Meet ‘Help’, yet another short story…

Help

Yeah, if you’d hit that massive hard wall of glass in the background then you’d struggle to open your eyes for a bit too

I was a curious boy – curious about everything, obsessed with fossils, and birds of prey, and insects, and my grandmother’s magical fantasy garden…

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New short story now up, again…The terrifying opinion of (do the sinister music in your head, now)…du-du-duuuuuuuu: Mum!

The first time I sent a manuscript to a publisher, I didn’t know what to think. I’d heard the horror stories all right: the months of waiting — if I was one of the lucky ones — ending in that excruciating form rejection letter. Or worse, form rejection slip…

I’M GOING TO TAKE THE PLUNGE, CHRIS, WHAT THE HELL, LET ME READ IT!

Love Sex?

PIC OF SEXY DUREX AD TO GO HERE!

Call me a Thicko, but to begin with I didn’t get this ad at all. I just thought ‘well she looks quite happy’ and then ‘I suppose they just didn’t have room for the baby she must have had after not using contraception’. Then I realised I’d mis-read the line at the bottom (one day you’ll wish you’d had a Durex condom) and simultaneously saw the bulge. Didn’t I feel like a wally!

You really have to wonder what’s going on when you see a Durex advert on TV.

Already, you see, without you even really knowing it, your brain has just done a pretty impressive thing (unless you quite literally have just awoken from a coma which you’ve been in since 1921). Upon reading the word Durex, the left side of your brain, in its infinite wisdom, will have thought Right then, this is mine to take responsibility of, I’m having this puppy! Impressive, right? I mean, it doesn’t matter how lazy your brain has a habit of being, it will have done this all on its own. Unless you’re exceptional, which in this case isn’t much to be proud about, so wipe that smile off your face.

While all this was going on, don’t be thinking that the rest of your brain was just hanging out waiting for some complex calculation to do or some nice memories to process; no, at the same time, the right-hand side of your brain was doing its bit too: that’s to say it was assessing the tone of the word Durex. And if your right-hand side of the brain is anything like mine – whether you be male or female – then it will have made the following assessment: Ooh, it’s sexy time!

Anyway, enough about sexy time for now, and back to the point.

Seriously, enough about sexy time.

That’s better.

So…

What’s going on with Durex? To my mind, you advertise on TV for one of two reasons: 1) you’re looking to completely reinvent your image in a last-ditch attempt to get your message to the masses or 2) you’re in a highly competitive business, like cars. (Or 3) in fact: you own a massive global corporation and spending crazy amounts of money on enormous TV ads is really fun when you think about it.)

Durex? They’re not really either. I mean, how much can you re-invent a condom brand, short of putting rocket blasters on your rubbers or making them play your favourite kind of music? (Actually quite a good idea, now I come to think of it. Although saying that it might feel a little bit weird…playing out of your vagina….especially if it was Susan Boyle or something heavy like Zeppelin. Let’s not even mention Jedward…) And secondly, am I the only person who can’t think of another condom brand off the top of his head? And nobody be smart and say “Tesco value!” please.

All this analysis and speculation brings me to one double-faceted conclusion: either Durex have caught wind of another company who are ramping up their efforts to become the world’s leading condom brand — Alan Sugar and Tom’s secret plan alongside Tom’s amazing back-pain reducing chair, perhaps — or condoms are just generally going out of fashion. And who knows, that may well be the case – not that fashion matters: water balloons will always be popular even if safe sex isn’t.

And now we come to the advert itself…

Imagine what would happen if you asked the team behind horrendous poor-excuse-for-a-hip-young soap Hollyoaks to re-invent a Durex commercial. And now imagine that, during the excitement of the team being told they had been awarded this prestigious contract, someone with an obsession for late eighties film series Cocoon snuck in, locked an employee in the toilets, stole their highly, irritatingly fashionable clothes — please do not question their motive — and somehow managed to convince the director that they had a really great idea for what should happen at the end of the advert (a bright white glow appearing between the standing-up-sexy-couple). This is what the new Durex advert looks like, as of 2011.

What have Durex got in store for the future? Who knows, but I have a feeling this advertisement isn’t the last we have seen of them…

Never underestimate people: 2) when emails come out of nowhere

INSERT HAPPY PUPPY PIC HERE!
If I’d have been an email-reading puppy, I’d have been this happy

You write a novel, you hate your novel, you love your novel, you edit your novel, you’re scared by your novel.

But mainly: you don’t know what the hell you feel about your novel.

Wait, yeah, you do know: If you’re novel was a person who came knocking on your door, you would floor it instantly.

…and then you actually do it. You find someone to format it — a pain — and you upload your book on Amazon, or wherever else you see fit.

Then you start the promotional stuff. This, in a bizarre kind of a way, is the fun — if terrifying — bit. Free of the woes of editing, you’re able to tell the world about your book. Yeah, woo! You don’t need to hide anymore. The book is real now. People can read it, consume it, and, with any luck, love it as much as you do (OK, not as much as you do. Much as you went through stages of hatred towards your book — to put it mildly… — a bond exists between you and it that no other human being will ever be able to appreciate).

When I started promoting The Number 3 Mystery Book I expected I’d send out countless emails and nothing would happen (read about anything Number 3 related here). My pessimism in this case is hilarious, if not downright odd — I am, and have always been, exceedingy optimistic about everything in life (you have to be to write a book; either that or just very, very bored). But what you have to remember, when promoting your novel, is just that: it’s your novel. To those people you’re contacting, you’re just another stranger who has written a book.

Let’s not talk statistics…let’s just say that most novels that are written are absolutely awful. So why do you think that a stranger should take you seriously?

So…because I didn’t expect anything at all, I felt completely free when I started sending my promo emails out. This made me happy and allowed me to keep on going, which was essential. So, as the days passed and no replies came in, I wasn’t at all bothered. In fact, if anything, I treated it like a race: how many emails can I send out before I get a response?

Then a reply came through which knocked me totally sideways. It was from the owner of an LA based website (ABLE Foundation), and her name was Jihan Cazares.

Jihan’s email was nothing less than amazing, and I quickly learned that the ABLE Foundation was very much in line with the concept of my novel, and with my aim to spread awareness about disabilities while also creating a book which would entertain. Not only was she extremely positive about my novel — I had sent her a rough description and a link to the page on Amazon US — but she wanted to know more about it and was even asking about if I’d be doing paperbacks (which I am…more on that in the very near future). Jihan may not have realised this at the time, but that email really mattered to me. To have a total stranger get back to me so quickly — and with the kind of friendly, enthusiastic tone usually reserved between good friends — was mind-blowing. Not only did it make me feel as though my book could potentially have mass interest, but it made me realise that it isn’t all about the sales. Sometimes it’s just about an email, a smile, and a spring in your step.

So, thanks Jihan!

STOP THE PRESS! (Unless you’re The News of the World, in which case it’s a bit late to be shouting that.)

PIC OF AN EGG YOKE HERE!
A vision of BEAUTY: I could have posted a photo of a double-yoke egg but I didn’t want to be accused of blowing anyone’s mind

You can buy a single egg with not one but two yokes inside! This isn’t some warped optimistic vision created by a late-night cheese-eating expedition, oh no: this is plain and simple scientific fact. You see dear reader, according to my dear mother, who is an expert on such things, you can walk into “any good supermarket” and source these wondrous evolutionary creations entirely at your leisure (or “leesh-yur”, if you’re American). Buy a dozen, go on! Or even buy two-dozen! (But no more than that, please. Spare a thought for other double-yoke-lovers, you cruel-cruel person you.) I dare say you can even demand someone bring you some of these beauties and it won’t be met with too much hostility. After all, if a paying customer should be allowed to demand anything it is a single chicken’s egg with two yokes!

But wait…it’s not all fun and games. Because after some quick research — very quick and highly inconclusive, that is — I have discovered that some degree of manipulation must be at work here. Either countless innocent chickens are being poked with electric cattle-prods or shouted at — how loud would you have to shout at a chicken (or a gang of chickens) to make it lay a double-yoke egg? — or somewhere along the line human intervention is doing its devious work, again.

And the question then is this: where do you draw the line? Three yoke eggs? Five yoke eggs? Or might a day come when egg-whites become endangered and legions of egg-white-loving chefs decide to rise up against the masses and go on strike, making countless dishes of food extinct overnight?

Personally I’m not too bothered about egg-whites disappearing. I’ve always liked the yokes the best.

Why do we watch horror films?

Either a cannibal caught slightly unawares or...a great stand in for Richard O' Brien of The Crystal Maze fame

To say that films like The Hills Have Eyes or The Exorcist are, as I have sometimes heard horror films described, “Like something out of our worst nightmares” is missing the point in a big way, I think. I don’t believe that’s giving horror films the psychological credit they truly deserve. Because in nightmares, even our worst ones, the horror is temporary and the effect is transient; assuming we’re talking about the every-day usual kind which we’re all familiar with, and not nightmares associated with sleeping disorders such as Night Terrors, there’s very little permanent about them. As terrible as they can be, and as lingering as the effect of them occassionally is, after a while they lose their power. In time they morph into shadows of their former selves, and the more you think about them, the less you can actually remember being there, being afraid, or even what, specifically, the nightmare was actually about. Soon, you can’t even remember what gave them their power in the first place. Years later, they’ve faded completely.

I mean, think about it: how many nightmares can you actually recall with any degree of clarity?

Horror films, though…they’re different. In a horror film, everything is permanent. Unlike in a nightmare, you can watch and re-watch this terror as much as you like and every single aspect of it will manifest just as perfectly as the first time; there are no exceptions to this rule. It’s a nightmare you can immerse yourself in at will, and one which presents itself in the same way for everyone. There’s no need to explain to someone how this particular nightmare unfolded or what will happen next. And the best thing — if you want to call it the best thing — ? The nightmares just keep getting more real and even worse. Now technology and special effects have caught up with our imagination, there isn’t any power they can’t possess. The result: their capacity to scare the crap out of us is infinite.

And now, or within the last 20 years, something utterly astonishing has happened: for the first time in history, films have actually exceeded what our nightmares are capable of producing.

If I was a nightmare I’d be pretty pissed off, I think.

I’m sure that even if you don’t watch or like horror films, you’ll have heard of The Hills Have Eyes. The brainchild of a younger, trail-blazing Wes Craven (Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street), the film marked a turning point in horror cinema when it was released in 1977. After that, nothing was ever the same again.

I won’t go into detail about the plot, but in it — both the original and the 2006 remake — an American family make the mistake of taking a short-cut through the desert while en route to San Diego, California. After their vehicles are mysteriously thrown from the road, it soon becomes clear that the unforgiving foreboding landscape around them is not as lifeless as it first appeared…

Spoiler alert:

A man is burned alive in front of his family: you see everything. A young woman is sexually assaulted by the kind of man who you wouldn’t want to meet in any kind of alleyway — no matter how wide or bright — but would get an enormous round-of-applause on Britain’s Got Talent, thanks to his being so hideously ugly. People are shot, heads explode, and the violence…it’s relentless, brutal, and presented with the kind of production value which makes every moment feel genuine. The politicial context is also not for the faint-hearted; chances are that if I was American, I’d be feeling guilty about my government.

Basically, you can tell yourself it’s all acting, all effects, but this bloodbath, as you watch it, is all too real.

Now, just watching this film, I feel wrong. It isn’t even that I enjoy watching it.

But the point is I do watch it. Through all the atrocities and the gore I don’t turn it off. For whatever reason — and this isn’t one of those BBC News features, so don’t expect a cold, rational, reliable psychological evaluation — I feel victory during parts of it: my base animal self wants to scream and run; when the lead character triumphs over the evil cannibals, or when it looks like something might go right for a change. (Which is short-lived, but you knew that, right?)

My guess is that we all get something different out of horror films: some of us find them intense in a good way — a way of exploring darkness, maybe, without having to actually live it ourselves. Some people like the humour or being able to live out the “what would I do if that was me?” scenario.Some people just love the giddy excitement of it all, and that’s fair enough too. You can’t beat a bit of giddy excitement.

One thing is certain: horror films are not going anywhere. Now we’re seeing what our nightmares might be like, if we’d ever be able to harness their power and expand that split-second into something more permanent, there’s no way we can’r ever be addicted.