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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animals, creative writing, dogs, fiction, short fiction

Wet Dog

The pair of them sat in the flat, candles burning because they couldn’t shift anything until the morning and they had used the emergency on the meter a few days ago. The laptop had a password on it, but they used it’s glowing screen to provide further illumination.

Iain sat slumped against the wall, his grimy index finger dancing over the screen of the ipad, his heavy lidded eyes focused on the activity in front of him. He had taken some of the medication they grabbed, and it made his pupils dilate until it looked like his eyes were black. He scratched his head, and his pulse fluttered against the ornate, black tattoo on his neck, making it breathe.

Smurf glared at him, chain smoking until his fingers were glowing and his lungs burned, tight and angry as the rest of him.

Iain glanced up, sucking his chapped lips over his protruding, yellowed overbite.

‘Fucking what?’

Smurf was never one to hold someone’s eye for long. He was quick, smart but soft in the wrong places, Iain thought, but he had never appeared so angry as he did now.

‘You know what, you stupid fucking cunt.’

Iain set down the ipad and rolled a cigarette. He put his full attention into it, although that did not stop him from sacrificing most of what he had picked out to the thin, rough carpet that had turned the colour of fungus. Soon he managed something that would smoke, stuck it between his lips and patted himself down for a lighter. He stared at Smurf, who shook his head.

‘Give us a fucking light, Smurf.’

Smurf sat back, folded his arms and set his jaw in a hard line. Most of the time, his big eyes and shaved head made him look like a war orphan but the anger that coursed through him lent him a gravity that unnerved Iain.

Smurf drilled his eyes into Iain hard enough to cause internal bleeding. Iain glanced around him, knowing there was a lighter around there somewhere.

Iain patted the ground, then his pockets again before he got up and made his hands into fists.

He was about to launch at Smurf, although the pills had given him the reflexes of a slug on valium when they heard the thump from upstairs. Smurf got to his feet, his chest rising in panicked breaths.

‘Won’t be pigs.’ Iain said.

Smurf looked at him with disgust and fear.

‘You sure about that? Because you mate, have done something that will get us fucking cut.’

Iain rolled his eyes and tried to slip his hand into the pocket of Smurf’s jacket. Smurf darted backwards, losing his balance and falling over the chair to land on the base of his spine. He swore and rolled onto his side, rubbing his back before he sprung to his feet and closed the distance between the pair of them.

There was another thump from upstairs, then a splattering sound, like a million wet paintbrushes flicked into the air.

The pair of them looked up, then at each other.

‘It’s the boiler.’ Iain said.

Smurf squeezed his eyes shut.

‘We used the emergency on the gas before the fucking electric. Boiler’s got nothing in it.’ he said.

Another thump. Iain glanced around him and picked up the iron in the corner, from where Smurf had ironed a shirt for an interview at a care home. He was waiting to hear how it went, but inside the little imp of failure that used his life as a toilet had already predicted the outcome. Smurf watched him pick it up and stepped back.

‘Might as well get use out of it, eh?’ Iain said.

Smurf hid the impact of the comment by lowering his eyes and putting his hands into his pockets. Iain was already turning, with the cold grace of a shark sensing blood in the water.

‘There’s nothing up there.’ Smurf said.

Iain gave a single dry peal of laughter. It had no humour in it at all. He lifted the iron up and gestured it towards Smurf.

‘No, but if anyone is, they’re getting this in the fucking mush.’

He turned and walked away. Smurf stared at the back of his neck, aghast at his lack of courage, his complicity and his inability to voice how fucked up tonight had been. How he wanted to sell some of the stuff to get so fucking high he could pretend that it had never happened.

Smurf heard another thump then Iain making a retching sound.

‘Oh that fucking stinks up here, Smurf.’ Iain said.

Smurf figured that Iain was not referring to his own room. Smurf had gone in there once, to look for a tenner he was sure Iain had stashed in there. After seeing the yellow duvet and the mattress that looked like a child’s painting in the medium of bodily fluids decided that he could walk to the interview.

Smurf had little, but he looked after it, kept things clean. He would rather buy washing powder than eat sometimes, drinking endless glasses of water to keep the hunger pangs from hurting too much.

Smurf walked through to the stairs when he felt, rather than heard the growling insinuate through the floorboards. Iain fell silent.

The growl gained in volume and power. Smurf asked once if God had pets and got laughed at but he stood there and wondered if this was what one of them would sound like.

If it was angry.

Smurf’s stomach churned with acid. Iain was spurting a litany of curses and swear words before the growl shook the universe and a series of short thumps showed that whatever it was up there was advancing with power and momentum.

Smurf ran through the hallway just as Iain screamed in terror, his voice reaching a pitch that would shatter glass. Smurf heard the sounds of wet paper being ripped, a breathy series of exhalations, something breathing through its nose because it had something in its mouth, teeth sunk in and digging, tearing and sucking down whatever was there. Smurf pulled the door open and ran. He turned back and saw the mist of blood and Iain’s head sail through the air and roll down the stairs, his face forever cast in a final expression of disbelief and terror.

Smurf ran, skipping down the metal spiral staircase and taking off at a sprint. A shard of glass stabbed through the heel of his left foot but he kept going as he heard the wet thump of whatever had been in the house run out after him.

Each step made Smurf cry out in agony.

Something hit him between the shoulder blades and pushed him down to the ground with a brute ease. It kept him down and twin hot blasts of fetid air blasted against his neck. Smurf sobbed, bringing his hands to his face.

Whatever held him did not react. The pressure lessened and Smurf continued to cry, trying to say he was sorry but the words kept falling apart, bashed in by the force of his grief and his guilt.

‘I’m so fucking sorry. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.’

The weight came off and Smurf laid there, nose pressed to the path and continuing to weep for what he had been witness to, and what it had done to him.

The wet flat slap against his neck, muscles powerful as pistons left a thick slob of something hot and wet against his head but he let it happen. The stink made his eyes water, wet fur and dark earth, shit from a diet of hate and red meat but with each breath he noted how it had started to fade.

He turned around and saw that he was alone. He glanced back at the open door and how Danny from next door looked inside, swathed in the Star Wars dressing gown and onesie as Anna stood there, on tiptoes pushing him forward as a cigarette dangled from the corner of her mouth.

He sat there, looking up at the sky and pressed his hand against his mouth as the sound of sirens began to wail in the distance.

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