New Release: Patient Zero

THE NEEDS OF THE MANY OUTWEIGH THE NEEDS OF THE FEW, UNTIL YOU FIND YOURSELF ONE OF THE FEW

Dale Pope is a soldier imprisoned in a medical research facility. He has been the unwilling subject of medical tests searching for a cure to the zombie virus. Circumstances conspire to enable him to escape and he finds himself in a protected village where survivors can live a relatively normal life. His skills make him useful but there are other things that he brings with him which are not so welcome.

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I choose the people

She’s afraid to tell me anything important, knowing I’ll only turn around and write about it. In my mind, I’m like a friendly junkman, building things from the little pieces of scrap I find here and there, but my family’s started to see things differently. Their personal lives are the so-called pieces of scrap I so casually pick up, and they’re sick of it. (David Sedaris – Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim)

I’ve just finished reading David Sedaris’ book Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim. It’s great, highly recommended. It has caused me to notice things around me more and a few things in particular have stood out as being worthy of a Sedaris style story. I was tempted. Tempted to write the thing as it happened, tempted to try dressing it up in funny outfits, changing the names and places to protect the innocent, but in the end I decided I couldn’t. This isn’t a judgement against anyone who does that style of writing; I enjoy reading it as much as anyone else and if your friends and family are cool with you putting it out into the world, then good for you and good for them. For all I know, the people in the story I was thinking about would have been fine with it too. I wouldn’t know, I didn’t ask them.

In the end, it wasn’t really about them and how they would feel about it. It was about me and how I would feel writing it. I wouldn’t feel comfortable, it’s all too messy and private and you know what? They’re my friends and I love them but I don’t want to get that close to them. I don’t want to see it. So I didn’t get a funny story out of it, but I did get this blog post and, in the end, isn’t that really all any of us want?

New Release: Visitors

TONY HAS A SECRET IN HIS BASEMENT

He thinks he has done a good job of keeping it hidden, but the two detectives at his front door, with a search warrant, suggests he’s wrong. He has no choice other than to show them around and hope he can convince them they’re mistaken. If they find the secret in his basement they will lock him up and throw away the key.

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The boy has no fear

Oscar ran off to play with his cousins without so much as glancing back at me. I could hear them screaming in the distance, but their voices were soon lost amongst the general din of other children laughing and shouting. Tamzin followed them over while I wheeled Jude’s buggy out of the way and then let him out to stretch his legs.

The first thing that caught his attention was, unsurprisingly, the numbers which had been painted on the floor beneath an arch which I guess was meant to do something (it had a button) but wasn’t working that afternoon. We hung around together there for a while, him laughing and gritting his teeth in complete wonderment that someone had gone to the effort of putting numbers there. Occasionally he wandered off, at one point trying to climb on the middle of the see-saw. Much to the bemusement of the little boy sitting there waiting for someone to play with him. Then he would find his way back to the numbers and the process would start all over again.

Then he saw the climbing frame.

It was a series of uneven walkways behind a metal grill. The lowest were only a few feet above the ground, the highest were about twenty-feet. It looked like a giant version of the kind of thing pet rodents would be given to play in.

Jude made his way over and I stopped him going in the first entrance because it was full of bigger children who didn’t have time to wait around for him and had no understanding of the fact that he wasn’t like them. They just pushed their way past and I didn’t want Jude getting hurt, so I moved him on.

At the second entrance, he was in before I could stop him. Climbing up the slope with surprising agility. I was terrified that he was going to topple backwards or something, so I followed him up.

Along the walkways there were holes which the children could use to go up and down the levels. Completely hidden unless you knew to look for them, and Jude did not. I could imagine him stepping into the hole, falling forwards and smashing his face on the walkway. Maybe he was aware of it, maybe he just thought the slope down was too steep to walk, but at the top he got onto his hands and knees and started going down.

I grabbed him, he tried to keep going. It got so he was lying on his front, pulling himself along the ground and the only thing I had hold of was his ankle. I was there trying to stop him falling into this hole, thinking that anyone looking at me must thought I was a terrible parent. Then all of a sudden Oscar’s kneeling beside me asking what I’m doing. I tell him, and he starts trying to help.

Then all three of us are in the climbing frame while children ran back and forth around us, probably thinking we were crazy.

Eventually I managed to get him out, without Oscar’s help. He wasn’t happy about it, but I carried him back over to the numbers and he soon got over it.

Propaganda

“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”

(Noam Chomsky)

“Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling?”

(Bertrand Russell)

 

Weighing scales

 

We went to STEAM (Museum of the Great Western Railway) on Saturday and I saw this machine on the platform. I’m not sure if it’s a reproduction of something that actually existed or not, but I didn’t expect it to work. It did. A really strange combination and not sure what to make of it:

A FULL SIZE
TABLET OF
NESTLE’S
MILK
CHOCOLATE
AND
YOUR WEIGHT

Tiny Protests

The art of holding on to money is all about saying no to consumer culture. Saying no to takeout, $4 lattes, and that shiny new computer when the old one still works.
Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist

It’s interesting to think that these small acts could be a rejection of consumer culture, of late capitalism, but they might be some of the most powerful. Not to mention that it would mean more money in your pocket. I haven’t been buying coffee at work for a few weeks now but I still need to get better at not buying takeaways and hopefully avoiding tech-news sites will mean I’m less inclined to throw money at new computers.

I’m trying to think of other things that will save money, but also will be a small protest against consumer culture. This list is incomplete:

  • Take lunch to work: as an added bonus it will probably be healthier than anything you can buy at the shop.
  • Buy second hand when possible: I can’t remember the last time I bought new clothes and I always check Music Magpie for second hand films and music before buying new.
  • Limit exposure to advertising: it is probably impossible to cut it out completely, but if you want to try then maybe pick up a pair of these glasses.
  • Repair rather than replace: rather than buying a new phone every couple of years, why not get the battery replaced and the screen fixed and move to a SIM only contract.
  • Socialise at home / other people’s houses: it’s a lot cheaper to buy in some beer and burgers than to spend the night in the pub.

I want to find more things to add to this list, but primarily I’m interested in the link between rejecting consumer culture for personal reasons and how, if enough people did, it would register as a serious protest. We are all voting with our feet on this issue.

Had some help this morning

I have started typing up the second draft of Visitors and this morning I got some help:

In case you’re wondering, this is his story:

Jude also had a go at typing and afterwards went into the kitchen and made his own keyboard:

They seem to both be getting up earlier at the moment so they are around when I write more often. It’s more difficult to work with them there but I kind of like it. As Austin Kleon said:

Every day is “take your kid to work” day around here. Sometimes that’s a burden, sometimes it’s bliss, but it’s always full of meaning.

I’m glad they want to spend time with me and, if it takes a bit longer to finish the stories, it’s worth it.

Rewriting is writing

Writing is rewriting

I’ve heard this a thousand times, I’m sure you have as well, but I never understood it until recently. Oh, on an intellectual level I understood what it meant alright, but in practice? Not so much.

I tried to write every day, but to me the only thing that counted as writing was the first draft, so that’s what I focused on. I wrote first draft content every day and the rewriting got crammed in around the edges. I never got much out of it and it felt like I was taking time away from “real” writing.

Part of that is because a lot of writers talk about a daily word count for writing. I never found a good way to measure words rewritten. I mean, what are you supposed to do? Count the words you start with? Count the words you remove? Count the words you fix the spelling of? It didn’t work for me until I started to look at time spent writing instead.

I’m well aware that this is an arbitrary distinction, but it’s one that has helped me a lot. I don’t have time to write in the morning and rewrite in the afternoon and it’s better if I work on one story at a time. Now that rewriting feels like writing, I don’t neglect it. I also don’t worry whether I will be able to start writing again if I take time away from working on first drafts.

My hope is that this leads to better stories. I already know it makes writing them more enjoyable and I never thought I would say that about rewriting.

Starting ‘Visitors’ Edit

I started work on the first edit of a new short story this morning. This is a pretty typical setup for me; I try to keep the work in an analogue medium for as long as possible. After I have read through and marked it up I will type it out on a computer (iPad, into Pages) and then print it off to go through and mark up again. Sometimes I think I’d like to try using a typewriter for that stage, but I would still have to type it into a computer at some stage anyway.

I’m working at the dining room table at the moment while we are waiting to start work on the spare bedroom, which will double as my office and laundry room. Hoping we will at least start that by the end of the year. I would love a space of my own already, but I haven’t had that for almost five years, so I’m used to working wherever I can find the space. I guess it will just be nice when I actually have a desk and a door to close.