From The Fishbowl

Scribbles about stuff

Archive for the category “Writing”



I didn’t realise that it’d been nearly two months since I last posted here. ‘My bad’. In case you’re unaware, my NaNoWriMo project failed, but I’m planning to carry on with the novel regardless because I think it could be quite good. Eventually. But that’s not really why I’m here today. I’m here because it’s nearly a new year, so I have a few resolutions to make. Whether I’ll keep them or not is another story, but there’s at least one that I wanted to put online for the world to see.

I’m currently trying to plan a list of twelve Books That I Probably Should Have Read But Have Never Gotten Around To Reading. These might either be ‘classics’ or maybe just a book series that I’ve read the first part of but not carried on with. Currently the list isn’t actually twelve books long because I need to think of more. If anyone has any suggestions, I would be most grateful. The list so far is comprised of, in no particular order:

1) Something by Kurt Vonnegut (probably Slaughterhouse-Five but I’ve also been recommended Cat’s Cradle)

2) Life of Pi by Yann Martel

3) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

4) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

5) Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

6) To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

7) Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

8) ?

9) ?

10) ?

11) ?

12) ?

I will hopefully read more than just these twelve this year, but I picked 12 because, y’know, there are 12 months. If anyone has any recommendations for the remaining five, please let me know either here or on Twitter or via that there Contact page (link at the top of the page).

I’m hopeful that 2013 will be a good year for me. Frankly, 2012 – with a couple of notable exceptions – has been pretty crappy. I don’t think 2013 could be altogether that much worse, I’ll put it that way. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Thanks for reading.


NaNoWriMo is Go!


In all likelihood, this post will be updated soon, but I wanted to do it before I forgot.

Anyway, my NaNoWriMo project for the year, This Immortal Coil has begun. As mentioned in a previous post, I will be updating its progress every day. This might be late, it might be early, it kind of depends. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed for update updates (as it were). I’ve set myself a rule, though, which I think it’s important I make public: no editing. Once a file has been uploaded, I will not go back and change previous sections. I can edit on the fly, but once it’s uploaded, it’s Gospel. At least until the project is over.

Now, I want to warn you that, if you choose to read This Immortal Coil, please do not consider it as perfect. There will be errors. Maybe these will be grammatical or in the spelling, or perhaps there may be some plot holes. I do have a plan for the story – I know where I’ll be going with each scene – but, as with anything I’ve ever worked on, there’s a good chance I’ll be coming up with new ideas all the time. That’s one of the reasons I’m not allowing myself to edit – I have to work with what I’ve got at every turn.If I put an idea in and later realise it’s a terrible mistake, well, I’ll have to live with it. Characters might be inconsistent, or perhaps some parts will seem more rushed than others. Most likely because some bits will be more rushed than others. I’m writing a 50,000 word story in a month. It is unlikely to be the new Harry Potter instantly. Writing, good writing, requires drafting, something that NaNoWriMo doesn’t really afford me. But, if and when I complete the project, I will go back to the drawing board and make it as good as it can be.

This is just for fun. It’s a story that I’ve been wanting to tell all year, and hopefully if you choose to read it, you’ll like it. If you enjoy the tale of Kara, Ankou and Tom, I’ll be happy. If you do like it, I’d really appreciate you sending it on to a friend, or perhaps buying a copy of Not Quite Normal if you haven’t already. That would be super-awesome.

Right then, I guess you’ll need a link. This is it: Now go forth, unto Ankou’s bosom. Not everyone will make it out alive.

Ghosts An’ That


As previously mentioned, I’m going to be taking part in NaNoWriMo this year with my story, This Immortal Coil. Since I’ve been planning it out a lot over the past few days, I wanted to talk a little more about it than I previously have done. Obviously without spoilers. Because where would be the fun in that?

So, as I’ve said God knows how many times, the story revolves around death. But it’s not an incredibly morbid and depressing tale. Well, mostly. I mean, people die. It’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows. It’s also not going to be out-and-out comedy, because that would almost certainly be awful too. It will be darkly comic at times, though. Look at my recent story Jam for an idea of the style I’d like to go for at least some of the time. To be honest, that story was something of a proof-of-concept.

Anyway, the story revolves around three characters. The central character is Ankou, who is, for all intents and purposes, a grim reaper. If you’ve read some of my stories before – including Jam, St. Martin’s Eve and The Helper – there’s a chance you’ve encountered him already. In fact, all of those stories, but particularly The Helper are in some senses a prologue to This Immortal Coil, but they certainly won’t be required reading.

Anyway, the second character is a young woman named Kara. She’s dead, a spirit trapped on Earth seeking to move on. The circumstances surrounding her death form the backbone of the story of This Immortal Coil, so I’m not going to go into it too much. But suffice to say that Ankou is the one tasked with helping her transition to the Great Beyond.

The third and final main character is a vampire called Tom. Tom is based on the vampire in my story Tomahawk but there isn’t really any relation between them except a similar name and, y’know, the fact that they’re vampires. You can assume they’re the same character if you want, but if you don’t want to, that’s cool too. I’m keeping his role close to my chest for the time being.

Basically, they represent three ‘figures’ of death. The ghost – a lost spirit. The vampire – trapped between life and death. A reaper – neither dead nor living but responsible for all. It’s an unholy trinity.

When November starts, I’ll post some instructions on how you can read the project. As I’ll undoubtedly say many, many times, though, the point of NaNo is to write 50,000 words in a month. This is no guarantee of quality. There will be mistakes. Possibly some on-the-go retconning. It will probably not be my best work. But it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be fun. Hopefully it’ll be fun to read. The story’s mapped out for the most part, so I’m confident that, y’know, things will happen at various points and make you keep wanting to come back for more. All I ask for is a little slack.

Next time I post, we’ll begin. Sit comfortably. Take care.



I haven’t written an actual blog post in a little while, so I thought I’d write down where I stand with a number of things. As you’ve noticed, neither This Immortal Coil or The Galaxy have made any kind of appearance of late. This is for all sorts of reasons which I can’t be bothered to go into. However. A new plan approaches!

Next month is NaNoWriMo. I expect you already know what it is, at least vaguely – write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I did it two years ago, completing A Friend of Mine on the 28th November. I was very proud of it, even though it was shit. I tried to write a project last year called You Killed Me, but it never really got off the ground. This year, I’m going to write This Immortal Coil.

The main reason that you haven’t seen any updates from it – well, Jam is part of the series, really, but it’s not the ‘core’ story – is because the story was both too complex and not complex enough. I was adding lots of different ideas, which I’ve now trimmed down. This will hopefully make the actual writing of the project much easier. It will also feature many many less driving scenes than the previous version had. Seriously, it was meant to be a ghost story, but there was more driving down the motorway than there were ghosts. Simplification, but expansion, is the way forward. Less is more.

In addition, because I work better with firm targets – if I hadn’t set a release date for Not Quite Normal it’d probably still be sat on my computer – I’m going to be updating the story ‘live’. Thanks to Smashwords, the wonderful distributors of Not Quite Normal, I’m able to upload new versions of the story as often as I want as I write it. So I’ll be posting a new chunk every day. Which will be nice. And then I’ll get to 50k easily! In theory. As long as Life doesn’t get in the way.

That’s about it. Thanks for reading, if, indeed, you are. Most of the views on this blog are from bots, I’m well aware of that, but I live in hope that there are at least a couple of real people out there who at least vaguely care about all this nonsense. Take care.


He understood now why people waited.

As Tony’s toes sat a little over the void, he felt his body rock back and forth with the wind. He wanted to reach out and grab hold of something, but there was nothing but air to support him. He looked straight ahead, not daring to glimpse the road below, and thought of why he was doing this. Taking such a permanent step. He thought…

“Excuse me,” said a voice from behind him. It almost made Tony lose his footing right away. “Oh, I’m sorry,” the voice said again. “I didn’t mean to make you jump.” A beat. “Probably a poor choice of words…” Tony looked over his shoulder and saw the embodiment of the voice. It was a man, young, dressed in a sharp suit.

“A…are you the police?” said Tony.

“Oh my, no. Just someone who wants to help you. You certainly appear to be in dire need of some assistance.”

“I don’t need anyone’s help,” said Tony. He was much more confident now that the initial shock of no longer being alone had faded. “Just let me die in peace.”

“Peace? You think jumping from a 30-storey building would be a peaceful death?” The man started walking towards the edge.

“Don’t come any further!”

“Why not? You’re not going to jump anyway.”

“I will if you come closer!”

“Nah,” said the man. He carried on walking, and sat down on the ledge next to Tony. “See? You’re still here, and I’m just sat here next to you. Lovely day, isn’t it? Would you like a jam sandwich?”

“I…what?” The man produced a small plastic bag from his pocket. Two triangular jam sandwiches were inside.

“I made them myself this morning. It’s so hard to find cafés that sell them. I’m not really keen on sandwich fillings that aren’t jam. I’m sure Pret or Subway would get a lot more business if they just made a few every day.”

“Who the hell are you?” said Tony.

“I’m Hank, and you didn’t answer my question.”

“What…no, I don’t want a bloody jam sandwich, OK?! Just leave me alone!”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that. You’re not meant to die, you see. Not today, anyway. I mean, it seems pretty clear to me that you’re not going to anyway, so I probably don’t need to be here, but, y’know, it’s good etiquette.” He took one of the triangles out of the bag and had a huge bite. “Mmm,” he said, with his mouth full. “That’s a good sandwich. Are you sure I can’t tempt you?”

Tony didn’t answer. The pair were silent for a moment. “So what brings you here?” said Hank.

“None of your business.”

“I know it isn’t. But I’m curious. I mean, a man doesn’t just wake up one morning and say to himself, ‘Y’know, I think I’m going to throw myself off a building today. That seems like a fun way to get my morning going.’”

“Do you think this is some sort of joke?!” said Tony.

“Not at all. I’m sure you’re deadly serious. I just…”

“No, I know what you’re doing. You’re stalling. Yeah. You saw me up here and phoned the police and you’re trying to stop me from jumping for just long enough until they arrive.”

Hank smiled. “This isn’t Lethal Weapon, my friend. Have you looked down? I wouldn’t recommend it, but I can assure you that there aren’t hundreds of rubberneckers staring into the sky while the assembled police force rapidly inflate a gigantic air cushion. Besides, I look nothing like Mel Gibson.”

Tony had had enough. He lifted his right foot and held it over the edge. There was a light breeze which made him wobble like a dashboard toy. “Ah-ah,” said Hank. “Don’t be silly.”

“Silly? SILLY?”

“Let me ask you one last question before you make your decision. If you still believe that an early death is your best option then I shall not stand in your way.” He took another bite of his sandwich as Tony put his foot back on the ledge. He was mildly pleased to do so.

“Good choice,” said Hank. “So. My question to you is: what do you think will happen when your head splatters against the tarmac?”

“Well…I’ll die.”

“Bravo, Captain Obvious. Beyond that.”

“I…I don’t know. Heaven, I suppose. I think I’ve been a good person.”

“Catholics believe suicide is a sin, you know.”

“I’m Anglican.”

“But what if the Catholics are right?”

“Then…I’ll go to Hell.”

“Uh-huh. And your family. What will happen to them?”

“They…you…what the hell are you doing?” Tears started to stream down Tony’s face.

“I’m trying to save your life. What will your family do?”

“They’ll…be better. Better off without me.”

“And I’m sure you’ve convinced yourself of that. But it seems to me that you’re making a lot of leaps of faith before you take your very literal leap of faith.

“I…stop screwing with me!”

“I’m not screwing with you. I’m just telling you the truth. This is what’ll happen to your family. They’ll be devastated. Your wife will be sucked so hard into the black hole of depression that she may never be able to crawl her way out of it. Your children will be taken into care, forced to grow up with people who will never understand their suffering. They’ll forever resent their father for being a selfish son of a bitch who’d rather take his own life than clean up his act and sort his life out. Your son will grow up to be a carbon copy of you. In the space of thirty storeys, you can corrupt him. And you? Well, you’ll just be lying in a hole in the ground with your face rotting off and being eaten from the inside out by bugs smaller than a pinhead, never able to accomplish any of the great things that a man can do with his short time on Earth.

“But if that all sounds better to you, then feel free to jump.”

Tony didn’t say anything, but whimpered softly. He lifted his left foot, but brought it behind his body, not in front. He stepped onto the roof and fell to his backside, crying so hard Hank thought his eyes might fall out. Hank swung his legs back from the ledge and went over to Tony. He crouched down to his level.

“It’ll be alright, I promise. You’re a good man with a great family. Like jam, you’re good alone. But you’re much better when you’re surrounded by the bread of love. Oh my, I’m so sorry for that truly dreadful metaphor. Flowery language has never been my strongest suit. But you get the gist.”


“You don’t need the answer to that question. Here,” Hank put the bag containing the sandwiches on the ground. He’d eaten one of the triangles, but the other was still there. “Goodbye.”

Hank left Tony’s life forever.



Earlier today, I sat down and started freewriting. That being the process of jotting down whatever comes to mind without a second thought and just seeing what happens. Ordinarily, the process turns out utter crap, but at least helps the creative juices get flowing. Today, my freewriting session turned out something that I actually quite like for some reason. I don’t really know why. I thought I’d show you. Have fun.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –



Four white Beatles, walking ‘cross the road.

Four white Beatles, walking ‘cross the road.

And if one white Beatle, should accidentally something

There’d be three white Beatles, walking ‘cross the road.





Never before have I thought I’d be doing this at random, making silly words into silly sentences that barely make sense except for the fact that they run in formation and use a level of syntax synonymous with the creation of English Language sentences. One could almost call it poetry, were it not for the fact that poetry is dull and boring and leaves more to the imagination than a piece of writing should. But then again, there can be some beauty in that, in the not knowing, in the reading between the lines and the flow of letters and syllables up and down a page.

I don’t know if this is supposed to be some sort of healing process, or perhaps is just my fried creative juices crying out in pain and shouting WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME?!?!?!? and this is the only way that I can control them. Maybe I’m finally realising there’s more to writing than prose and poetry and there can be something inbetween. Something with flow, that is beauty epitomised, but also something that I can do.

It could just be me rambling. I am sat staring into glass onto ‘ink’ formed of 1s and 0s that doesn’t even exist. I am focussed for the first time in God knows how long, and I am not even doing anything but writing. Just writing. The words flow from finger to page without second thought, or even first thought, and all that exists in my mind are words and fingers and the joyful despair of everything around me.

I do not know if this feeling will last, or even if it exists at all, for I am focussed and nothing will stop me until I stop myself.

And I have.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –



I’ve been awful recently. Simply terrible.

You may (or, more likely, may not) remember that some time ago I set out three projects. The most realistic of which was a novel called This Immortal Coil.

I’m here today to tell you that This Immortal Coil, in many senses, is dead. Fittingly. But in other senses it’s more alive than ever.

Y’see, in the midst of its writing, I stumbled upon any writer’s worst enemy. Block. I simply did not know where to go next. I knew what would happen at the end and I had 15,000 words of a beginning. But other than that? Nada. And it frightened me so much that I put the project aside for several weeks, during which time I did, basically, bugger all. Which is awful. Simply terrible.

But last week I had a revelation. What if the problem wasn’t the story? What if the problem was the format? Was a novel really the right solution for This Immortal Coil?

Some time ago, in one of my many insomnia-fuelled nighttime mind-ponderings, I attempted to come up with a TV series. I absolutely failed. I constantly had good ideas for stories – well, I think they’re good – but in an episodic format they just…wouldn’t be.

See, for a film, or a novel, or a short story, there needs to be a beginning, a middle and an end. A story. A narrative. TV shows, comic books and the like need a concept above all. Something that can be repeated. For instance: concept of Lost – a plane crashes on a magical island. Doctor Who – an alien travels through time helping people. Supernatural – two brothers fight monsters together. Sure, in each of these examples there is, for the most part, an over-riding plot, but each individual episode needs to be just that – individual, at least to an extent. If you miss one, it has to not matter, except in rare cases.

I was reading over the draft that I had started and something hit me. What I had written to that point wasn’t really a bound story. It was a series of vignettes held together quite loosely for the sake of it. It came to me that what I had created for This Immortal Coil was a concept and then trying to force a narrative onto that, rather than letting it speak for itself.

What I am doing with This Immortal Coil, therefore, is taking what I call the Sherlock Holmes approach. I will write multiple stories concerning the characters. Whenever I feel like it and whenever I have something I’m proud enough of to show off. There will be certain overtones – a Moriarty, I suppose – but for the most part each story will be individual. It might work. It might not. I won’t know until I try.

With that in mind, given that the beginning of the novel already has around three or four stories within it already, hopefully the first entry in the This Immortal Coil series will be available soon in some fashion. I have no idea whether it is going to be an eBook or posted straight here or something else entirely. I’ll see how it goes.

But Ankou will be here. Soon. Prey he doesn’t take your soul.

Thanks, as ever, for reading.



Today I found myself writing some flash fiction for no apparent reason. I present it here. Enjoy.

* * * * *

I should be dead.


I am dead.

But…I’m communicating. With you. Which means I can’t be. Right?

Maybe it’s just one last shot. Unfinished business. There are others here. Other ‘mes’. We have no shape or feeling. No form any longer. We exist merely as numbers and letters and colours and symbols and signs. But I am writing this to tell you how much I hate you.

You killed me.

I should have known you were trouble from the second you forced me to take those magic mushrooms. I didn’t want to. But I had no choice. And boy, it felt good. They made me feel big, powerful, like I could take on the world and fulfil my greatest potential.

And then you killed me, you bastard.

A ledge. You guided me up there, practically held my hand, as I climbed those steps. It was hard work. God knows how high I ended up. Thirty feet? Forty? And at the top was just a gap. A chasm. A drop right down, deep into the dirt below. Someone had dug it out. It doesn’t matter who (although, had I survived, I’d probably be able to sue).

The gap was maybe ten feet. Inconsequential in comparison to the stairs you’d just made me climb, but my head was still spinning with narcotics. “You can make it,” you said to me, in not quite so many words. And I believed you. Without question.

You pushed. I leapt into the sky, higher than I ever thought possible (both literally and by way of drugs). The opposite ledge got closer and closer and then…

I missed.

By a fraction, I missed.

I couldn’t even grab on. In my head-fucked state, I foolishly held one arm aloft, fist raised, the other to my side, and could not react quickly enough to my mortal peril.

I fell for what felt like an eternity. My short life flashed before my eyes. My head was filled with music.

And I died.

You disappeared. After all, you had no connection to me any more. But now you’re trying to do it to some other unsuspecting fool. Another me.

The worst part is, I can’t stop you. All these other ‘mes’ have suffered the same, or similar, fate. Were there a way to make you pay, they’d have found it. You are the world’s greatest serial killer, my friend, and you probably don’t even know it.

Ah, speak of the devil, another one has joined us. It’s a me – Mario. Of course it is. Who else would it be? If nothing else, I hope you remember that name. Fucker.

* * * * *

It was fun to write. If you liked it, drop me a comment (or check out the Contact page), pass it on or just smile at yourself and forget it. ‘Sup to you. But thanks for reading.

I (Sometimes) Keep My Promises


I said yesterday that I would have EXCITING NEWS. I said that it would be exciting to me and probably no-one else, and that remains the case. But I want to say it. I figure that it worked with Not Quite Normal, it’ll work with this.

Basically, I want to tell you what I’m up to.

A little while back, I said that I had several projects to work on. One of these is something only a handful of people will care about. As you may or may not know, I’ve been playing pen and paper RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons for the past few years. One of the stories in Not Quite Normal, The Well of Wisdom came about through a campaign that I was DMing (Dungeon Mastering) and, basically, making up as I went along. Since then, some of the members of my group and I have been playing a different RPG called Pathfinder. It’s excellent, but it would be hard for me to explain why unless you know the intricacies of the D20 system. I’m gonna go ahead and assume that you’re probably not.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that I started creating a new fantasy world for it, completely of my own doing. And as I started to work on it, I realised that it had a lot of potential for all sorts of things. So one of my projects is thus: I am creating an open source fantasy world.

By that, I mean that I am going to create the world in as much detail as I can. But at the same time, a lot of history and so on will be left blank. The world will, in essence, be half-finished. And anyone who chooses to use the world, be it as a campaign setting for an RPG, as a location for short stories, or just to help make it, whatever, all of this will help to build it. In short, the history of that world will be etched by the people of this one. And it will all be available for free under a creative commons licence. I think it’s a cool idea. Whether it’ll work or not is another matter, but I think it can. I don’t have a timeframe on it, it is a massive undertaking, and at some stage I will likely need help with it, but it is still a project I’m determined to see to the end.

Another project I’m working on is slightly more outside my expertise. A little while ago, a friend of mine approached me with an idea for…actually, I’m not too comfortable talking about this one. But it involves scripts and actors and cameras and stuff. The central idea is cool, and we’re hoping to kick it into top gear over the summer. This is probably the shortest-term project, although it still won’t see an end until later in the year at the earliest. Watch this space I guess!

Last but not least is what I’ve been spending most time on over the past couple of weeks. Obviously, it cannot have escaped your notice, that I wrote a short story collection called Not Quite Normal, and released it. It’s gone down pretty well (two copies sold, well over a hundred free downloads thus far – I wouldn’t object to more, mind you, see the Not Quite Normal page on this blog for more info!). I mentioned that in the making of it there was a character that I took a shine to. If you’ve bought Not Quite Normal, you should recognise his name. It’s Ankou.

Ankou is based on a real-life Celtic demi-god who was, essentially, a grim reaper. And that’s what he remains in the two stories that feature him – St. Martin’s Eve and The Helper. As I wrote him, I realised how much potential he had as a character. And an idea started to bubble in the cauldron of my mind. An idea for a novel. My novel. Note the emphasis. The novel that I can shop around, show to publishers in the hope of, well, publication. A pipe dream, sure, but the world would be boring without dreams, right?

The world would be equally be boring without death…

This being me, I’m not going to write it in secret. I want to talk you through every gory detail on this blog, keep a diary of my progress, and generally tell people how it’s all going. For now it is the tale of three characters – Ankou, Kara and Tom – and the devastating impact that death and all its forms plays on their lives, currently called This Immortal Coil. Fantasy world aside, it’s the most ambitious thing I’ve ever even thought about writing. I’m sure, well, I hope, I can do the story justice. I won’t be publishing it as a complete eBook, but I might put snippets up now and then as tasters. It’ll take a while to get done to a decent standard – again, if you’ve bought Not Quite Normal you’ll see how much I draft and re-draft – but it’ll be done. And I hope you’ll join me along the way. That would be nice.

So. A fantasy world. A script. And a novel. Three completely different chunks of creative projects that will earn me absolutely no money (at first, anyway!) but will certainly keep me occupied. Does that make me a proper writer? That would be nice.

Thanks, as ever, for reading.

Procrastinating from Procrastination


I meant to write a blog post tonight in order to procrastinate from doing what (I decided) I was meant to be doing. But then I got distracted. Is that possible? I guess it must be, since I’ve just done it.

Anyway. I will tomorrow. I have NEWS. EXCITING news. Well, I think it’s exciting. It’s probably not surprising, but definitely exciting. For me.

I’ll shut up now.

Back tomorrow. Maybe. Hopefully. Sort of.


Thanks, as ever, for reading (even if this one was incredibly short).

Post Navigation