Living in Flames, finished chapter 22, now time for a beer & Clan of Xymox

¦ dialling in from Sky Bunker ¦

21:49 GMT, Friday 20th Aug. Finished chapter 22 of Living in Flames tonight. The new book is currently hogging every nanosecond of my attention, leaving Dog Eat Dog still in a review and edit stage (sorry for those of you who’re waiting, and, thanks for the pestering! *grins*).  So now I’m sat in the soft glow of some desk lamps, beneath the steep sloping ceilings of my study.  Supping an ice cold Peroni, Nastro Azzuro.  Picked out some vinyl to play on my turntable.  Listening to Clan of Xymox, their first albumn with 4AD Envelope.  It came out in ’85 but I didn’t discover them until 1989.  Same year I started writing. So, I’m sat here, recollecting a time that is over 2 decades past.  My parents house.  Jesmond with Adam A, Karl P, reconnecting with Richy and through her meeting Grassy.  Good times.  Fresh times, approached with the naive innocence and enthusiasm of a new adult. Skip nearly twenty one years and here I am, living several hundred miles away, stroking a week’s worth of dense beard growth, watching my hands flit across a keyboard… and despite everything, I’m still smiling.  Because life’s for living.  And the dark times merely paint shadows on the soul that highlight the brighter colours.

Here’s the current Clan of Xymox track (Cry in the Wind), enjoy!  If you’ve not heard them before and like mint 80’s  music, definatley give them a go.

Living in Flames – deep into chapter 22, introducing the ghoulish creation called Cray

If you’re aware of my work Shadows of the Quantinex, you’ll be aware of the character Cray.  An aspect of Mythos horror wrapped in human form.  Once human form. This is the point where the plot arcs of drug-dealing and criminality are crashed into by the rising background horror story.  Sample chapter 1 of Living in Flames.

Apprehension looming

¦ dialling in from workstation ¦

08:17 GMT, Monday 2nd August.  Tis a beautiful early morning here in Bath.  The sun has an almost autumnal hue to it today; the hazy pale yellow.  It reminds me how much I love the shifting of the seasons.  I’m already looking forward to cold bright sunny days, clean blue skies above, the early morning mist hugging surrounding hills… and the privilege I enjoy to be able to work and walk around this ancient Roman city of Bath (2,000 years old).   And yet, to be live in Bristol, avoiding the negatives that living in a place like Bath carries with it (too small, weird vibe, strange energy).

I was writing a note to a friend today and this part ties into the looming apprehension I’ve been feeling past couple of days:   “I’m heading up to Newcastle next weekend.  I’ve not been there for about 6 weeks or so and since my last visit the house has been stripped bare and redecorated. So it’s going to be strange going there.  There’s apparently no furniture anywhere in the house now, apart from a sofa bed in the living room; no beds, no nothing.  My mum’s ashes are still there.  Still need to work out a way of getting them scattered at sea between England and Norway (her final wish).  I’ll be arriving late at night.  So hopefully I accept the transformation as I walk in, and don’t freak out to be faced with a cold empty house and a whole night of sleeplessness and night-demons.  Part of me is dreading it.  Part of me is looking forward to seeing the place back to basics again, kind of seeing the house go full circle and reconnecting with my vivid memories of the place in 1980, when we moved in, and I was 9 years old.”

It’s going to be a weekend where I say goodbye. Goodbye to Newcastle, goodbye to the house I’ve always referred to as “Home” for 30 years.  Nostalgia will rule those days.  Me, drifting around the Dene with Art of Noise on headphones, I expect.  Standing up in my old bedroom  gazing out at the forest pressing close against the back garden, listening to early Gary Numan , and Chris & Cosey, sound-scapes that shaped my youthful mind and certainly influenced my current writing.  It’ll also be a chance for me to hog some café tables and blast on with Living in Flames, and continue the review / edit of Dog Eat Dog.

Living in Flames, finished chapter 17. Dog Eat Dog review and edit continues.

Just finished Chapter 17 for Living in Flames, reached 27,000 words. Word count is coming in around half of what Dog Eat Dog was… tighter writing, quicker scenes, and I just want it finished.  I’m feeling a lot more relaxed now that I’ve finished re-mapping out the plot. I have a structure that’s been challenged and now works. I can settle back into a steady pace, one chapter at a time.

Dog Eat Dog – what a bloody excellent book. Sorry, I know I wrote it, but damn it’s good. Yesterday I was reading through a Dead City run. Tension was high.  I had to re-read a whole chunk and actually proof it properly because I’d just sped through on adrenaline first time round.

Walked 9 miles for breakfast

¦ dialling in from Sky Bunker ¦ 14:24 hrs on Saturday afternoon, 24th July.  Strange weather outside.  Periods of heat compressed beneath stormy clouds rising up like castles within the grey murk above, occasional glimpses of blue sky and moments of golden sunshine, because a cold breeze stirs up and makes you shiver.

Listening to King Swamp on vinyl, fragmentary nostalgia to my final summer living in Newcastle, age 20/21, in the fantastic shared house experience of 54 Osborne Avenue, in Jesmond.

Had a lie-in this morning.  Out the house and in town by 9 A.M. Parked up by the harbour-side.  Everything quiet.  Almost nobody around. Perfect.  Did my 3 mile circuit… thinking through the final scenes of the plot map for Living in Flames, visualising the characters, the locations, the motives on each side for being there, exploring the conflicts of interests and points were allegiances could be formed. And then trying to map these into a workable narrative.

I found a real groove of walking and thinking. Ended up doing the circuit three times.  9 miles.

900 calories. Yipee. Means I can eat what the heck I want this weekend.  Good job as I’ve got another foody weekend lined up.

Right now downstairs is awash with the intense mouth-watering smells of a Texas beef chilli.  Took me an hour to prep it and get it all into the slow cooker. It’s going to take 8 hours before it’s ready to eat. Damn! *smiles*  So going downstairs is near torture… the smells making you hungry hungry hungry.  There 1.5 KG of chuck roast (braising steak) in there, chopped into small chunks, browned in olive oil with onions and garlic,  then chilli powder and cumin stirred it, cooked for another couple minutes to get the flavours in… then add chopped tomatoes, chopped chillies, dark beer and beef stock, and a load of red kidney beans.  MMmmmmmmMMmmmm. MMmmmmmm.

I reckon by time tonight comes round I’m going to be starving. In anticipation of this I’ve bought a ton of different cheeses and a bottle of tawny port. An early evening appetiser.  Jo’s away for the weekend but Sharky Bones McCoy is back from Spain, riding a euphoria wave having scored a job there. He’s here for another week or so before heading back Spain side to start work after being unemployed for 18 months!!!

Last night we had dinner at the divine Bordeaux Quay restaurant to celebrate Kelvin’s good news.  Amazing food and impeccable service.

So my weekend is already laid out in front of me.

An afternoon up here, going mental with the smells of Texas Chilli Beef drifting up stairs, brewing large pots of tea in granny style, and pushing on the mapping out Living in Flames and reviewing / editing Dog Eat Dog.

I might do a quick blast into town to recharge my brain with coffee and maybe another 3 miles walking? See how the day goes.

Poirot’s on at 6 pm or so.  That’ll be when I crack open the port and fix a cheese board to sit with in the living room.

Lovely times.

Living in Flames – remapping plot – think I might have cracked it

¦ dialling in from Sky Bunker ¦  listening to the seminal “Where Did the Night Fall” by UNKLE.  Been up for a few hours now.  Extracting mad pencil scrawls from the sheets of paper I’ve been using in Boston Tea Party cafe last few days, putting it down into one of my timeline docs, where I try and nail each chapter in a list of bullet points.  Focussing on the WHY, WHERE, WHAT and HOW.  Scenes in London were the bitch.  I think I’ve saved the damn book now, and got a pretty excellent tight story to write up.  Not quite out of the woods. Still need to map out the actual ending.  Tie off the cluster of plot threads clenched in my fist.

Living in Flames – deep into mapping out revised plot

So I’ve been walking mile after mile, mulling through the new configuration of plot elements, distancing my mind from the previous crap that I’d been intending to write with.  I’ve made a series of breakthroughs.  Now everything is coming together in a massive knot of potential endings… I think a walk with Mr Halliday is in order.  As with Dog Eat Dog, I talked him through the plot and revealed I had twenty possible endings… he’d showed me the one I’d not even considered. Problem solved.

Got to stop and looking around once and a while

So I’m doing my best to put the brakes on.

Rather than diving out of bed when I woke, driving into town to kick start my brain with a coffee and pain-au-chocolat, I had a lie-in.

Bloody lovely, although I can feel the monster-slave-driver in my mind seething and resenting the fact I’m not writing. Bizarre, eh? Am I not in control of my own creative needs?  When did they gain control of me?

I’m sat in the Sky Bunker, listening to King Swamp on vinyl, tapping out these words before I uncouple myself from the wool comfort of my faithful Starsky cardigan, get dressed, and head into town. Living In Flames plot mapping (bastard thing) and Dog Eat Dog review and editing.  Downstairs I’ve prepared a slow cooker feast that’ll be ready in three hours.  Boston Baked Beans.  Hmm.  I’ll drop a note about those later.

Dog Eat Dog Review and Edit, and start a new novel Living In Flames

¦ dialling in from Sky Bunker ¦

18:30 GMT, Saturday 17th July 2010.  Sunlight flooding the room through the glass canopy behind me.  High winds ruffle the house.  The sky alternates from bright blue to moody grey in swift changes.  I’m listening to the album “Count Three & Pray” by Berlin.

My brain hurts.

I’m close to burn out.

I finished Dog Eat Dog just over two weeks ago, and have managed to review / edit about 17 chapters. Slow progress but I’m enjoying the relaxed pace; gives me a chance to read and savour the thing.  The day after I finished writing the first draft I started writing another novel.  Living in Flames.  This is a story I first came up with 13 years ago, back in 1997.  I thought I could pick up all the existing scamps and just push it out as a novel.  Not so.  The original idea is flawed.  So, I have to exert major brain juice to fix it.  I’m bloody hating this bit.  Had hoped it would be easy.  Ugh.  *pulls a face like a bulldog chewing on a thistle*   On top of still handling Dog Eat Dog, and an insanely busy period at work (Project Echo going into overdrive; Project Sonar; Gekko; Wedge and all the commercial stuff that slots in between), I’m suffering.


Have to battle on though.

Also have to research and plan my upcoming road trip around California.  More brain exertion.  More brain pain, it feels like.

Meanwhile, I’m failing to ring people, I’m failing to reply to E-mails, I’m sinking into a self-crafted hole of isolation.  Not playing Yellow Dawn (too busy).  Not meeting up with friends for drinks (too busy).  Too busy, bullshit, I say.  Just me failing to juggle writing with reality.  So, need to ease back onto a social groove before I do burn out.

You can read a sample of Living in Flames (PDF) here.