This a some writing ‘around’ a potential novel set was dystopian future, where the right wing UK government had made a deal with Lovecraftian monsters from beyond spacetime… This is a doodle on one of the characters, and gives an intro into the world… I may even write it one day.
Proff started the day like usual, up at the crack of early evening. He can’t seem to sleep at night anymore. The only time he can get some quality shut eye is in the mid-afternoon; when the world has gone heavy and lazy after lunch of a piece of plastic toast and re-hydrated soup granules. He fed the rats. Molly had just given birth, which was a good sign, but the biggest one was born dead, which was bad. Proff was distraught. To make it worst, it was a precious blacky – the most holy of the soft wriggling things. All folks knew black rats were good luck.
Too upset to give the rats more than the standard shit-and-dirty-bedding-removal, and brush-and-polish with the piece of genuine 100% silk, he did his chores frowning and distracted. He did not even feel his usual spike of pleasure when running the piece of genuine 100% silk over their short velvet fur that rippled with delight; the satisfaction that came from knowing he stole it from that bitch Sue. Or maybe she’d given it to him. He couldn’t remember, and they don’t talk now anyway to ask.
A pan-op came by snooping, reporting on his movements to the Eyes. They tried to keep tabs on him, but he was too smart and too careful. This time he had hidden in Hiding Area Number 7: a small trunk which was placed over a false bottom that concealed a hole dug under the shed. He made it into the hole before the pan-op came by, but only just. This was another distress signal from usually prompt Proff to the unseeing world.
He couldn’t explain how he knew the pan-ops were coming, but he did. He always had. One of the local gangs, the Pit-Bulls had tried to use him for look out because of it. He’d made enough money that his rats and him were kept in tinned beans for weeks, before the Pits got tired of the so called false positives. They hadn’t believed him about the Eyes. The gang couldn’t see them, not even when they filled the sky with watching. They’d beaten him, but not too badly, because they know he was special. People didn’t really mess with Proff. Not just because of Tank and Spyder, neither. He’d been right about too many things too often: raids by the pigs; DWUP purges; pan-ops fly-bys; poll tax registration sweeps. Of course they said he’d been wrong a lot too: the Day the Sky Fell; the Hour of the Black Wings; and the Eyes, always the Eyes. But Proff didn’t understand how the others had missed them. The Day the Sky Fell, for example, had left him and the rats in Hiding Area 4, cramped and shaking, for uncounted hours until the eldritch shattering had past. Peg had miscarried that time, and Proff had mourned for months.
Today, when the pan-op had buzzed off back to its suited masters at Westminster, he’d crept out from Hiding Area Number 7. He had checked outside the little shed, but there was nothing in his glen in the rubbish mountain that wasn’t supposed to be there. It was a brisk day though, so he wrapped his ancient army surplus coat more tightly around his skinny frame, and tightened the piece of old twine that he used for a belt. He went back inside and stoked his little burner with some of the non-toxic rubbish, and put the kettle on. Today he added half a teaspoon of his precious powdered milk to his supper / breakfast of harsh brown tea. He needed it, the death of the little blacky shocked and upset him. He settled down to work for a few hours. He read all the feeds he could, on the small jerry-rigged black market screen Tank had given him. He sifted the news, gossip, forums and mail for patterns, shapes that concealed the Others.
He left his official Mail Feed ‘til last, when the small hours of the morning turned into the real live morning. His work had gone well, nothing that monstrous was visible. He had relaxed enough to let Scar and Rob, two of his favourites, clamber over him for a cuddle and play. Their sensitive inquisitive noses had sniffed carefully at his face, and little scratchy feel had whispered over him. But now, he had to read his Official Mail. He hated it, hated that they even knew he existed. But the penalties for ignoring it were just too high, it even frightened him. Better to read it like a good boy than be more conspicuous by disappearing from the Database. Now that did get you noticed, and it was best to keep out of sight of the Eyes.
There was a mail in his Inbox. Proff tensed, his eyes, never entirely still, darted here and there more quickly. The From entry was the DWUP. The Subject line was Important Information Included. Warning: Illegal Not to Read. He really really didn’t want to. He wasn’t even on bennies, why would they contact him? He reached for the Open touchscreen with a shaking hand. He pressed it.
The worst had happened. Well, not as bad as the Black Wings, but nearly. It was useless to complain that he wasn’t receiving benefits, that he was not on the List of the Unemployed. The Work Ticket had found him. He was going for a six month shift on the Work Gangs unless Tank and Spyder could help him.
Here – i decided this didnt fit. and it was my first go at trying to write all YA hes so hot. Not sure it worked. But i liked the rest so here you go – you shouldnt need an intro other than its 1804 London, and demons exist, and one lives inside Lizzie…
deleted scene – boxing
Sophie and Amanbir had become close enough to form a gang of two that would bother me for my own good. One afternoon, a mere week after the disastrous fight, they dragged me downstairs to the common room for tea. As was my habit so soon after his death I was glum and quiet. It seemed to me that every moment of peace or pleasure I felt would be snatched from me by the ambush of a memory. Today it was the particular flourish that Edwin used to pour the tea, by drawing it two foot high above the table. He wouldn’t bow to the tradition that said the lady should pour, as he said he did it better. I couldn’t taste a difference then, but now, this tea did taste dirtier and looked muddier.
I blinked away tears, and the others, yet again, politely pretended not to see. I busied myself with cutting up bread and butter into dainty squares, but didn’t eat it.
Amanbir jumped a little, and I think that Sophie must have kicked him under the table. Gestures like these did not bode well for me.
“Lady De Courcey, at Miss Westmorland’s suggestion, that is, I am going to John Jackson’s boxing salon this evening, and would you do me the honour of accompanying me?”
I stared at him.
“I am permitted to spar in the back room, and you would be welcome as well. I explained about you to John, and although it would not do in the main Salon with the gents, you could come with me and spar with his fighters, if you wanted to.”
“You haven’t trained at all since the fight, Elizabeth,” interrupted Sophie, “I can tell you are getting agitated stuck indoors. You are not even walking with me very far.” Here she dropped her voice “and you are speeding up sometimes. You know it scares people when you do that.”
I hadn’t noticed that. It could be dangerous for me to show too much odd behaviour. People panicked if they thought a demon had possessed you. Quite understandably. I was about to agree to the outing.
“And we need you to be on form to find and kill Asundra.” Sophie said.
“I am not going to find Asundra, Sophie.” I snapped. “And if that is the reason you, at Miss Westmorland’s suggestion, of course, invited me, then I am sorry Sewader Singh, but I must decline. Edwin was not strong enough to bind her, and you and I nearly got killed as well. There is no purpose to my going after her. The Church will do it without me.”
“I asked Miss Westmorland if you would enjoy it, Eliz.. That is Lady De Courcy.” Amanbir said. “Not thinking of demon hunting, but that it may make you feel better.”
“I don’t need your charity, Sewader.” I was in a fine mood now.
Amanbir growled at me. That was new. He was usually very calm. “It is not charity. I would enjoy your company, however you are clearly not well enough.”
No Lady in that speech!
“Lizzy don’t be ridiculous.”Sophie said. “This has nothing to do with demon hunting. I have heard you say that you wished to spar against Mr. Jackson myself. This is your chance to do it.”
We sat in silence for a few moments more. I stabbed my tiny pieces of bread with the butter knife. The knife got quicker and quicker until it was a silvery blur.
How mature. I think it best for you to remain in your room, you clearly cannot control yourself in public.They are trying to help, ineptly of course. Snapping at them and lurking in your bedroom will effectively drive them away and then you will have no one but me. Good plan.
I stopped stabbing immediately. A long moment of silence passed as I stared at the mess in my plate.
“Sewader, I will come with you. I clearly need the exercise.” And the tricky bit… “I apologise for my inconsiderate behaviour to you both.”
“Apology accepted, my Lady. We should leave in half an hour or so to make my appointment with Mr. Jackson.”
“I will go and change my clothes.”
“I think a yellow sprigged muslin would be charming to box in.”Sophie grinned.
“You think it will start a fashion?” I replied. Amanbirs scimitar smile flashed against his dark beard. I decided I should leave at once. Levity made me feel guilty.
John Jackson’s Boxing Salon was in Bond Street. Women of quality were not supposed to walk or drive down that street, surrounded as it was by gentlemen’s clubs and gambling houses. I was in disguise, but it was a half hearted one. My hair was hidden under a hat, and my coat and breeches loose, but I would not pass more than a routine inspection. Sophie made me promise to tell her all about the forbidden street, but I could not see much that was interesting. There were the carriages and horses that all of fashionable London had, the loafers that flocked to street corners who had no discernible source of income, and the groups of men – young and old – that had nothing better to do than sit in windows, drink and pass comment on one another. Gentleman Jack’s looked like any other club from the front, a handsome enough white house. Perhaps the young men that lounged on the steps were more athletic than the rest of the mob, but honestly there was little difference.
Although Sewader was not dark complexioned, he was still not allowed in the front chambers – I wondered if Tom Molineaux, the Black Ajax, would have been accepted. I was likewise unwelcome. So we walked round the corner and into the back entrance where the tradesmen went in and out. I was irritated, more on Amanbir’s behalf than mine. I could be no more than a curiosity, and would not enjoyed being watched by that crowd. But there was no reason for Amanbir’s exclusion – he was a gentleman after all. More so than John Jackson!
As long as he is a gentlemen then. They must surely beat each other bloody with more decorum than the unwashed mass of humanity.
I did not have an answer to that, so I kept quiet.
“Good to see you again sir! Jack’ll be with you anon.” The man who opened that door was the very picture of a boxer, powerful shoulders, red kerchief, nose crooked from many fights. He glanced at me, openly curious. I pulled my hat lower and followed Amanbir’s broad back inside.
In the room there were a few men sparring, or shadow boxing. All were muscular and quick, although their size and weight varied from a vicious looking bantam to a giant of a heavyweight.
When Jackson walked in the energy in the room changed. He was a big man, but had not run to fat despite the nearly ten years since he was Champion. He dressed as a Corinthian, all sharp tailoring and neat calves.
“Mister Singh. And is this the curio?” His voice was cultured, but slightly off to my ear, like his tailoring.
“Mister Jackson, may I present Lady De Courcy?”
It was as if all attention was suddenly on me. I heard a snigger and a crude comment. Jackson stared at me for a second as if unsure what to do. I gave him my hand and shook it like a man.I wished acutely that I was back in my quiet bedroom at the hotel.
“Shall we spar first, Mister Singh?” The man actually winked. “Give the lady time to see what goes on here, and to change her mind if needs be. It’d be no disgrace.”
I flushed red. He smiled encouragingly at me, taking it for embarrassment. It was rage.
“I understood that Mister Singh explained about me?” I snapped out. “I am happy to spar with whomever you suggest, you will not be stronger or faster than a demon.”
Too late I realised that this was an insult to both the Sewader, and to the boxer. Equally the demon comment could apply to my opponents or to myself. Amanbir’s brows lowered.
I could not apologise. Jackson barked out a laugh.
“She’s a prickly one. I’m not one to hit a girl. But Reilly will, won’t you?”
Reilly jogged lightly over. He was on the smaller side, with a look of a street smart fighter to him. He grinned.
“Me ma used to hit me until I taught her better. Recon her left hook would have felled most of these smart gentlemen you give love taps to upstairs, Jack!”
I grinned at him. In slums all over you got women who would street brawl as well as men. He wouldn’t hold back with me. And I realised that I needed this. All these hours of sitting and crying and feeling helpless were not me. I wanted violence, craved it. I wished that I could say it was all Himself, but I feared that this will to inflict pain was one reason I coped with him so well. I understood him.
“Sounds like my kind of woman.” I said. After a second there were more guffaws from behind me, and I realised that it sounded as if I went with women. Sigh.
Reilly’s grin grew sharper and he opened his mouth. I knew something unsavoury would come out of it, and I didn’t want Amanbir to hear it.
“You going to stand here jawing all day, or are we going to fight? I understand if you have had second thoughts, you’re a bit on the small side…” I said quickly. Laughs from the sidelines followed, but at least I was in on the joke.
“Small side! Hark at her. Ay, then lets fight. For that I won’t go easy on you.”
My smile changed to something more hungry. His eyes widened, nearly imperceptibly, but I caught it. No, this one would not accord me quarter for my sex. I removed my jacket and handed it to Amanbir.
“Are you sure?” He said softly.
“You and Sophie were right.” I said, matching his tone “I’m wound so tight I can’t breathe. This will help.”
He backed away with Jackson. The other men drifted across until they surrounded the ring, betting on one of another of us, joking and laughing.
I jumped and lighted into the square marked in the dirt on the floor.I rolled my head from side to side, and bounced and threw a few punches. I watched Reilly like a hawk, noticing that he lead with his right side, that he was balanced and secure in his walk, and that his eyes had the slightly flat look you often saw in fighters that had grown up where there were no rules.
Jackson boomed from the sidelines.
“Normal rules apply, no blows below the belt, you can yield at any time, no bites or kicks. Let’s keep this scientific!”
My lips stretched from my teeth. We met in the centre of the ring. He was wicked fast, but I was faster. My blows told more too, which surprised him. He was, however, better at boxing. My fighting style was taken from bits from all over, including the orient. Normally I used my whole body, including my legs and even teeth if necessary. This fighting required delicate footwork to keep up with the bantam weight, which although I was balanced and quick I was not practised in. His technique was superb. After the first flurry of blows, I could beat him senseless, or I could learn from him. I chose to learn, and so modulated my attack.
We sparred for twenty minutes. I could have gone on, but he was slowing. After the next bout I stepped back and put my bleeding hands up. I was bruised beneath my shirt, and would have a lovely black eye later on. He was wheezing, and clutching his rib. I think I may have broken one or two, but as he hadn’t called for the fight to stop, I wouldn’t embarrass him by calling attention to it.
“Uncle!” I gasped. “Enough for now!”
The cat calls had stopped early on. The betting had changed too. I think I overheard Amanbir winning a little something on me, but I pretended not to. I wasn’t sure that Sikhs were supposed to bet.
Jackson clapped me on the shoulder. It felt like a bear punched me.
“Keep your guard up! And your footwork needs work. But sound work. Maybe some more of the lads will have another go later on.”
I sat in a chair which had appeared from no where, and drank some beer. Amanbir smiled at me, almost proud looking, and I inhaled some of the beer. I coughed a lot and felt embarrassed again.
“Lets see if you have improved any, Mister Singh!” Jackson stripped off his coat, but left his high stock where it was. His arms filled his thin shirt, but I could see the start of a paunch which somehow made him less impressive.
Amanbir stripped his jacket and untied his simple cravat. He favoured loose styles that were comfortable rather than fashionable, and so this was the first time I think I appreciated how small his waist was compared to his shoulders, and how long his muscular legs were. I closed my mouth with a snap. I don’t think anyone noticed.
The two men walked into the square. Jack was a mountain of a man, Amanbir was slimmer but an inch or so taller. They both moved with the grace that came with strength and training. But I fancied that Amanbir would be a hair quicker. I could not guess who would be the more cunning. I had chased Amanbir through London, and he had fooled Edwin and I. I knew that he could be devious. Jack had years of experience boxing that would tell in the ring. But I would rather have Amanbir at my back in a real scrap.
The two raised their fists. The fight began. I started by seeing the punches, the footwork, appreciating the skill of these men. But more and more I began to notice other details. The way that Amanbir’s leg tensed under his trousers. The way that his body twisted when he landed a punch, pulling the material so that I could have traced every muscle, highlighting the lack of fat and toned strength of him. The gleam in his dark eyes, the flash of white teeth, the flush in his high cheekbones. After the normal smell of stale sweat and blood, I smelt the clean smell of fresh male sweat that was somehow sweet. Instead of analysing the skill of Jack’s punch, I was afraid for his opponent. Instead of learning the steps of feet dancing across the ground, I was partisan, rooting for one, and hoping for the defeat of the other. He landed a facer, and grinned in triumph, looking younger. His eyes caught mine, and my breath stopped for two long beats of my heart.
I came to myself. This would not do at all. Certainly not here and not now. The last man I had liked was Captain Howard, and that had gone so well. And Edwin was only just dead! What was I thinking? The rest of the bout I kept my eyes and my mind on Gentleman Jack. I would not be a fool again. I wouldn’t.
This is one of the most horrible short stories I have written. Not sure why I did. Its definately a horror story. Triggers for mental illness, discussions of sexual violence and actual violence.
I remember very clearly the moment He moved in. It was sunny, a cool promising brightness after another interminable UK winter. I was in Starbucks, drinking the first iced coffee of the year. Not one of those blended abominations, all sugar and cream. No, this was a normal latte, full fat milk, extra shot of espresso, poured over ice. The ice burnt my teeth, and the caffeine hit my grateful bloodstream. I was pretending to read the news about potential World War III in Crimea. Not much I could do about that. I was actually contemplating the cute alternative girl with the laptop, which I could do something about. That latte, that newspaper, that beautiful girl. The last moment of peace I felt.
I found this in an old file, I wrote it last year at an Arvon course. Enjoy!
Tires squealed and a large engine growled with sharp acceleration. Ignoring a large sign proclaiming ‘Keep Out’, Gemma stomped across the verge and jumped over the gate straight into a large puddle of cowshit. She swore as it splashed her Russell and Bromley leather boots, much more used to striding through London than this remote part of Cumbria. A splash of cold stung her thin legs through her skinny jeans. He had chosen this hotel, near to where he grew up. She did not know why, it was wild and gloomy, miles away from civilisation.
The wind lashed her long brown hair against her set face. The sky was blotchy grey, threatening rain at any moment. Despite the damage done to butter soft leather and designer denim, Gemma set off across the brown green field.
Cows sullenly watched her attack the springy beige grass and sink into the secret patches of muddy swamp that littered their windswept home. Her cashmere jumper was itchy against her skin, and she impatiently pulled up the sleeves of her clean Barbour jacket to scratch her wrists.
It was going to be a long walk to the hotel in this clammy pale imitation of a morning. She could see the battlements of the great house through the trees merely two miles and one valley away. She strode towards it, at least she would have a large g and t when she got in. And she had a phone call to make. A very important phone call that would prove extremely embarrassing for that smug bastard.
She smiled grimly and picked up her pace. Should she start with the kinky sex? Or the lies about the missed dinners and weekends, dance recitals and football matches. Once she knew he had been late for his anniversary celebration. She had made sure that he would not want to get undressed for his wife that night, not after she had marked him with her nails and teeth.
She heard stomping and snorting, but in her anticipation of the grenade she would detonate in the bastard’s life it was background fuzz and no more. She moved quickly over the ground, getting a bit better about spotting some of the more boggy bits, although her boots would be ruined. She would get a new pair with the money from the journalists. Two new pairs.
Something made her glance backward. Was it the crackle of the bracken? She jumped. There were more cows that she thought, in a curious herd behind her, merely feet away.
They seemed bigger close up. She stumbled against a tuft of grass, jogged a step to keep upright. The lead cows – or were they bulls? Surely they were too big for cows – fell into a lumbering trot.
Her breath started to come in shallow little puffs in the grey fog. She broke into a run. The lumbering behind her became a rumble of feet. Truly panicking now, Gemma sprinted towards the fence. She scrambled over the tufts of spiky grass, stumbled into shallow ditches. She could hear the cow’s laboured breath. Was that the puffs of warm cuddy air against her hair.
She ran though ground that sucked and clawed at her boots. Her boot sank, nearly to her knee, and she fell face first into cold stinking swamp. She struggled but her thrashing seemed to sink her deeper into the icy wet mud. Her boots and legs disappeared, and she tried to swim, as the weight of the Cumbrian ground settled onto her chest.
The cows, calm now, watched the interloper gasp into one of the many spot of quick-sand like mud in their large brown green field.
The man watched the placid animals for a while from the penthouse window of the castle-like hotel. He smiled slightly, phone in hand, as he pressed dial, his wife’s number already punched in.
“Good news, darling. The conference ended early, so I will be home tonight for that special dinner after all.”
So, last week I thought a lot about structure. About plot, and character, and action and what made a thriller work, what made fighting set pieces interesting. The answers I came to were obvious (character drives plot, characterisation makes you care about the cool action scenes, you can’t cheat on the character stuff). I read a lot about screen plays mainly from Film Crit Hulk, who is thoughtful and insightful. If you ignore the all caps.
http://badassdigest.com/2012/01/12/screenwriting-101-1-of-2/ (and two, natch)
But his back catalogue is also useful – a lot about why films work and why they DON’T work. Interesting stuff.
You may note i haven’t updated any more. This is because it actually just stresses me out, so that experiment did not work.
My novel is not where I thought it was. What my initial read through had thought was a missing chapter full of bits turns out to be where I broke the novel. Cry.
The first 11 chapters work (ish) there are a few scenes that need inserting, or smoothing, a few details that need to come up. The last 11 chapters work. They work on wheels, each leads to the next, there is plot and fun and character and it seems to flow (although I need to polish and smooth and reshape some of it). Last year I had trouble with a chapter, (chapter 12 as it happens) and plonked in a linking chapter and got on with the bit I thought was fun. This not only needs tweaking, however. I think I need a new chunk of novel. I have words to play with (its not already a doorstop or anything) so I have a bit in the middle to rethink. While this is scary, and disappointing (I have a mental timeline of how long it takes to write a novel – I am already over that deadline) I am much less stressed. Because now I have a problem I know how to tackle rather than Just Being A Terrible Writer. So onward.
26 days of work is continuing. Just what the end point is has shifted.
Keeping some sort of public record here is useful to me. It changes the nature of this blog, however. I understand if no one wishes to read going on!
I have found myself waffling. There are life reasons – there always are – but the in story reason is that I know what needs to go into a chapter, they are necessary scenes for the plot and more importantly, the characters, but I do not know how they should go, and each is neither connected to the others or long enough to be a chapter. The obvious solution is now staring me in the face – write the scenes and leave the structure until afterwards, when I can see them in the novel.
This has taken me a day and a half.
I am a moron.
I dithered even about writing this post, but I need some accountability for this thing to help with the brain weasels, and so up it goes, a testament to idiocy.
On the other hand I need a damn name. If anyone has a name for a regency fantasy that involves an attempted take over of the british empire by demons, and the thwarting of this by a young girl who has a sarcastic demon in her head then I’m all ears. Oh, and an unstated critique of aforesaid british empire, that becomes pretty overt by the end.