Blog: Hidden Meanings.

We have all been in an English lesson where the teacher is trying to tech us the deeper meanings of what the author meant. Writing has helped people voice their concerns and issues with society for centuries. Personal perspectives on war, regime change, atrocities and hopeful movements. Animal Farm was one of the first allegorical books I remember analysing, before that I simply read for the enjoyment of it. I still do, but I almost didn’t.

In study, being analytical of works is key to being able to convey that you understand the underpinnings of the story, the themes. However, in my own experience, having an analytical eye almost ruined reading for me. I could not pick up a book without looking for the authors deeper meanings, without deconstructing sentences and word choice, narrative voices and points of view. It ruined the immersion of the story, which to me is paramount. It can be argued that these works are for the purpose of conveying a very specific message, that is after all what allegory is for. I do feel though that we sometimes confuse allegory with applicability.

The distinction between allegory and applicability can sometimes be a muddied one. Animal Farm is an allegorical novella about the Russian Revolution of 1917, C.S Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia books are another example of allegory in fiction and yet Tolkien’s work, by his own admission, is not. He did not see The Lord of the Rings as an allegorical work for war and the industry it creates. It would however be absurd to say such things did not colour his work.

The distinction between allegory and applicability is that allegory is usually a one for one substitution. Allegory is a device employed by the author to further their message and point. Applicability however is something that the reader brings with them when they read. Applicability is an extension of the readers own experiences and knowledge. It is finding something within the work that we can connect with, perhaps something we have had experience with.

Some stories are just that. Stories. No hidden meanings, no agenda or message to be discovered. Personally when I write, if I say it was cold, its because it was cold. There is no deeper meaning attached that, the cold is not symbolism for depression or loneliness. It’s just cold. I have no interest in trying to foist upon the reader a hidden agenda, but my work is coloured by the world around me and my own experiences. I am only interested in trying to create great stories. If you find something in them that resonates with you, that is fantastic, but they are simply stories.

Mornings.

The wind was bitter and pulled at his coat. Colin turned his shoulder to it and tried to think about anything other than how tired he was. He bent his knees and performed the short impatient dance that seemed to be universal to those waiting for public transport.

It is far to early-

Down at the far end of the road he saw a bus wearing the right colours pull into view. It was hard to tell if it was the bus he had been waiting for, the numbers still to far distant and his eyesight at the ripe old age of thirty was not what it used to be. The green and cream bus trundled up the road, proudly displaying its route, it was the correct one after all. Rolling to a stop much further behind him than was convenient, Colin did an awkward almost jog to the door which hissed open. Colin was not one to move at a brisk pace.

Built for comfort, not speed-

Behind the wheel sat an all too cheery young man who didn’t look old enough to be let out without supervision, let alone drive.

“Good Morning,” he called happily.

How about you just shut your fucking mouth sunshine and drive the damn bus before Old Col pokes holes in your tires.

That was harsh even by Colin’s standards, not to mention unlikely and impractical. He fumbled with his pass.

That was a bit mean-

No, people shouldn’t be so bloody chipper this early in the morning-

How can you be such a grouch-

I’m you, you pleb, it’s not like this is new news, anyway stop talking to yourself you weirdo. Anyway, I’m off the clock, my customer service personality doesn’t come for free you know.

At this point Colin realises he has been holding his pass for a few seconds too long and the young driver looks a little unsure. He could have said something, a simple hello would have sufficed, or the ever British “Sorry.” Instead he gave the young man a deadpan look of disinterest he had perfected over the years and looked for a seat on the empty bus. He noted four windows were open, that should be enough to circulate the air of public transport out. Avoiding the seat near the emergency door, honestly who wants that kind of responsibility, he chose the seat just before the back step and took out his travel mug. He had almost perfected the art of drinking a hot liquid on a road that seemed designed to test the limits of modern suspension, almost.

Don’t spill it on yourself today-

Shut up, you’re not my real ladder!-

How many times, you can’t use inside jokes when your using your inner monologue-

Sorry Mr Thought Police-

You really are a child-

I know you are, said you are but what am I-

Sometimes, when left alone with his own thoughts, without any kind of supervision or boundary, Colin did wonder if he was in fact sane. He assumed others did the same, but there was always a nagging worry at the back of his mind.

How sure can you really be that others talk to themselves like you do? After all, you have some…expansive conversations with yourself-

Exactly, myself, I know I’m me, I know your me. It isn’t as if there are different people in here.. It’s just like the worst game of Devils Advocate ever played. 

The bus rumbles violently over the road, almost spilling the hot tea, it seems that the young, chipper driver fancied himself a rally driver.

Wanker!-

Wanker!-

I know right!-

You really need to watch your language though-

What are you my fucking mum?

Blog: Bashing Your Head Against The Block.

Some days you just sit and write. You know what you want to say and it flows easily. Some days you wake up at 4 am and scramble for a notepad, a scrap of paper and a pen, your phones memo app, anything will do so long as you manage to get that thought down. There are days when we spend only an hour in front of the keyboard, a quick splurge and were done. Other days we weasel the words out over the course of the day.

Then there are days when it’s difficult. The days when the words don’t come easily. The dreaded “writers block.” You can call it what you want, the fact is it sucks. Sometimes we just don’t know how to translate what is in our heads to paper, or we discover what we thought was a sound concept actually has a pretty large flaw in it.

There are hundreds of blogs concerning writers block and the cures and remedies for it, but much like the oft touted rules for writing nothing works for everybody.

When I find myself unable to write, be it in a satisfactory manner or even at all in some cases, the first thing I do is a change of scenery. I move from the desktop and take up the laptop or notepad. I’ve found a change of scenery can really help the creative process. If that doesn’t work I always have another project in the works. In this case I write to fit my mood, and chose something I can pour into. There are however times where you can almost justify bashing your head against the keyboard in the hopes that it will come out making sense on the screen.

If it comes to that then I find it best to just not force it. Go for a walk or make a brew or have a conversation with someone. Just don’t write. Almost all writing advice will tell you to write, and then write some more and then tie that all up with some writing. It doesn’t work like that, not for everyone. Yes it can be frustrating but we all have our ruts, it is okay to just leave it alone for a while.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Blog: An Authors Portrait.

I’m bored and have itchy typing fingers, so, lets ramble.

It’s safe to say I have a few books, more accurately I have a shit-ton of books. Less than  I used to have mind you, I used to a have a fuck-ton but I found that amount to be rather excessive.

The one thing that almost all these books share in common is that they have a page about the author. It is usually a few lines containing where they come from, where they studied, where they live now and how many cats they own. That kind of thing. There is also usually a picture of said author almost always in a library or some kind of garden environment near an aged cottage or stone wall. I guess the pose is like the first album cover with all members looking off in separate directions, it must be a medium cliché.

I had a conversation with a friend that turned me onto this subject and actually got me thinking about it. We talked about the book that I’m working on (read; currently making my existence miserable) and if I would be doing an authors page. In the moment I gave it brief consideration and decided I wouldn’t, for one I don’t like having my picture taken and I almost always take a bad photo. So let’s just take a quick look and see how it would pan out.

Exhibit A

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Just to point out I am not the one in the dress. This one is on my mother’s head, and I’m sure should she read this I will get some excuse about “It was the fashion then.” Regardless I look like a middle aged car salesman. Also shout out to my sister who is clearly mocking my height and preemptively destroying any sense of self confidence I would ever have. This is what I consider to possibly be the opening salvo in a feud that continues to this day.

As it went on it did not get better, though thankfully my forehead seems to be a little more in proportion.

grin

I mean I just don’t get it. Smiling isn’t hard but yeah, grinning like a muppet was as close as I ever got. Maybe I need to try something a little more artsy to go with as an Author portrait.

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This one I like but it may be too far in the wrong direction. Tends to speak less of an author and more of a weirdo putting googly eyes on his mug. Although I honestly see the appeal of something less traditional. Lets try one more.

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That is a little larger than I anticipated, my face not the photo. This, this I feel will be my author’s portrait, I will make it black and white though, I’m not completely without class. It will sit at the back of the book with a small paragraph condensing my entire life into a few short and succinct phrases:

Colin J Upson, owing to circumstances beyond his control was born in the UK in a time before jet packs and ray guns were common place and was denied a domed residence on the surface of the moon. Likes trees, books and tea. Dislikes spiders, cats and biting the inside of his cheek whilst chewing. Currently lives despite many attempts to reenact scenes from Jackass in spite of MTV’s disclaimers. 

A Door For A Home: Part 8

 

Fyonn didn’t have much time to think, the crow spread its large black wings and with a few heavy beats it took off. Through the smoke that was quickly filling the corridor Fyonn could see the wild smile of the evil little pixie on the back of the crow. It was coming for her, a mass of dark feathers and vicious talons. She took off into one of the classrooms, hoping to lose the crow in the tangle of chair and table legs, the shrill sound of Amanita’s laughter followed. A horrid name for a horrid pixie. This was all so much simpler when it was just her and her books. Darting low between the chair legs, zigging and zagging Fyonn came out at the far end of the table. She risked a glance behind to see if the crow was following.

“Looking for us?” came the voice. Snapping her head back around Fyonn barely managed to avoid the sharp claws of the crow. She tucked into a dive that took her close to the floor and headed for the door. Behind her she could hear shrieking laughter and the rhythmic beating of wings drawing closer. Racing through the open door, her heart pounding in her chest, Fyonn made it to the corridor. The smoke was now so thick it was hard to see. The fire was beginning to creep up the wall and along the ceiling, consuming everything in its path. The air was hot and Fyonn found it difficult to catch her breath. The smoke burned as she breathed in. She had to get back to the library and out of the school, there was nothing she could do against the rising flames, not alone. She had failed. Glancing about she found what she was looking for just beyond the swirling smoke. A small red square on the wall, a fire alarm. Once it was broken the humans would come and deal with the fire, but she would have to be far away from there before they arrived. Buzzing into action she made for the alarm as fast as she could, the heat and the smoke causing her eyes to tear up. She covered her mouth to keep her from inhaling any more smoke. Fyonn reached for the alarm when a huge black talon encircled her and pulled her back into the smoke, it squeezed what little breath she had left from her. With only one arm free she did the only thing she could and bit down hard on the crow’s foot. The bird squawked loudly and threw her to the floor below. Fyonn tumbled but managed to keep her wings beating and made quickly for the library and the air vent that was her way out.

“You’ll pay for that you stupid little girl,” Amanita called behind her. Fyonn tried to block it all out, the fire, the heat, the crow. She just had to get out. Flying as fast as she could she found the enormous bookshelves that marked the school library and began to wind her way up them. She began pulling out books at random and letting them fall behind her, if she was lucky she would be able to squash that wicked little pixie. She moved up quickly, the vent was just on the ceiling between two bookcases. She pulled loose a dictionary, something Squigg could use very much, but instead of falling there was a dull thud. On the other side of the book was a lance buried deep into the books cover, on the end of the lance was a wild looking pixie with dark hair, and under her was a vicious looking crow. Amanita smiled nastily at Fyonn and Fyonn smiled back. With a lazy motion she took her hand off the book. It took the wicked looking pixie a moment to realise what was happening. The book fell to the floor, the lance still stuck, taking her and her crow with it. Fyonn gave them a little wave before darting up into the vent.

Outside the night was cold and the rain was coming down heavily. Fyonn breathed in several deep, cool breaths and steadied her shaking wings. Her cardigan was a little singed but all in all she had made it out in once piece. She looked around to see smoke coming from the other rooftop vents. The books, all the book and the children’s things, their schoolwork and pictures, all ruined because of one evil little pixie. Ahead of her she could see her tree, safety. There was a rattling behind her, a clattering of sharp talons on metal. Fyonns’ stomach dropped, it wasn’t possible. She flew into the air and away from the vent as the crow and its rider burst free,  Amanitas’ hair was wild and smoking with, the crow was cawing angrily as it shook embers from its wings.

“I am going to feed you to Corvix bit by bit,” she screamed. Fyonn didn’t answer and darted for her tree, behind her the crows claws snatched at her wings. Fyonn could feel the bird behind her, the beat of its wings buffeting her in flight, her aching wings began to falter. Putting everything she had into one last burst of speed, her wings finally gave out, she found herself falling. Dipping in the air Fyonn managed to glide the rest of the way, she made it to the tree.

It was dark inside, the hole in the tree was now her only source of light, her only way out. She couldn’t see either of her pursuers, just the rain beating down outside. Fyonn crept forward, the hole was large enough for a small owl, but the crow outside was huge, it would never be able to squeeze itself inside. At least Fyonn certainly hoped so. Keeping herself pressed to the inner wall of the tree she moved around and risked a glance out. A great black wing knocked her backwards and Amanita landed inside. Her wild hair was soaked and stuck to her face, she held a nasty looking dagger in one hand. Corvix clawed at the edge of the entrance but wasn’t able to get its massive body inside.

“You could have just left, skulked away with the scruffy looking tramp and his hedgepig,” she snarled at Fyonn.

“Road worn, the term is road worn, in a dashing yet disheveled way,” Squigg said coming from the back of the tree pointing a strange looking device at the intruder, “honestly, why does everyone always assume the worst of me?” Amanitas’ eyes went from Fyonn, to Squigg, who had been waiting in the tree according to plan. Fyonn scrambled to her feet while her foe was distracted.

“What, you didn’t really fall for that fake argument did you?” she smiled, she had to admit they had made the fight in the corridor look quite convincing, Sprocket especially had acted his spikes off. Amanita gritted her teeth and waved her dagger.

“It doesn’t matter how many of you there are, you are no match for me!” she yelled.

“Well you see this here,” Squigg said hefting his invention, “this is a great equaliser.” He brought up the device to his shoulder, it looked like a clothes peg taped to a pencil with an elastic band and a net. “This here is the patented Net-launcher 3000, by Squigg Inventions.” He stepped forward past Fyonn, the net-launcher aimed at Amanita.

“We’re giving you the chance to leave,” Fyonn said. Squigg didn’t take his eyes off the wicked pixie or the crow perched on the edge of the hole.

“We are?” he asked. Fyonn smiled a little, someone really needed to teach Squigg how to deal with people.

“We are. What can she do now, she has no crew, her bird is useless here and they failed to split us up,” Fyonn looked Amanita in the eyes, “she is just an evil little sprite with no friends, all the loot in the world can’t make up for that.” Amanita laughed, a high cackle that was unpleasant to the ear.

“Friends, is that what you think is worth anything in this world. You really are just a silly little girl. Corvix!” she screamed. Fyonn watched her step to the side as the crow batted a wing inside sending Squigg sprawling, the net-launcher skidded across the floor. She tucked her wings into a quick roll and scooped up the launcher and fired before she realised she had acted. The crow squawked and took off, the net billowed out entangling Amanita, she stepped back to try to unfurl her wings but couldn’t, and then she was gone.

Fyonn and Squigg rushed to the edge and looked down, at the base of the tree a crow gathering up a netted form. It bundled it into its talons and quickly took off into the night. Below Sprocket ambled into view shaking a his spines at the retreating crow, Fyonn took a long breath. Next to her Squigg began to laugh, a deep bellied laugh of pure joy. She was about to scold him for laughing at such a serious situation but found herself smiling with him, and then laughing herself, the tension lifting from her wings.

“Well at least the net-launcher works,” she smiled. Squigg nodded and picked up the empty launcher.

“It did,” he said looking it over, “not a bad idea, though it could use a couple of tweaks,” he set it aside and looked at her, “I know you missed the bird but you’re not a bad shot lass.” Fyonn didn’t even try to correct him, she didn’t have the energy left.

“I was worried you wouldn’t be here, that you really might have left,” It was a horrible thought, she had asked Squigg to trust her, to follow her plan. She would lead the crow and Amanita away to give him time to build the net-launcher.

“It was a dangerous plan, but you were the one taking the risk, mighty brave of you Fyonn,” he stood and looked out at the School, small flames could be seen drifting from the roof. Along the road came flashing blue lights and large red trucks. “look,” Squigg said to her excitedly, “fire engines!”

“Really!” she sighed at him, “you don’t know what a toilet or a kettle is but you know about fire engines!” She wasn’t sure if he was doing it on purpose just to tease her.

“Everyone knows fire engines, fire engines are fantastic they have all these really cool tools and hoses and…” but she wasn’t listening. They might have driven off the band of miscreants, but it had cost them the school.

“My home,” she said, “what am I going to do now?” She looked across at Squigg, the thief who didn’t steal, who’s crazy invention had helped her fight off the invaders. He looked at her with a serious expression.

“I’ll tell you something my Gram told me before I left to go wandering. Home isn’t a place,  she said to me, it’s the people you’re with. Right wise old gal my Grams is.” He nudged her with a shoulder, “Me and Sprocket are going to be looking for a new place. You could come with us if you want to.” There was something there in his eyes, honesty or hope, but it was quickly lost in the mischief and he smiled widely. “Besides, we might need someone to keep us in line, especially Sprocket, that hedgepig gets into all kinds of trouble,” he laughed. It was a contagious sound and she couldn’t help but laugh along with him.

“I guess I could share the road with you, but if we find a new place, let’s make sure it has a door.”

End.

 

A Door For A Home: Part 7

“No, absolutely not! You are out of your mind!” The voice came from down the corridor, where Digit and Bola had flown. Amanita looked up from the pile of shredded paper she was working on, it was such a joy to tear the pretty pictures in half. The boy pixie was storming out of a room followed by the hedgehog and the little pixie girl. “There is nothing you can do or say that will make me tangle with that crow!” It wasn’t much of a surprise that Digit and Bola couldn’t get the job done, but still it annoyed her that this rag tag trio had seemingly bested her lackeys. Amanita was about to wonder what had happened to them, but she found she didn’t care enough to speculate. It was disappointing, but she could always find new followers, they were easy to replace. She watched silently as the boy stormed across the corridor, Corvix twitched his wings. It was good that at least one of them understood the danger her crow presented.

“You are a coward Squigg, a big selfish coward who just wants to look out for himself,” the girl shouted after him. Interesting, could be there was trouble between them? The hedgehog was looking from one to the other, clearly undecided between the two. This was good, this was very good, she could use this. Amanita had no doubt Corvix and herself could take care of all three, but why take risks that you didn’t need to. Why not try to swing the odds into her favour.

“Oh my,” Amanita called loudly, “Do I detect a little bit of friction, perhaps some trouble in paradise?” The trio quickly hid in the door frames on either side of the corridor, the boy and the hedgehog to the left near the big hall, the girl to the right. Behind Amanita Corvix cawed loudly, he was getting restless. She forced a smile to her lips and said as sweetly as possible. “If you want to go you can, I won’t stop you.” The scruffy looking pixie popped his head out.

“That’s mighty generous of you Miss Crow Lady, I want no trouble with you I just want to get out of this mad house.” He sounded scared, he should be. Amanita did her best to laugh happily, a sound she wasn’t used to making.

“My dear boy, the name is Amanita and I never wanted to keep you,” she let the happiness drop from her voice, she needed to even the odds, she needed to scare him off, “but if you stay and get in my way I will feed you to Corvix, and my crow is very hungry.” The goggled headed boy popped out again.

“Right you are Miss Angry Crow Lady, come on Sprocket.” The hedgehog snuffled. “Do you want to stay here and get eaten?” the boy asked, the hedgehog was quiet for a moment, it looked at the scruffy pixie, then the girl, then down the corridor towards herself and Corvix. It squeaked a noise and shuffled into the big hall. Fantastic. Before she could become too happy with herself Amanita could hear the shrill voice of the bossy girl.

“Go on then, go, you pair of cowards,” she shouted. Clearly she wasn’t as smart as the boy and his hedgepig. The heavy door to the big hall slammed shut, the little pixie girl was left alone. Still Amanita thought, if they all left there wouldn’t be much fun for Corvix, and he did need feeding. She turned to the huge bird and pulled from one of its pouches a wooden stick with a pink blob on the end. Amanita didn’t much care for big folk things, only the really valuable stuff, but these were something she really enjoyed. She struck the match along the wall and it erupted into bight flames. Such wonderful inventions she thought and held the flame to the pile of papers she had built. The fire caught quickly, spreading to the books. It crawled along them, climbing and devouring as though it had a mind of its own. The fire would take care of the big building, and she would take care of the silly little pixie girl.

“Corvix darling,” she cooed at the crow as she hopped into the saddle, “it’s feeding time my love.”

A Door For A Home: Part 6

“Run,” shouted Squigg as he pushed Fyonn back into the large hall. He saw Sprocket barrel into the other side of the corridor before the little pixie came hurtling at them. That was alright, Sprocket could handle himself. Fyonn was trying to slam one of the huge doors closed. He grabbed her by the wrist and took off towards the kitchen.

“No time for that lass,” he breathed. Fyonn buzzed furiously trying to keep up. A blur of motion flew by.

“Oh Digits gonna get ya,” it sang. They darted around it and carried on towards the kitchen. The small pixie caught up effortlessly and flew along side them. “It’s no use runnin’!” it shouted. Squigg kicked out at him sending the little pixie sprawling out of the air. “So that’s how ya wanna play?” it yelled picking itself up off the floor.

“What about Sprocket?” Fyonn yelled.

“Don’t worry about him, he can take care of himself,” Squigg answered as they dashed into the kitchen and under one of the counters, at least he hoped he could. The little pixie was close behind them as they weaved in and out of the counter legs, up and round past the freezer desperately trying to outrun him. “We need to get into the winter box,” Squigg shouted. Fyonn looked back at him in annoyance.

“It’s called a freezer!” she yelled.

“Does it really matter right now!” he yelled back trying to keep his feet out of Digits hands. The little pixie was grabbing at Squigg trying to drag them both out of the air. They tumbled and twisted, Squigg desperately trying to keep up with Fyonn who was getting further ahead.

“Tell me where you’ve got your loot stashed,” Digit demanded.

“Never,” Squigg shouted and poked the little pixie in the eye. Digit yelped in pain and let go of Squigg who took off after Fyonn. He made his way back up to the main counter, his wings buzzing like never before but behind him he could hear Digit catching up. Ahead he could see Fyonn using a teaspoon to scoop powdered coffee out of a tin. What in the world was she up to?

“Duck,” she shouted as Squigg flew by. He tucked his wings and fell flat the counter top and skidded to a halt. Behind him Fyonn heaved and Digit got a spoon full of coffee powder right to the face and went tumbling over the side to the floor below. “Yes!” Fyonn laughed and did a little dance with the spoon. He was right, he thought, she was barmey.

“No time to celebrate,” he said picking himself up, “bring that we need it,” he said pointing to the spoon. Fyonn seemed only too happy to keep hold of the teaspoon.  They darted down to stand in front of the freezer, Squigg took the spoon from her and jammed it into the space between the doors.

“I want that back,” she said to him but he was too busy trying to pry open the door to really notice. After a moment of straining he waved her over.

“A little help?” he asked. Between the two of them they managed to pop open the freezer door, a blast of cold air fell over them.

“What are you doing?” Fyonn asked as he used the spoon to prop open the heavy door. He looked behind them to where they had last seen Digit.

“I’m getting my loot,” he yelled loudly and pulled her around the side of the giant machine out of sight. All he needed now was the greedy little pixie to show up. He was keeping an eye out around the corner when he felt a sharp slap across the back of his head. He turned hands up, expecting the little pixie, only to see a furious looking Fyonn. “What was that for?” he asked rubbing his head, “We’re on the same side!”

“You said you didn’t steal things,” she buzzed, “and now these horrible pixies are trying to ruin the school and all you are worried about is your ill gotten gains!” she began smacking him with both hands, “I should never have listened to you in the first place,” Squigg did his best to duck and dodge every blow she sent his way but she was surprisingly accurate. From the other side of the room they both heard Digit sneeze

“Right, that’s it, no more Mr Nice Pixie” he screamed. Squigg managed to grab hold of Fyonns’ hands and called out.

“Quick Fyonn, get the bags out of the Winter Box!” Fyonn scrunched up her face as she kicked him in the shin as hard as she could. He fell backwards and saw the small thief fly past him laughing, right into the freezer.

“Finders keepers” Digit sang. Squigg scrambled to teaspoon and knocked it out of the way, the heavy freezer door swung shut with a THUNK. He lay on his back trying to catch his breath. That was it, life was becoming a little too exciting. No more sneaking into places, it was time to find a place of his own, maybe set up a tinker shop somewhere. Fyonn kicked the freezer door.

“Serves you right you greedy little thief,” she shouted. He waved the teaspoon at her from the floor.

“Want your spoon back?” he grinned. She looked for a moment as though she might beat him with it but thought otherwise. She pulled him back to his feet but still looked angry.

“That was your plan all along” she kicked him in the shin again.

“You have to stop doing that,” he cried

“I don’t like being lied to!”

“When was I supposed to do, just stop and ask that little imp to hang on while I explain the plan to you?” The bossy little witch had some nerve, he had just improvised the entire plan on the fly and pulled their wings out of the fire. They wouldn’t be in this situation if she had kept quiet and left with him and Sprocket.

“And I don’t like your sarcastic tone!” she yelled.

“Well stick your fingers in your ears!” he checked about for his tool bag and found it near the Rumble Pot where had left it, the satchel with some of his tinkering bits next to it.

“Sprocket!” Fyonn gasped. Squigg rubbed his shin and then threw on his bags.

“I told you, he can take care of himself,” Fyonn narrowed her eyes at him as if he were lying. Why did everyone assume he was lying. “Look, Sprocket is a good ole lad, gentle as can be, but you can only push that hedgehog so far.” He poked his head into the great hall, “looks clear,” he said. They made their way back through the great hall towards the corridor, they stopped again at the large double doors. Squigg pressed his finger to his lips and quickly poked his head out and back in. “The crow and the leader are still by the books, I think Sprocket and the big one went that way,” he pointed across the hall.

“The bathroom?” Fyonn asked. Squigg shrugged, big folk had such odd names for things. That was where he had last seen Sprocket headed and despite his assurances to Fyonn, he was worried for his friend. He checked once more to make sure the crow was not looking their way and they quickly darted across.

Inside they found a large pixie, a very large pixie. He stood a good head and shoulders taller than Squigg, and he trying his best to get a hold of Sprocket. The hedgehog was curled into a ball, his spines the only thing stopping the big pixie from grabbing him.

“We’ve got to help him,” Fyonn whispered. Squigg just smiled, to the untrained eye it might look like Sprocket needed help, but that hedgepig had the big pixie right where he wanted him.

“Just wait,” he assured her. She didn’t like his answer, he could tell by the look on her face, but Squigg had known Sprocket a long time and he knew when his friend needed help. He had also been on the bad side of the hedgehog once or twice. He was slow to anger, but that hedgehog had a temper.

“He is supposed to be your friend,” She snapped at him. Always so bossy, was it really so hard for her to just accept that someone might know better than her, just once.

“I get it,” he said trying to get her to understand, he wasn’t abandoning his friend, “you think he is in trouble, but believe me Fyonn you do not want to be anywhere near that hedgepig right now.” Her angry face softened, “If I know my mate half as well as I think I do we need to be up there,” he said pointing to the top of the stall. He buzzed his wings and took off without waiting for her to follow. Below him the big pixie now had a hold of some of Sprockets spines and was trying to drag him about, the hedgehog squeaked in pain. Squigg settled on a large white surface next to a long silver lever overlooking a huge white bowl filled with water. Fyonn landed next to him and wrinkled her nose. He pointed to the lever “When I say so, we have to push the lever to activate the Vortex Bowl below us.” She looked at the lever, then down to the water below and back to him.

“That’s a toilet Squigg,” she said with a look of disgust. He shrugged his wings at her, it didn’t really matter to him what the big folk called things, all that mattered was that they were in position to help Sprocket. “Do you know what the toilet is for?” she asked.

“I know what were going to use it for now,” he smiled back pointing to Sprocket. The big pixie had a hold of his spines, trying to use his strength to hurl the hedgehog, but he had come to close. Sprocket, with a speed he rarely showed, unfolded and with his back legs kicked the large pixie square in the chest sending him flying through the air. The big pixie let out a cry of shock, turning end over end, unable to right himself before falling with a splash into the water. “Now!” Squigg yelled. He jumped with all his weight onto the silver lever, Fyonn a half step behind. There was a great roaring of water as the Vortex below began to swirl and churn. It only lasted a few seconds before everything was still and quiet again. Below them the water was clear, there as no sign of the large pixie. Down on the floor Sprocket grunting angrily and making rude gestures towards the toilet, he noticed Fyonn and quickly became very busy tidying his spines. Squigg felt himself pushed to the side as Fyonn flew past him.

“Oh Sprocket,” she cried and hugged his face, “you were amazing, serves that bully right.” Squigg dropped in beside them, glad to see he wasn’t wrong. He knew his friend could handle that pixie.

“I told you we had nothing to worry about. Never get on the bad side of a hedgepig,” he told Fyonn. Sprocket twitched his spines and looked very happy with himself. “Come on, we can probably make a run for it now,” he said to them both. Neither of them moved, Fyonn stood arms akimbo and foot tapping. For one of the rare times in his life Squigg didn’t know what to say, she still wanted to tangle with that crow out there. He looked to Sprocket, surely his best mate would see it his way, but the hedgehog had defiant look in his eye. Someone had started trouble with him, and now he was firmly in Fyonns’ corner. “You’re mental, both of you, stark raving bonkers if you think I am going out here to deal with that banshee and her crow!”

Sprocket squeaked at him.

“Oh is that so,” he said back.

The hedgehog snuffled and tapped the ground with his paw. Hedgehogs can be such stubborn creatures when they set their minds to things, or when someone upsets them.

“I know we’re two down but there is a big difference between two pixies and a crow. That thing will scarf us whole!” Was he the only one who was seeing sense here. They could leave, all three of them, what did it matter if they left the big building. Sprocket shook his spines angrily and squeaked once more. Squigg blinked in surprise, the hedgehog had never taken that tone with him before.

“You watch your language Sprocket Dewthistle, or I will let your mum know what you’ve been saying,” before Sprocket could respond Fyonn stepped between them. She tightened her hair back into its bun and made an attempt to smarten herself up. Great, he thought, I guess she means business.

“Look, I know it’s dangerous Squigg, but we can do this,” she said. “If all three of us work together we can stop that nasty little witch out there and save the School,” she put her hand on Sprockets snout and took his hand in her other. “Can you build something if I describe it?” she asked. What kind of question was that, he was Squigg, there was nothing he couldn’t build.

“Of course I can, so long as I’ve got the parts,” he said.

“Good,” she smiled at him, “I have a plan. Do you trust me?”

 

 

 

 

 

A Quiet 30: The Abrupt End.

Day 8 and 9. 

Day 8 and 9 saw me quite busy. Busy enough to keep me from the keyboard all day. Well, in the interest of being completely honest day 9 saw a hangover. Day 8 and 9 clocked in a massive 0 words between them. That is shocking, and honestly disappointing.

I did feel a little burned out on writing though. I have been clearing the 1000 word mark most of the week, coming close on those days I didn’t. It has been a restructure of how I use my time, especially now I cannot allow myself on social media. It has been a very heavy writing week.

A day away from it might be something I start from now on. That could be good for me.

Day 10 – 14.

Days 10 – 13 were uneventful, and I never once reached for my phone when I woke (except to turn the sodding alarm off) I feel much better in myself, I find my attention span is longer and I am able to focus more easily. I read more, I wrote more hitting my minimum word count of 500 words per day.

Day 14, where it all went pear shaped. I have been looking for work, and it turns out employers like to advertise on social media, and social media can actually be very good in terms of searching for a job. So I have decided to…finish early…come to an end…prematurely finish, there is no way I can think of wording this where I my mind doesn’t make a joke. Anyway, I am back on social media after 14 days cold turkey. I honestly think I have reshaped my habit of use, and Facebook will not be returning to my phone.

So, it was harder than I thought (one track mind today) but I can honestly say I can recommend it. It doesn’t have to be or 30 days or even 14, go a day and see how many times you reach for your phone.

A Quiet 30: Lucky Number Seven.

Day 5.

I grabbed my phone when I woke today. It dawned on me how long 30 days actually is. I find myself missing Reddit the most. Out of all the sites on my blacklist it is by far the most useful, but also the one in which it is easiest to get sidetracked.

Readership and views of the articles on the site has gone down. Still getting traffic but not promoting on social media has obviously had an adverse effect on my daily views. I still think it is worth it though.

Right now I’m at about 1.8k words into another short story first draft. I’m finding it easier to just grab a concept and get it down on paper…screen…you know what I mean. I’m thinking more clearly, I don’t have the same kind of mental sluggishness I had last week and before. I plan on finishing the first draft of the new story today.

Off out for an early morning walk along the canal.

That was a far longer walk than I anticipated. Knackered and at 2.4k words for the day. In itself not a bad word count, I knew Mondays 4.4k would scoof my average.

Day 6.

I began today without looking at my phone, I didn’t even force myself not too. It is now a very expensive watch, all I seem to do is check the time on it with the occasional text or phone call.

456 words this morning, all concept building around a new story that probably won’t be a part of the book I’m looking to put together. Most likely it is something for the site. Playing about with another story might not be wise with the unfinished ones sitting about but I want to get some works ready so I can use them in tandem. Let the drafts sit for a few days, work on something else, go back with fresh eyes.

Today I am looking to finish the short story draft from yesterday (which will be a part of the book) and then, depending how that goes, begin to look at editing A Door For A Home.

Up until now I haven’t thought about social media. The first day where I haven’t found myself worrying about missing something on Facebook or Twitter. Interestingly enough this is the first day where I have not used the nuke button on StayFocused. I haven’t found my hands drifting to open a new tab to check my accounts, nor have I wanted to, I have had too much to do. I guess we will see what happens if I get bored.

 Day 7.

My light bulb broke, but it is day 7 of 30 days without social media. A whole week. A long ass week. It had been surprisingly difficult to stay away, it’s only in the last day or so that my mind hasn’t wondered to what was going on with it.

Still, I find it easier to focus, proof of that is finishing the first draft of A Door For A Home, and two first drafts for entirely new short stories. I am consistently hitting above my minimum daily word count of 500 words (averaging around 1500 – 2000). So cutting out that part of my day, getting rid of those sites that, to me, enable procrastination has dramatically improved my output.

There has been a dip in readership on the site, likely caused by not promoting on social media, but it was only a 11% drop, or so my info tells me.

I honestly feel like I could come back to after just a week and that my habits would be different, but I committed to 30, so I’ll do 30. Plans for the weeks ahead are to begin the editing process on the three first drafts sitting ready and then move on to two larger stories waiting to be finished which will also be a part of the short story compilation.

So 7 down and 23 to go.

A Quiet 30: The First Four Days.

Day 1.

So, day one. I woke and as usual I rolled right to my phone to see what was going on in the world at large. Nothing. No Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or Instagram, having all been deleted from my phone. There are of course other websites to use with the internet, but none spring to mind. I honestly feel a little bewildered, as if there is something I should be doing that I’m not. Already as I write this I find myself about to open a new browser tab to check out my accounts, completely autonomously. Luckily google has a helpful browser extension to help with that.

StayFocused is going to prove useful in the next thirty days, the program allows you to select a list of forbidden sites and then provides you with a time limit across all sites. You could allow yourself 10 minutes (default) across all blocked sites. That is 10 minutes for all sites, not each individual site. I dialed that down as low as it will go, 1 minute. Not good enough.

There is a nuclear option provided. Literally a little nuke button that encourages you to “Nuke ’em” (read: Nuke ’em Rico!) This option lets you set a number of hours, up to 24 which I selected, and it blocks all sites on your blocked list for that set amount of time. That is what I am looking for. I can’t undo it once it is done. Every morning I will hit the little nuke button, but with far fewer real world consequences.

It might not help that I currently have a lot of time on my hands. The key here is to focus on the work, the stories and the blogs I have let fall by the wayside.

Music helps. Music and tea…and mead. Shout out to Charlies 3000 Year Old Whiskey Emporium and Saturday Night Fire for an entertaining evening in good company.

Day 2.

A hangover and good weather keep me off the computer and away from social media today, although I did once again roll over to check my phone. A day out with the nephews in the sun, always a mini adventure. I even ran today, I fell over, but I ran. Well at least a little.

The evening finds me itching to check my accounts, more so than yesterday and I can’t seem to settle to focus on writing. Perhaps a book will help. Penguins little black classics, I have upward of fifty of these short little books that cover a range of authors and genres. Bought to get me reading outside of my habits. Seems the perfect opportunity to begin making my way through them.

#52: Plato, Socrates’ Defense. Should be an interesting read.

It is certainly quieter, and that may be the best way to describe it. It is an odd sensation, one of almost forgetting to do something important, as if I were no longer bound by a responsibility. The absence of social media should not leave me feeling like that. Today I think it has really hit me how much I need to step away and reevaluate how I interact with this thing.

Word count increased though, not much though.

Day 3.

I reached for my phone again when I woke up. I’m hoping to break that habit.

So far today I have down 1992 words and I feel far from done. I finally have a full draft of A Door For A Home: Part 6, after months of writing and rewriting, scrapping and starting again. It may be closer to a second draft as roughly 1500 words of that are edited.

I have a first draft of A Door For A Home: Part 7 sitting at 586 words. Low granted but it is from the villains point of view and I do keep those short, and I have begun on part 8. Clearly something is going right for me today.

I think it is too early to say if the lack of social media is a reason for this. One good writing day doesn’t mean I will stop with the “detox.”

I finished a full first draft of A Door For A Home: Part 6, 7 and 8, all of which need editing and rewriting, but as of 6:22 A.M. it’s done as a first draft. It is a fantastic feeling. A lot of work is still ahead of me on this one, I need to make sure each part feels consistent with the last and that each part has the distinct voice of the character it follows. I will leave that for a day or two to let the story sit. Total words for the day 4445. It looks good but I wonder if the other days can live up to that.

Day 4. 

I didn’t reach for my phone this morning, but only because I forced myself not to. Baby steps.

After yesterdays spree of writing I was eager to go back and begin the editing process. This short story (which is more accurately a novelette at 12.5k words) has taken me over a year to get a complete first draft down. That is in part to the serialised nature of how I have been releasing it on the website, each part was previously written and edited individually, but yesterday I just got it all down. It is still too fresh in my mind to edit, I find to edit effectively you need to let the work sit for a while. You can come back to it with new eyes.

In the in between time I have got down a first draft of another short story, an actual short story this time with a plan to cap it around 5k words if it gets that far. I find myself considering a collection of short stories for children based on odd creatures and fairy folk. Something to look into. It would be a fairly simple matter to preface some of the larger stories I already have that fit the bill, and write up a few shorts.

I feel like my concentration span is getting better, it’s easier to focus and I have more energy. My hand no longer drifts to open a tab to Facebook or Reddit. Now again, this could just be some kind of placebo effect, or it could be an actual difference caused by the removal of social media and the procrastination I’ve found it to cause.

I have run into a few snags, wanting to look something up, Reddit had a wealth of information on its various writing subs. Its writing prompts sub would come in very handy for me right now to pass a few hours. I wanted to run the first draft of A Door For A Home part 6, 7 and 8 past someone but I only have them as a Facebook contact. Tricky and a little inconvenient, but not the end of the world. Again, I’m not looking to remove social media from my life for good, just change how I interact with it. It takes about 21 days to form a habit.

Also discovered an EP by a fella named Brian Wayne Foster called Odessa. It’s only 4 tracks but I recommend it.

Currently sitting at 2320 words for the day, probably more now that I’ve edited this post but I can’t be bothered to weed out the little numbers.

I had planned to do these by the week, but as it is the post is already past a thousand words. I don’t expect the other days to have entries quite so long as these but I will play it by ear. Four down, twenty six to go.

It occurs to me as I am about to publish it that there is a chance no one will read it until I finish the 30 days. That is one aspect where a lack of social media has really hurt me, the ability to promote my stories and articles. A small sacrifice though to break a bad habit.