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, blogging, books, fiction, women

Writing Update

So I am 83 pages into The Exit Counsellor, which is my second venture into thriller territory after Lawful Evil. I write first drafts in longhand, as much to resist sharing them as to make something mobile and easy to pick up so I grind through good pencils and paper over breakfast then go to my day job.

My first book, The Love We Make did the rounds with publishers and was rejected, which was a good thing as it took away the sting of rejection early on. The second one, Until She Sings is out there somewhere, so send your happy thoughts and prayers for that one. I work to a disciplined practice, which long-term readers of the blog (hey you *waves*) are familiar with.

I still have Stranger Lights, my Mexican witchcraft novel in longhand, which I will start editing into a second draft this summer once I have finished Lawful Evil and also Ogden. Editing isn’t as much fun as first drafts but it is where you learn from your mistakes. Acutely so, if I am honest.

Writing is my purpose. I work towards that. I know the odds and so do you, but fuck it, I play to win and I work at it like a motherfucker.

If you’ve enjoyed any of the poetry or short fiction, please share it. I am humbled by anyone who takes the time to read my work, and I want to reach as many people as possible. You can help me with a click and a kind word. It isn’t natural for me to ask for help, but sometimes you have to. I’m building my own world here and I want you all to come and play with me.

Thank you for reading my work and supporting it, openly or otherwise.

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beauty, fiction, short fiction, women, writing

a judgement in pollen

Simone had been taking samples when her heads up display shrieked into life. The atmosphere on Walmart 7 held several strains of pollen which meant that she could not go outside without a sealed encounter suit. She turned her head to look at what had triggered it.

The grub harvested lichen from a flat crop of grey rock when it stood on its hind legs and chanted. Simone worried that she had become accustomed to such sights that the alien becoming commonplace took away from her sense of who she was.

‘Tissamayaw, lsh nuf povah lu.’

Simone saw the blood pumping to the surface of its translucent skin. It waved its jointed forelimbs ahead in vicious arcs of desperate movement. Simone powered her suit up and stomped over to the grub. It turned its head and stared at her, the secondary eyelids blinking over and over as it extended its mandibles. Her stomach lurched with dread, the first real emotion she had experienced beyond latitude and a dull, persistent longing for home.

‘Tissamayaw, lsh nuf povah lu.’

They spoke through a series of hollow chambers, lined with tendons that resonated at different frequencies to produce speech. The words it chanted held a terrible, ancient quality she found awful to hear. The grub shuddered before collapsing and kicking its limbs outwards.

Simone sent the image up to Command. She saw that several other grubs and even a second-tier queen fall whilst others stood there, kneeling to acknowledge the moment or dancing in excited, small circles. Some even walked away with the blithe disregard of children. Her throat closed in disbelief.

‘What are you seeing down there, Doctor?’

Command’s default voice was a robust, salt of the earth paternal archetype. The canned reassurance was perfect for her.

‘We’ve gotten readings on a massive spike and distribution of pollen. Not the usual variants either.’

‘It’s not affecting everyone either. There are grubs and queens who are still upright and mobile.’

Simone held a brief inventory. Nothing got through the suits but it never hurt to check. Sometimes all she had been her routines and procedures, forever meeting the expectations but seldom the approval of her peers.

‘Vitals are fine, Doctor. Follow Encounter Protocol Eight and return to the compound.’

Simone looked through the available data to determine if the pollen was moving in their direction. She switched to a live feed of the main dining room where she would spend her off duty hours. They ate and talked without a care in the world. Late at night, or what passed for it, she would start to approach the subject of her alienation, her apathy but would retreat at the last minute, and she always saw the same wounded light in the eyes of whoever she spoke to.

Until one of them. Mathis, she thought, got up to the window and pressed his palms against it.

Her medical harness introduced a cocktail of mood suppressants and adrenaline into her, and her heart thumped with purpose in her chest.

‘Anything on the pollen?’ Simone asked.

Her Bubble shimmered in the air before her. Its waves of gravitons shimmered the air beneath it as she slipped inside, activating the engines with a turn of her head.

‘It’s an older strain, distributed from certain points on the surface. Places we’ve not been able to explore as yet.’

The gel solidified around her, reading the photo-electric cells in her armour so she was both pilot and engine in one.

She had one destination and one speed.

‘Where’s it come from?’ she said.

It sent over a three dimensional scan. A series of concentric, golden circles spreading outwards from distinct points on the planet’s surface.

‘Looks like it’s being vented up from somewhere.’ she said.

Command sent more footage. Grubs and queens made equal in their chances of survival, and they experienced it with an air of delighted acceptance.

‘It’ll reach the compound before I do, Command.’

The footage disappeared. Silence from Command, which unnerved Simone more than anything else that had happened. If there was someone watching, someone in charge, then she allowed herself the luxury of abstraction. To bear this was an awful responsibility for anyone, and Simone willed the Bubble go faster in response.

She was not sure if she was running away or towards the problem. The world around her resisted order and amidst the thick clouds of chaos, raw feelings emerged after years spent in hibernation.

The landscape hurtled past her, featureless by the velocity. She activated the external camera to see what was ahead.

The clouds of pollen moved at their own pace, twisted by the impending fields that propelled the Bubble like a globule of oil across a hot skillet. They shimmered, gold and green as they clung to any available surface or person with a hungry ease.

Simone saw the outline of the compound and sent a call out.

Silence. An ache started in her chest, deep and thick enough to make her struggle for breath.

She slowed down, preparing to hit the landing bay and get into cover when she saw the bay doors were open.

Command remained silent.

She stopped the Bubble and got out, still dripping from the immersion in the gel cockpit and saw shapes moving towards her. Simone sent out a message but got silence, teeming and insinuating as the pollen.

Her feet hit the body on the ground. She thought it looked like Mathis, but he was only wearing a white sheet and his LED tattoos were dark.

Simone saw the others coming towards her, all of them nude but for a layer of pollen, arms outstretched and grinning with a savage delight.

They were chanting and walking without a care in the world.

‘Tissamayaw, lsh nuf povah lu.’

Cara who had been an administrator turned her head and Simone saw the exit wound where she had removed her Phought device. It explained but did not mitigate the silence.

Cara looked genuine in her happiness. Simone had complained about the transparency, the lack of privacy and the constant noise but she yearned for one friendly voice to explain to her what was happening here. Cara had chosen something else to listen to and had mutilated herself to better commune with it.

Simone turned and ran back to the Bubble.

The nature of this was as random as a car accident, but Simone knew she was privy to rules and precepts established long before they had arrived here. She resolved to find out something, if not to survive it, then to at least die informed. She had a sense of wonder, a back handed gift from the universe itself.

She realised that whatever weird shit she had become inured to, there was always an event waiting to disabuse her of that notion.

Like today.

She slipped inside the Bubble which dissolved the pollen with a crackling hiss and started the engine up.

Her colleagues stood there, arms open and inside her, an ache to understand, to belong roared up within her but she shut her eyes, took a deep breath and made her escape.

She would bear the silence for as long as she could. If not, well she could take off her suit and it would all be over in a single breath.

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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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animals, fiction, nature, short fiction

Gull

Seagull_in_flight_by_Jiyang_Chen

(By Jiyang Chen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15507046)

Kelvin parked at the top of the cliffs and peered at the bleak, grey sky. He feared getting nothing from this trip beyond a soaking. He zipped up his coat, checked the camera and locked the car. He walked down to the beach with care, enjoying the smell of ozone and the gentle roar of the waves.

Most of his working day at Environmental Health consisted of dealing with people who had no awareness beyond their immediate gratification. He used to suffer from the need to explain but that got worn away the way a chalk mark on pavement does, endless repetitions until it had been scuffed away completely.

He was there due to the recent rise in reported attacks by gulls on people in the town centre and the market place, travelling to monitor the numbers of nested birds here and pad out a report that would meet the brick wall of the wildlife protection statutes and then get filed away somewhere. People fed them crap which made them thick and aggressive and never made the connection. Kelvin had grown up here, and even he had a run in with them, nothing especially aggressive but something to talk about over a pint or at a party.

The most recent one had disturbed him. He had been walking along Regent Road, behind a couple dragging their chubby toddler along on a set of canvas rainbow-striped reins. He knew it was their son by the tense hissed argument they were having and the looks they gave one another. Kelvin recognised the mutual resentment that came when young parents realised that they had not fucked themselves into, but out of a future.

The child had a cone of chips and was happily digging into it when Kelvin saw a flurry of white activity to his right and the muscular snap of wings as the gull launched at the child. It shrieked in triumph, reminding Kelvin that birds were descended from dinosaurs.

The child screamed in agony when the bird stabbed it’s beak into his soft, pale cheek. The father kicked it away and it flapped its wings at him, shrieking in a way that reminded Kelvin of cruel laughter.

Kelvin called the ambulance whilst the mother sobbed and held her hand to her son’s ruined cheek. The father stomped and ranted about something needing to be done, a pantomime performance to mask his inadequacy.

Every time Kelvin closed his eyes afterwards, his memory taunted him with fresh details. The tugging smack of the child’s flesh being pulled away and the triumphant, horrific light of joy in the gull’s eyes. The child’s teeth, visible through the wound that it left.

It had not really gone for the chips at all.

Kelvin walked until he was in range of the nests. He started to take photographs when he saw something in the fissure that sank back into the cliff face.

A pair of eyes, a length of pale, white flesh. A child’s forearm.

Bloody kids, Kelvin muttered and strode towards it. His chest and stomach were taut with irritation and unease as he put the lens cap back on the camera.

No wonder the gulls went for the children. They were too similar to share territory for long. Both of them indulged and cosseted until they were mutated by it. There were probably more protections for birds than children these days. Kelvin always wondered why it was the royal society that protected birds and the national one that dealt with children. As time went on, he realised that the answer was all too apparent.

It was his last thought before something hard thumped into the back of his head.

Blackness overwhelmed him and the damp beige sand rushed up to catch his fall.

The pain was awake before he was, coming at him from different places on his body. A mixture of textures and sensations hidden by the darkness of the cave. His head throbbed enough that even opening his eyes made him moan beneath his breath.

He tried to move and gagged at the sudden rush of agony that came from his arms and legs. His eyes adjusted to the dark and he saw the slick raw meat of his arms and legs, the skin pecked away and then torn to allow his muscles to be available, like stabbing the skin from an orange. He started to cry and a chorus of shrieks went up, loud enough to make him cry out in shock. The flinching made his wounds open and bleed again, sending a jolt of agony that made him nauseous. He saw eyes watching him, single points of wet black hatred set into white skulls that peered over curved, yellow beaks The dimensions were larger than any gull he had ever seen, and the necks were shorter and thicker. When one of them walked around, and he saw how the wings were set on the back, and that it had extended long, thick arms and fingers tapered into claws that he started to scream.

A hand shot over his mouth and scratched down his cheeks to gain purchase. A blast of fetid, warm breath caressed his scalp. Kelvin vomited. The hand remained clamped to his face and Kelvin caught some of it in his sinuses, which stung and burned.

He saw the others come forward, cawing and ready to sink their claws and beaks into him. The one that held him came forward and Kelvin stared at its razor sharp massive beak where its lips and teeth would have been on a human face. What finally broke Kelvin was not the alien, inhuman nature of such a combination of avian and human, but the intelligence that danced in its eyes and its partner, unrelenting hatred.

Kelvin had come to help them, he wanted to say. He had hoped to find a solution.

The gull stabbed its beak down, using the thick muscles in its neck to punch the blade into Kelvin temple with the force of a sledgehammer.

As the lights died in his brain, Kelvin realised that someone had come up with a solution after all.

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beauty, blogging, books, fiction, short fiction

Infernal Ink April 2017

I feature in this month’s issue with my story ‘Women and Children First.’ Below are links so please avail yourself. I will sign print copies if requested 😉
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beauty, fiction, love, short fiction, women, writing

Elena In The Woods

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When Mrs Parris walked into my office with her nose upturned, I allowed her a measure of disdain to hide behind. The local police and FBI had failed to find her daughter, so here she was with an envelope of unmarked bills.

She decided to stand, rather than sit down. The money leavened the insults for me.

Elena had been twenty-one years old, graceful in every way with a halo of blonde hair and alabaster skin. Her intensity had been apparent from every photo circulated about her, reflected in her politics, which was how she had ended up in Portland. A perfect rebellion against her patrician, old money family with a good helping of political disgrace dumped on top.

Six months gone. I had friends who had worked the case, dedicated and professional people who all shared a collective disbelief that she had disappeared so thoroughly.

No ransom notes.
No social media clues or posts.
No body.

Before Mrs Parris arrived, I had gone through the case and came much to the same conclusion. What would not hurt was my willingness to go over old ground.

The last possible sighting of her had been with a fledgling ecological pressure group that had been interrogated into dissolution. A single photo of her sat by a fire, singing and smiling, integrated into the group but apart from it. Some of the cash in the envelope had already been spent on camping gear and a local guide which was where I would be spending my weekend.

Deke met me at the last decent diner, and we went over the route over Greek omelettes and gallons of thick, black coffee. He accepted his cash fee with grace and tucked it away without comment.

He finished his coffee and sucked on his moustache.

‘Lot of ground to cover.’ he said.

I nodded and hid my concern that his version of what a lot of ground meant differed radically from mine.

I flexed my toes inside my gore-tex socks and hiking boots, uncomfortable with the urge to see if I could find anything to justify my fee. I finished my food, conscious that we would be subsisting on trail mix and jerky before too long.

‘So, we’re just going to wander around looking?’ Deke said.

I sat back and raised my hands in a despairing gesture.

‘That’s what I’m paying you for, Deke, charming as you are.’

Deke clapped his leathery palms together.

‘It’s your dime, ma’am.’ he said.

It was and I was keen to get started.

2.

I left my car at the diner, took Deke’s truck to the edge of the woods and started from there. We each had framed backpacks and Deke had brought a hunting rifle which was slung from his right shoulder. I had my 9mm pistol in a holster on my right hip with two clips of ammunition. It might have been a lot of precaution to take, but if you’d ever been shot, then you would learn the appeal of a good sidearm if it came down to it.

We started strong, making good time but soon we were trudging through the dense undergrowth, slapping at insects a little too late. We had run out of conversation, which suited us both, preferring to take in the absolute silence of the forest as our guide.

Nature is a mirror, a vast reflection of the inner self. For Deke, it must have been like a shortcut home, but for me, each sound held an unnerving quality, distorted by the silence and the scale of the place. People wandered out here and were absorbed into it.

I wondered if the same had happened to Elena.

Each breath I took was damp, bearing the green taste of the pine needles and the moss. My clothing teemed with moisture, but I stayed dry beneath them which was a relief.

Deke found the spot where the photograph was taken, kneeling down and rubbing the blackened soil between his fingers before nodding. We found two other similar sites, but kept moving through the woods.

His taciturn lack of conversation continued as we made camp. There was only the sounds of our eating and the crackle of the fire he had built. My ears were becoming attuned to the silence of the forest but even so, sleep was a long time in coming.

We were moving before dawn. My body ached for a soft bed, but Deke’s manner made me stash my complaints away for someone who would empathise.

He stopped and pointed out some unusual arrangements of twigs, lashed together with twine and dumped through the woods.

‘People say that squatches leave them.’

I smiled and asked him if he believed that. He smirked and shrugged his shoulders.

‘If they pay me enough, I’ll believe anything they want.’

The second day proved to be as fruitless as the first, but as we made camp, Deke was a little more talkative, which meant one syllable responses rather than silence and we had been sat there for an hour when a breeze arose and stoked the small fire into a state of rude health. Deke furrowed his forehead and I crossed my legs at the ankles, pretending that this was a normal state of affairs for me.

A second breeze followed and we both looked at one another as we heard the crack of a branch being broken underfoot. Deke got up and retrieved his rifle, checked the bolt and started to walk to the edge of our camp. He stopped and lifted his nose, took a deep breath and sighed.

‘Smells kinda odd.’ he said.

He walked into the trees. I tried to follow him but the shadows swallowed him up no more than a few feet ahead of me. I called his name, but he did not answer.

A fresh breeze arose and I tasted pollen and sap on my tongue. A crude surge of energy bubbled up within me and I spat on the ground as I looked around, willing Deke to appear before me.

Something moved in my peripheral vision and came towards me.

Not from the forest, but of it.

It loomed over me, some eight feet tall, a distorted funhouse mirror version of a human being.

Elena.

She had flowering vines falling around her distended skull. Her skin was formed from petals of peach and pink, translucent in places with the shadows of a skeleton formed from wood underneath it. Her limbs were elongated, ending in bundles of horned roots that uncurled in twitching, rapid motions.

In her empty sockets, cornflowers bloomed and when she opened her cavernous maw, I saw chips of bark inserted into gums of packed dirt.

I stood there, taking in each terrible detail that was not filtered by the shadows. There were shadows of unknown anatomies formed from earth and plant matter, pulsing beneath a skeleton made from hard wood. She moved in jagged bursts of activity, whipping her upper body back and forth as she tried to force words through vocal chords composed of vines.

‘Help me. Hurts.’

‘Elena?’ I said.

She managed a nod and gestured behind her. Deke stood there, weeping in awe with the rifle loose in his hands. He did not acknowledge me but followed the pair of us without speaking. She strode like a colossus, pushing aside branches with an inhuman strength. We walked for a while until we came to a dense crop of undergrowth and she tore it aside with a horned hand.

Her corpse, identifiable only by the matted length of white blonde hair, teeming with insects now laid there, sightless eyes staring up at me and accusing everyone for their failure to find her. I saw her expression, knotted in a perpetual mask of agony.

‘Do you know who did this to you?’ I said.

She raised and lowered her chin as petals fell from her cheeks, showing the sculptured sweep of a cheekbone formed from a knot of oak. She reached out a hand and breathed into my face. I sneezed twice before a vision began to form before me.

His handsome but insistent features. His refusal to accept her polite refusal and then growing violent with it. I knew his hands at my throat, crushing and squeezing as my breath left me. His black hair flopped in front of his eyes as he worked at me.

His face was familiar. One of the group who had been eliminated early.

‘Johnny.’ I said.

She nodded and a wrenching screech echoed as she stood upright and touched my face. It drew blood, but I did not feel it until the coppery heat trickled down my face.

She gazed into my eyes before she strode away. Deke fell to his knees, weeping with sorrow and adoration. He kept saying how beautiful she was, and I agreed with him. Perhaps she exuded something that worked with men, but I appreciated what an effect such a thing could have on someone.

Without speaking, we packed up and walked back to his truck. We were both utterly disturbed by what we had seen and we slept in the front seat before we drove back to civilisation. Deke called the tip in from a pay phone and I wrote a report that said nothing of what had happened other than that we had been able to find a body.

I stood amongst the mourners a month later, appreciating the sweet, spring afternoon and staring at the branches as they played in the breeze. Her family grieved with enough force to bring tears to my eyes and I fought the urge to tell them what I had seen.

The scent of her rose in my nostrils, a warning to keep my own counsel and I heeded it.

Another reason for my silence had been when they found Johnny Raymond’s body. He had been torn into sections, his intestines snaking down the stairs and his head rolled down the hallway in a puddle of his own blood.

The presence of thorns and petals confused the investigating officers, but they figured on an open window.

I took the bonus, paid Deke extra from it and kept my silence. I thought about her, wandering there, amongst nature and free to roam the thousands of miles that remained untouched by man.

I wished her well wherever she was.

Whatever she was.

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