Gilbert Egg-Hound’s bendy tale – Part One


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‘…orrow morning, you scum-sucking, vilely useless piece of infected, foul-smelling discharge!’

Gilbert Egg-Hound was not a patient man.  Having slammed the phone down with the sort of force normally employed by officers of the West Yorkshire Police Force during ‘extended questioning of coloured gentlemen’ during the 1970s, he less-than-calmly walked to his chair.  On reclining and gazing out of the window, Gilbert’s mood began to lift.  From his office by the canal, Gilbert had one of the best views in the city – to the right rose the Corn Exchange (which couldn’t help but to remind him of a majestic single breast nestled amongst the largely phallic skyline) while the building sites, shops and alehouses of Briggate and beyond disappeared straight ahead.  Over to the left, in the distance was the Town Hall, mercifully obscured by the offices and suits of Park Row.

The Town Hall occupied a very particular place in Gilbert’s heart.  Fully to understand this, first requires you to accept the fact that, despite appearances, hearsay and reams of evidence to the contrary, Gilbert Egg-Hound is a man of heart.  A well-hidden heart, yes.  A dysfunctional heart, almost certainly, but a heart nonetheless.  Alongside the hate for his former wife, an obsession with pastry products and the unlikely, unrequited love for She Who Must Never Be Named, sat in Gilbert’s heart a fear and distaste for the Town Hall and its staff, rivalled only by the fear and distaste displayed by the citizens of Lincolnshire when presented with evidence of electricity.

As you may have surmised (correctly, I might add) by this point, Gilbert Egg-Hound is not the sort of man to fear anyone; he was much more the sort of man to be feared.

The Town Hall however, put the shits up Gilbert like nothing else.

It was 1986 and the World Cup was being hosted by Mexico. England was in the grip of its usual deluded, fervent hope that they were going to win, just like twenty years before.  While he wouldn’t call himself a football fan – and while he’d never willingly admit to getting carried away with the ecstasy of an assembled partisan throng – Gilbert was as susceptible as anyone to World Cup fever.  Having followed the matches at arm’s length so as not to appear interested, Gilbert’s reserve finally broke during the Argentina game.

He locked up his office and headed to the pub. The landlord had managed to appropriate, from somewhere, a television the size of a fridge, and had, with faith alone,  hoisted it high up the wall with a length of rope. Literally dozens of people sat and stood beneath it, peering at the action.  No-one had seen a television of this size before, nor have they done so since, a fact that is merely a matter of background.

Gilbert arrived in time to see a slo-mo Peter Reid being thoroughly embarrassed by a dwarf with a perm, so set to drinking.  Heavily.  Unable to get comfortable and watching England get, for want of a better phrase, done over by the Argies, Gilbert began to feel unbalanced.  After a few more tetchy minutes, it happened: The Hand of God.

At this point, nobody was one hundred percent sure what had happened.  That is to say, nobody was prepared to say what exactly had happened – a key distinction.  What is known for certain is that on the evening of 22 June 1986, four men were admitted to Leeds General Infirmary with wounds that seemed consistent with ‘being beaten by a large, blunt instrument wielded by someone with the strength of a bear’, according to melodramatic neurosurgeon Dr Noray Parmalat.  The other definite in this murky expanse of half-truths and fabrications was that on the morning of 23 June 1986, Gilbert Egg-Hound was released from the Central Police Station without charge, without his possessions, and with a hangover that would wake the dead then immediately kill them again.

An uncharacteristically chastened Egg-Hound shuffled towards his home, under the non-existent cover of dawn, the streets pulsating with the rhythm of his pounding head.  Luckily for Gilbert, the streets were as good as empty at this time of the morning, so he was able to theatrically vomit into a drain with relative anonymity.  Having walked what seemed like the the thousand miles to his house, Gilbert entered, locked the door and went to bed to sleep the sleep of traitors, whores and criminals.

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Dammit, man, it’s bigger than Crime and Punishment…


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231,000 words, give or take a few hundred. That’s how it ended up. I started the process of writing my ‘magnificent octopus’ (to quote Baldrick) in May, but this story itself in the latter days of September, I think. Seven or eight months, over 130k words of dead-end scenes pruned, and a lot of pondering. Ridiculous, really, the lengths a man has to go to to write. And after all that, the end result is too big by an order of magnitude.

But just recall what my conditions were. Start something and bloody well finish it. And I did – well, a first draft anyway. Achievement, er, achieved.

It’s very much a first attempt at writing. It’s got plot holes, story-line cul-de-sacs, inconsistencies and is, basically, meandering. But I finished something, which offers me some hope that I can finish something else. I have learned loads (posted previously) and, I think, improved. Now it isn’t so hard to dredge a scene out of me. Now I can do one almost easily. That isn’t the problem. The problem is the ever elusive storytelling skill. That is the work in progress.

Still, if you read my ‘About’ page on here you’ll see that was the intention.

It is called ‘Apt’, and is told from the perspective of an indolent young man, and is about finding himself being forced into responsibilities that see him brought low. It is about how he changes himself to battle the realities of his world, and to save his home. He’s no hero, he’s not much of anything at the start, but in the end he finds the reluctant hero inside.

Sounds vague? Well, that’s because , (a) it is, and, (b) I am not sure how to describe it. I’m a ‘pantser’, not a ‘plotter’, so I really just go where the story takes me. If I was forced, I’d say it was a story about adopting responsibility and exceeding your self-imposed limitations. See…vague…

It is set in a fantasy world with no magic. There are no dragons or monsters, save the all too real mortal ones among us. I try to write stories featuring magic – I’ve even worked out one or two derivative magic systems, only to feel foolish writing it down. I don’t want to write children’s or ‘young adult’ stories, and whenever I try to write about magic it just makes me feel stupid. Not sure what that means…

Anyway, onwards and upwards… With a friend doing some editing on ‘Apt’, I am busy making changes, but I also have other writing irons in other writing fires, so lets see where that takes me…

The Ballad of Star-Streets Tony – A Cautionary Tale


street-lightsWell, enough of the bleating on about word counts and other guff, it’s time to embrace the whimsy.

Bob F, my compadre of creative gubbins (on occasion), had an awesome idea about an alien called Star-Streets Tony who shat stars. I know. Awesome. This, friends, is the start of his tale. In rhyme. Not very good rhyme, either. And remember, THIS COULD HAPPEN. Enjoy!

The Ballad of Star-Streets Tony

Oh, the world it was breaking, no more fuel for to take
The future uncertain, for everyone’s sake
As the lights slowly flickered, and started to die
The people of Earth sat, and started to cry

The future was bleak, but that was until,
Simply Red started playing, on a charity bill
Somehow this music called from on high
An alien being, who fell from the sky.

Yes, Star-Streets Tony – he fell to the earth
As Mick Hucknall sang for all he was worth
This mystical being, as welsh as can be,
Shat stars of power to light up the streets

The council of Rhyl, they harnessed these stars
To run all their street lights, and even their cars
They powered all the tv’s and radios too,
It could even run Rhyl’s famous portable loo.

Slowly did Tony give to the planet
The gift of his star poo – his electrical winnet
Nations had to swallow that bitterest pill
As they were suddenly ruled by the Council of Rhyl.

For many a year Star-Streets Tony did good
Shatting stars as only an alien could
But the council was shrewd and it kept his leash short
And they exploited him without so much as a thought.

But Tony became such an unhappy creature,
All needs were fulfilled, though his own didn’t feature
He grew tired and depressed at the futility
Of being used for his star-shatting ability.

He was old now, and wished for it simply to end,
This existence as a being, heavenly sent
But there was no way this immortal could just up and die
Except the council knew better, but kept up the lie

They refused to let Tony have his final hour,
The refused to let Tony take back all that power,
So angry as only a mystical being can be
Star-Streets Tony set about making himself free.

I know. Brilliant. Well, thanks for allowing me to put that in your brains.

Pip-pip, for now.

Ten things I’ve learned (serious post)


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Well, enough of the whimsy (though I do like it) because occasionally this blog has to at least touch on my writing once in a while – it is the reason it exists after all. I do this on the auspicious occasion of my hitting the 200,000 word milestone. Actually, it’s 199,837, but I know that if I set to it, this blog’ll not get posted on today, such is the extent of my ability to get distracted.

So, what ten things have I learned since I started doing this, some ten or so months back? Let me list the ways and means…

  1. Don’t be an arse and set off on something without at least a modicum of planning. It’s all very cavalier and exciting to write by the seat of one’s pants, but it makes for a meandering tale that lacks focus. Have an ending at least superficially scratched into the meaty grey mass of your brain. You may be lucky and find one on the way and change it, but it’s better to start with one and change than just hope a plot will present itself. That way lies madness and 200,000 words of dubious worth. 
  2. Find someone who is willing to read your stuff, and will unflinchingly support you and tell you how fantastic you are. It makes for good productivity. Saying that, also find someone who will criticise the arse out of it. For balance…
  3. Even if you can’t be bothered, try to write something everyday. Yeah, it may be rubbish, half-hearted, and eminently delete-able, but it becomes almost second nature, and words start to fly.
  4. Last thing at night, as you lay with your head on the pillow, just think about where you’ve left the plot. Imagine where it goes next. I swear, if you grant some brain-time to it, the ideas come. Write em down if you think you’ll forget. I don’t need to, I remember everything, as I’m sure I pointed out at the start of this post…
  5. You will doubt yourself. You will read what you have written and think, “That is utter shash”. This is normal. But dont stop. Re-write. The next point will help…
  6. Be brave. If you are assailed by the winged tyrants of doubt, then don’t hesitate to cut that whole thirty thousand words. If I was on a deadline I would perhaps think twice, but if, like me, you are just writing to get your story done, then don’t hesitate to chop the last three weeks work. I have found the discarded stuff still contributes to the whole, even if only in background or in clarifying the best way forward.
  7.  Read. A lot. I often find that while I am reading I get a sudden idea for my own work, usually utterly unrelated. I think it must be down to the imagination part of my mind being stimulated. It works for me, anyway…
  8. Have a rest from it once in a while, but don’t stop writing. Go off and start on something fresh – a new story in a whole new world, if that’s your bag. In doing so you will find, when you go back to your original work, you will have some new ideas. You will find yourself in a rut, probably because you are thinking so much about the story, and a change can give you that freshness when you go back.
  9. Have milestones. Mine have all been word counts. The trap to avoid is the not wallowing in your successes. I found myself at 50k words and just stopped, a bit dismayed over the distance to the next milestone, and inordinately proud that I actually got there. But then next thing you know…100k words, and so on.
  10. Get someone to proof read. Your eyes will just skip over the errors in your own work, no matter how careful you are.

Wow, that was harder to do than I expected. I should have done a top three. I’m sure I’ve duplicated some entries, too.

I think this is one of my rare moments of serious reflection. You should cherish it. Not even the barest iota of whimsy. It feels wrong. Like watching a monkey masturbate. You know it’s wrong, but the damn thing has such a funny look on its face.

Until next time…

Fudgemella and the delusion-teaching Knight


“Once upon a time there was a dusky maiden named Fudgemella. Her super-power was astro-physics, which in medieval Poland was not much use. The gods had dealt a joker there.”

What? Where am I? Did you say Fudgemella?

il_fullxfull.238657111“Caught in a downward fiscal spiral, she began to toy with the idea of branching out, maybe learning a new skill, like Badger-baiting, or popery, which was all the rage.”

Hello? What are you talking about? What’s going on?

“As she traipsed through the streets of the generic proto-germanic settlement, she swung her hips seductively, perhaps hoping for some kind of monetary reward. Her gods had done something right with those hips, so the scales appeared balanced. She considered going to Denmark where her super-power might be more useful”

Oh God, am I trapped in the consciousness of a bad writer? Wait, was that a Tycho Brahe reference?

“As she passed a group of travelling diplomats (whose employer was in no way related to the events that surrounded Fudgemella’s eventual disappearance, rescue and vindication), she arched her brow, or her eyebrow – it is quite difficult to see from here.”

I am trapped in the mind of a bad writer. Hang on, did you just give away the ending?  And you’re referencing the writer’s perspective? Are you mad?

“Quite by chance, a knightly knight by the name of Sir Deus arrived. ‘Madam,” he said unto her, forcing the words ‘twixt cup and manly lip, ‘I am Sir Deus. Deus X Machina. The X stands for, er, Ex. I am here to teach you the art of delusion.'”

Oh, come on! You’re saying that you actually have a character named –

“Fudgemella, startled by the knight’s abrupt/surprising appearance, laughed with gentle admonishment. ‘Sir knight, I have no such need for your teaching, for I have already mastered that particular skill.’ She flicked a bead of sweat from her brow with the last two centimetres of a stiffened digit.

If I promise not to criticise will you let me leave? Please…no more…

“The knight, pushed to a rage beyond compare – like that other fellow that got just as angry when someone broke his pencil – charged his mighty steed into the watching diplomats, piercing, quite by happenstance, their hearts with his lance, like a diplomatic kebab. Although that probably shouldn’t be a reference in a period piece. Unless kebabs existed in medieval Poland. Make it a – what do they have in Poland? Sausages? Yes, pierced their hearts like a mighty polish sausage.”

Not sure about the imagery in this – very suspect… 

“Thus the dusky maiden’s refusal to bow down to masculine domination caused the world to explode into war that lasted eight years, with a hiatus in the middle when one of the knight’s friends got lost in a copse. The End.”

So…a sexist morality nonsense tale? Didn’t know what to write for a blog post, eh?

“Can you tell?”

What’s next for Poindexter?


Interminable update ahoy.

A wise man may once have said something along the lines that persistance is the mother of invention (that’s blatantly wrong, but I’m feeling playful). Or maybe it was the borg…persistance is futile? Anyway, I have ground to an almighty stop with my big piece de resistance.

lemur_faceSo I have begun something else. A darker piece, written in the third person instead of the first person – first person is bloody limiting, if you ask me – I am intending it to be faster-paced, and including all manner of weird magic and a whole pantheon of godlike entities. Influences, in this case, are the Stephen Erikkson novels (partly) and also a bit of Brandon Sanderson. I know, it sounds naff, but…hey ho, it’s summat to do.

I am too old and withered (mentally) to be bothered about the restart. It’s not like I can’t go back to the behemoth at a later date, and in the meantime I am learning, learning, learning. What, precisely, I cannot tell yet. Meh.

So, 7k words into my new venture, and how is it going? Well, I’ll keep it short, but there is a talking lemur in it. I will not go into details in order to preserve you from spoilers. As if…!

 

Scene 4: The post-modern face-off


Fade in. The music is maudlin, the colour leeched and the video grainy. Cue our hero, sat in a cafe in Dusseldorf…

The attempt to save Belgium, and by extension the world itself, is underway. It’s only slightly spoiled by the fact I got on the wrong train and ended up in Germany. Damn both my poor knowledge of european languages, and a ticket-agency convinced it knows my destination better than I.

espressoI only just escaped from a trap. Romaine Badger, the erstwhile benefactor of Sir Kenneth’s legacy and vast personal wealth, has her minions seeking me throughout the continent. Only last week I savagely resisted a young Badger’s attempt on my life when he tried to re-enact a scene from The Omen, only to realise that chasing me on a child’s tricycle had only minimal chances of making me fall to my doom over a balcony.

And what’s more, the staff of this cafe insist upon smiling at me in a friendly manner, which is crippling me emotionally. I cannot cope with the kindly and prompt service. I am English, and such efficiency and pleasance makes me suspicious.

I sip at my espresso. I really must find a train to Belgium. I feel waffles and other traditional images of Belgian culture nagging at me. When one is assailed by images of Hercule Poirot, you know you have a job to do.

I look at my vintage timepiece, given to me by the rotted corpse of H G Wells himself, and realise the time is approaching for action. Rising, I note with some alarm that a face I recognise appears around the corner. Romaine Badger herself. The face of a withered deer, an expression that curdled milk aspires to, and armed to the teeth with every manner of projectile weapon.

“______,” she says, calling out to me with her voice like a badly maintained Volkswagon Passat. “Don’t Push it. Don’t push it, or I’ll give you war you won’t believe. Let it go. Let it go!”

A quote from Rambo – First Blood. Damn she’s good. I respond in the only way possible, setting my thighs to inscrutable. I postured up as Romaine Badger approached, and said “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.”

She visibly flinched. I’d dug up that Dumbledore quote as if from nowhere. She quailed, turning and running when she saw I was preparing a quote from The Lion King.

She’d be back, armed with better quotes – probably from Rocky or, perhaps, a bland Jennifer Aniston rom-com.

But I’d be ready.

Fade to ineffably ginger and with the words, “To be continued,” written, bizarrely, in Comic Sans font.

Scene 3: The Badgers threaten.


Cue some jazzy intro music. Perhaps – no, definitely – a saxophone solo. And some maracas. Yes…that’s about right. Actually, the maracas are rubbish. Lose the maracas. Marimba? Surprisingly nice.

Mood funky – check, panning camera panning – check. Fade into…

mannekenpis-brussels-belgium-filipfuxa-shutterstock_39608626-600…The man sits at the desk, staring at the piece of paper in front of him, anguish writ large upon his face. Suddenly he wonders why he has started the scene in the third person.

Irritated, he gives a terse shake of his head. That should sort it, he thinks.

I stood up, crumpling the paper angrily, and threw it with the abandon of an overtly sensual basketball player throwing a ball whilst dead. It missed the basket.

I paced, my mind a whirl, or a whorl or something.

The paper I had discarded had printed upon it (with some sort of typeface and ink magic) a telegram. It said the following:

Sir stop Sir Kenneth Badger is dead stop Now we will have our revenge upon you stop

I’d known Sir Kenneth for thirty years. His death had shaken me to my rabid and infertile core. And on top of that, suddenly they were after me.

If I’d been any sort of a man I would have thrust out my chin, found some cloth and girded my loins, then stood with my noble feet apart and a grisly look in my eyes.

But I wasn’t just any sort of man. I was the man who brought the world to it’s knees after the interview of the century. Sigh…THE INTERVIEW OF THE CENTURY. So long ago it haunts me yet. With Kenneth’s passing I was the only one left who could stop the inevitable. But I was old. So old.

But age changed nothing. I needed to save Belgium or the world would end and it’d be my fault. And the Badgers were after me.

Cue pause for melodramatic sting and fade to a justly vapid green.

 

Scene 2…!


Five years have passed. A small amount of continental-drift has occurred. The first ever Frisbee floats across a patch of grass in the United States of America, as Sputnik prepares for liftoff. That is literally all that has happened. Everything else is imagined.

That is, except for Sir Kenneth Badger, the British ambassador in Belgium.

The place? Bruges. The location within the place? A hotel foyer. A good one. Not one with towels you could carve.

Today Sir Kenneth, his rampart chin thrust out accordingly, stands by my side, his smile broad and unflinching as the cameras flash. Caught, for posterity, in this thirty second charade of a handshake, I stare at the cameras, my smile a rictus of humiliation. Always with the pictures. Is there no end to it?

You see, it all changed five years ago when I inadvertently gave the interview of the century. Sorry, I mean, THE INTERVIEW OF THE CENTURY.

“Turn to the left a bit, Sir Kenneth,” says one of the photographers, his Belgian, or possible Flemish words translating in the air for the sake of continuity. Sir Kenneth does so. His hand in mine feels clammy, like the insides of a mango.

Within my capacious mind I continue the self-flagellation that has bestridden me for the last half-a-decade. If I hadn’t given the interv…hang on…THE INTERVIEW OF THE CENTURY, then perhaps I’d be able to be like a normal person, and live quietly, being positive to my swarms of locusts and painting my pictures of young swans.

But no, I haven’t painted a decent cygnet in ages, and, quite frankly, the locusts are acting all depressed. If that doesn’t say ‘sort it out’ I don’t know what does.

Fade to a kind of putty colour.

Fin.

PS, Don’t make me get surreal on your collective behinds.

Check out the heft on THAT milestone…!


Look, if you didn’t want me to write updates about my word count you should have avoided looking at my blog. Oh, you have tried? Well screw you, here’s an update.

And so this week I hit 60k words for the first time on one project. I think I did a 52k a while back that died on its arse, but never 60k. Let’s, good people, put that into context.

That’s 1.65 times the size of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and there’s NO slimy christian allegories in sight.

That’s 1.30 times the size of Fahrenheit 451 and no books were harmed in the crafting.

It’s also 0.67 times the size of Orwell’s magnificent 1984, although sanity, as they say, is not statistical.

It is 0.29 times the girth of Moby Dick, and, incidentally, I have some whales in it. Don’t ask.

Finally, as I have just spent pretty much three months (it could be longer) writing it so far, I think to have completed the equivalent of 0.131 of the Lord of the Rings is not a bad job, and there are no dull elven songs messing with your mojo. Bloody elves.

That is all.

 

PS, that’s twenty-thousand of your English words done in eleven days. I’d say that counts as a spurt.