Gearing Up For Camp NaNo…

Well, it is the dying hours of June over here, and that means that I’ll be this time tomorrow working on finishing one (of way too many) of my unfinished projects. A lot has been done with it already, and I plan to get it finished, and then move on to other things that need finishing.

I also am feeling a bit nervous, a large part because i am hosting a cabin, and am keen to get it to work. I’m sure it will all go fine, but there is always that niggling doubt…

Hopefully, throughout July, I will be giving regular updates as to my progress. It’ll prove interesting to see what successes I have, and what pitfalls I discover along the way. And hopefully, some others will be reading along, and discovering them along with me.

Well, I wish all those participating a great and successful month, and to everyone – See you on the other side.

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Marked

She walked forwards, hoping that her information was correct. She’d never done anything like this before, but with the weirdness happening at her school, Miskatonic Academic Institute of Learning. Or as the kids at this party would say, the rich frakkers. Well, if they’d even heard of that term. She’d picked it up from her friend Holly, who had picked it up from… somewhere. Maybe from Leigh, who was always butchering words together to sound elegantly eloquent.

Ginger Kurtwood – Ginny to everyone who knew her – stalked the dancing throngs of people. She noticed one or two middle-aged people, but this was an underground party, legally and literally, so there were all manner of ages here. But mostly young. And since it was Halloween night, full of costumes and Gothic partiers. Ginny herself had a Gothic Japanese schoolgirl outfit on, black with white shirt and lace edging, blazer with large rounded lapels, embroidered crest on her black tie. She pushed forwards, black laced hands parting the crowds, long legs striding her forwards, the black buckled leather boots adding more inches of height to her. Her normally vivid red hair and eyebrows were raven black for the night, her hair down instead of twisted up as usual. The music was noisy, pulse-pounding; the lighting epileptic rainbows beaming themselves about. She closed her eyes, and after a moment, she saw things a little differently. She could see exactly who – what – to go for. She smirked. She didn’t know what she had seen, but it wasn’t human. And it was now about to greet death…

“Hey, fancy getting me a drink?” she asked casually, hoping that she looked old enough. Granted, there were bound to be a number of under-age there, but she needed to be led away, and she didn’t know if age could serve as bait… the pale blonde guy looked her up and down, and smiled. She smiled back, her nerves slipping through. She had no idea how to chat a guy up, and now, she needed this creature to lead her away, so she could quietly dispatch him… He whispered in her ear, and Ginny waited, nerves breeding impatience. She hated the old cellars the city had re-discovered under the main street of the old shopping area. The stonework reminded her of mausoleums.

He returned, they chatted as they sipped at the weird coloured cocktails he had provided. Ginny was ready for the alcohol, making sure it wouldn’t affect her, not tonight at least. He offered a cigarette, and she faked eagerness, pulling out a lighter and started sucking, making the end glow and smoke. She exhaled effortlessly, mimicking all the moves she had seen Leigh do over the years. With effort, she smoked it, making sure it seemed to burn down. A small, simple trick, one that was luring him into false security.

The talking continued; she saying she was born and bred a Providencer, him from out of town. He commented on how well spoken she was, how clear and moneyed her accent was. She faked the bored rich girl persona her friend Felicia often displayed. After a lot of flirting and socialising – all mimicry of her friends in action – Ginny found herself led away. Finally, she thought, we can get to slay him. She’d taken the oaths, she’d made the vows. Now was the time to fulfil them. She quietly put the cigarette, unlit and unused, into the pocket where she pulled out a lighter.

She strode forwards, the boots making her a full head taller than him. She kept glancing about, looking to see if she could spot any others like him. She chided herself on her lack of knowledge; then again, since the demise of the secret order she had been recruited into, Ginny couldn’t risk drawing attention to herself. She had been lucky to escape the Purge; she hadn’t been Initiated, and had been by her dying grandmother’s side, when the Thorns of Lovecraft had their memories and… skills hollowed out of them. In a matter of hours, the society HP Lovecraft had set up in her school had been erased. The pain of seeing the older students, her mentor… not remembering, reduced… something had snapped in Ginny, and combined with seeing the one person in her family that had cared about her, loved her dying… she had never been able to cry since. Her emotions were gone, filled with the need to deliver payback to the Darkness that had stolen them from her.

Tonight, she would avenge them.

Her sight picked out a couple of auras that were like the creature luring her away, and then a couple more. She noticed that her prey had just slipped his phone into his jacket’s pocket. The others were moving ahead faster, clearly to entrap her. She thought quickly. Then smirked. With full concentration, she slowed down slightly. Now, anyone watching would see she was right behind the creature still. Just like him seeing her smoke. Ginny was very, very good at making glamours. She hung back, watching him take her copy down a passageway, then another, then another, until the throbbing, pulsing of the music had ebbed. It opened up into a chamber, and she could see others hiding behind some of the pillars that propped up the ceiling. Faintly, she could hear the thrumming of traffic above. She willed the glamour to keep following, whilst she invisibly held back. With inhuman deftness, the other four encircled the glamour, trapping it. Ginny stared at the floor around them, willing out another spell. As they tried to rush her, they found the glamour vanishing, and their feet sticking fast. With a smirk, she pulled out her wand from a blazer pocket, and took a couple of steps forwards-

And found her legs suddenly paralysed.

The creatures twisted round, sensing where their quarry was. Ginny’s face wore a mask of fierce determination, her holly and black deer antler wand pointing at them. Then there was a blur, and something was attacking the male and female human-like creatures, crunching leg bones causing howls of agony as they found themselves crippled, unable to collapse to the floor, thanks to her spell. Ginny felt vomit threatening to spew out her throat, fear pounding her heart like a thousand frantic, frenetic war drums, her mind momentarily paralysed by blind panic.

But only for a moment.

She looked down, trying to see why she couldn’t move forwards. Crystals. Five crystals had been placed – somehow – around her feet. She could still move her feet up, but not forwards or backwards. With intense concentration, she knelt down, and then jumped up as hard as she could. She felt herself levitate, the sudden upward force making her stomach lurch again. She seriously fought the urge to vomit as she used her fingers to more herself along the ceiling, desperately trying to keep her mind calm and focussed, blocking out the sounds of tearing flesh, screams of pain and rage, of something feasting on the creatures… she pushed herself down, and harmlessly reached the floor, when she ran as hard and fast as she possibly could. She turned and turned again, getting back to the party.

She scanned hurriedly about, noting that everyone was human. She quickly cast a glamour, pouring into it as much of her magical reserves as she could dare to. After some chanting, and concentrating, the archway she had just come through had turned into a wall. Some of the people near her stared, curious, then clapped as they thought it a party trick. Wide eyes darting about, Ginny took a bow, then pushed her way forwards. The glamour should hold for a day or so. She glanced back, relieved breathing as she saw the drunken revellers touching it, feeling every bit like a solid wall. Which was the idea. It had given her a headache doing it, but she had years of practice, and knew how to produce something as complicated as that.

“Impressive trick, my little witch,” said a voice behind her. She spun round, face to face with the eyes of the supernatural being that wiped out the five in the corridor. She stepped back in fear, glancing about the place. It was too public to try to stop him… he looked at her, and smiled. With insane deftness, he snatched her wand out of her hand, and it fell to the floor, an electric shock numbing his hand. He regarded it with intense interest.

“So… you are one of Howard’s pupils. How is the old devil?” Ginny looked at him, eyes wide with blank shock, and then rushed to the floor to pick up her wand. When she stood up, he was gone.

“I had heard that the order he founded had been eliminated. But here you are, stalking lessers. Pitifully, to be honest.” Ginny spun round, and saw nothing again.

“Who are you?” she demanded, drawing strange looks from those nearby. She looked away, chastened.

“A dear enemy of Howard and Abraham. Though, I doubt you would know who Abraham was. He died many a year ago,” he lamented. Ginny spun round, and was dragged towards a corner, where a makeshift table had been set up. She decided against fighting; she couldn’t risking innocent people. Her duty was to protect them, even if it was with her death.

That was the Thorns way.

He made her sit down, and undid her collar, loosening her tie. Forcefully tilting her head back, she whimpered, ready for what she guessed was next.

“Why kill them? Those monsters?” She asked timidly. He chuckled.

“I was hungry. When you live as long as I, humans do not satisfy as much. Besides… they were crass. Inferior to what had been gifted them.” His teeth sank into her throat before she could react.

Two sharp, hot slices of pain were instantly replaced with searing pleasure. Images flashed through her head, her life, focussing on three owls, staring down from a tree. He withdrew immediately. Her hand to her neck.

“Interesting… another has marked you,” he remarked. He smiled curiously.

“I’m not their daughter,” she protested.

“Until next time,” he said, before leaving at the table, and to the far exit.

Crafting A New Outline, Preparing For July…

Currently having internet problems at home, so am restricted in what I can do. But it should be sorted out next week.

In the meantime, I’ve been slowly crafting and building a new outline for a story. It has been bugging me for years. The idea (this time) coming from a novel I read, and thought ‘that was good… but I’m sure it could be done better if done in this way…’ So now I am doing just that.

The story will be following a girl who is insecure and uncertain of herself. Understanderble, given she is the daughter of the Grim Reaper… and has necromantic powers of her own, such as seeing and intereacting with ghosts. Not only that, but she is at a private school in London, as the command of the Norns. And as term starts, murders start happening, scarily like those of Jack the Ripper…

So expect me to put up some thoughts and ideas up on this one, as I hone and develop it.

As for July, I’m gearing up for it. I’m looking forwards to seeing complete – at long last – the story The Nightmare Child. I started it in April 2014, and whilst is complete in outline form, it isn’t complete as a story. This is set at the same school I used in The Thorns Of Lovecraft, Miskatonic Academy. In fact, it is set a few years before the events of the school, explornig the place before the terrible events of that novel happen.

Sorry this isn’t a big post, but I thought I should do something, to let people know I’m not dead, or given up on this blog.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation…

It is annoying, you know, this whole blog thing.

I have ideas for posts, and have yet to get round to dealing with them. And then, I end up seeing something, and I just know I will have to write something in response…

This time, it is the comment of “I never plan anything, I guess this is why I have so many unfinished stories.” A massive, heavily paraphrased comment, I can assure you. But it raises the question: is it impossible to write without a plan?

So, here is my take on the matter, and a bit of my experiences, as well.

The first fiction I ever wrote never had a plan to it. All I had was a scene in my head, and I knew that was where I wanted it to go to. The second was also unplanned, and needed revising before I even got to finish it, because I had fallen foul of the “no research” trap. A terrible thing to be avoided at all costs, I can readily assure you. The third novel was unplanned as well, and I was just writing scenes all over the place, and then slowly stitching the scenes together with more and more interconnecting scenes. A most difficult and frustrating way to do it, at least for me. So nowadays, I’m the opposite. I plan, I plot away, I research like crazy, and will photoshop pictures together to get an idea of what each key character looks like… So I never write anything unscripted, literally “winging it,”  as they say?

Well, that isn’t the case.

Last year, 2014 NaNoWriMo was there, and I had a massive crisis. I had been working on an outline for a book, and it just wasn’t working. No matter how hard I tried, this perspective, that direction, leaving out some characters, putting them back in, and removing other characters… nothing seemed to work. I was there, closer and closer to the start of November, and all I had was an unworkable mess. (I have since figured out why it was an unworkable mess, but I will save that for another time.) I was staring at failure before I had even begun.

Then Lucy saved the day.

Who is Lucy, you might wonder? Not a who, but a what. I had somehow come across a trailer for the film Lucy, starring Scarlet Johansen. I looked into the background of the film, and saw a vague description for it. The idea, however, captivated me, and I ended up putting everything aside, and then started fleshing out the idea for myself. By the time I had watched the film I already was going in quite a different direction. And I was glad for it, because there is no way I would write a story as crazy, insane… and well… rubbish as that film. Yes, I was entertained, but I was also staring at it with utter bemusement that the director – Luc Besson – had come up with it.

But the essential thing was… I had an idea. I could move forwards.

The idea was adding, and then fusing into a new whole, another film. Well, a final scene. I had seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and one of the Easter Egg scenes had my mind racing. Okay, I was excited at the notion of the two characters appearing in a future film, but it was there, sparking ideas of its own. The end result?

Girl agrees to medical experiment that gives her psychic powers.

And that was the way I was trying to play it. However, I had by then a few other characters, and I was finding myself going in a different direction to that. So, I followed, just wishing to have a vague clue as to where I was going to end up. No matter how hard I tried, the experiment wasn’t happening. So I found a different way to make it happen, and then there were two new friends, and then things developed… And in the end, I have a story that works. But it was painful to get to the point where it was doing well.

That was one agonising , tiring month. The story isn’t finished, though I went over the fifty thousand limit, and won the target. Thing is, I know – roughly – how to finish it, and I plan to do so, when I know the status of my old laptop’s hard-drive. (my old laptop died on my, so I have a lot of things in limbo.) But I know that I can finish it, even if I have to re-write the last two days of writing. (which would be several thousand words, to say the least…)

So… what advice can I possibly offer to people going through a story unplanned?

  • Listen to the characters. They will help you by showing where they want to go. In fact, fleshed out characters are an essential thing here, the more detail you have for at least the main character, the better.
  • Don’t do anything that will  require you to stop and conduct a lot of research. Stick with familiar locations, Use buildings you know readily, all of that. because when you are trying to go forwards, having to look into details will only serve to kill your momentum. Don’t let it happen, you can research every last detail later. Do only what is absolutely necessary.
  • Have an idea of where you want to go. Even if it is simply “the princess meets the prince, and they all live happily in this castle forever and ever,” that is where you want to head to. Don’t worry about the journey, it will sort itself out. Just keep the destination in sight. If you have certain things you just know must happen, then head for them too. They are your signposts to the journey to get to the destination. Travel to them, one by one.

I have a feeling I will end up, over time, define further and add to that list. But that should serve as some form of starting point, I suspect.

As for July, I plan for that Camp NaNo to finish a story that never got completed, (it has an outline, so it is perfectly fine,) and I have an outline for November waiting to go. Unless, of course, disaster strikes again, and I have to go and wing it once more… we shall have to see.

Blasts From The Past

I have something to admit. I’ve got a few ideas for blog posts, but I have been reading another blog, and where the guy had some adventures getting a snake out of his house, (he had just come back from a cruise with his family,) and the resultant stories coming out of that incident – and his older brother sharing a few snake tales – jogged my memory.

So, I thought I would go and try and produce a post that goes into childhood memories, and snakes and animals. It will relate to writing, I assure you.

When I was growing up, the first house we lived in had this large, long garden. And my mother had tried to grow vegetables at the bottom, and do all sorts. The next door neighbour also grew vegetables, and both were successful at it. The fun part was that there were slow worms about – a type of small, harmless snake. But that didn’t stop the neighbour… he would use his pitchfork on them with impunity, if he saw them. The guy had a fear of snakes, hence him screaming out and throwing that pitchfork like it was an ancient warrior’s spear. Curiously, I wasn’t scared by them; I was curious and fascinated by them. They were harmless, so why keep away from them?

One time, I had dug a small pit, and one had gotten trapped in it. I kept it in there for a day or so, because it was a little like having an exotic pet, I suppose. I certainly wasn’t out to harm it or anything, just keep it and study it. My mother made sure I let it leave, though i made sure it left in the opposite direction to our pitchfork wielding neighbour.

We eventually moved, and we ended up near the sea. My mother by then had ended up  being with this guy, and I remember it was a Sunday… must have been getting towards the winter. We had all gone out, and were walking the dog on one of the local beaches. There we were walking along, me being close to the shoreline, the tide going out. I was miles away, lost in thought. I just happened to look down, and then I shrieked my head off.

I was about to place my foot on a lobster. A live, moving full-size adult lobster.

It was still alive, because it was moving about a bit, even though it was no longer in the ocean. and it was dark, because they go pink when you cook them. In real life, they are a very dark, more blue-black colour. And it had both pincers, too. There was some quick investigating from the adults in the little group, and the guy my mum was with picked  up the lobster, and threw it a small distance away, back into the water. And then we carried on our way.

After a little while, we turned around, and headed back to the car, to go home. It was not starting to get dark now, and the tide was still going out. I was walking away along the shore, thinking away to myself, miles away. I was thinking about things like how it was getting to winter, and that the days were getting shorter. I was also probably getting lost in stories as well, to while the time away on the journey back.

I looked down, and shrieked. Loudly.

I was about to step on a lobster.

This brought even more annoyance, and comments about me being easily scared and all of that. I can safely say that I’d still be likely to shriek now, and I’m not a child. So they were talking out of their backsides. Adult panic in these situations as well as children. And in any case, I was about to use the same foot to nearly tread the same lobster from earlier. We looked, and there were a couple of identifying marks we noticed about it. I didn’t care; I was keeping away from those large claws. I knew what a crab pinching was like, and wasn’t interested in a whole scale larger pinching session, thank you very much. I’d nervously asked if they were planning to cook it and eat it, and the resolute answer was no. They had looked at it, and determined there was something very wrong with it to keep going on the shore like that. So it got tossed away into the water again. And I was relieved to get back to the car, having gotten (understandably) paranoid about stepping on lobsters. I was called an idiot, but seriously… twice? That’s not stupid. That’s realising you have some weird odds stacked against you.

Now… how does this relate to writing?

Thinking about the lobster story, I realise I could use it for a character I’ve been fleshing out in my head. Except that in this case, It would just be father and daughter, and the child is nearly stepping on the lobster. Twice. I have visions of her hating crustaceans as a result, a deep rooted aversion stemming from that childhood experience. Not that she’ll eat them…

Sometimes, personal experiences can be used to flesh out and define characters better. That is what I’ve taken a long time to get to. Though I’m certain some people have chuckled at my recounting my past misadventures with lobsters…