Archive for » January, 2012 «

Being a Writer not an Author

I normally do a how-to blog in this slot but I recently read a blog by Dean Wesley Smith and wanted to share it. He talks about whether someone should be a writer or an author and how this can affect success and finances.

I really liked the concept and thought it was an interesting way to look at people’s attitudes to what they do. I also often get the question ‘so how’s the book?’ so far I usually reply, ‘which one?’

Here’s the link anyway, let me know what you all think. Writer or Author?

The New World of Publishing: Writer vs Author

Author Interview: Greta Burroughs

My next interviewee is Greta Burroughs.

Tell us about your latest project.

My latest project is a children’s chapter book “Patchwork Dog and Calico Cat.” There are five stories that should be fun and entertaining for kids in the elementary school age bracket. It will make a nice bedtime story book for parents.

What’s your favourite genre to write and what’s your favourite genre to read?

I love fantasy both to write and read. It’s a way to escape reality and be in another time and place if only for a little while.

What inspires you?

My husband, Robert DeBurgh inspired me to start writing and the subjects I write about vary from children’s stories to fantasy to an account of my experiences with ITP, a blood disorder. The inspiration for the books come from my life and the things that make me the person I am. I have always enjoyed reading to kids so that is why I like to write chldren’s and young adult fantasy.

You say your husband inspired you to start writing, do you let him read your work first or make him wait until everyone else can read it?

My husband reads and edits as I write. After I have completed a chapter, he looks over it and gives a thumbs up or down, makes suggestions and encourages me with his compliments.

Do you have any quirks to how you write?

I do not have any particular habits. I write mainly when I have the chance between all the other stuff I do. It took about three years to complete “Gerald and the Wee People” since I only worked on it a little at a time and about five years to complete “Heartaches and Miracles” since it was on an ongoing account of my experiences with ITP.

If there were no restraints on your time, either medical or financial, would you spend most of it writing or are there other things that interest you just as much?

I really love to write, though I have not had much time lately to devote to my unfinished manuscripts. I would probably continue in the same manner as I am now but if there were no restraints or other distractions, I would be free to concentrate more on the writing projects I wish to complete and actually get them done!

What are you planning on doing next/What else are you up to?

My time is spent mainy marketing and promoting the two books I already have out. My goal is to have “Patchwork Dog and Calico Cat” out by the end of the year and write a sequel to “Gerald and the Wee People” next year.

You can follow Greta on facebook to find out more.

For more info on her books:

Gerald and the Wee people on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, B&N, Smashwords and Breakthrough Bookstore.

Heartaches and Miracles on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, B&N, Smashwords and Breakthrough Bookstore.

Sherdan’s Prophecy: Chapter 5

Fear shook Anya as she was escorted away from Sherdan. No part of her had expected him to deny the existence of the prophecy. It briefly flashed through her head that there wasn’t a prophecy at all but she dismissed the thought as soon as it occurred to her.

Several members of her church had confirmed her dream. God wanted her here and she would trust to that, whatever happened next.

Sherdan had been calmer and more calculated than she had expected. He was clever and in control of his emotions. She knew he would be a difficult man to persuade otherwise once he had decided on a course of action. Thankfully she had God. She had seen Him defeat more powerful men, though she knew He didn’t act in every case.

Either way Anya knew she was in danger and the testing of her obedience to God had only just begun. She already prayed that her faith wouldn’t fail her, no matter what she was put through.

The second blindfolded walk lasted much longer than the first. She started to swell around her bonds until she could no longer move her hands without an excruciating stabbing pain lancing outwards from her wrists.

Despite all this she continued to pray. While her lips moved continuously in tongue her head was free to pray in English. She prayed that Sherdan would be blessed and his heart would be opened, that he would know love and all the wonders that came with it.

Then she prayed for her escorts; that they would be forgiven and shown mercy even if they showed neither themselves. She didn’t really do it out of any sense of love for them, more because it was what she had been told to do. Finally she prayed for herself, for God to grant her enough strength, faith and love, that whatever happened she would know Him for the rest of her days.

Her prayer was interrupted by arriving at her cell. The bag was swiftly removed from her head and she found herself forced into a sitting position at a small table.

The room only had a single light bulb, the table and two chairs, one of which she had been sat on. It looked a lot like the scary rooms in movies where organisations took suspected spies. She knew it was meant to frighten her. Knowing everything was God’s will kept her calm.

“We’ll start this the easy way miss, cooperate and it will stay nice and civilised. My name’s Jack and I’m one of the senior guards here. Who do you work for?” the guard said as he sat down in front of her. Anya suspected that this was going to be a long night.

“I work for myself, I’m an artist,” she replied.

“Who sent you then?”

“God.”

The guy got up and came around to her side of the table. Anya looked at him, trying not to let her fear show. He waited for a moment as if expecting her to change her answer. She didn’t.

“I don’t want to do this the hard way, I really don’t.”

“Neither do I,” she replied.

“Then I need to know more. Why don’t you tell me everything about why you’re here, in one long story, seeing as my questions aren’t working.”

Anya nodded and spent the next forty-five minutes explaining all about her dream, what she had told her church pastors and that many others in her church had said the same thing. She had volunteered to come see the prophecy and find out for sure.

She could tell the guard didn’t believe a word she said but it was the truth and not lying was all that mattered to Anya. The only thing she didn’t say was her name. Something stopped her and she wasn’t going to disobey any directional feelings.

Her and the guard covered the same ground repeatedly for the next two hours. Eventually he lost his temper; he didn’t believe her story and wanted her name, but she wasn’t lying even though she refused to divulge her identity. There was only one direction things could go from there.

Anya hadn’t exactly seen it coming but she wasn’t surprised when he began to threaten her with violence. She resumed praying in tongues in response.

He called her a whore and yanked her up out of her seat by her hair. She winced, being hauled to her feet, but because her hands had caught on the back of the chair. The numbness that had resided in them gave way to a sharp pain which shot through both her hands before turning into a dull ache.

When she refused to answer his next question he punched her. Her left eye felt like it had exploded as she went flying.

For the next hour Anya’s world was nothing but yelling and abuse. She prayed in tongues and kept her eyes closed so the sight of her own blood wouldn’t frighten her any more than she already was.

The entire time she did her best to focus on relevant bible stories, though few came to mind. Her favourite book, Esther, was the clearest. Esther had fasted before going before the king and risking her life and Anya had copied her example fasting for three days before. By the end of the hour she simply prayed for God to end her time and take her to be with him.

Mercifully, she had no sooner thought this when her tormentor stopped his violent lashings and dragged her to the centre of the room. He cut the plastic bindings relieving the pain in her wrists before transferring them to the manacle style metal cuffs already there. He bound her ankles as well so each hand was connected behind her back to the opposite foot via a short chain which passed through a large metal hoop affixed to the floor.

The clanking chains felt like needles stabbing into her throbbing head so she kneeled still and prayed. As Anya focused on God she started to sing to him softly, still in tongues. In response to her worship all the pain melted from her body. Despite everything she had endured for now she felt none of it.

She had no idea how long they left her like that before her guard was back. The next few hours rolled into a haze of repetition. He would talk nicely until he lost his temper and got violent, finally he would give her a break when he thought she’d had enough. The entire time she would attempt to pray.

While she was alone she catnapped but if she appeared asleep someone came and woke her up, and never gently. One such time a second much younger guard didn’t leave when she resumed her prayer vigil but had the table and chairs removed. Anya knew it was time for the next stage, whatever it was.

When the new guard returned with a large bucket of water Anya actually smiled. She knew what would happen next, this test wasn’t about pain but panic. Her immediate response was to pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit.

She turned her mind to her first ever encounter with God. It had happened when trying a new church at the age of twenty-one. She had suddenly felt overwhelmingly peaceful for the first time in her life. Anya hadn’t been to another church since.

Time and time again her head was dunked into the bucket and she was held under until her lungs ached for breath. Just when she thought she might drown she would be allowed to breathe.

Calmness lay on her like a cloak. Rather than feeling worse as the guards hoped Anya soon felt refreshed. She’d never thought it possible to feel calm in the face of such hate but her confidence in God grew all the more as a result.

Eventually the bucket was taken away and her captors returned with small sticks. Anya looked puzzled until she was hit with one. Her body spasmed in response to the electricity.

When even the electric shocks didn’t get her talking they gave her another break and brought her a plate of food. Her hands were freed and she was encouraged to eat.

Anya picked up the plate and had a fork full ready to shovel into her mouth before she thought. God had asked her to fast and in one unguarded moment she had almost ruined all. She put the plate down again and turned her back.

The rest of the day passed in a blur. She left all three meals completely untouched. The guards continued to try new methods to get Anya to talk but she had nothing else to say and she knew Sherdan realised that. She only had to fix on God and at some point she would be delivered, one way or another.

Anya had been puzzled by only one thing that day, sometime between her second and third meal. A nurse had come in, taken some of her blood, and left again. They had not spoken and the guard had held her still while it happened.

She was left alone all night, at least she thought it was night, it was the only explanation that made sense. She prayed and rested. Her whole body was racked with pain but she knew God was close.

Every time she felt weak or defeated a fresh wave of the Holy Spirit would flow over her and bring the peace and warmth of her maker. Jesus understood. What he had suffered had been far worse and God had honoured His own son for the trials he was put through.

The following day was a haze so alike to the first that Anya wondered if she had finally fallen asleep and it was just the haunting remembrance of her ordeal so far. It made the torture easier to bear if she pretended it was just a dream, a horrible dream, but a dream nonetheless.

As the day progressed she spent less and less time conscious. Jack was back and he was nastier than the second guard had been. Anya sighed with relief when his shift was over and the second guard came back.

“Don’t be too soft on her,” Jack said as he was relieved.

As if placating his superior the younger guard resumed the interrogation with more force than Anya expected. He was soon interrupted by another young male in a lab-coat. Her guard left, leaving her alone with the new arrival. They stared at each other while she prayed. He seemed to be analysing her. She eventually raised an eyebrow in question. He smiled.

“I’m a doctor. You can call me James. What’s your name?” he said.

“I’m pleased to meet you James. Why have you come to visit me?”

“I’ve been asked to check you over. No one wants you to get too sick.” At this he moved towards her. He gently checked every cut and bruise and listened to her breathing before whispering goodbye. He shut the door behind him with a gentle click in contrast to the slams of the guards when they entered or exited.

No one came back. Anya drifted where she lay. Suddenly she felt herself prodded. She opened her eyes but no one was there. She closed her eyes again and let herself drift. Moments later she felt another prod. Again, when she opened her eyes no one was there.

Anya looked around the room, confused. The story of Sampson popped into her head. Every time he had fallen asleep his wife had taken whatever he had said was the source of his strength. If he had stayed awake and not said anything he would never have been betrayed. Anya lifted herself up onto her knees and continued praying. She did everything she could to stay awake.

Several hours of her vigil passed before she could no longer stay kneeling and she collapsed onto her side. Still she fought off sleep. Slowly her eyes closed though her mouth still moved in silent prayer.

When her lips had finally stopped moving and her senses had dulled to the outside world she felt herself floating off into the distance. As if from a strange distant land she heard a soft click. She ignored it, wanting to continue into the oblivion of deep sleep.

What seemed like minutes later she heard a faint shuffling sound that came closer the longer it went on. It couldn’t be placed by Anya’s brain at first but it eventually made its way through the fog.

Her eyes snapped open. The first thing she saw was the older security guard. He stopped his creeping and looked at her. Pure anger burned in his expression.

“The doctor informs me that I have to stop what I’ve been doing to you to get you to talk. He seems to think I’m not doing a very good job. I don’t like disappointing the boss. So I’ve come up with a good way to get you to talk.”

Anya gulped. She didn’t like the glint in his eyes as he looked at her. She shifted backwards from him as far as her chains would let her. All the while he walked towards her, menacing step after menacing step. He grinned. She shivered.

Suddenly he lunged at her. She struggled against him as he grabbed hold of her trousers. He ripped them off and flung them against the wall.

Her bonds prevented her from defending herself with anything but her mouth. She bit into his shoulder. He yelled out and back-handed her. Miraculously the strain of her struggle broke the ring in the centre of the room and although she was still bound she no longer found herself fixed to a single point.

Anya thanked God and dragged herself away from the vile man despite the pain that flared in her limbs. The guard made his intentions clear as she watched him remove his belt and shoes, and fling them to the same place as her trousers. He never took his eyes off her.

“I’m going to enjoy this. I’ve never had a good little Christian girl,” he said as he advanced towards her again. She tried to back up even further, completely overcome with fear, praying out of habit rather than desire.

He was less than a foot away from her when the door was flung open, crashing against the wall.

“What!” the guard snapped furiously at their disturber.

“Sherdan is on his way. We’ve been ordered to stop.”

“I’m in the middle of something. It’s half four in the morning. He’ll be asleep.” The guard turned straight back to Anya who had used the time to slide around the man and put more distance between them. He grabbed her leg and pulled her back. She screamed.

“Jack! You have to stop. He’s really on his way.” The younger guard and two others all came into the room as she was let go. Jack spat at her.

“I’ll be back to finish this later. The boss won’t do the dirty work for long. You’re not his cup of tea.” Anya wept as she was left alone.

 

Chapter 6 will go live on Feb 4th. As usual here‘s the backstory for those joining now.

The Kindle Murders: A Review

The Kindle Murders is the first Novella in the Global Crime Prevention Unit series by A. D. Vates.

As you’ve probably guessed it’s a crime book.

Normally I find the Crime genre a little too heavy going for me and rather dark but this book was gorgeously not so. I loved the thrill of the team solving the crimes and found it very hard to put down when I had to go to bed one evening.

It’s not got an overly long or complicated plot but I think this actually added to the satisfaction of the ebook. It was something I could dip into and know that it won’t be long before I can dip into their next adventure. I guess I liked it for similar reasons I enjoy the Sherlock stories. I was entertained and can get to know the characters over lots of short bursts.

I will be eagerly awaiting the sequel in just 10 days time.

Here’s the links to it.

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

 

Dictatorship: The Best Form Of Government

I recently had a discussion with a good friend on the best form of Government in theory.

There have been many trials at different governments and ruler forms over the many years of all the countries in our world. Democracy, Communism and Monarchy are the most common. There are many variations of this as well. Even the Uk has a combination between democracy and monarchy even if the monarchs don’t do that much to affect the day to day lives of their citizens.

Democracy tends to be less affective because getting a large number of people to agree on something and move forward is often very difficult. Take the last election for example. There wasn’t much in it between the two major parties and when the two that combined for the greatest majority people said that wasn’t what they’d wanted (In ‘theory’ it was what the majority of people wanted put together).

Communism is another form of government that only kind of works. On a small scale it works fairly well. In fact most homes are small forms of communism. One or two people work bringing in the cash and able others do the housework etc. Leaving an environment where the weak (such as children or elderly) can be nurtered and protected.

However, in practice and large numbers communism proves less easy. Often it takes a great deal of oversight to ensure all the weak are looked after as well as the better people not taken advantage of. What often results is a few people bearing more than their fair share of the burden and certain people not being looked after with an even more select few getting richer off the backs of others work.

The biggest challenge all the different types face is corruption. In this not perfect world corruption lingers everywhere. Often in democracy and communism it’s hard to see who’s the corrupt party let alone remove them. As a result progress is slow and often hindered.

My prefered government is therefore, as my title suggests, dictatorship. But not just any dictatorship, a benevolent dictator. If the dictator is not corrupt in any way then they have the absolute power and ability to remove anyone corrupt from any form of control or office. By definition of being benevolent they will always do what they think is best for people as a whole. I guess the trouble lies in finding someone benevolent who will stay benevolent.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely – Lord Acton

Author Interview: Annarita Guarnieri

Annarita Guarnieri has kindly agreed to be interviewed today.

Tell us about your latest project?

Well, my latest project started here in Italy, last year, and now will soon be published in the US as well, by Inknbeans Press. It is a series of small books about cats, based on my 20 years of life with cats. The first one, “How to Survive Being Owned by a Cat”, aims to give a series of practical suggestion on how to “handle” a cat, be it a kitten or an adult cat… not the things you’ll find on a regular manual, but the tricks you learn through direct experience. And there are also a lot of anecdotes about how I came to devise those tricks in the first place.

When and why did you start writing?

I can’t remember a time in my life when I did not want to write. Well, when I was very small, four or five, and could not write yet, I would spend afternoons inventing stories and using my dolls and other toys as the other characters of the plot (I always was the main character, of course). Growing up, I started “rewriting” plots of movies whose ending I did not like, or to write a follow up story because I liked the characters. That was step two. Then I tried writing a few short stories of my own, when I was in my teens, with the predictable result of writing something awful. Much later, in the Eighties, I got into a Star trek club, here in Italy, and had the luck of becoming close friends with a very good writer, Mariangela Cerrino. When I started writing stories for our fanzines, she finally taught me exactly how to build a good story. Since then, I’ve written a few short stories, a Star Trek short novel, and I have some projects still under work.

You mention writing Star Trek fan fiction for quite a while, do you think you’ll ever try to write your own sci-fi world at any point?

Well, I love Star Trek, its universe and most of all its (original) characters, but what I loved was not the SciFi setting of the saga, it was the relationship among the characters themselves: To tell the truth, I never liked Science Fiction very much. I translated a lot of it in the past, but my favorite dimension is Fantasy, because I find it a better instrument to give room to what I like best: delving into the nature of the characters and in their psychology.

What’s your favourite genre to write and what’s your favourite genre to read?

Well, this is a difficult question, for I have always been a rather omnivorous reader. A few years ago I would have answered “fantasy” without any hesitation, but since the good, old heroic fantasy has changed into urban fantasy, dealing mostly with vampires in love, I’ve turned my attention to other genres that appealed to me in the past. Right now I read almost anything, from mainstream to thrillers, to horror (if it is really good) to… you name it!
As for my writing, it’s more or less the same thing. I started writing inside the Star Trek universe, then I began writing a fantasy saga but never finished it… it’s a project still in my drawer, so to speak, and sooner or later I’ll get back to it. Instead I started writing short stories that vary in genre… comic, dramatic, gothic, vampire. So I suppose I’ve become omnivorous in my writing too!

What inspires you?

This is a difficult question. As a writer, I undoubtedly had two sources of inspiration, my friend Mariangela Cerrino first, for I grew up reading her books, and then David Gemmell, who still is my favorite author ever. But to exactly define what inspires me is rather difficult. You could say that my pen goes where the heart and the mind lead it!

What are you planning on doing next/What else are you up to?

Well, I have a few more ideas concerning cats, and actually a second book about them that should be published here in Italy in Spring. I’m also working on a gothic/historical novel set here in Italy in the year 1200, and I’m trying and planning to put my hands on that fantasy novel, The Dawning Crown, that has been sitting in my drawer for so long. In the meanwhile, I go on with my main job as a translator and editor.

I imagine being a translator and editor for your main job can be both helpful as a writer and make it harder, which do you find?

It is a little of both. It is very helpful because across the years (I began working as a translator and editor in 1979) it has helped me hone my English (I’m Italian, born and bred) and to get to recognise a truly good book, to learn how a book must be written to be deemed “good”. At the same time, translating is a time consuming job, so writing on the side is far from easy because of lack of time. I have a lot of projects hanging just because of that.

If you want to find out mroe about Annarita and her books you can head to her website here, she also runs her own blog here

Sherdan’s Prophecy: Chapter 4

Sherdan had done two of his morning meetings before he thought of his prisoner again. His third meeting was with Hitchin who’s first question was if she had talked yet. Sherdan grinned that Hitchin still thought it must have been a male who caused all the trouble the night before.

“We’ve not got her to talk yet no, but the men are working on her and it won’t be long now,” Sherdan explained.

“Her? You mean it’s a female?” Hitchin’s eyes went wide.

“Yes, this cute little blonde thing. Looks really are deceiving in this case.”

Hitchin laughed and Sherdan soon joined in, even though he wasn’t sure he didn’t feel like doing so. The same overwhelming urge to protect her had come over him again. He dismissed it and decided to find a female to share a night with at the next available opportunity, in case that was the cause.

When they had stopped laughing the two of them discussed the report he had read the night before.

“As you can see, the developments shown by each test subject are still varied. No two subjects have yet developed the same enhancement.”

Hitchin pointed at various things on the page as he explained.

“I’ve done my best to log each one and what seems to have changed. None have come up in the last batch which are particularly useful but they may well be in the future.”

“What about the next batch?”

“I’ve got another five ready to administer the drug to. I know it’s a small group.”

“After tomorrow there should be plenty of volunteers. Your next batch will be much larger.”

“Shall I begin the treatment?” Hitchin asked.

“Yes, but make sure to monitor them very closely and keep them here for an additional twelve hours above the normal.”

“Really? Do you think it wise to take up so much time with each group?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Our mortality rate is too high still. Only about eighty percent of people are surviving the treatment and we should be aiming for closer to ninety-nine percent. Otherwise we are wasting a lot of our time. I want you to focus on that.”

Hitchin nodded and Sherdan got up to go. He was about to leave the room when Hitchin stopped him.

“Sherdan, I think I might be able to help with your intruder. If someone can get me a DNA sample I can get it run through the ID base for all known covert organisations and see if she’s a spy or an assassin. There’s a particular patient I have in mind who should be able to help with that.”

“I’ll have a sample of her blood sent over for you. I’d like to know her name and who really sent her. I don’t buy her church story even with the constant praying. Well at least it seems to be prayer. No one understands it.” With that Sherdan left. He passed on Hitchin’s request and went back to his study for some peace.

It was mid afternoon and Sherdan had finished preparing his answers for the interview before he allowed his focus to drift back to this girl again. He tried to resist the temptation to turn on the monitor and continue watching but his hand moved and flicked the switch by it’s own will.

His prisoner lay sideways on the floor. Her trainers were gone, showing two little feet that would have been pretty had her toenails not been a bloody mess. Her clothes were torn even worse and barely kept her modest.

She looked exhausted but still she whispered. He was struck by the peacefulness in her face. Peace in the midst of great pain and chaos.

For the next half an hour he watched. She lay there, talking, until she finally fell asleep. Sherdan sighed with relief, sleep would give her strength and for some reason this comforted him. The respite was short lived.

The guards had been instructed to wake any interrogation subjects if they tried to sleep and in their minds this one was no different to the others. She was soon kicked awake. She continued to whisper, almost oblivious to the abuse, as Sherdan reached out and stroked her on his screen.

He frowned and got up. He needed to be busy, not feel sorry for this stupid prisoner. He went to his personal gym and tried to block her out of his thoughts as he ran on his treadmill.

An hour later he had succeeded in pushing the girl from his mind as well as having run eight miles. Tired, he reclined in his favourite chair, with his back to the haunting cameras. He looked over the provisions report he had been given in his first meeting of the day.

By the time he had finished he was much happier. The program was now almost entirely self-sufficient. The gardens were producing enough fruit and vegetables that food wasn’t a problem. The fish breeding program would be at a stable cycle in less than two weeks. There only worry was a good supply of fresh water.

The underground stream they had found would only support another few hundred people if their mains pipes were cut off. Sherdan made a note to get his workers on exploring an alternative supply. The facility needed to be entirely self supplied by the end of the year.

Later that evening Sherdan was sitting by the fire with a brandy in one hand and his kindle in the other. He had been reading some of the old classics and the Count Of Monte-Cristo was his latest. It was moderately fitting for his mood at the moment.

He had an original version from the first print run on his shelves but didn’t want to damage the pages or spine as it was over 150 years old.

Sherdan was disturbed from reading by his daytime guard at the end of his watch.

“Sir, I’ve got an update on the female prisoner.”

“Ah, Brilliant. What has she said?” Sherdan enquired of the older man, but as he looked past him he saw the tv screen. As he spoke the guards were plunging her head into the water bucket again.

“She’s not said a word Sir, She’s a stubborn one and make no mistake.”

“Then what is the update for,” he almost yelled.

“She’s refusing to eat Sir. They’ve tried to feed her three times today after your order came through but she just leaves it untouched. She’ll drink plenty of water though she gets a lot of that in many ways,” the guard said as he glanced at the monitor.

“Thank you. Get them to keep trying. Don’t bother updating me unless she says anything in future,” Sherdan replied and motioned for the guard to leave. The man didn’t hesitate, sensing Sherdan’s anger.

As soon as he was alone he got up and poured another brandy. Why didn’t the girl just talk? She had to be suffering. He wasn’t going to let her die without speaking, however, there was no way he would allow it.

Sherdan tried to put her from his mind. He needed to sleep to be well rested for his interview the following morning. Despite his efforts he went to sleep with the image of her bruised and bloody body fixed in his mind. He awoke with the same picture.

When he had finished preparing to travel to London he checked the monitor. The girl lay still, her mouth moving slowly in faint whispers. There were fresh bruises and cuts on top of the old and her breathing looked more laboured than it had before.

On his way out he checked with the security guards that no messages had come through for him in the night and he asked them to inform the interrogation team that he wanted their prisoner kept alive. He also suggested that it would be wise for a doctor to see her and check she would survive further questioning.

With a lighter heart Sherdan got into his chauffeur driven car and relaxed as he was driven the two hour journey to London. While he was travelling he went over his notes and what he wished to say.

He couldn’t be too careful with the words he used to describe their gifted community. It was too soon to let the world know the whole truth but it was definitely time they knew he existed and had plans for the future.

Once Sherdan felt suitably prepared he reached for his laptop. He wanted to search for examples of Christians praying. He still couldn’t decide if his prisoner was talking incoherently or actually praying. Despite what he had told Hitchin he mostly believed her church story.

It took him a few minutes of searching relevant keywords before he stumbled on a page mentioning praying in tongues. The page informed him that Christians believed the Holy Spirit gave each person their own unique language to pray in.

He listened to several samples of people praying and sometimes singing in what they called tongues. The languages were all widely different and Sherdan found it hard to believe all of them were real but it did seem to be what his prisoner was doing.

Traffic was awful in London and despite allowing almost an hour extra to do his journey he was late for his designated arrival time. As a result he was rushed through make-up and plonked down on the sofa opposite his interviewer, Emma Dobs. The program wouldn’t have too many viewers as it was a lunch time show but Sherdan knew it was a big start.

Emma was a brown haired mousey sort of woman with a big smile. She made idle conversation with Sherdan while they were waiting for the camera’s to go live. Thankfully they didn’t have to wait long.

Their off stage director was soon counting them in and Sherdan was being welcomed onto the show. He exuded a cool charm and grace as he thanked his host.

“You run a commune of people in Bristol that’s grown rapidly over the last few years, why don’t you tell us about it?” she launched straight in.

“Well I’m not sure that commune is quite the right word for it. It’s more of an organisation. There are about five thousand people living in the area and they are all very gifted individuals. A lot of them have come to Bristol University and have stayed to help with the projects.”

“And you work at the University, correct?”

“Yes, I have been working there in one of their research department for roughly ten years. The University itself is the centre of our organisation.”

“What exactly does your organisation intend to do?”

“To start with we are looking for anyone who wishes to have a new start in life, who thinks they have a gift or talent that is currently being wasted. We will take applicants from any walk of life to our program.”

“What will people gain from joining you?” Emma asked, probing further. Sherdan smiled before responding.

“We hope to give each and every person a new sense of purpose as well as all the training and support they need to forge a successful and fulfilling life.”

“This all sounds too good to be true, where’s the catch?” The hostess looked very shocked when Sherdan laughed.

“Well the University is an education institute so in part it is as good as it sounds but to recoup some of the costs of training etc. we do ask each participant to works for a few hours a week on jobs which support the community.”

Sherdan paused thoughtfully until he noticed Emma about to speak. He didn’t give her the opportunity but continued instead.

“However, these hours always allow for any necessary program requirements and don’t start until each member has settled onto their course and is fully committed to staying out the course to it’s completeness.” Sherdan finished his little speech with another smile.

The interview had gone exactly as he wished. He relaxed as Emma thanked him and informed the viewers of how they could apply. His work was done here, Dr Hitchin would have many more test subjects for his subsequent batches.

The world was also finally aware his organisation existed even if they knew nothing else yet. It would not be long before he could show the world everything he’d been working on.

As he was getting back into his car he had a phone call from Hitchin.

“We’ve found the girl. She’s a normal civilian, her name’s Anya Price.”

“Thanks Hitchin.” He hung up on his friend as he mulled over this new information. He liked it.

Sherdan smiled all the drive back to his home. He even stopped off at his favourite sea food restaurant in Bath on the way.

While he was there he observed an attractive young female alone on a nearby table. She spent the length of his meal writing in her notepad and hardly even glanced up when the waiter took her empty plate away.

When he had finished eating he got up and went over to her. Before she could say anything he had offered to buy her a drink. She said no at first but when he promised to let her continue writing if she wished she said yes and let him join her.

Four hours later he left her house, satisfied. She had been very impressed by the car and chauffeur and Sherdan had dictated the rest of the night without objection.

He closed her front door as quietly as he could. He had left her sleeping and didn’t expect her to notice he was gone until the morning. He hadn’t left any contact details.

When Sherdan got back he made the mistake of going to his study first. The first thing he saw was Anya. Still praying, still being interrogated.

He flicked the monitor off but the last view was burned into his vision and he continued to see it long after the real thing had disappeared. Until she talked he couldn’t do anything to stop it.

Sherdan fell asleep as quickly as he usually did but his sleep was far from peaceful. Everywhere he turned he saw a small framed blonde girl on her knees praying, her big brown eyes imploring him for help. He turned away only to see blood dripping from his fingers and hands. Not his own blood, he wasn’t the one hurt.

He tried to flee from it all but the path didn’t lead away but doubled back to the same place. Anya, kneeling, begging for mercy from a hooded man.

The hooded man taunted her while Sherdan watched, he then reached into his cloak and pulled out a huge axe. She tried to get away as it was aimed at her but she was still manacled to the floor. As the axe came down Sherdan yelled out.

With a jump he sat up in bed. His torso shook and sweat poured from every pore in his body.

He turned to check the time. It was only half four in the morning. Sherdan threw back the covers, pulled on the nearest clothes and grabbed his security radio from the bedside cabinet. He rushed down the stairs while calling for the attention of his guards.

“Is everything alright Sir?” the radio squawked.

“Er… Yes. Please have my car ready to take me to the compound as soon as you can.”

“Yes Sir, are you sure you are alright?”

“I am…” Sherdan trailed off as he walked into his study. The monitor was right there in front of him, he flicked it on and he watched, struck dumb as Anya crawled backwards, a look of intense fear on her face.

Her eyes were fixed on the guard who stood nearby, jeering at her as he undid his belt buckle and stepped out of his shoes. Anya pulled herself away from him as Sherdan noticed her lack of trousers. They were in a heap against the wall. Her torturer soon added his belt and shoes to the pile.

“Sir?” the radio broke the silence and stirred Sherdan into action.

“Nathan, please contact the interrogation team and request they stop immediately. I am going to take over the situation myself.”

“Yes Sir, right away Sir.”

With that Sherdan rushed out of his study and through the front of his house. He didn’t pause as he moved past his personal guards except to grab his long black coat and hastily pull it on. He still clutched his radio as he rushed out to the car.

“Done Sir… Thank you Sir. I think a new approach might be…”

“I understand Nathan.” Sherdan interrupted. He then got into his car and urged his chauffeur to drive fast.

 

Chapter 5 will be out on the 23rd of January. You can also check out the back story here

Scott Pilgrim: A Review

I’m actually surprised I hadn’t reviewed this film earlier but I recently watched it again so I’ll do it now.

The first time I watched the film I was mildly amused by it. I’m a gamer chick so 99% of the game references made me chuckle to myself. I love the Universal intro in 8 bit, and I have to admit think the films worth watching just for the soundtrack.

I didn’t actually think a huge deal of the plot the first run through, however, and wasn’t expecting to enjoy watching it a third or fourth time. The acting wasn’t amazing but good enough and the action was a little too comic book style for me to have kittens over the fight scenes.

Surprisingly I’ve watched it a third time and found I actually enjoyed it more than the first time. Whatever it was about watching it I had a proper giggle again and found the plot had grown on me. I’m kinda hoping it wasn’t just end of the year relief (I watched it New Year’s Eve) and that it is genuinly a film that gets better with age.

It’s very current in it’s outlook on life and very appealing to the younger adults in life. Not sure it’s something I’d recommend to the parents. I doubt they’d get the gamer references let alone the lifestyle. Niche market but good niche market.

Category: Film, Review  Tags: , ,  One Comment

Making It Through Winter

Winter is one of the most difficult times of year for most people. January is apparently the most depressing month and it’s often cold and people are lonely.

As a creative person these things are often felt even more keenly. It’s hard to write, paint or make anything. If we weren’t lonely at Christmas we’re probably so over loaded with socialness we just want to hide under the duvet and if we were lonely we feel sad and want to hide under the duvet. If it snows and draws us out of our cozy shell we might go gaze on the crisp beauty of it for a few moments before feeling too cold and going back to the duvet.

I had a thought about some of the thigns I’ve done to get me through the bleakness of winter.

Firstly my favourite bevarage, hot chocolate. Most people diet in January. I don’t. Why should I add to the misery of the month by stopping eating my favourite things. Dieting is best saved for march when spring is coming and new beginnings actually feel like new beginnings.

Secondly, well planned socialness. It solves both of the duvet problems. If you have commitments you made before Christmas (not too many) then you have to leave the duvet to see people and if you were lonely it means you feel a little less lonely.

Thirdly, artistic planning days. I often use January to sit down with other creatives and talk about all the creative things I want to get up to in the year. Swapping ideas and inputting into other peoples can be a great way to get excited about actually making something. Half of it you’ll not manage to do or will be forgotten about two weeks later but that’s not the point. Talking to soemone on your wavelength about art is a great booster back into working (if you’re not an artist getting together with someone in your line of work seems to help as well).

Fourthly, small daily goals. I know organisation isn’t a strong point for creatvies but I’ve found if i’m really discouraged a few days or a week or two of easily met goals give me enough satisfaction that I can start to look at bigger tasks again. I often find short stories are good to write at this time of year. They are so much quicker.

If anyone else has any tips for keeping going until Spring arrives please share them below in comments and I hope the ones I’ve suggested do some good.

Category: How-to  Tags: , , ,  One Comment

Author Interview: Jim Murdoch

Jim Murdoch has kindly agreed to be my first interview of the new year so here it is.

Tell us about your latest project.

At the moment all my time is being taken up with promotion of an ebook entitled The Whole Truth, an omnibus edition of my first two paperbacks, Living with the Truth and Stranger than Fiction. Here’s the basic blurb:

Jonathan Payne is a jaded bookseller at the end of a wasted life which has been spent in a dull north England seaside town. He could be an everyman, but seems to have missed the boat somewhere. He’s both distastefully pathetic and oddly sympathetic. A passive character, he has been happy to read about life without experiencing either great joy or great despair. If Death were to knock on his door it wouldn’t trouble him greatly.

The knock comes. Only it’s not Death. It’s the truth. Literally. The human personification of truth.

Truth proves to be a likeable, if infuriating, character with a novel mode of expression: “glib dipped in eloquence and then rolled in a coating of irony,” to quote one reviewer. He knows everything and has no qualms revealing intimate details of lives of the people who cross his path while he’s with Jonathan. He’s quite indiscriminate. The same reviewer described him as “one of the most endearing antagonists I have come across.” Comparisons with Peter Cook’s devil in Bedazzled are not unreasonable.

Jonathan learns what he’s missed out on in life, what other people think and the true nature of the universe which is nothing like he would have expected it to be. At the end, having learned far more than he ever wanted to know, he finds out that it’s usually never too late to start again. Only sometimes it is: no Ebenezer Scrooge or George Bailey-esque turnaround for poor Jonathan.

I also have the paperback edition of my fourth novel, Milligan and Murphy coming out before the end of the year so I’ll need to start promoting that too soon. It’s a novel based on the writings of Samuel Beckett, specifically his novel Mercier and Camier.

What’s your favourite genre to write and what’s your favourite genre to read?

I don’t consider myself a genre writer, in fact in my naiveté I assumed that most writers weren’t. It’s only since I’ve been online that I’ve realised how mistaken I was. Until I started reviewing books on my blog I read twentieth century literary novels almost exclusively – during my twenties I went through a phase of only reading books by Nobel Prize winners. My aspirations were always to be a literary novelist which meant punching above my weight, especially at the start, but my third and fourth novels definitely fit the bill. Not so sure about the fifth.

The first two books are really unclassifiable however this quote from the author Kay Sexton talking about the first novel probably nails it:

“[T]his is one of those novels that bookshops must hate: not ‘hard’ enough to be spec fic, not ‘weird’ enough to be fantasy, too realistic for the humour section and yet too humorous to shelve easily with the lit fic. And that, I suspect is going to prove to be its charm; for those who do read it, it’s a singular take on the world, and it will either resonate with you or leave you cold. […] But I can recommend that you try it — if you like distinctive fiction that rings no bells and blows no whistles but creeps up on you with its absurdities, this book will satisfy you, as it did me.”

She did slightly better with the sequel:

“I tried to come up with one of those pithy one-liners that you are supposed to use to encapsulate a project for the movie industry (which is popularly supposed not to be able to cope with more than a sentence of information at a time) and what I decided on was Alan Bennett meets Douglas Adams! […] I loved it.”

When and why did you start writing?

I didn’t write when I was very young. Apart from one poem, in Scots, when I must have been about eight. It was about a public hanging of all things. I have no idea where that came from but I’m afraid I don’t have a copy so I can’t give you a taster. During my primary school years the poetry that we concentrated on was in the Romantic tradition, sometimes with and sometimes without the capital r, the likes of Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, Wordsworth, Walter de la Mare, John Masefield. But when I moved to secondary school (I’d be about twelve at the time) I started submitting poems to the school magazine and every year I would get a handful published. It was here that I was first exposed to poetry that wasn’t quite so pretty, specifically the war poetry of Wilfred Owen, but the real change for me came when I was sitting in a cold classroom on a dreich Tuesday afternoon. Our teacher handed out roneoed copies of Philip Larkin’s poem ‘Mr. Bleaney’. We groaned en masse but as she started to open up the poem I found myself captivated. There were no similes, no metaphors, no alliteration, no onomatopoeia, no babbling brooks, no blokes sitting in fields full of daisies. Suddenly I realised what poetry was; all the rest was window-dressing and for the next twenty years I wrote poetry almost exclusively. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties and in crisis that I thought to try something else. And that something else proved to be two novels written back-to-back in about three months.

Why do I write? That’s like asking me why I breathe. In 1997 I wrote this poem:

The Art of Breathing

To find room for the new
you have to let go of
the old

so to learn how to write
I had to forget how
to breathe

and for a time I thought
I had to write to keep
breathing

which makes such perfect sense
but only if you’re a
poet.

20 November 1997

I believe that the need to be creative is something natural, something we all have. Some people paint, some write music, others dance or crochet and others write. I define a writer as a person whose natural response to life is to write about it. I didn’t discover that need until I passed puberty but then that’s often the time when we start to come into our own as rounded individuals. I don’t write to tell stories, to entertain. I’m not interested in making a name for myself. If I found myself alone on a desert island I’d still write.

I no longer draw any distinctions between the kinds of writing I do. The material dictates the form. I began as a poet but poetry, at least the poetry that I find myself capable of writing, has its limitations. Since I completed those first two novels I’ve written another three, two plays, a ton of short stories and I’ve even dabbled with flash fiction. But in my heart of hearts I’m still a poet before anything else.

Have you released any of your poetry to the public?

I’ve only published one poetry book, This Is Not About What You Think. It’s a collection of poetry covering just over thirty years arranged in such a way that it moves from poems about childhood through to old age, a sort of seven ages of man. You can read the whole of the first section of the book on my website here along with some other poems. There are some audio and video readings here and in the right hand column of my blog there is a list of poems and stories available online that I update whenever anything new goes up anywhere.

What’s your perfect writing day like?

Being a writer these days is far harder than it used to be especially if you’re foolhardy enough to go it alone. Yes, it’s a great time to be a writer because getting into print has never been easier, but being read has never been harder for a lot of reasons. Even those who have written something that they’ve managed to get accepted by a traditional publisher are not immune and only the big names like Thomas Pynchon and Cormac McCarthy can afford to keep their distance from their adoring fans. The rest of us have to roll our sleeves up and wade out into the social networks and try to get noticed. I could be writing now but instead I’m doing this interview, my second today as it happens. Not that I’m complaining. As long as the questions are interesting I’m happy to prattle on about my writing all day long but while I’m doing that I’m not doing any new writing. So my perfect writing day would simple be to write and not have to worry about checking my inbox or Facebook or making sure that I’ve responded to all the comments on my blog or kept up with the books I have committed to review. It would be nice just to get up and have nothing to do bar write. I’ve written two lengthy blog posts about this recently, one on boredom and the other on intuition, but the thing that comes out of both of them is that a writer really needs space to be creative, literally time to be bored and when was the last time you could afford that luxury?

What’s one piece of advice you could give to other writers in this new day and age of self publishing and ebooks?

Be professional. I used to be an IT trainer a good few years back. One of my trainees once she’d finished her qualification used to help me out preparing assessment materials. She was keen and efficient but sloppy. The thing is, whenever I pointed out her mistakes, her response was always the same, “It’ll do. Give me something else.” Er, no, it wouldn’t do and I always ended up fixing her work before I could use it. Never take an “it’ll do” attitude towards any aspect of your work. Perfection is unattainable – don’t go the other way – but never settle; if it’s not good enough and you know it’s not good enough do something about it before it gets pointed out to you.

What are you planning on doing next? What else are you up to?

I’m not a big planner. Not as far as the writing goes. I know what books I’m planning to release next – after Milligan and Murphy I’m aiming to put out a collection of short stories near the end of 2012 called Making Sense – and I know what books I have to read and review before the end of the year but as for what I’m going to write next I’m just allowing nature to take its course. I have an idea that I can’t seem to be able to rid myself of but I have no clue if I’m up to the task in hand. Like most of my books I have no story but that’s not so weird: the film director Mike Leigh never starts out with a script, just a concept, and Harold Pinter would often begin with just a voice in his head – no context and maybe not even a gender – and that would be his jumping off point. I get that. When I got the idea that blossomed into Milligan and Murphy I had just crossed the St Andrews Suspension Bridge in Glasgow when I heard the words, “Milligan and Murphy were brothers,” and the rest, as they say, is history. So I’m in no rush to start my next novel or whatever it turns out to be. I’ll be living with it for a good three years – prolific I am not – and that’s a long time to be stuck flogging a dead horse. No, I’ll know when the time is right. It’s only nine months since I completed Left, my last novel.

You can find Jim’s books at the links below:

FV Books
Smashwords

If you want to find out more info about Jim himself you can check out his blog, website or follow him on either twitter or facebook.