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All Our Tomorrows

For far too long I’ve been procrastinating about writing my own stories. The usual reason is that I’m too busy writing stuff for other people, and while this is somewhat true, it’s still just an excuse.

CompleteCover“Those reasons why you can’t are just excuses. There is always a way. No excuses, get it done.” Those words are mine, tweeted a few days ago. I think it’s time I started following my own advice for a change. So, though I’m not usually one for all the New Year’s resolutions malarkey, this year I have resolved to write a lot more for myself.

Those who know me know that I have been toying with the idea of releasing a short story collection, called Flotsam. It’s that which I’ll concentrate on, while also, from time to time, adding more words to A Negative Bind.

So, as a treat (I’m not sure “treat” is the correct word…), here’s the beginning of a short sci-fi/horror story which will be included in Flotsam.

All Our Tomorrows

Photo 31-08-2013 19 47 10We’re comin’ in too fast!” Benny wailed.

Well yeah, no shit, Sherlock. Why’d you think that would be then?” Cal surveyed the ruined console in front of him. Sparks spluttered in dark recesses – recesses where dials and readouts were supposed to be. Heading indicator, velocity readout, life support and system updates, fairly useful things like that. Acrid smoke drifted in the cockpit, redolent of burnt ozone and melted plasteel.

Benny clambered out of the navigator’s chair in the rear of the cabin, coughing in the smoky atmosphere, and made his way forward, finally dropping heavily into the co-pilot’s seat next to Cal.

Can’t you do summet, Cal? You’re the pilot, like, so can’t you do that flying shit you do?”

Cal grimaced and took a deep breath, immediately regretting it as a coughing fit followed. He looked over at Benny, wiping his streaming eyes as he did so.

No, Benny, I can’t do that flying shit that I do, ’cause we ain’t flying, we’re fuckin’ crashing.” His voice was calm, reasonable, but the look in Cal’s eyes revealed that all was not sweetness and light with the Captain at this particular moment in time. Benny flinched as Cal’s hand settled on his shoulder, squeezing it painfully.

And we’re crashing, Benny, ’cause we somehow managed to fly into a fuckin’ asteroid. Now, you’re the navigator, so why the fuck didn’t you do your navigating shit and navigate us around that fucker?”

Benny’s shoulder cracked audibly, and painfully, as the Captain’s hand squeezed harder still. Cal had paid a backstreet TechMech back on Khollos IV to replace the servo-motors in his worn out cybot arm with illegal Pluton powered ones, and he had revelled in showing off his mech aided strength ever since. At least he can’t blame me for losin’ his arm, Benny thought as he gritted his teeth against the pain. That was his own damn fool fault.

C’mon Cal, it weren’t my fault, I was busy…”

You were busy jerkin’ off to Cylerion porn, that’s what you were doing!” The spacecraft lurched alarmingly, and Cal released his grip. Benny gingerly rubbed his shoulder, convinced that something was broken. The lights clicked off, then back on again. A muted alarm began to wail somewhere behind them, and a soft, feminine voice politely advised them that they should evacuate the ship immediately. A single red light blinked on and off above their heads.

Shit!” Cal flicked a switch, flinching as it sparked and hissed, belching more smoke at him. “Double shit!”

Benny suddenly felt claustrophobic. The view screens were no longer working, damaged in the collision, and the cockpit now felt exceedingly small. He looked around fearfully, panic slowly slipping its icy tendrils into his stomach.

Cal? Captain? What…?”

Cal fixed him with a despairing look. “Mr. French, I believe that now would be a good time to make for the emergency pod. And then, maybe, pray.”

Benny didn’t need telling twice – he was out of his seat and on his way before the Captain had finished speaking.

* * * *

The two men sat on the ridge of a tall dune as the twin suns reached their zenith in the sky above. Cal surveyed the distant desert through the viewscope while Benny sipped tepid water from his aqua-pack. Three days had passed since their unexpected arrival on this world, their stricken cargo craft breaking up as it entered the atmosphere.

They had nearly roasted in the oven of their emergency pod as it too blazed a trail through the ozone. Gravity had taken over and they hurtled towards the ground, panic rising between them until, with a sudden jolt, the large ‘chute deployed, slowing their descent to a slightly less terrifying speed. Through the small view port the terrain below could be seen – sandy desert from horizon to horizon.

There’s definitely something there in the far distance,” Cal said, still looking through the viewscope. “I can’t quite make it out, it’s like a dirty smudge on the horizon.”

Not in a talkative frame of mind, Benny grunted by way of reply. Their relationship, strained at the best of times, had rapidly declined since the crash. He gingerly touched his left eye, wincing as his fingertips brushed over it. The swelling had started to reduce, but the pain lingered. He had escaped uninjured from the emergency pod, only to walk straight into Cal’s fist, with the full power of his cybot arm behind it. He was out before he’d hit the floor, and so missed Cal’s venomous tirade against him and second rate navigators in general.

Cal lowered the viewscope and looked at Benny. “A grunt? Is that all? Don’t you have anything useful to say?”

Benny took another sip, rinsed his mouth, and spat the water out, aware he was wasting precious fluid but not caring. “You can’t make it out, even with the viewscope. If you can’t see what it is, then what the hell am I supposed to say, Captain? I’ve only got me two eyes, and one of them is swolled near shut.”

Okay, fair point. But do you have any idea what it could be?” Cal unhooked the tube to his own aqua-pack and took a long sip, grimacing as the brackish water reached his mouth.

Benny scratched his head where his scalp was beginning to peel. He’d never been any good in the sun, his pale skin easily burnt even in the mildest of summers. So two suns glaring down on him from a cloudless sky was downright unfair, in his opinion.

Well? Anything?” Patience wasn’t one of Cal’s strong points.

Benny met his gaze. “It could be smoke.”

Cal’s eyes lit up. “Smoke! Yeah, exactly what I was thinking! When I was a kid the factories of Newchester looked like that, ‘specially from a distance. And if there’s smoke, then there must be people!” He was on his feet, scanning the horizon with his scope again.

To Benny, the presence of smoke, if that’s what it was, didn’t necessarily mean people. It could be due to any number of things. They had no idea what, if anything, lived on this god forsaken planet. The newest star charts referred to it only as AR159C – Possible Oxygenated Atmosphere – Unexplored.

We need to check it out. It’ll mean a long hike for us, but we can do it.” Cal slipped the viewscope back into its case and slung it over his shoulder. “We don’t have much of an option anyway, seeing as you broke the emergency radio.”

Benny lunged to his feet. “What d’ya mean, I broke the radio? The friggin’ thing ain’t worked since we left Khollos IV, ’cause you were too tight to get it serviced. That, and everything else on that bag of bolts you called a ship. The Federation should’ve grounded you years ago! Don’t you go blaming me for shit you caused just to save a few Creds!”

Cal was walking away, heading to their small camp by the emergency pod at the base of the dune. He stopped, and turned to look at Benny. His eyes were glazed, no sign of emotion in them whatsoever. Benny closed his mouth with an audible click and stepped back a pace.

I’m the Captain. Your Captain, Mr. French. What I say, goes. So if I say you broke the radio, then you broke the damn radio, okay? Good.” Cal turned and continued down the steep slope, sliding on the loose sand that sucked hungrily at his heavy boots. “Come along now. We need to make preparations.”

Benny stood and stared after his retreating Captain. Cal had always been on the wrong side of stable, and it looked very much as if he was losing control. Benny thought Cal becoming unstable, out here on this friggin’ never ending beach, would be a bad thing. A very bad thing indeed.

As always, that shallot.



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Posted by on January 8, 2018 in 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.



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Posted by on February 5, 2017 in Thoughts


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Well hello there, how’re you doing?

Since before last Christmas I’ve been working on a collection of short stories. The stories had been knocking around in my head for quite some time, and so I thought they deserved to be brought into the world. I had a title for the book of this collection. I had a cover all worked out. I had a list of the stories I was sure I wanted to include, and a list of others I’d put in if there was room.

I set about this task in good spirits. I mean, how hard could it be, right? I had everything I needed. Piece of cake.


Every time I worked on one story, my mind would wander to another. Work on that other story instead, and I’d be thinking about yet another. Progress was slow. Progress was painful.

Something was wrong here. The words weren’t flowing and I needed to find out why. This past weekend I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, peering into the recesses of my mind, looking for the cause.

And I found it.

Sunset behind the clouds over Quintrell Downs in Cornwall.After I’d published my short story ‘Watcher’, I started work on another, longer tale. The story of Paul Bowscar came to life rapidly, the boy would never shut up, his tale needed to be told, and he was damn sure he was going to make sure I wrote it all down. He was constantly in my head. Talking incessantly, eager to be heard. Morning, noon and night.

Then one day – silence. Nothing at all. Paul had left, gone to wherever his own negative bind had taken him. The words dried up, the story stalled.

But no longer. Paul is back. Maybe he took exception to me writing things other than his story, who knows. But back he is, and it’s time to complete his tale.

So, The Negative Bind has been resurrected. How long will it take? Who can tell, and Paul certainly isn’t telling. He’ll get to the end when he’s good and ready.

Small excerpts might be posted from time to time. They might not. But this story will be told, one way or the other.

As always, that shallot.




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Posted by on January 30, 2017 in Books, Writing


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The Key

Quite a long while ago I was challenged to write a story based on a certain image.

key This image, to be exact.

Well, as so often happens, life, and various other things got in the way and the story never got written, although I had a good idea of what I wanted to write. Time has gone on, far too much time, and I’ve been so caught up in doing other things – earning money in order to be able to pay the bills and feed oneself, what a drag that is – that I haven’t done any writing for myself.

Plenty for other people. None at all for me. Now, that kinda sucks, so I decided it’s time I did something about it.

And shock horror! Today I actually put pen to paper. Well, typed words on a screen. Same thing. I didn’t produce much, a thousand words or so, as the writing machine is kinda rusty due to lack of use. But it is oiling up nicely. The words aren’t exactly flowing, but they are seeping out slowly.

Who knows, if you’re good I might even post an extract.

Or not.

Anyway, as always, that shallot.



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Posted by on November 10, 2016 in Writing


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What is this ‘FREE’ of which you speak?

Working as a freelance writer is great. I get to work with all kinds of interesting (weird?) people, helping them turn their vision into something tangible. Amongst the mundane scribblings I’m asked to do, from time to time emerges something really interesting, fun, exciting, something I can get my teeth into.
But, as with every walk of life, occasionally you come across a first class wanker, who will really try your patience. Such was the case with Yesterday’s Muppet…
Me: Hi, you left a message for me to contact you about some work you would like doing?
Yesterday’s Muppet: Ah, yes, I would like a new advertising copy written for my company [he then proceeds to describe how his business installs ‘state of the art’ guttering systems]. You will, of course, make it sound like we are the only company worth dealing with out there.
Me: Sure, I can do that for you. I’ll need you to provide me with the required word counts, and the expected time frame, so I can provide you with a fair and accurate costing.
YM: Costing? You would want to be paid for doing it?
Me: [silence for a few seconds as I realise my potential client has just morphed into a flaccid prick] Well, umm, actually, yes, yes I would want to be paid for it, that’s how it works.
YM: The way I see it, the fact that you had been afforded the opportunity to work alongside my company will look great on your C.V., enough to impress any future potential clients. Surely that would be compensation enough.
Me: [remembering that June is one of my ‘zero tolerance to bullshit’ months (I have 12 of those every year)] Afforded. The. Opportunity. I see. Well, the way I see it, Mr. ****, working with a video game studio who are due to release one of 2016’s most anticipated games in eight week’s time looks good on my C.V.
[Deep breath]
Me: Working with an international marine wildlife conservation society who are doing their utmost to make this world a better place, despite the best efforts of global corporations and corrupt governments to thwart them, looks good on my C.V.
[Another deep breath]
Me: And working with… you know what, Mr. ****? Long answer cut short – I will not do it for free. Extolling the virtues of your ‘patented’ guttering system, so you can print it on flyers to hand out at a trade show, is something I’m sure my C.V. will survive without. Unless, of course, you’re willing to trade? I’ll write your advertising copy for free, if you install a guttering system for me, free of charge.
YM: [spluttering] Free of charge? We couldn’t possibly install for nothing! What about overheads? Wages?
Me: My point exactly. Good day, sir.
Calls like that make me wish I still had an old fashioned telephone. Pressing the ‘end call’ button simply cannot compete with the satisfaction of slamming the receiver back down into its cradle.
Still, onwards and upwards, Rodders.
As always, that shallot.
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Posted by on June 16, 2016 in Rant


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Be True To Yourself

Way back in 1958, when Hunter S. Thompson was still only 22 years old, and yet to become one of the twentieth century’s most important authors, as well as a famous journalist, a friend of his wrote to him for advice on life. Hunter duly replied in his wordy and extravagant manner.

Legendary journalist and writer Hunter Thompson plays golf

The late, great, Hunter S Thompson

If you are due to finish high school this summer, or indeed college or university, and are struggling to find a direction for your life, you would do well to read the transcript of Hunter’s reply, below. If you’re unsure of which qualifications to pursue, unsure what career ‘path’ you think you should follow, or unsure whether to conform to society’s uncalled for expectations of you, then read his words and take heed.

The words hold true for everybody else, too. It’s never too late to reassess your own situation, never too late to make a change for the better, never to late to grab life by the balls and proclaim in a loud voice “Now it’s my turn to take control, motherfucker!”

I first read these words a number of years ago, when life wasn’t exactly a bed of roses. Since then I’ve tried to hold the main tenet of Hunter’s philosophy at the forefront of my mind.

April 22, 1958

57 Perry Street

New York City

Dear Hume,

You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal — to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.

I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect — between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?

The answer — and, in a sense, the tragedy of life — is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on “the meaning of man” and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.

I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called “Being and Nothingness” by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called “Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre.” These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors — but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires — including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life — the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN — and here is the essence of all I’ve said — you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.

Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”

And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know — is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo — this merely happens to be mine.

If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that — no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.

And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,

your friend,


There you go, pretty inspiring. And on that note, that shallot.

Live your life for you. #LiveLife #NeverGiveUp



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Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Random, Thoughts


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A Life in the Blue

TNBbase1As well as the mundane, I’d worked on some disturbing, some exciting and some downright sickening cases throughout my years on the force. It wasn’t until my sunset years and the drawing to a close of my career, however, that I came across something which was positively harrowing. Is that too strong a word? No, I don’t think so. Admittedly, I had to search a dictionary for the definition – words have never been my strong point, reticent to the core, that’s me – and when I discovered what harrowing actually meant I knew it was the correct expression.

Acutely distressing, that’s what it means. Those two words described this case extremely well. Succinct, to the point. Harrowing.

Though the case was eventually concluded to the satisfaction of all involved, and though various experts and analysts had purportedly shed light on the root cause, the case continues to haunt me to this day. I can still hear the Bowscar brother’s musical laughter as they climb ever higher. I can still see Paul’s eyes, filled with love, longing, confusion, sorrow, as he desperately tried to explain the why of it all. But most of all I can still see the tree. That damned, ancient oak crowning its hilltop kingdom. Many is the night I’ve woken from a restless sleep, feelings of vertigo washing through me. I’ll swipe blindly in front of my face, my hands trying to pull aside oak leaves which block out the sun, turning the bright summer brilliance into a dull and sickly venomous green. And even when I’m sure I’m fully awake, fully escaped from the dream’s malignant clutches, I swear I can still hear tree branches chattering and clattering to each other far above me.

But let me go back to the very beginning. Back to when I first pressed the play button on a video player in a cluttered police office. Back to when Paul Bowscar’s tired but handsome face appeared on the big wall-mounted television. Back to when that young, troubled man first began to tell me his long and emotional tale.

Back to when I first heard those two words – Negative Bind.

Excerpt from ‘A Life in the Blue: Memoirs of a Detective Constable’ by DC Bernard Hopkins, Retired [used with permission]

The above is a small extract from The Negative Bind, by yours truly, coming soon.

As always, that shallot.




Posted by on February 16, 2016 in Books


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