Updates

I’m excited to announce that my story is officially in editing!  Well, it would be except, you know, life and all.  I have done some editing, honest.  I have the pieces of paper with pencil markings all over it and everything.

Being a little more serious (me?) I learned a lot about editing when tackling The Pink Salamander.  Sure it’s hard writing a story but I tell you what, editing requires a completely different mindset.  For a start you need the story needs to make sense.  While I have only tackled the Prologue (I’m editing chapter by chapter simply because any other method would be too much), I’ve spotted a few plot holes and things that could be improved.

In my haste to listen to my muse and get the story down I got caught up in flow.  It felt good at the time (don’t get me wrong, you need this as a writer!) but it left a glaring error which entailed a fairly large re-write to remove it.  With that out of the way I concentrated on other aspects and am pretty pleased with the results, so far.

As a treat I thought I’d give you a sneak peek of the first character. Before joining Unit 16 (working title, by the way, needs imporving if you ask me) Mark Ladensfield was living life through a bottle.  Mark had lost his job and his wife had left him.  To console himself, Mark routinely went to his local pub where he proceeded to drink himself stupid.

During one of these sessions a man known only as Colin challenged Mark to a contest.  In one week’s time Mark was to compete against Colin in three disciplines; observation, agility and solving three dimensional puzzles while blindfold.  With nothing to lose, Mark accepted.

He sobered up in time and completed two out of three challenges faster than Colin.  It was then that Colin revealed that Mark had taken an aptitude test for a secret organisation and offered him a position.

And that, folks, is where I’m going to leave the sneak-peek.  Goodbye for now.

 

Oh one other thing, I recently posted a link to a great TED talk about Procrastination on my Facebook page.  You should go over and check it out.  It’s both hilarious and thought provoking.

 

 

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Your Greatest Fear

You know that thing you want the most, the one thing you know will make your life immeasurably better?  Well some smart-alec went and did a very silly thing.  You see that cave over there?  That scary looking one, the one with ominous sounds coming out of it.  The place that is so scary you daren’t even dream about.  Well, it’s in there.

Sure grab a torch, maybe a friend or two that might help.  Oh, did I mention your greatest fear is in there too?  How silly of me.  They’re side-by-side and yeah I know, its your worst enemy, your Achilles heel, but imagine how happy you’d be if you got that prize.

So why not go for it after all nothing ventured, nothing gained.  If that didn’t convince you, ask yourself this question; how many adventure stories do you know of where the hero got the prize on page 10?

P.S. It doesn’t count if the prize was taken away only for the adventure to continue.

 

The Night Manager: Episode 6

When you have a suspicion about something, you try and confirm it.  That is exactly what Roper did in this, the last episode in the series.  As expected it was too little, too late.

With barely any resources at her fingertips, Angela Burr finally outsmarted Richard Roper. Watching Roper’s final realisation as his house of cards toppled was delicious.  His arrogance up to the last minute made it all the more sweeter.

I was convinced that Jed’s betrayal would lead to her death, thankfully that wasn’t the case.  With some careful footwork and some fortuitous timing, she was saved just as Roper’s deal was going up in smoke.

What surprised me most was the secret source inside Angela’s team.  His few lines were enough to show what he had done and who’s side he was on.  It was a pity that the senior members of MI6 didn’t suffer the same fate but I guess you can’t have everything.

From the start the acting was excellent.  Olivia Colman’s portrayal as a woman under siege felt human.  You too would feel harrassed and betrayed as your enemies, former friends, pulled the rug from under you.  From there it only got better.

Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Pine/Birch was fascinating.  Using friends he had not seen in years, Pine turned the tables on Roper.  A clandestine meeting followed by a late night drive set in place a plan which would see Roper ruined in front of a client.  As the deal went sour, Hugh Laurie’s skill as an actor shone through.  The mixture of vexation and haughtiness was wonderful to watch.

There has been a suggestion that this series was a perfect audition for Hiddleston’s potential hiring as James Bond.  There were many similarities including playing roulette (a convenient plot device to pass a code to Pine) so I can see why people would think this.  While it is not up to me to decide who should play Bond, it would make a refreshing change to see Hiddleston in the role.

In conclusion, after watching this series, I find myself wondering what accolades it will win.  One more thing, I had better add another John Le Carre novel to my collection.

The One I Feed

There is a saying that goes a little something like this:

An Indian (Native American) Chief is relating a story to his Braves after watching a fight between two of them earlier.  The Braves wanted to know why they fight each other.

“In all of us there are two wolves.  One white one, One grey.  The white wolf is full of peace, harmony, happiness.  The grey is fear, anger, envy, jealousy.  They are in a battle to the death and the winner gets to claim your soul.”

One warrior, impatient with the old man’s stories says “Who will win?”

“The One I feed.” replies the Chief.

What I love about this story is the understanding that there is good and bad (not necessarily evil) in all of us.  We become good or bad depending on our actions, our thoughts, our behaviour.  It also teaches us that we can change.  If we step back and realise our actions have consequences then we might not make such rash decisions.

Stories have been helping us understand ourselves for thousands of years.  Like the hero figure of old, they can be used to inspire others to do better.  But that can only happen if they feed the white wolf.

When you want to lash out because you’ve been hurt remember, this is the grey wolf talking.  He’s hungry and wants to feed off your negativity.  Feed the white wolf instead.

The Night Manager: Episode 5

Looking back on last night’s episode I got the feeling that the success of the team is not just about a race against time, but also avoiding being trapped between a rock and a hard place.

We begin with a trip to the Haven,  a camp of soldiers set close to a refugee camp.  In order to avoid too many questions, Roper hands out some aid boxes on the way.  On arrival, Roper is greeted like royalty by his men.

Personally I found this difficult to watch, not least because they are essentially mercenaries.  While ‘mercenary’ is a dirty word, PMCs or Private Military Companies are numerous.  They have been taking over the less onerous tasks from the military for some years (the industry is now worth billions of dollars).  Certainly the group surrounding Roper did not have a professional feel about them.  Perhaps it is because of their diverse nature, I’m not sure.

Pine’s task was to supervise a firepower demonstration for a potential client.  While it went well, I’m not sure it gave the impression it was looking for.  By that I mean, some of the performances felt a little off.  For example, Hugh Laurie’s line about napalm was a little too close to the famous Apocalypse Now quote, for comfort.

In the meantime, Rex Maberley, Angela Burr’s boss, gets the push from his boss.  The ‘good’ side are losing friends fast, even the Americans are pulling out, too.  To top it all, a senior member of MI6 warns Angela Burr off, personally.  These deals which Roper is overseeing, are valuable to the country.

With time and friends vanishing at a rapid rate of knots, Angela Burr soon finds herself on her own.  Pine, with the arrival of Corcoran, is feeling the pressure too.  A night time excursion to deliver a message is spotted by Corky, leaving Pine no choice but to take him out.  Roper, desperate to find out who has been selling his secrets casts suspicion over everyone.  With Corky’s death, a convenient scapegoat is found.

Lastly we come to the convoy fiasco.  Angela Burr’s team, via Pine, hears about a convoy of weapons disguised as humanitarian aid heading to the border.  On interception, it is found to contain grain and agricultural equipment.

While it was a good episode, there were some scenes that did not feel right for me.  I was looking for either a gleeful, happy evil from Roper or a darker, colder one.  Instead it felt flat, neither cold nor anything else for that matter.

The performances from the rest of the cast was very convincing.  Elizabeth Debicki’s confession scene felt real.  Her lines were excellently thought out and well delivered.  Just one more episode to go for this intriguing story.

When the Story Doesn’t Come

You sit there and nothing happens.  Time halts as your fingers waver over the keyboard or the pen over the paper but the muse, or whatever you call it, has taken the day off.  Never mind, you say, It’ll come later. But it doesn’t want to come later, either.

Maybe a little bit of guilt sets in.  It’s been three days since you got something down.  Perhaps I should be worried?  What if my creativity has run out?  That’s it, its over, no longer a writer.  Lets not be hasty, you can’t expect to write all the time, right?  But what about professional writers, they write every single day, how do they get through this?

I know, I’ll look on the internet/find a book on the subject.  Someone is bound to have written about it.  This is all a distraction, of course.

Does it really matter what the real reason is?  If it is an external source, then yes, it does matter.  Remove the source or deal with it and you should be able to start writing again.  After all, we are all humans and are subject to numerous things wanting our precious resources; physical, emotional or otherwise.

Sometimes though, it is through lack of practice.  What helps for professionals is that they write all the time, but even they have struggles too.  Terry Pratchett wrote in his autobiography (which I suggest you buy, by the way) how a typical day went.  Each day he set himself a target number of words (400, if I recall) to write and this particular day it took him the whole day (I’m not kidding either) to get there.

I know you’re not going to like this but, keep at it.  Never give up, never give in.  Drive yourself.  Sit down, any opportunity you have, and try.  You might not get anything, but trying and failing is better than not trying at all.  You cannot hope to win a competition if you do not enter.  That is only the stuff of stories.

Like everything, writing needs to be worked at.  In this day of near instant gratification, taking years to get to the end goal feels like a nightmare.

I love the definition of wordsmith ‘A person who works with words, especially a skillful writer’.  Just like a blacksmith works with metal, a wordsmith works with words.  Apprentice blacksmiths may come up with something resembling a sword just like a novice writer can arrive at something which looks like a novel.  Lets face it though, the misshapen lump is best off sticking back into the furnace to be worked on.

Day after day, the blacksmith turns up at the forge hoping today will be a good day.  Each day brings a new experience and over time that experience makes them a better smith.  That is what you need to do with writing.  Imagine a world without metal because the smith gave up.  Pretty stark, isn’t it?  Now imagine a world without stories.

 

 

 

 

 

The Pink Salamander has landed!

What I threatened a few months ago has finally come to pass (probably before Christmas but I’m not too sure!), The Pink Salamander is here, yay!  You can read it here The Pink Salamander or you can navigate via the menu on the right.

So what was the inspiration behind it?  Well its a strange one really, I recall the title popping into my head not long after I had woken up one morning.  A Pink Salamander was so unusual that, at first, I dismissed it.  I then decided otherwise and went with it.

I took me a while to write it but far longer to edit.  I’m glad I did as the first draft was mainly dialogue.  Dialogue works well in your head but does not make for great reading.

I hope you like it.