Write Now :: The Book of Shame

I don’t know how other writers deal with rejection, except that it is something that anyone who writes will encounter the moment they throw themselves into competition. It is the inevitable consequence of attempting to be noticed, belief that one is only worthy when a total stranger decides your writing deserving of a wider audience. The problem, of course, is picking up confidence after failure, then carrying on.

I’m not sure if this is novel or not, but rejection here is dealt with via the Book of Shame.

Ever since I started entering contests in 2017, this is where the stuff is remembered: a copy of my poetry printed out, then stuck in place, with accompanying notes to remind what inspired the pieces, and what was learnt from them. The idea is to try and evolve after each piece or group of poems, alter approach and style to better mach the increasing amount of poetry that is being read, and then finally to transcend the feelings of failure. Shame, in this case, is not a bad emotion. It is the understanding that from failure comes progress, and to recall how that took place is as important as the poetry itself.

It’s easy to print the collections in a tiny format on my shonky printer: four poems to a page of A4 and then they’re cut up and stapled together. One of these two will now have four poems added for a second hit at a pamphlet submission, because I honestly think it is good enough. This is the first time that’s happened, and hopefully not the last. It will only get easier if I do more work, after all, and my workload/schedule is beginning to bear fruit in that regard. Who knew that if you keep writing, things get better?

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In the unlikely event I do hit the jackpot, its where I’ll have lots of lovely background stuff to pull from as what inspired me to write in the first place. Whatever happens, it has become a way of celebrating progress and not allowing failure to consume me.

This Book of Shame is one of the most important things I’ve ever made.

July Short Story :: The Last Post

This story was first serialised in 31 daily parts via the @MoveablePress and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds at 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.


The Last Post

Lying in bed, it occurs to me that I’ve not seen Elizabeth post for a while. In fact, it must have been at least a month, maybe more, since her avatar was registered in my timeline. In darkness, with only phone’s warm light for illumination, sudden concern springs from nowhere. We are ‘friends’, but there’s no idea of where she lives exactly. I know its somewhere in the Peak District, because it is mentioned from time to time in her tweets. Wherever home is, the cottage’s views are spectacular, with a cozy wood fire that burns every night, without fail.

It’s a moment to remember her username, because that’s what I always struggle with. Pictures are fine, but handles… ah yes, @Woollen_Mittens. Calling up her page on the phone, her last tweet was indeed a month ago. Before that, she’d posted two or three times a day, without fail. I am immediately concerned: it doesn’t matter that we’ve never met or I don’t know if this is her real name. There is a connection, created from years worth of shared interests. Embroidery, gardening, poetry and music define this relationship: so much else shared since joining the platform.

Looking at her mentions, she was due for surgery at the end of last week, something mentioned only to people it seems fair to assume are close friends. Finding the one mentioned the most, I look up her profile. This isn’t a friend, but the woman’s daughter, in her early thirties. Reading back through her timeline, an awful truth emerges. There had been a problem. Her mother had suffered a massive pulmonary embolism, passing away eighteen hours before surgery was due to be undertaken. It had taken everybody by surprise, particularly members of her family.

In the darkness, alone, tears appear from nowhere. I wish my partner were here: she’s not due back from London until Wednesday at the earliest. I can’t call her at 2am, not with an 8am breakfast meeting scheduled. Suddenly, this world seems an awful, unfair place to exist within. She’d chide me anyway for becoming emotionally attached to a person that had never been met, and wouldn’t understand the relationship we’d fostered. This is not normal or healthy for a woman regardless of her age, and we both know how awful and divisive the Internet has become.

Standing downstairs, an hour later, I make hot milk and vanilla and am grateful I don’t work Tuesdays. However, in the wee small hours a plan has been formulated. Mittens lives less than an hour away from me. Tomorrow, I’m going to make an effort to find out who she really was.

I suddenly need to know more about my friend.


The next morning, I head to Buxton, place most mentioned in Mittens’ tweets. There’s still no real plan of what to do, except spend time walking around, matching various tweets with locations around town, then wait for inspiration. A coffee shop is found, Bakewell Pudding and latte bought to allow opportunity to sit and think. Looking across the busy street from my table, there’s a display in the shop opposite that feels oddly familiar, collection of jumpers and embroidered cushions… this is Mittens’ work.

I’m scrabbling for phone, realising these items have been posted before, made as projects when Mittens was unwell last year, stuck in bed for several months. Whoever owns the shop must know who she is… but how on earth do I go across the road and start a conversation about her? There will never be a good way to do this: instead of sitting quietly and panicking over the details, time to walk across the road into ‘Maid in Derbyshire.’ As I enter, a snatch of Ralph Vaughan Williams is recognised, ‘The Lark Ascending’ making me smile, despite sudden nerves.

At the counter, a man of about my age is sitting, reading a battered copy of an Iain Banks novel. As he looks up, there’s a stab of recognition: I’ve seen him in pictures before, with his wife and young daughter. This is Mittens’ youngest son, whose name temporarily escapes me…

‘Good Morning, lovely day isn’t it?’

‘There’s not a way of saying this without sounding like a stalker so here we go anyway. Hi Ivan, I knew your mum via social media. I am very sorry for your loss.’

Putting down paperback, man’s face breaks into a smile, before he’s laughing.

‘If I told you this isn’t the first time someone’s come in here in the last few weeks and said that, it should make you feel better. We were aware of Mum’s double life for a while, but only when she passed did the depth of support really come to light. What is your username?’

The nerves and fear have summarily evaporated: telling Ivan I am known as AustinsHemline, something amazing happens. There is recognition of me, without the need for anything else, of that I am certain: now he’s getting up and heading this way, offering hand with a broad smile.

‘When all this started, after random people started turning up with flowers and condolences, there were a couple we’d hoped would appear. You are, I must say, on top of that list. My mum had a really close bond with you, I know, and I’m so glad you felt strong enough to come.’

It seems really strange to be crying now, in front of a total stranger, but this man isn’t any more. I’d expected him to get defensive or nervous over imposition, tell me to go away or become angry: instead he’s handing me a beautiful linen handkerchief whist maintaining distance. Eventually, having composed myself, I realise he’s waiting to take me behind the counter, into the back of the shop. There’s a small kitchenette here with chairs and a table, on which is a pile of boxes, some with address labels. Ivan motions me to pick a place to sit, so I do.

‘My mum very much knew she was on borrowed time. The operation was supposed to improve her quality of life, but we’d been planning for the worst since the initial MS diagnosis a decade ago. Her embroidery had become the means by which she could escape the confines of the bedroom. The relationships that were made with you and others became a substitute for reality. She was never alone: if frightened or confused, Mum would simply turn online, and you’d support her with love and without question. You became important, vital, part of a family she cared for. We didn’t know that we’d lose her like this, but she was ready. Mum made provision for everything, so we’d not have to worry when the time came. There were also plans for people like you, because of understanding that a thank you would want to be made. This is yours, from her.’

Hands are shaking as Ivan hands me a parcel, marked with my username. Inside is an embroidered version of the Manchester skyline, plus a quote: ‘There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.’

The quote is Jane Austin’s, from ‘Northanger Abbey’ and now I won’t stop crying again. We spent hours talking about literature, and now she’s gone there will never be a way to thank her. Except, perhaps that isn’t totally true… as a writer, there is one path that remains open.


I have dinner that night with Ivan and his family, plus elder sister Katherine. Mittens is no longer simply an username, but person: Elizabeth Lowe was the daughter of a seamstress, her father responsible for founding a successful travelling theatre company. She was eighty two, and inspired three generations of the same family to become tailors and dressmakers, with her eldest granddaughter about to start working as a costume designer at the Leeds Playhouse. This woman’s influence and significance in local community and beyond is unexpectedly immense.

On top of this, she’d created a successful online community for people who’d never operated a sewing machine or threaded a needle, teaching skills in simple, broad strokes: quilting, embroidery, needlepoint, simultaneously offering support to create clothing projects from scratch My direction is clear: this is a story that demands to be heard, of a woman who defied poverty and hardship, and never once put herself ahead of others. An entire life, until that last breath, was spent being generous, kind and helpful to anyone who asked for help or assistance.


It takes six months to write, making sure the book notes that the Internet does not have to be a frightening, dangerous place full of stupidity and hate. If people are willing to embrace and trust, then entire lives can be changed for the better as a result, by a single person. This becomes the story of a woman who understood that teaching others to sew wasn’t just doing so as recreation, but as a means of allowing self esteem and pride in practical projects which could then go on and be used, worn and admired not just as clothing, but as achievement.

‘Lowe and Behold’ sits complete, manuscript that is my gift to Mittens and her family: their story, means by which I hope a life that was so full and rich will be remembered and appreciated by generations to come.

My own creation, sewn from her threads: remembrance for us both.


 

Find Time

The Internet has changed my life.

It has been a long, often painful progress, but since 1992 (when our first dial up modem was purchased) a phenomenal amount of crucial, life changing events have taken place online. Many of those moments had the air of fiction about them, on reflection. Visiting a number of pen-pals I’d written to, who were all really annoyed there was a boyfriend in tow. Finding other people who shared my love of genre TV, and then making a fatal mistake in judgement… and the list goes on. However, there is one overridingly significant result from all these years online, and it has nothing to do with anybody else.

This is the place which gave me space to learn, at my own pace.

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This is where the truth about my body and how pleasure could be derived from it finally made sense. Reading articles about editing, writing and technique, over and again, finally began to stick. The fiction read was not nearly as important as news and opinion, in the end, because the path to storytelling was grounded in current affairs. The people met in Azeroth, via LiveJournal and Facebook, both which were ultimately ignored for Twitter, opened my mind, and were a reminder that people can be mean, cold and arrogant regardless of the environment.

However, eventually, the right people were found.

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The significant of positivity in this journey cannot be underestimated. Those who would hug me when I asked, and listen when needed. The faceless, anonymous nature of individuals wouldn’t matter after a while, because you would get to know those who mattered over time. Then, there would be the need to adjust behaviour to match the moods of others, or the situations that would arise online, and from this came the vital confidence to believe a strength existed to change other things too: fitness, general health, what was worn and how those in the Real World could be less intimidating as a result.

Without the Internet’s ‘fiction’, many facts in my life would never have been exposed as truth.

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Most importantly of all, the innermost workings of my mind would never have been exposed to critique or examination without the Internet as a backdrop. It has been the longest time to find the pieces and construct the puzzle in my head, but finally there is the understanding of what it is I am and what is being looked at. That has been the hardest journey of all, but looking backwards to where everything started, the path is now very easy to retrace. That says to me that everything that brings life to this point is intrinsically right. Both good and bad have their part to play. It has become an exercise in grasping everything, them making sense of those pieces as and when it is possible to do so.

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Sometimes, it is an act. There are moments when self-defence takes over and I’m just making what seem to be the right noises. Most of the time however, there is method and confidence, where before it did not exist. As each new piece is fished from subconscious and placed in the puzzle, those moments are less and less frequent. This is a place that is where I want to be, and remain.

This is the place I truly call home.

February Short Story :: The Shape We’re In

This story was first serialised in 28 daily parts via the @MoveablePress and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds at 9am and 4pm GMT respectively.

WARNING: This story deals with adult themes and should, as a result, be approached responsibly.

Enjoy.


The Shape We’re In

He’s been dreading this day for months. Lying awake, staring at the ceiling, there is no avoiding tonight’s inevitability. The annual Senior Year Five Dance is the undisputed highlight of his social calender; Charlie Fisher has never done ‘social’ in the same fashion as others. Maybe it’s because he’s the oldest boy in the year, or perhaps the notion of celebrating the most awkward phase of his existence has never sat well in a mind predisposed to overthinking. At least he doesn’t have to go to school today: thank the Deities for this small mercy.

There is the sound of raised voices above him: Tilly Craven is already complaining to her mother that shoes are nowhere to be found, and this day is, therefore, a disaster. Maybe if he didn’t live in a Communal Block he’d get more sleep at weekends… but it could be far worse. Lying in darkness, loneliness remains, nobody to share this children’s room with. His sister had died from Bird Flu before he could walk, no memory of her save the drawings his father had made. She’d never seen Year Five. He should be grateful for survival, especially today.

Things could be far worse. Charlie could be forced to wear the horribly restrictive outfits all the other boys were already being squeezed into, putting their manhood’s on show for all to see. His parents could embrace the Deity Doctrines: fortunately, both held no affiliations. Neither do they consider him the weaker sex, or a disappointing result at birth. Whilst everybody else asked for a daughter, his parents simply loved him as a person. Today he would wear his father’s antique dress, cut well below the waist, and that was the best thing of all.

Only then does he see his mother, dressed and ready to work in the woollen mill, sitting opposite on the sofa his sister’s bed had been transformed into. In her hand is his corsage: white roses, as it should be in Leeds. Even in darkness her smile beams, dark hair piled high.

She’ll be late, just to say goodbye.

‘I will never, ever get tired of your honesty and warmth in this house. Your father’s making breakfast. Just enjoy the day as much as you can.’

Leaving corsage on the sofa, she departs for her twelve-hour shift, as son heads for the bathroom.


Across town, in the Executive Zone, Lissa McIntyre’s 16th birthday party shows no signs of winding down. Birthday girl, however, left the Community Hall well before midnight, returning home for bag hidden beforehand. She’s abandoned the life that had become a prison and escaped. Neither parent will care or worry about her absence until it is too late. Her elder sister is of far greater significance, key to their aspirations of taking over all the Manufacturing Guilds in the county at month’s end. She left them all too drugged to consider anything at all.

Whilst the rich elite of their social circle smoked, injected and inhaled the fruits of their success using her coming of age as an excuse she’d been ready to run. Money was saved, transport quietly acquired and soon, Leeds would be a distant memory. However, there was a problem.

Charlie. Brilliant, individual, maddening; one boy who never saw the rich, spoilt brat everyone else thought she was by default. That poor kid on the School scholarship who’d changed the entire landscape for the better, whom she loved dearly. He had never been part of her plan. Love was for more worthy souls, this long-term future initially depending on leaving everyone else behind. Now heart grasped an essential need not simply to change direction but expand possibilities; everything willingly risked to not simply rescue him but both his parents too.

The Mill’s utilitarian cafeteria is packed: both sexes, mingling unhindered, unisex clothing the norm. There were no revealing tops or tights here, simply joy at being happy and relaxed, plus nobody cared who Lissa was. She existed as not simply independent but free of judgement. Looking up from her porridge and tea, the young woman meets Elizabeth’s gaze as she moves through the food queue. Charlie’s mother doesn’t seem that surprised to see her either, smile she gives making this change in plan worthwhile. The letter left at their home had been read.

Without the prosthetic breasts, coloured contacts and make-up, Lissa knows nobody will recognise her, not even the CCTV cameras will be able to make a positive identification. Elizabeth is the only other person who’s seen her without the trappings she was forced to wear by family. She’s already buying extra food, making sure the full ration of water is taken, quietly planning ahead. Charlie’s parents have already accepted the offer, now all that is needed now is to wait for him to return. If everything is going to plan he’ll have found his letter by now…


The boys are forced to line up against the School’s Gym wall, hands shackled above their heads. Many are in tears, and Charlie’s made the decision not to be one of them. The punishment for refusing to expose his manhood for public scrutiny is more palatable than this action. There’s no point in being here anyway, now he knows Lissa won’t be coming. She understands that bodies are irrelevant when minds matter more, and her plan… yes, it’s risky, but if his parents are willing as she believes to help them both, there is no need to worry about details.

Walking home in bright, uncompromising sunshine, Charlie thinks of mother at the mill, and that he could easily forget the last two years of School completely. He’d rather be working and contributing than spend another day being ridiculed. Life as a model student was overrated. This would be his first act of rebellion in five years, and once the punishment was served, he’d have gone anyway, because not another day would have been wasted pretending he was like everybody else. Lissa had ignited his spark of non-conformity: it burned now out of control.

He’s about to cross the road to his communal block when father appears unexpectedly, dressed as he did when working at the Community Centre. He ushers Charlie quickly into the alley next to the Corner Shop, away from the CCTV cameras: there’s a bag of clothing already waiting. He’d expected to have a chance to go back to the house one last time, but the clock is ticking. They need to be out of the town before the sun goes down, or else Curfew will keep them stuck here until tomorrow, and someone might then notice Lissa’s absence. It is time to leave.

At the other end of the alley, there’s a battered Range Rover in Manufacturing Guild dark blue. His mother watches from the driver’s seat, and in the back, Lissa’s blonde hair is hidden by a dirty brown wig. She has planned and organised everything, and Charlie loves her for it.


Charlie also loves watching Lissa sleep, tucked under his arm, more beautiful without the prosthetics than any woman he has ever seen. This future is now in their hands: he wonders if there will ever be a way to thank her for this as mother drives them into the Highlands and a new day. The flat chested girl and the boy with only one testicle were both damaged goods, in their own way. He’d never been whole, and she’d given up the right to live a lie in existence summarily left behind. No-one would come to look for them because neither were considered worthwhile.

Nobody would care if there were three fewer mouths to feed, one less cripple to make everybody else look bad. Polite society was more damaged than anyone wanted to admit. The future was away from the Empire and in Scotland, where diversity was joyfully embraced and celebrated. Lissa had freed them all with a mind that transcended what parents considered as her broken body. She was more than Charlie’s equal, and vice versa. The shape of them both together created a joyous and immutable whole, no more lies or deception.

The shape of things is perfect.


 

Book of the Month

It is my intention, before the Internet of Words Patreon launches on June 15th, to give potential backers an opportunity to understand exactly what it is they will be throwing their money at. As a result, it is time to start explaining how this whole shebang is going to work.

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Each month, the Internet of Words will be using a work of published fiction or non fiction as the basis of a month’s worth of created and completely original content. This will include essays, humorous asides and at least one original piece of short-form fiction. On the official Twitter feed, all haiku and micro-poetry will be based on the subject matter of the book being ‘studied’, which means for the month of July our theme will be Pictures and Perception. I’ve chosen a seminal tome to kick off our endeavour, a piece of non-fiction that asks a lot of the reader. We’ve already mentioned the BBC TV show from the 1970’s which was based on this (and which will be referenced at certain points during the month.) Our opening inspiration is Ways of Seeing by John Berger.

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Click here to order this book on Amazon

I’ll be announcing the next month’s book in advance to allow Patreons and others to get a copy and read it (if they choose) so they can take a more active part in discussions. This also gives me a chance to plan the meat of the month’s output. Then, when we hit the first of the month, you can expect to see content presented, based around a number of the following umbrella topic headings:

War of the Words

The Internet began life as a text-based medium. Words are what matters more than anything else: for intent, to communicate and as education. Using our novel as a springboard, we’ll attempt to understand not simply the text in context to the subject matter, but its wider significance in the communication-rich world we now inhabit.

Books will be chosen which, in my opinion, straddle the worlds of traditional and modern, that embrace the concepts the Internet excels at and conversely fails to achieve.

Communications Breakdown

It is easy, without understanding extensive context, to make wild assumptions about everything and anything. In the modern world, therefore, understanding is probably more significant that initial knowledge. The IoW will attempt to give context to the novel, its historical significance and the circumstances in which it came to be written.

This will also include, where appropriate, documentary materials appertaining to a specific period of interest to the particular book being ‘studied.’

Alternative Internet

Anyone who has fallen down an Internet rabbit hole will know just how a subject matter can inspire people into amazing and often mind-boggling feats of self-discovery. In this strand, we’ll attempt to show what an understanding of the book’s wider themes can do to illuminate individuals’ own interpretation of the subject matter.

This strand might get a bit weird, I’m warning you now. Be prepared to be shocked, amazed and quite possibly challenged.

The Word is Not Enough

Any novel can be interpreted individually in potentially an infinite number of ways. An author will undoubtedly be amazed at what others see in their words, and often these are not enough when attempting to combine an individual experience with the written words presented to them.

We’ll consider how words are misinterpreted, how changes in societal attitudes can alter the words themselves, and that definition sometimes isn’t everything.

Fictional Narrative

I’ll be using the book as a springboard each month for both micro poetry and haiku via the @InternetofWords Twitter feed, but at the same time it will become the subject of short fiction, including 500 words micro-stories, and a 2000 word short story that covers one of the major themes of our monthly text.

There may be more or less, depending on how my real life goes. This is very much a ‘work in progress’ that will be reconsidered on a monthly basis.


So, there you have it. This is the initial concept going forward, and will be constantly reassessed, month by month, to ensure that all Patreons are getting value for money. By becoming a supporter, you’ll also be asked to help decide future novels for consideration, potential subjects for fiction and to take part in discussions that will happen exclusively for Patreon subscribers.

To say I’m excited is an understatement. I can’t wait to share with you what is in store for July, and I hope I’ll see you bright and early on July 1st as part of the Internet of Words ‘collective’ to begin discussing Berger’s work.

All You’ve Ever Wanted

Those of you paying attention will have noticed this site is now a wee bit more active than it has been: the plan, long term is to hack the place up to three posts a week. That means the news post that should be here now will only appear when I have stuff worthy of mention: this week all my top news gubbins has gone to the Personal site. I suspect that’s the way this might go for the first few weeks anyway, and assuming that’s the case I’ll try and find a moment on Saturdays to make sure the 3 posts a week regime is maintained. I had planned a launch for the new writing project on Wednesday, but last week summat had to give. Readjusting to this new schedule is proving to be far tougher on my mind than I’d previously considered.

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My grail, I realised a while back, isn’t just getting a novel published, but the systematic improvement of writing skills across the board. That means learning better to write to deadlines, reacting to news, and most importantly of all processing complex data. It is improving: more time to react and think has already provided dividends, a shifting of priorities means that I now have the opportunity to plan ahead for the first time, but that is going to take organisation that does not as yet exist. However, the foundations have been laid, and now there is time to look forward and plan the journey, which means I’m aiming next week to assign days to certain tasks. It will start with simply getting a week’s worth of posting outlined on Monday, and then taking Tuesday to be a day of filling in details. Hopefully that will then reap dividends as the week goes on.

Most significantly of all this should afford more time overall for novel catch-up, editing and further fiction projects going forward.

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The biggest enemy by far in my journey is procrastination: I’m terrible at motivating myself, and a bout of mild depression this week has only made things worse. Sure, I can exercise and run myself out of the blues with treadmill and weight loss as distraction, but this is only going to work if I make the journey attractive to begin with. I think, with the subjects I’ve chosen to cover, I have a lot of potential on offer: what it means tomorrow is a day learning Twitter jargon, researching Warcraft news and getting two planners full of potential subject matter going forward. I’ve gotten into the habit of writing my long-form piece for MMO Games the day before, and if I can do that with one part of my life, the rest of it is eminently doable.

I hope you’ll consider joining me on the next stage of my journey.

NaNoWriMo ::Day Four

Absolutely the best thing about creating a Novel is that it is your rules and nobody else’s. That means, in the last two days, I’ve completely rewritten history. As part of that, I’ve needed to design an icon that will appear all over my ‘World’, which is a visual representation of the organisation in which my main character (and pretty much everybody else I’ve written so far) exists. I’ve been working at this for several weeks, if truth be told, and now I think I’m there:

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The fact it started as lady parts is really important: this is a female-driven hierarchy. It will be the symbol that appears on flags and standards, on the uniforms of the modern-day iteration of this ‘Regiment’and I can imagine it carved into the stone of ancient temples, castle walls and into the prow of ships. It will be a good luck charm, a ward to dispel evil spirits, and so much more. This is the moment where I wished I could draw better than I can, so I could come up with a modern graphical representation of this: I may give it a try as relaxation going forward.

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The word count really isn’t going to be a problem. I’ve stopped for the night, mostly because I need to think through my next scene, and I’m far enough ahead now to not worry about where this is going, because I know my destination. That means I’ve been cheating a bit and going back over earlier dialogue, but it is utterly worthwhile. I’m in a place that I cannot get enough of and utterly love, and the story as a result is just telling itself. That’s the most amazing thing of all, and makes me smile whenever I think about it. I have a story that really works, and the ease at which it’s translating from head to screen is a testament, I think, to the hard work I’ve done in previous months honing my craft.

This process has made me realise that a lot of previous ideas that have never made the light of day (and at least one that did) have come together to produce this story. Mostly, I can see all the influences and derivatives here, I know what has swayed this story to where it now lies. This is a fascinating insight into process for me as a result.

It’s also the most fun I’ve had with a NaNo since I began participating.

Writing as Therapy :: Depression

This has been a tough write.

When I decided I wanted to try and describe my depression in a blog post, the problem should have been easily solvable. After all, I’m a writer: that should allow me a measure of ability to describe the feelings I experience, right? I’ve spent a VERY long time attempting to get a handle around the right words. Finally, I think I’m there.

Close your eyes.

Imagine, when you do, shrinking as the world around you grows, and suddenly you are tiny against the place you sit. There is a terrible and inescapable sense of helplessness: everything is so utterly far away you can’t reach, too high to scale or so deep you’d hurt yourself should you fall down. Nobody can hear you. In fact, the only sound is the blood, pounding in your own ears as the fear rises to consume you. You are nothing.

Nobody cares.

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It’s been a while since I’ve had an episode like that but I can remember the last one, horrible bitterness in my mouth, lying on the sofa at 4am while the family slept upstairs, knowing full well that there were people who loved me and were relying on my strength. Understanding your significance to others makes a lot of difference, allowing self-worth an opportunity to be nurtured and grow. However, unless you’ve ever been consumed by your own blackness, I can’t ever make you really understand just how terrible it is. The words might describe the darkness, but they can’t convey the terror and loneliness that actually hurts. Worse than childbirth, or the loss of a loved one, at least for me.

Enough to make you totally and utterly numb.

That’s the real horror, for someone who’s always lived their life in highs and lows. Feeling nothing is just so amazingly, horrendously awful. Not being able to write, unable to express anything and simply just to exist in a grey, dull World. To watch others having an amazing time and simply to sit without any reaction at all. Oddly, there will be those people who’d argue that’s one of the reason why drugs are so important, that the noise and fuss of the world is often too much to bear. I don’t need to have ‘normal’ emotional states, I’ve always lived at the extremes to begin with. I don’t want quiet, I feed on noise and feeling.

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I’ve never taken anything for my issues and actually, I’m glad that remains the case.

 

What writing granted me, back in the dark days after my daughter was born, was a voice I’d forgotten existed. It had been me as mum with my son and pretty much nothing else for several years, all the focus on being a better parent and not worrying about the person I’d been before he and she were born. The balance was all wrong, and being able to exist as a character in a video game who could be what they wished without responsibility was exactly what I needed. Mostly, I could open my eyes and not be as afraid of what happened when the dark feelings came.

Even how it is difficult to describe what went on during that time with confidence. Memories are hard to pin down, only the flashpoints remain, pain and anger when I’d get cross at myself, when I’d overreact, and then try and hide. Then there’d just be the numbness and inability to move out of the same spot, to even leave the house on certain days. That still plagues me from time to time, I’ll be honest, but now it happens very rarely, but there are panic attacks in places I am uncomfortable in. I had one on holiday, as it happens, but with my husband’s help got through it. It still happens.

I just have to learn to cope. Some days are better than others.

 

Tomorrow Never Dies

And you’re done. 

I still have to review SPECTRE, but its fair to say that I don’t think Daniel Craig’s coming back for another go at 007. Frankly, I don’t blame him: this has taken a decade of his life, and the journey has, at times, been fairly tortuous for everyone concerned. Nobody liked the guy when he arrived, and having not only made Bond acceptable in the 21st century but actually likeable again, he’s now become a victim of his own hype. The problem with the 24th episode in the franchise is that it had to go back to the worst part of its roots, under some mistaken belief that actually, the supervillain/criminal organisation ‘trope’ would still be relevant in a world full of cyber-terrorism and religious zealotry. The problem for Eon and Sony, quite apart from the stupid amount of money they threw at SPECTRE, is that they ended up being a parody of a parody of themselves. There’s moments when you watch the interplay between Waltz and Craig and you realise it could just as easily be Mike Myers talking to himself. Then things just get a bit strange, and you want it to stop.

Oh, behave.

This morning, unsurprisingly as Craig comes up for his 48th birthday, the rumour mill has started up over his ‘successor’ with the Independent suggesting that TV is a better draw for a man who’s made so much cash from the Bond franchise he could probably choose never to work again. There are a number of factors to consider in the next Bond ‘movie’: it’s the 25th, and that’s going to mean summat big. 24 wasn’t nearly as successful as had been hoped, which is going to set people’s minds to thinking that maybe they need to reboot regardless. However, now SPECTRE is back, the whole Bond ‘world’ is different, and quite possibly dangerously out of touch with the trend in action/spy/thrillers for realism against a backdrop of constant peril. That’s not Eon’s biggest problem by a long way, however. Fleming’s ideals of a guy who treats women like dirt and does whatever the fuck he wants without consequence are all well and good, but its the white male tradition that causes the most issues with an increasing proportion of the movie-going population. Bond remains the last bastion untouched by diversity: Austin Powers’ inane sexism and misogyny, still acceptable after over five decades. Craig has hinted he thinks it’s extremely unlikely that will change, and I have to agree with him, because as a woman I was never who the films were selling to. In fact, anyone who’s not white and male is pretty much out of luck, quite possibly for many years to come.

They’ll ask him, and if he has any sense he’ll say no.

So, if I were Tom Hiddleston, I’d turn down the offer when Eon present it, because I’d not want to be associated with a franchise that sells Britain as a place where diversity doesn’t exist. I don’t care how good you look and how many people you get to sleep with without consequence, Bond’s legacy is a bald-faced lie. Fast cars and guns and pretty eye candy is rubbish, and considering how this franchise has reacted to change over the decades, it’s become quite sad to see that the way Eon decided to deal with evolution was to just pretend it hasn’t happened. Instead the franchise became a homage to an age not that many people would ever actually want to go back to. This is the reality of ‘modern’ Britain, that a Bond author can happily turn around and declare a black actor unsuitable for the task of 007 because he’s ‘too street’ for the role. It’s depressing and it actually cheapens Craig’s achievement, which was to actually give Bond a soul. He’d never really had one in all that time, except for that brief period in OHMSS and between Goldeneye ’til Tomorrow Never Dies. All the rest of those years it was a lie, actors flirting with the concept of a man who actually wasn’t worth knowing or saving a lot of the time. He was a hero, yes, but he was never really a decent human being. Daniel Craig’s Bond did at least show an evolution, understanding of what had happened to make the agent as brittle and fractured as he was. In the end, I don’t blame him for leaving with both the car and the girl because if it had been me? I’d have taken both too.

Still my #1 Choice. By a mile.

So, how do we go forward? Well, I’ve discussed with several people that maybe the path is to stick Bond back in the 60’s and play it that way, because if you do so then you can just ignore all the modern issues and maybe eventually they’ll go away. There is the option to make Bond black, or a woman, or possibly both (don’t get me started at how criminally underused Moneypenny was in SPECTRE.) I’d argue everybody will need recasting in the supporting roles if they start again, and maybe if that happens then you can give people an opportunity to rethink the dynamics. Mostly I’d love to see something more than ‘supervillain threatens world’ because honestly, I think for everyone’s benefit it might be an idea if we left that alone for a while now. The thing is, if Bond reboot *again* it is really, REALLY hard to see where it goes. Mostly, if I was in Eon’s production offices right now, I’d be worrying how this all goes down. Because there is no easy answer to how you move this franchise forward without some kind of change, and if they do it wrong, Bond 25 could end up being the last of the series.

For what it’s worth? I’d take it to TV. I’d reboot from scratch, do a deal with the BBC, and make it into a Spooks-style alternate universe where SPECTRE’s been in charge of super-villainry for the best part of 40 years. Sell it worldwide, give Craig a starring role as the old 007 handing over to a newer, younger counterpart.

If you could make her somewhere in the early 40’s? So much the better.