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Guest Blog: Day Next – Gaaargh!

Hello again, how lovely to see you. Last week was all about MissImp and improvised comedy, I’m sure I badger you further in that regard at some point this week, but I also wanted to assure you that my life/improv/work balance is indeed as badly weighted as you might have suspected, indeed it’s somewhat worse.

Not only am I supposed to be juggling Marilyn, Merly, MissImp, a pathetic effort to get our house redecorated, eat, sleep, have fun, minus work (definitely a subtracting factor), but I also rather enjoy writing and bunch of other creative pursuits. These often get somewhat sidelined.

Writing – good for the soul, bad for the arthritis

I think everyone should write something. It’s good for you; it might not be good for the ears or minds of others, but it’s always good for the scribbling individual. Obviously we were encouraged to write at school, before they made us pointlessly deconstruct and trivialise narrative and character in the works of others thus rendering reading an unenjoyable and destructive activity. I wrote a short story called Plutoid IV when I was about 14 I think. It was terrible. Well, it wasn’t that bad – I found and re-read it recently and I can honestly say it’s vastly less awful than Twilight (I’m not linking to the damned thing). I still like the concept of it – it was these long haul spaceship piloted by an AI (artificial intelligence) which killed off its crews to make snuff films, which it sold to humans.

Reading Lists

You see, I have a special passion for science fiction and devour it constantly. You should not consider me cultured; although I’ve read the Dickaustenbronte-beast type works I don’t like them. They’re early novels, and frankly writers have improved on them. I also really don’t enjoy modern ‘classic’ fiction – I’m not interested in reading about real life and the trials and tribulations of four generations who find themselves in a new world and can’t relate to their parents and yet carry all the cultural baggage and just kill me. It leaves me cold.

I seek the fantastical, the new, the exciting and I’m afraid I just don’t find it in a lot of  fiction. I much prefer the intricacies and inventiveness of science-fiction and the new fantastic fusions which have emerged over the last fifteen years or so. It’s all the massive coolness of Peter F Hamilton, Neal Asher, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Alastair Reynolds, Simon R Green, China Mieville… ah there’s too many of them to list. Now, I’m certainly not going to claim that’s all anyone should read, but this is my blog and I’ll rail as I see fit.

Have you seen the section in Waterstones labelled ‘Paranormal Romance’? Just take a look next time you’re in: “I loved her but she turned out to be a ghost and I was allergic to the ectoplasm. I couldn’t love a man with more hair than me. I wanted her, but she was dead; that didn’t stop me.” Gad sir.

I tend to alternate reading exquisite sci-fi of modern and vintage eras or humourous detective fiction with modern child/teenage fiction. It’s a fun mix and it’s interesting to see how much darker, or more intriguing modern young people’s fiction has become. Think of the Amber Spyglass trilogy by Philip Pullman, the new young Bond books by Charlie Higson, the magnificent Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. I could list awesome books for hours. Soon we will finally convert our attic into a library – we shall not throw books out.

Dream a little dream of…

Anyway, back to more about me. I continued writing, but not with fiction. As a teenager I slept very badly (still do), but had vivid dreams, so I kept a dream and thought diary. That in itself was good practice – describing something you half remember and don’t recall where it lead is weird. The results when I flick back are frankly disturbing. Maybe that’s just being a teenager. I still plan to publish them as a collection of dreams, maybe adapt some into short stories. Yeah, one of those days when I’m not doing anything else.

For a while, after A-levels and university tried to kill my love of reading I finally started reading again in a frenzied fashion, and began to write again too. I can only speak of my own writing process and I’m sure others are far more efficient, prolific and certainly better. I’m chaotic, erratic, disorganised and undisciplined. As such I’ve rarely finished anything I’ve started. There are some projects I must go back to – my favourite being Eric the Bewildered Weasel – a tale of woodland creatures facing an aggressive alien invasion… I got up to about 50,000 words and it got washed away by the general trials of life. I have notebooks full of ideas and part chapters. It’s mostly a problem of finding the time.

Captain Pigheart

Eventually though, I found something I could write, and keep writing. One Saturday morning, sometime in 2006, while in the shower a story came to me, pretty much fully formed (short, but sweet). I managed to keep it in my mind while escaping the cubicle’s confines and stumbled soaking upstairs to dampen our bed while I scrawled frantically. That story became Captain Pigheart’s Mermaid Adventure, the first of 22 short pirate stories (and half a dozen even shorter ones) which have escaped so far.

So – to greet you again in Ignatius’ voice:

“Yarr, ye be somewhat less hideous than when last ye darkened me pupil.”

And that’s Captain Ignatius Pigheart, a pirate captain of dubious provenance and competence. The stories are short – each roughly 1,000  words (a bit less than the length of this blog post), they are quite silly and feature beasts both magical and mundane which the crew take on, willingly or otherwise. I think I’ve been able to keep writing them because Ignatius is distinct in my mind, I maintain a sort of pirate accent in the text which helps me to feel the stories’ direction.

Sometimes they write themselves, like the first one. Others I have a feeling for and have to simply mash the words out, to get to an end. Once they’re on paper I type them up, and then go through at least three vicious edits and re-writes before I’m happy.

Sailin’ Forth

This week I’m going to go through a story from that first written draft to (hopefully) publishing it online on my site where I keep them – http://captainpigheart.com/

I’m also going to attempt to do something with them – normally I write ’em, bung ’em online and get my friends to read them. I also maintain a Facebook character page which is fun. The most I’ve done with them so far is read them out at the odd poetry event – like Pub Poetry Nottingham, which I host on the second Monday of every month at the Canalhouse.

I’ve been recorded once doing my pirate shtick – enjoy: Mermaid\’s Tale LIVE

This week I’m going to get myself a domain name, set up a better website and publish audio-book versions of the stories. It’s a lot to do and I’m excited. See you later!

Pigheart in places:

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The Stories

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