creative writing, short fiction

Muse

Henry taught ethics at a university. Held tenure, slept with his students. Got into the awkward street fights disguised as social justice at an age where he should have been worrying about his prostate.
They caught him on a video, swinging a bike lock on the head of a Trump supporter with a dull thwack before he ran away, huffing as his age weighed him down like a lead weight. He found a terrible glee in his actions. A terrible cunning allowed him to evade arrest for four days before someone on 4chan posted his name and details.
Henry’s mother died in a dry, tight knot of agony and insensible through the fog of narcotics keeping her alive. She kept trying to tell her son something important. She wandered from her bed when he ran out to the store and wrote a name on the corner of a tablecloth in lipstick. Henry found her, soiled and unconscious in the hallway and smudged the lipstick into illegibility with a brush of his hip as he lifted her to his hip. He bumped a framed picture of her, flowers in her hair and caught dancing with an intense, skinny man with burning eyes and lithe, taut limbs. He did not see it.
Donald never told anyone he had been born with a different name. He had changed it the same week he had joined the Marine Corps.
Sky. His mother had him adopted when she returned to New England, tanned and pregnant, to the chill bosom of her family. She never told anyone who the father was. She knew but the burden of revelation lay in the fear it would come. Sky went to a series of foster homes, fought his way to the top of the bloodied hierarchy he found himself in.
He went where they told him. By November of 2017, he was a decorated colonel in an office. Part of him wanted to be out there, fighting again. He was too brilliant a leader to stay at the front line but anyone who fought with him said they would believe themselves alongside someone borne to war and safe in his company.
If pressed, they would admit they were frightened of him. He loved it too much, persuaded his men over ordering them and the power of it returned to them in the bitter watches of the years after. He sat in his office and struggled with the urge to go out and kill. On that day, he gave in and when the armed response team breached the campus, he had littered with bodies, he wept with relief as the air rang out with shots.
Steven sat in the car on his driveway, hands gripping the steering wheel and grimacing as he watched his wife moving from the living room to the dining room. His kids and their families, all waiting for his birthday party to happen. The shotgun laid across the back seat, gleaming and lethal with an empty box of ammunition next to it. He got out and reached across to lift the shotgun as he left the car.
Steven had struggled with the lack of control in his life and when he surrendered to it, all his anxiety was wiped away. The dancing demon monkey in his head had its message heard. He had tried to be a good man, and could summon an unearthly charisma but his wife Ellen made a passive revolt when the children went to college and went back to college. He walked up his drive with the gun in his hands and enjoyed the hot stone of excitements in his belly. It burned good as he kicked open the front door.
The police thought it was a drug related murder but Steven was in Mexico by then and enjoyed six weeks before a sweet little girl with a grown up ass knifed him on a dance floor after warning him about tickling her twice. His dad, Paul, had a heart attack when the police told him about his son and his family. Franny had died twenty years ago, and he’d kept the secret of how he wasn’t Steven’s biological father as a way to keep something of his wife alive. He loved his other children more,they were easier, more agreeable people than Steven had been.
Franny went to California in the sixties for college. She managed a semester before she returned to town and when Paul asked her out, she said yes. The pregnancy was sudden but she didn’t want him to wear anything. Time unravelled the deceit, calculation disguised as instinct.
Charlie laid on bleached worn sheets, raped with IV tubes and machines to monitor his waning vitals. Memories were his drug of choice. He remembered the women he fucked, although he liked the ones who resisted. He always knew when he got one pregnant. A reporter had tried to get photos of him and Charlie was disappointed he didn’t. The terrible thing for him was the idea of being forgotten, dismissed and belittled by a world which knew him to be a joke. His power and his destruction were connected in his ability to inspire others. He thought of his children as his body surrendered to entropy and hoped they knew of him in some way. He was a corrupt muse, and as he died, he wanted to know what horror he might have inspired.
Or whom.

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creative writing

Writing Update.

I am now 462 pages into the first draft of The Exit Counsellor. It’s a sprawling mess but I’m having fun with it, aiming for something which I could claim to be evoking the spirit of The Wicker Man or Straw Dogs but I think I’ve written the book equivalent of Hot Fuzz. With magic and monsters. Still, I know what it needs to really move and there will be a lot of work put into cutting it into shape. Afterwards, I will be editing She’s Here and looking to whip it into shape.

I’ve got new episodes of The Wild Man and Sir 2.0 forthcoming but I’ve also been working on more short fiction as well. They’re my vacation from the book, which demands more of my attention but the stories represent a leap into the unknown. Some of them weren’t pleasant to write, but I have to try new things on the page whilst also being conscious of telling a story people want to read. It’s like Joe R Lansdale said, ‘write like everyone you know is dead.’

I’m reading a few books at the moment. The most notable one is Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates, which is fascinating and good idea fuel. I’m also doing some study on theology and hierarchial structure, as ideas for a future book.

Thank you for reading, liking and commenting on my work. It means a great deal.

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beauty, creative writing, fiction, short fiction, time, women

Bigger

I keep the tables clean. No one lacks for a napkin when Mike does his shift, no, sir. I keep watch without staring and remember to keep the tail of my shirt tucked in. I find laces difficult so I have these big Velcro straps and I love the ripping sound they make.

They sound like a big fart and I can spend hours just pulling the strap off so I can hear the big, raspy tear of them.

Mom says she should have buckled down and made me learn laces because at least it was quiet. The trainers have big thick soles on them so I can be on my feet all day and it doesn’t hurt. Iris, who does a few shifts with me, she wears special shoes, ortho something because she had a car crash and it hurt her back. I tell her she has a pretty smile and she says it’s the pain pills but it makes her happy so I tell her every day.

Oscar is at the register with his yellow tongue poking out the corner of his mouth as he rings up an order. He has a big shiny head and a bigger, but not shiny stomach. He gave me a job because Mom asked him to, but I work hard when I am here.

Mom says the key to success is showing up and working hard, but I keep doing that and the door stays locked. We sit in our small apartment, at a small table and eating small dinners but she believes in things being bigger and better as time goes on. Last night we had some of the Salisbury steaks which Oscar gave to me along with the money and tips I earned from the shift. Small things but it was nice of him to do. It tasted of wool but it made our money last a little longer.

Made it bigger.

I like Sunday mornings. All the families come in from church for breakfast. I like it when people dress up and they carry the glow from singing about God and Baby Jesus. I go home with less in my pocket than on a normal shift, but they’re nicer people and I feel better for making sure they eat at clean tables. It’s busy with happy smiling people and laughter dances through the sky when they’re here. It feels more like church than church does.

There’s a new couple here today. They arrived before church ended, a man and a woman. He’s tall, stooped over like he’s trying to hide how tall he is and he has a suit on, which is normal for a Sunday here. He doesn’t smile much, but he looks around and takes everything in with eyes which are cold but not cruel. Sometimes you see people who have so much hurt they need to share, but he looks like he’s expecting something bad to happen.

She’s shorter, red hair and moves like a pair of scissors crossing. Snip snack as her heels hit the floor. They look like they’re selling something but they don’t have briefcases as they come in and take a corner booth. Iris takes their order, and I am wiping a table down whilst glancing in their direction.

‘It’s too open here.’ The woman says.

The man sighs and checks the watch on his wrist. It’s too big for his wrist, held on by a worn leather wristband and there’s no numbers on there, just lights blinking on and off.

‘Eighty two percent says it’s here. Stop worrying.’

His voice is smooth like he’s reading aloud from a book he’s read before. The woman looks past him, glaring at me until my cheeks burn red and I return to cleaning the table.

‘Like I said, too open. Should have run this through a few more times before we turned up.’

He sighs and sits back. There’s something behind his ear, like a piece of jewellery and he touches it with his index finger.

‘We’ve got time for breakfast at least.’

She frowns and shakes her head. I look at the clock.

Church finishes in twenty minutes. Iris has given Oscar the order. Two specials with coffee. Oscar has the grill running before dawn, so it won’t take long until they are ready.

Time enough for what?

Mom doesn’t like me watching the news. I get upset when there’s bad stuff happening. If a kid gets hurt or animals, I fight tears and sometimes she has to find my blanket and hold me until it passes but I know things. Bad things happen and there’s nothing we can do to stop them.

I wonder if there’s a bad thing coming here. On a Sunday. Will it be taking a booth and ordering a coffee?

Are they the bad thing coming?

I look around me. Oscar is sweating behind the grill, Iris is taking a pair of plates full with gleaming eggs and bacon over to them and I am wiping the table.

The door swings open and Kenny Ambrose comes in.

Kenny’s face looks like someone filled a balloon and stuck another balloon over it with a picture of his face on. His eyes are too big and white for his sockets and what teeth he has are small and yellow and are loose in his gums. Kenny doesn’t have a mother to make sure he cleans his teeth, but as he opens the stained, torn overcoat, I see he has something else.

A shotgun. It looks mean and ugly, a blunt snout where he has sawn the barrel off and he swings it in front of him. There are five of us in here, and church gets out in fifteen minutes. Iris is putting their plates in front of them.

Kenny and I were in the same classes at school. The eldest kids because school was something we never grasped, like trying to knit with boxing gloves on. I tried but Kenny doubled down, huffing at recess and drifting further out from the centre of the world.

He has battered sneakers on, the laces are grey and dusted with tiny tufts and the ends had frayed into puffs of material like nylon dandelions as he shuffled forwards, terrified and angry at the same time. The skin around his mouth is wet and red like bubble gum chewed too long. He stinks of old sweat and metals as he points the gun right at me. The end of it is a black metal zero, there are rough edges where the hacksaw slipped and they look like petals on some horrible flower.

The couple in the booth watch it all happen with an open and terrible interest.

‘Register.’ Kenny said.

Oscar keeps his hands up as he comes around the counter. Iris is shaking, and me?

I look at him and see his eyes rolling in their sockets. He isn’t a bad person, he gets frustrated because the world is too fast for people like us. It’s why we keep things small.

Kenny hurts because he wants to be bigger.

Oscar opens the register and Kenny walks over to him lowering the shotgun as his forehead drips sweat.

I look down and see the stray lace slip under the heel of his sneaker, tugging to the right.

I try to call out but he lurches to his right, the shotgun turns in his hands from where he’s sweating and he keeps falling.

His head slams against the corner of the table with a damp crack sound, like breaking the shell on a boiled egg and the shotgun turns in his hands.

I look straight into the big black zero.

It rushes up to swallow me and I think about Mum, Iris and Oscar. Looking up, I see the couple stood up in the booth, they have smiles of awe and the look reaches into me, fills me up with a charging, rolling power. My left hand comes out with a will of its own, slaps the barrel away with a flare of pain for my trouble.

The shot takes out the window and Iris screams.

I put my hands over my ears and look at Kenny as a pool of blood spreads out underneath him and his lips pull back over his teeth as he looks back at me.

He looks smaller now and I get down on my knees next to him.

‘Oh Kenny, you didn’t tie your laces.’

He stares at me, trying to figure out what happened before his eyes roll back in his head and he falls asleep. It looks like it aside from the blood on the lino underneath him.

The couple watch from the booth, and I try not to look at them. I cry because Kenny was like me, or could be if his mom had been around.

It becomes a loud, nasty circus with the churchgoers upset they can’t have breakfast. It upsets me too until I see the couple in the booth slip out to the parking lot. I run after them, and no one stops them.

They’re at their car. It looks new and I can see my face in the windshield: bloated and sweating but smiling.

‘You knew, didn’t you?’

The blonde chuckled and shook her head but the man turns and looks down at me with a quiet pride in his eyes. People don’t look at me like I matter, but this is what I imagine it feels like.

‘We pick up on anomalies. You don’t know what those are though, but yes, we knew something would happen.’

I look between them.

‘Kenny died.’ I said.

He smiles and reaches into the breast pocket of his jacket, retrieves a small silver pin and affixes it to the collar of my shirt.

‘You stopped him. This is a reward for it.’

I touch it and it hums against my fingers. It’s not frightening: more like a baby bird or a small insect but I put my hand back in my pocket, still confused.

‘What does it do?’

He smiles and pats me on the shoulder.

‘You’ll know when the time comes’

The woman rolls her eyes as she opens the passenger side door.

‘You’re such a ham, Ryan.’

Ryan smiles at me and gets behind the wheel of the chair. They drive off, the engine is silent and I stand there in the sunshine, my heart thumping in my chest.

Everything is too big to think about, so I go back inside and see if anyone needs help.

 

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creative writing, process, women

Writing Update

Im now 190 pages into the first draft of The Exit Counselor which i am doing longhand. I am waiting for my agent to get in touch about Until She Sings.

I am reworking Nothing Keeps Me Anywhere into a leaner book. There were things i found which did not sit right so i am making revisions each day.

Stranger Lights awaits a second draft and some research but it will come in time.

Thank you for reading, liking and commenting.  It means a great deal.

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beauty, books, creative writing, purpose, women

Writing Update 14/04/17.

I hit 50 pages on the first draft in longhand, and have copied and pasted the individual episodes of The Ogden Review into a file for editing and restructuring into a complete book that I aim to pitch to my agent once I have gone through it.

It is strange to read older work. There is a melancholy pleasure, some surprises in what I looked through. There are some clear things that need fixing, but that was the price I paid for going with energy rather than detail. I’ve learned more since then, and aim to graft what I have learned to the dynamics of the original story. It has to follow a structure, and underneath the hood of this motherfucker lies some real plotholes but they’re my mistakes to make.

I am waiting to hear back from my agent about Until She Sings and Nothing Keeps Me Anywhere, Lawful Evil needs another draft, the new book is coming along well and I now have Ogden to refine as well as posting regularly here.

I have been reading The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, which is comprehensive, satisfying and involving. I’ve made copious notes about it, which all go into the journals that I keep and maintain. I work hard at the writing because I love it and view it as my purpose. Whether that lends itself to competence or not is hard to say, but I put the effort in to improve and advance myself artistically.

Thank you for your support. It means a great deal.

I miss you when you’re not around.

Matt XO

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beauty, blogging, books, craft, creative writing, love, women

Writing Update 09/04/17

I hit 40 pages on the first draft today. It’s been a progression apparent to myself, in terms of what I am writing about, but not who I write for. I know what works for me as a practice, which cuts down on the amount of time spent being indecisive, I guess.

Sorry, couldn’t resist it.

I also changed the title, which is common for me to do. I have a predilection for fancy titles that sit on the axis between awkward and cool, and eventually something in me signs and suggests something better which I stick with until my agent tells me they don’t like it and I have to scrabble to find something else instead.

I have been reading Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey which is a great book, useful for me as I have a bit of knowledge about C G Jung and Joseph Campbell, the two major influences on Vogler’s work. It is pragmatic and I’ve made plenty of notes two chapters into it, just to clarify and cement my own understanding.

I study the craft of writing and storytelling, in order to forget it when I write. If something screams ‘CROSSING THE THRESHOLD’ I know I have fucked up somewhere along the line. I don’t resist structure or archetype in the slightest, but I do like to make it invisible and seamless. I read for pleasure as much as craft and writing at this volume means that I become more comfortable with the work I am doing, less prone to the mistakes or making new ones, which still represents growth to me.

It gets done. I don’t wait for inspiration but instead she turns up, smiles, gropes me somewhere inappropriate and then flies off again. I love that woman because she’s flighty and constantly changing, not in spite of it.

Being British means a reluctance to talk about ambition but I do push myself towards my goals, just not in a way that invites open ridicule. Closed ridicule, on the other hand, more than welcome.

If you were kind enough to buy or read the latest issue of Infernal Ink and you liked my story, please leave a review as it helps Hydra’s profile in terms of the magazine and, of course, mine. It was a seamless experience and surreal to look at my own work outside of the blue frame of the blog page editor. I want more of it, and it has renewed my enthusiasm beyond my fierce ambition and dedication.

I really appreciate the likes that my work generates. A writer wants to be read, even if sometimes the anticipation lends itself to anxiety of one kind or another. People come and go, disappoint and injure but the page is the page and I love pretty much everything about it

So, forgive the rambling, but wanted to peek from behind the curtain and say hello to you all. Thank you for your support and appreciation, there are over 900 of you now, which is a good sized crowd for a gig, I feel. If you really like anything I’ve done, please share it with others.

Take care, we have to be our own heroes out there now.

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