Maltesers and Multiverses

There are regular emails coming through now about the payment to renew this site being due. To be honest I’m not sure I’m really going to want to outlay the required £50 to do so. For a few reasons mainly.

When I started this entire thing nine years ago it was mainly to document the writing, rehearsal and performance of a stage play I was creating at the time. That passed by and, whilst being well recieved, didn’t really go much beyond that. Then I had the Unlocked Project which was writing a script and putting the progress online for all to read no matter how ghastly it was looking at the time. It resulted in a terrible script on an idea that needed far more work but lessons were certainly learned. Then came the script about the Dumfries Witch Trials that also didn’t get much further than the page but was fun to write due to the need for research and historical accuracy. Finally, for the last few years, it’s been used to gives updates on how my first book was going. As of now, nearly five years since I started, it remains in bits on my hard drive. I can write about planets, space craft and other worlds until the end of time but the actual emotive depth of a woman discovering her daughter has gone missing never felt like it hit true for me.

This isn’t a ‘Giving up writing’ entry. The great news is that I currently have a paid writing gig for the first time in my life. Halfway through August I applied for The Dumfries Multiverse. Two of my three writing samples were actually from the book so that project hasn’t been a complete waste of time. I was pleasantly surprised when I was one of the final six who get to write the stories that will be attached via audio file QR codes on sculptures around the town. We’ve had two meetings so far and I have to say it’s a glorious tonic meeting new people after eighteen months of lockdowns and restrictions. The final result goes on show in January 2022 so if you’re in that neck of the woods at that time then come along and hear my piece about spacemen from the future visiting the town.

It’s felt great as well. After years of writing alone at home and showing people only to be met with indifference at best I’ve applied to a project and they think I’m worth taking on based on what they’ve read. It’s a glorious feeling.

So what about the blog Cam? Well I’m thinking that I’ll pay the money to keep the web address but let the service plan slide. Adverts will come back as a result and the design might change as a result. The thing is that this blog was always a side warm up to writing sessions, using it to get into the swing of things. It has felt like the last few years of updates have been ‘just wrote a few words’ style entries. I’d rather spend the time writing stuff that matters. The entries weren’t often followed by many comments either so it felt a bit like an echo in the forest.

The entries will remain up here anyway so there’s an entire vault if writing mishaps and small victories to look upon. Enjoy if that’s your thing.

Hexenwulf The Dreamer

I wrote another book. More aptly I should say I finished it before I got to the end of the last rewrite of the book I’ve been working on for the last four years on this site. Put simply, writing about old wrestling shows became far easier than facing my own story and the many flaws it has. Hence nothing here since August.

I’ve been podcasting, I’ve been miniature painting over on Instagram, I have written reviews on videogames alongside my son and I have been plotting how to write a text adventure game. As the world caved in with a cocktail of COVID and Brexit these things felt like instant wins. Clamouring back to the coal face of aliens from other worlds and Scottish tourist villages felt far too much of an uphill task. It’s a task that must begin again though especially as I’m not that far away from a possible ending.

There’s a chance my head is a bit out of practice with creative writing though so I might go and write something fairly short to get back up to speed. If so it’ll get posted here.

The very best to you and I hope you’re all keeping safe and well.

Remove By Friction

A book seems a really big and all consuming thing right now. Having finished the latest draft a couple of weeks ago during lockdown I’ve touched up a few chapters but not gone back to it since. I’ve taken to doing smaller writing tasks that provide much more of an instant gratification upon completing them. I’ll spent time reviewing a cheap game over on the video game blog my son and I keep. I’ll write some more about wrestling and put that up on Bad Education. I’ve also discovered single player role playing games during the lockdown, one of which is scratching that writing itch just dandy right now. It’s called The Machine by Adira Slattery and Fen Slattery and it’s something of a revelation.

The Machine involves the keeping of a journal detailing how your character makes the titular contraption. It can be anything you want it to be. In my case it’s quite small like a pocket watch and able to sing songs from within. You play the game alone but the idea is that, once your character meets their demise, you pass the journal onto a friend so they carry it on as somebody who has found or been given the same journal. My current character is a discreet magician (I figure he’d have to be in order to keep his tricks under wraps).

You select two options from a list of about sixty jobs and characteristics, crossing them off the lost so nobody else can choose them. Using a deck of playing cards you lift the card on top and the number and suit influences what has happened. For example my first entry proper was the six of diamonds which gave me ‘hateful’ and ‘a sleepless night’. There followed a frantic half hour as I described my character pacing around his elaborate study in the early hours sketching his grand plan for the construction of the machine that would gain himmhis fortune. After those thirty minutes I was done, I could move on, I had achieved something. No long think times, no sitting infront of a blank page and no going back to rewrite. The Machine is part game and part creative writing exercise and if you’re a writer at a loose end or needing something of a writing based distraction then it’s a good $5 to spend.

The book still hangs over me though and it’s something of a problem to work on it knowing that there’s a whole heap more to do before I get that ‘done writing’ hit.

Like A Beer Garden In Motherwell

It turns out there is nothing quite like doing a chapter by chapter breakdown of your book to start a complete emotional rollercoaster. At some points I thought it was all stitching together extremely well, at others there was the feeling that nothing was going right and the whole thing had fell apart.

But at least now I have a list with each chapter and a couple of lines saying what does and doesn’t work with each. Only one of them has the words ‘delete this whole thing because it’s terrible’ written across it so it’s not that bad a score.

The first two chapters have already been rewritten and are actually now in a readable form. It’s just a matter of shining up the rest and making sure they stitch together well.

Support Your Local Author

I’m not that far up the writing career ladder but I think it’s still important that writers give support to others when the time comes. With that in mind I bring you some local news of a retired policeman from Dumfries and Galloway publishing his first children’s book.

‘Community Cop Colin: Keeping Safe’ by Martin Greenlees is published on the 28th of July and follows the story of two friends, Libby and Connor, who get separated from their Mothers whilst out shopping. The pair remember the community police officer who visited their school and told them to always think of the word ‘Uniform’. The search begins to find a safe stranger to help them become reunited with their worried Mothers.

The book is a really good way of encouraging kids to stay safe and to understand that the community police officers are there to help them.

The book can be purchased from Amazon and Waterstones.

Always Handle Live Plants With Care

Each night, if the mood takes me, I’ll sit down with a big pad of paper and my laptop and work through the current version of the book chapter by chapter to see how it’s working. The disadvantage to pressing on with any rewrite and never looking back or stopping is that some of the ideas contained in the early going have since been scrapped completely later on and now mean nothing.

There has been one instance of removing a sentence in one chapter which felt like an easy decision only to find that it means that half of the next chapter is now redundant.

It’s has shaken me a little bit. Whilst the hardest part is done and I no longer have to deal with any blank pages it does mean that I’m discovering all the bugs. Certain characters change mindset on a dime right now and it’s those sort of problems I’m trying to iron out.

Momentum is important though.

Stove Top Trouser Press

When I was in primary school there was a book club each term. A few weeks before the holidays were due to start the teacher would pass around a small catalogue of titles that they were currently selling. Due to it being a school promotion each book had about twenty or thirty percent off the retail price. You’d put a tick next to whatever you wanted to buy, go home and convince your parents to supply the money which would then be passed on during the next school day. At the start of the next term the library van would pull up outside and drop off a big box with the all the books in. There was your book (or indeed books depending on if your parents felt generous that day or not).

It was through this method that I discovered quite a few titles including the Fighting Fantasy series but there was one from that time that I actually rediscovered a few days ago stuck in a cardboard box from my house move six months ago.

I recall wanting this one as soon as I clapped eyes on it. It has a price of £3.99 on the inside cover and it must have been about £3.50 or so to me at the time. It’s a collection of some short science fiction stories alongside some excerpts from longer titles. There’s a section from War of the Worlds which was probably my first exposure to H.G Wells, there’s The Wind From The Sun by Arthur C Clarke and also How We Were Tracked By A Tripod by John Christopher. I’ve sat for a few nights now just reading over these stories and reminding myself how brilliant they are. I’m rewriting the book now trying my level best to get it somewhere near the level presented here.

Version 4.1.2

Does anybody else start a brand new, blank file when doing another rewrite? I don’t like going back into the original and just changing everything about on there. Instead I’ll use a fresh file and just cut and paste chapter by chapter. That way the progress is obvious.

I’ve yet to sit down and go through the latest draft bit by bit and work out what’s staying and what is hitting the road. My last blog entry detailed how I’d rewritten the first chapter. I then followed up with the second one being polished up a little. I don’t think I can go much further without sitting down with my laptop, pad and pen and then working out what each part is supposed to do and how well it actually does it. Once that’s done I can crack on with this (hopefully much easier) rewrite. After that I think it may actually be readable to the outside world.

You Shouldn’t Have To Jump For Joy

Remember a little while ago how I was talking about needing to change my alien character from a warrior to a refugee? Well it involved doing a ground up rewrite of the start of the book. So now, because it makes me feel like I’ve done something today instead of sitting watching The Umbrella Academy, I’ll give you the old intro followed by the new one. Any feedback at this stage is gratefully received.

The Old One…

Never leave the legion.

As control was lost and system 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.

And now the new one.

The first missiles came down after the third sun had set. The glass towers were the first to fall as once great symbols of the home world came raining down to the ground below. Both of the moons had been smothered in the thick, grey smoke that now spiralled into the air. The screams of those crushed underneath the piles of rubble were near ear piercing now. There had been no warning of such an attack, no advanced word from the Elders that this would be the fate of so many. For the first time in many memories, they had been directly attacked and with great, relentless force.

Pilot was terrified.

The ground below his feet shook with the impact of another missile. They were landing all around him, stopping for a few seconds and then using their built-in drill heads to burrow further into the dirt. The whirring noises joined together in an orchestra of destruction. As the smaller buildings began to crumple Pilot thought of his duty. He was supposed to find the enemy and make sure they were taken without raising suspicion. This had served them well for centuries but now, as the destroyers came fully into view over the horizon, it would be far too late. Stepping in front of any of them now would result in a very instant death.

So Pilot ran.

His large frame clumped along the bright blue stone pathways through the city. He could now feel the heat on the back of his stone neck. A short distance side he saw another like him who had taken a smaller body. The blue stones were moving around the surface of their skin at speed, trying to keep the new vessel regulated in the panic. Another missile came hurtling from above directly on top of them. They vanished into a cloud of dust and smoke. Pilot accelerated onwards towards the fields. His ship may not be ready, it may have still needed time to align but he needed it now. He needed to get off the home world.

Within minutes he was running through the fields and twisting through right and left turns to get to his sector. Turning his last sharp bend he found in front of him, still with roots in the ground, his ship. It’s sleek, bright white and shell like structure half poked out from the ground. It pulsed and throbbed to itself as the drive fed off the nutrients in the soil. Pilot placed his bone like hands on the smooth surface and the layers began to peel away to reveal the opening.

More bombs thundered down, closer now.

Before Pilot could enter his ship he heard a voice calling him. Even over the booming weapons it still sounded instantly familiar. The Elder had caught him. She stood not far from Pilot wearing the full ceremonial pearl white robe that was now reflecting images of the fires raging around them. The staff, passed down through generations of their people and gnarled more and more with each user, was clutched firmly in her right hand.

“You must stay” she rasped.

Pilot flung himself into the cockpit before the layers sealed again. Pounding his fist onto the control panel charged the drive. He hoped it would take off, he prayed to every deity he had left behind that the ship would lift. The sound of a metal staff being hammered across the hull of his ship from outside rang through the cockpit. It was like being inside a bell.

Then he felt the lift. The drive charged some more as the ship slowly ripped itself away from the field. One by one the roots tethering his craft snapped, each making a metallic popping noise as they did so. The viewfinder opened, giving him an image of outside. The hills in the distance were ablaze with a red mist. The last clank on the hull reverberated as the final root popped. The valleys he played in as a child were swallowed by the dark mists. The towers were now tiny smouldering specks. Pilot gripped onto the controls tightly as he gained altitude, breaking through the cloudy night sky and onwards into the cold space above.

This distance would not do, simply floating around in this system would mean he would be hunted down as sure as the three suns rose every day. The ship had managed lift off but the question in Pilot’s mind had been if it would engage hyperdrive. His hand floated over the console poised for the right moment. As he counted down the timing in his head the ship jolted to one side violently. Looking back he could see that they had located him and were not about to let him leave easily. Another round of cannon fire headed his way, crackling off the hull. The ship started to rotate on its axis, forcing Pilot to stumble backwards and land on the floor. There was no time for any other consideration other than hitting the button and hoping. Pilot hauled himself forwards again, holding out one arm and just about managing to force his huge fist down onto the panel. More cannon fire thumped the ship as the drive whirred into action. Time seemed to accelerate as the screeching noise grew louder and louder until Pilot had to cover his ears with his palms. Then, with an almighty boom, the ship bolted through the warp and was flung into a dark unknown.