Friday 20 April 2012

Friday Flash - Collision

Darla stepped into the street, pulling the door closed behind her. The impact shook free flakes of red paint that drifted to the ground like bloody dandruff. She hugged her thin coat closer to her, but the evening chill sent freezing fingers exploring beneath the cheap fabric. Within moments, the damp air turned her groomed blonde bob into a pale cloud of fluff.

Darla glared at the puddles amid piles of dirty snow and thought of the long night ahead. All of the covered pitches on Seventh Street would be gone by now, snapped up by those girls who got there early enough to ply their trade below awnings or porches. No, Darla would spend the evening trying to look enticing while freezing on a street corner.

Not that anyone will be buying tonight, she thought.

She set off in the direction of Seventh Street, hoping that some of the Artisan Quarter's inhabitants might be seeking muses, if only for a night. They were always fun to be around.

Footsteps rang out in the street - sharp heels on concrete. Darla peered through the haze of steady drizzle, expecting to see another streetwalker heading her way. Perhaps she might see one of the elegant ladies of Carlington Square, slumming it in Barshton with a rough dockworker, their illicit 'bit on the side'. The other girls told her tales of these legendary predators, out at play while their husbands worked late, but Darla had never seen one. As far as she knew, no one had - they just knew the stories.

The street was empty in both directions, yet still the stillettoes approached, growing louder with every step. Darla paused, teeth digging into her plump red lip. The footsteps came towards her from Fifth Street.

And I need to go that way.

Darla considered stepping backwards into the doorway of the pawn shop, and waiting until the footsteps passed. Out in the darkness, a clock chimed the hour, the deep toll of the bell carrying all the way from the Cathedral District. Darla swore under her breath. She didn't have time to wait.

The heels were right beside her. Darla turned aside, expecting them to pass her, and continue down the street. Something collided with her, pushing her aside. She stumbled forwards, falling toward the doorway. She put out her hands to break her fall, and grabbed the rotting doorframe of the shop.

A sharp snort broke the silence, and the footsteps resumed their quick march into the darkness. Darla clung to the doorframe until only their echo remained.

"That was one of them," said a voice at her feet.

Darla looked down to see the head of a homeless man poke out from beneath a damp pile of newspapers in the doorway. He looked at her with bleary eyes.

"One of what?" asked Darla.

"The Ladies."

Darla stared down the street. Only steady rain and boarded up shops stretched away from her.

* * *

Mrs Nash took two steps backwards and put her arms out to keep her balance. She looked around to see what blocked her path, expecting to see an elderly blind woman, bent double from her years of toil. Perhaps she'd collided with one of the Barshton street sellers, screened from view by a veil of rain. She saw neither, only a homeless man asleep in a doorway.

She snorted. You'd never find a homeless man in Carlington Square, but then you couldn't expect much better from the sort of riff raff you'd encounter in Barshton. Only in Barshton would you find an entire street that sold nothing but women.

Speaking of riff raff, Mrs Nash set off down the street. According to Mrs Phillips, there was a particular bar on the next block, and it would no doubt be filled with any number of local ruffians. Mrs Phillips described a particular young man who enjoyed a taste of the finer things in life.

Mrs Nash allowed herself a smirk as she adjusted her pearl necklace and set off at a brisk walk, eager to make the acquaintance with the lowlifes of Barshton.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

[Book Review] The Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles Vol. II

Way back in December I posted my review of The Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles, a collection of seven short stories set in the old West. Given how much I enjoyed the first collection, it was hardly surprising that I would also buy the second collection, entitled simply The Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles Vol. II.

Edward Grainger starts proceedings with The Origins of White Deer, the longest piece in the book, which explains the origins of our adopted Arapaho hero, Cash Laramie. Written in a somewhat different style from the other stories, it contrasts Laramie's background among the tribe wonderfully and adds a new dimension of depth to the tough lawman. It would be all-too-easy for Laramie to descend into parody, or preachiness, but this particular story gives a new backdrop to his brand of outpost law.

The other six stories in the collection are just as riveting, pitting Laramie against the harsh realities of life in nineteenth century Cheyenne. Prejudice and race relations again are rife in these adventures, particularly where Laramie's partner, Gideon Miles are concerned. Miles in particular is a favoured character of mine, and his gentle humour contrasts nicely with Laramie's flinty outlook.

There is something incredibly cinematic about these tales, and Grainger doesn't feel the need to throw page after page of lush description at his reader in order for them to see what Laramie sees, and hear the world around him. This is the old West through a wide angle lens, somehow both epic in scope, yet deeply personal at the same time. That's no mean feat to pull off, but just goes to show what a talented writer Grainger is.

Writing Westerns myself might leave me open to accusations of being biased towards Grainger's work (although you'd never level the same accusation at a horror writer reviewing a Stephen King book) but I really think that Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles are the perfect pair to bring Westerns back from the brink, and re-establish them as modern myths based on an all-too-real period of history.

Five blunt pencils out of five!

Available from Amazon US for $1.23 or Amazon UK for 77p!

Monday 16 April 2012

Photo Prompt 81

New prompt available!

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 81st prompt is Broken Road.

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!

Sunday 15 April 2012

Writing with Evernote

Ask any writer what they use to write and you'll probably get as many answers as you do writers. Scrivener, yWriter, notebook and pen, napkin and pen, chalkboard, typewriter, Write or Die, Word...there are a dizzying array of programs or implements available to any writer, and it's usually pretty much a case of trial and error to find out what works for you. For example, I often write story outlines by hand in a notebook, and then write out a loose skeleton in Notepad on my laptop, which is fleshed out into a story in Word. I'm also experimenting with Scrivener's trial version for my next project to see if that's any better/different. So far I like it, but that's another post for another time.

But if you asked me how I wrote my most recent Friday Flash, a horror monologue entitled Regular Guy, I'd tell you very simply that I used Evernote. I've mentioned Evernote in passing before, but if you've never used it, it's an app that allows you to record notes etc. in separate notebooks according to their contents. I have it on my phone and my laptop, so if I'm lying in bed and get a story idea, I can type it into a new note in the Fiction notebook I've set up. When I'm next on my laptop, I open Evernote, it syncs with my account, and the story idea note that I saved is accessible from my laptop. I copy and paste the content into Word and away I go.

I use Evernote for all sorts. I've got a notebook containing ideas and half-written blog posts, another for fiction ideas, another for book ideas (that's also where I work through the ideas for works in progress), and I've got another one for things that occur to me related to my PhD (you'd be amazed how often random things pop into my head at the most inopportune moments). I used to type memos into my phone but that entailed copy-pasting the contents and emailing them to myself. Evernote makes it so much easier.

What's more notable is the fact that I wrote the whole of Regular Guy in Evernote at about 2am while I was in bed. I didn't need to get up to switch on my laptop, by which point the idea might have become muddy, or evaporated altogether. I didn't have to fumble around in the dark for a notebook and a pen that actually works. Plus I type a lot faster than I write by hand, even on a smartphone, and it's a lot easier for me to get the idea down, ready to be polished properly next time I'm on the computer.

However you do it, once you find a method that works for you, then great. But how about you? What tools do you use to write?