Thursday, December 30, 2010


It’s strange to think that it is only a year since I started writing Teratogenesis, but today the story has ended.

Teratogenesis:  Thirteen Lunar Months In The Life Of A Lycanthrope.

The closest feeling I have ever felt to this before was when I graduated university.  I’m fairly proud but know I could have done better and the real work is only just about to begin.

There is the editing still to do, any and all volunteers would be very appreciated.  I need a cover for the eBook for which I intend to hold some sort of invitational.  Costing needs to be sorted, a lot easier than with print, but since both Amazon and Google Checkout charge a commission and, for some reason, eBooks are subject to VAT, there is a fair amount of number crunching to get the balance right.  Some sort of promotion should be done.

Not only is there all that (and more, no doubt) but next Saturday sees the start of my weekly short story series.  One a week for a year.  I’ll tell you now: it won’t happen, but we’ll see what the score is this time next year, eh?


Friday, December 24, 2010

A Race Against Midnight

Welcome to my “televised” attempt at writing a short story.  Hopefully, it will work and we’ll have something to read at the end of it.  But that’s not really the point;  it’s just an exercise that I quite like to do.



Typical.  When you need to use your computer and time is a factor, there are updates to be installed.

First things first: music.  I’ve already done this as I prefer to operate a computer with music playing.  This year it’s mostly bluesy, rocky music with a lot of Nick Cave and BringTheWarHome.  With that sorted, we can move onto the actual writing.

All stories basically consist of: a beginning, a middle and an end.  They needn’t come in that order, but they all have to be present.  Stories tend to conform to archetypal structures, as well.  The most famous of these is the monomyth as described in Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces.

The shortest description of this is Star Wars (the old ones, not the new ones) which adheres to pretty much this exact map.  It also appears in the classical hero stories, Wizard of Oz and myths from around the world.

But it’s a bit unwieldy for a short story, so I’ll just be using Georges Polti’s 36 Dramatic Situations, which are a little more condensed.

The decision making process I’ll be using means drawing a Tarot card (from a Colman-Smith deck,) looking at what images appear to me, referencing it to A.E. Waite’s The Pictorial Key to the Tarot and then making my decision on that.

So, I’ll draw the first card…



The first card drawn is the Page of Pentacles, reversed:


My first impression was an image of a young man, hands raised as if in offering, between a copse of trees and a hill.  Pages are traditionally female cards, but the shadow of the jaw creates the rebus of a goatee beard when reversed.

Arthur Edward Waite describes the Page of Pentacles reversed as follows:  “Prodigality, dissipation, liberality, luxury, unfavourable news.”  After looking through the 36 Dramatic Situations, this seemed to fit closest to Number 35:  Recovery of a Lost One.



This dramatic situation only includes two characters, One Who Is Lost and a Seeker.  There is no specific conflict between them; it is the situation that they have to overcome, rather than each other.

The next card I drew was for The One Who Is Lost:


The Moon represents the tension between the mind and the soul, the intellect and the spirit.  As stern (and solar) as the Moon looks, she is waxing and offering hope.  The scorpion represents a “nameless and hideous tendency that is lower than the savage beast.”  The path leads between a dog and a wolf, between civilisation and the wild.

Again, synchronicity rears its head and returns us to the themes of Teratogenesis…



The card I’ve drawn for the Seeker is the Knight of Swords:


Sometimes, harmonies and correspondences appear between the card that appears and its place in the story.  The Knight of Sword is the prototypical questing knight and a perfect card for our Seeker.

He represents all the qualities of the chivalric hero, both good and bad:  “Skill, bravery, capacity, defence, address, enmity, wrath, war, destruction, opposition, resistance, ruin.”  He is someone who is willing to not only brave death but also to deal it in pursuit of his goals.



The card I’ve drawn for my beginning is Strength or Fortitude, reversed:


This isn’t a physical strength, as suggested by the  taming of the lion, but a strength of faith as per the chain of roses which bind the beast.  However, it is reversed and suggestive of a loss of faith and an unleashing of the feral instincts.  This ties quite nicely into the image of The One Who Is Lost that we already have.



The card drawn for the middle of the story is The Emperor:


The Emperor is not just a temporal king but a manifestation of the will, of exerting ourselves onto reality.  This is often in simple ways, like making and discarding, but goes right up to the stage of life or death decisions.  In many ways, he is the direct opposite of the previous card, showing a recovery of the self.



Hmm.  I seemed to have missed out the Emperor in that last post, but he’s back now.

The final card I’ve drawn is a Minor Arcana, the Two of Wands:


Another appropriate card, as the Two of Wands indicates that through hard and difficult work, success is likely.  However, it may not bring the pleasure or satisfaction that we wanted…



So this gives us a condensed plot that looks something like this:

Someone has given into their baser instincts and become lost. Someone else, capable and ruthless, is sent after them. When they find them, they have recovered themselves but are not necessarily able to come back.

Now it is time to essentially wrap this up in the uniform of a ghost story.  Currently, the story could be about anything: a kitchen sink story of infidelity, a two-fisted war story of guilt, a romance, anything.  But the goal of the exercise is a ghost story, so that is how we’ll dress our set.

Now, the hard part begins, the actual writing…



The story is wearing its ghostly robes, the characters are all named and the scene is set.

Time to splice the main brace and move onto the first draft…



We have a title: Dependence.

All of the Christmas ghost stories have one word titles:  Harbinger, Sacrifice and Dependence, which remains unpublished because its not very good.



This is turning out far darker than I expected…



First draft done in 6 hours and 5 minutes, not bad going.

But the balance of horror and terror isn’t right.  This isn’t a ghost story, it is a horror story.  Horror is a much more visceral thing, while the creeping sense of terror is far more subtle.

Time to let it rest for a few hours and then the second draft…



There’s so much to change  on a second draft…



Decent templates make formatting so much easier…



And there we go!

Dependence, a Christmas horror story written and posted in nine hours and eighteen minutes.  Available from Scribd formatted for screen and mobile devices.

It’s far more gruesome than I expected and falls well short of the definition MR James used for his ghost stories, but it’s done and it’s up.


Thanks to everyone who’s been following this, I’ve enjoyed and hope you have too.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010


A huge and penultimate Teratogenesis update today.  There is only one chapter remaining and then it’s done.  I can’t quite believe it.  Mostly because it’s not necessarily true.  There’s still the editing, the two missing chapters (which will foreshadow Lyall’s return) and Trudie’s prologue and epilogue to write.

Then I’ll have to design the ebook, market the ebook, write the theme tune, sing the theme tune…  It’s a year in and I’m only just beginning.

I’ve got something special planned for the cover, which will hopefully avoid me having to hack something out of Paint and be useful to someone else.

I’m also making another attempt at my annual Christmas ghost story.  It’s a mostly Victorian tradition, but it’s an exercise that I quite enjoy.  Basically, I have one day to write a short story from scratch.  Two of the previous stories, Harbinger and Sacrifice, are both up on Scribd already, but aren’t formatted for monitors or ereaders, these a classic A4 pages.

This year, I plan to “write live” which essentially means I’ll be blogging as I go.  I’ll be starting work at 9am and detailing the various stages it goes through here, on this blog, on Friday 24th December 2010.  And obviously, the finished item will be posted to Scribd… If it does get finished!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stage Fright

This chapter of Teratogenesis was even harder than the last.

The big problem with working on this for a year, is that now it comes to the end, I’m so invested in it that I don’t want it to end.  And this brings in the issues of dissemblance and skiving.

But then, killing my darlings was the very problem Teratogenesis and my Scribd account are meant to be solving.

On a related note- synchronicity rearing it’s head again- I’ve just watched Reichenbach Falls on BBC4, which is on a similar theme.  Essentially, it’s a fictionalised Ian Rankin killing off an even more fictionalised Rebus.  To an extent.  Well timed to say the least, especially since I finished Exit Music, the last Rebus novel on Friday.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pulling nails

Some chapters of Teratogenesis have been easy to write, they’ve just spilled out, straight on to the screen.

Others have been absolutely impossible.

I had two main objectives with this project:

  1. Complete a longer form project.
  2. Get into a regular writing routine.

Teratogenesis is the longest single piece I’ve written to date.  Finishing these last few chapters will bull's-eye my prime objective.  But as to getting into a decent routine, I’ve still got some way to go.

That’s why next year’s project will be a weekly short story.  It’s effectively ramping up the work load of Teratogenesis and loosening the parameters that I’m working in.

Of course, if I manage twenty short stories, I’ll be happy.  But the aim is to push.  And push further.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A mean streak and an appetite.

Yeah, those knots I mentioned yesterday…
One of the odd things about having Teratogenesis update at random intervals is – was – the way that you occasionally get two posts back to back.
One of the other odd things is discovering new music via the soundtrack to each chapter.  I was aware of Pete Dolving via The Haunted, but their music is just a bit heavier than I usually listen to.  BringTheWarHome is quite different again, folkier and bluesier, but still rooted in rock music.  A pleasant surprise.
Other options for this weeks soundtrack were Lullaby for Cain by Sinead O’Connor (far too chilling) and Cain and Abel by Louis Armstrong (not nearly chilling enough.)  While I’ll usually go with Satchmo every time, sometimes sacrifices must be made.  If you’ll excuse the pun…

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tying a knot

Well, there are a full seven chapters of Teratogenesis left and in tying up the loose ends, there will have to be some twists.

I originally planned for Teratogenesis to divide into four seasonal acts.  But the middle and the end are a bit longer than I planned, although the last six weeks are almost a complete story in themself.

This chapter is actually almost a full week late and I’ve had to battle a cold to get it out on time.  But, it’s up and that’s what matters.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cashing In?

Typical, typical…
Well, it looks like this out about a month before my projected April release for Teratogenesis.
So this is the issue: do I hammer the editing for Teratogenesis and get the ebook out for February or do I ride a wave of full moon fever and bore myself to death saying “…no, this was serialized last year and was being developed three years before that…”
Incidentally, another bout of synchronicity emerged in choosing the song for the latest chapter.  I wanted a Nirvana song because of the last line of the entry and I was checking the background to the songs when I noticed a reference to pennyroyal being an ingredient in the Ancient Greek drink kykeon, a beer made with ergotised malt…

Sunday, November 14, 2010

We Face Our Consequence

There are only about six weeks left of Teratogenesis now.  This breaks down to about half a dozen posts.  I’ve got pretty much everything plotted now, barring synchronicity’s gifts and I’m definitely going to avoid a Lost style ending, so there are a few loose ends to tie up and decisions to make on whether there will be time to introduce some of the things I’ve left in the background.

I should have been posting links back to the beginning on a regular basis, probably at least once a quarter, but then this is very much a learning exercise.  Actually reading that first entry again, I’m surprised how much is foreshadowed.  The big worry I’ve had about this project was the tone becoming patchy and inconsistent.  But then, that’s what editing is for.

A definite image of the finished project is emerging.  Not only will the Teratogenesis ebook contain the complete and corrected text, but it will also have the two missing posts and a framing narrative by Trudie.  I’m even tempted to create a mock up of the Inquistor’s pamphlet mentioned a few posts back, but we’ll see about that later.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

“…She was raised by beasts…”

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s Teratogenesis, here is the next instalment.  It’s tearing along at a good old pace now.

As with every Teratogenesis, this one has a song at the end, in this case it’s Heathen Child from the latest Grinderman album.  I choose the songs by searching for a specific word or phrase, usually on Spotify or Last.Fm so I can hear it first if I’m not familiar with the song.  Today’s word was “heathen” after the description of King Lykaon and the Wolves of Arcadia (awesome name for a band.)

I was resigned to choosing something off the David Bowie album of the same name, probably Afraid or Slipping Away, and being a bit subtle.  But subtlety has gone out the window now.  So I chose Heathen Child instead.

When I was generating the widget, I saw the artwork.

Thank you once again, Synchronicity.

It’s a wolf, with Classical statuary in the background.  If I were going to draw it myself, I’d have have just left the mirrors off.


This latest instalment of Teratogenesis has been the hardest to write so far.

Not only am I trying to contend with the increased schedule of the serial but I’m suffering with a couple of mental and physical ailments as well.  Namely a nightmare that was like David Lynch’s Marxist version of Hellraiser and whatever-the-hell-I-did to my knee on the way back from the shop.

But these are ultimately only distractions and I’m a year into this now, it’s too far to falter at the last step.  Even if it takes me three bloody attempts…

Monday, November 1, 2010

…In Fabula

Not only is Teratogenesis getting denser, it’s also getting darker.  Rudy’s past has been pretty much kept quiet so far, but it is becoming increasingly relevant.

I’m not sure how much I want to define the werewolves in Teratogenesis.  So far all I know is:

  • They change at the full moon.
  • They are vulnerable to silver.
  • They have unnaturally sharp senses, even to the point that they can blur the line between dream and memory.

There are a few other things as well, like the origin of the werewolf and how someone becomes a werewolf, but I’ll keep them under wraps for now.  There is some other detail, but I’m not sure how relevant it’s going to be to Teratogenesis.

Also, it’s only just occurred to me that the first, non-Teratogenesis piece of writing I’ve posted is called “Crying Wolf…”

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

Since a lot of what I write is quite spooky, it seems fitting that I’m racing to beat the witching hour this Halloween.

Not only has there been the dramatic twist to Teratogenesis, but I’ve also decided to share my own experience with the uncanny on Scribd.  As always, there are versions for both print / screen and for mobile devices.

The incident described in Crying Wolf is actually true.  But the situation is so ambiguous, even seeing isn’t really believing.  And this is where I stand on the issue of the supernatural.  If I can see it myself and there is only a paranormal explanation then, yes, I would believe, but until then I’ll just keep an open mind.

After all:

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy…”

Friday, October 29, 2010

Good For The Soul

Well, the wolf is out of the bag for Teratogenesis today.

Our protagonist has finally realized what we have suspected for months.  And he has tasted blood.

And what do you do with a dog that has turned on it’s master?

The end is surely nigh.

Specifically, there is only about eight weeks left.  And then I’m starting my next project:  A short story a week for a year.  It’s entirely optimistic, there is absolutely no way I’ll have fifty two short stories, but I need to shoot high.

And then there is going to be process of editing up Teratogenesis for it’s final version.  Which is bound to be easier said than done…


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wake Up Everyday, That Would Be A Start

If I were to start Teratogenesis again, what would I do differently?

I would use a WordPress account rather than LiveJournal.  There is no way around this- LiveJournal is showing its age.  I had thought to take into account the ready built community but, frankly, the social networking element is a lot more rudimentary than I expected.  The other element is the inability to place tracking code on the blog.  Ten months in, I still have no idea of how successful it has been.  I can see how many people read this blog, but not Teratogenesis.

I would shill a lot more.  So far, all of my traffic to Teratogenesis is, presumably, either direct, from here or from the Xaeromancer Project.  And that is mostly from the fact that if I have an account somewhere that will let me post a link here, then I’ve posted a link here.  I should also have gone onto online writing forums and talked up the project that way.  Reaching the most people is the trick, as not everyone will be a fan; I accept that, but I need to reach the people who would be interested if they knew about this project.

I would have structured it a lot more.  Sometimes there is a perfect storm of synchronicity, but other times it’s a real challenge to move the story along.  I think managing the story arcs week-by-week rather than month-by-month would have kept a better pace.  It’s all a matter of flexibility versus slack and rigidity versus robustness.

I wouldn’t have bothered with the Amazon links.  Maybe with higher traffic, this would have been worth it, but so far…

Still, Teratogenesis has cost me nothing but time so far, so I can afford to experiment.  A real time window into the life an increasingly strange protagonist?  It’s not a safe bet at the best of times.  But then, I’d sooner fail for over-reaching myself than be successful for playing to the lowest common denominator.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Spot The Deliberate Mistake

In the last chapter of Teratogenesis, there is a quote purportedly from Neil Young.  It’s actually from Mama Said by Metallica, which sounds like a Neil Young song anyway.  The Neil Young song / songs he actually means are My My, Hey Hey (Into The Black) / Hey Hey, My My (Out Of The Blue.)  This song became infamous when it was quoted in Kurt Cobain’s suicide not.  But, Rudy, he chose the Metallica…

One of the oddest things in this project, is to make other peoples mistakes for them.  And yes, the typos and grammar errors are left in deliberately.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Rub of the Real

I’ll be honest, I stole the idea for Rudi’s tea from a friend’s Facebook post.

I needed an example of a meaty, starchy comfort meal for him to eat in today’s chapter of Teratogenesis and I had written “a steak I had cooked impatiently, mash and a mug of Bovril.”  But when I saw a friend’s Facebook update, I changed it to beef noodles and hot dogs because it not only seems more authentic, but because steak and mash isn’t the kind of lucky combination that comes up when you shop while hungry.  You get salad and rice or beans and Spam, truly atrocious meals that you have to eat because there is nothing else in.  But sometimes, you do get lucky; the occasional pasta and chilli con carne or Mars bar toastie.  And so, we get to noodles and hot dog sandwiches.  Good call, Nik.

Also, it’s the lyrics to a song:

“…Looking for a place called Lee Ho Fuks /Gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein…”

One of the things that I’ve had to do over the last year is develop who (and what) Rudi is.  Given what Teratogenesis means, it should be obvious by now, but it has definitely been easier to describe the mental changes rather than any physical ones.  It was even very tempting to use an existing clinical condition but ultimately, that would’ve been a cop out.  Which meant I had to work out what would happen to someone afflicted with the “other” condition.  I imagine it would ache a lot and would leave you hungry, no matter how much- or even what- you ate…

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dreaming of Wolves

Well, it seems I’m not the only one who is having strange dreams lately.  Thankfully, mine weren’t nearly as gruesome as Rudi’s.

“Tomorrow’s is especially important…”  Talk about famous last words?  You’d have thought I’d have learned by now, to stop writing cheques my keyboard can’t cash.  Still it’s a double sized chapter, that’s got to count for something, right?

Nonetheless, the latest instalment is probably the most important to the overall story so far and is a definite sign that we’re on the home stretch.  I’ve had to wait nine months to write this chapter.  Hopefully, all the foreshadowing has fallen into place.  The end is nigh…

The more I write the more I realize that I’m using a lot of ‘uncanny’ and Freudian (or, rather, Jungian) images:  The wolf, the moon, dreams within dreams and, in this instalment, trains and tunnels.  This isn’t an especially deliberate decision.  My own writer’s instincts play a huge part in this, and, really, that is the main exercise of Teratogenesis, to start imposing an order and discipline on my writing, to balance the wolf and the man.  Certainly, it’s good practice to be writing to deadline again, the pressure certainly imposes a clarity that is sometimes lacking otherwise.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Double Barrel

Two instalments of Teratogenesis as we move into the busiest five weeks of the serial so far.  In fact, there’ll be an average of two posts a week for the next month, which will account for about a sixth of the story come the end of October.  I told you things were picking up pace.

Tomorrow’s is especially important, but might not seem so for a few weeks.

Even in fiction as strange as Teratogenesis, you have to draw on your own experiences, probably especially so for weird fiction.  So, in writing about Rudi’s “aches and pains” I’ve drawn on almost all of the injuries I’ve had over the years and addressed the issues of both the terrible growing pains I had as a kid and the Typist’s Gout I seem to be developing in my hands.  It’s important to sympathise, rather than just emphasise, with the character as I write.  After all, if I can’t do, how can you, the reader?

I’ve also had to start using a spreadsheet to keep track of the soundtrack.  When the serial is complete, I’ll see about assembling a Spotify soundtrack and posting a link on here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

“I Saw The Rain Dirty Valley…”

A slightly unusual Teratogenesis this week (even by its own standards.)  Thankfully, I’d had the presence of mind to describe how Rudy writes his blog and have him do so in a way that can leave posts floating around for a few days (or weeks…)

You see, this was originally last Friday’s update, but I have been unable to write for a few days.  When I say “unable to write” that’s not strictly true.  There was something I wanted to write about, had to write about, but to have sat down immediately afterward, it would’ve just poured out of me and I was decidedly unsure of where it was going.

Have you ever had a dream that was so vivid that you woke up shaken?  I have.  I’ve had dreams that have seemed to run for months and left me unsure of the date when I woke up.  Sometimes I dream of dreaming, of waking from one dream to another and not being sure of where (or when or even who) I am when I wake up.  It’s interesting to watch in Inception as an adult, but it was horrible as a child.  I’ve had nightmares so utterly vile that I can’t bring myself to transcribe them.  And, given the direction Teratogenesis will take, you may be surprised at this.

But I had a dream the other night that was so strange, beautiful and profound that it took me two days to fully recall it and another to write a record of it.  Most strangely, I instantly made a connection between one story but, on further research, found that it resembled more a legend which had influenced that story.  A legend I was unfamiliar with.

There are a lot of theories about dreams:  they are just the brain defragmenting itself, there is pool of race memory that dreams tap into, they are messages from a higher power.  I’m not sure were I stand on this, but I think there are elements of truth in all them.  Even when I’m awake, I find that writing is a lot like dreaming onto the page, that the idea is just moving through me like light through a lens.  This is what I think of as the “talent” part of writing, the intuitive aspect, as opposed to the “craft” of writing, which is very much a discipline earned in blood, sweat and the proverbial tears.

I’m not sure what I will do with this dream, but I’ll certainly do something; it’s too much of a gift not to.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Taking Aim

After posting today’s Teratogenesis, I noticed that I’m nearing the final act.  As Teratogenesis has been unfolding in “real time,” this also means that the best part of a year has also passed and, more importantly, I can get rid of the current theme- far too orange for my liking, but then it’s not meant to be my blog.

If I were to start the project again, would I do things differently?  Yes.  I certainly would.  For a start, I’d probably use a Wordpress account instead of LiveJournal.  I’d also do more marketing.  Which is to say, I would do “some” marketing instead of relying on word of mouth and click-through traffic from around the web.

But there have been definite successes.  It’s taken months of discipline not to reveal the protagonist’s name, although it’s should be fairly obvious now.  There is also the issue of is he going mad (or has he already?)  Or is there another explanation?  There will be answers to that coming up as well.  I certainly don’t plan a Lost-style ending which spends the final act raising questions and then copping out on the answers.  Nothing has happened without purpose (well, there is a whole sub plot which is meaningless, but even then, that’s deliberately without meaning…)

This also means finalising plans for next year.  The secret project is on a knife edge, but probably isn’t as time critical as I thought it would be.  Characters are beginning to emerge as well as methods and means.  Next year will probably be the year of the short story as I’ll be ramping up my output from an average of five hundred words every eight days to closer to a few thousand every week.  In short (excuse the pun,) I’m planning a short story a week for a year.  One day to plan, two days to write, one for the first draft, one for the second and post on a Saturday.  This will also deliberately shape my writing habits around my day job.  There is no way I can get fifty-two short stories done, what with Christmas and holidays and everything, but the point is to aim higher so that should I fall short, I can still hit something.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Double Time

A double posting of Teratogenesis, first yesterday and again today, I guess I was right about things picking up, eh?
I’m sure I’ve said it before, but one of the things I’ve come to like about working on a serial is the progression of sub-plots and how they advance the main storyline.  The current industrial espionage one is something that I’ve  been looking forward to for a while and is an opportunity to show how strange and ruthless the narrator has become.
Teratogenesis is a character piece and we learn more about our narrator about how he is talking than what he actually says.  And the opportunity to show how morally flexible he has become is nearer and nearer with every chapter.  Things will, no doubt, get worse before they get better…
There isn’t much going on that isn’t Teratogenesis at the moment.  There should be, but there isn’t.  Steps are being taken to reverse the situation.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Too Easy

LiveJournal have added a post to Facebook function (much similar to the one you probably followed here.)  At first I thought this would be a handy thing.  Then I realized that it's the in-character narrative of a maniac.

So I'm enforcing a degree of separation between myself and the the character, which is were good old GLOSSOLALIA blog comes in.  So here the latest chapter of Teratogenesis.  It's also scheduled for a change of theme.  Frankly, I've been sick of the orange for quite sometime, but, you know, it's not my blog...

Progress on the secret project has stalled and I only have a matter of weeks to finish it now.  Not looking good.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Keeping the Wolf from the Door

Earlier tonight, I started to design some document template for PDF files.  When doing this there were a few things I had to consider:
  • The use of a serif font.  To someone raised on the Roman alphabet, I simply find serif text easier to read as a "1" is clearly a "1" and not an "I."
  • A clear and clean monochrome format.  This is to provide a standard and stable level of contrast depending on what medium is being used to view the file.
  • Finally, the page needed to be suited to the medium.  Previously, I've formatted for an A4 portrait page and this is not particularly useful in an electronic environment.  The two templates I produced are suited to specific screen sizes: a monitor or a mobile device.  The larger, monitor-scaled template is simply A4 landscape and serves as a print-scale as well, should anyone prefer a traditional "tree corpse" to read from.
After testing the formatting with a few half finished works, I decided that I needed to get something new out.  Which meant raiding my idea horde.  Under the working title of 'Ghost In The Machine,' 'Incompatibility' is based on an old urban legend I read a number of years ago.  In that case, it was based around two teenagers who "meet" over a wrong number.  It's a response to the adverts of certain on-line dating agencies which are winding me up.  As I was writing it, I realized that there were a number of aspects in the technology that wouldn't have been taken for granted a few years ago but are now.

The two versions (screen and mobile) are both on Scribd now.  As I went for the link, I've noticed that they've both been read three times already, so thank you very much for that!

Finally, there are bonus points for anyone who can figure out the significance of the protagonists name.

Own Bare Hands

This article was in Friday’s Guardian.  Ray Connolly makes a number of good points, but he neglects one thing:  snobbery.

As long as there has been printed text, there has been a distinction between the author and the printer / publisher.  And there have always been printers who would set any lead as long as the silver was right.  This was very much the mode by which publishing worked for centuries:  Shakespeare, Milton, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe all self-published their work.

However, with the advent of the publishing industry and the move of the editor away from the arena to behind the desk, there were always those who sort to avoid the dreaded “thumbs down.”  So the vanity publisher was born.  Essentially a middle man between the author and the printer, these rather dubious institutions would publisher anything as long as the check didn’t bounce and they got their percentage.

In time, this lead to the role of editor becoming a guardian of sorts, protecting the public from the utter crap that would be foisted up on them.  Or rather, the perception of the editor as guardian.  In truth, the editor was tasked to find profitable product.  ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ was offered to eight publishers before it was published.  The manuscript wasn’t any better or worse, it wasn’t any more original or controversial but eight publishers decided not to publish it.  I’m sure they regret it now, though.

Printing, never mind distributing and marketing, a book is an incredibly expensive process.  Hence, the publishers need to know that they’ll make a return.  In the case of celebrity biographies, this is usually a given and thus the massive advances provided to the likes of Jordan and Wayne Rooney (regardless of whether or not the book is ghost written- but that’s a whole other story…)  Is the editor protecting us from the slurry?  Glamour model Jordan / Katie Price has published a dozen books… for children.  That doesn’t even take into account her three autobiographies or her ghosted novels.

And how many thrillers based on religious apocrypha have appeared since ‘The Da Vinci Code?’  Considerably more than after the publication of ‘Angels and Demons,’ which was essentially the same book from a different perspective.  How many romantic vampire books have followed in the wake of ‘Twilight?’  Far more than since ‘Dead Until Dark’ two years earlier.

In the music industry, there is no stigma attached to self-released work.  Quite the opposite.  Even if a band mixes and produces their own work, the accusation of a vanity project is not levelled at them.  If someone writes, directs and produces their own films, they are regarded as an auteur, even if the end result is a trashy little horror film.  Painters and sculptors aren’t criticised for arranging their own exhibitions.  So why do we have this problem with written work?  It’s not because indie music is universally better than its major label counterparts.  It’s because vanity published work is almost always crap.

And this is the problem I have with Teratogenesis:  credibility.  I can write it myself.  I can arrange the distribution over the net myself.  I can get it edited by a second, trained pair of eyes (in the eventual final text.)  There is no need for me to have a publisher other than to market my work.  And, if I were more of an egotist (see how many times I’ve used my name on this blog,) then that wouldn’t be a problem either.  But the fact that I am doing this entirely myself stigmatises the whole project in the eyes of some potential readers.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I Can’t Get No Sleep

I’ve mentioned before that some parts of Teratogenesis have strayed quite close to biography, and this is another aspect of my life that I’ve decided to use as grit in the oyster of our (still) anonymous narrator.

I talk in my sleep.  I snore, I fidget and am generally quite obnoxious while I’m dead to the world.  I’m hardly Cesare the Sonambulist, doing the bidding of Dr Caligari in my sleep, but I can’t be much fun to be around.

The other element is the timing of my sleep pattern.  For example, tonight was meant to be an early night.  This blog was meant to be written before I ate.  What did I do instead?  I had a power nap…

I’ll be honest though, I quite like the adrenaline of an approaching deadline, it sharpens the mind pleasantly.  Which means I need to set more and shorter deadlines, if I want to get things done.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Sometimes, a little pressure is a good thing.  It stops things from bleeding out of control or ballooning beyond their intended size.  It also helps to drive you along your course and slow you down when you need to stop.

I’m all out of pneumatic metaphors, but deadlines are a good thing.  Without the constant reminders I’ve set myself, I’d probably have abandoned  Teratogenesis back around March.  Of course, it doesn’t always work, but we don’t live in an ideal world (no matter what the formula in the title says.)  Well, it’s more of a pun than a metaphor…

Bad pressure is when you realize you only have six weeks to finish the secret project you thought you had until November to work on…

Also, bonus points if anyone can spot the significance of the Lou Reed track in the latest chapter of Teratogenesis.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Dead Give Away

I told you the pace was gathering.  Admittedly, it went dark for two weeks immediately after I said that, but it’s true.  There is still another update at the end of the week.
One of the things I’m really enjoying about this project is the chance to weave in topical events.  When I first started plotting out Teratogenesis and working out the mechanics of it, I didn’t know what a vuvuzela was, never mind how annoying they were.  It also lets me reveal certain things second hand.  For example, if something is scheduled to happen in a certain time and place, and  Rud…  the narrator is also there, then it stands to reason that the previously unknown location is revealed.  Doesn’t it?
Not everything in Teratogenesis is true, you know…
The original plan was to use a piece of music by Curve as the soundtrack, but it made more sense to go with PiL.  Which is a shame as Curve must be one of the most underrated bands of the last twenty years.  What the hell, have a listen to it anyway, it’s lovely and it's over on there on the right.  Or rather, it would be, if the embedding widget would work.

Try this instead:  A Clip On You Tube, Since It's Not Available Anywhere Else

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Normal Service Is Resumed

And to further reassure me things are getting back on track, I had another moment of synchronicity.  I’m becoming quite superstitious about this now.  The soundtrack to today’s Teratogenesis is by Johnny Cash and the minute I picked it, he appeared on TV singing San Quentin.  It’s always nice to see Johnny Cash on TV, especially the San Quentin concert.  I have to say, I don’t like Country music- at all.  But I do like Johnny Cash and I think that’s a testament to the way he tells a story in most of the songs.  Current favourites are:  One Piece At A Time, (Ghost) Riders In The Sky and A Boy Named Sue.
Time is also ticking away on a secret project I’m working for the end of the autumn.  Suffice to say, I need to write it and someone else should probably illustrate it, but all this needs to be finished for around the end of September and despite the fact that it will be a really low word count (because of the nature of the piece,) I’m still getting nowhere.
So yeah, I need to find a half decent artist who will work for cheap.  Please leave a link to a sample of your work if you’re interested…

[Monday 19/7/2010:  It might actually be worth enabling the comments on this one...]

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Excuses, Excuses

“It could all unravel yet!”

I wish I hadn’t said that two posts back.  It almost did.

Basically, since the end of last month, I’ve been feeling tired and run down.  Not really ill, but severely lacking in motivation.  There was a fairly arduous project on in my day job and that, coupled with poor diet and hay fever, meant I was struggling to come up with anything worthwhile for Teratogenesis.

But I’ve managed to come up with a fantastic excuse for why our protagonist was also offline.  In fact, the story of why he’s been away for so long is probably better than how I would have written the events of the last two weeks.

Also, who is Trudie?  Well, it’s obviously Drury’s real name, which then raises the question of why has he let it slip…

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Any Excuse…

For a bad pun.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist using a song by The Doors for today’s Teratogenesis soundtrack.  Still, it is one of their better songs.

This chapter has fallen astride three of my subplots, although one is only mentioned in passing.  Events are starting to get out of hand, so this time I’ve decided to use an incident from one of the subplots and write it as though it’s in another.  The effect has been to level off the increasing character tension by making something seem mundane, but still keep ramping the dramatic tension up through the story.  I’m having to be careful because there is an increasing amount of danger in one of the plotlines and I don’t want to play my hand too early.

But the centre point has definitely passed and now it’s time to start tying up loose ends…

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Well, Teratogenesis is into its seventh month.  Yes, I know it’s June and I started in January, but it’s been seven months; you’ll just have to trust me, if you haven’t worked it out yet.

I would count this as a good entry even if it weren’t advancing the plot or character, as it not only references And She Was by Talking Heads, but also Angela Carter’s collection of short stories, The Bloody Chamber.  If you’ve not read it, and you aren’t squeamish, then I whole-heartedly recommend it.  It’s certainly the best book on folk lore I’ve read since I managed to get a collected Brothers Grimm.  Now those are strange stories!

As it happens, we are moving into another arc; although, June has been quite strange, in that everything has been held in suspension as the overall story pivots about it’s centre.  Like a ball tossed in the air, we’ve reached the brief moment when acceleration and gravity are held in balance.  But from here on in, it’s time to roll on toward the finish line.  There are at least three major subplots that will move through before the end and the density of entries will also start to pick up soon.  It’s odd:  I’m just before half way in my word count, I’m just at half way with the plot and I’m just over half way in my schedule.  It could all unravel yet!

Since it was the Summer Solstice yesterday, I can officially unveil the new summer theme as well.  In contrast to this blue and misty site, it’s very orange.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Peace and Quiet

Would be nice, I suppose.

But it’s more than enough for the protagonist of Teratogenesis, who’s feeling becalmed this week.  But you’ve got to agree with him about the vuvuzelas.

I’d take a bit of peace myself right now.

Other projects are coming for the next week or so.  Basically, something I’ve been working on for awhile is a having a line drawing underneath it.  So I just need to tie up some loose ends and get that posted.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Faith and…

Today’s Teratogenesis soundtrack is another track from Muse.  I like Muse, but I’m not a massive fan.  However, they do produce excellent cinematic feeling music that is great for setting a mood.  It also helps that most of their music is quite catchy and sticks in your mind.  Hence why it’s used in a lot of trailers and adverts.  And why it makes a second appearance in Teratogenesis.
I’m also beginning to consider my next project a bit more.  There will be similarity of some themes I think, mostly in the fact that I intend to keep presenting the evidence of the story rather than tell it traditionally.  This time, however, it will be a lot more objective than the first-person narrative of a man on the edge of sanity.  I remember that some computer games, particularly adventure games, would come with a host of little artefacts:  cloth maps, coins, scraps of paper, fake Polaroid pictures.   The general term for these was “feelies,” in that they let you “feel” the game and they mostly appeared in games by Infocoms.  The intention is to create a file of documents and paperwork that tell the story.  As the reader roots through these pieces of paperwork, they are able to explore the story at their own pace and in a non-linear fashion.
High falutin’, eh?
It will also be the second instalment of what may become known as my “Universal Monsters” cycle where I present a traditional monster in a new way.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Things are going to get worse before they get better in Teratogenesis.

Everything so far has been building to a point of now return and, with the end of second act coming up, that juncture is almost upon us.  Soon our secretive protagonist will find himself on the next coil of his downward spiral and will have to… transfigure himself.

The hardest part of writing Teratogenesis is actually the mundane elements.  After all, who wants to read about real life?  We’d all sooner live real life than read about it or watch it on TV, wouldn’t we?  Wait.  Don’t answer that.  The monstrous and the mythic elements are the easiest to write, not because they are the simplest or most beautiful (in Teratogenesis’ case, this especially true) but because they are the most rewarding.

And one of the paradoxes of writing is that the further I get through the story, the more I enjoy it.  But eventually, the story must end and it must end well, otherwise everything thing that came before it is for nothing.

Welcome to the beginning of the end.

So, now it is time to start looking beyond Teratogenesis, to other projects…

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Catching Up Is Hard To Do

Well, I’m finally back on track for the next chapter of Teratogenesis on Sunday.  We are firmly in the middle of the story now and will begin accelerating toward the conclusion over the next few months.

I decided to tie these other two posts together by the choice of music.  Each song in the four blog entries is by Mike Patton and span pretty much the length of his career.

I experienced some fun and games with my internet connection and it looked like this would be delayed even further, but a fair amount of jiggery and a little pokery managed to get it connected again.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Sometimes events occur on the larger stage which give us cause to pause and reflect on what we are doing and how our deeds are perceived by others.

The first example I can think of is from the band, Machine Head.  Even if you don’t like heavy metal, I’m sure you can appreciate the sad irony of this, just watch with the sound turned off.  As Machine Head were preparing to launch their fourth album, they chose a song as the lead single and recorded a video for it:


This video was released in the first few days of September 2001.

Needless to say, it got canned and had a direct effect on Machine Head leaving their record label and spending an unfortunate amount of time in the wilderness.  The band, director and record label could have had no idea about September 11th but it still had a very negative consequence for all of them.

This is what I mean by flinching.

Sometimes the world is a horrid place and we just can’t bear to look, like the first sight of a bad wound or other unpleasant shock.  Just because something is vile, though, doesn’t mean we should turn away.  In fact, it is the worst elements of life that must bear the closest scrutiny, if we are to overcome them.  Humanity is a contradictory species:  for every Plato, there is a Pol Pot, for every Trent Reznor, there is a Simon Cowell, Leni Riefenstahl made a beautiful film about a venomous subject, we find great leaders like Richard the Lionheart and Saladin and then pitch them against each other.  To improve ourselves, we cannot blind ourselves to our failings.

So I will not censor Teratogenesis in light of recent events in Cumbria.

The dark heart of Teratogenesis is coming to pass and I will not flinch.  The story is about personal madness and to shy away from that now is shameful cowardice.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Normal Service Is Resumed

It was bound to happen eventually, I've managed to miss an update.  Thankfully, there was nothing scheduled to happen, it was just an entry to show that our unreliable narrator does have a normal life as well.

The lesson learned?  "If you have email alerts to remind up of updates, check your email."  Or, build up a few chapters ahead of time.  That would be the sensible thing to do.

EDITED 2/5/10
“Or, build up a few chapters ahead of time.  That would be the sensible thing to do.”
Well, those are famous last words.
I, rather unprofessionally, disappeared to see friends this weekend and in doing so missed another two updates.
The irony is that the dominant arc this week revolves around black outs.  These are pretty important chapters, but can be reinserted with ease.  Indeed, they make the subject of tomorrow's update all the more interesting.  I’ve mentioned the importance of synchronicity and the need to stay flexible before, so I won’t bore with that again, but it is getting funny.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Completely by coincidence, tonight’s Teratogenesis update features the Crowded House song ‘Instinct’ as it’s soundtrack.  Not only is this a great song, but it’s title ties straight into the emerging theme of instincts and intuition.  And, as the update went up, Crowded House were playing ‘Later…’ on BBC 2.

Coincidence is playing a large part in Teratogenesis.  The updates are random points along each arc and yet, by keeping the specifics fairly loose, I allow for little interstices of current events and the plot I’ve had brewing for over three years.  Without allowing for this, I’d not be able to slide a few current affairs references into the background and the whole exercise loses it’s real time aspect.

I think this is a challenge even 24 hasn’t had to face.  Each episode of 24 represents one hour of Jack Bauer’s day, (or rather 45 minutes of his day plus ad breaks.)  Teratogenesis is a whole year in the life of Ru- He Who Chooses Not To Be Named.  In the last twelve hours alone, the UK has had a change in Prime Minister and a whole new government will be taking charge.  Frankly, it would have taken more than a week of déjà vu dreams for me to predict this election and if I had, I’d have made a fortune.  This means a lot of little changes and a change of tone across the nation, which Teratogenesis will be able to adapt to.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Act 2

Well, the first act of Teratogenesis is well and truly over now.

When we first met our protagonist, he was rotten with doubt and fear.  And now he’s starting fights with hooligans.  Not bad for four short months.

However, there is something of a problem with the soundtrack.

I’ve recently starting using the Firefox browser and found that its internal ad-blocker blanks out the music widgets.  Which it’s meant to do, considering that they are, technically, adverts.  However, this is the price of free.  Without those ads, you miss out on the soundtrack, which is used to express the character’s mindset.  It’s also my only revenue stream from Teratogenesis so far, but there are examples where the choice of song betrays more than the character is willing to say.

Still, it’s just a click away (to paraphrase “Gimme Shelter.”)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Long Time, No See

It looks like a quiet week for our nameless protagonist (who, incidentally, does have a name, he just doesn’t use it.)  Maybe he’s ashamed of his less than gallant behaviour this weekend.  Maybe something else has happened.  After all, it was the pub quiz last night.

We’re a third of the way through Teratogenesis now, and the momentum of the second arc is gathering.  I am also proud to say that I have not missed a single update.  Although, there were a couple that went up at ten to twelve at night, incredibly close to the deadline.  And I’ve probably cursed myself now.

Timing is incredibly important in Teratogenesis, not only as a story-telling device but also as a structural device.  I make no secret of my admiration of 24.  To me, it was the biggest thing to happen on TV since the X-Files and it baffles me that no one else has thought to use the “real-time” conceit for another programme.  When I decided to do an ongoing serial, this seemed an obvious choice to me;  not only is it part of the apparent form, but it would help to pace out the story.

And this is were it starts to become not just a consequence, but a cause as well.  The story of Teratogenesis is determined by a specific rhythm (which I’m sure everyone has guessed by now,) and this is what drives the actual action and tone of each entry.  The period between entries was determined randomly, but that doesn’t mean that nothing has happened in between.  Quite the opposite; I mean, who hasn’t been too busy to blog at some point?  Each entry is only a window, the world of Teratogenesis carries on regardless on the other side.

Also: promises, promises.  I know I keep promising to post more on The Xaeromancer Project, but I really am about to start editing up some short stories to go on there, as well as getting another Christmas ghost story ready for Scribd.  It is, after all, almost summer.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Life Imitating Art Imitating Life

Apart from the fact that it’s about a werewolf, Teratogenesis is essentially my autobiography.  There are differences between myself and the protagonist, but the similarities are overwhelming.  For example, I’ve never (knowingly) put my name on this blog.

And there are times when synchronicity is more than just an album by The Police.  For example, despite the fact that this chapter of Teratogenesis was originally plotted for 2007, I find myself in a very similar situation to our nameless protagonist.  Which is to say, I’m working and travelling to see my friends.

I plan on behaving much better…

Also, I’ve just received my first rejection letter.  Or rather, email.  Specifically, for a piece of writing.  I’ve had plenty for actual paying work.  Suffice to say, between t’internet and this landmark moment, I know feel much the same as Saturn (the titan, not the planet) about killing my darlings.  This was something that really bothered me, the old “sticking my neck on the line.”  And it also means that I now have a half-baked 500 word story I can develop into something useful.

From the people I’ve spoken to, Teratogenesis has been quite well received.  And that is ultimately the point.  I write what I want to read, what I hope my friends would like (but if they don’t, stuff ‘em, they can read something else instead, no hard feelings.)  Writing isn’t my job; I don’t expect it to feed me or shelter me, there’ll always have to be something else for that.  But writing is my calling, my duty, my dharma and, unfortunately, my one true love.

Unless you are intelligent, charming, gorgeous, and the heiress to a brewery; in which case, YOU are my one true love.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Gathering Pace

After last week’s “double episode,”  Teratogenesis is moving forwarded at pace.  Not only that, but I’ve signed up to Scribd and will be releasing some older material as PDFs to download.  Coupled with the fact that I am no longer an unemployment statistic, it’s all go for me right now.

The Scribd project is something I’ve been doing for a number of years now, where I write a ‘traditional’ Christmas ghost story on Christmas Eve.  The Victorian tradition of the Christmas ghost story has pretty much disappeared (although if you are maintaining it yourself, let me know,) and I think that’s a real shame.  The first story- Harbinger- went up last week and proved quite popular!  However, given that Harbinger is also on the Xaeromancer Project web page and isn’t so strong out of context, I’m currently re-editing the remaining two pieces for Scribd.

Given that Christmas is very much a family time, this project doesn’t allows yield a result but it is very satisfying working within the constraints of the genre and the one day, finish by midnight time frame.  MR James was very much the master of this form and it’s from his theory that I practice.  To quote U2, “every artist is a cannibal / every poet is a thief” and you really have to go back to the source to see why something emerged and how it has changed over the years.  For example, if you like Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries, try Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla or Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite.

The Scribd project is also me dipping my toes into the issue of eBooks.  Personally, I’m quite happy to read on my laptop, but I know some people who hate reading PDFs.  Don’t get me wrong, there is something magical about the concrete sensations of a new book, but frankly, it costs nothing to produce an eBook.  Let me say that again:

It costs nothing to produce an eBook.

You can save a file as a PDF with the free OpenOffice suite (other word processors are available, but OpenOffice is free, as is the Office PDF plugin.)  Admittedly, this means that you have to proof, format and edit the file yourself, but I was taught that in school over a decade ago, so the odds are:  if you can read this blog, you can type, format and save a file that has been proofed in accordance to the standards of your spell-checker (if that is enough for you.)  So, there you go, use that secret wisely.

Also, I’ve specifically chosen the Portable Document Format (.pdf) because it’s a reasonably open format and compatible with a number of different platforms: both of the major eBook readers, smart phones (even the iPhone,) laptops, desktops, palmtops and tank tops.  I appreciate that I don’t write populist fiction so it’s doubly important for me to reach everyone who might be interested in what I have to say and format is a definite consideration for this.

There will definitely be more in the way of eBooks later along the line (a collected Teratogenesis, for instance) but for now, the Scribd project is all about testing the waters and experimenting with the medium.

Finally, I chose “Come As You Are”  by Nirvana for today’s entry because I didn’t figure that our protagonist would have chosen my first choice, “Memories” by Public Image, Ltd.  Sometimes it’s difficult to chose the music at the end because what I think is a good choice might not be what the narrator thinks is appropriate.