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  1. I tend to take to the blogs section to whinge, so here goes. I have been living with cancer for almost four years now (well, four years since diagnosis, but it was obviously invading various parts of my body before then.) Long story short - diagnosed stage 4 December 24th 2018. Great Christmas present. Treatment (chemo and radiotherapy) started early in 2019, knocked me for 6 and the spinal damage left me unable to walk more than a few paces and having to use the kind of gadgets normally reserved for the very elderly - things to pull of your socks, jar openers and grabbers to pick up stuff from the floor. Various drugs have kept me fairly healthy since then and it was during my rehabilitation I decided that as my life was likely to be considerably shorter than the average, I should avoid stuff I found boring and concentrate on what I love doing. Besides, when you can't walk too well, sitting in front of a keyboard has its advantages. I began writing my Dragonriders of Pern fan fiction early in 2020 and considered I had enough material to begin posting online around June. Since then, it's been like a roller coaster. If only I could have been so prolific before I got ill. But I wouldn't. There were always other things to do. The motivation of posting a weekly chapter and responding to reader's comments is as good as completing a really satisfying scene. Becoming a Promising Author on GA was like winning an award. I have loads of ideas about things I want to write. Trouble is, I don't think I'll have the time. Lately, I've been deteriorating again. My liver lesions are stable with the tablet chemo I'm on, but it's my spine that's causing a lot of problems. Earlier in the year my left hand index finger and middle finger went numb as a result of nerves being pinched, or abraded by the bony growths. Now it's spread to the right side and I'm also experiencing balance issues and trouble walking again. My grip and arm strength is so weak, the doctor advised me yesterday I should stop driving for safety reasons. Most of this has happened frighteningly fast. I'm trying to finish my anthology story, even though I can't type as fast as I used to. I'm almost through the last chapter of 'To the Weyr' and I'd love to write the sequel but I'm frightened I won't be able to finish it. Pain makes it hard to concentrate on writing, as does fatigue and some medication side effects. I hope I'll be around to do everything I want to do, but at the moment, I can't be sure. Whinge over. PS - The phrase 'living with cancer' always makes me think of living with a very inconsiderate flat mate, who uses up all the milk in the fridge, never empties the rubbish and trashes the loo.
  2. I was twelve years old when my grandmother died. My father woke me up, early that morning, and told me, “Your Gran has gone to Heaven.” I was confused, no one had told me she was that ill, they certainly hadn’t told me she was dying. I thought that her decreasing health and physical ability was because of her great age, she had seemed so impossibly old to me back then. It was much later that I’d find out what had happened to her. She was the only grandparent I knew. My father’s parents had died before I was born and so had my mother’s father. My gran, my mother’s mother, was the only grandparent I had. Other children at school had both sets of grandparents and would talk about them endlessly. I just had Gran, a woman who seemed so much older than the grandparents of those other kids at school. She was an old, small, white-haired woman, like a character out of children’s literature. When I was nine, Gran came to live with us for a while. With hindsight I realise she wasn’t well, but no one told me at the time. She would sit in the armchair next to the fire in our sitting room and tell me stories of her life. Stories of her growing up in Scotland, her time “in service” in London, running a household in wartime Kendal, Cumbria. She was full of stories and I loved listening to them. During that time, she was admitted to one of Liverpool’s hospitals. We visited her one Sunday afternoon to find that she had been moved off the main ward and was now in a side room. She told us that the ward’s sister had moved her into there when it became empty. At the time it just seemed like a nice gesture; now I know differently. As a senior staff nurse, working on a busy hospital ward, I’d move a very ill or terminally ill patient into a side room to give them some quiet and privacy. From our home she moved into a newly built bungalow, near to my Uncle Lance and Aunty Sheila, her youngest son and his wife, in the suburbs of Derby. We would drive over there every Saturday to visit her. The bungalow was small, made from cream-colored concrete and perched on the side of a shallow hill. Being a new build, the garden was untended and raw. It was divided into two by a stone-paved path that cut through its middle. On either side of it were two strips of open soil, which were made up of large clumps of red/brown clay, many of them as large rocks. I wasn’t allowed onto this clay soil because it would stain anything that touched it bright red. Our dog, Candy, a little terrier with a love of new and different smells, wouldn’t venture onto this clay garden either, yet normally she’d spend as much time as possible sniffing out the smells on a new patch of ground. My gran had loved gardening, she and my mother would spend afternoon after afternoon tending to our garden. While she lived at that bungalow, the garden was left untended, just two open strips of clay where even weeds didn’t seem to want to grow. It was in this bungalow that she died. I wasn’t allowed to go to her funeral, my mother believed funerals were no place for children, so I was left at home in the care of a neighbour. This, along with not being told she was ill, made accepting my gran’s death so difficult for me. It wasn’t as if she was dead, never to be seen again, she just wasn’t there, missing from my life. It wasn’t until I was into my teens that I was able to make the connection that she was actually dead. For my mother, though, the loss of her own mother was something that she found so difficult to accept, it was so hard on her. She spent weeks and weeks off work after Gran’s funeral. I would often find her, alone in the house, silently crying to herself. I now realise her grief had become depression, but back then I was not a perceptive child. It was only as an adult, after I had trained as a nurse, that I began to find out what had happened with my gran; it was only then that my mother told me what she had found out after Gran’s death. My grandmother had stomach cancer. When she had been admitted to hospital in Liverpool, it had been for “exploratory surgery.” This was long before CT and MIR scans, and cancer tumours do not show up well on x-rays, so people would have surgery as a way of diagnosing where and how big/advanced their tumour was. When my Gran had had her exploratory surgery, they had found that the cancer was extremely advanced and had spread to other organs in her abdomen, meaning there was nothing that could be done; certainly surgery was useless, so they simply sewed her back up again. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know how ill she was, no one knew. My gran wasn’t told that her cancer was as advanced as it was; she certainly wasn’t told it was terminal. The decision was made by her doctors that she wouldn’t be able to cope with the knowledge that she was dying and therefore she wasn’t told. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen now, no doctor will take that God-like decision, but it still happened in my lifetime. It also meant that neither my gran nor her family had any chance to prepare for her death. When my mother was told that her cancer was terminal, thirty years after my gran’s death, she decided not to tell anyone else. But she was able to make that decision for herself and she took it for very personal but still practical reasons. It was also a very different time. I was an adult and a trained and experienced nurse. I had been quietly watching my mother’s health decline and I had been preparing myself. I also had Martin in my life, my partner, whom I could talk to about this and he knew what I was going through. Then I found out her cancer was terminal, though by accident. My mother was prescribed new medication, a hormonal treatment, and I recognised it as a medication used in palliative care, designed to shrink a tumour to reduce the symptoms from it, but it didn’t treat or remove the tumour. It was then that I knew she hadn’t told anyone her cancer was terminal. I was in a difficult position but I was an adult and had someone I could talk to. And when she was in the hospice, at the end of her life, I had the chance to say goodbye to her and we both knew it was goodbye. I work as a district nurse now and I look after people, in their own homes, who are at the end of their lives. I don’t have the input that palliative care nurses have; my role is very much providing the nursing care people need at the very end of their lives. This has given me an insight into how a death can and does affect the loved ones and family of someone dying. My own experience, personal and professional, has shown me what a large and life-changing event a loved one’s death can be. But I am also a writer and my computer-like mind stores all this away to be used in my writing. Death is such a life-changing event that I cannot but write about it. But I want to write about people’s personal experience of it. I don’t want to write sensationalist or sentimental prose about the death of a loved one, I want to write about the real progress and events of it all and the way these deaths affect people. That all said, I have just published a story, Five Days, about a child losing his mother to cancer. This child, a boy called Byron, isn’t told that his mother has cancer and that she is dying from it. It is her decision and she doesn’t let anyone else tell him what is happening. She is trying to protect him, but her actions leave Byron confused and isolated, he feels excluded from what is happening. Though not directly based on my own experience, I did tap into my experience as a child when I was writing this; I also used my experiences as a nurse too, especially when I was told not to tell a patient’s child that their parent was dying. I wanted to explore a child’s-eye view of terminal illness. It wasn’t an easy story to write, but so often I like to challenge myself with what I write, I want to explore difficult subjects from the point of view of characters being affected by them. This wasn’t the easiest story to write, I had to keep returning to the fact that the story is seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy without the insights that an adult character could bring to this story, but I did find it a rewarding thing to write. I had written about something important to me. I am very grateful to my writers’ group, Newham Writers’ Workshop, who gave me such helpful feedback on each chapter of this story. Writing can be such an isolated practice, and so often I don’t know if a piece of writing works or not, but getting feedback from my writers’ group has been invaluable and I have learnt so much from it. In her will, my gran left me her rocking chair. It was an item of furniture that I had loved sitting in as a child, the sheer originality of it attracting me; all the chairs in my parents’ home stayed solidly in place, none of them rocked. As a child I would always head straight towards that chair. When I moved into the first real home of my own, my own flat, I finally had space for it and it sat in my sitting room for years. It now sits in our bedroom, in a corner almost made for it. Happy reading, Drew
  3. I was an awkward thirteen-year-old (a little under ten years before I was diagnosed as dyslexic) when my mother gave me a copy of A Pocketful of Rye by Agatha Christie. At the time I loved the concept of books but I found them so difficult, my reading was so slow and finishing a book seemed like an impossibly difficult task, a mountain too high to climb. This book intrigued me. The cover was macabre, a black bird’s skeleton surrounded by its black feathers, lying on an illustrated sheet music to a child’s nursery rhythm. I began to read it and on the second page was the description of a man dying from poisoning. I was hooked and carried on reading. What kept me reading it, at my painstakingly slow pace back then, was the plot. At the end of the book, the twist hit me hard; it wasn’t the murderer I thought it was, I’d been certain it was. Then I looked back on the story and saw the clues she had sprinkled throughout the plot, subtly hinting at who the murderer was, and I didn’t feel cheated, I didn’t feel that she had held back important information from me. She had just got the better of me. I raced out, got another one of her books and started reading it. As a teenager Christie’s books were the first “adult” novels I read and I loved them. It was their tight plots that kept me guessing who the murderer was and their archetypical but very recognisable characters that kept me reading them. Those Christie novels were a gateway into the world of literature for me. From her I read some other Golden Age crime writers, some I enjoyed and some I didn’t, and from them I started to read modern day crime writers (modern day when I was a teenager). This was a very mixed experience, many of them were poor or just plain bad, but I also discovered PD James and Ruth Rendell, and later still Joseph Hansen. These authors opened my eyes to the fact that crime fiction can be about much more than just a murder (or two). They all used detective fiction to write about other subjects too and their prose was of such a high standard. They took time setting scenes and developing characters; they gave their detectives a whole life outside of work. Their writing led me to other, non-crime fiction, literary fiction and other genes, though I still enjoy a good detective novel. As an adult, I still enjoy a Christie novel, occasionally, but I cannot say she is the greatest of writers. Her descriptive prose is poor, just using a few commonly used colloquialisms to sum up a recognisable image; most of her description is left to the reader’s imagination to fill in. She set her novels in a very narrow world, that of the middle- and upper-class English, but her books still had strong and well-crafted plots. It was from reading them that I learnt how to plot and how important plots are in fiction. Her plots carefully set the scene of the story, introducing the place and characters but not giving away all the details at the beginning. Her plots dripped out the information and clues as the story progressed, they didn’t give away all the information in one go. Her plots give the reader a journey to go on throughout the book. At first, I thought this plotting style was only useful for crime fiction, where withholding information until later in the story was an important element. Then I read Job's Year by Joseph Hansen. Here he used the same style of plotting but in a non-crime novel. Each chapter gave more information about the central character. Reading it, I felt like a detective finding out more about a character, it was like how I felt in a friendship; over time I found out more and more about that friend, I wasn’t given all the information about them in one go as soon as we met. It felt much more of a natural way to tell a story. You don’t have to be writing crime fiction to learn from this style. I learnt not to give everything away at the beginning of a story, treat it like a detective story, drip out your information as the story progresses. So instead of telling the reader everything about a character as soon as you introduce them, let the information fall out as the story progresses, as a natural progression. Hold the reader’s interest by giving away clues to a character as the story flows; tell them about the character’s background and history through the length of the story, not as one, rushed chunk of information at the beginning. I have learnt to give the reader a beginning, middle and end to a story. I introduce the story and draw the reader into the world I’ve created. Like Christie, I don’t let interest fall during the middle of a story, the middle isn’t just there to get from the beginning to the end as quickly as possible. I use that part to build on my story and characters, I let the reader get to know my characters, I let the characters speak for themselves, to set their own motivations. There’s no need for the end of a story to tie up all the loose ends, but I give the story a definite moment where it ends. An example of this is my story The Men Who Took Their Vows Together in East Ham Registry Office. Though this story has an ending I have used a lot, it ends at a certain point of the story, not tying up all the loose ends and giving the characters a neat resolution; instead it ends with the character moving forward. I try to always give a reader an ending, just not always a neat one. Plot holds so much writing together; even if it is a story/piece that is looking back on a character’s life or following a character’s emotional journey a plot gives me a structure to hang all this upon and, hopefully, to hold a reader’s attention. At present, I am writing a short story about a man, in his late twenties, who cannot seem to attain an adult, romantic relationship. All he can find is short-lived relationships that crash and burn or casual sex. The story explores how he has got into this situation, what has contributed to him being so poor at relationships, though I want to portray him as a character with little insight into his own situation (I do like a challenge). I could just write it as the character looking back on his life, but this would be a very dry story with me just telling the reader about this character’s situation. I have decided to intersperse this retrospective narrative across one evening of this man’s life when he goes on another first date. With the date, I can show the reader some of this man’s problems, how he sabotages his attempts to forge a relationship. Here I am using a plot as a device to explore a subject. Agatha Christie was called the Queen of Crime, she is one of the most widely read of English language authors, she is also the most successful English woman playwright, but for me Agatha Christie was a great teacher. Her books taught me how to plot a story and I’m so grateful to her for this. I also have a strange link to her, not through her books. During the Second World War, Agatha Christie worked as a hospital dispenser at University College Hospital in London. This was one of the hospitals where I did my nurse training, so she and I walked the same hospital corridors, just separated by five decades. Happy reading, Drew
  4. I never actually met Hamish (*), but God did I hate him, and that wasn’t from a personal prejudice. Martin (my husband) was working for a previous employer but still as a clinical nurse specialist. I know that I am biased, but Martin is very experienced at his job and he knows his subject. Hamish started working at the same trust. He had no clinical experience or qualifications and was working as a manager for a non-clinical service; he managed the trust’s buildings. But this didn’t stop Hamish. He very quickly began telling Martin how to do his job and what he “really” should be doing. Hamish’s suggestions were deeply wrong but this didn’t deter him. He was pushing himself into Martin’s role, trying to override Martin, constantly trying to bully him and generally making his working life hell by making doing his job so difficult. So many evenings, after he got home, I would hear Martin’s complaints about how again Hamish had made his working life so taxing and how Hamish just refused to listen to complaints about his own behaviour and wouldn’t agree to any suggestions that weren’t his own. He was making Martin’s working life unbearable and there was nothing I could do about it. I felt so useless because I couldn’t help Martin, except by listening to how Hamish screwed-up his working day. Then the idea came to me, I could use my writing to get some revenge on Hamish for Martin. I was writing a story was about a man who was being homophobically bullied by a work colleague, and I decided to call the work colleague Hamish. The man breaks one evening and ends up killing Hamish in a very bloody attack. From there the plot twists as the man reacts to his crime. My interest in the story was writing about perceptions and how easily we believe anyone can be keeping a secret, even if it goes completely against what we know about a person. When Martin read the story, he took gleeful pleasure in Hamish’s murder. It was so nice to see his stress eased, if only for a short time, by something I had rewritten. (Hamish left for a “better” job soon after, though he had no idea what I had written. The story remains unpublished but it is on my list to be revised for a planned collection.) To want revenge, especially when we have received unjust or prejudicial treatment, is a very natural human response, but it is never satisfying. Whatever that other person has done to us, we can never make them suffer the way they made us suffer, most of the time they are not even aware of how much suffering they caused; often it us who are hurt as we are eaten up with the injustice done us and the desire for revenge. I spent so much time, too much time, plotting how I could get my own back on those who had hurt me when I was a teenager, the homophobes who hurt and rejected me. All it did was eat me up with anger and bitterness, I wasn’t even able to put into context what had happened to me. Then I wrote a story based on a very traumatic event from when I was a teenager. Writing it I found I was able to take a step backwards and look at what really happened, how I came to put myself in such a position, that it wasn’t my fault, and to begin to understand why those people had behaved so appallingly. Rereading that story now, I see that it is overwritten, with far too much unnecessary backstory, too long and too slowly paced. It will never see the light of day. I was just learning how to write then, but it did show me the power of writing, how writing could open my eyes to why something happened. That short story also had another big flaw, it was easy to identify who the characters were based on. I’ve since learnt there is no need for anyone else to be able to identify who a character is based on; I actually do not want readers to stand any chance to. So now I take all steps to prevent this (see my blog about writing about real people). Writing fiction about things that make me angry or events that have caused me pain has become very liberating. Doing so, I have to look at a situation, what caused it, what led to it, the effects it caused; I have to analyse the entire situation. This can give me insight and understanding, it is amazing how the negativity of a situation is diminished by understanding it. I do the same thing with attitudes and beliefs that I don’t agree with and that make me angry. Understanding an attitude doesn’t mean that I will agree with it, but it does mean I can understand where it comes from and the harm it does. Writing against it I can explore the human effects of it. I have a relative who has very conversative and Evangelical Christian views. Her views are very black and white, no shades of grey, and very simplistic. She bluntly doesn’t engage with any challenges to her views. She is also someone I have known most of my life and, as such, I have been able to study why and who she is. She has given me so much opportunity and understanding of why someone would hold her views. Her attitudes have appeared so often in my writing, giving me the opportunity to explore them and the harm they cause. Saying all that, this approach isn’t easy and I do not always get it right. Years ago, and several jobs ago, I was subjected to a rant by an Evangelical Christian colleague. She objected to the Equality Bill, claiming wrongly that it would give LGBT people more protection than Christians and that Christians would be persecuted under it. She claimed that Christians were the most persecuted minority in the country (not true). When I tried to reply to her, she bluntly refused to let me speak, refusing to listen to any view that didn’t match her own. I was so angry at her. Through my anger I began to wonder why someone would take such a blinkered and untrue view and the harm such views were doing. The result of this, after much thought, was the short story “Easter Witness”, which was published in my collection Case Studies in Modern Life. I am very happy with this story because I was able to show the negative effects of those views as well as punching holes in that argument. But I don’t always get it right, especially if I write too quickly about it. During the Marriage Equality debate here in Britain, there were a lot of untruths and downright lies told about what would happen if same-sex couples could legally marry (all of which have not come to pass). I was so angry that I wrote the short story “To the Heart of Marriage”. Unfortunately, I wrote it too quickly and I was too angry when I wrote it. Its arguments are simplistic and it tells the reader what’s wrong, not showing the effects of these negative untruths. It failed. Revenge does need to be written with a cool mind. But also there shouldn’t be a wish fulfilment element to this, we shouldn’t be using fiction to rewrite history so that we win, so we come out on top, to enact the revenge we were never able to do in real life, because that is so hollow and untrue, and what service are we doing to our readers? Many years ago, I was a member of a gay men’s writing group. One of the members was writing a novel in which he rewrote his unhappy and repressed childhood. His novel made him, as a young teenager, the winner and always coming out on top of his family’s fights and wars. He had created a thirteen-year-old boy who had the debating and arguing skills of a thirty or forty-year-old man; this child was impossibly wise for his years. That novel made me feel uncomfortable because it was so untrue but he, the writer, couldn’t see that. He was actually taking deep pleasure from it. I realised the discomfort I felt was the discomfort a reader would feel and that it would make a reader stop reading. My fiction has to be honest about human emotions and reactions, otherwise how can I ever hope to hold a reader’s interest? After all, they are the ones giving me their time to read my writing. Art is the best revenge but only if it’s done honestly, not to settle old scores but to explore the events. Happy reading Drew (*) Not his real name.
  5. My writing desk sits under the window in our front bedroom, though we have rarely used the room as such, and it gives me a clear view of the strip of grass on the opposite side of the road. It is that writers’ activity, doing anything else but write, and mine is staring out of that window and watching life pass by on that strip of grass. Whenever I do it, I stop myself, tell myself I should be writing, and turn away from the window, but so often some fascinating tableau out there will catch my attention. We live in a Victorian back-to-back terraced house in East London. It was the type of house originally built for factory and dock workers. Its layout is simple, almost identical to all the other ones that once filled this area. It was built with two rooms downstairs, two rooms upstairs and a tiny courtyard at the back, which backs directly onto the courtyard of the house behind us. It’s small but we love it, it’s our home. Our bedroom is the bedroom at the back of the house while the front bedroom has become our spare room/store room/laundry room/my home office; it’s rather cramped but it is amazing to have a place where I can go and write. There isn’t a matching row of terraced houses on the opposite side of the street to our house, instead there is a long and narrow strip of green grass, a public green space, where the opposite row of houses once stood. Our area of London was heavily bombed during the Second World War, and the opposite row of houses was a casualty of that bombing. After the war, this strip of bombed houses was turned into a green space, rather than just building on it again. It is so pleasant having this green space right on our doorstep, even though there was a tragedy behind its creation. This grass was always the territory of two crows, which I named Ronnie and Reggie because they always strutted across the grass as if this was their very manor and would chase away any other birds who dared to land there. They would happily chase away the starlings and pigeons who tried to encroach on their territory, though they were always wary of the seagulls. That was before the Covid lockdown. During the first lockdown, the number of crows multiplied by almost tenfold. There is now a murder of crows that can number twenty or even thirty some mornings, marching across the strip of grass, and they show such little fear of us human residents. One day, returning home from the supermarket, I found two crows sitting on the roof of our car, parked outside our house. They were angrily ripping apart a piece of bread. As I approached the car, one of them hopped away, but the other one remained standing in the centre of the car’s roof, staring angrily at me. It didn’t move as I passed within feet of it. Maybe our street has become their manor. Many joggers run around the strip of grass as part of their exercise. Some are dressed in the latest running clothes with the latest technology to aid them, their smartphones attached to their forearms by a dedicated strap-on pocket, their fit-bit or smartwatch on their wrist measuring every step they take. Or else they are dressed in old T-shirts and mismatched jogging bottoms. There are joggers who start their run with elaborate stretches and twists and joggers who just go straight into their slow and purposeful runs. The most memorable jogger is the jogger who has been there as long as we have been living here. She is now a woman in her late sixties or early seventies and every Monday to Friday, at seven o’clock in the morning, she runs around that strip of grass. She always wears the same tracksuit of black leggings and a DayGlo top, which is currently bright yellow. She always runs in the same way, short and fast-paced steps with her arms raised up against her chest. She will run around the grass three or four times before running off to the newsagents for her daily newspaper. She then walks home, with a long and flowing stride, the opposite of the way she runs. She’s a very lithe and sprightly woman, so her jogging has served her well. The dog walkers also exercise their pets on the strip of grass. Some energetically exercise their dogs there, running with the excited dog, throwing a ball for it, chasing it around. Some dog walkers bring their children too, leaving them to do the running around with the dog while they stand on the side and wait for all that energy to be spent. Other dog walkers have their dogs on a retractable lead, where they can stand and let the dog run off by itself until it needs to be pulled back. There is one dog walker who has always grabbed my attention; he and his dog look so alike. He is a portly middle-aged man and his dog is an equally portly Jack Russell terrier. Almost religiously, they walk around the edge of the strip of grass several times a day. I don’t know whether it was his doctor or the dog’s vet that recommended they get more exercise to lose weight. He always walks right around the grass with no shortcuts; his dog always follows behind him, but it always cuts off the corners, taking a diagonal shortcut across them. On a weekday morning there is the rush of mothers taking their children to school. Those mothers hurriedly rush their reluctant children along, their children trying to stretch out to the maximum the time they aren’t in school. Those mothers are much more interested in talking to their friends as their children hurry on ahead of them. At three-thirty the flow is in reverse, but this time it is teenage boys in their black blazers and matching school ties from the boys’ school on the opposite side of the main road that cuts this area in two. Though they may all be dressed in their neat and dark school uniforms, they still behave like teenage boys. They walk in groups, physically jostling one another, that one-upmanship between boys. They kick a football between them, shout excitedly at one another when they are walking next to each other, eating chips from the cheap fried chicken shop on the corner of the next street. Both of these different rushes of school children are over in barely half an hour each time, over and gone in a quick rush. Throughout the day, people walk past this strip of grass. People walking to work, people returning home with their bags of shopping, people talking on their phones as they walk, children playing haphazard games on the grass. In the summer, people actually sit on the grass having picnic lunches, though these lunches are far more often chicken and chips from the chicken shop than picnic lunches bought from the local supermarket, though some people do this. And one day there was a young woman recording a video. I noticed her walking around the grass, holding her phone in front of her face and talking in an animated style into it, her right arm gesturing to illustrate what she was saying. At first, I assumed she was making a video call, face-timing someone, but then she walked past for the third time and I realised she was performing the same hand gestures. She was recording herself. Somewhere on the internet is her video, with our street as her background. On overcast, winter mornings fog can cling to the grass. Some mornings it can be so thick I cannot see the blocks of flats behind the grass. Some mornings it can be just a fine layer, a foot or so deep, just clinging to the grass like a haunted fog from a gothic horror film from the nineteen sixties. And this fog will disappear with the full rays of the sun. And then other mornings the grass will be frozen white by the early morning frost. So many of the images and people I see out of that window bleed into my writing. They are not so much inspiration for me, but some things I use to add colour to my writing. If I want to describe a minor character or a passing tableau then often I will use something I have seen out of this window. So much of my life bleeds into my writing. In this coming year I’ll be sitting in front of that window a lot, I have so much I want to write about. Happy reading. Drew
  6. “I gave you good script,” Ma to Alan Cocktail Sticks, a play by Alan Bennett The writer Alan Bennett has been very open about how much he is inspired by real-life events. He has written plays and film scripts all inspired by real-life events; he has written several volumes of autobiographical essays, and every year or so he publishes extracts from his diary. I’ve seen and read all of them and enjoyed them so much. In his autobiographical play Cocktail Sticks, about his relationship with his parents, the character of Ma (based on his mother) says, “I gave you good script,” meaning he has used so many of the actual things she said in his writing. I cannot class myself in the same writing league as Alan Bennett, but I take so much inspiration from real-life events. That inspiration seems to fall into three different types. The first is when I want to write about events or attitudes that have made me angry or upset. This is when I use fiction to explore how I feel about a subject or when I want to write about attitudes in order to expose the negative/destructive nature of them. My short story I Always Knew is an example of this. It was the height of the Jimmy Savile scandal and I heard an elderly journalist on the radio saying that he’d always known about Savile’s crimes. My anger led me to explore that attitude, those people who are always “wise” after a tragedy, in this story. Secondly, I can find inspiration in news headlines and real events. Sometimes it a headline and a short news item that inspires my imagination. I don’t do anymore research, instead I let my imagination dwell on those sparse descriptions or even single event and then I fill out the events and with characters I’ve created. Without researching the events any further I can make sure I am not using the people and their tragedy for my own fiction, that my story is a complete work of fiction. A Family Christmas is an example of me using this type of inspiration. There was a mass shooting in America, on Christmas Eve, the year before I wrote this story. I learnt no more about that tragedy but my imagination filled in the blanks and I created a story that explored a theme that leapt out at me from this tragedy. I don’t always search out stories of death and tragedy, all kinds of things in the media can set my imagination off running. I read an interview with the actor Russell Tovey where he said a throwaway comment, but that comment set my imagination off. The result was the story That One Big Role. I have also been researching historical events for a series of stories. These take a lot more research and less of my imagination filling in the blanks, though some of that is still needed. With these stories I want to examine a historical event from a fictional character’s point of view, find the human story inside the facts. These stories do take a lot of work, but I don’t want to stop writing them, the research is fascinating. The Trial of the Century is the first one in this style I wrote. Thirdly, I find inspiration from my own life. It can either be just one small factor that I then spin off into a whole story, or else it can form a larger part of a story, or else I fictionalise something that happened to me as a way to explore what and why that thing happened. Boxing Day 1975 is a short story of mine that was inspired by one event from my life. When I was a young child, on Boxing Day, together with my family I watched the big film on television that evening, One Million Years BC. That was the only part I took into the story, it is certainly not based on my own family but I do vividly remember how my family all sat down together to watch the same television film. I met my first boyfriend in 1987 but our relationship did not last. Our break-up was different, difficult and not that conventional. I used that break-up scene, almost word-for-word from real life, as the opening scene of my story Out of the Valley. I used this story to explore obsessive love and not being able to let go of an ex-lover, none of which was my reaction to the end of that relationship, though this story did go through many rewrites over the years with the wish-fulfilment ending being quickly dropped. Then there are those real-life encounters that play on my mind and imagination and form the bases of some of my stories. Jonathan Roven Is Lost (a story in my collection Case Studies in Modern Life) is a story that started off in that way. Through my job, I saw the effect dementia has on the partners of those people with it. My blog here gives a much fuller picture of how that story was created. For me, there isn’t just one way that I find inspiration, but I guess that is the same for so for many writers, but using inspiration and facts from real life is very important to me, I want my stories to have that taste of authenticity. I don’t use overheard dialog in my writing, like many writers do, because the few times I’ve heard anything decent I’ve forgotten the actual words by the time I get home. But I do use real people in my writing or people’s attitudes and beliefs. I don’t use direct copies of people; I don’t feel comfortable if readers can easily identify the person who was the inspiration for a character. So often I combine different things from different people—the attitude from one person, the clothes style from another and the physical appearance from another. But what really fascinates me are people’s attitudes and beliefs and how they affect their lives and how people’s personalities react in different situations. For me, I find inspiration in so many different ways, so many different things can spark and inspire my imagination, but in the end it is my imagination that forms the story from whatever the inspiration is, though I always work to create authenticity in my fiction. I hope my stories bear that out. I do remember one of the classic things my mother said, though I have never found the right story to use it in. I was in my early teens and had just come home from school one afternoon and my mother was unpacking her shopping. “I won’t buy anymore lemonade, all you lot ever do is drink it,” my mother said. “What should we do with it, wash in it?” I said. “You know what I mean,” she told me. And I did. Happy reading Drew
  7. Jonathan Roven is Lost is a story I am proud of. It concerns a subject that I have rarely seen written about, namely how a gay couple manages when one of them develops Alzheimer’s Disease. I’m also proud of the journey this story has taken. Originally, it was just 900 words long, with a different ending. It was written as a flash fiction story (stories under 1,000-words long) to a prompt of Losing Your Lover. So often do I find a left-field response to subjects. It was first published on the Gay Flash Fiction website. Unfortunately, it has been deleted from that site since then, but other stories of mine are still available there. The original version can be found here. As always, I had that rush of excitement whenever I have something published, the excitement of knowing I am communicating with people I’ll never meet. Then something strange happened. The site’s editor emailed me because he had received a complaint. An American lawyer, called Jonathan Roven, had demanded that my story be taken down or changed. It seemed the real-life Jonathan Roven didn’t like having a fictional character named after him or sharing his name, or he didn’t like my character called Jonathan Roven, or all three. The editor wasn’t happy; he argued that there are probably lots of real-life Mr Darcys out there, and they aren’t writing to Jane Austen’s estate, demanding her character’s name is changed. I did a Google search on fictional characters with real people’s names, and I also looked up Jonathan Roven. The first page of links was all to the same American lawyer, except for a link to my story, which was surprising and interesting. My other Google search returned some interesting results. I’ve included the links below. Under American law, it seems, calling a fictional character by the same name as a real person alone is not libel. Jonathan Roven would have had to prove that the fictional character was based on him, with more similarities than just names, and that the fictional character had harmed his character and/or reputation. In my story, the fictional character is a 60-year-old gay man with Alzheimer’s Disease; I don’t even name his profession. Also, in America, winning a libel case where you say a fictional character libelled you seems to be very difficult. Now, I’m a nurse and not a lawyer, and this is just what I learnt from an online search. When I first created the character, he was to have been called Jonathan Raven, but I made a typo and called him Jonathan Roven, which I liked the sound of, so it stayed. I’m British, and the Gay Flash Fiction website isn’t run for profit; it’s much more a labour of love. Neither of us could afford to fight a court case, so we quickly agreed to change the title character’s name. Therefore, we changed it to Jonathan Raven is Lost, well in the version on the Gay Flash Fiction website anyway. But it left a sour taste in my mouth and created an unpleasant memory. What had so upset the man that he wanted my story changed or removed? Was it because the character who shared his name was gay and/or had Alzheimer’s Disease (and I’m not sure which one it would be), or was it because he’d lost the top billing of having all his results on the first page of a Google search? I’ve since posted the original version of the story, under its original title, on my old blog and on the GA website, where it can still be read, and I’ve heard nothing from the real Jonathan Roven. In these locations, I have no intention of changing the title or the story or the character’s name. When I was selecting stories for my published collection Case Studies in Modern Life, I naturally chose Jonathan Roven is Lost. It is such a good example of my writing, but it is also about a subject I feel strongly about. Many of the patients I nurse in my job have Alzheimer’s Disease, and I have seen what it does to lives and relationships. Like many of the stories in this collection, I workshopped it at my Writer’s Group. I received amazing feedback, and people advised me to open the story up because there was more to tell. I returned to it and started to re-shape it. The rewrites took the story from 800 to 11,000-words long, and as I rewrote it, so much more of the story came out. I introduced new characters; the narrator’s best friend, their neighbour, Jonathan’s sister, and his social worker, plus a nurse called Lilly. So much of the plot expanded, and I found there was so much more to tell. Other writers talk about stories and characters taking on “a life of their own”. I’ve never really experienced that. I’m a great planner of stories, and I always know where my stories are going. As I re-wrote this story, I found myself thinking about it more and more, planning it out in my mind. I found there was so much more to write, so much more of these characters’ stories to tell. I am also proud that I was able to write a story about Alzheimer’s Disease from an original perspective and also realistically look at how to manage if your partner does develop it. This story isn’t a road map for how to manage life with a partner with Alzheimer’s Disease, but it does provide advice from my experience. I also have Steve, one of the other members of my writer’s group, Newham Writers Workshop, to thank for his suggestion about a change to the story’s ending. His suggestion created a much more poignant ending to the story, highlighting the emotional cost Jonathan Roven’s Alzheimer’s Disease has taken on his partner. This story was originally written as a flash fiction story about losing a lover but in an unusual way. Since then, it has grown into much more. It is now about two men’s tragic journey and is very typical of the subjects I write about. The inspiration for this story occurred back in the late 1990s. I was working in my first District Nursing job and looking after an elderly couple. She had severe dementia, and he was her main carer, but he was also her second husband. Due to her dementia, she had forgotten his name and called him by the name of her first husband. The pain on his face every time she did this was heart breaking. I have never forgotten his expression, though he carried on caring for her. Happy reading. Drew When Fiction & Reality Collide Could I Be Liable for Libel in Fiction? “Libel in general is when somebody claims that a statement of fact made about him or her harmed his or his character” Law & Order' Faces Libel Suit A Writer's Guide to Defamation and Invasion of Privacy Defamation in Fiction—What’s in a Name?
  8. Writing is a very solitary activity; we sit there on our own, writing away on our computer or laptop, or even doing it “old school” via paper and pen, pouring out our stories and preserving our characters there in the written word. But how do we know that what we are writing is any good? We can ask our family and loved ones, but will they give us the feedback we need? They are our loved ones and so often they want the best for us and may not give us the feedback we require, or they may not be able to handle what we are writing about, especially if it doesn’t fit their image of us. As a teenager I wrote poetry, like so many teenagers. I wrote a poem about loneliness. It was bitter, angry and dark. “Nothing kills you faster than loneliness,” was its last line. My mother read the poem and said it was “Nice.” As writers we can get so absorbed in our own writing, get so far into our characters’ heads that we can miss the obvious. We may have failed to introduce our characters, not given them a distinctive enough voice; we may have left huge plot holes; we may have overused one particular word literally. Because we are so close to our writing, we can’t see these mistakes. We also need to know that our writing is readable and engaging, and that cannot always be achieved by rereading on our own. Good and honest feedback will always make our writing better. Writers’ groups have provided me with this; they have been a wonderful source of feedback and support. I’ve learnt so much just from meeting with other members. The first writers’ group I went to was when I was eighteen. The Old Swan Writers were based in the Old Swan district of Liverpool and it was one long bus ride away from my then home. Those bus rides gave me plenty of time to think and read. But that writers’ group told me and showed me I could write. This group of adults showed me I could create a story and characters, plot it out and write it down on paper. It was an amazing revelation. There I received feedback without any agenda. They weren’t pulling me down because they thought I was getting above myself by wanting to be a writer or else telling me polite things because that was what they thought I wanted to hear, both of which had happened before. (Unfortunately, after an extensive Google search, I cannot find any mention of the Old Swan Writers. Like all good things, they seem to have ended) When I moved to London, I stopped attending any writers’ group, not because London is short of them but because I led a very gypsy lifestyle in those early years. I changed jobs frequently and I often moved home. I only really started to settle down when I started my nurse training, and that didn’t leave me much time to write anything that wasn’t related to my studies. I seriously came back to writing after the millennium, when I started to find many avenues for my writing, not just fiction. It was also when I reconnected with a writers’ group, first online and then later in person. I’m now a member of my local writers’ group, Newham Writers Workshop, and they have been so helpful. I’ve had some very helpful feedback on my writing, how my plots and characters are working, how readable my writing is, how my descriptions work, how they paint a picture for the reader. I have also learnt so much about the craft of writing, subjects like “head-hopping”, “filter words”, distance and intimate view points and about using the “unreliable narrator”. I learnt about self-publishing from my writers’ group. But giving feedback to other writers has also helped me. We have a policy of always giving feedback that supports the writer in what they want to write. So there is no saying, “I don’t like this,” neither can you just say, “I liked this.” You have to explain why, what makes this a good piece of writing, where the writer could improve it, what does not work but why it does not work. I have also been exposed to some amazing writing there, listening to/reading other writers’ work has opened my eyes to how you can do things differently and stylistically. It has also shown me what my own personal style is; I like to write from a very intimate point of view of my characters, to get under their skin. The vast majority of my stories in Case Studies in Modern Life have benefited from the feedback from my writers’ group, in some cases I have completely rewritten them after getting some really thought-provoking feedback. My writers’ group has also shown me how inclusive my writing is. The previous two writers’ groups I joined (one online and one in person) were both LGBT groups. I wanted the support of other LGBT writers, it was a safe place and a safe idea, but good things can come to an end and both these groups closed for different reasons. I’m now a member of my local writers’ group and this is an open group. I’m the only openly gay man there and yet that has never been an issue. Now I am writing about gay issues and themes; the other writers there have understood my writing and have seen what I want to write about. It has shown me that my writing has a wide appeal and that is amazing and very reassuring. Newham Writers Workshop has been the last cog, though a very big one, in the machine that encouraged me to publish my collection of stories, and I’m very grateful for this. And then there is the social element. After each meeting, when meeting face-to-face, most of us go to a local pub for a drink. Talking with other writers about writing in general, or even life in general, is a breath of fresh air. It takes the solitude out of it all. And I’ve made some good friends there from very different backgrounds. It is nice to get out of my comfort zone. I would encourage any writer to join a writers’ group; no matter what your experience or level of writing, you can only benefit from good and honest feedback. Drew Case Studies in Modern Life (On Amazon) Case Studies in Modern Life (On Smashwords)
  9. The Good: I've booked myself in on a residential writing course at Arvon in mid April. It's not because I lack inspiration, I just want to get better at what I'm doing. Plus, there hasn't been much opportunity for travel these past few years and it'll be good to get away. The next story I'm working on is set in Yorkshire, not too far from Lumb Bank where the course is being held, so I can do some research at the same time. The Bad: Bloody health again. Had an expected call from the hospital last Wednesday to tell me firstly that they'd suspended my treatment and secondly that they were going to have to have a meeting concerning my latest scan results, to get a second opinion from the radiographer. This is what I call a cliffhanger phone call. I won't get to see anyone until tomorrow, which means I've spent a week wondering what the f**k they've found in there. The Ugly: Have to go in to hospital tomorrow for the dreaded meeting. Since Covid, they usually only want to speak to you face to face if it's (a) bad news or (b) a change of treatment. I always expect the worst and nothing can really match up to those first meetings, when, as a cancer virgin, the phrases 'stage 4' and 'palliative care' made me think I didn't have long to go. And that was over three years ago! New treatment is always a worry too. I've got used to what I'm on now. I can cope with the occasional nausea, peeling fingernails, zapped tastebuds and neutropenia. But starting new medication can bring all sorts of other exciting side effects. Never mind. I've just written a new prompt story for St Patrick's Day - Leprechaun Magic. Maybe the wee folk will grant my wish for a few more months of good health.
  10. Tomorrow I'm off on a week's writing course. I'm really excited about it. There's nothing like immersing yourself in a writing environment and talking with other people who are on the same wavelength. Getting out of the usual routine is also inspiring and visiting a new place always gives me lots of ideas. For anyone who is following my stories 'To the Weyr' and 'Hidden Secrets' don't worry - they will be updated on Monday and Thursday as usual, although I may be slower replying to comments as apparently the wifi isn't great there. Over the next five days, I'm hoping to learn some new techniques there and maybe share some in this blog.
  11. During these dark, short winter days, the possibility of ghosts rises to the surface. On a bright, warm, summer day, it's easy to put our fears aside, but on a foggy December afternoon, as the light fades, they rise out of the shadows. Our ancestors used to gather around their fires as the snow swirled outside and tell ghosts stories. Nowadays, we can just post them on the Internet. Here's my latest spooky offering: Bad Vibes - Shortly after moving in to new offices, Luke and his staff start to experience strange and seemingly inexplicable phenomenon. Could the old building be haunted? And if so, can anything be done to stop it? Read with the lights on.
  12. Wayne Gray

    Faking It

    The chapter I'm currently writing has this scene. It's a scene with a therapist and her client, and I am trying to portray her as clever, caring, and deeply insightful. I mean far more insightful than I could ever be. And let me tell you, that's tricky business. So I'm faking it. I get the luxury of time, while she has to deal with someone sitting across from her, and she is having to think on her feet. What takes me writing and rewriting, and hours of thought, she does in moments. I guess it's true, I am just as smart as she is. I mean, she came from me, right? The only difference is Naomi is smart at full speed. Pretty big difference. LOL But it's so fun writing her. God ... she really is clever. I love when secondary characters shine like this. Onward.
  13. There's this album by "The Decemberists", and it's called The Hazards of Love. The first time I heard it, I didn't know it was an epic. It's a story, and it's told from song one to seventeen, in order. The title fits as well as a tailored glove. It's not all good, and it even ends in ... well, nevermind. I'll let you listen to find out. Regardless, a couple of days ago, I had this scene slam into my head. If you want to read the unedited, raw scene, it's here. In it, we watch someone suffer through one of the hazards of love, and it's not exactly pretty. Still, people go on. Some are forever changed, but they go on. And from that scene, I've outlined an entire story, and titled it The Hazards of Love. Loving is a risk, after all. But if we're brave enough to face the Hazards of Love, maybe we can win something wonderful. My outline is almost done. Then the real work starts.
  14. Well, 'Threadfall' is almost at an end. It was originally intended as a short prequel to 'Gone Away, Gone Ahead' and has ended up far longer. There are a few more short stories to come in the 'Dragonriders of Pern' fanfic series and hopefully a longer third part, taking up from where 'Gone Away, Gone Ahead' finished. Finishing a story is always slightly sad, but it gives the mind an opportunity to start thinking about new ideas as well. Coming soon: 'Hidden Secrets' - A murder mystery with paranormal elements, set in an old cinema. Should be ready to post in a few weeks. Unlike the Dragonriders fanfics, which I usually write in episodic fashion, keeping just a few weeks ahead of posting, I've had to plan this out and complete it, due to all the plot twists. For Dragonriders fans, look out for 'Empty, Open, Dusty, Dead' - After the other five Weyrs disappear overnight, Zalna, a junior weyrwoman at Benden, tries to figure out what has happened. She is sure Weyrleader N'rax must be hiding something.
  15. B1ue

    Dribble Drabble

    Had this image in my head for about a week. Needed to excise it. "Why are you praying?" Fitzpatrick screamed, activating the neural whip in her hands. The bright blue pulse entered her prisoner's skull, arresting the flowing intonation in his throat. But only for a moment. He swallowed, spat, then continued on as if it had been nothing. "Holy Mary, mother of God..." They'd been at this for a while. At first, she'd been cheered when it started. Former priests, as this man was, were high on her list of least favorite subjects. It was odd, because the perverted faggots should have been wonderful to experiment on. She should have been able to draw immense satisfaction from working them over, forcing them to realize that God did not exist, that their determination to cling to such illegal modes of thinking was nothing but cowardice, but it was hardly ever the case. Sometimes they broke fast, and could be gold mines on occasion, as the unthinking reactionaries still tended to place their trust and their secrets in their illegal clergymen, but mostly they were just pains in Fitzpatrick's ass. Her initial cheer evaporated when the actual words dutifully recorded by her computer penetrated, and the cadence in which he said them was recognized. Out of all the gall, the bastard was praying at her. In her indignation, what few scruples she had evaporated. "God...does...not...exist!" she said, punctuating each word with another pulse from the whip. Fitzpatrick had been exposed to the whip, once, during her training. Every pain receptor in her body seemed to flare at once with the stimulation, her stomach muscles going strangely slack or tight as the pulse flat refused to allow her body to vomit. That one touch haunted her dreams for years, but it gave her a real understanding of the work she did everyday. This priest had been exposed to hundreds of such stimulation in the last hour. She was slightly in awe he could even speak, let alone remember whole prayers. Perhaps he couldn't. He seemed to be saying the same one over and over a lot. "Why do you still call to a figment of your imagination?" He'd met her eyes, once or twice during the session, but didn't even acknowledge that remark with a frown. He simply carried on. "Pray for us sinners..." "Prayer is nothing! It does nothing! Gives you nothing!" she cried. "Are you blind? Are you stupid? How much more proof do you need that God is nothing but a lie? Your kind says miracles happen, but what miracles can come from a being that can do nothing, not even stop your pain?" "Amen," he said. Then he looked up, meeting her eyes. "But He is. He is doing something. And if you cannot see it, you are the one blind." He turned away, and resumed his pace. "Glory be to the father..." Fitzpatrick sighed. There was nothing for it. That was the only reaction she'd gotten in a session long enough to drive almost any other person to madness. The only explanation she could see was that he was already crazy, and so they could not trust anything out of his mouth anyways. She hated the waste on her time, but at least she finish up. She stepped back, and with a smooth motion extracted her sidearm. "...is now, and ever shall be, a world without--." *** Now that's out of the way, how about I say a few offensive things, yes? I blame the Old Testament for the misunderstandings people have about Christianity. Catholicism in particular, at least as I understand it, but Christianity in a wider sense too. The Old Testament made things too easy for it's adherents. It is easy to have faith when faith alone kept fire from touching you. Shadrach in the charnel, singing of His glory, must have made a terrible impression on the Babylonians. It is equally easy to follow a god who provides a 60' pillar of sand to act as your GPS navigation device. Who will turn rivers into blood in protecting you and yours. Who can, will, and does provide tangible proof when such proof is demanded. I encountered someone who told me that God cannot exist, because if He did, the world would have no problems, since he'd provide miracles enough to keep his followers in the style in which they'd like to be accustomed. I thought, My God, what a moron. Christianity isn't like that. Christ performed miracles yes, in front of thousands sometimes, but on the whole, they were quiet ones. Do you really think all 5000 people knew there was only a scattering of bread and fish in that basket? That people who saw the corpse didn't think they might have been mistaken when the soldier's daughter lived? Yes, people said, people testified, but it wasn't like they had EEG devices back then. Even people who witnessed might have been able to doubt the evidence of their eyes. The Bible says they believed, but I'm sure some did not. Many, I'd think. If Christianity isn't about pillars of flame, it is about more quiet forms of faith. A grown, important man taking them time to speak to children. It's about the head of a saint rolling just so to stare accusingly at his murderer. It is about a woman giving her last coin in the faith that it will make a difference in her life. It is a man, dying, finding it in himself to offer comfort to another. A woman in mourning wiping the sweat and blood from the brow of the condemned. Instead of a man defying fire, it is a man chained, yet still singing to His glory. The martyrs are telling, I think. In the Old Testament, the martyrs would have been saved. The bitter cup would have passed their lips. It is a bit grim that we wear crosses to show our faith. It is a reminder of the greatest miracle performed for our sakes, yes, but also the cost that our beliefs sometimes carried, because God would not save us from that fate. Not on this world. There is a reason St. Peter is the father of Catholicism. Yes, yes, his name signifies that he is the rock upon which the church was built, but any biblical scholar, or even someone who's read a Dan Brown novel, knows the Bible we have wasn't all we had to work with. I feel confident the church patriarchs could have done a bit of editing, should they have felt the need. Paul, from the perspective of someone who thinks in Old Testament terms, would have made a much better example, which is why he did most of the proselytizing. But Peter, ah, Peter was the man who denied. Who, before Thomas, doubted. Who failed himself, when the chips were down and when Christ himself reached out a hand and asked him to step forward. We are told that it was John whom Christ loved best. But it was Peter, that sank beneath the waters, who became the rock. Faith isn't supposed to be an easy thing. It isn't supposed to be blind. That was the miracle of Saul/Paul, after all. Faith is supposed to be tested, and sometimes found wanting. But it is also supposed to be a light in dark places. It cannot save us from the gallows. But it can touch us, let us walk to our deaths in peace.
  16. The infamous Writing List that I have. Mind you, I can't exactly post most of these here since they are...smut. Except Imaginary which I will post eventually here. Once I get it posted. Hopefully. For now, enjoy. Read, what ever. If you are 18 I'll give you a link to my AFF.net account and you can raid me there. As of October 29, 2009: Editing/Overhauling: Xanders Many Faces Imaginary: A Sailor Moon Story What I am writing: Chapter Stories That are being written and posted: A Butterfly's Dream: Chapter 13 - written - sent to beta Chapter 14 - being written To Catch a Kitten: chapter 5 - written chapter 6 - need to type it Honey Drops: Chapter 2 - In planning stages Xanders Many Faces Hellsing 2, 3 and 4 - with beta Planned Chapter stories: Harry Potter Travels (tentative title): Bill/Charlie/Harry Status: Starting to write Untitled Harry Potter Crossover: Crossed over with: Sex Therapist Anita Blake Hellsing Yu Yu Hakusho Bleach Weiss Kreuz Saiyuki Summary: Harry travels the world to discover more about himself. UntitledOuran High Host Club: Mori/Everyone. Thought: Mori knows how to work itbehind closed doors. Showing the host club why he's always silent, Moritakes control without being in control. Just don't ask. Just read.Haruhi will be a guy, not a girl. Finding a Bit of Trust: For truly here. Naruto/Ibiki. Something goes horribly wrong and Naruto isleft with more then just emotional pain. Ibiki fixes it for him. Prologue - Posted Chapter 1 - being written The Ultimate Betrayal Chapter 2 - planning stages Untitled Bleach and Weiss Kruez crossover. Summary:After Ichigos mother dies, he goes to stay with his uncle, his mothersbrother, Yohji. Coming back after many years, he stumbles onto the ongoing war, tilting the war in favor of the side of evil...Aizen andthem are evil...right? All the while, he makes others think about theirperceptions of right and wrong as his friends come to help kick someass. One shots and requested one shots: Dreamcatcher Status: Being written once more...one paragraph at least. Next story for 'Xanders Many Faces' Status: Being edited and reposted. Cyny: Spy VS Spy fiction chynyll: Bleach threesome: Renji/Ishida/Ichigo NinaFox: Grimm/Renji (crack anyone?) knaveofhearts: David and Clary Smut: Being outlined Shiauko: Umi/Baby Smut: Another Penthouse letter Most of the following people aren't on here (or at least not to my knowledge) so don't be surprised, yes? Pairings only really. For Anon on AFF.net: Kisuke/Issin Shunsui/Hisagi Ishida/Renji Ishida/Hisagi GreentreeFroggy: Urahara/Renji - also requested by Dragonmist753 Shirosaki (Hichigo)/Ichigo/Renji OfMagicalEssence: Urahara/Nova Ichigo/Nova (I will enjoy writing that one) Roberta2002: Ichigo and Issin (don't know if this will turn into incest): Finds out dad is a soul reaper. Ichigo/Ukitake: MPreg Story Liz: Chad/Ichigo: Virigin!Ichigo, Vamp!Chad Aizen/Urahara Aizen/Ichigo: Another Virgin!Ichigo Affriel and Rysha: Yumi/Ishida: Ribbons, measurments. Happygirl124: Continue the Ukitake/Byakuya/Ichigo Ichigo/Grimm/Aizen: Unable to choose between the two. GeneralSephiroth: Continuation of the Renji/Shunsui with Grimm as the main focus, babysitting Ichis kid. PickleReviewer: Ikkaku/Ichigo Kensei/Ichigo KiraRose: Aizen/Ishida Byakuya/Ishida Anony: Byakuya/Ukitake Bya: kind of evil like dom, Uki: uke taken by surprise virgin like Mizukotsuchan: Shunsui/Ichigo athello Gin/Hanatoru sneere: Byakuy/Hanatoru: making plans 2 Stormraven Aizen/Hana Bleach Melodies YaoiSmutMaster: Shunsui/Chad Ukitake/Shuuhei/Hanatoru (totally yummy...) chynyll: Stark/Shunsui sweetseme Gin/Byakuya Sado/Maso, Uke Bya (warning: will be major OOC!) Rose NymphGreen Jugo/Naruto with back up pairing First Hokage/Naruto/Second Hokage Drawn from a Hat Pairings How this works. You take 8 characters, fandom or originals and put them onto 16 pieces of paper. Two pieces per name here! Now, stick them in a hat, mix it all up and pull them from said hat. Every 2 slips are one pairing. Write a story rotating around Shonen-Ai (sweet and fluffy), Yaoi (hard core smex, breaks down into 'no point, no climax, no end), and/or Smut (you get the idea). My pairings are: Bleach Set 1: Finished Naruto set 1: Finished Pairings for Weiss Kruez: Pairing 1: Yohji/Ken - Written - chapter 2 Pairing 2: Crawford/Aya Pairing 3: Farfarfello/Omi Pairing 4: Schuldig/Omi Pairing 5: Crawford/Nagi - Written - chapter 3 Pairing 6: Farfarfello/Aya Pairing 7: Schuldig/Aya Pairing 8: Nagi/Aya - Written - chapter 1 I WILL TAKE REQUESTS IF THEY MAKE ME PERK UP IN INTEREST. I HOLD THE RIGHT TO DENY OR DELETE YOUR REQUEST IF I FIND MYSELF UNABLE TO BECOME INTERESTED IN IT. ALL CHAPTER STORIES COME FIRST MOST OF THE TIME, SO EXPECT TO WAIT. I WILL GET TO YOUR STORY THOUGH.
  17. Hey I'm curious, does anyone use some ambiance when writing like music or a specific you-tuber? I personally, quite often have music that fits the mood of what I'm writing, or listen to Fredrik Knudsen.
  18. In my latest project I've got more than a hundred named characters. Insanity!? Probably but, that's how I roll. Goofy bastard. So... how do you keep track of it all? It's a struggle. These are the tricks I'm using and, the pros and cons of each. 1. Dramatis Persona... word document This worked Ok until it got to sixteen pages with notes and pointers to other entries. Then it became too complex and cumbersome to easily work well. It lost the virtue of simplicity when it was overloaded with more and more complex and unformed information. This is what it looked like at first: Chris Ashley (19) == Father Ashley (n) Tony Ramano (18) == Mother Maria Ramano (n) Toby Rankin (13) (d) == Father Sam Rankin (deceased) Brandon Rankin (14)(d) == Father Sam Rankin (deceased) Jeb Somerset (15)(d) == parents Somersets of Savannah Cole Matthews (14)(d) == Father new age fruitcake Barry Anderson (13) (d) == trafficked child, actual name is Cutler You don't want to know what happened later. Each entry expanded from name, age, shift (day or night), parent to paragraphs and description and sketches and why the F* are my notes outpacing the writing??? This still exists but it has been trimmed down to only what is needed at a glance. Just basic stats. If I need hair and eye color... Well that's my next step. 2. Dramatis Persona... note cards Anybody that's ever written a paper knows about note cards and how handy dandy they are. They were hyper-text before there were computers, right? WRONG. Three by five note cards are amazing things. They help in lots of ways... until they become a horrific cluster of complexity and you can't find your arse with a flash light. Once again, Keep it simple, stupid. Index cards work but, you can't expect them to be a database. They are useful for marching ideas across the desk, matching up characters and seeing how things look. If you keep them simple and don't try to do too much with them, it works FINE. Keep it simple and, it works best if you can remember how to write. (That's actually a thing- handwriting vs keyboarding). 3. Dramatis Persona... spreadsheet- for the win. Yes it is a clear winner. It's searchable. You can make fields for EVERYTHING. Want to search by how many redheaded characters you have? It's possible. Want to sort by age? You can do it. Want to know who is boffing who? Yeppers, it's a complete possibility. There are highly complex writing packages that you could spend forever learning and not get anything done. Databases are possible but if you can do that, someone wants to hire you to fix the mess his last guy left. Spreadsheets are old tech and have been around forever. The key thing about them is they are built generically enough that as your complexity grows, it can accommodate you without breaking anything or having to start over. Your mileage may vary. If you've got a sane number of characters, data management isn't a huge issue. You may absolutely love Scrivner and have figured out how to make it all work. That's fine. If you can use Excel, you've got a serious power tool.
  19. I sort of muddle along when it comes to writing, but I have a story that has so many people waiting for it, that I thought it is better to share what my thoughts are. The frustration of waiting to read the next chapter....I understand this very well. So... For A Healing Heart - > Read it Here I've set it up that a chapter goes up every week. On Fridays or Saturdays. Catch up with the new chapter. - Talin and Dimitri find themselves in a difficult situation at dinner with Vlad. A Haunted Love - > Read it Here This is a new story. I'll post the new chapter on Tuesdays. Catch up with the new chapter - Hideki and Kazuma get used to each other....and a sizzling kiss. I suddenly realize I've started a trend of naming my stories with "A..." what a peculiar trend. Hmm... To all of you who read me...you're my special people, Thank You! Sui.
  20. I have been blogging since quite a few years, and I recently discovered this site, which I have found to be varied and friendly. It is not frequent -- I think -- to find a place to discuss or exchange concerns about our writing within the gay community. This is especially true in my case, as I live in Panama, and this aspect is kept under the carpet -- not in the closet. My experience with the gay theme stems from my clinical work in the field during 40 years. This produced several scientific publications and one novella -- 1985. Since 2010 -- If I remember well -- I have published several almost-fiction stories. Anyway, I do not write erotica. I write about themes where the characters may be gay or have concerns about their sexual orientation -- I grew up in the times when gay was an illness. Many topics go through my mind. Maybe you would share your concerns as authors? BTW, I love cats!
  21. I'm doing it again! November is almost here, and I will be participating in NaNoWriMo once more. Last year, I won with Nemesis 2 (which, as many of you are aware, still isn't quite finished; I'm in the editing and rewriting stage and totally stuck, but I'm sure it'll come). This year, I will be working on the detective novel I've been planning for some months now. I'm really excited for it, which is awesome, as I don't get really excited about things very often these days. Now, it just so happens that NaNoWriMo is a nonprofit that, in addition to running and maintaining a website, also funds creative writing programmes for, in their own words, 'nearly 500,000 kids and adults in approximately 200 countries, 2,000 classrooms, 650 libraries, and 600 NaNoWriMo regions every year.' They provide tools for teachers, librarians and community leaders to run writing and reading programmes to promote literacy and creativity, they use their vast network to get talented and famous writers to write pep-talks and post encouragement for participants, and they inspire aspiring writers around the world to pick up their pens, notebooks and/or laptops and write. I would donate all of my money towards this fantastic cause. Promoting creativity is a recipe for peace and prosperity, and if NaNoWriMo keeps growing they'll be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize any year now. Unfortunately, I have rent and bills and tuition fees that need paying, and I'm incapable of studying and working at the same time, so my funds are limited. Which is why I've set up a NaNoWriMo fundraiser. NaNoWriMo allows their participants to create fundraisers to ask friends, family and random strangers on the Internet to donate to NaNoWriMo on their behalf, kind of like a sponsorship, all in the name of motivation. None of this money goes to me. I don't get anything out of this except good feels and maybe some freebies if I raise enough. And both good feels and freebies are pretty motivating things. So, this is where you guys come in. If you'd like to join me in helping NaNoWriMo to continue to be awesome, please visit my fundraising page. There's some information on there about the programme, but if you'd like to know more about how the money is spent and where it comes from, you can do so here. And, if you'd rather make a personal donation and maybe get some freebies of your own, you can donate directly here. As they put it themselves, by donating 'You not only support people’s novel writing dreams, you help transform people into creators who see new possibilities in the world—and act on them. You spark a creative revolution.' And, hey, who doesn't love a revolution? Thank you for reading!
  22. Writer's die a lot. Death, that thing that cannot be known beforehand: writers can be said to experience it often. They are often little deaths, small hard moments of pain which pass soon, but in the moment they are with us, they are all to real. We die when he kill off a character, we die softly and quietly inside when they say goodbye to us, we ache with pain when our muses refuse to release them to our waiting fingertips. Depending on how much one writes, and on how long those stories last, a writers can die several times a year. Fans of Direct Confusion will know just what I am speaking off, for many of you died along with Greg several chapters ago. For me, that pain was written a long time ago now, but even though I was in charge of the words as they came (for a certain value of the phrase 'in charge') it was like getting punched through the chest. And now there is a different death. Those who know me or have read interviews will know my general claim of not knowing my plot until it happens: the work is character driven, and boy are my characters often driven. But the end of this particular novella snuck up on me unexpectedly. I finished writing a chapter of A Wolf and His Man, and as i opened the next word document, I knew with an awful clarity, that the next chapter would be the last. So, I did the mature and sensible thing, and procrastinated as much as possible to avoid having to say goodbye. But say goodbye I did. Last night I wrote those closing words, and felt a combination of two emotions. A high bright burning joy that I was finished, done, complete; and a deep mourning for the friends that I had lost. Oli and Boris will go on with their lives, but I won't be there. I believe that this parting is a very sad one particularly, because I first penned the story concept of A Wolf and His Man something like 6 or 7 years ago. I am glad I waited, because it is a better story now than it would have been if I had written it just out of my teen years. It is a little death, one that will not hurt for long, and the shouting of other characters in my brain will help to wear down the sharp edges of the loss until visiting Oli and Boris again will not be so painful. And Kieran Tristan Toyne does shout very loudly.
  23. I saw this floating around social media today and thought it would be a humorous exercise for GA authors to participate in. http://www.boredpanda.com/and-murders-began-first-line-book/?page_numb=1 "The opening line of a book is extremely important, as it has to be intriguing and powerful enough to capture the reader's imagination. Then, the second line has to intensify the intrigue. Coming up with these lines can be pretty difficult, yet one writer came up with a second line that would almost always heighten the intrigue to its peak, and the Internet is going crazy. "And then the murders began" - that's the clever line Marc Laidlaw came up with. Add it to almost any opening line and you've got yourself a hell of an intriguing book opening." So here's the exercise for you: In the comments, write the first sentence of one of your GA stories or poems, followed by the second line of "And then the murders began." I'll start with my own contribution, from 'Backstage Tryst': "I rubbed nervous palms across my denim-covered thighs, trying once more to exhale the breath which remained stuck in my throat, unable to escape. And then the murders began." I look forward to seeing yours!
  24. Today I want to talk about something which mostly everyone thinks doesn't affect me, and much of the time, I am lucky, and I pass by writer's block like a freight train running on a different track while I sit in comfort and tap away on something which more resembles the shinkansen. But to say I have never felt that dread of not starting right, or not finishing, would be a terrible lie. I'm good at lying, but I don't want to lie to you. Let's talk about The Last Page, Final Chapters, The End, and how hard it is to say goodbye. I'm sitting in front of a story right now, 24,000 words of something which sledge-hammered me around the skull two weeks ago (yes, sorry, I did write all that in 12 days with breaks for Christmas), but which I do not want to finish. Not just because it was supposed be for the spring anthology and is going to be too long to qualify, but because I still don't feel like I know these characters well enough to let them go. But I know I'll have to. Finishing is the worst feeling, or one of the worst feelings, I have ever known. Letting go of people you have shared your brain with, your life with, is tough. My characters talk to me in the shower, while I’m trying to eat dinner and converse with my family, hang around while I sleep and insinuate themselves into my life. They latch on, bug me when I'm supposed to be teaching, or marking, or walking the dog, and letting them go means waving goodbye to people who have become great friends. Even if they've only been with me for a little while, it's still hard. The First Page, In The Beginning, Once Upon A Time, and how to get to know someone. Starting can be as hard as finishing, and I doubt I need to explain to any other writer out there, the number of files I have, a thousand words here, four thousand words there, of things which just never got off the ground. Worse still are the ideas which roll around in the mind, sometimes for years, but every time you go to apply them to paper, they drift away, as insubstantial as smoke, the details smearing like warm paint in the bright sun. I have a few things I want to start at the moment, but I can't, because I don't know where to start, and something else is holding my back from that first blank page. Guilt. Guilt because I have left characters and readers hanging, suspended in mid air, waiting for resolution or continuation, some I have left waiting to fall in love. And that must be painful. I feel bad for them, but sometimes trying to dive back in where you left off is worse. You can't grab the thread, the style has changed, and what seemed easy and natural before is now stilted and difficult. The best intentions are all well and good, but coming back is hard. So to those readers and those characters, I am sorry. But I'll try. You are not abandoned, and I am on my way. I will do my best to bring you home.
  25. A lot has been said about how sex sells. There’s no doubt about that; sex and sexuality are hugely important to many marketing and advertising campaigns, and the fact that companies continue to experience commercial success after using sex as a marketing tool proves how well sex sells. But, I’m not a marketer, or an advertising executive. I’m just a guy who writes young adult novels. Which leads me to wonder how much sex is too much sex for a novel, or even a series of novels. We’re all taught to hide sex in our writing, that if we really must have our characters be put in sexual situations then they must be off-screen, to be imagined by the reader instead of explained and detailed. All of this is done in fear of disturbing potential readers, or especially potential publishers. This moral paranoia extends to television and films, though not to the same degree. You see people on tv or the movies pre and post-coitus. Sometimes, you even see the sexual act in some clinical fashion. Maybe we’re going about this the wrong way, as authors. I try to be a realist in my writing. I write about young adults who are on journeys of self-discovery, particularly relating to sexual orientation. They fall in love, and they have all the same urges that we had when we were young adults. We had sex. We didn’t let sex consume our lives; it was present, to be sure, but it didn’t dominate our existences. It was one thing among many other things that we did. I like to think that my writing is the same. Yes, there’s sex in my novels. Boys kiss boys. Sometimes they stop, sometimes they don’t. They’re learning how to control themselves and figuring out how to satisfy those urges without causing problems in the rest of their lives. But, they have other things going on in their lives that are much more important. I think that part of the equation is incredibly important, that sex not become the defining quality of the novel or the character. Frankly, the people who read my novels, and who read your novels, and who read anyone else’s novels? They all have sex.We’re deluding ourselves as an industry if we think our readers don’t know what’s going on when we fade the scene to black. Let’s be realistic with our writing. Write scenes the way that feels natural, not the way you think it needs to be censored in order to survive a publisher’s wrath. In an industry filled with things that defy reality, it will make your writing feel that much more connected to the lives of your readers. Cross-posted from https://authorhunterthomson.wordpress.com (Check out my blog/twitter/facebook page in my profile!)
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