“The Music of the Spheres”

Inspired by Allison Mack’s “25 Days of Poetry” Twitter challenge, I thought it was about time I got to writing some more poetry. The following is not new, I wrote it a couple of years back, but hopefully I’ll get to writing some new stuff in the next few weeks.

“The Music of the Spheres”

The artist took his seat on the stool beside his desk,
upon it his dear implement of expression there did rest.
His fingers sat on keys that had not been touched for years
as he contemplated how to write the music of the spheres.

Inspiration came not from him, nor was it predictable.
The outside source was nothing less than purely metaphysical.
But epiphanies are not translated through music blindly played
nor deep emotions and experiences easily conveyed.

But nonetheless the artist was certain of his objective
some would call it responsibility, he called it his directive.
His fingerprints pressed into dust as he silently did ponder
the true meaning of the life that he previously had squandered

From his upper-room apartment, through the window he could see
the sun was dimmed by clouds and smoke, refusing to let it be.
Yet beyond the earth’s atmosphere, he pictured those many spheres;
the sound of celestial bodies unheard by mankind’s ears.

He reached beyond our system, searched far across the stars
and beheld the silent beauty that’s now rarely found in ours.
He saw the fine precision and the masterful creative stroke.
Such sights they overwhelmed him, humility they did provoke.

There were no words, no music that could possibly express
the joy and the wonderment such a journey had impressed.
This journey of the mind also showed him far much more besides;
The intricacies of human creation found plain as day worldwide.

The artist he just sat and stared, he marvelled and he sighed.
These simple things he’d took for granted, now couldn’t be denied.
If he’d a purpose it was in telling, the wonders we could see;
The human body, that alone, a marvel of technology.

It could not be chance, nor some blind luck, the work of evolution;
But surely a hand, a wise creator, and one with a solution.
The artist knew all too well, a bookcase doesn’t grow a shelf
and a composition like this one sadly doesn’t write itself.

His fingers pressed against the keys as he began his greatest opus,
Comforted he was to know his quest was far from hopeless.
He could not force mankind to see, but he could direct their eyes,
And ask them to explore themselves what lies beyond our skies.

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Building a World

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, far too long in fact.

This was going to be my Writer’s Blog, where I would talk about those things that inspired me, as well as posting various poems and short stories.

So much for that plan.

The good news is I’ve not stopped writing altogether, I’m still plugging away trying to exercise those creative muscles. In fact, I’m currently working on a big project with three other authors. When it’s complete it may not just be one novel, but a trilogy.

Building a world and creating a bit sprawling epic is fun to say the least. But there’s also an element of responsibility that cannot be taken lightly ─ you’ve got to get the details right. As fantastical as Science Fiction and Fantasy stories are (which, I guess this story will be classed as), you still have to maintain a sense of realism in order to ground the story. Characters can’t simply act a certain way because “they’re evil” and the mission can’t succeed because, you know, magic. There’s got to be a reason. And all the more so when the story is set in a world unlike our own. The last thing you want is for the reader not to connect to the story and its characters because it’s so alien and unrealistic.

To take it to the next level though, I can’t wrap my head around a story until I’ve got a lot of the details mapped out. These will be details barely touched upon in the story, if they’re even mentioned at all, but I need to know the history of events that led up to the beginning of the story. I need to know the characters’ backstories and people they may have had dealings with in the past, even if these other characters don’t even feature in the story.

It’s all a part of getting into the heads of the characters and knowing what it’s like living in this world. Unfortunately, it also means that writing the actual story itself is going very slowly at this point. On the bright side, the story outline is coming together piece by piece, and I’m discovering new ideas each day. Sometimes, I’m inspired to write a scene that helps to shed light on a character’s motivations; but also I’ve found the opposite can be true too and I’ll discover that a story point I was looking to move towards now doesn’t fit with that character and I’m forced to make adjustments.

Of course, the beauty of working with three other talented storytellers is that we’re inspiring each other all the time and we are free to pitch each other ideas and offer other suggestions. Even so, I don’t think I’ve ever done so much research for my writing before. I’ve had to look into complex scientific theories (a lot of which goes over my head); ancient mythology (which is always fun) and American geography (so that I might about to write about certain locations in great detail).

Still, it’s all a part of the enjoyment. So whilst there may be times when trying to get certain details right is more of a headache than I’d like, hopefully it’ll all help to ground the story with a sense of realism.

Now if only I could stop being distracted by various television shows.

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100 Words

So a few months ago Readers Digest ran a competition inviting readers to submit their own unique stories. It could be about anything at all, the only stipulation was that they tell their story in 100 words, no more, no less. The prize money for the winner was £5000, with runners up winning £100.
It was an interesting challenge, and with that prize money I could hardly ignore it.

I didn’t expect to win. I’ll admit it would have been nice, really nice. But considering the amount of entries, I wasn’t going to hold my breath.
Even so, it was a fun exercise, and it got my brain pondering over stories I could tell and do so in such a condensed way. “Happily Everafter” was the first I came up with, but “One” was the story I’d say I’m most proud of out of the two (and was featured on the Readers Digest site* when they published the other stories they received.)

“One”
The man was trouble.
It wasn’t just the way he spoke to them, berating them in front of the people. There was something unworldly about him. It was downright unsettling.
They’d ran this town, knew how everything worked. They looked after the people. But this man threatened all of that. He’d turned the people against them and was dragging more to his cause everyday.
His followers were loyal, stubborn, self-righteous they’d follow him to the ends of the earth.
Or maybe the leaders were just being paranoid.
What could one man really do?
He was just a carpenter after all.

“Happily Everafter” was a story I made up as I went along, sitting down and knocking it out without much thought about where it was heading. “One”, however was something I’d come up with whilst studying the life of Jesus and reading about how the religious leaders of the day derided him. And so, tying in with what i wrote about in my last blog, I thought it would be interesting to tell the story of Jesus, only from the perspective of the Pharisees and other religious leaders.

“Happily EverAfter”
Kiki wasn’t the person everybody thought she was.
But it didn’t matter anymore, she was getting away from it all.
She didn’t know where she was heading – up north maybe, or even down south.
She didn’t care either way. She just couldn’t stay here.
Her foot was to the floor, the car hurtling her towards her new life, for better or worse. Nobody could say for sure what that new life would bring, but she’d find out soon enough – as soon as the car hit the bottom.
She only hoped that her next life would be better than this one.

In writing, I’ve always had the tendency to ramble on and play around with dialogue, but having only 100 words to play with really forced me to tighten it up, and so it was really helpful to try the exercise. And at the end of the day, even though I didn’t win this little competition it doesn’t really matter. I really enjoyed the challenge. And it’s made me realise that a short story doesn’t need to go on… and on… and on…

*Whilst Readers Digest did post my story on their site, they didn’t publish it word for word. They added a word, I assume by mistake, which completely changed the meaning of my opening sentence. (They wrote “The man was in trouble” and not “The man was trouble”.) But after already having emailed them to correct them on my name, I really couldn’t be bothered to email them again. Of course, if I had won, I would have made sure they got it right!

http://www.readersdigest.co.uk/magazine/212-Your-RD/1391-Your-Books.html

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Old Ladies and Supervillains

I knew it’d been a while since my last blog, but October? Damn! Okay, here’s me trying to make up for it. Normally, it’s a short story that inspires me to update this page, but instead, today, it was something that happened during work.

I clean windows for a living, have done since I’ve left school. It’s nothing glamorous to be fair, but being self-employed is nice (until it comes to filling in the tax forms) and it allows my mind to wander and conjure up stories whilst I work—something I might not be able to do with a more mentally taxing job.

Of course, it means I’m constantly dealing with people of all sorts. But today, one of my older customers came to the door and answered with a grumbly “oh it’s you, i thought you’d given up.” Now, normally, this wouldn’t bother me too much, but she’d said a similar thing last month, and the month before too. I would have let her off if I had been late, but I was on time, and had come to clean her windows exactly when i told her I would.

Now, I must say, that I’ve always prided myself in trying to believe in the best in people. And even when someone seems off with me, I tell myself that they might just be having a bad day and I have no idea what they’re dealing with at that moment in time. Basically I give them the benefit of the doubt.
Today though, I thought to myself, “nah, she’s always miserable.”

When I’d finished however, she came outside and apologised about being short with me and then went on to tell me the problems she’d had that week. By the end of it, I felt guilty for ever thinking ill of her. Someone might come across as a misery guts, or worse, but we never know what they’re going through.

Reminding myself of that simple truth also brought back to my mind the reasons why I like to write stories.

I always find it interesting to tell a story from the other perspective; to shine a light on a character that isn’t particular likable from the outset; or even to tell a tale from the villain’s viewpoint instead of the hero.
Maybe it’s because I want people to change their own thinking about others, and not to be so quick to judge people they don’t really know. Or maybe it’s just because it is fun to try and get inside the mind of another, work out what makes them tick and why they make the decisions they make.
Basically, I like to write these stories because they are precisely the type of stories I like to read. Take for example Smallville, the Tv series that chronicles the life of a young Clark Kent before he dons the tights and becomes Superman. Whilst it was interesting to witness Clark’s journey, and see how certain life choices pushes him towards his ultimate destiny, I always thought the show was much more successful in exploring the character of Lex Luthor. Like Clark, Lex could feel himself being pushed towards a certain destiny too—to be a ruthless businessman like his father, and hated by everyone else as a result. And yet for the first few seasons we, as an audience, witness him desperately trying to avoid that fate. His friendship with Clark could be his saving grace, but in the end it’s Clark Kent himself that pushes the Luthor away and drives him to become the villain we all know and love.
Honestly, the writers’ take on the character, coupled with Michael Rosenbaum’s stellar performance, makes Lex Luthor a hell of a lot more interesting than he was in the movies. He’s a tragic figure and one I think more people can relate to. The show certainly suffered as a result of the character’s departure.

It’ll be interesting to see what Zack Snyder will do with the character in the new Man of Steel movie. I’m both excited and terrified of what the “300” director has in store. He certainly can create stunning visuals, it will just be nice to have a decent story to go with it.

In my next blog, I’ll finally post my 100 word stories I submitted for the Readers Digest competition a few months back. I was actually going to include it here… but I’ve rambled long enough.

I’ll just make sure it’s not in another nine months.

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That short story thing.

I’ve never really been one for short stories.
Although I’ve had a fair few ideas for writing some in the past, I’ve found that whenever I set out to put them into writing, they turn into something other than “short.” It has probably something to do with my tendency to ramble, to get into a long dialogue between characters which might not serve the story but I quite enjoy nonetheless.
With poetry, I’ve found that i can at least tell a tale in a condensed way (mainly because its difficult to constantly come up with rhymes, I’d rather just get the point across)
But, the other day, my dad pointed out a competition that was being run in the Readers Digest to tell a story in exactly one hundred words and wondered if I’d be interested in giving it a go. It seemed like it was something worth trying at least. And so I quickly put together a short tale, didnt require much in the way of editing, just a matter of me seeing if I could do it. Later on that night though, a few other ideas came to me, which I plan on writing out too.
Needless to say, the more i thought about it, the more I wanted to give this short story thing a try. To actually set out and write something that could be read from start to finish in a few minutes. None of this rambling malarky. I feel it will be a good test of my writing too – to work to a specific word count.

What follows isn’t a hundred word tale. In fact, I didn’t start writing with a set limit. I just wanted to write – a tale that had a beginning and an end, and was no more than a few paragraphs in length. Honestly, I was making the story up as I went along but, with it clocking in at less than 400 words, I think its a start at least.

Guardian

The beast could not be tamed.
He crouched upon the hilltop, looking down at the chaos he had created. He could still hear the people from here. The screaming. And the fires, they continued to rage, growing more and more fierce as they overtook the village, burning the homes to a crisp.
They’d started it. Not just the fires – although that was of their own foolish making too. They thought they could burn him. But they only burnt themselves, and all that they’d created.
But he too, the beast, had been one of them. He’d walked with them. Ran with them. Spoke of idle things in a tavern not too far away. But that too was gone.
He sat there now, looking over them not with pride, but with sorrow. He couldn’t help what he had become, what he had done, but they could have. They could have stopped it. They should have done. Those dastard experiments which they ought to have known would spell trouble. This science was not theirs to dabble in, but Gods.
And now he was there as a result. And what of them? The creators of this monstrosity? Should they survive this night then it would only be to suffer another. To endure the guilt and pain of knowing what they had done.
It had only been an idea in their minds eye but they had made it real. They had created perfection. A perfect beast which knew right and wrong and acted upon it. But it had been their downfall. For they were nothing but imperfect, flawed, evil. The beast had to act – it was what he had been made for – and so they suffered. They suffered his wrath, his judgment.
The fools thought they could control him, control everything. They thought they could wield the power. But they were wrong.
The only one with any power now was that one that stood perched above them, watching over them. He was in charge now. And he would remain there, forever. A guardian of sorts, keeping them in line, protecting them from their selves. It was the only way.
There was no other option.
Science had been their god.
And now it was ruling over them.

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Norse

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with Mythology, particularly the Greek and Norse legends.
It might have something to do with being an avid reader or comic books, which in of themselves borrow heavily from those ancient stories – not only with their themes but also with their characters (Thor, I’m looking at you.) Clearly though, there’s a great influence in many science-fiction and fantasy movies/tv shows too. So I guess being a huge geek, I’m bound to have a certain interest in those superheroes of old – Thor, Odin, Hercules – the original Supermen.

Recently I’ve had a story in my head that sees familiar heroes of Norse Mythology in a different setting. A story that takes place in the distant past but has an enormous influence on the future of mankind. Its only a vague idea at the minute, with only a few plot details clear in mind, but the more I think about it, the more I want to put my head down and write it.
Trouble is, delving into the Norse stories isn’t like delving into the world that Joss Whedon created for Firefly/Serenity. Far from it. It doesn’t matter that there is a wealth of information on the Firefly verse, about the planets and politics, stories as conceived by the writers, both official and fanfic. “The verse” is tiny, compared to the world of Norse Mythology.
It’s not like that there’s one story, or one version of events in Mythology like this. There are poems and prose, drawings and paintings based on each and every character in the Norse Myth. It’d be impossible to cater to the character of each man, god and monster without contradicting what may have been established in another story.
So scrap that.
The tale of the Elementals, the story in question, will borrow heavily from these characters and their stories, but it will be my own version – and so it should be, really. I think it will be more fun that way – to turn familiar characters on their head, forcing you to second-guess the heroes and the villains.
That’s not to say I’m anywhere near writing any of the story down yet. At this point, it’s more of a concept in my head than a fully-formed story. Besides which, there’s a dozen or so stories that have to take prominence right now.
But soon… Eventually… I just might get to writing it down.

Having said that, I had a sentence stuck in my head the other day – “the raven’s holding the demon back” – and so I decided to look into the use of the Raven in mythology.
What follows is a poem I wrote, inspired by the tale of Huginn and Muninn – the two Ravens that sat by Odin’s side. It’s unfinished at the moment, but it is something I may well incorporate into my story.

Prologue.
In the empty void, in the darkest black
The raven is holding the demon back
The spirit that tried to seize control
Now has dreams of claiming souls

1
Thought and Memory were father’s guides
Sitting where his throne presides
He’d send them out, to see the land
So that his people, he might understand

They secured him peace and peace of mind
And held out hope for their own kind
They restored the land to former beauty
They went beyond their call of duty.

But father Odin could not forget
his mind was filled with much regret
For his own son, he’d cast aside
Despite the chaos he’d caused worldwide

For the deaths he’d caused, the son should die
But Father could not say goodbye
On his own son, he’d passed the sentence
Hoping he would soon show repentance.

2
Made to roam, in the Sands of East
To pay a crime for those deceased
The son his heart begins to harden
And the skies above begin to darken

Whilst the son’s own form begins to alter
Father’s certainty begins to falter
He calls upon his Memory and Thought
His countenance clearly disturbed and distraught

“See to it that my son is returned
his price has been paid, his lesson’s been learned
Carry him up from under your wings
And return him to me, to his family of kings”

Immediately the ravens were sent
To carry out what was Father’s intent
But the son’s own love could not be retrieved
And the shapeshifting mare had some tricks up his sleeve.

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The Journey

Sometimes, a story can take longer than expected to finish.
This one, I’ve been working on for quite some time. Must be couple of years, stopping and starting every now and again. I’ll work on something else but always came back to it. Mainly because I’m determined now more than ever to finish it. And it was only meant to be a short story, no more than four chapters. So much for that plan. The more I wrote, the more the story developed in my head. And as it is, its become a mystery story, spanning hundreds of years.

Originally starting life as a Firefly fanfic (or at least set in the same verse) I’ve decided that I’ll probably end up going back and removing all traces of its connection with that verse. Not only so I can possibly have it published, but also because there have been a few elements that exist in the realms of fantasy, that its probably looking a bit out of place in Joss Whedon’s Firefly verse, which tried to remain as true as possible (for a sci-fi show set 500 years in the future.)

Below is an excerpt from one of the chapters, and I’ve literally just written this moments ago so its still a bit rough and might undergo changes before the story is complete. But nonetheless, this is taken from Chapter 7 of Needy’s Destiny 2: The Legend of Fox Cipher.

Black. That was all there was to see. There were stars to gaze at, true, but after spending a lifetime with nothing but stars to look at, they had soon lost their appeal.

Back home it was different. There were blue skies and green fields. Beautiful oceans and stunning waterfalls. The planet teemed with wildlife; animals of all shapes and sizes; flowers of every colour under the sun. And what a sun it was, blazing heat enough to brown the skin and give you a healthy glow. That was life back home. At least it had been during the good times. Before it all turned to crap.

Now Fox Cipher, like the rest of his “family” on board the Gallagher, had nothing but dull corridors and a black void to look out at.

It’d been over a century since Earth’s inhabitants took their last look at their dying planet, and only a small number of the population still remembered that day, the vast majority had long since passed. But even the ones that were still breathing, they didn’t remember Earth for what it really was. They didn’t remember its beauty. As far as they were concerned, Earth had been uninhabitable for years, and images of what it had once been were nothing more than a distant memory.

But for Cipher, it wasn’t too long ago. He remembered his home in Colorado. He remembered moving from city to city, from country to country, appreciating each one’s different quirks. He remembered taking walks along the mountainside and staring out across the land. He remembered being in love with a world that was now only referred to as Earth-That-Was.

He had hopes, like the rest of them, that this new solar system would be everything they hoped for; that after the terraforming of the planets was complete, they could start again. But the truth was Fox Cipher had lived longer than most. He’d seen promises broken and dreams squashed. He knew man far too well to believe they could ever really change. He wanted to believe. He wanted to believe that this could be the fresh start everybody truly needed. Finally, he might be able to stop running. Perhaps he might even be accepted for who he is, what he is.

But he wasn’t naïve. Whilst he admired these people, the ones he currently called “family”, these that would have gone mad years ago had they not all set their hopes on a dream – he knew what they were like deep down, each and every one of them. He wouldn’t be accepted by them, not any time soon at least. The truth was he wasn’t one of them, he was better than that, better than them. And for that very reason, they would hate him, hate him for what he had – something that they could never pay money for, nor be gifted with out of kindness. It was a gift given to him and him alone. A gift he never asked for but one he would be forced to bear. The gift of life.

If he had the choice, he’d sacrifice this gift for something more. Hope. Hope for each and every one of them. He didn’t know if he believed that mankind deserved it – they’d taken so much from him. But he’d lived long enough. He hoped, for their sakes, that these new Earths would offer more than just shelter. They’d offer redemption.

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