Friday, December 29, 2006

Insanity beckons

I'm noticing a theme this week.





Maybe it's just because I'm going through my usual misanthropic phase that seems to emerge every once and a while, but my typical rage has risen to a fair degree the past few days, which is a sure and disappointing sign that the Christmas fever of goodwill is already at its end. Because I'm seeing and experiencing so many things annoying me right now that I think the next thing I look at is probably going to burst into flames. I am Superman. Yes.

Just a few things that have made me crazy of late:

- My strange mutating illness refuses to budge. Still. A whole month later. I don’t. Understand. Why. I'm starting to suspect it's Colonel Mustard, in the Dining Room, with the Candlestick.

- Sitting at a junction yesterday, an ambulance is heard screaming down a road. Two cars at the junction coming from the left side decide not to stop, but rather drive STRAIGHT INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE JUNCTION, BLINDLY, AT HIGH SPEED. Said ambulance, coming from the north side has to swerve slightly out the way to avoid collision because the drivers of those cars were too stupid to realise why everyone else was stopping. Had the ambulance crashed at that point, at least 7 roads all linking to that junction would have been crippled, as well as the obvious danger of whoever the ambulance was trying to serve being in a worse situation. All because two people wanted to get across 10 meters of road quicker than the emergency services. Urgh.

- A recent article goes up and I talk about objectivity and the metatextual aspects of a particular game. First reader's response? To say I clearly never played the game because I apparently got the mystical race of the fictional character wrong. Which is made all the more galling because A) I didn’t get it wrong, B) what he refers to in my article isn’t actually IN my article (he paraphrases and ends up putting words in my mouth), C) he clearly didn’t read the article properly in his scramble to try and defend the game, which is amusing because D) I wasn’t criticising the game in the first place, and now E) the rest of the readers are caught up in a pointless argument over what bloody mystical race the fictional character is, and F) I cant respond because I don’t have the necessary access. I'm actually laughing now, because it's kinda funny. Maybe the medication is kicking in.

- Littlewoods online has left me in the lurch with my Wii remote, telling me the delivery date of Dec 22nd is now mid Jan. Which would be fine if they hadn’t told me on Dec 23rd. And already took the money out. And if I didn’t need the damn thing before then for the relevant New Year's parties. Take in mind I ordered it in November, it's horrible service.

- Casual prejudice/bigotry from a forumite, with no apology or explanation. To indulgently quote a character of mine: "The 21st century. Age of enlightenment. Aint it a trip?"

*Breathes out*

Wow, this is cathartic. I feel much better now.

Anyway, to my actual planned entry this week as not to make me seem like a totally sour old man. Namely, the project update blog. Nothing fancy about this; it's a rundown of how each project I'm working on is going in an attempt to:

a) Keep you up-to-date on the billion stories I've got going,

b) Keep my arse busy on them by making you aware of them. Which may be a basic psychology trick (you know of them, therefore they're in the public domain and now need to constantly pushed on so I don’t feel like an idle wretch),

c) Hopefully provide a tally of my successes (probably boring), my failures (probably more entertaining) and everything in-between (probably the bulk of this blog).

So this section will be projects either close to completion, in progress for publication or actually complete and awaiting publication.

TITLE: Bad Luck Inc.
TYPE/MEDIUM: Comic book short story. Drawn by Yui Marr.
GENRE: Sci-fi
PUBLISHER: Futurius
CURRENT STATUS: Written and drawn. Awaiting editing, lettering and printing.
SYNOPSIS: See preview link below
YOU'LL LIKE IT IF YOU LIKED: Minority Report, The Matrix
PREVIEWS: http://cbrotherson.blogspot.com/2006/08/bad-luck-inc-preview.html
PUBLISH ETA: Early 2007 in the Futurius Anthology: Tales From the Plex Vol 2.

TITLE: Secret comic project (can't say much as I'm under contract)
TYPE/MEDIUM: Monthly comic book series
GENRE: *whistles*
PUBLISHER: *coughs*
CURRENT STATUS: Ongoing monthly, several issues written, some to be drawn imminently.
YOU'LL LIKE IT IF YOU LIKED: Sorry, cant say at this stage… gives far too much away.
PREVIEWS: Coming next year
PUBLISH ETA: Late 2007, 2008 and hopefully beyond.

TITLE: Butterflies and Moths
TYPE/MEDIUM: Full 22 page comic book story
GENRE: Supernatural drama
PUBLISHER: Futurius
CURRENT STATUS: Written, currently being drawn by a fantastic artist to be named soon
SYNOPSIS: "What would you do if you've been given the hardest choice to make in your life – and had to make it over and over and over again? What would you do? How would you cope? How far would you go to sacrifice your life for the sake of others?"
YOU'LL LIKE IT IF YOU LIKED: Donnie Darko, The Sixth Sense
PREVIEWS: Coming soon!
PUBLISH ETA: Sometime in 2007

TITLE: The Cure
TYPE/MEDIUM: Prose novella
GENRE: Psychological thriller
PUBLISHER: Gorelab, hopefully (Adam? Adam? ;) )
CURRENT STATUS: Written and finished, around 12,000 words
SYNOPSIS: "When an insular Eastern European family living on the borders of a terrible war are forced to take in a mysterious stranger, they find their lives spiral into a land of distrust and sickness, as ghosts of the past threaten every part of the future."
YOU'LL LIKE IT IF YOU LIKED: The Sixth Sense, The Village, Signs, The Mothman Prophecies
PREVIEWS: Available on request
PUBLISH ETA: TBA

TITLE: The Twilight Cleaner
TYPE/MEDIUM: Comic book short story
GENRE: Horror
PUBLISHER: Onyx Cross
CURRENT STATUS: Written, currently being drawn by the brilliant Armando Mendoza
SYNOPSIS: "Within the trappings of society and expectation, a young woman finds herself asking the question of where her loyalty are, to carve out a worthwhile future. Of course, when you're a vampire survival by night and death are necessary, and the limited options force her into a horrific dawning realisation…"
YOU'LL LIKE IT IF YOU LIKED: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Lost Boys
PREVIEWS: Coming veeeeeery soon…
PUBLISH ETA: Late 2007

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bad Santa


There was originally going to be a lot more to this week's entry, but in truth, a little of my Christmas cheer has deserted me through the chaos of continual illness, numerous emerging problems and having to deal with the above while still keeping on top of current deadlines. Bah. So it's a slightly condensed version for your eye-teeth. Humbug.

Before I get into it, I just want to do my usual promo of current work going live. As per week, my recent WiiChat column has gone up with another due just before Christmas Day and then probably one more next week (I think): http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/
They're actually becoming "acclaimed", which is, you know, nice and stuff - I've been writing for bloody ages and I'm far more used to the deafening silence of apathy, so it's nice to know they're being enjoyed.

My entry to the Best Games of 2006 are over at Boomtown as well: http://pc.boomtown.net/en_uk/articles/art.view.php?id=13087

There'll also be a comic review over on ComiX-Fan this weekend, once I get the energy to write the damn thing.

Anyhoo, the bulk of this entry beckons: it's the inevitable 'best of' gubbins which is always good for this time of year (and not being used because I have little else to write about at the moment, oh ho ho ho no). The 'rules' are simple. Just copy and paste the below and remove my choices, adding your own. Your selection doesn’t have to be stuff released just in 2006, it may be something you've discovered this year but been out for a few years or whatever - just as long as your FIRST ENCOUNTER with it is this year. It can also be as in-depth or little as you want and you don’t have to use every category, especially if you can't think of something for it at the time. There's nothing too personal here, but as I said before, ignore questions you don’t want to answer. Although obviously, they'll be conspicuous by their absence and I'll note it for future reference ;)

If you're new, feel free to join in… consider it a meet and greet of sorts.

So here's my batch, in no particular order.

NAME
You know this one already

CURRENT LOCATION
Birmingham, on my bed, lying on a mattress of full fat butter

AGE
19? Okay, 27 (really 19! Honest!)

JOB
You should know this one too... (it's 'layabout')

BEST FILM(S) SEEN IN 2006
The Departed, Children of Men, The Prestige, Pan's Labyrinth, Crank, Jarhead

BEST ALBUM/SINGLE(S) HEARD IN 2006
The Minstrel Show – Little Brother, Black Republican – Nas & Jay Z, Murray's Revenge – Murs

BEST BOOK(S) READ IN 2006
American Gods – Neil Gaiman, Lone Wolf and Cub – Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima (started 3 years ago, but read most of the 28 books this year)

BEST TV WATCHED IN 2006
Lost, Entourage, Prison Break

BEST GAME(S) PLAYED IN 2006
Bully/Canis Canum Edit, Gears of War, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

CHEAP PROMOTION BONUS ROUND - PLUG SOMETHING
My whole links list (seen to the right) deserve plugs, along with any publication I work for ;)

A BIZARRE EVENT FROM THE YEAR
Applying to become a series writer, with little experience, then actually getting the job before realising a whole several months later that it's the real deal. Whu-guh?

AIMS FOR 2007
See that a majority of my scripts get translated to paper, not go insane, try not spend most of the year in an overdraft, not get pulled into fruitless arguments, continue the crossover from games industry to comic industry, not go insane (really this time)


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all! :)
(No, that's not part of the quiz)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

"The pain... oh, the pain..." said Doctor Zachary Smith

In a tad too much pain this week to write a true entry (on top of my illness, my wisdom teeth are causing problems as well, so I'm writing between moments of painkilling lucidity). Last week's Wii feature actually went up early-this-week, with a new one set for sometime between now and the weekend. They'll be over at: http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/

I'll have something that you can join in on next week, so be prepared and have your opinions sharpened like school pencils (sans nibbled end bits - yes, I know you all did that at school, dont deny it).

Have a good weekend!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

So much for the weekend update

Best laid plans, hm?

Yeah, had a few problems in getting a weekend update done for about… ooh, a billion reasons. But yes, my Wii was indeed one of them. It's a great, great machine and enamoured me far more than I expected considering I've yet to play nothing but sports and mini games on it so far. I also created my Mii, which I managed to get looking a little like me (although the creator lacked my mini dreads, so I'm wearing a hat… which, in truth, is what I wear when I'm out anyway).





Sorry for the poor quality, I took it with my phone. But I'm sure you get the idea.


But in any case, yeah, Wii is the future. It told me so, in a lucid dream, with its little blue light. Even before I get Zelda in the post. I would have a handy link to the feature I recently did on Wii's future, but it's yet to be posted on WiiChat. Next week. Although my optimistic opinions about how the console would be received now feel very vindicated in hearing the numerous stories about how people who usually don’t play videogames are enjoying Wii. In fact, my Mom, who's not played a videogame in something close to 20 years, played Wii Tennis last night and was so impressed that she told her partner about it, and spent several minutes talking to me about it today about how much she enjoyed the game and what else she could play on the system. Was I amazed? Seriously, you don’t know the half.

At this point, Paracetamol (did you know that word isn’t in the Microsoft Word dictionary? Although it's US adopted name, Acetaminophen, is. Hmm.) is kicking in. Yes, I'm ill again. I'm lame, I know. The throat infection is trying to come back, as eerily prophesied by my friends this weekend who told me there'd be a chance of the illness resurfacing seeing as I didn’t treat it (and therefore only pushed it below the surface rather than cure it). I can be a horrible hypochondriac at times, but sadly my throat hurting like hell and pain while swallowing is not something I'd wish upon myself, intentional or no. So now I'm looking at the unused prescription my GP gave me last week if the flesh-in-gullet problem suddenly reoccurs tomorrow. Although I'm hoping my immune system, lots of vit C and strepsils can flush it out before it gets that bad again.

The most important thing this weekend was that said friends -Tim and Lucy- visited with my ever-lovely (and growing far too fast) godson, who makes his blog debut right here, right now. Take a bow, Preston.





















Oh and before I go, I'm a feature reviewer for ComiX-Fan this week, with my review for Spider-Man: Reign, so feel free to take a look at that over here: http://www.comixfan.com/xfan/forums/showthread.php?t=40825 I also wrote a PlayStation party-games piece at PlayStation.com http://uk.playstation.com/pdcf/index.jhtml?locale=en_GB'A PlayStation Party for all'. The site makes it impossible to direct link it, but it's easy enough to find as it's a recent feature.

And that's me done for now. Ironically, this is an update of sorts, isn’t it? Handy. Anyhoo, time to take advantage of the pain-killing time. Eat or Wii? Decisions decisions...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Warning: the following programme contains scenes of a vague sexual nature and mild peril

Yes, I know I'm early.

No, I'm still not well.

Despite this week being far kinder on my schedule than the last couple, I know -just know- I'm not going to be able to get anything too meaningful from the spongy trifle that is my brain this week. The throat infection is nearly gone, so the sensation of moving a pound of flesh each time I swallow or talk has passed, but it's now mutated into a cold and cough, making me a comedy act of coughs, snot, sneezes and dribbles (especially attractive) every five minutes. Ah, man-flu. I've been expecting you.

So, I've decided to do a semi-update now and then potentially do another later across the weekend if time permits it. Which, in not so subtle terms, means "I'll write something if work deadlines, and the fact I'll be playing my new Wii for stupid lengths of time, permits it".

C'est vrai. Lemsip honesty contains the most brutal of truths.

What will I be gracing you with in the interim, then? Well, aside from the fact I finally -finally!- did my bloody tax returns (yes, I know I promised to do them a couple weeks back, I'm sorry) and the better revelation that they weren’t nearly as painful as expected, this week's pseudo-update is below. It even has pictures. For once.

- My newest WiiChat column is now up. http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/7259-wii-fam-il-y.html is where my thoughts lie. I talk about how the machine has affected family dynamics and what this means for the console's potential sales figures. My only disappointment with the feature is that it became a terrible reminder of how unreliable and impolite people on a whole are. While several gamers volunteered their stories for the examples in the article, several others jumped at the chance only to leave me in the lurch and refuse to reply to my emails after. So a few reshuffles later, the piece ended up in its more example-lite form that is published. It probably would have been a bit too long with more stories, but a lack of courtesy gets my back up at the best of times.

- Excitingly, a preview of the comic book anthology I'm part of is now up over at Futurius. http://www.futurius.com/tftp_vtwo.html is where a few samples are being shown, and lovely they look too. Be aware that the preview doesn’t contain any of my story material (it's still being lettered and finished), but it's a nice confirmation that the anthology is edging closer to completion for the coming months. At which point, I'll start posting some previews of my first story on here. I'm hoping the brilliant artist I have for my second story can get something done in time, but seeing as I should have at least 3 comic book stories published in the next 10 months, maybe I'm just being greedy. In any case, check out the preview.

- Off-beat humour alert. Oh, and yes, I'm talking about Wii again. Sorry. The Japanese manual has fairly amusing pics that would normally be associated with health and safety warnings that come with any machine. Although while we boring Westerners would get dull pictorials, the Japanese have wonderfully visual versions that are (presumably intentionally) comical. It's almost like playing a game of Pictionary to guess what the exact warning is.




Your Wii remote can be used to gleefully and brutally re-arrange the face of close friends and relatives. DO NOT DO THIS



Left unattended, your Wii may dress up in your clothes and develop thoughts of its own. These thoughts may or may not be sexual. If sentience is gained, DESTROY IMMEDIATELY



If Wii is not destroyed, it may develop a 40-a-day habit. Potentially after aforementioned amoral thoughts. USE PROTECTION







And on that risqué note, I'm off to watch an episode of Firefly and hopefully not have dreams about The Grudge, which I 'experienced' a few hours ago. My night-thoughts are bad enough as they are without fingers popping out my skull. Did I tell you about the time I started sleep-walking after thinking there were tigers outside my room...?



No?




Oh.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wii, football, flesh, comics, eBay and more more more ("how do you like it, how do you like it?")

A weird entry this week, mainly because I'm half decided against writing one at all. Not through any reason suggested in my comments from the last entry, or even because of the deadlines (which surprisingly, I'm just about on top of).

But simply because I don’t really know what to write about at the moment.

So this is going to be an organised, stream of consciousness thing, albeit tidied up, edited and probably fairly short because my mind is a little distracted – oh, and I'm listening to the Villa match at the moment (come on you Claret and Blues!)

- My newest column at WiiChat is up - http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/6046-failure-launch-within-realistic-expectations.html- , with another on its way in a day or so. So far they've been well received, which is a huge relief. I really enjoy writing them and I missed penning columns after a break from them earlier this year. Turning out weekly ones should be an interesting challenge, but I relish having weekly work in the same way I relish having to write a monthly script. Gets me off my arse, gets me to think more creatively under pressure and in turn, keeps me slightly saner than if I keep these things pent up. Writing is such a cheap form of therapy that it's almost a side benefit that I both love it and get paid for it. Although obviously, both those factors tend to go a long way in practical terms. Just as well, really.

- The most recent issue of my comic book series is written, and I'm happy with it, but I'm also s*it scared. I go through phases where I'm paralysed by the worry that the stories will be ripped to shreds by the readers, I didn’t do enough research, it's not entertaining, not enough action, not enough characterisation, continuity problems… all sorts. This feeling comes and goes, often dependant on various factors, but I'm over my scheduled panic attack for this month. The good thing about this fear is that it forces me to do much better afterwards, to write a better issue than the last and keep the quality as high as I can. Although my editors are happy (I think!) with things so far, so that's massively important and means a lot to me.

- Villa just went one down to Man City. Who scored? Our former striker, Darius Vassell, of course. You have got to be freaking kidding me. He ALWAYS scores against us since we sold him! ARGGGHH. Always!

- I'm ill right now. And it sucks. I wish it was something like man-flu, but in truth, it's actually something far worse. I think it's a throat infection of somesorts. It started out as a cold, then today I woke up with the inability to swallow without pain and the really weird feeling of what I can only describe as like having a piece of hanging flesh stuck in my throat that I cant swallow, but feels like it's going to pop out when I try to talk. Which in turn makes me want to retch. Not too comfortable. Talking isn’t fun, as I'm pretty much reduced to half sentences, semi retching, gutteral clicks, hand signals and nods. This is on top of the orange fluids coming from my nose on regular occasions, between sniffles (sorry, but I have to share this with someone – ha, now you CANNOT UNSEE WHAT YOU HAVE SEEN!). I'm consuming vast quantities of orange juice, Strepsils, Lemsip, throat spray and whatever else I can grab, although nothing I do can get around that feeling of having flesh stuck in the middle of your throat. At this point, man-flu would be a sodding blessing.

- Ebay. Annoys. Me. I swear, I cant be more clear about my sales on eBay, yet buyers still often insist on being outraged when I tell them shipping will take around 5 days, despite the fact I STATE IT CLEARLY ON THE ITEM DESCRIPTION. They often then go, "oh, I didn’t read it." What?! Is reading that difficult? Especially when it's information you're PAYING MONEY FOR? Honestly, I really do think I could put stale dog poop on for sale, label it as "£10000 for free! L@@k!", have a disclaimer at the bottom saying it's actually dog crap and people would still bid on it. Urgh.

- My Wii fund has now surpassed the price of the machine (yay) which means I'm entering 'how many credit notes can I get for an extra controller/game/whatever' territory. Although saying that, I've still not heard from GameStation that my pre-order is 100% confirmed, so I may be unlucky and miss out on launch day. I may stand a chance if I go to the midnight opening, but the idea of running around Brum at 12.30am, trying to get home on the nightbus with £200 worth of fancy new console goodness fills me with dread. So if I have to wait another week, so be it. I could probably do without the work distractions anyway. Although I'm supposed to be getting it so I can... do... work... related... reviews… ah. Yes. Dammit.

- Stop! Strepsils time!

- More articles are on their way to Boomtown and Sony PlayStation Europe.com come this time next week. Should my throat have not fallen out by then, I'll post links, probably in lieu of a proper blog entry.

- If we don’t equalise against Man City soon, I'm not going to be happy.

- The Strepsil nearly cut my tongue just now. Strepsil revenge is a spiky thing, indeed.

- We just conceed another goal. Really now, come on. This is getting stupid.

- This entry is OVER.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Conspicuous by its absence

No real update this week, sorry.

Kinda a 'good news', 'bad news' thing because while I don’t have the time to create a full entry for this week, the reasons behind it is simply because I have a ton of work going on that's going to keep me buoyant through the heavy Christmas present spending spree.

In the meantime, it's a cheap pimp my wares throwback (boyeee). Still cant show you anything from my commissioned comic series, which is a little frustrating as I'm pretty proud of the issue I'm just finishing up – it's quite a personal subject and a very quiet, human story that I hope readers will think about and be affected by. But while that remains under wraps, there's other stuff to throw at you in the meantime.

- I recently became a weekly columnist over at WiiChat.com (http://www.wiichat.com/). If the title/URL didn’t tip you off, it's a site about Nintendo Wii. Each week I talk about something Wii related and hopefully I'll get some reviews done when the console is released in a couple weeks. My first article can be read here (http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/4804-curse-wii-ning-console-war.html), with a new column on the site every Friday/Saturday.

- My most recent reviews over at Boomtown (http://www.boomtown.net/en_uk/) are:
EyeToy Lemmings (PlayStation2): http://ps2.boomtown.net/en_uk/articles/art.view.php?id=12875

The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning (Nintendo DS): http://ngc.boomtown.net/en_uk/articles/art.view.php?id=12832

Ace Combat: The Belkan War (PlayStation2): http://ps2.boomtown.net/en_uk/articles/art.view.php?id=12823

- My more recent comic book reviews over at ComiX-Fan (http://www.comixfan.com/xfan/index.html) are:
Ultimate Spider-Man #101 review: http://www.comixfan.com/xfan/forums/showthread.php?t=40514

New Avengers #25 review: http://www.comixfan.com/xfan/forums/showthread.php?t=40661

Right, back to work. And if you've not already participated in the previous blog entry (sitting lovingly below this one), please do if you have time.

Hopefully I'll be able to create a proper entry next week when the deadline heat cools off.

Cheers,

C.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Let me tell you a story…

I struck a dog last week.

Not a real dog, you'll understand. I may be cynical and slightly warped at times, but I'm not as bad as to actually hit a real animal. But in a videogame, I hit a dog, entirely intentionally.

Allow me to explain.

The videogame is Bully/Canis Canum Edit. Now, some of you may be flinching at this narrative right now, thinking sarcastically "well, unnecessary violent in a videogame, yeah, that's new". But again, let me explain. In the game, I was innocently doing a paper round.

Yes, a paper round. Never done one in real life, but here I was, peddling away on my bicycle, trying to earn a little money in one of Bully's many sub games, delivering papers. It's a loving homage to Paperboy, that age old game that you may remember. So I was doing quite well, managing to get some of my papers to their targets in the time limit, with 5 papers to go and plenty of time to do them.

Then I hear a growl.

And a bark.

Before I even realise, this dog (not sure of the breed, never really stopped long enough to check) was chasing me down the street, snapping at my heels. At first I tried to ignore it, but after a while it made delivering papers even more difficult and time was bearing down on me quicker than the canine who apparently wanted to eat my legs for no real reason. And it refused to give up, snapping and growling as I swerved in and out of traffic, avoiding cars and the occasional hoodlum wanting to turn my face into a Picasso.

Somehow, I managed to get my papers to their targets on time. Job done, cash earned.

But the dog would not leave me alone.

It continued to chase me regardless of where I went in the city or what I did. Unlike the local toughs who want a piece of my hide, this animal pays no attention to the blue-red flash of the law. So I decide to take a risk. Maybe it'll stop if I get off the bike.

Yeah.

No.

Scooby Doo was waiting for this moment. And promptly attacks me. Biting at my legs and taking a small slice of energy with the chunk of flesh. I run, but the dog reaches me easily, taking another bite. Then another. Then another. Then-

Slap.

I clock it one across its head.

It lets out a pathetic whimper and bounces to the ground.

And I feel HORRIFIED.

With one sound, one little realistic sample of audible pain, I'm made to forget my tormentor's constant hounding and instantly feel like a monster. The game has me pounding bullies into submission, slamming wood off their heads and flushing their melons into the toilet without remorse, yet as soon as I raise my hand to an animal in self defence, I vilify myself and make a mental note to not do it again. Which is exactly the point.

Bully is a game that teaches consequence of actions more so than many other games I've played. Flush fire crackers down the loo and the rushing explosion of water will horribly bidet anyone in the other cubicles. Offer abuse to authority or to anyone while authority is present, and you'll be instantly reprimanded and often punished for it. Even something as innocent as accidentally bumping into someone can have its consequences as students drop their books, fall over and do their best to either make you feel like a jerk or retaliate, making sure you're very careful about personal space in the future. The game's moral core is very strong, with every character in the story ending up being a better person by the time you complete it. Sounds Disney, sure, but it works. And it only works as well as it does because you're made to think about each of your actions throughout the game. Interactive moral cause and effect.

As a storytelling technique, it's incredibly effective and something I'm trying to learn from. The closer you bring the reader to personal response, the more they react. It's something I intended to do from the very moment you started reading this entry. No doubt, most of you reading saw the opening line and instantly reacted. Those who know me will be asking how or why, those who don’t know me will be wondering who exactly this cruel bastard is and why he has the audacity to put such information in the public domain.

Emotional empathy and response is one of the writer's greatest weapons. Regardless of the medium, whether it be film, book, game, comic book, music, whatever. Appealing to emotion(s) while getting you to ask whos/whats/whys/hows is the draw of any story, across any genre or medium.

If there's any particular movie, book, song, game, comic or whatever that stands out for you, please do post it here and a quick reason why it has that effect on you. It'll be interesting to see the sort of range there is for this sort of thing…

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Art of Fighting (a continuation of "Thems fightin' words")

Okay, slightly back on track after a busy week of running around and beating deadlines over the head until they rolled over. Got more deadlines coming up, so let's jump to it...

As previously promised, an example of the numerous issues which occur in writing a typical fight scene. Here's one I wrote about 10 months ago (as usual, copyright 2006 Corey Brotherson):

'Ketch moved almost as a blur, his axe appearing from the darkness of his cloak, blocking Teral's weapon, hooking it and sending the steel spinning away, clanging noisily off a distant rock. Before Teral could react, the full force of Ketch's handle caught him in the mouth, and then his throat, sending the man reeling in a staggered and broken gasp for air.

The two who had previously fought at the side of Ketch were already bearing down with their swords. No more questions. Incapacitation first.

As one, Fuller had pitched the flat of his sword high, while Gandasa swung hers low, the latter catching Ketch painfully on his hip as he arched his head backwards away from the former. He pitched a short kick downwards against the shin of Fuller, forcing his former partner's body to lurch downwards in response. Ketch went for a follow up kick to Fuller's stooped head, but was caught again by another flash of Gandasa's blade, this time drawing blood as it sliced up and nicked his chin.

Ketch immediately stepped back, bringing distance between him and the two, and allowing a vital second to bring his axe to bear. His tired eyes gazed over the spots where his opponents' armour was absent.

"Go home, Ketch," breathed Fuller. "Whatever you're going through, whatever's going through your mind, you're not thinking. Go home. Don’t throw your life away."

Teral had already struck before Ketch had realised it was a distraction, fists slamming hard into the back of his head, knocking him forward. Straight into the handle of Fuller's sword, drawing blood from Ketch's mouth as the tape-wrapped metal rammed into his cheek. He fell, but faster than anyone expected, thrusting his legs outward to bring down both Gandasa and Fuller, while using the length of his axe to trip Teral. With all four fighters in the dirt, Ketch turned and mounted Teral's chest, plunging the grip of his weapon hard on to the side of his victim's unprotected head. Teral's neck shunted and smashed into the ground. Consciousness left him with a crunching wet squelch.

Ketch tucked into a quick roll, straight over the limp body of Teral, and spinning around to correct the distance between him and Gandasa who was only just to her feet. He swung his axe towards her midsection, forcing a quick block with her sword, but leaving her vulnerable to a swift kick to the side, then back of her leg, buckling the Ranger to one knee. Fuller went to assist his partner, swinging his blade in a low arc to cut Ketch's exposed thigh, but Ketch spun his axe and swung, catching the helmeted Fuller squarely in his uncovered face with the joint and flat, jerking his head to the side with a damp crunch and sending him staggering backwards, clutching his nose which had exploded from the impact.

With Gandasa rising to her feet again, Ketch jabbed his fingertips hard down in the exposed area of her sword-arm, just below the elbow where no armour rested. Her hand spasmodically jerked open, forcing the immediate drop of her weapon.

Then he thrust his axe into her back. '

I wrote most of this on the fly, knowing how it starts and how it ends, but little idea of how it progresses. I just let the scene play out as naturally as I could, with the characters acting as I thought they would given the constantly changing circumstances. It made for fun, but slightly chaotic writing. I wish it were as easy as one person hitting another until one fell over, but there's all sorts of things to consider (on top of making it even more difficult by having 4 combatants in a 3-on-1 scrap):

-The hands they hold their weapons with (and whether they're ambidextrous or have a bias),

- The equipment used, how they use the environment, how each action creates a reaction (cause and effect),

- 'Fight logic' (for example, most people would use a weapon over their fists, not be thinking too much and reacting on instinct, if they have training, the relationship they share, how familiar they are with the rival, various fighting styles and how they match against each other, etc)


...all while trying not to bog things down too much as to keep the speed of the scene up.

It all turns into one giant virtual chess board, planning moves in advance and then watching the characters play them out, while you hope it works and entertains, all while keeping the story moving.

The main thing I wanted express was motivation. The scene revolves around Ketch wanting to do something that the other three don’t want him to do. But that's layered by the fact that one of those three (Teral) has no love for Ketch while Fuller and Gandasa are comrades-in-arms to him and are more willing to give him a chances to stop. That said, all are willing to forgo familiarity for practicality, knowing wounds and broken bones can be healed and the quicker you get the aggressor unconscious -something they are all willing and able to do- the quicker the fight will be over.

Having three-on-one was tricky, but there were obvious factors that made it easier. Teral is a closet maniac and harbours jealously tinged aggression against Ketch, which makes him less likely to hold off, while both Fuller and Gandasa work as team, so really it's a two and one vs. one situation. Notice that Ketch disarms the loose cannon first (closest in proximity) and tries to incapacitate him by going for his air-ways. When that doesn’t work, he just goes for plain ol' blunt trauma to the head. Same with Fuller, with an air-way strike to his nose – he doesn’t want to kill them, but follows the mantra that if a person cant breath, stand or see, they can't fight. Ketch also makes sure distance is his main weapon when he gets on the back foot and starts taking hits, particularly from his team mates.

Further to that, I personally feel that the fight has to mean something beyond it being a fight. It's often suggested that whatever you write, when you start a scene something has to change by the end of it or it's a waste. By that same respect, I always want a fight scene to involve mental/spiritual violence, as well as physical, to underline a change. In the context of the story, Ketch fights to release a prisoner that goes against his established principles. The fight is a flashpoint because he's:

a) Fighting his friends

b) Defying his superiors

c) Defying his social standing and the Establishment

As such, once the fight is over, nothing in the story will be the same for him. He either loses and is taken in to be questioned over his lack of loyalty, destroying everything he's worked for in society,

or,

he wins and loses his friends and high ranked place in society in a quest to discover his true history and background.

Having been forced into the fight in the first place, both outcomes now push the plot forward, but also render the character changed from herein, so the fight is everything to the progression of the story and will affect the characters for the rest of it. Which in turn means I have to be careful that nothing happens in the fight to contradict potential developments later on. I'm not against spontaneous plotting (I do a lot of it), but things can spin in unexpected directions very quickly without restraint and this story had (at the time) a tight word count to keep things in check. Tricky.

There are a ton of other factors as well, such as:

- It's raining during the fight and they're in a forest, so wet surface tension makes it difficult for them to strike as hard as they would under the circumstances (it also makes a cool dramatic visual for the reader).

- Weapons are used non-lethally at all times (erm, despite the last paragraph of the sample, which isn’t the end of the fight)

- To portray a modicum of realism, talk is kept to a bare minimum, only used for what appears to be distraction (or did Teral just take advantage of the situation?)

- If one move is done, the fighter does the best to follow it up, for example, a kick to the shins brings a person's body language down, at which point a knee/kick to the now bowed and lowered head would follow. As we're dealing with known and experienced warriors, they're likely to move in smooth motions where combinations are maximised to make their opponent move in the way they want. A vital element of fight training is prediction of your enemy's moves, part of which is forcing them into mistakes so you can capitalise.

It's all a bit crazy and makes me wonder just how long some of the more famous fight scenes took to organise (Lord of the Rings, anyone?). It's hard not to appreciate them once you realise the sheer amount of thought that goes into working out how one person can physically hurt another in the most interesting way possible.

Kinda sadistic, really. But isn’t that why we love the fight scene in the first place…?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Interlude - The Christmas shopping discount bonus

Before I continue with my blog on dramatic fighting, I stumbled across this and thought it would be best to share it:

http://www.hotukdeals.com/vouchers-static

This site has internet codes for vouchers from tons of online shops, ranging from Early Learning Centre and Amazon, to HMV and ChoicesUK. Just simply look up the shop you want, check out the code (they're often up to date) and do your Christmas shopping with a nice discount.

I've done half my shopping, sadly, but I'm sure some of you will find it useful.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Thems fightin' words...

You can count the number of actual, physical fights I've been in on one hand. With fingers to spare.

Throughout my life, when things have nearly come to blows but didn’t, I've been one of those people who have been lucky enough to either have the other person back down, talk my way out of it, or experience some miraculous event that changed the circumstances making the fight response in the other person to disappear. It's all a bit weird, but I'm not going to argue with whatever divine force keeping me upright.

So, what's this got to do with my writing?

Well, as I've started to write more, I've found that the more 'expected' things in life that I've little or no experience in, become an instant challenge when writing about them. It's an obvious point, but it's a huge one when faced with it. Not that real fights have much bearing on fictional, orchestrated ones. We've all seen the fight scenes in films, where most of the time, the participants have some form of martial arts training, give each other time to set up stances and perform whirling, majestic feats that make them look almost godlike in their aggression. We all know that rarely ever happens in real life. Hell, real fights are swift, nasty and extremely ugly, designed for putting down a person as quickly as possible before running off (or, if you prefer, strolling off arrogantly. Or worse, having someone pull you off them).

But naturally, there's very little of 'real' in fictional fight scenes. They may LOOK simple, but The Fight Scene is often one of the most difficult things to pull off well.

In film, a 5 minute fight scene (5 minutes! Think how many real, spontaneous fights you've seen last that long) can take weeks to get right, with planning, choreography, training and staging. Thankfully (?) I don’t have to do things to that extent, but it still takes a stupidly long time to plan and write something that you'll read in a quick several minutes. It's especially difficult for books and comic books because you're having to work out how long is justifiable for the fight without it leaving a sense of 'the realistic' – and by that I mean what the audience expects to be realistic for the medium, rather than real life realism (a book fight scene rarely lasts longer than a few pages if it has props like magic or weapons, a comic book fight can last across whole issues if there's cut-aways to other scenes and larger props like vast powers involved, same with anime – see Dragon Ball Z's several-episode-long fights). There are exceptions, like wars and such, but generally speaking if you're not cutting away from the fight at any time in the narrative, a fight will usually be fairly short as to not wear the reader out and stretch suspension of disbelief too much. An audience will happily accept graceful, slow motion, clean fights, but will start to get annoyed if the fighters are going at it for ages and not even breathing hard by the end.

I'll go through an example in my next post.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Quick and dirty

This week's update is just as its title suggests; nothing long and rambling (or that's certainly what I plan – we'll see how long this is by the time I'm done). Instead, this will be a nice short bullet point batch of stuff off the top of my head. Not sure where it'll take me, but we'll see.

- I've just finished Issue Three of the secret comic series I'm being paid to write. Despite the large amount of research it's taking, I'm enjoying it in the way I hoped I would enjoy monthly comic book writing. It's a massive challenge; I've never had to write monthly scripts before, it's in a genre I've never done and there are certain things I need to do to get from point A to B, but despite my early worries that I'd be hopeless at it, it's actually something I look forward to each month. And I'm given a large amount of freedom, which personalises the project largely. Also worth noting is that I'm working on another series of my own making at the same time and finding it doesn’t conflict with this one. I seem to have certain 'frames of mind' for each one as they're totally different types of story. All this bodes well for something I really want to do full time, as a comic writer really cant survive off one book a month and many pros write around 2-3+ per month with other work on the side. Here's hoping I'll be able to get to that position in the near future.

- If you've manage to go to the cinema any time soon, try and catch The Departed. If possible, at least twice (along with the superb Chinese original, Infernal Affairs). The first time will potentially be a bit manic, especially the end which borders on farcical. But the second time the breadth of the themes and subtleties of the amazing script become clear. The performances are amazing, the soundtrack excellent and there are moments so memorable you'll take them away and talk about them for months.

- After selling my Nintendo GameCube and several games, my Nintendo Wii fund has reached around £150 in credit notes. Which means I'm now within spitting distance of being able to afford one come its December release, without actually spending more than £20 of my own money. If you don’t know what a Wii is, I guarantee you will by Christmas. The marketing will be beyond huge.

- Even though I've been reading comic books for over 23 years, I went to my very first signing this week; pro comic artist Sean Phillips. Great guy, very friendly. He signed some stuff for me and then drew some sketches on the fly (only took him a few mins to do), all of which look AMAZING (one I cant show here as it's a present for a friend). Sadly the reproduction quality makes them suffer a little here, but you get the idea:



You can check out Sean's blog over here: http://surebeatsworking.blogspot.com/

- I STILL haven’t done my self assessment tax forms online for the sins of being self employed. This is the number two reason why self employment isn’t all fun and games (the first reason being the problems of actually keeping the money coming in). Next week, dammit, I promise.

- I recently got some promising news that one of my short story comic scripts could be picked up by another indy publisher, although it's hinging on a large and important factor before it gets greenlit. Fingers crossed. I'll let you know how it goes…

- Videogame, Bully, (renamed 'Canis Canem Edit' in the UK) has picked up a lot of bad press, long before its release this week. The reason being, the moral majority (Daily Mail, lawyer Jack Thompson, Middle America etc) thought it was a "bully sim" or worse, a "Columbine simulator". These claims were made not only without any knowledge of the game's content, but also without anyone actually playing the game and (failed) attempts were made to ban it (although high street chain Currys decided to 'take a moral high ground' and refuse to stock it, for utterly spurious, hypocritical and weak willed reasons). So when it was reviewed and released, it was to much egg on face to the aforementioned dopes that it was none of the above; it's about as controversial and 'harmful' as an average episode of Grange Hill… or maybe even Byker Grove. And it's a really good, well thought out and and witty game to boot, actively DISCOURAGING bullying. What really pisses me off about the large scapegoating of this innocent game is not just the fact it was prejudged without any basis in little things like 'fact', but the VERY FIRST PRESS RELEASE said it was nothing to do with encouraging bullying people but rather, standing up to them. This is what developer/publisher of the game wrote in (wait for it) MAY 2005. That's right, OVER A WHOLE YEAR BEFORE THE GAME'S RELEASE:

"As a troublesome schoolboy, you'll laugh and cringe as you stand up to bullies, get picked on by teachers, play pranks on malicious kids, win or lose the girl, and ultimately learn to navigate the obstacles of the fictitious reform school, Bullworth Academy."

Now, regardless of this very clear statement about the content, people tried to wrap this game as 'violent and a morally repugnant encouragement of bullying' just because of its title. "Columbine simulator"? Bit like saying based off the title, something like 'Star Wars' encourages real life wars, no? Foolishness.


- I made the bizarre realisation that writing fiction on a regular basis requires me to do a lot of stuff that would sound strange to many people. So I decided to share it. For example, this week I spent nearly a day researching interrogation and torture methods used by world government agencies. It was a… eye opening experience. Needless to say, I now know the basic methods of how to perform an interrogation that leaves no physical marks or scars, yet plenty of mental ones, using just water, a cloth and two pairs of handcuffs. Hmm.

Wow, this entry turned out to be quite long after all. Even though it only took about 10 minutes to write (and 20 to edit. Bah).

Quick and dirty indeed.

Bed?

Yeah, sounds good.

Once I've finished this torture scene. *maniacal laughter ensues*

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Stage Fright

Well after a week of carnage on more levels than I'd like to admit, I've finally got off my backside to update. Now, I've a million things swirling around my head at the moment, but realistically I'm only going to blog about a few of them. None of those select few are going to be too personal, so let's stick to writing related missives. Okay, first one:

I officially became a comic book writer recently.

Really.

And this, funnily enough, is before anything of mine has actually been released.

Confused? Yeah, it's kinda weird. But let me explain.

I got paid for my first couple comic book scripts for Super Duper Secret Comic Book Series due for release next year. The cheques came in, I did a bizarre 'this cant be real smile', realised the significance and then I cashed them (my long suffering bank balance was very grateful). The comics themselves, once drawn, won't see daylight till sometime between late 2007 and early 2008. A long way off. So long that my unpaid comic work will see publication before it. But rule of thumb states that if I'm getting paid for work, then it IS actually work and thus I'm now -presto!- magically a comic book writer. Sure, I'd rather see the stuff being read and enjoyed and getting this status via that, but after 12 months of delays and set backs (and a dream dating from when I was about 14), this is a start I'm happy to take and chew on like a crazed canine.

This naturally got me thinking about how the stories will be received should they reach the shops, something that always crosses my mind when I place those words "the" and "end" at the end of a manuscript. So I'm officially a 'writer' now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I'm a good writer (ack, nebulous and subjective terms there – I'm sure you know what I mean). Neil Gaiman once said that it's important to get your stuff out and on the shelves so you know the fear of people having to pay real life money for your bad writing, which in turn forces you to get better very quickly. Right now, with several stories not being in that position till potentially another 5-6 months, I'm lacking that fear. But it sure as hell doesn’t mean I'm not afraid. You can almost see the sweat in-between the spaces of these letters if you look hard enough…

Pretty much every week I wonder if any one of the 9 stories I've completed that are waiting for publication (in one way or another) are good enough. I'm kinda grasping at intangible thin air here because, heck, who's to say what's 'good' enough and what isn’t. Some people enjoy things others don’t. Not everyone likes The Godfather or The Breakfast Club despite their widely deemed classic status (although if you don’t like The Breakfast Club you're soulless – soulless!). A 'good' story doesn’t even have to be technically sound. It just has to be liked in that indescribable essence. It touches you and does something to make you laugh, or cry, or think, or well, something, anything of an emotional response that you appreciate and take away with you when the story is over. It doesn’t have to be long, short, complicated or simple. You can layer it with multiple meanings, deep themes and amazing characterisation, but ultimately unless it touches an audience and creates a spark within them, it won't matter.

It just has to be enjoyed.

Because of that, the pant-brown dread is still slowly creeping its way up (or is that down?) my spine, despite feeling relatively happy with most of my stories. They're a little bleak at times, which is a slight worry, but seem (seem!) to appeal to people on some level, for which I'm grateful. It's just getting the damn stuff out there.

Which is something I'm currently working to fix on my own, separate from my other projects. Not sure how viable it is yet, but needless to say, here will be the first place I unveil it… if I get past the potential stage fright, of course.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Control me like a puppet on a string

Writing is difficult.

The process of creation can be a bit of a strain on not only your mind, but various aspects of your life too. There's many times where you're closed off from your family and friends because, simply, you need to write. You'll need to get the thoughts out of you or you'll go insane (I've actually written a story about this which an artist is currently looking over for me, so it'll be easier to explain then).

Worse, when you're actually not locked away in a room hitting a keyboard repeatedly for hours on end, even when you're with people, there are these... moments. Moments of staring into space, trying to fix a 'problem' with your story or making little dialogue snippets or constructing scenes that you hope a reader will throw up with enjoyment. Then the frantic moment of trying to capture those thoughts before they fly away, only to be seen in eluded fever dreams.

It can't be helped.

These things never leave you. While some jobs can be switched off the moment you leave the office, it's the plague of the 'home job' that you can never truly leave behind the stress when work invades your personal space. And when you write, you carry it around everywhere with you. It's inescapable.

It can't be helped.

Writers, by nature, are insane daydreamers living in a world of tired-closed eyes that only open when something is finished. And it's never truly finished. It's difficult.

But what's even more difficult is the waiting.

I'm waiting on a billion things right now. Talented artistic partners to complete the visualisation of my scripts. Editors to tell me if they want other scripts for their anthologies/publications. Pay cheques to clear for accepted stories. Unfinished labours to come into daylight clarity so I can add another fiction piece to my portfolio. It all takes time and effort to stop going over the edge when these things threaten to drag you off with them. But I wait, in the hope that the waiting will be worth it. Because writing is difficult.

So in this phase of waiting and writing, I ask you a question. What would you like to see here? I cant always keep throwing out extracts of my work, as it creates problems with what I can show and how often – and you'll probably get bored anyway. So, in an effort to be a little more interactive and provide some breadth to my space here, I'm asking this:

What would you like to see in this blog?

As long as it's writing connected (and doesn’t break any NDA/confidentiality contracts I'm involved in) I'll take consideration of your suggestions. And I don’t even have to know you to take it on board. I'm aware of a fair few lurkers on here, some more regular than others, so it doesn’t matter if you visit often or are just passing by. Throw something out there and I'll read it. After spending most of my days in a room, by myself, typing and listening to voices in my head, it'll be nice to have something and real people to bounce off.

So hit me with your rhythm stick.

Hit me.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A game of you... and sometimes me

One last drop in the ocean before I go to bed (or read more of Lone Wolf and Cub; whatever comes first).

I was originally going to post more preview pages from my forthcoming comic story Bad Luck Inc. to break up the large blocks of text that seem to be overtaking the blog, but realised that would probably be a bad idea. It's the closest project to being published and as such a publicity storm will likely start once the whole anthology it's in starts building. So there's plenty of time for that where I'll be throwing so much stuff at you about that story that you'll be sick of it before long.

Instead, I'll preview another work in progress, currently untitled. In fact, I'm not even going to say much about it and just let it stand alone for a bit. If interest persists, I'll write more about it (thus giving me more to blog about in the near future). If not, I learn an interesting and valuable lesson in promotion and style. After all, that's partly what this whole blog is about.

So, here you go, and as always, thanks for reading.

***
2


"You still don’t know… do you?"

The voice was harsh and raspy, like a serpent's tongue; the human language crudely ripped from the vocal cords of something not quite human.

"You don’t know…"

It crackled and tingled in the air, tensing everything around it with its softly bubbling slither. Then the words snaked into a cruel scraping laughter.

Anima struggled to block it out as she flicked through the afternoon newspaper's job sections, her eyes scanning rapidly down each column, mentally accepting and rejecting anything that caught her attention. Mortician? No. Paramedic? No. Midwife…
Why was it that she was so attracted to such hard, unusual labours that she didn’t have the qualifications for in the first place?

"You're lost, my child. Lost…"

The 20-something irritably flicked away a long fringe of brown-black hair that had settled across her eyes, trying again but never taking in the printed words. For several minutes she battled against the malaise, before eventually giving up and throwing the newspaper to the vacant spot on the settee. It was there she sat for several more minutes, captured by her tiny one bedroom flat's ceiling. It was dry, eerily white and slightly peeling. And the inexplicable tea stain that was there before she moved in was still festering. The small antique clock Anima's mother had foisted on her tick-tocked hypnotically.

"It pains me. It always has. I want you to awaken."

Anima instinctively reached for her coffee mug, unable to break the hold of the circular brown patch, but as soon as her fingertips touched the handle she realised it was empty. Picking it up, she strolled across the fire red carpet that she never had money to change and into the tiny kitchen. She took out the jar of instant granules, the milk and brown sugar, mixed them together thoroughly before pouring the still hot water into her weathered but favourite mug ('coff-ee who must be obeyed ') and stirring again. By the time she had finished, the coffee had matched her complexion; a perfect light brown mix. Next to the sink, wet with kitchen milieu disappointment, laid the most recent employment rejection letter. Anima shook her head and threw it into the bin.
And still the voice scratched through her skull.

"So much potential. So sad.

"Hm. Speaking of sad..."


The trill of the phone cut through room. Anima scowled, refusing to deviate from the warm hug of her coffee, letting the ring persist until the click-beep of her answering machine took over. "Hey, this is A," it recited happily, "I'm not here right now because I'm probably at your house watching your TV, stealing your money, drinking your booze and eating your food." It beeped again and a sheepish male voice was next.

"Erm, hey… Annie, are you, you know, there? No, course you're not, stupid, or I wouldn’t be talking to a machine… so stupid… umm… I just wanted to... you know. For last week. I didn’t mean to… well, I,…" there was a pause for a few seconds, filled with a growing tension in Anima's hands, her reflective eyes taking up the reddish tint of her carpet while she walked into the living room. "… it's just… I… ah shit." There was the swallowing gulp-click sound as the phone hung up. Anima looked at the machine with a blazing glare.

"You're isolated. Unsure. But you don’t have to be alone."

The rage in Anima's eyes increased and the phone started to tremble slightly, as if cooking on a hot hob. A small trail of steam began to rise from its black plastic trim, curling into an impossible spiral-shaped snake that rose to the top of ceiling.

"Oh… I like this… this is good… I do so enjoy your flashes of… rebellion…"

Anima's eyes widened suddenly, and the red evaporated with the sound of the phone clunking still. The patterns of the steam lazily spread into a more sporadic and natural formation. Anima sat back down on her couch and sipped her coffee.

Then the phone rang again, albeit, with a slightly distorted ringer. Anima let the answering machine get it, hoping her emotional excess hadn't damaged that as well. Once the answering protocol finished, the beep cut in and the male voice returned. "Christ… you must think I'm a total tool… I'm at work and… yeah, you probably don’t want to know about that… anyway… I erm, I just wanted to… the other night, look, I didn’t mean to not show up… and those text messages, they were… it's not like I want to stop going out… more… erm, you know, being able to see other peop… it's early days, you get me…? I… oh fer christ's sa-" Click.

Anima sipped her coffee. She ignored the burning on her tongue given that it wasn't as hot as whatever was burning in her belly.

"You shouldn’t fight it… Something big is coming. You won't be able to ignore it for much longer. None of us will."

A few words started to form at the back of Anima's throat, but she refused to release them, concentrating on the drink instead. It was starting to lose its taste.

"You father doesn’t truly know. Not since he was… tainted. But I know. The rest of us know. We can feel it. Things are changing.

"We are approaching the omega."


Again the phone rang. Anima gave it two rings before slamming her mug down, sloshing some remaining coffee on to the wooden desk beside the settee. She angrily picked up the receiver, not even registering the heat that was coming from it. "Stop calling me, you-"

"Ms Serap?"

Not male. It was a gentle mannered female voice. Anima swallowed back her rage as much as possible. "Yeah, hi… sorry, I thought you were someone else." She laughed nervously, hoping it was enough to disarm any potential annoyance. "Sorry."

"Ms Serap, this is City Hospital, Birmingham-"

A slight jolt ran through Anima's body.

"-your father wishes to see you. Can you make it sometime today before visiting hours close?"

Anima's voice croaked a little. "I… yeah, sure. Tell him I'll be over in a couple hours."

She said goodbye and put the phone down slowly. Then she picked up her coffee and started to drink again. It was still hot. "Did you know about that?"

"Now is the winter of our-"

"Knock that shit off already," she rounded irately. "I'm being serious now. No games."

The voice rattled as if clearing its throat. "It was… expected."

"A little warning would be appreciated. I'm not exactly on an even keel right now. As you've seen."

"Some things should always remain a surprise."

"Mm." She continued to calmly sip her drink, trying to disguise the shake that had developed in her hands. "Why is it that your stupid spooky bastard routine doesn’t freak me anymore, but the prospect of visiting Dad always has the opposite effect?"

The corner of the room flickered with a black shadow. "He is your father. He always had a rather… powerful, impression about him. Even after The Fall."

"The Fall." Anima took a large and final gulp of her coffee. "Seems like everything revolves around that."

"It was a defining event in our history. You are testament to that. Many may not know, but you are. In every way."


"And I'm reminded with every breath." She stood up and scooped her jangling house keys and purse off the same table her drink rested on. "If you're going to bug me all day, can I trust you to at least look after my shithole while I'm gone?"

There was another flicker in the corner of the room, but no answer. Anima, who was close to her front door, turned to see if there was anything there. Nothing. She sighed and opened the door, a dry mumble under her breath. "Fine." Then, even quieter: "I'm still wondering what I did to deserve a demon Godfather."

The door slammed behind her as she left.

Inside, a corner's shadow appeared again. And the voice remerged, equally as quiet as his Goddaughter's.

"You were born..."

***

[All the above is ©2007 ~ Corey Brotherson, unless noted otherwise and cannot be used without permission. Thank you.]

A brief peek behind the curtain

I'm losing my mind.

I'm slowly going insane, and I'm having a hard time figuring out how to stop it.

This probably isn’t news to many of you, but at times I feel like I'm reaching critical mass and all manner of scary thoughts start emerging that I'd rather not entertain.

There's so many things swirling around in my head right now that, in truth, writing seems to be the only thing that's allowing the abscess of madness from bursting and seeping too far into my conscious mind. Naturally this is by writing all the current insanity down in a hope it becomes some sort of half therapy release. There are some advantages in making the untouchable into a tangible form or some sort. It allows me to mould it into something a bit more useful at the very least.

In a way, this is how it's always been. I throw some words on to a page, and it usually has roots in what has gone through my mind at a certain time. That's not to say all my work is like that - I don’t often go around wondering what it would be like to plunge a large sword into a king's heart or plot the removal of the world's upper class via magical means. Cases such as those tend to be part of the creative process for the story rather than a by product of my current thoughts - please put the phone down and call off the men in white coats. Thank you.

But in many of my stories, there's a strong element of my experiences and thoughts. It's a very obvious thing in terms of creation, given that no story is written in a vacuum. There has to be a part of me that goes into them to lend a sense of emotional attachment and heart, which (I hope) is relatable to other people. The last couple years have, in many ways, shaped the way I see the world right now and in turn have also created the form and direction of my storytelling. I'm not saying that all these stories are pain-filled and red-eyed anger (although admittedly, many are). But I've noticed the themes are starting to become a perhaps understandable reflection. Loss (Butterflies and Moths). Rage (The Cure). Denial (God is in the Details). Confusion (Faceless). Identity (Death of a Salesman). Escape (Bad Luck Inc.). Acceptance (Butterflies and Moths, again). And then all the above all over again in slight variant forms, among other things.

There are more direct examples of what may be going through my mind, although I doubt I'm truly ready to start delving too deeply into them. One particular unstarted-but-planned project is as close to autobiographical as I probably dare ever go, with a collection of notes, observations and thoughts built up from over half a decade of random stuff, although even that only scratches the surface and it's laced with large dollops of fiction to help the medicine go down. I already wrote a diary for a whole year back in 1999 to 2000 and looking back at it (when I can decipher the chronic handwriting) is a painful and strange experience that I don’t really want to repeat. Although at times it's funny to look back on some of my ever-present stupidity.

So I rather spread my insanity through fiction and hope my brain doesn’t suffer a mental relapse in the process. It seems to help. I think. I think…

…I'm losing my mind.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Primes - sample 2

Biggeron 'the sharp shooter' opened his eyes from his ritual show meditation. His large, balding, 7ft, pasty white frame had been working for hours now, with the Gods-day festival well and truly in stride by the hazy and warm afternoon. Amongst the numerous festivities of the day, his regular job of being the carnival archer was one he'd carried throughout the years with pride, a custom carried down from his family and something he happily decided to continue. During the regular calendar year he would provide a service for the Court, teaching young bowmen their trade, although this part of the year was equally important - it fell upon him to provide the archery show that was a family tradition for the Gods day festivities, something that had never failed to be a hit. Made sense. He was a Prime Archer, after all.

Biggeron pulled himself up from his large chair, and pinned his theatrical red and gold cape on, before equipping his quiver full of arrows and large engraved wooden bow. This was the grand finale stage of the show, it needed something special as was required each year. He had just the thing in mind. Smiling to himself, he prepared to exit his rest hut to head out into the main auditorium. Soon after taking a swig of his strongest milk (fresh from the magical cows of Hmumner), his wife came rushing in from behind the curtain. Short but more tanned than her giant spouse, deep concern was etched on her pretty face, which was matted by her long blonde platted hair.

"Liza!" glowered Biggeron, "what's wrong?"

She looked up at Biggeron, her big blue eyes twinkling. "Biggs… I know this may seem a bit strange, dear, but I think… I'm… "

"Come come, the crowd is expecting me soon, what is it?"

"Biggs, something is wrong…"she whispered closely. "There have been accidents all around the festival…maybe we've really displeased the Gods this year…"

"Nonsense, " came the reply. "What Clarence did to those chickens was a one off - he knows not to pursue such a foul activity to relive his frustration in the future. He has been punished eno-"

"No, no, not that… it's everyone. Things are going wrong that shouldn't be…Stranglor the Brave lost his winning streak in the wrestling competition - he hasn't been beaten ever before… and- "

The crowd's content mumble began to fan into a curious burble, at the lack of the archer's presence onstage.

"They're getting restless, dear - don't worry, it'll be fine. Trust me." With that, Biggeron kissed his wife's forehead gently, pushed back the curtain and strolled into the centre stage. Rapturous applause boomed around the large sand-floored circle arena as the crowd welcomed back their giant hero stepping into the middle of the ring, waving to his appreciating fans.
"Thank you, thank you, you are too kind as always. Now, some of you may be wondering just how good an archer such as myself can be, after just merely shooting a few moving magical targets as I did earlier." Biggeron swept back his large cape in a majestic gesture. "Well, my friends, today I will attempt something that only a Prime such as myself would attempt, such is its danger. But for this, I will need a brave soul to volunteer. Who will be that trusting person? Who will be the lucky one to take part in the trick that everyone will be talking about to all their friends for years to come?"

Several hands sprung up from the crowd, mostly from the young children, some of which quickly shot down again due to parents unwilling to risk their child, even for something that was virtually guaranteed success. One teenager garbed in a green archer's hat and clothing (waistcoat and tights), without the presence of an adult to quell his enthusiasm, remained persistent in his volunteering, however, and was gratefully spotted by the grinning Biggeron.

"Well, ain't he just the brave fella! Come on down, young one!" waved the giant.

The youth, smiling akin to a hapless puppy who thought it was going for a nice walk in the field rather than suspecting it was being taken out to pasture, ran down from his wooden seat into the main auditorium, with just as many of the viewers looking for his not-present guardian as there were clapping in happiness that their child was spared the opportunity of being fired at. Ushered into the centre of the stage by Liza (who had made her sudden appearance with calm professionalism), Biggeron stooped to his fresh young apprentice. "What's yer name, son?"

"Robin!" piped the lad, his eyes brim with deer innocence.

Biggeron turned to the crowd again, sweeping his hand in another grand gesture. "Robin, ladies and gentlemen!"

The crowd clapped on queue, some clearly worried for Robin's safety. The eagle eyed Biggeron decided that now was the ideal time to address this unusual taste of fear that had rippled around the usually jocular audience. In the meantime, Liza gently took Robin to a large circular target that had featured at the back of the floorspace.

"Loyal people," started Biggeron, "my dear townsfolk. It has come to my attention that some of you are a bit… apprehensive this year. Fearful, some may say."

The crowd murmured uncertainly.

"Yes, I have heard of the accidents that have been happening all around this year's festival. How can I not, being one of the more steadfast features of it. This act, which was once my father's and father's father's, has been around since the start of the festival's conception. We, Liza and myself, are amongst the very pillars of the celebration itself."

A few of children in the crowd grew a bit restless, one yawned quite demonstratively only to be slapped into mannered obedience by her mother.

"And each year, we have put on a show that only the strangers have come to fear, while the rest of you have come to love - our magnificent archery show. Which we've aimed to alter each year to keep fresh."

By now, Robin had been tied to the target, a blindfold placed on his forehead while Liza had taken full attention to her husband's speech, a worry in her eyes dimming by his passing words.

"And this year, you may be worried that, like some of the freak occurrences during a few -and may I add, they have only been a few- acts already, that some poor accident will befall me or worse, this young lad here."

Robin, who was clearly not from this part of the planet judging by his continued smirks that this was all part of the show, was ready to burst with excitement.

"But, I'll have you know. Biggeron is not one to smear tradition at the drop of some foul luck. This is our Gods day. They smile upon us for today is when we worship Them in unison. Do not fear us, for today is the day They come down to us, sit amongst us, and say 'it's okay to be afraid - but today, we are NOT afraid.'" Biggeron smiled, his broad mouth and white teeth almost lighting the auditorium, offering his hands out in warm gesture to his watchers. "We, ARE NOT AFRAID!"

A dull roar of approval started up around the crowd, followed by cheers and eventually rapturous applause. The ringmaster turned to his wife, who smiled with deep pride in her spouse.

"Now," he trumpeted, "who wants to see a SHOW!"

The audience raised to their collective feet in appreciation. Biggeron turned to Robin, who had enjoyed every second of the pep talk.

"Now, children, ladies and gentlemen, you're people of distinct and obvious taste. It's likely that you've seen acts like this before, where a sharp shooter takes his trusty bow and arrow, and shoots something off the top of a volunteer's head. 'An apple, a pear, there is no fear'. But, that isn't a fitting enough challenge to a Prime. No, no, what you're going to witness here is something a bit more - and that means using something, a bit… well, less."

Liza's hand fiddled inside a pocket, before pulling out something so small no one could see what had claimed itself in her clenched fist.

"Today, my friends, you will witness the shooting - blindfolded, no less- of not a large fruit off this young man's head, but this!"

Liza theatrically opened her hand and lofted it high. There was a gasp and talkative murmur around the audience. In Liza's palm rested a solitary peanut. Salted.

"For those without the benefit of close seats, the whispers are true - I will attempted to shoot a peanut off young Robin's head, using but one arrow at a distance of 50 yards, blindfolded."

The crowd cheered in admiration.

Liza pulled the blindfold off Robin's head and gave it to her large husband, who started walking his 50 yards. She turned to Robin, who had almost seemed like his smile had been etched in unmovable stone. "Never fear - for this spectacle is guaranteed to be safe as long as you don't move," she whispered.

Robin nodded. Smile, nod, smile.

Liza took off his hat and placed the peanut on top of his head, slowly.

Biggeron took position. "Now, I'll ask you to make no sound please, until the arrow has reached its target, for the sake of concentration." He pulled his blindfold down to his eyes, while instinctively, from years of practice, took a steel tipped arrow from its quiver and drawing it in one smooth motion, his big arms poised.

The audience held its breath.

A child clasped his hands over his mouth.

One closed her eyes.

An old man snorted.

Liza stood aside from the target, hands behind her back.

Biggeron pulled the bowstring as far as it could stretch and held it there, a few seconds. There was something strange in his arms, something he'd never felt before. A tingle.

Hold.

Then a shiver.

Hold.

His arms stayed true to the target.

A bead of sweat trickled down Biggeron's forehead on to the blindfold.

Hold.

Robin smiled eagerly.

The archer fired.

There was a sharp whistle as the arrow pierced the air at intense speed, followed by a wet 'swquellsh' and a dull 'thunck'.

Liza fainted.

The audience gasped.

Then several screamed.

Biggeron pulled up a small part of the blindfold and peeked through.

"Ooops."

Primes - sample 1

"Come back here you li'll thief!!!!"

Jinx didn't bother looking back at the 'slightly' angry stall vender as he sprinted towards the back ally which would lead out of Axal street. He wasn't quite sure why his telekinesis failed so suddenly, especially seeing as the oranges he was trying to steal weren't particularly heavy, but he sure wasn't going to wait to see if the fruit seller knew the reason. Jinx personally couldn't see why the vender was so angry anyway. He was only borrowing the oranges, and would have returned the peel after he'd finished. And it's not even as if he was successful either; the fruit tumbled to the floor when his power mysteriously decided to abandon him...

Jinx glanced back when he heard the splish-splash of his pursuer's feet charging though the damp cobbled paving of the long ally. He couldn't believe the vender was actually giving chase! Who did he think he was?!!? After all, compared to Jinx, who was happily 17, this man had to be... ooooh, at least 24. Positively ancient. Not to mention the fact that he was slightly plump too, and obviously out of shape. The audacity!

"Come and get me, fat man!!" yelled Jinx, as he increased his pace, eager to get to the end of the ally. The retort was hardly fitting for one his class, a Prime no less - no higher class in the whole of Earth, but through the years Jinx came to the conclusion that to act in the way he was brought up was simply no fun. He also realised that any chance of even implying his innocence of attempted theft was now defunct, even more so, as he was the only one who looked distinctly surprised when the conspicuously floating oranges missed his pockets by inches.
Why did that happen? A Prime thief's power of mind-over-matter may be fairly limited, but it was usually efficient enough to do the job with minimum attention, even at his young age. The seller could have cancelled out his power, but he looked nearly as surprised as Jinx did. Maybe it was just a slip in concentration. Or a freak occurrence.

Jinx risked another look back. By the Gods, he was still being chased! No matter. As soon as he would get to the end of the ally and turn the corner, the chase would be over. Prime thieves had more than one trick up their metaphorical sleeves...

(Splish Splash)

The fruit seller was dripping with perspiration, but steely determination kept his feet cycling towards his target. He didn't really think that he could catch the thief in a straight run, but the thought of simply getting his hands on the him was enough to temper his persistence. He'd never caught anyone who had stolen from his stall before, but this time, THIS time he wasn't going to let one go. No sir, this would be the last time anyone steals from him. A forced grin made its way on the vender's face as he reached inside of his apron pocket...

(Splish Splash)

'Nearly there' thought Jinx as the end of the alley approached even closer. He was sure the alley wasn't anywhere near as long as this when he turned into it, but soon his fun would have to end, if simply for a sense of self-preservation. But not even that same sense of self-preservation could quell his curiosity when he noticed the slowing of his antagonist's footsteps...

(S-p-l-i-s-h S-p-l-a-s-h)

The fruit seller clutched his 7" throwing knife eagerly while slowing his pace to a slow jog to hopefully gain a better aim. He hadn't practised much, but that wasn't going to stop him from trying to pin a cocky thief to the wall. Or at least innocently maim him. Whatever came first. He lined up his left arm and tensed in anticipation...

(SplishSplashSplishSplashSplishSplash)

A panicked sprint swiftly took over from the leisurely run of the boys legs, as Jinx's thoughts raced in anxiety…

A flick of the wrist...

...and the knife was released to clatter pathetically against pavement, as the limp throw nearly embedded the weapon in the seller's own foot. At that moment Jinx turned the corner and laid himself flat against the wall of an empty adjoining side street, concentrating on his ability to hide on the edge of a person's perceptions. It didn't usually take long - no more than a second or so - but it needed to be done initially out of plain sight, hence the use of the wall. Jinx closed his eyes and willed himself to be invisible. The footsteps of the fruit seller increased in resonance as he eventually came out of the alley. Jinx kept his eyes shut, now out of fear although there was no way he should have been visible. He consoled himself in that fact.

And then he felt the hot breath of another 'fact'.

Jinx gingerly peaked through his left eye, to be greeted by the large figure of a man.

A man that sold fruit.

"Erm... you can... see... me can't you..." came the boy's squeak.

The vender looked puzzled for a moment, bewildered by Jinx's question. Then the confusion was dismissed by a feral grin, as he licked the drops of sweat which were straying into his mouth. He wasn't going to let his perplexion over the boy's peculiar behaviour spoil HIS moment. "Yeah," he breathed, "I c'n see ya alri't." He pulled out another, shorter knife. "I c'n see ya jus' fine..."

His smile widened.

Jinx closed his eyes again.

The Primes background blurb

So, Primes.

This started after being inspired by Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. In essence, a fantasy-comedy. Thankfully (for the sake of identity), I found my own voice fairly quickly with the whole thing, and it evolved into something totally different.

As previously explained, the Primes world revolves around a group of powerful people designated with their abilities since birth. People who are given a role in society since conception, and provide that task for the rest of their lives in the knowledge that they are among the very best in the world who can do it. They remain a small percentage of the world they live in, but there's enough of them to rule given how powerful they are. Imagine, if you will, all the best, most talented people in the world, all living in the same place, as self appointed rulers because no one can depose or challenge them. The rest of us, who have to work at our talents, are resentful but have to deal with it. They're born like that, we are not. Wars are won because they have Prime warriors and kings who are nigh perfect at their roles. They have the best homes because Prime architects can get the best materials and build quicker than just the more 'merely' talented architects. And so on.

It's an indisputable social hierarchy, founded on magical bias.

So what happens when those abilities are suddenly taken away?

Primes' central concept is just that – what happens to a race of people who have never had to truly work for their talents, suddenly find themselves without them? What happens to a King who loses his ability to rule and make good decisions? What happens to fighter who suddenly finds he cant fight? A cook who cant cook?

Primes is essentially about the consequences of losing something we've taken for granted all our lives.

It wasn’t meant to be a series of books – after all, this one isn’t quite finished yet, and it was started 11 years ago. The prequel was born of me realising that no one is going to buy a 100,000 word novel from an untested, rookie writer. So the solution was to either get published before I shop it around, or start with a smaller series of books in the same universe to establish the concept and my writing. Turns out both are happening anyway.

So, here's a couple chapter samples from different parts of the novel so far. There are currently 30 chapters, to give you an idea of how much is written, with the finished novel probably coming in at around 45 chapters. Perhaps worryingly, some of the stuff I wrote as a 16 year old required very little editing compared to the stuff I did as a 24 year old. Hmm.

Samples coming next. I promise.

[Naturally, all the following/above is ©2006 ~ Corey Brotherson, unless noted otherwise and cannot be used without permission. Thank you.]

Pre-tense

This entry comes in at a strange time.

Work-wise, I've been assigned with a veritable mother-lode, which has had me slightly panicked about getting everything done in time for deadline (I've not missed a single one since going freelance, although that's because I refuse to, even if it means staying up till 5am to get something done - I'm a little nuts like that). I've got a large day with family on the Sat which means I've only got a couple days before deadline with 4 articles to do, some voice acting samples to finish (I'll explain more if anything eventually comes of it), a comic book series pitch to polish up and a contracted 22 page script to complete before the end of the month.

However, the Fates have conspired to lend a helping hand and now I'm now a bit more on schedule. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, I'm going to update this and get back to the grind.

This sample is actually something I've been working on since I was 16 years old. Normally that would be a bad thing, as it suggests I'm never going to get it finished, but as it stands it'll reach 100% eventually because, well, it jumped from 20% to 70% in the last few years.

I'm talking about Primes.

The more eagle-eyed among you will realise that I already have an entry with the same name, Primes: Bad Blood. Primes, despite being written first, is actually the sequel. A full length, 80,000 word (to date) novel sequel.

Hmm, this is getting a tad long. I'll explain in the next entry.