El Camino, Breaking Bad, or how I learnt to hate criminals (a rant)

So I’ve recently watched El Camino, so with this post, there is a high risk of spoilers for El Camino, Better Call Saul, and Breaking Bad. If you’ve not watched them, skip this post.

Don’t feel guilty. It’s okay- your view has already been registered. The advertisers I don’t have, don’t want, and don’t care about would happy.

Okay, if you’re reading on, you don’t mind spoilers, and if it upsets you, it’s your problem, not mine.

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You’re doing it wrong…

Yay I’m writing, and it feels great.

Unfortunately I’m doing it wrong. I wanted to write a short story that would act as a prequel to my NaNoWriMo project this year. However, what I’ve done so far is write 1,006 words that have seen a spacecraft land on a planet, and my protagonist go through customs, and ride a taxi to a hotel. It’s not even got him in the room yet.

It’s not a big deal, obviously – a lot can be cut out in the edit, but now I’ve realised the problem I need to write differently, or face having an extra difficult edit process to cut it down. Makes sense? Unfortunately, there’s now a cognitive dissonance between what I’ve written and what I will be writing, switching styles after you’ve started isn’t great.

Needs must though, I feel the need to write this because I’ve made the decision for my NaNoWriMo novel start in the middle of it’s B plot, while the A plot has a more traditional three act structure. So the short story I’m writing is the first part of that B plot, it’ll give me some reference points, without bogging down the main novel with what really isn’t necessary for the story.

Plus it allows me to achieve one of my favourite things in novels, having a world that exists beyond the novel itself. One of my most hated things is stories that take place in a bubble, you want indications of a rich back story that led up to the events of your novel, without directly featuring them.

I also want to do a second short story, this second featuring a bit more world building so being broader in context than my current short story featuring the back story to the protagonist.

In the meantime, I need to get less detailed and more action and intention orientated to make this short story work. I’d like to limit myself to four thousand words.

I’ll publish the short stories on here once they’re done.

Short Story: The Peculiar Blade

I was in Scarborough for the weekend just gone, and took the opportunity to do a little writing – okay, it’s been a while since I actually wrote a story. Mostly I keep plotting them – but this one had no plot, I just wrote. It is very strictly a short story to enjoy, there isn’t much depth to it. I did enjoy writing it though.

The Peculiar Blade

by J L Lawrence

Thomas McVey looked at the peculiar blade in his hands and felt a strange premonition.

He walked over to the window and reflected on his quiet surroundings. He had always loved rainy Scarborough with its quiet, yet wild seaside. It was the place he always came to when in hiding, it was easier to move between the north and south halves of the city, and the headland made for interesting defensive positions.

From his room on the top floor of the hotel, looking out over the North bay, the sea wild with high winds, the sun deep down, he saw something in the distance, or rather someone. It was the figure of Mark Kowalski. Mark was an tenacious police agent who Thomas had known for some time was on his trail. Two years previous Thomas had got on Mark’s radar with an operation in Bristol, then again, another operation in Devon, that he had tracked him down in Scarborough over 300 miles away did not bode well.

Thomas gulped. He glanced at his own reflection. He looked older than his forty-five years, somehow the past decade on the path of revenge had taken its toll, but it had also made him lean, he had the hungry look of a predator, his skin was taught over lean muscles, belying a hard and fast man. What few acquaintances he had still contact with, saw him as a hard, focused and dark monster. His enemies saw a man to whom death would be inevitable, but until then he was a dark and dangerous killer best to be avoided.

But not even an incredible person who had dozens of kills under his belt, and had fended off more than his fair share of assassins, was prepared for what Mark had in store today.

The rain hammered like jumping rats, the wind made the sea roar, making it hard for Thomas to see and hear the danger around him, the only thing he was sure of was that Mark Kowalski was out there waiting for him.

As Thomas stepped outside and Mark came closer, he could almost see the hungry glint in his eye, and Thomas knew this man had violent intentions.

“I am here because I want justice,” Mark bellowed from the street, in a deranged tone. He slammed his foot down. “I frigging hate you, Thomas McVey, come down here and face me.” Despite the roaring from the ocean Thomas heard him nearly perfectly.

Thomas looked back, even more surprised and still fingering the peculiar blade, then he made up his mind and left the room and riding the antiquated lift down to the first floor where there was a communal balcony empty with the weather. “Mark, you must think I was born yesterday,” he called out.

They looked at each other with angry feelings, Detective Kowalski pulled a handgun from beneath his jacket, a simple Browning and took aim.

Thomas ducked back inside, and head for the stairs down, keeping an eye out for an attack, but he made it to the ground floor doorway.

Suddenly, Mark lunged forward and tried to punch Thomas in the face. Quickly, Thomas grabbed the peculiar blade and brought it down on Mark’s skull.

Mark’s dirty legs trembled and his ugly arms wobbled. He looked anxious, and scampered back, fumbling with the gun. Several over men rushed into the corridor; their guns ready.

Thomas smashed the fire alarm, and retreated back into the stair way, he ducked down heading towards the basement.

The unknown men followed him, but Thomas had moved into a narrow corridor with a blind right hand bend, which allowed him to meet the shadowy men one by one in close quarters, and he rapidly despatched them, rendering them unconscious or unable to stand as opportunity dictated. He wasn’t interested in a body count, he had no way of knowing who these men were, despite being sure they weren’t police.

Mark staggered through the narrow corridor, he started shooting blindly before he could see Thomas, sending ricochets and brick shards flying around the corner. Thomas had no choice but to retreat, coming to the large boiler for the hotel.

“It’s no use,” the detective called out, you’re trapped, and I have a gun and you only a knife.

Thomas refrained from replying, he focused on understanding his setting, the pipes and tanks that filled the boiler room.

Mark charged in, firing that anything that looked like a man. He fired three times before his gun was empty, and he had to stop release the clip to replace it.

Thomas charged out from behind one of the boiler tanks, hot and sweaty but still ready and able to fight, he let forth a roar as he drove the knife in between the ribs of the vengeful detective.

Mark let out an agonising groan and collapsed onto the ground. Moments later Mark Kowalski was dead.

Thomas McVey went back upstairs, and filtered into the crowd making their way out due to the fire alarm, disappearing from the crowd he walked the one mile back to the South Bay and took up occupancy in his back up hotel, and made himself a nice cup of tea.

THE END

I got a little bit obsessed…

I was reading The Count of Monte Cristo, I got a little bit obsessed. It’s one of my all time favourite books, though I’d only read it once – now twice. I wasn’t just reading it this time, I’ve been also been studying it, and studying Alexandra Dumas, I even tracked down a copy of Michael Ross’ biography of Dumas, (which as it turns out it’s hard to find literature, in English, on Alexandra Dumas, plenty in French but my two years of studying Francais isn’t up to that task).

See I love Alexandra Dumas, based on just two works The Three Musketeers, (I’ve read all the stories), and the Count of Monte Cristo. I knew who he wrote other stuff, but I hadn’t realised how much other stuff – the guy was prolific, as well as truly fascinating character in his own right, as was his father. However, that’s a post for another day, a nice big long post. In fact, there’s likely to be several posts on the subjects of the Count of Monte Cristo and Alexandra Dumas. I turned a 50 hour read into a 100+ hour project of learning, so obviously I’m going to put you through at least some of that.

However, I’ve finally finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo, next up is The Black Count: Glory, revolution, betrayal and the real Count of Monte Cristo – which is about Alexandra Dumas father, for whom part of the Count of Monte Cristo is based on.

I’m also going to be reading something more modern The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: Wayfarers 1 , I’ve heard great reviews about this series and I’m only just getting round to starting it, it’s something to look forward to.

I’m looking for inspirations for my reads after this, so feel free to comment with some good suggestions – aside from erotica, I have no limitations on genre, or age.

Drowning in Yesterdays

There is nothing wrong with nostalgia, in fact it’s quite lovely and even fascinating. However, culturally we are drowning in nostalgia.

Nothing new there, there’s a reason the world is filled with classics of things – we naturally harken back to a time and to things we understand through years of process. From Bach to Shakespeare, and Enzo Ferrari to Orson Welles. It’s always been there.

Some nostalgia is cyclic, the 70’s dwelled in the 50’s, the 80’s in the 60’s, and the 90’s definitely had a kick for the 70’s. Some nostalgia as mentioned lingers for decades, even centuries crossing not just generational divides, but generational gulfs.

All that being said, the 2010’s seems to have gone nuts with nostalgia. Someone figured out it sells, and someone figured out the formulas to keep it selling. And it’s been fantastic frankly, oh the hits just kept rolling in and rolling in, movie franchises long since gone were resurrected, franchises that really should have been short and sweet rolled on and on, there were sequels to books ages past, bands and groups reformed and toured and put out new albums, and new artists gave new life to old songs.

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Random Update on My Life

So, I’ve got some things to say on books and movies… been struggling for inspiration blog wise, and I don’t want to just have space fillers and time wasting posts just to maintain some level of frequency. Benefit of not trying to make money off of a blog with advertising and sponsorship’s, I’m not beholden to the stats. It’s just my place to put down thoughts, ideas and share things I’ve learnt along the way, when I feel like it, it’s my space no one else’s.

So I’m back again, there’s at least four posts I want to write, not including this one. This one is a general update, there’s a lot of stuff going on in my life, which eclipsed both writing and blogging for a little bit.

To be honest, not writing was a mistake, I could have probably done with the release, write some random stuff just to get things off my chest, or explore what it is I’m feeling.

I’ll stop burying the lead, I’m faced with a massive life change as I’m being made redundant from a company I’ve worked at for 12 years. It’s not a bad thing, I posted round about this time last year about the need to make a change in my life regarding work, but it actually happened is something else.

I’ve got a plan, it’s a pretty good plan, it will allow me to keep earning, and given time, effort and dedication, I can prosper. Not only that, if managed well I will have more spare time, so I can really focus on my writing journey. It’s change though, it’s a massive change – and obviously that’s scary.

What’s interesting is, incredibly frequently in stories the characters have to go through serious changes in their lives as part of the story, and even when it’s something you want or are ready for, I don’t think I’ve ever fully understand just how emotional that can be. In fact, I think it’s something a lot of writers don’t necessarily appreciate.

So, this is where I find myself now. Exciting, but scary times. I just wanted to say something about it.

There’ll be a few more posts in the next few weeks, but for now I’m going to enjoy the Leeds West Indian Carnival parade, it passes by my street. I’ll add a photo of it. It’s a great event, one of the best things about living where I am now.

Review: Sam Gunn Omnibus, Ben Bova (2007)

I read this book years ago, and then I read it again, and again, and just recently… you guessed it, again! Sam Gunn Unlimited is the culminated tales of a 21st Century scoundrel, pioneer, visionary, conman, lothario, hero and villain, the man who single handedly (with a lot of help from a lot of people.. umm…) dragged mankind kicking and screaming from Earth and out into the Solar System, and maybe beyond?

Sam Gunn is the focus oh the book, but he’s not the protagonist, the story really follows a news reporter born and raised on the moon as she learns about the mysterious loved and loathed figure of a man, a former astronaut, operator of the first space hotel, the man who took commercial passengers into orbit for the first time, a cruise liner captain sailing the outer belt for asteroids, this larger than life figure, who was really short, a man who chased and was chased by women in amazing adventures.

See, what I just did there is what most of the characters in the book do, allow Sam Gunn to overshadow everything. In fact, Jade is a fascinating character in her own route, an outsider in a nation of outsiders, the first space orphan, she can never go to Earth due to a genetic condition, but through force of will, she jumps careers from manual labour on the moon’s surface to that of a reporter, giving her the resources, (with some corporate wranglings), to really dig into Sam Gunn and get people to tell her their stories of the greatest reprobate in the Solar system.

Jade’s story sets up the framing device Sam Gunn’s story, she interviews people and then the story switches to those people’s narratives, as unreliable a narrator as you could possibly want, making each story seem personal, but sometimes inconsistent. Perspective is everything, and it’s fascinating.

I mentioned that Sam Gunn even in absence, tends to overshadow everyone, but as with Jade that doesn’t mean the characters, the story tellers, Jade’s supporters and antagonists, they’re nearly all rich, you learn their histories, their hopes, their dreams, their fears, and their shames.

Sam Gunn’s life itself, is a story of an entrepeneur trying to make it rich on the new frontier, every step of the way he’s trying to push that frontier a bit further out so that he can net the profits while everyone else plays it safe and follows in his work. As is a common theme in Ben Bova’s stories, the corporations are the main antagonist in the story, they’re constantly trying to trick, cheat, or outright threaten our eponymous hero, but don’t worry Sam isn’t really a hero, as he’s more than happy to try and trick, cheat, and threaten them.

I love the scope of this book, it covers the preternaturally long life of Sam Gunn from his early days in NASA, until it catches up to the stories’ being told about him by Jade. There’s some fascinating discussions on the legal, ethical, and logistics of future space travel and colonisation. It has a fantastic finish, which leaves you wanting more from the cast of characters that come together at the end.

Literally the only thing I would change about this magical collection of stories is to embed more into the Grand Tour series, however as history is in places significantly different, and I think (off the top of my head), only one characters crosses over into Sam Gunn’s universe, I can see why it’s an independent story.

And one last note to add, and I’ll preface by saying this isn’t paid advertising, my most recent go through with Sam Gunn I did via Audible, where they had a tremendous multi-cast recording, so as you broke off into each of the different narrators it was a different voice, which really embedded the feel of the novel in a way single-voice recordings ever could. Really made you consider the biases, and the untrustworthy elements of the narrator. So I’d highly recommend if you want to experience Sam Gunn yourself, and you don’t have the time to sit down and read the whole thing, check out the Audible version. (Also it’s the Omnibus version, I previously only had the Sam Gunn Unlimited, which didn’t have the last few stories.. so that was a pleasant surprise to find out there was more to the story).

What I Blog About

So, let me make something clear – I’m in no way a successful writer, I’m not published, I enjoy telling stories and one day I may hit upon something I’d want to publish, but my craft is no where near where I would want it to be for that. I am an aspiring writer, hence the title of this blog, Aspiring.org.

I also really appreciate, and like to look at other people’s stories, which is why I’ve been adding in stuff about story telling from other writer’s, and other media. Now reviewing, or essaying about these is relatively new to me, and I’m early into honing it as a skill. I will improve though. I don’t think I’m going to ever be up there with the YouTube channel Movies with Mikey, who I highly recommend:

I can aspire though, and that’s what I’m all about. I will still be doing posts on the craft of writing, as I work out my way to becoming a half decent writer.

This isn’t a movie blog, but…

So, at the moment I’m really excited by a couple of movies coming up, the first for literary reasons, and the second for reasons nothing to do with writing but another interest of mine, (and it’s an excuse to talk about a non-writing passion).

There are spoilers ahead for the Le Mans 66 and new Dune movie, I’m feeling passionate about both, so I’m not self censoring – so it’s hidden behind the cut.

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The 100 Follow Up

So a very quick follow up to my The 100 post…

I finished watching the show up to the end of season 5 – and season 5 was actually a good show that I wasn’t hate watching. Which makes me feel so much better, as I don’t like to think of myself in such a negative light, I may look miserable all the time, but I’m actually an optimist at heart.

Now, my own story based on the premise of The 100 came out pretty well, I didn’t write it out, just plotted it, did some art work to design my stations and space craft. It was just a thought exercise in effect to fix the problems in The 100. It also let me experiment with some different plotting techniques to get that story idea laid out ready to flesh out with words.

So nothing written, but great success anyway.

I’ll do a future post laying out that plot, the reason I’m not going to write it is because it’s literally derivative, while it was distinct from the original, it wasn’t an original idea in of itself. It’s okay to write something that’s not original, if you came to it independently and did some different things with it, it’s just one of those things. It is truly different to come up with something entirely new, and that’s what I’d prefer to do.

But again, the subject of originality is a post for another time – because it’s one of those that requires a lot of thought to say anything rational.

So this is a largely purposeless post, just following up on my rant, now on to some new things.