Posted in How to Write

Mental Health and Writing (An Anxiety Meltdown)

It’s New Year again, everybody. Give yourself a round of applause. We made it. We can tell our descendants that we saw a repeated-number year; we got to see all the silly ‘seeing 2020’ jokes that were/are going around. We did it.

            With New Year comes the old adage, the resolution inspired phrase ‘New Year, New Me’ – I’m going to lose so-and-so amount of weight; I’m going to write more/start a new hobby; I’m going to get more exercise/any exercise. These are great goals and, if you actually go through with them, well done. But there’s one resolution I think, for me, is the most important for myself and my writer friends: to be more positive.

            And that ladies and gentlemen et al is how you do a not so clever segue into todays topic: mental health and writing. Apologies straight away to those with schizophrenia or any other psychosis etc. as I’m actually going to focus on something a bit closer to home for me personally: anxiety and depression (heavily focused on the former).

            Imagination is a double-edged sword. Myself and my friends, most of them also writers, have it in excess and it helps us create the most marvellous stories, poetry, characters and worlds—but it also makes us worry and panic about situations out of our control. It, on many occasions, breaks us.

            This is the situation I was stuck in, entering the New Year. I was constantly tired, depressed and stressed about everything I should be doing and had no motivation to get done. Anger consumed me when I caught brief glimpses of myself in doors and windows. I avoided mirrors altogether. I felt worthless. Nobody was interested in who I was or what I had to say.

            And then, the worst thing possible happened. I was blocked. I couldn’t draw or write. I’d lost interest in food—I didn’t have the capacity to care or bother about looking after myself.

            Now, I’ve been having problems like this since I was seventeen—it’s even been worse before this (cut to university me terrified to leave her flat)—I know what I can do to help myself. If you’ve experienced all this yourself, maybe you know how to help yourself too. If not, a quick glimpse online at a reputable source or (if really serious) a visit to a doctor or trained therapist can help a lot (find the right therapist for you though. It takes time but the right one is out there).

            I’ve got many ‘Works in Progress’ (I believe the cool kids on Twitter call it a ‘WIP’), all started happily and paused when I’ve become overwhelmed. Everytime I log on to my computer I see folders of unfinished stories or unfinished series’ of stories. I want to finish them but the words are stuck.

I wish this was more of a joke than it is.

            They’re there. I can feel them. I know the stories and the characters better than I even know myself but the words are wedged between my long-term and my short-term memory. My head is buzzing as it tries to force them out. So, what do I do?

            I move onto something new, a brand new WIP. It’s not a perfect solution but it relaxes my brain; takes away the stress of trying to force something that’s clinging to the back of my mind. It gives the story time. It gives me time. Separation only makes the heart grow stronger.

            So what do you do if you’re facing the same problems? My only advice, purely from my own stressy, overthinking perspective, is to be a bit selfish. Focus on yourself, not on what you ‘should’ be doing. Learn to enjoy again by doing something different. Do your exercise, lose some weight, write a poem, draw some pictures, learn to make cheese—whatever it is, do it for you. Make yourself happy.

            Hopefully the story will find you again and if it doesn’t, there’s plenty of others waiting for you. It’s a bigger world than you’re led to believe. And if you really, truly can’t find one here in this big, wide, beautiful, mad world we live in—congratulations, your imagination that’s caused you so much pain can finally come in useful.

            Our 2020 mantra – the mantra of the 2020 #writingcommunity should be ‘I am a writer. I chose to be a writer and I choose to be happy too.’

Posted in The Street Crawlers

The Street Crawlers: The Soldiers of Hell

Daisy was running down the corridors. They were practically empty, though before they’d been full of screaming, panicking agents. She was panting hard as she ran. She wasn’t the most athletic of the soldiers and ever since she had joined the artillery division she hadn’t needed to train as much. Right now she regretted avoiding the gym as much as she had.

            There was a shadow behind her, following her every step. It was because of this that she was running. It was because of this that all of her colleagues had disappeared. The shadow was a prisoner, a prisoner that had escaped from their jail cells. In fact, no, Daisy thought, it was worse than a prisoner—it was a Street Crawler.

            It was because of the Street Crawlers that Daisy had joined the Soldiers’ Academy in the first place. She thought back to it now, still running. She could remember the smell of the office where her interview had taken place. The interviewer, who Daisy now knew as Danny, was a very young man, barely any older than herself, but he’d been raised in the soldiers’ base so there was nothing he didn’t know about it. He’d asked Daisy why she’d wanted to be a soldier. What did she think she could do for the world?

            The Street Crawlers had been her answer. She’d wanted to save the ordinaries from the beasts that were the Crawlers. And as to what she could do for the world, well, she was hoping that they could teach her; mould her into somebody who could do something. That’s why she wanted to come to the Academy in the first place, and she felt it was a silly question to ask. Who would come to learn what they already knew?

            At that point she thought she’d failed miserably. She’d always been far too honest for her own good. But obviously Danny saw something in her that could be of use because she was accepted almost immediately. Daisy still couldn’t believe her luck.

            But was it lucky now? She was being chased by the very thing that she wanted to save others from. She could hear its footsteps all around her, on the floor below her, on the walls surrounding, on the ceiling. How could it have got onto the ceiling?

            She hadn’t meant to be put into this situation. When she’d walked out of her flat with her friends and flatmates, Ant and Sammy, this morning she’d been just as surprised as them to see the panic spreading through the station. Instantly they’d stopped their silly shenanigans and run to their sectors, though Daisy thought she’d seen Sammy run to the main hub which wasn’t where she was supposed to go. Sammy worked with the team that sorted out travel for the agents (so that the operatives could get to all of the people around the world that needed help). It wasn’t a very helpful sector to be in at this time though so Daisy could understand it if Sammy didn’t go there.

            Daisy had reached the artillery sector and greeted her four co-workers. They were checking through the weaponry, making a note of anything missing and locking up the vaults as quickly as they possibly could. If the escapee managed to get their claws on any of these weapons nobody would be safe. Daisy had joined in and began pulling crates of guns and stun-blasters out from glass cases and into the piles ready to be taken to the vaults. The lights had been tampered with and security cameras were switching off one by one. Everybody in the division looked terrified. They could only do their job.

            That’s when Daisy had noticed that there was a crate missing. She’d remembered that Danny had borrowed the electric-rods for testing the day before and shouted to her commander to inform her that she was going to go and get them back. Cr. Berkeley had nodded in agreement and Daisy had run out of the room. She’d run to the hub and realised that the hallways had become scarily quiet. She didn’t think of it at the time. She’d assumed that everybody had managed to get their sectors and had stayed there. She hadn’t thought for one minute that they might not have had a choice.

            She reached the hub, where she assumed Danny would be helping his father (who was the commander of the entire station) but the door was locked. She tried swiping her hand over the lock. It should have recognized her hand print but it looked like the hub was on lockdown. She’d shrugged it off. The hub needed more protection than anywhere else. If it fell, the entire station would fall.

            She went to the computer labs next, Danny’s actual sector. If he’d been testing the rods anywhere it would be in there, but that too was locked. She’d shrugged it off again. She’d figured that if any place had to be protected after the hub it would be here. All of their records were on files in the computer lab.

            Slightly ashamed that she had failed in her task she’d ran back to her sector, hoping that Cr. Berkeley would understand why the rods weren’t with her. At least, she’d thought, they were safe in the locked rooms. Nobody would be able to get to them in there.

            She’d made it back to the artillery division only to find it locked as well. If her hand print hadn’t worked at the hub it should definitely have worked here. This was her sector. But the door wouldn’t budge. The alarms were silent and the back-up generator could only provide a dim light. Daisy had suddenly begun to feel nervous. Beforehand she’d been too focused on her task to realise the danger that was facing her, but now she knew.

            She knew even more now, as she was being followed by the shadow. She could feel her heart racing in her chest, her breath becoming shallow, and her legs were aching all over. There was an unbelievably painful stitch in her left side. But she couldn’t give up yet. The shadow hadn’t given up on trying to catch up with her.

            She ran into the only open door she could find. It was a blessing to discover that there was one. She’d thought she’d be running forever. She swiped her hand over the pad and the doors shut behind her with a crash. They weren’t the quietest doors in the world and she jumped, though she’d known it was coming. She collapsed onto the floor, out of breath.

            “Hey, do you mind, this is our hiding place,” said a high-pitched voice in the middle of the room. Daisy sat up, shakily. There were trucks parked in rows everywhere. It had been the garage door that had been left open.

            “Who’s there?” she asked, slowly crawling back to her feet. She could still feel her thighs and side burning.

            “It doesn’t matter who’s there, just get out.” The voice seemed annoyed. It wasn’t the only voice here with Daisy.

            “Be nice, Bobby,” a second, even higher-pitched voice said.

Daisy looked on in surprise as a girl’s head peeped over the top of one of the trucks. She’d never seen her before. In fact, she’d never seen anybody that looked so much like a Barbie doll. “Who’re you?” Daisy said.

            The girl didn’t smile but beckoned her over to the truck, disappearing again as soon as she had. Daisy went and looked down into the front seat. The blonde girl was sitting in the driver’s seat, looking cheerily at a miserable looking boy sitting in the passenger’s seat. The boy had brown hair, a square jaw and the brightest blue eyes Daisy had ever seen.

            She slid open the door of the truck and slipped into a seat behind theirs, closing the door after her. They’d had the right idea, she thought, there was nowhere safer to hide than an armoured vehicle in a quiet, heavily fortified garage.

            “Hi there,” the girl said, finally smiling. “It’s Daisy, right? Daisy Kennington?”

            Daisy nodded, shocked. She didn’t even want to question how she’d known that. Knowing Daisy’s luck they’d already met before and Daisy, with her absent-mindedness, had completely forgotten. She knew that, if anything, the Academy hadn’t accepted her for her memory. Her memory was strictly reserved for things that seemed important at the time.

            “I’m Gwen.” The girl pointed to herself. “And that bowl of joy over there is Bobby.”

            Bobby mock-waved and grimaced.

            “I keep telling him he should be happy. We could’ve been locked in a safe-room, but we’re free to run around in here instead.” Gwen was leaning on the wheel. Daisy was watching in fear. If Gwen leaned just a little bit further into the middle then the alarm would go off. She wasn’t entirely sure if the Crawler had figured out she was in here yet. For all they knew she might have ran into another corridor.

            “Yeah, but it’s not right is it,” Bobby grumbled. “Here we are waiting for Gray to show up, and she takes his place instead.” He pointed at her and Daisy pulled a face. What right had this boy to think she didn’t deserve to be here? She had as much right as him.

            “Gray’s not coming, Bobby, just get over it. They’ve probably got him locked up in the safe room by now.”

            Bobby sighed and leaned on the dashboard. “It just doesn’t feel right without him. We’re always in a three—buds forever, mates together, remember?”

            Gwen nodded and sighed too.

Daisy looked at them both. “I’m guessing this Gray’s a friend of yours?” she said.

            Bobby rolled his eyes and grinned. He had a really nice grin. “How’d you guess? The fact I said we were buds?”

            Daisy grinned back. “Something like that.” She took a proper look at the two children (or where they teenagers? She couldn’t tell) and realised they reminded her of someone. “I think I know how you feel,” she said. “I miss Ant and Sammy, too. They’re my best friends.”

            “The best one’s come in threes,” Bobby said, with a laugh. Gwen had started to grin as well.

            “It’s weird to think, but it was only about an hour ago that we were dancing around our flat together,” Daisy said. “I’d love it if they were with me now. I don’t even know if they’re okay.”

            “They probably will be.” Gwen was now leaning on the door instead of the wheel. “As far as we know nobody’s been hurt. And Sammy will probably be in one of the safe-rooms. All under twenties are in them.”

            “Nearly all,” Bobby objected. “We never got that far.” He turned to face Daisy and looked at her proudly. “A couple of agents were taking us when they got called back to the cells to help, so we ran off and hid in here instead.”

            “You ignored orders?” Daisy was appalled. She’d never have had the nerve to do that.

            “What orders? We don’t work for the soldiers, we just live here.” Bobby laughed. “They actually thought we’d go, too. You’d think they’d know better by now.”

            Gwen giggled and Daisy laughed too. There was something about these two children, she thought. Their happiness was contagious and so was their laughter. Ant had the same effect on her.

            “So what are you planning on doing? Just camping out in here until it’s over?” Daisy asked, her laughing finished.

            “Why, was that your plan?” Bobby looked at her, seriously.

Daisy shook her head, nodded and then shrugged. She didn’t know what her plan had been. “I just knew I needed to run,” she said. She looked down at her feet, ashamed, and sighed. “I should’ve stayed and done something.”

            “Why?” Gwen asked.

            “Because that’s what agents do—what soldiers do.”

            “Yes, and they die doing so.”

Bobby agreed with Gwen on this. “My mum always said that the best agents protected people, but how can you protect people if you’re already dead? It’s better to watch your enemy, learn from them and then act when it’s the right time.”

“And when is it the right time?” Daisy was quite enjoying their strange wisdoms.

“That’s up to you really, isn’t it?” Bobby stretched his arms out and yawned. “Me, personally? I’m not sure it’ll ever be time.”

“That’s just because you stayed up all last night watching stuff on the internet,” Gwen said, poking him. He jumped and poked her back. Soon a large poking war was going on and both of them were giggling hysterically.

There was a crash and the hood of the car flew open and then shut again. All three of its occupants flew into the air and down onto the floor.

Bobby rubbed his head and groaned. “I knew we should have put on seatbelts,” he grumbled.

Daisy got up onto the seat first and leaned closer to the window, trying to see outside. There was a large dint in the front right-hand side of the truck. Daisy looked up at the vent system on the roof. There was a hole in one of the pipes—about small person size.

Her eyes grew wider and she quickly pressed the button that activated the truck’s locks and shield. “Guys,” she said, “I think it might be time.”

Bobby and Gwen scrambled to their feet and looked out at the front of the truck. There was a body slowly climbing up off the floor. She was wearing a black prison uniform and rubbing her body all over as she stood up. It had been quite a big height to fall from and it had hurt.

“What do we do? What do we do?” Bobby panicked. He looked at Gwen and then at Daisy but neither of them seemed to be moving. They were barely breathing.

The Crawler turned around and saw them. Their blood ran cold. Her eyes were as silver as a fog. Nothing could be seen in them: not happiness, not pain, not anything. She was blank.

She moved closer to the window and, instinctively Bobby (who was the closet to her) shuffled over onto Gwen’s seat, almost crushing her in the process. Gwen was too scared to notice.

“Soldiers!” The Copper Fox stared at them through the glass and hit the window with her fist. Daisy jumped and moved over to Gwen as well.

“No, no. There’s no soldiers here,” Bobby mumbled. “We’re—erm—we’re clowns. I don’t suppose you’ve seen the circus around here, have you?”

The Copper Fox sneered and it sent a shiver down Bobby’s spine. “Clowns? What, that’s the best you can come up with?”

“Well, it was either that or plumbers and I didn’t think that’d be very believable.” Bobby shrugged awkwardly. Gwen came back to her senses and poked him in his side. Her leg was starting to fall asleep.

The Copper Fox laughed. To Daisy’s surprise it wasn’t a horrible laugh, it sounded just the same as a normal little girl’s would. It sounded like an even sweeter version of Gwen’s laugh in fact, but Daisy wasn’t going to let this fool her. She knew that Crawler’s were killers, no matter what their laugh was like.

The Fox moved even closer to the window and Bobby clambered further onto Gwen’s lap, much to her dismay. She punched him but no amount of punching would make him move. Daisy looked down at the panic on their faces and remembered what she had said at her interview for the Academy. Though the interview had been a couple of years ago now (she’d left the Academy last year, after all) she still believed what she’d said. She had to protect people from Crawlers like this one. She prepared her nerve and was just about to step forward and open the door when the Copper Fox stepped back.

“Where’s the way out?” she asked.

Bobby and Gwen both pointed left, where a large garage door was waiting to be opened. The Fox nodded and ran away. The three occupants of the truck let out a sigh of relief as the sound of grating metal came through the room. The Fox had managed to open the door and had run off back to the streets.

Daisy slid open the door of the truck and looked out. The two kids looked out after her. They all clambered out into the garage as the lights of the station came back on. All around them, rooms that had been locked were slowly opening. The crowds had begun to fill the corridors again.

Daisy looked at Bobby and Gwen and they looked at her.

“How about we agree not to say anything about this?” Daisy said. She couldn’t bear to admit anymore failures on her part today.

“So, just an ordinary day then? Cool.” Bobby nudged Gwen in the side. “Come on, let’s go find Gray.”

Gwen nodded with a smile and they both ran out of the garage. Daisy watched them for a moment and then thought about the Copper Fox again. A Street Crawler had let them go? That couldn’t be right, could it?

Daisy was running down the corridors. They were practically empty, though before they’d been full of screaming, panicking agents. She was panting hard as she ran. She wasn’t the most athletic of the soldiers and ever since she had joined the artillery division she hadn’t needed to train as much. Right now she regretted avoiding the gym as much as she had.

            There was a shadow behind her, following her every step. It was because of this that she was running. It was because of this that all of her colleagues had disappeared. The shadow was a prisoner, a prisoner that had escaped from their jail cells. In fact, no, Daisy thought, it was worse than a prisoner—it was a Street Crawler.

            It was because of the Street Crawlers that Daisy had joined the Soldiers’ Academy in the first place. She thought back to it now, still running. She could remember the smell of the office where her interview had taken place. The interviewer, who Daisy now knew as Danny, was a very young man, barely any older than herself, but he’d been raised in the soldiers’ base so there was nothing he didn’t know about it. He’d asked Daisy why she’d wanted to be a soldier. What did she think she could do for the world?

            The Street Crawlers had been her answer. She’d wanted to save the ordinaries from the beasts that were the Crawlers. And as to what she could do for the world, well, she was hoping that they could teach her; mould her into somebody who could do something. That’s why she wanted to come to the Academy in the first place, and she felt it was a silly question to ask. Who would come to learn what they already knew?

            At that point she thought she’d failed miserably. She’d always been far too honest for her own good. But obviously Danny saw something in her that could be of use because she was accepted almost immediately. Daisy still couldn’t believe her luck.

            But was it lucky now? She was being chased by the very thing that she wanted to save others from. She could hear its footsteps all around her, on the floor below her, on the walls surrounding, on the ceiling. How could it have got onto the ceiling?

            She hadn’t meant to be put into this situation. When she’d walked out of her flat with her friends and flatmates, Ant and Sammy, this morning she’d been just as surprised as them to see the panic spreading through the station. Instantly they’d stopped their silly shenanigans and run to their sectors, though Daisy thought she’d seen Sammy run to the main hub which wasn’t where she was supposed to go. Sammy worked with the team that sorted out travel for the agents (so that the operatives could get to all of the people around the world that needed help). It wasn’t a very helpful sector to be in at this time though so Daisy could understand it if Sammy didn’t go there.

            Daisy had reached the artillery sector and greeted her four co-workers. They were checking through the weaponry, making a note of anything missing and locking up the vaults as quickly as they possibly could. If the escapee managed to get their claws on any of these weapons nobody would be safe. Daisy had joined in and began pulling crates of guns and stun-blasters out from glass cases and into the piles ready to be taken to the vaults. The lights had been tampered with and security cameras were switching off one by one. Everybody in the division looked terrified. They could only do their job.

            That’s when Daisy had noticed that there was a crate missing. She’d remembered that Danny had borrowed the electric-rods for testing the day before and shouted to her commander to inform her that she was going to go and get them back. Cr. Berkeley had nodded in agreement and Daisy had run out of the room. She’d run to the hub and realised that the hallways had become scarily quiet. She didn’t think of it at the time. She’d assumed that everybody had managed to get their sectors and had stayed there. She hadn’t thought for one minute that they might not have had a choice.

            She reached the hub, where she assumed Danny would be helping his father (who was the commander of the entire station) but the door was locked. She tried swiping her hand over the lock. It should have recognized her hand print but it looked like the hub was on lockdown. She’d shrugged it off. The hub needed more protection than anywhere else. If it fell, the entire station would fall.

            She went to the computer labs next, Danny’s actual sector. If he’d been testing the rods anywhere it would be in there, but that too was locked. She’d shrugged it off again. She’d figured that if any place had to be protected after the hub it would be here. All of their records were on files in the computer lab.

            Slightly ashamed that she had failed in her task she’d ran back to her sector, hoping that Cr. Berkeley would understand why the rods weren’t with her. At least, she’d thought, they were safe in the locked rooms. Nobody would be able to get to them in there.

            She’d made it back to the artillery division only to find it locked as well. If her hand print hadn’t worked at the hub it should definitely have worked here. This was her sector. But the door wouldn’t budge. The alarms were silent and the back-up generator could only provide a dim light. Daisy had suddenly begun to feel nervous. Beforehand she’d been too focused on her task to realise the danger that was facing her, but now she knew.

            She knew even more now, as she was being followed by the shadow. She could feel her heart racing in her chest, her breath becoming shallow, and her legs were aching all over. There was an unbelievably painful stitch in her left side. But she couldn’t give up yet. The shadow hadn’t given up on trying to catch up with her.

            She ran into the only open door she could find. It was a blessing to discover that there was one. She’d thought she’d be running forever. She swiped her hand over the pad and the doors shut behind her with a crash. They weren’t the quietest doors in the world and she jumped, though she’d known it was coming. She collapsed onto the floor, out of breath.

            “Hey, do you mind, this is our hiding place,” said a high-pitched voice in the middle of the room. Daisy sat up, shakily. There were trucks parked in rows everywhere. It had been the garage door that had been left open.

            “Who’s there?” she asked, slowly crawling back to her feet. She could still feel her thighs and side burning.

            “It doesn’t matter who’s there, just get out.” The voice seemed annoyed. It wasn’t the only voice here with Daisy.

            “Be nice, Bobby,” a second, even higher-pitched voice said.

Daisy looked on in surprise as a girl’s head peeped over the top of one of the trucks. She’d never seen her before. In fact, she’d never seen anybody that looked so much like a Barbie doll. “Who’re you?” Daisy said.

            The girl didn’t smile but beckoned her over to the truck, disappearing again as soon as she had. Daisy went and looked down into the front seat. The blonde girl was sitting in the driver’s seat, looking cheerily at a miserable looking boy sitting in the passenger’s seat. The boy had brown hair, a square jaw and the brightest blue eyes Daisy had ever seen.

            She slid open the door of the truck and slipped into a seat behind theirs, closing the door after her. They’d had the right idea, she thought, there was nowhere safer to hide than an armoured vehicle in a quiet, heavily fortified garage.

            “Hi there,” the girl said, finally smiling. “It’s Daisy, right? Daisy Kennington?”

            Daisy nodded, shocked. She didn’t even want to question how she’d known that. Knowing Daisy’s luck they’d already met before and Daisy, with her absent-mindedness, had completely forgotten. She knew that, if anything, the Academy hadn’t accepted her for her memory. Her memory was strictly reserved for things that seemed important at the time.

            “I’m Gwen.” The girl pointed to herself. “And that bowl of joy over there is Bobby.”

            Bobby mock-waved and grimaced.

            “I keep telling him he should be happy. We could’ve been locked in a safe-room, but we’re free to run around in here instead.” Gwen was leaning on the wheel. Daisy was watching in fear. If Gwen leaned just a little bit further into the middle then the alarm would go off. She wasn’t entirely sure if the Crawler had figured out she was in here yet. For all they knew she might have ran into another corridor.

            “Yeah, but it’s not right is it,” Bobby grumbled. “Here we are waiting for Gray to show up, and she takes his place instead.” He pointed at her and Daisy pulled a face. What right had this boy to think she didn’t deserve to be here? She had as much right as him.

            “Gray’s not coming, Bobby, just get over it. They’ve probably got him locked up in the safe room by now.”

            Bobby sighed and leaned on the dashboard. “It just doesn’t feel right without him. We’re always in a three—buds forever, mates together, remember?”

            Gwen nodded and sighed too.

Daisy looked at them both. “I’m guessing this Gray’s a friend of yours?” she said.

            Bobby rolled his eyes and grinned. He had a really nice grin. “How’d you guess? The fact I said we were buds?”

            Daisy grinned back. “Something like that.” She took a proper look at the two children (or where they teenagers? She couldn’t tell) and realised they reminded her of someone. “I think I know how you feel,” she said. “I miss Ant and Sammy, too. They’re my best friends.”

            “The best one’s come in threes,” Bobby said, with a laugh. Gwen had started to grin as well.

            “It’s weird to think, but it was only about an hour ago that we were dancing around our flat together,” Daisy said. “I’d love it if they were with me now. I don’t even know if they’re okay.”

            “They probably will be.” Gwen was now leaning on the door instead of the wheel. “As far as we know nobody’s been hurt. And Sammy will probably be in one of the safe-rooms. All under twenties are in them.”

            “Nearly all,” Bobby objected. “We never got that far.” He turned to face Daisy and looked at her proudly. “A couple of agents were taking us when they got called back to the cells to help, so we ran off and hid in here instead.”

            “You ignored orders?” Daisy was appalled. She’d never have had the nerve to do that.

            “What orders? We don’t work for the soldiers, we just live here.” Bobby laughed. “They actually thought we’d go, too. You’d think they’d know better by now.”

            Gwen giggled and Daisy laughed too. There was something about these two children, she thought. Their happiness was contagious and so was their laughter. Ant had the same effect on her.

            “So what are you planning on doing? Just camping out in here until it’s over?” Daisy asked, her laughing finished.

            “Why, was that your plan?” Bobby looked at her, seriously.

Daisy shook her head, nodded and then shrugged. She didn’t know what her plan had been. “I just knew I needed to run,” she said. She looked down at her feet, ashamed, and sighed. “I should’ve stayed and done something.”

            “Why?” Gwen asked.

            “Because that’s what agents do—what soldiers do.”

            “Yes, and they die doing so.”

Bobby agreed with Gwen on this. “My mum always said that the best agents protected people, but how can you protect people if you’re already dead? It’s better to watch your enemy, learn from them and then act when it’s the right time.”

“And when is it the right time?” Daisy was quite enjoying their strange wisdoms.

“That’s up to you really, isn’t it?” Bobby stretched his arms out and yawned. “Me, personally? I’m not sure it’ll ever be time.”

“That’s just because you stayed up all last night watching stuff on the internet,” Gwen said, poking him. He jumped and poked her back. Soon a large poking war was going on and both of them were giggling hysterically.

There was a crash and the hood of the car flew open and then shut again. All three of its occupants flew into the air and down onto the floor.

Bobby rubbed his head and groaned. “I knew we should have put on seatbelts,” he grumbled.

Daisy got up onto the seat first and leaned closer to the window, trying to see outside. There was a large dint in the front right-hand side of the truck. Daisy looked up at the vent system on the roof. There was a hole in one of the pipes—about small person size.

Her eyes grew wider and she quickly pressed the button that activated the truck’s locks and shield. “Guys,” she said, “I think it might be time.”

Bobby and Gwen scrambled to their feet and looked out at the front of the truck. There was a body slowly climbing up off the floor. She was wearing a black prison uniform and rubbing her body all over as she stood up. It had been quite a big height to fall from and it had hurt.

“What do we do? What do we do?” Bobby panicked. He looked at Gwen and then at Daisy but neither of them seemed to be moving. They were barely breathing.

The Crawler turned around and saw them. Their blood ran cold. Her eyes were as silver as a fog. Nothing could be seen in them: not happiness, not pain, not anything. She was blank.

She moved closer to the window and, instinctively Bobby (who was the closet to her) shuffled over onto Gwen’s seat, almost crushing her in the process. Gwen was too scared to notice.

“Soldiers!” The Copper Fox stared at them through the glass and hit the window with her fist. Daisy jumped and moved over to Gwen as well.

“No, no. There’s no soldiers here,” Bobby mumbled. “We’re—erm—we’re clowns. I don’t suppose you’ve seen the circus around here, have you?”

The Copper Fox sneered and it sent a shiver down Bobby’s spine. “Clowns? What, that’s the best you can come up with?”

“Well, it was either that or plumbers and I didn’t think that’d be very believable.” Bobby shrugged awkwardly. Gwen came back to her senses and poked him in his side. Her leg was starting to fall asleep.

The Copper Fox laughed. To Daisy’s surprise it wasn’t a horrible laugh, it sounded just the same as a normal little girl’s would. It sounded like an even sweeter version of Gwen’s laugh in fact, but Daisy wasn’t going to let this fool her. She knew that Crawler’s were killers, no matter what their laugh was like.

The Fox moved even closer to the window and Bobby clambered further onto Gwen’s lap, much to her dismay. She punched him but no amount of punching would make him move. Daisy looked down at the panic on their faces and remembered what she had said at her interview for the Academy. Though the interview had been a couple of years ago now (she’d left the Academy last year, after all) she still believed what she’d said. She had to protect people from Crawlers like this one. She prepared her nerve and was just about to step forward and open the door when the Copper Fox stepped back.

“Where’s the way out?” she asked.

Bobby and Gwen both pointed left, where a large garage door was waiting to be opened. The Fox nodded and ran away. The three occupants of the truck let out a sigh of relief as the sound of grating metal came through the room. The Fox had managed to open the door and had run off back to the streets.

Daisy slid open the door of the truck and looked out. The two kids looked out after her. They all clambered out into the garage as the lights of the station came back on. All around them, rooms that had been locked were slowly opening. The crowds had begun to fill the corridors again.

Daisy looked at Bobby and Gwen and they looked at her.

“How about we agree not to say anything about this?” Daisy said. She couldn’t bear to admit anymore failures on her part today.

“So, just an ordinary day then? Cool.” Bobby nudged Gwen in the side. “Come on, let’s go find Gray.”

Gwen nodded with a smile and they both ran out of the garage. Daisy watched them for a moment and then thought about the Copper Fox again. A Street Crawler had let them go? That couldn’t be right, could it?

She shrugged it off, as was her way. No, of course she hadn’t. No doubt the Crawler just had other motives for not hurting them. But, no matter what she did, from this moment on Daisy would never be able to look at Crawlers the same way—especially the girl she soon knew as The Copper Fox. But that’s another story now, isn’t it? 

And the Beast Doth Howl

Do you hear it? Do you hear it?

Do you hear its painful howl?

Do you hear it? Do you hear it?

Do you hear its horrid growl?

Did you see its gnashing teeth

As it dragged you into hell?

Did you see the fumes escaping

As you were locked inside its cell?

Did the soldiers grab you fiercely,

Tear you limb from limb?

Did they leave you for the beast

So that it could have the kill?

The Beast doth howls

Hollering and hovering.

It crawls over roads and roadways

Hunting for its kill.

It howls inside the boxes.

It hollers on the steps.

It groans and groans and squeals,

The Crawlers’ sign of death.

Do you hear it? Do you hear it?

Did you hear its cheerful crunch?

Did you see the jagged teeth

As it ate you up for lunch?

Did the soldiers come in armour

And drag you to its doors?

Did you smell the fumes escaping

As it crunched you in its jaws?

Did it crash and crack and burn you

As you settled in its belly?

Did it play with you and tug on you,

Its own personal, delicious deli?

The Beast doth howls

Hollering and hovering.

It crawls over roads and roadways

Hunting for its kill.

It howls inside the boxes.

It hollers on the steps.

It groans and groans and squeals,

The Crawlers’ sign of death.

Do you fear it? Do you fear it?

Did you fear its satisfaction?

Did you realise the suffering brought

On every interaction?

Do you remember? Do you remember

The sounds of screams, of desperation

As it tore away your family

Who had no means for segregation?

Did you run or try to hide

Whilst they suffered in its shell?

Did you do what the bravest have tried

And the fools have yet to tell?

The Beast doth howls

Hollering and hovering.

It crawls over roads and roadways

Looking for its kill.

Its master sits behind him,

Soldiers swarming over steps.

He pulls the siren as a warning,The Crawlers’ sign of death.

Posted in The Street Crawlers

The Street Crawlers: The Children of Hell

Sammy whistled cheerfully as she walked around her room, grabbing a mug from her bedside table and dancing around her bed to the drawers on the other side. She pulled out her phone and smiled at her reflection, moving her lips this way and that and looking at her teeth closely. She groaned and rubbed her middle finger over the top row, rubbing away the piece of toothpaste stuck to it. She blew a kiss to herself and slipped her phone into her pocket.

            A slow knock came on her bedroom door. She danced over to it and pulled it open. Her friends, Daisy and Ant, waved to her and she waved back, coming out into their shared living room as she did. They both joined in the whistle and all three of them danced into the kitchen where Sammy put her mug into the sink. Ant came from behind and slipped her coat onto her shoulders. She pulled her arms into the sleeves.

            Daisy was doing a foxtrot around the kitchen table and grinning to herself like a Cheshire cat. Sammy laughed and joined her. Ant danced over to the front door of the flat and tugged on the handle, smiling and tilting his head to the left. The girls followed him out of the door, still dancing.

            A large bustle was happening outside. People were running to-and-fro, shouting loudly into walkie-talkies and screaming at anyone they passed, ‘emergency, emergency’. Sammy looked around and frowned. She’d stopped whistling.

            “Emergency, emergency,” she said as she ran down the corridor in front of her. Ant and Daisy had run off down separate corridors. She headed down the metallic stairwell in front of her and down to the main control room. The closer she got to the hub of the station the more people she saw flying around in a wild panic. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know what to do.

            Sammy pushed herself through the crowd and headed to a large raised area in the middle. A balding, middle-aged man stood on top barking orders at the frantic hordes around him.

            “Move them to Sector A,” he yelled. “Get them out of Sector GI now! That’s an order, get them out now! We can’t afford to lose any more people.”

            “How’s it looking, Dad?” she asked. Her father turned around and saw her. He was red in the face and sweat was dripping down his cheeks.

            “Ah, good, you’re okay,” he said, giving her a hug. “I thought you’d gone to the dogs or something.”

            “I’m fine.” She looked up at the large computer screens hanging on the walls. “What’s happened?” There was live film footage showing the hubbub she’d just seen in the corridors. She could see Daisy who’d now joined up with her co-workers in the Artillery division.

            “An escapee,” her father said. “From Sector 6F. They’re causing all kinds of trouble for our systems, turning off lights, computers and cameras everywhere.”  

            She nodded. More and more screens and cameras were going dead by the second.

            “Is there anything I can do?” she asked whilst her father barked out more orders to the men below.

            “If you really want to help you’ll go to your sector,” he told her.

She frowned and tugged on his jacket sleeve. “Can’t I help you with something? Surely you need someone to check on things down in 6F?”

            “No! Nobody’s to go in there, let alone my girl.” He looked down at her stubborn little face. She reminded him of his little sister, her Aunt, when she was in a mood. “Just go to your sector, Sammy.”

            She grumbled and watched as he walked away from her and down to the floor below. He hardly ever trusted her to do anything. Her brother Danny ran up the stairs to the podium and took her by the arm.

            “Come on, let’s go,” he said, pulling her along with him. They ran down the corridor and pushed through the swarms of workers buzzing through the halls. They ran and ran and ran. Amber lights flashed, sirens sounded, red lights flashed, the sirens were switched off. It was all just one big game of Operation.

            They came to a large metal door and Danny pressed on a panel by the side.

Sammy looked around, confused. “Wait, where are we?”

Danny didn’t say anything.

She tugged on his sleeve. “Danny, this isn’t my sector,” she said, worriedly. The door slid open. She’d never heard a door open so quietly before.

            She looked inside and saw an empty space with a bed and a few tins of food laid next to a bucket. 

            “Danny, this isn’t my sector.” She was getting annoyed by his silence.  He wouldn’t even look at her. “Danny, this is ridiculous. We don’t have time.” She turned to leave and Danny grabbed her wrist. She wiggled, trying to get out of his grip. Her brother wasn’t usually so fierce, she couldn’t understand it. With one quick move he flung her inside. She toppled backwards and fell onto the floor.

            “Da…” she said, in surprise but she didn’t get enough time to finish. He shut the door on her, turning the locks and shutting her inside. Sammy began to panic and ran forward, slamming her full weight against the door. It wouldn’t budge. She yelled out but nobody could hear her. Danny had run off down the corridor, giving the express command not to go anywhere near where he’d put his sister to anyone he passed. They all obediently followed his orders.

            The alarms were still going but Sammy couldn’t hear them anymore. Just as nobody outside could hear her from inside the room, she couldn’t hear anything from the outside either. She was all alone. She was all alone and she was annoyed. Her father had done this to her. Her father had locked her up like she was a child that needed to be protected. But she wasn’t a child anymore. She could look after herself.

            “I have to get to my sector,” she screamed. “I need to get to my sector. Danny, let me out!” When nobody came after fifteen minutes of screaming, and her voice hoarse, she gave up. She groaned and slid onto the ground. It wasn’t like she couldn’t have helped. She’d practically been raised on the company’s rules and procedures. When other children had been learning how to walk she’d been running drills in the gym. By the age of six she was better with a weapon than most experienced soldiers. It was stupid that she should be locked up.

            She looked over at the tins of food. There was barely enough to suit Ant’s appetite, let alone Sammy’s. She figured, by her trained reasoning, that it would last perhaps two days, three at most. And if they did expect her to stay any longer then they could rethink their plans. There was no way she was staying in here, starving herself to death.

            “This is ridiculous,” she croaked, her throat still sore from her yelling. She stretched and rolled into a ball, stuffing herself in a corner and burying her face in her legs. “I should be out there, not in here.”

            “You and me both,” said a voice not far off.

Sammy sat up straight, startled. She put her hands down on the floor to hold herself steady. “Who said that?” she asked, looking around the room. No, it was definitely empty.

            “Oh, sorry,” the voice said. “I forgot about this thing.” A light was switched on and the far wall suddenly showed another room just like hers. There was a young boy stood inside and he waved at her cheerfully.

            “Hi,” he said. “I’m Graham.”

            Sammy stood up and brushed the wrinkles off her trousers. She touched the wall Graham was looking through and swept her hands across the glass. The strange thing was—it didn’t feel like glass.

            “It’s a new material,” Graham said, smiling at her. He had glasses perched on the end of his nose. He pushed them up to sit on the bridge, near his amber eyes. “They’ve been working on it in the labs for a while now. It’s a good thing they finished it, isn’t it? Otherwise we wouldn’t be here.”

            “Good for you, maybe. I should be out there,” she grumbled, still wiping her hand over the mysterious material.

            “So should I,” Graham admitted. “I’m supposed to be working on a new software with my friends, but here I am.” He shrugged and pulled a face. “Sometimes things happen.”

            “Yes, well, they shouldn’t.” Sammy hadn’t liked the face he’d pulled. She didn’t know whether she liked this boy or not. “At least they shouldn’t for people my age. I’m old enough to be looking after myself.”

            “Apparently not, otherwise you wouldn’t feel so bad about having to take care of yourself in here.”

She glared at the younger boy but he didn’t mind. His smile stayed on his face, looking like it couldn’t be removed no matter what anyone did. “You could consider this an opportunity to prove yourself right. Prove you can look after yourself then next time they might believe you.”

            “And why should I listen to a little boy?” she asked.

            “I’m not a little boy,” he said, indignantly. “I’m already into my teens, same as you. I’m just short for my age, that’s all.” He seemed embarrassed by his height and tugged on his shirt, trying to pull it lower.

            “Incredibly short,” she said, but she stopped herself before she said any of the crueller thoughts she was having. “Anyway, how’d you know I was a teenager?”

            Graham grinned and pushed his glasses back up. They’d fallen down again. “My mum’s in charge of the computer labs, with all the records and data stored on them.” He paused and looked her up and down. “You look a bit different from your I.D. Photo. I thought you were taller.”

            “Hey,” she said, “I’m plenty tall, believe you and me, shortie.” She laughed and he joined in with her.

            “I’m sorry,” he said. “I just don’t know much about anybody off the computer. Other than my friends I barely see anyone.”

            Sammy looked into his sad eyes and pitied him. She knew how it felt to live like that. Even when she’d been training as a child the gym had always been empty. “You have friends then?” she asked.

Graham nodded. “Bobby and Gwen, yes. They’re parents work here too.” He took a crumpled photo from his pocket and pushed it against the see-through wall. A cheeky brown-haired boy and blonde-Barbie girl stared back at her. 

            “They look nice,” she said.

            “They are.” He tucked the photo back into his pocket again. “I suppose they’ll be locked up in one of the other safe-rooms right now. They’re probably playing all sorts of games.” He sighed and blushed when he saw Sammy staring. “I don’t have a very big imagination,” he said, and he pushed his glasses again. They hadn’t fallen down but he sometimes did this when he felt embarrassed.

            “Well, you’re lucky, at least,” Sammy said. She moved over to the bed and sat down. “I didn’t have friends when I was your age—and I didn’t have an imagination either.”

            “Really?” Graham had sat down on his bed too. They couldn’t see each other anymore but they could still hear each other.

            “Yeah,” Sammy said. Graham could hear the sadness in her voice as it shook. She zoned off for a few seconds, thinking back to her childhood. “I suppose that’s why I’m so happy when I’m around Ant and Daisy. They keep me interested. I never was when I was a kid.”

            “I’d be the same,” Graham said. Silence fell for a few minutes. Neither knew what to say to each other and both had disappeared into their minds to consider their pairs of friends.

            “I’m sorry for not speaking, by the way,” Graham said through the silence. “I didn’t know what to say.”

            “It’s okay,” Sammy said, with a yawn. “I needed time to rant to myself anyway. I’m just sorry you had to listen to it.” She looked at the ceiling with a puzzled expression. “Hey,” she said, attracting Graham’s attention, “what do you think’s happening out there right now?”

            “I don’t know,” he said. “Something exciting.”

            “Yes.” She turned over and rested her head on her hands. “Something exciting.”

A Short Song About The Children

If the children succeed us

Why can’t we let them succeed?

And if the children need us

Why don’t we just let them need?

And when the time comes

When they need us no more

Why don’t we let them succeed us

Whether they’re rich or they’re poor?

Posted in Book/TV/Film Themed Dishes

The Wizard of Oz: Pork and Corn and Fruit ‘oh my’

One word… Mmmmmm…

Anybody who’s actually stumbled across my Twitter account (probably by accident I’d imagine as I don’t believe I’m that interesting to catch your attention purposely) will know that a few months ago I was reading ‘The Wizard of Oz’. I’ve got to be honest, the page I showed on there was just about as far as I got. Okay, okay, I got slightly further but I certainly never made it to the actual Emerald City scenes or their meeting of the Witch. I think, perhaps, I met the Cowardly Lion.

            Why didn’t I keep going, you might ask? Did time get away from me? Did I have so much going on in my life I couldn’t take some time to read a children’s story? Well, I wish I could say yes (which I may have been able to do back then, but certainly not presently), but the truth is I stopped because I just wasn’t enjoying it. It’s a classic. It’s a story that should be respected for what it’s added to the world, the authors it’s inspired, but I just could not get invested in any of these characters lives.

            Why? For a normal person you may say it’s just because it was written for children and I’m an adult. But, you see, I’m not a normal person—I regularly enjoy reading children’s fiction and always have done. I used to leave the library as a teenager with a pile of ‘Magical Ballerina’, Jacqueline Wilson’s, Enid Blyton’s—and, probably a rather disturbing sight for the librarians, a pile of Murder Mystery and Crime novels too. I have always told people, rather than saying I’m ‘a writer’, that I’m a ‘children’s writer’. I enjoy the freedom, the focus on characters and the sheer joy of the area. But I don’t like books that write down to children. I don’t enjoy when it tries to tell me how to think and feel, just because it’s aimed at children—and, whether it’s the case or not, that’s how ‘The Wizard of Oz’ felt to me.

            I love the idea behind the story, the characters that have been shown and parodied thousands of times by other writers—even the themes of family and home are inspired enough. At the very least I can say that I respect this book and I believe it’s earned it’s place in history. And that’s why I decided to create a dish for it, despite the fact that it—or it’s film counterpart—simply aren’t for me. Whatever I may feel about it, other people have connected to it and that’s all an author can hope for. Good for you for loving something like ‘The Wizard of Oz’—every piece of work, every piece that someone has poured their heart into, deserves just a bit of love from others for the mere time and effort and heart that’s been poured into it.

            Okay, rant over. Sorry, I had to get this off my chest and explain myself (again, apologies, opinions are hard things to have). I created this dish based on the love its readers give it, the place it holds in our history and the characters that even I can love without caring for the words behind them (it tasted delicious, by the way—my Mum’s favourite dish so far).

Tip to making puree: Put in a bit of cooked potato for a smooth consistency.

            We have a silky, smooth corn puree representing our Yellow Brick Road; crispy straw potatoes representing our friendly, smartly-dressed scarecrow (pun intended); a piece of the finest cut of pork: fillet (for our meat-eating but timid lion), stuffed with fruity breadcrumbs (for our down-to-earth, sweet Dorothy); raspberry and blackcurrant coulis’ put on the plate for our sleepy, obstacles that block the path to Oz—the proud poppy (and some poppy seeds for good measure); and all covered in a tinny flavoured broccoli and gorgonzola sauce, both for our heart-lost Tin-Man and the colour of their desired location.

            It was certainly one of my easiest to cook, each part simply made but lovely to eat, and I think/hope represents this work well. Because the book is simple, especially from a modern prospective, but can still be creative and tasty. I think, now, that works like ‘The Wizard of Oz’ are considered the greats because of what they can inspire, rather than what they originally were. The ideas are there and at their very basic form—perfect for the freedom of a new writer/artist/song-writers imagination. I created a dish—other people create films, songs and paintings. So although you weren’t for me ‘Wizard of Oz’, thank you for everything you’ve done to inspire your following generations. As said previously, you’ve earned your place in history and I thank your creator L. Frank Baum for putting his heart on the page and sharing it with the public. Your bravery is something I struggle to reach still and can only aspire too. Thank you for all you’ve done and thank you, to every writer or artist out there for spreading your own hearts out to the public to be heard. You all truly amaze me—thank you.

Sappy message over. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed eating that corn puree.

A tasty combination. Sweet, salty and sour are always a perfect match.

Posted in How to Write

Editing an Old Piece

Looking for the smallest mistake in a sea of sentences.

It’s arguably the worst part about writing. It sucks all life out of the piece, makes you feel less confident in your words minute by minute and overall is something you would rather somebody else did for you (and yet something you also wouldn’t entrust to another person, in case they completely tear it apart). I, of course, am talking about that dreaded word—editing.

            There’s no other way to say it: editing is the worst. In fact, that’s wrong—editing your own work is the worst (I actually enjoy editing other people’s work, hence why I used to do it for Fanfiction writers). So, to help you learn how to edit your own piece (and exactly why I don’t enjoy it) I’m going to take an old piece of mine and edit it for a blog post. Yay. Okay, let’s get this started, shall we?

            So, the piece I’m going to use is one I believe I wrote when I was seventeen. It was a short story but extremely amateurish because of my age when it was written. To give some context: I was much more a poet back then than a fiction writer, meaning there were metaphors abound; I knew the character fairly well as she had been created when I was around ten or eleven; lastly, I have to say that I’m fully aware this is not me at my best, so apologies in advance.

            For this post, let’s focus on the first paragraph:

‘I am Rebecca and I am a recovering Photoholic.

Ever since I can remember I’ve had a long lasting infatuation with cameras. I never did much with the being on screen myself, but behind it was like a playground my imagination could explore. Everything seemed so much more toned and exciting from the little box on the back of the digital screen than in the reality of it all. I would spend hours on a night editing the footage of the day onto small compact discs or tapes and catalogue them into my ever-expanding filing system.’

The first thing I noticed is that the second paragraph needs to be indented. This, along with many other layout problems, is something that I automatically set before I start writing these days but didn’t know back then.

‘I am Rebecca and I am a recovering Photoholic.

Ever since I can remember I’ve had a long lasting infatuation with cameras. I never did much with the being on screen myself, but behind it was like a playground my imagination could explore. Everything seemed so much more toned and exciting from the little box on the back of the digital screen than in the reality of it all. I would spend hours on a night editing the footage of the day onto small compact discs or tapes and catalogue them into my ever-expanding filing system.’

As you can see from above, I’ve added the indent and actually changed the font and spacing to make it easier to read. Now that I’m happy with the layout, let’s take a look at the words. Okay, so despite the word ‘photoholic’ not being a real one I’m going to count it as a neologism. Knowing this character well enough I would say that she is likely to make up words, as she wouldn’t know the actual word for what she wants to say. However, in the second line, I think it loses something by saying ‘long-lasting infatuation’. She’s only a thirteen year old girl and implies future tense or a longer period than it actually has been. Also, infatuation implies a short-amount of time, whereas she has a continuing obsession with a camera.

            Let’s change the line to: ‘Ever since I can remember I’ve had a passionate obsession with cameras’—this then keeps the oxymoron (passion being good and obsession being bad, showing her conflicting feelings) but changes it to what it actually is.

            The next line goes back to what I originally said about my being more of a poet than a fiction writer, back when I was seventeen. I have a tendency in old works to use badly worded, almost cringy metaphors to describe things that could be described more simply. So, let’s say it simply, shall we?: ‘I’ve never enjoyed being on camera myself but capturing others’ lives on film inspired my imagination.’

            Now that we’ve had three shorter lines in a row, we desperately need a longer line to keep the flow. This means we’ll have to merge the two continuing subjects or add another relevant one in between them.

            Reading through it, I’ve actually decided on a third option: I’m going to delete the fourth line completely, which is redundant and doesn’t add anything new to the piece, and move straight onto the longer fifth line. This paragraph now reads:

‘I am Rebecca and I am a recovering Photoholic.

Ever since I can remember I’ve had a passionate obsession with cameras. I never enjoyed being on camera myself but capturing others’ lives on film inspired my imagination. I would spend hours on a night editing the footage of the day onto small compact discs or tapes and catalogue them into my ever-expanding filing system.’

Now, you see why it takes so long? And why it’s so heart-breaking, especially when the piece is more recent than this one? You end up deleting words/lines/paragraphs/even entire chapters, changing words, researching new words or meanings of some words—it takes a lot of effort and a lot of it you have to be harsh with and ask yourself: Is this important? Do I need this?

            I used to simply delete them completely but discovered this was counterproductive. I highly recommend to you to have a document ready to cut and paste all of these ‘deleted’ lines etc. into. Whilst they don’t work in the piece you’re editing they may work somewhere else, or they may even inspire a new piece.

            In fact, as a fun exercise (and to cheer yourself up after all of your hard ripping apart) take one of these sentences and write an entirely new piece around it. What do you end up with?

            Thank you for reading and I hope you make it through your own editing.

Posted in How to Write

Anonymity and the Author

So, anonymity and the author? And more importantly, the question as to whether it’s possible to be an anonymous author in the modern age? But firstly, you may ask as an aspiring author why would you want to be anonymous? Why wouldn’t you want your name to be recognized?

            And, yes, that’s fine. If you enjoy the idea of having your name in the limelight—making it special, signing it with pride at the end of your hard-work, then do it. I am speaking today for people in my position; the people who dread the idea of having their name recognizable, the people who feel that pit of sickness in their stomach every time they think of gathering attention for their very personal works, the people who love their works but have little confidence themselves and the people who want to keep an element of privacy in their lives. For whatever reason you’d prefer to be anonymous, in this post I’m going to talk about whether, even if you really want to be, you can actually be anonymous.

            Okay—so, this may be an odd choice but the first (well, I suppose second now) thing I’m going to talk about is an old episode of ‘Arthur’, the children’s cartoon, I remember from when I was younger. In this episode Fern, an aspiring author and Agatha Christie/Mary Shelley lover, seeks advice about writing from a ‘Lemony Snicket’ style character who gives her the advice that the most important thing for her to do is go by a penname (Agatha Shelly is what she chooses) and remain anonymous. She finds this hard because when people criticise her work she can’t argue back with full effect, but that’s not the reason I’ve brought this up.

            In the episode this ‘Lemony Snicket figure’ leads a double life. He appears to remain anonymous because he lives an adventurous life with many enemies to hide from, but this is all something that has escaped from a child’s imagination, surely? Yes, it was written by an adult but is that kind of life practical from an author’s perspective in reality? The answer is—most likely, no.

            The truth is, as taught to me at University, that although you can remain anonymous as an author—if you actually want to sell your books, it’s preferable that you don’t attempt it. You need to go out and sell your book by selling yourself. You need to do readings, talk on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram, go to events, book clubs, book signings and promote everything that you’ve written and everything you’re writing. This is what I was taught at university and is the main thing I dreaded as a professional writer. It was the part that put me off being a professional writer, more than criticisms or the hard work ever could. I still dread it to this day.

            But, sadly, I think that they’re most likely right. A long time ago (okay, not that long ago, but long from the perspective of someone who’s not been around as long) you could promote yourself through your work and a penname, without the need to attend anywhere to sell yourself. The Brontes’, George Eliot, even Jane Austen—they all had pennames at some point in their lives, many of them men’s so of course they couldn’t show up anywhere to promote themselves—according to the world they were all men.

            You may ask then, why could they get away with not selling themselves in the past? I think the answer’s quite simple: money and status. They were all wealthy or related to someone wealthy. Their main readers were wealthy as the middle class either didn’t exist or had just come to exist. There was a limited choice of books, since so few could read (let alone write). In the modern western world and beyond we all at least have some formal education (in most places at least) and as seen from the stories told by the poorer folk in history we’ve always had some capability of imagination. This combined to mean that there is a lot more competition in the modern world and, with authors who have less money, we actually need to sell our work to live.

            However, my friends with a pit-in-your-stomach, don’t lose faith in the power of anonymity. Just think, what do you actually know about me? I share my name, some stories, but for the most part I am anonymous still. I have an obscure penname and the power of the internet at my fingertips. If you need it, use it. You may not be able to do traditional publishing; self-publishing may be a hard push if you have to sell them yourself—but use the internet. Share yourself, anonymously, on story-sharing sites. I have a friend who posts stories on Tumblr, collaborating with other authors who are also on there. Write FanFiciton and post those (you are more likely to find followers with this one too).

            Can you make money doing it this way? Well, that’s still to be seen (she says, attempting to do this herself), but why not give it a shot anyway? Eventually, maybe, we’ll all be able to stand tall and throw ourselves into the limelight but for now, let’s stay a little bit anonymous and find our footing.

I could’ve made a pun about ‘lime’ light– but I have some restraint (sometimes).

Bullet Points:

  • I wanted to be anonymous. You don’t have to be ashamed if you do too, or if you want to be known either.
  • Look up ‘The Power of an Author’s Name’ by Foucault. It states his belief that the author’s name is actually what sells the book, more than the actual books themselves. Think about it—people buy Dickens for the author, not for the titles they don’t know whether they like or not.
  • I was told at university it’s no longer possible to be anonymous.
  • Needing to market in person.
  • Power of the Internet for an anonymous author.
  • Is it an archaic practice? (George Elliot, the Brontes—many females used to use male pennames. Pseudonyms do still exist though).
  • J.K. Rowling kept her name for a different genre, P.L. Travers didn’t.
Posted in Book/TV/Film Themed Dishes

Anne’s ‘Scope for the Imagination’ Raspberry Tart

Okay, to start this off, I should give a big thank you to my university. During my ‘Introduction to Children’s Fiction’, I was introduced to ‘Anne of Green Gables’… and I loved this book. I still do, in fact, and I knew that eventually I was going to get around to create a dish from it. In truth this isn’t the first time I’ve ever made a dish from the book, as the copy I’d originally bought from my local book store (it was Waterstones, guys, no bias—it was just what was available) had a recipe for the Raspberry Tart Anne ate at the end of it. It was whilst making this recipe I discovered that it was essentially a Bakewell tart with peaches and a surprisingly small amount of raspberries.

A lot of different components for this one.

            As I type this I’m still waiting for the new series/season of ‘Anne with an E’ to come out on Netflix. I’m sure it’s out somewhere, the trailer dropped a couple of months back, but at least as I type—it doesn’t seem to be reaching my Netflix at all. I loved the book and, although I’ve seen no other adaptation, I do love this one (with no comparison other than the original book). Although they’ve made many changes, modernised slightly to create better, more fitting roles for these characters than their time period actually allowed, all of the fun personalities and captivating plot-points have remained.

            And Anne? She’s freaking amazing. I have used the term ‘providing enough scope for the imagination’ every day over my impatient year waiting for the new series. I knew that when creating a dish, I couldn’t just do the plain Raspberry Tart I’d originally made back at University—no, I had to use my imagination. I had to imagine a more extravagant affair, something Anne could have only dreamed of (and I’ve no doubt, would have).

            And so I bring you—my ‘Anne of Green Gables Scope-For-The-Imagination Raspberry Tart’. An apricot mousse, sitting on an almond base, topped with a lusciously smooth raspberry jelly, surrounded by Anne’s preferred ‘puff sleeves’ (choux buns filled with an almond crème diplomat for that fragrant frangipane flavour), and topped with a crown of twigs and leaves befitting of the regality of Princess Cordelia (brandy snaps, made with Breton honey and mint leaves).

It was a lunch all to itself.

            It was my first time making many of the elements—a fruit mousse, a blended-dried-apricot filling, a crystal-clear jelly (not quite, but close). The choux buns, admittedly, are something I can do practically in my sleep but in a new, highly unpredictable oven it was touch and go whether they’d turn out as well as I wanted. Even the red caramel used to stick the choux together was an experiment never attempted before.

            I hope Anne would be proud of my efforts. I would be proud to serve it to her, if only there weren’t a generation and a reality-fiction border separating us I’m sure we would—moderately, tolerate each other. We’re very alike, is all I mean, and I know that tends to make for a bad friendship. But still, I could hope. I’ve never seen a character so beloved, and such a strong representative of her adoptive home that the writer herself gave all rights to her and her words to that home in reality. Go Anne and go Prince Edward Island. Believe me, the only thing stopping me from visiting is my fear of any form of travel (especially heights, sorry Canada).

            So until the day I gain some guts and adopt an Anne-style-bravery I’ll stay content with cooking up my creations and sitting down to watch ‘Anne with An E’. Seriously though, Netflix, it is coming on soon, right?

            Bonus points to the fact that I used the remainder of the pudding to create a dessert spread for my new French neighbours. You know you’ve done something right when the locals ask why you don’t try being a baker for a living. Especially when you happen to live in the land of great bakers. Honestly, though it was sweet of them, my confidence levels are at 0 most of the time—so I think I’ve got a long way to go before I can manage that.

‘Holidays are coming… Holidays are coming.’

            Thank you, Anne. Thank you, Lucy Maud Montgomery. Keep being you—and keep using that imagination. It’s a gift, believe me. A curse too—but also a great gift.

Posted in The Street Crawlers

The Street Crawlers: The Copper Fox

The Copper Fox grew just like normal children, and may even be counted as being a child, but never could they say that she was normal. Whilst normal children breathed in normal air she would breathe in the cold, black dust that lay on the street floor with upmost pleasure and yet never did she find that the air was unclean. To her the fresh air was a poisonous substance that should never touch the lungs of an average human being; and if any other Street Crawler dared to enter this strange other world then she would drag them back into their sanity without a second thought.

Plain Jane feared this other world; for that’s what it was, a new world with new creatures and a new landscape. A place even she didn’t dare to capture. To her the black alleys were the safest place to stand and eat, but even in the streets she didn’t dare to sleep heavily for fear that they would disappear whilst she was gone.

She saw herself as the protector of her home, the protector of her tenants, and the protector of their souls. Her tenants didn’t agree. They feared her more than anything else on the other side and they would do anything to escape her reach. Just when you thought you were close to reaching a normal care-free life, just when you reached your hand out to a nice semi-detached family house, her claw would fall onto your shoulder and pull you back in.

Everything around the Crawlers was the enemy and when you struggled to trust anyone, your life was bound to be something of a horror.

Many would argue that horrors in films or ancient old stories of monsters and demons were what created fear; the idea of winged creatures attacking from far above sends chills up spines; faces appearing through the darkness and the dank intimidates the mind and entices dark visions into imaginations. The Ordinaries feared these fictional monsters much more than they feared any man-eating reality hidden inside the deepest depths of the wild.

And yet the Street Crawlers knew the truth of what this fear really was. The Copper Fox wasn’t feared for being a monster; she wasn’t feared for sucking the blood from innocent victims; every Crawler knew that the Fox couldn’t harm them in a way that a Fairy Tale monster could, but she still remained an entity to run and hide from.

And why? Because you never knew what she would do next or where she was now. You could never know when she would walk up to you and demand payment. You could never know what she would do to you if you said no to her orders. Every person who could tell you the answer had never been seen again.

Yet though she remained a mystery rumours circulated of the sheer viciousness of her heart. The Fox didn’t feed on blood; she fed on life and the timidity that she garnered from the stories. Humans were so easy to scare. It wasn’t hard for her to collect her treat.

Arnold Barnett hadn’t been on the streets long before he was roughly pulled behind a large wooden crate. He looked up into the face of a tall, hairy ape-like man who held a finger to his lips and kept a hold upon his shoulder. The man, over six-feet tall, shivered in the cold of the night and kept his eyes closed in prayer and his breath slow so as not to be heard.

  Arnold stared around him, dazed; he didn’t dare pull away from the large man’s grasp. He was sure he couldn’t if he tried. A shadow rounded the corner and the man’s grip grew tighter, crushing his thumb and finger into the sides of Arnold’s neck. Arnold wriggled around, trying to call out to his holder but couldn’t and they both fell silent. A rat’s beady black eyes glinted beside Arnold, backing away from his hand as he reached out to balance himself on the floor. Arnold didn’t notice that the rat was there, even though he had been conditioned in his normal life to fear the dirt-ridden creatures.

A small light shone upon the walls and a whistle sounded from nearby. The man beside Arnold shook himself and let out his held breath with a flourish. It was safe.

He stood up and walked nonchalantly past the young man beside him as if nothing had happened, as if Arnold wasn’t even there.

Another man moved forward into the opening, holding a large fire lamp high above his head. Arnold realised, worriedly, that a large gathering of sub-humans were appearing from around the alleys, many twice his size and possibly strength.  Any of these men could beat him to the floor with just one blow, taking his life in the process; and surely these Street Crawlers wouldn’t hesitate to be rid of him if he stepped out of line? The stories he’d heard of them had made them out to be selfish, hard-hearted barely-humans and their appearance struck him as proving this personality type to be true.

He heard muttering amongst them and they nodded to one another. The man holding the lamp turned to look in Arnold’s direction and noticed his eyes peering over the top of the large crate. He whispered something into the ear of the ape-man and moved over to the wall. Arnold ducked down further as he came close.

“There’s no need to be afraid. There’s no danger around at the moment.” The man spoke with a softness in his voice, which was in complete contrast to his harsh appearance. In the light Arnold could see the man more clearly. The man’s hands were brushing against the brickwork, rubbed raw and red from his many years wandering over the streets; and his eyes, a deep lucid green, were cradled by black hammocks.

“Wh—What—What were you hiding from?” Arnold asked. His knees shook as his imagination ran every haunting image of his Ghost-Story-Filled Ordinary childhood, trying to conjure up anything that could possibly scare this crowd of giants. He couldn’t stand up.

It was another one of the men that answered. “The Fox has been seen in the area,” he said. “But they must have passed by without stopping. They do that sometimes.”

“They do that all the time,” the first man Arnold had met grumbled. “I’m fed up with it.”

“We all are,” the man closest to Arnold said. He reached out his red paw to Arnold and Arnold cautiously took it, not feeling like he had any other choice. At the minute they seemed to be in a good mood—at least towards him. He wanted to keep it that way.

The man noticed how nervous Arnold was as he got up onto his feet, legs quivering under his tissue-thin trousers and he patted him softly on the back. “You’re a newbie, aren’t you?” he said. “You don’t need to fear this crew. We’ll help you, I promise.”

“You’ll help me get out of here?” Arnold asked.

The men all shook their heads, the majority of them grimacing.

“Nobody leaves the streets, Newbie,” the ape-man said. “I’m sorry about how rough I was with you before. I didn’t realise you were a new one. We’ve lost more than we’ve gained recently.”

“What do you mean?” Arnold said, rubbing the dust off his jacket. He’d only bought it a couple of weeks ago and it had been expensive. He didn’t like the fact that it already had holes in it from yesterday night’s camp-out under a building site near to the streets.

“Ah, pay no attention to Hard Paws,” the red-handed man said. “He just means that we’ve had a few things happening recently—a lot of them Fox and Beast related.”

“What?” Arnold didn’t know what either of those things meant, but he knew they couldn’t be good. The Street Crawlers had been the beasts in his stories growing up. He imagined that anything the Crawlers called a Beast would be even worse—if that was possible.

“You’ll learn,” Hard Paws said, rubbing his arm. He was looking at the cracks in the floor miserably. “You give up a lot when you get here. Have you got any family?”

Arnold shook his head. “I was an only child. My parents died.”

“Any partner? Wife? Husband?” Red-Hand asked.

“No.”

“So I guess that means you don’t have any kids then?” Hard Paws looked at him expectantly.

Arnold felt bad that he had to shake his head.

Hard Paws sighed and looked down at the cracks again. “You’re a lucky one then.”

“Lucky? I’m stuck on the Streets, aren’t I? How am I lucky?” Arnold said, his voice raised as much as he dared.

Red-Hand threw his hand over Arnold’s mouth, holding a finger to his own lips. “Don’t talk like that. We don’t know for sure that the Fox has gone.” He let go and his arms dropped to his sides, limply. “And the streets aren’t that bad a place to be. I can think of worse.”

Arnold followed his eyes as he looked upwards but he couldn’t see anything there.

Red-Hand clearly didn’t either because he quickly looked back to his crew again. “We should move on before they get back here.”

The crew nodded; all except Hard Paws who wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone anymore. His eyes were glazed, images of memories seeming to haunt him and trap him inside his own mind. Arnold shuddered, praying that he didn’t turn out the same way.

The Crawlers started to walk back into the darkness and Arnold watched them go, sadly. He didn’t know what he should do. He didn’t trust the walls or the boxes or the stones or the cracks. It was like he had walked towards the gates to Hell and he didn’t know how to claw his way back up to the clouds. He missed being an Ordinary person. Everything was so much simpler then. He couldn’t seem to find an answer in all of the stories he’d been told growing up. You couldn’t exactly just cast a spell or find a fairy to help you out. Arnold wished he had a fairy right now.

One of the crew stopped before disappearing. Arnold had thought it was a man because of their spiky hair, but honestly they could have been anything. They were covered in so much dirt that any amount of stylish clothing they may have once worn was barely recognizable. In actual truth she was a woman that the rest of her crew called Pegasus. Her Ordinary name had been Lilith.

“Are you coming, Newbie?” she asked, kindly.

“You want me to come with you? But I thought Street Crawlers…”

“They look out for each other. They always do. You need them, trust me.” She looked Arnold up and down. His legs and arms were skinny and underused. He kept brushing the dust off his fancy jacket. She sighed. She’d seen his type plenty of times before. Heck, once upon a time she’d been his type. “You don’t want to have to face the Fox,” she said. “And despite what the others say I know they’re not far away.”

Arnold gulped. The howl he’d heard last night when he’d been chucked out into the streets played in his mind. He hoped to god that that wasn’t the Fox everybody was so afraid of. It had frightened him enough just to hear it. “H—How do you know?” he squeaked, checking all around him. He still couldn’t see anything.

Pegasus turned around and started following her crew. “Because they’re always somewhere near.”

There was a howl. Arnold heard it and jumped up in fright. Pegasus had turned her walk into a run. There was no doubt her crew were diving for shelter wherever they were.

Arnold saw the loneliness he was facing if he stayed where he was and couldn’t stand it. He might have been an only child but that didn’t mean he wanted to be an only one forever. He chased after Pegasus, slightly afraid of losing her as she was as flighty and quick as her name suggested.

Plain Jane was counting some money out in another street. She heard the howl and tutted. She knew what that sound meant and she quickly climbed a ladder on a nearby wall, moving as silently and carefully as the Copper Fox should.

Whoever it was, they were going to get help—one way or another. After all, the Howler was her tenant and she had to protect them. She was always diligent with her job. Always.

The Copper Fox Hum

Dum Dum de da.

The Crawlers come out to play.

La la la la.

Thinking it could have been a better day.

‘Cause days feel like years

In the damp, matted street,

Where even the tiniest of whistles

Has lost its tune and its beat.

La la de da, la dum de du.

Lost of the even smallest of tunes.

So one simple beat from a

Street Crawler’s mouth

Makes it seem deranged,

No beats and no count.

Dum la la, de da de da.

The noise of a passing saint wandering far.

The Copper Fox, its whiskers bent low.

A small little child with a small little note.

Lost of its family,

Lost of its kin

But still in the dread

It holds out to sing.

Its friends have all gone.

Its pack leader now dead.

But still it sings.

On this it is fed.

Me oh ma, la ti ti.

Could their possibly be an angel

In those notes and those strings?

The Street Crawlers come to know

The sinister child hidden in the notes,

For although they are dainty, pretty and gay

They speak what they know

And know what they say.

A ray mi far

From this soft copper throat

Sends the Street Crawlers back hiding

Where they too sing the note…

La ti a, brrrrrrrummmm

Ti tummmmmmm.

A beat to the Street Crawlers is a Copper Fox’s hummmmmmm…………