The Long War

Hello! I felt like it was time for a blog update. This time it’s not so much about writing, but something slightly different.

At the weekend I went to my first doubles tournament at Warhammer World. Which was a great experience (despite some awful powergaming by some grumpy bastards from Leeds.) Even though we didn’t win a game, we still had a great time and there were a couple of hilarious games. One including a complete vendetta against my Heldrake, which resulted in a draw. My team-mate Chris played Dark Eldar so I decided to start my Chaos army. Had I know they were desperate allies, which severely hindered us, I would have chosen something else.

As part of the tournament there is an award for the army list. so I decided to write a story for it as follows:

The Long War

By Michael J. Hollows

THE CATHEDRAL BURST into a ball of pyrotechnic fury as stained glass windows exploded from the pressure change. Brother-Sergeant Amatius didn’t see where the shell had come from as he proceeded on foot into the vast nave, his back to the firer. His squad fanned out either side of him, bolters blaring at the unseen enemy. Smoke and the smell of cordite hung in the air. The stained glass fell from the windows, crashing amongst the knocked over pews as screams pierced the gloomy air. They weren’t the screams of glass-cut agony, but screams of delight.

A group of warriors, clad in spiked blue armour, rushed the Space Marines from the aisles. Splinters from their rifles peppered the cathedral and lodged in the wooden seats. The Ultramarines ducked behind what cover they could find, but brother Portius was thrown from his feet by the force of a blow. The splinters stuck out from his armour at jaunty angles and he knocked them away with a sweep of a vambrace before crawling towards a plascrete pillar.

Amatius returned fire with his boltgun and the two nearest eldar disappeared in a cloud of thick, arterial gore. Vertebrae hammered the pews as the aliens were blown apart by the concentrated fire. To his left, Caius discharged his meltagun, liquid fire cooking the last of the onrushing aliens. The Codex Astartes was clear in this situation and he was confident his brothers would clear out the cathedral in an efficient manner.

A grinding of metal on concrete behind him made Amatius turn. An Ultramarines Vindicator was crossing the threshold of the cathedral, entering the nave and adding its thick exhaust fumes to the smokey interior. What was it doing; entering the building with a vehicle was madness. Amatius tried to raise the commander on the vox, but was met with white static. He waved at the vehicle to slow and the vox suddenly flared into a scream of feedback, overloading his auto-senses. Amatius ripped his helmet from his armour throwing it to the floor in disgust, dulling the vox squeal. He looked up, regaining his composure, as another shell flew through the air and detonated sending out a wave of high pressure that squeezed against his skull.

Shrapnel spread across the room and Portius cried out as scalding-hot metal ripped through his leg, severing the bone. Bright blood pooled around the stricken Ultramarine.

Amatius tried to reach his comrade, but was forced back by the sea of eldar warriors. Madness, he thought. What had got into the Vindicator’s commander? This wasn’t the Ultramarines way, they had strict codes and doctrines that prevented this kind of folly.

He dodged another attack and brought his chainsword up in reply. The spinning metal blades made easy work of the eldar warrior and sprayed blood across his deep blue armour.

Amatius looked for Portius, but he was still on the ground as enemy warriors crowded him. He fought back furiously with combat knife and fist, breaking through armour like paper, but they would soon overwhelm him. Malius was the nearest Ultramarine to Portius, pinned behind a pillar to the squad’s right.

‘Malius, break through to Portius and engage a withdrawal, now!’ Amatius shouted, the vox hardly necessary in the acoustics of the cathedral. The Space Marine looked back in the sergeant’s direction, and shook his head slowly from side to side.

What was he doing? Portius needed his support.

Amatius tried to edge closer, but the eldar still blocked his path. He hacked and slashed with his chainsword, pushing the aliens back, but their numbers weren’t thinning. The eldar had lured them into this trap and their only way out was by forming an organised withdrawal past the Vindicator, but first they would need to regroup and cover each other.

He unclipped a grenade from the mag-lock at his waist and primed the fuse. While fending off the aliens with his chainsword, pushing the blade into their faces, blood splattering, he lobbed the grenade in an overarm throw. Amatius hoped it would cause enough damage in the close confines to confuse the enemy.

With a crack of releasing pressure the grenade detonated. Body parts and blood flew through the air in deep crimson droplets, decorating the scene in a macabre hue. The remaining eldar hissed and wheeled on the spot, retreating further into the church.

Amatius signalled to his men to regroup on his position, but before they could respond he rushed to where Portius lay. The Space Marine was a ruined mess where he had fallen, breaking a pew in half as it collapsed underneath his weight. The sergeant checked for life signs, but there were none. He sighed and placed the warriors weapon on his chest, before clasping Portius’s lifeless hands around the hilt.

He looked up at his men, but only Caius and Praxis stood by him.

‘Where are the others?’ he asked, before standing to look for himself.

As Amatius gained a view of the cathedral nave, he saw Malius walking away in the direction the eldar fled, his bolter relaxed in his gauntlet down by his side.

‘Malius, what are you doing? Regroup!’ he shouted after his brother.

The Ultramarine didn’t respond, but kept walking as the sound of the Vindicator revving it’s engines drowned out the Sergeant’s protests.

Malius’s armour-mounted speaker elicited a hiss followed by a deep, resonant voice Amatius didn’t recognise.

‘Not Malius.’ He paused in his tracks and looked back, deep green-tinted lenses boring into his sergeant’s skull. ‘I am Alpharius.’ he said as the next wave of eldar warriors pushed past him, like a tide around rocks. Splinter rifles spat their charges once more.

The last sound that Sergeant Amatius of the Ultramarines 6th Company heard was the deep rumble of a shell exploding as the traitorous Vindicator finally lowered its aim.

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Taking the Scenic Route

It’s mad that this is my first blog post of 2014, but then the year has started off massively busy. My New Year’s resolution was to write every day, which so far I have managed, even if only a few words, or I have done some editing. This worked out pretty well until I realised that I had a week to paint an army for a tournament in Nottingham next weekend. Life is about challenges right?

That’s kind of what this blog is about. I haven’t done any proper writing in the last few days because I’ve been knee deep in paint. I also felt that I needed to type up the writing we did in class this week as, once again, I didn’t feel like reading it out in class. (Turns out someone wrote a similar story to me, but did it better – such is life!) It’s also, partly, what the title is about; taking the scenic route to finishing my tasks for this week.

This week we had the external examiner, Carol Clewlow (I had to research that spelling!) who is a novelist in her own right, come in and talk to us. At first it seemed as if she would just talk us through the assignment, but that was only a brief introduction. What followed from that was a very interesting workshop about editing and scenes. We discussed the importance of bridging scenes – just getting a character where they need to be without boring the reader – and crucial scenes – where the detail is included – and their differences. Carol also talked about how it was quite often a shame that a scene was used as a bridging scene when it had the potential for some much more.

I just realised I’ve been typing this in silence without music. Sometimes when you get in the flow that just happens, other times I need music to help me concentrate. If you’re a writer, what do you write to? I tend to favour soundtracks as I find I often end up following lyrics if I listen to anything else. They also help me imagine the drama. I think today’s choice is Game of Thrones season 2, though it’s now making me want to watch it.

Carol gave us a bridging scene:

We left home at 6.30. Not long after turning on to the motorway we hit an accident with a long tailback. A wrecked car was still on its roof as we passed. Despite this we managed to reach dover by late afternoon and by evening we were in France.

We discussed that this scene has so much potential for detail which could add to the story. So, Carol gave us a task, turn this scene into a crucial scene. What follows is what I wrote in that task and also a later edit where she asked us to find that one part that needed more. Rather than splitting it in to two of what is essentially the same thing, I give you the finished version (I may also have cheated and added more as I typed it up – oops!):

We left home at 6.30 in a hurry to put everything into the car. The car screeched as the wheels spun off the driveway under the heavy way and we were away. Not long after hitting the motorway we hit an accident with a long tailback. It wasn’t uncommon given the circumstances. Everyone was in a rush to get away and rushing made people careless. A wrecked car was still on its roof as we passed, glass smashed across the carriageway. The poor people were still trapped inside the crumpled mess of the vehicle. The incessant cacophony of beeping horns wasn’t helping and there was no sign of the emergency services. They had enough to do right now. they would have a job getting through this crowd in time. The victims weren’t worth worrying about. No one could help them now, it was every man for himself.

Despite the crush we still managed to travel the 60 miles from Bromley to Dover by late afternoon. It’s amazing that even in an emergency most Brits wouldn’t drive on the hard shoulder. Its against the rules! But who needed rules now? The port got pretty desperate and fights were breaking out everywhere as we snuck our small car onto the ferry. By evening we were in France, a bit of money changing hands could get you anywhere. The badge didn’t hurt, but showing that around everywhere would raise too many questions. It’s a shame the ferry wasn’t going further, but I didn’t have that much money.

The crossing went relatively calmly, once people were onboard the hysteria had died down.

Driving down the ramp into the yellow ramps lights of Calais, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought about those trapped at home. Poor old Britain. For now though, we were safe.

Some of the group decided to completely change the original scene we were given, but I saw this more of an editing exercise. So what you can see here is a typical example of how I might edit. I’ll take a piece I have written and see if I can embellish the sentences that are already there. Sometimes I may need to take out a superfluous word and others I may need to alter the tense slightly, but as the scene we were given was already quite tight I didn’t feel any need to.

My scene could probably be edited further, but then isn’t that true of everything?

On another note, as anyone noticed that no one really talks on Facebook anymore? All that appears on my news feed is people sharing links to videos and various surveys that tell you which character from that poor remake of  that dodgy sci-fi film you are most like. What happened to people typing and having conversations, you know, social networking? Maybe it’s just my Facebook, but I was curious if anyone else had noticed a similar trend?

On that perfectly 1000 word count note, I shall leave you.

Once again, thanks for reading and any suggestions, comments or thoughts are welcome.

The Horror Goes South

So, I’m getting pretty good at this getting up earlier thing. I’m going to need to be once my day job’s working hours move an hour earlier and I may have to teach at the ungodly hour of 9.30 am (I don’t actually mind, it will be good for me). However I chose to shift my sleeping pattern around in order to do some writing in the mornings and then have more time in the day. I think I have successfully worked my transition in to a ‘morning person’, before now I was more of a ‘those-few-hours-in-the-middle-of-the-day-I-feel-like-doing-something…person’.

But I need to do some more writing. I’ve been pretty lax this week as I’ve had some other things on. I also haven’t written a blog since last week as far as I can remember. However that one at least was a story rather than my random ramblings. I’ve actually been busy sorting out my move. Yesterday I handed in the notice on my current flat, which is both exciting and scary. Exciting because I am now moving out of this flat which has caused me so many sleepless nights and moving somewhere new. Scary because the new place hasn’t actually gone through yet so unless it goes through by the time my notice runs out I may end up homeless.

So, what am I working on? Well, Games Day UK is coming up pretty soon, which I’m immensely looking forward to. Although my wallet is already silently weeping to itself in the corner. It doesn’t know what’s hit it yet! I do love Games Day, a place where like minded individuals all come together to have a day of pure geekyness about something they love. You will probably see me there running between various stands trying to catch as much new stuff as possible and take in all the atmosphere. Got to get to the Black Library, Forgeworld and I will also be checking out Fantasy Flight Games. I’m hoping to get hold of a copy of their new 40K game, Relic. I did have a few years out of going to Games Day and I really did miss it. I went again for the first time a few years ago and fell straight in to it without missing a beat. Though I don’t spend nearly as much money as I did when I was a kid. My poor parents!

Anyway I am digressing. The reason I mentioned Games Day is because, as the Black Library will be there, they have started to take submissions on the day. I am currently wondering whether to take something I have already written or begin work on a new 1000 word story to take with me specifically on the day. Any suggestions as to this will be greatly appreciated. If you really like something I’ve already written and think it’s worth submitting let me know.

I’ve also been given an opportunity of possibly having something published on Amazon. On a forum I peruse they are compiling a horror anthology and I have had my name listed as part of it. I already have a story idea; A Lovecraftian horror set on the Island of Portland in Dorset. That’s all you’re getting out of me for now. I just have to write the thing…I’ve not really written any horror before (except for Tyranid infested space ships) so I’m a little bit scared by it. I’ve done the leg work, I’ve written a plot outline, I just need to research the writing style and get to work on it. I will try and do that this week, look out for updates and wish me luck.

On Twitter the last few days I seem to have had a lot of authors follow me. I’m slightly perplexed, do they like my work? Is my writing starting to have some form of impact? If so, that’s really great, wow. Or maybe they have just seen that I have called myself an ‘aspiring-writer’ and have decided to see what I come up with. That’s also great. Perhaps they can offer me some advice? If you’re reading this, please send some twitter-esque tips my way!

Right, I really must get on with my day and some writing. This blog, amongst cooking breakfast and tidying some of the flat, has taken me the best part of an hour to finish. Ooops.

 

More stories soon, hopefully. Thanks for reading.

 

Existence is Futile?

Two blogs in as many days?! I know, I was just saying the same thing to myself. I don’t quite believe it either.

This is all part of my plan to, on my days off, get up as early as my body will allow, make a big cup of coffee (white, one sugar please) and spend at least an hour writing. So once again today I have been leafing through my notebook and typing stuff up. I like to do it this way as to me it gets at least one edit before it has even been typed up. From what I write in the notepad which can often be rushed, illegible and sometimes a bit basic, I can take that and refine it in to something better via a keyboard. Although there is some stuff in that notepad that I ain’t lettin’ no one see! Nuhuh!

So as of now, I almost have 2000 words for the ‘Project Xenos’ story, some of which I posted on here a short while ago (you can search for it under that title). And that is before I have even begun to flesh out the story. I aim for that to be my first proper short story rather than just a 1000 word short. I know for a fact I still have some parts for it later in my notepad, so you will see more from that story soon I hope.

Today’s story allows me to get a little arty-farty and philosophical, which is something I don’t tend to do. That is unless I have been plied with alcohol (make mine a red wine, scotch or cider please, ta!). This is where the title comes from. You can work so hard to achieve, get so absorbed in that work that you can forget the little things in life, then one day, one small act or one mistake can destroy it all. I don’t know where I am going to use this little scene but I really like what it portrayed. I’m sure it will come in handy somewhere.

Also, for those of you getting your A Level results today (though you are probably to busy to read this crap!); don’t worry if you don’t get what you expected. Sure it’s a great feeling to achieve and get brilliant results and it can open doors. But A levels are not the be all and end all of your life. I only managed to achieve one A level in Physics (thanks to having ME and my Chemistry teacher thinking it was better for me to dedicate my time to Biology that I was failing miserably rather than Chemistry where I was ahead of the rest of the class – see, I’m still making excuses!), I still got a degree, now I am a college/university lecturer, teaching sound engineering to degree students. So in short, you can achieve whatever you want to achieve if you put your mind to it, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t. You have the power to shape your own destiny, even if the fates can be exceptionally cruel at times.

Anyway, I digress, enough of that. Here is today’s story (Once again thanks for reading and I truly value any feedback):

Hector Lumus was a scribe, he was an exceptional scribe, the most efficient and well respected in the sector. Many other adepts came to him for the quality of his work. So much so that he was always busy with one thing or another. Many scrolls and slates were stacked in ordered piles on his workstation waiting to be started.

So busy that he did not notice the creeping, dark shape behind him.

The kill stroke was so quick that he did not even register his own death until he lay on the ground, his own blood pooling around him, the once neat ordered piles of dataslates now strewn about.

He stared up at the face of his killer, wondering briefly what he had done to deserve this pain, he had always worked hard. That grizzled evil face was the last thing he would ever see as the light faded from his eyes.