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simon collis

musings of an omnivorous biped

This is the “Behind The Scenes” for Veronica. Please read the original story if you want to avoid spoilers.

Veronica came to me while walking the dogs, basically while looking for a story to write for the week. The idea came to me more or less fully formed, and all I had to do is to follow the characters through, so the writing was fairly easy.

One of the things I wanted to try and do was to maintain the surprise until the end, and try to make it so that nobody knew where exactly the story was going until it got there. Read more

Veronica

Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/06/02
Posted in Year of Short Stories  | Tagged With: , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

Mitch first saw her at the hotel bar. She was a little shorter than him, maybe early twenties, short bobbed dyed blond hair, miniskirt, black high heels and legs that brought out the animal in him.

Hello, he thought, the wife’s away, and when the cat’s away, the mice will play, right?

He summoned the waiter over, pointed to the girl at the bar, and then made a drinking motion. The waiter nodded, and went up to the her. He talked to the woman, who ordered something – he didn’t see what – and they whispered conspiratorially. She clearly asked where it came from; the waiter pointed in Mitch’s direction. He raised his whisky glass and smiled and she grinned back and waved.

Half-way there already Mitch, he thought. This delicious little piece is going to be so nice. Read more

This is the “Behind The Scenes” post for the latest story, “Underground Supporters“. If you haven’t read the original story yet, I advise you to do so as this post is more spoiler-laden than usual…

First off, an apology for this instalment of “Behind The Scenes” being a day later than usual. That’s simply because the release of the podcast yesterday meant I either tagged it onto this post, or delayed it for a day. Since I never really even committed to writing one of these every week (even though that’s what I am doing), I decided that it would be a good idea to delay this a day, so my apologies if you’ve been waiting for this post since then.

“Underground Supporters” was an attempt to write a story set in a not-too-distant, and plausibly wretched, future. Having watched both “Where The Wild Things Are”, as well the qualifying for the Monaco GP, in the days before writing this one the name Max was stuck in my head so I used it for the protagonist. The name Max is pretty well associated with dystopian futures, of course, not only Mad Max, of course, Max Headroom, and (my favourite) Max Damage from the brilliantly bonkers Carmageddon series (although avoid TDR 2000 if you enjoy staying awake). Read more

Walking Home

Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/05/30
Posted in News  | Tagged With: , , , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

So here’s some big news!

I know that when I said I was going to write a story for every week of the year, it was going to be fifty-two. Well, it looks like it’s going to be fifty-three…

The Story Guide Podcast if you’re not familiar with it, is based around writing autobiographical (or at least semi-autobiographical) stories around key incidents in life and explaining how they related to you. I went into the process feeling a bit skeptical, but ended up not only enjoying it, but also feeling that I’d written something that was actually slightly better than I’d hoped.

The podcast is presented by Alysia Seymour, and you can listen to the episode online, or subscribe on the podcast page.

The story Walking Home will appear as a bonus item in one of the collections of stories from this site, which will be published later this year.

The post “Walking Home” first appeared on simoncollis.com and is Copyright © Simon Collis 2018. All rights reserved.

Max’s watch pinged, and the screen of his phone lit up. He groggily reached over and held up the phone to look at the screen.

MAIL: 1m ago

Government Social Media Team

Dear Max,

It is our sad duty to report that this month your grade has dropped one level to grade D. This is because…

“Oh man,” Max blearily brushed the hair out of his eyes, and opened the phone to read the email.

“Tweets contrary to government policy…” he muttered to himself. “Criticism of a foreign government… Sheesh. They’ll be busting me next.” Read more

This is the “Behind The Scenes” post for the story “Trees Looking At Me“. Please read the original story first if you want to avoid spoilers.

I had a great idea for a story last Tuesday. There was a talking tiger, it was set in 1830s India, it was kind of kooky. It was going to be great. Except it was almost impossible to get started.

So in the end I decided to try and write something in under a thousand words – something I’ve not done before this year. I went on a site that generates random titles (http://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/book-title-generator.php) and ended up with “Trees Looking At Me”. And I just started writing. Read more

“The trees are looking at me again,” Kyra said, playing with her hair. “They do that, mummy, when they think you’re not looking.”

“Don’t be silly,” her mother said. “If I hear you say that again, I’ll have to be cross with you. Now go and play with your dolls.”

“I can’t,” she sighed, still looking out of the window at the rain. “They’re not speaking to me.” Read more

This is the “Behind The Scenes” post for the story “She And Him“. Please read the original story first if you want to avoid spoilers.

I stumbled around looking for an idea for this week’s story until Friday night – I knew we were going out Saturday, and that was also the day of the Eurovision final, so the evening was out.

I started with a few different titles – I began writing a story about a surfer called “Son of the Beach”, which not only suffered from having a pun for a title, an author who knows next to nothing about surfing and no idea of what I was going to do for a plot.

Finally I just typed “S” and started off with the idea of someone looking down at their hands and not recognising it. Read more

She And Him

Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/05/12
Posted in Year of Short Stories  | Tagged With: , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

I looked down at the chopping board. There was a cucumber half sliced, and I was holding the knife in my hand. Not that it looked like my hand. I think.

“Shaun?” someone behind me said. “Are you all right? Did you get an electric shock off that?”

I turned round. She was a middle-aged, red haired woman, who was looking at me with some concern.

“Who’s Shaun?” I asked, confused.

She frowned at me, put a hand on my shoulder, and led me to a chair.

“Sit here,” she pointed at the chair. I nodded, and sat down.

“What happened?” I asked.

“You were cutting cucumbers,” she said. “You touched the counter, there was a flash, and you squealed. Then you just stopped, and stood there, looking around.”

“Oh,” I replied. I wasn’t sure what else to say.

She walked off, and I looked around me. I was in a small cafe, with seven or eight tables, and a large counter behind the glass front of which were displayed various cakes and sandwiches.

“Where am I?” I asked, of nobody in particular, idly picking up a menu from between the salt and pepper shakers.

In the background, I could hear her dialing on the telephone, three digits.

Daisy Bell’s – Vegan sandwiches and corporate catering the menu read.

“Who’s Daisy Bell?” I asked, looking across to the kitchen area.

“My granny? Don’t you remember she gave us the money to start – oh, hello, ambulance please.”

“Ambulance?” I shouted to her. “I don’t need an ambulance. I’m fine.”

She ignored me, and I carried on reading the menu. It was interesting, but clearly geared for volume purchases. Without looking through the main books and calculating the food unit cost, I couldn’t be sure about the margins, but no doubt a few minutes work talking to the suppliers would see some reductions in the overall invoices. After all, regular customers are regular income, and keeping them sweet is always good business. A small redesign on the menu wouldn’t hurt, especially if there was good data on what sold well and what didn’t – highlighting good sellers and the ones that made good profits would no doubt be a good start.

I decided it would be best to make some notes and looked around for my briefcase.

Briefcase?

“Where’s my briefcase?” I shouted.

“Sorry hold on,” she said to the phone. “Briefcase? You don’t have a briefcase.”

I turned around to see her looking askance at me.

“I just wanted some paper and a pen,” I said. “I think there’s improvements that can be made to the business model here.”

Her look clouded over.

“Yes, that’s right, number forty-two,” she replied to a question I didn’t hear. “He’s talking… well, like someone else, really, is the best way I can describe it.”

“I’m not someone else,” I replied. “This is just what I do, is all.”

I started at the menu in my hand.

“This is what I do?” I asked myself. “What do I do?”

I sat down again.

I didn’t feel right, that was all. Surely I just needed to de-stress myself. Yes, that was it – it must be. Stress. I was getting stressed. After all, the Stross project was going a bit…

“What time is it?” I asked, suddenly panicked.

I checked my wrist. My watch was gone – my good one, replaced by… nothing. There was nothing there.

“Oh my god,” I shouted. “Where’s my watch? My watch! My husband gave me that for my anniversary!”

The woman came over and looked at me.

“Shaun, stop it,” she said. “If this is a joke it isn’t funny.”

I shook my head. “I don’t know what you mean,” I replied.

“Look,” she took a deep breath and cocked her head over to one side. “Whatever’s going on, you’ve had your fun. I get it, you’ve had a bit of a shock and you need a bit of a break. Fine. But this is just being silly.”

“No,” I said, “I’m serious. He gave me that on our fifth anniversary -”

“I’m your wife!” she shouted, cutting me off. “Stop it.”

I blinked in disbelief. “I’ve got to be in a meeting at three with Stross,” I said. “I can work on the train. I need to have made some progress on the…”

I couldn’t remember.

“The what?”

“I forgot,” I said. “I forgot again.”

She let out a scream of frustration, and threw her hands in the air.

“I’m going to start calling people about lunch,” she said. “This is going to cost us a lot, Shaun, I hope you know that.”

“I can phone them,” I said. “Trust me, I can do that.”

I stood up.

“What are you prepared to lose?” I asked. “Money wise?”

“You what?” she looked at me, nonplussed.

“Trust me,” I said. “This is what I do.”

She looked at me, blinked, and then started for a moment. “Have you gone mad?” she asked.

“Possibly,” I replied. “Give me the hardest client, get the worst over first.”

She ran a hand through her curly red hair, and looked at me.

“Oh and what’s your name?” I asked.

“What?”

“Your name?” I repeated. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t remember? You honestly, really, don’t remember my name?”

I shook my head.

“Esther,” she said, resignedly. “It’s Esther.”

“And I’m Shaun, right?”

“Yes.”

“OK,” I said. “Let’s do this.”

I put both hands together and cracked my knuckles.

“You never do that,” she said.

I shrugged.

“Or that.”

She opened a notebook book and pointed to a name and address.

“Derek Chapel,” she said. “Good luck.”

I tapped the number into the wall phone (who has a wall mounted phone these days?) and waited.

“Derek Chapel,” someone said.

“Hello Mr Chapel,” I said. “It’s Shaun here from Daisy Bell’s. I’m very sorry to say we’re having a few technical issues here and we’re not going to be able to fulfil your order today.”

“You’re what?” the voice on the other end went from calm to almost shrieking within the space of two words. “Now you listen to me -”

“My reaction as well,” I cut in. “I can totally understand and believe you me I’d be exactly the same. And if I could have fixed the problem myself, I would. I won’t bore you with it, I’ve got a few other calls to make and there’s an ambulance on the way.”

“An ambulance?” he snorted. “What happened, your wife have some kind of sudden aversion to hard work? I don’t think they can treat that in hospital you know.”

Esther narrowed her eyes and looked at me.

“Well, electric shock actually,” I said, omitting the part that (apparently) the shock was mine.

“What?”

“Yes… could be serious,” I replied. “We don’t quite know yet.”

He coughed. “Ah… well I’m sorry I said that, you know, about…”

“Quite all right,” I said, jovially. “We all say things sometimes, don’t we? Anyway, we’ll make sure we don’t charge for today and we’ll look at a discount tomorrow, we should be back tomorrow, if I can get hold of that woman from the agency again.”

“Oh don’t bloody start me on agencies,” he snarled.

I grinned. Got him. Esther, listening in, raised an eyebrow.

“I know,” I said. “I could tell you some horror stories, the people we’ve had over the years, I can tell you.”

“Bloody useless,” he continued. “The lot of them.”

“Anyway, I’ll have to go,” I said. “Lots of calls to make and, as I say, there’s an ambulance on the way.”

“Yeah,” Chapel said. “Sorry about that. Anyway… give my best to Esther, won’t you? And.. er… don’t worry, I won’t expect anything until you call me, just let me know when you’re ready, OK?”

“That’s very good of you Mr Chapel,” I said. “I’ll be sure to do that.”

He hung up.

Esther stared at me.

“How did you manage that?” she asked.

“Easy,” I said. “First off, I tried to create empathy by –”

She shook her head. “I don’t mean how, exactly, I mean, how did you know –”

There was a knock at the door.

“Ambulance?” someone said.

Esther went over and opened the door and two uniformed ambulancemen walked in. She explained briefly what was happening, and I waited. When she’d finished, they walked me over to the ambulance.

They started asking me questions. They asked me about my medical history, which I had no idea about. Esther filled them in. Apparently I was a vegan, which was news to me as by now I was craving a bacon sandwich.

I sat in the waiting room, next to Esther, waiting. We sat in silence for a long time.

“So I guess this is real, then, is it?” she finally asked.

I nodded. “Sorry.”

She sighed.

The waiting room doors opened, and I recognised myself. Of course, I wasn’t myself. But I remembered putting on that skirt this morning. And those were my shoes. And that looked like me wearing them, although it was a surprise to see myself walking through the doors.

“Esther!” she shouted. Or I shouted, I suppose.

She – well, I – turned to me – him.

“And you must be – me?” she asked.

“Christine Bouwhuis,” I said. “At your service.”

She sighed.

“Electric shock?” I asked.

She nodded.

“So she’s you?” Esther asked, looking from one to the other. “And you’re him?”

We both nodded.

She – or rather Shaun, in my body – sat down opposite us.

We were all silent again.

“So…” I asked “What do we do now?”

The post “She And Him” first appeared on simoncollis.com and is Copyright © Simon Collis 2018. All rights reserved.

This is the “Behind The Scenes” post for the story “Road To Back Home“. Please read that first if you want to avoid spoilers…

Yet again, the curse of not being able to think of an idea for a story struck again, and yet again my backlog of ideas bailed me out. This one has been in my “to write” list for a few years now, and this was a good time to dig it out.

The house itself is based on one that I lived in a few years ago, internally at least. The arrangement of the landing is exactly as I remember it, although the garden and front room are from a different house. To be fair, the layout is generic enough that it could be from anywhere, and I’m sure there’s a hundred thousand houses that could be described in exactly the same way within a mile of where I am right now.

I’m trying a new approach to the writing this time, trying to take more time while writing and imagining the events in more detail before writing each section. I then read it aloud to Rebeca, which really helps – that made me conscious of plot issues, repeated words (and I am terrible for repeating words within a sentence), and other issues (at one point, in the first draft, time ran backwards… oops). It’s a good technique, and I recommend it.

Another technique that I’m experimenting with is something I was told years ago – if you read a book, read it twice: once for fun, the second time to see how it’s done. I’m doing that now and it’s interesting to see how other authors handle things once you know what’s coming. It’s early days, but so far that’s something else that I would recommend, if you’re trying to write.

The post “Behind The Scenes: Road To Back Home” first appeared on simoncollis.com and is Copyright © Simon Collis 2018. All rights reserved.