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Writing Update: Novella Accepted + GameNationSA

“What is the title of your novel.” Nicky asks me in an excited and almost crazed WhatsApp message. “Do you have an idea for a cover? Is there a blurb? We need cover images for the upcoming blog tour!” The message continues. For a moment my mind goes into immediate panic mode before the excitement of this rather random message begins to sink in; my novella is about to get published!

On top of this exciting new journey, there was the rather sad ending of Gamecca Magazine where I had been writing as a game journalist for more the five years. This too came in a rather random phone call from my editor Walt Pretorius, who sadly told me the digital mag was publishing its final issue that coming week. Thankfully I had met with Boris from GameNationSA through a number of gaming events. After contacting him about writing for the gaming site, he was keen for it and this past weekend I went to GeekFest and wrote an article For The Love of Geek. His reply ended with “Welcome on board.”

So what does this all mean…

Naming the Novella:

Coming up with titles is a struggle I’ve had for… well most of my writing life. The draft I sent to Nicky was simply labeled Novella Draft 1 because I had no idea what it was called. How does one get around to coming up with titles? Well some just come to you “Junk Yard Angel for example, while others need nothing more than a single word that explains the plot like “Innocence”.

Here are a few ways to come up with your title:

  1. It’s in the Story: There could be a line in your story that encapsulates the basic premise of your story. It might be dialogue or the hero/villain saying some awesome speech about what their goal or purpose is. It could also be your main character’s profession – your story might just have a title in there. E.g. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, The Black Swan, The Books of Blood.
  2. It’s in the Plot: Perhaps the overall plot of your story has a main premise or character or time period. You can use these in the title of your book to make it obvious what it’s about. E.g. The Mist, Animal Farm, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
  3. Symbolism for your Story: Nothing speaks to us more than metaphors and symbols. Look at how spiritual leaders and the like always use them to teach us some inherent lesson. Your book title could have the same concept, telling a bit about the book or the plot or the character using symbolism. E.g. A Song of Ice and Fire, Altered Carbon, Chicken Soup for the Soul.
  4. Simple Story Synopsis: I’ve seen a lot of the older horror novels use this premise often, usually prefaced by the word “The” and followed by the most basic, single-word, that says exactly what the story is about. E.g. The Dark Tower, The Haunted, The Legacy. Otherwise its just a simple premise as the title: Population Zero, Dark Harvest, American Gods.

While there are other ways to come up with a title, just make sure at the end of the day, the title is:

  • Memorable
  • Tells you about the book
  • Grabs the readers attention

Novella Cover Art

The name of your story can play a large role in the look and feel of your book cover. However there are many other factors to guide the design, as well as various sources for inspiration if the name is not enough. I personally had nothing in my mind and I did not want some clichéd “Goosebumps” cover either.

Here are ways I was inspired for my cover art:

  1. Main Character or World: My novella revolves around two main characters in two different time periods. For my cover, I decided to feature both characters in their respective eras to both display their personalities and to show the alternating timelines. You can do the same, showing your character, a character in their “natural habitat”, or a vision of where the story takes place.

Brian Smith The Killing Kind book cover C.L. Polk Witchmark book cover H.G. Wells The Time Machine book cover

  1. Title as a Picture: I had initially thought of using the name of the book for the cover, but also had a fear it would be too cliched and felt overdone. At the same time, there were also ideas that worked really well using the novellas name. You too can use the title of your book to inspire the cover.

Matt Wallace Greedy Pigs book cover Stieg Larsson The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book cover Brandon Sanderson The Final Empire book cover

  1. Mystery Between Title and Cover: This is, to me, one of the better and most effective cover designs used in the published space. Many books I own have this clever symbolism of title and cover and only once you’ve read through the book does the cover really both come alive and make greater sense. This cover usually grabs the readers attention and makes them question what the story is about.

Sean McGuire Every Heart A Doorway book cover  

  1. It’s Really Cool Okay!: Sometimes you can just have a really cool cover…

Ted Dekker Three book cover Ransom Riggs Tales of the Peculiar book cover Ray Bradbury The Illustrated Man book cover

  1. It’s a series: Occasionally series will have amazing covers that carry through with each book.

Scotland Yard's Murder Squad book coversWriting the Blurb

Writing blurbs is never easy. Once the title and cover of your book has drawn the attention of a potential reader, the blurb is either going to put them off or reel them in, and of course you want to reel them in.

So how does one go about writing a blurb?

  1. A Simpler Version of Your Story: Take the central aspects of your story that make it standout, and write a compelling, compressed version.
  2. Best First and Last Line: The opening line of your blurb should immediately pull readers in with a promise of good things. The last line should have the same effect, perhaps even ending on a cliffhanger for that final reel in.
  3. Set the Mood: Another way to write your blurb is to set the tone and mood of your story, so readers know immediately what they can expect both in terms of genre, but also story.
  4. See What Other Authors Did: Sometimes you just need to look at what you like in other books, or blurbs that you feel work and see what formula its built on. Then you can write it in your own style

Blurb for Stephen King’s new book “The Outsider

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.


No promises but as I continue along this whole “my novella is getting published” new phase of my writing, I will attempt to keep you all updated on the progress. Thank you for taking the time to read. What’s happening in your writing/reading world?

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GW: A Mother’s Grief – Before I Wake

From my experience watching and reading horror novels, grief always leaves an indelible impression on characters, even more so when those characters are parents, and deeper still when the grief is driven by the loss of a child.

In some cases it is not the loss of a child physically but mentally, that old case where rearing children in a particular way leads the child to exhibiting unexpected behaviour. The “christian” parents whose child abandons the faith. The overprotective parents whose child rebels. And so on.

Sadly, in most cases, it does not take a supernatural occurrence to drive the child into that state, but adding the hyperbole that is horror into the mix, we as the audience see the depths that grief can bring out in people.

It’s not always extreme cases, such as the abuse Carrie White faces from her peers and mother in Carrie, or Alessa Gillespie’s abuse and eventual immolation in Silent Hill or the abusive history of Toshio Saeki in The Grudge.

Sometimes it’s much, much less subtle, such as Cody in Before I Wake:

Still mourning the death of their son, Mark and Jessie Hobson welcome foster child Cody into their lives. Soon they discover he has a strange ability.

The Story

The premise for this dark-fantasy horror film is quite simple. Cody has the ability to make his dreams come to life while he is asleep, and they vanish as soon as he wakes. Sadly he can’t control the ability, and as you can imagine, his nightmares are inevitable.

Writing Style / Atmosphere

Before I Wake carries less of a grisly/dark atmosphere prevalent in horror films. Initially it is much brighter, creating a false sense of security and augmented by Cody’s first dreams coming to life as beautiful blue butterflies, real as they are surreal.

As the story progresses, so does the growing oppressive aura around the whole film, deepened at night when shadows loom around every corner, automatically drawing our eyes to them as we anticipate something lurking in the darkness. This digression is then shown when the butterflies become moths.

Writing: Word choice is as important to creating this gloomy atmosphere as lighting and camera technique is to movies. Not every scene should be foreboding, but there will be elements that coalesce to paint an overarching mood/ambience.

  • Word choice will hint at the unsaid, willing the reader to see more than you’ve told.
  • Foreshadowing gives readers a glimpses of what is to or may come, increasing the sense of apprehension.
  • Sub-plots that seem minor or circumstantial (The Cranker Man) can merge with the bigger picture to tell a much deeper, darker story.
  • A few deaths necessary to the plot will help add to the reality of this horror.

Fear Factor

Before I Wake centers around a child’s known fear they can’t explain, made manifest by parents who downplay that fear.

The character development of both Jessie and Cody, intertwine perfectly to bring this fear alive. Cody is aware that his nightmares coming to life could mean losing his parents both a) physically from the nightmare monster, and b) physically as his ability may scare them off and send him to another foster home. To a child’s mind, these are very real fears.

You see how he attempts to overcome it in the choices he makes, such as reading books about butterflies to keep the nightmares away (among others), and drinking anything to keep himself awake.

Writing: Writing about a fear is never easy. This is why character development plays an important role in creating that sense of unease and dread.

  • Let the fear correlate with the characters. Cody’s main fear is the nightmare creature he calls “The Cranker Man” and later on in the movie we get the full story of where the name comes from and why he is so afraid of him.
  • Ground the fear into the characters until its almost tangible enough that it manifests itself into an almost irrational terror. Cody forced to stay awake leads to an incident that literally haunts him later in the movie, solidifying his fear of both sleeping and The Cranker Man.
  • Not all fears are rational, however, how you inject and show that fear in characters will make it more plausible and relatable. This helps you turn even the most irrational fear into a paranoid-fueled rational fear.

Character Flaw

The true horror is not in the fact that Cody’s nightmares come to life per se, but grief.

Cody’s grief created The Cranker Man.

Jessie Hobson’s indomitable grief drove her to use Cody’s abilities for herself. Her first child accidentally drowned in the bath so, as a recently grieving mother also suffering from deep-seated guilt, you can imagine the appeal of your new foster child bringing your dead child to life at the mere cost of sleeping. This obsession eventually blurs the line between being a good mom and being a grieving mother.

Mark, Jessie’s husband, sees his wife’s digression and gets drawn in too at first. Sadly he does little to help comfort her, even when he realises just how far she’s been willing to go to use Cody’s abilities.

Writing: In my opinion, writing horror shouldn’t only be about scares and gore and ghosts (among other things). Yes there’s a place for it, but looking at Before I Wake, there’s also delving into the human psyche.

  • Put yourself in each character’s shoes and ask yourself how you would react in that situation. More importantly, why.
  • Asking why helps build solid characters. Does the answer slowly grind away at the character’s sanity or belief to the point where logic and realism blur with the illogical and surreal.
  • What are your character’s flaws? Test them severely. Usually in horrors, the characters end up making bad decisions. (Running up the stairs, going into the basement, playing that evil blues record they were told not to).

It would have been easy for this movie to simply be about Jessie and Mark trying to figure out what causes Cody’s dreams coming to life, but before that we see Jessie’s character digression, fueled by the very real and palpable experience of grief. We see innocents suffer for it too. This character flaw not only frustrates (don’t go there!), but shows us that sometimes we’re willing to justify doing the unthinkable for the sake of getting what we think we need. Whether its safety or

Isn’t that true horror?

The Twist

The visible “Cranker Man” is not the villain of this film. He is actually a physical manifestation of Cody’s fear, interlinked with an event in his past and his own coping mechanism for that trauma. He is more Cody’s protector than some nightmare creature like Freddy Kruger would be.

Cody himself is not the villain of this film. Sure it’s his nightmares and physically materialised creature that threatens those around him, but it’s really just how his young mind is trying to cope.

Jessie herself is not the villain either, though her actions are selfish and put her herself, husband and Cody in danger. But as explained, she too is suffering and this is her way of coping, though in her eventual effort to finally solve the mystery of Cody’s dream, she helps bring closure to everyone.

The real villain is actually something more real and not at all supernatural or otherwise. It’s a reality that affects many people in the real world, and this film is about how it affects those around people who fall victim to both its effect and high mortality rate. It was given a personification in Before I Wake, the hyperbole of horror, to show how devastating its effects would be.

Spoiler – highlight to read it.

“The Cranker Man” is Cody mispronouncing the word cancer, which is how his biological mother died, and the Cranker Man is the only way his young mind is able to grasp this unseen monster. This real killer.

Writing: There’s a lot to pull out of this in terms of writing, and how it is the reason why the story, fear factor, character flaw, and final twist work so well together. This is because the horror is not a supernatural being, or some otherworldly creature that one can simply overcome by stabbing or shutting a door leading to the “beyond”. Nor is it a masked killer who is actually just human. It is the real horror of every day life for some people.

  • Not every creature/entity has to be mythological or supernatural. Sometimes its something as simple as a virus e.g. zombie apocalypse.
  • The story itself is not always about the creature/entity, but how those around it are coping with the reality of its existence. The entities add the suspense and action. E.g. The Mist by Stephen King.
  • Not every horror ends in despondency. Sometimes there really is light at the end of the tunnel, and they live on past the darkness.

Fun Fact

Before I Wake was initially called Somnia and was co-written by Director Mike Flanagan and co-writer Jeff Howard. Flanagan had to say about writing the script for this film:

“I think that for someone like me, monsters and ghosts are very real but only in so much as the ones we create, the ones we are all haunted by. They have everything to do with our past, with regrets, mistakes we’ve made, people and time we’ve lost … Somnia, even more than Oculus, is dealing with intense feelings of loss, and of the worse kind. I don’t know if there’s any real world horror, or a personal level at least, that can compare with losing a child. I think my other movies have been building up to Somnia in a way.”

 

Here’s a trailer for the movie…


Let me know if you’ve seen this film and your thoughts about it. If you’re a writer, horror or otherwise, was this helpful to you? Any way that it could be improved? Let me know in the comments below.

Genre Writing: Story Crafting in Horror Movies

It has been a while since I wrote anything in the horror genre, and as a horror writer I feel as though that is repugnant. Which is why today I announce a rather new endeavour in my genre writing segment which has been on hold since October 2017 (where has the time gone?) You can read those previous iterations here to catch up.

Story Crafting in Movies

The idea for this particular series was borne from two thoughts merging into one. The first is my desire to watch more horror movies as a source of inspiration for future works. The second is the lack of horror content on this blog connected to the sad truth that I haven’t actually written any bone-chilling tales in a while – or rather, haven’t published them to the public.

The idea itself will be simple. Each week I will watch one horror movie and from it, look at the story and how I feel it was crafted, why or why not it worked (in my opinion), look at character and character development, and see what kind of horror trope it falls under if any. I hope to look at as many types of horror movies too, from the old to the new, from slashers to supernatural to psychological and all others in-between. I predict many nightmares in my future.

So Movie Reviews?

The purpose of this genre writing segment isn’t so much to review the movie, as it is to draw out the narrative being told. To see how those elements of story telling were woven together to craft the final work and how it can be applied to your own writing (or mine). It will also include segmenting it into some of the elements I highlighted in Genre Writing: Horror – World Building which looked at the following:

  • Writing style
  • Atmosphere
  • Fear Factor
  • Character Flaws
  • Twists
  • Realism vs Logic
  • Emotional vs Psychological
  • Gore
  • and Cliches

From here I hope to see how they could be applied to writing, and then hopefully craft a story for Friday Fiction to show how I would apply those elements into my own little flash fiction.


On that note, if you know of any horror movies (good or bad) let me know in the comments please, you will definitely get a shout out.

Death of a King: Steampunk Joburg Comes To Life

Yes you read that right. Remember my idea of turning Johannesburg into a city of literal gold, powered by steam engines? Well I’ve finally come up with a concept that will bring this envisioned idea to life. The book(s) will be titled Death of a King and will involve… well, kings, in a less traditional format.

Books and Art

I’m always referring to myself as an “artist” when self-promoting but I have done very little to show this side of myself. Which is one of the reasons why Death of a King will take on a different kind of format. Similar to the Japanese light novel, I will be adding images into the book to enhance the story further. That way there’s the epic story happening and visuals to augment the experience.

The Story

As I stated before, the story will focus on Kings, but with an added twist to the whole element. The story will also be mainly based in South Africa, Johannesburg, but will incorporate a lot of Africa too. It will also be very dark, and fall under the genre of grim dark which Adam Roberts describes as:

“fiction ‘where nobody is honourable and Might is Right’, and as ‘the standard way of referring to fantasies that turn their backs on the more uplifting, Pre-Raphaelite visions of idealized medievaliana, and instead stress how nasty, brutish, short and, dark life back then really was’.  he noted that grimdark has little to do with re-imagining an actual historic reality and more with conveying the sense that our own world is a “cynical, disillusioned, ultraviolent place”. ~ Wiki-Grimdark

Release Date?

Ha, if only I knew. The concept itself requires a lot of world building and character development. Of course there’s the art aspect of it too so drawing images to that fine detail and style will also take some time. Then of course it’s writing the book itself and that whole editing process. It’s going to take a while.

However, I just wanted to let you know of what is coming and you will probably see all of this coming together on this blog. Once the ball is rolling, you’ll be sure to see my other sites bring it all together such as Patreon-only artwork, concept art, short stories from the created world and much more.

So that’s my writing update for May. Apologies for my silence, and hoping to hear from you all as I continue this writing journey.

Two Types of Story Crafting I Discovered (Again)

Some time back I submitted an unnamed novel to my editor for a look-see. It’s a horror story set in two different time-zones, intermingled with time-travel and wax sculptures that bleed maggots. It was an idea borne from two prompts and co-joined into one grisly story. It also required a ton of both research and thumb-sucking.

At the same time, or at least close enough to it, I had that mind-blowing concept of a Steampunk version of my city, Johannesburg, which you can read in my last article: New Inspiration – Steampunk Johannesburg.

I came to realise, though it’s nothing new, that there are two main ways I go about writing a story:

Story Built Around A World

When I came up with a steampunk version of Joburg, I didn’t have a story. It was merely a city of literal gold, with gears built into the rising towers, slowly cranking at each turn, controlling various parts of the city. Some of it controlled the mining for gold. Others, the changing of traffic lights, the control of water, the generating of electricity. A great idea in my head. What then did it need?

  1. A Fitting Story: Of course every great world needs a story. A compelling story that fits the time, location, and people of the created world. In my head, as I saw this city unfold in front of my mind’s eye, I spotted a figure running along the roof tops of this fabricated city. Who was he? Why was he running? What was that clutched under his arm? As the world is set in a steampunk era, the story could have a feeling of being old but with an air modern lifestyle. There are plenty of stories that can be created from this amazing golden era!
  2. Compelling Characters: Right so I have the first character sorted – the guy running on roof tops. Maybe he’s being chased by Federation airships and Commander van nie Kerk is hot on his trail. Maybe he’s running to a secret organisation with documents tucked under his arm. Was the character part of political intrigue or perhaps inside the package he carried the still warm heart of his latest victim? Each of these story ideas can be spun around me new world, creating characters varying from inventors, to pilots, alchemists, mad-scientist, and who knows what from the story I hope to tell.
  3. Intriguing Plot: It’s all well and good to have a diverse world coupled with a brewing story and compelling characters, but what it really needs as well is an intriguing plot. Maybe the gears that everyone thinks merely run various aspects of the city, are actually pieces of a bigger cog. A gear slowly winding down to the destruction of the planet like a giant clock at the center of the earth. Maybe they control the opening and closing to the gates of hell? Maybe its alien technology and below ground in the mines, they have enslaved humanity to use them for powering the cogs. Our character on the rooftop may  figured out what’s happening down there and is on a quest to save us all from certain doom. Or they be an advocate for the villains, escaping with plans that will ensure our destruction. Who knows…

A World Built Around The Story

Five years ago I found an image on the internet. A beautiful drawing of a girl with white hair and black vest, grey sweatpants falling down to bare feet. She had white wings. Above her head was a halo… made of barbwire. It’s title: Junk Angel. Once I saw her and the title, a story began to form in my head. The story of a girl who was the Junk Yard Angel.

The first iteration of Junk Yard Angel was about a woman who killed people and turned them into her own mechanical monstrosities.

Later on I began to expand on this story, building the persona of this mysterious woman and trying to find out where exactly she fit in. Thus I had to build a world for herin. I saw junk yards, broken cities, old-school bars and taverns; places where she could find her victims… and they wouldn’t be missed.

What then did it need?

  1. A Kick-ass World: When you have a crazy maybe-half-robot-totally-human-looking girl with a razor wire halo, then her world has to at least reflect that fact. So much so that most of the JYA world has been built around her. When you read the story you will understand just how much.
  2. An Amazing Backstory: Knowing where your character (and sub-characters) come from, help define the places within the world of your story. You consider the environments around the characters and ask how the world would look around them. For instance, I have a character from a country similar to Russia/Serbia where snowfall is a constant. What kind of technology or tools would they use in this environment, and how would it reflect in the story.
  3. Mysterious Magic/Tech System:  On the topic of technology, perhaps your characters have an occupation that requires them to use machinery. Aviator. Solider. Taxi Driver. Doctor. Engineer… and so on. Or perhaps they have a particular ability such as magic or some form of “kinesis”. Perhaps there’s a supernatural element to them.
    Each of these help define the progression and history of the world, affecting how everything looks and works from buildings to locations to attire to religion. The world-building aspect of your story built from both story and characters.

 

What is your writing process when it comes to story-telling. Does your world affect your story or does your story affect your world? Perhaps both? What techniques do you use to define what kind of story you’re going to tell?

Camp NaNo 2018: The Dilemma of Stagnant Progress

It’s been a slow week for me this Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ve restarted about five times, struggled to write that killer opening line, and now I’m trying to get my story going. As slow as it’s going, I’m working on not quitting. I think there’s a gem in this story somewhere and I just have to keep chipping away until it reveals itself. I will probably re-write it anyway but for now it’s all about getting that word count going yeah? Speaking of which, here’s my current progress:

 

 

Writing Without a Plan:

The idea formed back in March (how is it April already!?) and back then I couldn’t wait to write. So I put down the basic thought and left it to simmer. What happened between then and now? Who knows. I didn’t want to think about the story in case I write it before I write it. You know? It’s playing out in your head, building itself up but not in any physical sense? Yeah that. Only when I sat down to start writing, I found that the story had lost its bulk and become a wasted, formless thing. Skulking in the dark recess of my mind on its last leg.

I didn’t know where to start or how. Couldn’t figure out where I wanted the story to go. I still don’t, but it’s beginning to take some shape again. My little ball of unformed clay spinning and spinning and spinning while my dirty hands form and reform the piece of clay into something. Anything.

Getting Over It

As much as I hate that “Just get over it” phrase that we sometimes use, with the expectation that the recipient of the advice will simply overcome their struggle and be fine, I’ve had to tell myself the same thing. It didn’t work, of course, but it changed my mindset a little. Set a silver lining against the clouds of doubt forming. This was augmented by:

  • Reading: Okay so maybe Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and Brandon Sanderson aren’t the greatest motivators, when they know how to spin engaging stories so well and seemingly easily. Nonetheless reading their works has helped clarify some of my own writing issues. Especially with the skeletal framework that is my current WIP. I just finished King’s ‘Salem’s Lot and looking to finish The Illustrated Man by Bradbury. I’m feeling a shift in the winds.

      

  • Music: I’m writing a horror so I needed something heavy. That turned out to be Lamb of God, Slipknot, and the occasional Paramore because there’s apparently romance in my story. Hearing the heavy guitar riffs and deep vocals from these metal bands (not you Hayley Williams, your voice is a dream) I find the scenes writing themselves out naturally.
  • Netflix, Crunchyroll, and Manga: Movies, series, anime, and manga – that’s the good life. There’s a lot of good content out there, with unique stories and characters. How they form all of those smaller intricacies that later reveal themselves to be key sub-plots to an even bigger (and mind-blowing) main arc still baffles me. It also motivates me.

Not My Best – That’s For My Editor

Nicky, if you’re reading this, I apologise in advance haha. I’m not really happy or proud of this novella, but I’m writing it. I will finish it. By the 30th of APril (hopefully sooner) I will have 30 000 words of story. Of writing. Of content that later can be tweaked and refined and made better. Maybe this is my Carrie (Stephen King threw it in the trash. His wife rescued it. It was his first published work). Maybe. Nonetheless I will keep writing.

And that’s all I can do right now.

Writing Hiatus (Not Really)

Hey all,

I guess it’s been a long time since I updated the blog and the reason for that is my mind just failing to wrap itself around life in general. Just a lot of things happening all in all which makes writing difficult. No it’s not writers block, and nothing health wise. Just choices I’ve been making in the last couple of months all catching up at the same time, and emotionally I’m frayed.

At the same time, yesterday I churned out 3000 words in about an hour as two different intros for an idea I have. Each of them an intro to a new story twirling about in my mind like a ballerina doing an endless series of pirouettes. So rather than trying to catch up to March blog posts and book reviews and the endless list of books I keep adding to my reading list, I’ll be going on a mini-hiatus.

So what will I be doing in the mean time?

Camp NaNo Prep

Camp NaNoWrimo is coming up next month. I’ve decided to write another novella (while my other one is still with my editor/publisher). The story is a horror romance temporarily named Upon an Endless Sea. That’s about all I have (I doubt I will use all previous drafts I’ve written haha) so I’ll be using the rest of March to put down some characters and a plot of some sort so I can pants my way through April.

Reading

I am so behind on my reading. Not that I haven’t been reading. On my bedside table (and following me around like a demonic shadow) is the book Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams. It’s about an angel who goes into hell to rescue his demon lover. Beautiful ain’t it? Not so much. It’s like Williams was playing DnD with his characters and every side of the die was an even worse situation than before. A true descent – pun intended. I also have to finish The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradubury and a bunch of other author requested book reviews.

Binge Watching (a.k.a Inspiration)

Yes, yes, yes. I will be watching all the series and movies and anime I haven’t seen yet. Me and Netflix/Crunchyroll gonna have a good time. On my list is:

  1. Altered Carbon
  2. Blade Runner 2049
  3. Insidious 2 + 3 (watched first already)
  4. Baywatch (Don’t even ask)
  5. Dexter
  6. The Machinist
  7. The Taxi Driver
  8. Jacob’s Ladder
  9. Requiem for a dream
  10. Zodiac
  11. A list-full of Anime

Talk about distractions inspiration. Anyway, here’s to a productive March of planning and onwards to an April of writing.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll see ya’ll in April yeah!?

#FlashFiction: Fees and Bodies Must Fall

“Fees and Bodies Must Fall” was my entry for Microcosms Fic for this past Friday. The prompt was:

(Gonzo) Journalist / House Party / Crime


You would think the blood spatter, taste of copper, and underlying stench of faecal matter would ward me and the others off 17 Mahogany Drive that hot July afternoon. It wouldn’t. Journalists are the curious type and like the proverbial cat, death is part of the gig. Confetti is still strewn about the leather couch, right next to a Ms. Davidson, 22, student at the University of Johannesburg. We look over the shoulders of a police squadron on site led by a Constable Gumede who is all frowns and glares.

“This isn’t a puppet show,” he growls. But we know it is. And not because we can see the threads of bed sheets hanging off the balcony, angling Ms Davidson across the couch like a modern-day Death of Marat. It’s because we know the M.O. That this is the third victim in the repertoire of a man we journos have affectionately labelled The Neoclassic Killer. Just the previous month, a house party in the pseudo-glitzy Parktown area revealed students from Wits University arranged as The Death of Socrates. Bed sheets and all.

It’s difficult to remain objective when faced with the surrealism that our city has a serial killer. The fear radiating through our bones. Poisoning our hearts. Lining our street poles with headlines screaming murder at each corner. Yet we must remain objective so we may assess the situation without emotion. To notice that the killer targets these students not based on any merit of their own but the continuous protests sweeping our streets; Fees Must Fall – which Ms Davidson led as an advocate of.

I am not a prophet, it’s not in my job title, but as more pledges rise, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next classic we see, is The Oath of The Horatii. And death.

New Inspiration: Steampunk Johannesburg

I’ve made a new observation: I’m not observant enough. I spend at least two hours in traffic and apart from the massive billboards vying from my attention, I don’t really look around much. Or I may look at a car but never really my surroundings.

As one who loves nature, I’m far more fascinated with drives down to Durban or Drakensberg, where the concrete towers and varying high walls and buzz of incessant traffic give way to sprawling greenery against a backdrop of harsh, grey mountain dipping its feet in deep-blue tranquil waters. I can watch that all day. How I love that scene. That image.

image of Drakensberg mountain

Image courtesy of: Go Self-Drive Tours

It was only quite recently, following a trip back to the city from nature’s beauty, that I became aware of landscapes around my home-city too. Then during the walk through the Joburg Central Business District (CBD), I started to notice the little things about it. The varying trees growing within the city. The modern buildings directly across their older, derelict kin. The repaired roads running parallel to the new public transport lane of the Rea-Vaya and its co-joined Bus lane. The uneven, mud-caked site populated by squatters and hawkers right beside the refurbished pavement leading towards the Mandela Bridge.

I noticed the cluttered, and varying shops with displays just outside their glass facades, with the door man calling out to us passing by. The street vendors cooking seemingly shady meat on equally-shady grills. Then I noticed the people. Like really noticed the people. All shapes and colours and fashions and styles. A marriage of cultures, languages, people, nations. Truly a rainbow nation.

image: Johannesburg CBD, Mandela Bridge

Johannesburg CBD and the Mandela Bridge

 

Same City. But Different: Egoli – City of Gold

So this new idea I’m rolling with (amongst others, I know, I know) came to me as a series of intermingled thoughts finding connections I hadn’t seen before. They are:

  1. Johannesburg is nicknamed, the City of Gold by miners who worked in the gold mines. e’Goli – where there is gold. I spend a lot of time in these streets. In a car, but… still.
  2. Many of you know I have a love for all things Steampunk. I even started a steampunk tumblr account at one point and I’m still (still) working on my steampunk novel Junk Yard Angel – 5 years strong.
  3. Worldbuilding is one of my favourite activities while I’m driving. Spending too much time in my head thinking of different scenarios. Concepts as trivial as what my first speech will be when I publish my book, to creating whole worlds where the species is telepathic which means we would not be able to hide our thoughts and someone just created a device that stops that from happening and its implications. You know. The usual drivel.

Then came that truly mind-blowing thought: Steampunk Johannesburg made with real gold buildings and political leaders broadcasting their campaigns on airships crossing the city skyline. The air has a constant buzz, not only from the passing pedestrians of every ethnicity, but from the gears that run the city, and the continuing mines constantly searching for the precious metal. Yes. I can see it now.

It’s so beautiful.

image: Johannesburg skyline sunrise

Submitting the Perfect Story

The year begins with a bang and there’s been much afoot since the clock turned the calendar over from 2017 to 2018. I’ll be meeting Nicky of Chasing Dreams Publishing this Saturday to work on getting my own novella published. What I hope to be a psychological thriller horror based on a short story I’m working on.

This particular short story is an idea I want to submit to FlashBack Fiction by the end of this week. The foundation for what is to come. The problem is that I keep running into the same wall every time I get to that 500 word limit; I find the story… boring.


The Perfect Story

I sit at my desk and let the mind begin its usual marathon run through visuals and ideas until it latches upon a man in a high collar shirt, white, and sleeves rolled to the elbows. Perfectly tousled hair whips in the soft breeze as he walks through a bustling street filled with dames in flouncing dress and lace parasols. The men tip hats, lips curling up with their carefully trimmed mustaches. Others ride by nonchalant on bicycles with empty baskets leading the way. Many park against intermittent trees lining the paved walkways where cafes and curious shops have opened for the morning. Woven chairs are arranged around square tables draped in cloth, adorned with cutlery and obscure vases from the local artisans. Coffee. Bacon. Toast. Their scents fill the warm air. Accompanying the scent is the rustle of leaves from the nearby trees. The crinkle of newspaper as a man in a bowler hat turns his copy of Die Zeit. Tranquil. Peaceful. Happy.

It contrasts the thoughts swirling through my protagonist who watches with a careful smile hiding his darkest thoughts. The satchel at his waist portrays him as an artisan though none know of his particular work. Of the “museum” that awaits him in the bricked apartments right above the supposed serenity the scene in front of him plays. He knows behind the coiffed styles of both the men and woman, behind their rosy cheeks and wide smiles and oiled beards lie secrets. Fears. Worries. Dark thoughts. They aren’t that much different from him. Not much at all.

And this is where I begin my story. The above description is a cut scene from my mind and now we step into the protagonist’s shoes as the writing begins.

Only from here, as I try to slip the darkness into the serenity, I find the pacing too slow or too fast. The transition too drastic or not drastic enough. I’m failing to find the balance between writing style and effect. To add that gut-wrenching punch drawing breath from lungs as you wail “No!” in horror and squirm where you sit, glancing behind you as paranoia sweeps along your spine in cold tendrils.

That. That is what my perfect story would be. But I’m struggling here. Anyway let me get to writing the new draft and see if I can craft the perfect story so I can submit it. *Sighs

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