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I know it’s tough when the words don’t want to go play in the fields of your imagination.
Like a hunger pang which makes you question whether you’re capable of telling the story which lives inside you. You call yourself an ‘aspiring writer’ but you just want to get it down, with the themes and ideas which possessed you to pursue it in the first place.
But it doesn’t quite work, does it?
You see all the writing advice out there, mostly from theorists who’ve studied the game but haven’t set foot on the field.
It’s like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant sometimes.
Well, what if there was someone who could cut through all that, help you find and illustrate what you saw in your story?
I’ve written and consulted on numerous projects. I’ve studied classical story structure and narrative, mythology and psychology as it relates to storytelling and archetypes.
I have also known the pain of an unborn story inside you.
So, why not get in touch and see what my insights and experience can do to take your work to a level where it is out there, and reflecting your passion and craft?
Here is someone who has benefited from my help:
“My main concern when starting this process for our client was whether or not an editor was going to “get it”, and by that I mean understand what the author, a military historian and academician was trying to accomplish with the update of his nearly two decade-old historical nonfiction manuscript. Essentially, your specific editorial task was to make the manuscript less academic while maintaining the author’s voice. Fortunately, you immediately understood what we were going for and did a thorough job of editing the book according to our specifications. It was very refreshing to read your yield. Thank you.” — Florita Bell Griffin, Ph.D., ARC Communications, LLC. Texas USA
If you’re interested, please get in touch with me: firstname.lastname@example.org and see what we can accomplish together.
M B Blissett
Here are some of my favourite books, there are books on the craft of writing, lectures about nihilist philosophy and pop culture as well as fiction and non fiction. For disclosure, if you buy through these links, I have an affiliate account so it throws some pennies in the hat but get these books because I love them and the world needs more sharing the good things in it rather than the bad.
This is what the series of American Horror Story: Freakshow wishes it was. Humane, bizarre and beautifully written. It is one of those books I return to time and again. Dunne is no longer with us, but this book is. I envy you reading it for the first time.
Percy has produced some fantastic cross genre work and this collection of essays speaks to an appreciation for literature and pop culture without casting either one in a negative light. It has a robust honesty which I find invigorating and useful.
Stephen King, much like Prince, was one of the artists which resonated from me at an early age. I’ve followed his work and example and resisted aping his mannerisms but his working class generosity of spirit and craft makes this book indispensable to me. He offers up a toolkit and reflects on his own experiences, professional and personal to give you an idea of what might be possible if you put the work and energy into the writing you do. There’s a lot on offer here, and if you’re looking for good, solid advice on the craft of writing, then King is your man.
Grammar is an important consideration in writing. A poor choice of phrase rips the reader out of the moment and undoes the hard work you’ve done establishing mood and setting. Don’t be precious, you’re never as good as you think you are, so something like this is worth investing in. Learn the rules in order to break them and Strunk tells you the rules in a pithy, elegiac way which makes it a useful reference work when editing.
Holiday has established a niche in mining the wisdom of Stoicism for it’s applications in the modern world and for his fantastic understanding of marketing and media. Here is a united work which talks about finding your own place and developing work which resists trends. He talks about Iron Maiden and The Shawshank Redemption in glowing terms, especially with the factoid that Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise were up for the main roles but Frank Darabont the director went with his own choices instead.
Next I will talk about music, then films with links to them for you to click on and preview/buy.
It’s strange how we will rush to interact with something bad but distrust a recommendation of quality or worth, relative as they are.
My story ‘Women and Children First’ will be featured in the April 2017 issue of Infernal Ink Magazine. The link to the magazine is
It’s a story about a man who survives a terrible tragedy at sea, only to find himself at the mercy of something far worse.
Laura bent down and stared at the scattered remains of the cell phone. It had been dashed to the ground, taken apart and left to float in a puddle of dirty brown water. She plucked the battery and case up from the water, sprayed them with a solution that would clean off the worst of the mud and water, put in a gravity bag and sealed it. The RFID tags would send a signal up through Nirvana, her drone, so she could claim salvage rights.
Nirvana streamed data to her contact lenses, showing high thermal activity and action in the next set of buildings.
Fires and people around them.
‘Shall I activate pacification procedures?’
Laura shook her head.
‘It’s a little heavy-handed. Run scans, see what’s there and we’ll just take a look.’
She attributed emotion to Nirvana because it could not be programmed into it. Its loyalty and ability were hers by virtue of having built it, using a loan from the hedge fund when she was in college. She had two more payments to make.
Her physical needs were taken care of. Her stomach was packed with a nutrient-rich clay that delivered time-released nutrition. There were carbon composites in her bones and tendons reinforced with textiles grown from her own DNA.
Laura’s ability to explore had been engineered but her capacity for it had always been within her.
To come here where her people had come from.
It had been sealed off for a long time. The initial surge of mass evacuations made for some ironic and poignant images of white citizens pleading with foreign immigration officials. Laura’s grandmother had gotten her kids over to England, under circumstances that were considered being a scandal and not spoken of.
Grandma had been a strong advocate for returning and although she loved England, and the life she found there, she passed on that desire to return to her children and in turn, Laura.
She had signed up to REACT, the global rescue initiative and taken on a contract as a scout-responder. The alterations and surgeries had rearranged the feng shui of her head but it had proved vital in the field.
Population scans had shown some unusual growth spikes and REACT had gotten the gig to record what was going on, send it back to the rest of the world. Laura pressed the button on her collar activated the digital camouflage and started to move towards the signal.
Direct conflict was not permitted. You watched, you sent the data, bagged the salvage and got back to your extraction point. Nirvana was insurance, so that she could see what was coming and do something about it.
There was talk of reclamation. Doing the work of burying the dead and finding an accord with the survivors. The remains of the government, situated in Switzerland, had professed that vision to keep its disparate citizens together. They did not have the money to back it up until the Narcos came forward and offered to bankroll REACT as a gesture of good will.
She heard the rough, low signs of chanting. How it shook the air before it as it grew in volume.
The survivors of Potter’s Syndrome had suffered a change in their brain structure. They had emerged from hiding, finding one another and converging into large groups who spread out, building structures and planting things again.
Laura understood the need to come back, but it was not her country anymore. Her mother would not have recognised it. The sounds gained nuance as she drew closer.
The kind of hooting noise you made with your tongue against the roof of your mouth.
Primal, unmoored cries of rage and pain.
Unhinged spasms of ecstasy.
Children bawling in a language that made her temples throb.
Laura recorded all of it. It was streamed up to Nirvana for analysis by REACT. The world had always been interested in America, but this was not the same place anymore.
The camouflage changed as she moved forwards, mapped textures that helped her blend in perfectly with her environment. She felt safe within it, unseen so long as she was sure and careful where she walked.
Which was why the child staring directly at her came as a surprise.
He was around eight years old, lean in the way they all were with his hair stuck up in clotted, stiff spikes atop his head His face was streaked with something that shone in the evening light and yellow chalk.
He clutched a human femur in his right hand and grinned.
Laura sent a status alert to Nirvana.
‘Shit, it’s a kid.’
‘Pacification options are available but you would be in range.’
The child hooted and began to dance, waving the femur in the air as his callused feet beat up splatters of mud into the air.
A guttural cry went up and Laura watched a pack of men come forwards, naked and all the same leathery shade of brown from being out in the sun all day.
The child hooted and swung the femur in Laura’s direction. She scattered backwards as the men stopped around the child.
Nirvana sent an alert to the nearest outpost. It warned her that she would be in direct range of any ordnance deployed in her defence. She appreciated it asking, but she was too unnerved by the fact that they appeared to have seen her.
She moved backwards, drawing her spring pistol.
‘Nirv, fuck it, I think they’ve seen me.’
Nirvana was too far up to be heard. Laura imagined the click and whirr of its systems coming into play. It was a perfect burning lotus floating above her, devoted to her protection.
Especially when she had put herself in danger like this.
Nirvana deployed micro-munitions that exploded at a viable distance above the target. It rained down a non-lethal nerve agent called Purple Rain and also timed release bursts of aluminum and potassium nitrate, producing blinding lights that worked in conjunction with the agent to paralyse targets without killing them.
‘Protocol activated. Laura, get out of range.’
The men advanced, picking up rocks or sticks as the boy led them to her.
‘The suit’ll absorb the worst of it, right?’
Nirvana lapsed into silence.
‘Of course it will. If not, it will pass quicker for you. And if you despair, you need do only one thing.’
Laura closed her eyes as the sky burned and the rain fell. She would live, she vowed, if only to break the news to her grandmother.
I am now 185 pages into Lawful Evil in second draft and already had notes from the agent about it. It’s more technical and descriptive issues than the story, which is a good thing as the story is always the most important thing to me. It is the bass of any book, the foundation and unless that works, not even the prettiest prose will save it.
I have ditched entire drafts and books before. As you write more and often, you find yourself becoming ruthless with the work you do. I don’t want to waste your attention when I have it.
I have finished a few books recently. High Rise by J G Ballard which was brilliant and disturbing, as he wrote in a very unique, cold voice that allows him to slip past some subversive insights and make it all compelling in its ambiguity.
Aftershock by Andrew Vachss was really good, although there were large slabs of exposition when the central story was more interesting but even those digressions were highly entertaining and rich with a ballistic, brutal poetry that kept me reading.
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood was incredible. She tells beautiful stories with an acerbic sense of character and frailty, and there are some lovely subplots that pay off whilst weaving fact and fiction into a story that dripped with intrigue and tension.
Underground Airlines by Ben Winters had a really strong concept and was robustly written, but it felt a little slight in the telling. The inner journey of the protagonist was a little too rote for me to really invest in but the reality of the concept held me rapt at the plausible horror of it.
Good Bones by Margaret Atwood was fantastic. Spare and beguiling stories that make you think and entertain you in a few words. She’s hilarious and cruel and warm, certainly someone who I rate as a writer and as a reader of her work. If anything of hers comes into view, I grab it and read it immediately.
I view reading and writing as the highest expressions of my purpose, and derive pleasure from both of them, so it keeps me motivated. Thank you for reading and liking my work, as well as the comments which are deeply appreciated. A writer wants to be read as much as a reader wants to be written to, or for.
Maria stepped out of the car, took in a deep sniff of the afternoon air. It tickled the back of her throat. She spent enough time around fire to know that she worked better with its aftermath, following its spoor and the marks it left.
The tragic circus of emergency services and bystanders had moved on, a day late and a dollar short, leaving only the ruined, stained show they gathered to watch. Participants and witnesses. Maria went to her trunk, got out her kit and crossed the police tape.
Fire, like any living thing, left traces of itself. She would measure, account and assess what had happened and report it to her superiors. She took a quiet pleasure in her work. Her fascination with fire had found a healthy outlet, and it paid well. The how and when became the boundaries of her time spent amongst the ashes.
The why and who. Irrelevant.
However, this was the third fire in as many weeks that appeared to need those irrelevancies; She worked with what was there and what was not. In most cases, the latter provided her with the information she needed
Accelerants set to bloom once the place became conveniently unoccupied.
Precious or sentimental items taken for safe keeping.
Deliberately overloaded sockets.
The ineffective natures of people told her everything. Fire, in its purity, told her of how it was misused, squandered and she paid homage to it. She measured, recorded, tested and observed her findings, typed it up into reports as dry as tinder, free of conjecture and subjectivity and left the rest to people with more dog in the hunt than her.
Except this scene, like the previous two bore similar flaws that disturbed her.
No clear path of accelerants. No accelerants at all aside from the furniture, the possessions, the people and the traces their burning left.
Fire needed three things to exist.
Maria had been to two previous fires. Both were persons reported, which meant bodies. Each site had been stubborn in their refusal to give her tangibles to work with. Nothing splashed or sparked. Her reports were literary exercises in the art of being dumbfounded without coming out and saying it. The excreta of inefficient fire was notable by its absence. Failure, like fire, clung to her with the tenacity of dog shit on a trainer tread.
These were important people who died. The kind who had public officials on speed dial.
Maria was stood in the ruined home of a former senator, without a clue how to proceed. She did the work though. Her conclusion held the confusing elegance of a zen koan.
First, there was a fire.
Then there was no fire
Then there was.
She found a thick, grey pile of ash, the remains of a wardrobe that had collapsed through the floor and was sifting through it when her fingers found the outlines of something. She pulled it forward. A lock box, buckled but intact. She recorded the dimensions of a tentative excitement in her voice into the recording app on her phone. She took photographs.
An order had come from on high. An eleventh commandment.
THOU SHALT REPORT ANY HIDDEN OR WEIRD SHIT.
Maria resented the struggle to make sense of it. Her pride did not take to being thwarted. She got that from her mom, a woman who would wander for hours in a petulant funk if a conclusion to a crime novel or a movie eluded her sense of logic or story. That inheritance was mitigated by her dad’s work ethic. This situation blew fat, sloppy raspberries at both aspects of her.
She put the phone away and got out her multi-tool.
Two tugs and a pump later, she was done. Much like sex with her ex-husband.
The box opened with a whining, raspy creak and she looked inside.
The sickly gleam of flesh on glossy photographic paper.
She was relieved that she had worn gloves. She wished that she had worn a blindfold.
The sigh made her turn and reach for the wheel gun on her hip. A young woman stood there.
She had old eyes that had seen too much of the world.
Her hair stuck up in tufts and clumps, done with blunt scissors in bad lighting. She would have been pretty but for the poor hygiene and claw marks of anxiety. She wore an oversized grey pullover that hung past her bony wrists with black skinny jeans that were bagged out at the knees. Her trainers were cracked like dehydrated lips.
‘You nearly got shot there, miss.’
The woman laughed and looked around the wreckage.
Her voice was flat, resigned to little more than a whisper. Maria gauged that the girl wasn’t carrying but that her eyes were focused on something other than her.
‘There’s nothing here for you. You really should go.’
The woman bobbed her head in agreement but her eyes remained fixed on the box.
‘I know, I just wanted to make sure you found it.’
Maria’s breath stuck in her throat. Perpetrators came back to the scenes of their crimes. To relive them, to tease another moment’s pleasure from the grand acts of destruction they needed for release or success. Maria had a familiarity with the faint, ammoniac scent of desiccated semen that had killed more dates than a statement of religious belief.
People liked to fuck as much as fire did.
‘Miss, you’re going to need to be a little more forthcoming, if you’re trying to tell me something.’
The woman’s face twitched and her eyes bulged in their sockets.
‘Did you look through them?’
Maria glanced at the box then back up at the girl ‘s face.
‘I saw enough.’
The woman wiped away the tears with the sleeve of her jumper.
‘Did you see me?’
Maria had paused her recording. She reached and shut it off completely.
‘I could have you brought in.’ Maria said.
The woman’s hands clenched into fists and she started to back away. Maria put her hands out and kept her voice soft.
‘I don’t really want to do that.’
Maria heard the crackle of flames, caught the scent of ozone and charcoal between one breath and the next. The girl squared her shoulders. Preparing for something. The air between them hot in an instant, enough to draw perspiration along Maria’s hairline.
‘You’ve got your reasons. Normally, I wouldn’t care but -‘
She kicked the lock box to emphasise her point.
The woman smiled and the temperature between them dropped.
Maria took photographs of the lock box, picked it up and bagged it with the contents intact before putting it into her trunk. The woman smiled, still broken by circumstance but clinging to a cause like a sickly child clings to their mother.
Maria suggested coffee. A place down the street. The woman nodded, pensive and polite.
Some people wanted to watch the world burn. Once in a while, Maria figured, they had a reason.
She would follow the evidence, no matter how far fetched it might have appeared.
The woman introduced herself as Ruby.
I have reached the second act of Lawful Evil, some 115 pages of edited work and have lost roughly 10% of the first draft along the way. The beauty of an exploratory draft is that you just play on the page, go on tangents and empty yourself of every idea in relation to the idea itself. With this project, there was the first conscious use of the story grid, and I am pleased to find that it has added utility in determining where the obligatory scenes should go and what needs to be discarded.
To quote Bruce Lee, you use what is necessary and discard the rest.
Experience and focused practice has allowed for less bloat in the exploratory draft so editing later is both easier and more difficult in that there are scenes that read well, but don’t serve the story. The second draft is leaner, it moves faster and the underlying emotions and themes become apparent on the page. It is a matter of confidence to trust that the reader gets it, and to allow for such information as to avoid being too ambiguous, to parse exposition to use as ammunition rather than having it dropped like a stone because it is too heavy and awkward to break down. I would not say I possess any special aptitude beyond an ability to focus and do the work necessary to advance my work.
Until She Sings is with several agents at the moment. I cannot agonise over its status, so I concentrate on the things I can control, which is the work. Say prayers and send blessings for its success.
I have several future projects in various stages. Strange Lights is sat in longhand, exploratory draft waiting for me to go in and build it up to a second draft. Another project has been fitted into a story grid, there are the serials Sir 2.0, Asra and A Bridge For The Furies ongoing here as well as the poetry. I am also putting notes towards two other projects and looking ahead.
I am reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry which is lengthy, exquisite and moving. It is a hymn to the American dream, awash with struggle, beauty and horror and all of it dressed in elegant, beautiful language. After that, I will be reading The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas then rereading The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi. I try to absorb the good work, not necessarily in one genre and guided by an unconscious instinct for the stuff that will inspire and educate me.
There is a joy in the process, it sustains me no matter what my circumstances and serves as an expression of my solidity. I am not calcified in that, simply that I have a course, a path and I follow it by determination, a willingness to change up without losing sight of the prize.
The man I look at in the mirror each morning.
Thank you for reading, and hi to recent followers. Please feel free to comment and share the work that you like. What’s the point of being a writer if you aren’t being read?
Shirley had not left much in the way of belongings. A few worn, battered boxes of objects that held sentimental value and the musk of years clinging to them. Laura had taken them in without a care to examine them, exiled them to a corner of the basement whilst she got on trying to raise Kelly when Shirley went into the care home. Kelly’s memories of Sheila had been abstract, the smell of her, violets and chamomile, the soft, flabby crush of her embrace, her lilting gentle laughter and how it carried up into the air.
Shirley had been bitten by life. Her husband, and Laura’s father, Pete, had been a brutal, weak man who was quick to blame everyone else for his failures and in turn, quicker with his fists if anyone called him on it. They had survived as a family due to Shirley, who took it all in her stride, back at a time when marriage was something you believed required work. The work that was similar to a drop of water eroding a cliff face. Laura and Kelly’s generation knew the lie of it, even though some of their relationship choices had uncanny parallels to Shirley and Pete, a predisposition towards rough confidence and an ambiguity as to what rough meant in that context.
Shirley would say if either of them ever asked what stopped her from leaving or taking a knife to Pete’s throat whilst he slept. She would ask them to fetch down the mason jar that sat on the shelf in the living room, with the seal of cracked, flaking rubber and the lid sealed on with tape.
She would give an inscrutable grin and tap the lid.
‘I would open this up, and scream or cry into it, close it again and go on about my day. Your pa was an asshole, but he used to balance that out with being sweet. Over time, men like that, they don’t get sweeter as a rule. The jar kept me going on making sure you were alright.’
Laura had survived her marriage as her mother had. At first it was the same determination, and then the fortunate act of a 17-year-old drunk driver who had ploughed into Bobby’s pickup truck and killed them both. Bobby had been a protégé of Pete, without ever having met him. The only good thing he had left Laura was Kelly, and so she retreated behind the role of mother, unwilling or unable to trust her instincts to love again so freely. When she did date, Kelly noticed, they were tepid, plaintive men whose safety had suffocated their animal natures until they were muted, gelded soft boys with worn, adult features. Her step father William, had been one of them and Kelly had liked him, although she knew that the relationship was a band aid on an amputated limb for her mom.
Kelly, at that time, seventeen felt an arrogant pride in seeing the mistakes of her relatives and was determined to avoid them herself. No, she would not let herself be taken in either sort of man – the brute or the eunuch. She would be more cautious in who she let into her bed or her heart.
She was later reminded of the maxim, that if you wanted to make God laugh, tell him your plans.
Predators came in all forms. They adapted to their environment, wore the plumage of safe, appropriate identities but beneath it all, they still held the same crawling disdain for women. Barrett had been displaying some of his work for his final grade. He had long, shining hair and round spectacles, spoke with his hands and was informed about third wave feminism and the benefits of a vegan diet. Kelly had thought him safe, a good man who would align with her values even if he didn’t immediately set a fire in her loins.
It was two years into it that he struck her for the first time. He had gotten a scathing review by Harlan Foster for his last show, and although Kelly had sought to soothe him, he had taken it as criticism. His bony hand came up and caught her on the curve of her left cheekbone. The surprise hurt worse than the blow itself. A small, resigned voice at the back of her head gave an unpleasant chuckle and told her that she was not so unlike her mother and grandmother after all.
She had been six months pregnant at the time.
She had stayed. Laura was undergoing treatment for cancer at the time on the other side of the country, barely able to muster the energy for a conversation. Kelly had, by getting pregnant and quitting her work, tied herself to Barrett, whose success had been intoxicating even as his ego had developed an unpleasant, peevish swagger that resonated with deep, ancestral memories. Shirley was a ghost in ageing flesh, dementia had reduced her to unfocused smiles and an orderly to change her diaper. Kelly, stood in the bathroom with a cold cloth to her bruised cheek, realised how effectively Barrett had cut her off from anything approaching a support network. The price of his intensity and attention had come due. She patted her belly, squeezed out a few tears as he pleaded with her through the door and swore that she would not repeat the pattern of previous generations.
It was a year before he struck her again. She had just managed to get Georgia off to sleep, a fractious baby who conducted the tension between her parents like she were made of copper. He had come back from signing a new deal for more of his work, appropriations of other people’s Instagram posts recreated and blown up into hallucinogenic collages that generated controversy. He blamed the drink this time, but Kelly knew that vulpine smile, the opportunity to shut her down with a single blow. His smile knew her weakness, and she hated it. They had a beautiful home, tastefully decorated but Kelly would have burned it to ash if it meant her and Georgia got away.
Within six months, Laura and then Shirley had passed on. Barrett had been dryly supportive, a means to continue isolating and controlling her. He checked her emails, went through her phone. He had clung to her at the funeral, not as a gesture of comfort, but to keep her to heel. A single unguarded conversation might arouse suspicion.
He avoided hitting her face after that. If anyone asked him, he would have said that he liked the expression that came to her when he kicked her in the shin or drove his bony fist into her stomach. He reminded her what power was, even if he lacked the awareness to see that this was a metaphor akin to cancer being a reminder of good cellular activity.
Because, he said, he loved her.
Their collective estates were mostly medical bills, absolved by good insurance policies and a few objects. William had died of a heart attack when Kelly was eighteen, so it was down to her to sort through the collected detritus of a life spent surviving, sifting through the trash of discarded dreams and fragile shelters for anything worth treasuring.
The jar was still intact although the tape holding it closed had faded to the texture of parchment, its control now a thing of sentiment rather than physics. She kept it in the kitchen where it drank in the light of the day through the large window. She showed it to Georgia without letting her handle it.
Because, when she held it, Kelly imagined a hum of something inside, tapping against the glass, eager to be released. She would laugh and put it back on the sill, but it was a shrill, polite rejection of the senses.
She had never asked her mother if she had screamed into it.
She wondered if it would work for her.
Georgia had been at daycare when Barrett had sauntered in, gazing around the kitchen for something to use as a reason to hit her. Kelly wondered when that would finally stop and he would just come over and beat his frustrations out of him and into her. He had grown more violent in his rages. Luckily, he had stayed away from Georgia which Kelly would have found intolerable, and that too became a reason to stay in the perfect cruel trap of their marriage. He needed her. He had stopped progressing as a man and an artist, perfectly content to nurse his insecurities and failings, the only true child of their marriage and Kelly’s presence meant he had someone to take it all out upon.
‘What’s wrong?’ she said.
Nothing. Everything. He had moved past the point of needing an excuse as much as she had moved past trying to fight him. The bruises healed, the blood in her urine would fade back to the straw yellow and the limp would disappear on its own. The paranoia, the removal of her privacy had done more damage to her sense of self. She had been a good girl, with her lid screwed on tight but what was inside her.
She ignored the screaming hum aside when she dreamed about it. A kaleidoscope of humiliation, clowns chasing after her that had faded by the time she awoke. She would cry in the shower afterwards and then return to bed, desperate not to wake him.
In the kitchen, he grabbed the soft flesh on her left bicep, dug his fingers in and brought his other hand up across her face. She cried out, felt the heat of her own blood on her upper lip. His lips were pulled back over his teeth and his eyes gleamed like broken glass in a children’s playground.
She was stood with her back to the sink and he shoved her. The edge of the sink bit into the small of her back and she flailed to remain upright. Her fingertips touched the glass of the jar, warm from the light.
The humming called to her, travelling down the bone roads and nerve pathways into her brain. Older, wiser voices told her what she needed to do.
What she had always needed to do.
She pulled her left arm away from his grip and was punished with gouges where he had dug his nails in. With both hands, she picked up the jar, fighting the desperate, atavistic urge to smash it against his high, veined forehead or into his long, hooked nose. It would have injured him, but another instinct made a more compelling argument. Without words, only the crude magick of memories and a need to save herself before he lost it completely and ended up killing her.
She held the jar towards him and wrenched the lid off. It made a soft, sucking sound like smacking lips in anticipation of a good meal. The pneumatic hiss was audible between them and that, above the rising tide of his rage, made Barrett step backwards.
The silence, for a moment, was a bomb going off in the room between them. A pressurised wave that ripped everything to rags before Barrett staggered backwards, his hands to his face.
Blood welled between his fingers and Kelly held the jar forward. It vibrated in her hands and she held onto it with what strength she had left in her. Barrett collapsed onto his knees, then fell forward onto his stomach, his feet kicking out a tattoo against the tiles. She kept the jar aimed at him as he floundered and thrashed with agony. Whatever was happening to him robbed him of the ability to scream.
Kelly knew how that felt.
He brought his knees up to his chest, hands still at his face although they were smeared with blood which had spread out into a thick, dark puddle around his head like a halo. The smell of wet pennies and unseen, internal processes filled the air but Kelly kept the jar open and pointed at him. She screamed along with it, adding her voice to the chorus of pain and anguish that had been her terrible, unwanted legacy alongside her mother and grandmother.
She caught the faint scent of burning and stared, in appalled disbelief as smoke began to rise in tendrils from his still form. The jar hummed as it went about its work and she watched him flake, turn grey and then disappear into a few smears of ash and the acrid scent of smoke on her lips and tongue. The blood had boiled away alongside every inch of him.
She shut the jar, looked at what remained and replaced the jar on the shelf. She left the lid off. She sobbed and sunk to her knees, the kind of healing, ungainly cries that was beautiful and ugly in the same instant. When she stopped, she looked around and realised that Georgia would be home soon. She wiped her eyes and got to her feet.
She looked for a broom and a dustpan. The sunshine came in, a second wave of brightness and warmth at her back. She whispered her thanks and set to work.
The title does not contradict my previous statements on inspiration. It is inconstant and should not be relied upon as part of a writing process if you want to achieve a regular body of work. I do, so I don’t rely on it. I write through all the different shades of feeling.
Feeling ill? Still writing
There’s a new season of that show I like on Netflix that I have time to binge watch? Still writing.
However, inspiration is pretty wonderful and when it lands upon you, it is like mainlining the universe. In Ancient Greece, they referred to it as a spirit called a daemon. Inspiration, in that context, can be seen as summoning it so I will use that metaphor going forward. Sit down, kids, this is going somewhere interesting.
Sources of inspiration:
The most obvious one is reading. I include audiobooks amongst this, as the science supports that listening to one resonates in the brain in the same way looking at words on a page or screen does. I will break that down for you into some further definitions.
Fiction – I say this and it is kind of hammered into you that if you are a writer, you should be reading. The why of that, to me, is the following reasons. It allows you to see the possibility of what can be done on the page. There are no right or wrong books to be reading. A good book can inspire envy as well as much as a bad book can inspire contempt.
Reading as a writer is different from reading as a reader. You want to see what effects are possible, then you look at how and what the writer uses to convey that effect. Don’t see this as an adjunct to dry, literary analysis, think of it as figuring out what they did and how you can reproduce it in your own writing. It is not plagiarism, which is stupid to do in the days of software that can analyse and point it out, although people still do it and even sell books online with it. Warren Ellis, the comic book writer, offers this up in terms of comic books. Tear it apart, use the entrails to see a possible future for your work. Chuck Palahniuk has a lovely quote that I use.
“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.”
You should do the same with bad writing too. What that means is subjective to you, but if you get that faint sense of ‘I can do better than that’ or not even the faint sense where you resolve yourself to a vigilante crusade to burn every copy of that book in existence, then you can still learn something useful from it. Bad books have a malign sense of energy, and some of the subjectively worst books have been the most popular. Slag Dan Brown off all you want, he won’t hear you from atop the massive pile of gold and escorts that he sleeps upon.
So, read, listen to fiction. It gives you scope for your own work.
I also add that it is good to read outside of your genre. If you want to work in a particular genre, it is arrogant not to read the leading proponents of the style. Who those are is also subjective, but I believe that if you read outside of that, then you can incorporate elements to make your voice unique. It is healthy and lends itself to original work, if you can do it in a natural way. What matters is that you look to make those elements organic, not some Frankenstein’s Monster literary hybrid that lurches from the slab with lightning running through it’s decayed veins.
I will refer to Tom Clancy for this:
“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”
I would argue that any written non fiction is fictional in construction. Actually it is not me who argues that but Steven Pressfield because you are still choosing which moments and perspectives form your account. Reality television is not, because it is not a dogme 95 camera trained on a fixed point and neither is non fiction writing. I digress though.
Non-fiction is a mine of inspiration for me. It is an education awash with pleasure because you can pick up a great deal of images, incidents and story prompts from the stuff of life itself. You can change the names, details but keep that little spark there alive and you have something that resonates whilst still having the plausibility of real life.
Pick a subject, look for the good stuff and let it wash over you.
I work a day job, lots of us do. Your colleagues, your customers are all potential sounding boards and sources of inspiration. Listen, ask questions that relate to whatever you were working on and need some juice to pump into your writing. Anecdotes are everywhere, and you should use them wherever possible, legal issues and ramifications withstanding.
I hope these points are of interest, and that they help. Feel free to disregard what does not work for you, and please offer up your own points in the comments or to me via the contact form at the bottom of this post.