Updated: Sep 30, 2019
‘The overalls were two sizes too big, but at least the colour was flattering. Goo pulled the belt as tight as she could and forced a brand new hole through the leather with the buckle. Deflated car mechanic… This could be a new look. There wasn’t anything for her feet. She sat down, and that was when the tears came. Her strappy shoes were back in the diner, probably still under the ocean of Jackie’s sick. She’d never really liked them anyway.’
The original plan was to put up a new blog every Thursday but I’ve been pretty shit at that. I’ve been kind of hiding behind the “I will not put up stuff just for the sake of it – it’s got to be good” ethos, but I think we all know that’s a convenient excuse to avoid any kind of deadline. I’ve come to realise that it’s good to get it all out and then pick the good stuff. It’s quite refreshing. I’m one of those writers that goes over and over what I write, I edit far too much and also edit too early, but lately I’ve started being much more gung-ho about it.
Thanks to an unfortunate iPhone-washing machine incident I recently got a new phone that has much more storage that an ant’s trouser pocket (8 gig doesn’t cut it, Apple, especially with your mysterious ‘other’ files that clog up everything) so I’ve once again been able to be footloose and fancy free with some apps. The best one so far has been ‘The Most Dangerous Writing App’ , which works like so: You set a time, such as 2 minutes, 5 minutes etc. and then you start writing. If you stop typing for more than 5 seconds it bails out and you lose everything you’ve just written, forever. If you make it long enough it saves your work. The results so far have been nuts. Here’s my first saved story, ‘Man Gas’, which apart from a few corrected predictive text errors is exactly the way it was written:
She could smell gas even before she opened the door. Man gas. What is going on, she said. This place stinks so hard. It's like some kind of animal came in here, shat on another animal and that made it crap itself.
Okay mum, settle down... Its not the end of the world.
Not the end of the world? Typical. When I come back here you'd better have it in some kind of order. At least open a window for heaven's sake.
Jack returned to his Xbox controller. Such a way with words. She should be a poet. An insult poet. Did such a job exist? Did people sit and work these things out like stand up comedians? Or maybe some folk, like his dear mother, simply had The Gift. Please welcome to the stage, grandmaster insulter Helen McGovern! Wow, and her opponent will be The Great Arse Tearer: King of the after dinner roast and flying dropkick.
Probably better tidy, he thought, or The Great Arse Tearer might end up being called in here. Frankly, life was hard enough as it was.
Yeah yeah, the end. Ys
It’s all to encourage flow and suppress your ‘inner editor’. I try and do a new one each day. Here’s a few others:
The pen hadn't been worth stealing but there it was with the others, the latest member of the collection. Argos. There were four of them. IKEA pencils were the best. There was just something about the way they felt in the hand, forever sharp and destined never to be placed in a sharpener.
It was truly impossible to leave Argos without stealing a pen. How much of their yearly store budgets absorbed pen replacement? It must be in the thousands, the hundreds of thousands.
At least this way they could live on in my special collection, placed in its own divider in the case that I bought especially and proudly displayed in my study. Others throw them in the bin... Kicked around in coat pockets and in car compartments. Ultimately a nuisance when removed from where they're meant to be but not mine. The pride of my collection is this one, the pen on a chain from Bank of Scotland in Anniesland. I liberated it one afternoon when the chain inadvertently became loose... All it took was a firm tug when the teller had his back turned. You are free, little one, you can live on with the others.
My thoughts turned to more expensive writing implements, Parkers and fountain pens imprisoned behind glass cases in WH Smith and Paperchase... Longing to see the world. People would buy them, yes, as gifts maybe. But would they ever be free? Would they fall out of a back pocket? Be borrowed by a stranger and never returned? Or used to death until their insides were hollow and empty? Something had to be done. All those boxes of cramped pens in the Staples superstore crushed in there, fifty to a box,row after row after row. They must be liberated.
They must. They must. They must.
She stood out from the crowd because she was dead. It was most unfortunate and a complete accident but there she stood again, skin all blue and deceased. He mother was a witch and it was commonplace for her to raise her kids back from the dead, but there would always be something missing. They would come back complete (or at least in the 98 percent to 100 bracket), but she was always losing something. If she was lucky it would be something insignificant like a hair or an eyelash, but today it was a finger. The index finger too, most inconvenient.
That was the problem with magic: for it to work you had to give something in exchange. The bigger the spell, the bigger the danger.
Jake didn't like him at all. There was something about him, the way he carried himself. Cocksure? Arrogant? Not really. He had something going on with his hair. It looked messy but the kind of messy that must've taken at least an hour to do in front of the mirror. It didn't move, not even in the wind. That was disconcerting. The way he spoke too. It was like he was always the smartest person in the room. Like that annoying magician in that annoying film about annoying magicians.
Was this guy annoying? Not outwardly. Not in the traditional sense. It was hard to place where his annoyingness originated from. Stealth annoyance, that was his trick. The little things. The way he would do a little snort at the start of a sentence after someone said something... That tiny noise, almost imperceptible, that said ‘yeah right, whatever man.’
There was more. He never looked you in the eye, either looking every other way or under your chin often enough to think, ‘shit, have I got some crumbs or a stain down there?’ You could tell he wanted Hann. You could just tell. All that, 'oh you look nice tonight' crap. Sliding his way in. Planting little compliments that could be built on later. He thinks he’s being so subtle. Thing is, he is. Charming, understated. He could pick up from his foundation once Jake was thrown out of the picture. She laughs it off of course like it’s nothing, and it is nothing. Just like it was nothing last time.
So far I’ve only lost one because I set it to 8 minutes and there was an unfortunate moment where I hit the home button by accident. That one was about a guy that caused city blackouts because it gave him peace inside. I might try that one again. It’s all been a great exercise. I can feel it seeping into my writing style.
There have been a few things I’ve been working on in the background, including a short story called ‘Fiorr & Dente’ which I quite like (a stab at writing a myth – to be posted next week) and I spent a lot of time learning to use Twine, a web-page based interactive literature program. I used it to create a card game called ULTIMATE WARFARE! set in deep space where a number of corporations and alien races are in the midst of a gold rush for a sacred element called 'Uta Raga'. There's three card decks that are unlocked as you proceed through the game. You can download for free by clicking the logo below. It should work in Chrome, Firefox and Safari. If it doesn’t, well that’s a shame.
If you’ve never heard of Twine it allows writers to create game books very much like the Steve Jackson/Ian Livingston Fighting Fantasy books of old. Anyone older than 35 should remember these… I actually wrote one a while back called ‘The Eye of Rosa’ which I will port into Twine for you all soon. Be warned though, for a dungeon adventure it’s very politically incorrect and Barry Manilow is in it. The thought of creating more interactive fiction is highly appealing. I never watched Bandersnatch (the infamous ‘Black Mirror’ episode) but I really should. The trouble is Black Mirror is terrifying. Every time I pluck up the courage to watch it again it punches me in the face, which is amazing but it makes the prospect of each new episode exponentially daunting. I can’t be alone in this.
The excerpt at the top of the page is from my current writing thing ‘The Politics Of Dogs’. It’s the tale of a Glasgow girl trapped on a mysterious Scottish island where a lot of bizarre shit goes down. I’m aiming for The Odyssey meets The Prisoner meets The Island Of Dr. Moreau. It began as an assignment for a writing class and had legs so I stuck with it. Boxhead has been put on hold for a while as ‘Dogs has more appeal for me at the moment, but I’ll return to it. I tend to do that. Things take my fancy and I work on them non-stop for a while then I do something else, then I go back to things and it all goes round again. It keeps things fresh, but it means I have a lot of half-finished stories.
The photo above was taken by my friend Mark Anderson (aka The Count Von Click) and is of The Quiraing on the isle of Skye. His recent photos of Scotland gave me ideas. They’ve been quite an inspiration for The Politics Of Dogs. If you’re an Instagrammer you can follow him at marktakesphotos.
Lastly Mycelia Issue 002 featuring my short story 'Golden Lights' (about fast food and debatable performance art) is still available from the Hedera Felix website, plus the outlets below:
Category Is, Glasgow Good Press Gallery, Glasgow Aye-Aye Books, CCA, Glasgow Whitechapel Gallery Bookshop, London Serpentine Gallery Bookshop, London Book Art Bookshop, London Golden Hare Books, Edinburgh
The hashtag area
Reading: 'On Writing' - Stephen King
Listening to: A scratched Vangelis LP
Watching: The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, 24, The Boys, Inkmaster