Apologies for not posting on here for such a long time. The original premise behind this blog was to detail the experiences of a writer choosing to go down the self-publishing path rather than looking for an agent. Little was I to know that many a writer were already blogging about the exact same topic, and were doing so in a more effective manner than I could ever manage. So over the last few months I have been racking my brains, trying to figure out what the purpose of this blog should be.

I certainly don't want it to just become a store front for my writing. I'd like to share my experiences with indie publishing, my peculiar passions and my thoughts on the uncertain political climate we find ourselves in.

So you can expect the following over the next few months:

- Stories about how my experiments with writing genre fiction under a pseudonym works out.

- A best of list for all things artistic and cultural for the year 2011.

- A discussion about the road block I have hit with a certain project.

If there's anything you'd like me to discuss, please let me know!


Interview with David Majlak

One of the great things about self-publishing as an indie author is the bonds you develop with fellow writers. The following is the second of many interviews that will be conducted with my esteemed colleagues. 

Tell us about the books you currently have available.

I have several books available. My first was My Suicide Note: A Sockdolager From Me To America. I chose the word Sockdolager because I saw it as the word of the day, and it means a concise argument or a closing, well done and convincing argument. It's a discussion with the reader about over 30 topics of problems that government has the ability to solve but does not, and is quite contradictory about it. For example, if the FDA is concerned with public health and safety, and recalls beef the second they find out about e.coli, or they shut down plants for health violations, why then have they not banned cigarettes? That shows how much they really care about taking their job seriously, and the same goes for Congress and government in general. I even provide a few of my own solutions at the bottom in case a wealthy reader happens to find my book and takes things into their own hands.

My second book, Building Your Own Computer - No Frills, No Filler, Just Answers. was written because there are tons of people out there confused over computer hardware and the evolution they take every 2 years. I write from experience, as i've put together several of my own from scratch, and the other books on the market give you 300 pages of nonsense and even still use computer jargon when people are still confused when we're talking about memory. I cut it down to 50 pages, include pictures, spell everything out for the reader, and talk about what will directly affect them as consumers so that they know what they want, what they need, and what they might want in the future from their computers. It gives them purchasing power, they get more for their money, and I even include a small troubleshooting section at the bottom with information most books just won't give you without experience. You DON'T want to find out what standoffs are the hard way.

My third book, Meditations For My Children, was written for teenagers and parents to gauge the maturity development of children to make sure that everything in developing in line with school studies and body growth. Just because one does well in school and isn't on drugs doesn't make them mature. The world is a cruel place, and we need to make sure kids enter college with a standard of ethics and morality, and have the ability to ask themselves tough questions and things they wouldn't normally ask themselves. We know we aren't adults until we stop answering questions with "I dunno" right? I also include a bunch of uplifting ideas in there to help manage sadness and depression, because we all know kids can do some crazy things these days.

My fourth book, Quick Exercise For Everybody - Your Body Is What You Make It was written because I was tired of seeing my friends and other people reach for exercise programs that just take your money and make you sweat a little. I used to exercise myself, and I scoured the internet for information that delivered. I forget who used the quote, but "If you learn only methods, you are bound to use those methods. If you learn principles, you can devise your own methods." and that's what my book does. It gives you the principle of developing muscle, increasing your metabolism, and creating your own diet so that you're not stuck to using any one thing that might not work for you. The purpose is to teach you what you need to know, so that you can apply it and adapt it to your own lifestyle, because what works for me might not work for you. We need to get it right the first time, and it'll teach you what you need to know.

My fifth book, The Anti-Bible, is a collection of photo's about God's contradictory nature. It's very funny, and provides a laugh for anyone. I knew a book like this wasn't on the market, and I thought people would enjoy it, and so I put it together. Here's one of the good ones: GOD IS OMNIPRESENT. ADAM AND EVE HIDE SUCCESSFULLY IN GARDEN. Haha.

Tell us about the process of writing your first book/short story? How difficult did you find it?

The process I use to write my literature is that I allow it to just come to me. You can't just sit down and slap your fingers on the keys and allow anything meaningful to develop. You get tired, you have mental stress at various stages of the week, and you just really have to be in the mood. I find that if I force myself to write, my literature turns to garbage in no time fast. Usually I don't need more than two or three days off, and the motivation comes all by itself, so I don't find the writing difficult at all. I'm creative all by myself, I just need the motivation and excitement to continue the process.

Please share your favourite paragraph from each of your works.

I would share a favorite paragraph from each of my books, but the fact of the matter is that I can't share just a paragraph. There's so much information and detail going on that you need an entire chapter. All of my books have about 20% worth of free preview though, so that's space saved on here.

What are you currently working on?

I'm in the middle of writing My Journal As A New Father, detailing my experience of being an expecting father, and will include the first three months of my baby's life. Some of us just aren't dedicated, and for those of us who are, I'm here to let them know what it's really about.

I'm also in the middle of writing RPG Baby! Level Up Your Child! Which is a child development book full of quoted research and information solely for the purpose of giving your child the best leg up they can get. It includes information such as giving the baby the highest IQ and development possible, what research has shown, things to look out for, and what you can do to basically make every one of your kids a mature smarty pants.

I'm also in the middle of my first fiction novel. It's coming along quite nicely, I haven't chosen a name for it yet, but it's part of a series of 4 other books that are just for the sake of giving the reader the backstory! That's right. The 6th book will be the actual beginning of my series' story, and beyond. That's because the plot i've chosen integrates the 5 books with each other, and converges into the 6th, with mystery and conflict aplenty. It's literally quite fantastic.

Which writers and artists have influenced your work so far?

I think Ernest Hemingway and/or Mark Twain have influenced my work the most. Reading them for the summer reading list was just lovely. They're real writers, and too many other authors just can't hold a candle to them. The writers that work on the WarHammer 40,000 series are also amazing. Some of the stories can be a bit dry, but the rest of them are just saturated and really draw you in without bombarding you with too much dialogue or detail.

What inspires you to write?

My wife and my baby inspired me to write. Since i'm a logistical and analytical person, I figured that my chances were highest of becoming successful in life the earliest if I wrote. I actually began writing when I was tired of life (at 24? I know...) and of the government lying and not taking care of its people like it's supposed to, and spawned my first book because I thought I would write a letter to the government as if it had forced me to commit suicide, and that's what caused the spark. It started over a year ago, but after I published the work after cleaning up the anger it contained in exchange for wit 6 months ago, I've been pushing out a book a month almost ever since. 

If you could take three books with you on to a desert island - which ones would you choose and why?

If I could take three books with me on a desert island, I would take really really REALLY fat novels of survival and island living guides. Whatever gets me the most survivability per page. If I can turn that desert island into paradise, that's the book for me.

From your experiences so far, what would be your best piece of advice for aspiring indie authors?

From my experience so far, the best advice I can give for aspiring indie authors would be to try to polish as much as you can the first time, because first impressions are crucial, but don't let perfect be the enemy of very good. I would also say that as new writers, we need to remove ourselves from our text in introductions and descriptions - people don't want to read about our life story. They picked up the book because they were interested. They read it because they wanted to know more. Keep yourself to your author bio, and you might have a better start than I did. Don't just be an author. Be a good writer.

Author of Meditations For My Children, Building Your Own Computer - No Frills, No Filler, Just Answers, My Suicide Note: A Sockdolager From Me To America, Quick Exercise For Everybody - Your Body Is What You Make It, and The Anti-Bible. Samples of my work may be found below.



Summers Are For Writing

Traditionally, the summer witnesses the lowest book sales of the entire year. In particular, the period between the 4th of July until the end of August is extremely quiet. I have seen threads on many forums complain about a significant drop in sales, but this decline is seasonal so it should not cause too much concern.

That is why I believe that this is the perfect time of year to really push on with any writing projects that we are working on. At the moment, most marketing efforts will fall on deaf ears so why not instead utilise this time of year to do what a writer loves best: writing. Set yourself a target to reach by the first day of September and do your absolute best to reach it.

One of the biggest challenges facing 'new' authors in the e-book landscape is that we are competing against authors (whether indie or traditionally published) who have sizeable back catalogues. So we need to do our absolute best to produce works of consistent quality that captivate the collective imaginations of our audience.

I have a feeling that the advent of the e-book will reward prolific writers who are able to produce diverse and engaging works of literature. So get writing - it is easy to get lost in the endless sprawl of marketing advice, but it is important to remind ourselves that there is nothing more important than the actual writing process itself.

Speaking of which, I will be unveiling a couple of exciting new projects over the next couple of days. Stay tuned for more information...


How to deal with bad reviews

Bad reviews are never a nice thing to receive - but I do think there is a way to soften the blow that they deliver.

From what I have seen there are 3 types of bad reviews you can receive (if you have any more, please add them below) and each one requires a different response:

1. Complaints about formatting and grammar - it is terrible when you receive this sort of review as it questions your professionalism as an author. However, it is a problem that can be fixed - you can re-work your manuscript or hire a proofreader and/or someone to format your book and correct these problems.

2. Complaints about the price - with the 'brand authors', you will often see readers leaving one star reviews because the e-book costs more than the print version of the book. But with self-published authors, I have found readers leaving negative reviews because someone has price a short story for $5 - make sure your writing is reasonably priced - and if you are selling shorter fiction make sure you state that it is a short story several times in your Product Description so your reader does not feel like they are being mislead.

3. Complaints about the quality of your writing - this is the toughest of the three as it questions your actual abilities as a writer. To make your self feel better, look up your three favourite novels - I am pretty sure you will find a number disparaging views for these books. Just as an example, I looked up Moby Dick on Amazon UK - I was shocked to see that Melville's masterpiece has 14 1 star and 15 2 star reviews out of 112 reviews.

However, if someone critiques your work rather than just saying, 'This is really crap, I demand a return', it would be foolish not to take their criticism on board and use it to ensure your next book improves.

Of course, there will be times when a negative review mixes all three of the above, but as writers we need to believe in the work we put out and be as thick-skinned as possible (as hard as that can be). 


Interview with Meghan Ciana Doidge

One of the great things about self-publishing as an indie author is the bonds you develop with fellow writers. The following is the first of many interviews that will be conducted with my esteemed colleagues. 

Tell us about the books you currently have available.

I have just “soft” launched my first novel, After the Virus, on Amazon in the Kindle format. After the Virus is an action-filled, post-apocalyptic novel set in modern day North American. The tale is told via alternating viewpoints from Rhiannon, who is stuck in kickass, survivor mode, to Will, who is trying to hide away from the devastation of humanity.

Which character of yours do you most identify with?

Usually the female lead, which in the case of After the Virus, would be Rhainnon.

Tell us about the process of writing your first book/short story? How difficult did you find it?

I actually stumbled into writing a novel as a Twitter exercise. I usually write screenplays and short films. After twittering the story of Rhiannon and Will for a couple of weeks I realized I was writing a novel. Then it became a little daunting, novels are WAY longer than screenplays, but over all it was a great experience, as the writing really flowed.

Please share your favourite paragraph from each of your works.

Hmmm… favourite paragraph, let’s see. How about this one (which is actually a little longer than a paragraph!):
“He closed the tailgate just as he heard the passenger door slam. She buckled up, then sat, clutching her sack and staring straight ahead. He might vomit. He wasn’t sure if it was the fear of hurting her further, or the trust she’d so readily placed in him, that made him ill. He ripped open a box of granola bars and climbed into the truck. He placed the bars on the seat beside him and shifted the truck into gear.
“Might be stale,” he warned, then he ate one anyway.
She reached a tentative hand, caked in dirt and blood, to press play on the stereo. He’d been listening to this on the drive over, but now, the third verse of Paul Simon’s “Call Me Al” hit him in the gut. He finally got it. He clenched his jaw to quell the rising emotion. The girl bobbed her head along with the bass line. He’d never had an epiphany before. In this moment, he chose to become the man he’d always wanted his father to be.

What are you currently working on?

A series of short stories based in the world of After the Virus, a bloody comedy called High School Reunion from Hell, and the 1st book in my Dragon Chronicles series.

Which writers and artists have influenced your work so far?

The complete list would be crazy long, but in short, After the Virus, was written in homage to Margaret Atwood, Stephen King & Robert Kirkman. I am also very influenced by the Coen Brothers, Tarantino, and William Gibson.

What inspires you to write?

Mostly there is just a story in my head and I need to get it onto paper… I love to see how it is all going to play out, but, if I am stuck, listening to music usually cements me back into the story. I make a playlist for each project I am working on.

How often do you write?

Usually every day, if I am lucky.

If you could take three books with you on to a desert island - which ones would you choose and why?
Can’t I just take my ereader and every digital book I own?? Well, I guess the battery would eventually run out… this is a really difficult question… I suppose I should say The Bible, The Illiad and Paradise Lost or The Canterbury Tales, just to sound like a writer probably should sound, but honestly I haven’t read those in years and then I only read them once! How about The Stand, Gone with the Wind, and Pattern Recognition?

From your experiences so far, what would be your best piece of advice for aspiring indie authors?

Write, write and write more. Don’t edit yourself on your first pass. Then get feedback from a lot of different people. Temper this feedback with your vision for the story. Rewrite, then rewrite again. Make sure you have a clear beginning, middle and end. Believe.
Bio: Meghan Ciana Doidge is an award-winning independent filmmaker based out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She has a penchant for bloody love stories, superheroes, and the supernatural. She also has a bit of a thing for chocolate, potatoes, and sock yarn.
AFTER THE VIRUS is Meghan’s first novel.
You can connect with her on: her personal blog, www.madebymeghan.ca

…as well as all the usual social media suspects.
Amazon Kindle link: http://amzn.to/m8XXkj

Free sample chapters: http://wp.me/P1B9jn-b


The June Challenge - Write A Thousand Words A Day

I spent most of May looking up ways to market my book and obsessively checking my sales figures on Amazon. Although the research I did will probably pay off in the long term, I do not want to spend the next month following a similar pattern as I have quite a few projects I am working on. Here is a list of what I am working on at the moment:

1. I have written around 18,000 words of a skeleton draft of the first book of a science fiction trilogy I am writing.
2. I have put down 1,500 words of a crime short story set in London that introduces a team of crime-fighters that will becoming an ongoing series involving short stories, novellas and novels.
3. I have sketched an outline for three political essays I have been working on for the last year or so.

The great thing about e-publishing is that I get to set my own deadlines and can be as prolific as I want. The downside, though, is that this means I need to try and shift my mentality and try and write on a far more regular basis.

Therefore I am setting myself the challenge of writing 1,000 words a day for the month of June. I am choosing to blog about it for two reasons:

1. By blogging about it rather than just making a note about this plan in a diary, there is a greater degree of accountability that will motivate to meet this target.
2. By writing weekly about my attempts to match this goal, it will inspire other writers to do similar things. We are in the midst of some unprecedented upheavals that are taking place in the publishing industry. I suspect that prolific writers who are able to sustain a high quality of writing will be able to do very well for themselves over the coming decade.

Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting that simply by churning out X amount of words a day I am guaranteed to end up with consistently great writing. But I would rather be in a situation at the end of the month where I keep 10,000 of 30,000 words than writing a few thousands words that I do relatively little with (which is the case for this month).

I will also try to blog more regularly and will definitely put up a weekly post to let you know how I progress with this challenge.


Two Weeks On Kindle

                                                 Joan Miro - Still Life With Old Shoe

I have now had my two books available for Kindle for exactly two weeks. It has been unbelievably exciting to have my books available to such a large audience (getting them to read it is another matter though ;-)).

Here are some observations I have made:

- The feeling I got when I sold my first book was completely unexpected. The unabashed joy was a little disconcerting as I am not normally prone to bouts of giddy excitement, but it was certainly a pleasant feeling.

- Be wary of spending too much time promoting your book and not enough time writing your next project. There are so many ways to promote your book (Twitter, Facebook, a blog, numerous message boards etc.) that one can get lost in trying to promote one's books as often as possible.

Yes, it is important to establish an infrastructure whereby you can communicate with your readers, but this should not come at the expense of your actual writing. We live in an age of instant communication, but it is worth remembering that the best books are timeless. There is a reason that the best Victorian novels have never gone out of print.

Therefore, I would suggest the best form of marketing is to write a really good book. And once you have done that, write another one!

- Beware of trolls on certain message boards. Before jumping in the deep-end on some of the message boards I was recommended to check out, I decided to read some of the threads - and my word did I find some paranoid, rude and extremely hostile people lurking about. Therefore, I may avoid quite a few of the message-boards for now - there are almost as bad as the horrible comments you find under the most popular Youtube videos.

Having said that, there are some very nice people too who are playing a crucial role in spreading the word about books by indie authors. And one particular board, Amazon's own KDP board, is far and away the friendliest message board I have ever frequented. There is a small community of authors there who are all trying to help each other out and are happy to welcome all newcomers.

- My new addiction is checking my sales. Thanks to the wonders of technology, the sales update every hour. Which is terrible for someone who cannot help checking these figures every time he jumps on a computer! I am hoping the novelty of this wears off as it is fast becoming an all-consuming endeavour.

Speaking of sales, I am selling close to two books a day at the moment, which is very cool indeed. However, I have no idea if this is just friends and family picking up my books, so I will have to wait and see if I can sustain, or even increase, this amount of sales.


Camel On An Ashtray Excerpt

The following is the second chapter from my novella Camel On An Ashtray:

Is This It

Sonell sucks his saliva as the corrosive ethanol whirls around his mouth; its texture is grimy and thick and actively attacks his gums. It tastes of nothing, yet leaves an abhorrent aftertaste. The vicious smell of morning-after alcohol is so pungent he motions to open his bedroom window, but falls back into bed when he realises he is still significantly intoxicated.
He sneaks a quick peek under his cover; he can see his genitals, the only item of clothing he is wearing is his shirt from the previous night. As he attempts to recollect the evening’s events but struggles to piece together a linear narrative, he realises that he must have been extremely drunk. Therefore, the technique of ‘remembrance after an acutely drunken night out’ is initiated. Simultaneously, he blinks continuously and works his way through the displaced fragments of the night that project in the cinema of his mind.   
Pulling a sock up his left leg, his mother reminding him to wear a jacket, a stranger avoiding eye contact with him, Jagdeep shoving a wad of fifty pound notes under his nose, (he immediately realises these two events are not in chronological, and places them correctly), Prada white boots, a rabbit serving Tequila, a large nose almost poking him in the face, shoe, a black shoe with skinny laces. Blank.  
He remembers little else and realises a lot of the evening is missing. He rummages under his quilt, finds his mobile phone near his left foot, it is a quarter to five.  
            Water; his thirst awakens, sudden and sharply. This desire is so acute that it is as if he has been lost in a sweltering hot desert for days.
He sees that his bedside jug of water is empty. Begrudgingly stumbling upwards and awkwardly locating his centre of gravity; he hobbles into the bathroom, which is half a foot away from his bedroom. Gently; the door is locked, the tap is opened.
Streams of unfiltered light sparkle through the large window on the north side of the bathroom, exacerbating his headache, while the sudden sound of the stream of water reminds him of consuming unpleasant spirits the previous evening.

Eleven thirty. They will all be up now; time to find out what happened, he thinks.
“What the hell d’yu want? I told you, we’re not on speaking terms,” Pamdeep yells.   
“Eh?” is all Sonell can muster. He has rarely heard Pamdeep raise his voice at him. “I barely spoke to you last night dude. How can we not be talking?”
“Nish was right; you can’t remember a thing, can you? Who dropped you home last night?”
“To be honest mate, I’ve no idea, but I’m guessing it was you?” Sonell replies, stating these words in as humorous a tone as possible, attempting to manipulate the ire bent against him.  
“When you get stupidly drunk, I can hack it. When you chat shit, I can hack it. Even when you dance so vulgarly that you embarrass all of us, I can take it. But when you open my car door, when I am driving at seventy miles an hour, you’ve crossed the line!” Pamdeep states before hanging up on him.  
Sonell’s guilt compels him to call Pamdeep back.
“Look dude, put the phone down if you want, but only after hearing me out. I am shocked and appalled at my actions, and hereby solemnly swear not to touch another drop of alcohol when I am with you guys. If I break this solemn oath, never utter a word to me again.”
“Good on you. Come on Sunny, what would you’re parents say if they saw you in that state last night?”
“Yep. Are you coming over for the Spurs testimonial game?”    
“Definitely! I’ll be there two-ish. Is Keane gonna play?”
“Before we go in to all that - do me a favour dude. Tell me what happened last night. I remember seeing a shoe…”
“Don’t lie. Sukhbir was looking for his shoe all night! Some lafunga took it off while he was on the can. Poor guy was taking a piss, when someone pulled his shoe off. He was so angry; he left half an hour before us! Ha, you should’ve seen his face, he went skitz! You were even more of a joker! You approached a load of hot girls - they all completely blanked you, but you carried on anyway! Then you went into the middle of the dance-floor, made the whole crowd make a circle, as you attempted to dance Billie Jean!”
“So, uh, I’m no Michael Jackson?”
Pamdeep chuckles heavily.   
Sonell cuts off the conversation and moves on to the next account. He dials Sukhbir, who picks up after three rings,
“Sonny, how you doing man?” Sukhbir states with an over-emphasised huskiness to his tone that he assumes implies that he had a great night out.  
“Dear me! You sound like I feel. What’s the matter dude?” he feigns, already aware of what his response will be.  
“Some twat nicked of my shoes last night. I mean, who steals a shoe? They’re my lucky clubbing shoes!” Sukhbir laments.
For all his vanity, there is something undeniably endearing about Sukhbir, Sonell thinks. He realises that he himself is being simple-minded in merely focusing on all the pitch-black parts of the tribe’s palette; he must bleed all of the colours from their very root.    
“Did you get it back?”
“Nah, I had to hop for five minutes till I could find a cab to go home in – and I was having such a good night as well. Free booze, pulling this amazing looking girl! Don’t tell anyone else, but I was getting off with her in the men’s bathroom - that was when my shoe got nicked!”
Sonell instantaneously remembers what happened.
“If I found that idiot, I’d have given him a big slap!”    
“Cheers mate. But enough of that. Mate you were hammered last night. How did you manage that, you started drinking really late. And you were at your funniest as well, you kept reciting some shit in Latin, or was it Greek? What the hell does it mean?”
Sonell immediately knows it can only be one phrase as it’s the only one he knows by heart.  
“Of all the ills there are, Rumour is the swiftest. She thrives on movement and gathers strength as she goes. From small and timorous beginnings she soon lifts herself up into the air, her feet still on the ground and her head hidden in the clouds. It’s from…”
“OK enough of that - how did things go with that girl last night?” Girl, what girl? All Sonell can remember is a pair of Prada boots.  
“No comment.” 
“Come on, I told you about my thing.” Sukhbir protested.  
“How come you didn’t tell Pamdeep about it, he thinks you were taking an innocent piss when your shoe was taken?”
“Don’t change the subject. But you know why, it’s my personal mantra. You have friends for different reasons. He comes into the category of talking football and playing computer games with. Don’t get me wrong he’s a great bloke, but for me that’s as far as we go.” 
“So what category do I fall into?” Sonell enquires.  
“Oh mate, you shouldn’t need to ask that."
“I’ll tell you what happened - what you think happened.” Sonell states with over-emphasis; he is still unsure if anything did, but a white lie would do him no harm.    
“Nice one.”

‘There is so much of everything,’
A sudden pause. Sonell surges through the pathways of his mind, looking for an ending to this semblance of a half-sentence. He types the letter Y, yet his thoughts stumble again.  
He is now sitting on his leather swivel chair while he tries to start writing a short story on his large desktop computer while nursing the mother of all hangovers. Although it is now mid-afternoon his yellow-burgundy curtain remains fully drawn as his hangover has transformed him into a vampire that is incapable of tolerating natural light.   
Unable to focus, he opens iTunes and skims through the thousands of songs on his playlist until finally deciding to listen to Elvis’ ‘Return to Sender’. As it plays, he starts to dance in his chair, whispering the words of this song which he only half knows.   
That rare opening of the channel of any productive thoughts has once again been closed as the banality of inaction returns. He goes on onto Google and searches for potential Elvis sightings, there are 287034 matches. Scrolling down the page, he finds a match. All the supposed sightings are outrageously hilarious. One in particular strikes a chord. Someone claims to have spotted him in Surrey, England on the Seventh of March in 2003, much to his humoured surprise,
‘We was at the supermarket when we noticed a Cadillac in the disabled slot when we’s was picking out potatoes. We saw Elvis with a trolley of fish fingers and everyone knew it was him’.  
            He pictures the character who would have told this tale; a slightly overweight man with a rapidly receding hairline, Homer Simpson belly and exaggerated Cockney accent.   
It is all far too funny not to be shared with someone, so he picks up his mobile phone and calls Jack, four and a half rings later there is an answer,
“Yes yes,” Jack mumbles. His voice is extremely groggy, rarely have words required this much effort.  
“You absolute clown, I’ve woken you up haven’t I?” He replies, in an absurdly over-exaggerated voice.  
“Nope, just lying in bed.”  
“And how long’s that been happening?”
“Let’s see. Well, it’s about quarter to two now, so almost fourteen hours.”  
“Fair play. Anyway, I’ve just seen the jokesest thing on the net.”
“Ha, you’re so damn predictable. Cheers mate, you’ve just won me a fiver,” says Jack with a sense of triumph.  
“You’ve lost me, what are you going on about?”
“How’s that short story coming along, the one you’re entering in for that internet competition?”
“Urm, written about a line so far. Anyway, as I was saying...”
“Don’t change the subject. The deadline’s tomorrow night; let’s be honest, it’s not gonna be sent or written today.”   
“I think it will.”
“It won’t and you know it won’t - and the reason I said you’ve won me a fiver is ‘cos me and Nick have made a cheeky little wager on whether you’d get it done by the end of the week.”
“Thanks for having so much faith.” he replies faintly, the last word is mumbled. “So I’ve got almost two days to win Nick a fiver?”
“Don’t tell me that, go do it then!”
“OK, but can I tell you something really, really funny first?”
“No, you can’t.” 
“Fair play, speak to you in a bit.”
“Yes yes, call me when you’re done.”  
            As he presses the red button on his phone, he closes his connection to the internet and reopens the document where he was writing the short story.
‘There is so much of everything, yet so little of anything’.  
            A combination of relief and delight encompass his understated smile. He has spent weeks working on what he considers to be the perfect opening line.
He had gone through every opening line in every book on his shelves, typed them up and tried to work out a pattern. After hundreds of failed attempts, he at last chanced upon a line he was satisfied with. The problem now was coming with a story to fill up the rest of the blank page.


Three games in and he was already on auto-pilot. Each year the graphics of this game become more realistic. Yet every once in a while he can see all that is really there, a collection of binary numbers propped up by a complex graphics machine.
            He is losing by two goals to nil to his younger brother Jeevan and is feeling exasperated. This frustration stems partly from the game, but most of it is from the list of ever-growing problems manifesting in his mind; writing (his lack of it), four months free with nothing planned…
“Do you want to do something this summer?” he states after three minutes of silence.  
“Ask me after we finish playing, stop trying to distract me!”
“When else do we get time to talk about it? When we’re downstairs with everyone else in the house, when I’m out in the evening and you never bother coming with me?”  
“Fine, you want me to…” just as Jeevan is going to react to Sonell’s outburst, Sonell scores a wonder goal from outside the penalty box. Sonell cannot hide his delight and thrusts his newly-clenched fist upwards.   
In response Jeevan pauses the game and proceeds to lecture his older brother.  
“No more talking in any matches, ever! Whenever you do, you always score! And so you don’t have an excuse and no, I can’t go anywhere this summer because I have to build that website for dad…So you we’re distracting me! Ha!”    
            Sonell simply nods his head and plays on. He ends up winning the match and the next two as well while sticking to his brother’s rule of maintaining silence.
He considers writing a story about a man who has a video game addiction, but fears the competition judges would not take such a subject matter seriously.

2032 Excerpt 3

The following is the third and final excerpt from my book 2032. The book is split into four sections - the following is from the third section: 

18th August

“Glad you could join us tonight! Gosh do we have one heck of a show lined up for you: it’s the 100th episode of the Death Lottery! I’m your host Kate K and for those of you tuning in to finally lose your Death Lottery virginity let me give you a quick rundown of the rules:
“We’ve taken this Seventh Circle mall and filled it with all our contestants. In a few minutes time one of them will receive a text message informing them that they are the original ticket holder...our cameras will then locate this person, hand them this 18 carat gold ticket; then, I will announce to the entire mall this evening’s checkpoint...the goal is to cash in the golden ticket by handing it to me at the checkpoint.
“The twist is that any one of the contestants can win because anything goes – apart from using weapons of course – you can kick, punch or assault the ticket holder in any manner. The advantage of being the ticket holder is you’re granted a ten second amnesty at the very start where only you can move.
“Now for you seasoned viewers out there we’ve gotta few surprises for tonight’s anniversary edition. Instead of the usual five hundred competitors we’ve got one thousand people here. You just know we’re gonna smash are all-time record of two hundred and forty seven deaths! And as we’ve yet to have the original ticket holder cash in his ticket, we’re gonna give him or her a little help, which’ll vary depending on their location. And last but certainly not least the prize money is doubled to twenty million Stronts!
“I’m gonna hand you over to the greatest damn play-by-play commentators in any Sector on the Globe: please wolf whistle at your screens in appreciation of Alvey A. Adee and Francis B. Loomis! Woo!”
“Could there be a better way to kick off this historic show than with the sweet words of the gorgeous Kate K?”
“I’m lost for words Alvey! Only kidding...man I gotta tell you I’m psyched about the little tweaks to the new rules; I know the question on all our viewer’s minds: what the heck is the O.T.H. gonna get to help him or her become the very first person of all time to cash in that golden ticket as the original holder. What’s your guess Alvey?”
“Well it all depends you know? I mean, if, and it’s a big if, they allow this person to break the rule of having a weapon...”
“A knife?”
“Oh no, I reckon it’d be something more lethal.”
“A machine gun!”
“That’s going a little too far...our fantastic sponsors G-FORCE wouldn’t want a total bloodbath.”
“You know me, I’m the over excitable one!”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself Francis, you’ve just got a wild imagination and gosh darn it the viewers love to take a peek in to that hair-brained mind of yours. But yeah, I reckon it may be something non-violent but still devastating, like a stun grenade.”
“Bang! Pow! If that doesn’t get your juice s flowing I don’t know what will.”
“It’s time to start the countdown people, here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Count us in Francis.”
“In under a moment’s moment’s time I’m gonna count us in the most eagerly anticipated event since Cain and Abel rumbled in the jungle with that two legged alligator. Whether you’re in a bar, at home or on cloud number nine get off your seats and get the party started! Ten-nine-eight-seven-six...you count in the rest people...louder now I can’t here you...two-one-here we go!”
“The ten thousand plus cameras are live as we give you our O.T.H...back to you Kate.”
“I’m on the seventy fourth floor and I’m nearing our O.T.H. I’ll just follow the hollerin’...what’s your name sweetheart?”
“Yes! Woo, my name’s Ursula; I’m nineteen and I’m a window cleaner.”
“Well isn’t that the prettiest name? I can confirm that you are the youngest O.T.H. we’ve ever had! Gosh you can just tell it’s gonna be a special night where all sortsa records are gonna be smashed.
“It’s time to find out what floor the checkpoint is on. You hoping for higher or lower?”
“Higher for sure, I’m a great climber.”
“Well Ursula, sweetheart, as you can see there are seven boxes to my right. I need you to pick one so we can find your final destination.”
“That one.”
“You sure?”
“Positively certain.”
“I like your confidence. Let’s take a look at what’s behind box number five...second floor! Baby girl you’ve got yourself a slobber knocker of a fight...I can confirm that’s the third largest gap in floors we’ve ever had. How you feeling?”
“All I can see is the new place I’ll be able to buy me and my folks when I see you next.”
“You’ve got a sweeter tongue than a politician. Good luck. This is where we head into unchartered territory for this show...rather than kicking the lottery off right away we’re gonna head back to the boys for half a minute or so while we fit Ursula with her gift.”
“The signing of the Magna Carta, Columbus landing on the shores of America, Neil Armstrong’s first footstep on the moon, Michelangelo painting the final brushstroke on the Sistine Chapel, Shakespeare conjuring ‘to be or not to be’, Jesse Owens winning his fourth gold medal in the Berlin Olympics, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and now the mysterious introduction of a hidden weapon in the 100th Death Lottery.”
“You just lit the fire in every viewer’s belly Francis; you’ve even ruffled my usually implacable demeanour, this is as good and as big as it gets.
“I just wanna point you in the direction of a viewer’s poll we ran online where we’ve asked the fans to guess what the surprise could be and the most popular choice is an invisibility cloak. Do they even exist yet? You can tell I’m getting on a bit!”
“Lord almighty that is a berserk, stupendously brilliant idea. I think you’re right we don’t have ‘em yet but could you imagine the publicity the manufacturer would get if they introduced such an awesome product on the 100th episode of the Death Lottery?”
“Indeed. We now return to the seventy fourth floor where we can find Ursula...remember as soon as the camera hits her face her ten seconds begin...and we’re off.”
“Alvey look, look! She’s gotta red helmet and a large rucksack. What could this all mean...and she’s running with frightening speed towards the balcony...four seconds left...and she’s jumped...unbelievable! Diabolical! A parachute! Ingenious; but wait, time is up and look! A ton of people are jumping off their floors to try and stop her...and one of them nailed her – and now, oh my God we’ve got two people on top of her as they plunge to the ground floor but wait! Alvey!”
“Resolute Ursula, just before hitting the ground spun round and landed on her two assailants. We’ve gotta pull up an instant replay of that.”
“Bam! But the show goes on and Ursula has taken her helmet off and is using it as a weapon but she’s crowded and in big trouble...snap, oh God you could hear her arm break from here...and what’s this...unparalleled madness...there are hundreds of people jumping from the higher floors, the drive to win the Death Lottery surpasses the fear of death and we’ve got us a growing pile of dismembered bodies. But where’s the ticket? Where’s Ursula? The suspense is killing me Alvey...”
“The Death Lottery never fails to surprise but this has gotta trump everything that’s gone before as I can confirm that nine hundred and ninety two of the contestants are in that pile. The other eight are all waiting for lifts on the fifty third, ninety fifth and thirty seventh floors but we cannot cut away from the shot in front of us as we see people writhe in agony while others lie dead.
“Wait just a goddamn second it cannot be, look, it’s Ursula! Zoom in, closer, would you believe it! The window cleaner lives! And she’s kicking and clawing her way from the bottom of the pile. A blow to her head but Lazarus endures, unbelievable! How Alvey, how?”
“I can confirm six of the eight have got into lift and the earliest ETA to the first floor is fifty seconds.”
“She is out of the pile but two large men have just slid down the top of the pile and have her surrounded...a punch is thrown but she ducks so the other guy is taken out and boom! Damn that’s gotta hurt as she nails the other guy with a knee to the groin; now she’s limping towards the escalator...she’s gripping her broken arm and she makes it!”
“And remember folks that the people in the lifts are now going to the wrong floor and even though as you can now see on your right hand corner the first one has arrived surely they are too late. We are well on course to have our shortest Death Lottery of all time!”
“Time is inconsequential when you are in the presence of the sublime and make no mistake folks this is a conscious-altering, jaw-shattering moment that radically alters the parameters of this beautiful game. This just in, according to the green sensors six hundred and forty four people are confirmed dead making this far and away the highest death count and confirming this as the greatest show we’ve ever had but let’s return to our pictures as we see Ursula near the computer shop where Kate K lies. She is stumbling along and she looks over her shoulder and she can see two of the others on the escalator and she is now running in the most dignified elegant manner I’ve seen and yes that is the sound of a grown man crying because this young girl just blew the world’s mind and I’m humbled that it’s me and Alvey relaying these unforgettable timeless moments to you.”
“She’s leaning against the big glass doors and she’s pushed herself in and she’s done it! The images speak for themselves, wow!
“Stay tuned as the heroic Ursula speaks to our Kate K after these messages.”

2032 Excerpt 2

The following is the second excerpt from my book 2032. The book is split into four sections - the following is from the second section:

15th June

Lucetta’s white parachute descended onto the moistening snow with the measured elegance of the train of a wedding dress stroking the white marble floor of a gothic cathedral as the snow wrapped around her many layers like a ball of cotton wool.
The snow covered ground was indivisible from the sky, which was as white as an unblemished canvas; they were joined together by the thickening mist and like the unexpected appearance of a camera trick in an otherwise straightforward genre movie, this skewered her sense of perspective as a distant star penetrated the blanketed sky, emitting an aureate blade of light that was scattered by the blanched haze into a thousand shards of light that appeared to her as if a large galaxy had been shrunk and transported to her immediate gaze.
She peered at an apricot floating in the distance and followed it with the enthusiasm of a child chasing her first butterfly, but as she drew nearer the optical illusion corrected itself as the apricot transformed into a steel behemoth.   
            As tall as a double-decker bus with eight grey wheels turning hypnotically in unison, the machine stopped alarmingly close to her feet. A tall man lent out his hand and helped her onto the machine, his face was covered by a balaclava but his eyes gleamed at hers. They were minute green eyes with greying lashes. 
“Sorry I’m late - the storm. Were you waiting long?”
“A little while, that’s all.”
“The resemblance - its remarkable.”
            She already knew a great deal about his personal and professional life. Martin had been sent to the South Pole nineteen months ago to fix a leak in one of the twenty one generators that were positioned on the South Pole. They generated power for over a third of the Sectors; knowledge of their location required a Level 5 Security Clearance in order to prevent the insurgents from uncovering its location. In fact, when the problem was initially discovered, it was suspected that they were responsible for the generators’ technical problems. The ensuing riots only seemed to confirm this.
            Although Martin had been able to repair the problem within a few hours, the South Pole was so difficult to reach that the cities affected by the generators’ technical problems were without electricity for five days. Therefore the authorities decided to station Martin at the South Pole permanently. With annual temperatures averaging -18°C, the nearest Sector being four hundred and twenty miles away and with a population of zero, they thought they would have some difficulty convincing Martin to move to the South Pole.
            Martin had never seen snow before his excursion and struggled with the shivering temperatures. When he was informed that the authorities wanted him to manage the generators on a permanent basis, he instinctively informed them that the only way that he would remain in the South Pole was if the movie star Brigitte Bergman moved with him. To his surprise, the authorities consented.
            Lucetta was not told how the authorities had managed to convince Brigitte to join Martin, but the major story of her disappearance after a plane crash now made much more sense.
She was Brigitte’s replacement, but unlike Brigitte, she came from a modest background. Three weeks ago, she was seized from her studio flat by the police and was flown to Sector 2743889. When her blindfold and handcuffs were removed, she found herself in a room with twelve other girls who looked strikingly similar to herself and Brigitte Bergman.
They were informed that they would receive a large sum of money if they agreed to undergo surgery to look like Brigitte and move to the South Pole. However, only one of them would receive that sum of money, the rest would walk away empty handed. Seeing the zeros at the end of the number on offer, each girl accepted the offer without hesitation.
Lucetta underwent less surgery than the rest of the girls. She had an abdominoplasty, a brow lift, a suture facelift, microdermabrasion to remove a scar on her left inner thigh, pinnaplasty to pin back her ears and a nose job.
She was informed that although two of the other girls may have ended up being better Brigitte’s than her, as her surgery was completed far faster than theirs, she would be the new Brigitte Bergman. She received ten per cent of the payment immediately to shop for her trip. However, she was only allowed to purchase clothes from designers that Brigitte wore. Four days later, her trip to the South Pole began, the final leg of which involved her parachuting to an undisclosed location where she would be collected by Martin.
The last question she had asked her minders was, ‘what happened to Brigitte?’ They told her that she had become increasingly agitated with the hermetic lifestyle of the South Pole. At first, the financial package had compensated for her new surroundings; she even took a liking to Martin and was happy to marry him. Then, when she saw the eulogies she received from people who had openly despised her, she was pleased that her star burned brighter than before. But in the last few weeks, she would tell her video diary how bored she felt as well as admitting to having suicidal thoughts.
When Martin was informed of this he reluctantly agreed to let her return, but the authorities did not concur. Martin reported her death to the team two days after her green sensor switched off and refused to remove her from the small igloo where they spent their weekends. The igloo and his truck were the two places that the authorities had no access to, so they did not know what he had done with her. 
The only reason, they said, that they were informing Lucetta of this information, was to quell her curiosity but more importantly to ensure that she did not make similar inquiries to Martin.
Martin had not asked for a replacement, but the sharp decrease in his work output meant that they were forced to develop this innovative and drastic measure. They had hoped that she would subdue his grief and help him return to his normal productivity levels.
What they didn’t tell her was that if and when she was successful, they would send a new engineer who would be trained by Martin to replace him, and then she and Martin would be disposed of. If she did not succeed, an AI robot prototype would have to replace him five years earlier than scheduled, but the end result for Martin and Lucetta would be the same.
As she sat self-consciously on the large white leather chair that devoured her petite frame, she gazed at the generators in the distance; their largesse gradually suffocated the surrounding landscape of its albescent splendour.   
“They only told me you were coming here two days ago, after all of your luggage arrived. I thought it was B’s stuff, but then they told me what their plan was. I was angry, but now you’re here, I can’t say I’m displeased. Even with all those layers on; that figure of yours, it’s almost identical.”
“Would you like a tour of the generators or do you want to head straight to the house?”
“I really don’t mind.”
“Are you sure? B always knew exactly what it was she wanted.”
            His eyes now wore an expression of sadness coupled with desperation.
“Oh, in that case...”
“I wasn’t complaining. Your attitude is the opposite of hers, which may not be the worst thing. I’m just so used to her mannerisms and temperament. Those buffoons are so idiotic - am I correct in assuming that they ensured you looked like her and didn’t give you any briefing about her personality. And don’t worry - they can’t hear a word of what we say in here.”
“They made me watch Hail the Size of Apples and The Glass Book. They said they were your favourite films of hers.”
“Bureaucrats have the intellectual and imaginative curiosity of a pack of lemmings. They had thousands of hours of film of her in the generator and in most of the house. And...”
            She took two of her jackets off so that she was only wearing her tight red jumper.
“Let’s go straight to the igloo.”
“Sounds great.”
            They sat in silence for the fifteen minutes it took to drive to the igloo. As they stopped a few metres away from the igloo, Lucetta put her jackets back on and tied up her hair in the pink elastic band she had tied around her right wrist. The igloo was half the height of the vehicle and its entrance was so low they both had to crawl through it.
            The snow was softer than it had been when she had parachuted to the ground earlier; the snow now crumbled beneath her knee-high boots, yet it was also much colder as her cheeks blushed with a deepening red, like the metamorphosis in pigmentation of an autumnal leaf.
 Hesitantly, she crawled through the narrow passageway. Returning to her knees as she reached the other side, the first thing she saw was the bright green Valentino Garavani dress that Brigitte had worn when she collected her Oscar for the film This City.
Next, she marvelled at the bright copper bath tub that lay in the middle of the igloo. It was instantly recognisable: it was the famous Archeo Copper Bathtub and it cost more than most sports cars. Her fascination with the tub meant it took a few seconds to realise that Brigitte was lying naked inside. Her first reaction was of intrigue rather than horror, as she observed that her own abdominoplasty meant that their waist shape was identical.
Martin crouched by the bath tub, with his drained eyes fixated on his wife.
“I need you to help me embalm her feet. As you can see the rest of her is already embalmed, but for some reason I cannot go near her feet. And now, they’re decomposing – if she was here she’d be furious with me. Seeing you in that jumper, it was as if I was looking at a holograph of my deceased wife. For the first time, I realised she was gone – I need you to help me complete her last wish.”