Things I Learnt Reading the First Draft of ‘The Adventures of Abigail Storm’

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A first draft is like good whiskey, it needs to age. You can’t just finish the thing, put a stamp of approval on it and send it out into the world. You need to barrel it, distil it and you forget about it. Yep, forget about it like a girlfriend that broke your heart, forget about it like you’ve forgotten about Phantom Menace, forget about it like… well, you get the idea. Once I finish writing a first draft I try my hardest to forget it even exists at all. I go to the bar, I play pool, I read more books but the single most important thing I do, I start another project.

After I finished the first draft of The Adventures of Abigail Storm, the very first thing I did was start a new project. Now that I’m trying to forget about that, it’s time to crack open the barrel and retrieve Abigail.

Here’s a couple of things I learnt while reading the first draft of The Adventures of Abigail Storm.

  1. Come armed with coffee.
  2. The first draft is always shit. No matter how much I hope that the novel has rewritten itself in my absence, it’s never happened. I expect the worst, from typos to clunky writing, to embarrassing dialogue and logic holes the size of that asteroid in Armageddon.
  3. Lock the door and turn off the phone. I’m only going to get the chance to read the novel from beginning to end for the first time once. For me, this has to be done in one day. It’s one very long day, but that way I can see the flow of the story in one hit.
  4. The first paragraph isn’t needed. This has been consistent for all my books. I spend hours crafting that first paragraph to perfection like a fine artist in the first draft, only to come by a couple of months later with a red pen and kick it out of the novel. First paragraphs in first drafts are almost always never needed.
  5. Cut ten thousand words, at least. If that sounds like a lot, it is. Ten thousand words is roughly forty to fifty pages and probably a week’s worth of work. Right now this novel is on the fat side and I want it lean and mean and precise. Every single word needs to earn its place, every cliff hanger, every joke and every single word needs to earn its place if I want the reader to turn the page. There’s no room for useless words.

What if what I read is bad? See point number 2. IT IS BAD! But don’t cry. Have a beer. Get up tomorrow and rewrite that bastard.

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DAY ? of ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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After 10 weeks, 3 bags of coffee, 2 sets of guitar strings, 5 neighbourly complaints about noise, 4 bottles of Wild Turkey, 566 pages, and over one hundred thousand words, the first draft of The Adventures of Abigail Storm is finished.

There’s always a bit of tradition and ritual when finishing a book. Some people get out of town for a week, others don’t leave their room for a week. For me, it’s whiskey and Van Morrison. I wait until I’m typing the very last page, I pour myself a glass, put on the rare Van Morrison live in Japan, 1974 and hammer away at the typer.

Now the choice of whiskey is a very important one. You don’t just go and drink any run of the mill whiskey that you would drink any old day of the week, because what would be so special about that? You have to pull out the big guns for finishing a book, no Jamisons or Makers Mark. So for the past couple of months I’ve had an unopened bottle of Writer’s Tears sitting on my desk taunting me, begging to be opened and enjoyed. I have resisted the urge to crack it open and now the day has finally come.

2014-12-21 14.14.10With Van Morrison in the air, and those words ‘THE END’ not far from my fingertips, I poured myself a glass. And it was the best damn glass of whiskey I had ever tasted. I even dragged out writing the last page so I could knock off a third of the bottle.

So now what? Pop it in the mail and send it straight to the agent and publisher? Hell, no. This monster is full of typos and bad writing. I’m going to let it sit on it for a couple of weeks while I go and finish off that bottle of Writer’s Tears and forget about the entire thing. I’ve got a movie or two to write, some Playstation to play and guitars to annoy the neighbours with. Then, when I’ve just about forgotten about the entire thing, I’ll turn over page one and rewrite the entire thing.

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DAY 65 of ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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What happens when you realise that your 80,000 word science fiction novel is going to be more like a 150,000 word science fiction monster?

I can tell you exactly what happens. First comes the disbelief. Maybe I calculated the words incorrectly? Which in my case could be very likely considering I can’t even remember a phone number. Nope, I crunch them numbers again and it still rolls in at 150,000 words. In the next stage, comes the panic. And I’m not talking about a little internal flutter of panic. I’m talking about ‘the someone has just told you there’s a spider on your back and you run around the house yelling. “is it gone, is it gone”‘ type of panic.

So after I stopped running around the house yelling ‘is it gone, is it gone,’ I sat down at the typer pulled up my outline and poured myself a drink (and left the bottle on the desk). Now, the only really editing tool I possess, is being able to go through a story and working out exactly what is not needed. I try to work out how to tell as much story in as little words as possible.

Half a bottle of whiskey and three hours later, I managed to trim this behemoth of a story back from the 150,000 word nightmare to a more reasonable 100,000 words. That number is still not exactly a walk in the park, but it’s much easier to achieve. How did I pull off such a task you may ask, or you may not, but I’m going to tell you anyways. It was simple, I deleted all the nouns… I’m kidding, that would be crazy talk. I went back to basics and deleted absolutely every sequence, chapter, or scene that didn’t do one of two things:

1) Advance the plot or,

2) Reveal something new about character.

In other words, I trimmed all the fat. Now I still have another 30,000 words to write to reach that 100,000 word target (which is the most of anything I’ve ever written), and I’m sure there’s going to be other obstacles from now until then, but at least for the time being the crisis has been adverted and the spider my back type panic has subsided.

DAY 46 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

Another Abigail Promo

Finally! Just broke 50,000 words on the first draft of ‘The Adventures of Abigail Storm’ *cheers*. But still have another 30,000 words to go *sighs*. Those 30,000 words need to be finished in the next fifteen days. There will be tears, booze, violence, me yelling obscenities in the office and hopefully I’ll try and get some writing in there as well.

Here are some highlights from the last week of writing:

1) I’ve finally managed to get the AI powered supercar, K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider into a novel (don’t ask).
2) Writing about the end of the world can be fun.
3) Some mornings I drink so much coffee that I think coffee should probably share credit with me on this book.
4) That the opposite of irony, is wrinkly.

Meanwhile… I’ll be in the office typing away like Angela Lansbury. If no one hears from me in fifteen days, send whiskey.

 

DAY 39 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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After a very long search for Abigail’s hero weapon, I’ve finally found a bad boy that would be dangerous, ridiculous and baddass enough to save the world with. This here is the Remington 1740, double barrel pump shotgun. What it really is, is actually two Remington 870’s that some maniac has attached to each other. One ejects to the left of the barrel and the other to the right. I’m sure it’s loud as hell, kicks like Bruce Lee and does more damage than Gary Busey on a coke binge.

DAY 35 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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The Writing Schedule

Time to put away the Playstation and hide the booze – this shit just got real. I have to write 50,000 words in five weeks to meet the deadline on the first draft of ‘The Adventures of Abigail Storm’. 

For the mathmactically challenged (me), that’s 10,000 words a week or more specficically, 2000 words a day.

Here’s how this God awful word count is going to be achieved:

8.00 am: Crawl out of bed,  brew a gallon of coffee and blast some rock ‘n roll.

8.30 am: Look up stuff on the internet. Others may refer to this as ‘procrastination’. A writer will always refer to it as ‘research.’

9.00 am: Write first sentence of the day.

9.10 am: Rewrite first sentence of the day.

9.30 am: Rewrite, the rewritten first sentence of the day.

9.40 am: Cry.

10.00 am: Make some more coffee.

12.00 pm: Head down to the local pub for some lunch.

1.00 pm: Back at the typer. Stare at the laptop.

2.00 pm: Play guitar.

2.30 pm: Stare at the laptop.

3.00 pm: Look at the clock and panic about all the words I haven’t written.

4.30 pm: Second guess every single word written to date.

5.00 pm: Make an Old Fashioned.

5.30 pm: Make another Old Fashioned.

6.00 pm: Put the ‘Closed’ sign up on the office door.

And somehow, if everything goes to plan I would have written 2000 words in-between all that.

This will be my schedule for the next 5 weeks. So nobody call or come around because I’ll be busy… (please call, please come around… please?)

DAY 25 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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After almost two weeks of rewriting a screenplay and a few other such things, it’s time to get back to The Adventures of Abigail Storm and start pounding out those pages. I  had set myself a deadline of and 80,000 word, beast of a novel by November 9th… then I took two weeks off.

Now my daily word count went from 2000 words a day to 2683 (thanks to the wonderful world of mathematics for working that out). After much consideration I’ve come to the conclusion that is new word count is seriously going to impose on my Playstation time.

DAY 23 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

Here’s 5 things I’ve learnt after sitting at the typer for 5 days:

1. Sometimes there just isn’t enough coffee in the world.

2. Page 1 is never as scary as it sounds.

3. Never read what you’ve written until you’re done.

4. 2000 words a day is sometimes very easy, and at other times it’s harder than watching a Twilight marathon.

5. You never leave the office. You can close the laptop, go do something else but your mind will keep working on those next words.

Current word count is 10,081 of 80,000.

I’m thinking of making the wise investment of a Playstation 4. But I can’t see how that could possibly have an effect on my word count this week… no not at all.

DAY 17 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

abby holocostThere were tears, there was booze there were neighbours complaining about Tone Loc’s hit 1989 album, ‘Loc-Ed After Dark’,  blasting through their walls at two in the morning. And after all that, I now have a 10,000 word outline for ‘The Adventures of Abigail Storm’ in my mitts.

Monday will be the anxiety filled chapter one, page one, word one, but until then I’m going to do same thing I do before I start any major project… and that’s absolutely nothing. Three days of being Dude Lebowski before embarking on the mammoth task of the first draft.

The Plan: 80,000 words in 8 weeks. That’s 2,000 words a day, 10,000 words a week and in 8 weeks, the whole bloody, mess of a first draft will sit like a phone book on my desk.

This will take discipline, sobriety and a recluse like attitude. None of which are much fun, but is what it will take to get the job done. So for those of you who’s calls I don’t answer, I’m writing… or ignoring you.  And for those of you who know where I live… you’ve been warned.

DAY 12 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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After a couple of weeks of filling my notebook with scribbles and madness, it’s now time to move into the future and commit those words to Scriviner.  What’s Scriviner you ask? Or maybe you don’t but I’m going to tell you anyway.  Here’s the pitch from the Scriviner peoples: Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.

But what it really is, is a word processor that is not going to shit its pants when a manuscript starts to run over one hundred pages (I’m not pointing any fingers here Microsoft Word).

When you first open it, it might look like one of those puzzles they give little kids to see if they are geniuses, but if you’re keen on writing a novel, stick with it. Unless you like hurling abuse at Microsoft Word for the last three hundred pages of your book… I don’t don’t know, maybe you’re into that kind of thing.

You can find it here: Scrivener

 

 

 

 

DAY EIGHT OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

I wouldn’t write a shopping list with out an outline… and deep in outline territory is where I am. Something I’ve been doing in the past couple of years in the outline department is mind mapping (I know, I know, it’s a wanky term). So I look at the page and vomit words and plot at it, although I’m sure that’s not the technical term for mind mapping.

Below is one I did for the last book, ‘Out of Exile’. A lot of the story changed as it was developed, but it’s a good indication of what the Abigail Storm notebook is looking like right now.

WARNING: ‘OUT OF EXILE’ SPOILERS AHEAD!

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DAY ONE OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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After 12 months of writing movies and other such things, it’s time to write another novel!

This one is a fun sci-fi romp called ‘The Adventures of Abigail Storm.’ It’s a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Escape from New York with a dash of Terminator 2 tossed in.

I want a 80,000 word draft by December, which means 1 month to outline, 1 month to write and 1 month to rewrite… and then probably 2 months to sleep and drink just to get over it.

To keep me honest with that deadline, I’m keen to share the process. So yell at me, prank call and hurl sarcasm and abuse if you think I’m slacking off.

Why I Won’t Read Your Novel

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(This image is relevant, I swear)

A couple of months ago I’m at a 30th birthday party of a friend of a friend who I didn’t really know and besides feeling like an imposter during the intimate thank-you speeches I was having a pretty good time. Sometime after midnight the party began to thin leaving only the die hard drinkers and that’s when it happened. Every writer on the face of the planet has been, or will be in the following situation.

A skinny guy with a pony tail, who looked as if he owned every episode of Doctor Who and was of an age where that was weird, crossed the floor and made his way up to me. ‘You’re a writer,’ he said as if he were accusing me of something evil.

I confessed to the horrible truth that I was indeed a writer and a smile crossed his face as if he had been on some Hobbit-like adventure the entire night to find me and now here we were.

His name was Lawrence, and he had just finished writing his first novel. It was set in the future where for some undisclosed reason, domestic cats grew to be thirty feet tall and were now the main threat to humanity.

‘Will you read it?’

‘Oh, shit man, I’m real busy,’ I said.

‘You’re a really good writer. I can tell just by looking at you.’

In my experience good writers and bad writers look relatively similar but I was half drunk, half tired and wanting to get home to watch music videos on RAGE, so I handed him my card (yes, I have one) and told him to send me his manuscript.

‘No need,’ he said burying his hand into a dirty backpack by his feet. He pulled out a ream of paper and shoved it at me. It was nine hundred pages long and held by elastic bands and insecurity.

‘You carry it on you?’ I asked.

‘Of course.’

‘Isn’t it heavy?’

‘It’s the first in a series. I’ve got the other four at home.’

‘What if this one doesn’t sell?’

Confusion crossed his face. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Nothing, forget it,’ I said.

I carried the monster under my arm and made the trek out to the train station. Ten minutes later a carriage rolled up. I took a seat by the window with the big bastard next to me, took a sip of beer from a bottle I smuggled out of the party, lent my head against the window and drunkenly nodded off.

I woke to the not so gentle nudges of a police officer. ‘This train isn’t a hotel,’ he said.

Who was I to argue? It didn’t look like one. I climbed to my feet and looked to the empty seat next to me. ‘Shit, someone stole my manuscript.’

‘A what?’

‘Before a novel is published it’s called a…’ I gave up. He didn’t care and after I gave it some thought, it didn’t much bother me either.

I made my way home thinking about the poor literary deprived bastard who took the nine hundred page beast, went to bed and forgot all about that Saturday night.

A few days later I was sitting in front of the typer, wrestling with a particularly troublesome sentence when the telephone rang. The number: BLOCKED.

‘Have you read my novel yet?’

It took a moment for my mind to catch up. ‘Lawrence, I’m not sure if I’m going to get to it.’

‘But you said you would read it?’

‘I said I would try to read it.’

‘I’ll call you back tomorrow after you’ve had some time.’ And he hung up.

The next day rolled around and again, there I was staring at another string of bad words and the flashing cursor taunting me with each little blink.

And again, the phone rang. The number: BLOCKED.

This time I ignored it. In hindsight I should have just shown guts, picked up the phone and told this poor prick I had lost his Cat-ageddon story but I had this blinking bloody cursor to deal with. The phone rang out, there of was breath of silence and just as I was about to hammer away again at the keyboard it started back up. And over the next twenty four hours it rang another fifty something times. Then the paranoia set in.Maybe I should have read it? Maybe I should call him back? What if he’s found me? What if he’s hiding in my wardrobe right now? What if he’s dressed as a clown? What if he has a knife? And with that paranoid thought I headed down to the Prahran police station and dramatically slammed my phone on the bench and told my tale of woe to the cop who looked younger than the leather jacket I was wearing.

‘Who’s your telco provider?’ He asked.

‘Vodaphone.’

‘They don’t have very good coverage.’

‘They seem to be doing okay today.’

He told me the best thing to do is change my number and I walked out glad he wasn’t solving a homicide. A couple of steps later, the devil phone rang again but this time it was a buddy, Hugh. He was down at the Bush Inn which was conveniently, or not so conveniently for some, located half a block from the Prahran police station. I crossed the road and half a pint later I had told Hugh the events of the past few days.

Hugh took a sip of his beer. ‘How did all the cats get big?’

‘I didn’t read it!’

‘Why?’

‘Christ, have you not been listening?’ and before I could get any further my phone rang, again. ‘SHIT!’

Hugh snatched it off the bar, took two drunken steps back, smirked and answered it. ‘Detective Senior Sergeant Thomas Andrews.’

Now, I cannot lie, at this point, impersonating a police officer seemed like a worse idea than Justin Bieber playing live at Folsom Prison. Hugh even had the balls to give over a rank, badge number and the name of his commanding officer down at the Prahran Police Station. But if the Bush Inn Hotel gave out awards for best impromptu performance down at the TAB end of the bar, Hugh would have been a very strong contender. And after a few minutes, he hung up the phone and declared the case closed. And for about an hour it looked as if the world had returned to normal. We had a couple more beers, a couple of more bets, then I went to the bar and when I returned I had a missed call on the phone, only this time the caller had left a message. I pushed it into my ear to hear over the racket of the bar.

‘This is Constable Bernadette Collins from the Prahran police station calling in regard to a complaint about impersonating a police officer…’

My stomach dropped. I played Hugh the recording, told him he couldn’t act for shit, and as we headed off back down the road towards the cop shop to explain ourselves, I was rehearsing the explanation I was going to have to give to my girlfriend when I had to make the call for her to bail Hugh and I out of the clink. When I looked over to Hugh and for the first time noticed the Hawaiian shorts and filthy sneakers he was wearing. ‘This hurts us you son of a bitch.’

‘You’re drunk,’ he said. ‘Don’t fuck us in here.’

It sounded like a plan but as soon as I walked into the foyer of the station fear and panic had set in and I blurted out the words: ‘I AM NOT A COP!’

The young cop gave pause and sized me up, probably trying to gauge if I was the violent type or not. Christ, even Hugh looked at me sideways and he was one of my own kind. I drew a breath, flashed a smile and explained everything that had led up to the point where two half drunken fools were standing at the front desk of the Prahran police station explaining why they were impersonating police officers.

‘Why didn’t you read his book?’ the cop asked.

I sighed. ‘Because, it was probably bad.’

She shrugged. ‘So?’

We weren’t a threat. Nobody would ever believe either one of us were a cop. The Constable let us off with a warning and as we headed back to the Bush Inn for a celebratory drink, I thought about Lawrence and why he was so desperate for somebody to read his manuscript and then I realized something that I should have seen in his eyes the night he gave me his book… he had nobody else to read it.

I had another beer, watched Hugh win $182.50 on a dog called ‘Tank’ and then the next time my phone rang, I answered it and asked Lawrence if he could send me another copy of his manuscript.

First published at Momentumbooks.com.au

An Ex-Con, a Bag of Weed, and Rick Springfield on the Radio — Researching Out of Exile

Out of Exile_cover Every criminal thinks they have a story to tell and as a crime writer, I listen to all of them. I first heard the name Frankie Bell from a guy I grew up with who did nine months inside for beating his neighbor to a side of beef because the neighbor played the classic rock hit Take It Easy on repeat for twelve hours. He said, “You want to hear some stories, go talk to Frankie Bell. But whatever you do, don’t let him anywhere near a cop”. He didn’t say why and at the time I didn’t think to ask. I was in the depths of researching Out of Exile and really needed to get out of the office. So I spent half a day on the phone tracking down a number for Frankie and when I spoke to him he agreed to meet the following day.
I stood on a busy corner in Collingwood when Frankie stopped the traffic to pull over and let me in. Horns were honked, abuse was yelled but Frankie didn’t seem to notice or care. He must have been seven foot tall and at least half as wide with hands the size of dinner plates. He had some errands to run around and do and asked if I mined tagging along. I didn’t and we hit the road.
“I just got out,” Frankie said rolling a cigarette with one hand and driving with the other and splitting his eye line between the two.
“How long were you in?”
“Just under three years.”
“For what?”
“Smacked around some coppers.”
“How many?”
“Seven.”
“That’s a lot of copper.”
“That’s why the three years.”
A couple of blocks later he pulled the old XF Ford over to the side of the road in a suburban street where all the houses were worn down by life and time. We climbed out and headed to the front door.
“Just a quick stop,” Frankie said knocking on the door.
A moment later the door pulled back to reveal a little old lady dressed in clothes that hadn’t been fashionable for thirty years.
A smile crossed her face at the sight of Frankie. “Hello, luv. Are you here for your weekly?”
Her name was Joan and her house was hot. Cats were passed out in front of the heater and when she left, Frankie turned to me and said: “I”ve been coming here for years.”
Joan came back into the room before Frankie could answer and in her hands, she carried the biggest bag of marijuana I have ever seen in the hands of the elderly. “There you go,” she said handing it over.
Frankie palmed her some notes as he very politely declined Joan’s offer of a cup of tea and biscuits. Later Frankie told me Joan’s sons have a hydro set up somewhere in the bush and give her some weed to sell for a bit of extra pocket money. She’s only on a pension so Frankie feels good about giving her his business even though he could get better pot for the same price elsewhere.
On the drive back to Flemington, Frankie scanned through the radio looking for a good song. He settled on Jesse’s Girl and turned it up. “That Rick Springfield, what a talent,” he shouts over the song.
But as soon as the words left his mouth the smile dropped from his face and his whole body tensed up.
“What?” I said confused.
He shot a quick glance into the rearview mirror. “We got cops.”
My eyes darted to the massive bag of weed by my feet and back to Frankie. “What do we do?”
“We drive casual.”
“How do we do that?”
“You know, casual.”
If casual were an ex-crim and an over-educated writer cruising through Flemington with a massive bag of weed listening to Rick Springfield’s 80’s classic, Jesse’s Girl, then we were doing it.
I shuffled down in my seat and got an angle through the side view mirror. “They’re still there,” I said.
Frankie pulled a left turn. Then another left turn and yet another after that.
“What are you doing,” I said. “Stop turning left.”
“I can’t turn right.”
“Why?”
“The indicator is broken. They’ll pull us over if I turn and don’t indicate.”
“And this is a better idea!”
“Don’t yell at me.”
“We can’t keep turning left!”
Frankie slowed the car to a T-intersection. “We don’t have any choice.” He hooked a big finger around the lever and turned the indicator on and the moment he did flashing red and blues lit up the street and along with the dying wail of the siren.
Frankie pulled the car to the side of the road as I threw my jacket over the massive bag of weed by my feet and all I could think about was the warning: Don’t let Frankie Bell near any cops.
The cop approached the car and looked at Frankie with a hard look that he probably perfected from watching too much television and motioned to the radio that was still blasting out Jessie’s Girl. “Can you turn that down?”
“But it’s Rick Springfield?” Frankie said.
The cop sighed. “License.”
Frankie handed it over, and the cop looked at it, looked at us and headed back to the patrol to run the license.
Frankie’s face formed a V. “This pig better not mouth off, again. I don’t care I’ll clock him.” He turned to me. “You got my back, right?”
“What, no! Just be cool.”
“Do you see the way he was looking at me?”
“No.”
Before Frankie could lose his shit the cop appeared and poked his head through the window, handed the license back and said: “Have a nice day.”
And then he was gone.
Frankie turned and smiled. “Ah, ha, ha. I”m a convicted criminal I am and look at that, outsmarted the coppers I did.”
“Just don’t use your indicator until he’s gone.”
Frankie wanted to celebrate our escape by smoking a bunch of weed and playing Nintendo. I couldn’t think of anything worse, I probably could but I couldn’t be bothered and had Frankie drop me at home. His hatred for police was seeded in some awful event and harbored for unknown reasons and by the time I climbed out of the car I worked up the courage to ask.
“Why did you beat all those cops up for?”
His eyes dipped with a hint of sorrow, regret and bad luck. “I didn’t know they were coppers at the time. We were down the pub and one of them put his hand up my girlfriend’s skirt. I just lost it.”
“What happened to the girl?”
“Got married while I was in jail,” he said. “I guess she didn’t really love me.”
And then I watched Frankie Bell’s beat up Ford disappear into the traffic.
You can spend years researching your novel. Standing in an office buried waist high in books, magazines and poorly formatted printouts from Google is only going to get you so far. Every once in a while you need to step out from behind the desk, you need to start a fight, you need to fall in love and make mistakes, you need to have regrets and you need to live and fail. And occasionally you need to get into a car with an ex-con, a bag of weed and listen to Rick Springfield.

First Published at Omnimystery

Sorry, Cormac

 

So, I was at this 90s party the other week… a lot of my stories start like this, although they are not always 90s parties. I’m talking to a girl in Lisa Loeb glasses and trying to think of the name of the one hit Lisa Loeb had that was on the Reality Bites soundtrack. Then I’m thinking about how cool Ethan Hawke was in that movie and how he still rocks a goatee even though the 90s were over fifteen years ago. Then I thought, could I pull off a goatee? Would I look cool like Ethan Hawke? Then I gave up on that idea; no one could look as cool as Ethan Hawke. The girl in the Lisa Loeb glasses went to grab a drink and left me with a guy in a Kurt Cobain cardigan so bad that Kurt Cobain wouldn’t even be caught dead in. He had his head buried in his phone, checking Twitter, Grinder or whatever and when he glanced up for a split second to see that I was still there, he must have felt obliged to say something, so when he opened his mouth the most generic stranger on stranger questions came out of his mouth.

So what do you do for a living? He asked.

I’m a writer, I said.

Yeah, he said with his face lit from the phone. Written anything I would have read?

I generally don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge on what people at parties have read.

Not sure. I use a pen name.

Oh, yeah. What’s that?

A pseudonym. When you use a…

No the name?

Cormac McCarthy, I said.

The fact that Cormac is fifty years older than me, American and the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize didn’t seem to register with Cobain.

What kinda stuff you write?

I wrote All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Blood Meridian, The Road

The Road! His head snapped away from his phone and I could see it took his eyes a moment to adjust to the real world. I love that movie!

Well, a movie and a book are two different…

My girlfriend is reading it right now! He threw a look over his shoulder and waved to a girl who was dressed as Brenda from the hit TV series Beverly Hills 90210. This guy wrote The Road, he yelled.

What?

THE ROAD!

Brenda made her way past a couple of Reservoir Dogs and a Forest Gump to join us. You’re Comac McCarthy?

He’s the guy, I told you. He wrote the movie.

The book, I said again.

Brenda sized me up. I wasn’t sure if she was buying my ruse and I didn’t care one way or another but then she said, I’ve been trying to get into it. It’s a bit shit though isn’t it?

I looked at her, I looked at him and back to her again. What?

Yeah, I just can’t get into it. No offence.

No offence?

You should see the movie, babe. Cobain said. It’s probably better.

I left my heart and soul on the page. I said complete with hand gestures to demonstrate the process. Years!

I’m sorry, she said, I’ll stick with it.

Hey! Cobain said as if he had just had his first thought. Have you got it on you?

She dug her hand into her Country Road bag (very popular in the Australian 90s) and pulled out a movie tie-in edition of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Will you sign it?

Of course, I said. I took out a pen from my pocket, because Cormac always carries a pen with him and I flicked through the first couple of pages and scrawled out a very illegitimate signature and handed it back.

Then I took a beer and got the hell out of there.

So if you see an autographed copy of Cormac McCarthy’s movie tie-in edition of his masterpiece, The Road on ebay, tread lightly and please… I still haven’t looked it up, so if anyone could tell me the name of the Lisa Loeb song that was on the Reality Bites soundtrack, that would be awesome

First published at Murder is Everywhere

30 WAYS TO KNOW YOU’RE A WRITER

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You know you’re a writer when…
  1. You don’t know how to do anything else
  2. Your back is sore
  3. Your taste in music is awesome and you have a rocking record collection
  4. You can go days without speaking to a single person
  5. Anyone who likes your writing is immediately far sexier than they were before they told you they liked your writing
  6. You spend most of the day staring at the wall
  7. You have at least one unpublishable manuscript hiding in your office
  8. Whenever you’re doing something else, you feel like you should be writing
  9. You never leave the house without a book
  10. You keep telling yourself you need to go to the gym, but to the gym you never go
  11. You drink too much coffee during the day and too much booze during night
  12. You believe stories can change the world
  13. You see people who say ‘I don’t read,’ as Morlocks
  14. You know what the hell a Morlock is
  15. You can convince yourself that laying on the couch, drinking beer and watching re-runs of Miami Vice is just part of your working day
  16. You believe that people who say ‘I would write a book, I just don’t have the time’ should be beaten with a copy of Crime & Punishment
  17. Nobody really knows what you do
  18. Complete strangers pitch you stories to write
  19. You are egotistic and insecure at the same time
  20. You fear going to an accountant
  21. Your favorite place in the world is your desk
  22. Your second favorite place in the world is a bookstore
  23. You fear that reading a bad review is one day going to give you a heart attack
  24. Working from home has lost its appeal
  25. It matters to you where a comma goes
  26. Typos haunt you
  27. You feel guilty about writing
  28. You feel guilty about not writing
  29. People ask you ‘Where you get your ideas from?’ and you tell them there’s a little shop around the corner from your house that sells them
  30. There is absolutely nothing else in the world you would rather be doing than writing

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First published on Murder is Everywhere