Blog on the Bus pt 13 (the future)

***WARNING -Contains Spoilers***

Good day to you, fellow bus traveller. Which number are you on today? I, as ever, am aboard the number-4, travelling the wet highways in Southampton (it beats walking). Today I bring a message of great hope…for I have seen the future…and it’s exciting!
Yesterday, I was discussing video recorders with the wife (as you do) and we were saying how sad it is that our little bundle of joy, or Emily to give her a name, will never truly understand the fun and frustration of the VHS video recorder. She will never appreciate the “TV Tape” (the video cassette used to record programmes onto over and over until the picture and sound became too intermittent) nor will she appreciate the warm, fuzzy feeling of buying a new 5 pack of videos at Xmas time to capture those Xmas blockbusters shown on the big day and Boxing Day (I used to love tearing the plastic wrapping from a brand new blank E180 cassette, hey who shouted ‘geek’?). I still remember a neighbour who had a top-loading video recorder – it was like something out of Dr Who and seemed so much cooler than our front-loading box of tricks. Of course, there was also the annual event of using the “head cleaner” (the video cassette you poured chemical into to clean the “heads” inside the machine (not sure these were actually head-shaped as that would be a bit freaky).
It got me to thinking what other things will change in the next 20-30 years that will turn modern fare into distant memory?
So I decided to contact Nostradamus (didn’t you know? He’s still alive! And, what’s more, his future predictions were based on him travelling to the future, not just thinking about it) So I dialled his number (just type his name into your phone using the corresponding digit) and asked to borrow his time machine. The good thing is, because he’s been to the future, he had a universal translator connected to his phone so we were able to discuss at great length the purpose of my trip to the future. To cut a long story short (and because my bus will reach its destination soon) he agreed to lend it. You’ll never believe it, but he actually had a DeLorean! I know right? Unbelievable, yet true (he also claimed that the character Doc Brown was based on him!)
So I climbed in last night and headed for the year 2112. I was shocked and excited by what greeted me.
The good news is that humans are still alive (or bad news depending on your stance) and we have continued to evolve. Where to begin…
There are no longer any prisons. Instead, criminals are “re-engineered”. Basically anyone who breaks the law undergoes brain surgery and has the “criminal element” removed. It’s not a fool proof system and the occasional volunteer ends up a vegetable, but there’s only a 1 in 5000 chance of that happening so it continues. As a result, the world is a much happier place! Christmas is now officially a 3-month holiday, and only the desperate are employed to stock the supermarket shelves. There is even a law that insists David Bowie’s & Bing Crosby’s ‘Little Drummer Boy’ must be played at least daily throughout the period.
What else…oh yeah…football is now outlawed. It all started in the year 2023, when the first footballer signed the inaugural £5mil p/w contract. A rebellion started against the money men in the sport. People could no longer afford to pay £10k per game to watch. Slowly the rebellion began to grow and recruited some high profile figures. None so big as Geoff Stelling (or Lord Geoff as he is now known). Football is now a memory discussed around the occasional camp fire.
The world of writing has changed too. The independent writers movement of 2012 blossomed. As technology advanced so did creative writing. Stories are no longer written, instead they are told via a technology called dream bubbles. Basically, “readers” inject the stories directly into the creative cortex of their brains and live the story through their dreams. The desire for this technology resulted in a greater demand for stories and writers. The indie movement boomed and storytellers are now looked at in the same way as movie stars in the early 21st Century.
I make it as one such author, as do many of my other indie writing friends (yup, I looked you all up).
Cancer and the common cold have both been cured, however, the ‘man flu’ epidemic remains, blighting males twice a year on average.
And so I returned the DeLorean to Nostradamus (Nossy to his friends) and headed to bed, safe in the knowledge that one day my hard work will pay off, but pleased to be able to still watch MotD.
Oh, sorry driver, have we been stopped long? What do you mean hours? Crikey, it really does fly when you’re having fun!
Until the next time, happy reading!

Stephen

Blog on the Bus pt 12 (better day)

Good morning to you and salutations to your loved ones. Today IS going to be a good day. If I repeat it often enough, hopefully it will come true (keep your fingers crossed, won’t you?)
Yesterday wasn’t a great day, though I can’t quite put my finger on why that was. Nothing inherently ‘bad’ occurred but I just woke up in a grey mood and couldn’t shake the cloud all day. There have been days when I’ve woken with a youthful excitement that nobody could burst but yesterday just wasn’t one of those days (guess I’m just getting old)
So today I’m determined that my day will be better because I will be better.
So let’s all say it together, ‘today IS going to be a good day’. Come on, say it with me now. Out loud. Wherever you happen to be. I’m on the 6.55 number 9 bus from Sholing to Southampton (God only knows where the No4 is today) and I’m rejoicing it ‘today IS going to be a good day!’ (Sorry Mr Driver, I’ll sit down in a minute)
Sometimes you have to speak louder than the crowd to get your message across: whether you’re in a meeting/argument at work, whether you’re on the pull in a nightclub or perhaps you’re an indie author trying to find your place in the wordsmith-plain…make yourself heard, because nobody will do it for you.
Once more for the road ‘today IS going to be a good day!’ I sincerely hope it is for you.

Until next time, happy reading!

Stephen

Blog on the Bus pt 11 (do you believe in signs?)

A very good morning to you bus traveller. The number-4 is a bit busy this morning, standing room only (won’t someone offer me a seat? I am a writer you know), so forgive any spelling mistakes as I bobble along (easy on the brakes, driver!)
The subject of today’s inspirational (to some maybe) catch up is ‘signs’. As in messages from a higher presence, not as in road signs. Last night my fragile writer’s confidence was feeling a bit sorry for itself as it sat in a pub waiting for someone to talk to. The self-confidence us writers try to emit is very delicate and I don’t think average Joe Reader quite realises just how fragile it is. So what caused last night’s wobble? I’m not sure really. Self-doubt I guess (I have bundles of that if anyone needs any. In fact I’m thinking of listing some of it on eBay with a ‘buy it now’ price of £0.01)
So I lifted my eyes towards the ceiling (not sure what I expected to see, maybe a friendly spider) and asked for a sign (not a traffic sign, remember). I said aloud “am I on the right track with my life? Is writing my future? Will my writing one day pay the bills? Or am I just kidding myself about this writing malarchy?” The truth is I love writing stories, I’m passionate about it! But selling 300 books a month does not pay the mortgage, my 9-5 office job does. I needed to know if I needed to re-prioritise.
Do you know what happened?
Well…nothing, at least not at that point. I later went up to bed, totally forgetting about my drunken conversation with the ceiling.
But just before I turned the light out, a voice in my head told me to log onto Amazon and see if my work had received any new bad reviews (my writer’s confidence is a ‘glass half empty’ kind of guy). I know it’s the ultimate sin for writers to pay any attention to reviews. I don’t know what caused me to check.
What I found was a very kind 5* review posted by a mystery pair of initials for my 2nd book ‘Remorse’. Sure he spelt my surname wrong, but I can overlook that.
If I were a believer in signs and that there is a higher presence guiding me along the way, I’d say it was the sign I was looking for.
So before I press the bell to stop today’s ride, I make you this promise: I will keep writing and I will batter my self-doubt to within an inch of its life!
Have a great day today, and happy reading!

Stephen

Blog on the Bus pt 10 (what makes a good book title?)

Good evening. Welcome to the magical number-4 Southampton bus as it weaves its journey to the sacred land of HOME. I hope you are seated comfortably and have paid the driver?
My debate (not a mass one you understand) is on the subject of book titles. I (someone for whom the phrase ‘short and too the point’ is a life mantra) prefer single word titles, hence ‘Integration’, ‘Remorse’, ‘Redemption’ and ‘Snatched’ being my releases. I have strayed from the theme for the novelette ‘The Perfect Tonic’ but am hoping that the one-word title will become my thing (I’ve always dreamed of having a “thing”). So this brings me onto book-5, a working title for now I’m sure you’ll appreciate. I am in the plotting phase of the storyline at the moment and all I can really say is that it will be the slickest-plotted story to date with plenty of action and twists along the way. I’m at that “can’t wait to start writing” phase that grips all us would-be-wordsmiths like a profylactic around an erect phallus: it just won’t let go (too crude? Moi?)
So here’s the conundrum: stick to the 1 word “thing” or choose a more fitting multi-word option (I feel flush just suggesting it). If I stick to my guns (no driver, I don’t have a weapon concealed) then it needs to be a word that describes at least part of the plot, looks intriguing to a potential reader and doesn’t begin with the letter ‘R’ (this is because 2 of my 4 novels have and I don’t want to be remembered as the author whose titles all begin with ‘R’. That’s not my “thing”)
Titles considered so far include “Vengeance” (too many books called that already), “Counterblow” (have been told that sounds military) and “Execution” (as in executing a job, not a person, but how will the reader know?)
I am open to all suggestions from bus travellers so now it’s competition time: pick the title of my next novel based on the plot ‘one man is looking for revenge on the people who ruined his life’
Please post your entries to the blog and I’ll choose the winning entry once I’ve finished writing the bugger.
Oh, what’s the prize you said? Oh I’m at my bus stop, time to disembark. I’ll get back to you on that one.
Until next time, happy reading!

Stephen

Blog on the Bus pt 9 (Christmas is coming)

Good evening one and all (and all those inbetween). The subject of tonight’s bus ramble is Christmas, or more specifically, ‘is it too early to embrace the spirit?’
I am personally fed up of those who moan when Christmas cards and tinsel make it into the local Tesco’s in October (there are of course other equally-sufficient supermarkets, so please don’t view this post as any kind of brand placement). Such people moan that the event is too commercialised and that the only reason such outlets increase their turkey orders is to rip off you and I and to squeeze those last few pounds from our already-over-stretched budgets. Whilst I don’t argue against this point, I question why you and I allow those supermarket-robbers to do this. The answer is simple: we want them to.
The vast majority of people (I surveyed 100 imaginary people and 99 of them agreed with me!) like the warm, fuzzy feeling they get at this particular time of year, regardless of religious inclination. For some Christmas is a time for giving, receiving and sharing in humankind’s warm nature. The saying goes “goodwill to all men” and I believe Christmas represents the one (and possibly only) time of year where this is true. We are all naturally more inclined to embrace our fellow human, simply because that’s the done thing. Some embrace the chance to spend time with friends and family, others enjoy the exchanging of gifts and some love “all the trimmings.” I for one enjoy spending time with my in-laws (did I really just say that?). Christmas generally increases the positivity of the planet so why should we question its premature arrival in October, just because retailers are increasing their profits on the side?
In a world plagued with terrorist atrocities, natural disasters and Piers Morgan, there is already enough negativity to fill two lifetimes. If there is a chance to enjoy that warm glow, that only the Christmas season brings, early, then I for one am going to take it! So join with me this cold, Winter’s evening and deck your halls, share a kiss under some mistletoe or join Jonah Lewie’s attempt to Stop the Calvary. Christmas is 46 days away but I need cheering up so I’m going to get into my Christmas spirit ( and probably jumper) tonight and enjoy basking in the warmth and kindness. It’s never too early to be happy and embrace your fellow man, surely?

May I be the first to wish you goodwill for the forthcoming season! Until the next time, happy reading,

Stephen

Blog on the Bus pt8 (how not to do it)

Good evening dear reader.
The subject of my post this fair evening will be focused solely on guidance to would-be writers out there. Despite this, if you’ve stopped by to catch up on my bus adventures in Southampton (or even if you got here because you pressed the wrong button in error) stick around as you might find something that inspires you to pick up a pencil and write.
If you have never written or have recently started writing and are scouring the Internet (like a brillo pad wading through grease) for guidance on where to begin, then I’m happy to share my approach with you. You will find hundreds of authors out on that world wide spider’s web who will delight in TELLING you how to do it. I’m not one of those people. I won’t lie and tell you’ve I’ve discovered THE method of writing that will guarantee you book sales. I will, however, tell you HOW I do it so you can sample a different pov.
My strength is in my planning and structuring. When I get an idea I scribble it down in about 300words. I then leave it for a few days / weeks and then go back and rewrite it but with more meat on the bones (ie I plan my main scenes and key twists). Most of my stories are set over several days so it is here where I plan what will happen on each day. I then leave it again for a few weeks to play those scenes out in my head (I find walking the dog, on my own where it’s quiet, is ideal for this). When I come back to the plot skeleton, and this is only when I feel ready to do so, I start to work out what parts of the story will fit in each chapter. This decides how the main scenes will fit together. This is the most important part of the structuring process as this will shape the story later. I then leave the plot alone again for a few days until my schedule is free to write.
When I’m ready I will glance at what the first chapter looks like ie where it starts and is due to end. Then, with dog lead in hand, I play the scene in my head like a movie. By the time I sit down in front of a keyboard my imagination replays the scene through my fingers. I really do allow my subconscious to guide my fingers and can usually have 2.5k words down within an hour or hour and a half. It really freaks me out when I later read something I’ve written and don’t remember writing it. But that is what happens. My imagination “enters the zone” and takes control of my hands. Do you know what? It’s when I’m at my happiest.
I don’t tend to start editing or re-writing until I’ve completed what I believe will be the final chapter, but then everyone is different.
How you decide to write will be down to you and will be shaped my your behavioural strengths, time and creativity. As I said at the start I use a method that works for me, but then I’ve not yet sold a million books, had a movie or BBC mini series created from my work, so what do I know, right?
I’m sure you’ll find your own way but don’t let yourself be put off by those who tell you the writing market is overcrowded and you’ll never make it. If you enjoy writing then who cares? That’s what I say anyway.
I hope you read and then ignore the advice I’ve given you in the same way as you should ignore the advice of the other authors who tell you what to do. After all, I’m just another passenger on the number-4 bus in Southampton.
Until the next time, happy reading!

Stephen

Blog on the Bus pt 7 (ligyrophobia)

I woke up this morning and soon realised that today is one of those days where you should stay tucked up under the duvet, phone your boss with your best ‘sick voice’ (why do you sound so croaky, when you’re phoning in with a broken leg?) and generally stick 2 fingers up to the world, silently repeating the mantra “It’s too frickin’ cold to get up today.”
Winter’s definitely here, and if you don’t believe me, dare to stick your face out the door and feel your tear ducts slowly freeze. It’s the kind of day not to go and stand in the cold and wait for the dear old number-4 bus but here I am awaiting its impending (and very welcome) arrival. I’m sure my typing has slowed as the frozen blood in my veins endeavours to scale the route to my finger tips (stop me if I become over dramatic, won’t you?)
Another reason to stay in bed today was the nuclear war being conducted outside my bedroom window until the wee hours of this morning. The BOOM, BOOM, BOOMING certainly reminded me of apocalyptic scenes. I detest this time of year, not because I’m a money-grabbing Scrooge but because I suffer from ligyrophobia, aka the fear of sudden loud noises (balloons are a pet hate too for the same reason). I know that everyone wants to remember the crazy fool who tried to blow up Parliament but do you really need to do it every night for 2weeks? A bit OTT surely? For those of us who suffer, it’s as bad as passing an 8-legged furry creature to an anachrophobe.
Anyway, in case you haven’t noticed there’s a new fear doing the rounds: ‘indie-pub-obia’ or the fear of indie writers.
I have just these words of advice: we won’t blow up in your face or make you jump out of your skin. Instead of fearing us, embrace us, because I’ll let you in on a secret: WE’RE NOT GOING AWAY!
Until next time, happy reading!

Stephen