Saturday, 16 February 2013

Random Word Stories

I promised I'd blog about this, so here goes.

As part of my Fiction module for my MA, I have to produce random words stories. The original exercise was to pluck three concrete nouns from the things I like and know a lot about to base fiction off. I chose Cats, Dice and Books. The second stage was to expand on the words to see how they could stretch (the cat that follows you home, the mystical connection to goddesses, the way dice can govern our lives, their connection to luck and so on and so forth).

The third stage was to choose three abstract nouns (in my case, Curiousity, Wonder and Love) and to start meshing words together to make stories. So you end up with things like a group of men in a gambling den where a cat, who may or may not be an incarnation of Bast and things like that.

This week I was meant to take fellow students' words and do the same thing. This is complicated by the fact I'm the only distance learning student on the module (essentially the timing of the normal module is no good for me, so I've switched to distance learning). As a result I threw it out to Facebook and asked for some friends there to suggest words.  I must thank here, Meg Kingston, Rob Harkess and Kristi Jones who provided me with a fairly long list of words.

The list they provided me was like this:


Concrete Nouns
Bacon
Fish (1)
Mug (4)
Plant
Paving slab (2)
ipad
Car (3)
Thermosetting Concrete (1)
Crow (2)
Knitting (2)
Needles
Can (3)
Bee
Hay (4)
Inn (4)
Hands (3)

Abstract Nouns
Patriotism
Poise
Passion (3)
Confusion (1)
Bewildered
Bored (1)
Danger (2)
Adventure (4)
Freedom (4)
Democracy
Beauty
Squamous
Gibbous

I don't need to write the whole thing, just develop a paragraph thumbnail saying what happens and giving an idea of outline. Technically I don't need to develop character names but some of the stories just supplied them.

Random Story

Joe and the Whale

Bob and Mary Tapper are taking their three grandchildren around an art gallery. They're confused by the art, most of which is modern and not the kind of art they remember (though they try to keep the children interested). The children are in fact bored, and are starting share it loudly. They stumble onto Heavy Water, an installation of huge concrete fish and floating glass spheres, and the children seem to be interested in the hanging sculptures, running around the hall and exploring it whilst Bob and Mary sit down. When they go to leave they realise that one of the children, Joe, is missing. They search, panicking when they fail to find the boy. They contact security, who start to double check. Climbing the sculptures they find the boy inside the statue of the whale, fast asleep.

A Murder of Crows

A young woman discovers the body of her grandmother, pecked to death on the patio. She's still clutching her knitting, it's stained with her blood which dripped down to the paving slabs below. As the granddaughter phones 999 she notices that the nearby trees are full of large crows. She realises they are bigger than they should be and are looking at her most unkindly. As she's talking the birds move closer to the house in an unnerving fashion. She hears the tapping of beaks on glass, the rustling of wings all around the house. We end with her staring at a bird at the window, which is returning her gaze with an evil eye.

Car Trouble

Dwayne loves his car to the extent that he doesn't go to clubs, just cruises up and down the main street where clubbers gather, showing off and trying to pull. He succeeds and takes the girl, Nadine, off in the car. They start making out, and he's just slipped his hand up her leg and under her skirt when he realises that she's got her boots up on the dashboard and freaks out (his precious car). They fight and he throws her out. In revenge she takes one of his cans of fizzy drink and shakes it up before opening it all over the inside of his car.

The Great Escape

A man who's trapped in a stifling marriage, takes his car and drives off, seeking freedom, space and adventure. He get to a rural inn and stays the night, going to bed with a local girl. In the morning as they take breakfast, drinking tea from mugs and eating bacon sandwiches. As they're finishing up, the man's face drains of colour as his wife's car pulls up outside.

The Cruellest Cut

A near future, a Britain that's preparing for war. After a crisis restrictions on civil liberties are being imposed. Two people, mother and daughter, are in the garden pruning roses. They're talking about the changes, with each of them taking one side – in effect they're arguing (I suspect the younger woman is supportive of the changes, whilst the older disapproves of them). They start to argue properly and, by accident, one of them snips at the wrong place, cutting a living bloom from the rose. It tumbles to the floor.

My Favourite Smell

Following on from the Blog Roulette (it finished last week, if you blinked and missed it) and with many thanks to LM Cooke for her suggestions, I present 'My Favourite Smell'.

If I were to think about my favourite smell, then I would have to pause. Smell is one of the strongest senses we have, and it's works on a primal, unthinking level. There's rarely a chance to reason why we like or dislike a scent, it works on instinct. There's no rhyme or reason for my dislike of the smell of fish for instance, it's just something that makes me want to gag and I avoid it where possible (much to the dismay of my pets, who think fish is one of the best things since sliced bread, figuratively speaking at least). There are actually a large number of smells I don't like, beer being one of them, though that could be extended to alcohol in general most of the time. In fairness my dislike of the smell stems from encountering drunk people, most of whom have composed large amounts of beer, so there may be cause and effect going on there. This being said, I'd imagine that most of us can at least tolerate the smells we find in the world, or we'd never leave the house. If we did, then the image in my mind's eye is that of a procession of people sweltering under gas masks, filtering the air into scentless stuff, functional but dull.

Smell is actually a pretty complicated thing for something we rarely think about. Perfumes and aftershaves are specifically targeted, I recall seeing something that said that a lot of perfume development is gendered. Men and women respond favourably to different scents (if I remember right men like floral scents more, women prefer woody smells - I'm not sure if culture and society, that great trap that grips us from the moment we're conceived, can affect the world of smell and how we perceive it. Smell may be the only thing free of it's grip).

My favourite smell isn't a perfume though, so I suspect I've dodged past that one and into new territory. I can think of a lot of smells I do like, some of which I'm not going to share, as I know a friend's young son was reading my blog fiction over her shoulder the other day and I don't want to cause problems. I imagine you can work out what sort of smell I'm talking about though.

I was going to say that it's my cat, Hobbes (he of the shoulder riding and the violent tendencies), there's something about the scent of his fur and even his dirty feet that's very nice. I like to bury my nose in his coat, and just let his smell wash over me. As I thought about it though, I did a double take; realising that the times I really like his aroma are sunny days when he's been lying in the sun, soaking up its rays. I feel the same way about Dita (she of the demanding voice and shivery tail) when she's been sleeping in the warm as well. Eve's hair has the same sort of smell as well on those days too.

Moving away from what is starting to look like an unfortunate tendency to go around sniffing fur or hair that's exposed to sunshine, I love the smell of baking bread, of cooking, of a warm house and a summer's day, when the air truly carries scent (on cold days I find the opposite, its as if the air is neutered). So, upon reflection it would seem my favourite smell is actually warmth or fire rather than anything more specific.

So apologies if that seems like a cop out, but there you are. My favourite smell.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Blog Roulette 2 and some other bits and pieces

Many thanks to the people who suggested subjects for me to write about. I ended up with five topics and haven't managed to get Eve and Emma to roll dice for them yet. Tonight, tonight I swear it.

There should be more poetry up today as well, both at the Transatlantic Project and at my Soundcloud account (which I feel I'm neglecting).

I'm working out story skeletons for various bits and bobs, not sure if they'll go to anthologies or to short story magazines as yet.  I'm working on some non genre fiction for my MA, including a piece about a group of gamers that have to deal with the fallout of one of their number becoming extremely lucky all of a sudden. The other piece I'm going to write is still up in the air, I quite like the idea of doing a love story about two bibliophiles who's love falls apart. It'll be bittersweet but should be fun to write.

Beyond that, well things are feeling a little daunting and I'm not sure where I'm going. All I can do is keep on keeping on, struggling to find time and space to write and actually sit down and do it (things have slipped recently and in part its because things feel crowded and difficult; and I feel like I'm letting everyone down. I find it hard to reconcile being a good husband and friend with being a good writer).

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Kingsford 7.1: The Knight


There was the sound of heavy feet pacing on stone, back and forth. A muttering sounded across the water of the lake, words indistinct; probably meaning nothing. Silver moonlight ran down the tower's walls, making them shine dully. The electric lights the Council had set about the illuminate the building were dark, the absence of the artificial light made the tower more mysterious, more dangerous; as if dragons lurked there, not just the ghost of a knight.

Aiden crouched at the water's edge. He ran his fingers through the water, wondering what had brought him here. Why had he decided to take a walk? Sleep had proved elusive but the sudden decision to go out into the dark had surprised even him, especially after the pigs had called round earlier in the day. He had paced about the house all day, unable to settle.

How his path had led him to the tower and the lake he had no idea, but as soon as he had entered the park he had made his way to the water's edge. It was as if he had to check that it was still there, after the dreams.

He raked his hand through the mucky water again, dredging it up between his fingers. His eyes scanned the lake, almost expecting the bridge to be there. In the dreams there was always a bridge, or a narrow causeway that allowed you to walk from the shore out to the little island the tower rested upon. But then, in the dreams the tower was always intact, or close to it and the knight was never on the ramparts but at the gate, with sword drawn waiting for them. In the dreams, Brendan was always there too, the brothers as inseparable as they had been as toddlers.

Aiden glanced around nervously, just in case his brother was there, breaking cover from the undergrowth, but he had been sensible, and was presumably still wrapped up at home. He had gone back to bed soon after the police had been, and roused only briefly to eat dinner in a circuitous route that led from bed to kitchen and back again. The events with the dog had shaken him more than he cared to admit, but Aiden knew it would take a few days for Brendan to be anything like his charming, confident self again.

The ghost shifted again, but kept his vision fixed upon the tree line. In the moonlight Aiden could see the conical helmet with its strong nose guard more clearly. There was a dent in the front of the helm, his kite shield was damaged. He was a long way from the figure that haunted Aiden's sleep, with his grim purpose, running out over the water with a loud, alien cry; a long stream of words that did not mean anything at all.

The spirit spoke suddenly. Aiden's jumped, snatching his hand from the water. He stared up at the tower.

Silently the knight changed position from a sentry pose to a fighting stance. He gripped his spear, pointing the weapon down over the battlements. He seemed to be tracking something on the other side of the lake. As Aiden watched he crossed to the far side of the tower.

“Halt, stand where you are!” This time the ghost's words rang clearly in the night air. In answer there was a rustle in the bushes, as someone or something bolted away. The ghost turned, hesitated, staring down at where there should have been stairs leading back to terra firma.

Aiden began to pick his way around the lake. What had prompted the outburst? His eyes scanned the undergrowth, searching.

He barely travelled fifteen feet when the vixen slunk out of the thick hedge, running over to his side. She stared up at him with wide eyes.

“What are you doing here?” He said, holding his hand out. She pushed her nose into it a couple of times, with a certain amount of urgency. She twisted her head, looking towards the tower. “Was that you he was shouting it at? I wonder why, surely he's seen a fox before?”

She pushed her head against him again, yipped softly; her tail shivering.

“What's wrong?”

As if in answer she looked up at the tower, back at him as if telling him to look in that direction. He glanced up, nodded.

“I've been dreaming about him, I'm getting sick of him being in my head at night.” He walked back to the shore, dropped his coat on the grass. He began to wade into the water, gasping as the cold enveloped him. Sooner rather than later he had to swim, slopping across the lake. The water moved sluggishly around him. He strove it out of his mouth, stopping halfway to tread water and spit it out, grimacing at the brackish taste that clung to the back of his throat. He bent to swimming again, moving forward with long sweeps of his arms and legs. Finally he reached the island, caught its border and pulled his way up onto the land.

He collapsed, stared back to the path where the vixen sat, watching him. He waved and made his way towards the tower. There was a tumble down wall, dull safety notice pinned to it with a warning to keep out. Aiden ignored it, clambering up over the stones and through the remains of the doorway.

Cold crept over him as he stepped out into the tower's base and stared up at the crumbling mass of stone. The moon shone bright, clear, hanging directly overhead. It was larger than it had been outside the tower and the shadows it cast were strange, fleeting. Aiden suppressed a shudder as they moved around him. He saw faces in the them, leering out from the darkness. He took a step back as they swarmed about the walls, filling the hollow tower with darkness.

From the top of the tower he heard a clank, his eyes rose to see the knight, standing at the edge of the jagged broken staircase. The shadows reached up, and he stepped out onto them, letting them lower him back down to the ground. His eyes glowed red under the edge of his helmet. His sword rasped from its scabbard as he stepped forward, the dents seemed to flow out of his helm, his shield. He stepped forward, gestured with his hand, and impossibly, there was the sound of a door shutting.

Aiden risked a glance back and saw the way was barred, a wooden door, bristling with rivets, now stood between him and freedom. To his left a torch flickered into life, casting an orange light across the room. Above the moon disappeared, leaving only the light of the guttering torch. He stared that he approaching knight as he advanced.

Outside, Yelena saw the ghost disappear, and something thrilled down her spine. Something was wrong. Instinct told her that she needed to go, needed to fetch the other boy, the sun child. She leapt to her paws and ran, heading through the darkness towards the boys' home.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Blog Roulette


Stolen from LM Cooke in a fit of pure villainy! (Mwahahahahahahaha)

You can find the original post here: http://www.lmcooke.com/blog.html

Power to the people as Wolfie Smith once said. He may have said it more than once. You may not know who he was or why he said it.* 

Either way it serves as a pointless and random introduction to

BLOG ROULETTE

On what topic should I write my next blog? You decide!

Send me some titles and I'll pick one at random.

Depending on what the suggestions are the blog may be:

A micro story (of variable theme, mood and possibly quality)

A meandering discussion of something 

Some poetry

Or something else...

The Rules

Just send me a subject, as weird, woolly and wicked as you like (within reason, don't go overboard okay?).

It can be one word or a more of an essay style thing (so 'jelly' is fine as is ' the state of the nation'). The challenge is to come up with something in response to what you suggest.

I'll make a random choice on Sunday 10th February via the wife and housemate dicing method and then get writing. :)

Feel free to comment on my output,  especially if its gone somewhere different to your original idea.