NaNoWriMo Update

Week Two of NaNoWriMo, and I’m up to 21,773 words.

After a strong, 2,000 words per day start, I’ve been struggling for the past week just to get to 1,000 words per day for the past week. Congratulations to those who have managed to already reach 50,000+ words – or much closer to it. I take my hat off to them.

Maybe this is the mid-term slump. I’d like to think so,

On the plus side, it’s nice to see my underdog story idea come together.

That’s it for this update. Speak soon.

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Flash Fiction: It’s Only Scott

A flash fiction piece written for a daily contest.

Jack hid behind the couch as Euan switched off the lights and joined him a moment before a sharp knock sounded on the uPVC front door. Jack whimpered. Euan hushed him.

The person outside thumped the door a second time. Jack crumbled. “There’s nobody in!” He called, voice trembling.

Euan rolled his eyes in the darkness. “Quiet,” he hissed. “They’ll hear you!

The letterbox squeaked open. “Jack! Euan! I can hear the pair of you, and. . .” The letterbox squeaked back into place as boots crunched on the gravel. A second later, a sharp rap on the window made both men jump. “I can see you pair of morons behind the couch underneath the window – now let me in!”

Oh, good! It’s only Scott!” said Jack, relieved as he flicked on the living room light.
Euan ignored him as he opened the door. “Where’s your key?
Scott glared at him. “I gave it to you after you lost yours – remember? And you?” He turned to Jack. “Who did you think it was?
Zombies.
Scott stared at him in disbelief. “Don’t worry, Jack. No zombies would come looking for your brains.

NaNoWriMo Update

Hi guys.

Well, it’s just about week into NaNoWriMo, and I got off to a good start, reaching 10k within five days. Yesterday was the first time I failed to meet my daily target of 1,552. Today has been better, but as of now, at 8:50 local time, I’m still about 300 words below. I’m hopeful to meet that target. My current word count is 12,711.

Are you taking part in NaNo? If so, how are you doing?

That’s all for now. Speak soon.

Halloween Special

A cosmic/Lovecraftian “horror”.

The Plight of Galax

I am a human, born in captivity by an alien race who call themselves the Scru’vuns. My ancestors were taken from our home planet, Earth, two thousand years ago, in the year 2020.

If they were to see me now, they’d probably call a doctor.

My skin is pink – deep pink, like a rose, my silver hair reaches my knees and the weight of it gives me a headache. My mother told me I have green eyes, although I’ve never seen my reflection. She gave me the name Angel, after some mythical creatures our ancestors used to believe in.

I can still remember the panic I felt at thirteen as my breeder plucked me from my mother’s home. For a second, I couldn’t breathe as I was transferred to a holding container, which already contained thirty or so other human boys of my age. The one on my left nudged me.

“What do you think they’ll do to us?” He asked.

I shook my head. “I don’t know.

“I’ve heard we’ll be boiled alive in a large vat of acid,” said a third.

We were transported to a massive cavern and kept in almost complete darkness for an inordinate amount of time. We were fed twice a week, when a Scru’vun would arrive to check whether or not we were still alive. Five or six of the boys in my container died.

After a month or so, we were separated, placed into individual containers, transported to what looked like a vast store room, and deposited onto what looked like a shelf.

One by one, the friends I’d made during the journey, were selected. They disappeared and I never saw them again. I didn’t want to imagine what had happened to them, but my mind insisted on doing so anyway. Jerry would have been taken back to Earth and set free. That made me smile. Michael would be a breeding human. Lee. . . Lee was killed soon after selection. My long hair framed my face as I dropped my head and willed myself not to cry.

Then, the day of my selection dawned. A Scru’vun stopped outside of my container and glared at me with an eyeball the size of my head. I’m not ashamed to admit I lost control over my bladder. I’m lucky I managed to regain control of my bowel!

Another container, more transportation, and I arrived in a bright white cavernous. . . space. From my container, I couldn’t see the far wall, nor the walls on either side. The room – if that’s what it was – must have stretched for miles!

The Scru’vun took me to a room and lowered me in through the ceiling. It was small – smaller than my mother’s home, but larger than anything I’d existed in since I’d been taken from her. I looked around, at first amazed at the space. There was a oxygen pump near the ceiling, a single bed in one corner, an armchair alongside it, and in the opposite corner, a toilet and shower. I looked around for a dividing wall, and found none. Was I expected to. . . Use the toilet. . . in front of an alien big enough to swallow me whole?

Oh good Lord ! Please say that isn’t the case?!

It was.

To distract myself, I continued my exploration, looking for something to do. There was nothing. No books, no paper. . . Nothing. My mother’s home had a handheld computer that she told me was called a “tablet”, and some physical training equipment.

My home had nothing except a strange type of purple plant that was as tall as I was and some other weird things set in the middle of my room.

I sat in my chair and promptly fell asleep.

***

And so, the days passed, and I learned to recognise a single Scru’vun word – Galax, but I had no context in which to place it. A week after I arrived, the Scru’vun lifted the roof of my home. Oh no! Not again! Please no! Don’t. . . I can’t breathe! My eyed widened and my hand reached for my throat as the alien lifted me clear of my room..

The Scru’vun lowered me into a container barely big enough to hold me, but at least I could breathe. My chest heaved as my lungs filled with much-needed oxygen. I could feel my heart hammering against my ribcage. I fell to my knees and willed myself to relax. I was okay. I was alive.

And then the Scru’vun repeated the torture, only to place me back in my room. I gazed around. It was the same, but different, somehow. It took me a while to realise the bed covers and sheet had been changed, the toilet and shower were clean and the detritus that had gathered on the carpet was gone.

The Scru’vun had cleaned my room. I’d gone through alll that torture. . . Just so that over-sized wart-eating nerd strangler could clean my room? The fudge-slapper!

To add insult to injury, the shaft-bender fed me straight afterwards!

I stabbed angrily at the plate. “You think I’m gonna eat that? After you tried to suffocate me in your toxic air, just so you can clean my room? Think again, moron!

For a couple of months, I endured that two way torture trip every week. You’d think I’d get used to it, but somehow, I never did. It was like every time would be the time I was about to die.

Then suddenly, the Scru’vun stopped. It started to tidy my room around me. My stress levels dropped, but my boredom was becoming unbearable. I tried to move the purple plant thingy, hoping that if I could move it, I could put it between the toilet and the glass. It was too heavy. I couldn’t shift it.

I started scratching the walls and pulling my bed covers apart. It seemed to get the Scru’vun’s attention and understanding because it stripped out the indescribable “decor” (for want of a better word), and replaced it with books, a tablet, canvases, paints and even a rowing machine! Hallelujah! I had things to do!

But, I was lonely. This Scru’vun had no other humans, so I hadn’t seen anyone since my selection. I began to miss the presence and company of my own kind. The books helped – written by our ancestors, they were at least human words, but they were a poor distraction. I hadn’t heard my name mentioned in years, although it became apparent that the Scru’vun thought my name was Galax, because it seemed to say the word whenever it was doing something with my room, or bringing me my food.

It was another couple of years before the Scru’vun brought home more humans. Women! I pounded the glass and waved frantically, trying to get their attention, and was rewarded with a tentative wave back. Yes! I had company! Sort of.

It was short-lived.

The Scru’vun fixed a curtain to the side of the room that faced the women’s enclosure.

A few months later, the alien brought another room into the cavern. This one was decorated in deep red. I was curious as I watched the Scru’vun place a hot tub, double bed and table with two chairs inside it.

Then, it plucked me from my room and placed me inside the new one. Music was pumped through the oxygen filter, and a sumptuous three course meal was laid out on the table. Oh no! Please don’t say. . .

One of the women I’d first seen on that day the Scru’vun brought them home, was lowered into the room.

Oh dear God! I felt sick. The alien expected us to breed! The woman looked around, then met my eyes.

“What’s. . . Going on? Ooh! Food!” Her eyes lit up.

I let her eat and sat down on the chair. Suddenly, I didn’t have an appetite. She swallowed and stared at me.

“You having that?

I shook my head.

She helped herself to my steak replica. “Can you. . . Talk?

I frowned. “Of course,” I croaked. My voice was rusty with lack of use. I cleared my throat. “Of course,” I repeated. “You do know why we’re here. . . Don’t you?

“Who cares? I’ve never seen so much food!

“What’s your name?

“Edith. Yours?

“Angel.

Edith cut through the steak and chewed. “Nice name.

I raised an eyebrow. “Thanks. So is yours. How do you feel about having kids?

Her eyes widened. “I’d love to!” She beamed.

“With me?

Now it was Edith’s eyebrows which knitted together. “Are you coming on to me?

I sighed. “No, but that’s why we’re in here. The Scru’vun expects us to. . . Err . . . reproduce.

Edith seemed horrified. “But I don’t know you! She looked around the room as though just seeing it for the first time.

There was nothing for me to say.

We didn’t have children, but we did strike up a friendship for the weeks we were together, and I like to think we fooled the Scru’vun. Eventually, we were separated, and returned to our respective rooms.

Months more passed, and eventually the Scru’vun realised that there wouldn’t be any human babies. I was put back into the breeding chamber, and a second woman joined me. This time, we hit it off and it wasn’t long before my partner suspected she was pregnant. It was difficult for me to rejoice. I would never know the child, just like I had never known my own father. The Scru’vuns seemed reluctant to keep families together. I didn’t understand why.

And so life entered another cycle. I was kept in isolation until my owner deemed it ready for me to have children with a woman of the alien’s choice. Sometimes, we obliged. Others, we didn’t. I tried not to get too attached to my partners, but the woman who waved back to me, who said her name was Adrienne, took my breath away. I fell in love with her and tried in vain to protect her when the Scru’vun took her away.

Back in my room, I fell into depression. The alien treated me for it, which just masked the pain. One day, it left us completely alone. Another Scru’vun entered and approached my room. It disconnected my oxygen filter, tipped my room and tossed me out. Again, I couldn’t breathe, but this time, my Scru’vun owner was not there to put me into another room. My chest burned for want of oxygen, my eyes streamed. I spluttered and choked as my heart began to race. I could see Adrienne pounding on the glass. The world turned black.

***

I spluttered and choked back to life. I opened my eyes to found myself back on my bed, with my Scru’vun’s huge eye staring at me.

I’m alive!

Then the depression returned. I was alive, but back in isolation.

Something had changed. The Scru’vun seemed agitated. Suddenly, it picked me up.

Oh no! Surely it knows I’m in no state to bree-

The Scru’vun lowered me into the women’s much larger room. A separate partition had been made in one corner.

“I think that’s for you. . . or us,” whispered Adrienne.

A smile spread on my face.

I wasn’t alone anymore.

NaNo Prep

As previously stated, from the 1st of November, I’m going to be taking part in my first ever NaNoWriMo challenge. I’ve discussed it in detail previously, but to recap, it’s a 50,000 word marathon throughout November. I’ll be reporting my progress on this blog.

The novel I’m going to be working on started out as a flash fiction piece about six months ago. It died the death, but going from feedback and hindsight, it was probably always suited to a larger fiction piece anyway. I’ve given it the title The Trans-Atlantic Monorail and will be a sequel to my works in progress.

This week, it’s all been about preparing for NaNo. I’ve completed a rudimentary blurb for The Trans-Atlantic Monorail, and started to get involved in the NaNoWriMo forums and site.

That’s all for now. See you next week.

Review: Tall Order, by Stephen Leather

I’ve been reading this book for a few weeks. The blurb says:

Revenge is a dish best served cold. But patience can be a tall order.

He is one of the world’s most ruthless terrorists, codenamed Saladin. He plans and executes devastating attacks and then, ghost-like, he disappears.

Ten years ago he blew a plane out of the sky above New York – and now he’s killed dozens in a London strike.

But one of the latest victims is related to the acting head of MI5, who knows exactly who she wants on the case: Spider Shepherd.

Dean Martin, a psychologically damaged former Navy SEAL, is the only person in the world who can identify Saladin. But Martin was killed ten years ago – wasn’t he?

Shepherd must find Martin and take him back to the killing fields on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Revenge on the world’s most wanted terrorist is long overdue, and Shepherd is determined to be the one to deliver it . . .

My opinion: I don’t associate this blurb with the book I’ve been reading.

Shepherd spends most of the book as a sleeper agent, behind a desk, checking CCTV images. It flits back and forth between the JFK terrorist attack, ten years in the past, and the “present day” attack. I don’t get the feeling that Ellis, the acting head of MI5, really chose Shepherd – just pretty much kept him occupied by giving her names, and then gets another friend to kill them, while keeping Shepherd in the dark about it.

Finding Martin? Not really. Ellis’ friend is given Martin’s name by someone who knew who and where he was. When a certain chapter starts, Shepherd is in Indonesia, on a boat, with this Martin, trying to convince him to come back and ID this Saladin.

I’m a member of Scribophile, and as far as the members of the site is concerned, backed up by a publisher, it shouldn’t be publishable – six words ending in -ing in the first paragragh alone. I was told that so many words ending in -ing annoys the reader to the point of them putting it down. They were ringing in my ears a bit, but not enough to make me put the book down. . . Might have something to do with the fact I was on a coach trip, though.

By the end of the book, the cliches creep in – two or three on the same page. Another one a page or two later. That made my eyes roll. Both were in dialogue, but even then, it felt like they were forced. At least to me.

This book is obviously one of a series, so while the protagonist, Shepherd, doesn’t feel like one to me, reading this book as a standalone, his personality and situation, will have been established, and it’s possible that my opinion would change if I’d read it in sequence.

My verdict; 3.5 out of 5.

Short Story

Old Mabel

Will stepped outside of The Willows Care Home and crossed the road to the Subway on the corner of the high street. After the morning he’d had, all he looked forward to was a steak and cheese foot-long in a hearty Italian sub. His mouth watered at the thought.

There were two people ahead of him, but Will didn’t mind that – it gave him time to fine-tune his order. The door opened, and two police officers scanned the queue. They stopped in front of Will.

“Can I have you name, please, sir?”

***

“Could you repeat your name, please – for the benefit of the tape?”

Will sat across from the inspector and her male colleague and searched the table of the interview room, as though the answer would appear in front of him. “Will Rooney – no relation.”

“Would you like to call a lawyer?”

The way this week’s going? I probably need one! “No, thank you.”

“Do you know a Mrs. Mabel White?”

Will stared. What had that old battle-axe done now? “She’s a resident at The Willows. I’m one of her carers. . . What’s this about?”

“She says you kicked her this morning.”

Will jumped to his feet, his chair scraping the linoleum. He leaned forwards on the desk. “Kicked her?! How could I kick her when I was the one pushing her wheelchair?”

The inspector looked nonplussed. “Then how do you explain this?” She withdrew a photograph of a large bruise on Mabel’s shin and turned it towards Will. “That was taken today.”

Will sank back to the chair. “I was behind her.” He studied the photo. A bruise that angry wouldn’t have appeared in the hour since Will had left Mabel in her rocking chair. And it certainly hadn’t been there then.

“Was anyone with you at the time?”

“Zoe Kennedy. She’s my colleague, who I’m working with today.” He looked the police officers in the eye as a thought struck him. “We have to work in pairs with Mrs White. She’s had about three other care staff arrested in the past six months.”

The police officers said nothing for a moment or two. Then, the inspector leaned towards the tape. “Interview terminated at. . .” she checked her watch. “Thirteen fifty.” She and her colleague stood and extended their hands to Will. “Thank you, Mr Rooney. That will be all. You’re free to go.”

***

Back in the Day Room of the Willows Care Home, Mabel White sighed as she allowed the rocking chair to come to a halt. Her scheme hadn’t worked this time. Oh well, there’s be other times. She clicked her fingers and her broken leg healed itself.