CrowdKill – short story

Standard

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/36e/69654906/files/2015/01/img_1765.jpgSerge blinked as the rough hessian blindfold was tugged away from his eyes. His heart hammered in his chest, plummeling away against his ribcage. His eyes darted around the jagged rocky cavern. Mining gear lay strewn around, large claw-like plasma cutters, disintigration bins, and thick rolls of cable. Lighting blocks punched into the rocks above shone harshly, giving the kind of illumination that cultivates an ache behind the eyes.

A hand shoved him forward. Serge stumbled, almost falling. Gruff laughter issued around him. Serge recognised a couple of faces. A man wearing a black cap and dark glasses; he was the pilot. The squat-looking woman in a faded red shirt; Serge was sure she was the one who thrust the blindfold onto his head. They, and all their companions, bristled with weaponry; hand guns, pulsers, assault rifles. They looked like they knew how to use them.

Serge stood motionless as a tripod was set up opposite him, a camera attached to it, the lens peering greedily at him.

The crowd stepped apart as a tall bearded man entered the cavern. He walked up to Serge, eying him with contempt. He uttered something in a language Serge didn’t understand, drawing out a few dry chuckles from the observers.

Serge cleared his throat.

“I… I don’t understand…”

The man burst into hearty laughter, clapping Serge on the shoulder, causing him to flinch away.

“Just play, just fun,” the bearded man said in broken English. “My name Beerik. You?”

“Serge. Serge Lillian.”

Beerik gestured with a flick of his head. Two of the militants moved into the darkness at the edge of the room, picking up a dark bundle between them.

“Big money,” said Beerik. “Big money for this.”

“Yes, lots of money,” said Serge.

The militants dragged the bundle closer. As they entered the light, Serge could see that it was a man, a skeletal figure clad in a stained orange smock.

Serge let himself be positioned beside the man in the smock. He felt giddy; could he do this? He glanced at the man beside him. His face was gaunt, eyes sunken into hollows. Serge pressed down the faint shred of pity he felt for him, rolling a deep wave over anger over it. Anger for his father. Anger for East Tarra. Anger for the fires and the death.

Beerik reached inside his jacket and removed a crumpled sheet of paper and a black balaclava.

“You ready, Serge Lillian?”

Serge pulled the balaclava over his head.

“I’m ready.”

The man in the smock was made to kneel. The light began to blink on the camera. Showtime.

“Greetings to the faithful brothers and sisters of the Dyon Nation,” Serge began, reading from the crumpled script. “Though we are scattered by oppression, our strength remains.

“Today, the Dyon Liberation Army brings its enemies a sign of our resolve. Today, we bring you a judgement. For crimes against the Dyon Nation, a price of recompense must be paid.”

The man in the smock shivers and shakes uncontrollably, fear etched on his face.

“It is my honour as a proud benefactor to carry out this act of righteous justice.” Serge’s voice swells with determination. “I, like many others, have chosen to share my wealth with the cause of my people. Together, we will build the means of our liberation.”

One of the militants, also disguised by a balaclava, steps into shot and hands Serge a blade.

“It is my honour to be chosen in recognition of my patronage.”

Steadying his hand, Serge positions the blade at the man’s neck.

“It is my honour to fulfil this reward.”

Banker who financed 9/11 mastermind now funding terrorists in Syria and Iraq – The Telegraph

Who’s Funding ISIS? Wealthy Gulf ‘Angel Investors,’ Officials Say – NBC News

Advertisements

Time to write!

Standard

IMG_1471.JPG I’ve been taking some time to plan a strategy for my writing, working on setting long-term goals as well as how I’m going to structure my regular writing sessions as part of my weekly routine. One of my main objectives, which crosses over the boundary between long-term and ongoing, is to write my first novel. The big question is, what do I write?

My plan for awhile has been to convert my short story Beyond Thought, part of my Resolutions collection, into a full-length narrative. I’ve started doing some planning, and have a good idea of the characters, plot, and setting. However, with the limited time I have to write at the moment, I’ve rediscovered another story that will work better as my first novel.

Time to Die is the narrative I will be working on in the coming months, drafting a novel based on this idea. Once again, this story began has one of short stories from Resolutions, Only Time Will Tell. I’ve already converted this story once before, running it as an interactive adventure via my StoryMechs project. This adventure was run whilst the project was still known Tweet RPG.

The beauty of using Time to Die as my novel template is that I already have a plot structure developed in the form of my game plan of the interactive adventure. This also contains unused content which was bypassed by the players, offering me options for extending or altering the narrative.

Want to know more about Time to Die? You can review the Tweet RPG adventure here, or purchase the Resolutions collection to read the original story.

Five Questions for Authors – Richard Holliday

Standard

481351_10152410004100398_443573859_n - BW SmallThis post is the first in a series of interviews I’m conducting with authors. The idea is to ask the same five questions to a variety of authors and see what different kinds of responses are given. Hopefully it will offer authors the chance to introduce themselves and their work, and to also share some tips, hints, and experiences related to writing. Starting us off, my pal Richard Holliday!

How did you begin writing? Do you remember the first piece you wrote?

I sporadically wrote during high school as a means of passing time, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I finally took it “seriously”. At school, I never really felt I had a proper creative outlet – I’m not sporty, a particularly competent artist nor can I play a musical instrument more complex than a triangle – but getting into creative writing has definitely reassured me that my imagination does have an outlet.

There’s a little bit of backstory between my first actual piece and my first proper piece, though the latter would not exist without the former. In 2001 I was in English class studying the Titanic disaster; being a history buff on this subject for some years prior, I loved this topic and I wrote a piece of historical fiction based loosely around it (The story was ostensibly about the ship more than the people on it; a trait I probably maintain to this day). It was the longest thing I’d ever written (I was 11) at 10 sides of A4. I handed the story to my English teacher, who was a little confused but gave it the once-over – I got it back with an A+. I still have the original marked copy and Word document somewhere but I’m far too self-conscious (about the quality and, to a lesser extent, the niche subject matter) to read it, let alone post it online! But it was certainly a learning experience of unusual stead!

Later on I mulled over writing again and took part in National Novel Writing Month 2009 and churned out a 50,000 word manuscript for an alternate history adventure story that I want to revisit, but feel my skills at the moment won’t do justice to the story I want to tell; more successfully, the 2010 NaNoWriMo event was more successful, and I took a lot of lessons from the previous year and eventually produced my first proper finished novel Colonisation, which I’m redrafting. Definitely it was those two frenetic months of non-stop writing that cemented in my mind that I had an actual talent and should pursue it, though I’ve not done NaNoWriMo since 2011.

What have you written which makes you the most proud?

A few of my projects stand out to me as particularly good but one feels especially worthy at the time of writing, and that’s my post-apocalyptic short story The Cloud. This was my first venture into the genre and I really think I did a great job with it; I really enjoyed building up the ominous atmosphere of the dead city and showing the plight of the protagonist as he attempts to escape. I really love world-building and setting the scene in which a story takes place. My approach is to paint a picture in the reader’s mind as if they’re “watching” the story in a cinema. Plus, going back to The Cloud, I had some really great comments from some influential people who took the time to read my work and give me feedback which buoyed my self-esteem. The Cloud is the first piece of work I’ve deemed worthy of submission and the first short story of mine that I’d consider (and am planning) expanding into a full-blown novel.

It’s hard to really pin down specific works as I’m proud of all of my work, even if in certain circumstances the piece in question doesn’t quite execute the concept I was going for quite right as that puts that piece down as a valuable learning experience. I’d like to think that the work on my website shows a clear progression of my abilities as both a writer and in terms of grasping new concepts and running with them, to varying degrees of success. Certainly I have favourites, but if I can’t be proud of my work, why should people be proud to read it?

Do you have a particular process or approach when writing?

In terms of workflow, I’ve developed an amusingly-anachronistic approach. I work on my drafts in Scrivener, which is a wonderful program designed for writers that I feel helps a great deal in terms of getting out of the way when it comes to writing and supporting me when it comes to important structural stuff. Once I have a draft, I literally print it out and work on annotating a hard copy in red ink pen. It’s amazing how the “disconnect”, as it were, by reading the work on paper helps me to see it from a different angle and scribble all over it. One problem I’ve encountered so far, especially when it comes to my full-length novel Colonisation which I’ve been editing for ages this way, is getting the marked up pages back into a digital realm. I’m a pretty hard-going tech geek so, funnily enough, I find solving these problems part of the fun of writing!

Sometimes the hardest part is getting in the chair and putting one finger in front of the other. I usually try to aim for relatively low word count sessions fairly often, between 300-500 words a day. I’ve recently been trying to adopt the Pomodoro technique of work sessions broken up by very short breaks. Of course, when inspiration strikes at 4AM, this can be a little hard to manage so it’s best to just go with the inspirational flow while it lasts!

Do you have a current project you’re working on or promoting?

I’m keeping myself rather busy at the moment! There’s a couple of projects on the back burner as it were; I’m still editing my novel Colonisation that I released briefly in 2013 on the back of some useful feedback for an eventual re-release on Kindle. I’m working on an expanded release of my short story collection Rememories, which is a compilation of all of my short story work from 2013 in an edited and enhanced form. After seeing your success with releasing Resolutions on Smashwords I’m eager to take some lessons away when Rememories hits Smashwords in early 2015 and really get my work out there as best as possible. I’m also pretty active in writing some new short stories and I’m hoping to have at least a couple new entries to my list before the end of the year!

Interestingly, I’m also writing my first short film! My script is titled Doors and is a science-fiction/psychological horror set in the near future where one man is invited to test a new piece of wearable technology. Unfortunately, some of the side-effects are agonising visions that only he can see… until they transcend into reality itself. I know a couple of independent filmmakers as friends and they’re mentoring me on the script side of things and are also looking to put Doors into production sometime in 2015. I’ve already had some good feedback on the script so far and it’s a really cool way of developing as a really versatile writer.

What do you hope to achieve with your writing?

I’d like to continue developing my skills with my writing; I really do believe it’s a journey of continual improvement. Definitely, part of the journey of being a great writer is being a great reader and if I get to experience some really good work I otherwise wouldn’t have then that’s a success. Generally, I want to give people some good stories to get involved in and care about first and foremost – what’s the point of doing this if no-one is enjoying it? In the medium term I want to work on building a network of fellow writers to get my work out there and get a profile. I’ve had a bit of an underlying goal that’ll tell me that I’m where I want to be: I’d like for one person to honestly say that I am their favourite writer. That may sound egocentric but it would be incredibly awesome if that was the case!

Richard Holliday is a writer from South London. His main areas are epic space operas, gritty cyberpunk and atmospheric post-apocalyptic. A fan of an eclectic mix of 70s prog-rock concept albums, naff 80s Doctor Who and fizzy drinks. He’s currently embarking on an English Literature and Creative Writing degree with the Open University.

Website – http://richardholliday.co.uk/

Facebook – http://facebook.com/richardhollidayauthor

Twitter – http://twitter.com/rjpholliday

Armour – an allegorical short story

Standard

IMG_1545.JPGThe officers shift uncomfortably in the gloomy chamber, the hostile glow of the strip lights drawing harsh shadows on their faces. Battle report holograms flutter across the expansive circular desk in the centre of the room, rising and collapsing like sandcastles made of light. The men and women study them intently, or at least they pretend to, avoiding the prospect of having to make conversation.

The door slams open and General Huss enters, flanked by two low-ranking blank-faced goons. The assembled officers stiffen to attention as the diminutive leader approaches the desk, the garish gold braid on his jacket gleaming, copious amounts of medals clinking conspicuously. The General leans forward on the desk, eying the people surrounding him with hateful distain.

“Status report.” He spits the words out of his mouth like a curse.

The room is silent. The officers glance at each other, passing the buck around the room with their eyes.

Colonel Avar steps forward. Her jagged features give her a haughty look, a kind of insulted beauty. Her lips are tight, grim and full of bad news.

“The eastern quadrant has all but fallen,” she states impassively. “We are holding the line across the valley region, but we have outrun our supply chain.”

“What of the north? Are you failing there as well?”

“Arteria is under fire but we have a barrage trained on the Mercury Pass,” replies Col Avar, ignoring the barbed questions. “Nothing can get through, but only whilst supplies last…”

The General grips the edge of the desk.

“This is unacceptable,” he yells, throwing back his head in a snarl. The officers flinch at the sudden outburst. “What is your excuse? How is the enemy making a mockery of you? Explain. Now.”

“It’s the armour,” stutters Major Weeking, a ghostly thin man. The General peers at him. Weeking shrinks back, clearly regretting his utterance.

“If you’ve got something to say, spit it out,” says General Huss. Maj Weeking moves forward, hands quivering as he operates the controls on the side of the desk. The holographic battlefield focuses in, displaying a dry canyon, desolate except for a couple of gnarled trees and some wiry bushes. A column of troops move cautiously along the canyon, armoured Rapytr support vehicles trundling along beside, turrets rotating, scanning the terrain.

A shadow looms over the soldiers. With a whooshing crunch, giant metal feet slam into the dusty ground. The troops scatter as the G-Armour unit straightens up, a metal humanoid machine, towering above them.

Before the soldiers can regroup, the G-Armour unleashes its firepower. Shoulder-mounted cannons spray out bursts of energy, scything indiscriminately through the fleeing men. The Rapytrs and some of the more battle-hardened troops return fire, but to no effect. The G-Armour brandishes its phase blade, the melee weapon extension bursting out of its right arm, cutting the nearest Rapytr in two.

The image freezes, the scene flickering on the desk in front of the officers and their leader.

“The voy-bot was knocked offline by a stray shot,” explains Maj Weeking in a sheepish voice. The General stares at the image, scrutinising the enemy armour unit.

“We dont have anything that can match this tech,” Weeking continues. “In terms of firepower, defences, manevourability; well, you can see how it cut through an entire scout battalion. Put two or three of those on the battlefield and, well…”

“I know you don’t want to hear this, sir,” says Col Avar, taking the lead, “but these G-Armour units could cause a situation as desperate as the Sun God campaign.”

“Enough,” screeches General Huss, plummeling the desk with his fist. “Do I have to do the thinking for all you clowns? Are you all too simple to comprehend the one clear weakness of this armour?”

The officers avoid looking at the General, shuffling their feet and glancing at each other nervously.

“The pilot. Without the pilot, the armour is useless. Infiltrate their training centres and sabotage them. In fact, launch strikes against any target that is identified as a centre for education, military and civilian. Attack their launch bases; don’t give them a chance to get a man into G-Amour. Link up with the propaganda ministry and develop a campaign decrying the use of this technology. Undermine it with accusations of unethical practice and crimes against humanity.”

General Huss looks around the room, awaiting a response. The men and women nod their heads vigorously. Someone starts to clap halfheartedly, but falters into silence.

“You have your orders,” says the General, turning away from the desk and marching out of the room, his minders following.

The officers begin to discuss plans in mumbling voices, congregating into smaller groups as they determine their strategy. Although slightly bolstered by the General’s instructions, they all know the truth. No matter how many battles they win, or how many attacks they repel, the outcome of the conflict is written.

The enemy has already won.

Ephesians 6:10-17:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

I hope you enjoyed the story – please comment below with your thoughts and share via social media!

Reposted: Beyond Thought – short story

Standard

This short story was previously posted on my old blog. It will be included in my Resolutions collection, and is the starting point for my novel idea.

It was a dull wispy morning, the gantries of Neo London draped with fog. The towering angular structures grew out of the misty depths below and disappeared into the clouds above. Kale scuffed her way along the suspended pathway, fiddling with her burgundy blazer, her short brown hair still wet from her hasty shower. Although the gantries were full of people on their way to work or school, she walked alone, like every morning. Her younger brother and sister would dart off in a different direction once the children had left the apartment building. They didn’t want to be seen with their reject sibling.

Kale stood patiently at the crossing bridge, waiting for the air traffic to divert and the platforms to link. She didn’t want to arrive at school any quicker than she needed to. She noticed a man in a formal grey suit also waiting at the crossing. He stood as far away from the girl as he possibly could, pretending she wasn’t there and yet clearly aware of her presence. As the platforms hovered together and bridged the immeasurable drop with a magnetic click, he strode away as quickly as he could. She could tell he was afraid, repulsed by her emptiness. You didn’t need to be a psychic to work that out.

. . .

“How are you progressing with the task, Kale?”

Miss Warner smiled as she made the enquiry, but that only made her appear more patronising.

“Um… OK, I guess.”

Kale turned her work book around for the youthful dark-haired teacher to see. The young girl was one of the two children seated in the non-psi area at the back of the classroom. The normal children sometimes got spooked by the ‘dead-heads’. The empty psychic space where thoughts and feelings should flow made them nervous, especially the chipped kids, afraid their implants would break if they got too close, sending them back into the mental darkness that was normal life for Kale. She didn’t know why she didn’t just work in a different room. Probably because that would be too much like segregation, and this, well, this was nothing like segregation at all.

“I have identified some mistakes,” said Miss Warner, overly formal. The spoken language that teachers like her had to learn was so rigid, so lifeless and cold. “I have marked them with a circle. Please try to identify and rectify the errors.”

Kale nodded. Miss Warner turned and walked back to the front of the class, soundlessly communicating with the psychic majority. Kale could tell when they were talking psychically. The movement of their eyes, the turn of their heads, lots of little clues they didn’t realise they were giving away.

Sitting a couple of desks away from Kale was Derek Middler, a spotty little boy, the only other non-psi student in the classroom. Despite their shared affliction, she always kept her distance from the scowling youth. He was troubled and volatile, like many non-psi children could be, feeling paranoid and threatened. Not someone you wanted to be associated with.

“They’re talking about us,” Derek muttered.

Heads turned. Kale wished she could sink through the floor with embarrassment.

“You got something to say?” Derek challenged. He jumped up from his seat aggressively. Some of the students shrank back. Others grinned mockingly.

“Don’t laugh at me!”

“Please calm down, Derek,” said Miss Warner evenly.

She’ll be summoning the hall attendants, thought Kale. Derek wasn’t going to calm down.

“Shut up!”

The wiry boy pushed his desk over, books and pens clattering to the ground. Two hall attendants entered the room. They walked straight up to Derek, faces emotionless, and grabbed the boy, who struggled against them, yelling and screaming. They dragged him out of the room, his rage echoing away down the corridor.

Kale looked down at her book, her face flushed with shame, knowing that all the remaining occupants of the room were scrutinising her. If not with their eyes, then with their minds.

When are you going to snap? they questioned.

When are you going lose it?

. . .

The family sat around the table, plates of hearty home-cooked food in front of each member. Kale ate slowly, chewing each mouthful with a deliberately sluggish pace. They might not try to converse with her if they think her mouth is full. She assumed her mother, father and siblings were talking together; her mother hadn’t awkwardly broken the silence for a few minutes.

“Molly was just saying she might apply for kinetics next semester,” said Kale’s mother out of the blue.

“Oh, OK,” replied Kale, thinking about how fun it would be avoid the objects her younger sister would send flying at her with the power of her mind.

Her mother often did this, tried to act as interpretor; a guilty attempt to make her other child feel included. She only saw pity when she looked into her mother’s eyes, a pity that outweighed love.

“Your father is taking the day off on Friday. We are all going to the holo-pool together.”

“That sounds cool,” the young girl replied unconvincingly. Her mother frowned.

“I think they have adequate heating.”

“No, I mean… forget it.” None of them were used to speaking, they’d lost the natural ability. Kale had learnt from old films and songs, conversing with herself, re-enacting scenes, playing all the characters.

Molly laughed. Kale knew this was aimed at her. Whenever her brother or sister poked fun at her, they always laughed out loud so she would know they were laughing at her. Their father gave them a stern look. Kale ignored them. She had risen to their baiting in the past, responding to their hollow chuckles with white hot anger. Over time she had learnt to block it out.

. . .

“Goodnight Kale.” Her mother turned out the light. She didn’t kiss her daughter at bedtime anymore. She didn’t need to with her other children, they could feel her love in their minds. She had forgotten, trying so hard to stop Kale from feeling different. As the young girl rolled over under the covers she longed for her mother’s touch, those soft arms encircling her in a simple hug. She began to cry, sobbing as quietly as she could. The loneliness didn’t always sting this badly, but some days she couldn’t help but feel crushed under the weight of the isolation, feeling like the only person who hadn’t been told a secret. She reached over to her bedside table and picked up her ear pieces, slotting them in comfortably.

Ray Charles, ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’.

The voices surrounded her, soothing her. She imagined she was part of the ensemble, singing the refrain in perfect harmony.

To be a part of something.

That was all she desired.

Starting my new novel draft

Standard

The pen has hit the page! Or rather the finger has hit the screen (I’m finding myself doing a lot of writing on my phone at the mo). I’ve been planning an idea for a novel draft, and recently I decided to jump in and start producing some content.

With my previous abortive attempts at novel writing, my mistake has been to neglect the planning. With one idea, I managed to get 26,000 words done before stalling completely, but sadly I couldn’t salvage much of that work because there were giant cracks in the concept. With my current attempt, I’m using the A Novel Idea iOS app as a planning aid, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a tool help structure and store their writing ideas.

My current novel idea originated from a screenwriting piece from my second year at university, a scene lifted from one of my old novel concepts about psychic superheroes being hunted down by an evil autocratic government in a dystopian future. The feedback was that the writing was fine, but the concept was basically The Matrix with the serial numbers filed off.

However, all was not lost, as I had a bit of an epiphany. The story would be so much more interesting if I flipped things around. The protagonist should be a normal human in a world where everyone is psychic. Working with this concept, I wrote my short story Beyond Thought, which fleshes out the world and characters that could become central to my novel draft. I plan to include Beyond Thought in my Resolutions collection, but I will also repost it on here.

I have done a lot of structure planning for the novel, but I still have a lot of elements to peg down. However, I decided that I should start getting some words out rather than over-emphasise the planning and never start writing. The approach I’m going to try is non-chronological writing, that is, taking scenes out of the structure and treating them as individual short stories. This will make things feel more manageable, and also play to my strengths as a short story writer.

I’ll keep you updated with my progress, and I’ll have the Beyond Thought short story on here to give you a taste of what’s to come.