Through His Eyes. A poem.

See the world.
But not through your own eyes.
Try his.
Try seeing and yet not seeing,
failing to understand
what they truly perceive.
Messed up signals,
like a traffic jam waiting to happen.

Open your mouth,
like his mouth,
and watch the words tumble out:
unannounced,
tactless and indiscreet;
a crossword of errors on a big broadsheet.

Walk alone,
not by yourself,
but like him:
truly alone,
like the world has eaten you up
and spat you out.
Deserted, when you truly needed love instead of doubt.

This is how he feels.
So extend a hand.
Feel with him.
Don’t let him misunderstand.
Don’t let him be alone.

Time to prove your worth, and atone.

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The Novel-writing Locomotive.

My novel is (once again) back on track.

How many times have I said that? It seems every time I slip the rails I have some new excuse (for a list of the latest ones, click here). Coupled with my short attention span, my novel-writing train has jumped the tracks every few weeks, as if it was passing regularly back and forth over the NSW/Queensland state border where the rail gauge changes*.

My rescuer (or track repair crew, depending on which metaphor you prefer) is my delicious new iPhone (even though it’s not edible, it’s the next best thing. If they introduced edible iPhones I’m sure I’d be first in line to buy them and ravenously consume them**). I’ve downloaded MS Word onto my phone (which is an iPhone 8 ‘large’. Or ‘big’? Whatever they call the giant version. I personally like iPhone ‘humongous’, but that sounds both compensatory, and a bit too Mad Max, I suspect). I’ve moved my novel’s Word files to the cloud and now I can write anywhere. Yes, even in my favourite writing venue, the water closet***.

I admit this is not particularly innovative—I’ve been writing poetry this way for months, using the notes facility on my phone which auto backs up to iCloud—but I just wasn’t managing my time effectively enough to write on my laptop (I use it for my uni work, but I generally need a break afterwards. A looooooong break. Longer than a Kit-Kat, anyway).

So, I’m back to writing in small doses (that’s generally how I best interact with anything and anyone—you can only take so much manic or morose Steve at a time. That includes me dealing with me). And small doses is better than no doses.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

PS Why use Word on iPhone in place of Apple’s Pages or a writing-specific app? Because I already started my novel in Word, it retains all the formatting without having to convert it between apps, and it has a neat little ‘fit-to-screen’ word wrap button that Pages doesn’t. Technical Steve 😉

*Yes, in Australia we have different rail sizes. Yes, it’s stupid.

**Mmmmmm…I’m patenting that scrumptious idea.

***Dunny, loo, crapper—to all you uncultured larrikins.

Invincible. A poem.

I’m alone against the storm,
wearing custom-fitted armour,
courtesy of the Lord.

I’m a lone wanderer in form,
but my way is assured,
courtesy of the Lord.

I’m a fighter on the boards,
wearing gloves of solid steel,
courtesy of the Lord.

And I’m invincible,
a man of principles.
Courtesy of the Lord.

.
I haven’t written a Christian poem in a while. It’s about time I did. 

Here’s one for the big guy upstairs.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Heartbreak. A prose poem.

My heart was broken, and the pieces lay
scattered across the floor like so much
fractured crystal. It lay where it fell for
days,
weeks,
months.

I fixated on my shattered heart for
a long time. Everywhere I looked,
everywhere I walked, I was in danger
of cutting myself on a fragment.
Visitors and friends stepped delicately
around the shards like navigating a
minefield.

Every once in a while I would think about
tidying up. But the strewn slivers were a
reminder both comforting and saddening.
One day, I awoke to find the pieces were
gone, as if they had never existed; never
split and skewed, never callously been
torn out and flung aside.

I walked out into the fresh air, the hum
of the world around me. I still remembered
my broken heart, and the pain of
every
little
piece.

But it was time to move on, and face
another heartbreak.

Maybe this time I’d find some glue
to hold my heart together.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

Haiku Friday. Three freaky haikus.

Message
I got a message,
anonymous, confusing.
“Don’t wait up,” it said.

Nerd
Glasses, weird hair cut,
quirky disregard for all.
“Grab a seat, player!”

Dog
All dogs love me so.
Must be my cool aftershave.
Or meat in pocket.

.
Haikus, those wonderful little 5/7/5 syllable Japanese poems, are usually serious.

I decided serious is not for me, today.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Guest Post: Mind Matters 

I’ve never had anyone do a guest post before, but I was chatting with my sister-in-blog Donna, of mind matters, and asked her if she’d like to write one.

Donna and her family were traumatised while living with a religious cult, and she works through her issues in her blog, along with providing snippets of her photography and poetry. Sometimes she’s a bit controversial, but she’s always interesting.

So here is the first guest blog! Enjoy.

Steve 🙂

I Beg To Differ

Is chivalry dead? Should it be? A lot of people might say yes.

Sometimes certain issues seem to illuminate themselves in me. The other day when I was heading into a store, a man who had already walked out of the store turned around and grabbed the door for me. It was kind. It was an innate response. He didn’t even pause. He just did it. Then, when I was leaving the same store, a young male teenager whose hands were loaded with cartons of napkins, reached out–causing his load to teeter–and opened the door for me.

My point is: maybe a cause can begin in a legitimate way and then morph into something it was never meant to be. By then, it’s too late to back up. Believe me, I know what it’s like to be kept down by the opposite sex and stripped down until I thought I was nothing. But I also know what it’s like to fight my way through raising five kids and getting a degree in my forties.

I know I am not inferior to any male. But everyone is uniquely endowed by God, who equips us all differently for purposes and roads that lead in many directions. Is either sex inferior? No. But generally a man’s body is built differently than a woman’s. If we are at war, who would I want at the front lines in battle? A man. Does that make me sexist? No. When it comes time to do one of the most important things in life, who does it? A woman. What am I talking about? Giving birth. We as women are equipped to grow a human being in our bodies. No inferiority complex here.

Anyway, back to my original point of a gentleman opening a door for a lady. I love it. My husband opens the door for me. I am grateful that the women before me fought for the rights that we didn’t have before and I am in no way disagreeing with that; I just wanted to give a little food for thought.

You can read more from Donna at mind matters. 

Dead Men Deep. A poem.

Hulls of broken ships,
scattered like white noise.
The sea bed, as black
as a charcoal cellar.

It welcomes sailors
to their ends,
bloated corpses sleeping
in hammocks of crusted ribs,
drunk on briny, antique wine.

Coral wreaths
and sawdust mouths;
barnacles, the new tattoo
that marks the passage
from man to martyr.

Here among the starfish
and crustacean shells,
unworried by the weather,
seabed tales in whale song
punctuate their empty dreams.

Writing…stuff.

So, I’ve posted a few things about writing. Not that I’m an expert or anything, but readers seem to like me rambling on.

I’ve made it a ‘thing’ (I like to do that–‘Haiku Friday’ anyone?). So, now you can find all the posts grouped under Writer Interrupted in the menu. It saves me from creating another blog (I’m pretty lazy, y’know).

As always, I love your comments, and I love the fact that you pay me any attention at all.

Cheers

Attention-seeker Steve 🙂

 

City of the Lost. A poem.

I looked to the city.
The lights were on, but nobody was home.

I was alone.

I expected dust devils to whirl
as I walked through my world.
Behind every door a Marie Celeste,
of empty chairs and still full plates.

Always alone.

Wherever I looked reigned emptiness,
yesterday’s news and mild distress.
The dust and dirt of memories
clung to my walls like tragedy.

And then the lights went out.
That was when I knew, without a doubt:

I would always be alone.

But what was always there,
that I just couldn’t see,

were all the souls
surrounding me.

Mutant Year Zero – Gamma goings-on in the wasteland

MYZ book cover

I said ages ago (yes, literally eons, in a time when winter frost covered the land like icing sugar. Hmmm. That’s a stupid simile) that I would review some Tabletop Role Playing Games, as I am a complete nerd nut for these things.

Today, I’m going to talk about a lovely little Swedish RPG called Mutant Year Zero. It’s an update of an RPG that originated in the 80’s in Sweden, and was very popular. Mutant Year Zero is set in a post-apocalyptic future, where a colony of mutants on the ‘Ark’ is eking out a meagre existence amongst the ruins of the ‘Zone’, battling for the colony’s survival against various threats and attempting to solve the sterility of the ark survivors—no new ark children have been born in years.

I loooove post-apocalyptic anything! This isn’t Mad Max, it’s not Gamma World (the mechanics in Mutant Year Zero are MUCH better than d20), but it’s a crap load of fun.

Mutant Year Zero is a sandbox game, meaning that your players basically call the shots as to what they want to do and where they want to go. Two Zone maps, of future London and New York, are included, or the Games Master can create their own Zone for the players to explore.

Some cool things about Mutant Year Zero:

Excellent Dice Pool mechanic. Uses six-sided dice (D6) of three colours: Base dice are yellow, used for attribute checks; Skill Dice are green, used for skill checks; Gear dice are black, and are used to supplement checks when a character is using special gear or weapons. A six on any of the dice means a success, a 1 on either the Base or Gear dice can mean raging mutant powers or gear breaking, respectively. The number of base dice you roll are determined by your attributes, the number of skill dice you roll by your skill level. The number of gear dice depends on what gear you are using, and these are added to the dice pool.

Character attributes equal the number of Base dice rolled. Simple as that. Four attributes: Strength, Agility, Wits, Empathy. Assign 14 points amongst these, with your key ability (depending on your class) having a maximum of 5. The attribute number is how many dice you roll in a check, and each attribute is associated with particular skills, so the base dice are supplemented by skill dice.

Skill levels equal the number of Skill dice rolled. 10 points to distribute amongst skills, with a maximum of 3. You also get Talents, special abilities determined by your role (class, for all you old grognards). Some of these are Fast Draw, Loner, Zone Cook (more important than you think!), Sleepless, etc.

MYZ stalkerCool Roles/Classes. Eight roles, like Enforcer (the heavy), Gearheads, Stalkers (scouts), Fixers, Dog Handlers(!), etc. They are all well balanced, and have their part to play in the game.

Everyone is a mutant. Yep, everyone gets to have a crazy mutation (or two, in some cases). They are all powerful, interesting and relevant (i.e. none are there for show). There aren’t many, but the idea is the gaming group isn’t going to be huge so there won’t be any overlap in powers. You spend Mutant Points (MP) to activate powers during the game. You can win more MPs by pushing your rolls, where there is a greater chance something could go wrong. The powers include Acid Spit, Human Magnet, Puppeteer (mind control), Rot Eater, Telepathy, etc.

Everyone works together and the ark is a major ‘character’ in the game. You are working with your fellow mutants to save the ark. You interact with NPCs, get involved in disputes, deal with petty jealousies, food shortages, external attacks. The ark has four development levels: food supply, culture, technology and warfare, and you can undertake projects to improve any of these, using your skills, your characters and time. This is another fun aspect of the game, much like building a community in computer games like Fallout 4.

Combat is easy. Anyone familiar with a tabletop role playing game will find the combat generally easier than most other games. There’s the usual rolling for initiative, take one action (roll a skill check, activate a mutation, help another character, defend, etc.) and one manoeuvre (advance, retreat, flee, etc.), or two manoeuvres. You roll a number of D6s equal to your Strength plus your Fight skill to hit in melee combat; if you use a weapon, you do the weapon’s damage (e.g. Brass Knuckles do 1 damage) plus additional effects if you score more than one 6 on your roll. The target can defend to reduce damage and effects. Ranged combat works similarly. Damage effects attributes, and if one is reduced to zero your character is broken, with the impact relating to the attribute e.g. if Agility is zero, you are physically exhausted. You can also get critical injuries, which can kill, maim and traumatise your character.

Recovery is relevant. Resting four hours and eating a ration of grub helps recover Strength; water for Agility, sleep for Wits, company for Empathy. It makes the resources you recover in the wasteland more important to your characters, as well as the ark.

There are lots of opportunities to role play. Essentially, the players drive the plot by exploring and interacting with NPCs on the ark. Each sector on the map is one square mile, and it will take time for the PCs to search. The GM rolls random encounters for the sector, or uses some handy pre-designed Zone settings/scenarios (which are very open ended to cater for the players basically doing anything they want). You will find that those players who thrive on the role playing aspects of RPGs will love this game. It also encourages team work—working alone or against the group will quickly get your character killed.

Lots of adventures. Over half the book is devoted to campaign materials, so you won’t run out of things to fuel your sessions for a long time! Some of the sectors include a crazy cult in a missile bunker, a trading post in a grounded ship, and a full campaign arc, The Path to Eden.

There are a number of extras available: Genlab Alpha (a complete game in which you play intelligent, bipedal animals), Zone Compendiums (with additional scenarios/settings), maps and signature dice.

Mutant Year Zero has won several design awards, and so it should. It’s a player-driven, open-ended experience, that is fun and easy to play, with great mechanics and minimalist rules. It’s one of the best post-apocalyptic RPGs available at the moment, and well worth your time and investment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Mutant Year Zero  is available at the Modiphius Games website–https://www.modiphius.net/

MYZ ruins

 

The Art of Observation, Character, Dialogue and Navel Gazing. An occasional post on writing.

Do you suffer from depression? If so, you’ll know the Black Dog. If not, click here or here before reading on. 

An Observation on Observation

Every writer should be an observer.

Every writer should watch the people around them, taking in the nuances, the poetry of conversation, the body language electric that at once disguises and simultaneously reveals. I’m sure every ‘how to write’ book you’ve read has preached this from the plinth, with the congregation nodding in stern-faced approval.

As a single man with little purpose other than wallowing in middle age, working out and pretending he’s younger than he is, dreading the day when he actually will be old, I find that I’m probably less observant of the world than I used to be. It’s just a phase, says Black Dog, chewing my hand (not in a nice way). But hopefully you’ll stay that way as long as possible. It amuses me.

I was a people manager for many years and it was my job to read and lead employees and clients, to communicate expectations and needs and desires and to assist and mentor and help and cajole and…well, you get the picture. I felt then that I had a good sense of how people worked, almost like an engineer watching machines he’d designed being assembled in the factory. I had training in psychology, I was respected and reasonably well-liked (no manager should ever be totally liked, otherwise you won’t make the hard decisions). Black Dog scratches himself behind the ear. I’d assume it was fleas but that’s an impossibility. You loved and hated it, he says. Stop thinking about the past. I prefer your depressing present.

I believe I’ve retained some of my skills. I’ve always been an observer (what’s that they say? Always a watcher, never a doer? Something like that). I’d like to think that some of this rubs off on my characters. It’s hard to tell though, because I’m always a little too close to what I write to make an accurate assessment (sounding a bit clinical there, but sometimes you have to be).

So, yes, I guess I’m still an observer of life and people. I guess I always will be. And if you plan to be a writer, then you should be, too.

On Characters

It’s hard to describe where my characters come from. Sometimes they take form as I type. Sometimes I already have them in mind or I take pinches of ingredients from people I know and mix them together in a big bowl. Occasionally I’ve spotted someone, a busker, for example, and their story has come to me as I watched, like a song: all twisted notes and delicious intonations, sometimes in odd time signatures.

Michael Ondaatje (author of The English Patient) says: “Few of my characters are described externally; we see them from the inside out.” The character has to feel real. If I write someone and they sound fake, or just don’t work, I erase them from existence like a contract assassin and start building again. I can be a bastard when I need to be (I’m sure my ex-wife will concur with that).

I do undertake research, but only if the character is from a period or has skills I’m not familiar with. It’s like with settings, if you don’t know what you’re talking about your reader will know that you’re faking it.

I like the Anthony Trollope (Victorian-era author) quote: “A novelist’s characters must be with him as he lies down to sleep, and as he wakes from his dreams. He must learn to hate them and love them.” I can identify with that.

I don’t know how well I create characters. I’ve been told I’m good at it, but all the old anxieties come to bear when I revisit my creations (am I good enough? Why am I writing at all?).

Black Dog raises his head from his paws, where he’s been resting it while watching me intently (as he always does). Self-doubt? he says. I love it. Keep on rolling in that cesspool. Sometimes I pat him, but he just nips at my hand–a warning–he doesn’t need to be encouraged.   

About Dialogue

I look at Black Dog. He stares at me as always. Occasionally he breaks eye contact to glance at a paw, like he’s checking his nails. He’s not uncomfortable with eye-to-eye contact, he’s far too self-confident for that. Another opportunity for you to put yourself down? He says. Well, get started. You know I like to savour every whining moment. He’s back to staring again. If he could smile, he would.

“He hears their voices even before he knows them”, said Andre Gide (1947 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature). This is so true for me.

Dialogue is one of those funny things. People like to think they’re good at it, but as with the art of conversation, we’re never as good as we think we are (don’t believe me? Try remembering your last dinner party conversation. I’m sure you held your own, but if you look back and scrutinise it closely you’ll notice the intermittent pregnant pauses, the occasional wandering eye, the excuse to get another drink or change the subject).

I like to think that I write good dialogue, but I’m often too close to the material to be able to make a fair judgement. Some readers have told me my dialogue is good, but being a writer, I’m not always sure if I believe them or not (Ah, says Black Dog, sniffing deeply. There it is). Like most writers, I tend to be a bit insecure and my confidence is not always at its best (Oh, yeah, says Black Dog, closing his eyes and rolling onto his back. That’s the stuff. More.) I believe everyone is learning, all the time. Writing is no different. The day a writer says they know everything there is to being a writer is the day they’re fooling themselves.

It took me a long time to make the decision to be an author and there’s no going back now. I may be poorer financially and emotionally (Yeah! cries Black Dog, writhing in blissful contentment), but writing is something that’s seeped its way into my veins. Like a somnolent drug, it’s as blissful as sleep and just as contenting, and it’s something I couldn’t give up now, even if I tried.

Cheers

Steve 😊

P.S. I hope you weren’t hoping to learn some actual skills from my rambling. There are plenty of courses, books and blogs around for that. In the end, it all comes down to your commitment and your experiences. Just start from there. And read. A lot. Learn from the best authors–there’s a wealth of wonder in those books, and they’re the best school there is.

Want to read some of my flash fiction? Click here

Clockwork. A poem.

Causal expectations
and experience will say
that I will just gain nothing
from this long and tedious day.

My movement winding down,
corroded, insecure,
scattered springs, nuts and bolts
and thoughts abound, unsure.

Who’s to say my automation
is better than before?
Let cogs and gears grind on and on
as I cogitate some more.

I was once wound so tightly
that I thought I’d never slow,
but now my springs are stretched and worn,
so tired and overblown.

Tick tock, cries the clock,
round and round it goes,
this clockwork man keeps winding down,
all the way to

zero.

Haiku Friday. Three Haikus pour vous!

Fence Sitter
Here in your desert,
every choice a mirage;
each oasis lost.

Silence
Shy, foolish man child, 
so terminally quiet.
Silence will end you.

Bloom
I wish love would bloom.
In the field of broken hearts,
loneliness grows strong.

.

Well, it’s that time of the week again. Haiku Friday demands three line poems with a 5/7/5 syllable structure. 

And what Haiku Friday demands, it gets!

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The Great Australian Novel. A pondering.

So, what exactly happened with the writing of my great Australian novel (and I use the term ‘great’ very loosely)?

I don’t have writer’s block*. I know a lot of writers suffer from this, and I am always sympathetic (did I say sympathetic. Sorry, I meant uncaring and sociopathically lacking empathy), but not me. Actually, I tell a lie—twenty years ago, in my first novel, I wrote my protagonists into a corner I couldn’t get them out of. It took about ten years to resolve (hey, it was a very tight corner). So, George R R Martin, I get where you’re coming from. But finish bloody Winds of Winter, already!

I’m not suffering from a paucity of time, although I assure everyone who’ll listen that I am. Don’t you realise how difficult life can be for a lazy, sociopathically uncaring, student? This morning I noticed my toenails had grown out to about an inch. The nail clippers were sitting on the table just out of reach. You can guess how that story ended. I think from now on my preferred footwear will be thongs (flip flops, not g-strings), rather than shoes. No reason. Loose rubber slip ons are just very stylish.

I’m still motivated to write. Admittedly, I tend to write more poems then anything else. I haven’t actually written any of my novel for about a month. Let me point out that I do have a very short attention span. If I was to have a competition with a gnat, the gnat would win. But as insects go, gnats are THE most attentive insects in the animal kingdom. Of course I may have read that while I was sleep-deprived and brain-addled at 3:00am. Or maybe I just made it up.

The ideas still flow—sometimes they don’t stop, streaming forth like water from a broken pipe neglected by council workers checking their Facebook timelinesI recently had to (yes, HAD to) get myself a new iPhone 8, ostensibly for the bigger storage capacity (I use my phone to store ideas and write on the run. And on the toilet). Oh, alright, I just wanted a shiny new phone. Yes, now I’m more broke than I was before. But: shiny new phone! (“My precious,” he says, stroking it adoringly in a disturbingly Gollum-like voice.)

My commitment is still strong, despite my ongoing depression. Did I tell you I suffer from depression? “Only about a thousand times,” says regular reader with not much better to do, rolling your eyes. I guess I better tell you again, then. I’m like a roller coaster: manic high days and abyssal troughs. High days, I can’t stop talking. Low days, I’m a puddle. Today, I’m marginally angstified. (Yes, I just made up that totally and awesomely significant new word. I’m waiting for my new urban slang dictionary prize in the mail.)

I’ve been thinking about writing other stories. The torrid and passionate affair I’ve had with my novel still burns bright, but I find myself drawn to shinier, prettier things (and chocolate). Is it a victim of mid-life crisis, my ravenously short attention span, or my ongoing sociopathic egomania? Or all three? I may have answered that question already, but I’ve forgotten what I wrote previously. (Damn you, short attention span!)

If I start writing another novel I know I’ll neglect the other**. But maybe that’s what I need to do. Maybe my current novel isn’t any good. (My only slightly bruised and sociopathically egomaniacal ego refuses to believe that. It’s currently screaming at the wall: “you’re too good for this place!” I think it might be a bit deluded, as well. Now it’s rubbing ice cream all over its face…)

My excuses (uni, dating, music, reading, working out, movies, blogging, D&D, laying about avoiding cutting toenails, etc.) have become my crutches. I can barely move without them. (Perhaps I could invest in a better metaphor—a wheelchair, maybe. Then I could pretend to motivate myself to move a little faster.)

In the end, I guess I could have been writing my novel if I hadn’t written this post. Am I just delusional? Or is that my sociopathic egomania talking? I’ll ponder it while I eat some of this delicious ice cream that somehow got smeared on my face. Mmmmmmm….now, what was I talking about again?

Cheers

Steve 🙂

*Unlike many writers, I’ve rarely suffered from this. If writer’s block was a cold, I’d be interminably hot and sweaty most of the time. 

**Like my previous unfinished novels: they wait politely and patiently, trying to catch my eye. Unfortunately, they don’t realise that I’m very short sighted—literally, not just figuratively. 

Fall for you. A poem.

The light is fading, you’re walking out;
she’s reclining luxuriantly.

The light in those magical eyes

is enough to blind a man,

before you question why.
That smile, combined with sylvan form,

is hot enough to melt a man

(raised on a diet of ‘avoid’).
Like a supernova sundae,
take him out at the knees,
leave him confused and dazed,
with thoughts, indiscreet.

Get out of there before that brazen temptress
(Who doesn’t know her power over all that exists)

enthralls you with her siren voice;

makes you fumble, stumble,
makes the floor your only choice.

Escape while you can, before you

fall for her

again. And again. And again.

Place and Setting. A writing perspective.

Yet another of my long-overdue university out-takes. Following is an answer to a question about establishing place and setting for stories, that I wrote several months ago for one of my writing subjects.

I moved back to my parents’ house after being away for many (Read: MANY) years and I’m now living in the room I had as a teenager. Rather than get maudlin, as I did when I first moved in, I now like to see it as a new start—a fresh beginning. Or a stopover on the long, world-weary road of incomprehensible mid-life. Take your pick.

But it’s the nostalgia of the place that grabs me every time. I look out the window to see a family of rabbits picking amongst the emerald remains and hear the continual hum and click-clack-clicking of rail wheels on the tracks beyond. Every time my toes feel the knobbed woollen carpet that’s been here for so many years: still in good nick, just a little wear, but a bit flatter (like me); every time I look at my parent’s smiling faces, all wrinkles and sunshine (they obviously haven’t had to put up with me for long); every time I walk the old streets remembering handball at the bus stop and ducking swooping magpies in the spring, the scent of rain on the grass flats and long, sweat-soaked summers without a pool. Like the murky rooftops and telegraph poles marking time in the distance, it’s a wary combination of old and new, making me dream of yesterday, moan about today and hope for tomorrow.

It got me thinking about how place has such a dramatic impact on the stories we write. The story’s setting can become a character as much as the protagonist and antagonists. But it’s more than just atmosphere or setting specifics. It’s all in the way the setting evokes something that connects with the reader—maybe they can relate to it in the way something felt or looked, or smelt. Maybe they marked time for a while in a sunny backwater, too.

Recasting familiar settings for stories works. We take what we know and we forge it into something new. Authenticity is something I’ve discussed with a writer friend of mine. I always say (and I’m sure others have said this, too): “the reader knows when you fake it”. It doesn’t matter if the setting you’ve created is in the far future, your home town or a fantasy kingdom, it’s the feeling that you put into it, driven by your own experiences and emotions, that makes the difference. Lord of the Rings wouldn’t be the same if JRR Tolkien didn’t infuse the setting with not only his expansive research in languages and mythology, but also his love of the countryside he grew up in.

I find that I tend to rely more on recall than on visits to and notes about areas, but I’m lucky that I have a decent memory. And we all have an extensive lifetime of experiences—sights, smells, emotions, nostalgia—to build our settings with.

Every story we write, we build a place to call our own.

Cheers

Steve 😊

The Near-Empty Bottle. A poem.

I glanced drunkenly into the near-empty bottle.
In the viscous alcohol I saw 
my face,
rippled and twisted 
like a garish Mr. Hyde.

I laughed at the carnival mirror,
so accurately reflecting 
every facet
of my, oh, so petulant features.
Every flaw and misconception
brought to life in 
errant ripples
at the bottom of a pit,
too deep to reach.

I cast the bottle aside and hailed for another,
in the hopes that I
(eventually)
might see 
something
far, far better.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

The Wait. A short tale.

She waited as he wasted away.

She watched and pined. He watched as well; sometimes TV, sometimes her.

She fed him hand-to-mouth. Eventually he refused to eat. As he grew thinner, the drip in his arm pulsed like a marathon runner, sucking exhausted breaths as it neared the finish line.

He smiled painfully. She did, too.

She cried when he slept–never when he was awake. Her tears fell gently on the back of his hand, where they ran off the edge in random segues before fading away with nary a whisper.

She knew when the day arrived. There was no announcement, no symbolic continuous beep on the machine, like on TV. She just knew. So did he.

They held hands.

She waited as he went away.

 

If you would like to read more of my flash fiction, click here.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Haiku Friday. Yep, it’s a thing, now.

 

Ahead. A Haiku Trilogy.

 

Mouth
The subversive grin
Making mellifluous voice
A love explosion

Eyes
Eyes of deep regret
Wash away your highest hopes
Rivers to the sea

Ears
What bitter sounds made
Cannot be unheard again
Forever doubting

.

It’s Haiku Friday. (Yeah, I made it a thing last week. I can do that. I think.)

Here’s some Haiku I composed, just for you.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Nights. A poem.

Nights

staring into gloom.

A mirror to reason,
reflecting
all your fallibilities
and failing sensibilities.

All your new found
confidence,
blown away
like mist, before winds
of uncertainty.

Your moon is waning tonight.
You are a crescent shell, threatening
to pitch headlong into
the drifting, darkening tide.

Best sleep,

before you persuade yourself

otherwise.

As you slowly sink,
the ever-present gloom
drinks up your half empty cup,
all your remaining light,

and leaves you bathed in

Nights.

Blade Runner 2049. A movie review.

Spoilers? Don’t think so.

Okay, so you saw the trailers and it looked interesting. Maybe you were interested enough to stream the original 1982 Blade Runner (actually one of the four director’s cuts, because the original with the horrible Harrison Ford voiceover is long gone). Maybe you read the fauning reviews or glanced at the positive score on Rotten Tomatoes. Director Denis Villeneuve (who previously directed the brilliant Arrival) has made a methodical, smart, and visually spectacular film. Blade Runner 2049 is a superior sequel that stands on its own as a great movie.

A lot has happened in the 30 Years since the last film, and the old school tech has evolved along with the replicants, which are now used everywhere as slave labour (previously they were only used offworld). Ryan Gosling is K, a replicant blade runner who discovers a secret while hunting an old Nexus 8 (same as the ones in the first movie), a secret that could change the balance of power in the world and leads K to question his own reality. The first act is a noir-style detective story, as K slowly puts the pieces together. And that’s about as much as I can say without spoiling the movie. And this is one film you don’t want spoiled.

Blade Runner 2049 is dark and it’s looong. It’s a thinking person’s flick with some cool action sequences, but it’s a slow burn the rest of the way.

You know from the trailers that Harrison Ford is back as Rick Deckard, giving his best performance in years. Gosling is fantastic as K, and Jared Leto is a standout as Wallace, a blind and weirdly charismatic multi-billionaire who recreated replicant technology after the original Tyrell Corporation went bust. Robin Wright is K’s hard-nosed police captain, Sylvia Hoeks is Wallace’s violent right hand. Everyone in this film is good.

The script is layered, includes lots of throwbacks to the original movie, and no knowledge of the first Blade Runner is required to understand the story. Set design and an emphasis on practical effects really help to capture the feel of the original film. The music by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is coolly reminiscent of Vangelis’ original soundtrack.

Who would have thought that a sequel to an 80’s movie could be so good (even if it does drag a little in parts). If you like an intelligent sci-fi movie that poses interesting philosophical questions about the nature of humanity, rock solid performances and a great story, then Blade Runner 2049 will be right up your blood and rain-soaked alley.

Rating: A

Breath. A book review.

Tim Winton’s Breath is the kind of book that challenges your thinking about what it means to be a writer.

Winton’s prose flows like poetry, with immaculate meter and dialectal mastery. Breath makes me ashamed to say I’m a writer, because Winton is so good: I am not worthy. I have never been so profoundly affected by a book as I have by this one.Breath-Tim-Winton

Bruce Pike is a paramedic who witnesses the aftermath of a boy who has suffocated. It brings back memories of his past, and he ruminates on his solitary life, his parents, his love of surfing and the sea, his friendships, his jealousies, his role models, his sexual coming of age, his breakdowns and how he finds himself again. Breath is a journey into a man’s scarred psyche: it’s about facing fear, the addictive adrenalin rush of near death experience, and the profound cost left in its wake when it fails. Breath is poignant, disturbing, and uplifting, all at the same time.

Breath is not for everyone. But I dare you to read it and not come away marveling at the writing. I will read Breath again; multiple times, no doubt.

And I’ll repeatedly wish I had one iota of Tim Winton’s talent.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

PS I’m not giving up writing. This book sets a worthy benchmark to aim for. “Damn you, Tim Winton and your glorious writing!” Steve cried.

Every Word. A poem and a thank you.

Every laboured keystroke,
every considered verb and noun.
Every gritted mental blank,
every meaning so profound.
Every silken metaphor,
every glorious turn of phrase.
Every underlying message,
every edit, every change.
Every keystroke, every line,
ever thankful every day.
Every joy I write that lies within,
that flowers on every page.

Thank you.
.

This poem is a thank you to all of my readers. Everything I do is for you.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Haiku Friday. Three haikus in a row.

Congregation

This congregation
What secrets are kept in here
Hidden agendas

Tai Chi

Slow and graceful moves
All mindfulness and mystique
Far too many forms

Prayer

Bend my knee to Thou
Communicate by steeple
Wait for an answer

.

If you’ve followed me for a while you will know I absolutely love Japanese Haiku, with its 5/7/5 syllable structure. Here’s a few I wrote recently.

I think I’ll make Haiku Friday my ‘thing’ for Fridays. Just because.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

PS Want to read some more Haiku? Whereku? Hereku

American Assassin. A Movie Review.

Minimal spoilers. But it won’t matter much, because you know what’s gonna happen before it happens anyway.

I was dragged along to see American Assassin. My best mate paid for the ticket, and it got me out of the house, so I couldn’t complain.

Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) watches his girlfriend and lots of people killed at a Spanish resort by Islamic terrorists. He dedicates the next 18 months of his life training (18 months? That’s not much. Bruce Wayne spent 12 years becoming Batman) to infiltrate and take out the terrorist cell. He’s picked up by the CIA, sent to covert ops specialist Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) to be part of his assassination team. Rapp has issues with authority, is a loose cannon, blah, blah. Soon they have to stop one of Stan’s best students (oooh, didn’t see that coming. Yeah, you did) from using a nuke to take out a bunch of Americans.

american assassin

American Assassin suffers from the weight of numerous clichés, from characters to story to stunts to dialogue. It’s not the worst action movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s not memorable and not a movie I would recommend—you’ve seen all of this before with better scripts and direction.

Michael Keaton, as always, is great, but his role lacks depth and so he does what he can with the material he’s given. Dylan O’Brien looks alternately depressed and angry, but doesn’t muster much in the way of leading man charisma. The bad guy (Taylor Kitsch) is just an average bad guy.

My advice is save yourself the price of a ticket and see something better. This is one to stream on Netflix or rent on DVD (can you still do that?).

Rating: D

Window. A poem.

She’s seated before a window, sun highlighting shiny diamonds in her hair. 

Her fingers are flamingoes on her smart phone, a wily dance sped up to double speed, of muscle memory and familiar keys. 

Lips as full as pillows that I long to cushion with my own, and the dress she wears hugs contours of which I am so painfully aware.

Her eyes escape to velvet shores and silken sheets upon the beach, and I must look away too soon, lest she see me here.

Scant feet separate us and small talk fills the space between, all luscious notes and plosives, siren tones and sibilants, all lead to hidden depths unseen.

And so I say my goodbyes of which she’s painfully unaware, dragging feet and head hung low as I make my way back home, and relive those few minutes that we were together there.

Shoulder. A poem.

Shoulder
                 Lean 
                          You
                          Me

                          Weight
                          Lifted
                  Smile
Shoulder
                  Lean
                          You Me

                          When?

Online Dating Sellout

Okay, okay. I admit it. I sold out. I downloaded Tinder.

If you have read my previous online dating posts (here, here, here, here and here), you’ll know that I was vehemently opposed to Tinder because of the considerably biased rep the poor app, and its users, have (note how I am now sounding more sympathetic). I didn’t want to be seen as someone just looking to ‘hook up’, and being a Christian, it was doubly inappropriate.

Well, I have now tried the Tinder experience and I can say that my opinion is pleasantly changed (read: eat humble pie). I have been on a few online dating websites and they have been somewhat…disappointing. Women with photos that look nothing like them, crazy stalkers and scammers haunt my waking hours (okay, that’s a bit overly dramatic, but I’m a writer. Cut me some slack).

Within hours of being on Tinder (swipe left, swipe right – I feel like I’m in The Karate Kid and Mr Miyagi is abstractly teaching me some new defensive move), I had a few (admittedly vague) conversations.

Within a few days I had a date (yes, remarkable, given my jaded dating history). It was nice: a few drinks, dinner and a fun night. No, she wasn’t Christian, but we had a good time anyway. I have now had a few more decent conversations with other women and will try a few more dates. No, I’m not playing the field. I’m very upfront with my date that if we don’t think we are viable long-term prospects then we move on. Okay, maybe I do sound a little shallow (what does the guilty-looking emoji look like…).

Turns out Tinder is not so bad, after all.

Cheers

Steve 😊

Superhot. A poem.

My iPhone
is an older model…by a lot.

The outside’s looking dated and she’s slower than she was.
I’m thinking of trading up, because

the new model
is superhot.

Was a time when I couldn’t take my hands off her,
when my fingers traced her delicate contours.
She was at my beck and call.

Some kind of mystical allure, of that you can be sure.

But lately she seems a little…old hat.
Dressed her up in fine new clothes
and that seemed to work a bit,
but the magic, my friend, is long, long gone.
Now, this is all I’m left with.

So, I’m thinking of trading up

to a new model
that’s superhot.

One I can show off to all my friends,
because I like the way I look to them
and showing how

deep

I’m not.

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