Sunday, 31 July 2011

A new guest

Greetings bloggers and bloggees.
  I have persuaded a new guest blogger to write for me today. Her name is Tina Foster. She will be known by many from Shelfari, and Goodreads where she has her own group. The advice she gives new and experienced readers is invaluable and, I'm lucky to have her on my blog.

Here's what I asked her:
1. In all your experience as a literary agent have you seen one elementary mistake which is common to the work of new, which is to say unpublished, writers?
1. One elementary mistake that is common to new writers:  Amateurish writing.  So, take the time to develop your writing skills and hone and polish your work.

2. Should a writer edit each chapter as they write, or is it better to finish the first draft before tackling any editing?
2. Keep writing until you get the first draft finished.  The whole thing may change as you add chapters, flesh out scenes, add character development, tighten down wordy sections, etc. Then do an initial edit to look for plot problems. Plan on going through many drafts. Seldom is a book perfect in just a couple of drafts or edits.

3.Some creative writing teachers (mine included) teach that any grammatical rule may be broken provided the writer is making a valid point. Are publishers as broad minded as this or should the writer stick to conventional grammar and punctuation? 
3.  Stick to the rules in the narration. The exceptions are if you're using bad grammar as part of the dialogue or character's thoughts. 

4. Many writers are worried about copyright infringement. Is this a real problem? 
4.  Don't be concerned about copyright. There's been maybe one case in the last 20 years and it involved where a popular writer copied whole sections word for word of a Nora Roberts novel.

5.  If you were asked to suggest just one rule that a new writer should remember every time they wrote, what would it be?
5. SHOW, don't tell.

6. You are probably aware of The Thirty Six Dramatic Situations by Georges Polti which lists every possible scenario for any story or novel. Do you think that all writers’ imagination can be constrained by this exhaustive, if a little dry, list? 
6. Although most plot situations are pretty basic, there is still a lot of room for imagination. 

6. As we all know, teach-yourself and reference books are very expensive. Could you suggest one that covers enough of all the basics for a new writer? 
7.  You can't go wrong with Stephen King on Writing.  But Donald Maass has a good one as well, "Writing the breakout novel."  Or, I have a small booklet: "A Hand Book For Writers" that can be ordered on my website at:

I should like to thank Tina for giving me her time. Here is the address of are the group she runs at Goodreads:

Friday, 29 July 2011

New guest blogger.

I can't find anything to complain about today. Perhaps there is nothing to complain about, though that's probably just because I'm tired. However I've managed to persuade a new guest blogger. A few of you will know her and those that don't will enjoy what she has to say. I should have it up within a few days - metaphorically speaking.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

My first guest blogger

I'm sure that most of you are bored with my aimless ramblings so I've been lucky enough to secure a guest for today's entry.  Have a look; it's one of my favourites.    

1. What particular area of women's fiction do you write? And which work of your own is your favourite?
I write detailed emotional encounters and in-depth relationships, which makes my work different from romance novels.  I delve into the ups and downs of life and love.  My twist on women’s fiction is that my stories inter-mix New Age with the story line.  My favorite novel is ‘Always.’  It is the first in a series of novels, so it’s important I do it right.

2. Which writer has directly or indirectly influenced your work the most, and why?
Although I admire many writers, I have to say Edgar Allan Poe has influenced me the most because of his eye for detail and for leading the reader on a ride through the story.  He once said before he wrote, he thought about what his readers would want.  That became his goal.  I’ve tried to adopt that idea in my works.

3. If you made a deal with a publisher, would the prospect of a deadline threaten or thrill you?
I am such a non-conformist who likes doing things my way with me as the boss.  I would feel threatened, because I would want the time to make the novel perfect.

4. Which writer have you always wanted to meet, and what would you ask him/her?
Tough question.  I guess I’d have to go with Shakespeare.  I would ask him if he ever worried that one of his plays would be unsuccessful.  To me, Shakespeare is a genius.  People today are afraid to read him, but I say let his story carry you.  I wouldn’t feel complete without ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.’

5. Are you worried that electronic readers will dilute or destroy the market or do you welcome them?
I welcome electronic readers.  Now I can carry my favorite books with me where-ever I go.  What I do worry about is the bad writers who are flooding the market with their ‘literary works.’  Eventually, controls will be set up, and new authors will not have much of a chance selling their works.

  Thank you, Roger, for inviting me to guest blog. 
I am a researcher whose hobbies include history, languages, and linguistics.  When I write, I do volumes of research first.  My information must be accurate.  I also base my characters from people I’ve met in real life.  I am a serious person, so my writings are quite dramatic.  Here are some excerpts from ‘Always’:
o       He turned to look at the woman, his thumb still trembled, his jaw set tight, his breaths short and quick.  She was crouched behind two crates, terrified.  He relaxed his stance, smiled down at her, shrugged, and walked away.

o       In the autumn of 1665, the Black Death returned to the Isles and stayed into 1666.  It spread rapidly and left death in its tracks.  The mortality rate was seventy five percent, and thus its name - The Great Plague.  It was the last major outbreak in the Isles and before it ceased killing, an estimated 100,000 had perished.

o       Jesse talked above April’s screams.  “Yes, your baby is dead.  It is sad.  He will not share in your loving home.   Now, you realize you still have your family.  You are a mother with responsibilities, yes?  You must stop!  Your husband is filled with this pain too.  He is a man.  He blames himself, so much guilt.   We all feel this pain for you.  You think I do not understand?  I know.  Your Uncle Dixon and I, we have shared this pain too.  You believe only you have lost a baby?”

I do have a quirky side of me, and it shows up in the character of Geraldina Pottwatts.  She is an older woman from a small Midwest town, who is quite a know-it-all.  Here is an excerpt from her encounter with a vampire:
o       At that, Victor dramatically drew his cloak down and showed his teeth.
     Gerri jumped in her seat.  A look of fright on her face, she patted her heart several times.  “Oh, my.  Oh, my, my.”
     “Now, you are afraid!”
     “Oh, yes.  Such awful teeth.  My, my, my.  What kind of mother did you have?  No wonder you keep your mouth covered.  Poor hon.  You embarrassed by those two oversized canine teeth?  I know a good dentist.  He can fix those for you.  Oh, no.”  Gerri stared at his gums.  “No wonder you are so thin and white.  You’re sick, Sweetie.  You got blood around your gums.  You poor thing.  I had a friend once with that Gingy-itus and she died.  You best see my dentist right away.  I better have the pastor help you with all this.  You need too much help.”  She wrote another post-it-note and stuck it on top of the others.
     Dees is not my blood.”
     Gerri chuckled.  “Oh, don’t be silly.  Whose blood would it be?  You don’t have to be embarrassed.  I’m just trying to help you.”

This is an excerpt from another Gerri story where she is a volunteer English teacher who has a young Frenchman in her class:
o       “Are you stupid or you just insult me?  I am French, not Chinese.”  Using his hand to help illustrate, he said, “Michel” slowly, elongating the word and drawing his hand from his mouth out in front of him.   “Michel.  Michel.  It is a male name, I assure you.”
     “You feriner.”  Gerri chuckled.  “You made a funny. You know, I can speak some French.”
     Oh, oui?  Bien sur, then, let’s hear your French.”
     Gerri cleared her throat.  “Oui oui and Ooh-la-la.  Voile.” (which she sounded as voil).
Michel creased his brow and looked at her for a moment.  “What is this voil?”
     “Oh, you know,” said Gerri.  “Voile, like, so there.”
     “Voila?! You make a mockery of French?”
     “Now, I ain’t mockin’ no-one.  Why, my daddy taught me those French words.  He was in World War II.  That’s where he learned them.  Fought in the Philippines, he did.”
     “He learned French in the Philippines?  In the War?  I don’t think so.”
     “Silly young ‘un.  The Philippines ain’t that far from France, you know.”
     “Mon Dieu!”  He stood up and marched to the map again.  “Here, show me France.”
     Geraldina peered at the map of the world.  “Well, it’s got to be close.”  “Voile!”  She yelled, pointing at Russia.
     You are being funny, yes?”  He asked. 
     Gerri slammed her hand on Russia again.  “Yep, that’s France.”
     “Oh.  I see our country has changed its name from France to Russia and someone has moved it too, like China.  No, wait.  I think you might be wrong. A first time for you, I think.”  Taking her finger, he traced from Russia to France.  “Yes, here it is.  I was afraid for a moment that it had been moved.  Mais non, it is where it has always been.  See?” 
     “Oh, how silly of me.  Of course.”  She said.  “It must be my glasses.”
     “Must be.”  He said.  Russia.”  He pointed at it.  France.”  He pointed at it.
     “Yep, I see you are neighbors.”

I'd like to thank Donna for her time.
Here's the address again. 

I joined a new blogging site.

Today I joined Book Bloggers. What an amazing site. It's going to take me weeks just to learn how to use it. And why is it that just about every other blog in the world better looking than mine? It might be, you could say, that I'm just lazy and useless. That's what my wife says all the time so I tend to ignore comments like that. Even my own daughter dissed my last painting so here is the updated and final version of it. My next work or art will be of her bedroom looking tidy. I might sneak in when she's out and clean it up just to send her insane.

  I've returned to my two novels. It's amazing what a two week layoff can produce. Before, I only thought they were rubbish. Now It's been proven. After fifteen or so re-writes you'd think that if nothing else I could at least get rid of the typos. Yet there seem to be more than ever. It's as if the computer waits until I turn it off before going to work and selectively trashing my work. I know it doesn't really but that's the story I'm sticking with.
  So after some judicious internet bashing I've found a publisher that specialises in my genre so I'm going to give it a try. I've tried approximately fifty agents but of course none are interested because I haven't got a publishing deal. I presume I'll have the same problem in reverse now, but I will not be thwarted.
  I downloaded an App today for my smartphone  It was a program designed to improve grammar. A good idea I thought, right until I opened it and found that it had been written by someone for whom English was a second language. Still I might use it just so that I can learn to speak to my daughter in the text-speke language she calls English. 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

I'm an outcast

Apparently evolution, at least, for teenage girls has meandered in a different direction from the rest of us. My daughter can type meaningless gibberish at fifty words per minute on her Blackberry but is physically incapable of making her bed, or cleaning up the several tons of clothes she uses every day. And now that said Blackberry has been stolen she's in a world of pain.
   The fact that I told her on several dozen occasions to back it up has been conveniently forgotten. But positively my worst crime is that I cannot get the insurance company to replace it, right now, in the middle of the night. Oh, and with all her contacts pre-loaded. I'm such scum.
  Meanwhile my telephone company, (name obliterated lest and army of lawyers kick down my door), has invited me to thank them for repairing the local uplink antenna which has been broken for three months. Apparently it's partially my fault because I only complained twenty three times and threatened to cancel my account whilst daring them to take me to court just the once.

   Now after painting my newest picture I've finally managed to purge myself of the impulse to paint, so I'll be able to get back to writing. And as I've decided to go the traditional route this time I've taken my novels off Lulu and Amazon. I didn't get much action out of either site. Well none at all to be honest. I've kept the earlier versions on smashwords since the latest are vastly different and hopefully better. The only reason I'm keeping them on smashwords at all is that as a result of using their site, my book occupies the first four hits on Google when the keywords are typed in. That's not bad considering I didn't have to pay a penny.
  I've almost finished formulating some questions that don't make me sound like a  complete twit and I hope to have my first guest blogger in a week or so.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Old Geezers.

This is the second chapter of the old Geezers novel. It doesn't really take the story any further but introduces someone who will be very important in books three and four.

Chapter Two

Due to the vagaries of chance this day also happened to be the thirtieth anniversary of an event that had forced three things upon the world and, by extension, the three old men slouched in the dining room. The final instalment of those seemingly never ending Middle Eastern wars, or bitch-slaps as Chet scathingly described them, had resulted in the total destruction of the two largest remaining oil fields in the world by way of a carefully positioned and exceptionally dirty nuclear device. Who had perpetrated such a heinous act, and why, was still being hotly debated. Certainly someone had benefited, but thus far nobody had claimed credit.
This situation had been further exacerbated by the still-volatile standoff at the Polar Regions. Numerous countries vociferously claimed territory by the most tenuous of connections, while others had augmented their own with mumbled threats of nuclear Armageddon. Fortunately, memories of the last incident and the terror of yet more untold devastation had prevented any mining of the anticipated vastness of the oil and gas fields to be found below. This ongoing conflict was still being waged within the famously sluggish bureaucracy of the United Nations, with the result that increasingly less of the crucial bounty was finding its way onto the planet’s countless thirsty markets.
As expected, and almost overnight, the price of gasoline had soared far beyond the pocket of the average man. It had been agonisingly expensive for years due to its scarcity and a policy of certain foreign cartels of maintaining unnaturally high premiums. Yet even this might not have sounded the death knell for the private automobile until several disparate factors had come into play. An unfortunate flirtation with hydrogen powered cars by a small and now defunct company, in a now entirely defunct state had been one. Bad enough but not disastrous. However the failure to consider the importance of research into the potential effect of several million discarded electric car batteries beneath the mid-west’s several thousand bio-fuel farms had effectively sealed their combined fate. All this allied to the ever-growing global warming lobby, had presaged the final demise of the internal combustion engine for all but government and military purposes.
 In fact, apart from the several million rusted hulks populating the world’s junk yards, daily travel in private automobiles was little more than a fondly remembered but now distant memory. These days the men along with almost the rest of the country’s population availed themselves of countless sinuous electric trams that plied their almost silent way through the streets. A nominal fee of one dollar per person, per trip, made it an affective and extremely cost effective mode of transportation.
Even Chet, ready at any time to bemoan the fate of his old Chevy, was content to live without the threat of imminent death from the few remaining homicidal maniacs who had found ever more ingenious, which is to say more lethal, concoctions for powering their obsolete trophies. That menace aside death itself had become somewhat of rarely seen stranger. And thanks to the new generation of Taser-type weapons even the police no longer carried the means of lethal capability, much to the silent gratitude of Chet and Amon.
The second and slightly less important event in the drawing together of the three men was the end of Chet’s lifelong army career. An untimely inhalation of mustard gas during one of the aforementioned wars had resulted in his medical discharge. Even though the immediate and potentially lethal effects had been nullified by the efforts of a nearby medic, the army had not missed the opportunity to rid itself of someone whose career was, to say the least, heavily blotted.
 The unusual and continually boisterous behaviour of the three friends, much to the everlasting chagrin of Mrs Weintraub, the Chief Administrator of the retirement home, was the indirect result of a passing drug company representative almost three years previously. After literally stumbling over three apparently drunken men playing Strip Gin and assuming, correctly according to Mrs Weintraub, that it was an institution for the marginally retarded; he had made them, and subsequently the management an offer they simply could not refuse. In return for indefinitely trialling a new drug and recording its potentially myriad side effects, the pharmaceutical company would take over the state’s contribution and pay for the three men’s permanent residence at the guest home and also afford them a modest pension. Some might have claimed that a test group of three was hardly representative, but perhaps such an enterprising drug company representative might subsequently have visited every retirement home in the state, of which there were several thousand
 Regardless, the administrating company of the institution who, incidentally, owned most of the retirement homes in the state had naturally snapped up a guaranteed income for an indefinite period. And if the aforementioned three old men were occasionally ‘trying’, then it was up to Mrs Weintraub to deal with them.
Thus it was that once a week they took their medicine - although not the kind Mrs Weintraub would have liked to administer. And every week filled out the same check-lists, barely attempting to conceal the fact that they had been mass produced by Abe for the whole year, to prove the efficacy of the drug, appropriately named Longevitax. Unfortunately for the three its initial side-effects were unpleasant in the extreme and the resultant day of diarrhoea and nausea were difficult, especially when one knew that little could be done about it without spoiling the results of the prolonged test. And further that alcohol was permanently forbidden on pain of losing the free ride upon which they had all so happily stumbled.
Similarly, one side effect of the drug that the agent had not known about (or perhaps he had) was that all pre-existing ailments would continue unabated. However this was no obstacle to the men who had no intention of ever dying. Four score and ten had just been Chet’s starting point - and what did a few bleeding piles matter?
As to whether this new miracle drug did or did not prolong the life of its users was unknown as yet, but without a doubt it definitely did, according to Mrs Weintraub, contain something that transformed supposedly grown men into moronic delinquents. For the three, however, although the medication had not produced the miracle of instant youth, they had begrudgingly admitted a distinct improvement in their collective health. Not that any of them could have sprinted the hundred in under a minute, but even Chet, ready and eager to complain at the drop of a hat, had professed to feeling like a new man. Or if not new, then at least one whose joints didn’t crack like castanets every time he rose from his seat or dared lift anything heavier than a beer glass.
 It was the day after their last dose and only now were they just beginning to recover their strength.
‘Did you scope that new management trainee?’ Amon’s face creased into an approximation of a leer, simultaneously luring the young innocent into a quite disgusting scene in his mind, ‘I could give her what she needs.’
‘You?’ Chet coughed through a lungful of smoke, ‘The last time your weenie saw any action was when the nurse told you to cough and turn your head.’
‘Yeah right. Hark at Super Stud.’ Given Chet’s obviously fragile state Amon was feeling brave, besides, Abe was there and would provide, temporarily at least, some protection, ‘Cut the finger off a rubber glove and you still wouldn’t get a tight fit.’ Chet was warm and moderately comfortable, so let that one go, but he would remember. A callused and nicotine stained middle finger was his only response.
‘So what are we going to do today?’ Abe asked quickly, assuming his usual responsibility almost unconsciously. He didn’t have the strength this morning to physically restrain Chet, and besides, he was afraid of making any sudden movement that might result in an accident down below.
‘Don’t know about you two but I’m still pebble-dashing the john.’ Amon muttered, to the revolted groan of a passing restaurant worker. Ignoring her he busily returned to the mounting pile of skin he was shaving from his heels, a monthly act that had, as expected, provoked several dozen other guests to flee in disgust while carefully avoiding, an invisible but apparently tangible demarcation line of at least four table lengths from the pariahs.
The pariahs in question had availed themselves of an uninterrupted view of the gardens through the electronically tinted wall length windows, which allowed them to spy but not be spied upon which was a positive boon on the increasingly rare occasion that any young woman was careless enough to walk within a hundred yards of Chet and Amon.
Chet smiled. His lethargy was quickly being replaced by humour due to a judicious application of medicinal bourbon.
‘I vote we go to the Exclusion Zone. After that tremor the other day there’s probably some stuff been forced onto the surface. We could sell it.’ Chet really had no need of money since most of what they needed was free within the retirement home but the chance of a quick profit never failed to set his blood racing
‘Are you crazy?’ Abe’s eyes shot open, appalled and simultaneously aggrieved at being wrenched so abruptly from the daydream of sentient computers he had been enjoying. ‘You know what happened to the fool who tried it last month.’
‘Yeah, but he was a jerk.’ Chet continued blithely, his strength returning at a satisfying rate. ‘He was using a sledge hammer to break in.’
‘They found the poor sap with about twenty tons of masonry on his head.’ added Amon, as ever the enemy of the unlucky or just plain stupid. ‘I think his name was Barney Rubble.’ He cackled, amused by his own peculiar version of humour.
‘You know it’s illegal to go in there.’ Abe felt justified in sermonising at his friend’s patent foolishness. ‘They’ll put you away.’
‘Yeah, with all those cellblock queens.’ Amon grinned evilly, encouraged by Chet’s docility, and enchanted with a personal vision of someone attempting to sodomise his friend.
‘Anyone tries to stick something up my ass’ll be eating his balls for breakfast!’ Chet growled, scowling at anyone who just might have been looking his way.
A loud and familiar footfall echoed behind them. As always all further talk was immediately curtailed. The three paled, Chet especially. He turned slowly trying not to cringe. It was probably just an illusion but the sun seemed to dim for a moment. Mrs Weintraub had arrived. A low almost sub-aural murmur followed her passing as the other guests all turned unashamedly to stare perhaps in the combined hope that the day of retribution was finally at hand for the three. In her bulging forearms Mrs Weintraub bore the daily newspapers. Why she was performing this mundane task herself was a mystery since she rarely did any other job that a lesser mortal under her control could do for her.
Chet had once considered enquiring about a husband, though not his incredulity as to who would actually marry her. Equally as tall as Chet, even with her jet black hair wrenched back and imprisoned by a large steel pin with the approximate dimensions of a railroad spike, she weighed about the same, but unlike Chet very little of it appeared to be fat, as viewed under the severe black trouser suit through which enormously muscled thighs pressed furiously. And the fact that she was about forty years younger than he encouraged even more caution in his dealings with her.
It went without saying that she had caught a snippet of their conversation. This incredible prowess had been a positive necessity when dealing with the over aged louts she frequently proclaimed them all to be. Dark, almost eternally angry eyes glared fiercely downwards while enormous breasts squirmed beneath the white silk shirt she habitually wore, as if eager to escape and slaughter the objects of her loathing themselves. Mrs Weintraub took no truck from anyone and today was to be no exception.
Towering over the table; her moustache bristled with barely subdued fury. Abe resisted the urge to wince and bade her good morning. Ignoring him she launched straight into them all.
‘Did I hear you say something about the Exclusion Zone?’ Her neck seemed to stretch and twist simultaneously, somehow allowing her to stare at them all face to face in the same instant. Her question was rhetorical since she knew none of them would admit to it.
‘You’re nothing but a pack of retarded children. You all know it’s dangerous there! Don’t let me hear any more about it or there’ll be trouble. I’ll have you all out on the street in a second!’ This staccato invective thundered over them in less than four seconds, plunging all within earshot into a netherworld of terror, since anyone who could shout forty six words with one breathe was obviously not to be trifled with. She fixed them all with a laser-like glare, daring them to so much as breathe.
They denied her the pleasure, silent before the next onslaught. Especially Chet; no matter what he might threaten after her departure, he was no fool. Throwing all the papers on the table save one, she advanced upon Abe who, with an inward grimace waited fearfully, listlessly toying with a charred memory chip which had spectacularly exploded as a result of his latest disastrous computer program. Mrs Weintraub’s severe features softened perceptibly. Almost reverently, she handed him a publication, shrunken to insignificance by a huge fist.
‘I found a copy of that computer magazine you like, Abe.’ As usual Abe reddened; once more a schoolboy and not an eighty something year old man. Every person in the home was aware of her inexplicable feelings towards him even though he had neither instigated nor ever returned them. She smiled warmly, the bulging arteries criss-crossing her forehead almost disappearing as he sat, frozen like a deer before the headlights of an approaching juggernaut. Ignoring the others she placed it gently before him. He muttered his thanks, at the same time waiting for Chet, fully aware that he wouldn’t miss out on this opportunity the very instant she was safely out of earshot.
 ‘You. Get those feet covered up!’ She snarled, a hair’s breadth from Amon’s white and terrified face. ‘And for God’s sake, wipe your head, or better still have it amputated. ‘And you!’ her head swivelled faster than the syllables could leave her mouth, ‘Put out that cigarette, before I rip it out of your face!’ The smouldering filter wobbled precariously on Chet’s lip, cascading almost an inch of hot ash directly into his crotch. After incinerating them both with one final scowl she stalked away.  Absently rubbing at his burnt pants, Chet scowled at her receding girth. Whatever anyone said to the contrary, he had no doubt who had been responsible for shoving the smouldering tissue box laden with what had smelt suspiciously like nail polish remover tightly against their collective doors.
‘I wouldn’t.’ Amon said to his uncurling middle finger, ‘She’ll bite it off.’ Now that his own imminent mutilation had been postponed once more he sniffed, turning back to his foot with gusto and a nervous release of flatulence her presence always generated within him.
‘Oh Aby-poos,’ Chet began on cue in his cracked falsetto version of the administrator’s voice, though after prudently waiting for the flatulent hiss of the air controlled door first, ‘I found your little magaziny-poos.’ He laughed a wheezy first-cigarette-of-the-day cackle.
‘Up yours.’

Thursday, 14 July 2011

My other new novel.

I thought I'd put up the first chapter from the second series of four novels that I'm writing. I know I shouldn't be writing two novels at the same time, but somehow it calms me. Even when I'm exhausted from working on one, I always feel fresh when it comes to the other.
  I've found a new blog and the writer has kindly agreed to be a guest blogger sometime soon. Her site is great and as soon as I've thought up some questions that don't make sound like some kind of dweeb I'll be putting them to her.
  You'll notice that I've changed the settings slightly on my blog. That's not to say that it's suddenly going to be filled with obscenities but my three old men find it difficult to converse without the odd swearword or two. I apologise to anyone if it offends them but they're quire mild really - honest.

Chapter One

It had taken a great deal of time and effort to transform several hundred respectable old people into silent assassins.
Perhaps not all of them were quite as bad as the still-unknown ringleaders. In fact some probably were just decent pensioners enjoying the twilight of their long lives. Wafting carefully through gentle and genteel days of polite conviviality whilst carefully avoiding any acts of reckless abandon which might result in broken hips or any of the other myriad ailments that so afflict the elderly.
 Thus it logically followed that at least a few had no direct involvement. But in this as all such establishments, news travelled fast. Yet not so much as a single person had been brave enough to admit individual guilt or even pointed a, presumably wrinkled, finger at the offending party or parties. So they could all be considered jointly culpable. They had it coming.
 A bored detective had listlessly attempted and failed to discover the perpetrator(s). He’d even made sympathetic noises whilst expending commendable effort in his reluctance to traumatise his grandmother who (it later transpired) lived there, lest the trauma necessitate her relocation back to the family home. In fact the entire investigation had been performed and classified as an accident within two working days. However none of this mattered; the doddery miscreants could return to their cosseted life once more since its brief disruption had been well worth the effort expended.
Retaliation had been good; long in the making and thoroughly enjoyed, but now sadly over.  It would take a long time to prepare something as spectacularly funny as smuggling in a gay male stripper. The expressions of utter revulsion on their self-righteous faces, not to mention that of the stripper’s had easily compensated for his exorbitant fee. And he would probably walk again – eventually.
They would just have to find something else to break up the incredible monotony.
But what?
The essential problem was that life was good – too good. Year after monotonous year rambled uncomplainingly by without the slightest peril timidly knocking at their triple-locked doors.
There was always plenty to eat. It was never cold. No rain could penetrate their heavily cocooned environment and even the mildly diverting prospect of a wild-eyed criminal breaking in just to enliven the place was unlikely in the extreme given a security system that would make Fort Knox seem like an eat-all-you-can buffet in comparison. Thus it was beyond boring, and in a continual attempt to relieve this never ending tedium, extreme measures just had to be taken – it was just a matter of principle.
Every aspect of this mind-blowing safety was taken entirely for granted by the aforementioned group of smugly impervious people clustered in cosy, self-absorbed cliques; some taking refined breakfasts or indulging in what the more cosmopolitan among them referred to as brunch. Or if not to eat then simply to talk of trivial pleasantries, of past glories; some half remembered, some entirely fabricated. In short: enjoying the autumn glow of their years. Any uncertainties, aspirations or desires once deemed urgent in previous lives, now relegated to distant memories; the embers being considerably easier to bear than the fire.
To facilitate this agonisingly pleasant state of affairs an artificially subdued sun dappled the carefully constructed ground floor dining room, designed solely to cater for the ‘guests’ and all their attendant ailments. Vigilantly ionised air wafted over greying, and in most cases balding heads with any residual aroma from the kitchens efficiently fellated to extinction by the very latest in extractor technology. Thirty feet above those heads a discreetly shadowed ceiling, tinted a gentle pastel green, mimicked a shady forest glade from which wafted the gentlest of pine scented zephyrs as tasteful music crooned tenderly into hundreds of delicately balanced hearing aids. Accordingly it was here that all congregated for vigilantly planned, nutritionally certified and unidentifiably spice-free meals.
However, this well regimented paradise was not to everybody’s taste, and thus another slightly less refined daily custom was also well under way. Tediously raised voices audible to even the most hard of hearing, emanated on this, as every other day from a peculiarly deserted section of the dining room. The disturbance, as usual, consisted of a noisy argument between three old men slouching together at a debris covered table, as to what they had just eaten. Years of practise had lent some of the proposals creative if not disgusting implausibility:
‘Corned beef fried in the jet wash of a fighter running on dog piss.’ Inventive as always but not quite revolting enough to garner the required result.
‘It was an old tennis sock stuffed up someone’s ass for two weeks then baked using dead rats for seasoning.’ A collective groan of revulsion from those unable to distance themselves entirely indicated a successful result.
The Old Geezers were up and about. Their names, even if anyone from the other ends of the restaurant knew them, were never used. Any or all of them were just part of the whole. The unofficial title alone was easily enough for the management to identify the origin and cause of copious complaints; and in the latest hilarious (for the three at least) but as yet unsolved case, an abortive attempt to slaughter them all as they slept.
Quite who had tried to incinerate them would now be forever unknown which was probably fortunate for the person or persons in question, since the loudest member of the group, Charles (Chet) Haughey, no respecter of age, or anything else for that matter, routinely promised, ever with an element of hope, of just how he would crush anyone who openly said a word against them. Except one that is; but more of her shortly.
Chet was an unashamed boor and a bully. A towering, white haired figure with the sagging body of an ex-prize-fighter and the reddened, disfigured nose of one who had indulged heavily in his craft - and a lifelong love affair with bourbon. In this, as in every other place he had ever lived, he was uniformly detested by everyone; a situation that, perversely, filled him with pride and which he reciprocated with an equal measure of passion.
Amon Macafferty was a short wizened man of indeterminate racial origin despite his name which was almost certainly not that which had been written on his long since lost birth certificate. This morning, as always, he sat with the other two guzzling orange juice before their next foray into the disgusting. A particularly nasty case of cranial eczema obscured most of his heavily wrinkled face. This condition which was not his fault, accompanied by a swathe of revolting personal habits which were, had been the cause of his banishment from several other government institutions and a subsequently warm welcome from Chet at this, his final chance before being thrown out onto the street. These aforementioned personal idiosyncrasies had always been a source of great amusement to Chet, who, still considering himself as disgusting as any person could be after a lifetime spent in the military, grudgingly admitted Amon the better man when it came to grossing out just about every person who had the misfortune to encounter him.
Abraham Hankstetter was perhaps the oddest of the three, if only for his apparent normality. Why he had chosen the other two for companionship was probably the biggest mystery to anyone concerned enough to ponder the question; which, naturally were few. Needless to say his association with the others precluded any invitations into the rarefied company of the other residents.
 Unlike Chet, Abe did not appear to be the product of decades spent in a gymnasium or of countless illegal fistfights. In fact he’d never been in a fight or entered a gym in his long life. And unlike his friends he had not developed the unconscious habit of hiding his face at the appearance of anyone he didn’t know lest he be an officer of the law bent on his arrest. Slim to the point of emaciation, it seemed that a gentle gust of wind might topple him. Only a careful look into his eyes would reveal a certain demeanour, a firm determination, and an intelligence shared by neither of his strange friends or indeed few of the many residents in the institution that housed them.
Many decades spent as a computer programmer for a company indirectly connected to America’s space programme, usually in darkened rooms poring over computer code and dim computer screens had left Abe permanently stooped. Jet black hair awash with brilliantine, eyes peering myopically, forever squinting and rather alarmed by the daylight he had spent most of his life trying to avoid. As usual he kept out of the mealtime autopsy.
The three, along with several hundred fellow guests, lived their remaining years in the Sunny Glade Retirement Home of New Los Angeles. Few of these people appeared to have any families or at least any inclined to visit, and so spent their outstanding time together peacefully enjoying that which they had toiled so long to earn.
Today, like every other before it, offered not the slightest chance of diversionary amusement. Thus a very bored Chet was toying with the idea of telling the others that it was his birthday, his seventy-forth, although considering the impressive headache he was currently enduring, any backslapping or ribald remarks which would naturally accompany the news would result in him being forced to hurt someone. At any other time the prospect would have invigorated him, but this morning he was very tired and just a little delicate. So the news and the violence could probably be saved for another more convenient, time. And besides, birthdays were hardly an occasion for celebration these days. Between them the three had existed on this plain for almost three hundred years - hardly anything to get excited about any more.
 What might have excited, or dismayed him was that a single act of careless greed the previous evening had, or shortly would result in the destruction of the entire world and simultaneous creation of an entirely new one mired in the agonies of prehistoric savagery.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Back at last.

You know when you've been driving too fast for too long and whenever you close your eyes you can still see the motorway/freeway rushing past in you mind? Every time I blink I can see incomprehensible French road signs rushing past at 130 mph. Not that I would ever drive at that speed because it would be illegal.
   I didn't get to the beach. After almost ten years of driving boats in the south of France my skin was the colour of mahogany. Then one day I found a spot on my leg had become larger. It turned out to be benign, but the doctor said that I should stop being a fool and keep out of the sun. So theses days I'm the pale figure you see feverishly darting about lest even a single ray of sunshine land upon his pallid little body. I never could do anything in moderation.
   Anyway. I've begun completely rewriting my two four part novels which I hope someone will buy. And given that publishers want first rights I removed both of the previous versions from Lulu and Amazon. Not that I made much money. Or any at all to be precise. I'll keep them on smashwords which really defies my own logic but I don't care.
  I was asked to guest blog last week. It was an honour. Here's the address if anyone is so bored that they have nothing else to do:
  It's a great blog. Hers I mean. I wish mine was as good looking.
  I got a manuscript back through the post yesterday. It's been so long since I sent it that I'd forgotten all about it. And the agency to which I'd sent it just said no thanks without putting in a piece of paper reminding me who they were. So I'm none the wiser.
  I will not be thwarted.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Chapter Two

The only reason I've introduced Howard into the story is to set the scene for book four where he will play a major role. The business of saving the world doesn't actually begin until chapter four.
  And this is the entirely terrible artwork I painted for the cover of the book.

Chapter Two

‘Oh, wow.’ Derrick sighed in rapture. Howard’s garage was, as always, in major disarray. Before them stood about thirty computers, some intact, others scattered about the floor or on metal shelves like the after effects of some localised explosion. But all clicking, whirring or simply flashing morosely in a discordant melody that had come to characterise this strange place. About a dozen monitors, most of which were cracked or patched with old brown tape cast flickering images or just electronic snow, while one had apparently met with an accident leaving tiny shards of smelly grey glass over every horizontal surface.
And at their feet, coiled like multicoloured electronic snakes, hundreds of wires seemed designed and eager to trap any foot unwary or foolish enough to enter. All this crammed into a rank double garage mercifully far away from the local council estate and for Howard and Derrick at least, computer heaven.
Howard could have been anything between twenty and sixty; it was hard to tell between the numerous horizontal folds of pink skin which obscured most of his face. Certainly the red cardigan he always wore could have been the latter of those two ages seeing as how it had no buttons. While the ragged cuffs and waist band had been trailing strands of wool ever since the three had become acquainted with him a few months back, blinking mole-like in the glare of a software exchange shop.
This strange man was a computer geek, or a major anorak as Sad-case observed on their infrequent visits to him. In fact they were only here today because he’d apparently e-mailed Derrick about some new game that he’d been tinkering with. He preferred to email people since he possessed a strange lispy way of speaking which had obviously made him a target of the local children - and Sad-case who’d nearly laughed himself sick the first time he’d encountered him. It might have helped, he’d stuttered later, trying to keep down his lunch, if he didn’t have seventy five obviously false teeth. The only reason that David and Sad-case put up with this always boring interlude was that, as a price for Derrick’s finesse, Howard would always give them some new software that hadn’t hit the streets yet. Or even better, a computer game he’d somehow managed to convert into a version that would run on their games consoles; something that was supposedly impossible, though apparently not for Howard.
‘Hi, ladth.’ Howard welcomed them, so excited that he entirely missed Sad-case wincing after David’s shoe cleverly found his shin. ‘Come in and thee what I’ve got.’ He careered into the gloom of his workshop, arms flapping excitedly but expertly manoeuvring around several tottering shelves full of what could have been computers or just as easily the innards of some immense washing machine.
‘Just get on with it, Nerdo.’ David muttered tiredly after the necessary oohing and ahhing as Derrick marvelled over some totally boring grey box which was apparently a miracle of the first magnitude but which in reality was just a boring grey box. He peered down at his ankles now partially submerged beneath the billowing cables, some twitching malevolently from the lethal current flowing through them. Sad-case cowered in the corner, his feet well away from the floor as he perched on the edge of a desk he’d cleared for himself simply by elbowing it all away, much to Howard’s consternation.
 Now safe and keeping his hands carefully to himself, he snorted scornfully as Derrick sat down, his fingers flicking nimbly over the keyboard while strange alien monsters died in spectacularly gruesome splendour. He played happily for a while until finally David began to swing his feet out of sheer boredom before remembering what perils lurked beneath, while Derek’s fingers brought death and destruction to hoards of aliens and, curiously, Nazi storm-troopers at the same time.
 As always and with no warning the computer blew itself to pieces after a few minutes of Derrick’s frenetic pounding, sending Howard into the verge of what they all assumed was an imminent stroke. His red billowing face creased even more in alarm as he shooed them out, brushing a podgy hand through the six or so strands of hair that remained on his sweaty head while promising to de-bug it. The whole place could do with de-bugging as far as David was concerned. There were a few dark corners of the garage that looked distinctly sinister.

David’s fingers cruelly pinched the neck of an imaginary foe. That was a Special Forces trick. Apparently it was the Number One strategy amongst trained assassin’s and when he was older and a Sergeant in the SAS he was going to use that on the first enemy insurgent he came across. He wasn’t actually sure what an insurgent really was but he’d heard it on the news in the Iraq war thing and was sure it meant someone bad.
He stopped reading his Commando mag for a moment, enjoying the mental image of himself blowing up a streaking Sidewinder missile with a hand held SAM. He could almost smell the cordite and hear the destruction raining down about his head. He didn’t care that they’d been too late for the pool since his sister was always leaving her bedroom or the bathroom door open, so he’d seen it all before. Once you’d seen fifty pairs of tights littered around the house what more was there to know about girls; or women, which were exactly the same except a bit bigger?
Their headquarters was the inside of a big white van lying in a graveyard for cars in an old council yard. After a few exploratory prods with an iron bar, ready at a moment to flee for their lives, they’d realised that the sign about electrified Dobermans and rabid fences had just been a cheap way of scaring away the local children. And as a result they usually had it all to themselves. They had found it nearly six months before in one of their usual forays for saleable scrap. In surprisingly good condition, it even seemed to have kept its engine and only partly worn tires.
It had been a scorching oven in the summer and was now a freezing icebox in the winter. But it was theirs and, to their knowledge, known only to themselves. It did have a strange habit of being in slightly different positions on some of the occasions times they visited it, which was mildly surprising since those same partly worn tyres were all flat, but that was almost certainly due to seismic anomalies (Derrick’s phrase of the month) so it didn’t matter.
There was another mildly curious incongruity about their hideout. It seemed bigger on the inside than when you saw it from the outside. That was just the Germans, Derrick had assured them blithely. They were good at stuff like that. Thus none of them had ever considered the anomaly again.
Comics littered the rusty bottom along with the debris of several dozen meals of chips, burgers, and sandwiches, the wrappers of which had been kept to provide insulation. While on the wall, covering an old patch of oozing rust was glued a poster of some unidentifiable alien beast tearing another creature of doubtful origin into shreds. A small, battered storm lantern strung from the roof with garden twine was their only illumination. Their, which is to say Derrick’s constant twitching caused it to sway from side to side flicking their shadows about the interior like crazed phantoms. This would have made most people sick, but being well used to Derrick’s eating manners and the ever-present smell of old engine oil, mouldy food and the suspiciously familiar aroma that always seemed to emanated from Sad-case, they were made of sterner stuff and simply ignored it..
‘Did you see the way that computer exploded? It was great. All those sparks and stuff.’ Derrick settled back, content to memorize the image and file it away for future moments of boredom.
‘Yeah, yeah.’ Sad-case leaned against the dank metal wall, his eyes closing. He’d only had about three hours sleep the night before. It must have been four o’clock before they’d stopped. The arguments between his parents had become a lot more enthusiastic in the last few months. Why they couldn’t just split up like Derrick’s mum and dad he didn’t know. And besides, he’d seen it on television. Kids always got more presents when one of the parents went on permanent walkabout.
‘So are you going to tell us, then?’ David was dying to know the cause of his friend’s bloodshot eyes since anyone who could do that sort of damage to him was obviously someone to avoid. Sad-case smiled slyly before telling them. It had been worth it. Bob-The-Slob, his trainee jailbird of a brother had caught him trying to disassemble the World War Two Luger he’d won in a poker game but had carelessly neglected to hide.
Unfortunately he’d jammed the pointed bit into the barrel, and that was when El Slobbo had walked in and caught him. By the time his large gnarled knuckles had made contact with Sad’s face for the second time, their father had lumbered upstairs, discovered the previously secret gun and quickly administered some punishment of his own before confiscating it.
At least it had meant their mum didn’t get any more grief that night.
‘It was the sear.’ David informed him knowledgeably. He’d never actually seen a real gun, but could strip down (if only in his head) any and every currently used weapon carried by the entire British army. His stock of Guns and War, Soldier of Fortune, and Battlefield wounds (special colour edition) were the envy of the school. So much so, in fact, that some of the older boys had indicated their intention to tear off some of his more personal bits if he didn’t soon make them available for their collective perusal
‘Bout time he got a good smack.’ Where Sad’s extraordinarily large brother was concerned, they were in total agreement. He made the swimming pool’s enormous and energetically vengeful janitor seem like a feeble girl in comparison.
‘Injubily.’ Derrick confirmed.
A companionable silence lasting almost ten minutes; a long time in the life of such normally energetic debaters, was broken by Derrick. He was interested in the star, and wanted to know more.
‘So are you going to tell us about it then? Your very own, actual star.’
There wasn’t much to tell. His mum had seen the 'ad' on the back page of one of those weird magazines. The ones where you could buy ‘X’ ray specs, or buy shrimps that looked like real people, or look at colour photo’s of what happened after your fiftieth face-lift.
She’d filled in the form, bought a postal order, and sent it off. The photo had arrived first and the certificate was promised within two weeks.
‘So what’s it called?’
‘Anything I want to call it.’
‘So, like, David’s Star? Sad-case suggested helpfully.
Derrick was appalled at the very prospect. As a keen astronomer and used to grand names like Ursa Majoris, or Canis Minoris, a star called David would be an immense intellectual let down. ‘What about Davidus Majoris?’ That at least came close to satisfying his moral outrage.
‘Or Bigus Plonkus.’ Sad-case added.
‘Or Wettus Beddus.’ Derrick smirked.
 David took the only opportunity available to shut them up; he was embarrassed enough as it was.
This had been something mutually agreed upon months before. None of them would thump the steel sides of the van because the resulting noise was almost enough to make their fillings jump out. Or make him fill his strides, Sad-case had rather more graphically explained.
‘Just shut up about it okay?’
The others subsided with knowing winks after rolling about the floor screaming, hands clasped theatrically over their heads to prevent their brains from spurting out of their ears. There was fodder here for at least a week’s annoyance. It would keep for another time.
‘Come on let’s go to the slaughter house.’ Derrick grinned. The thought of all that blood sloshing down the drain was always enough to make them want to hurl chunks, but was also something they could never stop going to see.
They ran off, Derrick’s earlier digital mastery forgotten, even by himself. But it would soon prove very useful, and in ways none of them could ever have imagined.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Version 18.002 of my new novel.

Here's the first chapter of my new novel. Well, when I say new, I began it over ten years ago. And when I say novel...well you get my drift. I hope somebody reads it. It's written for an English audience so some of the words might not be familiar, but hopefully the meaning's clear.

Chapter One

‘She bought you an actual star? Big deal.’
It had taken a lot of work but David’s image in the mirror was just right. Blue eyes gazed coolly out at the world the way he’d seen Vin Diesel do so many times. The Tee shirt he’d stuffed down the bottom of his bed nearly a week ago was impressively creased. And just to add extra polish, his freshly torn jeans were faded in just the right places, even if they were so baggy that the waist band kept slipping below his hips making him waddle like a penguin. It didn’t matter. A week of not washing it had made his unruly blond hair achieve exactly the right greasiness. It itched a bit, but all the others said that was cool, and soon he’d be old enough to start getting spots. A final pump of his Hydro-Pneumatic Air-Trainers and he fled the house.
He was fairly pleased with his new hoodie. His mum had got it right for a change. Unlike the last one which must have been designed for a gorilla with a hump. The hood had been so big that it had kept slipping over his face making him look like a complete plonker. He didn’t really like wearing them but everyone said it was like a uniform, and if he didn’t he would automatically join the group at school whose days were spent in terror of the spectacularly nasty tricks which school kids were so good at. The idea of extracting his head from the toilet held little appeal; and as to what it would to his credibility didn’t bear thinking about..
His one insistence at individualism that made the ‘uniform’ bearable were the half dozen lurid badges of imaginary US fighter squadrons he’d found at a boot-sale. All in all, just the biz. Normally the stuff she got for him was about eight eons out of date. Last Christmas she’d actually bought him a pair of flairs!
Saturday awaited.
Two whole days until school so there was a lot to do. Two days could last for ever when a really inventive mind was put to work, and if he was anything he was inventive. Aunty Joan had recently said that in the deliberately annoying tone adults usually adopted when they didn’t really want you to know what they were talking about. And although he’d never been entirely sure there wasn’t some kind of slur lurking within the remark, it sounded good provided you didn’t actually think about it too much. Anyway, who cared?
But this star thing his mum had given him. It was just a white dot in an endless sea of other white dots. He might not even have been looking at the right one. And why had it required a few clumps of his hair to pay for it? She was probably just winding him up. It wouldn’t be the first time. His mum’s sense of humour was sometimes as unfathomable as that of all adults; which is to say, not funny at all.
The glossy five by eight photo now lay in the wardrobe with all the rest of his treasures; junk mostly that he knew should have been chucked out years before, especially the stuffed frog. That was getting a bit pongy now. But it was also the one thing he couldn’t throw away because he’d given it to him. Still, he was fourteen now and if the lads ever found out they’d never let him live it down.
First stop, Edna’s Caff, the nearest thing they had to a burger bar in this wilderness so far away from anywhere even remotely resembling civilisation. His friends would be waiting, both eager to know what his birthday had brought in the way of stuff. And Sad-case, well he’d be just like he always was when someone got something he’d never had: scornful and unimpressed.
        David would confidently have staked a year’s pocket money on how Sad-case would react to his news. On what he would say and exactly how he would say it. Even though he was one of David’s two best friends he was a real pain at times. If David’s birthday present had been the Empire State Building he’d have laughed scornfully and say he had two. Nothing could ever impress him since he had, and knew absolutely everything; or claimed to, anyway. He’d seen the film and bought the tee-shirt; although he hadn’t read the book. In fact any book, ever, as far as David could recall.
It wasn’t that he was thick or anything. Sad’s fundamental philosophy was: if there was time to do anything even remotely constructive, like homework, then why not use it to antagonise a girl, or, better still, annoy a grown up. And with his unusually large and heavily muscled body he usually got away with it. David had heard the science teacher whisper to someone a couple of months back that he was either a mutant, or a throw-back. He had no idea what either meant but guessed they probably weren’t compliments
Sad-case wasn’t his actual name of course – even his parents didn’t hate him that much. But such was his loathing of his real name and his complete refusal to respond to it even from teachers regardless of how many lines or hideous punishments they meted out to him, David had pronounced him to be a terminally Sad-case. His new friend had seized the tribute with a strange pride and thus he had become.
Of course such frivolous disregard of his rightful place at the top of the bullying hierarchy was not something Sad-case would have tolerated from just anyone. In fact few had ever dared and survived intact. But since David’s first day at school long months ago, when as the natural sovereign of his limited roost, Sad-case had considerately offered to beat him senseless. David, in return, had promised to give him an SAS sleep hold so effective that he would have to be woken up just to be buried. A grudging respect had quickly grown into a firm friendship. Still, his middle name should have been piles because sometimes he was a complete pain up the bum and there was absolutely no way the throw-back was going to spoil his big day. It only happened once a year and he was going to enjoy every moment.
‘Yeah, why not my own star. Beats a train set.’ That was true. The others nodded begrudgingly. A star of one’s very own was not to be sniffed at – metaphorically speaking.
Sad-case rubbed at a slightly swollen jaw which actually had the beginnings of some wispy fluff. He also frowned; a rather alarming sight since his brown eyes were completely bloodshot as a result of another severe slapping from his big brother. He hadn’t yet told them what he’d done to earn it, but he would in his own time.
His hoodie, which was made of actual leather, looked like it had been run over by one of those machines you saw tearing up old roads, and it had some strange scorch marks on the back. All of which, David assumed, were the result of a severe assault by the rasp he’d borrowed from school. And he’d torn his new jeans on the lathe, much to the consternation of their metalwork teacher who was currently getting the bearings fixed, again. He was one of the few teachers who were bigger than Sad and if he ever put two and two together, his friend was going to be dog meat.
The third member of their gang and bearer of the unfortunate name ‘Derrick the Div’, or variations thereof, burped loudly and filthily. His mouth and chin, totally covered by the triple extra-everything mammoth burger he was savaging, dripped half chewed meat into an already stained lap. He might have been wearing his obligatory hoodie but neither of them wanted to get close enough to look. As usual it looked like a mobile version of what you often saw on pavements outside pubs and curry shops on Saturday mornings.
‘What’s...oops.’ His arm, darting for his milk shake, splattered David’s cola all over his carefully prepared jeans. ‘Soz.’ He was very bright, much more so than David or Sad-case, who would both readily admit it, although never to his face, but he was also the clumsiest little noid in the known universe. Though “little” would hardly be the right word for him. He claimed to have an under active thyroid. Or some other equally intangible medical condition which apparently had nothing to do with the six or so double cheeseburgers he forced down his throat everyday. All David and Sad-case knew was that he was a bit of a lard bucket. But that didn’t matter. He was their lard bucket and nobody would dare mess with him when they were together.
 That such disparate characters had found friendship might have surprised others but they had never considered the ambiguity. Good friends were hard enough to find when the streets, and the schools, were just teeming with people ready and willing to do you harm. And that was just the teachers.
Their usual eatery seemed particularly dreary today cowering beneath low, rain filled clouds apparently hovering about twenty feet above their heads. This wasn’t one of those big, bright fast-food joints adorned with enough mirrors to make it seem as if there were twenty thousand people in there like you saw on those telly adverts. Not Edna’s Caff. Built about the time of the Second World War, or the Boer War, Sad-case had once observed sagely, it was small and gloomy with a low cobweb-covered ceiling and badly cracked support beams. The whole rotting edifice was partially submerged into the side of a hill which sometimes juddered alarmingly and promised to come down on their heads if there was ever a really serious rainstorm. No pretty girls with bright uniforms here. Just ten cramped tables covered by garish and grimy plastic tablecloths huddled into an area about the size of David’s bedroom.
There was one mirror, though. It hung from three rotting screws above the grotty orange box which served as the counter. The large jagged crack running from one corner to the other made was filled with grease that was so old that it had grown hair,  and upon which was scrawled in red crayon a list of burgers and various species of fried food. It had obviously been there for a while if one were to believe that a sausage sandwich had once cost ten shillings, whatever that meant.
Maybe Edna might know, but the small balding man of indeterminate age and possessed of an infinite collection of cardigans that ran this micro empire was clearly not Edna. Unless this long-suffering person had an even greater abhorrence for his name than Sad-case. He ran the cafĂ© with such benign dignity that by unspoken agreement none of his patrons, usually the kids from the local school, could find it in their hearts to misbehave. Even Sad-case didn’t want to see a grown man cry.
After taking a long breath Derrick’s eyes sparkled mischievously.
Followed by about twenty words conjoined into one in a single staccato torrent which roared over them, followed simultaneously by half a mouthful of burger. They both knew what he’d said of course. They’d picked up the knack decades ago, but they always made him say it again anyway.
‘What’, he reddened, spluttering again and spraying both of them anew, ‘is it called? How far away is it? What’s its classification?’
‘How much did it cost?’ Sad-case’s usual question.
David absently extracted particles of mincemeat from his hair. ‘Dunno. It’s written on the back of the photo. It’s all just foreign words to me.’
‘You got a photo of it?’
They both ducked as a solid tidal wave of beef, or whatever they’d called the dog meat this week splattered them and the neighbouring tables. Much to the disgust of the three girls sitting nearby being far too cool to acknowledge the existence of mere boys and simply pretending that Derrick wasn't there. This was especially annoying since one of the girls was that pretty fifth former David had been surreptitiously eying for the past three weeks.
‘Yeah, yeah.’ He tried to dismiss the subject. He was tired of it already. There were things to do - important things. ‘So are we going to the pool or what?’
‘You betcha.’ As always Sad-case was willing, eager in fact, to peer through the hole in the girls’ changing room wall in the local swimming pool. Ever denying the coincidence that the hole seemed almost exactly the same diameter as the now mangled blade of a chisel that had briefly gone missing from the woodwork class after he’d been using it.
‘Not me. Howard’s got some new beta software.’ Surprisingly Derrick demurred. Normally he would have fought Sad-case for the chance to gaze upon girly flesh.
‘Better? What’s better than looking through the hole and seeing girls with no...’
‘Not better, beta,’ Derrick said slowly, enunciating both syllables carefully. ‘ Bait, like what you use when you go fishing. Gerrit? It’s the final version of a computer game before it hits the street.’ He offered a superior smirk to David. ‘He wants me to test it. They don’t call me Fastest-Fingers-In-The-West for nothing.’ Actually nobody called him that, but he could always dream.
Sad’s eyes narrowed. Derrick was straying perilously close to pain country now, and Sad-case probably did have the strongest fingers in the west, which he would happily demonstrate if Derrick got too gobby.
‘Never been fishing, have I.’ He muttered belligerently, his neck surprisingly wide for one of his youth and beginning to glow red – never a good sign.