Paper Cuts – Chapter One

So it’s one week until I launch the Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of ‘Paper Cuts’, part 2 in the How To Be Dead series of novellas, and it’s action stations at Aim For The Head Towers.

In the meantime, here’s the first – unedited – chapter to give you a taste of what’s in store. My apologies for any spelling mistakes and clunky grammar.

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2nd September 1666

London was burning.

A raging firestorm roared and shrieked through the narrow streets, consuming the tinder-dry wooden buildings. Thick, choking clouds of smoke rose into the sky, blocking the sun and plunging the city into a false night. Attempts at extinguishing the fire had been abandoned and people were fleeing the destruction with whatever possessions they could carry; carts and panicking horses filled the roads making it impossible for the firefighters to get through. The turbulence of the boiling air made the wind veer erratically and the flames spread insidiously in all directions. Soon they would creep to the paper warehouses and gunpowder stores on the river front and all hope in saving the city would be lost.

Four horsemen watched the inferno from its very heart. Embers and burning flakes drifted and danced around them like a blizzard in hell. Their cloaks were not singed by the flames, nor their armour tarnished by the smoke. Their steeds remained calm as tongues of flame licked at their hooves. They’d seen this sort of thing before.

Shiny of hair and proud of bearing, Conquest sat sure and true atop his white stallion. On top of the red horse sat he who was known as War. Barrel chested, he looked as if he was made almost entirely of auburn hair and anger. Next to him, Famine shifted in the saddle of his black horse. Horseback riding was uncomfortable for one with a frame as slender as his.

The rider of the pale horse needs no introduction.

‘Is this it, then? The end of days?’ asked Famine in a thin voice.

‘I don’t know,’ Conquest replied. It certainly had an end of the world vibe. He turned to the Pale Rider. ‘Death, is this happening elsewhere?’

Death shook his head solemnly.

A fireball flew over their heads with a high pitched whine and crashed into the thatched roof of a house. It collapsed in on itself and the explosion threw sparks onto the neighbouring properties. These, in turn, caught alight with a hungry crackle and rained down fire.

‘I’m bored,’ bellowed War.

Conquest thought for a moment, came to a decision and tugged on the reins. His horse obediently turned away from the blaze. ‘Come on,’ he said to the others. ‘I’m going to find an ale house. If this is the apocalypse, I’ll be damned if I’m doing it sober.’

*

The Four Horsemen made their way through the narrow and winding cobbled alleys until they reached London Bridge. The bridge was an haphazard jumble of shops and businesses that precariously balanced over the murky waters of the Thames. The crowds instinctively parted to allow the riders through. As they trotted over, Conquest noticed that the buildings that spanned either side of the road were beginning to smoulder at the edges.

After much delay and many assurances that they did not require any of the goods or services offered by the tradesmen, they finally passed through the Stone Gateway on the opposite bank and crossed into Southwark. They rode along the riverbank for a short while until they found a tavern that would suit them.

They hitched up the horses and ordered the stable boy to bring grain and water. Once the horses’ needs had been met, the Four went in search of their own refreshment. The south bank of the river was congested with onlookers, the fire obviously the entertainment of the day. Despite the inn’s popularity, their armour, weapons and general demeanour meant that the Four found an outside table overlooking the conflagration with little difficulty. The first drink did little to quench their thirst, so Conquest was sent to the bar to see if a second would do any better.

Death looked out over the Thames. It was smeared orange and seemed to burn like the River Styx that he supposedly guarded, if you listened to the more popular poets of the time. On the north side, families wrapped in blankets stood in pathetic huddles as they waited for the usually reasonably priced river taxis which, in a textbook example of supply and demand, had become a lot less reasonably priced overnight. A ragged flotilla of lighters, barges and rowing boats was making its way upriver from the east. Never underestimate a Londoner’s ability to make a quick shilling from someone else’s misfortune.

Conquest returned with four pints of cloudy brown liquid and bags of pork scratchings. Famine grabbed the snacks from the tray before he could even sit down. Conquest placed a glass each in front of his three companions and took a large gulp from his own. War eyed his glass’s contents with suspicion.

‘What’s this?’ he growled.

After his swig of the drink, Conquest was now having trouble breathing. He wheezed, ‘The innkeeper informed me that this was favoured by his most discerning clientele.’

‘You mean the drunkards?’

‘Yes.’ Conquest wiped his eyes on the back of his riding gloves.

War beamed. ‘Excellent!’

Conquest regained his composure. ‘I was talking to a fellow named Samuel at the bar. Apparently, it all started in a bakery on Pudding lane.’

‘Don’t talk about pudding,’ Famine moaned, wiping crumbs from his tunic. ‘I could really go for some pudding.’

The Four settled in and sampled several more of the ales that the tavern had to offer. They all agreed that the beer was excellent and there was little chance that the world would end today, but tomorrow’s hangovers would make them wish that it had.

*

The afternoon had turned into early evening when a tall, elegant man glided over. He was dressed in a long red coat stitched from the most exquisite material and balanced a wig the size and shape of a substantial bush on his head. He drank from a glass containing the finest claret while his eyes darted around like he was looking for something to steal from somebody. Probably their soul. He tapped the silver tip of his cane on the table in a demand for attention.

‘Good afternoon, gentlemen.’

War jumped clumsily to his feet. His hand grasped for, and missed, the sword at his side. ‘Beezelbub!’

Beelzebub looked hurt. ‘Do none of you have the courtesy to pronounce my name correctly?’

Conquest looked him up and down, his head wobbling. ‘What are you wearing?’

Beelzebub pirouetted so that everybody had a good view of his marvellous garments. ‘Oh, these rags?’ he said with false modesty. ‘Just a little something I threw together.’

‘You look ridic-ridic-. You look like a tit,’ War said, falling back into his seat.

‘You were all wearing those same clothes the last time I saw you,’ Beelzebub said with disdain. ‘After the Battle of Bosworth.’

‘Ah, yeah.’ Conquest turned to Famine. ‘How did we do in that one?’

‘I don’t know. I stopped counting after Agincourt,’ Famine slurred.

‘Look at you. It’s like the Restoration never happened,’ Beelzebub said. ‘Everyone at court is wearing this style. In fact, I’ve just come directly from Whitehall. His Majesty has ordered the destruction of all the buildings in the fire’s path. Travelling south of the river usually gives me a nosebleed, but this has the best view.’ He gave a smile that War wanted to punch into the Thames.

‘You did this, didn’t you?’ Conquest tried a dramatic sweep of his arm, but only managed to slap Famine in the face.

‘Just passing the time. I really thought we were getting somewhere with that plague, but it seemed to just peter out. Most disappointing.’ Beelzebub looked down the table. ‘You’re being very quiet, Death. I thought this would be your kind of thing.’

Conquest answered. ‘He’s sulking. It’s been twenty years.’

‘Twenty three years, to be exact, and it’s starting to get on my bloody nerves,’ said War.

‘Famine ate the last of his biscuits,’ Conquest continued.

Famine stared at the ground. ‘I bought him some new ones.’

‘He’s never been the same since he made that vow to never kill,’ said War.

‘How’s that going?’ asked Beelzebub. Death rocked his flattened hand. So-so.

Beelzebub looked at the empty pint pots that covered the tabletop. ‘What’s the cause for celebration?’

‘The world made it through another day. That’s reason enough.’ Conquest raised his glass and the other three clinked theirs against it.

‘But the end of everything is your raison d’être.’

‘Don’t mention bloody raisins. You’ll set Famine off again. You know what he thinks about health food.’ War laughed loudly at his own joke.

‘Is it, though?’ Famine asked quietly. ‘Is it our responsibility? The end of the world, I mean.’

‘It is our destiny,’ War replied.

‘Because they say so? Just because they believe it’s going to happen doesn’t mean it should. We don’t bow to them on any other topic. We don’t know why we’re here. We’ve heard nothing.’

Beelzebub’s face turned as red as his coat. ‘He said so!’

‘Did He?’ replied Famine.

‘There were burning bushes and prophets and all sorts.’

‘Have you spoken to Him personally?’

‘No. But…’

‘I’ve been thinking about this for a while. We’ve been abandoned,’ Famine said. ‘If He put us here at all. Perhaps we only exist because they want us to. “Don’t blame us,” they’ll say. “We didn’t break the world. It was those Horsemen”.’

Conquest thought this over. He had been leading them for millennia, but where was he leading them to? His memories of the early days were hazy now. He remembered the excitement, though. A whole world, new and green, that was their’s to explore at their leisure. They had crossed continents and navigated oceans. They had been privileged to witness the rise of humanity, though they had stumbled many times on the way.  They had watched the construction of the pyramids of Giza and the destruction of Babylon. The were instrumental in the rise of the Roman Empire and, after they had switched sides, had brought it to its knees. There would be more great achievements and, no doubt, great failures in the future. This wasn’t the first city they had seen burn to the ground and he was certain it wouldn’t be the last.

A scuffle broke out between two drunkards further along the towpath. Conquest said, ‘They seem to do a pretty good job of breaking things on their own. I don’t see why they need any help from us.’

‘What about that volcano in Sumatra? The ash cloud that killed off almost every living thing?’ Beelzebub said. ‘We didn’t think they’d make it. They’re a resilient bunch. They’ll need a push.’

‘I’ve kind of got used to having them around the place,’ Famine replied. ‘Think of everything we’d lose. Art. Music. Ale.’

There was a general murmur of approval at the mention of the ale. Conquest winked at a buxom serving wench and said, ‘And the women. I’d certainly miss them.’

War rattled his scabbard. ‘So this flaming sword is just for show, is it?’

Conquest patted him on the arm. ‘I’m sure there’ll still be plenty for you to do. Their wars will grow bigger and they’ll think of more imaginative ways to be unpleasant to each other.’

War relaxed a little. If previous behaviour was an indicator of future action, then Conquest was right. Humanity had evolved from simply hitting each other over the head with blunt objects to intricate instruments of warfare with breathtaking speed. They really had a knack for it. Now that he’d had a few beers, the end of the world seemed like an awful lot of hard work.

Two thin wisps of smoke snaked their way out of Beelzebub’s nostrils. ‘I want my thousand years of glorious rule! I was promised!’

People were beginning to look over to see what the commotion was all about. Witnessing a bar brawl would be an excellent way to round off the day’s excitement.

‘Be a poppet and keep your voice down,’ Conquest said.

‘That’s it, then?’ Beelzebub asked in a more measured tone. ‘Death. Talk some sense into them.’

Death merely shrugged and waved his empty glass. It was time for another round.

‘What do you think you’re doing?’ Beelzebub hissed.

Conquest looked back towards the city. Against the bruised sky, London Bridge was an arrow of fire pointing to a future that was no longer clear. He gave one of his smiles that, in a few hours, would persuade the barmaid to accompany him to his chambers.

“I think we’re retiring.’

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Hope that works for ya and you want to read more when the campaign launches on 1st May.

If you want to know how all this started, you can get hold of the first part, ‘How To Be Dead’, from the interweb:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Smashwords

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Paper Cuts

So, things are coming together for the Kickstarter campaign for the second novella in the How To Be Dead series ‘Paper Cuts’. The brilliant editing and design tea from HTBD have been assembled, so my incomprehensible ramblings will be sorted out before they reach you. It’s all going to be ready for launch on 1st May. That’s less than two weeks away. Eeek!

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of the t shirt that’ll be one of the Kickstarter rewards.

IMG_1743

Because the end of the world shouldn’t mean you can’t look swish.

If you haven’t got your copy of How To Be Dead yet, you can download it from these fine interweb emporiums:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Smashwords

Thanks for all your support so far and I hope you’ll carry on the journey with me for parts 2 and 3.

Love

Dave

x

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How To Be Egg

‘Jesus rising from the dead. Was that one of your mistakes? I ask because I’m concerned that wars have been fought and millions of lives lost over what was essentially a cock up.’

‘You take one day off for the Easter bank holiday and you never hear the end of it,’ Death said. ‘And how do you guys commemorate the resurrection? By spending Bank Holiday Monday walking around DIY stores wishing you were dead too.’

Good news! How To Be Dead is now available on Smashwords, so you can now get your hands on a copy for your non-Kindle eReaders!

And to celebrate the launch, it’s completely and utterly free over the bank holiday weekend! Yay!

You can download it here.

It’s still available on Amazon for the princely sum of one pound sterling.

But what about the thousands of you who have already read it?

Book two in the series, ‘Paper Cuts’, is coming soon. It’s got more Death, more Dave, more pages, more action and lots more biscuits.

I’ll be launching a Kickstarter campaign on 1st May 2015 where you’ll be able to order advance copies of the eBook and limited edition paperbacks. But no mugs. Oh dear God. No mugs. Ever. Again.

If I can give you all one piece of advice, it’s never offer mugs as a Kickstarter reward.

Now, I’ll let you get back to your hot cross buns and chocolate.

Love

Dave x

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8 Low Budget Science Fiction Films More People Should See

While I’m an unapologetic fan of the big multiplex explodey sci-fi blockbuster, I think the really good stuff exists at the other end of the budget spectrum.

When you don’t have the money to melt the audience’s faces with intergalactic civil war, the excitement has to come from ideas. That’s when the genre moves into more interesting territory. Using the extraordinary to say something about the ordinary.

This list is, in no way, definitive. The rules I applied were A) They were cheap. B) Made within roughly the last decade.

It’s just a bunch of movies that I enjoyed and, if you haven’t seen them, I’d recommend you check out.

MV5BMTgwNjY5MDkzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTAxMTcyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_AL_Primer (2004)

The Daddy of low budget science fiction. Four engineers experimenting in their garage accidentally invent time travel. Which Alan Sugar also did when his R&D team were working on the Amstrad Emailer, apparently.

Made for about a fiver, horrendously complicated and full of jargon, it refuses to make it easy for the viewer. I have to watch it with a handy diagram I found on the internet that explains all the timelines.

Gripping and rewards repeated viewings. Just typing a few words about it has got me wanting to watch it again.

monsters

Monsters (2010)

What do you do if you want to make an alien invasion movie, but don’t have the money to film an alien invasion?

Simple. You set it afterwards when the world has dealt with it and got on with things.

Made for about $500,000 with a tiny crew and off-the-shelf SFX software, the director Gareth Edwards went on to make Godzilla. (Which I enjoyed, but found rather humourless. Which is a bit odd when you’re dealing with something so gloriously insane as Godzilla).

There’s a real chemistry between the two leads (unsurprisingly, as they’re played by real-life couple Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able) and the gas station scene is so gloriously beautiful, poetic and moving it left me shaking.

safetySafety Not Guaranteed (2012)

Three journalists try to interview a man who placed a classified ad looking for a companion to go time travelling with him.

Less a science-fiction and more an utterly charming comedy/drama about lost and lonely people. The writer/director team are now making Jurassic World, and if that contains half the charm and wit this film does, I’ll be at the front of the queue when it’s released.

timecrimesTimecrimes (2007)

Time travel is popular with low budget movies. I assume it’s because you don’t need monsters, aliens, explosions or another world. Hell, if it’s a time loop film like Timecrimes, you can just use the same sets over and over again.

This one’s a Spanish movie about a man accidentally getting into a time machine and travelling back half an hour. I think of it as the Anti-Primer as the plot delicately unfolds like a beautiful flower and answers all the questions you have at various points in the running time.

Tom Cruise bought the rights for an American re-make, so watch this one now before he ruins it.

moon

Moon (2009)

Five years later, I’m still annoyed that Sam Rockwell didn’t get an Oscar nomination for his performance as the only inhabitant of a moonbase. Coming to the end of his three year stint, things go – well – slightly odd. And that’s pretty much all I can say without revealing too much.

It reminded me of those great ‘cerebral’ science fiction films of the 60s/70s like 2001 and ‘Silent Running’. Director Duncan Jones went onto make the bigger budget ‘Source Code’ with Jake Gyllenhaal (who I’m a big fan of even if he caused my beloved Taylor Swift to write a break up song about him)

coherence

Coherence (2013)

One of the few films that I immediately re-watched when it had finished. Things go batshit mental at a dinner party when a comet passes close to the Earth.

Awkward, claustrophobic and smart. Essentially a relationship drama told through the prism of quantum physics, it asks how much do you really know your lovers, friends and – in the end – yourself? And it’s got Xander from Buffy. Sign of quality right there.

attack

Attack the Block (2011)

Joe Cornish’s movie is simply the most fun you can have through the medium of film. Aliens crash into into a South London estate and everyone, both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial, begins to fuck shit up.

But it’s more than that. As we get to see the boys beneath the hoodies, Cornish handles the social commentary with a light touch and great big bloody fanged wolf-aliens. And when did Ken Loach or Mike Leigh have great big bloody fanged wolf-aliens in their films? Amateurs.

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Europa Report (2013)

Another found footage film.

No! Wait! Come back! This is proper Hard Science-Fiction! Actual boffins with letters after their names have praised the film for its accuracy and depiction of space travel.

A team of astronauts go to Jupiter’s fourth largest moon in search of life. Things, of course, don’t go completely as planned. Told in a non-linear style using the spacecraft’s onboard cameras, it uses the claustrophobic location to its advantage and squeezes an impressive amount of tension into its efficient 90 minutes running time.

There. A proper blog post. That went alright, didn’t it? Anything else you’d recommend film-wise? What did I miss off?

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2015 And No Mr Fusion Home Nuclear Reactors…

Hello. Happy New Year. I hope you had a lovely festive period.

It’s 2015. The mythical year in the distant future in Back To The Future 2. (When I explained the plot to BTTF to my 10 year old, he voiced the very correct opinion ‘That’s a stupid name for a film. It should be called “Accidentally Went To The Past”.’)

Anyway, the internet is full of bad Back To The Future jokes at the moment. I should know. I did a lot of them. So I’ll stop that now.

I just want to write a quick update for those who have asked before I go back to eating the huge amount of cheese I bought really cheaply this morning. I can’t see anything going wrong with that.

So, At the end of 2013 I completed the novella How To Be Dead. It’s been downloaded several thousand times, which I’m very happy with seeing that I’ve done no promotion for it. The plan was to write two more novellas continuing the story.

So where are they?

At the start of 2014, a literary agent got in touch with me asking if I’d consider signing with him and turning the story into a full length novel. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 11 or so months. It expands and continues the story in the novella and has many, many more poor quality gags. And the latest draft is now finished.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen next, but it’s all very exciting and the story of Death, Anne and Dave will be finished. I assure you.

In the meantime, I’m working on a little something that I’ll share with you when it’s a bit further down the line. And I’m going to try and start blogging more this year. Though I say that every January 1st.

Thanks for all your help, advice, support and nice words over the last 12 months.

Be lucky

Dave x

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Death. Come Get Some.

Hello. How are you? Yes, I know. I’m sorry. I never write. I never call.

There have been some changes at Aim For The Head Towers over the past few weeks. I’ve signed with a new literary agent, which is lovely, and I’m now actually working on a full length version of ‘How To Be Dead’. This’ll be followed by novel length versions of the two sequels.

I’ve now written a quarter of the new version (More Death! More Back Story! More Poor Quality Jokes About Childrens’ TV!) and to celebrate this, I’ve made the novella version free to download from Amazon on 13th and 14th March.

Also, my dad gave me a really nice bottle of wine at Christmas and I promised myself I wouldn’t drink it until I’d shifted a certain number of copies.

I really want to drink that wine.

If you’re in UK, you can download it here.

If you’re in the US, you can download it here.

Not sure if you want some free jokes? Check out the reviews over here.

Any questions? Feel free to ask!

Love Ya

Dave

x

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Would You Like To Read a Poorly Written Version of ‘Paper Cuts’?

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams, genius though he was, was notoriously bad with deadlines. I thrive on them. Hell, I need them otherwise I flounder around in a cloud of work displacement activity. My office window isn’t going to stare out of itself, y’know.

You know how bad I am without deadlines? I meant to write this blog post last week, but… well… shiny objects got in the way… Ooh.. Squirrel!

Anyway. The serialising of ‘How To Be Dead’ was great for me as a writer. It focused my attention away from looking up 80′s sitcoms on Wikipedia (Today was ‘Three Up, Two Down’ starring the lovely Lysette Anthony *Sigh*) and onto getting the work finished for publication each Friday. I also enjoyed the interaction with the readers. The work wasn’t being produced in a vacuum with me wondering whether what I was scribbling down was good, bad or indifferent.

So, here’s my idea. Would you like to be a Beta Reader for ‘Paper Cuts’? I’m thinking of a small group of about 10. I’ll provide you with a chapter a week via email for you to read and feed back on? Nothing too intense, just your comments and feelings on how it’s all going and what does/doesn’t work?

We probably need a few guidelines.

1. You’ll need to be 18 or over.

2. You’ll need to have read ‘How To Be Dead’.

3. You’ll be OK to read 1,500-2,000 words a week of my ramblings for about 20 weeks starting 28th February.

4. If you’re in the London area, I’ll organise drinks when it’s done and I’ll buy you a pint.

Interested? Well, why not click on the contact page and drop me a line?

Thanks very much!

Love

Dave

x

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