Saturday, 31 March 2012

Great Film!

An Extract

I was reading my friend's blog the other day and realised that I do a lot of talking about my writing and not a lot of showing so here's an extract from a fable I wrote called The Apple Cart. 

The tree blossomed on the top of the hill and by the twenty-sixth day it rustled with leaves and fruit. When the man had finished his work and was bringing his empty cart back over the hill the sun was setting. The golden strands slashed over the top of the hill, bathing the large tree in a magical glow. The man was amazed by it, his eyes widening as he came closer but his attention shifted to the woman who was on her knees, holding a thistle.
            “You came,” she said when she saw him.
            “Of course,” he replied and let go of the cart. “I brought you something,” he said and from his pocket produced a red apple.
            A smile wrinkled over her face. She dropped the thistle to the ground and took the apple, observing it for a moment. “You love your work,” she said.
            “I do.”
            “What made you do it?” she asked, walking over to smooth the tree. Their tree.
            “My father did it before me,” he said, “and his father before him.”
            “A family business?” she whispered.
            “Yes.”
            She nodded slowly and picked at the apple.
            For the first time he tried to maintain his smile. “Why do you ask?”
            She looked up. “Curiosity.”
            He chuckled. “Curiosity killed the cat.”
            “It killed many things,” she said. 


The Giant Mechanical Man

Sex

It was always a taboo subject. It was always something rude to talk about. Some of us even referred to it as "S-E-X" but the truth is there is a lot of sex in literature, any form of art in fact. A few months ago I watched the film Shame which was a bit meh but I liked what it tried to do. Well, I say "meh" but it was a good film, just not a great one, above average, it just tried to do some things and failed. For example the scene where the sister sings New York, New York where - as one reviewer put it - McQueen was "milking the pathos". But enough of that, this isn't a review of Shame. In fact what I was thinking about when I decided I'd write about sex on this blog is how much is going to be in the novel I keep banging on about - Cupid's Obsession. 


I've never been one of those people that has a novel he wants to write, I usually just wrote it. As I said before where I wrote an awful series of fantasy novels where each character was based on my best friends - Anthony, Carroll and Suller. However with Cupid's Obsession I want to be prepared for it and have a load of knowledge. It's not an intellectual book by any means, the research I'm doing is about love, pornography and literary horror - the genre I plan on delving into. 


The main character -as I've said before - is a porn actor and therefore there is a lot of sex. Not so much that it becomes pornographic but in the sense that it has a purpose. Joe Hill once said that when he writes his books - the fantastic Horns being among my favourite books - he had the thought "oh my God my grandmother is going to read this and I'm cursing and writing about sex" but then went on the say that you can't care. You can't. I wrote a story about an affair this year and the sex scene was read out in class. Uncomfortable? Yes. Necessary? Most definitely. 


Cupid's Obsession will have some graphic scenes in it, I've already begun a scene that will include the odd splash of necrophilia - why not? To an extent the idea is inspired by Lars Von Trier's Antichrist, a horrific but interesting film. Why horrific? Well I'll let you watch it. But what makes it inspiring is that it's about something and the horrible scenes have a purpose. That's why I look at the film and understand rather than see it as a film that is doing it just to shock - a bit like Saw (however I did love the first three.)


To help with the sex side of things - not the physical act more the mentality of acting in porn - I've been reading blogs by two porn actors Colby Keller and Erik Rhodes. Keller is, from what I can see, a very happy and interesting guy who doesn't seem to be defined by his career when Rhodes seems to be battling with how to lead a normal life. I could be completely wrong, of course, but this is the vibe I get from what I've read and seen. My character - named Judas Lovecraft - will be a tortured guy because he has a secret.


I'm not happy with the opening line and have been battling over it for a long time now. I await the day it will be changed or I'll be happy with it: "To get away I decided we go to the hotel." 

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Phobias

Last night, through the piles of drafted stories and watery, tired eyes, I had a conversation with my friends Dom and Sam about horror films. We were discussing Vampires and Dom made a reference to how I watched horror films as a young child. I said Death Becomes Her and Little Shop of Horrors were among my favourite films but how the man-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors terrified me as a child. This got me thinking about phobias. I guess you could say my phobias add to my quirk - if I have one that is - but are very odd. I have a - for want of a better word - phobia of giant plants - giant heads of plants at least that look like they might eat you. To this day I can't watch the scene from Jumanji where the giant plant almost eats the young boy.


This is one of a few 'fears' or 'phobias' that I have. The interesting thing about phobias is that it can help with writing - writing a story about fear was my initial sub-plot when it came to Cupid's Obsession but I decided to focus the story on love and perhaps write a separate story about fear. I also have - now I'm trusting you to keep my secret - a huge fear of the dark. I was always a night-light kind of child - asking my mother to keep my door slightly open so the landing light could flicker inside. My dad would always forget about this and accidentally switch the light off after he had been to the toilet - something that would result in me running outside and changing immediately. But as the years went by and my imagination grew darker I started to realise - my door is open! Somebody can easily come in!


Imaginative people always think beyond what is already there. For example, I went to see the film Martha Marcy May Marlene the other week - a film, for those of you who don't know, is about a cult, one that bares a similarity to the Manson Family. I was home alone the night I watched it and lay in my bed and thought "my bedroom door is unlocked, they could come in and stand around my bed and I wouldn't know." This resulted in me locking my bedroom door. This isn't a phobia of mine, I guess you could call it a paranoia when in the night and I wonder about all the unanswered bumps. 


My fears - spiders being my extreme one, heights being minor and another host of others which I won't bore you with - affect my writing. Fear, I feel, creates the best eerie stories. Stoker, after all, wrote Dracula after a nightmare that he had about three women crawling around his chair, the details of which were used for Dracula's brides. I, myself, bask in the idea of madness but fear it - after all, when you're mad nobody takes you seriously, right? That fear came in the form of three stories, one of them is very close to me and nobody has ever read entitled Bury the Hatchet. Here's a snippet of the fear:


"But they were different, they didnt abide by the normal rules, they brought something new to the table, they gave a big middle finger to the other writers, they told Dickens and Shakespeare to fuck off, they told Tolstoy and Fitzgerald to crawl up their ass and die, they told me that it was alright to be as mad as them."

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Lewis' Injustice

Last night, while editing my children's story through watery blood-shot eyes and blasting Florence + the Machine in my ears to keep me awake, I found a book that I hadn't finished reading. I do that a lot - my book shelf is full of books with bits of paper sticking out of them, the half way mark I had gotten to and never continued with. The curse of doing any literature module is that you can't read the books you want to read but as the year is coming to an end I put aside my work and began reading this particular book. (Bad I know as I have a deadline on Wednesday.) The book was Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill, more a book about books - what could be better? 


In the book, Hill talks about C.S. Lewis, in fact she lists him among one of her heroes. I have to admit I felt a faint judder of revulsion as I read this. C.S. Lewis! A hero!


I was once a fan of Lewis' Narnia series - The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe being my favourite -but as I got older I saw what Lewis was doing and it angered me greatly. I guess what irks me the most is the blatant Christian references that almost become a retelling of the Bible itself. Sure, it's a cool idea - Jesus with a bit of sword and sorcery but don't disguise it, well, attempt to anyway. That disguise dropped, however, when he got rid of Susan. Susan who "was too interested in boys and lipstick than Narnia." OK Lewis - she grew up! So what? Can she not have an imagination as well?


Neil Gaiman wrote a great short story called The Problem of Susan which explores his own anger at this issue. 


I think my dislike for Lewis comes from the religious nature of his series. I have yet to read Pullman - but I will! Don't worry - and I know he has a lot of criticism for his religious themes but as I haven't read him yet I don't have an opinion. What I've read about Pullman, however, has been good and I respect him and think he is an important writer - especially in children's literature. Lewis, I feel, is overrated. 




Friday, 23 March 2012

"It's Cold"




My children’s writing deadline is in less than a week so today’s blog is only small but I’ve put up a clip to keep everyone from the deadline blues. That and what a character Leonard’s mother is! More blogs coming very, very soon! 

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Joker. Boom!

Randomness.


I found this on another blog that I follow.
I enjoyed. 

Simple People

Before I begin this blog I want to say thank you to my friend Vicky who has been the inspiration for my past three blogs and keeps saying things to me that are the subjects for my blogs. After a midnight chat she said the phrase "wouldn't it be nice if life was simple?" which got me thinking about the video below I had seen a few years back and the horror story I wrote called Til Death Do Us Part. So, thank you Vicky, my dear! It appears out midnight conversations spark inspiration for the two of us - me with my blog and her poetry which she also posting on her blog, which you can find here: http://vickyr2009.blogspot.co.uk/.

A little less than a year ago I came to the completion of - for want of a better word - novel called Til Death Do Us Part - my first bash at a horror novel set in the suburbs. It was heavily influenced by Richard Yates' fantastic novel, Revolutionary Road, and the spectacular score of Thomas Newman for the film which echoes memories of summer to me. The story is horror - the main theme being madness and the idea of people turning against one another - but it also looks at life and the dissatisfaction of it. The ultimate question - why can't life be simple? Why can't we all want simple things so then we will all be happy? 


A scene in the story - influenced by the Grey's Anatomy speech - is when the husband, Alastair, talks about his unhappiness with his life and how how he wished he wanted to want to conventional things that make people happy, make 'simple people' happy. He says:


“Thoughts simple people don’t get. You see, simple people are simple and they’re happy over simple things. They’re happy when their favourite drink is on sale. They’re happy to stay in with the woman they love and not consider anything else. They’re happy to live this life because they have everything they need. I’m not a simple person. I wish I was. I wish more than anything that I could simple. I want to be simple. Because no-one who is simple has the thoughts I have. They don’t look beyond and that’s all I do. Simple people are just happy and that’s it. They don’t need anything else. What they have is enough. I need more. Because I’m not simple. "


This is followed by another speech by the wife, Larisa, who looks back on her life and dreams of something more. She says:



“They don’t confuse things. They’re happy with the choices they’ve made, happy with the lives they have, they look on the bright side of everything. I don’t. I wish I did. I wish I could look at everything good in my life and be thankful for it. I wish I could accept the life I’ve been given, not worry about it being a comedy or a tragedy, not try and twist it around to suit what I want. I want to wake up in the morning and be happy with the sun shining. I want to look at things and not get angry over having seen them before. I want to not confuse things. I want to look at the now, not back or forward. Because if I do, if I turn into one of them, I’m sure I can be happy. But I worry I won’t. Worry I may never be happy. I can’t leave. I can’t stay. And sooner or later that choice is going to come and catch up with me.”



So I guess today's blog is about simplicity. The quotes from the story say all that is needed to say and all that is needed to think about. Right? 

Hallowed Beauty

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Down The Dark Road...

There's a great quote from Harry Potter in which Sirius Black says: "We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are." Of course, when he says "act on" he's talking about the division in the magical world - the Death Eaters and the Order but this quote came into my head because the other night I was watching a documentary about William Golding. During it they talked about how Golding wrote Lord of the Flies - a dark, harrowing novel - and they said how he had darkness inside him and the reason he wrote such dark stories was to prevent himself from acting on his own darkness. 


Just as Robert Burton said: "I write of melancholy, by being busy to avoid melancholy." (Same basic principal.) People write about dark things because they are dark people and have dark views and want to avoid the darkness. Sure they relish about it - otherwise why else would they write about it for others to see? - but surely they are a bit weirded out about it. I love the character of Will Graham from Thomas Harris' Red Dragon who is so disgusted at himself fro being able to get into the minds of serial killers and actually understand them - putting himself in their position and working the way they would work. 

But then you get people like Bret Easton Ellis who relishes in his darkness. I once saw an interview with him in and he laughed at how people wanted to ban his book. "It's just a book!" he chuckled. "I love how people react to it!"


I write dark stories - why? - well you'd have to ask my psychiatrist (that was a joke by the way, I don't see a psychiatrist). There was a beautiful moment in my fiction class the other week where we were work-shopping two stories, one by me called Let's Run Away Together - the story of an affair between two guys and inspired by Tom Perrotta's Little Children - and a story by another girl about the beginning of a relationship between a woman and a man who comes into her cafe. 


We read hers first and everybody relished in the way they could relate to the whole "why hasn't he called me back?" thing and...
                                         ...then 
                                               ...we 
                                  ....read  
                                           ...mine 
                        ...and the room was silent when it ended. 
"Tragic" was what their faces said to me. "As is life," I wanted to reply but instead I smirked. When we discussed the story - people mainly going on about the character and how they hated one and loved the other - I said that it had to end the way it did for an affair never really ends well, does it? Especially an affair that is made up of excitement and secrets. What happens - my story asks - when the excitement and the secrets are gone? What do you have left?


...Just darkness. 




Monday, 19 March 2012

Awful But Wow!

Of Humour...


Power

I have to admit that a guilty pleasure of mine - OK a massive obsession! - is the TV show Desperate Housewives. There was a scene in last night's episode that stood out among all the scenes and  reminded me of why I love the show so much. In the a scene a young Bree - one of the main ladies - is helping her mother make a pie. Her mother tells her that she has to teach her to be a woman and one aspect of being a woman is "wearing the mask." "The mask?" asks the young Bree. "It's the face you wear when you don't want people to know what you're feeling," replies her mother. And so the young Bree, under the orders of her mother, twists her face into a "hint of a smile", revealing nothing - no emotions whatsoever. This action thereby puts her in power over her husband and all men because "when men know how much you love them they'll hurt you - carelessly, cruelly, constantly." 


As I watched the scene I found it quite harrowing. The way this young girl was being morphed into this shell of a woman, this unreadable person became almost sinister. But that's, of course, why I love the show. And of course, like all good pieces of art, it got me thinking of writing and what I could do with this idea. I wrote a story about the power of men and women not very long ago, a fable called The Apple Cart and a big part of the horror novel I want to write Cupid's Obsession - which I am now doing research for - is about men and women - who has power, who doesn't have power. 


The idea I want to explore in that novel is "are women truly the downfall of men?" Of course it gets very biblical - and therefore very murky - but that idea is an interesting one. If men have power over women stereo-typically e.g. being stronger and having better jobs (not now but before), then what power does a woman have? The mind? What I gathered from the scene is that women have to use their minds to keep men in check, to stop them from "slipping" as has been said earlier on in the show. Of course this stuff is all very controversial and could be debated but one thing I did hear - one thing that has always stuck in my mind - is that when it comes to leaving, when it comes to the end of love, men leave women mentally - they cheat, they become distant etc and women - usually - leave physically, they're the ones who pack the bags and leave.


So, who has the power then? 

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Prometheus

Beginnings

When I was twelve I became obsessed with horror films. I remember going into town with my mother and buying a video copy of Scream, in fact the first DVD I bought, years later, was Scream 3 and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. And, as the years went by, more and more horror films entered my life - the classic slashers, The Exorcist, Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and so on - and yes, I was a rather peculiar child. When all the other boys were playing with army men and watching Dragon Ball Z I was watching 70s horror films and copying out sections of Roald Dahl to practice my writing.


You're probably wondering - what does this have to do with his blog about writing? Oh God has he not written on this blog for some time and now is writing about his life? No, I'm writing about this because I just finished watching the new trailer for Prometheus - Ridley Scott's prequel to Alien - and Fassbender's character said the words: "big things have small beginnings." 


That quote got me thinking about the beginning of things - where we are all start off, how it all begins, where we come from. But the ultimate question with a writer is - what makes them write that they write? What happened to them to make them write such grotesque scenes or why do they stay in the chick-lit section? The list of questions goes on. 


William Golding was said to write the horror of Lord of the Flies because he found that horror inside him. In a sense he knew he was capable of doing what the boys did - and what other characters did in his other books - and wrote it down to stop him from doing it. This idea made me think of a short story I began writing but never finished called The Constant Drinker about a writer who is tempted to take a drink and when he does he finds himself writing his darkest secrets and memories down on the page with no memory of doing it. Then he is forced to read what he has done...with a terrifying secret. I will go back to it but I turned it into a screenplay for my friend and never got round to the prose. I shall, I shall!


Well, today's blog is small and quick - mainly because it's mother's day and I still haven't got my mum a card yet! - but it's more me thinking about what happens to certain writers to make them the way they are, what do they do and see to make them write about what they write about? 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Virgin, No More

I made a list of things I would write about on my blog and, if I followed that list, I would be writing about popular fiction right now or, if I was a good student, would be reading The Picture of Dorian Grey or writing my script but here I am writing something completely out of plan and not to do with my University work. Not long ago I staggered across a copy of Chuck Palahniuk's Non-Fiction - belonging to one of my roommates as our books are usually littering the house. Of course I opened it and started reading about the writing life of Mr. Palahniuk and, like all great books, it made me want to write and made me think about where I started. It will be nicer to look back on where I started when I'm a published writer - assuming of course if I ever become one - but when my writer friends ask for advice or we get talking I mention when I started.


My first story was when I was in year four. My teacher, Mrs. Watkins, asked the class to write a fable. "Give it a good moral," she said, "you can even contain some pictures." Of course I did both of these things. I contained the best drawings an eight-year-old could muster and wrote a story of such depth that my mother and teacher were baffled at the result. The story was about a man whose wife is lost in the forest. He goes out to find her and comes across a man in a hood that says he will take him to his wife. The man follows but is warned by the rabbits in the forest to not follow the hooded man, he ignores the rabbit. The hooded man, however, turns out to be his wife and turns into a dragon and the man chops the dragon's head off and runs back to his home to take care of his children. And that is the end of my wonderful tale. And the moral, oh the moral of the story, is "don't go into forests alone and don't trust people dressed up." Looking back I understand why my mother and teacher laughed when they read it - I had essentially written a story about a transvestite. It wasn't my greatest story, I assure you. 


But that is my earliest memory of story writing and from that point I wrote other dreadful short stories - one about a boy who is made to believe there is no outside world, a camping trip gone wrong, even a 'how Harry Potter should end' story in which Snape turns out to be Harry's father.  The story that lead to my masterpiece was when I was in high school and I wrote a nine-paged story about a group of five friends who were no longer friends - why? Well many reasons and of course the story ended in guns and blood and all the other signs of a school shooter but when I finished I thought "Oh My God I have my masterpiece! I have a five piece saga right here!" So I took the short story and adapted it into a ninety-paged 'novel' - or what I now understand to be novella - and worked back and after two years I had the first two 'novels' in the series completed, another two to write and a novella to expand. And this was going to be my breakthrough. 


But then I woke up one day and looked at the story and thought: "oh dear. What Thomas have you been wasting your time with?" So I shoved it in a drawer and started my next epic project, the project that was going to get me published - the first in a six piece saga of epic proportion! A saga that would bewilder every fantasy reader out there. This, after a year and a half of work, was not the case. 


Oh I've gone through some awful stories, awful attempts at novels and awful completed stories that are the size of novels. I have to admit, one story I wrote when I was around seventeen - a story I put my heart and soul into and came out to a staggering 100, 000 words - is utter crap. Reading certain segments I can see my heart was there but my head was not. I do believe, however, you have to shovel through the shit in order to find the gold and that's what I'm doing, well, hopefully anyway. 


So that is the story of how I lost my story writing virginity. Next time I blog - which will be soon knowing me - I will try and stick to something I've jotted down. On my list I've jotted: write about popular fiction, Vampire fiction and Revolutionary Road. But who knows what will come up next. 

Of Interest...


We being writing because we're bored,
then we write because we need to,
to survive.

The Musical: To Scare and Excite

I've never really been a big fan of musicals. I've always been one of those people that likes one song out of a soundtrack of about twenty-four and given a musical is a film and/or play of music instead of speech liking the songs is a big deal. That was my major problem with Sweeney Todd - which I do thoroughly enjoy - but I found it too 'musically' - which is an awful word to describe a musical, I know - but every scene was a song...I just wanted a bit more dialogue. But there have been musicals that have inspired me, songs that I've watched and sat there and gone "WOW". El Tango De Roxanne (Moulin Rogue), Pretty Women and Epiphany (Sweeney Todd), Cell Block Tango (Chicago), Music of the Night (Phantom of the Opera), Be Prepared (The Lion King) - and any Disney villain songs for that matter. I'm sure you've gathered from my list I have a very limited experience with musicals but the one that stands out, the one that inspires me the most is Moulin Rouge. 


Every song in Moulin Rouge has such passion and purpose that it's hard not to be inspired by such a film. Of course there are the classic musicals, something like Mamma Mia! but that's more fun than inspirational but watching Moulin Rogue and the dark, morally corrupt Chicago made me think "I want to write a musical." This want came from the songs of Moulin Rouge that were inspired by other popular songs, rather than the whinny tune from Sweeney Todd in which Anthony sings for his Johanna - well, not his Johanna. 


But now I think of the musical I want to write? Do I have an idea yet? Hmm, kinda. Do I have ideas for songs - in a way, I guess, yes. Does the idea scare me? Definitely. Does it excite me? Even more so. 


Thinking of doing this makes me think of writers who write in different genres. When you hear Terry Pratchett you think comic fantasy, Ian Rankin - crime, Catherine Cookson - romance, Edgar Allan Poe - horror, so it's easy and financially more secure to stick to the one genre, readers head into the department in search of your new novel but I don't want to live in one genre which scares and excites me. 


I have ideas for fantasy, horror, literary, crime, short stories, poems, children's stories and, of course, this musical that I speak of. But, seems the musical is quite ambiguous to me and will remain so until I do a lot of more research into other musicals I have decided it will be quite gothic - fanasy? Not sure yet. Right now, just experimenting. 

Monday, 12 March 2012

Cell Block Tango




I’ve been thinking about the musical I’ve always wanted to write and the details I’m going to reveal. Cell Block Tango is one of the songs from a musical that inspires me. Love this song!

El Tango de Roxanne

Sunday, 11 March 2012

'The End of Mr. Y' by Scarlett Thomas

Some books just jump out at you. This could be because of the cover, the blurb, the look of the pages but for me, on this occasion, it was the front cover. The seductive red and the black pages made me go 'wow' and want to know what it's about. Some people - as bad as it is - do judge books by the covers. Covers are important and with The End of Mr. Y, the front cover really grabbed me. I remember reading the blurb, being intrigued and thinking I couldn't afford it, only to later ask my mum when she finished work to get me a copy so I could tear it open and read straight away.


Books like this book, ones that stand out in your memories, and become one of your favourites bring with it the memories of what was happening in your life when you read it. I remember I was sitting up in my office back in my parents house and I was either writing Pied Piper or Margo, I don't actually remember which one, but I was writing into the dark night and then the book landed on my desk. I broke the spin - something I appear to only do with books I love - and read and read and read. 


I think what I love most about The End of Mr. Y is the description of the main character - Ariel's - life before the events all begin. The image of a bookaholic, skint student really appealed to me - mainly because that's me right now - but also because I love reading about readers and writers, there's a sort of distant relationship and understanding there. If I can see the reader as me then I'm in! What I also love about the book is that it talks about other books so of course I open up Amazon and bang in the title to try and find out what the book is about. Books about books, writing about writers - it's the world I love.


Not long ago I was talking to my roommate Joe about the future (not in a homoerotic way or even in a science fiction way) more in a where-we-see-ourselves kind of way. The two of us both see ourselves finally leaving the skint student life and becoming successful writers who lecture time-to-time - the dream, eh? I think so. However, in the last couple of days I have seen hope.


Scarlett Thomas is a successful writer and lecturer. Friday just gone I had a work-shop ran by a woman named Katie Stuart who has a BA, MA and is now doing her PGCE. I guess the point of this blog was more to talk about where I hope to see myself, where I hope this blogging and reading and writing will one day take me. And I'm only going to get there if I keep reading, writing and using my imagination. 


But to conclude read, read, read The End of Mr. Y. It's a compelling book, a book that anyone who reads it will take something from it - much like my other favourite books I plan too write about in the coming weeks. But for now, friends, go out and buy Ms. Thomas' wonderful novel. 



Saturday, 10 March 2012

“Life is Gathering Material”


Friends of writers – or wanna-be writers – are perhaps the most vain people around. They’re supportive, so they read your stories. They smile and tell you it’s good. And then they ask – “is it based on me?” People have asked me that a lot and true some of my family members and friends have made their way into my stories and others haven’t – usually the one who ask.

When I was sixteen I wrote a story – which amounted to an extreme 390 pages in manuscript form – called Pied Piper. It was about a group of teenagers and their lives. Of course when my friends heard I as working on this project each wanted to know who they were and what was happening to their characters.

I think I take snippets of my life and put them into my writing, never entire people. I guess the reason for this is that the more experience you have the more rich your writing becomes. I posted the other day a trailer for a film called Being Flynn in which De Niro says “life is gathering material”, meaning that when you live you have material to write. Neil Gaiman said this in an interview, he said that he was talking to a writer who hadn’t experienced life and he told him to go and get his heart broken, go and travel, go and get food poisoning – anything to understand life a bit better.

Today’s blog is only a short one as I have to run out and buy food for tomorrow’s dinner, do some writing and go to a house party. However, my dear friends, tomorrow I shall be looking at a specific writer – with thoughts and opinions...

Until then!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Nothing Better...




Have too much work to do to give a huge blog today folks but I’m sure we can all find time in our lives to watch a film about a writer. Inspiration for us all!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Mr. Waffles




I think a lot of writers are sentimental. That’s why we incorporate our lives into our stories and disguise ourselves as characters. This brilliant song brings back loads of memories – the majority of which are buried within a short story I wrote a year ago called Mr. Waffles which got work-shopped and needed a lot of work, work I have not given the time to. Similar to the problem I had with Elephants in Rooms it wasn’t the story I wanted when I finished it but one day I shall return to it. For now, enjoy the song!

Fragments of the Edits


Today I had lunch with my friends Vicky and Elly and my story ‘Elephants in Rooms’ came up. I have admit after posting the opening I was unsure what it was about and Vicky had some comments. She said that the opening gave too much away and that after reading it she wasn’t sure what else would shock her. I agree. Before I had spoken to her I had written a total of two pages and the story was basically completed with no message, just a snippet of this woman’s life. It’s a story but a short-short story and not the story I wanted to write. It was more notes of a story I wanted to write, my way of trying to figure out what it was about.

This conversation and reflecting on the story on the way home made me think of edits. In the past year I have become much better at editing my own work. Just the other day I wrote the beginning of a poem, wrote another beginning to it and then realised this wasn’t a poem but a short story. I’ve gotten through over six drafts of the opening chapter of Til Death Do Us Part – a horror story I wrote a few months ago – and I’m still not happy with it.



Years ago, when I was fourteen and writing fantasy ‘epics’ and believed I would be published by sixteen I wrote a draft and thought this was it. This, of course, led to a lot of rejections. I found a folder yesterday of the rejections I’ve received from literary agents – some of which were really kind to me – and I decided that I think with the right amount of work and research I might have it in me to send off Til Death Do Us Part and try again. I have been putting it off – not because I am in fear of rejection – my fourteen-year-old self wasn’t so why should I now? – but because I was waiting for my MA to come along and the possibility of publication there – if I get it, of course. But life is short, folks, and why wait? So I’ve decided I’m going to edit and send and see what happens.

Another thing that came from the conversation was how much work the three of us have to do. The girls are in their third year and have dissertations and the thoughts of what to do when they finish. I’m in my second but a lot of the work I have to do is my own work – short stories I want to send off to magazines, proposals to give to literary agents, reviews I have to do for Bookgeeks. You may want to have a poke around at some of the reviews I’ve done on there - http://www.bookgeeks.co.uk/author/thomas/ - and, perhaps, have a look at the reviews in general.

But today I was basically thinking about editing and how much we have to edit to get something completed. My lecturer once said that no story is finished and perfect, it only come to the point when you have to part with the piece and let others see it. No matter what the costs. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Visual Stimuli


A front cover made for me by my friend who read my short story 'The Love Season'.
Amazing!
If the short story ever gets published I'd want it to be published in an anthology 
with this as the front cover.
Here's dreaming!

White Blank Page


I live in a house of writers. Even though Dom writes prose I’d still call him the poet out of the three of us – his room is full of anthologies and his computer whirs with lines of poetic rhythm. Joe writes poetry and prose – his two poems being published in this year’s anthology of Daps – along with Dom and myself – which is an anthology run by the students of the University of Glamorgan. (If you wanna buy a copy, just ask!) But anyway, there are three of us. I have written a few poems in my time, only two I’d call ‘OK’ and I’ve written them for my children’s folder which has yet to be reviewed.

But it all begins with a white blank page.

The three of us sit down with our pens or out fingers and stare at the blank page – the white blank page. Then we write it down. We let our imaginations pour in front of us, like an artist with his paints or a musician with his instrument. Our instruments are our minds and the house whirrs with writing.

I’ve got a few things on the go at the moment – re-drafting one completed, for want of a better word ‘novel’ and another uncompleted, children’s one, as well as a short story about domestic violence called Elephants In Rooms. The opening is as follows...

This time it was because she broke her favourite mug.
After cooking him dinner, fetching him a beer, doing the things he said wives were supposed to do, she started washing the dishes. She stood on feet that ached, scrubbed with hands that were sore and, through the soapy water, grabbed the mug. Then it slipped – like the bar of soap in the sleazy porn movies he made her watch. Then it flew through the air – like the faeces he threw at her when he was in his humiliating moods. And then it broke – just like her rib that time he found out she kept a diary. And when it smashed, the sound echoing around the house, he came into the kitchen and looked at her. She tried to stay strong, she tried to fight back but she crumbled with fear and did not yell because it was no use.

This is probably subject to change as it will more than likely be work-shopped in my fiction class but the idea is there, well, the opening anyway, the first major scene and then what next? I usually plan my stories – for the past couple of months I have been planning out Cupid’s Obsession in my head – because I hate not knowing everything. J.K. Rowling said that she loves it when she gets the impression the writer knows everything, when she has that trust that the writer knows exactly what they’re doing. I like that feeling also. Just last night I listened to J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe talk and Rowling mentioned how she had an entire back story for McGonagall ready to go in the books but it never made it. I love that. The knowledge that this woman knew everything there was to know about her characters.

Planning is subjective and many writers argue about it. Stephen King does not plan. John Irving always knows the final sentence of his novels before he writes it and sometimes writes the novels back to front, all over the place. But what all these writers have in common – what me and my roommates have in common – is that we all begin with a white blank page.

Perfect Mumford

Monday, 5 March 2012

I Have To Disagree...



Gotta love a little bit of Postsecret...

Portrait of a Madman

I always find when I have a lot of work to do I always seek out something else. So, in the midst of 20,000 words, an essay on nineteenth century literature and a script to write I rummaged around in my drawer and found the stack of notes on the novel I want to write Cupid's Obsession. With this project - I believe anyway - there demands a lot of research. One of the characters is obsessed with the Marquis De Sade thus I have to read a lot of him. My lecturer, Catherine, informed me that in order to be considered for the MA course I wish to do after University I have to a) get the grades (of course! which I won't do unless I do my freaking work!) and b) know everything about the genre I'm going into which is literary horror. There's also little things. My roommate, Joe, told me of how Chuck Palahniuk went to meetings about survivors of horrific incidents to help his book Survivor, he went to sex addict meetings to hear the details of people's darkest desires to feed into his novels. Although that sounds fascinating I'd be petrified to enter the room and then, when turned to, make up a story - of course I could make up a story but keeping a straight face would be difficult. I, therefore, have sought other alternatives.


The main character of Cupid's Obsession is a retired porn star. I know nothing of a porn star's life style and find it interesting. How can someone who does the 'physical act of love' as some say go home and lead a normal life? Is it not isolating to do something that people dream of doing? Acting out their fantasies? The best way to find this information out, I have found, is by looking at porn star's blogs. Only just know was I reading one where it came across that the porn star in question was severely depressed and had a problem with drugs and alcohol. In the pictures he is smiling but behind he seems to be harboring this dark secret. It's the classic question - what goes on behind closed doors? And what happens when somebody snaps? These two questions are addressed in Cupid's Obsession which follows four main characters and their lives. There is a grotesque scene that goes well with the music of Thomas Newman from Little Children is something I plan on writing next, it fits well - in my mind more perhaps - with a scene I wrote in my last horror story Til Death Do Us Part where the main characters hangs his dog. This, along with the ending of Cupid's is a 'thank you' or homage to Edgar Allan Poe's The Black Cat. 


Edgar Allan Poe came into conversation when I was having Sunday dinner yesterday - made by my exquisite friend Vicky who piled the food on our plates like we were at our a carvery -  and my other roommate Dom informed me that he had only just read The Tell-Tale Heart and that was the only piece of Poe's work he had read. I was shocked to say the least. Poe is a huge influence on me. Yesterday - while rummaging through my notes - I found a foreword I wrote for Cupid's - I like keeping a reference of what I was doing and thinking at the time of writing stories - and I noticed just how much Poe's madness - both in his stories and life - helped me. Madness is something that I am really interested in - on that note I have a book about madness I need to review for Bookgeeks! The question: is the madman truly mad or does he see the truth? Is this madman seeing something we are all too afraid to see? It's fascinating, no? 


Reading the blog of certain porn star's makes you think - well me at least - is something as obscure as leading a life like that - something that pulls you out of 'normality' and stops you from leading a 'normal life' make you mad? Metaphorically mad anyway. Madness is a wall between you and the world - when you're mad people stop listening to you, it's nonsense. You no longer fit into society, you're not normal. So, by that logic, are the lonely, tragic figures not just mad also? Are they not pushed out of society? 


Talking about this has formed my main character perfectly in my head and my research shall continue, along with the mountain of writing and reading I have to do. It's also got me thinking of one of my favourite novels Revolutionary Road and how April and Frank were looked at as insane. They were never called it but the idea of running away from a normal life, throwing it all away for a dream seemed to be insane. Are some people called insane because they shake what we perceive to be normality? 


I really like this image of Frank and April - Winslet and De Caprio - on the set of Revolutionary Road - brings back memories and new thoughts. 

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Observation...


Look at it differently.

Shock

Last night I watched Paddy Considine’s extraordinary film Tyrannosaur and, like all good pieces of creativity, it got me thinking about a lot of things – show, not tell vs tell not show, violence in cinema and literature, among other things. The stand-out scene for me in the film – without giving any spoilers away – was the confrontation between Peter Mullan’s character (Joseph) and Olivia Colman’s character (Hannah). There’s a crucial line in which Hannah speaks of the abuse she receives from her husband and that one line – I’m not going to say it, you’ll have to watch the film to find out – really shook me. I think saying something – merely mentioning something horrific that has happened in the past – can sometimes be more shocking than actually showing us. This haunts imaginative people the most because they think up a thousand different scenarios of what happened – they think of the smell of the room, the weather outside, the look on their faces, everything.

The film was gritty and dark and, of course, shocking – it stayed with me through the night and my mind kept overlapping, thinking of every scene, every section of it. In short, it was brilliant and I would definitely recommend watching this amazing film. It’s not a comfortable watch but I think time has told me I like watching films that unsettle me a bit, films that haunt me and influence me.

Tyrannosaur really made me want to write a story about domestic abuse and when I was in the shower I came up with an idea. Because domestic abuse has been written about and examined and will forever be put forth in all forms of art it’s hard to write it in a refreshing way – Tyrannosaur hit the nail on the head mainly, I think, because it didn’t try to be original, it just...worked. My story – if I peruse it – will demand more thought. The film, however, did bring back memories of a novella I wrote called The Orange Demons which is about violence – just like this film. Tyrannosaur seems to be a film about struggling with violence – Joseph has to keep his anger and his violence under control when Hannah is trying to free herself from the violence in her life – it’s kind of a run away from violence film.

The Orange Demons was a three month project written with people like William Burroughs in mind. I guess the story is a more a ‘what if’, the extreme version of a society crumbling by violence and people giving up, people stop fighting. Stories like The Orange Demons or any sort of post-apocalyptic story comes from the writer asking questions – what if this happened? What if we had no order? What if the bad guys win? My problem, however, with The Orange Demons is not only that it needs a bloody good edit but that it’s not as scary as it could be. When I say scary I don’t mean ghosts banging on the door or the bump in the night I mean actually “Oh My God this could happen to me” scary. This is purely because it is set in the future so it works on the basis that “this could happen” but the reason films like Tyrannosaur or Harry Brown work and are shockingly scary is because it is showing us a world we live in but know nothing about. Or, for some us, do not something about.

 I think one of my next short stories will enter into the gritty, dark, shocking world. I’ve been working on fairy tales and fables recently – all of which are dark, I should add – but I have yet to write a short story that is gritty and dark enough for my liking. I’m working mainly on short stories because I’m doing research for a novel proposal I have to give to an MA course I want to do when I finish University. So, here’s hoping! 

Tyrannosaur

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Writing Room


The place where we write is important. Every writer needs their own room. It doesn’t matter where or what it looks like or how big it is but you need your own room. Stephen King writes about writer’s rooms in his fantastic non-fiction book ‘On Writing’ which any writer or wanna-be writer especially should own a copy of. That and The Writers and Artists Yearbook are the two Bibles for any wanna-be writer.

I love looking at writer’s rooms, there’s a great section on the Guardian website
that looks at writer’s rooms. Some of my favourites are posted below.

Back when I lived with my parents I actually had an office. I know right – a seventeen-year-old who had his own writing studio. I had a picture of it on my phone but I got very drunk one night and lost that phone thus it is now a memory stored in my brain but the room I know write in is my bedroom in my student house. It’s the largest room in the house with two windows that look out onto a mirror image of the houses across the road – terrace houses, however, can be inspirational in certain circumstances. King says in his book that writers shouldn’t have grand views out of their windows because it would distract them. I disagree with this. When I buy a large house I want a nice view to look at. I think great views inspire rather than distract. Alas my view is of the Indian family across the road and countless students that walk to and fro their lectures.

(A room I enjoy, or as my friend Vicky would say 'brings me joy'. Every writer has to be surrounded by books in their room, no?)


I am lucky to have such a big room, a room where I can store a few books – I’ve bought so many since I’ve lived here that the shelves are crammed with copies of 2 for 3 books from Waterstones or buy one get one free from Tesco and, of course, loads of picture books that I bought from Amazon when I heard those two wonderful words in my children’s writing class. The desk is a large wooden desk – lucky, once again to have such a nice desk – where my laptop, papers and books sit and rest. As well as this is my lamp – a green, lawyer-like lamp that my Grandmother gave to me – most likely stolen knowing her and her batty ways.

(An attic office is cool but I think when I have one I'd more a Terry Pratchett office kinda guy. I couldn't find a picture of his but if you look at his Alzhimer's show - which was very interesting - then you'll see it then.)


My roommate Dom said I have a lot of nick-nacs. I have to agree. I feel some writers work better when they have their nick-nacs around them. Audrey Niffenger said that she is chaotic when she writes, that she writes when she’s on book tours and very rarely writers at her desk. I couldn’t do that. Sure I write everywhere – don’t we all? – but I prefer sitting at my desk, in my space, with my things around me. Just a brief list of the nic-nacs I have lying around range from: a bola hat, a slinky, an Underwood typewriter, a treasure chest from Turkey, pebbles from Cornwall, a flask that me and my friend Elly wished we had taken to the Lake District so we could have gotten drunk on a mountain (not a very good idea now I think about it), a Nightmare Before Christmas mug, a Saw figurine, a book worm and a Dominos box (no, not the Pizza).

I like looking around and seeing my personality reflecting back at me, just like it is reflected at me in my writing. And on that note I thought I’d put the opening to a short story I finished a few months ago called ‘The Love Season: A Fairy Tale’ which tells the tale of a man who is in love with two women. As they say – you can’t help who you love!

One day, in the middle of Spring, when there was a strange heat lurking around the campus of the University of York, Jacob Fox realised he loved two women. It happened so inexplicably, without warning, that Jacob reacted the only way he knew how – he wrote it down. Cooped up in his small student room he poured glass after glass of vodka, threw it back and wrote a short story called Madeline – just how the real writers do it, he thought. Madeline, the story of a mysterious woman, a woman he loved but who possessed only half of his heart.

Friday, 2 March 2012

It's a Friday night...


It's a Friday night and I don't have much time before my friend Sophie comes round and we get rather merry with some wine, cider and, knowing her, Vodka. I feel like our drinking should have a purpose and what better thing to celebrate than the gloriously sunny day it has been here in Cardiff. So, although today has not been a literary/writer themed blog it is a 'OMG summer is coming!' blog. Thus, I have put a rather hilarious video of a woman getting obscenely drunk but kept it in keeping with the coming summer as she is making ice cream. If those of you that looked on here today to see some of my usual stuff fear not for tomorrow I plan on writing about writing rooms but for today, on this beautiful, Friday night - enjoy!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Love


My good friend Sam West once commented on me and my housemates. He said Dom is the poet, Joe is the experimental, Chuck Palahniuk one and then he said “but you (me) are the tortured, dark one.” I suppose the tragedy of my stories has been commented on in the past. My roommate, Joe, has spoken on the subject many times but I make sure my stories are not depressing, hopefully not even sad, just tragic. I hate it when I pull away from stories or films and look around for the nearest rope to hang myself – depressing pieces of art do not interest me. Sad and tragic pieces of art interest me. As well, of course, as the occasional chick-flick – Nancy Meyers is one of my favourite directors – and hopeful endings and even the odd happy ending. Alas, I do like to write tragedy.

And what better thing to write about tragically than love – the thing everyone has experienced, whether it be the love of a pet or a child or, the worst kind of love, the love for another person. I guess the dark side of me is saying that all love is tragic, that in the end you will separated from your love, whether it be divorce, different interests, growing a part or death. I recently watched The Notebook with my friends Elly and Vicky and hated every minute of it. I was waiting for the tragedy and then they gave a silly plot twist at the end – not going to give it away – that made it tragic. But then again, just to contradict myself, I find Romeo and Juliet frustrating. I guess I am just very picky with the kind of tragedy I like.

There’s a wonderful – and bitter – quote from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic books on love and I think everyone can relate:

“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defences. You build up a whole armour, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life... You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' or 'how very perceptive' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. Nothing should be able to do that. Especially not love. I hate love.

As angry as this quote is it’s very true. My roommate Joe is obsessed with the film (500) Days of Summer – and I have to admit it is a wonderfully accurate film – and it’s that kind of brutal honesty that interests me. Looking back on the stories I have written – and there have been a lot of bad ones from the age of twelve onwards – I have created a lot of dark, tragic loves. My teacher once turned to me and asked if I could ever write a happy ending. “No,” I replied, “because that’s not interesting.”



Like all writers I write for myself and I write about tragic love because it interests me. In my story ‘Shifter’ – a post-apocalyptic world set in Cardiff where I live – there’s a death between the main guy Mortimer and a woman he falls for, Jessica. In a story I need to re-write – called ‘The Game’ – there’s a dangerous relationship that ends in bloodshed and betrayal between Eli and Sybil. The list goes on but the relationship I am most proud of – the last ‘long story’/novel I finished – is something called ‘Til Death Do Us Part’ which needs a bit of work but is the most tragic and the most honest relationship I could write.

Some people say trust no-one, you are the only person you can trust, don’t open up your heart to anybody but that makes no sense. If you don’t get your heart crushed on, if you don’t crush other people’s hearts then you don’t feel anything. You have to feel something to experience it. You have to understand what love is in order to write about it or talk about it or understand it. Tragedy is part of life, as is love and when the two morph together well, you’re in for one hell of a ride.