NaNoWriMo; When inspiration finally comes to fruition

I haven’t updated the blog in a while and that’s been because every available word at my disposal has been thrust into this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those of you who don’t know). And, for the first time it looks like I’m going to complete the challenge; 50,000 words in a month. I reached 40,000 yesterday so thought I’d take a brief gulp of air and push my head up to see what’s happening.

Many years ago as I was walking passed a building site, inspiration struck me. The first year accommodation for my university were four concrete and skyline-domineering tower blocks. They really were an eyesore, but I had many good memories. When the site was sold to developers, I assumed they’d simply blow the towers up; you know, Vegas style. As I walked by on this particular day, an extremely long crane with a unyielding set of metal jaws rose into the air instead, and it began to dismantle the towers from the top downwards. The image immediately sparked something in my head; it was like a great creature reaching into the air and causing destruction with ironic grace. At that time I was writing Inside Evil, and there was no way I could fit in these beasts. And so, CRYO took its first footsteps of life.

Like all things, the CRYO tale took on a life of it’s own; so much so that these beasts almost didn’t appear at all. John and Kath, my main characters in the first novel, took over my head and led the story where they wanted it to go. But finally, as I hit 30,000 words in the sequel, years of thinking finally came into alignment and the huge crane de-constructing my former home finally wormed its way into the pages of my book.

This year, NaNoWriMo has been a complete God send. It’s fitted in seamlessly with my writing schedule, and I intend to have about 60,000 words written by the end of the month; that’s two-thirds of CRYO – A Changed World complete. It’s been extremely interesting writing this sequel and taking John, Anne, Amity and co into the great world beyond the CRYO station. They’ve discovered – actually, they still are discovering – a lot of new things and are leading me in great circles around my story milestones.  There’s also the battle of a language barrier between my CRYO survivors and a new race to contend with ….it’s a difficult line to write a new language without it becoming absurd, whilst trying to put enough in to show the difficulties my characters face.

Whilst I was aiming to get this sequel out towards the end of February, it’s looking like it might come early…and that’s something I’m extremely pleased to hear!

A new novel for NaNoWriMo

Oh, NaNoWriMo (that’s National Novel Writing Month for those who don’t know). Every November, writers around the world grow beards, lose contact with loved ones and become smelly because they don’t have time to wash; all in the bid to get 50,000 words down in just one month. It’s an epic challenge, and one that, sadly, I’ve never managed to complete. However, with November rearing its head next week and another novel to get on the road, I’ve decidedly to participate this year.

As you’ll have seen in my previous post, I’ve made some changes to CRYO; Rise of the Immortals. That’s mostly because I’m about to start writing CRYO; A Changed World. I left my cast of characters perilously trying to survive in a new and alien world after winning a place on a cryonics scheme. It’s about time I got back to them. I really want to get the sequel written by mid-January at the latest so my editor has a good six weeks – aiming for a publication date at the end of Feb 2014. With the first installment being just over 100,000k and the next at least that, I need a kick start, and NaNoWriMo is perfect.

I’ll be adding a little widget to the sidebar in a moment so regular visitors can track my progress. I also have a profile over at the official website. And, if you’re a writer and so inclined, feel free to add me as a buddy too so we can spur each other on!

Writing Challenges for 2013

Well, 2012 was quite a year wasn’t it?! This time last year I read an interview in the Telegraph about Amanda Hocking and thought, ‘I could do that‘. This time last year I had NO idea what a journey this self publishing process would take me on. This time last year I had a couple of unfinished manuscripts hiding away on my computer.

Inside Evil was published on March 12th, 2012 and since then it’s been a roller-coaster ride. I’ve got better at writing, become more accomplished at marketing and feel that my inner writer is finally coming out. And, in 2013, there’s some important goals to complete!

cryofor kindle-600px

 

 

CRYO; Rise of the Immortals

I was originally looking at a December launch, but, well….you may have noticed that December’s come and gone without a book. That’s because CRYO was an old manuscript that has been polished…hence more editing than normal is required. My editor is 54% of the way through, so I do expect this new science fiction saga to be released by the end of the month.

 

 

 

Inside Evil – Spirits of the Middlelands

If anyone follows my Twitter feed or Facebook page, then they’ll know that the third instalment of the Inside Evil saga has already begun. I’m SO glad to get back to Roberta, Susan, Martha and the rest of the gang to find out what’s been going on. Spirits of the Middlelands jumps forward by six months, so gone is the winter and here is the summer sun. I don’t always know what’s going to happen, so I’m excited by the new twists and conclusions that keep jumping into my mind. I’m aiming for two months of writing and editing, so would expect this third book to launch in March/April.

Pacifier Six

I can now reveal that the title for my zombie novella is ‘Pacifier Six – The Shadows Within‘ .  This was a book that I had not been intending to write at all, but it popped into my brain during NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t read the first unedited chapter, you can do so here. It’s only a novella, circa 30K, and it can be read as a stand-alone story. However, if people show interest and the novella does well, then I may well write further stories. The editing is finished on Pacifier Six, and I’m only waiting on the artwork. This means that this novella should be published in late January or early February.

In addition to publishing these three stories, I’d like to have the fourth Inside Evil book published by the end of the year so that the five book saga can complete in 2014. Depending on the reception for CRYO, I’ll also be looking to have completed the second book in this series! I have a lot to do!!

What are you planning for 2013?

Sample Sunday – November 18th

This week I’m posting the first chapter from the surprise zombie novella that I started to write for NaNoWriMo. It will probably get a release in January, because there’s not enough time for editing and artwork to be completed before Christmas…that’s if I even finish the story. But, I thought it would be interested to share something that I’m currently working on, rather than an excerpt from an existing work.

It still has no title – I have one in mind, but am not completely sure yet. So, here’s Chapter One.

Chapter One

The winter had been the harshest that mankind had ever seen. No one knew the true origins of the infection, where the place was from which darkness descended onto the world and cast the darkest age that had ever befallen the human race. Rumours stirred stories that the first fallen members of society had been created and released by fundamentalist terrorists wanting to cleanse the world of its sins. Wanting to start afresh with a new civilisation. The aberrations appeared in America, unleashed upon unsuspecting revellers partying as the Halloween season filled the streets with ghosts and ghouls. Amongst such faces, such costumes, the initial flesh ripping and bone breaking went unnoticed. But the isolated incidents weren’t contained, and soon America vanished beneath a sea of blood, cut off from the world, ostracized for fear of contamination.

The days, the weeks, were quiet, until the first disappearances began in London. Until gruesome murder scenes caused steel stomached police chiefs to wretch their guts out and run for cover. Until loved ones and friends became swamped with the growing darkness, until they too disappeared beneath a carpet of raw and bloodied flesh.

Carl had been glad when the spring arrived, bringing with it renewed hope that not everything was lost. Soft breezes filled with warm air tickled his skin, and despite all that had happened, life went on. Plant shoots unfurled, creatures stirred, the culled human population found a new way to survive. It was still early March and the clocks had not yet changed, and as Carl’s squinting eyes began to open, morning light filtered through the gap in the curtains. It was the fresh, almost opaque, spring light that hadn’t fully developed into summer sun, and it dusted the room in a light ethereal glow.

“Crap,” Carl groaned as he realised that whilst the sun brought contentment to his waking form, he’d grossly overslept. He glanced across at the bronze wind-up alarm clock that ticked beside his bed. 10.23am. If the creatures didn’t murder him, his mother would. Yet, still he didn’t move, allowing his head to sink back into the pillow for a few more seconds. He scratched his face and felt that the stubble on his chin was now almost as long as his short cropped hair. He need a good shave.

After one long pause, just long enough to feel his body sinking back into sleep, Carl thrust himself out of bed knowing that the only way was to throw back the duvet and leap from his tomb. The cold air shocked his skin even through the old vest and track pants that he’d been curled in, and with the early spring day finally breathing life into his soul, Carl staggered to the door.

“Mum?” Carl called out, rubbing his eyes as he moved through the corridor and down the softly carpeted stairs. “Mum?”

All remained quiet in the house, Carl’s voice the only disturbance to the stillness of his surroundings. Light filtered through the green and yellow glazed glass panel in the front door, spilling colourful patterns onto the light wooden flooring. The vertical glass window that ran up the side of the frame caused a blue sheen to glimmer. Blue for occupied. Green for vacant. Red for dangerous, don’t enter, proceed only if you wanted your guts ripped out and eaten.

Peering into the living room, Carl saw that it too was empty, devoid of any life apart from the small green budgie that sat and chirped in its cage by the window. It was a vicious little thing, and though his mother adored it, it would try and take Carl’s ears off whenever it got a chance to fly from its cage and gnaw with ferocity. Perhaps it too was infected, diseased. Perhaps Carl should simply reach out, break its neck and save his mother’s constant worry that she wouldn’t be able to find enough seed. He pushed the thought away.

Wandering further down the hall, Carl reached the white kitchen door, its numerous bolts intact, indicating that his mother was not inside. Fumbling with the locks, Carl slowly began to undo each one, removing the chain, using the small key that hung on the doorframe to open the padlock. He reached up and turned the latch at the top, before pulling back the large central bolt with a bang, and pushing open the inwards swinging door with a jolt.

The kitchen, too, was empty. The large room had cupboards and worktops on every side but one, large French doors leading to a garden where steps ran up to a small lawn. The original glass was long gone, replaced several times in the past few months, and now thick bars were cast upon the outside of the doors, preventing anything from getting in. Or getting out.

On the central island a large brown bowl stood. Beside it, a lump of dough sat on the countertop, half worked, but left to rise. Carl looked to the wall besides the cooker, to two thick chains which hung loosely from the tiles. They snaked their way down over the expanse of cream like wrought iron vipers, the interlocking chains caught amongst one another so that they didn’t hang straight. On the opposite side of the room Carl heard a rustle, and he looked towards a shattered window and saw the spring breeze carry a small leaf through the air.

“Crap,” Carl said with far more urgency than his awakening expletive had been. Running to the window, he saw that the glass had shattered outwards, sending shards of knife sharp material scattering over the patio table that lay beneath the sill. The bars that were normally in place to prevent such escapes, dangled below, hanging from the bottom ledge by the remaining two screws.

“Mum?” Carl shouted, as he left the kitchen behind him and raced up the stairs. Without thinking he burst into his mother’s bedroom and saw that she lay quietly in her own slumber. “Sheila’s out again.”

Beneath the duvet there was movement, and his mother’s tired and lined face appeared.

“Carl,” she muttered as she licked her lips in a bid to restore some moisture to her dry mouth. “What?”

“Sheila’s out again,” Carl repeated, a hand gripped around the door as a way to settle his flipping stomach.

“She’ll come back when she’s hungry,” Karen said sleepily. “What time is it? I was having the weirdest dream…”

“Mum, she hasn’t had her shot,” Carl interrupted, knowing the urgency of the situation.”

“Oh, for the love of God, Carl,” Karen snapped, her previously sleepy eyes now fully alert as adrenalin shot through her body. She sat bolt upright, before leaping out of bed and pulling on a turquoise dressing gown that hung on the back of a chair. “I can’t lose Sheila. If she hurts anyone this time, then they’ll never give me another one. They’ll take my allocation away.” She stared fiercely in Carl’s direction, and he felt the burn of her eyes on his face. “You were supposed to inject her last night.”

“I know, I know. I was going to do it this morning, but..”

“But you slept in,” Karen finished. “Do I have to do everything myself?”

The pair hurried out of the room, Carl pulling sneakers onto his feet as he reached the bottom of the stairs. Karen stretched down besides the hall cabinet and pulled out a baseball bat.

“You take the street,” she said, passing the bat to Carl. “I’ll go out back and check she hasn’t climbed three gardens down and eaten the Bareham’s dog.”

As his mother turned and scurried off down the hallway, Carl turned the locks on the front door and rolled his eyes. Sheila wouldn’t eat the Bareham’s dog, not yet anyway. Not until the vaccine that coursed through her veins dissipated and she once again became a ravaged lunatic.

The street was quiet outside, and the breeze brought distant sounds of life. The rumble of a generator, the chatter of voices several roads away, the creaks and groans as faster winds higher up in the sky rattled trees and roof tiles. Carl Kingly and his mother lived in a row of small terraced houses, typical for the London suburbs. Most of the residents had moved towards the city centre, where patrolled residential blocks offered more safety, but his mother had wanted to stay put. To stay in the house that she’d lived in for the past two and half decades, to stay where Carl, too, had lived most of his life. There were a few neighbours who had also felt the draw of their own homes and had made a conscious effort to create some form of community. Some people had stayed in the vicinity, but moved to flats above shops, places that provided a little bit of extra security should the infection rise again. Others, like his mother, stayed stubbornly in their homes, local officials painting bright swathes of blue on their doors to indicate where they lived. An important precaution so that if a rampage did occur, innocent civilians weren’t accidently gunned down. And the others who hadn’t moved away? They were all dead, or worse.

Leaping the couple of steps that led up to the black front door with its bronze knob and inlaid glass, Carl was on the pavement in an instant, scouring the street for any sign of Sheila. There was no movement of any kind, other than a small squirrel that looked at him inquisitively through bright black button eyes. It hung on the oak tree outside the house, its body wrapped around the bark as it camouflaged into the gnarled old wood.

“Sheila?” Carl called as he heard his mother shouting their cook’s name from the garden. He could picture his mother, scrambling over dilapidated fences, offensive weapon in hand, all in a bid to try and stop their cook from devouring the first juicy morsel she came across. Of course, this hadn’t been the first time she’d escaped, Sheila regularly traipsed though the streets that she used to know. Carl didn’t like using the chains, and though they’d been a vital requirement of her adjustment phase, both he and his mother allowed Sheila the freedom of the kitchen at all times. It was safe, bars on the doors, bars on the windows. Seemingly, though, Sheila always found some way of getting out, and this time it wasn’t mid-week, this time there was the danger that her pacification would crumble as her true nature forced its way through.

“Sheila?” Carl called again, looking down the side-passage where he’d found her before, her mouth covered in the rot of decaying vegetables from the bin that she’d overturned. The passage was empty, and Carl moved quickly from house to house, checking that front doors were locked, that whatever the colour on the paint mark, there was no way that Sheila could have entered.

Turning out of Broadmead Drive and onto the main road, Carl looked in both directions, scanning the horizon for any indication of which way Sheila might have staggered. To his left, the road rose up a gentle hill, houses, streetlamps and paving intact, no indication that anything out of the ordinary had ever happened in his small suburb. To his right, the real chaos could be seen. Here, burnt out cars and trashcans littered the street. Crumbling homes, their windows blackened by soot, shed masonry, guttering and roofing onto the pavement and road below. The off licence that stood on the corner of the intersection loomed out of the ground, large gaping windows sucking in light, its red and white torn canopy flapping helplessly in the wind.

The door to the shop opened and Carl heard the familiar bell tinkle as the Singh twins ran out, their arms laden with broken bottles and rocks. They laughed at each other, oblivious that Carl was looking on, before racing out of view and into the street that ran parallel to Broadmead.

“Hey, over here you rotting bitch.”

“How’d you like that? Yeah, bet you liked it hard when you were alive, didn’t ya?”

Carl heard the twins whooping with laughter as they tormented the unseen being. There was the unmistakeable sound of bottles being thrown, and the boys howled with laughter. Carl’s grip around the baseball bat tightened as he strode towards where the teenagers had disappeared from sight, and he rounded the corner to find them standing half way down the street, piles of rocks and bottles by their feet. A large bottle was already in flight, and Carl’s eyes followed as it soared through the air and smashed upon they grey skin of Sheila’s forehead. It shattered into a dozen pieces, sharp shards wedging themselves into her skin, as liquid oozed from the new wound and ran down her face.

Sheila roared as the bottle broke, her eyes wide as she looked vacantly around for where the attack had come from. The Singh’s laughed again, and as Sheila turned away from them, one of the boys picked up one of the larger rocks and launched it into the air.

“Take that, you decrepit old Frother”.

The term was widely used for humanity’s fallen kin, for those that woke to the disease instantly frothed at the mouth like a rabid animal as they sought out their first taste of flesh whilst their body decomposed around them.

The brick flew though the air and smacked into the back of Sheila’s leg with a thud that even Carl could feel. Her knee buckled, and within seconds Sheila’s thin and leathery frame collapsed to the floor, another animalistic cry flying from her withdrawn lips. But the twins weren’t done, and as soon as she hit the floor, dozens of smaller stones and rocks began to pelt down upon the grey flesh, battering the tissues and skin, and keeping the victim of the attack pinned to the floor.

“What the hell are you doing?!” Carl shouted, raising the baseball bat into the air and jogging down the street. “Get away from her!”

The twins looked around, dropping the bottles and stones that were between their fingers as they did so. They laughed again, seemingly not the least nerved by Carl’s hostility.

“Oh, look, it’s that Frother lover. Come here to get your girlfriend, have you? Come to have a go?”

“Yeah, I bet she likes it good and proper, bet you can take her all night.” Both boys laughed again, simulating a sex act as they gyrated towards where Sheila lay on the ground.

Carl swept the bat down, only just missing the boys as they leapt backwards at his approach. They continued to laugh, an unhinged snigger that made Carl feel like Sheila wasn’t the only ravaged monster on the street.

“Get outta here,” he shouted.

“Enjoy your Mrs,” one of the twins shouted back, biting his lip provocatively and grinding his hips again.

Carl raised the bat and the boys scattered, shrieking with laughter and running down the street towards their home. They’d almost certainly regale the great tale to their family, after which they’d be patted on the back and rewarded for their heroics. The Singh’s were a large family, and had somehow managed to escape the global disaster unscathed. Carl’s mouth watered slightly as he remembered the curry’s that the twin’s mother had used to make for the local restaurant. She was a great cook, of that there was no doubt. Still, he detested her offspring, especially the twins.

There was a quiet groan in front of him, and Carl stepped forward and crouched at Sheila’s side.

“What are we going to do with you?” he asked. “You can’t keep escaping like this. Gonna have to start chaining you up again, aren’t we?”

She looked up at him with blank eyes. She saw him, but there was no connection, there was nothing behind those eyes to indicate that any soul was intact. A few people believed that those taken by the infection still had glimmers of their former selves hidden amongst their leathery corpses. That they might be capable of conscious thought or emotion, and not only the residual skills that some individuals had managed to retain. Shadows, people called them. Not Frothers, or undead, or simply ‘the help’, but Shadows. A word indicating that behind the pacified monster, behind the mask, there were real people.

Carl looked at Sheila again, at the face that he’d seen throughout his life. At eyes that had been so bright with life, at a mouth which had always smiled when he’d clicked the door into the local patisserie to pick up a cake. His mother had wanted her specifically. Sheila had been processed, injected, chipped, vetted, and all through the process his mother had been badgering the authorities to get the former patisserie owner. She’d got her desire. She’d got her chef, her cook, but there was no Shadow, there was no Sheila left. There were only skills, skills which had got Sheila into local newspapers, and even a national, for her stunning recipes.

A growl formed on Sheila’s lips as putrid looking fluid continued to seep from the wound on her forehead. It trickled down her mottled face, collecting in the folds of desiccating skin before spilling over into the next wrinkle. A whisper came from her mouth, only it wasn’t the snarl that Carl had expected. Her tongue flicked as her lips moved, and Carl went rigid. Was she trying to say something?

“Sheila?”

She pulled an arm from the pavement and reached out to him, her three remaining fingers landing on his knee. They didn’t grip like the attack of a monster appearing from a drug induced coma, but simply lay there, patting gently against his trousers. Her mouth opened again, her lips forming an oval, her eyes looking up at him as another incomprehensible sound, word, was uttered. Was there desperation there? Was there a flicker of emotion?

“Oh my God, Sheila? Are you there? Can you hear me?”

There was no time for Sheila to respond, and to Carl it seemed as if her head exploded at the same time as he heard the gun shot. A large hole erupted on her forehead as bits of flesh, skull and brain splattered onto Carl’s face, the three fingers that had been on his leg previously, dropping to the floor as all life left them.

“Where the hell am I going to get another cook as good as Sheila?” Karen said shrilly as she walked up behind where Carl continued to crouch, covered in bits of the pastry chef from his youth who had showered him in cakes, biscuits and buns. He shook her from his T-shirt as he stood, taking in his mother’s scornful look, before looking back to the corpse. Sheila was dead. Again.

A surprising new book

You may have read an earlier post where I talked about how to promote books on Squidoo. I’ve become fairly addicted to Squidoo over the past few weeks, and whilst I am yet to actually note any sales as a direct result of my marketing there, I am having fun. In addition, creating a lens about how to write a great vampire novel seemingly triggered a creative thought process in my brain, and now I started a new book!

With it being NaNoWriMo this month, and the fact that I haven’t really got off the starting block with the third Inside Evil book, I’ve been a little worried. I’ve failed at NaNoWriMo for two years running, mostly because I just haven’t sat down to write, rather than attempting and failing miserably. I have no interest in writing a vampire story, it’s really not my thing, but my Squidoo lens talked about the importance of bringing something new to a genre, of putting your stamp on it, of creating a new tale with one or two features that are original. Finding originality in literature is incredibly hard these days as most things have already been written. Then, choosing to write in a small genre, such as vampires, makes the task even harder. But it got my brain thinking, and last night I had a flash of inspiration for, uh-oh, a zombie story.

The inspiration occurred to me yesterday, and I decided to write some notes and shelve the idea for a while. After all, I’m in the middle of writing TWO book series. Plus, I’ve NEVER wanted to write about zombies. However, as I was working at a gardening client’s today, the novel just wouldn’t leave me alone. Ideas were coming thick and fast, and I’ve just ended up writing a 3,000 word first chapter for the book! I don’t have time to write a full length novel, not when I’ve got other series in motion, but a short 20k/30k novella might be OK. So, it’s decided, this NaNoWriMo I AM going to participate. I’m going to write my first ever short story. I’m going to take a leaf out of Hugh Howey’s book, and throw a short out there and see if it gains traction. If it does, I’ll write more. If it doesn’t, I’ll be happy that I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time and crafted my writing skills a little more.

I’m excited! I’m off to write!

To NaNoWriMo or not

You may think that if I’m still trying to decide whether to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) on November 6th, then I’m on to a losing battle. It’s true….I haven’t really started yet. I managed to write the first 3,000 words of the new Inside Evil novel on my flight to Canada, but my bid to write far more on the way home was interrupted by an extremely fidgety passenger to my right.

Every year I contemplate NaNoWriMo. I’m a writer, I’ve published novels, shouldn’t I be participating? Especially as I’m a huge procrastinator? Getting 50,000 words down on paper for a month would be incredible. Every year I think about it. Every year I start. Every year, I’m lost within a few days.

This is my first year in self publishing, and I’ve got Inside Evil, The Tower of Souls, and the soon to be published CRYO: Rise of the Immortals, under my belt. The third IE book, Spirits of the Middlelands, is set to be released in Feb 2013 (probably) so getting that 50K done now would be a huge step forward in getting to that release date with time to spare. But I’m still in a quandary about NaNoWriMo. Why? Because it’s hard.

If writing was my only job, then fair enough. As it is, I have to concentrate on multiple other work pieces too. For now I’ll try and bash out my normal 1,000 words a day and see how I go. If I manage to write more on a few days, who knows, I might even complete NaNoWriMo by accident. Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Completed it before? Let me know!