Friday 22 July 2011

Friday Flash - Your Money or Your Life

I crouch in the bushes at the side of the road with only a dead body at my feet for company. I nudge the corpse with the toe of my stolen boots. It rolls into the ditch behind me, hitting the frost-frozen earth with a hollow thump. Good riddance, if you ask me.

The full moon gazes down at me, her open face full of reproach. I scowl at the judgemental satellite, and turn my attention back to the road. Horses hooves head this way. I count four horses - it must be a large coach. A large coach means wealthy occupants - perhaps even my foolish former master.

I straighten my frock coat and tricorn hat. The fool from whom I liberated the coat, a fool who incidentally now lies dead in a ditch, certainly knew how to dress well. Judging by the tooling on the pair of flintlock pistols I found stuffed in his belt, he did fairly well at this highwayman caper. Well, until he met me. What can I tell you? Even in my more humble situations, I have always been prey to the attractions of the finer things in life.

I leap out of the bushes. The driver shouts an oath and hauls on the reins of his team of four. I yank free one of the pistols and fire. The force of the shot knocks him from his seat. The horses rear, pawing the cold night hair with their lethal hooves. The coach grinds to a halt mere inches away from me. I saunter along the side of the coach and open the door.

A young lady cowers on the back seat. An older gentleman in a powdered wig and pristine breeches sits opposite. He splutters with indignation, and stinks of money. This night gets better and better. I draw the other  flintlock and draw patterns in the air with the muzzle. The lady watches it, hypnotised by the movements. Her chaperone ignores the pistol and glares at me.

"How dare you!"

"I believe the phrase for an occasion such as this would be 'Stand and deliver, your money or your life’," I reply.

"You utter fiend. You scoundrel!" replies the gentleman.

"Indeed I am both of these things. Yet I repeat, your money or your life?" I ask.

"Then you shall have to take my money, for you shall never take my life," says the gentleman.

I swing the pistol in his direction and fire. A terrific explosion fills the coach, shattering the peace of the night. When the smoke clears, I see the gentleman slumped back in his seat. His head lolls on his chest, a red flower blooming on the breast of his grey frock coat. What a waste of a good coat. The young lady sits and stares, her mouth hanging open as she tries to scream.

"And you, my lady?"

"Then I say you must take my life," she says. She sits up straight and looks me dead in the eye. I can see her logic, and I toss aside the pistol. It clatters on the stony road. She expects me to take her money now.

"Your life, you say?"

"Indeed, you vile rogue. My life!"

"If you insist."

I reach into the coach and pull her out into my arms before she can blink. I tip back my head, letting the moonlight glint on my extended fangs, before I sink them into her pretty neck. Having gorged myself on the highwayman out to stop this very coach, I don't drink much. I stumbled upon him by accident, but this delicate morsel was definitely on my agenda. She faints, and I sling her over my shoulder. I lope into the night, heading for my den.

I find highway robbery suits me very well, and I do believe I shall enjoy my midnight snack tonight.

* * *

The highwayman in the image that accompanies this flash is the dashing David Marshall, tour guide with Alone in the Dark Entertainment. They're about to start running a new ghost walk around Washington in the north east of England. The photo comes courtesy of them - the editing comes courtesy of me. David is also my other half!

Thursday 21 July 2011

How to work on your writing when not writing

I came across this post over on Duolit about how to turn your summer reading into summer inspiration, and a lot of it makes sense. Writers sometimes stress about not writing enough - we seem to forget that if we write with the kind of zealous enthusiasm that we think we should, then sooner or later we'll burn out. Contrary to popular belief, you can't write ALL the time. Of course, it's all too easy for the Guilt Demon to start pouring its poison in your ear if you decide to use your spare time to do something other than writing, so here are things I do to help my writing when I'm not actually writing.

Read books about writing
My absolute favourite is still Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell (which I reviewed over on Write Anything) but I'm happy to read most books about writing - I just choose to ignore or use the advice as I see fit. I subscribe to Writer's Digest, which I find both interesting and useful, and I'm currently reading Larry Brooks' Story Engineering. Whatever I'm reading, I make notes as I go, and I think about how I can apply this information to my WIP. I'm still in the planning stages for a brand new novel, and I've been doing a lot of the preparatory work using these kinds of books.

Read fiction
 It goes without saying that a writer must read. I hear people coming out with statements like "Oh I don't want to read other novels in case it affects my own work" or "I don't have time to read, I'm too busy writing." BOLLOCKS. Architects can't design buildings without looking at how other architects have approached similar briefs, and surgeons don't tend to operate on patients without keeping up to date with medical advances. You're a writer, not a hermit living in a hermetically sealed bubble. Besides, how will you know if your spectacular idea has ever been done before if you don't read? You'll never get to understand generic convention, or even the process of storytelling, if you don't read. I pretty much read whatever catches my attention, and I do so primarily to unwind, but I also like to know what other people are doing. Hey, I'm nosey.

Read non-fiction
I'd actually venture to say that I read far more non-fiction than fiction. It's not even necessarily for research purposes, although that's often a reason for picking up a particular book. Sometimes I'm just interested in a particular thing. As well as Story Engineering, I'm also reading The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics by physicist James Kakalios. I have no intention to write science fiction, I just find quantum theory fascinating. Anything that expands or enhances knowledge can only be a good thing - and it often goes that the spark of a story appears while reading non-fiction. It's a veritable treasure trove of ideas!

Watch films
I've sometimes read blogs about writing in which the blogger chastises would-be writers for watching films. Apparently, to them, the principles of filmmaking and the principles of writing are too far removed from one another. Cinema is "low art", considered to be tawdry mass entertainment, while writing is "high art", literature intended to elevate mankind. (These bloggers have clearly never read Stephanie Meyer) Well I thumb my nose at them because whether it's cinema or writing, it's all still storytelling. Sure, some of the conventions differ, but it's amazing how many principles can be applied to both. Of course, I am biased considering my track record in film studies academia, but it is true that I find it easier to absorb said principles if I'm watching them unfold. Plus it's a good excuse to watch a movie.

I've talked about this before, but I figured I'd mention it again. A lot of writing blogs advocate periods of "meditation" or "contemplation" - basically, sit/stand and think about your WIP while you're doing something else. So you can unravel plot tangles while doing the washing up, or consider characterisation conundrums when you're hoovering. I mull over my WIP while I'm knitting - there's something soothing about the rhythmic nature of the craft that helps me to understand my story in a clearer way. So I get to think about my writing AND I get to make something at the same time.

What about you? What else do you do when you're not writing?

Wednesday 20 July 2011

The Air of Resignation

I'll be honest with you, I'm not really accustomed to blogging about myself as a person - I'm far more comfortable blogging about my writing career, or my ghost hunting exploits. What I do, I feel, is far more interesting than who I am. However, there are occasionally events in life that prove momentous enough to share, and I think this is one of them.

"The best thing I've written all year is by far my resignation."

On Monday, I handed in my notice. As of 6pm on 12 August, I will no longer be an administrative serf in an office-based fiefdom. Technically, considering I have been paid for my writing, I can call myself a professional writer, but I doubt I will feel comfortable applying such a label to myself. Instead, I will make the migration back to my Northern homeland from this lonely and sprawling capital city, where I'll begin a PhD in Film Studies in October. I'll be an academic!

I haven't really talked about my PhD yet, and I'm disinclined to until work gets underway, but I can say that I'll be exploring the representation of haunted spaces in contemporary horror cinema. It's quite nice that it dovetails so well with my interest in paranormal fiction, as well as my work with paranormal investigators in the north east of England (more on that in September). I've wanted to do a PhD for some years now but it was only late last year that I finally decided to get the ball rolling. After all, you can only complain about your lot in life for so long before it becomes a good idea to do something to change it.

There are also other things on the cards - there are some exciting developments that I will discuss when the time comes, and I will continue to post weekly free flash stories. I have The Guns of Retribution coming out in paperback with Pulp Press in late September (which you can already pre-order here), and I've got another e-book coming out to coincide with its release - I'm expanding and revising my Dead Man's Hand trilogy that appeared on my blog earlier in the year. There is also an intention to have a Parrots and Piracy collection done by the end of the year. I've just finished editing my Fowlis Westerby novel, and there will, in all likelihood, be more Vertigo City stories.

Still, I stand poised on the edge of a major change, and for once, I'm not wondering if I'll be able to manage, or cope. I'm wondering when exactly I can get stuck in.

You have been listening to a transmission by Icy Sedgwick. Signing off until next time...

Tuesday 19 July 2011

New Vertigo City mini serial starts today

I've started my brand new mini serial over on my Vertigo City blog. The three part serial, The Prize, features Liss Hunt at the age of 16, along with a mysterious visitor to Vertigo. Part 1 is here.

If you want to catch up, you can still buy The First Tale for just 99c from Amazon and Smashwords, and there is a selection of Vertigo City flash stories over on the blog. You can even follow Liss Hunt on Twitter @LissHunt.


Monday 18 July 2011

Photo Prompt 42

Latest prompt, ready and waiting.

If you want to use the prompt, all I ask is that you include a link to this entry and a credit to me for the photograph, and that you post a link to your story in the comments box below so I can see what you've come up with! If you don't comment on this entry, then I can't comment on your story.

The 42ndt prompt is Mausoleum.


All photo prompts are my own photography - you can find more of it on Flickr. You can also buy my prints from Deviantart. 20% of all proceeds go to charity - the other 80% go towards my PhD fees!