She Makes Good Shortbread

Observation so far.

It’s a hell of a lot easier taking blocks of text from the old draft file, pasting them into the lovely new one (that actually has a spell checker) and then cleaning them up from there rather than trying to come up with something from scratch. The blank screen is still there but with a couple of clicks you’re thinking that three thousand words have just landed and now you’ve just got to pick through them.

To be honest the opening chapter is…not that bad actually. It’s clear that I was rushing headlong into this story at the time of writing and wasn’t worried about story structure, word counts or themes yet. It’s pure and simply an introduction to one main character and her reactions to a town she used to know. Much like my alien the actual town itself didn’t have a name in the opening of draft one but it does now. I’m trying to make the effort to put as much of my small town Scotland experience into the town of Auldrigg. Reading parts of the initial rewrite now I imagine my Mum reading it and getting where all the references come from.

How Not To Use A Jetpack

I was really worried that I was falling into the same rut I did last year. It seemed to take me ages to get started on this rewrite and considiring that last year the entire thing ground to a halt when the clocks went back there was a certain concern the same thing was going to happen.

But I’m back up and running now , starting with the prologue. Yes, the same prologue that might be cut completely in the end yet for now it stays. It’s probably a good starting point to settle in though seeing as the original version is only 200 words long.

Here’s the original version from draft one.

From the ground, staring up into the cold night’s sky, it could be mistaken for a rock. From the dark space above it had drifted into Earth’s pull and had begun the journey towards the surface. The heat of the atmosphere had begun to scorch the outer shell causing the blistering flames that left their own mark. It had completely succumbed to gravity once it had passed through the cloud cover. What minutes ago had been a large orb floating in a cold nothing now had patches of green separated by open blue.

Closer still and the mountains came into view with their white summits. The wind whistled around the rock. Small lights took form, some stationary and yet some moving in pairs. The moon hung high in the sky bathing the planet in a cold blue light.

The rock completed the last part of the descent within a few seconds. Splashing through the surface of the water it slowed before gently settling on the bed of the loch. The last remaining heat in the shell fizzed through the cool waters. The ripples of water on the surface spanned outwards, touching the harbour before gently lapping against the wall. The boats bobbed slightly before returning to their still silence.

Yet nobody noticed.

Urrggghhhh…

It’s horrible isn’t it?

I wrote this eighteen months ago and it’s pretty obvious that I just wanted this bit out of the way so I could get on with introducing characters and the main parts of the story. The description of entering the atmosphere is probably lifted from the relevant sequence in No Man’s Sky on the Playstation 4. Also, there’s no reference to the character who is aboard this craft at all simply because I had no idea what it looked like at the time nor what name it was going to get if any.

True fact, when I first came around to deciding how my alien would look I imagined him being like a tree with bark all over him. I was pleased as anything with this for about half a day until I was having dinner that evening and realised that I was imagining Groot from Guardian of the Galaxy. Changes have been made, I have no desire for Marvel’s legal team to pay me a visit.

That final line is trash as well. If nobody noticed it then who the hell is describing all this?

Anyway, here’s the second draft rewrite. Be warned that I haven’t had a chance to spell check this yet so there’s probably something really obviously wrong with it that I’m missing.

Never leave the legion.

As control was lost and systems readouts began to fade from the central command console those words set themselves to repeat in Pilot’s head. He and everybody else around him had always been told that you flew alongside all the others until either victory had been achieved or death had come for you. You did not leave the legion.

Pilot had lined up alongside near a thousand others in a battle formation. The gargantuan battlecruisers of the enemy had floated into view and the command had come through to remain firm. A huge ray had burst out, carved its way through the black space and torn through half of the ships positioned to Pilot’s side. For the first time in his entire life Pilot had felt what he had been told was fear. As a vast section of other ships had burnt out and fell from view he had taken the opportunity to flee. He had no idea where he was going just as long as it was far away from this battle.

He hadn’t got too far until the garbled messages from his command unit began. He’d only got slightly further when they’d cut his engine and life support. If the enemy didn’t kill you then they’d make sure they did the job themselves. He clicked on every single part of the panel in front of him with his white, plated fingers but nothing was operational. He was falling though space at a dizzying rate, revolving, twisting and aimless until he felt the entire ship sink in a constant direction.

He was falling rapidly towards an unknown planet. Checking the viewfinder only gave a blurred image of various shades of blue and green merging together rapidly. The smooth, shining walls on the inside of the craft began to glow with the intense heat of entering this atmosphere. Parts of the ship began to smoke and fizzle. Pilot gripped into the flight controls to ready himself as he tried to get a better view of outside.

There seemed to be only one sun here, it was currently moving towards the other side of the planet. There were vast stretches of blue with great carved out sections of what he assumed was land. Pilot thought of himself as quite fortunate, the chances of him hitting liquid were good. What he didn’t know was if it was going to be shallow or even poisonous yet.   

He was close enough now to see small dots of light gathered in small bundles across the land. His path led straight towards a small chunk of land separate from the rest. As his descent gained pace he could see that he’d be just about avoiding the larger collections instead nearly hitting one of the much smaller ones. He gripped tighter to the steering column, as he did so his skin began to crack. Even before impact it seemed his body might not make it. An almost deafening whistling noise echoes around the cockpit as the air rushed past the out shell. Pilot closed his eyes and wished he’d just stayed home instead of counting his last moments before careering into the surface of some distant planet.

With a deep thud the ship plunged through the liquid surface. Pilot was flung headlong across the entire cockpit, landing in a heap at the other side. The intense heat was quickly replaced by angry bubbles that hissed along the hull. The descent slowed as the ship floated down onto the surface before bobbing to a gentle stop at the bottom.

Pilot picked himself up. One of his arms had shattered almost completely in the crash landing. It was still on the floor on the other side of the ship twisting and moving along the floor before finally curling up. Pilot wondered if he would be able to find another body on this planet, perhaps one more suitable for the environment he found himself in.

Just as he was about to enjoy still being alive for now he heard the first drips of liquid seep through the front viewfinder.

A bit better, more from the perspective of being in the ship itself rather than watching it on the ground. Pilot gets a few references to make sure it’s clear he’s not of this Earth. I’ve been careful not to use words like ‘sea’ or ‘cities’ because he won’t know what they’re called yet. It reads way better even though it’s a bit longer than I maybe would have liked.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to do comparisons for every single chapter. I’ll leave you all alone after this.

A Lifetime Of Tetris

Here’s the rundown so far, chapter by chapter. Let this be a warning to all about the risks of making notes and then flinging aforementioned notes over your shoulders and just going with whatever felt good at the time. Obviously if you’re reading this then a lot of it will be spoiler filled. Then again what you read here will probably change anyway. Don’t say you weren’t warned though.

Prologue- Alien ship crash lands into Scottish waters

1- Morag (Mother of missing child) gets a taxi from the train station to a local bed and breakfast as she revisits Auldrigg, the town she left in the aftermath of her daughter going missing ten years previously.

On a side note it’s still bothering me that Morag doesn’t really have a reason to come back bar ‘she feels like it’. She moved when it became clear a lot of the people living in the town at the time started to think she’d killed her own daughter. Why on Earth would you go back to that? 

2- Jamie (local police officer) makes his rounds through Auldrigg. He stops at the local shop which is run by Robert. They have a bit of conversation which is mainly to establish their characters and lay down some details for the future. Currently neither of them are aware that Morag is heading back. There’s also a moment where Robert has a complete miscommunication with a German tourist about buying stamps.

3- The first chapter that nips back in time by ten years. Anne (Morag’s daughter) is trying to leave the house as her Mother is on a cleaning fit and she doesn’t really want to get a job to do. She convinces her Mother that she’ll be about ten minutes as she goes down the shop. She leaves the house. On the way back from the shop, after meeting Robert there, she finds what she thinks is somebody unconscious on the beach. She is attacked by some unknown presence and dragged under the sea water.

Only by reading this back have I clicked on exactly how much ground is covered in this chapter. It seems really unbalanced.

Hopping back and forth between the two time lines is something that happens a lot. I’m trying to make it obvious which is which each time as certain features in the town ten years previous are either no longer there or falling down later on. It might get a little bit to break neck though. 

I wanted to be able to use the ‘meanwhile back at the ranch’ method. This means that you can zip to location B if the story is slowing down a bit in location A and vice versa. Currently though my two ‘locations’ are the same place just ten years apart.

4- Jamie is at his house and is told by Deborah, the owner of the guest house Morag is staying at, that Morag is coming back. This news hits Jamie like a sledgehammer. He was the officer in charge a decade beforehand who promised Morag he’d find her daughter but then never did.

5- Morag goes back to her house which, by now, is a shell of what it used to be. Here she bumps into Jamie.

First major problem with this, why is Jamie hanging around where he knows Morag is going to be? When he heard the news I’d automatically made him out to be some kind of coward about the whole thing.

6- Anne finds herself suspended underwater. She thinks she’s drowning initially but is surprised to find she can breath. Eventually she’s let go and floats back up to the surface. She lands on the beach soaking wet and wondering what just happened. She walks home but then sees that her house is empty and almost derelict. In a panic she goes to Jamie’s house and finds him there. Unknown to her ten years have passed and Jamie just about faints on the doorstep when he opens the door to her.

It’s pretty obvious here that I’d never really thought about the actual mechanics of being taken by this alien. Exactly what happens? What is the process? My only figuring here is that she can breath underwater because the alien can as well. The alien needs a body as his has been damaged in the crash, Anne’s will do. The reason why he’s picked her has yet to become apparent.

7- Morag is in her house, the sun is setting and her daughter has not arrived home from the shop. She walks down to the local pub to ask if anybody has seen her. Upon being told she’s being paranoid and that Anne will be somewhere she goes off to find Jamie at his house.

It’s only by reading this back that I was reminded that I gave the pub a name early on. ‘The Hopeful Angler’. It sounds horrible now.

8-  Anne and Jamie are talking in his house. It’s at this point she discovers she’s been gone ten years instead of the five minutes she thought.

Also, chess gets mentioned a lot. I have no idea why.

9- Morag ends up in the town shop meeting Robert.

The more I’m reading through this the more I’m noticing the momentum of the early going is running out about now.

10- Jamie leaves Anne back at his house and goes down to the beach where she said she was attacked. He finds some kind of creature and is chased by it. He manages to escape.

This is the first part that really plays havoc with my ending as it stands. Currently both Robert and Anne have been used as templates by the alien. In Robert it creates years of what he thinks is some kind of depression, a constant feeling that he’s actually somebody else. In Anne it manifests itself as some kind of confusion.

Jamie is also taken but that’s not revealed right until the last chapter. The alien’s survival strategy is to spread itself thin. Why would the thing attack him if it’s actually holding a part of itself in Jamie? 

11- Morag breaks into her old house to see that it now appears to be a drinking den for the local teenagers.

And my god there’s a lot of inner soul searching in this chapter.

Way too much.

12- Jamie returns to his house having been chased by a strange creature. He describes the whole thing to Anne who has been holding up in his front room all this time.

13- Away back to the past again as Robert goes down to the shoreline and is taken by the alien himself.

The first time details are given of what exactly might be ‘wrong’ with Robert. True fact, Robert started this whole thing as a character of light relief only but he’s come into this in a big way.

14- Back in the present day and Robert and Jamie have a conversation over breakfast. They try to work out what they’re going to do and say to Morag should they see her again.

This entire thing takes place in an American diner. Not as in a diner in America but an American style diner that somebody has opened in a small Scottish town. Somebody has actually done that in the city down the motorway from me because they came back from the States being really impressed with the levels of service there. It does seem a bit out of place though and I was trying to get over the idea that this is exactly the same. It’s Americana via Scotland and it doesn’t quite work. It feels a little bit out of place but then the entire book has being out of time and place as a running theme.

15- Robert, having left Jamie in the diner in quite a hurry, goes back home to deal with the pain in his arm. It turns out to be a blue stone like object that is embedded into his skin. Basically it’s the alien transmitter, any command given is relayed by this. He tries to carve it out with what he has in his bathroom.

And it gets a bit gory.

16- Anne is still keeping a low profile in Jamie’s house having not been told that her Mother is around. Jamie returns home briefly and it’s the first mention Anne makes of asking for Jamie’s help in finding Morag.

The rub about this is why Jamie is keeping this young child hostage knowing full well she could just take her straight to her Mother and be done with it. This would also fulfil a promise he made years ago. My only grace so far is that he’s a logical guy and this isn’t logical. He’s waiting to find an explanation as to why Anne hasn’t aged at all.

In reality though, has he been ‘taken’ by now and it’s therefore a protective thing? Anne is later established as the main replacement for this dying alien.

17- Back to ten years ago again as Jamie starts the investigation into the whereabouts of Anne.

It’s established during all this tha Jamie and Morag know each other and Anne has often been around Jamie’s house playing chess. I’m still not sure why a Mother would be happy with her teenage daughter going around the local police officer’s house to play board games.

18- Anne gets sick of waiting around for Jamie to come back and plots her escape. She ends up jumping out of the bathroom window.

19- Robert’s in his bathroom having been past out when trying to remove the blue glowing stone that’s currently in his arm. He’s rather shocked to find the alien in his bathroom as well. The alien ends up removing it cleanly for him and he has rendered himself ‘incompatible’.

This is also the first time the alien actually gets a name. ‘Pilot’. It might remove a bit of the mystery but it makes writing him a damned sight easier.

20- Back to the past as Jamie tries to get access to Anne’s computer to try and find out if she was in communication with anybody she might have gone off to meet. He finds a few conversations with a male classmate of hers. He knows exactly who it is and sets off to his house to see if he knows anything.

I’m kind of tripping a fine line here regarding social media. If we say 2018 is the present day here then I’m going back to 2008. Twitter wasn’t really a thing, Youtube was just starting but you wouldn’t have got decent internet speeds in any Scottish fishing town then to stream anything successfully, Facebook hadn’t really been invaded by teenagers yet and Instagram was still just putting filters on your photos and little else.

Looks like it might be a job for MySpace!

21- Anne walks the streets of her home town again. She meets an old man who says something about how a woman is staying in the local bed and breakfast who had to move away a few years ago.

Bloody hell, I’m really going to need a better reason for Anne to find out where her Mother is. This is awful.

22- Jamie ends up trying to question a petrified teenage boy in front of his Father. It leads to nothing.

I’m literally sending a character down a path I know to be false. I know he’s not going to turn up anything, the reader will know he’s not getting anything so I’m not sure why this is here. This might be a obvious chapter to cut.

23- A fresh, non ‘aliened’ Robert returns to his shop. Suddenly the depression like symptoms he’s been getting for years have gone. He’s like a new man but there’s an echo of something that still bothers him.

24- Anne walks into the dining room of the bed and breakfast and finally meets her Mother again after ten years.

I currently hate this chapter. I wasn’t sure if Morag would be pleased to see Anne again or if she’d wonder why the hell she’s remained the same age. It’s handled horribly at the moment and reads like a daytime soap opera.

To be honest the book starts to loose every grip it had around about now. Buckle up.

25- Ten years previous again. Jamie is leading the search with a group of locals to find Anne as the sun goes down. The police helicopter flies around above.

26- Still ten years into the past as Pilot wakes up under the sea in his crashed ship. Realising his own body is damaged and will take a while to repair he finds a suitable replacement wandering on the beach. Robert is taking a stroll along the beach.

I’m honestly surprised I waited this long to give Pilot a bit of attention. It feels really late in the day.

27- Present day Morag and Anne are upstairs in the bed and breakfast talking. Anne tells Morag she went to Jamie’s house and she’s been there a couple of nights. Morag hits the roof about this and bolts out the door to find him.

Once again, this is horrible to read back.

28- Back in the past again as Morag goes off on her own to try and find Anne who’s now been missing for a few days. She ends up meeting a group of guys outside the pub who knew Anne’s father. Rather than sympathise with Morag they accuse her of doing all this to get attention much like she got the attention of Anne’s father.

Essentially, I have a group of blokes who will think of anything to blame a woman. I’d like to say this is a bit of a stretch but I’m not sure it is. 

HANG FIRE! I SEEM TO HAVE TWO CHAPTER 28’s! What a mistake to make. It least it means I only have 33 chapters rather than 34 in that case.

28 (Again)- Robert works out that it was he, under Pilot’s control, who set the trap for Anne to get caught. Caught up with guilt he is suddenly taken with the idea of killing Pilot and ending all this.

I actually quite like this bit. There’s a bit with Robert fumbling around his kitchen trying to find a decent murder weapon.

29- Back to the past as Morag moves out of town. Despite a last minute talk with Jamie she still leaves.

30- Jamie returns home to find out that Anne has gone. It’s not long before Morag and Anne catch up with him. Arguments begin until Anne tells them they need to find Pilot to work all this out.

31- Back to the past again as Pilot gets used to living in Robert’s head. He stumbles across the sand towards his house in the harbour area.

Personally I cannot get the mental image of the bad alien from the first Men In Black movie out of my head for this. 

“Sugar…waaatter!”. 

32- Robert finds a kitchen knife that he bought but never used in his kitchen. It’s the weapon he needs and he leaves the house. He meets the town gossip outside who is really desperate to know why he’s carrying a knife outside.

These bits kind of get a bit too comical in patches.

33- Anne, Jamie and Morag go to the beach and a spaceship suddenly emerges from the water. The door opens and they go inside.

Actually I seem to have forgotten how numbers work so there are more chapters after this.

34- Robert arrives at the beach and finds the ship. Inside the previous body of Pilot is just about dead and he doesn’t want to let Robert in because he can tell he’s armed. Anne, being part of Pilot also, convinces him he doesn’t mean harm. Robert does come aboard, he leaps towards Pilot and drives the knife into his head, it does absolutely nothing and Pilot spends time explaining why this all happened.

And it’s the most Scooby Doo thing I’ve ever written.

35-  He owner of the bed and breakfast watches Anne and Morag check out as they travelling back to the city. She can’t work out what’s happened. The same taxi driver that brought Morag here a few days previous is taking them back to the train station a few miles away. Jamie comes back to wave goodbye.

36- Robert and Jamie talk things over in his shop. Robert is happy everything is over and that Pilot has gone. Jamie agrees as he leaves the shop. The last scene is Jamie nursing the blue orb in his arm and trying ti hide it from everybody.

That’s it then! If you’ve read all the way through this drivel then you have my thanks. It’s vastly overblown and losing grip on anything resembling a story from about halfway through onwards. The ending is also stuck together with glue and some of the characters are as well. It’s going to take a while to fix but I’ll start with the prologue and see where it goes from there.

But hey, first draft is done!

 

 

 

Four Spice Chicken

My wrestling article is finally finished!

(Incidentally if 90’s WWF shows are your thing then you could take a little look should you so wish )

This clears the decks for the second run through of ‘The One Who Left’. I wanted to take the time to get a little few others bits done and out of the way so I can have a good clear run at this. I’ve spent a bit of time going down the chapters in order and I’ll be posting the entire list on here with a brief run down about what happens in each in the very near future. After that it’ll be a case of deciding what stays and what goes. It’ll probably get really deep into the workings of the story and what direction it’s taking. If that’s your thing then we’re all cool but I can perfectly get with it if that sounds completely boring.

The first question I’m already tackling is the prologue. Whilst I’m not really a fan of prologues in books usually I put one in here because it was the first hint that something alien was happening. The alien itself is not named at all in the opener and it’s simply a description of his craft falling through Earth’s upper atmosphere before plunging into the sea just off the coast of Auldrigg, my fictional Scottish fishing town (you’ve no idea how many different Scottish sounding place names I had to Google until I got to one that didn’t exist in real life). The version of the prologue currently in place is pretty vague on detail of who exactly this crash landing person is because I was far more interested in keeping him in the shadows until about halfway through the book. The core of the story was the daughter’s disappearance so keeping an alien being on the sidelines for the opening parts of the story seemed to make sense.

Now I’m not so sure. Perhaps the prologue doesn’t have to be there at all but I’ll still have a crack at rewriting it with more detail on the character and why he got there.