Archive for January, 2014

Each month I buy ‘Writing Magazine’. It is full of hints and tips regarding the trade in which I am trying to break into. They also run a few competitions. I was very excited by there recent ‘First Line’ short story competition and I read quickly the information, picked up the pen and wrote, then typed, then edited. Once that was done, took all of one morning, I re-read the entry to fill out the application form. There I saw my crucial mistake! I initially read the closing date as 14th February. It was not, it was January. My Bad, so I have a short story written specifically for a competition. I think it was a good effort and interesting story and looked forward to having it critically examined.

So, I have decided to potentially invite very negative feedback by posting the story here. I invite you all to examine and give feedback, whether that be good, bad or indifferent. I want to know your opinions all I ask is that you try to keep it polite! so, here it is, ladies and gentlemen I present for your consideration, ‘The Bride’:

The Bride

The view from the hotel was breath-taking. The sea sprawled out as far as the eye could see. Miles of golden sandy beaches stretched left and right, lapped constantly by the rising and waning tide. A man stood in the hotel window, dressed smartly in a suit. He stood gazing, soaking in the view he thought to himself that it was almost enough to make one believe in God, after all only an intelligent creator could design something so beautiful. He turned away from the beauty to once again view the nightmare.
The hotel room was just like any other. On one wall was a flat-screen television, below it a dressing table that had tea and coffee making facilities and hotel information. There was a corridor leading towards the door before it a wardrobe and the door to the en-suite bathroom. Sat in the corner were an armchair and an occasional table placed strategically to overlook the gorgeous view. In the corner was a suitcase upon a stand, it was open with clothes neatly folded inside. The room was dominated by a huge bed, larger than any normal bed, just another attraction of this expensive seaside resort. The man could not understand why hotels insisted on fine white linen, it only accentuated the blood. The once ivory sheets were soaked red with blood, the source was a woman. She lay atop the bed, the white of her wedding dress stained pink from the blood as it seeped into the silk. The man stood staring at the horror. The woman was pretty, very pretty, in a classical way. He could not quite place his finger on the source of her beauty, some people you can say ‘it’s the eyes’ or ‘the cheekbones’ or ‘it’s your smile that lights up the face’, but this was an all-round beauty, even lifeless and pale as she is now. The man’s trained eye quickly spotted the wedding ring on her finger, he noted that it was a little bit too worn, too tarnished to be new, clearly she was not a newlywed.
His gaze was broken by the flash and click of the camera. The room was sealed off by blue tape reading ‘POLICE-DO NOT CROSS’. The detective stood silent, examining every aspect of the room, mentally dictating every possible snippet of information. He noticed the mobile phone on the bedside shelf, he noticed the laptop open on the occasional table and he also noticed the knife on the bed that was used to gouge the deep furrows into her wrists. If this was suicide, and he had not decided whether it was or not yet, if it was she knew what she was doing, this was no cry for help.
“Constable?” The detective shouted.
A uniformed police officer promptly appeared at the door.
“Yes sir?”
“Do you have the information I requested from reception?”
The detective quashed the emotion rising inside of him; he strained trying not to let his voice crack. He had seen dead bodies, lots of them! He had seen murders, accidents and suicides but something about this one struck him to his core. Maybe it was one too many.
“Yes sir!” the constable replied, “It would appear she booked in late last night, about 9, she used a credit card and the receptionist and CCTV confirm that she was alone, and received no visitors.”
“Thank you Constable!”
The detective moved around. The photographer was busy taking pictures of everything, every conceivable angle, every object.
“Right, I think I have it all now Sir. Is there anything else you want me to photograph?”
“No that’s fine, thank you.” The detective replied.
He was now alone with the body. He gazed at the corpse, still struck by her beauty; he could see the tracks of her tears and the lifeless eyes full of pain. He wondered what could have been so bad, what could have been so painful to lead her here. He concluded from the preliminary evidence that this was no locked room mystery, there was no murder, yet he was compelled to discover what the reason for this tragedy was. It was time to delve into her life; it was time to discover why! After his preliminary scan he could see that although the screen of the laptop was black it was still switched on, it was just on standby. The detective’s gloved hand moved the mouse and slowly the screen blinked into life. He found a word processing page, the text in bold:
To whomever finds me
Tell my husband I’m sorry for the pain. I never meant him to find out, really I didn’t! He was never home. I know he was a soldier but he left me with nothing. I had no choice. No money. I was lonely. I did what I had to do. Do not think less of me.
The detective examined the note over and over again. What did it mean? What did her husband, the absent soldier, discover that was so horrific? The detective noticed a flashing icon at the bottom of the screen, an internet page. He clicked on it and the note disappeared, replaced by a social media page. It was one that people could message each other in 140 characters or less. The profile picture was that of a woman, naked! It was a toned body, attractive and busty, the face was blanked out. Clearly it was her page and she wanted an element of anonymity. It appears she was having an affair, but the detective thought that that was not enough to lead here, people have affairs all the time, it is heart-breaking for all involved but they get over it. He did when his wife had an affair. They worked through the pain, they forgave. No, there was more to this. The detective examined the profile, read the information posted, perhaps there was further clues. He looked at the profile information, nothing except a link to another website. He clicked on it. ‘Women by the Hour’ came up on the screen, below the header was a profile page for the deceased, a profile page offering various services of a sexual nature. A loophole in prostitution law allowed women to offer themselves for a price but it only became illegal if the money that changed hands was for sex, if it was just for her to spend time with them and she chose to sleep with the person hiring them, then that was her choice. If sex was consensual and not part of the agreement then the law could be circumvented. They could even advertise their time in the newspaper. So she was having an affair, and by the look of her she was probably having several, with anyone who had deep enough pockets.
The detective sighed, he stood deflated, he just did not understand what would lead an attractive woman like this one down a path of vice, even more bemused as she was married and to a soldier. He examined the note again. If she was lonely why not just have an affair, it would have filled the void, why sell her herself? He was not really a religious man, he did not believe in damnation or paradise, but he did believe that people had a soul. Even if that soul is what gave us a sense of right and wrong, he could not fathom what this sort of life did to someone’s mental state, it must have eaten her up inside. He looked at the body. There were still so many questions. His initial deduction that this was suicide suddenly became doubtful. It is true it looked convincing; it had all the hallmarks of a typical suicide. But it just did not add up, something was missing. The wedding dress, probably symbolic, maybe she wanted to show that her marriage was important to her? Was it a commission, was that the right term? Maybe it was someone’s fantasy or fetish. Only she would know why, and she was in no position to answer. The detective called for the constable,
“I am not so convinced that this is a suicide! We may be looking at homicide, please examine all CCTV footage, I want to know if any male was here last night that was not a guest at the hotel? I want to know, if there was, where they went, what room and what time!”
“Yes Sir!” the constable responded and left quickly.
There was still a missing piece of the puzzle. The detective picked up the mobile phone. It was a smartphone with a touchscreen, He pressed the power button, it was long shot he was unsure whether it would reveal anything, but if it did it may have the number of who she was meeting, if indeed she did meet anyone, perhaps a schedule or diary, messages, emails anything. He was surprised to see a message on the screen. The phone kept the last message on the screen until read or deleted a stroke of luck, he gazed and realised this was the final puzzle piece, slammed firmly in place; he looked astonished as he read:
“I know what you have been doing! My God! One of my men showed me! Do you have any idea what this has done? I am being sent home. I am disgraced. I suggest you kill yourself before I kill you!”
The detective gawped at the message, he was baffled by it. Clearly he found the trigger, maybe this was suicide after all. The husband would have to be interviewed. The detective had an idea of what had happened, in a fit of anger the husband sent this ridiculous message, he probably did not mean her to take it seriously, probably just venting anger. Never-the-less she took it seriously, and now she is dead. Why? Why? Why won’t people think before they do things! Why? Why? Why won’t people think about what they say!

Engaging and Enduring Characters

Posted: January 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

During my exploration of the writing world my thoughts are drawn toward memorable literature. I am not just talking about the classics, although there is a lot to be said of the longevity and endearment we hold the classics. Modern literature, pulp fiction, what the Victorians would call ‘Penny dreadfuls’ and their modern equivalent remain lodged in the memory not because of their stories but because of their characters. Today I want to examine what makes a good character, what makes them memorable. I know that often people will disagree with me, and that’s fine, I encourage discussion. Just remember this is just one mans opinion, I am happy to discuss and debate.

To examine character I am going to go through what is memorable to me, characters I like, and first on the list is fresh in my mind as the BBC have created an abomination against the source text. I am, of course, talking about Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. I first read the adventures of D’Artagnan, Porthos, Athos and Aramis as a child. I loved the adventure as a child, when I re-read it as an adult I loved the intrigue. But mostly I was sucked in by the characters. Why was I mesmerised by these roguish men of the king’s guard? The young plucky, cocky D’Artagnan who went to Paris with aspirations of grandeur with nothing more than the three gifts from his father. I liked this character because he had nothing, came from little and wanted to improve his life, become the hero. Through adversity he accomplishes this. But he is not my favourite, how about the amorous Aramis? the lover, the romancer, constantly in trouble because of the affection he had of women and off women. Well we could all relate to that, we all want to be loved. But no, that is not my favourite. The leader Athos? Athos who is brave, intelligent and bold. Very much the brains of the outfit, but again no. Porthos! now we are talking. But why do I like Porthos the best, well simple really, as a character he is critically flawed. That is what I like, his lust for life that leads to excess, wine, food and women. He likes to boast, his boasting that gets him into a duel with D’Artagnan on their first meeting. But, none of those individually would hold my attention but together! what a team, and lets face it we like them because of their flaws.

So, I like flawed characters. How about Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle’s great detective, Sherlock Holmes? he is a deeply flawed character haunted by his intelligence that leads him to the underbelly of Victorian London, an exploration of Victorian ideals and acceptability. Even then Opium addiction was frowned upon. Because of his heroic intelligence and savvy deduction’s we forgive his trespasses and he is still one of the most fascinating literary characters 100 years+ later.

Lets bring our reading a bit more up to date. Some characters and authors are more popular than ever, despite the volume of tomes in which their feature, two immediately spring to mind, Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt and Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe. Lets start with Pitt. Clive Cussler created a hero that is put in impossible situations and always finds a way to beat the bad guy, rescue the damsel and protect the treasure. The books became repetitive and formulaic after about 10 books but they keep on coming, why? because we like the character, his flaws, his vices. But Cussler did something else, he aged his protagonist. We as the reader, have watched as volume after volume Pitt ages. He now has adult children that are taking over the mantel at NUMA. And I believe that it is this aging that holds our attention and keeps Cussler almost permanently in best seller lists. How about Richard Sharpe? the plucky ‘Johnny jump up’ from the ranks of Wellington’s army in Spain? Well, it really is about the adversity and overcoming breeding to be accepted by his fellow officers. It is a critique on the British class system, how one man can overcome his birthright and doomed existence to drag himself from the gutter to the ranks of nobility. his courage, bravery and dare I say it brutality earns him respect, earns him admiration and earns him lots of saucy ladies who just want to get his uniform off.

This is a subject in which I could talk about for hours, so many characters remain lodged in the memory. So, it’s the time of the blog I bring it around to me and my writing. I examine my protagonists and I realise I have made them too nice. Mostly, there is a problem and they are the right people to solve it, they overcome the problems and live happily ever after. Nah!!!! no one wants that. so I have been creating flaws. I think the best analogy I can come up with is the popularity contest between comic book heroes, Superman and Batman. Superman, the shining beacon of all that is good, and Batman, a man plagued by haunting visions of pain and battles crime in a fit of vengeance. I prefer Batman, I prefer the conflict and the darkness. It makes for much more interesting reading. So, I have rewritten some of my characters. What can I say, we remember bastards, we remember conflict within a character. So I offer this advice and I invite people to disagree and discuss with me their views, I like to be challenged so if you do have an opinion , let me know? but for now I leave this last snippet of character arc advice:

EMBRACE THE DARK!

Originality

Posted: January 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

OK folks, this one could get a bit heated!  I would like to point out that this is my opinion and is not meant to insult, offend or upset anyone.  If you are, I apologise, if you agree perhaps share and discuss.

Whilst on my many sojourns on to twitter I noticed a retweet of a news article published  in the Guardian.  It stated that Author, James Frey, has been awarded a publishing and film deal worth $2,000,000 (£1,200,000) to write a story aimed at young adults on the premise of 12 tribes each sending a warrior to battle to the death. Hmm, sound familiar? it does to me, two different stories, Battle Royale and the Hunger Games. It occurs to me that either we have generally run out of ideas or publishers are afraid to attempt new ground. It is a well known fact that there are a limited amount of ideas for stories, 7 I believe, but these are just basic premises. It is the way you tell the stories that can make a story original.

I have felt for a while that Hollywood is producing safe options rather than looking at ground-breaking new story telling. There will always be exceptions to this but, generally, ideas are few and far between. The same can be said of literature. The same derivative drivel is being mass produced, repackaged and re-published. Why should someone get $2m for reproducing someone else’s work! I strive for originality in my writing. I realise that sometimes the influences in my work come through. When I go and edit my weekly work I read it and say, “that’s like…..” if this happens I go back to re-write it, the theme is the same, the characters are the same, I just add my own voice to it.

I am drawn to a quote from TS Eliot, ‘Good writers borrow, great writers steal!’ (I know that is not the original quote but it has so common been adapted.) I have thought about this a lot over the past few days. To me a good writer will produce a piece of work and people will liken it to something else. Simple really, a good writer will end up with a dust jacket that will read, ‘The Next Stephen king!” Or some other writer who’s work is like their own, but a great writer will appear to be original while maintaining a similarity. This is what I strive for. I wrote a short story for a competition, in fact I wrote two, one was shortlisted and placed the other was not. When I went back to examine why the second did not fair as well I realised that it had echoes of one of my favourite writers, Philip K Dick. The fact that I could see the similarity disappointed me. The premise was original, the story short, succinct and interesting, (it made one reader cry), but because it was similar in tone and content I felt best not to dwell on why it did not place and move on.

I struggle day to day as a writer. I work full time in a very low paid job to make ends meet. As I have said previously I would very much like to write full time. To earn a living as a storyteller, as an entertainer. My problem is I strive for originality and I veer away from safe ground. My writing has a unique tone, an individual stamp. Hopefully, and I really do hope one day that that will be recognised and my work will be enjoyed.

My message today really is be original. try to move away from the safe ground of popular tribe and do something outlandish. When H G Wells or Jules Verne wrote their frankly ground-breaking masterpieces, no one would have believed that a man could live under the water in a ship that sailed beneath the seas, or man could reach the moon, or tripods could reach us from Mars1 But, they did afterwards! I would like to think that that sort of shock and awe is still possible.

During the course of these blogs I aim to explore some of the trials and tribulations of writing, trying to start a career in writing and the personal difficulties that I have and am running into. Being a writer is a dream, it may be folly, it may be unobtainable. But, I continue undaunted, braving the cut-throat, rejection filled world that is professional creativity. The aim, as I have alluded to before, is to make enough money from using my noggin to support my family and keep us all comfortable. I am a creative person! I am a storyteller! Whether I get paid for it or not that can never be taken away from me. However, I must go and work to pay the bills. I am a father of identical twin boys, they were born in September 2013 and they are my priority. To that end I work 12 hours a day as a security guard earning little better than minimum wage but as my partner is on maternity leave and subsequent reduced pay I must continue the 50+ hours per week. This leads me to problem 1:

Time:

I find that time is my biggest problem. I don’t seem to have any! I work 5 days a week. I have to drive an hour to and from work, by the time I am home and have spent some time with the boys and of course with my partner, it is time to hit the hay and sleep ready to start the process all again. Having said that, since November I have written nearly 25,000 words of Salvation, clearly defined the parameters of the story and developed the character arcs. Yay Me! I have a clearly defined story which just needs the flesh added to the bones. Which brings me neatly to my next problem:

Confidence:

I entered a 10,000 word sample and a synopsis to the ‘Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller’ competition. For those reading from overseas, Richard and Judy are a married couple who present day time talk show and have, for the past few years, been running a successful book club as a national project. in 2013, they announced that they are looking for the next bestseller. A previously unpublished author who has never submitted a novel to an agent or a publishing house will get a 2 book deal and £50,000. This was just too good an opportunity to pass up! The only problem I have is that I don’t believe myself to be good enough! I have had so much support from people who have read what I submitted, they want to read more! they like the story! they like that it is a mix of suspense, Sci-Fi, Drama and Romance. But that is not quite enough to give me reassurance. Whilst I was at University I had factual historical works published in magazines and newspapers but nothing fictional. I have been writing fiction for years, since childhood really, and never showed a soul. Last year I entered 2 stories into a short story competition and lo and behold was shortlisted, and even better came second. My writing had won me money! then I heard of the ‘Search for a Bestseller’ competition. I have been working on Salvation for years, the prologue and first chapter sat in my computer’s memory banks. Had not thought to do much more. Which brings me on to my last trial for now:

Motivation:

I suffer from a motivational deficit. when I put my mind to something I go hammer and tongs to get it done, but if I plod along with no pressure I tend to leave things. Not great for a writer. But the birth of my boys has given me the biggest motivational boost I could hope for. I am doing it for them, I want them to be proud of their old dad. At the moment I am ashamed to be a security guard, I am not saying it is a bad job or a pointless one, it is definitely worthy, I just have a feeling I was meant for more, that standing telling people to “Calm down!” Or “Get Out!” or the classic, “I think you have had enough!” It just is not me! I am a creator, a storyteller, an entertainer.

So that has revealed a little more about me than I realise, but maybe it will speak to fellow creator’s out there. If so perhaps comment, connect and discuss. Find some solace that others are going through something similar.

If you want to find out more about Richard and Judy’s Book club here is the address:

http://www.richardandjudy.co.uk/home

The boring stuff!

Posted: January 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

This will be my first blog in what I hope to be an interesting account of my year.  But first I want to get the boring stuff out the way and explain who I am, what I hope to achieve and what I hope people will discover by reading this.

Firstly, I would like to make a disclaimer!  Although I hope that what people find here they will like I do sometimes have a tendency to upset, infuriate and annoy people.  So, be aware, I mean no offence in anything I say, these are my opinions and are not meant to cause harm.  So if you don’t like what you read here you do not need to read more.  There is no need to be rude or to ‘Troll’ the author of these comments.  That being said, I will try to keep the more radical of opinions to myself.

About me:  Well I am a writer, I have had some success in the first competition I entered, I came second in the Mags4Dorset 6th Annual creative writing competition with a story entitled ‘The Star Spangled Saviour’.  I have had an article published by the Southern Daily Echo called, ‘The Duke’s Royal Rendezvous’, which was the result of a second year university project and was published in the Hampshire Heritage section.  It was an article about the 1st Duke of Wellington escorting Queen Victoria on a visit to Southampton.  I have also been an assistant editor on the Solent Sky aviation magazine in 2004.

I love to write, I love to read and I love originality.  I aim to create original works for people to enjoy.  What I want to achieve over the coming year is to become a full time writer and to that end I entered the Richard and Judy search for a bestseller competition.  I entered a project I have been working on for a little while called ‘Salvation’.  I wont go into too much detail as to the story, not because I don’t have the story, quite the opposite I know exactly what it is and where it is going, I just don’t want to jinx it or be in breach of the rules by talking too much about it.  I will however keep up to date with the progress of the project here.

Salvation is not the only project I am working on.  For the past year or so I have been working with an amazing graphic artist, Svee  Wheeler and model Learne Forsyth to bring to life a character called Raven.  Graphic novels is a new foray for me and is an amazing new process to learn.  Its all very exciting and I can’t wait to see some of the outputs.  More on Raven in a later post.

Some might say that by becoming a professional writer I am seeking fame and fortune.  Lets face it, unless your name is Stephen King or Terry Pratchett or J K Rowling then fortune may be a pipe dream.  No, I am neither seeking fame nor fortune. I am seeking a living wage, I am seeking an opportunity to do what I love to do, and get paid for it, whilst providing people with entertainment.  I feel I am a storyteller.  I am a creator of worlds!  What I really want is for people to read my work and to be entertained.  Too much to ask?  maybe, we shall see.

I am always more than happy to converse with people, to connect via twitter @peter_j_lewis I will always try to be polite, so I would appreciate the same courtesy.  Well I shall not bore you any further today.  there will be more to follow I assure you, as I blog further you will learn more about me and more about my work.