Christmas Story…

Each year, members of Wirral Writers pen a short Christmas themed story each. The only rules are – it has to be between 500 and 600 words, and Christmas orientated.

Each year I post my mini offering here. This years is loosely (very loosely) based on the journey of three Biblical characters.

***WARNING*** There will be profanities ahead*** 

Wirral Writers Christmas Story 2017

We Three Kings

The three Kings rode from the east. It was unseasonably warm and time was running out.

Useless bastard!”

Frank, language.”

Fuck language, fucking gearstick’s…ngh…get in ya bastard!”

Frank!”

Dad. You’re so sweary.”

Alisha, the day you get your own car and do your own…argh…bastard…Christmas shopping…grr…don’t talk to me about effing swearing. Gotcha!”

The Signal yellow Austin Allegro belched and farted and grizzled through early evening traffic.

Take the A124, Frank, that’ll take us straight to Canary Wharf, right, right! Frank.”

I always drive this way.”

Every year’s the same.” sighed Alisha popping her right earbud back in.

Dad growled.

Mare, did you bring the list?”

I thought you had it? I told you it was on the hall table.”

I said I was putting water in the friggin car. That was your job, Mare. One list. One-”

I’ve got it.” Alisha waved a white piece of paper at the rearview mirror.

At Blackwall roundabout, the traffic slowed, slowed and the not so trusty steed ground to a halt.

Fuck! Fuckfuckfuckkity fuck!!” screamed Frank.

Alisha sank lower in the rear seat, aware of other drivers and passengers watching the beetroot faced man having a meltdown in the shittiest car in England.

Once again,” said Mary, “Mind the language.”

Why? Why should I mind my language?”

Mary indicated the backseat passenger with a head motion.

Alisha rolled her eyes.

She’s seventeen years old, Mare.”

It’s true mum. I am. And I do know swear words. In fact we did about them in English, for example did you know the word fuck-”

Alisha!”

It’s a real word mum. Did you know, it appeared as early as the 15th century in some poem about the monks of Ely fucking local wives-”

Alisha King. I don’t care about the fucking monks of Ely. I just want to buy Christmas presents!” Mary cried.

And you just used it correctly as a verb, or is that an adjective?”

Alisha!”

What?!”

Eventually on the move again, after a fashion, the Kings kangarooed along Upper Bank Street. Six eyes straining.

I love the old traditions.” Alisha said, “Such as trying to find a parking space.”

We should have taken the train.” Mary moaned.

What, and carry all it all back with a million other sweaty bodies? No thanks.” Frank made a yipping sound. “There!” He ground the gears, and his teeth. “Shit! There’s a bike in it.”

They drove round and around the parking lot until they saw a shopper emerge from the mall. Then they followed her,until she led them to a parking space.

Yay!” cheered Mary as they pulled up. “Okay, what’s everyone need?”

Samsung Galaxy S7; Pink Gold, please.” Alisha thumbed the dial, selecting a new tune and slunk off ahead of her parents.

How about you Frank? I need to find something for Janice and the nephews. Oh, don’t let me forget your dad’s razor.”

He doesn’t need a new razor, Mare.”

That’s not the point love. It’s Christmas.”

What, so we buy shit we don’t need or won’t use or that breaks in five minutes?”

Mary started to make her way to the shopping centre, “Come on love, get in the spirit will you.”

Frank looked at the press of bodies, the trolleys filled to overflowing, crying kids, mums with frayed tempers, the signs plastered across the windows, Christmas Eve Sales, took a preparatory breath and through gritted teeth said, “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men, and Batteries not Included.”

The End!

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The horror of Christmas shopping

 

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The ‘E’ Word or, I Thought I’d Finished But…

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“Did you say the e word?!”

I finished writing my story today, HURRAH! Yes, the one I was doing for NaNoWriMo, that I did not complete in the time-frame; 1st to 30th November.

But now I have to edit it,BOO!

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The joy of editing…

I cannot tell you how much I despise editing. The story was planned – first time I have done that, researched, written and completed.

The idea has been expulsed from my mind and body, like giving birth, or squeezing a particularly juicy spot. I do not really want to spend time poking and fiddling around with the after-stuff. And yet I cannot afford an editors fee – I know some out there who say, they only charge so much per thousand words, but free is the affordable amount for me.

When I was a visual artist, I made a quick pencil sketch of my idea, transferred the image to canvas, and painted it – done. I used acrylics because, firstly I couldn’t handle oils and secondly, acrylic paints dry so quickly, you can pack it up (for no-one to ever look at again!) a day later.

Writing is a bit like sex, the more you talk about it, the less I reckon you’re doing it. If I plan too much, or discuss too much, or overwork the idea, then I lose interest. For me, the excitement in writing lies in what will happen as I travel along this journey with my characters, and when we have reached the end I don’t want to go pouring over what might or might not have been.

Editing gets in the way of me starting my next story; I nearly always have two or three; even four ideas bubbling away at once.

Editing is like waiting for three hours at the airport for your bags after returning from holiday – feels like wasting time, but that’s your stuff.

Editing is like doing the washing up after a fat, fulfilling meal – takes the shine off it.

Editing is like having to write the envelopes after the Christmas cards are written – boring.

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“I said back off! I don’t want to edit my story.”

Revisiting the NaNaWriMo site is helpful, to a degree. There’s congratulations and praise; regardless of whether a writer reached 50,000 words or not. For the NaNo team, it’s the taking part that matters, that effort was made, and creativity happened. But what they do have is a link to help people like me – 5 Quick Editing Wins for December. Thanks NaNo Team (Katharine Gripp and co)

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Buddy the Elf

So, I am off to edit now, wish me luck. To misquote the heroic Captain Oates, “I’m going in and I might be some time.”

Have a good weekend everyone.

What I Have Learnt This NaNoWriMo

 

  • During a storm in Nottinghamshire, in 1558, a child was carried off in the winds.
  • Ghyll is Old Norse for deep ravine.
  • You could be engaged at 7 years of age – in the 16 and 17th centuries.
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Children of the 17th century
  • Church bells can be heard up to seven miles; depending on weather, landscape or obstruction. (In winter they are heard farther as the leaves are off the trees.)
  • Cumbrian dialect for an armpit, is oxter.
  • By the end of the 17th century, only 50% of men and 25% women were able to sign their own names. They could not read or write otherwise.

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    Signatures of Master Bushell and Master Hodges
  • A poultiggery is a hen-house above a pig-house (it protects the eggs from predators such as rats)

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    A poultiggery
  • Martin Luther wrote hymns.

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    ‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God’. Martin Luther
  • I write slower than I did last year!
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Slow Writing

NaNoWriMo Headache

migraine (n.)
late 14c., megrim, from Old French migraigne (13c.), from vulgar pronunciation of Late Latin hemicrania “pain in one side of the head, headache,” from Greek hemikrania,from hemi-“half” +kranion”skull” (see cranium). The Middle English form was re-spelled 1777 on the French model. Related: Migrainous. https://www.etymonline.com/word/migraine

 

I had my first migraine when I was around 25 years of age. I didn’t know I was having a migraine. I managed to make it home from the shop I worked in at the time, get into my pyjamas and lie down on the settee. I thought I was coming down with flu. When I complained about an awful noise in the apartment, my husband had to turn off the fridge – and that’s when he knew – I was having a migraine attack.

It began with pulsating neon-like triangles in the outer corner of my right eye. They throbbed away al afternoon, eventually causing such fuzziness as to obscure the vision in that eye. I had the most horrendous headache, felt nauseous, shivering, and later came the vomiting.

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‘Lady’ Migraine!

A migraine is a primary headache disorder characterized by recurrent headaches that are moderate to severe. Typically, the headaches affect one half of the head, are pulsating in nature, and last from two to 72 hours. Associated symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migraine

A headache?! A headache?! It’s more than a headache wiki!! Ask anyone who suffers from them. I began to get a migraine once a year or so, from that point onwards. Very occasionally one would be so bad, that I would have to take the day off work. Painkillers were useless. A darkened room, a cool, damp flannel on the forehead, plenty of water, oh and a sick-bowl, just in case!

“Migraine is an inherited tendency to have headaches with sensory disturbance. It’s an instability in the way the brain deals with incoming sensory information, and that instability can become influenced by physiological changes like sleep, exercise and hunger.”Professor Peter Goadsby, Professor of Neurology, King’s College London.

A s far as I am aware, no-one else in my family suffers from migraines; not my mother, father, brother, or aunts and uncles or nearest cousin. Then I reached a certain age (mid-40’s) and began to get a migraine each month. And each time it was different – sometimes I would have a visual migraine; Scintillating scotoma, the most common visual aura preceding migraine, but often without the after headache. I would get Ocular migraines; painless, temporary visual disturbances that can affect one or both eyes; that’s the one which makes you think you might be going blind; scary but it passes. As well as nausea, I get photophobia and in recent years have taken to wearing sunglasses even on not-so-bright-days.

Most commonly, my migraines take the form of, what I call ‘the shrinking helmet’…

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Scolds Bridle – probably invented by a migraine sufferer!

 

…Imagine Alexander Dumas’ Man in the Iron Mask, kind of thing, okay? It is smooth, polished, seamless and fits snugly over one side of your head. There is a ‘plate’ that goes into your mouth and presses on the roof of your mouth and another that presses against your right eye. Through the following hours, that ‘Mask’ is going to get tighter and tighter. Your mouth feels as though it will press up through your nasal cavity, your eyeball is flattened… and then you get used to it. It seems to resolve into a neck-pinching all-over general pain. There may, or may not, be nausea.

I missed my writing session for NaNoWriMo last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, because of migraine!! It lasted 2 days (and on the third day you gasp and blink with relief, but fear going near bright lights and technology) I was not sick. But I could not write at my laptop. I could not hand-write as I couldn’t wear my glasses without the ‘Mask’ pressing tighter. I couldn’t read, use my mobile phone, play video games.

Today, Tuesday, I still have the remnants of the pressure in my right eye and the roof of my mouth. I will have to get as much as possible written of my story, before the possibility of the whole thing kicking off again!

Like some kind of word assassin, it lurks on the edges of my brain, ready to sneak in and kill my vision.

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Roy Batty gives Tyrell a hell of a migraine! (Blade Runner 1982)

 

 

 

 

Stop Stalling, Get Writing. NaNoWriMo is here !

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Good Morning WriMo’s,

This is my 2nd year at NaNo. Last year I started a sci-fi novel, reached my 50,000 word count and continued it – it is still progressing, has passed 100,000; but that’s for another time. This year I am trying a new approach. Planning!!!!! 

I am late to the party this year, partly because of that and due to other writing commitments: I have a little map of the village in my notebook, all the villagers names, family connections and job roles in the community i.e. dyer, scribe, labourer etc. I have NEVER planned a story before.

I will be ‘trying’ to write a piece of Magical Realism, set in late 17th early 18th century. Suzanna is a 12 year old on the cusp of womanhood. All she wants is to be the May Queen and for James Joseph to fall in love with her. An isolated village, the Church, culture and conformity, and Oak Tree Jesus!

 

And so begins my introduction to this years NaNoWriMo event.

NaNoWriMo?? I hear you cry – what is wrong with you Alex, have you forgotten how to speak or are you making up new words?

National Novel Writing Month – shortened to nanowrimo –  is an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000 word manuscript between November 1 and November 30. But you don’t have to!

If you’re a writer and need something to motivate you – this might prove to be worth a shout. I joined, last year, on the recommendation of a fellow Wirral Writer. I work alone, I like working alone, I don’t mix well when it comes to creativity, I don’t want to share my ideas and I don’t want to make new friends – if that sounds like you, then NaNo is still fit for purpose. You do not have to do anything you don’t want. But I got a hell of a lot of words written! I found that this works for me, I need a ‘kick-up-the-arse’, not because I don’t write or enjoy it, but because I get lost in the minutiae, or I wander off into the Land of Research – for example, did you know that not everyone in England in the 16th century had a chimney on their house? Chimneys were a luxury, a luxury!! – see what I mean?

Last year I was what is commonly called, a ‘Pantser’ – writing by the seat of your pants, not organised or planned. This year, it’s Planner; let’s see how that goes.

Sure, some people go all the way, they keep in touch, they communicate with new writing friends, they even meet up at venues for real-life ‘write-ins’ as well as virtual ones. It is a perfect writing platform as you use as little or as much of it as you want. You can see other people’s word counts – so you are either incentivized or proud as a peacock throughout.

So, if you are beginning a new story, or even in the middle of one, you can join the community and share as much, or as little, of your experience throughout the month of November – just get that story written!

Before NaNo – daydreaming, and during NaNo – working!

Reason To Love New Horror Anthology

‘Covering four specific horror-related themes: Halloween, ghost stories, nautical terrors, and cosmic horror, The Asterisk Anthology: Volume 1, brings readers eight extraordinary tales from new authors of weird fiction, winners of the Nosetouch Press calls throughout 2017. ‘

Nosetouch Press on Amazon

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The Asterisk Anthology: Volume 1

 

Good Morning all!

I’m very pleased to announce that I have had my work published in this new anthology of horror stories. Not one, but two made it through the selection process! Yay!

It all began in October 2016; after reading a ‘call for submissions’ via Dark Markets, I entered my first story for Halloween. Nosetouch Press ran a 4 Round submission process – Halloween, Ghost Stories, Nautical Nightmares and finally Cosmic Horror. I came second in Rounds 1 and 4. It’s always great to see your work in print; validation through publication says that someone thought your work good enough – and few things feel better – for a writer.

There is a broad range of writing styles, tied together by the four themes. I am convinced you will find some you love in it (I have two reasons to love this anthology!)

I’d like to thank the two people involved in compiling this anthology; David T. Neal and Christine M. Scott, who must have spent hours reading through submissions, deliberating between them who had won and making final decisions. I know, from experience, how hard it is to get 10 writers work collected, edited and compiled into a form for publication, so what it must have been like for submissions from across the world, I cannot imagine.

You can buy your copy of The Asterisk Anthology here-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B076ZB9KR6

Thanks for reading, have a lovely weekend. A

An Exercise To Develop Character Outlines

I am currently studying ‘An Introduction to Screen-writing‘( University of East Anglia) with FutureLearn – an online digital education platform. For me, being able to continue to learn and develop is as important as eating and bathing. This course is FREE! Many of the courses are free and are well designed, presented and are engaging.

Prior to this week, we have been learning about the Five Fingered Pitch and then extending into Ten fingers, or, Two Hand Pitch. I had an idea for a story which I thought might work well on the screen, so I pitched that. So today, we have been asked to do an exercise in developing character outlines. It is part of the the process of character development. We are to ‘create an outline for a character from a film that you’ve recently seen or use it as an opportunity to develop a character of your own.

I’m choosing to stick with my own story, in the hope that this exercise will help me to develop Reg – who currently doesn’t even have a surname!

  • List the character’s major actions. Start from the end and work backwards. (Don’t analyse how or why; just create a list of actions.)

    Saves his neighbourhood. Scares the drug dealers half to death. Accepts help. Falls into despondency. Discovers son has drugs. Asks new neighbours to be more respectful.

  • Analyse the list to reveal the character’s wants and needs. Is the character aware of what they want?

    Reg wants things to be like they used to be, he wants his family safe, and a quiet life. Reg feels impotent, he initially pleads for peace but is disregarded, in Reg’s eyes, his son has been tainted by the badness of the world. Finally realising that others feel the same, Reg is persuaded to join forces, under the ‘guidance’ of an archetypal mentor. They set about scaring off the dealers and thugs. Reg is aware of what he wants – a peaceful life – but the invading force (new neighbours) paralyse him.

  • Describe how the character thinks and look at his or her basic psychology. Intelligent? Intellectually engaged? Cognitive Biases? Impulsive? Cautious?

    Reg is a thoughtful considerate father and husband. His wife thinks he’s ‘too vanilla’. He is rare amongst his peers in that he has a college education. He listens to reggae, classical and jazz music. He reads history books and sporting fiction. He learnt to play the piano and violin at school, but parents could never afford instruments of their own. Wanted to be a jazz musician, but ended up working at the local steel yard. He enjoys the simple things in life; a pint with his pals at the weekend, a game of pool, football in the park with 10 and 12 year old kids on Saturday, sex on Sunday. Reg is quite philosophical about where his life is in comparison to original plans.

  • Describe the character’s superficial affect. How might a casual acquaintance describe them?

    A nice guy.

  • List any important physical characteristics

    None. Just your average dad.

This is just an outline, so stick to that format and make lists; avoid long prose descriptions.

So this is my character outline for Reg, aka; Reginald, Reggie, or Barnsey (because he looks like a young John Barnes; footballer).

The working title for the story/script is ‘Regilante’!!

This is something I have never done before in my story writing; plan the character, and this course is helping me look at writing in quite a different way. I have also stepped out of my comfort zone – writing from a male POV and a Black Comedy – I have never written comedy before and do not know if I am even up to the task!