To celebrate three years of publishing, I’ve given the black sheep of my book family a fresh coat of paint.Read More
I love NaNoWriMo, the yearly escapade of struggling writers everywhere where we collectively throw ourselves off a cliff of sanity in pursuit of a 50,000 word count and a printable pdf certificate. This year, since I’m completely new to where I live, I’m doubly looking forward to it. I don’t really know anyone down here, and I know that writers are generally outgoing, personable types, so I’m basically betting the farm on being able to wander into some little coffee shop somewhere and make immediate and lifelong besties of the writing variety. I’m definitely not setting my expectations too high there, or anything.
Anyway, I’ve written a grand total of seven first drafts over the course of Novembers past, three of which have gone on to be actual books you can hold in your hand and everything. Another two may yet see the light of day. Not bad going for a silly challenge on the internet that nobody of the non-writing variety seems to really understand if you tell them about it. (But what do you win? they ask. You’ve written a first draft, you reply. Yes, but what’s the prize?)
The only problem for me is that it’s all become a bit, well, easy. The last three years I’ve entered November knowing that I’m going to win, not because of some dreadful arrogance, but because the 1667 word count you need to hit is not exactly a million miles away from the 1500 I try to hit every day that I’m working on a draft. It equates to just over an hour of actual writing, which isn’t that much of a commitment, really. Even when procrastination will usually stretch it out to two hours. Last year, I made it with four days to spare and just stopped dead on 50k, completely unmotivated to continue on my draft until December 1st.
So, this year, I’m going to try something different.
One month. 50,000 words… of short stories.
As a writer, I’m always looking to improve my craft, and it’s occurred to me recently that short story writing is a part of my writing vocabulary that’s dramatically underdeveloped. So, I’ve been reading all the advice I can. Bingeing on works as diverse as I can find, and, finally, turning my hand to it. This weekend, after a full fortnight of trying, I finished my first serious short story in over a decade. 2,250 words of overwrought horror that I may well never show anyone. In what’s left of this month, I’m going to try for a few more, and try and come up with a few dozen rough outlines which I can rely on throughout the month of November itself.
I may end up failing, badly. At this moment it feels as utterly unsurmountable to me as NaNoWriMo did when I very first attempted it, all those years ago. But, I guess that’s the point. Yes, I’m going to be breaking the rules, but the whole point is to challenge yourself, and that’s definitely what this is going to be. A hell of a challenge.
I may end up with 50,000 words of complete drivel, with nary a salvageable story amongst them. But at least it won’t be easy.
Blood on the Motorway: An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches is out now in ebook and print from Amazon and all other good bookstores. You can get the first book free by joining my mailing list or read along at Wattpad. Oh, and I’ve got a Patreon.
I’ve had a blog for a very long time. Over 15 years. Recently I've been bringing back some of the better old posts, once a week. I'm starting with a series that I first did back in 2009, and then again in 2011. This time I asked for seven one-word blog topics from people on Twitter and got some of my best blog material as a result. This is the second in that series, and one of the few times I’ve strayed into the realms of Flash Fiction. It’s a flawed attempt, but an attempt nonetheless. This suggestion came from the excellent @gregeden.
So, Cheesecake eh? That’s some delicious dairy based desert goodness right there. This is the point where I start to curse the folly of asking for random one-word topics. Usually, the trick with this sort of thing is to take the word and rake your memory for any occasions which have involved the subject that can be strung out into a mildly entertaining yarn, but cheesecake? I mean they’re delicious and lovely, but I cannot think of a single event which has been made drastically more interesting by the involvement of a cheesecake. So instead, let’s have a short story, eh? After all, nothing says overwrought kitchen sink drama like cheesecake.
The cracked linoleum took the brunt of her stare, which felt so possessed of hate and malice that she was surprised that it didn’t burst into flames at her feet. The silence of the kitchen filled with the rush of the blood in her ears, and she could not bring herself to look up at him, scared she would not be able to restrain herself should she meet his eyes.
Desperate to do something to occupy herself she moved across the kitchen, her back to him at all times, and pulled a knife from the drawer. She took it over to the defrosting cheesecake on the side, not a cheap strawberry one but a posh M&S one that had remained in the freezer for months, waiting for the right time. The thought of wasting it now brought the fire back to her. She chanced a look at him.
His face was one of a terrified boy. An image flashed in her mind of him as a child, wearing shorts and standing awkward, but rather than provoke any warmth the image brought only more anger. How dare he stand there in mute fear, having dropped such a bombshell?
The detritus of their valentine’s day meal was stacked on the side, the remnants of the mushroom risotto turning to grey wallpaper paste. The broken wine glass she’d hurled across the room — responsible for the blank look on her fiancée’s face — dripped the last vestiges of its contents on the kitchen top.
Absently she started to jab the cheesecake with the knife, too much anger in the movement. It was still frozen at the centre, but she needed to do something. It wasn’t working though The rage starting to subside gave way to an empty hollow feeling. Her eyes swelled against her will with water that threatened to tumble down her cheeks. She wanted to remain angry, didn’t want to feel weak. She had felt enough weakness to last a lifetime.
‘Honey?’ He was the first to try and break the tension, but the sound of his voice fell flat, like all the air in between them had suddenly disappeared.
He inched toward her. ‘Honey?’ he asked again, the sound stronger in his voice now. ‘Honey, look at me.’
She shook her head, unwilling to give him the opportunity to try and talk his way out of this mess.
‘I have nothing to say to you,’ she said, the voice so small in her throat that she cursed herself for its emptiness.
‘Honey, please? It’s our wedding, he has every right to,’
‘He has no right!’
The rage flooded back through her in an instant. She barely recognised the primal scream coming from her, and the look on his face showed that he didn’t either as she whirled in his direction, raising her hand in accusation.
‘You have no idea what that man did to me,’ she started.
‘You never tell me, that’s why!’ he shouted, his voice no match for hers, its note of defiance showing he was determined to prove he’d done a good thing.
‘That man is dead to me, that’s why,’ she answered, the rush of blood in her ears again. ‘Twenty years! Twenty years I have done everything I can to avoid thinking of my father. I cut my own mother out of my life to get away from him, and you arrogantly presume to invite him right back in?’ The walls seemed to reverberate with her voice and she jabbed him indignantly in the chest. ‘You may want to project your own idyllic family onto mine but not every family fits into a box, Rob. I will die before I let that man anywhere near my wedding. And the fact that you would do this without even thinking to run it past me tells me that maybe I am marrying the wrong man.’
His eyes were filled with panic now. She was pleased to have had such an impact, hoping that she had made her point now. But then there was something else in his eyes that went beyond fear. The colour drained from his face, his mouth open in a soundless ‘o’.
She looked down and saw the knife, its tip buried in his shirt, surrounded by several other tiny holes, each silently oozing a black stream of blood. She pulled out the knife slowly, the world going slow now like it had when she had broken her leg as a little girl, and she stared at the cheesecake crumbs clinging to the blade, mingling with his blood. The knife fell from her hand. She looked up, their eyes linking in mutual panic for an instant before he fell to the floor at her feet, his shirt slowly changing colour.
‘Rob?’ she said, but all she got back in response was a gurgle. She dropped to her knees and cradled his head, dimly aware of the water pouring down her cheeks. He flashed her one last look of panic, and she mouthed a feeble apology to him, which she hope got through to him in that moment as his eyes went distant.
She sat there, cradling his head until the sun had gone down and come back up again, unable to do anything but cry. Cry, and think of the Father she had disowned so long ago.
Twenty years ago he had killed a part of her, and that killing had begotten this death.
Eventually, she stood and absently packed away the remains of the cheesecake, putting it back in the box and returning it to the fridge, before heading back through to the lounge to phone the police.
Blood on the Motorway: An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches is out now in ebook and print from Amazon and all other good bookstores. You can get the first book free by joining my mailing list.
Welcome to Discovery Park, the book of the Rolling Stone Challenge, is now available for sale at Amazon UK, Amazon.com, iBooks, Kobo, Scribd, and Nook, as well as in a shiny print version, available from Amazon.
Chronicling my increasingly frustrated attempt to listen to every album on Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums of all time list over a two year period, this book looks at why we feel the need to quantify and rank our art, revels in the complex musical world we live in, and wonders why anyone would voluntarily listen to Bono.
Here's a sample:
'Disco sucks. It’s a vile and wretched pox on the landscape of musical history, a music designed to be stripped of all merit save for its ability to make people shuffle around in darkened rooms, trying desperately to blot out the tedium of their existence, literally dancing to the beat of their own repression. That’s even before you take into account the squeaky voices.'
As well as the full challenge from start to finish, there's a few added extras here and there, and the whole thing is priced at a very reasonable £2.99 if you are in the UK. Click on any of the buttons below to buy your copy now!
Now, I do love me a challenge, as anyone who’s followed the last two years of Rolling Stone Challenge tomfoolery will attest, so I couldn’t help but jump at the little baited hook that the delightfully hirsute Chuck Wendig posted over at terribleminds the other day.
The challenge – 1000 words on the subject ‘why I write.’Read More