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Flotsam

Hey! Hi, howareya?

Kept you waiting, huh? (for all you MGS fans out there.)

Well then. Busy, busy, busy. But finally back to working on my own stuff once again. The Negative Bind hasn’t been forgotten about, it’s still very much on my mind. It has, however, been shelved for the time being, as my short story collection keeps rearing its ugly little head and distracting me.

Once upon a time I had a title in mind for this collection but as time went on I came up with another name for it and ran with that for a while. This new title – A Dog Barked Once – made perfect sense. To me, anyway. You see, the vast majority of my stories contain, somewhere in them, the line “…somewhere in the distance a dog barked, once, twice…”, and so A Dog Barked Once seemed very fitting. Hell, I could even write a second collection and call it A Dog Barked Twice!

Genius.

But no. Again time has moved on, and I find myself favouring my original title – Flotsam.

Why Flotsam, you ask. Well, dictionaries define the word as:

  • pieces of broken wood and other waste materials found on the beach or floating on the sea.
  • anything or anyone that is not wanted or not considered to be important or useful.

If you were to ask me where I get my ideas from, most of the time I’d be unable to tell you. They just kind of appear in my head. The closest I can come to explaining it is to say I view the imagination in my head as a vast, and mostly empty, ocean. Floating around in this Imaginocean are idea boxes – some complete and whole, the majority only a part of the entire story, pieces of wreckage from a fractured tale.

Whenever one of these boxes floats close enough to the shore, I wade out and grab it with both hands before it can float out of reach again. I’ll open the box, see what’s inside, and write it down, before settling back to await the next idea box to drift into view.

So yes, I’m slightly weird. No matter.

A lot of writers like to do cover reveals. They like to keep the image hidden until they feel the time is right, and then release it with great fanfare, or in a more subdued manner, depending on their style. Well, not me. Once I have a cover I like then I don’t mind showing it around (mainly because there’s a very good chance I’ll change my mind and make another cover before long).

And so, without further ado, here is the cover for my upcoming short story collection, Flotsam.

CompleteCover

 

When will it be released? Who knows. Whenever I get around to finishing it, would be my best guess. Until then, at least you have a pretty picture to look at, right?

Right.

As always, that shallot.

Laters…

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Posted by on May 6, 2017 in Books, Writing

 

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Writers… Thoughts…

Inner writer

So, I was thinking the other day. Yes, I know, I should be careful, it’ll make my head hurt. But anyway, the thought…

In the writing world there are two types of writers. Of course, there are many subsets to those two types, but stripped down to bare basics, two is all there are.

The first type consists of the ‘literary writers’. These are those writers who wish to create something with words. They want the words to be beautiful, to be profound, to convey a meaning only those on the writer’s own level can hope to comprehend. They want those words to look striking and powerful on paper. They wish to create a long lasting legacy with those words. They wish to create… *dramatic pause*… a masterpiece!

The second type of writer is made up of the ‘storytelling writer’. These are people who have a story, or indeed many stories, to tell. They want to share this story, or stories, and writing is their chosen medium to do this. If they could make movies, they’d probably make a blockbuster to tell the tale. If they had the first clue how to make video games I’m sure they’d make a Triple A title to relate the story. But as it is, writing is their humble talent, and so write they must. Storytelling is their trade, and Story, be it complex or simple, is the fuel which drives them, the light which sustains them.

Without a shadow of a doubt, I belong in the second category. Though I spend a lot of time writing for other people (it pays the bills, after all), I love to write for myself, to give life to the myriad of stories floating around the ocean of my imagination.

The writers in the first group have my admiration. Those guys know what they’re talking about. They can discuss the literary greats for days on end. Grammar is second nature to them, and they can utilise it without a thought. They’re all experts at cryptic crosswords too!

That being said, I’m more than happy to be fairly and squarely in the second category. Storytelling is my bread and butter. Writing is good, but Story is everything.

So yeah, it was just a thought. Which group of writers do you belong to?

As always, that shallot.

Laters…

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Posted by on February 5, 2017 in Thoughts

 

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Pirates Repelled…

RIP pirates - for now.

RIP pirates – for now.

A quick update to conclude the ongoing story of my last two posts.

I’ve had no communication from the file-sharing site, but (drum roll please) clicking the link which took you to the page containing the illegal download links to my story, now results in ‘Page Not Found’ being displayed.

Pirate attack repelled! Victory! A tot of rum for all!
Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2014 in Rant

 

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Twitter Interview With Writer’s Kaboodle

I was recently asked by the wonderful Sezoni Whitfield of Writer’s Kaboodle to do a brief complimentary interview live on Twitter.

The interview happened today (24th April 2014), and it was a lot of fun. The transcript is below:

imageSezoni: Hi Alen! Welcome to the chat on Writer’s Kaboodle

Alen: Hi Sezoni, thank you for having me.

Sezoni: Alen, what is WATCHER about?

Alen: Watcher deals with a stalker who is compelled to play his game until the very end. But what happens if his victim refuses to play his game? Is he as deluded as he seems or is some other, more evil force at work?

Sezoni: What are the psychological challenges of writing a story of this magnitude?

Alen: It’s difficult to have to ‘live’ in the head of someone who is so warped, it makes you feel unclean, and also makes you wonder about yourself – how come I can think such things?!

Sezoni: Who do you read? What are the things that a reader can identify with that you have grounded yourself in?

Alen: I grew up on Stephen King, Dean Koontz & James Herbert. There’s a lot of their influence in the horror I write. My fantasy work is inspired by the great Jack Vance.

Sezoni: Do you think of yourself as an artist, a craftsman, or a blend of both?

Alen: A mixture of both I guess. As a writer I like to paint pictures and scenes with words, and craft imaginary, but believable, worlds, characters and situations.

Sezoni: What is your next work, and what do you want to work on?

Alen: I’m currently working on a piece called Fixing Benjamin. In short it’s about a father’s grief, after the death of his son, spiralling out of control, with unexpected and tragic consequences. At the same time I’m working on a fantasy trilogy, called The Sam Creedy Chronicles.

Sezoni: Alen, where can we purchase WATCHER?

Alen: Watcher is available on Kindle through Amazon here ‘Watcher’

Sezoni: Alen, thank you for joining us and sharing your story. Please keep us posted on any new releases and WIPs.

Alen: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me, it’s been fun! I’ll keep you updated 🙂

Writer’s Kaboodle can be found here.

Sezoni can be followed on Twitter @SezoniWhitfield

Writer’s Kaboodle can be followed on Twitter @WritersKaboodle

Why not look them up?

Laters.

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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in Writing

 

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How Easy Is Writing?

Writing is like cooking: it can be easy or hard.

It’s easy to cook this:

Fried Egg

It’s hard to cook this:

Fancy Food

its vry easy 2 rite like dis.

It’s a little harder to write like this.

It’s even harder to realize that the previous sentence has no clear agent. Who is having “a little harder” time writing? I suppose the understood subject is “you,” as in “It’s a little harder for you to write like this.” But if the writer’s job is to conjure images in the reader’s mind, that sentence fails. When I read it, even with “you” added, it barely stirs my senses. It’s a stale cookie of a sentence.

One problem is “a little harder,” which is flat and boring phrase. I don’t really know what “a little harder” means, aside from some vague sense of hardship.

Vagueness tends to suffuse tossed-off writing. To inject specificity into prose, you have to pay close attention to each word and phrase, replacing abstractions, wherever you can, with bursts of magenta, honking car horns, hairs on the tongue, hands on a silky thigh, and the scent of almond: anything sensual that jars the brain into projecting a movie on its internal screen.

How about “You’ll have to struggle to write like this”?

It’s better. But only “struggle,” and, to some extent, “write” are imagistic. “You’ll have to” and “like this” flatline on the page or screen.

“I struggle to write like this” is sharper, because it collapses three words “You’ll have to” into one: “I.” And it hurries us along to the star of the sentence, the verb “struggle.”

How about “I struggle writing sentences like this”?

Much better! I’m not just engaged in amorphous writing; I’m writing sentences.

So the answer to this question is that writing is easy if one’s goal is simply to string words together in a way that most people can generally understand—understand without feeling tickled, punched, or fucked.

It’s hard if one has a clear aesthetic and is determined to forge prose that meets its standards.

 

Source: Marcus Geduld

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2014 in Writing

 

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The ‘Cellar Door’ Theory

What lurks behind the cellar door...

What lurks behind the cellar door…

I have a theory… well, ‘theory’ is rather a grand name for it. ‘Idea’ would be more apt. Maybe even ‘nonsensical notion’. Whatever.

It concerns types of horror, and how all of them can be created from the same setting, and it goes something like this…

Ok… well, imagine the scene. A big, old farmhouse, zoom in to the kitchen, a big, old fashioned farmhouse kitchen. A lady is sitting at a large wooden table. Maybe she’s reading a recipe, or shelling peas, or peeling potatoes. On the wall behind her is the door to the cellar. She’s listening to the radio as she works, a local country music station…

Picturing the scene?

She hears a noise, she pauses what she’s doing. All is quiet, apart from a country singer singing a sad song on the radio. She carries on doing what she’s doing. Another noise. This time she looks behind her. It sounded like it came from the cellar. Again, quiet, just the radio. Before she can carry on working, another, louder noise. This time she’s sure it came from the cellar. Her brow creases, she puts a hand to her mouth. What could it be?

Still picturing the scene?

She marks her place in the recipe book/puts down her paring knife/pushes aside the shelled peas – whatever it is she’s doing – and she stands up, frowning at the door. Maybe she was mistaken… but no, yet another noise. Her heart beats loud in her chest, her breathing quickens. She scolds herself for being nervous, it’s probably just a rat knocking over her pickling jars… She moves forward, she needs to check it out. After all, hasn’t she saved the small change from her housekeeping money to buy those jars? She approaches the door. A cold draught blows from under it, chilling her slipper clad feet. The doorknob is cool to her touch as she grasps it, ready to open the door…

Still in the scene?

She swallows. Her heart is racing. The radio DJ is talking about the unseasonably hot weather. She scolds herself again for being silly, smiles, turns the knob and pulls open the door….

…And what happens next depends on what type of horror you want to write. Or at least the type of horror for that particular story.

Did you get all geared up there, waiting to see what happens next?

Good, that’s the point. That’s the base for a horror, the suspense. What the suspense leads up to depends on the style that’s being aimed for by the author.

So she opens the door, and there’s…

A guy in a hockey mask with a chainsaw – teenage gore fest type horror.

Glowing yellow eyes, myriad sharp teeth, rancid breath, roar drowns out her scream – slightly more imaginative teenage gore fest type horror.

Nothing there but a cat on the bottom step – psychological, playing with your nerves until the real scare type horror.

Nothing there but a cat on the bottom step… but, she slips, falls down the stairs, knocks herself unconscious. The cat, a starving stray, starts to lick up the blood. Hunger getting the better of it, it nuzzles into her neck, eating its way through… – OMG, that could actually happen type horror.

Aliens living in her cellar who ask to borrow an extension cord to plug in and recharge their spaceship – comedic and silly type horror.

Of course, none of the above actually means anything, and the list of examples is unending. It’s just nice to waffle on about a theory once in a while. What an author wishes to write is their own affair, and how they go about it is their business. Horrifying and scary to some may be laugh-a-minute comedy to others. And vice versa.

Personally, I like the third example, though the fourth one has a certain appeal.

Write about what scares you, because then you’ll be able to inject a real sense of fear into the words. The unknown scares me the most. A serial killer with a chainsaw – a snarling monster, all teeth and claws – a malevolent spirit from the other side – an unimaginable horror from another planet – these are all tangible things. If they can be seen and touched, they can be dealt with – yes, they may scare the life out of you, but they’re all problems with an achievable solution.

For me, the actual walk to the cellar door would be the worst part, the most frightening. Until I’d opened the door and seen what I was dealing with, my mind would be supplying all sorts of different scenarios, and none of them would have happy endings. Once the door was open though, well, then I’d know the exact nature of my immediate fate and be able to make plans to deal with it. Or just run away.

Anyway, enough waffling.

Laters…

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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Writing

 

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Just Do What’s Write… Right?

I have been asked why I’ve started writing so many stories, but seldom (if at all) finish any of them. At the last count I’ve got eleven stories on the go, so I suppose it’s a fair question. And the answer is… none of your damn business, leave me alone!

Just kidding.

There are two answers to this. The first is to do with me and my writing style, and how I come up with ideas.

I’m always asking ‘what if’, as in what if three people were waiting at a deserted train station? What if a little old lady constantly brought household items to a charity shop for donation? What if a bus full of passengers took a wrong turn? What if a mother and father lost their only child? What if an author ended up in a world he created? The obvious answers to these questions are instantly discarded by my inner writer, to be replaced by the unexpected, the strange and often the downright weird.

So when I have an idea, I’ll kick it around in my head for a while, looking at it from every angle, and then I’ll write the beginning. I’ll usually run out of steam after a little while, so I’ll put it away and leave it alone. Then when I go back and reread what I’ve written I’ll get a clearer idea of what it’s about and how to write it. Just jotting down notes about the story, characters and plot doesn’t work for me. I have tried doing it that way, but I found that when I went back to those notes I’d lost the essence of the story, lost the spark. I’d forgotten the tone of voice I wanted to use, forgotten if it should be slightly humerous, or dark, or emotional, or surreal, or gritty, or… you get the idea. So I’ll write the first few pages as I want it to be written, so that I can capture all of those elements in the words. Yes, I’ll also write notes about where the story is going, but those first few pages are THE most important ones. To me, at least.

“That sounds like a good system,” I hear you cry. No? Well, tough, I’ll carry on regardless.

If you have a clear idea, then write it. It doesn’t have to be the beginning, that’s just the way I do it. Take Romany Skies (part one of the Sam Creedy Chronicles), I’ve got bits of that from all over the story – start, end, middle, even something that I’m sure belongs in book two. But anyway, write it as well as you can, and if you do run out of steam, shelve it and come back to it weeks or even months later. Sometimes you don’t run out of steam though, sometimes it keeps going, the story dragging you along in its eagerness to be written.

And that brings us to the second answer to the original question – namely, the inability to write.

“Ah, yes,” you’re saying, nodding sagely. “Writers block.”

Wrong.

I haven’t written anything worthwhile for quite some time purely because of personal circumstances. There’s a lot going on in my life at the moment, and most of it isn’t good stuff. As a result, I just don’t feel like writing anything. I’ve tried, I’ve opened up one of my stories with every intention of writing a few thousand words more, but I just end up thinking what’s the point? Why bother? I should be getting my life back on track, not scribbling words. So, I’m NOT blocked, I’m just choosing not to write until things are better. (If I had writers block I wouldn’t be able to write this, would I?)

That said, I don’t really believe in writers block anyway. Sure, there are the rare individuals who wake up one morning, after years of being able to write freely day after day, and are unable to write a thing. Poor souls. Mostly though, when writers say they’re blocked, it’s because there may be something going on in their life which is distracting them. But what it usually turns out to be is just the lack of a clear direction for that particular story.

If that occurs, don’t get dejected if it’s not happening, if the story isn’t coming. Move on to something else, anything else, even the 30 Writing Challenges will do. I say it all the time, when somebody says they’re stumped on a story – “move on, write something else.” Because, ultimately, that’s all there is too it.

Your 'inner writer' needs peace to be able to create.

Your ‘inner writer’ needs peace to be able to create.

I guess the point is not to get hung up on just one story and try to make it work no matter what, and then get downhearted and give up when it refuses to go any further. It might just be the beginnings of an idea, an idea your inner writer needs to work on for a while in peace. So in the meantime, write the beginnings of more ideas. And by write I mean really write, not just jot down an outline with a few plot ideas.

New ideas find it hard to push their way past existing ideas, especially when the existing idea in question has the writer stumped. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. Let your creative mind do what it does best – create. Don’t hold it back by trying to force it to work on something its had enough of, for now. When it’s ready it’ll go back to the story it wants and finish it off.

So just write. Write anything. Write that you’re stumped. Write that you want to write, write that you’re angry with not being able to, write that it upsets you. Just write.

You won’t be writing for any other reason than you just want to write. Anything. Don’t think about it. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation. Don’t even worry about it making sense. Free your mind of everything and just put words on the screen, or on paper, whichever. 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, whatever it takes. And when you’re done, keep what you’ve written. You never know, there may be something useful in there for a later date.

If you do that, you’ll have written something. And if you’ve written something, then you can’t have writers block.

Right?

Write.

Anyway, enough. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for putting up with my ramblings. Now, haven’t you got something better you should be doing?

Laters…

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Posted by on February 9, 2014 in Writing

 

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