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.

New Release: Beaches

The past is the present is the past

Jacob survived the virus that wiped out most of humanity, but he can’t leave the past where it belongs. Tormented by nightmares, the only option seems to be returning to the source of it all and facing up to what he has done. But the past is complicated and he soon realises that putting it behind him won’t be as straight forward as he thought. If he can’t come to terms with what he has done and what he must do, his sanity and the lives of the people he loves may be forfeit.

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The Dark Tower Extended Read: Introduction

The first “grown-up” book I can remember reading was Stephen King’s The Stand. It was the extended edition, but, even so, I managed to read the whole thing over a weekend. I was captivated and drawn into the world of Stephen King. Over the next few years I read pretty much everything he had written in a haphazard manner based on which stories appealed to me at the time, culminating, eventually, in my first reading of The Dark Tower series.

Since then I’ve been keeping up with his new releases and occasionally dipping into the back catalogue. I attempted another reading of The Dark Tower a few years ago, but found it hard going, despite having enjoyed it the first time around. My assumption is that it’s because I’d grown unfamiliar with the world of Stephen King and because the more recent releases have very little connection with the Tower.

So I’ve decided to do an extended reading of the Tower books, as well as those most closely related to it. I’ve tried to find good recomendations for which books to include and the order to read them in, but nothing has really satisfied me. In the end, I decided to come up with my own order (which I will add below) based on the books recomended by the official Stephen King website, and a few others which I will elaborate on in a moment. The order is simply the chronological order they were released in, with two exceptions: the short story The Little Sisters of Eluria, which is set before the first Dark Tower book and is easy enough to extract and read before the rest of the books, and the eighth main Tower book, which is set between the fourth and fifth books in the series.

One benefit of having read through the series once already is that I know certain things are going to be relevant. That is why you will see a few books below which weren’t even written by King. The first is Shardik (by Richard Adams) which is relevant to The Wastelands. The other is the Harry Potter series which is relevant to Wolves of the Calla. I know there are a lot of other non-King books which are important to the series, and I may add some of those later on, but I needed somewhere to start.

It’s probably worth asking WHY I’m doing this. It’s a total of 35 books and will take me a year plus to get through (because I’m going to read other things as well, I couldn’t manage to read nothing but Stephen King for the next twelve months). Partly I’m doing it because I love the books that are in the reading list and I want to read them again anyway, and partly because I want to be able to enjoy the Tower books again. And partly it’s because I like a challenge and this is a good one to get my teeth into.

My plan is to write something about each of the books as I finish reading them, maybe something about how they relate to the Tower, maybe other things that I’ve noticed. I have already finished ‘Salem’s Lot, so I should have a post up about that soon, and I’m about halfway through The Shining. I’m looking forward to getting back into the world of the Tower.

The Reading Order:

1. ‘salem’s Lot
2. The Shining
3. The Stand
4. The Little Sisters of Eluria
5. The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger
6. Pet Sematary
7. The Talisman
8. The Mist
9. It
10. The Eyes of the Dragon
11. The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three
12. Shardik
13. The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands
14. Needful Things
15. Insomnia
16. Rose Madder
17. Desperation
18. The Regulators
19. The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass
20. The Dark Tower: The Wind Through The Keyhole
21. Bag of Bones
22. Hearts in Atlantis
23. Dreamcatcher
24. Black House
25. From a Buick 8
26. Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone
27. Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets
28. Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban
29. Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire
30. Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix
31. Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince
32. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows
33. The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla
34. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah
35. The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower