Writing Challenge Day 2

Day 2: Create a character. Write a brief scene of them in a setting. Also use this paragraph to introduce the character to the reader by how they react to their setting.

She hadn’t put milk in my coffee. I thought about going back and demanding it. I didn’t. There’s no such thing as an undrinkable cup of coffee. Still, a little milk would have been nice. Thunder cracked somewhere behind my manly black umbrella as though to punctuate the thought. This was the kind of Monday morning they should put on posters to join the army. Do soldiers have Mondays the way us civvies do?

I pondered this dilemma as a skipped over any deep-looking puddles on my way to work. As I dashed out of the door this morning, I had chosen Converse over DMs. I’d chosen speed over practicality, and now I was paying the price doing my dainty rain prance.

Work today was in an office downtown. They big bosses suspected one of the accountants was skimming a little personal bonus for himself, so they want me to go stroke their servers and find out who, what and how.

Oh, a little background. My name is Jack. I can see information. Like, all information. It’s floating around us all the time – more and more evertly day. It’s just that most people need technology to be able to get at it. Except me. That’s why I earn the big bucks. We’ll, the medium-sized bucks. More like pamphlets, really.

It’s like – you know when you’re sitting on a crowded bus and everyone is talking at once? You can tune in to individual conversations if you concentrate and tilt your head? It’s kind of like that. And completely different. I don’t know. You try explaining one of your senses and get back to me. Anyway, it’s a thing I can do. As you can imagine, I’m prone to migraines.

I arrived a little early and got a feel for the emails bouncing around. Mostly bored responses to Friday’s urgent requests or flirty little exchanges designed to wake up the sender and the recipient before the real work began. So emails weren’t tightly regulated here, then. I’d like to say “that was interesting”, but it wasn’t. Relevant maybe, but not interesting.

I introduced myself to the receptionist who was hiding behind a few inches of deftly-applied makeup. She directed me to some uncomfortable beige seats and asked me to wait. And I did. For half an hour. That was until I picked up an email with my name as the subject:

From: M.Allott@NameoftheCompany.co.uk

To: M.Allott@NameoftheCompany.co.uk

Subject: Infomancer

Mr. James Matthew Wilson, Infomancer,

If you can read this, please come to my office (13-25) on the thirteenth floor.

Kind Regards,

Mark Allott

Managing Director

And so on and so forth. God, I hated working with norms. Nonetheless, I pulled myself up and felt a crack where a piece of ‘soft’ furnishing had been digging into me. This was definitely turning into a real Monday morning. I traipsed over to the big corporate elevators and hit the arrow grumpily.

To the full list of challenges.

 

NB: Some of this is taken for a bit of a scribble I started last week. I’ve been struggling to develop it, so I’m giving it a go with this challenge. 🙂

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Under the Dome by Stephen King

I’ve been looking at the cover of this book in bookshops since it came out in 2009 – having had a similar idea for an isolated small town myself. After reading “On Writing” and having heard it was soon to become a TV show, I knew that this would be my next read.

First thing: it’s a big book. I mean seriously. Just look at this picture I’ve stolen from another WordPress blog:

Big.

It came in at over a thousand Kindle pages. That said, it’s a rare moment when the story feels slow, wordy or padded. These pages are all story.

I have to admit, though, the first act was a little slow-going for me. As King himself states in his afterword, it is a densely-populated universe he has created here under the dome. Every other chapter seems to introduce a new family or set of characters to learn and love, before having them cruelly wrenched off=stage for another handful of chapters.

Nevertheless, this all pays of in the end, with each and every character receiving an filling and sometimes emotional ending. The main characters are strong but flawed, and the small-town enemies soon become magnified through the non-glass of the dome.

The story slowly grows as we get to know this community inside and out. We know the friendly, unfriendly, weird and drunken as well or better than we do those of our own friendship circles.

I would thoroughly recommend this book, but not as light summer reading – both literally and metaphorically. At one point, the fate of one character made me stop reading, as tears were obscuring my vision.

This is a short, fast review as I’ve got a lot of other things to do right now. But for what it’s worth, it’s a “yes” from me, and I’ll definitely be tuning in to watch my favourite characters (both loved and hated) appear on-screen.

 

under-the-dome

The Predictable 2012 Retrospective

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2012 was a year of mixed fortunes for me. It started with the loss of a woman I thought I would marry and is ending with my being clumsily single and celebrating back home with family.

My life in Mexico has changed significantly since January, too. I started out as a school teacher in a small town; now I’m a teacher of adults in one of the biggest cities in the world. I’ve gone from having a life which relied and focussed very much on my relationship, to one where I’m independent, single and have a wide circle of friends.

I’m progressing in my career, too, as I grasp every oppoetunity made available to me, and have made the commitment, therefore, to be in Mexico until at least mid- 2014.

My Spanish is still rubbish, but has improved massively from where it was even in the middle of this year. I’d like to be able to tell you about a huge improvement come the end of 2013.

Romantically, from the engagement I mentioned at the beginning, I bumbled through a rebound relationship which ended because I fucked up. Since then, I’ve tripped, stumbled and generally failed at being a single, exotic man in Latin America. All this despite knowing some wonderful and beautiful people in Mexico City.

I suppose all that’s left is to Gove my resolutions and predictions for the year to come:

I’d like to lose some weight. I’m going back to the gym next year, not only due to a not entirely complimentary conversation with a beautiful woman, but also because I’ve been losing weight by accident lately, and it’s been making me impatient for a faster change.

I’d like to be in a long-term relationship. I’ve had the opportunity to have more casual liaisons with terribly attractive Mexican ladies and that’s very tempting, but it’s not really what I’m looking for. So… yeah. I realise it’s one of those American Pie things I can’t do much about, but there you go.
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And I’m going to pass the DELTA: it’s the next step in my career and I’m not going to waste the opportunity.

Oh, and The Avengers and Doctor Who were good, too. Can’t wait to see Clara and Thanos in the new year.

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Later, kiddies. Happy New Year!

30 Days Challenge: Day 28: What attracts you to someone

Well, I think we’ve discussed before what can instigate a crush, so let’s talk a little about what I look for in something long-term.

I’ve dated different body types and nationalities, so much as it’s a cliché, appearance doesn’t massively effect that tingly feeling in my chest and doesn’t cause me to think about a person at odd times of the day.

I think the thing is chemistry. If we have good chemistry, if we can talk or not talk for hours without being uncomfortable, if we can watch and mock TV together, or if we can share utterly stupid inside jokes. I’m kind of weird, so I really appreciate when someone is willing to be weird with me.

The truth is, although I have a sex drive like anyone else, it’s not the thing I miss most about being in a relationship. Not even close. I like the shared, open and close relationship that’s really hard to achieve outside of a relationship.

To clarify, I think it’s harder for men to have that kind of relationship, as many men are afraid of seeming ‘gay’ with their other friends. Much as I’ve complained about being a gay friend in the past, I wouldn’t trade those relationships for ones with hetero-normative men, because I know that nine times out of ten I wouldn’t get the kind of support and love I get from the close friendships I have.

I posted on Facebook recently that “there are no likeable hetero-normative men in my novel. This could be a problem.” The truth is, I’m far too open, honest and ridiculously emotional to conduct a lot of close relationships with that kind of guy, so I find it rather difficult to relate to them.

Anyway, all of this is beside the point. If I had to summarise this post in one sentence it would be this: I’m attracted to a person we can have honest conversations and silly fun in equal measure. Anything else is just topping.

30 Days Challenge: Day 26: First 10 songs to play on shuffle on your iPod

Okay, so here we go. Any errors are due to this being written on my phone while waiting for a student to turn up.

First is Katmandu by Bob Seger. I discovered it by accident when downloading a different song (Old Time Rock and Roll), and I absolutely love it. It represents a love of one’s home country and also the utter need to run away. He has a great voice for singing about a hard decision.

Next up: She’s Got the Look by Roxette. “And I go la la la la la she’s got the look” – with lyrical magesty like that, how could I not?

Just My Imagination by The Cranberries. Mostly, I admit, because of her accent and the way she sings the word “imagination”. I also love the line: “I have always kept my faith in love: it’s the greatest gift from the man above.”

That’s three, right? Okay, next up… Bad Things by Jace Everett (also known as the theme to True Blood). The deep, gutteral tones in hos voice just really draw me into what I imagine is a series of dank bars and danker motel rooms. It really tells me a story. Is also recommend The Good Life by the same artist. No, it isn’t about suburban rebellion.

(Skipped one because The Good Life actually came up next. Loved for the same reason. These songs make me think of a sleazier CCR.)

Andrew In Drag by The Magnetic Fields. I first heard about this song from Neil Gaiman’s blog. It makes me smile, it tells me a story, and to me it sort of sounds like Jeremy Clarkson’s coming out song. Particularly: “…I would even sell the Jaaaaaaag…”

Stay by The Hollies. Shut up. This was bound to go downhill coolness-wise. Anyway, it makes me tap my foot and smile, which can help on my regular, sweaty commutes.

We Want the Same Thing by Belinda Carlisle. Largely the same as the above, really. It also combines that cheerfulness with a kind of aggression in the verses which also helps to perk me up.

Nickelback singing How You Remind Me. Again, the aggression and loud guitar can get me up and going in the morning. There are better Nickelback songs for the purpose, but this was the one on the compelation I downloaded.

Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely) by Pink. This is a favourite I share with an ex of mine. Great tune, with a kind of aggression that can really get you onto the Metrobus in the morning. Favourite line: “All I ask for is one fucking hour!”

Foreigner, Cold as Ice. Um… I don’t know. I like it. Shut up. Although it does have some nice imagery around the repetitive chorus. And I like it. So there.

Lodi by Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). Other than the very chilled sounds, this song really speaks to the baffled, planless way I progress through life. The confusion, adventure and ennui of that kind of life that you can hear in the performance speak to me on a personal level.

I have some time, so I’ll give you one more (and partly because it’s difficult to scroll and count on my phone’s screen.

Paradise City by Guns ‘N’ Roses. Travelling and looking for pretty girl’s? Yeah, I totally get that. Also the sheer confidence, the guitar, the chorus – like I said before, sometimes I need these things on my daily commute.

So if you see me walking down the street nodding my head mouthing words, chances are it’s to one of these songs. The examples could’ve been so much worse. I though that went rather well!

Speak soon, true believers!

30 Days Challenge: Day 25: How you found out about Blogger & why you made one

Yeah, this isn’t Blogger. Let’s say this is a question about blogging in general.

I blog for a couple of reasons. One is to keep my hand into writing, since I’m often too lazy to plug away at the Great Swampy Middle of my novel. A piece of advice I once read was that writing every day was one of the most important things. So that’s what I try to do. It’s not a form that’s exactly applicable to fiction, but it’s satisfying just to get some words down on e-paper.

The second reason is as an outlet. I don’t know if it’s because I’m depressed, or just because of the kind of guy I am*, but I think and feel all the damn time. Sometimes it helps just to whine about it on here, or to talk about the ways I come to cope with it. It just helps to make a noise and believe people are reading it (even when they’re not). And, hell, if one of my self-indulgent posts on depression help one other person, then I think I’ve done okay as a blogger, really.

A friend of mine (Ceri – her blog is here) said that there’s a level of narcissism about keeping an online diary. I think that’s probably true, too. I think the trick is to know the difference between posting to update family, talk about things, whatever and in trying to get attention or cause a reaction. I’m sure I’ve stepped over the wrong side of the line once or twice, but whatever. It helps to talk to you, imaginary reader. So thanks very much. 🙂

And here’s a kitten picture to wrap up:

*That’s assuming you can separate one from the other, of course.

30 Days Challenge: Day 24: A song that makes you smile

Sorry about the delay. I assume, of course, that the Internet waits with baited breath for my new posts.

Anyway, here are a couple of songs that have a tendency to cheer me up when they float to the top of my playlist. As always, melody* is important to me. The feeling comes second.

For slightly angry, fast-walking music, I like:

Now in Spanish!!

And a couple more for your listening pleasure:

Pretty obvious why I like this one, I think.

Now with bonus Spock. Here’s the main official video, because I like that too: 

So… there ya go.

 

* Yes, her too (see picture 1, right).Figure 1