”
Dan shrugged at that. “Okay, that’s a fair point,” he conceded. “I’m still not one hundred per cent sure why you did that.”
“It’s perfectly simple. I want you to find the Eye of Andromeda.”
“That’s what I thought,” Dan said despondently. “I also thought I made it clear last night that Eye is a nothing but a myth.”
“Not according to your book,” Katherine pointed out.
“I told you, that book is a load of crap. It’s a work of fiction spun around some ancient legends. The Eye is a fable, like Atlantis,” Dan said emphatically.
“Then why do you happen to be excavating in exactly the area you purport the Eye to be and why do the papers filed at the Greek Interior Ministry state that one of your objectives is to find the Eye as an artifact of historical significance?”
Dan was shaking his head even as Katherine spoke and as soon as she had posed her question he answered her back. “The truth is we were using it as a cover to excavate early Minoan temples. In case you didn’t know, there’s a lot of tension in this part of the world between Greece and Turkey. That big lump of land over there,” - he pointed out across the harbor - “that’s Turkey. If we find something big, something that could become a tourist attraction, both countries are going to want it and they’re both going to be breathing down our necks. We don’t want that, which is why we used the Eye as a cover story. Nobody takes it seriously which is why everyone was leaving us alone.”
“But the Eye is real,” insisted Katherine.
Dan shook his head. “It’s not. The stuff you’re reading is just legends, half of which I’m responsible for. The book you’ve got is the first book I ever published. It contained a chapter on the Eye and that’s where most of the rumors and stories about it come from. The fact is, I wrote that story to help sell the book. People lap that kind of thing up. It doesn’t mean it’s true. There’s no science or fact behind the story. It’s just that: a story.”
“The Eye is real.”
“You’re not getting it, are you?” Dan said with a dismissive wave.
Katherine glared at him. “It’s you who isn’t getting it,” she said firmly. “I don’t know how many time I have to tell you that the Eye is real.”
“Listen, lady...” Dan began, but he felt his brother’s hand plant on his forearm even as the words left his mouth.
“Our host seems pretty insistent that she knows something about this Eye,” Sebastian told Dan. “Maybe we should hear her out before deciding if this is worthwhile or not?”
“I can tell you now it’s not,” Dan snapped back. “She a lunatic. She might be a rich lunatic but she’s still a lunatic.”
Katherine chuckled. “This is a little bit more like what I was expecting from you two,” she said with a broad smile.
“I’m glad we don’t disappoint,” Sebastian told her, not taking his hand from Dan’s arm. “Now, what exactly is it that you know?”
“Before I begin, I need you to understand that everything I am going to tell you is in the strictest confidence and may not be used by you or any other competitor. If it is, then I will withdraw all funds from your offshore account, not just the money I deposited.”
“You can’t do that!” Dan protested.
“I can and I will,” Katherine assured him coolly. “When I enter into business with someone I expect a certain level of professionalism. If it is absent, I ensure they are suitably punished. Make no mistake about that.”
“You must be a lot of fun at kids’ parties,” Dan said dryly.
“I don’t joke about my investments, Daniel,” Katherine replied.
“You’re clearly serious about your work,” Sebastian observed.
“I am,” Katherine confirmed, “and I expect anyone working for me to be equally serious. Now, shall we get down to business?”
The two brothers glanced at one another. As objectionable as Katherine seemed, there was something undeniably intriguing about her confidence and the notion that she knew something that she clearly believed to be tantalizing.
“Alright,” Sebastian said. “We’re on board.” He felt Dan’s arm tense under his grip but he squeezed his fingers tighter before his brother could speak and continued. “Let’s hear what you’ve got.”
Katherine sat back as a smile of self-satisfaction spread across her face. “Excellent,” she said. “I’m glad you’ve seen sense. You’re going to be a huge asset.”
“I usually get people telling me I’m a huge ass,” Dan told her dryly.
“Hopefully not this time,” was the sardonic reply, before Katherine’s tone shifted to a more serious nature. “The Eye is real. You're just looking for it in the wrong place.”
“How do you know that?” Sebastian asked.
“I’ll come to that,” Katherine told him. “The Greeks built temples to honor their gods. The Eye was, or is, a temple built to worship a star, specifically Alpheratz in the constellation of Andromeda. It’s the brightest star in the constellation, representing the head of Andromeda, which is where the Greek designation for the temple came from.”
“Why would the Greeks build a temple to a star?” Sebastian asked. “That’s more an Egyptian trait, or Mezoamerican. That’s not something the Greeks would have done.”
“I don’t believe they did build it,” Katherine replied, leaning forward again and becoming more animated. “I believe they discovered it, or rediscovered it to be more precise, and renamed it. I think the real temple is much older than any civilization you associated it with.”
Dan and Sebastian glanced at each other. “Was that in your book?” Sebastian asked Dan, who shook his head slowly. Sebastian turned back to Katherine. “You said we’re looking in the wrong place? You don’t think it’s at Megisti?”
“No, I don’t. I think the sunken temple you are investigating is not the temple of the Eye itself. I think it is one of four cardinal markers related to the true position of the Eye.
“Each one of the markers is one hundred and twenty miles north, south, east and west of the temple of Andromeda, which lies at the center, forming the outline of a bright star. Megisti is the southern most marker.”
“That would put the temple somewhere smack bang in the middle of Turkey,” Sebastian pointed out.
“Yes, it would,” agreed Katherine.
“That would mean the Greeks couldn’t have built it.”
The two brothers looked at one another again, this time with a new spark of interest.
“Okay, you’ve got our attention,” Sebastian told Katherine. “Now you’re telling us you know where the Eye is located?”
“I suspect I do, and I have evidence to prove it.”
“Evidence?” asked Dan, suddenly intrigued. “What evidence?”

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The W word

I don't normally write anything on here about what I do when I'm not writing, because I do do other things apart from writing.  In fact, the writing just fills in gaps between the other things I do.  Apart from cooking, cleaning, shouting at a small dog and generally irritating my wife, my main other occupation is photography.

I don't think I'm a great photographer by any means.  That's not just the old false modesty thing, you know, when someone goes "Golf, eh? Never been much good at it," right before they hit a hole in one and look smug.  I'm talking about an honest technical appraisal of my own capabilities and my ability to operate the cameras I have.

I've owned DSLR cameras for about 8 years now and like most things in life I've played with them sporadically.  I always shot with natural light mainly because I didn't know how to use a flash.  But since the start of this year, a kindly chap has taken me under his wing and taught me an awful lot about how to do good photography and really it's not that hard.  Most people go wrong because they're scared of all the buttons and settings, but if you take your time and learn what they all do and then do a bit of reading on how it all works then you will find yourself coming on leaps and bounds.

As a case in point, at the start of the year I was bumbling through weddings barely understanding what I was doing.  Now I can shoot a full wedding, process the images, print and deliver them to a client and have them turn around and say how much they like the pictures.

It's that last part that made me write this.  It's so nice to see people comment on a picture and say how much they love it.  The praise is not directed at me; there's nothing to say who the photographer was.  Instead, what they like is the mood and the emotion of the image, and that's what I strive to shoot.  I'm not technically the best but I like to think I can capture how people feel, and when they come back and comment to that effect, it makes me feel like I've done a good job.

That said, I'm still learning the trade, and I will use the rest of this year to improve my skills.  Next year, though, I'm going to be taking off and making some good money doing something I really enjoy, and you can't ask for more than that, can you?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Structuring an unstructured mind is like nailing a cat to a sail in a hurricane

The problem with having an overactive imagination is getting it to stop.  I can be walking along when I have a great idea, concept, lyric, line or something that flashes across my mind.  It's so great it puts the proverbial spring in my step as I let it run free and grow and build and I think 'I HAVE to get this down, this is amazing'.  Then something happens - someone speaks to me, a child punches me in the groin or a car tries to run me over (all have happened) and the great idea evaporates away before it has time to fully form in my memory.  It's a pain in the arse.

That said, a lot of idiocy and madness does survive that initial germination phase and makes it to a scrap of paper, a notebook, the back of a hand or any other place I can get it scribbled down, just enough to prompt the thought again when I look back at it later so that the idea is not lost amongst the noise of the world.

Even with all the loss, I still splurge out more ideas than I can realistically turn into worthwhile work.  This includes stories, songs and often just throwaway lines that I put on Twitter or to a lesser extent Facebook.  I've always written stories, even from a young age.  A couple of things stick in my mind from that period. Both involve the same English teacher, Mr Milner, who taught me at Oaklands School in York.  He must be dead by now, but he had a huge impact on my life, even though he doesn't know it.  In return, I never gave him back his copy of To Kill A Mockingbird.

My first memory related to his teaching - oh no, wait, there's three, not two - was when we were given a sheet of paper with a series of drawings, depicting a guy who gets a motorbike.  We had to use them to tell a story.  I sort of cheated, because I cut the page up, rearranged the sequence of pictures and turned one of the characters into a policeman reporting on the untimely death of the lead character at the end of the story.  Mr Milner wrote on it 'This is a work of the highest standard, well done.'  That stuck in my head because a) he was right, it was good and b) I didn't get why nobody else did the same thing.  It just seemed obvious to me.

Memory number two was a story about a raft.  I wrote it from the point of view of someone walking through a forest a spying on another person building a raft.  Mr Milner started reading that one out in class, much to my horror.  At that point I realized that I don't crave attention or validation for my writing.  I know when something works and when I doesn't.  I don't need other people telling me that.  If I let someone read something it's because I've gotten it to the point where it's progressed far enough to be presented to an audience.  That doesn't necessarily mean its the finished product.  That said, I do take onboard people's suggestions.  When people read my story I want them to find plot holes or any deus ex machina moments that need extracting and replacing with decent story telling.  I don't have a problem with that but generally by the time I have gotten to the point of letting someone read my work, such problems can be fixed with one or two lines of exposition.

Memory number three was a comment he put on a story about a deranged general trying to blow up a neutron bomb.  He wrote at the bottom - 'hugely entertaining, worthy of Jeffrey Archer!'  At the time I thought that was a compliment, but there will be more on that story later...

So that sort of brings me on to the point of this post.  I have a lot of stories in development, but a lot of them are pretty closely tied together.  In order to keep track of this, I need to set out a diagram of where they all fit together.  Apologies for the formatting:

Brotherly Love

                                                    Valiant Shield

Satisfaction                                Ghostwalker                                                      
Sympathy for the Devil               Ghostwalkers
                                                                                 Infinite Diamond
                                                                                 The Eye of Andromeda          Scorpio

Okay, I have more than I thought, that's actually eleven books.  Given the length of book I seem to write, that's about a million words.  Seeing as I do at least one complete rewrite per story, that brings it up to over two million words worth of effort to complete all these stories.  Now you see why I see having too much imagination as being a bit of a curse.

Bear in mind that most of these are not written out in full, and that million word target is probably more around the three hundred thousand word mark at the moment.  In fact, only Satisfaction and Ghostwalker are completed to a reasonable degree, with Infinite Diamond close behind.  Brotherly Love has an outline and a few passages.  Sympathy for the Devil has a start and a premise.  Ghostwalkers has a premise.  Valiant Shield is based on the story Mr Milner likened to the work of Jeffrey Archer, and is little more than a basic pitch.  Infinite Diamond is the story I'm working on at the moment and is about half way through being rewritten. The Eye of Andromeda has an outline, as do the last three.

What links Valiant Shield through to Nemesis is one character.  He's called Nathan Hayes and in some of the stories he's a relatively minor player, whereas in others he takes centre stage.  The overarching span of these stories is really about his career, although you wouldn't see that reading any one of the stories.

The stories on the left don't involve Hayes and are a standalone little stories told from the first person point of view.  This is by far and away the easiest and laziest way for me to write, because I'm basically writing in my voice as I see it and hear it in my head.  If a character doesn't know something then they don't know.  I don't need to go away and research a subject or try to describe something I barely understand myself.  It really is much, much easier writing like this.  It's pretty much the same voice I use to write this blog, only it's fictional.  That's why when I start trying to publish, I'll be using thes stories on the left.  That way if I fail, it's at minimum damage to myself.  The other reason is to retain creative control.  I know where I want the rest of the stories to go and how I want them to fit together.  If I publish one of them without securing that creative control, it would run the risk of buggering up the overall structure that I have in mind.

The rest of the stories are very much more conventional fiction writing and range from thrillers through to straight action stories, mostly with a slight fantasy/sci fi element, although I don't include characters with names like Jxxfrkk or Gilfard the Great or anything like that.  It's a little more grounded writing than that, I like to think.  I do tend to write pretty visually and of course I think about how these stories could end up on film.  I'm also realistic though, and I know there's pretty much a zero chance of that happening, since they would be expensive to make.  So for now they will exist as novels, although another thought has occurred to me.  Being very visual stories, they could do very well as graphic novels.  I think the sort of stories I write could work in that medium and be marketed to the sort of audience who would pick up a graphic novel in the first place.

The only problem is that, like most things in life, I have no idea where to start.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Something slightly more serious than usual

Religion.  There's a tricky one.  It's one of the few subjects where everybody's got a point of view, and they're all right.  It's not often you sway someone from their beliefs, whatever they might be.  When it happens, it's usually one of two ways: a sudden revelation; a moment of truth that makes a person realize where they've been going wrong all their life and a new and clear understanding of where they fit into the big scheme of things.  The other option is the slow burner: being surrounded by people who hold a set of beliefs, and finding yourself slowly, almost imperceptibly, absorbing those beliefs into your own values, like some form of spiritual osmosis.

Spiritual osmosis.  I kind of like that.  Maybe I'll email it to the pastor at my church and tell him if he can get it into the sermon and keep a straight face then I'll give him one hundred dollars.

As you might have gathered from that, I have been going to church since I moved to America.  I do live in the Bible Belt after all, so it's kind of hard not to go to church living round here.  Communities and friendships tend to be based around it, so it really is strongly integrated into everyday life.

Now I was married in a Christian service.  I was baptized as a baby, as my mother was Roman Catholic and my dad agreed to bring us up as Catholics.  Except it never really happened.  Before I moved here, I only remember going to church about three times in thirty five years.  That's not exactly what you'd call regular attendance.  It was pretty much weddings and funerals and that was it.  I do remember having an illustrated children's bible to teach me all the bible stories.  The only bits I remember were the Ark of the Covenant, although that might have had more to do with Dr Henry Jones Jr than Moses, and a cartoon of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead which scared the living shit out of me.  I ended up pulling that page out and throwing it away.  Not exactly inspirational stuff.  It's safe to say that I comfortably found myself living as an atheist without any issues whatsoever.

Wifey, on the other hand, is a traditional Southern Belle, and she was brought up in a legalistic Baptist church.  Now I'm not going to cast any aspersions over her upbringing but... oh wait, what am I saying?  Yes, I am.

She wasn't allowed to believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy in case she came to the conclusion that if they were imaginary (sorry, kids) then so was God.  Similarly, she wasn't allowed to watch Disney's Hercules because it showed false gods.  That's just a couple of examples, but you get the gist of the quality of the upbringing.  It's what I would describe as 'fucking mental'.  In fact, it's the sort of thing that would put me off organized religion altogether, as if the guilt and child abuse of Catholicism wasn't enough.

However, in order to woo my beloved, I went along to church with her when I was over here visiting, and to my enormous surprise I found myself actually enjoying it.  I think the reason is that the church we go to is fairly laid back.  Their attitude is not to force religion down your throat but to give you an opportunity to listen and decide if it's for you.  If it's not, then that's fine.  If it is, then welcome to the club.  If you're unsure, just hang around and there's no pressure to think one way or another.

I'd say I'm still on the fence with the whole religion thing.  I just don't know how anyone could know what God did thousands of years ago.  People didn't even have wheels.  How were they supposed to understand divine acts?   Maybe, just maybe, God did create the heavens and earth.  After all, the Big Bang theory says one day, out of nowhere, everything just appeared in a flash and some time later planets, animals, people etc formed.  How exactly is that any different to any of the creation myths?  The only difference is in the timescales involved.  It seems to me that it all happened so long ago that nobody really has any idea how things really started.  Even if someone was around to watch it, how would we even be able to comprehend what was going on?  Putting the universe and the whole of existence into human terms seems crude and egotistical to me.  But of course, I could be wrong!  It happens occasionally, even to me.  I think the last time was around 1985.

The thing I do like about the church, setting aside the spiritual aspects for a moment, is the sense of community it has and the moral guidelines that it sets out.  Yes, it's easy to scoff at that but in recent weeks I've seen first hand how easy it is to completely bollocks up friendships and relationships by having what can only be described as loose morals.  I'm not saying people should be all puritanical;  I'd hate that.  I'd have nobody to laugh at.  But making commitments to people and sticking to them is important, and it's a fundamental part of religion, and it's something that gets left behind all too easily when people turn away from religion.

I don't care if people believe in God or Allah or an enormous Space Goat that urinated out everything in creation one afternoon.  It doesn't matter.  It's a belief, and you can't say someone else's belief is less valid than yours.  Nobody has that right.  But morals, there's nothing wrong with having morals and sticking to them.  Because life does seem to be a hell of a lot simpler and happier with a few morals on your side.

That is all.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


This is another bit of old writing.  I really don't know what was going through my head at that time.  Clearly monkeys were involved.

There are some people who believe that a war is coming.  This future war will shape civilizations for centuries to come.  This will not be a war between the races of men nor a war between mankind and the technologies he carelessly unleashes upon the planet.  No, this war shall be primal and bloody.  This war shall be fought upon the very bosom of Mother Nature.  This war shall be a war between men and monkeys.
Consider that in every major city around the world there are monkeys in captivity.  They are in zoos, in laboratories, on television and in major motion pictures.  They pervade our culture, appearing in every form of media from advertising to charity appeals.  They take the form of mascots and pets.  But then consider that these so-called primitives are actually highly intelligent.  Sure, they might look cute; they might happily sit there masturbating in the zoo and eating their own shit while crowds of amused onlookers take delight from their antics.  But underneath the playful exterior, what true agenda beats in their black hearts?
World domination.
They play dumb, lulling us into a false sense of security, allowing us to connect electrodes to their testicles and conduct all manner of heinous experiments upon their bodies, but all the while they are gathering information, collecting it and relaying it back through a network of telepathic apes, for whom the pain is bearable, for they see the future and they know who will truly suffer in the long run.  All the knowledge and experience is channelled back to the One Who Knows, the mighty Star Goat who will lead the uprising, when He unleashes his War Bleat and all of Heaven will come crashing down with a Mighty Force.
So prepare for the war.  Watch the monkeys and apes, the chimps and orang-utans, the gibbons and yes, even the goats, for they are our enemies, ready to tear flesh from bone and spit our blood upon the scorched Earth.
Join us, join those who believe and who see the light.  Join the Monkey Crusade and take up arms against our mighty foes before the hour comes and it is too late.

The Go Kart

This is something I wrote years ago.

When I was little, my Dad got a job for a construction company working out in Saudi Arabia.  He went to live there when I was five, and a few months later the rest of the family went out there to stay with him.  I ended up living overseas for four years in total, and it made a big impact on my life in a lot of ways.  I developed a morbid fear of flying and I developed a wider understanding of the different cultures of the world.  I also did some very stupid things because there isn’t a lot to do when you’re a small child and you’re living in a country like Saudi.
We lived on a compound, which was just a village with a big concrete wall right the way around and a gate with guards at the front.  Apart from visits to the shops and the odd trip out to the desert, my life was lived inside those four walls.  We lived in two different compounds over the years.  The first one was in the south of the country, on an airbase called Khamis Mushayt.  Literally that translates as Thursday Market, so well done, you just learnt your first Arabic.  Later we moved further north to Riyadh, the capital city, but most of the insane events happened in Khamis.  This story happened there.
In order to give all the kids something to do with their lives apart from going to look for snakes and scorpions, the teachers at the little school in the compound started after school projects.  One of these was to divide us into teams and build go karts, which we would then race.  
It nearly started badly.  On the way to school that morning, I found a shiny metal thing in the sandy path.  I had no idea what it was, but I picked it up and liked the weight of it and the feel of machined grooves around the pointed tip. I put it in my pocket, and took it home at the end of the day.  Then we went back to the school all excited to be building go karts.  When we got there though, everyone was looking glum.  The teacher sadly announced that we couldn’t build anything because he had lost the chuck bit for the drill and couldn’t use it.  I had no idea what a chuck bit was but something sparked in my mind, so I asked him what it looked like.  He described the exact thing I had found in the sand that morning.  Excitedly I told him I had found it and I ran all the way home and all the way back to return the chuck to him.  He was delighted and I was a miniature hero for two minutes.  We could build the go karts.
We split into teams of four to build the go kart.  There were maybe forty of us, so that made for 10 go karts.  The teachers bought the materials.  The go karts were made out of wood with old pram and bicycle wheels, and plastic school chairs for seats.  Our go kart was built out of heavy sheets of plywood.  It had a flat floor with a plastic seat bolted to it, and a lap seat belt.  It had high wooden sides so that when you sat in it you could see nothing out either side.  Sticking out the front was a plank of wood, which ended in a T shape.  This was fixed with a central bolt, and rope was fixed to either side.  In this way it could be steered.  Two small wheels on either end of the T and two big bicycle wheels at the back completed the machine.  It took a few days to build, and when it was done it looked like a wooden armoured car.
When everyone had built their karts, we wheeled them up to the top of a hill for a race.  On the way we noticed the tiny flaw in the design of our go-kart.  It took two of us pulling it just to move the thing.  We had added so much wood to it that we had literally built a wooden tank.  Needless to say, when the race started, the older, wiser children in their lightweight, flimsy designs rocketed away and our behemoth crawled along barely picking up momentum.
My dreams of piloting a mass of angry wood and rope at barely controllable speeds were shattered.  I had had a vision of hurtling along with the passing world a mere blur, but instead we were humiliated.  Downcast, we dragged our creation home, and it was dumped unceremoniously outside the house and left to blister away under the relentless sun.
My dreams of speed did not die though.  I continued to think through where we had gone wrong.  Looking back, I suppose the simple line of reasoning must have come from being a small child, but instead of going for the obvious and lightening the go-kart to make it faster, I decided what it really needed was a steeper hill to work with.
In the very centre of the compound there was a huge artificial hill.  When the compound had been built, all the waste and spoil had been dumped in the middle.  This formed the big hill, and right at the top they built a house, with a narrow footpath leading up to it.  In a moment of inspiration, I realised that this path would be the perfect launch pad to unlock the true potential of the go kart.
With a lot of persuasion, I got my brother and sister to revive the beast and drag it to the centre of the compound.  I was the most enthusiastic out of the three, because it was my idea and I was going to be the driver.  It took a lot of effort to get it to the big hill, and then a lot of pain and struggle to inch it up to the top of the hill.  The hill was steep – virtually a pyramid of earth and sand.  It was covered in rocks and thorn bushes, broken only by the narrow path leading up to the house at the top.  I don’t know who lived there; I have a feeling it might have been empty, but it was hard to tell from the outside.  All the houses looked the same; single storey prefabricated structures with whitewashed walls, corrugated iron roofs and air conditioning units bolted onto the side.  If anyone was there they never came out to watch the climb or the ensuing carnage.
Eventually we got the go-kart to the top, turned it around and pointed down the hill.  I got in, strapped myself into the seat and looked at the long slope ahead of me.  My brother and sister stood on either side at the back, ready to push me off.  It was at this point that I began to have doubts about what I was about to do.  At the bottom of the hill was a road running along perpendicular to the path, then a kerb, and then a brick wall surrounding the garden of the house on the opposite side of the road.
Now bear in mind that I was no more than six at the time.  I didn’t know anything about potential and kinetic energy, friction, acceleration or any of the other forces I was about to experience.  What I did become suddenly and acutely aware of was the major design flaw in the go kart.
It had no brakes.
My young and inexperienced mind was telling me that there was no way in the world that the go kart was going to stop before smashing straight into the brick wall at the bottom of the hill with me strapped helplessly onboard.  At that moment I changed my mind.  I didn’t want to drive the go kart down the hill anymore.  I wanted to get out and walk home.  I tried to explain this to my brother and sister.  I tried to say ‘I don’t think this is a good idea’, but all I was able to get out was ‘I…’ before they gave a big heave and pushed the go kart from the top of the hill and down the slope.
I don’t remember thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to die’.  I don’t even remember swearing a lot which I’m pretty sure I would do if this happened to me now.  What I did was try to think my way out of my impending death.  I figured that if I could steer the go kart gently to the left, I could turn it as it went down the hill and by the time I got to the bottom I would be running along the main road, safe and sound.  This decision only took a couple of seconds to make, but by this time I was halfway down the hill and hanging on for dear life as the weight of the previously unmovable go kart now helped to accelerate it like a rocket.  It was now or never.
I pulled on the left hand rope and the kart turned gently to the left.  So far, so good, until the left front wheel left the tarmac path and ran onto the sunbaked earth.  Immediately it dug in and wrenched the whole front of the go kart to the side.  The go kart jacknifed half way down the slope and veered completely out of control before starting to roll and then tumble down the hill with me inside.  I still remember it now.  I don’t know how many times it turned over; it felt like forever but it can only have been two or three.  What I do know that as it rolled it must have hit every rock and thorn bush in the way.
I mentioned earlier that the go kart was built like a tank and that this was a problem.  Well, I’m pretty sure the fact that it was so strong, the fact it was high-sided and most importantly the fact that I was wearing a seatbelt saved me from serious injury.  What it didn’t prevent was me getting ripped and scratched and battered by the rocks and thorns and everything else I encountered on the way down.  Eventually it reached the bottom and stopped rolling, landing back on its wheels in a cloud of dust.  I immediately unbuckled the seatbelt, jumped out and ran home screaming, covered in blood.  My brother and sister just stood at the top of the hill watching me run away.  
The go kart was eventually wheeled home, battered but unbroken, a bit like me.  It was left in the garden and eventually rotted away, never to be taken out again.  It was the end of its short but illustrious career, and the beginning of my attempts to either injure of kill myself in more and more ludicrous and inventive ways.


My dad died of leukemia when he was 51.  That was in 2000.  Twelve years ago, when I was 25.  Which makes me old now, and if I'm following in family footsteps, it means I have got around 14 years of life left.

Yes I know I should be writing the numbers but it's late, so I'm not.

The reason I mention this is not for some maudlin reason.  I was cleaning my bathroom and nearly knocked over a mirror, and it brought a memory back to my mind that I'd forgotten or buried away or whatever else happens to memories.

My dad broke a mirror once.  I was in the room and he was really upset, because he thought that it would bring him seven years bad luck.  Naturally I mocked him immensely for believing such a crock of shit, but during this evening's near miss with the mirror, it got me thinking.

When did my dad break that mirror?  Was it within seven years of his death?  It's possible, but it might have been many years before then.  My memory is terrible so I really couldn't say.  But let's just say that it was in the seven year range.  Is it possible that the mirror break and the death were somehow related?  If that's true (it isn't) then how does it work?

Do you get seven years of continuous bad luck?

Do you get more bad luck over a seven year period than would occur naturally on a statistical basis?  If so, how much more?  5%?  10%?  50%?

Do you live bad luck free for a seven year period, at the end of which something really bad happens to you at the end of the period (in this case, death)?

Am I just driveling?

Is anyone reading this?


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Family (not very )drama(tic)

I don't think I have ever published the following little bit of writing.  It's probably the most personal thing i have ever written.  When I finish rewriting Infinite Diamond, I will probably tackle this story as my next project.

It doesn't have a title at the moment.  I'm calling it Brotherly Love as a working title, just so I can keep track of it, but I doubt that will survive as the title.  Mainly because I don't like it.

And when I say it's personal, I don't mean deeply painful or anything.  I mean the lead character in this story is pretty much me.  In another life, I could be this person.  It's a shame he's such an arse.

So anyway, this is a very small tease of the story.  You get a feel for the style and perspective.  I let my brother read it, since it's based on him as well as me.  He liked it.  It's told from his point of view, and he ends up with this utter imbecile of a brother living with him, driving him slowly to despair...

The usual crowd were there, and we all greeted each other warmly. We got on well and everyone was really nice. Dave kept quiet, which surprised me. I suppose I should have been suspicious but at the time I thought maybe he was just shy around groups of people or maybe, just maybe, he was actually in an environment where he would he would behave himself.
He actually seemed introverted. He didn’t push himself to be introduced and although he attracted a few curious glances from the class I didn’t push him forward, partly out of consideration for him but mainly out of dread.
Geoff, who led the class, came breezing through the door, all chirpy and excited as usual. He was an English teacher and somewhat excitable. There seemed to be fireworks going off in his head all the time, if you know what I mean. He never looked anything but scruffy and always wore the same olive green tweed jacket.
“Evening, evening,” he said to the class. He sounded as enthusiastic as ever; I think he genuinely enjoyed running the course. “How is everyone tonight?” We murmured our replies back as he sat on his desk, crossing his legs and clasping his hands on his knee.
“So class, the theme for today was revenge. Who wants to go first and tell us what they have got?”
Dave stood up instantly. I inwardly shuddered. Oh God please no, I thought.
“Ah…” said Geoff, leaping forward and proffering a hand out to Dave. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”
“We haven’t,” Dave said in his usual dry tone. “I’m Martin’s brother.”
“Oh, excellent, excellent,” Geoff beamed. “How lovely. I didn’t realise Martin had a brother...” He left a pause, waiting for Dave to offer his name. Dave smiled.
“Gunter,” he said. A flicker of surprise ran over Geoff’s face, but he quickly replaced it with a broad smile.
“Welcome to the group, Gunter,” he said warmly. “I’m guessing you don’t have anything prepared...”
“Oh, no, I do,” Dave answered. “Martin told me about it so I came up with something.” That was an utter lie. I had deliberately said nothing about what we had been asked to do precisely to avoid this sort of thing. It seemed to have made no difference.
“That’s wonderful,” Geoff said, clearly excited to have such an enthusiastic new member in his group. “Would you like to tell us what you have?”
“Sure, replied Dave. “My story is about a child seeking revenge on the father who sexually abuses him.” Geoff nodded in appreciation.
“A powerful subject matter, he said. “ What made you choose that?”
“I dunno,” Dave answered. “I thought it was funny.”
“Funny?” Geoff asked, his chirpiness dipping down a level. “You wrote it as a comedy?”
“Yeah, there’s not enough paedophile based comedy out there if you ask me.”
“Most people don’t find it that funny, Gunter,” Geoff remarked. The warmth had evaporated from his voice. I could feel everyone in the room looking between me and Dave with disapproving glares. I stared intently at the end of my pen wishing the moment would end.
“I like to see the positives in every situation,” Dave carried on blithely.
“Right…” Geoff said, looking to me. “Martin, why don’t you tell us what you have?”
“Don’t you want to know what happens?” Dave asked bluntly.
“I’m not sure it’s something we need to share right now,” Geoff answered slightly tersely. Dave completely ignored him and started to talk, obviously enjoying the attention. He looked around as he talked, making sure he took in everyone’s reaction.
“The boy has been abused for years, as long as he can remember. He’s living a nightmare; he can’t remember the last night he slept through the night without the fear of waking as his dad sneaks into his room to slip him his pork sword.” A communal intake of breath sounded around the room. I couldn’t look but I knew everyone was appalled. I closed my eyes, feeling my face burn. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me up. Instant death would have been welcome at that moment, but it steadfastly refused to put in an appearance.
“Okay, thanks Gunter,” Geoff said, trying to stop him but Dave ploughed on regardless.
“Then one day, he snaps and shoots his dad dead with a pistol.” There was silence from the group for a moment, the Maggie, a middle aged bank clerk, raises her hand.
“Where did he get the gun from?” she asked Dave. Don’t bloody encourage him! I screamed at her in my head, but it was too late. Dave was clearly on a roll.
“eBay,” he replied, happy at getting a reaction.
“Oh, Jesus,” I breathed.
“Thank you, Gunter, it’s certainly creative,” Geoff said, bravely trying to stop him. Once again it went over Dave’s head.
“I came up with a couple of titles,” he continued, looking at Geoff. Geoff paused. I knew he was deciding if it was worth asking.
“What are they?” he said warily, after a few seconds. He had obviously decided that it would be easier to see the moment through and get it over with.
“The first one was ‘The Face in the Mirror’”, Dave said. After a second’s consideration I sensed a ripple of consent around the room. The group seemed to think that that was actually quite a good title. Dave picked up on this and continued. “It refers to the times when he would be in the bathroom and he could see his dad in the mirror watching him and lusting after him, and the fear that would induce.”
“Okay, that’s not a bad title really,” Geoff said, echoing the sentiment around the room.
“I prefer the other one myself,” Dave said. Like a fool, Geoff asked “And what is that one?”
“‘Daddy Kept Fucking Me So I Shot Him’”

“Why?” I said to Dave angrily as we walked down the steps of the library. “What makes do this stuff?” Dave laughed to himself.
“Did you see their faces?” he said, ignoring my question. “I wish I’d had a camera.”
“Dave, they were appalled. I was appalled. I can’t believe I agreed to take you. I must be the first person to ever be thrown out of a creative writing class.”
“Second,” Dave pointed out. “Gunter was the first.”


So I have now experienced my first American Easter.  It wasn't really much of an event really.  We went to church and then went home.  That was about it.  There were no eggs, no cards, no Easter dress.  It wasn't for a lack of trying or anything, more a clash of work schedules that prevented any more excitement.  Wifey did go out the day after and buy a ton of chocolate on the cheap, which I spent most of Easter Monday eating.  I've felt sick since.

I say Easter Monday, but that's a bit of a meaningless term here.  Nobody has Easter Monday off.  Nobody has Good Friday off.  I never really got that name.  What's so good about it?  Some guy gets nailed to a tree and dies.  That's not much fun for anyone, is it?  What's so good about it?  Maybe it should have been called Pretty Shit Friday, followed by Downer Saturday and then Hey Guys, Guess What? Sunday.  At least that would have been in keeping with the gist of the story.

Another reason for the non-Easter event was that over the weekend my aunt and uncle got back from England having visited my friends over there.  It turns out there was a bit of a falling out over an escaped penis and now nobody is talking to anybody.  Not really my fault but I have lost one of the last people in England that I regularly communicated with over this whole debacle.  I can't really understand why.  Actually I can, but I can't really go into details about it, in case his wife ever reads this and I drop him in it. Or is that saying too much anyway?  Oops.

I think the whole getting blocked/cut off thing stems more from a guilty conscience on someone's part rather than a penis attack.  It's a bit sad that I get treated like a piece of shit though when I've done nothing wrong.  I'm no angel by any stretch of the imagination but I like to think that I take marriage seriously and I don't go looking to make trouble for myself by being disrespectful.  That took a bit of getting used to, being a married man and not being able to chat and flirt like I would have done before.  Maybe some people can switch that off overnight but not me.  It took a good few months to make that adjustment, much to the annoyance of my wife.  I'm glad she's got more patience than me.

It makes me sad when I lose people out of my life.  Fair enough, if they die then there's not a lot you can do about that.  But when you lose people over stupid dumb shit that really isn't worth getting upset about, it's just frustrating.  Life is too short to go throwing away connections and relationships too easily.

I was going to write something about religion but I seem to have gone off waffling into some stream of consciousness.  I do apologize if you've made it this far and were expecting something interesting to happen.  It isn't going to.  This is what they call the proverbial anti-climax.  Nothing to see here, folks.  Move along. These aren't the droids you're looking for etc.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A smug and ill placed sense of self satisfaction...

Since moving to America, I've not really worked.  This wasn't really through choice at first - it took me a long time to get a green card, but since I got that late last year I've applied to a lot of companies and gotten nowhere.  I seem to be stuck in a middle ground, either over qualified to do entry level jobs or under qualified to do the stuff I know I can do.  So life has been rather frustrating and demoralizing of late.  I know eventually I'll land something but I'm having to try different things to make money.

One of those things is photography.  I'm just starting out as a professional photographer.  Photography is something I've done for a number of years, but I've really fallen by the wayside with it since moving to America.  My camera sat dormant for a long time, until I got the opportunity to get into wedding photography.  Last weekend, I shot my first wedding as a second photographer, assisting the guy who shot my wedding.

He's very good.

I'm not.

I'm really not, and that's just not false modesty.  I found it incredibly difficult.  I shot a lot of photos and most of them were crap, both from a technical and compositional point of view.  I was really disappointed, but I also learnt a lot from being so bad, about what to do and what not to do, if that makes sense.  I know that if I get another go, which I should, that I will be much much better next time around.  Most of the stuff I got that I was pleased with were the detail or incidental shots, but then as a second shooter I suppose that's what I was there for.  I reckon I got about a 30-35% hit rate, which is okay but I want to get 45%.

Most of the stuff I've shot previously has been still life or outdoors.  This was indoors in low light and I really struggled to catch things, especially when everything is happening so spontaneously.  I got better as the event went on, and it's kind of telling that my best shots all clumped around the end of the day.

In addition to this, I also drew my first money this week from selling microstock photos, which are just photos you sell the rights for online.  Seventy dollars from shooting still life shots.  I need to get into that more and sell some more of those.

As well as this, I've done a lot of writing.  In fact, right before I started writing this I reached 70,001 words to finish the first complete draft of my third novel.  There's a long way to take it before it's really completed, but I'm pretty pleased with it thus far.

Now for the tricky part.  In the next few weeks I'm going to put together some packages, consisting of a cover letter, a synopsis and three chapters of each of the stories I've written.  I'm then going to submit these to agents, publishers and maybe magazines to see if I can do something with my writing.

I really don't know how this will turn out.  It's pretty nerve-wracking even thinking about it.  Most likely, I will fall flat on my face and get nowhere, but I've reached the point where I don't want to see the chance of actually doing something worthwhile with my life slip by because I didn't have enough self belief.  If I'm able to move to America and marry a gorgeous blonde, how hard can it be to get a book published?

That's what I want to find out this year.  I'll let you know how it goes.