Daniel Williams

Posts Tagged ‘short story’

Summer Reading Challenge 2012

In American, Canadian, Literature, Miscellaneous, Welsh on 31/08/2012 at 11:16

In my borough (and in other parts of the country) the libraries have a summer reading challenge for children. They have to read six books over the summer and get stickers, medals, etc. I blogged about this last year. As I was volunteering to help out again this year, I did the challenge myself. My six books aren’t as eclectic this year, but that’s because I’ve been on a crime/noir binge.

1)         The White People and Other Weird Stories (2012)- Arthur Machen: I spent ages trying to track down any copy of Machen’s stories. I couldn’t even find his books in his home country of Wales. I ordered this book from America. In some ways I prefer Machen to H.P. Lovecraft, but he does have a tendency to go very Victorian (one story has a paragraph that lasts about twenty pages!)

2)         Tigana (1990)- Guy Gavriel Kay: I don’t read fantasy all that often. I picked this up because I’d heard about it on Sword and Laser’s youtube show. It was a good read, some interesting characters and themes. The story is about a city with a spell on it that nobody (except those born there) can remember its name. I don’t much about the world of fantasy fiction, but I imagine Tigana is in the literary end of things.

3)         Drive (2005)- James Sallis: I’ve heard this book called an existential crime novel, but, truth be told, I didn’t quite get it. I watched the film afterward and that didn’t strike me too much either. In the novel there is a lot of non-linear narrative, while I like flashbacks, I’m not a fan of a plot too much out of order. This books gets a lot of good press and I know I’m in the minority but, as always, this comes down to personal taste.

4)         The Goodbye Look (1969) Ross MacDonald: Lew Archer is a private eye hired to recovered some missing jewellery. I’ll admit, I get a real kick out of noir and private detective fiction. I went on to read another Lew Archer novel called The Galton Case (1959) and I preferred that to this. Still, it was a lot of fun to read.

5)         When the Women Come Out To Dance (2002)- Elmore Leonard: This was a great collection of short stories. In each the dialogue, plot and characterisation were masterful. The story ‘Fire In The Hole’ was quite possibly my favourite due to the slightly unconventional protagonist of Raylan Givens.

6) The Big Nowhere (1988)- James Ellroy: This is the second in Ellroy’s LA Quartet, followed by LA Confidential (1990). This is a compelling book, but it has to be one of the most brutal, nasty stories I’ve ever read. There are a lot of good things about it- it’s well written and I like Ellroy’s prose style, dialogue and characterisation, but it’s the world of the story that troubles me. I have a strong stomach when it comes to violence and bleak worldviews, but The Big Nowhere pushed me to my limit. I read the last third of the book as quickly as I could because I didn’t want to be carrying around that world in my head for any longer than I had to. I like flawed characters, but the there was nobody in this book who really, truly, had any kind of redeeming feature. I’ve read Ellroy before and I remember it been strong stuff, but not this bleak and nihilistic.

Short Story- ‘A People House’

In Short Stories, Writing on 01/08/2012 at 17:46

A story of mine has been published on the website www.burrst.com . The story is a piece of flash fiction called ‘A People House’

http://burrst.com/bursts/122/?offset=1

Music and Writing

In Essay, Miscellaneous, Writing on 07/06/2012 at 17:20

I always listen to music when I’m writing. Sometimes I can spend hours putting together a playlist before I even write a word of what I’m working on. The music I pick allows me to really think about what I want my work to feel like, and music helps shut off pesky outside thoughts.

Of course, my own musical tastes play a large part in what I listen to, which would not necessarily be what you would pick. The musicians I really like tend to be storytellers, like Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. I really love albums that are tied together with a theme. A few years ago, every time I wrote a short story I would listen to Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks. All the songs are about relationships, ups and a lot of downs, which is what I wanted to write about. It helped that some of his lyrics could serve as openings for stories: ‘Early one morning the sun was shining,/I was lying in bed,/Wondering if she’d changed at all/If her hair was still red.’ (Nerd bonus- Dylan has hinted this album was inspired by the short stories of Anton Chekhov, another great influence of mine.)

Lately, I’ve found then when I’m editing work, I listen to completely different music. I’ve been listening to the first two albums of She & Him. I find their music quite easy-going. That and my crush on Zooey Deschanel plays a part.

I imagine I’m not the only one who needs music to help write. If you write and have to have music, what do you listen to?

(In case you were wondering, the playlist I listened to while writing this is one of my short story playlists. The albums in it are: The Beach Boys- Pet Sounds, Bob Dylan- Blood On The Tracks, Frank Sinatra- In The Wee Small Hours and No One Cares, and She & Him- Volume One and Volume Two.)

Links:

Lyrics to ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ by Bob Dylan: http://www.bobdylan.com/us/home#us/songs/tangled-blue

Video of Dylan performing ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ live: http://youtu.be/YwSZvHqf9qM

Dylan Morgan Saves The Tigers- Short Story

In Short Stories, Writing on 17/08/2011 at 12:19
Dylan Morgan Saves The Tigers

Innsborough high street was not particularly busy on a Tuesday morning. There were a few shoppers and a handful of charity workers stopping them. Dylan walked through the high street with a clutch of library books. He had successfully avoided eye contact with two charity workers. There was no way of breaking out of an eye contact contract with a charity worker.

A third charity worker ahead of him was busy was talking with somebody. Dylan considered himself safe. As he neared the third charity worker, the man they had been talking to walked away. Dylan diverted his gaze. A moment later and the charity worker creeped his field of vision. Then- eye contact.

Dylan’s pace slowed. The charity worker wore the standard issue green kagool, with a peace badge attached. Dylan noticed his charity worker was a she. And she was blonde. A small, pale blonde, a year or two older than himself and she was smiling at him.

She said, ‘Hi.’

Dylan stopped.

‘I was wondering if you spare five minutes of your time today?’

‘Of course,’ Dylan said. He tried to hold his library books in such a way that she would be able to see he had a book by Chekhov. As she began to explain what her charity was about Dylan raised the book a little higher.

She told Dylan she was here to help save the tigers. Tigers were endangered, she said. They were hunted, killed and murdered without purpose, she said.

‘Beautiful creatures’, Dylan said. ‘Tigers.’

‘Yeah,’ she said and continued her speech.

She asked, ‘What is it you do? Are you a student?’

‘Yeah,’ Dylan said.

He cleared his throat.

‘But I’m a… writer, really.’

‘A writer? Wow.’

‘Oh, yes,’ he said.

‘Have you been published?’

‘Oh, just a few things,’ he said, ‘just a few things, poems, a short story.’

‘That’s cool. It must be a hard life.’

‘Well it can be tough, yes,’ Dylan said. ‘But it’s not as… you know, important as what you’re doing. You know, being here and… people been miserbale… and, you know, rain or shine…’

‘Words can be just as important as actions, sometimes even more so.’ She smiled at him. ‘But what I’d really like today is for you to set up a donation with our charity.’

‘I, I am a student,’ Dylan said, ‘and I… with money-’

‘I know,’ she said, ‘I’m a student too, but for a cause like this… You’d be doing me a really big favour. I’d really like to get you signed up today.’

Dylan’s foot began to tap a little. He looked down. He said, ‘I could always give you… my number…’

She said, ‘Great.’

Dylan looked up.

‘Yeah?’

‘Yeah,’ she said. ‘If you could just jot it down on the form. And your name, address and bank details so we can get a donation set up.’

She held out her clipboard to Dylan. He took the clipboard with his free hand. He said, ‘You want me to write my number down on here?’

‘With your name, address and bank details so we can get a donation set up. Would you like a pen?’

Dylan laughed. ‘What kind of writer would I be if I hadn’t got a pen?’

He checked his pockets.

‘Err, actually…’

She held out a pen to him. Dylan took it. The charity worker was still smiling at him.

‘So,’ he said, ‘you’ll have my details?’

‘Then somebody can be in touch with you in the next week.’

The pen scratched on the paper. Dylan said, ‘Are you a student here?’

‘No,’ she said. ‘Somewhere else.’

Dylan finished the form and handed the clipboard back to the charity worker. ‘All done,’ he said, ‘all my details, my mobile number is there.’

‘Great.’

‘And my email address.’

‘Great, somebody will be in touch with you in the next week.’ She said, ‘Okay?’

‘Yeah,’ Dylan said. ‘Well-’

‘Bye!’ she said.

‘Yes…’

He shuffled his feet

‘Well,’ he said, ‘bye.’

He began to move away. He looked back. The charity worker was looking in another direction. She’d already found somebody else.

 

Why Can’t I Be Rimbaud?- Short Story

In Short Stories, Writing on 13/08/2011 at 16:36

Short story originally written for an assignment back in late 08 (or possibly 09) but recently heavily revised, edited and rewritten.

Why Can’t I Be Rimbaud?

It said on Wikipedia that Arthur Rimbaud had given up writing by the age of twenty-one. Charlie read that sentence again. Arthur Rimbaud had given up writing by the age of twenty-one. Charlie worked out that he was one year and two months younger than Arthur Rimbaud when he had given up writing. Charlie did not feel happy. Rimbaud had written poetry that was ahead of his time, but he had been ignored. Charlie’s poetry was not ignored. His poetry tumblr received views, several of his poems had been reblogged and he’d received solid 2:2’s for his Creative Writing assignments. But he had not yet written a ‘Drunken Boat’ or a ‘Season in Hell’ or said anything as deep or as profound as ‘I is someone else’. Though, Charlie thought, his own description of himself as a ‘cynical idealist’ had been something.

But now was the time, Charlie decided, that he would write his ‘Drunken Boat’. Now was the time, Charlie thought, that would be discussed by scholars for decades to come and it would all begin when he opened up a new Word document.

The laptop screen was white and blank. Charlie had his fingers poised above the keys.

He waited.

He wondered where his Muse was tonight. He wondered if she’d taken the night off? Maybe she went out drinking with other writer’s Muses? Maybe they discussed their writer’s works? Charlie imagined what his Muse would look like. He thought she’d be a brunette Scarlett Johansson with bluer eyes.

He started to type a line about a blue-eyed girl. He deleted it. He knew he couldn’t write honestly about a blue-eyed girl because he wasn’t in love with a blue-eyed girl. He thought he’d have to wait until he was in love with a blue-eyed girl. Which was a shame, he was sure that poem would make his future blue-eyed girl fall even deeper in love with him as well as well written.

Charlie could hear a noise. It sounded like people muttering. He put his ear against the wall. He could hear his housemate Paul’s TV. Charlie huffed and left his room. Charlie knocked on Paul’s door.

‘S’open.’

Paul was lying on his bed, remote control across his stomach. Charlie said, ‘Paul? Would you mind turning your TV down. It’s just… I’m trying to write.’

Paul lifted the remote control and jabbed a button. He said, ‘Actually you might like this, it’s a documentary all about how peop-’

‘I can’t,’ Charlie said, ‘I’m very busy writing.’

‘Well, alright, then.’

Charlie went back to his room. He sat down at his desk and wondered how he was supposed to work when other people kept distracting him. He thought in years to come Paul would tell people things like ‘You know I lived with Charles Simons. I thought he was a git because he kept telling me to turn my TV down. I didn’t know that he was working on-’ Charlie hadn’t decided what to call his first poetry collection, but Paul would say ‘If I had known he was writing that, I wouldn’t have had my TV on at all!’

Charlie had a Creative Writing handbook on his desk. It contained several exercises to help practice writing. Charlie decided to pick an exercise at random and do it. He flicked to a random page. He read the exercise description. He decided to pick another. The second one he found didn’t inspire him either. Neither did the third or fourth. Or fifth. Half an hour later Charlie had not found one that suited him.

Charlie went downstairs to the kitchen and made himself a drink. His housemates came in and said they’d been talking about going out.

‘I can’t. Very busy writing.’

‘Okay.’

‘I’m in a very creative mood.’

‘Okay.’

Charlie went back to his room and listened until his housemates had gone. He decided in the peace and quiet he would abandon Rimbaud and poetry and start work on his novel. He had an idea for a story set in prohibition era Chicago where a beautiful jazz singer falls in love with a writer mistakenly believed to be a bootlegger. If the poetry wasn’t flowing, Charlie thought, it’d be the novel that made his name.

Enjoying the quiet, Charlie lay on his bed and thought it best to try to work out the finer details of his novel before he started. He imagined the writer and the jazz singer, who looked like a brunette Scarlett Johansson with bluer eyes.

He imagined and dreamed them until he was woken up the sound of his housemates coming back home.

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