Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Beginning of the End

The end of the road is in sight. When I look back, the beginning is just a speck on the horizon.

Now seems like a good point to start a regular Novel Diary to document the closing stages in finishing a project that has taken up an extraordinary amount of my time over the last two years. Writing has always sapped my time, but when I first imagined bringing characters, events and a whole new world to life on such an epic scale, I never realised how much this creation could swing me from blissful happiness to grudging frustration. The very idea has been at the back of my mind throughout my Masters degree and seeds of it have been germinating ever since I started experimenting with words upon the page. All I can hope for is that by the end, come September 25th 2012, the novel that I have planned and executed leaves me satisfied. Over the next few months I plan to document this end process in order to drive myself, share the experience with others and give myself something to look back on once the journey has finished.

For now, I’ll fill you in on where it’s at, or more correctly where I’m at.

After a few more searches online it became apparent that the title I had in mind had been worked with, be it as a published novel or an American writing counterpart tinkering with ideas. The mistake that I wont make now therefore, is to put the title out there until the last minute. For now, I will stick to referring to the novel title as ‘Sample’. Better to be safe than sorry.

Sample will be a crime story at its heart, but will also include aspects of adventure, sci-fi, speculation, elements of noir and character study. I’ve always loved how Tarantino films rely so heavily on the characters. By writing unforgettable dialogue and setting up intense scenes with strong interactions, you end up with a really fulfilling story. I also really enjoy speculative fiction (especially work from William Gibson and J.G. Ballard). What sets them apart from their peers is the fact that they see the characters as more important than the idea. An idea of a plot or setting could be phenomenal, but without intriguing characters to populate that plot or setting, you are left with a one-dimensional sketch, rather than a three-dimensional colour drawing.

The start of Sample is where I’ve spent the most time rewriting (typical for a lot of writers, I’ve heard), but I have now settled on a brief prologue to start it off. The reason for this is down to finally watching (all the way through I should add) 2001: A Space Odyssey, and in the first hour a realisation hit me. For a story that spans across a long period, it is important at the beginning to create an integral scene, in order to tie the beginning to the end, or to make it a complete story. It is like the knot in a piece of string. My prologue is there to cast a menacing shadow over the story, and details a mystery child making discoveries in early life, that will eventually help the reader glean an insight into a future antagonist in the novel. Whereas 2001 had prehistoric apes acting out various developments in human evolution (invention, control, war) that resonated with the audience, my prologue will hopefully give an insight into a specific character, and also highlight interesting aspects of human nature.

I have now named each main chapter in order to give myself a more solid structure. Again I won’t name them specifically until the final novel is realised, but I had the idea of taking various areas of my own version of Manchester (UK for all those international readers), and using them as the chapter names. To shed a very small amount of light on that, my version of Manchester is a speculation on its future, in that it has grown as a city does, into more of a vertical thing than horizontal. In that respect I have named different ‘Layers’ of the city to extrapolate the metropolis that the city has become. Originally I wanted my protagonist to climb these layers as the story progressed, but within events that occur, he actually goes up, then down, then back up again. Therefore, I have found it necessary to use these Layer names loosely, but title other chapters alongside important points in the story. If anything I now feel it is well-structured but these things can always change as the story is finished off.

In terms of what point I am up to in writing, I am filling in gaps that exist in the first three chapters with an aim to finish these by the end of May. With a total of eight chapters as well as a Prologue and possible epilogue, I have estimated I should finish by the middle of July, with time to spare for a rewrite, getting friends and family to read it, feedback and a final rewrite.

All in all there will be a lot to do, and it will be hard work but I am looking forward to the final result. Hopefully I’ll be able to update this blog as much as I can which will benefit me in tracking my progress, as well as share the experience with everyone else.
I’ll leave you with a link to a TED talk that helped inspire me this week, from the one and only JJ Abrams.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

I've just entered the Guardian/Sony Futurescapes Short Story competition with a story entitled Signals. Here is a short extract below. Much Love.


Alex’s hand halted over his keyboard in the middle of typing a report. His eyes no longer scrolled over the screen but stared distantly out of the window to his left. The signals on the track opposite the back of the house glowed a twinkling red, the colour separated by rain droplets slipping on the exterior of the glass. Red turned to amber. Amber turned to green. Green disappeared behind a four second flash of metal and windows and faces and eyes. The 10:14 High Speed Rail Train was on time again.

“What’s wrong baby?” The smart-hub chirped up in the corner of the room. It was effectively a smooth grey ball on tripod legs with a blue neon line across the front to detect voice and movement. It was in the voice of Denise, his ex-wife. Alex ignored it.

“Alex, don’t shut me out! Talk to me.” The neon line blinked. The program installed on the OS was originally designed to record a person’s phrases, speech patterns and moods. It subsequently picked up speech or movement in the room and replied accordingly. It gave the overall effect of comfort for the owner if the voice belonged to someone long deceased, especially if they had died suddenly and the owner wasn’t ready to let go. Alex however, used it a little bit differently.

“Sorry love, I need to give the office a call, and the HSR always reminds me.” Alex looked up at the touchboard that displayed his reminder’s, calendar and notes. He still had deadlines for report completion but his on-site attendance and dropped dramatically. He counted the days he hadn’t been back into the city to his office. He lost count at fifty-three.

“Go on?” the smart-hub replied.

“How can I go in after all this time, they’ll think I’m a laughing stock. I just…” Alex couldn’t get his words out and put his head in his hands. The smart-hub stalled in replying for a second as it scanned its database for a possible retort. All it could muster was “Go on?”

“This is ridiculous Denise, I’m talking to a machine.”

The neon line blinked twice.

“Alex, don’t shut me out! Talk to me.”

If he shut his eyes it was as if she was in the room. Even without sight his hand found the bottle of whiskey on the desk and managed to pour a decent glass.

The next day Alex arose at the same time, ate a good breakfast of toast, scrambled eggs and beans, and got dressed for work in a pin striped suit and blue shirt. He wouldn’t let anything hold him back from doing his job anymore.

“You off out baby?”

“I certainly am Denise. I’m going out and leaving the past in the past. I’m never going to talk to you again, and I’m sending the smart-hub back. What do you think of that?”

It took a second for the smart-hub to find a reply.

“Remember to pick up bread! Love you too!”

“Yeah thought so.” He picked up a stylus off the desk and threw it at the smart-hub.

He was just about to climb into the exit cot when his phone vibrated. Alex stopped in his tracks. Not that it was unusual for a phone to go off, but his hadn’t gone off in two weeks. Picking it up, he noticed a message on the screen:

Friendfinder located Annabel! 10:12:36

Friendfinder disconnected from Annabel! 10:12:37

Alex stared at the message until the text on the touchscreen became blurry. He felt a bit sick. After a year of searching without luck, his phone had found his daughter in a second. He spent the rest of the day drinking.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

After a few days of confined to the couch and the inevitable onslaught of daytime television due to being ‘ill’, which involved feeling sick, coughing a lot and moaning, I have realized it is time to restart the blog. I began Fresh Scribbles over a year ago off the back of writing reviews for Manchester Literature Festival events. The nice folk at the Lit Fest had kindly informed me if I wrote for them, they would put a link on their blog to my blog. Unfortunately I didn’t have one, so proceeded to make one up! So I did a couple of events, wrote a few interesting pieces (which can all be found here) and politely went on my way. After that, the blog kind of flopped, in a big way, in that I didn’t really have much to talk about apart from work and university, between which I rapidly raced to and fro. Now, I have finished University (The minor modules at least) so its at least one thing ticked off the list, meaning I have a lot more time for other projects, such as the new and improved Fresh Scribbles.

So in a nutshell, I’m going to cover three areas and perhaps a fourth on this lovely blank canvas. Firstly will be an area titled Talking, which is simply my thoughts, musings, feelings, interests or anything that tickles me.

Secondly will be Watching, which will funnily enough detail Films or trailers that I have seen, or are wanting to see since I am, what I would consider to be a film enthusiast (not expert people so don’t start testing me until the DVD wall with in built secret passageway is complete!).

And Thirdly will be of course, Reading, where I will offer opinions or thoughts on current literature of interest, or books I have missed the bandwagon on and am only just picking up.

Now I mentioned an optional fourth, which could quite possibly be Writing. I am by trade (or persuasion) a writer, and I do love to write in a creative manner so here and there I may share some tasty morsels of genius which will make you think ‘wow’, ‘huh?’ or ‘monster trucks’ depending on how receptive you are to my advances.

Hmmm. That wasn’t quite a nutshell.

Watch This Space…

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Hot Property Part 1

Well I've had quite a weekend! I caught potato in my mouth, nearly had my eyebrows singed and saw Jason Manford live (Bear in mind the first two occured in a Teppan-Yaki restaurant so it wasn't so wierd after all). If only I had an apartment in Manchester on the side, then I could do stuff like that every weekend. Aah... a boy can dream!

Anyway apologies for the lack of posts but hopefully in the coming weeks before christmas they will be flooding in thick and fast! My aim is to try and produce one creative piece a week, churning out some interesting short stories as regular as clockwork that will not only help me flex my creative muscles (which are looking a bit like noodle arms right now) but hopefully bring some enjoyment to any readers that may come across this blog on purpose or even by accident.

This first installment was originally called 'Disposable Personality' which was a bit of a rubbish title to be perfectly honest. I've subsequently called it 'Hot Property' which I'm hoping sounds a bit more exciting.

Hot Property

Part 1

All he could see in front of him were the rolling dunes of an unknown desert. The air around him was thick with heat and the deep blue sky seemed to shimmer as he looked further into the horizon. All that seemed familiar was the small dot of a sun that seemed to be floating on the surface of that great expanse of blue. Larello’s feet sank into the fine sand making him sink ever so slightly. The stale smell of his own sweat hung loosely in his nostrils. The dank moisture tingled nerves in his face as he felt it drip onto his blue dressing gown made of Egyptian cotton. As his descent continued with him staring at his gradually disappearing toes, he got the feeling he should really make a move. After stepping his way out of the ground Larello patted himself down to make sure he was still together physically and mentally. Physically he was all there. Mentally he was worried he had indeed lost it. Why would he be in a desert of all places?
A few more steps and he understood.
The small dot of a sun started to grow larger, and larger as if he was zooming in with a camera and had his finger stuck. Larello started to run, even though he knew it wouldn’t do him any good. He could feel the ferocious heat biting his heels and crisping the soles of his feet as the sun blotted out the sky. Then the sand started to ripple beneath him with a loud bang. It dislodged his footing momentarily until the next bang knocked him off his feet with the force. The sand leapt with him as he left the ground and landed with a thud and a face full of golden powder. It snuck into his mouth, his ears, his nose, his eyes. As the ground kept on thumping as if someone were hammering the underside of this desert like a gong, and the sun grew large enough to see its fiery surface, Larello turned over, to meet his fate. All he could think about was that he probably looked bloody ridiculous right about now; grimacing and all that. He always wanted to go out with a bang. Like being shot whilst firing a Gatling gun on the back of a unicorn, riding toward an army of giant ant monsters. You know, something like that.

He awoke so abruptly that he fell straight off his bed onto the hard imitation floorboards. Larello sighed heavily before dragging the curly black hair back off his face as it was tickling his nose. The large master bedroom looked the same. Long sliding wardrobes still had an avalanche of Armani shirts spilling out as if it were throwing up into his room. The desk was strewn with anonymous pieces of paper that almost covered its once-polished surface with the open double glazed door to his balcony in the backdrop. A 60” flatscreen hung motionless on the far wall, with a monstrous crack in the middle stretching to its far edges. The hangover was evident but surely he couldn’t done any of that? He saw a battered looking Grammy below it and the pieces slotted together. (The latest movie, Chasm 3D, had done horribly at the box office) He held his face in his hands and slumped against the bed, half leaning on a bedside table full of magazines covered in his own face.
Larello could still hear the thumping. For a second he thought he was still in the midst of his strange dream, the details of which were already beginning to fade like sand disappearing through an hourglass. Then he heard something else that was a lot more alarming.

“Open up Larello. There’s no point in fighting it, you’re finished!”
The voice was deep, husky and American. He was scared of those voices when he crossed the Atlantic for the first time. How would his prim and proper British accent stand up to a voice full of authority?
Larello stood up and crept towards his bedroom door. He opened it just a crack to see a foot come through his apartment door followed by a black suit and a shiny white bald head. He slammed the door shut and locked it from the inside. One advantage of dramatic yank security; locks on all your doors. Or did he request it?
Several loud steps and the handle turned.
“I’ll give you to the count of three Larello. I could boot doors down all day; it’s what I’m paid for!”
“What do you want Maxwell?”
“John T. wants a word.”
He knew what that meant.
“Look, for fuck’s sake Maxwell. Just give me a second to get dressed!”
He just got a breathy sigh from behind the door.
Larello shuffled over to his wardrobe, pulled on the first shirt to hand, which happened to be a mint green and purple striped number. He grimaced as he put it on. The combination of colour reminded him of neatly arranged vomit. Next a skinny pair of jeans, the previous evening’s underwear and socks, and a battered pair of white converse. He stopped. On the bottom of his foot the tattoo was still there. He hated looking at it. Crossing his legs to look he tried to read the words but could only see one, smaller than small print, just reading ‘Property’.
He needed clarity. Walking over to the desk he pulled out the top drawer and moved more files and scripts covered in coffee rings out of the way. One bottle of Finnigans, one glass. He looked down. Underneath the both of them was a revolver, a Smith and Western if his memory served correctly, though it had been so long since he’d looked at it, burning a hole in the drawer; a bomb waiting to go off. He didn’t know why he’d bought it in the first place. ‘Everyone has a gun over there don’t they? Better to be safe than sorry’ his mother had told him. Always bloody worrying about him.
“Larello, you aren’t going to bail on me are you?”
“Come on Maxwell, you think I’d really do that to a dear friend?”
“Yeah… I’d bet cold hard cash on that fact.”
Larello slammed the glass of Finnigans down his throat and coughed loudly. It went down with a warm pinch that nipped at his vocal chords.
“You do make me laugh Maxwell!” he stuttered.
“Just get dressed you little shit. You’ve got one minute.”
“I’ll only need 10 seconds mate…”

Larello turned and pulled himself together. Samuel should see this. He was still reliable given his years of service as his agent, and the extortionate amount that he paid him probably helped. Time to check out.
He pulled on his brown moleskin coat with his wallet and car keys in and made for the balcony. He could make it down the fire escape leading down the side of the building. Poor Maxwell would be talking to himself for a while.
With a grin he turned but knocked over the Finnigan’s bottle that smashed on the floorboards.
“Right I’ve had enough…” Maxwell shouted from outside.
He burst through the door foot first and crossed the threshold into the master bedroom before being hit in the head from a flying whisky glass. It shattered over his bald head into a thousand crystal shards. Despite it leaving his hand less than a second before though, Larello didn’t even see it, as he had already turned and fled out the balcony. He practically flew down the fire escape himself. He had to talk to Samuel. Samuel could sort out this mess.
“Why run Larello? Sunlight will find you, and then you won’t be running anymore. You’re finished!”
He barely heard Maxwell yelling out of his top floor window as he started up the engine of his 63’ Cadillac and roared down the street towards Jordan Boulevard.

Part 2 Coming Soon...

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Festival Round-up

Well the Manchester Literature Festival closed its doors for this year on Monday, and I had a cracking time volunteering for it's many events. Just to finish my experience off, I've just included a short round-up of the last events that I covered below as well as other things I've been up to this week.

Comedy Poetry Slam @ The Northern Pub - 21/10/10

I've been to poetry slams before, but never with a razor sharp comedy edge and an open invitation for contestants of any skill. Some really tickled me, but some just lulled the packed Northern Pub on Oldham Street into stony silence. I was in position at the back of the pub, tallying the scores and acting as official whistle-blower for acts that took over 3 minutes delivering their material. Between hit and miss compering by Julian Daniels there was some cracking poetry and a marvellous stint by Marvin cheeseman whose joke;

"Some people have dreams,

Some come true,

Liverpool 1

Blackpool 2."

Had me in so many stitches, I felt like I had been in a knife fight with a monkey. Simple but effective.

Women and Crime Fiction @ Whitworth Art Gallery 22/10/10

Val McDermid and Sophie Hannah delivered a Q&A within the menacing exterior of the asylum-esque Whitworth Art Gallery. Again the full blog will be included on the Manchester Literature Festival blog soon but needless to say it was an interesting evening; who knew dark, twisted crime writers were such a hoot?

Chuck Perkins @ The Zion Arts Centre 23/10/10

Unfortunately this was the least witnessed of the events that I volunteered for, due to its overwhelming popularity that well and truly filled the fairly large auditorium, meaning we had to stay outside and stand guard for latecomers. However I would still recommend Chuck's work so check it out online if you can. I would also recommend finding a bus or getting a lift to the Zion Arts Centre, 'bit of a stroll' is definitely an understatement.

Here's a round-up of other things I have been doing this week:

Interviewing Lewis Costello for Large Magazine

Not quite sure yet when it's going to be put in the magazine but the interview was very informative, entertaining, and for a 17 year-old, Lewis has got a few things up his sleeve. Basically watch his space, because your bound to see more of him soon. As for the near future he will be playing the Ruby Lounge with Simon Munnery on Dec 14th. Get yourself there.

Automatic Cinematic

Free 20 minute preview of the new Tron film at the Printworks in Manchester... if that makes me a geek, then I'll keep on wearing those 3D nerd glasses but it looks pretty impressive. That's the thing, you get a lot of 3D for the hell of it nowadays, but a artificially created world like Tron definitely benefits. Bring on Dec 17th.

I also saw Saw. Avoid that like the plague unless bits of brain flying at you in 3D is your kind of thing. Traps were inventive, story was naff. Not much more to be said really!

Finshing Mari Crachan's The Earth Hums in B Flat

Really enjoyed this book, so full of innocent imagination in a world where dark things can happen, and it still impressively manages to finish positively. Strachan is a writer with substance, and her originality is a thing of beauty. She also is brilliant at making you feel bad for hating some of her characters, linking nicely with the old adage, 'Don't Judge a Book by its Cover'. Also thank you for not keeping it in Welsh Mari! Hopefully I'm going to update my Book Scribbles page with book reviews soon, and I might just make The Earth Hums in B Flat my first one.

Parallel Parking

That's right, if a car needs to be parked between two other cars I'm there for you. Think of me as some kind of Automotive superhero. I'm that good. In other words, learning to drive is going well.

Now that the Lit Festival is over I'm going to try and keep the blogging to a regular beat.

Every Wednesday - Something Creative. Quite possibly a short story if I'm quick!

Every Sunday - Something Informative. What I've been up to and what events have been hitting Manchester.

Watch this Space...

Monday, 25 October 2010

1+1= 2 Events Done

Wednesday was definitely the busiest of my volunteering week, 7x7 Anthology Launch at the Cornerhouse swiftly followed by When Black is Red at the Green Room. Good thing the venues were pretty much next to each other.

7x7 also happened to be my first foray into blogging for the Manchester Literature Festival Blog. For that reason I'll have to keep to the bare minimum for that one so you can read about the event in all its glory once it's posted on http://manchesterliterature.blogspot.com/. Needless to say it was an intriguing blend of writer, illustrator and animator that provided a dip into the creative process that isn't usually witnessed by readers and viewers alike. Check it out!

So, onto the next one...

When Black Is Red was held at the Green Room on Wednesday 20th October, and marked the release of Red, an anthology of Black British Poetry celebrating local authors and established figures in poetry. Introduced spectacularly by Peter Kalu who is a genius of story-telling and verse, the evening encompassed readings from the likes of Seni Seneviratne, John Lyons and Grace Nichols.
Peter Kalu opened the evening with an intense poem about a gambling Pastor who risks everything for the fate of his church, that really warmed the night up. His words were like a kettle, with every letter getting closer and closer to boiling, with lines such as, "Like the Lions roar he commands instant respect..." also reflecting his own performance style, though it were less commanding and more intriguing.
Seni Seneviratne treated the audience to some vocal poetry that I definitely was not expecting, though once I got used to it (Like Johnny Depp singing in Sweeney Todd) I did start to enjoy it. Her material mostly all concerned war, either past or present, such as 'Waltzing Matilda' that haunted the audience with very real tales of of battle and how it not only affects soldiers but uproots families.
John Lyons was such an entertaining, one could say eccentric character, that even if he had talked casually with the audience for an hour he still would have got a warm reception. It must have been the combination of good verse and his unique English infused Trinidadian accent (if thats how you say it!). Listening to his expressive words really brought you into the mindset of growing up in Trinidad, what was important; the food, the women, and even his old grandma shouting "Slavery ain dun yet!"
Grace Nichols was a completely different kettle of fish to her previous poets, and brought to the evening a sense of humble origins and different perspectives that threatened to overthrow prior eccentricities and storytelling. I have to be honest and say I preferred the previous poets to Nichols, but you still can't help admiring her verse and way around the language that was like staring through a peep hole into another world, illuminating quite clearly what is important to her, such as identity, her diet, her pets and even where she calls home, to which she exclaimed, "wherever I hang my knickers".
The night was one of the most entertaining as well as inspiring events of my Literature Festival calender, so much so I couldn't help writing a small verse on the way home:
Guided swiftly through Manchester by time's addled hands,
Numbers forming directions as the helpful arrows spin,
Amswer's dripping down like raindrops between watchtowers,
The spyglass reflecting a light unseen by nomads looking down at the street
Their heads bowed in silent prayer from the pressure hanging invisible above
Snapping their necks forward causing permanent damage.
Ascent would prove too painful
Since the descent was far too easy
Try following hands sometime
The timing isn't always that simple.
More event scribbles coming soon...

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Anthony Burgess went to Sevarian College

...Is just one of the interesting anecdotes presented to the sold out audience at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation on Monday night. Presented by Jonathon Schofield (author of the Manchester Confidential and responsible for many literary tours in Manchester), it was a lively talk about the life of Burgess, his humble beginnings and his flourishing career that went far beyond the boundaries of Manchester.

The Foundation was located in a converted mill building on Cambridge St. (round the corner from the Green Room) that still looked fresh and vibrant as its opening day in June. It was a very open venue, which unfortunately lessened the acoustic impact, but did not detract from the well-researched content. The Foundation held a small cafe and brief museum to the great author downstairs that we were assured housed his ex-wife's false teeth (for those particularly die hard fans).

From the many quotes, key events and anecdotes regarding family and personal life, the audience got to see beyond the genius of A Clockwork Orange, a personal Burgess describing Manchester with dislike but overriding affection, the city a powerhouse of creative thought with a dirty northern twang. He grew up in a pub called the Golden Eagle with his father and step-mother and at school he was described as having a 'native laziness' that was concurred to be derivative of enforced education by Jonathon. We also got the back story behind Burgess losing his virginity (if anyone was wondering...) which included the central library, a widow researching Engels and a fry up for breakfast.

The talk was inevitably interesting for Burgess lamens such as myself as it gave us a keen insight to the life of the author behind one of the most famous and controversial films in a generation, along with being entertaining and vibrant to boot. However, the introduction by official Burgess Biographer Andrew Biswell was far too short and I would have loved to hear more of his own Burgess knowledge that would have given the talk a further intriguing depth.

More Event Scribbles soon...