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.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The inevitable F.A.Q - Part 3: Fiction and comic books

Fiction and comic books:

What do you do in the fiction/comic book industry?
Currently, prose, scripting and reviewing.

Who for?
I review for ComiX-Fan on a mostly monthly basis. I'm also writing projects for Gorelab, Futurius, Onyx Cross and a couple other independent comic book companies I cant name quite yet for secret project type reasons.

So when are these things coming out?
I hate to say, simply because things tend to slip often. But there should be at least two stories released in the next 4 months, with another 2 soon after that. The secret projects could be released anytime between mid 2007 and early 2008, so they're long term things.

Oooh. What genres do you deal in?
Most. I've written stories in sci-fi, horror, naturalism drama, fantasy, military drama/action… I try not to limit myself as it's best to have a wide scope.

Can I see some of your work?
Sure. There are samples littered throughout the blog, but whole bodies of work can be seen if you mail me.

Do you have an agent?
No. Little point in me having one right now.

Can you write for me?
Depends on what it is you want me to write, but provide details of the project and we'll talk about it.

What sort of work are you looking for?
Generally anything to do with story work. So scripting, prose, story board writing (but not drawing, I'm terrible at drawing), even stuff like comedy strips, which I've written samples of before.

Let's say I'm an artist; can we collaborate on a project?
Sure, send your art samples over and we'll discuss it. I have numerous stories in need of someone to draw them, so if your style fits I'll be happy to work with you.

What are your stories about?
All sorts of things, but my central concepts/themes revolve around people trying to find themselves through painful and unfamiliar circumstances. Whether that's psychological, sociological, personal, or so on. Most of my characters want to reaffirm themselves or are trying to discover who they actually are, despite their surroundings and other people often trying to stop them.

Where do get your ideas from?
Everything around me. You, right now, even.

Eeek. Better close the blinds then. How do you develop the ideas?
I don’t really have a single method. Sometimes I start with a core idea or concept, other times a single image, other times a single character placed in a situation. Each time is usually different and I build around that one thing. Forthcoming comic book story, Bad Luck Inc. for example, was born of a dream where I was working for the Devil and wanted to escape his employment. While the name was created as an antonym of the Gorillaz track, Good Luck Inc., which I love. Those two concepts sparked the story and everything else from there snowballed.

He's a super-freak, super-freak!
I don’t deny it.

How long does it take to write your stories?
It varies. Plotting takes the most time, as a full plot for a series can take a few days to a couple weeks bounce the general ideas around, before getting a good idea for how it starts (Act 1), continues (Act 2) and ends (Act 3). Then I write in story arcs, where I'll go into more detail over what happens for each Act and get an idea of how many parts/chapters each will take up, if there's more than one issue of the story. Although sometimes, if I have no word count, I'll write free-form and just let the characters take as long as they need to get to the point I want them to get at (as long as the pacing is fine, so there's action and inciting incidents to balance out the character moments/relatively 'slow' parts).
A full 22 page script will usually take me just over a week to two weeks, if the plot is all done. A 20,500 word novelette takes about 2 months. So those are the kind of scales I work to, in general.

What sort of audience do you write for?
Any age. Although my stuff is often quite dark in tone.

Like how?
Well, let's just say I only write happy endings if the story suits it. Which often it doesn’t.

What, are you emo or something?
Heh, no. I just don’t always like easy answers in my stories. I like my tales to challenge and question people, which often means making the audience a little uncomfortable. Sometimes happy endings dilute that a little. Dark, disturbing endings leave people asking "why", which will hopefully incite discussion or force a re-read to see what exactly went wrong for the character and how. Or it might just piss the reader off, which would be bad. But you know what they say about making omelettes…

You can use butter, salt and eggs?
Erm… yeah, sure. They say that too.

So what are your influences, omelette boy?
Plenty. In terms of tone, Roald Dahl, David Fincher, Mark Millar and other masters of the dark arts. General inspiration comes from Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Douglas Coupland, Alan Moore, Brian K. Vaughn, Joss Whedon, Brian Michael, Christopher Priest and many more. If you're a fan of the above, you'll notice a strong batch of similar themes that connect them, which is part of what appeals to me.

How do you deal with writer's block?

I've been lucky enough to not suffer from it the last few years (touch wood). Not in any great form. If I'm not writing (or gaming), then I'm often thinking about writing, so I'm always kept active at some point. And if I'm doing none of the above, I'm researching, which is the best form of 'not-writing-but-still-working'. Blocks tend to come from not having enough information to process creatively, so research and sometimes relaxation will often do the trick. If not, a trip to the toilet and/or shower often solves many a problem. You'd be surprised at the thoughts that will come into your head when you're on the porcelain throne and no pen to write them down (thankfully paper in the loo is a necessity so it's just the pen you'll need – although it's best to let significant others in on the loop, as if they're going to the toilet, reach for the roll and suddenly notice "See spot. See spot run. Run spot run! Die Spot! Die Spot Die! 'Spot died in an explosion that forced his large intestine through his shattered and bloody nasal cavity' ", then they'll probably be a bit scared. Scared for their very own lives.)

So really this whole "The Writer's Block" title is fairly ironic?
Well, at the moment it is *touches wood again*. It could turn out to be just terribly prophetic...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The inevitable F.A.Q - Part 2: The Games industry

The Games industry:

What do you do in the games industry?
I started off as a freelance writer trying to break in, working for DeUCE, Graduate Planet and Games Domain. Eventually Games Domain hired me full time as a staff writer. I was promoted to Console Editor a year later, before the site got sold to Yahoo. At Yahoo I became UK Editor, writer and liaison, before eventually being promoted to Yahoo UK Games Producer. I eventually moved on to become freelance, which is what I currently do, providing general content for numerous publications and publishers. May I direct you to my profile for those particular publications?

You may.
Thank you.

How long have you worked in the games industry?
Since 2000-1 (unpaid to paid). So I've a fair few contacts built up over time. They probably would disown me now, given I'm a writing ronin/mercenary.

"Writing ronin"? Doesn’t it say "Writing Gaijin"? on your tag?
Um… yeah. I see myself as both ronin and gaijin. Problem?

No. (Freak.)
That's better.
Wait, what did you say?

Nothing. So, what kind of work do you take for hire in the games industry?
Reviews, previews, columns, transcription, script work (see the up-coming 'Fiction' section for more details), that sort of stuff. General articles. I also do news, although tend to be less willing as I'm fairly fed up with it. I'll also strongly consider games manual, story work, fiction/character writing, that sort of stuff.

Are there examples of your work I can see?
Sure:
Sample review: http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=60143 (Conspiracy: Weapons of Mass Destruction)

Sample preview: http://ps2.boomtown.net/en_uk/articles/art.view.php?id=11484 (Sensible Soccer 2006)

Sample feature: http://www.planetxbox360.com/index.php/articledetails/show/57 (Xbox 360 on Live E3 2006)

There's tons more, so just feel free to ask.

Hmm. I put your name in a search engine, and only a few pages came up. Shouldn’t you have a billion web pages from half a decade of work?
*Sobs* Yes. But unfortunately, the Fates have decided me unworthy. Games Domain died a slow, uncomfortable death for many reasons, which-

What reasons?
I cant say. That would be unprofessional. Besides, these things happen.

How about a few beers and some money? Then you'll tell?
It’ll take more than cheap bribery to loosen my tongue!
(Meet me out back in 10 minutes. Bring unmarked bills).

Okay, carry on.
Cheers. It died for various reasons, and so took many of its web pages (of which I had thousands of) to the great interweb in the sky. There's some legacy pages left over, old/dead links and such, but most are gone, with the only trace of them being are the raw copy I have left on my computers.

Unfortunate.
Yeah. Lots of great people I worked with disappeared from the industry, too. It was pretty heavy slap of reality, but that's life, it seems.

Do you accept work from publishers as well as magazines/sites?
Yes. Perhaps more so these days. The work is more varied, the pay better and prestige is higher.

Will you work for free?
No. Sorry. Freelancing is my only source of income, so my time is directly related to said income, which is naturally pretty important to my well being. I'm not trying to break into the industry anymore, I've paid my dues in both work experience and education, and this isn’t a hobby despite the fact I love it. I do actually have a couple things I do for free in the games industry, but I literally cant afford to take on any more. Nothing personal, I just need to, you know, live. And stuff. Sorry about that.

But what if I promise you future pay down the line?
Then I'm still unlikely to sign on. Again, sorry, nothing personal at all, but IOUs cant buy me food or pay my bills in the present. And if I cant even pay my internet connection, then you cant even get my articles, so we both lose out. There's also the issue of trust. I've been screwed over by several companies who have taken my work and disappeared without even acknowledging my existence afterwards. And these were publications that I was working on for FREE.
As a freelancer, your survival is based on mutual reliability, and even the most professional company will slip up with an invoice from time to time, but at least they're still paying me at the end of the day. So I try to be selective with work in the games industry now, having made a few mistakes that have cost me in more ways than I'd like.

Okay. What are your rates?
Depends on deadlines, type of work, etc. Give me a shout and we can discuss it.

Do you get free games?
Not as many as I used to. I'm lucky to get one or two every few months for review code, but that's about it.

Does reviewing mean you 'test' the games?
No. Most reviewing is a combination of playing and writing; but you have to enjoy the writing part as much (if not more) than the playing, or it's a moot point. Actual games testing is a job of playing every part of a game as much as possible, exploring each section for bugs, quirks and other breakables before the game is released. A reviewer often gets the game after the tester is done with it. Then we spend whole paragraphs on sanctimonious disdain detailing what the tester missed in a scathing write-up.

Do you cover press shows?
If I'm asked to, yes. Although the cost of travel means I'll only do them for paying work anyway.

Are there any particular game genres you prefer?
Action, football, First-Person Shooters, RPGs… I'm pretty easy going, although generally prefer to review something that doesn’t take 60+ hours to play through. I'm not getting any younger, sadly, and been playing games since I was 4, so I'm more cynical than I used to be.

Who do you think will become next market leader?
It'll be close and splintered across territories for Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, but Nintendo may clinch this one through its aggressive marketing on new/lapsed gamers. That's pretty much the key to 'winning' – untapped markets. Atari did it. Nintendo did it. Sega did it (in Europe). Sony did it most recently, and in HUGE way. And that's what Nintendo is doing with its DS handheld and will try to do with Wii. New audience blood is pretty much the main reason why there's a three generation changeover for consoles. A company finds a new audience, caters to it and then exhausts it around the time of its third generation, at which point another company looks for a new market, taps it and becomes leader. There's no 'three generation curse', so to speak. Just a need for economic growth which happens over a natural period of time, coinciding by the time a successful company reaches its 'third' generation roll out. Otherwise the industry crashes and the snake eats its own tail. It's survival failsafe. Some argue that the general public haven’t heard of Wii yet, so it'll fail, which is dumb. Because the general public never heard of PlayStation before it got released. Nor the MegaDrive. Nor the DS. But that didn’t stop them from becoming powerful brands. The general public doesn’t know about a lot of things before they get released. That's what marketing and advertising teams are for.

How do you break into the games industry?
Luck, work and persistence. It's easier than it used to be because these days you can create your own sites and promote quicker. But it tends to mean there's a lot of crap out there. Build up a reputation of providing good, reliable work on time (all the time) and get in contact with editors. Get your name about, keep an eye on vacancies slots. If you're just starting out, be prepared to work for free and hustle for a while. Your time will come eventually if you're providing good work for an editor on a constant basis.

Can you help me break in?
I can provide some names and a little direction, perhaps, but only your own work can help you get in. I've been knocking around the industry for ages, and even I have problems getting work sometimes, so it isn’t always a simple task.

Do you have an Xbox Live GamerTag?
Yeah, 'Writing Gaijin', unsurprisingly enough. You can add me, but I don’t have Gold access, so cant play any games online yet. Sorry.

The inevitable F.A.Q - Part 1: Me, myself and...

I admit, my profile doesn’t give much away. So, this is to keep up-to-date with another log while providing information that may be useful to potential employers or those looking to kill a few minutes exploring the dark corners of my psyche. I'll probably be throwing more stuff in as I go along, so if there's a question missing and it's relatable, fire it over.

We'll start with a general one, and do more sections after.

General:

So, what's your name?
Corey Brotherson

Age?
Currently 27, although this will change next year. Adjust accordingly.

Location?
As I write this, Bathgate, Scotland. By the time you read this, it'll probably be Birmingham, England. I've also lived in Bournemouth and London.

Education?
A BA in English Language and Literature, and a PGDip & MA in Multi Media Journalism.

Fancy. What's your current work?

Some journalism, some critique, some fiction. General writing. I'm not fussy, although I tend to stick mostly in the entertainment field, as that's what I've been in for the past half decade. Feel free to ask for a CV/resume.

What mediums?
Mostly games and comics, but I also do film and music reviews, if needed/wanted. I used to write for student magazine DeUCE and graduate site Graduate Planet before I started as a full time writer, both of which covered films, music and lifestyle stuff. I've also been a 'games expert' for TV programmes Revved Up and Gamesville. I probably looked like a deer in headlights for both.

Will you work for me?
Why, yes!
Wait, doing what exactly?

Erm… writing, type stuff.
Why, yes!
Well, it depends on what, but I'm open to work offers. Worst I can say is "no". Unless you're rude, in which case, I can say I lot worse. I can swear in several different languages when needed.

You're not scaring anyone. What are your rates?
My rates depend on the type of work, estimated time taken, deadline restrictions, that sort of stuff. I cant quote prices here, as I tend to be adaptable, but see the other sections for more details on the sort of additional factors taken into account.

Will you take full-time/contract work?
Full time: depends on the work, but likely yes if it's something I'm interested in.
Contract: almost definitely. As any freelancer will tell you, contractual work is veritable manna from heaven because it offers stable and reliable work/income.
In both cases, I'm willing to relocate if it's something I think I'll enjoy and there's work permanence.

Do you hang out at any forums?
Yeah, although I tend to avoid ones dealing with 'real life' as it were. Things get heated enough in the entertainment ones I circulate, let alone places where actual important stuff is talked about. I'm usually seen around Gaming-Age, Comix-Fan, Millarworld and Games Radar. I lurk many other places, but my posting time is often cut down due to work, and the high probability of being dragged into some sort of flame war over nothing.

How can I contact you?
You can either leave a comment with details on how I can get back to you, or just send an email to cbrotherson "at" blueyonder.co.uk

Why do you put "at" in quotation marks, you awkward sod?
It's just to avoid getting spammed to death by automated web crawlers and such. Just replace it with "@" when you're attacking my inbox, sans spaces. Thanks!