Time for another Goodbye

Hello all.

It’s the last month for Novel Dreamers. The writers have run out of time last month, and now to just go home. Well, after one last month.

Go vote for those by the way. They’ll be on the Voting Page shortly.

So thanks for another year. This month, just write what you want to. It’s a free for all. Go for it.

Much love,


Does This Really Need An Example?

I can’t show you how to do this. Funny, because each month without fail, I have tried. Obviously I’m the oracle of all of this and as such I should be able to tell you exactly what you need to hear to make you pick up your pen/pencil/crayon/writing tablet/whatever you write with and just put some bastard words on paper. I can’t tell you how to feel about things. You know me, so you’re probably hearing the use of the word “bastard” with my mock Sean Bean impression or with a hint of anger. I just like the word. It wasn’t used in malice or frustration, just like the word and didn’t like the sentence without it.

You don’t need me to tell you any of that either. I don’t have any paperwork saying I’m an educated writer. I have no sales reports saying that people like my writing so much that I can live off it. I’ll be very honest with you, the little payments I have received for my writing has been enough to cover a month of rent in the 15 years of writing I’ve done and that includes Theatre, Music, Prose, and that bloody Table Top Role Play Game that I’ve become “the guy” for. I am a fraud that just got tired of hearing people say “I wish I had time to write” so forced them to sit down once a month and write. And forced is a very broad use of the word. I’m not sat next to you with a gun to your head, and every month you don’t write I don’t get angry because life is busy and hard, I literally just put the request in front of you.

That’s what I do for a lot of life, I’ve noticed. A friend wants to do podcast work, so I write the first episode of an audio play that never gets touched because the idea isn’t needed anymore. Another wants to sing and play in a band, so I draw from the pool of friends with talent and say let’s make a go of this. Sometimes I don’t even need to ask. The group just finds itself and I just happen to be the one who ends up organising it until it gets to the point that I don’t have time to organise a night of people just needing an escape.

So when do I escape? I’ve forgotten how, if I’m honest.

If I boil everything I do in a week down to brass taxes, I spend 25-40 hours at a place I resent for cracking the childhood illusion of that high held dream. I then go home and I sit with this screen in front of me for an hour or two. Throughout nearly all of these hours, I have my headphones in playing someone else’s story into my brain. There’s not enough time to actively sit and read a book so audiobooks and podcasts whilst doing the other things are quite useful. If I am not too busy that week, I’ll sit and absorb a story through video game whilst listening to the headphones. I may not actually put a word to the page all night, but there are ideas brewing and fermenting away to the point that at the end of the week when they’re needed, I can pull from the brain without much issue. I will sit and listen to previous recordings of these events and edit them so others can listen. I talk occasionally with my partner about things because she’s very busy with her week and the last thing you need when you’re busy is some numpty to start talking about their weird fantasy works that have nothing to do with your actual proper writing that’s getting a degree and actually means something. And finally I try to occasionally break with puzzles because there is no stopping, just distracting.

Back to that comment of not being educated properly or paid enough to hold a level of authority in all of this. I think the constant streaming of work gives me some authority.

I won’t lie, I am tired of the constant streaming. I need a break but I don’t know how to. Actually no, that’s not true, I want it to stop feeling like work and go back to feeling like fun.

When I was 17, I applied to go to university after 2 years of studying both Theatre and Music and my music teacher was most upset when I said I was going to study Theatre not Music but my reasoning was sound then and I feel it is sound now and should be applied again. I wanted to avoid going to study Music because the thought of having to spend day in day out playing the guitar with some form of judgement that led to a grade took all the fun of it away. I go home and pick up my guitar and relax for a bit. I can’t do that if I have been playing guitar all day for university, or even reading and writing about it for coursework. And that’s where I feel I’ve gone with all of this.

So where do I go from here? I don’t want to stop my weekly writing task, because I’m quite attached to the work I’ve done so far and I’d like to work out how the story finishes. I’ve also started to work on the next story, should me co-writers agree to such a thing. I’ve worked out where the fun is with that. I struggle to keep a hold of it, but I know where it is if it ever gets too much. Maybe I should take the advise I want to give you for the end of this year of writing. I think it’s a fair enough request, as one final challenge for you that I too will try to give example of for sake of a familiar format.

For the love of all that’s holy, write what you like. And don’t hold yourself to stupid deadlines like some fat guy who literally writes his example piece in 30 minutes on the hand in weekend because he feels the month is too long to write for. That’s his time scale, not yours. If you need a deadline, create one for yourself. It could be a RPG session for the end of a week, it could be a date you want to release a song on your soundcloud, it could simply be that your child wants a story before bed. Don’t stop doing what you love, just work out how to do it in the week so I don’t have to keep running these!

I’ll probably start working on Novel Dreamers Year 3 soon.


A Bad Run

It’s amazing how quickly things can change. One minute you’re pulling off a sleek and smooth data heist, and the next everything is going wrong.

As the red alarms filled their head up display, ArcFeather began to swear quietly and succinctly. The peripheral of their sight shifted to red and the escape timer appeared in the top right corner of their vision; five minutes and counting. ArcFeather spun away from the console, snatching the datajack and tucking it into a pocket, and began to run full-pelt at the window. Leading with their left shoulder ArcFeather hit the glass and burst out into the black night, 98 levels above Grid-0.

It wasn’t the blackness of night, of course, and the window wasn’t actually glass. There is no sky above the Grid, just an empty pallet, and it is black because this is the easiest thing for simpler systems to render. The glass was a representation, as was Maxid Tower, the building Arcfeather had just exited so dramatically. Giving datacores building-like structures made them easier to navigate, and allowed you to apply human logic to the world of the Grid. The logical approach to exiting Maxid Tower wouldn’t be via a window 98 levels above the main level of the Grid, however. Anyone with sense, and the correct levels of access, would just use a door.

But ArcFeather didn’t have the correct levels of access. Some might also suggest that xe didn’t have much sense either, but there you go. Now ArcFeather’s body tumbled downward toward Grid-0, a situation that needing rectifying ASAP. For all that the Grid wasn’t the same as the Real, hitting representative ground after a fall of nearly a hundred floors would still fuck you up royally. So ArcFeather tucked their arms in and pointed their head down, feeling a sudden increase of speed as they became more aerodynamic, and at the same time tapped a series of buttons on the keypad strapped to their thigh. With an electronic thrummm, silver and green glimmering threads burst from ArcFeather’s back, and in milliseconds a pair of wings twelve feet across had sprouted from their spine. They were semi-transparent, and exquisitely detailed, mimicking the shape and structure of raven wings, but each feather was a thin gossame material, like the wing of a dragonfly.
They had taken three months to create, programming the look and more importantly the physics, but as the wings snapped open and changed their tumble into a glide, ArcFeather grinned; three months well fucking spent.

All this had taken roughly 20 seconds, and the timer was still ticking. The countdown was a custom programme, a reminder to ArcFeather to hurry the fuck up; once the timer reached zero, whatever authorities that would be chasing them would have locked onto ArcFeather’s signal and entry point, and subsequently confirmed their location in the Real. ArcFeather had four and a half minutes to get off-Grid, and once back in the Real, to get lost. Xe banked to the left, still heading downward but seeking the stacks of silver and blue and purple buildings that were the smaller datacores. Once amongst those xe’d be harder to track and could lose any pursuit. As soon as the thought was finished another alarm message flashed in the top right of ArcFeather’s vision; incoming bogeys. ArcFeather looked back over their shoulder and saw three seekers glide around the edge of Maxid Tower and aim straight for them.

Seekers were silver and red insect-like shapes, simple but powerful AI watchdogs, automatic functions that chased and traced rogue programs and outlaw users. ArcFeather was the latter, and proud of it. Xe slowed in the air, allowing the three bugs to get a little closer, before tucking their wings in, dropping three levels before snapping them open again and jetting off in the opposite direction. It fooled the seekers for a moment, but soon enough they were following once more.

ArcFeather threw themselves into evasive action, looping around the other datacores, which looked like a mass of glistening skyscrapers, ducking and diving and swooping but the seekers kept up with every manoeuvre. The timer was at two minutes and counting; xe needed to get off-Grid fast. Another alarm beeped and ArcFeather twisted in the air, rolling to the right as a red harpoon hummed through the airspace xe’d just been in. It was a lockbolt; a freezer code that would lock an avatar in place, preventing them from moving but also from going offline. ArcFeather began a litany of four letter words, wracking their brain for a way out of this clusterfuck.

Then xe saw it. The lack of gravity in the Grid meant that, if you chose, you give a construct literally any impossible shape. On the edge of the group of cores that ArcFeather and the seekers were dodging amongst was something of a curiosity; the building, which had been nicknamed the Cluster, was the main core of a large design company, and whoever had coded it had taken an artistic approach. The building looked like a bird’s nest or a tangled mass of cable, each strand 15 feet in diameter. It was a vivid, shimmering purple, and had caused a stir when first coded into the Grid. The reason ArcFeather grinned when xe saw it, though, was that among the strands of building structure were gaps. Small enough for a human sized avatar, just about…

Ignoring the part of their mind that was screaming that the idea was insane, ArcFeather surged forward, racing toward the Cluster. The seekers also put on a burst of speed and followed. As xe approached, ArcFeather took a deep breath and held it, and as they reached the first gap they snapped the wings closed for a second, then open again. Through! Spotting the next gap ArcFeather jetted towards it, ignoring the booming explosion behind them that made the Cluster shake. That was one down, maybe…

ArcFeather was acting on instinct, trusting to reflexes honed from hours of flight and ghosting in the Grid, blazing a speedy path through the Cluster, around and down towards the bottom level, Grid-0. Another explosion echoed behind, and then a third, but ArcFeather didn’t slow; more seekers could come, were probably en route, and the timer was on 58 seconds and had begun pulsing. With 23 seconds left ArcFeather soared out into the open air, ten feet above the simulated ebony surface of the Grid floor, drawing a few surprised gasps from the figures wandering below. Xe snapped the wings shut, the silver and green lines vanishing, dropped to the ground and began to walk as casually as xe could manage. The Grid was always busy whatever time it was in the Real, so it was easy enough to blend in.

10 seconds.

ArcFeather scanned the street for the closest jackpoint, spotting one ten feet away. Xe lowered their gaze and made a beeline for it.

7 seconds.

Above the murmur of the avatars on the street came the faint whine of an approaching seeker, and a few turned to looked. ArcFeather ignored the sound and kept right on going.

3 seconds.

ArcFeather reached the jackpoint and without a backward glance pressed their palm against the top of the blue glowing column. As contact was made, the Grid vanished–

–and ArcFeather blinked their eyes, looking out at the Real once again. Xe glanced down at the wristcom and saw the escape timer paused at 1 second.
“That was too fucking close,” ArcFeather murmured as they pulled the jack from the socket behind their ear, their voice hoarse. They coughed, and patted the many pockets of their coat till they found the hipflask. ArcFeather took a swig of water and sighed; definitely too close. And what had happened, why had a simple job gone wrong? That was still a mystery. Xe shivered in the evening air, deciding that the problem would have to wait. Xe’d gotten off-Grid in time, but it would be wise to get gone from here anyway.

ArcFeather sat huddled on the metal grille of a fire escape balcony, two floors up. The flat the balcony served was dark and silent; the occupant was away, which was why ArcFeather had chosen this spot for the jack. Xe detached the spike from the cable running into the wall of the flat and slowly rose, joints cracking and popping. A gentle rain began to fall, the drops making a faint pinging noise at they hit the metal of the fire escape. Rolling their shoulders, ArcFeather picked up their satchel and tucked spike, keypads and deck into it. They were waterproof, of course, but a professional looks after their tools. Then xe headed down the metal stairs to the lower balcony, climbed over the barrier and dropped onto the plastic lid of the industrial bin that stood next to it. Dropping at last to the floor of the alley, ArcFeather did a quick check of pockets to ensure xe had everything, then glanced out at the street. The glow of shop signs, the occasional whisper of traffic and the faint smell of Chinese food and falling rain permeated the autumn evening, and bodies drifted across the alley mouth, people heading out or heading home…

ArcFeather tugged their coat close about them to ward off the night’s chill, pulling up the hood and thrusting their hands deep into their pockets. A bad run, but they’d gotten away in time and clean, and that was something, at least. Nodding to themselves, ArcFeather moved slowly to end of the alley, stepped out into the street, turn right and started walking; just another figure drifting through the rain.

You’ve Got Time


His voice is low, gravelly, secretive. It’s something like the voice he uses in bed, beneath the sheets, pressed skin to skin, but it’s more tense. It’s further away. His breath isn’t against my ear, hot and ragged. I don’t have time to think about such things. 

“Hey you.” 

I try to sound rosy. It doesn’t work, my voice cracks. I hear him take a short breath down the phone, deliberating over what to say for. He never struggles to talk normally. When he hasn’t seen me for a few days, I can’t shut him up. He catches me in his arms and tells me all about those missing hours. It’s been five weeks. God knows what his days are like now. 

“I’ve not got much time.” he says. 

“Okay, how are you doing, are you sleeping any better? How’s the food?”. 

Too many questions at once. Not enough time for any of them. 

“The food is fine Lovely. I’m allowed more time outside in the courtyard for good behaviour. Good to get out my room.” 

His room. His cell. His calmness overwhelms me. I can’t help myself. 

“Tell me you didn’t do it.” I blurt. 

“Now Claire.” he warns. 

His tone frustrates me. I distance myself. 

I remember us pressed up against the wall, his hands skimming underneath my blouse, feathering over my waist. I can recall perfectly the feeling of his lips kissing behind my ear and down my neck. I remember the front page headlines, that girl, face down in the marshy woodlands ten minutes from our house. Perverted, they’d called the killer, a monster.

“Please.” I whisper. 

He sighs. There’s a pause and every news report that I had sat and watched with hunched shoulders, sobbing into my own hands, plays on the cruel reel in my head. 

“The electric carving knife.” he mutters. 

“What!?” I laugh nervously, confused, and then it hits me. 

“I’m out of time, goodbye Claire”.

The electric carving knife. I’d been rooting through the drawers to find it to cut the beef with for our Sunday roast with my parents. 

“It wasn’t working, I had to chuck it. Don’t worry, I’ll get you a new one.” he’d said to me, hand on the small of my back, “Mmm, dinner smells delicious Darling.” 

That was the missing link. The mysterious blunt muder weapon used to slit her throat.


He hangs up. The receiver clicks and the call ends.