Stream of unconsciousness…

This is a test piece of writing…

It’s been said many times before, that the most intimidating thing, for a writer, is a blank page.

That’s cobblers.

The most intimidating thing in the world, for a writer, is the audience as it leaves the theatre, having just watched a comedy show that includes pieces you’ve written.

‘Keep your friends close, but keep your underwear closer’.

The audience laughed at that, it’s one of mine. The laughter made me feel good.

‘You want me to give financial support to a campaign to promote teenaged abstinence? Can I say that as someone who experienced being a teenager ten years ago, I’ve already given teenaged abstinence seven years of practical support? They don’t need my fucking money as well.’

That’s another of mine. The amusement rippled around the room. I felt intimidated by the amused rippling, but I loved the clever double entendre. Even if I wrote it.

‘Am I the only person here who feels that ‘Judge Judy’ feels like a command that should be followed with the shout: ‘Guilty!’?’

You could have heard a pin drop after that one. Too sophisticated for Leeds, I thought.

The difficult thing with being a comedy writer is rotating the comedy from inside my imagination, out on to a piece of paper. Several dozen pieces of paper.

My life is a riot of funnies. I am actually the funniest guy I know – and I know some really funny guys.

But getting my native funniness from inside me head to out there, and doing it in a form that’s still funny, is the most intimidating, the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced.

Just this morning my wife, in fits of giggles, pleaded with me, ‘Don’t make me laugh!’

‘Why not?’

‘I can’t push if I’m laughing’.

She was on the toilet. Having a poo.

You have to agree it takes a special kind of person to make a woman have fits of giggles. Whilst she’s on the toilet.

Having a poo.

Two hour short story (update)

I recently wrote this piece about a short story that I’ve been working on – for some time – in my head.

The story is transcribed and sits on my laptop’s hard disk waiting for me to do something with it (‘something’ being an action like: edit it once more -for the 26th time; tinker with punctuation yet again – for the 33rd time… stuff like that).

Despite the state of being ‘almost complete’ it continues to probe at my mind – but now with questions.

Where would it fit in?

It’s strongly written but, if I’m honest, it isn’t quite robust enough to stand as a work in its own right; it leaves too many unanswered questions and to answer those questions would turn the work in to a ‘not very short story’. This would miss the point somewhat!

How can I turn it in to something useful?

I don’t want to spend forever re-editing or continually touching it up. It’s really not bad and because it’s not bad it deserves a life, deserves some kind of readership.

What can I do with it?

What can I do? Hmmm… I could always parcel it up and mail to the troops in the Falkland Islands, or send to to a research station in the Antartic where – hopefully! – it would at least get read by an almost captive readership (hey, who said I was fair about this?).

But then…

Last night the penny dropped.

This short story is the perfect opening chapter for ‘Helicopter’.

Well yes, obviously ‘Helicopter’ already has an opening chapter (and several other chapters too!).

But this short would make the version I’ve written – which is a sharp, fast, punchy entry to the world of conspiracy seem…

Drab.

That’s how good this short story is.

With just a little re-engineering it’s the perfect leading edge/bleeding edge start that ‘Helicopter’ deserves.

So the old one has to go – and I agonised over the look and feel of it for months!

The excellent news is that I don’t need to change anything in the rest of the book; with a new heading to each chapter they’ll follow behind the new chapter one – in a retrospective way (apart from the last chapter of course – which now has a brilliant ending framed in my head, that closes the timeline and concludes the novel at the same pace with which it began).

I’m tremendously excited by this one.

Well… to be honest I’m excited by everything I write, but this one…?

Yeah, it’s gripping.

B.

Two hour short story

I’ve been playing with a scene that fits in to an early sequence of novel No 3 (Hard Drives).

Over the last fortnight I’ve given it a lot of mental energy, examined it from different  perspectives, changed the narrators ‘voice’ as well as shifting narration from first to third person (and back again).

At last, happy that it’s ready for paper (albeit electronic paper) on the drive home this evening I started outlining the scene syopsis.

Two hours later I pulled up to the house – with a brand new short story almost completely dictated.

I got so caught up in the mentally-refined version that as I dictated the scene I realised that with a few minor tweaks it could stand alone as a short.

And so it will.

I don’t know if it’s good enough for publication – I’ll have to look at the finished article to make that decision.

But it’s not bad.

All I need is a title…

B.

Writing news at the speed of light

An email flutters in.

It tells me that ‘Horse of a Different Colour‘ has won another award: ‘el mejor cuento extranjero‘ (best foreign short story) as voted for by the readers of ‘Tiempo‘, a literary magazine published in Mexico Distrito Federal.

I have been invited to attend the award ceremony in December in Mexico City.

Sadly I shall have to decline but I have offered the publisher a webcam chat or – if the time zones work against us – a recorded interview.

The amusing point about the prize is that the piece was put forward not as an English work but was presented to the publisher in Spanish.

But it is, if you’ve read it, clearly set in Spain, not in Mexico – hence the award.

I hope they opt for the recorded interview; a live web-conference in the version of Spanish they speak in Mexico could, in retrospect, be way over my head.

Of note: I entered California Dreamin’ at the same time but at 3,500 votes it polled at less than half the number the winning piece attained – and was so far down the list of places as to be embarrassing.

Shame; I thought it California Dreamin’ was the stronger piece of writing – much better descriptive narrative.

Perhaps my translation was less good.

Hmm…

B.

Published again…

I’ve neglected writing news lately.

Bit odd, for a blog on a writer’s website.

But fingers in pies etc.

So the news…

Words Magazine have very kindly published one of my shorts.

Nice.

Frankly I feel embarrassed and a little self-conscious.

It sits in the company of work of some excellent authors.

But it’s nice to see it there.

Words Magazine is available at www.wordsmag.com and you need to pay money to read it.

Or you can read my short stories on my main website and try to guess which one they’ve chosen.

Words Magazine have made a couple of nice edits, one in particular is visually stunning.

I’ve decided not to steal their edits though.

🙂

And I have an idea.

It’s a germ of a longish short story based on a kind of cultural parallax as seen through underground events in 21st Century society.

Sounds a bit deep when I see it like that.

But in my head it’s punchy and not a little bit scary.

It’s based on events that recently occurred to me in London.

And I think in format it’s a radio play.

I’m going to work out a synopsis and see if I can get BBC Radio Drama interested.

Stay tuned.

B.

Best Served Cold

a short…

Slowly, slowly catchee monkey.

When I was a boy my father used to say it to me.

He meant ‘don’t be impulsive, play the long game’.

Decades later I used the phrase in combat.

Mount Tumbledown.

My troop – all three of us – were the point force for 2 Para south of Darwin when Colonel ‘H’ (who clearly hadn’t heard the phrase) picked up an SMG and stormed a well-dug-in-and-fortified Argentine position.

While H was getting himself killed on the Ajax side of the Mount we picked off the Argies from their own left flank.

Executed them under the clear, cold, black south Atlantic night sky.

Shot them as their silhouettes, strobed by the fire-fight with the main force, highlighted every moment.

It was like shooting big, stupid, slow-witted bears.

By the time the three of us had downed 80 – who previously thought they were so securely dug-in they were invulnerable – the rest realised they were being slaughtered like animals.

So they surrendered.

The media made much of H’s sacrifice and that 1,200 Argentines surrendered to such a small British force.

But the truth was that three specialist snipers played the long game and then expended our entire stock of ammunition in thirty-five minutes.

Twenty-seven years since the Falklands and I’m still playing the long game.

My target walked across the pedestrian precinct.

Same time every Friday.

Same routine.

It’ll be his downfall.

I smiled through the window as I sat on a stool in the cafe window.

Watching.

Playing the long game.

Three years I’ve been watching.

I’m going to teach you a lesson, friend.

You don’t screw with me.

As he walked up the steps to the building I entered the date, time and event in my notebook.

For the last time I checked back to the previous week’s entry.

Nothing different.

He was met at the door with a handshake.

I imagined the conversation.

Come in.

His host waved his hand in front as if to part the air for the Great and Worthy Bastard.

How’re your children?

And your wife?

Did they catch the attacker yet?

Be patient, I’m sure they will soon.

He went inside.

I finished my cup of tea.

The irony is that I could have stopped the attack on his wife.

But it would have caused ripples.

I might have left a profile – an image on a CCTV or a security camera or in someone’s head – as I decked the adolescent mugger.

I’d been following her for an hour as she threaded her way through the shops, streets and markets.

The boy came out of the alleyway.

I saw him look her up and down, guessing her ability to fight back.

He ran down the pavement, threaded his arm through the loops on her bag, smashed hard in to her and ran off.

I was eighteen feet away, could have stopped him with a rabbit punch to the larynx.

Let him pass, said my head.

I obeyed.

She hit the pavement with a dull thud like a sack of potatoes.

Fractured her skull.

I could have stopped it.

Could have taken him out before he got to her.

I had the range, had the pace and had the ability.

But protecting her wasn’t my role; I was on surveillance.

He ran past me not knowing how near to death he’d just come.

Slowly, slowly catchee monkey.

This time, another form of assassination.

I’m going to assassinate the character of someone who loves to be at the centre of his community.

Three nights ago my target’s wife and children spent the night away; the first time in a year.

A family party; they went last year.

And the year before.

Coincidentally, three nights ago the Essex Constabulary had photographed my target’s car as it kerb-crawled around two notorious red-light areas of the county.

At noon yesterday photographs of the vehicle, its registration number and description were posted on one of those ‘goody-goody’ neighbourhood watch-type internet websites.

At 3pm yesterday The Daily Mail knew about it.

At midnight last night two undercover reporters jumped out of a Ford Transit, loaded up the target’s rubbish bins from outside his house and drove off.

I can imagine their shrieks of laughter as the Mail‘s reporters undid the rubbish bags that contained – amongst the usual household rubbish – the vilest, most horribly graphic images of child pornography.

They probably rubbed their hands with glee as they discovered the torn-up-but-easily-reassembled stories of child rape and violent incest.

As I waited for the next stage of the plan to occur I turned the car keys over in my pocket.

Keys to a duplicate car, identical to his, the same registration details, same colour and even the same slightly fractured number plate on the rear.

This evening I’ll remove the identifying marks and then torch it.

In the glove compartment will be the mobile phone I used to call The Daily Mail.

And a computer hard-disk, a clone of the PC in my target’s office.

Just like his reputation and professional career, everything will go up in flames.

That’s right my friend.

When I’m done, you won’t be able to get a job selling shirts on a market stall.

In an hour and a half, when you go to your office, the police will be there, waiting.

And they’ll find more pornography.

As well as evidence that you’ve been spying on the occupants of the ladies toilet.

And a sign-on for an on-line bookmaker’s account.

In three years – or two, whenever it is they’re going to let you out – I’ll still be here.

Watching.

Waiting.

Playing the long game.

And I’ll get you again.

And again.

Don’t screw with me.

Softly, softly catchee monkey.

Decisions, indecisions

flash fiction

Sometimes it’s a problem.

Maintaining a focussed train of thought while you’re in a long, tedious…

Yawn.

Sorry.

Where was I?

Oh yeah.

Tedium.

Not Te Deum, that’s entirely different.

Chuckles to self.

Ho hu…

Did she just say what I thought she said?

Must concentrate more.

Ah, no.

No-one else has edged forward on to their chairs, no-one sniggering behind their notepads.

Must have misheard.

Bit tired.

Last night’s 18.00 meeting didn’t end until 19.10.

Got out of the building at 19.15 (just in time to rescue my car from the Cheap’n’Cheerfulâ„¢ vehicle-leaving-place before it closed at 19.30. ‘£25 fee for after-hours services‘, as the notice on the wall says).

Pauses briefly to wonder what services the Cheap’n’Cheerful vehicle-leaving-place Old Lady might provide, in an ‘after-hours’ kind of way.

Eeeww…

Beginning to feel ill.

Move on.

Ummm, sorry.

What was it?

Oh yeah, inability to concentrate on…

God I feel sick in a hollow kind of way; haven’t eaten enough today.

Looks out of the window and thinks some very rude thoughts.

Can’t help it.

It’s in my genes.

Or jeans, maybe.

I used to know a girl called Jean.

I think I went out with her.

Twice.

I was at that awkward stage (virgin) and she couldn’t really be bothered anyway.

I was 20.

Yeah, I know; late starter.

Sorry?

Oh yes, entirely, Mike.

And if we concentrate more on the process mapping whilst looking for quick wins in the corporate banking application arena, whilst concentrating on the foreign exchange division…

That’s pretty bloody annoying.

The way she flicks her hair back over her shoulder like that.

Every 24 seconds.

Does she know I’m counting?

Look!

20, 21, 22, 23, 24 and…

Flick!

For God’s sake, leave it alone.

Wonder if you’re like that at home?

Have you got a certificate in OCD?

Pauses whilst pondering whether it actually is possible to get qualifications in OCD.

Oh, I only got an intermediate because of a lack of imagination in behavioural repetition.

Chuckles quietly again.

Briefly wonder what the girl from the international currency division looks like with no clothes on.

Just out of curiosity, honest!

Genes again.

Prefer 501s.

See what I did there?

Genes/jeans?

This is interminable.

International Corporate Banking on a Thursday lunchtime.

Are the people who schedule these meetings mad?

Come to think of it, how could they be sane?

International Corporate Banking?

Wherever sanity ends I know which side of the line ICB sits!

Buggerit.

What did she say?

Really, what did she say then?

Foreign Exchange interest rate swaps with which currency?

Last time I missed the point in an ICB meeting I went out and swapped £500 million with IKR.

We had to buy a fish processing factory in Reykjavik because swapping that much money back would have cost us more in commission than the purchase price of the factory.

Felt a bit foolish for weeks after that one.

Oh.

That’s what she said.

Break for food.

Must learn to concentrate harder.

Icelandic herring, anyone?

Yes, the Icelandic Sushi is going down really well. In all senses of the phrase.

Ha ha ha ha.

Hell.

Really must learn to pay attention.

Aaaarrghhhhh!

An email flutters in.

Arthur Roberts, a US publisher who has a track record of being kind to me.

Based on synopsis only…

Would like to buy my two most recent short stories, Spelling Mistake and Transport.

Brilliant!

But there’s a problem.

I’m part-way through rewriting the former (like, again).

And I can’t say I’m happy with the latter yet.

He’s prepared to hold off on Spelling Mistake as he, like me, would be happy to see it published in the first quarter 2008.

But he’d like to have Transport now for a November publication.

Better get it finished then!

Brennig.

Never can say goodbye

(1973 i think; gloria gaynor)

Anyway.

I finished Transport – a SciFi short story – last week.

Today I’ve just decided…

* that I haven’t finished it

* that I don’t like the middle section and

* that there could be a much more twistier ending.

So it’s not quite back to the drawing board because I do like the start.

And it’s a great hypothesis.

And I quite like the characters.

I just don’t like other bits.

🙂

I’m off for a beer now; R got the job and while I do feel for the other candidates who weren’t successful (let’s face it, we’ve all been there!) I am very happy for her.

Brennig.

Disaster Area – Too Many Cooks…

Well actually, too few cooks.

One too few to be precise.

I put tonight’s pasta on, made sure it was nicely settled then came upstairs, sat in front of the laptop and began pulverising the SciFi short story that I’ve been working on for a few weeks.

I started out doing an arty-farty light-touch edit – you know what I mean, tidying a word here, changing punctuation and making a sentence pithier there – but things got out of hand.

Before I knew it I was in full on re-write mode, bashing away at the keyboard, totally captured by the new plot development and character twist that I’ve been mulling over for the last day or so.

I really need to get it to the state where I can declare it Finally Finished; I have a buyer for it!

As I was reworking a particularly explosive scene I began to smell something.

Something not good.

Holy Hell!

My pasta…

I dashed downstairs and skidded across the kitchen lino (much like Tom Cruise did in the film Risky Business, but with more clothes on, much better looking and way, way taller).

Pulled the pan off the hob.

Holy overcooked pasta Batman.

It was boiled dry and comprehensively cooked on to all surfaces of the hideously expensive saucepan.

Bugger.

I managed to salvage 2/3rds of the pan contents, scraped it in to a bowl, added pasta sauce, sat at the table and ate the remains meal with my left-over Lucozade (it’s been a really tough day).

Then I set about resurrecting the pan.

And here’s my tip…

Clothes-washing powder.

Really!

Half a tab of Biological (it has to be biological for some reason that’s completely beyond me) clothes washing powder soaking overnight in the offending pan will give you, the next morning…

SuperCleanPan(tm).

Oh yes.

Trust me, I’m a doctor.

🙂

Brennig.