Monday, September 29, 2014

Writing Is Kung Fu Fighting

    Every word you write is a YAH!  HAH!  WHAH! at the concrete block held nervously by your Shaolin temple master.

    Every sentence you construct is a HAAAAH!  HWAAAAR!  YEEEEEE! smack on the pressure points of your hooded assailants.

    Every paragraph you complete is a WHAAAAAAAR!  HI-YAAAAAAAR!  EEEEEEEEEEEE! delivered as a single paralyzing blow to the tattooed, shuriken-hurling madman before you.

    Every chapter you craft is a WAAAAAAIIIIEEEE!  YAAAAAAAAAAAAA!  HIEEEE-AAAAAAAAA! kicked and punched, Nuryev-like, at the snarling faces of the flick-flacking Triad Queen gymnasts encircling you.

    Every novel you finish is a HEEEE-YAAAAAAAA-IEEEEEE!  HWAAAAA-HAAAAAA!  YAAAA-HIIII-EEEEEEEEEEE!, stunning in its uncompromising ability to terminally rupture every organ, every blood vessel, of the rhinoskin-clad ninja death squad whirling its assemblage of razor-sharp swords inches from your heroically bared six pack.


    No way, Ho Tse!

    According to none other than Bruce Lee (that’s “Mr Actual Kung Fu” to you, my friends), it’s important for all of us to be  “like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

    In other words, avoid vague imagery — and hire a decent fucking editor.

    As writers, it’s also important that we wear zany loon pants while putting pen to paper.

    I’ve thoroughly researched this online, and although the one killer reference still eludes me, I just know in my heart that it feels so goddamn right.

    So, whatever you’re writing today, PANT UP and have at it like you’re Captain Maim Cripple & Kill himself, flying through the air in slow motion with a HIIII-EEEEEEEEE!  HWAAAAAH!  YAAAAAAAAAAAA!

    Writing IS Kung Fu fighting.  And you know it.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Say NO To Pant Crime

    Dungarees haven’t been fashionable in an age.

    More bereft of Come-back-round-againability even than flares, dungarees had their heyday during the Gold Rush, along with the few brief years between the late 70s and early 80s when the corpse of the 60s was devoured by the people who would later culture-vomit stuff like the iPad or call for the compulsory sterilisation of non-whites.

    These facts do not deter my neighbour King Dungarees (Hey Lookit Me) from romping about the ‘hood in a selection of especially droopy pairs of said abominations of trousery.

    Let me be clear about three things first of all.

    1) I know for a fact that King Dungarees (Hey Lookit Me) has more than one pair of strapped leggy abominations because I’ve followed him down the street.  It could have been just the one pair I saw every time — because, after all, who, who, who wears dungarees in 2014??? — but scans of his rear end from as safe a distance as reading glasses will permit allowed me to detect that his wardrobe of the damned pays host to at least six legs’ worth of indiscriminately evident HORROR.

    2) He doesn’t wear dungarees all the time. His legwear royalty credentials are thus on a par with the way the Queen of England dons her crown: he’s apt to look a pranny regularly, but his pranniness isn’t a permanent fixture.

    3) King Dungarees (Hey Lookit Me) isn’t his real name.  I think.

    As I tiptoe behind him to Tesco, eyes trained on his turn-ups, the crumples of his rear crotch, I’m often minded to ask where he purchased his supreme foulnesses of denim, stud and style.  Other questions bubble to the surface too — questions like what the fucking hell are you thinking, you total arsehole? and how regularly do children as young as 3 mock you and throw stones at your face? — but  I’ve found it pays never to overspeculate on matters such as this, just in case advocates of an Infinite Universe like Professor Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan (and all those Hollywood would-bes who no longer recognise each other at their sorry get-togethers thanks to their excessively deforming plastic surgery) were wrong about the whole infinity deal.  To date, I’ve seen no dungaree emporiums in my local high street, and when I’ve conducted research online, my browser’s porn filter throws the power switch on the Midlands.  So maybe he doesn’t purchase them at all.   

    My current theory is that either King Dungarees (Hey Lookit Me) makes his wretched thigh n’ torso adorning offerings himself, or (most likely, I fear) he deploys his wife as some sort of beleaguered trouser  slave to weave him denim and stitch from Weird Dog Telepathy Guy’s stray dog hairs.  I rarely see her out in the street by day, but when I’ve woken in a cold sweat at dead of night, obsessing about the lucrative possibilities of inventions from hamster-cum-doilies to velcro ‘mitten, bootee and fire escape’ sets for small terraced houses, I’ve caught sight of her tweezering her way along the pavement on her hands and knees with a rucksack dangling, baby sloth-like, from her chest.

    I can’t think that my neighbour is poised at the cutting edge of some new dungaree-friendly fad and is ready to do for their unfettered horribleness what Paul Weller did for the Mods back in the day.

    So what’s his game?

    I have no desire to be perplexed right now but this ill-clad buffoon has me totally distracted...

Monday, September 22, 2014

How To Deliver Value

    Let’s assume you’re having a yard sale.

    On the wobbly wallpaper table before you sits an assortment of your unwanted junk.

    Including a matching set of three old mugs.

    People pass, people stop, you sell the odd bauble — then some guy rolls up, eyes trained on your mugs.

    “How much you want?” he says.

    “I was thinking, maybe a fiver each, twelve quid for the set.”

    “Ah, well, here’s the thing.  There’s one mug missing from this set.  It’s a set of four, you see.  So I can’t possibly give you twelve quid for ‘em.  Would you settle for a tenner?”

    “Gosh.  I wasn’t aware of that.  A set of four, you say?  Okay, well, in that case — a tenner it is, my friend.”

    Okay, now let’s re-run this script, factoring in a reappraisal of what’s on offer.

    Let’s assume you’re having a yard sale.

    On the wobbly wallpaper table before you sits an assortment of your unwanted junk.

    Including a matching set of three old mugs.

    People pass, people stop, you sell the odd bauble — then some guy rolls up, eyes trained on your mugs.

    “How much you want?” he says.

    “I was thinking, maybe a fiver each, twelve quid for the set.”

    “Ah, well, here’s the thing.  There’s one mug missing from this set.  It’s a set of four, you see.  So I can’t possibly give you twelve quid for ‘em.  Would you settle for a tenner?”

    “Gosh.  I wasn’t aware of that.  A set of four, you say?  Okay, well, in that case — you’re very lucky to have chanced today upon three quarters of that set.  If you snap them up now, you’ll only need the one outstanding mug to complete the quartet.  Maybe you already have it — a lucky find on a lucky day like this one — in which case, my trio of mugs is precisely the set of three mugs you need to complete your set.  Problem is, these mugs are no longer for snapping up.  Maybe you should give me your number?  That way I can get back to you when I’ve researched how much they’ve been worth to people in the past.  And factored in the cost of a wobbly wallpaper table...”

Thursday, September 18, 2014


    Everyone loves the 7th Cavalry.

    When all seems lost (and the world is dangerously de-hossed) those boys come a-ridin’ over the hill atop their trusty equines, blasting on bugles and chomping on burgers like there was no tomorrow... rival the one coming up real soon.

    Whatever your endeavour or circumstance, your life is always so much better after the 7th Cavalry has had its way with your back.

    If you’re a writer, you may even feel zeal.

    Problem is, those boys and their horses are so often needed elsewhere, and most of them have to catch some shut eye from time to time.  Plus, Stephen King shells out millions to have them patrol his writing tomb on a daily basis.

    So don’t come to depend too much on any kind of unrestrained bugling when you’re stuck on the constipated opening paragraph of your latest fancy.  Or even syllable 16 of a stinky haiku.

    Expect instead to catch occasional echoes of septumpteen Yee-haaars as these cavalryeers maraud and inspire in writing canyons yonder.

    These wails will sustain you as you struggle to write gibberish into the night, or plough on to meet deadlines, fuelled only by caffeine and delusions involving purely fictional magical factotums such as leprechauns, sphynxes and (if you’re lucky lucky luckier than even Kylie ever imagined) unicorns
    If all you hear is silence, take heart; rest easy in the knowledge that someone, somewhere (Stephen King) is reaping the full reward of the world’s most magnificent mounted salvation-dispensing bunch of uniformed hunks.

    And should a real live arrow-strafed ass of a quadruped hurl its bloodied body onto your writing desk as you strain and sweat over a synopsis, remember that the saddle-bustin’ stalwarts of  the 7th Cavalry need to hone their effortless riding skills on some kind of beast and occasionally their heroic exploits lead them to fall foul of the injuns.

    If this happens, be emboldened as a pluck-mustered foot in a stirrup flailing from a bronco.

    The 7th Cavalry exists to inspire.

    So don’t overlook their Geronimules.


Monday, September 15, 2014

How Long Is An Ideal While?

    My Mollies have been coddled — and now they’re sprouting fluff.

    This is what happens when you leave fiction in a drawer to marinade for a tad too long.  It’s what we’re told to do as writers (usually by other writers — the captains to our privates or serfs) and the idea goes something like this:

    Assuming our grammar is perfect and our first draft is typo free, the main problem our bold new prose is likely to suffer from (beyond incomprehensibility and Embryonic Maladies All) is zeal
.  And why not?  All first drafts should be overegged by our egoes.  After all, don’t we have our inner editor tied up in a trunk for the afternoon?

    At first glance, what we wrote is a mess; it’s OTT, it’s the embarrassing slapdashness of a would-be genius — all of which is precisely why it should never be mailed, published, broadcast, yodelled or manifested as an all-body tattoo at this stage.

    As the sage advice has it, material like this goes in a drawer, there to be forgotten until such time as we can look at it again with fresh eyes (and subsequently decide to shoot ourselves).

    (That’s a metaphor, btw.)

    With fresh eyes, we can separate the zeal from the prose like Gordon Ramsay peeling skin from custard with his bare teeth.

     Now, the non-essential elements of our writing become perfectly visible — everything from an inappropriate image or line of dialogue to eruptions of real world narrative wrangles that somehow made it through the illusory barrier between fact and fiction.  It’s amazing just how influential are the books we read the night before we wrote.  Even worse: TV documentaries about paralysed acrobats or the reproductive lives of cephalopods.

    Once you have everything from your drawer innerly edited, you’ll see how your material is all the better for having been tucked away for a while.

    My beef at the moment is how long is an ideal while?

    It’s true that the products of zeal can be cheffed off √° la Ramsay chomp after a relatively short time secreted in the darkness, but if you leave stuff in a drawer for too long, it’s like the thoughts behind the words embed themselves into every serif and sans with the permanence of bloodied urine staining a silk tablecloth.

    Leave stuff in a drawer for too long and it becomes incomprehensible.

    The words make sense only to yourself as you were a year or more ago, and because a whole seventh of your body cells have been replaced in that time (and Smartphones are now available for the tips of your nips) — this means that pretty much everything will need to be rewritten from scratch unless you are prepared to be committed to an asylum.  Sure, you get an inkling about what you were thinking, but the meta-thoughts behind the moment you wrote things down — the colour of the day, the acrobats, the state your cat’s ears were in (and the mush this day-to-day Instant Hopping makes as it rolls along) — all of this is gone, and you are left with words half-formed from thoughts you couldn’t half remember if you tried.

    This is not to say that nothing can be recovered from such arcane expositions.  If your inner editor can be tied up in a trunk and forced to remain silent while you zealpuke, then it ought to be perfectly possible to convert your outer Gordon Ramsay into a sort of literary vacuum cleaner (complete with narrative suction attachment) for snorting off raw material for use elsewhere.

    But such archaeological sub-resurrections are no substitute for pouncing on a half-baked idea at the perfect 50/50 moment between full formation and full-on gestation.  At this time you can pluck the crispness of the sense from the crassness of the waffle and know full well what you are doing.

    I’ve found two weeks to a month to be my perfect drawer while.

    A time span shorter than this allows my inner zealot-with-potential to be fooled by my pan-self total bloody wanker. 

    Give me two months, and I’m bored; six months, and I’m angry with myself for procrastinating; any longer, and I am left holding gibberish where once there was promise of a baby with a rattle and a clutch of banana yoghurt vouchers from Sainsburys.

    How long is YOUR ideal WHILE?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The SmartRacket

Image c/o Fidlerjan @

Monday, September 8, 2014

Discovering Invention

    You can’t go for more than a few minutes these days without some scientist or another discovering a new species of extinct dinosaur off the coast of Hong Kong or a mutant order of vegetable/human hybrids sprouting like mushrooms from Sydney to Honolulu in weirdly original ways.

    It’s like the flora and fauna of the world took a lead from the Terracotta Army and thought hey, let’s make ourselves discoverable, while the dinosaurs (long dead, and petrified) carried on playing the long game.

    All of which makes me wonder — how much other stuff is lying heaped up at the bottom of the ocean or tucked away in some Himalayan hidey-hole?  Buried civilizations, missing links joined at the hip, fossilized alien spacecraft — who knows how many tantalizing seconds away we are from discovering the next unbelievable miracle?  Speaking personally, I’m still holding out for the cave where Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin are shacked up with Elvis and a bunch of Roswell nutzoids.

    The truth, as they say, is out there.

    Great — but what about the fiction?

    The problem with plotting and putting words into people’s mouths and generating those people in the first place is that it’s sometimes such hard work making everything up.

    As writers we get glimmers of scenes and snippets of dialogue, and unless we’re writing anything contemporary and devoid of fantasy or -fi, every single inspiration invites endless world building and justification.

    UNLESS we treat our fiction like the oddly musical amoeboid molecules lurking at the heart of every Terracotta soldier.

    Because maybe they’re in there, those crazy globules — pulsating away and humming to each other in C flat, just waiting for someone to trash a clay commando with a mallet.

    So if you’re stuck today, try presuming your next story or novel is already written, its punctuation marks clustered around words like globs of undiscovered amoeba in a Terracotta soldier (or, if you’d prefer, harmonizing the name of your favourite brand of anti-constipation suppository up the rectum of a petrified Anonymosaurus).

    Presume your fiction already exists — then don suitably IndianaJonesified exploration gear and quest for it, starting at the bottom of your garden.

    “Sometimes, invention is mere discovery.”  Marie Curie

Marie Curie never said that, of course — I just made it up.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Until The Abyss Winks Back

    As I take a momentary break from parsing my 3245 AD edition of the Necronomicon it occurs to me that a great many things have changed since I started this blog.

    Back then, it was April 1st 2008.

    Aspects of the world now gone forever evidenced themselves like flashers practising before the mirror, while monstrosities and angelcast now aswirl in the world right down to the molecules of our blood cells lacked even the minimal existence of whimsy, fancy — or fear.

    No one can fly backwards in time (nor should they) (and nor should they presume to own the future, the wankers) (No! No! No! I will not clamber down from my current Hobby Horse du Jour!), but if I were permitted a moment or two to re-review the evidence, I have to admit that I still agree with the sentiment racking the limbs of that very first post like a life-or-death battle between the on/off switches of rickets and exuberance.

    I have no claim over either the easy life or the difficult one.  Like most people, I am blessed equally by riches, challenges, curses — and all the rest.

    Any post I could write here about being successful in any way would have to be edited to dis-include (even as inspiration) all those moments when I could quite easily have thrown myself off a cliff.  The Midlands may not offer an especially good sea view, but on the cliff issue, it wins hands down.

    Dittoesquely, any post I could write here about being a miserable wasted wretch would have to be edited to dis-include (even as desperation) all those moments when I could quite easily have thrown myself at the moment like a Now Zealot.  The Midlands may not offer an especially good array of extremes, but in that respect it wins hands down on effortless ordinariness.

    Like Whitman said, we contain multitudes. Problem/solution is, we never contain them all at the same time.

    So that’s why this blog is called ABYSSWINKSBACK.

    We all want the good life, but we have to do battle with monsters from time to time.

    That’s a difficult one for everyone, irrespective of the nature of the monsters.

    The only certainty is that at some time or another we will all confront the hostility of a monster’s dark and unforgivingly narrowed iris of the Abyss.

    Gaze here in fear and you are lost; gaze here in hope and you are dumber than an April fool.
    Blink, and — well, you know how it is with Weeping Angels and all.

    Glad I winked in 2008.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Ear Man

    When you break down on the motorway it helps to be saved by a hero.

    This is why people sign up with the AA, the RAC — or Bat Patrol.

    Even if your big end goes the way of Alan Carr’s spazz box — in a Nostradamus meets the Sod of Sod’s Law in a punctured hot air balloon plummeting towards a Sharknadoid tsunami kind of a wayyou can rest assured that your hero will save the day (especially if your otherwise buggered car has operational reclining seats).

    After a brief five minute wait on the hard shoulder, your fully equipped hero arrives, his cape fluttering in the breeze with the unflustered bravado of a monkey wrench spinning across ice.

    UNLESS, that is,  your summoned hero turns out to be...EAR MAN.

    Let me be clear from the outset that this isn’t his real name.  Like Mr Do Something and Mrs Waiting To Be 47 before him, his name derives from the chance collision of his existence and my whimsy du jour, and because this all took place on a Saturday, said whimsy bordered on the Lear-like.

    So: guy with BIG EARS.

    And: surly.

    But: not immediately evident as a hero.

    Prior to the arrival of Ear Man, hero duties were taken up by Cheery Yorkshire Bloke.  He took an age to arrive but once he’d skidded his rescue vehicle next to my stricken conveyance he diagnosed a buggered gear box scenario within seconds, all the time looking wonderfully slick in his pan-body cocktail of hair gel and swarfega.  To round off a perfect afternoon he announced that because he’d been on duty since 2am he couldn’t help any further and would have to call on...another hero.

    Cue Nice Young Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair.

    Half an hour later I found myself in the presence of a roadside emergency duo as Cheery Yorkshire Bloke hung around to help Nice Young Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair haul Dead Conveyance Central onto the back of Hero Rescue Vehicle of Wonder.  Those boys sure knew how to harmonize their grunts, and if fate has done playing cruel tricks on my soul, I hope to see them romp through the coming series of X Factor and emerge as triumphant winners following a nailbiting final belting out Motorhead classics against some wankily embryonic boy band and a blind fat woman from the Isle of Wight.

    In an ideal world, we’d have thundered towards the horizon there and then, but Cheery Yorkshire Bloke (now sopping wet after the sweat of his labours had transformed his gel/swarfega coating into a kind of Blumenthal inspired semen jus
) spotted a problem:

    Nice Young Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair’s rescue vehicle wasn’t equipped with a long enough cable to operate Now In-tow Dead Conveyance Central’s indicator lights!

    I suspect that if the first hero in this trio (and remember: this post is about EAR MAN — and he hasn’t even showed up yet...) had been Uncheery Yorkshire Bloke, the scenario would have ended with NiceYoung Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair having to throw in the towel and bugger off back home.  But the camaraderie  between the Cheery and the Nice knows no bounds, and Cheery Yorkshire Bloke offered his younger companion the cable from his own rescue vehicle, adding (cheerily), “me boss’ll fookin’ kill me tomorrer...”

    So, let’s get up to speed.  I’m in a rescue vehicle driven by Nice Young Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair, mentally calculating that — yes, I can still be home in time for the new series of Dr Who — when the heroic sporter of ludicrous locks pipes up with I can only take you as far as Sheffield, mate.

    Clearly, vehicle rescue heroes have finite orbits.  In this respect they are like the knobbly husks of rock circling planets as moons.

    So: Sheffield.

    I hate Sheffield.

    Of all the cities I’ve never visited for any good reason at all, Sheffield tops the list.

    Always, always, always, shit things happen to me in Sheffield.

    And now it was time for EAR MAN to add his surly self to that list.

    To recap, I refer to Ear Man here as Ear Man because he had big ears.  What he didn’t have was a connector cable for the indicator lights on my hapless conveyance — a grim fact that only dawned on him after Nice Young Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair had sped the fuck off from Sheffield’s scarred backside of a landscape with Cheery Yorkshire Bloke’s badly needed item of kit.

    Ear Man scratched his ear.  “We’ll ‘ave to guh back to headquarters...”

    If facial expressions could be likened to luxury desserts in a five star Michelin restaurant, mine at that moment would have been a Marco Pierre White inspired dolphin cream and Peruvian strawberry Eton Mess upon which no less than sixteen terminally ill mules had squirted their plumes of bacteria-swamped rectal effuse.

    On the way to “headquarters” I discovered three telling nuggets of information about Ear Man.

    1) He deemed Nice Young Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair to be so young looking as to warrant the observation Christ, I thought he’d nicked that fookin’ rescue truck or summat.

    2) He’d been recently marooned in a broken vehicle himself “down Spain way”.

    3) In the remaining 45 minutes of the trip he said no more, adding nothing to his ruminations about Nice Young Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair’s single digit age and clarifying no further precisely where he broke down in Spain, all of which led me to conclude that the mental effort required to maintain a pair of BIG EARS must be as astronomical in kind as the jar used by Cheery Yorkshire Bloke to store his gel/swarfega supplies.

    Needless to say, when we got to Ear Man’s headquarters, the indicator cable he retrieved from the dingiest warehouse known to mankind didn’t work.

    In my Always Searching For The Ultimate Dream Scenario kind of a way, it might have made more sense if the conversation had panned out like this:

    Ear Man: Hold on a second while I fix up the cable.

    Whirl: A second?  Shall I time you?

    Ear Man: No need, pal — it’s working.

    Whirl: That’s ideal beyond belief!  Thanks to your fully functional cable, I shan’t miss a second of Peter Capaldi’s debut as the new Doctor!

    Instead, the conversation went like this, half an hour later after the miracle recovery of a second cable:

    [Car speeds by, horn papping, driver shaking fist]

    Ear Man: They’re fuckin’ mad, some of these buggers.

    Whirl: Yes, that’s the third one like that since we left your headquarters with your fully functional cable operating the indicator lights on my stricken conveyance!

    [Ear Man’s ears twitch as he thumps the dashboard]

    Ear Man: Ey up — I don’t think it’s fookin’ workin’...

    By the time we left headquarters for the second time I knew its layout, its decor and its aroma like the dungeon in which my parents incarcerated me from the age of four months.

    As we headed south at 18½ miles per hour, my infant-born claustrophobia gripped me anew.  Being trapped in a moving vehicle with a connoisseur of the In-Yer-Face Life Story may constitute one of the worst forms of living hell, but being trapped in the same moving vehicle with a paragon of deathly silence and understatement is far, far worse.

    In desperation I offered Ear Man a chocolate eclair.  It’s an ice breaking trick that has worked  superbly down the ages for everyone from Joan of Arc to Morrissey.

    “No thanks,” he said.  “I’d love one, but I find ‘em too moreish.”

    Hey, auricular rescue patrol HONCHO (yes — I figured by now that ‘Ear Man’ didn’t cut the mustard as a monicker), who said anything about the offer of a subsequent eclair?  You get ONE — and then we talk about something, ANYTHING!

    In the constipated silence that followed, my only consolation was that we didn’t get lost and end up in Sheffield again.  I gasped for air and bit my nails down to my elbow joints.  I gazed upon the sorrow etched onto Ear Man’s face, a sorrow mirrored in the Rorschach grease stains splattered on his rip-resistant utility trousers, the glum expressions worn by the clouds and the puddles in the road, and O Satan, save me please from this unending torture!

    When I finally crossed the threshold of Whirl Towers and waved Ear Man on his way with the force of alien planet-rearranging bellows, only five minutes remained before Peter Capaldi’s  dramatic entrance as a Doc Marten sporting Time Lord extraordinaire.

    I slugged at whiskey, bit at Yorkie, tossed myself off into an easy chair.

    My Ear Man ordeal was at an end.

    And my Dr Who ideal had just begun...