Wednesday, 25 March 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 11: “Time Is Short”

2015 WORD COUNT = 15480 words

Times are changing.

Technology is shrinking our world and people have a lot more to do. Time is becoming a precious commodity.

Gone are the days when you could find yourself sat down in the evening, bored out of your mind; nothing to watch on any of the four TV channels, you didn’t own a Spectrum or a Commodore and it was raining cats and dogs outside. Back then this could lead you to picking up a good book and spending the next few hours just getting stuck into a whole new world.

Nowadays we have video games, 50,000 TV channels (+TiVo), longer work hours and many more responsibilities. It’s a lot harder to find any time you can justify on just sitting down and reading that latest 500 page novel. I mean, it could be months before you get to the end. And that’s if it’s a one off. What about getting through a trilogy or a fourteen book saga. Since my son was born my wife has barely had time to read any of the James Patterson books I constantly buy her.

So what other option is there?

When your time is short then it makes sense that the fiction you read be short too.

First off, you can’t go wrong with a good short story collection. You can dip in and out and will probably finish a whole story during your lunch break. Instead of waiting for several months before you get to the satisfying resolution, you can have it daily.

There are many short story collections out there but I highly recommend any of the ones written by Stephen King. Although regularly depicted as a horror writer, there is so much more to his stories and no better show case than the following collections:

Of course, if short fiction is still too much then there is always flash fiction. Stories so short you’ll be done in about five or ten minutes. And if it’s really good flash fiction then you’ll feel like you’ve just had an entire meal in one mouthful.

Obviously the sites I normally promote are more about taking part in the writing (and for some of you that might be the next step). But there are some out there that will give you that quick fix, that story with an edge, a five minute tale that’ll stay with you the rest of the day.

Let me divulge:

Paragraph Planet publishes a 75 word story every day and has done since 2008. Stories don’t get much shorter.

Angry Hourglass publish their weekly winner each Wednesday in the Hump day Quickie. These have a max word count of 360.

Daily Science Fiction publish a sci-fi or fantasy story a day at no more than 1500 words.

Quaterreads are a little different to the others in that you need to pay to read. But it is only $0.25 a 
story and, if you enjoy it enough, what better way to let the hard working author know?

Wattpad has a lot of authors posting chapter by chapter releases of their novels, yet they also have a lot of great short stories to browse through.

Of course you might not want to begin a new world every time you find five spare minutes. What if you enjoy characters so much that you want to see them again and again?

Episodic fiction is a growing trend. It’s like watching your favourite TV show with new content updated on a regular basis. I myself am currently working on a project called FRACTURED DAWN which has 1500 word ‘chapters’ being released every other Friday (I’m hoping to go weekly).

And I’m starting to look at other projects and wondering if they might be better in this episodic formula. Sure, there are still projects I’d like to see on a bookshelf one day as a fully-fledged novel, but I have a lot of little ideas that will never see the light of day if I wanted everything to end up that way. Perhaps, at this early stage in my career, this format will work better and get more stuff out there for people to enjoy.

An example of this episodic process being done well is Betsy Streeter’s NEPTUNE ROAD series. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday Betsy posts brand new tiny episodes of this fantastic ongoing series both on her website and on Wattpad (there’s also a paperback collection available). It follows a great cast of characters trying to get by on the planet Neptune. I’m currently up to episode 125 at the moment but don’t let that number put you off. A couple of lunch breaks and you’ll be all caught up.
So is bite size the future? I’m starting to think it is, at least on a publishing front. A lot of people will continue trying to read that epic novel come rain or shine. Others will give up and ditch reading as non-essential in this hectic world of ours.

But right there in the middle is a new breed of reader, one that wants to get in, be entertained, and get out before the next thing flashes before their eyes. And if people want to read that kind of thing then some of us are going to need to write that kind of thing.

Let me know of any other places to go where short and flash is the prominent feature. And I highly recommend visiting the sites listed above. There is some great material out there for you to find.

See you in seven.

Friday, 20 March 2015

FRACTURED DAWN - episode 4

Previously on Fractured Dawn . . .

A man wakes on a beach with no memory and discovers a strange purple stone embedded in his chest. After being visited by a silent women with red hair he settles down for the night.

The next morning he heads of in search of civilisation and gets caught up saving a woman who is being chased by bandits. During the fight his body suddenly transforms into stone, giving him the advantage. Once the bandits flee, the man from the beach returns to human form and then the woman he rescued knocks him out.

The man wakes later to find himself in the care of Benso Falter, a doctor from the small town of Bridgewood.

The man from the beach looked around. Bridgewood seemed a nice little town, he thought. He wondered if he’d come from a place like this; quiet and out of the way.
The doctor had talked about the town’s history, about how they stayed away from city business and just got on with things. And they looked to be doing well. The town was settled nicely among the surrounding woodland, not too far from the coast. They worked the trees and supplied timber to the state capital, Iscandari.
After a final check-up and filling meal that was an improvement over the roasted crab, Benso had asked his daughter to give their new guest a tour of the town.
“So,” said Tanel. “What do you think?”
Stood in front of the towns General Store, the man from the beach turned and shielded his eyes from the low setting sun. “You people have a nice place here.”
“That we do.” She nodded at the inn across the street. “Guess we’d better see about getting you a place to stay until you plan your next move.”
The man looked up at the sign above the door to the inn. “The Highwayman’s Hat. What’s the beer like?”
“It’ll stay down,” said Tanel. “Don’t expect much more.”
They crossed the main path and entered the inn. It was already quite busy despite still being early evening. A couple of tables to the left housed card games and the man from the beach could smell something awful coming from the kitchen.
Tanel saw his offended nose. “Bet you’re glad you ate before we got here.”
The pair stepped up to the bar and were greeted by an elderly looking gentleman.
“Evening, Tanel.”
“Evening, Castor. I need to speak with the boss.”
“Head on up,” said Castor.
Tanel started for the stairs on the other side of the room but hesitated. She turned back to the man. “You okay to wait here? I won’t be long.” The man was distracted watching the nearest card game. Tanel signalled to Castor instead. “Watch my friend, would you?”
“Will do,” said Castor.
Tanel headed up the stairs and disappeared into one of the rooms. Castor tapped the man from the beach on the shoulder. “Can I get you a drink, Mr?”
“What have you got?”
“Depends on how much coin you’re carrying.”
“Not a bit.”
“Water it is then.” Castor put an empty glass down on the bar and lifted a full water jug from behind the counter. He poured the glass half way. “On the house,” he said with a half arsed grin.
The man from the beach picked up the glass, checked it over and then took a sip. “Many thanks.”
“You have a name?” said Castor as he took to drying a few glasses waiting on the side.
“Not yet.”
“That must be frustrating?”
“I don’t mind it too much.”
“Not for you,” said Castor. “For everyone else.”
The man laughed. “I guess so.” He took another sip and then something grabbed his attention over by one of the card tables. One of the players had a serving girl by the wrist and he was looking furious; face red and teeth bared.
“Hey, you little bitch,” said the rough looking man. “You spilt my drink.”
“I’m so sorry,” said the girl as she tried to take her arm back. “I’ll . . . I’ll get you another.”
“And how does that solve the issue of my soaking wet trousers?”
“I . . . I don’t know.”
“Maybe,” said a slob of a man sat opposite the commotion, “she could suck the beer outta your pants?”
The rough man looked the girl over from head to toe. “That ain’t a bad idea,” he said. “How about it, beautiful. You feel like apologising properly?”
“I don’t do that kind of work, sir.”
“And I don’t like playing cards with a beer stinking crotch but in life you have to roll with the punches.” As he said this he punched the air in front of her with his free hand. She flinched, lost her footing and fell to her knees, right there in front of him. “That’s better,” he continued. “Now how about making the best outta a bad situation?”
The whole inn was watching the incident now but no one was intervening; not the staff nor the patrons. The man from the beach clenched his fists.
“You don’t want to do anything stupid,” whispered Castor.
“Please, let me get you another,” the girl begged.
“Suck. The. Beer.”
The man from the beach could stand by no more and walked up behind the sobbing girl. “Let the girl go,” he said. “She’s apologised. There’s no need to humiliate her.”
The rough man kept his eyes on the girl. “I don’t recall asking you to join this debate.”
“And this girl didn’t ask you to lay your filthy hands on her. But, you know, you have to roll with the punches.”
The rough man let go of the girl now and stood up from the table. He stepped forward a little so that he was nose to nose with the man from the beach. “I’ll give you one chance to back out of the situation you seemed to have stumbled on before I make you beg to leave.” He drew his sword. A few of the men on the table watched with interest while everyone else moved away from the surrounding area as if the card table was on fire. “Turn around now before my boys here beat the living crap out of you.”
“That’s a kind offer,” said the man from the beach. “But I’d be disappointed with myself if I didn’t at least attempt to knock you out.” He head-butted the rough man who dropped his sword and flew back across the card table.
The other men around the table all stood and drew their swords. The man from the beach grabbed the drinks tray from the serving girl and pushed her around behind him. He felt his chest tightening and his skin began to tingle.
“Enough!” came a voice from the balcony above the bar, a voice that demanded respect and obedience in equal measure. A voice like an angry mother. A voice that would peel the skin from your flesh. “Put your weapons away now before I stick them somewhere that’ll make it hurt to sit down.”
The man from the beach watched as all the men around the table edged back a few steps and put away their blades.
“That goes for you too,” said the woman. “That drinks tray might not look like a weapon but you sir look fixed to use it as one.”
The man handed the tray back to the trembling serving girl.
The whole bar remained silent as everyone watched the woman as she calmly walked across to the staircase and made her way down to the bar area. She had short, red hair and wore such outrageous clothing. Her face wore makeup that would make anyone else looked like a fool yet she pulled it off. Patrons parted for her as she sauntered towards the scene of the altercation.
“So,” she said as she sized up all involved. “What seems to be the problem here?”
The rough looking man sat up amongst the remains of the table, clutching his now busted nose. “This asshole butted into . . .”
The woman raised her hand to interrupt. “You know what, I regretted asking that the second the words left my mouth. I actually don’t care. All I know is that it don’t happen in my establishment. You four, pick up your boss and head out that door. Don’t worry about the tab, the drinks are on the house.”
“But . . .” said the slob.
The slob looked at the other men who all nodded. Two of them helped the rough man to his feet and they all walked out the bar.
The serving girl stood and hugged the man from the beach. “Thank you, mister. You didn’t have to –“
“Abigail,” said the woman. “Get out back and clean yourself up.”
“Yes, Miss,” she said. She squeezed the man’s hand and then hurried out to the foul smelling kitchen.
The woman stepped over to the man. She was a little shorter than he was so she wasn’t quite able to stand nose to nose, but she sure tried. “She’s right you know. You didn’t have to do that.”
“I apologise for the mess I made.”
“Apologies don’t fix tables or replace glasses.”
“I have no money.”
The woman sized him up. “You got any other skill besides being a nuisance to those around you?”
The man went to speak but was interrupted by Tanel from the balcony. “He can cook.”
“That so. Well, you can probably smell from the general direction of my kitchen that there is an area of service we find ourselves severely lacking.”
“I did notice the stench when I walked in.”
“Vesty!” she shouted.
The kitchen door opened a little and a weasel faced little man stuck his head out. “Yes Miss?”
“You’re fired.”
Vesty sighed. “Yes Miss.” He disappeared back inside the kitchen.
The woman returned her attention to the man from the beach. “My name is Dusty Brooke. I own this establishment. You work for me now.”

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 10: “All Roads Lead To Ankh-Morpork”

2015 WORD COUNT = 13064 words

Sometimes bad news can have a silver lining. While the act itself can be something unwanted and the cause of sadness, deep down a part of us knows that it’s all better now.

So it is with the sad passing of Sir Terry Pratchett last Thursday. While his family, friends and fans all mourn him in their own way, we must be grateful that his ordeal with ‘That Embuggerance’ is over and he can finally rest.

While Pratchett wrote many things over the years, his greatest achievement and biggest body of work belongs in the Discworld. A hilarious ode to the greatest of fantasy worlds, the Discworld not only pokes fun at the tropes of so many fantastical stories but also holds a mirror up to our world.

With forty novels set in the magically flat world (that resides on the backs of four elephants who stand on the shell of mighty A’Tuin the turtle) the Discworld books contain every ingredient required of a fantasy world; wars, cities, trolls, swords, magic and so much more. But, while most epic fantasy stories are filled with mighty sorcerers and heroic knights, the Discworld is instead filled with somewhat more colourful characters from the other end of the spectrum (all eight colours of it!). While I wouldn’t use the term ‘realistic’, I guess it’s just nice to see characters react differently when fighting evil – like running away.

My trundle into the mind of Pratchett took three separate attempts.

The first was back in 1997 when I was nearing the end of my second year of college. My girlfriend’s friend lent me a copy of Good Omens, a book Pratchett co-wrote with Neil Gaiman. People tell me how good this book is all the time but, unfortunately, I’ll have to take their word for it. You see, I never even opened the book and, several months later, handed it back unread.

Flash forward a few years to 2000. After giving up on my education I was working full time in my local Video Shop. My manager started a conversation one day about the Discworld books he’d read years previous and I built up a little interest. They whole premise sounded like something I could really enjoy so I looked a little more into it. That was when I found I was already twenty four books behind, enough for me to walk away from such a mammoth undertaking.

Another three years passed and one day I found myself stood in a Tesco store looking at a copy of Night Watch for £3.73.  The series I thought was intimidating at twenty four books was now at twenty nine. I figured that if I didn’t start there and then I probably never would. Plus I was powering through books during that period of my life so I saw the entirety of the Discworld series as a rather appetising meal. Not wanting to miss a bargain I thought it best to grab Night Watch for the future and then went about getting myself of The Colour of Magic a few days later.

And I never looked back.

Rincewind’s adventures with Twoflower and the Luggage had me hooked by page ten. I enjoyed the comedy and language, both of which Pratchett excelled at. I powered through the book but was incredibly shocked to find myself at a literal cliff-hanger (or, more accurately, an ‘edge of the world’ hanger). At the first opportunity I went back to my nearest bookshop (which was a 40 minutes bus ride away!) and purchased The Light Fantastic. And Equal Rites. And Mort. Well, Waterstones had a 3 for 2 sale on.

And so my collection grew. Birthdays and Christmases added more and I carried on with the regular six month releases of the later books through the exceedingly good Tesco price point.

Despite how much I enjoyed them, I never rushed through the books. Instead I took my time, coming back to Discworld when someone else’s novel had left me unfulfilled. I knew where I was when walking the streets of Ankh-Morpork or paying a visit to Lancre. It was safe and relaxing, fun to visit; my literature holiday destination of choice.

The books fall into one of four sets; Rincewind and the Wizards of Unseen University, Granny Weatherwax and the Witches of Lancre, the caps lock talking Death, and, my personal favourite, Ankh-Morpork and the City Watch. Ever since Guards! Guards! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of Samuel Vimes as both law and order have been dragged, kicking and screaming, back to the streets of the biggest city in the Discworld. In fact, Vimes is my all-time favourite character in the series (hence why my middle name is Samuel).

There really is something for everyone. Other than the first two books, there are no real sequels. Sure, if you read the lot then you can see the characters grow, and, like the Marvel universe, there’s a lot of character crossover. But I think you can really start anywhere.

Something I’m really looking forward to is handing the books down to my son when he’s old enough (and quashed his need to bend covers!). I hope that he finds the same enjoyment as I have and finds his own favourite character.

I still have a little way to go towards, what I now know, is the end. Yesterday I finished Monstrous Regiment, a brilliant story that’s like Mulan on steroids mixed with a little Joan of Arc. I gave it five stars and it is probably going to make my top five.

I’ll be sad when I eventually turn the last page on the series but there are two glimmering lights of hope.

A couple of years ago Pratchett joined forces with sci-fi author Stephen Baxter to write a novel called The Long Earth. The tale of multiple worlds sat side by side, it tells of what happens when mankind no longer has to fight for space and can expand indefinitely. It sounds epic and is the start of a five book series of which the fourth is due for release this June. I’m hoping they planned the final book and that Baxter wraps it all up as I expect Pratchett would wish.

As for the Discworld? Well, sources say that his daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, will carry the torch and continue the stories of what is a truly amazing world. I look forward to seeing what she does with it.

I never met Pratchett and he never had any idea who I am. But, for the last twelve years, his stories have made me laugh and for that alone I’m extremely grateful.


Well said, sir. Well said.

See you in seven.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 09: “Starting A Story Bible”

2015 WORD COUNT = 12548 words

I’m now three weeks into my episodic fantasy series, FRACTURED DAWN, and I’m starting to get into the groove. Things are starting to take shape for the readers with plenty of questions to court their intrigue. I hope as I get further into it, that people have the same anticipation for more FRACTURED DAWN as they have with their favourite TV shows. I guess only time will tell.


Currently I’m working off of my NaNoWriMo 2014 draft and a pile of notes but, if things go to plan, then this world is going to get very big.

Overall I’m hoping for it to be an ongoing series, one without ending (much like The Walking Dead graphic novels or your favourite daytime soap). With this in mind I realised that a couple of note books wouldn’t cut it. I needed something bigger.

It’s not just going to be about world building to allow me to write the story. I’ll need something to have at hand much like a reference book, like an encyclopaedia . . . like a wiki.


Today I have started work on the FRACTURED DAWN story bible. I’ve never put together anything this before (as most of my work is stuck at first draft, I’ve not required one yet) so I’m both excited and nervous.

The idea is to build an overlapping word document containing everything I’ve written and everything around it. And, like a wiki, it will be filled with hyperlinks to navigate around the world and its people.


So far I’ve entered in what has been written so far; a couple of characters, the town of Bridgewood, and the guide for the first three episodes. Over the weekend I’m going to start filling in the details about where I’m headed and who else will be showing up. I have a lot of info to mine what with the first draft, my notes, and all the planning I did for the early fantasy novels I now intend to cannibalise.

I’ve learnt a few new techniques on MS Word too, with bookmarks and linked contents pages (I love geeking out on MS Office).

I hope that, in the long run, this bible helps make for a better story with more consistency between episodes. While it feels small now with only a handful of characters and two settings, it will grow into something epic, just as long as I keep at it and keep track of it.

I hope you guys are enjoying the project so far. I have three episodes up at the moment. If you haven’t read them yet and have spent this post wondering what the heck I’m rambling on about then dawdle over here and see what you think. I’d very much appreciate any and all feedback because, until I know what other people think, I’m just writing in a vacuum.

See you in seven.

Friday, 6 March 2015

FRACTURED DAWN - episode 3

Previously on Fractured Dawn . . .

A man wakes on a beach with no memory and discovers a strange purple stone embedded in his chest. After being visited by a silent women with red hair he settles down for the night.
The next morning he heads of in search of civilisation and gets caught up saving a woman who is being chased by bandits. During the fight his body suddenly transforms into stone, giving him the advantage. Once the bandits flee, the man from the beach returns to human form and then the woman he rescued knocks him out.

The man from the beach winced as a cold flannel was pressed against his head. He opened his eyes to find himself laying on a bed in a small room. The flannel was being applied by an old man sat beside him.
“Try to rest.”
“Where am I?” said the man from beach.
“You’re in my house.”
“There was a woman.”
“There always is. That was quite a blow to the head.”
“She, she hit me. I saved her life and she hit me.”
“Where are the manners these days?” said the old man.
The man from the beach pushed the flannel away and tried to sit up. The room span a little and he had to close his eyes and hold his breath to stop himself from throwing up.
“You really do need to rest,” said the old man. “You’re safe here, I promise. You’d be best off just laying back down and taking it easy.”
The man from the beach wanted to leap from the bed and run but the old man was right. He was in no state to flee. Slowly he settled back down on the bed.
“Let’s start with the basics,” said the old man. He dipped the flannel in a bowl on the floor, wrung it out and handed it to the man from the beach. “What is your name?”
“I . . . I don’t know.”
“Well, that must be inconvenient for you. What about where you’re from?”
“I don’t know that either.”
“Hmmm,” said the old man. “I’m spotting a pattern. Is there anything you can remember?”
“Nothing before waking on the beach, nothing at all.”
“And how did you end up with that?”
The man from the beach looked at the old man who was pointing at the purple stone. The man from the beach instinctively moved one hand to his chest and covered it, as if embarrassed. “That,” he said, “is the biggest mystery of all.”
The old man pulled a pair of spectacles from his shirt pocket and stood. “May I?” he said as he indicated to the stone.
The man on the beach stayed silent for a while. He realised now how tough things were going to be going forward. He wanted nothing more than to rediscover his past but in his current state he was vulnerable. Trust was going to be an issue. However, he also knew he’d get nowhere on his own so, a little reluctantly, he nodded.
The old man leaned over the bed and took a closer look at the stone.
“So what about you?” said the man from the beach while he stared at the ceiling. “What’s your name?”
“Falter,” said the old man. “Doctor Benso Falter.” He tapped the stone lightly. “Does that hurt?”
“No. It only hurt the first time I touched it, although hurt doesn’t do it justice. Guess I was lucky to be found by a doctor in the middle of the woods.”
“I didn’t find you,” said Falter. “You were brought here.”
“By who?”
“My daughter.”
The man from the beach laughed. “She must be strong to have carried me here all by herself.”
“That would be a sight,” said Falter, chuckling. “No, she let the horse do the carrying.” The Doctor leaned in closer. “Interesting.”
“Is it?”
“The skin around the wound is joined in parts to the stone instead of being torn. It’s almost as if your body is accepting the stone as part of itself and healing with it.”
“Can you get it out?” said the man from the beach.
“I wouldn’t even try,” said Falter. “It’s a big assumption but I wouldn’t be surprised if the stone further inside your chest was joined to some of your internals.”
“Excuse me?”
“That is to say, it might do you a lot of damage by trying to remove it. As in you could die. Horribly.”
“Oh indeed. It’s these veins around the wound that I find most intriguing though. I can’t be sure without the proper tools but it looks like your body is drawing something from the stone. Or perhaps feeding.”
“Feeding? That doesn’t sound pleasant.”
The Doctor removed his spectacles and stood back. “It might not sound pleasant but it could be what’s keeping you alive. The stone, the location of it and the force it must have taken to get it in there, should have ended you.”
The man from the beach swung his legs out and slowly sat up again. The room’s movement was a little more restrained this time but his head still thumped “Thank you,” he said. “For taking care of me.”
“It’s the least I could do,” said Falter. “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you with the stone. It’s truly fascinating.” He took back the flannel and dropped it into the bowl. Picking the bowl up, Doctor Falter headed over to the door. “Wait right there. I’ll get you something for that headache, something herbal. Then we can take a walk.”
“Sure thing.”
The Doctor headed out the door leaving the man from the beach alone with his thoughts. The room was dim, a few scattered candles struggled to illuminate it as shadows danced around the walls and ceiling. There were no windows, which was odd, only a bed, a small set of drawers in the corner and a desk opposite. Sat on the desk was a small mirror. It was then that the man realised he had no idea what he looked like. He stood cautiously, testing his balance and the strength in his legs. He still felt weak from whatever it was that had happened to him in the woods but he was feeling stronger than when he’d woken. He could hear the Doctor somewhere off down the hall; bottles clinking as he tried to find that remedy. The man crossed the room and let the desk take his weight so as not to exert himself. Nervously he picked up the mirror, took a deep breath, and looked at himself.
It could have been worse, he thought. His face was far from grotesque but it also hadn’t escaped the years unscathed. His blue eyes canvased the person looking back at him; short hair, blue eyes, rough skin and a nose that may have met a few fists in the past. He had a scar running a few inches down his left temple; another mark of a memory forgotten.
“I brought you some clean clothes,” came a woman’s voice.
The man turned and was surprised to see the woman from the woods stood in the doorway. A sudden wave of adrenaline washed through him from head to toe and he felt the skin on his arms begin to tighten and harden. It was happening again.
Doctor Falter hurried down the hallway and stepped around the woman.
“Calm down, lad. Calm down. You need to breathe.”
The man from the beach staggered back across the room towards the bed and closed his eyes. He drew a breath, held it, and then let it out. In and out, in and out. His heartbeat slowed a little and his skin began to soften. He sat back on the bed as the room span once more.
“I’m sorry,” said the woman.
“Don’t worry,” said the Doctor. “He’ll be fine.”
“I told you I wasn’t crazy.”
“Yes you did. Now put the clothes on the side and leave us. I don’t want you antagonising our guest in his condition.”
“I said I’m sorry.”
“And I’m sure that once the lump on his head goes down he may consider forgiving you. How about you start getting on his good side by preparing some food? No doubt he’s more than a little hungry.”
The woman dropped the clothes on the desk and left the room. The Doctor turned his attention back to the man.
“How are you feeling?”
The man opened his eyes and waited for his vision to clear. “Better now. I apologise.”
“Nonsense,” said the Doctor. He pulled a small glass jar from his pocket and popped the lid. He pulled a leaf out and handed it over. “Take this, swallow it down. It’ll clear your head and kick that aching.”
The man did as he was told. The leaf tasted foul so swallowing it quick wasn’t an issue. “Who is she?”
“That would be my daughter, Tanel.”
“She swings a mean branch.”
“She’s a tough girl,” said the doctor. “Although trouble always seems to find her. She told me what happened in the woods. You have my gratitude.”
The man nodded. “Right place, right time I guess.”
The doctor sat down in the chair and sighed.
“What’s wrong with me?” said the man from the beach.
“I wish I knew, I really do. What I will say is, until we know more, I would keep it to yourself. Way a lot of folks are, they’ll either get scared or wish you ill. End of the day, someone’ll get hurt.”
“I’m okay with this staying secret.”
The Doctor stood back up. “Come on, let’s give you the tour.”
The man stood and followed the Doctor out the door. They headed down the hallway and up some stairs. The room he’d been treated in was the basement, it seemed. The rooms on the ground floor had windows and daylight poured in. The Doctor carried on up another set of stairs and then they headed across the landing to a door leading to a balcony. They both stepped out, the man from the beach shielding his eyes from the bright sunshine. After a minute or two he was able to see the town before him.
                The Doctor took a deep breath. “Another beautiful day,” he said.
                “Where are we?” said the man.
                The doctor smiled. “Welcome, to Bridgewood.”

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 08: “A Flash In The Pan”

2015 WORD COUNT = 10072 words

Flash Fiction is the art of conveying a story within a very tight word budget.

Some of the best Flash Fiction authors I know are able to include a beginning, a middle, and an ending (as well as character development and plot resolution) in just 200 words.

It’s a hell of a skill to pull off a great piece of Flash Fiction. I’m not dissing authors that write in different forms but, whether you're writing interlinked short stories, bookshelf busting novels or a collection of poetry, each style has a set of rules to make it work.

There are two three things I love about the Flash Fiction contests I take part in. First is the consistency. I may fall behind on the bigger stuff but there is at least one piece of Flash Fiction produced every week, without fail.

Next are the prompts themselves. Whether it's photos, story elements or key words, these forced elements constantly push me outside my comfort zone. A year ago I would have laughed if you’d even suggested I might one day write a comedy set around the Declaration of Independence (AMERICA CAN WAIT) or a dark drama centring on spousal abuse (THE CLIMB). And yet I’ve done this and more. I’ve shed my need to write only supernatural sci-fi fantasy and tried other things, things my own mother might even consider ‘real writing’ (just kidding mum). Sure, I mostly stick to these genres because that’s what I love but now I can think a little more outside the box.

But the one thing that makes me happiest with these 200 or 300 word stories is that sense of completion. I struggled for years with not getting to the end of novels or short stories. With my almost non-existent attention span and constant supply of new ideas I have a lot of beginnings and not much else. But Flash Fiction had minute word counts and deadlines; one afternoon to imagine, plan, write and edit a story. And when you’ve posted it, that’s it. All done. Finished. Final.

Or is it?

You see, one of the greatest things a Flash Fiction writer can do is paint a bigger world between the gaps in their story, to hint at something larger, something their story is just a snap shot of.

But what if I’ve written a story and want to explore more. Well there are two ways forward; one is to write other stories set in the same world. The other is to rewrite the story without that word count constraint. Now there’s the argument that it might be that constraint that made the story work in the first place; no room to blabber on, every word counts and leaving stuff open to the readers imagination.

I’ve thought about this on several occasions but I’ve always walked away. If the story is a complete package at 200 then surely I should let it be, right? Will they lose their strengths if I stretch them out? Or can I use some of them as first drafts or outlines for something bigger?

Let’s be clear; I’m not planning on turning 100 flash fiction stories into 100,000 word novels. Believe me; some of my stories just won’t work in any format.

But some might just. Here’s an example.

My January 23rd Flash! Fiction entry, INTO THE WATER is set in a world where the elderly aren’t left to grow old and become a burden to the state. Instead, on a citizens 65th birthday, they line up on the beaches before wading out into our nations surrounding waters where they are gifted to some truly horrific creatures that lie in wait (think Lovecraft) almost like a ritual sacrifice.

It came in at 197 words and barely contained any of this in a clear way. Should I count this story as a failure and leave it behind or was it a novella born in a Flash Fiction body? Perhaps we have a girl who doesn’t agree with this, even though her country has carried out this ritual for hundreds of years. Maybe she tries to hide her grandmother from the authorities. Perhaps there’s something bigger going on behind the scenes and things aren’t what they seem. Or what about if she goes into the water after her grandmother and takes on these creatures of legend?

It could go several ways and I’d like to try. Of course I’m also someone who said George Lucas should leave the trilogy alone so I’d be a little bit of a hypocrite going back on previous ‘finished’ material.

What do you guys think? Should completed stories be left as they are or is there room to expand them? Have any of you had success which a short story made large?  

See you in seven.