An interesting question following some very useful feedback.

Hello

I recently decided to put my short story ‘Do I have parents at all?’, which is about a 114 year old immortal man living in modern day Manchester, England trying to find his true calling, onto the writing feedback website www.critquecircle.com. The idea of this wonderful piece of the internet is that you have to critique other authors work to gain credits. These credits can then be used to buy a place for your story to be critiqued on their website. It’s a simple idea that has given me a lot of useful feedback over the years and has allowed me to read some brilliant prose as well. And my latest venture into the critique circle world has carried on this trend.

A reviewer by the name of ‘Fergie’ (Who is Scottish and is a brilliant name for obvious Manchester United related reasons) decided to read my little tale and provide feedback. Amongst the many things he provided was a closing comment about how he was unsure whether or not he would buy my story if it came to his attention on a book shop shelf. ‘Fergie’ was unsure in its current form if he would buy it.

This got me thinking about how important the first line of a story is and also how important the first page can be as well. If I was looking to buy a book I would read the first page and look at the synopsis before deciding to buy it so I asked myself, is the first page of my story eye catching enough to be bought?

I have to be honest and say I don’t think it is. It could be better. And using ‘Fergie’s’ and other’s feedback I hope to make it good enough. With this in mind…

What do you think? Here is the first page only of my short story and all I want to know is would you buy the rest of my story after reading it? Either way I would really appreciate your feedback. Thank you in advance if you decide to read and comment on it. If not, have a good week in whatever it is you end up doing. Bye!

I have walked the Earth for one hundred and fifteen years but the questions still remain. Where is the First? We should have some kind of connection should we not? Why am I here? Do I have parents at all?

Waking up on the ground of a forest is as much as I can ever remember about my birth. Which is more than anybody else I am sure. That first year is fragmented but there is enough to piece together the story. My story. The story of my birth or my…come now brain, let us do this dance again it may help this time around.

I am born into existence and I grow, develop, and so on until eventually I am found by that rich family and raised for a while until I age too fast and spend the rest of my first year between families. Next comes another year living with various well-meaning poor families who all end up abandoning me but, with reluctant thanks to the rich, I am prepared. By this point, I am the equivalent of a ten year old boy and I find an orphanage and live there for a year through threats and the bending the owner’s superstitious beliefs.

And so, after three actual years upon the Earth and I look fifteen. Each year equals five years until I am thirty, and then I stop growing. I just stop. But why? I travel, I learn, I earn, I frighten, as the anger builds within me and I continue to ask myself why? But remember Henry, take the best parts from life and forget the rest. You promised to stop doing this to yourself! Distraction. It is an overcast Saturday night and I will use it to take my mind off things. Manchester is the best place I know. The streets and buildings are drenched in history. I love how new and at the same time old the whole place looks and feels. The night is starting to get into full swing with people everywhere and I find myself walking inside a bar I do not recall the name of and I do not care to check. I just wish I had a friend I could share this with though I made my peace with that years ago. I will live, I always do.

“Same again?” I forget his name.

“Yes please. Thank you.” I wish these two drunken men would move from the bar. You have your drinks so why are you still here? It is time for the old nudge and move technique. I am glad I committed to the gym all those years ago.

“Hey Handsome, why do you get preferential treatment?” Handsome? Wait…I know that look. She is just after a drink. Women. I have given up trying to work them out. Some say handsome, some say ugly. I do remember one young lady telling me that my light stubble and blue eyes complimented my slightly square jaw and that I must keep my hair short and messy as tall men do not suit long hair. Of all the things I have heard why do I remember what women say about me the most? “Hey, are you okay?”

“Yes. Sorry I got distracted. My girlfriend should be here any moment.” And she is gone. I must stay focused. I cannot fall behind on my schedule. I am sure the First is in Manchester. But how can I be sure? How is it possible that I have not found him, or her, after all of this time?

A holiday is what this writer needed!

Hello,

I didn’t realise it had been this long since my last post. Oh dear. Though my reason is a just one for not updating my little corner of the universe. I had a wedding to attend in Cyprus. How hard life must be for you? You may ask. Well, it was an amazing place to go to and the wedding was out of this world. I didn’t want to leave.

Although, when I did get back, and after attending another wedding on the same day we landed back home in England, I felt suddenly refreshed when it came to my thoughts about my writing. In truth, I had been feeling quite sluggish recently and that it was a struggle to get myself to write. And to update this blog of mine. But after a holiday, I feel ready to kick on and write, edit, and read whatever. I also found that seeing two couples get married made me think about my life and my goals. It made things a lot clearer and one of those things was getting back to doing what I love, and that is to write, edit, and read whatever!

With my refreshed self I have pushed on and have been writing my western story. I’m moving closer to the pivotal moment for my main character when he has to decide what he wants to do and what kind of man he wants to be. You see, he’s been running from his past for years and has become a seasoned gunslinger. But what is it all for? Should he just go around from town to town righting wrongs? What if he wants to just work all day, get drunk, pass out and wake up and lie in without any bounty on his head or worry over his shoulder to constantly look out for? As I have been writing this post and my western tale I have been trying to work this out. I’ll get there eventually. I’ve got all the action sequences and twists and turns in my head already but I just need a bridge to connect to them. I don’t fancy just running and jumping and hoping for the best. I’ll let you know how I get on of course.

Ok. This has been cool as always but I must get back to it, the voices are yelling at me again to do so. I hope you all have a good week doing whatever you do.

Bye

If one road fails, try another.

Hello

The last couple of times out I have requested feedback from you fine people on an excerpt from one of my short stories ‘Do I have parents at all?’ Now, I have only received a few pieces of feedback and they were very helpful and has helped me along. Even though I haven’t received anything more I’m not feeling too disheartened. I’ll just have to take a different road in order to get the feedback I may or may not need.

So, I’ve started back writing my western yarn about a travelling cowboy looking for a new home. It’s moving along nicely and the characters and story lines are taking shape. Up to now our hero, Benedict, has begun to settle into his new surroundings but is still worried that it all might change at any moment like has done so many times in the past. Will my western hero catch a break finally? With a love interest and a new father figure in the picture it might just happen. Though he does have to contend with a clearly jealous wannabe cowboy who has manipulated himself into owning most of the town. And it doesn’t help that our hero has already, within a day of his arrival into town, shot and injured one of the villains, Geoffrey’s, main henchmen. I have the story pretty much mapped out in my head but I’m conscious of making sure said story is not just set pieces and is an actual story.

This is something I started writing without using notes and it was a little bit daunting but I now have some good notes to help me along. I‘m filling in the blanks and now have town and supporting character names, descriptions and potential side stories that I could use. Research is also helping me attempt to get the finer points of the story, which so far is what they would eat and wear, correct. Writing down all of this needed stuff is made all the harder when I have the main set pieces of the story playing in my head. And with all the characters screaming ‘Get on with it!’ I respond, though they don’t listen, I’m trying but these things take time. But never out loud. Not yet anyway.

Those voices are screaming again so I’m going to get back to the writing. I hope you all have a good and productive writing and/or non-writing week.

Bye

Constructive Feedback Request.

Hello

So, as I mentioned in a previous post. https://johnrsermon.com/2015/07/12/andi-didnt-enter-the-competition-after-all/, here is an excerpt from a short story of mine with the working title ‘Do I have parents at all?’ The story is about a man named Henry with a very unique gift who is searching for the meaning of his existence. The full story is 5,000 words long so I’ve decided to break it up into more than two parts. And to see if I should post the rest or possibly go back to the drawing board depending on the reaction to it.

I would appreciate some constructive feedback on this and I would more than happy to do the same for you. Ok. Here it goes then.

Do I have parents at all?

I have walked the Earth for one hundred and fifteen years but the questions still remain. Where is the First? We should have some kind of connection should we not? Why am I here? Do I have parents at all?

Waking up on the ground of a forest is as much as I can ever remember about my birth. Which is more than anybody else I am sure. That first year is fragmented but there is enough to piece together the story. My story. The story of my birth or my…come now brain, let us do this dance again it may help this time around.

I am born into existence and I grow, develop, and so on until eventually I am found by that rich family and raised for a while until I age too fast and spend the rest of my first year between families. Next comes another year living with various well-meaning poor families who all end up abandoning me but, with reluctant thanks to the rich, I am prepared. By this point, I am the equivalent of a ten year old boy and I find an orphanage and live there for a year through threats and the bending the owner’s superstitious beliefs.

And so, after three actually years upon the Earth and I look fifteen. Each year equals five years until I am thirty, and then I stop growing. I just stop. But why? I travel, I learn, I earn, I frighten, as the anger builds within me and I continue to ask myself why? But remember Henry, take the best parts from life and forget the rest. You promised to stop doing this to yourself! Distraction. It is now an overcast Saturday night and I will use it to take my mind off things. Manchester is the best place I know. The streets and buildings are drenched in history. I love how new and at the same time old the whole place looks and feels. The night is starting to get into full swing with people everywhere and I find myself walking inside a bar I do not recall the name of and I do not care to check. I just wish I had a friend I could share this with though I made my peace with that years ago. I will live, I always do.

“Same again?” I forget his name.

“Yes please. Thank you.” I wish these two drunken men would move from the bar. You have your drinks so why are you still here? It is time for the old nudge and move technique. I am glad I committed to the gym all those years ago.

“Why do you get preferential treatment?” What a nice voice. And was that a twinge of flirt I heard? It is a very rare thing that the most beautiful flower in this particular orchid finds her way to me. I remember one young lady telling me that my light stubble and blue eyes complimented my slightly square jaw and that I must keep my hair short and messy as tall men do not suit long hair. Of all the things I have heard why do I remember what women say about me the most? “Hey, are you okay?”

“Yes. Sorry I got distracted. My girlfriend should be here any moment.” And she is gone. I must stay focused. I cannot fall behind on my schedule. I am sure the First is in Manchester. But how can I be sure? How is it possible that I have not found him after all this time?

*

Thank the lord I actually slept. I thought I never would. Those beers did help I suppose. I need my balcony for some fresh air.

“Where are you?” I say to no one on this crisp October morn. What time is it? I will venture out and get some food. What clothes to wear I wonder? Faded Superman t-shirt, jeans, trainers, done. This café has always been so nice and located on a back street so not many know about it. Though I am sure it will become too popular being in the Northern Quarter so I will probably need to find another personal eatery. It has happened so many times before. Maybe I should have one built myself and keep it running. I have enough money to do so. Or write a book? How can I try and figure out why I exist and what I am meant to do if the First continues to allude me? “Hot chocolate please ma’am.”

“I’ll bring it to your seat.” I have spent my whole life preparing for this quest. The money I have made and saved and the time I have spent learning and developing my skills have lead up to this moment. This point in time. I hope it has all been worth it. Dear lord I am miserable. Where did all my happy thoughts go?

“Get off my bag!!” Where is that coming from? Great. A day light robbery. I should save her I suppose and…wait.

“A up mate, don’t get involved.” Not a chance ‘mate’. And I will not listen to someone who thinks shoes with no socks in October is a suitable choice of footwear. None of his clothes fit they are all hanging off him. Maybe he wants the money for a tighter outfit.

“Sir, give her the bag.” I could attack him now. It is not like I have to worry about a bullet.

“No.” Of course he is resisting.

“Sorry mate.” That noise was deafening. He is running away. What is wrong, my lady? That pain. I remember that pain. My stomach. My…

Finally, one of my plans is working!

Hello

Last time out I said that I was going to write and/or edit as soon as I got home from work whilst my work brain was still on so I made sure write and/or something every day. So far it looks to have been a success. On the editing front anyway.

I’m currently in the throes of editing my story for the http://www.britishfantasysociety.org/the-bfs-short-story-competition-2015/, which is due to close for entries on 30.06.15. Now, I had already written my story and have slowly but surely over the last three been editing it into something I am close to being proud of and close to entering into the aforementioned competition. This editing has been done in small doses, maybe two or three pages at a time, but it is working. As for the other story I am writing, I’m going to put that on pause until after this one is all done and dusted and entered.

So, to the story at hand. To sum it up, it centres on an immortal man who has been roaming the earth, learning and earning as he goes, and is now searching for the meaning of his existence. Surely an immortal man cannot just come into being and wander around aimlessly? Well, that is really what he has been doing and his frustration has been given plenty of time to grow. In fact it has grown to the extent that he will break his one, self-imposed law, to try and finally find what he is looking for. But when he does find it, will it turn out to be all he has ever wanted?

Currently I’m a bit in limbo about that question. I could give him everything he wants but should it be that easy? I’m thinking it shouldn’t be so straight and clean. I am close to answering this question though. I might just flip a coin. Both endings I have in mind are as good as each other but I am a little bit biased towards one. But along with that I another little thing I have to get ironed out.

Due to my immortal man having walked the earth for 114 years he has become polite and well spoken. This means I have decided that he cannot use I’m when he should use I am. And all of the other contractions that people use in everyday life. Do you know how frustrating it is to think that you’ve gotten rid of all the I’m’s only to find there are about five more you’ve missed when you edit it again? And every edit seems to bring up more! Easy now. Calm yourself.

Well, I have successfully wound myself up. I’m going to get…I am going to get back to the edit.

Goodbye

The Training and the Writing combined.

Hello again,

My training for the Manchester 10k run on Sunday 10th May (https://www.greatrun.org/great-manchester-run) is going very well. I’m quietly confident I can improve on my time from last year of 54mins. I also have the added incentive that if I don’t beat my friend then I have buy him a trophy. I think this has made me run just that little bit faster considering I know how he can pull these things out of the bag. I don’t think he’s done a lot of running recently but I bet his best run ever will be on Sunday. Here’s hoping my training will pay off.

Along with my training, I’ve been moving along with my writing and editing.

I’ve taken up walking to work to help pay for a holiday to New York, which is at the end of June. This ends up leaving me, after walking to and from work at a total of 100 minutes, with the overwhelming sense of ‘can’t be arsed’ mode when I get home. I’m moving myself, albeit at a slow pace, away from this and have been editing and writing whilst tired. I was worried that my tiredness would make me write and/or edit below my own standard and I’d have to do it all over again. Meaning I’ve wasted my time. But my editing is coming along well. I’ve got till the end of June but I’m hoping to get it done by the end of May and get my story entered into the http://www.britishfantasysociety.org/the-bfs-short-story-competition-2015/.

My current story that I’m writing has also been moving along nicely and I’ve written my first action scene. Now, you must understand that as I huge fan of westerns I am almost always dreaming up of shoot outs and action sequences based in that genre. But somehow, when I came to write my first ever shoot out, it’s was something completely new. Something I have never thought of before. And something I am now quite proud of. I have always thought the way a cowboy would introduce himself in a film or book would be in his first shoot out. Showing the world, or in this case the small town, exactly what he is made of when it came down to defending himself. In my hero’s first gun fight he’s defending the honour of a horse and in turn standing up for the whole town, who have wanted to do such a thing for years. A henchman to the main villain, named Bronco, is scaring a horse by shooting at its legs. Cue our hero to save the day by showing him exactly how good of a shot he is. This is first act that will set up the rest of the story. I’m looking to push the pace faster and faster from here and build up to an almighty showdown involving everyone who is able to fire a gun in the town. I may even include the women. It could turn into the western equivalent of a Royal Rumble or a Battle Royal. Or possibly Battle Royale? I’m not sure. But as always I’ll keep you informed.

Right, all this talk of progress is making me hungry. To write and eat. So…

Good bye!

That’s time travel done with. What’s next?

Hello

I’ve finished my time travel story! I managed to answer all the questions I had rolling around in my head about it and then come up with two possible endings for it. And now I’ve moved onto another project.

Okay. Picture the scene. I’m typing furiously and marching my way to the end of my story. The hero and villain are engaged in a battle of wills for the fate of the country. As I was writing it I wasn’t really sure where the ending would come from. I had a vague idea but I always prefer it when the ending naturally presents itself. And then two endings did. Great. Another question to answer. Which ending to pick? The happy one, which in itself leaves the reader (or it should anyway) wondering whether our hero has made his decision for the right or wrong reasons, or the apocalyptic one, where everything goes to hell in a hand basket.

I have to say I’ve never been so worked up about the ending to one of my stories in my life. I felt like I was going to tear up when I thought about my apocalyptic ending, which is brought on by an unexpected event. Should I go down the sad route? I thought over and over again. But then I realised that I didn’t really like that ending. Hell, I really didn’t like it and I didn’t think it fitted well with the story. So, I went with the happy one, which leaves unanswered questions. I always prefer books and films that leave you to discuss its ending with others till the end of time rather than have it spoon fed to me. I did write the apocalyptic ending out as well and I’m even more convinced I picked the right one. If ever gets published I’m sure I’ll be proved wrong.

Anyway, once this was done I decided to enter a competition. I had found one but misread the deadline date and it was the end of May 2014. Not 2015. Well done eagle eye. Although it didn’t take me long to find another short story competition to enter. And I can use an already written story for it as well! So now I’m back to editing. Again. Like always. The competition is the British Fantasy Society Short Story comp at www.britishfantasysociety.co.uk. 5,000 words and for any type of fantasy. Wish me luck.

Okay. Have a good week and do good things and all that.

Bye!

Time travel and moral ambiguity. Obviously?

Hello

With my last post in mind I am still no closer to knowing what I would do if I knew when and how I was going to die. And no one else does either considering I didn’t get an answer to the question I posed last time. Yeah, I’m sticking with that for the reason why nobody answered it. I’ll sleep better if I do.

Anyway, I closer to the end of my sci-fi story. Well at least I think I am.

My hero Arthur had just woken up on the day of his death and was about to put his plan in motion. He did just that and it all went exactly as he wanted it to. But only if you forget about the explosive reaction of a certain someone within the government. That someone was watching him all the time and kidnapped him and took him to his lair. Makes my villain sound like the claw or something. He might be? I’ve taken Arthur to his final show down with the villain of the piece and I am enjoying writing it. I have said in the past that I mostly enjoy writing battle scenes but battles of will’s between hero and villain are actually pretty cool to construct in themselves as well.

So how did I end up having to develop moral ambiguity within my story?

This did creep up on me I have to say. I’m about half way through the ending of the story and my hero is faced with a problem. Should he let the government head honcho continue ruling as a secret dictator, which has made the UK very wealthy, or stop him completely and thus restoring the UK population to its free and sometimes reckless self. I’m not sure which way he should go. On the one hand my hero, who is only just beginning to live life the way he wants to after years of slogging away for seemingly nothing, could rule the UK and become an even further behind the scenes dictator of a dictator. On the other hand he could destroy said dictator along with the government and put the UK into potential chaos, but it would be a chaos that could lead to a better future without being pushed down by an iron fist the public currently don’t know anything about.

I got to this point all on my own and then I read a wonderful article by Alex Davis in the February edition of Writing Magazine that concerned character-building. There is a section about moral ambiguity that I seem to have covered all on my own. Though I have opened myself up to asking more questions and making sure I’ve got it right. I may even have to rewrite parts of the story so it will flow.

And with that in mind I’m going to go away and try and answer them. Once my story is finished I’ll post parts of it on here for your eyes to peruse. Or not. Your choice of course.

Bye Bye

The story gets bigger and (hopefully) better.

Hello

So, last time I said I had started a story and that I would probably need only another 8-10 pages to finish it.

That was a lie.

And…well that was the only lie from my last post.

My story, which involves time travel and the impact it has on those who are lucky or unlucky enough to partake in it, is picking up speed but is taking longer than I thought it would. It is for a good reason though.

I realised that I had a lot to explain and that I just wanted to get the story written and not worry about it being a short, novella or long story. In my head I thought 15 pages would be enough but I sit here now with fifteen pages of it done and no time travel having happened. How could such a thing happen? You might ask.

I don’t know, is the answer.

I have made sure to describe everything well enough and to move the story along at a natural pace that I’m comfortable with and 15 pages isn’t enough. At this rate I’m sure it’ll be double that by the time it’s finished. And it doesn’t help that each time I think the next paragraph is going to have my hero travelling through time, which will change the pace of the story and everything from there will move along a lot faster, I discover I need to explain something else. Or set something up. Or describe something important. Each time this has happened with this and every other story I’ve ever written, I’ve been annoyed.

But then I move on.

To what? You may ponder. Well, to bigger and better things regarding my story hopefully. Each time I thought of something else I needed to cover I immediately knew that it needed to be done for the story to work. All the seemingly endless parts of the story must link together to make the whole thing run just like a song right?

And so it is that I’m now on the cusp of making my hero travel through time. What will happen to him? How will it change him? What will happen?!

No idea. But I’ll tell you when I know.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week.

Bye.