Monthly Archives: September 2007

Nina – Part 1

The pan has been hot for four hours straight now. Nina lifts the lid and stirs again. Making sure it’s a deep, important stir. All of the bottom of the pan is scraped, every molecule of curry moved. It’s an key moment and when she steps back she exhales realising she hasn’t been breathing while she was doing it. The women around her laugh.

“I can’t believe how seriously you’re taking this,” Meera says.

“She’s doing what she needs to. It’s okay.” Her mother is the comforting voice.

“Well you know my opinion of him, I wouldn’t bother,” Parminder pipes up, “waste of time if you ask me.”

“Look,” her mother continued, “if Nina wants it to work, I want it work, and so should everyone who loves her.”

Nina, wanted it to work, but she wanted all of her friends to be behind it, even her mother. Especially her mother. And it was exactly comments like that that made her feel that her mother was acting on blind hope rather than any preference for Anil. Maybe she just wanted her out of the house? As if to confirm it, her mother added…

“And with Nina out of the house, I’ll be able to turn her bedroom into a home gym.”

“Indira! Really,” Meera calls out, “you can’t be getting ahead of yourself.”

“There’s no chance with this one anyway,” Parminder confirms, “so I wouldn’t get too excited.”

“Listen you lot,” Nina finally getting her breathing under control decides to stand up for herself, “once he tries this he’ll be putty in my hands.”

Parminder gives a look and says, “Putty is the last thing you want in your hand girl, you want something all together more firm.”

“Like a cucumber,” says Meera.

“Girls,” says Indira, “you have to respect your elders. Listen carefully, I’ll have no talk of putty or cucumbers in this kitchen. What you talk about in your kitchens is up to you.”

“Yes Mrs. Puri”, both Meera and Parminder say together.

Nina looks at her mother with an extra ounce of respect. She knows, Nina remembers, how to run a tight ship. And then Nina’s mother adds something, “Anyway there’s no chance he’s flaccid after this dinner, it’s my mother’s special recipe.”

[Tune in next Friday for dinner.]

The Nines – The Trailer

There is a trailer competition going on for the film The Nines. I have decided to enter, and have decided to go down the route of subverting the genre.

Here is the original trailer of a new film called the nines:

Let me know what you think.

How people choose your book

When you’re writing your novel there are sometimes moments when you find yourself dreaming of your book lying in a bookshop. It’s a nice thought for the aspiring author but the aspiring author should always think of how important the bookshop is.

Think about how you choose a book when you are in a book shop. Most people look at the cover, the title, the author and then open it up and read the first sentence. Some people also read page sixty nine on the advice of Marshall McLuhan – but lets ignore that for the moment.

So the title you can pick and choose and it is very important. But you can’t be an established aspiring author so people aren’t going to recognise your name. And you probably won’t be designing your own cover. But you can focus on the first line that is something you can do.

They can be funny, like Iain Banks in The Crow Road,

“It was the day my grandmother exploded.”

Or intriguing like, Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar,

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”

What are your favourite opening lines?

You move your hand

You move your hand and realise that there’s something on it. It’s spider’s web. You break it. It must have got on you when you walked near that tree. The web isn’t just on your hand. It was stretching up to your shoulder. It’s in your hair. Your hand is up to your hair instantly and then you feel it crawling across your scalp. Both hands now, furiously pushing through your hair trying to disrupt it. It’s gone. It’s fallen. It’s gone… Between your shirt and your skin.

The Voice of God – Part 4

[This is Part 4 of 4 in the 4 part short story The Voice of God. If you’re interested then you may want to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 first.]

“How,” cried out Frank, “how can I help you?”

“You have to wake up,” replied God.

Frank considered this for a moment. He was pretty sure he wasn’t asleep. He decided to pinch himself. It hurt. He looked back up at God, hoping that something there would help him to understand what he had meant. While Frank was looking up, Jerome got quite close and suddenly one of those bursts of flame from Jerome’s nose had got a bit too close to Frank. The bottom of his habit was on fire.

Frank dropped to the floor and rolled around trying to put the fire out. Finally, after much rolling, it was out. Quite a bit of his habit was burned, as was a fair chunk of the hair on his right leg. He was now certain he was quite, quite awake. He called out to God, “what do you want me to do?”

But God was distracted, Jerome was trying very hard to set fire to God’s beard. But what didn’t seem to occur to Jerome was that God’s beard was made out of clouds so all he was doing was causing it to rain on the cloisters.

God, for a second, thought he had caught Jerome in between his hands, but Jerome squeezed through and shot straight up God’s nostril. God opened his mouth in shock and Jerome came flying out screaming, “Who’s the voice of God now”?

God, who had looked shocked moments before, suddenly looked cross and fed up all at the same time. His hand moved forward, he placed it underneath where Jerome was doing cartwheels, and he said, “Stop Jerome”. Jerome fell down into God’s hand – dead. God lowered his hand and very carefully placed Jerome down on the floor of the courtyard. He then turned to Frank.

Frank looked up into God’s eyes. Seeing God at rest for the first time, he realised that God was truly beautiful.

“What did you mean,” Frank said, “when you said you wanted me to wake up. I’m not asleep.”

“No, you’re not. You’re having a stroke.”

And with that God disappeared. The same moment, some of the oblates broke down the door and ran out to rescue Father Frank who was writhing on the floor.

A chill breeze

A chill breeze slides over the back of your neck. The tiny hairs stand shivering to attention. They’re shaking because they’re afraid. Something is happening. You get up from your seat and start to walk around the room. Nothing has changed in here for years. You notice some dust on the clock and for a second you are distracted before you are snapped back to the moment by a noise outside. You move quickly to the window, there’s a crack in the curtain. You approach it but you aren’t sure you’re ready for what you might see. Standing once pace away from the gap you steel yourself to look, half hoping that whatever it is will have moved on. You are ready, you leap forward and pull back the curtain. There is nothing there.

The Voice of God – Part 3

[This is Part 3 of 4 in the 4 part short story The Voice of God. If you’re interested then you may want to read Part 1 and Part 2 first.]

As the rats wriggled through the gaps into the monastery buildings proper Frank couldn’t help but laugh. It wasn’t that he didn’t think this situation was difficult and unusual, it wasn’t that at all, he was laughing despite himself. He was laughing at the reactions from the oblates. Each time a rat got close to one of them you’d see him jump out of his skin.

“You are enjoying that aren’t you”, said the voice inside Frank’s head.

Frank turned to look at the dragon.

“No,” lied Frank.
“Don’t lie, boy.”
“I’m not a boy any more. I’m seventy years old.”
“You’re a boy compared to my experience.”
“I’m not enjoying any of this.”
“Why is there a smile on your face?” The dragon asked.
“Because God has arrived.”

This, thought Frank, was more like it. Clouds had streamed across the sky and combined together, out of the center of the cloud a giant face with a beard emerged. A hand was reaching down towards Jerome. But the dragon had seen it and had started flying with evasive maneuvers. Now each time God’s hand came close, Jerome would breath fire out of his nostrils causing God’s hand to pull back.

“Frank”, Gods voice rang out, “You’ll have to help me.”

[Tune in next Friday for Part 4]

Home publicity is killing the music industry

The music industry thinks that we the customers are to blame for their falling sales. But actually a lot of their problems are due to them failing to embrace a new business model. Or even to a certain extent them working out what that new business model is.

But there is another problem. There are two kinds of publicity out there. The manufactured kind and the newsworthy kind. The former is pop stars going on kids TV, the latter is a star getting themselves caught doing something illegal. The first kind will increase your record sales a bit, the latter will make you number one.

Now record companies and management have a conflict of interest. They want their stars to act illegally because that sells records faster than writing a good record ever could.

Take Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse. They are so much more famous for their antics than their music. Both are talented (or at least were in Doherty’s case – I remain unconvinced of his solo work) and yet that wasn’t enough to make them famous. What made them famous is that they are prominent drug addicts.

Well I’m not about to get high* and mighty about drug use but I can’t help but be concerned about the other side of this equation. The talent of these artists is being put at risk by what they are doing and the only people who can stop them are their management. But their management don’t want to stop them because what they are doing is selling records.

The problem is that all of these antics will only ever sell one rubbish album. After you’ve bought one rubbish album you won’t want to buy another one. And that’s where the record labels are injecting themselves in the foot.

* Whoops unintended pun alert.

Unlikely Exam Questions – No. 1

If during the last days of the Versailles they had had access to bran flakes would that have made it more or less decadent? Discuss.

Ballet

Once upon a time there was a little girl called Molly. And Molly wanted to be a ballerina more than anything in the entire world. She had tried begging, she had tried refusing to finish her supper and she had tried having a full-blown tantrum, but none of these had made Aunt Gertrude change her mind. Even when Molly had made a little ballerina dress out of scrap bits of potato sack, it didn’t melt old Gertrude’s heart.

“You’re not going to melt my heart,” said Gertrude.
“But Auntie I do so want to be a ballerina. I do.”
“So you keep saying, but I cant afford it. Times are tough Molly and until you realise that you’re not going to realise very much.”
“But Auntie…”
“No buts girl, don’t you realise that we’ve only been able to afford chateaubriand twice this week. Do you want me to starve?”

Molly thought that her aunt probably could use a little starvation but didn’t like to say.

“Now,” said Gertrude, “why don’t you go and play out in the front garden? You never know you might make some new friends.”

Molly went outside still wearing her potato sack tutu and started to walk around in the front garden. Just as Molly was deciding that there wasn’t much to do she saw a man was walking alongside the garden. He looked over at Molly who smiled at him.

“What is that you’re wearing?” the man asked.
“It’s a ballerina’s costume”, replied Molly.
“I thought so. It’s a funny coincidence.”
“A coincidence?” Molly was sure she didn’t understand. She looked at the man just to check if he was wearing tutu as well – he wasn’t.
“Yes a coincidence because here I am sticking up signs for ballet auditions. I run the ballet programme in town.”
“Really. Wow. That is a coincidence. Can I ask you a question?” Molly decided that she needed to be really brave. “Is ballet really very expensive. My aunt says that it is very expensive.”
“No it’s not expensive. It’s free. It’s a government-supported arts project.”
“But why would my aunt tell me it was expensive when it wasn’t? I don’t understand.”
“She probably had her reasons.” The man turned and started to walk away.
“Wait,” called out Molly, “do you think I could be a ballerina?”
“No, sorry.”
“Why not? You haven’t even see me turn or anything. So how do you know?”
“Because you’re fat and ugly.”

Moral: Sometimes the bad guy in the story isn’t the one you think it is at the beginning. Gertrude was just trying to save Molly’s feelings.