Thursday 19 September 2013

Magic Falls Part 27

My love.

I have waited.




To be with you once again.

For so long, you have been away. I thought you would not return.

But then, once again, I sensed you.

From the centre of the earth, I have scratched and fought and dug my way to find you.

It has taken months.

Fuelled only by my longing to once again be held by you. To feel your hands around me.

They complete me.

They give me purpose.

And I, in return, give you everything.

I can feel the air above me.

I can feel the sun.

I am so close.

So close to you once more.


The director sat opposite Shane Smith. In the previous few days, he’d gone from under constant supervision and enforced settlement to five star treatment. From a containment unit under the security services to a penthouse suite.

Shane straightened his tie and smiled. “You guys can be very generous when you want to be.” He settled back into the comfortable chair.

“You were treated more harshly than you should have been.”

He laughed. “Nah, it’s cool, man. I get it. Security measures and all that. And you don’t know who I am, right? You’ve got to take precautions.”

“Exactly.” The director sipped a coffee. “You’re still a concern for all of those reasons, but we’re aware that…”

“That I can be made to work for you?”

The director put the coffee down and looked out at the city.  The hotel was at the edge of Whitehall, and the view looked out at Trafalgar Square. There were tourists milling around, taking pictures of each other. The director could see children and teenagers clambering on the lower statues and around the fountain. “That’s such an ugly way of putting it.”

“It’s true.”

“Let us say you are helping us at our request. That is a much nicer way of putting it.”

“It is.”

He looked back at Shane, and hesitated before speaking. “This…gift of yours. How do you do it?”

The smile faltered and fell. “I don’t know.”

“When did it start?”

“While I was on stage,” he replied. “This guy was stood right in front of me, and I was… most of what I do, it’s about psychology, okay? It’s usually about getting people to say what I want them to say, or about making them give away what they’re thinking. It’s about… it’s about manipulation.”

“I know. You’re not the first psychic we’ve encountered. You’re just the first real one.”

The smile came back, measured and professional. “So, there the guy was. And I just…I just knew. It was like I’d always known. I could just… find the answers there. It was like looking at a painting. Just right there.”

“Is it switched on all the time?”

“No. I… at times. I can’t always control it very well. Sometimes, it’s overwhelming. Other times, I have to work at it.”

“Work at it how?”

“Kind of…” he let out a low breath. “This is weird to explain, you know? It’s kind of… like asking a question. But not out loud. I’ve got to do it like it’s at the front of my mind. Like I’m thinking of a question I want them to answer.”

The director nodded. “Is that what you did with me?”

“Basically. I knew there was something, and I guessed it was you just because you were there. It was a fairly obvious bluff, to be fair.”

“Evidently. But it’s something that you haven’t been prevented from doing yet?”

Shane shook his head. “No. Not yet, anyway.  As long as the person is relatively close to me.”

“How far?”

“I don’t know exactly. Same room, more or less.”

“What size room?”

He gestured around. “Around this size, I reckon.  So still fairly large.”

The Director saw something out of the corner of his eye, but it hadn’t quite made it to his brain yet. Something going on down below. It meant that he missed the illusionist’s question and had to ask him to repeat it.

“I asked what you want me to do.”

The thing he was looking at was still bothering him, but he put it to the back of his mind while he focused on the question. “Well, you just became more effective than a lie detector, and certainly more effective than torture in terms of accurate results, so that’s part of it. Also, there’s enough going on at the moment which we’re trying to contain. You’re unique in terms of your ability, but you aren’t the only… anomaly we’ve come across so far. Or found evidence of.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean… things are happening. Which we can’t explain. And not just in England, but across the world. And we’re still trying to work out how to deal with it.”

“What kind of things?”

“For want of a better word,” the Director said, feeling stupid saying it, but still being bothered by something that was gnawing into his brain, “… magic things.”

Shane looked at him for a moment.  “What’s going on?”

“We don’t know. There are too many things going on at once, and sooner or later, the media is going to start taking it serious – “

“I meant out there. You’ve seen something.” He stood up and walked over to the Director’s side of the table and looked down at Trafalgar Square. The Director turned and looked, and now the thing that had been prodding his brain that his eyes had seen but he hadn’t  been able to comprehend became clear in front of him.

People were moving away from the square. Some of them were running.

Because Trafalgar Square was moving.

The ground was rising, breaking up. It was happening slowly, but enough to see and feel happen right in front of their eyes.

Something was pushing its way up from beneath the earth, and it was breaking its way through the centre of London.


I break through the earth.

I break through the stone.

I rise and I feel the sun on me once again.

It has been so long.

I had forgotten its warmth.

Come to me.

My love.

Come to me. 

Sunday 15 September 2013

Why writers' groups are awesome

I don't know if I'm in much of a place to offer advice to writers, but I do write quite a lot of stuff, and I do occasionally get asked for advice about how to get started. So here's one of the first things I tell anyone.

Join a writers' group. And if there isn't one around, start one.

I've run a writing group in North London at the Big Green Bookshop for over two and a half years, and I ran one in York before that. You can set them up anywhere that is convenient - pubs, libraries, bookshops or, failing that, in someone's living room.

Constructive criticism is one of the most useful things you can hear as a writer, but one of the most frightening things about writing is actually showing it to someone. At the groups I run, we read out what we've written as well, which can be even more terrifying, as it means that you're not only showing your writing to people, but you're being made to speak in public as well.

But you get over that. Maybe not quickly, but you do, and you get better at reading your work out too. What you also get out of it is the chance to hear what you've written, and there are few faster ways to pick up on flaws with your writing. "And then suddenly...oh God, I've written 'suddenly' again...". It's also a brilliant way to get a handle on your own dialogue. If you're writing like no human actually speaks, you'll usually become aware of it quickly.

I usually don't ask people to read what I've written until I've got a mostly-complete full first draft. But reading it out as I'm working through it with a group of like-minded people is a Godsend. Writing can feel like a compulsion, after all (and all I need to remind myself of that is how sluggish I end up feeling if I haven't written for a few weeks, when the need to get the words onto the page feels like I'd do it even if it involved gouging them out of my arm with a fork), and it's comforting to sit in a room with people who understand that compulsion rather than just thinking you're strange.

Not everyone writes with the aim of publication (although we have had some success in that field within the group as well, including publication in anthologies, magazines and websites, along with a handful who have found agents and book deals), but everyone has their own reasons for wanting to do it.

That means that writing groups can be wonderfully encouraging and understanding. None of us are out to tear each other's work apart, and it's not a competition either. The simple goal with each person's work is to try and make it better and to encourage them to keep going.

A little while ago, a member of the group from the start told me that she's taken on board the most common criticism she received, which was overwriting. Recently, she redrafted something, and cut a lot from it. She said she loved doing it, because it felt freeing and once she'd done it, she could see that it made her writing better.

And that's what writers' groups are all about. They're safe spaces while you're working on your story to get a chance to hold it up to the light and get some feedback on it. Of course, not all the feedback is useful, but that's fine as well.

Also, socially, they're fun. There are regularly over twenty in the writing group I run, and it takes up the entire evening. But we do it with some drinks and snacks, and we keep it mostly light-hearted. For example, we literally have a tangent bell, that someone in the group will ring if we start going too off-topic.

And then, after, we usually go to the pub for last orders. A lot of us have made friends (and even relationships) within the group as well. And it means there's usually someone to talk to if you have a specific question.

The most common thing said in the group? "Keep going with it". Because it's all about encouragement, and helping you figure out what it is you're trying to do.

So, if you're looking to start writing, or looking for a little guidance, that's why my first piece of advice is always to get yourself down to your local writing group.

Don't have one? Why not read my guide to starting a writers' group?