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Friday, 26 September 2014

Reasons to Write Horror: My first job.

I once worked for the government. It was my first job. I worked in a little town called Ramsgate. I was a temp. But no, of course, I wasn't called a "temp". That's was too common. I was an Administration Assistant. I didn't do administration. I didn't assist.

I filed. 

I was a filing clerk. 

(The irony is not lost on me that I called this blog, FilingWords. I must change that one day.)

That was my job. It was a thankless, minimum wage, task. I turned up on my first day in a suit. Everyone looked at me kind of funny. Like, who's the kid in the suit? Did head office send us another one...? I stood outside and waited. As it was governmental, you couldn't get in until the place was open unless you had one of those numbers you punched into the pad. They all looked suspiciously at me as I waited. 

Everyone was wearing jeans. 

Not customer facing, you see. Doesn't matter what you wear. That day, my first day, was the last time I wore a suit to that place.

I got in, eventually, and was "inducted" by a man who looked like Penn Jillette, apart from being bald on top (but still with a pony tail) and who looked like he had been in a motorcycle accident and slid down the road face first. He talked about things like "time keeping" and "cogs" and something about "ingredients". 

He didn't ask me if I knew my alphabet. I thought that might have been important. (After a month or so, I realized that my predecessor clearly didn't, so it was a superficial skill.)

I worked there for three months before management changed around and Penn was replaced by a short, fat, Burt Reynolds-a-like. A week later I had the keys to a four story office block, and was instructed to attend at six-thirty in the morning to unlock the building. 

I was to walk floor to floor and check there had been no break ins, and then begin my day. The windows were regularly left open, and there was no alarm system. I was young. Stupid. I took it in my stride and kept my head down. The timesheet I had to fill in didn't allow me put down that I started at that time. "Flexi-time" didn't start until eight. So my Department Manager made up my hours. 

It would have been a wonderful alibi should I want to murder someone.

I did that job every day. That, and filing.

The "temps" were whittled down over time. Originally there was one - or more - in every department, and with each new month, they were let go. Replaced by permanent staff, with recruitment policies that meant that we couldn't even be guaranteed an interview for our own job.

Eventually, there was just me. 

I was the sole temp in the office building. I liked my Department Manager, Clive. He had fought for me. He knew that losing me would not be in benefit to the department. I was worth the pittance they paid me.

And then the call came through. Clive got up and came over to me. He stood over my desk, and said, "Burt Reynolds would like to see you."

The office fell silent. Everyone knew what it meant. Burt had never so much as tipped his hat to me before, and now I was summoned to his office. 

It was over.

I sat, opposite Burt, as he told me that he was saddened to lose me, (not saddened enough to keep me, though) and went through the papers to dismiss me. I had one weeks notice, that they wanted me to work. And then I was free.

Then Burt decided that he was delivering bad news and should lighten the moment, I suppose. He told me a story that has stuck with me my whole life. A story I remember from over twenty years ago.

He related to the fact that I rode a kick start motorcycle. He used to have one. He told me of a time he stalled his bike at a set of traffic signals, and in kick starting it in a hurry, the kick bar slipped up his trousers and he fell over. 

I think he was trying to be funny.

Never before, nor since, have I wanted to kill a man telling a joke so much. Someone who in an attempt to console a young man receiving news that he had never heard before, decided to relay a story of how he fell from a stationary bike.

I have never forgotten Burt's face as he joked about that. While sitting in his office. With his well paid job. In his leather chair.

And in my mind, a swirl of questions about my future.

I have killed Burt a thousand times over...

... on paper, of course.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Friending your Formatter

I do a reasonable amount of formatting work, one way or the other. It comes with a number of problems. These problems vary on whether or not I'm looking at a short story, collection of short stories, or a novel.

Somethings make me want to gouge my own eyes out. Somethings make me want to gouge other peoples eyes out.

Quite possibly: MURDER


So you format your work according to the layout requirements of the submissions call. Sometimes "Shunn", sometimes, not.

But it's the little bits that get through to the formatter. The bits that turn a 30 minute job into a 3 hour job.

Okay, some of you are going to assume that the first thing I want to talk about is unnecessary. That is where you, like me, begin.

Assumed knowledge

I'm going to start with the Space bar. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone knows how to use the Space bar, right? Well, technically, yes. Everyone knows that the space bar puts a space in. Not everyone knows that the space bar should be used to put spaces between words, and NOTHING ELSE.

You want to put your chapter headings in the center of the page? No. Don't use the space bar. Use the alignment tools. They look something like this:


The reason this is a problem is that someone who is good at it will get the text centered well, and it's not until a formatter gets hold of it, does it become noticed.

And then pow. 30 minutes more work.

Then there's "enter" or "return". Or the lack of it.

Standard issue: At the end of a chapter, a writer will press enter multiple times to get to the next page. Yes. It does work. The problem is that:
a) when you add over a line more text to a page, the whole document gets nudged down a line, and every chapter from that point on moves down the page line by line; and
b) Kindles ignore the returns completely and you end up with an ugly book when it's uploaded.

Solution? "Page Breaks"

Take a BREAK, man... I can't believe I just said that...

It's not always in the same place, so you might have to research it for your specific software, but, press enter once at the end of your chapter, and then insert a Page Break. This tells the computer that a new page must always start after this point. No more "nudging" problems.

And interesting issue I cam up with lately was that a writer had used manual "line breaks" instead of pressing enter. It looks fine. Largely, works fine. Can't spot it in a million years. But the computer thinks it's all one paragraph. You can't format anything. You can't center the heading without centering the whole document.

Drove me batshit for hours.

Then there's the little things...

I think this comes from where a writer works in multiple different documents, and copy and pastes it all together in final draft.

But make sure your font is the same size throughout the document. The difference between 12 pt font and 11 pt font is almost nothing to the naked eye. Especially when working on a 22-inch monitor.

Transfer it to a kindle, and it sticks out. Big time.

The "Tab" key is not your friend. They're coming out. When I format, tabs all get removed, and I work solely with indentation. Now the writer doesn't need to worry about that. I expect people to be using the tab key to indent first lines of paragraphs. But don't use it for anything else. Don't use it for alignment! (and from this point see: Space bar)

Just these little things make everything easier. It makes us poor underpaid formatters happy. A little glimmer of hope in our other wise frustrating existences. 

Oh, and here's the latest trailer for Small Cuts to the Psyche, released September 1:

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

OMG! A blog post!

I am splurging words onto the page. I have two novels on the go. One has just come out. A collection of short stories is pending a release (perhaps three weeks from now.)

Recently released "Redemption" from myself and fellow author Charles Day has just been released from Black Bed Sheet Books. It was a hard task master, but we got there in the end.


Coming soon is "Small Cuts to the Psyche", a collection of previously published short work, culminating in nearly three hundred pages of tales.


I have another collection of shorts that I am about to start looking for a publishing house for, I have had some luck with anthologies recently...

...I'm busy.

And yes, it is this:






So. Focus.

It's very easy to not have time to write, to read, to work. I know. I understand. I have commitments outside of writing, much the same as many of you.

But if you focus on attaining goals they are achievable.

I have found the simplest solution for me is to make an hour. I call it work. Tell people I am working.

"What time can I come around?"
"After 7, I'll be working until then."

It mindsets me.
Focus.
Achieve.
Attain.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Review: Cursed Bounty

Rebecca Besser brings me something new with Cursed Bounty. It's a different side of her writing, and a pleasant one at that.


A short story that's big on ideas:

Firstly, I have to say that I 've been reading Rebecca Besser's work now for a long time. I find a lot of work gruesome, chilling, frightening, and, well, generally nightmare inducing.

This is a little different.

It's the posse looking for the robbers in the wild west, starting from the crooks pov and moving over the posse. Of course, there is a twist though.

Yep. We've got zombies.

It's a different work from Rebecca (those that know her work aren't surprised by the buckets of blood and general limb dispatching) and whilst still treading the horror line, the line is fine. Here we have a story that wants to be more than a zombie story. It is leaning on period drama in some places. The characters are believable, the setting solid. My only waiver is that the dialogue is spelled phonetically, and with some of the more "hick" characters, it was a slightly bumpy ride.

But it doesn't detract from the final product.

I would recommend this as a read, especially if you're looking for something a little different.

You can find Cursed Bounty at Amazon now.

You can find Rebecca Besser at:

Friday, 28 February 2014

Review: Parasite

This is the first of Ian Woodhead's work I have read, so what do I think? Well, it's certainly British.


So, I went into this one blind. Had no idea what I was going to get.

Well, it's not for children, I'll give you that.

Parasite: Blood Oath (the title I have) is the simple old story of "thing awakens" and fundamentally "kills everybody". Of course, no spoilers here so as usual, I'll stay away from a lot of the story. Set in the fictional village of Colbeck (perhaps named after Maurice Colbeck?), somewhere one assumes in Yorkshire or a fictional likeness of it, this horror story is very character focused.

Before I go any further, I might just add that if you find profanity a problem in your horror fiction then stop reading now. This certainly isn't for you.

I don't know what it's really like in the north of England, I'm in the south, but everyone is a little swear-y. (And nothing is too much.) Occasionally I found myself frowning at how much profanity there is in it, perhaps a little distracting at times, and yes, I swear like a sailor myself.

But anyway. I digress.

The book is presented well, the cover art is nice, it's well written and edited. That's always a plus with self published work, and it's long enough too. I couldn't tell you the word count, but it certainly rolls out at +novella length, another plus considering the price.

When reading it, you have to pay attention. It's not a story that begs to be put down for a week and then picked back up. Why? Two reasons. Firstly, it's about character, and therefore mood. You'd lose it if you left it for a week. And secondly, there are a good number of characters. Perhaps too many. It is easy to get a little lost with who is doing what.

So the main question: Does it do what it says on the box? Is it scary?

In short, I don't think I was ever *scared* as such, but the way the story is shaped is unnerving. I never felt like there was something in the closet waiting for me when I turned the lights out, more, it might be there when I wake up. It's hard to explain. I don't want to make the comparison, but it's more like reading James Herbert, than Clive Barker.

Which is never bad.

So all in all, if you can get past the language, it's certainly worth the read, and the cash outlay.

You can find it, and Ian Woodhead's work here:  US or UK



Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Failing the Bechdel Test (The Accidental Misogynist)

The Bechdel Test:

What is now known as the Bechdel test was introduced in Alison Bechdel's comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. In a 1985 strip titled "The Rule",[8][9] an unnamed female character says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:[4]
  1. It has to have at least two women in it,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man.
From Wikipedia.

I've been reading a fair amount about the test recently. It's all over social media. Every movie from last year has been tested. Most have failed.

So I'm not sexist. I'm not misogynistic. But I thought I'd look at some of my own work, just to see.

Nope.

RANT.

Okay. I get it. I really do. I see what they are saying. But no.

Taking aside my own work, which I'll come to in a minute, my question is WHAT? So I'm/we're/they're not allowed to write things that have no important female characters in?

Like Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption?

Damn. I've been going wrong all these years.

You see, my problem is not that there are not enough strong female characters, or protagonists, or anything else, but that, well, sort of suddenly, I'm being judged for it.

My novel Shutter Speed? No. No strong female characters. But hey, it's about a bunch of dysfunctional young men - most of whom have enormous social issues - so yeah. I should put females in it. It's about a group of young male friends and their issues. Yes, there are females in the supporting cast. Mostly they're there to support how broken the main cast are.

The main cast are not nice people.

So I'm not undermining female tropes, I'm not stereotyping. I'm writing about broken people.

A broken test.

Complaints about misogynistic work in film, and writing, screenplays, etc. get my vote.

Judging a work by it's cast doesn't.

Do I need to list work that failed the test? Do I need to point out that the finger is pointing in the wrong direction? Did you know that "The Spice Girls Movie" passed? "Reservoir Dogs" failed?

Shouldn't the finger be pointed at the fictional works that support hate? Racism? Sexism?

Damn, the internet needs to focus.

/RANT

So, here's a picture of a failure:




Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Being an Author: 2013 in review

With writerly goods, bads, and weirds: 2013.

The Good

I can't really say anything without mentioning that this year Nocturnal Press Publications picked up my debut novel. Yes, that novel I was talking about finishing in last years review will be on the shelves before Christmas. Yep. In the next few days.


With the help of Eden Royce, the completed manuscript was refined and made ready for those who will, to see, and then taken by NPP. Refined further by Eden, who was then working on behalf of the publishing house, it is here. Ready.


Saber Core Art Studio created the perfect cover.

What more can I say?

And then, in the closing few weeks of the year, Redemption, a tale with a long story was taken by Black Bed Sheet Books. Another publication? Wow.



When I started working with author Charles Day, three years ago, we were both wet behind the ears. We wanted, but didn't know how to achieve. We wrote two novellas based on Charles' idea of a young girl who wanted to help wildlife and was taken from the world early. Revenge. Redemption.

Three years. Three years. 

Development takes time. It's a novel now. And it'll be in the stores next year.

Did I mention The Devil's Hand?



Book 1: Crossing Guard and Book 2: Conviction, are both available to buy at Amazon. 2013, the year of self publishing. I'm proud of what I've done, and proud of the people that have worked with me.


The Bad

Okay, I can't not mention this, but I'll take the higher ground.

The Human Condition 2: Human Behavior has been put on hold. I shelved it. With the contractual problems I have experienced with The Human Condition I've sort of lost momentum for it. It's a shame I was half way through writing it.

Small Cuts is still coming though, but in a different form to that I planned.

The Weird

I said last year my writing had changed. That it has. And so it continues to do so. I write different things now, in different ways.

I'm still changing.

I've written dystopian sci-fi,  erotica, horror, bizarro. I've had success.

Me?

My bacon, I mentioned her last year, is more bacon than I can describe. The feelings run deep. All is good. I have a new house, a good job, and a future.

And the writing works. It's working for me, and with me.

I found the secret of loving my characters, rather than hurting them.

The Future

Who knows. Tomorrow never comes. But if next year is as good as this, well...

... it sounds good to me.

Next up is The Devil's Hand book 3: Celestials, and my next novel: Vampire Blue. I'm going to concentrate on the later, I think. (Until next week, when I change my mind)

And I was struggling with grammar - particularly commas - last year. I still am. But I think I'm getting better. Only the Boss will know. First line. Eh?