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Writing – where I’m at!

It is about half way through the year so I thought I would do an update on where I am with writing, not that it is really interesting. It may seem like I am not releasing much other than the odd poem or piece of flash fiction, probably because that is true. However, despite my apparent lack of writing I am actually working harder than ever to get things ready. Yes work is hectic and yes I do have two small children but I have my phone at my side and a lot of the time it is in my hand so I can edit. This is really starting to annoy my wife who just wants to have a conversation with me! That and the fact I have recently got a Nintendo Switch and Call of the Wild means I am no more than an enigma at the moment!

Right, on to specifics. Firstly, if you did not know already, I have finished editing ‘A Close Shave with Destiny.’ It is now with my beta readers, I have three but they are not professional editors or beta readers for a living so are doing me a favour. They also have busy lives so feedback is coming in slowly. When they have read it and final changes made it will be published through CreateSpace and on Kindle.

The novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo, ‘The Fifth Coin,’ is at the editing stage. I am about two-thirds through my first pass and am pretty happy at the moment. My new plan is to finish the editing then send it to a few publishers. When I get the obligatory rejection letters I will go ahead and publish it myself.

I have an idea for a children’s novel too but at the moment I am using all my willpower not to start it. Too many of my projects are half done before I flit onto the next thing. I am determined to get some writing finished so am focusing on editing before moving on. That said I do have ideas for more flash fiction to be included in ‘The First Flash of Hope.’ I am holding off on those as well until my first pass of ‘The Fifth Coin’ is complete then I can do a flash fiction or two before going on to stage 2 of editing my novel.

So there you go, I am still writing and I am being productive. With summer holidays coming soon I may even become more productive (although I will be spending most of it with the kids!). Just hang in there, I will be releasing stuff soon enough, I promise.

Parenting (or I love you but please leave me alone for five minutes)

Two poems in one month! Well it is National Poetry Month. Whilst I planned to write ‘The Tale of the Vitae Plant‘ this one I did not, it sort of just popped into my head. As a teacher I have had a few weeks off with my Wife and kids. Whilst I love the time we spend together, having children can be draining. This poem came to me as a lot of different rhyming couplets and then I popped them all together. There was actually very little thought involved. It is kind of a snapshot of my life as a Dad. I hope it resonates with other parents and they do not feel so alone in their struggles. As usual you can read it below or go to wattpad and my collection ‘Bad Poetry You probably never want to read.‘ Enjoy….

Parenting (or I love you but please leave me alone for five minutes)

I know that you are my life
But sometimes you just cause me strife
Your questions really get me down
Why is the sky blue and the earth brown?
You are the apple of my eye
So why is it you must defy?
All the rules that I set
And no we are not there yet
The washing machine is going again
I think we’re on load number ten
I’m sure you’ve got more clothes than me
Your t-shirts number fifty-three
I thought I’d washed them all by now
But the laundry basket’s full somehow
How much TV do you want to view?
When I turn it off you look so blue
I have the theme tunes in my head
They go round and round when I’m in bed
Let’s go outside and play with sticks
Now put that down and stop those tricks
Just leave your sister alone
Hang on how did she get my phone?
Oh I see she started it
You both sap my energy bit by bit
I read this book the night before
It really is starting to bore
I read The Gruffalo a million times
Now I can remember all the lines
I keep reciting it in my head
If it’s not your music it’s that instead
To get you dressed takes a whole day
You just roll over and crawl away
We started getting ready at half past eight
It’s gone eleven and now we’re late
Why are you tantruming today?
Because in the cat litter I won’t let you play
Or eat that dirt off the floor
Or we have to leave we can’t play more
I remember when I had a book
In every cranny and in every nook
When I could read or watch TV
When I used to really be free
Now there is no space in this home
Because all your stuff is thrown
Across the floor and piled on the shelf
If I sold it all I’d have some wealth
Some you haven’t touched for a year
If I had my way it would be out on its ear
I was just going to throw that away
But with it you have started to play
How many toys do you really need?
You have horses in every colour and creed
Batman, Spider-Man, Thomas and Friends
This glut of stuff never ends
Then your relatives come around
And now there’s even more abound
Your Mum and me, we used to speak
Now we just nod when we greet
We look into each other’s eye
And wonder how we will survive
The romance really is quite dead
How do we get through so much bread?
Did you actually hear that rumbling?
It sounds as if your bottom’s grumbling
I am pretty sure we shouldn’t yet
Have farts louder than a jumbo jet
And when I try to have a wee
You suddenly appear just behind me
Can I have some space, however brief?
To do a poo or brush my teeth
I’ve got a cold I think I’ll drop
But you don’t care you just won’t stop
You just keep saying look at this
To jump a bit gives you so much bliss
I just want to have a rest
But my patience you must test
My shoulders are starting to ache
Just get off I need a break
I don’t really want to be a train
A boat, a horse or a climbing frame
How much snot can you produce?
We really must learn to reduce
The amount of tissues we are using
If only you would stop refusing
To let me wipe your button nose
It really just adds to my woes
I’m sure that fish cake was just mine
It really did look divine
Now it’s in your mouth of course
You’re eating it without remorse
You liked spaghetti the other day
We don’t eat shepherd’s pie that way
Oh look it’s now all down your top
This messiness has to stop
Can you sit on your chair properly?
You’ll hurt yourself and then it’s me
That has cuddle and comfort you
Oh you’re grumpy because you need a poo
Just get down, to the toilet run
Your tea will be here when you’re done
It took you ten minutes to get there
Now you’ve done it in your underwear!
I know when you don’t want more
Because you throw it on the floor
I’m just glad that we’ve got a pet
That’ll hoover up if I forget
And when I get five minutes free
I go and collect cold cups of tea
They seem to be dotted all around
In places they should not be found
In the bathroom, by the toaster
There’s even one behind the sofa
When you finally go to sleep
I tell myself I’ll have a treat
Because the days been a rollercoaster
I’ll just fall asleep on the sofa
It’s time to sleep not bounce on bed
But, “I love you,” you just said
Now I really want to cry
Your so sweet and you do really try
To be good and nice and wonderful
On my heartstrings you can pull
A cuddle, kiss and then goodnight
To lose you would give me a fright
I do this again every day
Because I love you more than I can say

National Poetry Month – a new poem

At last it is finished, my latest poem. It is a bit of an epic by my standards but then it is National Poetry Month. I tried something a little different with this poem, dispensing with rhyme to try to get a more old world feeling. I tried to get a rhythm going but that did not work, lines just seemed to shoot into my head so I put them down. When I came to editing I realised I quiet like that it focuses more on story than literary devices so left it how it was.

You can read The Tale of the Vitae Plant on wattpad in my collection entitled ‘Bad Poetry You probably never want to read‘ or take a gander below….

 

The Tale of the Vitae Plant

The King layeth upon his death bed
Skin pale as a ghost and pocked with marks of yellow and red
Though the last rites had been read, hope there still was
For in a far off land grew a plant
A plant so powerful it was told it could grant life to all
A crew were to be assembled, not of the nicest
But of the best, for a sinner may be more courageous
Than the most holiest of men
More builders than ever before were assigned
To build the most magnificent ship
A temple of oak stained to look like mahogany
Upon its prow sat the most beautiful mermaid
A sign of hope that was to bring luck on the seas
They would search the corners of the earth
To find the illustrious root
A tincture would be made and fed to the King
So his illness would, at last, be past
On the sunniest day of all they year
In the season of high summer
The rag tag crew, drilled till they were one
Set off on the fateful mission
The blue stretched to horizons unknown
A journey laid before, distance fixed
But timeframe chosen only by the waves
The creak and groan of wood knotted and gnarled
Weathered and beaten but standing true
Night become day and day become night
As not a soul didst enter their aura
But still they proceeded under rain and sun
One day the storm picked up worse than before
The sea a swell of dragons flapping violent wings
It threw the ship left then right, rocking more than a child’s horse
They went under deck or grabbed on to rigging
Anything that would save their mortal bodies
Like a bird set to flight one crew was tossed asunder
Landing in the water but making no dent on the waves
They shouted, they search but alas they could not see
Thankful they were, when the wind and waves died down
That only one was sunk like many a ship
But there was no time to think of this
Off course they had been driven
The maps and charts checked once more
A new direction set as sun descended and star appeared
A score and three they had been at sea
When yet new weather at once appeared
Through mists dense that none could see
Swirling and howling like horrible ghosts
Day and night one and the same
They journey through the impenetrable shield
Upon their exit, some four days hence
A cruel banner did descend upon them
Black as night with bones of X
Underneath a dead man’s face
Thus battle ensued of the fiercest nature
Smoke from cannon mimicked from whence they had come
And billowed high from treacherous fire
Though the ocean was full it could not get to the blaze
So bucket and basket transported their saviour
Poured, thrown and chucked a chain of buckets
Combated fire and saved the deck
Though the wood stood firm their assailants entered
Swinging from rope of twine and walking on plank of wood
Rapiers glinting showed off a deadly arsenal
But many more were hidden in the fog and smoke
With slash and thrust the swords tried to find purchase
Tried to rid our heroes of life given so freely
To plunder and steal what secrets this ship held
As the enemy deemed a life of villainy more rewarding than hard labour
But our lads and ladies didst not falter
They too had weapons a plenty
That of steel and wood and gunpowder
Blood did stain the well oiled deck
And many were taken to the kingdom in the sky
But alas, those deadly pirates could roam the seas no more
Cut down as they were in the vigour of their lives
Many of ours too did fall, never to stand again
But time for pity and to pay respect was not upon them now
The mission too important so such frivolities would have to wait
They continued henceforth till the sun position
Justified to them the location upon their maps
Their destination nearby must be
As black and white gulls swept the air
Diving, screeching, they follow the ship
In expectation of a feast, free loaders, unthankful
But alas their plans were foiled, no scrap tossed or morsel given
With renewed vigour our crew didst sail forth
The land glinted, found at last, a shining jewel
Moored in the bay they took to smaller vessel
Rowing ashore, toward the picturesque scene before them
Stepping foot first on pure white sand as the Sun’s rays beat down
They knew they should venture forth
But a moment in the sun is good for the soul
And thus they stopped there to rest weary heads and aching limbs
When sleep threatened to overtake them it was time to move
Up the bay and toward the lush foliage they marched
Into a small wood, large leaves and winding barks
That felt rough to the touch and had a strange tickle
One looked down to see a mini beast
Eight legs, large mandibles and a million eyes
Screams echoed, bouncing from bark to bark as more emerged
Crawling, scuttling, seeking flesh
The spiders bit deep, injecting venom
Swelling, puss filled sacks grew forth on arm and leg
Till man and woman alike did fall
And were consumed by a sea of legs
The rest did charge, dodging trunks, looking for any opening
They twisted, they turned in hope to find some secret exit
Through the dark maze finally found their way
They ran back into the sunshine and on to a glade
Hearts jumped at the welcome sight
A field of flowers aplenty, red and blue, purple and yellow
A kaleidoscope of fresh scent, a painter’s dream
But all too quickly the nightmare had taken over
Some incredulous beast didst taunt them with gross roars
Bounding into the peaceful meadow it cut them from their path
Its hulking mass, its thick brown fur, its piercing eyes
Did not waylay their vision from the yellowed fangs
Its breath was hot and tasted unpleasant such was its proximity
One of ours made a dash, fast of feet they flew
But alas their speed did fail them
And impaled they were on sharpened teeth
As flesh did rip and the beast did gorge
The others saw an open path
Best to save oneself than risk the entire mission
Take flight they did as the Bear distracted on his feast
And thus through all danger and treachery
All but two had been felled
Was this a price worth paying for one man’s life?
Though he be a King among men, a leader to all
From glade of beauty a wall of weeds
Thick and dense so no man should pass
They wondered east and they wondered west
Alas there was no way round
It was through the obstacle or turn back
They had lost too many to give in now
So, without knives, swords were drawn
Hack and slash, vegetation didst flow
No care given to homes of bird or rodent
Luck was with them this time as nothing worse
Than parrot or mouse hid away in the foliage
Whence at last they did find a way through
On golden path they did set foot
A dusky road to travel to such wonder
The path was steep and made calves burn
But ever onward they did trek
Pebble and stone tumbled down the slope
Collecting under the growth they had come from
Rejoice at last as small stone steps
Crudely fixed together with mud
Rose slightly to an opening, cut direct into the rock
There in nothing but darkness showed
As if a portal to yonder nightmare
But beyond the root they desired, grew steadily out of the sun
How such a plant without base needs
Could survive neither didst know
Unsure of what would appear inside
Their feet did falter and minds did create
A plethora of scenarios, each more horrific than before
Realising this was their destiny they could not let hearts rule heads
The chamber set deep in rock was to be
Their salvation or their tomb
But only way to know for sure was to cross that dreaded line
To step forth into the unknown
Once inside their fears allayed
As if they were players stepping onto a stage
For sunlight streamed in on well carved steps
Guiding the way with natural light
As dim a house appears when viewed through a window
But brightens by the presence of man
Their nostrils assaulted by the stench of decay
As they descended the crypt they didst see
The treasure they coveted that which they did adore
Around which sat bodies bereft of flesh and bereft of life
A contrasting juxtaposition against which the seed sprouted
A glow from whence they did not know
Bathed the plant in the most glorious light
And thus it shone like a beacon in the dark
Asking them to pluck it from this prison
So that once more it could see the day
One was cautious, stepping back, assessing what must be done
The other head strong, rushing in, ready to grab and run
He reached forth with grime cover hands
Eyes only on that which they sought
But as his fingers broke the light
And showed every crevice covered in dirt
Yet before he could touch their elusive prize
A terrible rumbling came from the earth below
Shaking the remains of those whom had stepped here before
As if they were byproducts when panning for gold
Appearing before them like some kind of apparition
Stood tall four fighters, thin and gaunt
Risen again, the bones of soldiers felled long ago
From the dust and cobwebs appeared
In each of their hands a rusty blade
Our heroes blocked and parried, sliced and thrust
Had these been normal enemies their dancing blades
Would have meet with skin, biting deep into flesh
But these were some sort of demons from the pits of hell
Where sword did hit bone and limbs were lost
The skeletons hit the floor, only to reform
They had lost their power and skill in death
But their endurance didst stretch on
And, alas, our heroes faltered
Strength and focus giving way to nought but wayward swings
They could have fled at any point
But loyalty stayed their feet and kept their hearts strong
Only so much stamina does a man have
And on thy enemies pitiful weapons they did surrender
Giving up on life’s true wonder
And more was their pain that no hand still touched the elusive root
Ere to this day they still do dwell
Though no flesh they have to speak of
But if one as bold didst want the plant
Then it be their folly that will rouse them
And of the King they still do speak
But not in tones of glory
History tells of his incurable illness
And an adventure to find a mythical root

Finished editing and a new Flash fiction piece

Well that took a long time! I am happy to say that the editing of ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ is finally done. It took time but I am happy it is over, now just looking for some beta readers then can get it out in the next few months. If anyone wants to be a beta reader then get in contact. I can only offer you a thanks in the final book, which will be released through Amazon via Create Space, and a signed copy. Be warned thought that given my lack of fame by signing the book I may actually be decreasing its value!
To celebrate, or rather get back into writing instead of editing, I have written another piece of flash fiction for my ‘The First Flash of Hope’ book. Not sure it is as good as the first but check it out and see what you think. It is called Bionic Hacker and you can read it on wattpad. Saying that, I did write a 2000 word short as well but I might try a magazine or competition with that one.
Short and sweet post but nothing more to say at the moment.

The First Flash of Hope on wattpad

first-flash-cover

The First Flash of Hope will let me write quick stories whilst I edit my two finished drafts

A few years ago I wrote a piece of flash fiction entitled ‘The Other Side of Mars.’ I found it enjoyable to create a quick story and really liked what I did, it even felt a little deep and political. I decided that rather than publish it myself I would send it off to a magazine. I only ever tried one, a free magazine that was circulated around Manchester. I never got a reply. There were free pdf versions of the magazine so I checked the next few and I was not in it. I then had a brain wave, why not write more flash fiction and released them in a book. I came up with some ideas and designed a cover. The book was to be called ‘The First Flash of Hope.’ However, this was at a time when I was creating so many ideas for stories and books that I could not keep up. I started writing a lot of different stories and barely finished any. I therefore scrapped a few projects to try to concentrate on one or two that I could get finished. ‘The First Flash of Hope’ was one thing I left. I now have two finished first drafts, one for a novel and one for a novella, which I am editing. I find it frustrating how long it is taking me to publish these and that I am using all my writing time to edit. I have decided, therefore, to release ‘The First Flash of Hope’ on wattpad. The idea is that if I need to write I can knock out a quick flash fiction and release it on there. The beauty of wattpad is that I can update as and when I like. As I never intended to charge for the book this is a brilliant solution. So there we have it, the first part of the book is ‘The Other Side of Mars’ and is up now. You can read it by going here if you like.

How I made my cover

This is a strange post for me, never have I done one that is so image rich but I want to share a small triumph in my writing. As a hobbyist writer I am pretty tight when it comes to spending money on marketing or editing, this also includes book covers. As an ICT and Computing teacher I utilise what technology I have as well as my knowledge of computers to knock up some pretty basic covers. At present it has been a few filters on a photo, logos designed in Adobe Flash and imported into Photoshop or getting other stock images and making them one solid colour. I spend the most time choosing my font. The covers do not look bad but they are not particularly professional. I decided, therefore, that for ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ I would take a different approach. I would attempt to draw a scene. The only problem being, I can’t draw! However, in my excited state I bounded down to town and headed to The Works (it’s a UK shop that sells books, art supplies and games that are ex-stock and so now cheap!) and bought myself an A3 pad with pencils and a book on how to draw. This then sat on a shelf for about three months. Having completed NaNoWriMo and gone back to ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ to edit it, I finally picked up a pencil. Below are step by step stages of how I did, I am not saying the writing is exciting so feel free to just look at the pretty pictures…

1Stage 1 – Basic shapes

I found out quickly that the art book I purchased did not actually give you many tips on drawing fantasy characters so I grabbed my phone and used the Internet instead. As my first proper drawing ever, I decided to take the three main characters and have them facing the reader, looking scared. Action scenes are a little too far for me at the moment. The story is set in a moustache so I wanted them standing above a depiction of one. I drew lines for the moustache and connected these up then used the characters head sizes to work out arm and body lengths. At this point things were going well!

 

2Stage 2 – Body outlines

The next stage was to get the general outlines for the bodies, I was quite impressed with how I did this, using lines to link up shapes. They were actually starting to look like humans! They did all have massive heads though so the rubber supplied with my art set came in very handy! Also I could not get the leg width correct but that did not bother me at present as I could change that later.

 

 

 

3Stage 3 – Faces

I cannot draw faces, as is clear from the image to the right! However, these are the best faces I have ever drawn. Again my wonderful drawing book was no help so I looked on the Internet and did a half copy, half reimagining job. I really like Wignut (the one in the middle) but the other two did not come out as well. I decided at this point that I was going for a rustic look so, despite a bit of editing, left them as they are. My wife thought the eyes on Wignut were the weakest but they are actually my favourite, along with his hair. I think it is because they look a little cartoony and that goes better with the ‘I can’t draw very well’ look.

 

4Stage 4 – Wignut’s clothes

Guess what?! Yep, that’s right, the book was absolutely no help with clothes! Again it was an Internet affair, looking at different images of drawn medieval clothes and cobbling something together. But I am happy with them, I particularly like the belt and the way I have made the clothes look a little like fabric by adding lines and making seams billow a little. There is not much detail but it gives the gist. My original plan had been to do basic outlines of the characters and use a fineliner pen to thicken the lines so it was more of a line drawing, but I liked Wignut’s look so decided to just go with the drawings at this point.

 

5Stage 5 – Svetta’s clothes

Svetta, if you have not work out by the fact she is the next one drawn in, is my female protagonist. I wanted her to look pretty but show she is a fighter and a quite good one at that. It was clear I could not draw pretty faces but maybe a nice outfit would make her character look better. Again it was on to the Internet to look at clothes. All the female medieval clothes were flowing dresses with lacey tie ups so I had to look at male warriors clothes and adapt them. Now I was not just looking at the characters outlines I could add some shading to my cover. That was in the art book but it had been so unhelpful up to this point I ignored it! If not as much as Wignut’s clothes, I do like the look of Svetta’s. She is clearly more than a pretty girl.

6Stage 6 – Barnabas’ clothes and moustache

I found Barnabas’ clothes the easiest to do, I had learnt from both Wignut and Svetta and as he is the hero’s aid I gave him basic clothes. I was worried how the pack on his back would look so tried not to do anything complicated and draw stitching or have it open with contents spewing forth. I think it works though. I also did the moustache as well, I was worried how to get the texture right but by not using a fineliner pen I could add strokes to it from the pencil I was using. I changed to a thicker pencil do to this. I don’t know why, it just felt right. I had picked a 3B for the rest, who knows why? Not me! Looking at the final picture I was quite happy, yeah the faces could be more detailed and the arms seem a bit long but I had managed to make the legs look better and there is the rustic charm I was after, or rather consolidated myself with. It is the best drawing I have ever done after all!

cover-blogStage 7 – PhotoShop

The final stage was the one I was most comfortable with, popping the image into PhotoShop. Firstly I scanned the image then working out what size my book would be and set up the relevant canvas on PhotoShop. Using the magic wand and rubber tools I removed the background as best I could. I did need to clone some areas where there were imperfections from the scanning process as well. After this I found a font I wanted. The most annoying thing about cover design is finding a font that is free for commercial use. I wanted something to go with the hand drawn theme and found Mr. B. It is a little more like pen strokes but I can live with that. A little placement and thinking about a tag line and the cover was taking shape. It is amazing how hard it is to create a tag line for a story about heroes setting out to gather snot from a nose as they live in a moustache. I decided to ignore that and go with the humour of the book instead. After this I tried solid colour backgrounds but none worked, I then went for a pattern which looked even worse. So onto the stock photo sites I went, looking for paper and found the one I have. Again it is free for commercial use. All in all I am pretty happy with it. It won’t win any awards but it looks professional enough, it not up to the standards of Penguin or HarperCollins publishing houses but it will do.

 

So there we have it, a quick run through of how I made my cover. I could go into more detail but it gets a little dull after a while. So now I need to finish editing the book, which could take a month or more, then create the spine and back cover. Hopefully it will be out some time in the next few months, I wouldn’t hold your breath though!

The Glasses Ninja

It is the first day of 2017 and my target of ‘just write something’ has been achieved already. If you have read my last post you will know that I wrote six poems in 2016 but there was a seventh to come. I left it as I was focusing on ‘The Fifth Coin’, my novel from Nanowrimo. Well I thought I would get 2017 off with a bang and left my novel for one day to write the poem I was going to last year. It came quite easily, which probably means it is terrible. It is an ode to my seven month old daughter, in a way, as it is about the fact she keeps taking my glasses of my head. You can read it on wattpad in my collection ‘Bad Poetry you probably never want to read’ or alternatively, if you can not be bothered to click another link (and who would really!), you can read it below. Enjoy…

 

The Glasses Ninja

She looks so sweet and innocent

A beaming light of virtuosity

But she is waiting, biding her time

One glance in the other direction

Then she strikes like lightning

The cutest assassin there has ever been

It is like being mugged by a teddy bear

She starts with the rims

Sticky fingers on polished glass

“No, no, no,” she hears

Ignorance is bliss

Although she understands

She uses this to her advantage

But I am wise to her attacks

As I stare through misty lenses

She tries again, for the face, for the eyes

But I move as if I am in the matrix

Bending my head away from every grapple

I read her thoughts, react to her actions

Yet she is wise, wise beyond her years

I feel the deftest touch behind my ear

Is it a fly or just a brush of the wind?

They are gone again, my vision blurred

I search for what has taken them

Despite knowing who the culprit is

It is her, the Glasses Ninja

As I try to free them from the vise like grip

My cries once more fall on deaf ears

I tell myself I will be quicker next time

I will foil her plans

But alas, they are returned for but a few seconds

She has them again

Grasping faster than a bullet

More rapid than a speeding car

And so the cycle continues

Release from her grip

Clean off the smudges

Place on my face

Gone again