Work in Progress – Extract from “Beats”

This is an extract from Beats, the second novel in the Bums, Beats, and Bones trilogy. Bums has already been published. Beats will follow in 2018.

But it’s not really about the music is it?” Old Steve knew he was pushing his luck but he’d had decades of Billy’s bullshit and now and again he challenged him just for the hell of it.

“Don’t be bloody daft, it’s all about the music – the music is all there is,” Billy huffed.

Old Steve shook his head. “Nah mate! Believe me, you may think that – but all those punters out there – they don’t – not really, not if you dig a bit. Not if you get inside their skulls.”

Billy sighed. “You know what Steve – we’ve known each other since we were kids, a long time – what is it now? Fifty years near enough, but you ain’t got a fucking clue.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know; it would be impossible for you to admit to something contrary to what your whole life is based on. It would turn your brain into mush if you did that – not that your brain isn’t already mush – you lost that in the seventies.”

“Shut the fuck up. You’re doing my head in.”

“That’ll be the drugs too.”

“Who the fuck do you think you are? Without the music you wouldn’t have fuck all. Without The Redcurrents you’d be driving a bus. The music has given you, us, a good life.”

“You could say that about Val Doonican.” Old Steve chuckled at his own joke, it didn’t take much to wind Billy up, he was so insecure, but he’d better not start with all that crap about ‘electrifying’ the seventies with their radical socialist songs – that was pure luck, and Tommy’s lyrics of course.

“Please, I’m not in the mood,” Billy pleaded.

“OK, all right, I’ll shut up. Now, do you want another pint?”

“Ah, go on then, I’ll get them.”

Billy got up, went to the bar and waited for Andy to realise he was there and get off his fat arse to attend to him – he couldn’t be bothered to call out. He stared into nowhere, his mind meandering back through the decades. Of course, Steve was right – the actual music was just the wrapping – like the coloured cellophane around a cube of fancy chocolate. He knew as much as anyone that talented musicians were as common as yellow daffodils in March and good music was as ubiquitous as white seagulls on the inhabited coastline. It was pure luck, with a good dollop of ruthlessness that made a successful career. He knew because he’d been there, done that – got his fucking face on the T-Shirt. But you had to keep up the act – the moment you let it slip, it would be over, you might as well put a gun to your head.

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Work in Progress – TV Scripts

I’m not sure what type of writing I prefer but if I can probably narrow it down to two – they are writing novels and writing film or TV scripts.

I think it’s because each of those forms allow you to write proper ‘stories’ with plots and characters. For example it’s exciting to throw a random plot twist at the characters and see how they react; then follow them to the end to see how everything gets resolved.

There’s time to get to know the characters a bit, time to chill with these new and interesting people. It’s also a bit like that with painting, especially painting portraits, where you don’t know where that first mark on the canvas is going to lead, who is going to emerge from that mess of form and colour.

I suppose that it’s a bit like that for all art-forms – the creation of something out of nothing but an idea. But then, isn’t it a bit like that for science and engineering too? Isn’t it a bit like that for every facet of human existence, from making a cup of tea to designing a spaceship?

There’s nothing special about writers and artists.

Anyway, my work-in-progress includes adapting two of my books into television scripts.

It’s going great so far, in fact both books seem to lend themselves to the visual style of a television script. The books are Bums and Boys from the Backfields and each story is being developed into a six part TV drama. Both books are set  in the industrial/post-industrial town of Elchurch on the South Wales coast but they are very different books in other respects.

Click for more about the books : BUMS or BOYS FROM THE BACKFIELDS

Here’s a sneak peek

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Cardiff Central Library – Open Space Event

Next Thursday December 15th

T O N I T E

open-space-english-leafletmore details on FB: https://www.facebook.com/events/1307412925977956/

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Boys From the Backfields – the first chapter

The first chapter of my novel The Boys from the Backfields

Backfields-front 1 cover oct 8-2013 2013

 The door to my past opened easily, it was a surprise. I’d intended to confront Angel directly, but she was out when I arrived. Considering her profession, she should have changed the locks.

I was hiding in the attic when she came back in.

I’d climbed up there to see if I could find any clues among the bits we left behind when we’d gone to LA in the nineties. The questions raised by the anonymous emails needed answers. I found a heavy wooden box crammed with old photos, and two large manila envelopes, stuffed with my scribbles about the events that had come to define my life.

I was sitting in an old deckchair waiting for Angel to go to bed. The answer had to be there, in those damp, limp bundles, some detail I hadn’t realised was important when I’d written it down.

My cell phone vibrated as another text arrived. It was my PA, Helene, again. No. I couldn’t think about work, or too much about Helene. I had to focus. The past had to be resolved before I could think about the future again.

I wrote the first ‘book’ in the late seventies, when I felt I was able to give some time to myself, after half-a-dozen years of frantic success. Hell, I even considered retiring then, before my thirtieth birthday.

The paper was thin and stained, but the typewritten text was still crisp and bold.

I started to read.

BOOK ONE

1963 – 1973

CHAPTER 1

Have you watched those wildlife programmes on the television and seen the images of big cats dealing with porcupines? That was me and trouble. I sniffed at it in a circumspect way, and then, when it showed any sign of life, I ran like hell. That was me usually, but that day the taunting just got to me.

The smirking face begged to be squashed into the muddy grass of the field. It was a wet summer and I had recently come into that phase of life that marks your earliest memories, the few vivid incidents from early childhood that you remember when you eventually emerge into the heaviness of adulthood.

The boy’s name was David, an innocent sounding name for what was a vile specimen of childhood. Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, he slithered and oozed his way around my consciousness, an evil, ugly, smelly, little boy. I knew him as Snobby, a name that invoked gross images of dirty dried-up snot and filthy fingernails. Continue reading

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First Review of Bums

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I’m chuffed that my novel Bums has had its first review.

Click here to read it on Wales Arts Review.

Onward 🙂

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Work in Progress: Extract from ‘Beats’

From the early draft of Beats, the second book in the trilogy featuring DI Frank Lee. The first book Bums has already been published. (more details here)

Note: This might not even make the finished book, and it will certainly be edited.

needle-etc

Freda straightened her back and pushed open the door to her mother’s bedroom. She didn’t care if she found her in her knickers or whatever, the old bat had had enough time to respond to the knocking and the calling of her name – Ffion.

Freda couldn’t bring herself to call the woman Mam, or Mum, or whatever term of endearment daughters were supposed to use when addressing the person who had given birth to them. The truth was her mother was a disaster and didn’t deserve any kind of endearment, and if she wasn’t in her room then that would mean she’d have gone out without saying anything, so wouldn’t deserve the apology Freda had hypnotised herself to offer after their argument earlier.

Ffion was in her room, and she was crashed out on the bed. Strewn across the top of the duvet next to her unconscious form were several items that might explain the condition she was in.

Freda panicked and rushed over to her mother’s bed, brushing aside the paraphernalia and the spilled bottle of vodka to reach out and feel for a pulse or signs of breathing.

Ffion groaned and rolled over. She had a silly smug grin on her face and there was dried-up froth around her mouth. She opened her eyes and looked up at her daughter.

“Hiya beautiful,” she mumbled.

“Are you all right?” Freda asked. “Are you?”

“Of course lovely girl, of course I am,” Ffion said, pushing herself up on her elbows.

“What’s all this?” Freda pointed to the rubbish on the bed.

“Ah, that’s nothing – you don’t want to take notice of that. It’s just a bit of relief for your tired old mother.”

“You stupid bitch!” Freda snapped. “You stupid fucking bitch.”

Ffion lurched forwards and grabbed Freda’s arm. “Don’t be nasty love; I told you, it’s nothing.”

Freda pushed her away. Ffion fell back on the quilt but kept her bony grip on her daughter’s arm. Freda knew that if she stayed any longer she would do something stupid herself, like strangle the madwoman who was pretending to have given birth to her. She shook the crazy cow off and ran out of the door, hands clasped to her ears to silence the feeble whining excuses. She’d had enough.

more to come . . .

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Beats – the story

It’s not often that I write about the writing process but this morning I discovered the central story of Beats, the novel I am writing and wanted to record the moment when it clicked together to make sense.

Note: Beats is the second book in the trilogy of stories featuring DI Frank Lee. The first book Bums was published a few weeks ago, and the third book, Bones, will follow Beats next year sometime.

Yes, so, Beats begins with the discovery of a body – click here for the first 5,000 words of an earlier draft. Yesterday, the current draft reached over 11,000 words, almost 15% of the finished novel, and I thought it was time to work out what the actual plot was. Yes I know, I’d written 11,000 words of something and I didn’t know what it was about!!

The thing is, every writer is different and the same approach doesn’t work for everyone so I’m not trying to write a prescription for writing a novel, just explaining what works for me – and that seems to be that I need to write a substantial amount of the story before I know what’s going on.

It usually starts with an image, like this, from the first paragraphs of Beats:

“. . . Tucked beneath the Orb Stage, in the undergrowth of struts and scaffolding, lay another kind of detritus – the as yet undiscovered dead body of a man in his sixties . . . The body was lying face down in a tangle of wires, a pair of vintage denim jeans pulled down around its knees, exposing a bare white hairless backside . . .”

So, who is this man, what’s he doing dead under the Orb Stage?

And it’s begun.

I already knew that the story was set amongst musicians of one kind or another, and that it was the second book in a trilogy where each book has a story of its own plus a story that spans the three books, so, many of the characters and locations were already defined.

And I already knew that I wanted the book to be structured in the same way as Bums, i.e. the story is told from the point of view of 8 separate characters – that’s 7 plus our hero DI Frank Lee. And I’d already decided that the 7 additional POV characters would not be the same characters featured in Bums.

And, you can’t really introduce a Point-Of-View character without telling their story. So now I had the overarching story of the trilogy to develop, the story of the book Beats itself, plus the stories of the 8 POV characters, nestling neatly inside the arcs.

arcs

Bums, Beats and Bones, Story Structure

The challenge was to make it all hang together in a way that made sense, and to make it interesting enough to engage the reader. So I just started writing. 11,000 words later the list of characters in the story, both POV and non-POV had grown enough to fill almost 2 pages of an A4 notebook.

These are the POV characters:

  1. DI Frank Lee – Our hero – late 40’s
  2. Old Steve – a roadie – 65/66
  3. Billy ‘Heartthrob’ Harries – an old rock musician – 65/66
  4. Lucy – An acclaimed actor and Billy’s ex – 64
  5. Freda – Lucy and Billy’s grandaughter – 17 year old folk musician
  6. Tariq – A reasonably successful Indie musician in his late 30’s
  7. Young Steve – Old Steve’s nephew and a folksy-blues musician in his 40’s
  8. Lottie – 24 year old singer, songwriter, poet, artist – broke

Names of some of the other characters who have been mentioned or made an appearance so far: Beth, Anwen, Andy, Tony, Guto, Dick Plum, Ffion, Zac, Mack, Lottie’s mother, Lottie, Lottie’s father, Shaz, Flora, Revti, David Roberts, Samantha Taylor, Bob Harries, Rita Mathias, Ernie, Leo, Terry Taxi, Paula.

So when I was writing I had to introduce all those characters and introduce them in the context of the story, and to fit the structure I’d already committed myself to, but I still didn’t know anything about who the killer was, or why he or she did what they did. Then it clicked – I already knew who the killer was and I already knew the motive.

Now all I’ve got to do is to write another 70,000 odd words to tease out that central story, to develop the overarching story of the trilogy and to figure out satisfactory story arcs of the 8 POV characters.

So yes, now I know who done it and why. I’m not telling you though. You’ll have to wait for the book, which I’m hoping to publish next summer.

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Write-Edit-Write

My new novel ‘Bums’ is now complete – just about!

I’ve put it aside for a couple of weeks while I make a start on the next one. I don’t have a title for the next book yet but it will be the second of the ‘Frank Lee’ stories. Frank is a Detective Inspector who operates in the post-industrial areas of South Wales between the sea, the valleys and the hills.

Frank is an ex punk new-age traveller and remains fiercely independent despite the job he does. He figures his role is to catch the real bad guys so he tends to turn a blind eye to activities that his colleagues would regard as criminal such as personal drug use and squatting. He is an anti-establishment member of the establishment – a dichotomy that even some members of his family have difficulty understanding.

‘Bums’ follows Frank’s investigations into the discovery of a naked dead body found in a dingy back lane in a run down part of Elchurch by two down-and-outs and is set on the grim edges of a society that values material gain and worldly gratification more than care and compassion.

The next story involving Detective Inspector Frank Lee hasn’t got a title yet but I have today written the first draft of the first page. I don’t even know what the story is yet but I’m sure it will involve Frank, his ex partner Flora, his daughter Beth, his colleagues Shaz and Ianto, and no doubt a whole bunch of criminals and victims. I’m also sure the story will unfold for me the same time as it will for Frank.

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