Life on Mars

I am already thinking ahead to what happens after End of the Fear. Some people might suggest finishing summat before starting summat else, but I am not them. My mind, on any given day, has the capacity to generate all manner of new and potentially interesting content. The problem, to this point, has been how all of that is filtered and then disseminated. Not any more.

June’s a bit of a line in the sand: a couple of major publications begin their Awards cycles, whilst others come to an end. I expect a lot of poetic material to become effectively recyclable at that point: first dribs and drabs are beginning to arrive. Some work is already written specifically for entry, what needs to take place once poetry project’s done is a sensible, organised re-arrangement of everything that I have, and where it could be relevant.

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Planning ahead has granted vital wriggle room for the longer-form works, and I fully intend to finally put time aside to make at least one novel-length work worthy of submission. I’ve made a choice, and based on my development in literary skills, hope it is possible to create summat that’s saleable but still retains the essential essence of what I am. That’s the biggest issue I’ve had since this all began.

I appreciate that my ‘voice’ still needs a phenomenal amount of work: the poem I won a contest with back in December was, in essence, an ‘ape’ of an original work. My ability to parody has always been pretty solid, but I’m as yet to find success with my own voice. It’s not really existed until now, if truth be told. Sure, the stuff that has come before has a resonance in me, but freeing mind via counselling really is altering both pitch and tone.

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However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say how much fun it is learning new stuff pretty much every day, that my mind is a completely different place than it was at the start of the year. That’s never going to rewarded by a magazine, or acknowledged with a cash prize. I get to keep all the credit, and long may that feeling continue. These are days of miracles and wonder, and I am loving every single one.

Come Together

I am running behind this week, or at least that was the case until today. Thanks to my subconscious, which has provided some quite memorable moments during the last few days, I have a completely formed romantic comedy in my head. It’s a really pleasant change from the normal fare of poetry and responsibility, and tells me that maybe, possibly, the brain is adapting to my change in mental circumstances.

There is always a small, inherent fear that when taking on a large scale project you’ll simply not possess the mental fortitude to complete it. Once upon a time that was most definitely true: this morning I went back five years and deleted the remains of the last project I’d tried to complete on this kind of scale and failed. The mental fallout from that project still haunts me on bad days.

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I managed to gain a stalker as a result of that series of events, someone who refused to leave me alone and went to increasingly frightening ends to make his displeasure of me obvious and very public. Once upon a time I thought it was useful to keep those memories and moments in my thoughts, reminder of what happens when you fail. Except, now I understand this does nothing but damage current ability to be creative.

Slowly but surely, ghosts from my past are being exorcised. It’s neither pleasant or pain free, but what is becoming apparent from the process is exactly how resilient I am capable of being, and that the work being produced is good, really good. Everything changed when it stopped being about keeping other people happy, and the realisation dawned that doing stuff for myself mattered far, far more.

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The slow, steady path to self-sufficiency and enlightenment continues apace. It’s not just poetry this week, but short stories and microfiction. Every new thing I try shifts things in a different direction, gradually expanding my skills. Confidence breeds more experimentation, less fear and a continuing desire to try more things, attempt better projects, produce the best work I can.

I’m never, ever going back to being the person I used to be.

April Short Story: Altered

This story was first serialised in 30 daily parts during April 2019 via the @AlternativeChat and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 4pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.



This is why airports have chapels.

Outside is chaos and noise, fire blazing thanks to aviation fuel. Only faint smell pervades, behind large oak double doors. Sitting under God’s benevolent gaze, Virgin Mary’s statue, no evil will flourish. Terrorism cannot exist alongside love. Such acts of mindless violence will be explained away as aberrations. The aircraft should have exploded on runway Two-Niner exactly twenty-three minutes ago. She should have died with the bomb. Instead, at last minute, Noomi called the police, begged them to immediately evacuate.

Exactly when explosives that had been carried in her luggage were due to detonate, no-one was even close to the aircraft. Everyone was in buses, being driven away, as bomb disposal teams considered their opening moves: damage to property alone, airport travel disruption complete. Perhaps she should be running away now, escaping her moment created, but by doing so guilt will not shift. Leaving it here, in a Christian God’s forgiving house, seems more sensible. At least for a time she will be at peace. Then, she’ll leave by the badly damaged emergency exit.

This is why they should never have picked a coward.



WPC Griffiths has no idea what she is supposed to do.

She’d seen the woman at the payphone, caught snatch of conversation, watched her run. Only as blast wave hit had it all made sense. She was warning them about the bomb. Her training had kicked in: look for the signs. Unusual, suspicious behaviour. When she’d first spotted this teenager, the first thought was trafficking: maybe she was trying to run away. Something was wrong here: Griffiths immediately compelled to shadow her panicked movements.

It took a while to grasp what she’d heard on the phone, too: Arabic, as her grandfather spoke when Griffiths’ family arrived in the UK. Words fractured, context garbled: she hadn’t been telling someone to get away from her. She’d been urging them to get away from something else. Then, as girl almost ran into the Airport Chapel, the entire Terminal had shuddered. Windows shattered, people literally blown off their feet. Time had stood still, until Griffiths turned, looking out of the remaining, intact windows. Across the runway, a lone plane was burning.

Not just a small, engine fire, but an entire aircraft, savagely consumed in a massive fireball that threw flames into the bright, blue morning sky. A 747 laden with fuel, but abandoned, emergency chutes deployed. Nobody there outside, or in. She had warned them all, get away NOW. Griffiths was afraid: had she allowed a player to slip through justice’s hands… but no, the girl’s there, praying perhaps for intervention. Does it matter her God doesn’t belong here, their religion is seen as the enemy of so many? It is time to find out, hoping she is unarmed.

As she approaches the woman stands, but doesn’t bolt. Instead, her demeanour changes.


Noomi should be running, looking at this female policewoman staring, but not threatening. She is armed, that weapon is not yet drawn: does she know what her part in these events has become?

Her English is minimal at best: trying to work out how to start a conversation, it’s a surprise when policewoman addresses her in Arabic:

“I heard your phone conversation. Did they threaten you to carry the bomb?”

Noomi thinks of her mother, hostage for over a year, and cries.


Griffiths wonders how things might have played out if her colleagues had found this girl: would they have threatened her with guns first? Perhaps she would have run, and they might have opened fire when she did. These consequences do not bear thinking about, so she won’t bother. She was assigned to the Terminal for precisely this reason: spy in plain sight, listening into conversations, looking between the cracks where people’s true personalities and motivations might lie. Griffiths’ worth had finally been highlighted, in the most serious of situations.

It is therefore a surprise when young girl holds out both hands, waiting for handcuffs. She knows there is nowhere else to run; perhaps this is an understanding that by surrendering to someone who grasps her plight, there might be chance to explain why all those lives were saved. The WPC has nothing formally to arrest her on, however: all that was heard was part of a conversation. She takes the girl’s hand, motioning for both to sit on the front pew. Time is of the essence: how much can now be learnt concerning both motives and whereabouts of the bombers?

This initial call to Dispatch will be vital: what she reports, who is asked for, what happens next. Before all that, she needs this girl’s name and address, who sent her here and what or who might be being used under duress to push an obvious innocent to give life as a detonator.

As it transpires, this young girl is surprisingly willing to talk.


Noomi is happy to tell the policewoman everything that is asked for, without fear or concern. Nobody will hurt her as much as those who imprison and torture her mother. It is high time to mete out vengeance. When other officers finally arrive, neither are in uniform: both are women. They don’t handcuff her, are not cruel. The WPC travels in the back of the van with her but it is not to a police station, first of countless surprises Noomi was not expecting for such an open rebellion.

Sitting in a white, anonymous room in what is most definitely not a police station, the first man she meets asks for an explanation why the phone call was made from the airport. He does so in Arabic without threat or menace. Under normal circumstances she should ask for a lawyer. These are not normal circumstances however: Noomi knows it is time to use her intelligence, what is known as leverage. She asks what the WPC has already divulged, politely requesting a chance her mother and sisters can be spared wrath of lawmakers in exchange for information…

The man smiles, first time since entering the room, moves from standing to sitting. She is, albeit briefly, a powerful force: the control it provides is galvanising, briefly brilliant. There is a deal to be brokered, possibilities indeed.

These people understand what she offers.


Aisha Griffiths has an unimpeded view of the police station as convoy comes around corner and into full view. Inside are three men responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths, masterminds of a massive and frightening trail of terror across three continents, now in custody. It has been an incredible three months, all told. One young woman’s strength and determination, growing up in a world of terror and idolatry had turned everything on its head, exposed hypocrisy. Noomi considered herself a coward, not worthy. Nothing was further from the truth.

Without her she’d still be on foot patrol in the airport, considered of minor importance. Instead now, she’s in training to become something far more significant and vital. Today is her last day in London, before being sent to Scotland where preparation for the future commences. Their convoy is heavily guarded, surrounded by outriders. Armed guards stand outside the police station entrance, incongruous against red Victorian brickwork. All of this doesn’t seem nearly enough when placed alongside atrocities this trio of brothers had wrought over a decade.

No-one had assumed a sister would turn against them. Family was intractable, loyalty until the very end. These men might be accomplished soldiers and terrorists but their weaknesses were easily exposed. They had failed to grasp the importance of love and devotion for other means. Griffiths trains sniper rifle’s sight on the area close to the police station’s car park entrance, as vehicles slowly rumble into the courtyard. Her shooting skills had been instrumental in MI5 approaching her: she was wasted in a uniform. There were better use for her abilities.

It will be great to see Noomi again too Aisha thinks, an opportunity to talk and catch up on what had happened since she’d seen the young woman in Whitehall. The deal she negotiated in order to capture her family will never be publicly known or acknowledged, for very good reason. How different things could have been that day, in house of a Christian god, if two women had not placed kindness before hatred. How much has altered, not just for the better. There will be consequences, there always are…

The lead vehicle suddenly explodes into a ball of flame.

Love What You Do

I’ve made it to 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon and am still going strong. This is a largely unusual phenomena: normally at this point in the day there’s be flagging, copious amounts of caffeine and that uncomfortable pit-of-the-stomach feel it was all going a bit off course. There’s been a hiccup (next time, save your CV somewhere you’re not likely to delete it) but apart from that, it is all going surprisingly well. The reason for this may come as something of a shock.

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A month’s worth of reconstituting old work has been a wake up call: amazingly, not everything that’s been written for the website is awful. In fact, some of the weekly output turned out to be surprisingly thoughtful with far more depth than previously recalled. It has ignited within me the desire to keep plugging away at the old stuff, polishing and tightening as I go.

As a result, next month is going to continue the trend. This has also provided inspiration to start a new collection of poems (graphic above) which have been written in the three month period since I was first published. There are enough fragments and pieces of work from January to March to put together a twelve poem collection. What I do with it once done is now up for discussion…

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I’ll be borrowing one of the (many) short story ideas we came up with this month as the one to run with via Twitter in April, plus we’ll see both #Soundtracking2019 and #Narrating2019 back in their daily 9.30pm slots. After a period where it was impossible to schedule anything via Twitter’s own Tweetdeck platform, harmony is now restored, and I have the rest of this month’s content already lined up and ready to go. It makes life so much easier…

The much-discussed residency proposal needs to be in for Friday. Then, over the weekend, it’s time to bring down the calendars and begin April’s planning cycle. There’s already a ton of stuff on the To Do list…

 

 

 

3am Eternal

The Mind essay’s already gone, by the way. Two passes, a husband edit and BOOM, away it has been sent, to the people I don’t really need to read it any more, but hey. It has proved its worth not simply as the mental equivalent of a bowl of Bran Flakes, but as the physical manifestation of a rule I’d conveniently forgotten in the midst of my unhappy week: write what you know.

However hard I try, right now, an intellectual short story doesn’t exist within me.

Therefore, speculative fiction is my future, and this story won’t go the original place I thought it would. This is now going to end up somewhere else. A new story will take its place for the original, which isn’t speculative, but autobiographical, and that is how we beat this block.

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I’ve already written the first piece, slightly ahead of my schedule, and it is sitting here ready for a visual (and not a screen) edit. The other piece is, I suppose about a quarter done, and should not take long to complete going forward. If I am smart, that could be double the planned number of stories for next week, which considering as of Monday there was effectively nothing…

Crucially, if I count my Mind entry as legitimate, that makes three short stories in March.

That’s progress.

Let the Right One In

Today, we present a lesson in need versus want.

You guys will know about the struggles with short stories last week. This morning, I’d sat down to work on the one idea I though had enough legs to transform into something saleable. It’s odd how so much of my mindset has, of late, simply focused on what other people are looking for, what style matters to make myself noticed. Forget that it’s become difficult to write because there’s a part of me being held back for a minute.

Yeah, I only just worked that out. But I digress.

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This little nugget dropped into my inbox yesterday, and set me thinking. There’s a prize, sure, but it’s not a publishing contract, or anything that would further my own desires. So, why on earth would it be of interest? Well, for one thing that’s the most detailed brief anybody’s given me about anything for about six months. Second of all, I have a story to tell. As it happens, it’s quite an important one as well.

This morning I tracked an article from the BBC Website about nature writing to its source, and then wrote 150 words for that and sent them off. No days of editing, no navel contemplation. Take a pictures, write the words, BOOM. I spend too much time worrying about stuff sometimes: I am the robot monkey girl who polishes everything so hard it shines, and yet nobody gives a damn about the result. Then, it hit me. I’m now a member of Mind. I wrote a story in two hours.

This one will need at least a couple of passes, and an edit from my husband, but in essence it is exactly what I wanted to write. It was the release of mental pressure I had no idea was really needed until it happened. Most crucially, it’s not fiction. It is autobiography. Perhaps, finally, the time has come to be totally honest not only with myself but the world in general about how this all affects my existence.

If all else fails, it’s been a very useful release of mental pressure on a part of my brain that’s been attempting to perform for an audience and failing.

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This’ll get sent off in due course; for now, it is time to see if the original job in hand can be completed today or not…

Ride on Time

This week, I will mostly writing short stories.

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The plan today was simple: see if I could kick-start my brain into spouting forth some ideas. As of 18.00 this evening, there’s actually EIGHT stories in the folder designated for my output, an increase of two since my 15.00 update. However, only one of those isn’t speculative fiction, and in this particular case (considering whose contest I am entering to) it’s probably a good idea not to go down that route first of all. However at this rate, I’ll have multiple entries for any number of sci-fi sites…

How does this work for me? Well, it depends on the initial idea: some right now are two paragraphs of a narrative that is then sketched in as notes underneath. One is fully fledged, beginning to end with spots of dialogue that occurred to me whilst writing. The story we’ll be concentrating on has beginning and end, plus a very distinct structure, so the plan for that going forward is to complete the framework and then go back to add depth.

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The stuff that doesn’t get immediately used is already being earmarked as short story material for Twitter going forward, so everything is likely to appear at some point on the website. However, if anything leaps out at me as being superlative it will be earmarked for commercial gain ahead of anything else because we are already halfway into March and these website upkeep bills are not going to pay themselves.

Content really isn’t my biggest concern right now, what mattered most of all were strong, compelling ideas. Without sounding like this is easy (really isn’t) adding depth to narratives considerably less stressful than making sure your story’s believable and immersive. The sweet spot, of course, is you idea combination of that and a little something special which makes your work leap off the page and grab your reader by the brain.

In my chosen story, that’s already woven into the fabric of the narrative.

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I’m not gonna lie: I could not be happier. Tomorrow, hopefully, the rest of the meat is added to the bones and there’ll be a tentative first draft to play about with. At the same time some video gets recorded, am planning to start small at home. All of this will come to fruition for April, and then we can start getting some pennies in the bank. Let’s just hope the rest of this week is as productive as the start…