EX/WHI :: Part Three

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Neither of them trust the car any more, so it is abandoned. Walking into the City, weather is impossibly muggy, precursor to storms moving from Europe northwards, breaking an unopposed two week’s worth of sunshine and shirtsleeves. Chris would dearly like to lose the jacket but remained unwilling in the underground parking area to remove his weapon, a feeling Ami completely agreed with. Both have spent decades understanding that when stuff went wrong, there was always a reason: today’s court appearance may now be anything but routine, so alert is their plan.

Neither is nearly awake enough either, so this unscheduled coffee stop serves several purposes. This is an extremely passable Apple Danish, Chambers decides, almost perfect combination of sweet and soft to make taste-buds forgive him for the handful of peanuts and instant coffee in the hotel room, that pretended to be acceptable as most important meal of the day. As he drinks, his MI6 counterpart’s facial expressions give the impression she’s internally debating something that needs to be shared.

‘I’m concerned about the person who wrote my CIA file.’

‘They’re a moron, without doubt. Don’t stress about it.’

‘It is enough of a fight normally to get taken seriously on my own manor, let alone worrying about what you Yanks are thinking.’

Her broad accent is East London, Chris knows, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what ‘manor’ means in this context. She’s ex-Metropolitan Police, learning the ropes on these streets as he did in Hoboken with the New Jersey PD. They’d both been too smart to stay tied to policing, recruited in circumstances that aren’t really close enough to be considered as co-incidental, but someone probably decided would be a decent way of making him feel at home. Her face finally resolves into a smile, and reminds Chambers not to be a dick because she’s earned the right to be attractive without him flirting at the acknowledgement.

‘How many people have you killed, Mr Chambers?’

‘Twelve. Thirteen if you count the guy I blew up by accident.’

‘So, really unlucky for him, then.’

‘In fairness, it was his own bomb I inadvertently detonated, so we’re not talking about an innocent conscience to stick on the scorecard.’

‘I remember that story from your file: Jihad motivations to martyrdom have always been impossible to understand. Maybe it’s ‘cause there’s too much left I’d like to do first.’

‘That guy was dangerous before the brain-washers got him. Do you keep a card for your losses?’

‘I have a box at home. There’s six pictures in it, all taken on the mortuary slabs. The Department’s Psychiatrist isn’t sure this is a smart way of keeping me focussed on the human cost of protecting Her Majesty and her loyal citizens, but it works for me.’

‘You don’t fit the profiles, that’s why nobody can do a decent review of you. The rest of the World relies far too much on labels and containers. Those of us who prefer to live in the cracks never get a fair deal.’

‘You really want to keep cultivating that maverick persona, Mr Chambers? Your ex-wife wouldn’t take kindly to hearing that.’

‘I don’t give a flying fuck what my ex-wife thinks.’

‘That really won’t help you see your son more than once a month.’

‘I thought about this long and hard on the flight over: maybe it would be best for everybody concerned if my son never sees me again, and we all just move on.’



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EX/WHI :: Part Two

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It will soon be insufferably hot in this confined, concrete space: Agent Bishop’s forced to find a CD of Oakenfold dance tracks as entertainment, because there’s no DAB signal in the car park. Radio and TV have both been on the blink for days anyway: something about sunspots and abnormal atmospheric conditions that she’d half grasped over a hurried bowl of breakfast cereal. Escaping to the songs of her youth is perhaps not that wise, because it will just remind again of the mistakes made that can now never be corrected. Except the soothing, rhythmic beat is what is required as relaxation. Nerves are suddenly, worryingly heightened.

He’ll be on borrowed time because of his bravado, Ami decides, wondering if Special Agent Chambers is going to turn up for his lift to the Royal Courts of Justice early or late. The American’s personal life remains enough of a disaster area to suggest that, like her, job matters more than what transpires after hours, so he could be worth getting to know. As with all of these things, it is going to depend on what parts of her file get highlighted in his assessment, just as has been the case in her research of him. If he looks past bisexual, that’ll be a start. Explaining that has become a depressing part of introductions since coming out last year. Maybe, if more people could take her as just human, that would be better.

There’s an odd smell in the car: reminding of photocopiers, bad air conditioning… except hers is not on, driver’s side window open. Turning off the engine, keys pocketed, Ami gets out of the car; senses alert to something that is most definitely amiss. Then movement happens behind: the Walther shifts from holster to hand in a heartbeat, spinning to point at man who’s a lot taller than his file suggests, but whose reaction times are without question.

‘Glad I’m not the only one who’s spooked. You like Bishop or Amelia?’

‘Good friends call me Ami, and if you can react that fast, Mr Chambers, I suspect we’ll get on famously.’

‘I approve of the formal use of my name, that’s way cooler than it sounds from my boss. You can keep that. So, what’s making you nervous?’

‘The smell, a bulletproof sixth sense… it’s been like this since about 3.15 am.’

‘I was upchucking dinner over the Atlantic at 3.15 in a storm that appeared outta nowhere. Everything’s been weird since. That’s just a massive co-incidence, right?’

‘Everything in this job is related. Maybe that extends to our ability to research each other and make an immediate connection.’

Both guns are re-holstered: Chambers’ handshake is solid, reassuring, and there was no need to worry about this guy’s credentials. He’s got the looks and body of a film star, but beard makes him feel more human, flawed. Good guys need to be clean-cut and scar-free, yet he has both in abundance, which allows him a more relaxed, believable air. He’s also staring at Ami with clear discomfort.

‘You know that thing that happens when you’ve read about someone in a file or had a briefing in a room somewhere and then that person turns out to be nothing like you’d expected -’

‘Is it better than you thought or worse?’

‘I’d like to apologise, in advance, for anything dumb or stupid I say or do based on my understanding of you, because whichever fuckwit in my organisation who wrote your file was blind, stupid and utterly ignorant.’

‘What were you expecting?’

‘Someone far less capable and far more angry. Your dress sense is phenomenal, this car is absolutely not what the file version of you would pick from the available pool, and if you have ‘Southern Sun’ playing on the stereo, I’ll forgive you a very great deal.’

Ami feels for the keys in her pocket, only now aware the CD is still playing, fairly convinced this model didn’t allow that to happen… and then music suddenly stops, before the vehicle’s engine unexpectedly starts. Weapons are re-drawn, pair scanning surroundings before a horribly loud, piercing alarm springs into life, lights frantically flashing a completely redundant and utterly impossible warning.



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Honesty

Yesterday’s estimate of novel editing completion was, unsurprisingly, somewhat generous. However, there’s a Bank Holiday Weekend coming up with lots of free time on the table, so it is not beyond the bounds of possibility to be done by Sunday night. That means giving some thought to the next project: it’s already percolating around my head, and there’s a Spotify Playlist to create as a result. Most importantly of all, there’s a cover.

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I’ve always envisaged a very simple cover for this story because my protagonist is incredibly black and white. As a result, this works on multiple levels. There’ll be some time next week spent building dedicated pages for my first Novel and this one here, so that not only can the process of writing be shared but also some insights into story and inspiration. It also forces me to start creating pitches for them both (a short synopsis of the plot) which will be needed going forward if I’m attempting to get someone to publish.

There’s a lot of enthusiasm and excitement at present for this part of my life going forward. There’s also a very real grasp of the potential disappointment and effort that will be needed to maintain positive and optimistic in the face of a very robust and competitive marketplace. I have no pretensions about any of this and am well aware of what will need to be done in order to succeed. The foundations are in place, and now it is time to start building.

I Have a Dream

Tomorrow, all things being equal, will be the last day of editing the Novel. After that, I’ll be creating a PDF of the whole damn thing and sending it off to people to read. If only it were that simple to get published, but sadly not. Once it’s done, and other people are seeing if it is enjoyable or not, there’ll be a chance to read this massive book to my right that tells me how to get it published, after which all hope of doing so will summarily vanish.

There’s a dream however that maybe, just maybe, it could all go to plan.

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If the desire to finger the World can be suppressed, albeit briefly, there is that chance. Confidence, which used to be the biggest stumbling block to progress, no longer worries. This is GOOD WORK, and there is genuine pride in what has been produced. Editing skills are light years better than was once the case. All in all, this is the best everything has ever been in terms of capability. Now it is time to capitalise.

There is also thought about what happens next.

I’ve picked the manuscript, will make a ‘new’ cover for it tomorrow, and after that, it’s all systems go. It’s another NaNoWriMo effort too, one that isn’t nearly as bad as previously recalled.

The second novel is already set to go.

Right Now

For Short Story Month, I’m writing three separate pieces with a single theme. It is time to admit we’re moving into a science fiction phase: I’ve always been a bit of an alternate history girl, when all is said and done. This triumvirate of stories all offer divergent timelines to the one you’ll be used to, with the possible consequences of women meddling in the affairs of nature:

All these stories have female protagonists. They could be written as men if I chose, but I’d like to believe that it is not just them sending this Planet to destruction. Everybody has their culpability in a massive ecological and sociological mess to shoulder. The subjects of the stories are, in order of the images shown: alien invasion, genetic manipulation and time travel. Occam’s Taser is the result of a conversation had several years ago with my friend Steve (who’s a morning US Television producer) about Vienna in 1913… and that’s all I’m prepared to offer.

The plan initially was to use one of these stories to enter in a Short Story Contest later in the year but instead, the project’s a platform to get my word count and writing style refined, before I work on two separate pieces for entry. This is being handled in tandem with editing my novel, which is finally in what could be considered a complete state. Today, that will be read completely and edited as that happens. I hope to have the first of these short stories available to read by this time next week, with them all finished by the end of the month.

Finally

At 5.30pm on Friday, March 30th, I was confident enough to make this claim:

When I stopped this afternoon, after removing everybody else from the house so I could concentrate, this is where things stand:

The last 40 pages are rough, but the narrative is complete. I’m going to spend Saturday night going through this to fill in the gaps and create a more consistent foundation. Then, it’s being left well alone until next week, where I’ll go back to the start and do a full edit pass. After THAT it’ll get sent to those people who’ve expressed an interest in reading it. So, if you happen to be reading this and haven’t made noises yet about wanting to help me out, shove a message in the comments.

Once other people have passed some initial comments, we can start thinking about how the damn thing gets published.

know_nothing

I have zero idea how to formally approach a publisher: there’s no point in lying, and I totally understand just what a ridiculously cutthroat market I’m about to enter into. I am nobody, and this concept has to sell itself. Part of me is tempted to blog the process for the hell of it because I suspect it might make interesting reading. For now, however, this needs to be the best thing it can be before any form of selling takes place. I’ve got some books to read, and people on my feed I can ask. It’s not like I’m COMPLETELY dumb.

YAY_arms

Mostly, I am happy it’s done. It isn’t hyperbole: I have files with timestamps which date the original manuscript to 2001. It’s lasted longer than nearly half a dozen PCs and Macintoshes. My daughter’s been born, grown up, and is now at Secondary School in the time this has taken to complete. I’ve had major surgery. Friends have passed away.

Considering the narrative has time at its base, this all seems rather appropriate.

Run for Home

For as many days as it has been possible this week, I’ve dragged myself into the Gym. Amazingly, only on two days has this been about exercise to a point. On the others, I’m there to use the treadmill as a writing tool. 

This is probably going to require some explanation.

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Once upon a time, I’d have real trouble trying to work out how ideas would develop past that first massive burst of creativity. I then developed a means by which I’d use pieces of music effectively as the backgrounds for ‘narrative videos’ that would run in my head, roughly corresponding with the pace and timing of actions that would then be written down. It is the reason why that whenever I now hear ‘Whoops, I Did It Again’ by Britney Spears I don’t think about the music video that accompanies it, but my fanfic-created Bond heroine Ronni Flemmings bursting out of a control room using a chair as a shield and summarily killing Ernst Stavro Blofeld completely by accident.

I’ve ruined a lot of pieces of music this way, but the destruction of meaning is always worthwhile.

Before I got as serious about exercise as I have now become, being on a treadmill with a musical soundtrack used to be the means by which I’d sort out the kinks and holes in narratives. Returning to my novel over this last six weeks has made me grasp that there was no longer the time to do this: suddenly, whenever I’m doing physical stuff it is to meet a target or complete an objective. The simpler days of just walking and thinking have somehow gone amiss. Therefore this week, re-instigating the treadmill as a writing tool required a massive twenty-five track playlist, constructed in chronological order to match my action. Most significantly, none of the music must have been made after 2005.

On Tuesday I went into the Gym, plugged myself in and thirty minutes later had managed to solve three major issues that were holding me back in plot terms. Today, the last quarter of the book is blocked, with each major sequence ready to write. There’s also been a piece of music added, that forms a vital part of the late narrative, section I’ve been frightened to write for over a decade because of the intensely personal nature of the content. It is the means by which I tie past back to present, and remind the female protagonist of the life she once knew but has lost contact with. This track was the crack which burst the dam of writer’s block, once and for all, and I’ve not been able to stop writing since.


Every writer is different: how you maintain focus and drive as individual as eye colour or shoe size. For me, music is at the heart and soul of every piece written. Without it, I would be considerably less than a whole.

I predict a considerable amount of treadmill in my future.

The Last Time

As we head towards the end of the month, things have (on reflection) gone remarkably well. Next month is already well in hand, and there are plans on the table for April too.  However, it is becoming apparent that after yesterday’s post on the Novel, and some quite serious poking of said manuscript both Thursday and today, it won’t be finished by the end of February. In fact, if truth be told, it won’t be anywhere close to being done.

nastytaste

Rather reassuringly, it has nothing to do with me giving up and losing interest: in fact, quite the opposite is true. What I’ve now discovered is that what was the middle third of the action does not have nearly as much solidity and structure as was first believed. This means that I’m now laying down foundations instead of finishing decoration and placing furniture. As a result, my rather optimistic ‘yeah we can do this in four weeks’ now looks like a complete pack of lies.

It also means that pitching a work that’s not done seems a bit fraudulent, to be honest. So, I think we’ll pass on this one, make this work really solid and special, and then I can read the book I got on how to publish shiz and work from there. Right now, all that matters is to finish something. That’s the goal not yet achieved, the prize that matters personally more than anything else, and with a head full of fuzz as has been the case for the best part of a week thanks to menopausal hormone overload? That really will be an achievement.

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So, next week’s WiP Day will be to get me to 80k with some actual structure. I’m working on the foundations until then. I’ve even altered the counter because honestly, it has to be done. I’m aiming for Easter to get this out to people to read, as in an Alpha Reader kind of way. March 15th is D-Day now, and I’m feeling supremely confident. No really, I am.

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Watch this space. No really, cool stuff is and will happen. There’s no stopping me now 😀

Keep on Running

It is high time we did a NOVEL UPDATE.

As you can see, the words keep going, and as the header shows, we have a NEW COVER for the book. Yesterday, however, during editing, there was a bit of a bump in the road:

The trashing, in the end, has not lost much progress, but I have gone backwards, so the hope today is to work once I’ve written this and then after exercise, and then (again) tonight so when we hit WiP day on Thursday I have a fighting chance of getting well ahead of my goal. Day 15’s plan is 57k but honestly, I need to be closer to 70k if there is any chance of having a successful result. Then I have to be writing a pitch for this thing to see if I have any chance of catching the eye of a publisher.

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What will undoubtedly be a better use of my time is buying the book these guys have written and guaranteeing myself a free one hour pitch, which I’ve now done. However, it will be useful to see if I can do the business without, so I’ll be putting my stuff together at the weekend. Until then, it is time to focus on getting the narrative on a path that seems sensible, sorting out the dialogue, and working to the final word total. Needless to say, I’m still insanely confident this is all gonna get done in the timescale, AND IT IS STILL FUN.

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As long as it stays that way, everything is going to plan…

The No. 1 Song in Heaven

This week has been the most important in some time.

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The last time I edited something this significant it was fanfiction. I’ve never found the means previously to overcome individual inertia and have faith in my own narrative before but here we are, probably about a third of the way through. I might not end up at 120k but it feels that way right now, with absolutely tons of stuff cut away from the original plot. The problem now, however, is we are into the story-light territory which always stopped any real progress.

However, this time around, I know exactly where things need to go.

The soundtrack method, which got me through both Bondfics, has been employed here to stellar effect. It has become the means by which I saturate myself in narrative progression, and therefore don’t panic when a place is reached where it doesn’t exist. It also provides the opportunity for existing narrative structure to evolve, as has been the case over the last couple of days. The pictures in my head now exactly match the words on the page, and that means there is an overriding confidence that this isn’t simply the right path, but the best path.

I’ve reached a significant point in the story today: my protagonist is finally in a position to live alone, without supervision, but is unaware that her life cannot be as easily dictated, especially with the amount of emotional and physical baggage she carries. The next day or so will set up a couple of important set pieces. One has this a-ha song as a background, another is written with Duran Duran as the constant. These songs have absolutely no relevance to the action, in both cases. They are there to make things happen in my head, and it works.


There’s also an important point to make: the World, as you and I know it, ceases to exist in this narrative after 2005. That means all my musical choices are at or before that point, to allow me an additional means of getting inside the head of my protagonist. There’s another twist to this too: all of it is written in the first person, which I have found incredibly difficult to get my head around. However, that issue was addressed midweek and suddenly this seems like the most normal and correct form that’s ever existed. It has to be first person for a very good reason, too, but all that is revealed in time.

For now, I’m having a cuppa, making myself some lunch and then it will be 50k done before I consider stopping again. The chances are there’ll be a lot more words than that, but I’m trying not to let the domestic side of life slip completely into ruin. However, it would not be a lie to state that this is one of the most enjoyable things I have done for many years. The satisfaction gained from it is enormous, and the end result will, I know, be something I am immensely proud of. That’s why I began this journey, after all.

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