Monday, 29 November 2010

The Lost Film novella (1st draft completed!)

That’s it, I’ve done it! Today, I finished the first draft of “The Lost Film Novella” - 47 writing days (from 7th September through to 29th November, which includes the 36 days I took out in the middle to work on the ZoQuNo/Mr Foo pitch) for a grand total of 52,547 words. My original plan was for 30,000 words, but I do have a tendency to overwrite massively on the 1st draft (I’m a taker-outer, to quote Stephen King, rather than a putter-inner) and the writing break didn’t help with my memory.

The thing is though, it’s now complete and that’s cause for celebration (for me, at least). On the way, I’ve gone through the usual stages, but I’ve come out the other side and have a 52.5k word manuscript to show for it.

It’s not all good, of course - there are a few bits I know don’t work, you could drive a bus through some of the plot-holes and at least one character started out as important but could be excised - but I’m chuffed to bits. And the best thing? The ending as I wrote it today is pretty much as it was in the original synopsis, which I wrote over a year ago.

Onwards and ever upwards!

p.s. Just in case you were wondering, my definition of the five stages is this:

stage 1: “I’m loving this, it’s flowing and the words fit and it’s all beautiful - I’m onto a winner”
stage 2: “Bollocks, this is getting hard. I’m sure the idea is rubbish”
stage 3: “Yep, the idea is rubbish and so is my writing, I’m going to pack this stupid thing in”
stage 4: “Oh hang on, that bit worked a little better… Anyway, I’m nearly done now, I might as well get to the end”
stage 5: “Oh no, I’m almost at the end. That’s a shame, I was really enjoying writing this…”

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

In Memory of my sister, after 7 years

It was seven years ago today that I got the phone call from Mum. I was at work, sitting in the canteen with my workmate. Mum told me that she had bad news and I paused, expecting to hear something about my Gran having fallen over or something.

Instead, Mum told me that she was at Leicester hospital, walking back to the car with my Dad and that my sister Tracy was dead. She was 32.

Tracy was two years younger than me and we fought like cat and dog during childhood (and into our teens too!), but were fiercely protective of one another. She developed MS late on in life, at the start of 2003 and suffered upwards of six relapses. She had to endure lengthy stays in hospital, which must have been awful for her - she was an active person, into horse-riding and spending time with us all and she was confined to bed and unable to do a lot of things for herself - but I never really heard her complain. At the time, Alison & I were desperately trying for a child and Tracy kept track of our appointments at the hospital, asking how things went and trying to gee us up as each month passed. Going to see her in hospital was a difficult experience - I loved to make her laugh and would do pretty much anything in the pursuit of that, but it was painful to see her try and do things as her body rebelled against her.

Tracy collapsed on the morning of November 25th, 2003, Dad’s 60th birthday. The cause of death was later given as a pulmonary embolism. I didn’t know what to say or to do and Alison & I went straight to Mum & Dad’s house that day. Sarah, at the time, was in Derby at Uni so I drove us all up there to deliver the news. We arrived just before she got home and she got out of her car and seemed excited, as if we’d all gone up there to see her for Dad’s birthday. Until Dad went across the road, crying and told her the real reason.

Tracy’s funeral service was held in the Parish church in Rothwell - I’ve never seen so many people in there - and I read the eulogy. The burial was held at the little cemetery on the edge of town and it was a cold, dank day. Afterwards, we went back to the old Sunday School buildings (now the Trinity Centre) for tea and some food. Nick was with us (he and Tracy got on really well), staying overnight at ours and supervising the taped music at the service. At the wake, he busied himself making sure that everyone had a drink and something to eat, whilst the rest of us just seemed to reel around and try to connect with people.

We’re meeting at Mum & Dad’s tonight - me & Alison & Matthew and Sarah & Chris & Lucy - and it’s not a birthday party (as Dad is keen to point out), but more a family gathering. I can’t believe it’s seven years - so much has happened since then, but it seems like only yesterday.
I still miss Tracy a lot, as do Mum & Dad and Sarah and Alison. Matthew obviously never met her, but he knows who she is and that’s the main thing, I think, to make sure that her memory continues to burn brightly.

RIP TJ

Tracy, Dad, Mum, me, Alison
Outside Madame Tusseads, London, March 2003 (before the MS kicked in)

Monday, 22 November 2010

Making progress!

The “Lost Film” novella is coming along swimmingly and I’m pretty much keeping up a 1,000 word-a-day output on it, which is brilliant for me. My original plan - certainly, it’s the one I told Stephen Bacon, when he mentioned that he’d never worked on anything novella-length - was for 30,000 words in first draft but I’m currently at 39k words and the ending is still a little way off.

But am I enjoying it? Absolutely. The draft is a mess (as all of my first drafts are), the timelines don’t work, some of the characters change direction halfway through and I know it’ll be a nightmare to make it all work but it’s there. That’s most of the battle with creative writing - getting the damned thing down in the first place.

Something’s working though - parts of the plot are dropping into place, just in time and characters are revealing hitherto unseen sides that make the story zip along - and I have a good feeling about the whole thing. I have the voice mostly right (and what I don’t, I can rework) and I think I’m going to be able to sell the climax (and trust me, it’s going to be a big sell!).

I reckon another week or two and the first draft’ll be sorted. Then I’ll let it breathe for a while (and will begin working on notes for the “80s/kids/gash in time” project, which is brewing nicely), before attacking the 2nd draft and getting it out to my pre-readers.

And in the meantime, here’s a picture (which I found on Flickr, though
mcmorgan08’s photostream) of a cinema that one of Roger Sinclair’s films might have been shown at!

Hard Core Cine, Soho, London, 1979
Photograph by
M C Morgan

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Binary Sunset

We had a family day out with the Roberts today (David, Julia, Alice & Laura) and a great time was had by all. David & I were talking about different things and, combined with my Three Investigator blog, I was thinking about "Star Wars". I decided I'd like a picture of the binary sunset, for me the defining moment of the whole film and discovered a YouTube clip of it. Which is here.



I love "Star Wars" (and very, very rarely call it "A New Hope") and it's my favourite film of all time. And as I said above, this is the key moment for me, especially when John Williams' strings swell and Mark Hamill looks to the wider world and it never fails to make the hairs on my arms stand on end. Superb stuff, a brilliant moment of cinema and I love it.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

More love for "What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking"...

Terry Grimwood has reviewed "Shoes, Ships & Cadavers" at his website and has some very nice things to say about it. He also really liked my story - "Mark West’s dark and tragic [story was] one of my particular favourites, well told and moving."

The full review can be found on his website, here.

Thanks, Terry!

My Three Investigators Reviews, all on one new blog!

As you may or may not be aware, I’m a big fan of the Three Investigators mystery series, which shaped my reading habits through childhood and have continued - on and off - through adulthood too.

In 2008, I decided to embark upon a bit of a reading adventure and work my way through the Three Investigators series (up to book 30, the last to be written when Hitchcock was still alive and the last one I class as official). I planned to read one a month, which meant it’d take me two and a half years.

As I write this, it’s 11th November 2010 and I have three books left - “Sinister Scarecrow”, “Shark Reef” and “Invisible Dog” (which I’m saving for Christmas week). I’ll be honest, it’s been great fun - I’d forgotten a lot of the story details and so it really was like reading things afresh. In addition, I was surprised at how well written (and tightly plotted) the books were - no wonder they enthralled me as a kid, they worked very well for an adult reader (I started, with “Skeleton Island” when I was about 8, I’m 41 now).

I posted capsule reviews for all of the books at GoodReads.com but then decided, since I already have a blog anyway, why not put all the reviews in one place? On my website?
So I have - you can link direct to my Three Investigators Book Review blog directly from here.

In addition to the reviews, I’ve also taken the opportunity to post the cover art for each title (it’s much more colourful like that and some of the artwork is superb), plus other little bits and pieces that occurred to me.
If you were a fan growing up, I hope you like the blog. If you weren’t a fan, I hope the reviews at least tempt you to give a book a go but, if not, enjoy the artwork anyway!

Just before I head off, I’d like to say a big thanks to Philip Fulmer at the T3I Readers Site for his permission to use the cover scans and also to Ian Regan for his invaluable and well-constructed cover art database (both are linked from the review blog).

Now what shall I do next - the ultimate top 10…?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Listen to The Dude!

Gary McMahon's novel "Pretty Little Dead Things" hits the High Street today and if you like your horror fiction dark and bleak, then this is the book for you.

I'm lucky enough to have already read it and I can vouch that it's a corker (easily in my top 10 of the year so far) - go out and buy it! The Dude says so!


Monday, 1 November 2010

Some mechanics of writing (or, location is the key)

As a writer, I am very keen on the idea of place - I want the reader to know exactly where they are, I want them to be able to see the location in their head, I want them to feel what it’s like to stand there. I think I’m pretty good at it and it’s something that gets mentioned quite a bit in reviews so I’ll be honest here and say that a lot of it is a cheat - I use real places, wherever possible.

Now, with my guilty secret exposed, here is the key location from my latest story “What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking”, which was published in the NewCon press anthology “Shoes, Ships & Cadavers”.

The story takes place in Kettering (where I didn’t grow up) and centres around a bridge, at the end of the Headlands. That bridge does exist, as does the graffiti I mention in the story (which sets up the last act of the piece).

This is the first appearance of the bridge in the story:

The bridge was ahead, with signs warning me about cars, since the road led directly to the golf course. There was nothing on the road now. I rested my racer against the abutment and walked onto the bridge, which looked old but well kept. It was made with dark blue brick, as solid as you like, and the walls on either side were metal plates, with rivets half the size of my hand. At the far end of the bridge, on the west abutment, was a splash of graffiti – ‘Look Behind You!’ Directly across from it were a ravaged looking tree and some bushes. I leaned against the west wall, looking at the rails and waited.

And here is the bridge itself. These photographs were taken on 30th October 2010 (Dude & I were train-chasing) and the graffiti, which I first noticed almost 15 years ago, is still clearly visible.

Looking onto the bridge from The Headlands. If you go over the bridge and down the hill, that's where the golf course is.


Matthew, leaning on the outer wall, waiting for a train


The graffiti.