I can't understand why a person will take a year to write a novel
Fred Allen, comedian and broadcaster, 1894-1956
I've been writing fiction, on and off, for almost as long as I can remember. Around 2004, I decided to try to make a career out of it - or at least get a book published. The result was a science fiction novel called Escape Velocity, which I'm currently trying to interest literary agents in. What you'll find on this page is some of my older work.
These books and extracts are free to read. (That's free-as-in-beer, not free-as-in-speech, if you care about the distinction.) You can read them without having to pay money to me or anyone else. You can give copies to other people, as long as you don't charge them money. (This is a brief statement of what you can and can't do with these works. See the legal stuff for a more detailed version.)
If you enjoy reading the stories here, you may also like some of the screenplays I've written and short videos I've made.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three
Science fiction. 1996-2002. 68,000 words, or about 100 A4 or letter-sized pages.
This book attempts to answer the question: "What would happen if it became possible for doctors to revive the dead?" In the 29th century, Historian Thander selects Matthew Prentice, a 21st century computer scientist, for resurrection. Matthew had been frozen in the hope of being reunited with his dead wife Debbie, but no-one can tell him where she is. Thander tells Matthew that she wants him for historical research, but her purpose is something else entirely. Matthew soon finds himself caught up in a world where nothing is quite what it seems, where everyone is manipulating someone else, and where even the basis of society has changed from what he knew.
This book developed out of a screenplay, but is substantially different (and much longer!). It's intended for an adult audience, and is probably unsuitable for anyone under the age of about 15.
Please note that the book is distributed as three files, of about 140K each. This is mostly to save on bandwidth. The three parts form a single connected story. Parts 2 and 3 probably won't make much sense if you read them before reading part 1. As it happens, I've split the story in such a way that parts 1 and 2 end in a cliffhanger of sorts, but I didn't plan it like that.
Even after the split, 140K is quite long compared with most web pages. Some browsers don't display anything of a page until they have the whole thing. If you have such a browser, then depending on your connection speed, it may be a few minutes before you see anything. Please be patient; I'm sure it'll be worth the wait ;-)
Fantasy. 1988 to date. 3,300 words from the beginning. This one is some way off finished. It's currently 300,000 words, and will be at least twice that.
Science fiction. 1998. 2,000 words. It says "extract," but actually this is all there is at the moment. When it's finished, it will be, erm, longer... I have a fair idea of what's going to happen in the rest of the story, but it's been a while since I've added anything to it.
Prologue | Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three (incomplete)
Comic fantasy. 1991-1998. 60,000 words. The story concerns two civil servants, Julia Hewlett and Jack Henderson. One ordinary day, their comfortably meaningless existence is disrupted by a terrorist bomb that flattens their office. Rather than Heaven, Hell, Purgatory or Limbo, they find themselves in a parallel universe, which they are expected to save from a great evil. Jack reluctantly agrees to make an attempt, but Julia thinks that she's in this world because her subconscious has gotten confused about what a near-death experience should look like. Along the way to their goal, they meet many perils and a host of oddball characters. Nothing is quite what it seems in this surreal world, and even the evil that threatens it is not what Jack and Julia have been led to believe...
This book is not finished, and I'm not convinced that it's worth finishing. That said, reading over it again before I posted it here certainly made me laugh :-) It grew out of a radio series I wrote and produced when I was at university, and it's illustrated with some scans of posters I drew to promote the broadcasts.
My plan is that there will be another six chapters, once Chapter Three is done, for a total of nine chapters plus the prologue. The other chapters should be about the same length as the ones here. This is mostly because of its origins in radio, where each episode of a series has to be the same length.
Each chapter, except the unfinished Chapter Three, is about 120K, which may take a few minutes to download.
(Incidentally, the Lucifer Jones of the title has no connection with any other character of that name that you may have come across.)
Once you've read one of these stories, please tell me what you think of it. Most stories have an email address for feedback, or you can use the one that you'll find by clicking the Mail button at the bottom of this page. Even if you hated the story, I'd like to know that, as it helps me to find out whom I should be writing for.
Every writer hates this question. As Stephen Donaldson remarks in his Afterword to The Real Story (volume 1 of The Gap Series): "...the answer tends to be at once ineffably mysterious and excrutiatingly mundane." He's probably right. But I'll try...
Most of my stories (most of the good ones, anyway) start from a question of the form: "What would (or might) happen if...?"
In the case of Respect for the Dead, the question was: "What would happen if it became possible for doctors to revive the dead?" (Some people, most of whom have a great deal more money than sense, in my opinion, have decided that they will have themselves frozen when they die, in the hope that such a revival will indeed become possible.) A question like this will usually suggest a situation, or some characters. For example, a fairly obvious character in a story like this would be a dead person who had recently been revived (or "exhumed" as I say in the story). Let's say he was originally alive in the present day, or a few years into the future, so that the reader will be able to identify with him. (I think every story - especially fantasy and science fiction - needs at least one major theme or character that will be familiar to the reader in some way.) An important question about him is: "Why did he decide to have himself frozen?" The answer to that will probably influence his expectations of what sort of world he'll return to. A way to make the story more interesting is to have the world differ from his expectations in some ways - perhaps major and obvious, perhaps subtle and disconcerting.
I decided to make this character recently exhumed for a couple of reasons. One is that the world he has come back to will be strange to him (and to the reader as well), and he'll ask lots of questions about it. This way, I can pass that information on to the reader in a way that seems natural, rather than having to stop the narrative every 500 words to explain some new detail. This is a fairly common device for imparting necessary background information to the reader, without it being too obvious. The other reason is that he will go through a lot of changes as he adjusts to his new life, and having things (and people) change is more interesting than having them stay the same. (In a story, anyway - maybe not in real life.) Indeed, characters who don't change or develop over the course of a story are often seen as two-dimensional.
The initial question will have raised several further questions. For example, how expensive and complicated is the process of exhuming someone? Is it an everyday occurrence, or is it a project on the scale of the Apollo Moon landings? The answer to that will determine how many people are exhumed, and has some influence on attitudes towards them. If the number of exhumations are constrained, how are people chosen? What is there for them to do in this new life? What is their legal status? (After all, you wouldn't be very happy if your great-great-... -great-great-grandfather suddenly returned to life and tried to claim back all the money and property he'd bequeathed in his will.)
I decided that exhumation would be fairly common, but that it would be a complicated, technical process. Therefore, it would probably be handled by large, centralised organisations. This immediately suggested that one or more characters should be people who work for such an organisation.
At about this stage in the creative process, my notes often contain the question: "Where is the tension and conflict?" Without one or both of these, what I have isn't so much a story as a descriptive essay about the world and the characters I've dreamt up. As a minimum, one character or group needs to have aims or goals which are opposed to those of another character or group. It's fairly easy to invent opposing goals: the hard part is inventing plausible ones, and plausible reasons for them to be opposed. They may be opposed simply because of constraints which their society or laws impose on them. These also impose constraints on the methods they have for resolving their differences or overcoming the opposition.
My first idea for the conflict was between the newly-exhumed man and the inhabitants of the world he's come back to: "one man against an evil empire." It's an idea as old as storytelling itself, but there's a lot of room in it. Both George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Sylvester Stallone's Rambo movies could be described in these terms (notice I didn't say which side wins). One of the subplots, though, was a conflict between two people who work for the organisation which exhumes the dead. Over successive drafts, this subplot became more and more prominent, and it's now the main plot in all but name. The "one man against an evil empire" plot is still there, but developments in it are now mainly driven by the other plot.
And so on... I don't want to say much more (it'd spoil the story for you ;-)
Notice that I haven't said (yet) where the "what would happen if...?" questions come from. I suppose Respect for the Dead originally came about because of the death of a close friend several years ago. Some months after this event, the "what if" question popped into my head. I thought that I might be able to get a good story out of it, so I wrote it down, together with a few other things that occurred to me, and filed it away. A few years later, a member of the camcorder club mentioned that the club had won a competition the year before with a science fiction film. I asked to see this film. It was pretty good, but I thought that I could do something better. I dug out my notes and began to think about characters and situations. The first draft took me about three weeks. The director and I then spent another seven months polishing it. A little while after that, I started the story version of it. This took me about fourteen months, although there were long periods when I didn't touch it. We're still waiting to start filming...
The following are among the more prominent on my bookshelf...
Last update: 3/11/2008 11:16