Monday, March 20, 2017

Flash Fiction Challenge - The Bowling Alley

Over on the Stitched Smile blog site are the results of a Flash Fiction challenge held just the other week.  Inspired by the picture on this post, Stitched Smile writers had to come up with a short story. Mine is at the very end - enjoy!  Click here to be taken to the post.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Adventures in reading and writing

It's been a little while since I've updated this blog, so here's a quick update.

The first draft of Recreant has - for the time being - remained untouched. I've been in the process of tidying up Scenes of Mild Peril with my fantastic editor in order to hopefully release it later in the year.  Lance Fling is (as well as being the name of a highly effective combat move in the Final Fantasy Series of games) a wonderful editor who it's been a pleasure to work with.

That's about all done now, so is now in the hands of people far more skilled than myself :)

Another new story of mine - Our Elegant Decay - has also been accepted for the first issue of the impending Stitched Smile Magazine

..but to be brutally honest this is an unusual blog - I'm more excited to tell you about what I've been reading than what I've been writing :)

All We See Is The End/The End Is All We See

Two of my Stitched Smile stablemates have collaborated on this, a collection of two short stories - a joint novelette, if you will.  "All We See Is The End" (or "The End Is All We See", dependent on which variant you go for) is by M.F. Wahl and A.J. Brown.

Two titles, two covers, two stories - and one impressive collaboration.

I'll let my Amazon review do the talking...

Two darkly bleak tales, both based in otherworldly settings.

"Purple Haze" by MF Wahl is the story of the aftermath of a crash landing on an alien world, in which we learn that danger can lurk within the most mundane. Wahl does a wonderful job of building up the tension to almost unbearable levels, with a payoff that'll have you wincing as much as it'll leave you uneasy. Terrifying stuff.


"Run for the Flame" by A.J. Brown tells the tale of an endurance test to end all endurance tests, one that could determine the fate of a civilisation. Again, masterful use of tension with - if you'll excuse the pun - a wonderful pacing that will leave you exhilarated and exhausted. And that final paragraph - Wow.


Two top-notch tales from two writers at the very, very top of their game, and for a bargain price. Thoroughly recommended.

The Blue Flame

I first heard of Rees Finlay - a fellow Coventrian - when a friend of mine, George Bastow, contributed towards his excellent (but short lived) Indie Project. The Indie Project was an underground magazine celebrating independent media, lasted three issues, and back issues are available on Amazon and well worth checking out.

It was clear from his work on The Indie Project that he was very much a talent to look out for. He'd already at this stage written, drawn and contributed to a number of independent comics (Damnation, Wrestling, High Priestess to name but three) which were all collected into a single hardback volume which achieved some success on Indiegogo back in 2015.

His next project sounded intriguing - a semi-autobiographical tale called The Blue Flame. It promised to be a much more personal work than his previous projects, and I happily chipped in for the Kickstarter (which deservedly made all it needed in a very short period of time).

Despite fantasy elements (the character of the Blue Flame for one as well as a recurring character from his previous work), The Blue Flame is a painfully honest work. Without trying to sound patronising (that means "talk down to", by the way*) it's a well-crafted tale that exhibits a level of maturity that surprised me. Rees is no stranger to self deprecation - his social media accounts are testament to that - but that's just one of the (sometimes literal) demons that Rees confronts in The Blue Flame. Thoroughly recommended - he's crafted something truly special, and I predict big things for the lad.  It's not perfect - the quality of the artwork can sometimes fluctuate - but it's a truly impressive piece of independent comic work, and one that almost brought this jaded old cynic to tears. One of the best autobiographical graphic novels since Al Davison's The Spiral Cage.

* - dad joke warning

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hastur La Vista, Baby

It was important to have principles, thought Martha. George Orwell went to fight in the Spanish Civil War because of sympathies for their Republican movement, and Muhammad Ali was arrested and stripped of his boxing title because of his refusal to be conscripted into the U.S. Military during the Vietnam War.

Martha refused to buy products or services from any shop that used the Comic Sans font in their logo or publicity material.

But, as Infant:Inside were the only business within a hundred miles offering the particular baby scanning services she was after, this was clearly one principle she'd have to temporarily shelve.

She tried to ignore the cursing and swearing coming from the back room as she picked up a glossy brochure from the pile sitting on the waiting room table. She spent a few moments staring in disbelief at the company name on the front, which she still couldn't quite believe wasn't some kind of joke. Even though written in a bright cyan Comic Sans font, it still didn't stop the word looking – and even sounding - like Infanticide.

Another cry of frustration from the back office was followed by the sound of somebody kicking some furniture. A tirade of swearing burst forth, turning the air bluer than the company logo. He'd seemed like such a quiet young man when he'd performed the ultrasound. Admittedly he'd barely seemed old enough to tie his shoelaces, let alone operate expensive diagnostic imaging hardware, but he was friendly enough.

"Who's the best guy in the building?" he'd quipped. "The ultrasound guy." It was a joke older than he was, but it had achieved its aim and put her at ease.

The sound of electronic hardware being firmly shaken could now be heard from behind the closed door, followed by the sound of two voices. They were arguing with each other in that type of way you do when you don't want anybody to hear, but you both defeat the object by each having to raise your voice to put your point across.

"You tell her," said one. "No, you" said the other.

Martha wondered whether it was a mistake coming here at all.

#

Some women were simply custom-built right out of the box to be perfect mothers. That seemed to apply to every single woman in the Antenatal clinic except Martha. They were all exuding that radiant glow and aura of natural calm, whereas Martha simply looked permanently unwell. They all had their loving husbands and doting boyfriends with them, and Martha sat there alone. The term was "one night stand" but, to be fair, it was an evening in which Martha hadn't been doing a great deal of standing.

Martha wasn't the sort of person to go to nightclubs on her own. And yet that one evening, she'd felt compelled. The same compulsion that saw her down an entire bottle of Prosecco, and end up bringing some stranger back to her flat. He was tall, dark and handsome. She thinks.

Ordinarily she'd have been put off by the font choice on the leaflets that the rep handed around the clinic, but something intrigued her. "A 3D model of your unborn child!!!" it proudly declared with an excess of exclamation marks. "For a special reduced price!!!"

#

The man-child sheepishly emerged from the back office, reluctant to make eye contact. He stumbled forward as though abruptly pushed forward by his colleague, and crashed into the counter.

"There's… been a slight problem and I'm afraid we won't be able to provide the 3D modelling service for you at this moment in time."

Martha looked up at him.

"Oh?"

"If you'd like to… erm… bring your cash card over, we'll refund you the money."

Martha got to her feet, the weight of her belly feeling heavier than ever.

"If there's a problem with the printer, I don't mind waiting. I heard you swearing at it."

"Not a problem with the printer as such."

"What do you mean 'as such'?"

The boy went bright red, looking back over his shoulder at the closed back office door as though it would offer salvation. He looked at Martha, back at the door, back at Martha. His mouth opened and closed but intelligible words refused to form.

The door opened and an older man stepped through, placing his hand on the boy's shoulder. She took him to be the manager, an assumption borne out by the Comic Sans "Manager" badge clipped to his shirt.

"Ma'am," he said authoritatively. "My young colleague isn't entirely correct. It's sort of a problem with the printer. A restriction of the technology."

"I'm not sure I understand. What do you mean by restriction?"

"These 3D printers, you see. They're bound, as we are, by certain well-established guidelines of causality and physics. They're simply not designed to print out anything that doesn't adhere to the traditional rules of Euclidean geometry."

"Nuclearidian…?"

"Euclidean. Look, it says so in the book."

He placed a well-thumbed and coffee stained photocopied manual in front of her, pointing out a paragraph. It looked to be a troubleshooting page, and his fat calloused finger was pointing at a particular question.

"Can my Saishomatsui 3D Printer be used to create shapes that do not adhere to the standard rules of space/time geometry?"

"No. Please refer to the operating manual."

#

Martha cradled the hot cup of tea in her hands. Tea traditionally solved everything, but even she struggled to see how infused leaves could make this any better. Even Oolong, she suspected, would struggle.

She stared blankly down at the handful of printouts the manager had placed on the waiting room table in front of her, the ultrasound scans of her unborn child.

In the first static-filled image she thought she could make out a tiny hand. In the second, some tiny toes. The third, an infinite vista of impossible structures. The fourth, the utter insignificance of man in an uncaring and unknowable universe.

But the father – he'd been tall, dark and handsome. At the time, she'd thought those protuberances were dreadlocks. Tall, dark, handsome – and squamous. Possibly squamous. Eldritch at the very least.

She looked up at the sorry face of the manager who was still patting her on the shoulder in the manner one might reassure a dying dog.

"Can you answer me one question at least? Is it a boy or a girl?"

"Yes, I can certainly answer that."

"Well, is it a boy or a girl?"

"No. No it isn’t."

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Is it drafty in here, or is just me?

Ernest Hemmingway once (in a letter containing several other gems of advice to an aspiring writer) said "The first draft of anything is shit".


(Although I bet as he typed/wrote that he had his fingers crossed, knowing only too well that his shopping list for that morning would have probably won him a couple of Pulitzer fiction prizes)

The first draft of Recreant is now complete.  90,291 words (some of them really short ones) across 256 pages over 166 days of writing.  And Ernie Baby (as I'm sure he wouldn't mind me calling him, especially as he's quite dead) was fucking spot on.

Cue the internal struggles;

"That epic prologue that you wrote and were really happy with? That flash-forward that set the universe and the main characters up so perfectly? It's no longer appropriate because the plot ended up meandering off in another direction, meaning you've written a flash-forward that can never happen."

"Perhaps you could fuck about with it and make it a dream sequence? No! Bad David! Lazy, lazy, lazy! It's going to have to go." (Selects all text in Prologue and looks sorrowfully at the word count before hitting delete. That's 1,865 words gone).

"Okay, that hurt. But it was necessary. The rest reads okay though, right?"

"Well......"

"Shit. You've added a load of unnecessary backstory for a character who turns out, in the end, to be pretty unimportant."

"But that character history is good stuff.  I can just use it for somebody else though, right? Ah. No."

"Why are those characters suddenly the best of friends? You never even had them meet. In fact they can't possibly have met."

"You were so concerned about having too many male characters that you've just lazily changed one to a female and haven't changed the story accordingly."

"That character is awesome - I mean, really good. But then you just forget completely about them."

"The build-up to that final epic battle is really good, but you really need to learn some more words to represent explosions."

"That ending is really rushed. For some reason, you were really desperate to get that first draft done, weren't you?  And now look where we are. Working on a draft with a rushed ending."

"And you're writing a blog post when you should really be working on that second draft."

Oops.

Still, at least I can count the words in this blog post and put it into my word count for the day.  Now that's progress.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

You put the Fun in Funeral


Image courtesy of Bizarro Comics

On the morning of your funeral,
it felt odd to dress in black.
The mood was celebratory –
You weren’t ever coming back.

"It's nice to see so many here,"
the chirpy vicar said.
Little did she know that we were there
to make sure you were dead.

I look round at all the faces there,
at your only legacy.
The hurt, betrayed, the cheated -
All combinations of those three.

Your family stand there all serene
and eulogize some lies
about a warm honourable soul -
It’s nobody we recognise.

My florist, she refused to make
a wreath out of nightshade
so in the end Forget-me-nots
were at your graveside laid.

You would have seen the irony
had you had any sense.
We'd love to forget all about you
and all you represent.

The only tears we shed that day
were strictly crocodilian,
All hoping it was true what the eulogy said, that
you were one in a million.

I wish you were a zombie,
so you could die again.
Although it'd be a tricky shot,
to shoot you in the brain.

If only you'd been cremated,
we could have robbed the Urn.
We'd queue to piss into it -
Everyone could have a turn.

The worlds a better place with you gone,
your loss feels like a win.
Whenever you left a party,
It was like someone nice walked in.

The grievers leave now, still aggrieved,
all thinking what no-one said.
"You were a cunt when you were living,
you're still a cunt - just dead."



David Court, January 2017

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

That was the year that was (the year that was)

Greetings one and all! Here's hoping that you had an excellent Christmas, and that the new year to come is happy, healthy and productive for us all.

It'd be way to easy to sum up the year we've had, exactly how I put it on Facebook...


But, to honest, although it doesn't seem that way, there's been a little more to it than that. On a writing note, it's been a good year - not quite as busy as 2015, but good nonetheless. A few more short stories have seen the light of day, namely:

"Saviour Machine", my story from this very blog, appeared in "47-16: Inspired by David Bowie" from Penny Dreadful Publications,  "Blasphemous Tumours", the everyday tale of the unlikely friendship between a man and his sentient cancer, appeared in "Unleashing the Voices Within" from Stitched Smile Publications and  "The Digit That Was Death", a comedy horror tale about a most unusual possession, appeared in the third volume of "Strangely Funny" from Mystery and Horror, LLC.  A couple of my stories also appeared on various online story websites.

September also saw the first Big Comfy Bookshop Literature festival, in which I was lucky enough to be a part of. More details can be found here.

"Scenes of Mild Peril" is still being worked on, but the new novel "Recreant" (or rather Book One of it) is now very nearly complete, is due for release next year and is available to read in serialised first draft format over on Wattpad - click the link here to read it.

Probably one of the best things to happen in the year is getting more involved with the lovely people at Stitched Smile - They're a great bunch, and I hope to be working with them and releasing things through them for the foreseeable future.

On a final note, if you've any Christmas spirit left, the regular Christmas Show that my wife and I do for Coventry Hospital radio is available for your listening pleasure by clicking here.

Happy New Year, and catch you in 2017!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Paris, November 2015.

This post is a bit of a diversion from the usual (although I will mention that I've just put the finishing touches to a new short story "Macrocosm, Microcosm, Macrocosm, Microcosm, let's call the whole thing off").

One year ago today, Tara and I were in Paris. We were on the second leg of our holiday which had seen us in Amsterdam earlier in the week, and we were about to spend a day at Disneyland Paris.  We'd been there before for our honeymoon, so it seemed rude not to pay a visit to Mickey and his friends whilst we were in the area.

After an exhausting day of rollercoasters and junk food, we decided to get off a few stops before our hotel and find somewhere for a drink. A short distance away from the Republica Metro Station, we stumbled into Flann O' Brien's Irish Bar (you can take the girl out of Ireland, etc.).

Having been out of the house all day, our phones had run completely out of charge - especially with the sheer number of photographs we'd taken. We got given free bags of Tayto crisps by the landlord solely thanks to Tara's Irish Heritage ,had a few pints and watched the football.

The whole night is described far better than I could manage in my wife's blog. To cut a long story short, this was the evening of the Paris attacks. The evening when three suicide bombers struck outside the Stade De France, when hundreds of people were killed or injured at the Eagles of Death Metal gig at the Bataclan, and when there were mass shootings and a suicide bomb at caf├ęs and restaurants in the area we'd been in.

We found out what was going on at a bar nearer the hotel. The streets were chaos, sirens blaring and nobody sure what was going on. We got back to our room as soon as the news started breaking, stuck our phones on charge and switched them on.

At my most miserable, whenever I'm feeling low or useless or unwanted - something we all experience from time to time - I remember that night. Literally hundreds of SMS and Facebook messages and missed phone calls, all from friends - some of whom I haven't really spoken to for years - checking that we were okay. Friends had rung the pub we were at, just to check that we were fine. We were lucky, many weren't.

Not really writing related, but something that is pertinent on today of all days. I'd never felt as loved. And you, in turn, are loved back. Thanks x