Sunday, 22 December 2013

Fibbin' Archie



Sunday, 10 November 2013

Fibbin' Archie

I have wondered for some time about the presence of the Golden Segment in literature. Those of us who like literature certainly recognise that stories presented in literary form have a shape that includes a beginning, a middle that follows certain conventions, but not too strictly, and an end. If these are out of balance we notice. But is this a learned response or is it natural?
The presence of the Fibonacci series in nature tends to suggest that we are dealing with something natural here. This series of numbers can be traced in the patterns of sunflower seeds, in rabbits breeding and in branch formation in plants and trees, to give just a handful of examples. In this experiment I have set out to work with this series. One might sub-title this novel “Writing by Numbers”. The first chapter is one word long, the final one is 28,657. I have labelled each chapter simply by the number in the series it represents.
In doing this I’ve not completely ruled out my normal way of planning fiction. Distilled from various story theories I find work for me, and in particular that of Robert McKee, the shape I favour is:
Inciting incident
Growing complexities (usually three)
Climax (This is actually the gap between the crisis and the resolution and generally where all the excitement is. From this point onwards life can never be quite the same again for the protagonist, however the story resolves. Everything up to now was a rehearsal for this big moment.)     
A more complex novel – and Fibbin’ Archie is complex – will have sub plots. How sub plots relate to the main plot is also to do with the Golden Segment. Andrew Melrose identifies a plot pyramid in Write For Children and I build upon that work in Writing for Young Adults.      
The Fibonacci series anyway produces the Golden Segment. We see this in the ratio of any two adjacent numbers in the series to their sum. That is there in the formula described above. There are echoes of it in the three act structure and the five act structure from the world of film and television and the slightly different version of this in stage play.
This is how I worked the mathematics out for Archie.

Inciting incident





60019 crisis


Note that the crisis point happens at about word 60019.  So there is a build up to it and then we come back down to the resolution. Once I reached word 46,368 I knew I had to make the stakes higher. 
Christopher Vogler suggests that sometimes we can follow a formula too rigidly. He identified what works for the film industry and based his suggestions for story on Joseph Campbell’s work. Vogler suggests that it is often more satisfying for the consumer when that formula is skewed slightly. The formula is skewed slightly in Archie. Content spills round the edges of word count. It could be, perhaps that numbers aren’t accurate enough to pinpoint exactly when events need to occur. What I have stuck to rigidly here is the word count per section, and then shaped the content to the section.   
At the end of the book I’ll be giving you some more information about what it was like writing this way. I welcome commentary on this project and for once this is a book I don’t mind you giving away for free; the more people who read it the better. By all means put the usual reviews on Amazon and Good reads, good or bad. I’d also welcome direct commentary which I’ll like to publish verbatim or collated in summary if there is a huge response. Please send your comments to
Thank you for taking the time to read Fibbin’ Archie.
You must have noticed the pun by now. It is, of course, deliberate.      

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Tower

This is the first chapter of The Tower, the third part of my Peach Child trilogy. You may also like to read Rozia's Glog which links this to Babel, the second part of the trilogy.   

Forgetting Rozia

Day 170 Louish’s News

Well, that was fascinating!
Louish was as dramatic as ever.
First off, she greets me in a bright royal blue tunic covered in glittery sequins. It was an incredible outfit. It had  great pleats in the body of it and the sleeves as well. Mind you, it really suited her. And her make-up! I mean, I’m wearing make-up all the time now, but I try to do it so that it doesn’t show. But Louish! Long curly eyelashes. Thick eye-liner. Bright blue eye shadow that matched her tunic. A huge beauty spot. And lipstick so red it almost looked as if her lips were bleeding.
Then there was all her prodding and poking – trying to get things out of me. So much so that I ended up telling as much about Julien as I dared.
“Well, my dear,” she said. “You’re looking well. Any sign of any new romance?”
At that point, I felt my cheeks burning.  
“Ah, I see there is,” she said. “Well, do not fear anything from me, sweetie.  If that nutcase of a grandson of mine can’t appreciate what is right in front of him, what’s offered to him on a plate, well then he’s even more of a fool that I thought.”
She stroked my hair and then gave me a huge hug. I don’t know why exactly, but that set me off. I couldn’t hold back the tears. Was I still sad about Kaleem? Was I pleased she accepted the idea of Julien?
Maybe she defined it herself in the end.
She sighed. “I’m sure he’s a fine young man, whoever he is,” she said. “But he’ll take you away from our family I expect.”
The lunch was superb, of course. Louish is always so cheerful and she tells such funny stories. But as we had coffee afterwards she became deadly serious. 
“I want to arrange a meeting,” she said. “A secret meeting. Between you and Razjosh.”
I couldn’t begin to imagine what Razjosh might want with me.
“Oh?” I said.
“Yes, he wants to discuss the whole switch-off thing with you. Making sure it becomes permanent.”  
“Ah,” I replied. I couldn’t think that that was going to be easy. He had just had such a narrow escape from switch-off himself.  “What does Elder Frazier think?”
“He’s all for it, my dear. In fact, he’ll be at the meeting too,” she replied. “You will agree to it, won’t you?”
How could I not? Louish is such a well-meaning person. I nodded. 
“Great!” she said, and beamed.
The rest of the afternoon was lovely. We went for a walk together. She told me all about what she and the other elders’ attachments get up to. Despite this rather heavy task she’s landed me with, it always does me good being with her. I really can’t believe she’s a grandmother and that her  grandson is grown up. .     
“End and delete,” said Kaleem. That was definitely the last time he would read Rozia’s glog. Now that his grandmother knew about the new man in her life perhaps she would stop nagging him about getting back together with Rozia.
Rozia. She was obviously happy with Julien. That had been the plan. Leave her. Allow her to find someone else. There was no place for romance in the life of a Peace Child. He’d even told her that he approved, even made it sound as if he didn’t care.
Yet still she was producing her glog in Wordtext. She was doing that for him, he knew. He doubted whether Julien could read Wordtext. And every time now that he read her glog, he just hoped that she still wanted to be with him. But she was with Julien now. Just as he had planned. No point hoping it was otherwise. What was the point, then, of her writing this glog in Wordtext? Was she trying to torment him?  There was certainly no point in him reading it anymore.  
He sighed. What was there to look forward to now, though?     
The door to the apartment swished open. Kaleem tensed, hoping there would be just one set of footsteps and no voices.
“I’ll get some coffee on the go,” he heard Marijam say. “Then I’ll go and get Kaleem.”
“Great stuff,” he heard Nazaret reply.
He could do without this. The sooner he got his own apartment, the better. It had been good at first, finding out that he had a father who was still alive. He actually liked Nazaret, for goodness sake, but he just couldn’t feel comfortable when he and Marijam were together. He wasn’t sure why. Perhaps it was because he’d lived for all those years with just his mother. Perhaps it was because Nazaret had abandoned him and Marijam. Or did it come down to Rozia again? After all, Nazaret hadn’t had any choice in being taken from Terrestra. He hadn’t known that Marijam was pregnant. Perhaps you could you say that what he’d done to Rozia was worse? Leaving her when she was so ill?  Or was he jealous because Nazaret and Marijam had carried on being in love over all those years of separation; neither of them had found another partner. And Rozia had found Julien. In just a few weeks.
Then, even if he could argue himself out of all of those points, he and Nazaret were always awkward around each other. He longed to have the same easy relationship with his father as he had with his mother.  
“Hey, sweetie,” called Marijam, bouncing into Kaleem’s room. “Your father’s got something really exciting to tell you. Will you come and join us?” Her eyes were shining and her cheeks were glowing pink.
It was so good to see her so happy and full of fun these days. She had always been so serious when they lived on Terrestra in the cave apartment.
“I’ll be in in a minute,” said Kaleem. It was so stupid how he always had to brace himself to be in the same room as Nazaret.     
“I’ll call you when the coffee’s ready,” said Marijam, beaming.
That was why he kept on staying with them. His mother was so happy having both of her men under the same roof. And it wouldn’t, after all, be forever. At some point he would have to go off on another Peace Child mission.  
He supposed he ought to check again on how Project Acorn was going. The dataserve whirred into life before he as much as made a voice command. He ought to be used to how the dataserves here seemed to read your mind. He’d spent enough time on Zandra, but it was still disturbing, not least of all because he couldn’t work out how they did it.
Movie clips of the Supercraft in London Harbour and Zandra Dock 1 started loading and a voiceover began reading off numbers. Kaleem frowned. He would prefer this in Figurescript as he could read it. It would be quicker and he could just look up what he needed to know. He opened his mouth ready to give the command. The screen flickered and suddenly rows and rows of figures appeared.
I wish it wouldn’t, thought Kaleem. But this is better.
He’d hardly had time to think than when the screen changed again.
“Receive message from Don Edmundson?” asked the machine. A static picture of Edmundson, the coordinator of Project Acorn, appeared on the screen.
What now? thought Kaleem. He sighed. He’d better speak to him he supposed.
Edmundson immediately went live.
“Good morning, Kaleem,” said Edmundson. He was frowning as usual. “I need to arrange a meet with you. I take it you have no objections?”
He doesn’t give anything away, thought Kaleem, looking carefully at Edmundson’s face for any clue about what he might be thinking or feeling. It was expressionless apart from the frown.
Always the same neutral face.
“There isn’t a problem, is there?” asked Kaleem.
“Hope not,” said Edmundson. “Three tomorrow afternoon, Gengis Hall 231?”
“Yes, of course,” said Kaleem. There was no point prodding Edmundson. If it was something he could have said by a dataserve link he would have said it. There must be a really good reason why he wanted them to meet in person. Kaleem dreaded what that might be.                    
“Good,” said Edmundson and the screen snapped back to the Figurescript pages.
“Coffee’s ready,” shouted Marijam from the lounge.
It just gets worse, thought Kaleem.
Marijam was pouring the coffee herself as he walked into the lounge. Even though she and Nazaret had every modern convenience including the state of the art house droid, Marijam often preferred to do her own catering. She beamed at Kaleem.
“Hi, Kaleem,” said Nazaret, a little stiffly “would you like to come and see this?”
What did he want now, Kaleem wondered. He sat on the comfisessel next to Nazaret, who was looking at a small portable dataserve on the coffee table in front of them.
A movie clip started up. It showed some woodland with trees and all sorts of grasses and flowers growing under them. Kaleem supposed it was from Terrestra, but did notice that most of the trees were very young. 
“These are young oak trees on one of the new Zandrian plantations,” said a voiceover.
“And those flowers are all native to Terrestra except that little one there,” said Nazaret, pointing at the screen.
The screen zoomed in at once to a small flower Kaleem had never seen before. It had papery ivory petals with delicate thread-like streaks of very pale pink and blue woven through them.
“The Zandrian ice-bell,” explained Nazaret. “And those there-” He pointed to what Kaleem recognised as bluebells. “Are native to Terrestra, but only one variety is appearing. This is the one which has white pollen. The stronger one, the one which grows so viciously that it tends to take over, is not appearing at all. Then there are all the usual fungi and mosses – everything that you would expect to find in Terrestran woodland.” 
“How?” asked Kaleem. He did not feel quite so uncomfortable with Nazaret when they were talking about things like this.
“A bit of a mystery,” replied Nazaret. “We would expect a few spores and seeds to get mixed up with acorns. But why the type one bluebell exclusively? It would be more understandable if it were the type two, the hardier one. And the ice-bell is a real mystery. It is not one of those plants whose seeds lie dormant until the soil is turned. There were plenty of those around before the deforestation disaster. Why is it precisely this one that has come back and not the others?”
Nazaret was beaming now. Kaleem wished he could feel as enthusiastic about his father’s work.
“Even more exciting,” Nazaret continued. “All of the plant life has adapted extremely well to the Zandrian clock and season rotation. At any one time plants at all stages of their cycle are present.”
“Come on you two,” said Marijam. “Drink up your coffee before it gets cold. And you should tell him your most exciting news.”
“Aha!” said Nazaret, taking a sip of his coffee. “Guess who is going to head up the research into all of this?” The man’s eyes were positively shining. He looked like a child with a new toy.
For a moment Kaleem felt content. He could be proud of his father taking on such an important job. He could be happy that he was so happy. He did like the man for goodness sake. That was never the problem. He wasn’t really sure exactly what was. 
“That’s great,” he said.
“Isn’t it?” said Marijam. She got up out of her seat and made her way over to Nazaret. She put her arms round his shoulders and planted a brief kiss on his cheek.
But Nazaret pulled her face back to his and kissed her full on the lips. He lingered a little too long for Kaleem’s liking.
Oh for goodness sake. Why shouldn’t a man kiss his attachment? Even if it was your father kissing your mother? Get a grip, Kennedy-Bagarin, thought Kaleem. It’s not as if they’re about to have sex.     
He gulped his coffee down.
“I’d better get on,” he mumbled, getting up to leave the room.
“Don’t work too hard,” called Marijam, pulling herself away from Nazaret, who seemed reluctant to let her go.    
Kaleem sighed to himself as he made his way out of the room. He wished he didn’t have to be like this. 


Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Prophecy ON the Planet Chapter Five

‘Nothing to worry about. Nothing to worry about at all,’ said the doctor at Health Centre 215. ‘It’s just this year’s grippa virus. Though I must say it’s a bit more tenacious in your case. I’d like to give you a full scan.’
‘Why?’ asked Kaleem. ‘Might there be something else as well?’
If it were the Starlight Fever back again, it would be better if they didn’t find out. He had hesitated to come, but Alistare had nagged him until he had given in.
‘I very much doubt it,’ said the doctor. ‘I just want to see that nothing’s damaged inside. These stethowands are marvellous at diagnosis. They’re useless at spotting inner problems. I shouldn’t think there’s anything to worry about. You’re normally fit and healthy aren’t you?’
‘I try to eat well and get plenty of exercise,’ replied Kaleem.
‘There you are then. Nothing to worry about, I’m sure. I’ll just give you a nubin shot and you’ll feel better in seconds. Then we’ll get that scan arranged.’
The dataserve in the small consulting room sprang into life. A drawer opened from which the doctor took a small pistol-like object with a rounded end.
Kaleem felt a strange tingling sensation as the doctor pointed the nubin gun at  the top of his arm. Seconds later he was beginning to feel better. The ache slowly began to melt away from his muscles. His temperature gradually returned to normal.
So, if that’s all there is to being ill, he thought why did we make such a big deal of it?
The Health Centre 215 was much busier than the one and only health centre on Terrestra. The Zandrians seemed to accept illness as a part of everyday existence. It was just something to be dealt with as efficiently as possible, so that life could carry on. It was not the great evil that the Terrestrans feared.
The scan was not at all unpleasant. Kaleem had expected something like the tests he had had on Terrestra. This was totally different. All he had to do was stand for a few seconds totally naked, in something which resembled a shower cubicle. A light then passed over his whole body. There was a slight hum. He didn’t feel a thing.
‘All done,’ called the assistant outside. ‘You can come out and get dressed now.’
It was just a short walk back to the doctor’s office. He was already looking at the results when Kaleem walked in.
‘No,’ he said. ‘no problem at all. You’re a fit and healthy young man. It may be that you’re a bit too healthy. Your immune system is not used to fighting, that’s all. Just carry on as normal. Eat plenty of fruit. Get lots of sleep. And not too much frega juice.
‘You’ll be fine. I don’t expect to see you here again.’
By the time Kaleem was walking along the corridor to the main entrance of the Health Centre, he was feeling as if there was nothing at  all wrong.
‘Hi, Detran,’ somebody called from behind.
He recognized the voice, even before he turned round.
‘Hey, you,’ said Tulla. ‘You haven’t replied to our invite to the permanent attachment ceremony! Are you going to come?’
He ought to go. He ought to have replied by now. He just didn’t want to. That would be another aspect of life on Zandra he would experience for the first time. But he didn’t think he could bare seeing this beautiful creature becoming attached to someone else. Not even to Petro who he actually liked. Such a nuisance, these stupid feelings. Why did people have to have feelings?
Tulla’s eyes suddenly reminded him of the children in the dream. There was the same questioning and the same expectation. Of course, he would have to go.
‘Yes, I’ll be there,’ he replied. ‘I’ve just not got round to answering your invite.’ He would now have to research Zandrian attachment ceremonies.
‘Why are you here, though?’ asked Tulla. The look of concern in her eyes was almost killing Kaleem. ‘You’re not ill, are you?’
‘Just grippa,’ he said. ‘The shot’s working already.’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘It’s a tough one this year. It took them ages to get the dosage right.’
‘Well, at least you try,’ said Kaleem. He was suddenly thinking of the chaos on Terrestra.
‘We all do our best to get rid of disease,’ replied Tulla. ‘But it’s better to have disease than the isolation of Terrestra. That’s why the project on Planus 2 is so exciting.’
Kaleem suddenly felt tired. Perhaps the grippa was still pulling him down. Also, part of him wanted to shout and scream that not all Terrestrans were bad, that not all of them wanted to be kept apart at all costs, that not all of them wanted to be at war with Zandra. Well, there was at least a handful he could think of.
‘Hey, Detran, you do look down,’ said Tulla suddenly. ‘That looks like a bit more than just the grippa. What’s on your mind? How about coming with me for a chofa? They’re not as good here as in the Refreshment Park, but it would still perk you up. Then you can tell me what’s bothering you.’
She started leading the way towards the cafeteria. He was going to have to follow her. Besides, what could be nicer that sitting drinking chofa with Tulla - if he couldn’t be the one she was becoming permanently attached to. No way, though, could he tell her that she, Terrestra and the Peace Child mission were the matter. He would have to blame the grippa.
‘So, what gives?’ she asked.
‘It’s just the grippa,’ he said. ‘It can do that, can’t it, make you a bit depressed?’
‘Well, the shot should take care of that as well,’ said Tulla, frowning slightly. Kaleem suddenly noticed that she looked a little pale as well. He was being so self-centred. There he was feeling sorry for himself, and she’d had all these weeks of worry. It was only a week ago that she had found out that her parents had not been on the Supercraft bound for Terrestra. They had been on another top-secret mission, and were now safely back on Zandra, and helping Tulla with the preparations for the permanent attachment ceremony. She was, of course, ecstatically happy, and her eyes shone with excitement. Yet the weeks of worry had taken their toll. She had become very thin and her skin was dry as well as pale.
‘I’m so glad to hear that your parents were okay, after all,’ said Kaleem. ‘You must be so relieved.’
Tulla beamed at him. A little pinkness came into her cheeks and she looked even prettier.
‘It’s fantastic, isn’t it?’ she said. ‘And they’re so pleased about the attachment. They really like Petro.’
‘Well, well, well,’ said a voice suddenly. ‘What’s this Tulla Watkins? Playing the field a little before the big day? Now, what can you do for me, so that I don’t tell Petro? Why in Zandra are you doing drinking chofa with such a handsome young specimen?’
Tulla laughed and stood up.
‘This is a friend of Petro’s - well of Petro and me, actually,’ she said. ‘Detran Malthus. Detran, meet my boss, Lana Gylson.’
Lana held out her palm for Kaleem. She was dressed from top to toe in silvery grey which matched her hair. She looked about the same age as his mother, though she was a little taller. Her shoulder-length hair seemed to catch the light and positively shone.
‘Detran Malthus?’ she said. ‘My, I am honoured. I have heard so much about you and the work you are doing. However, will you excuse me if I talk shop a little to my young assistant here.’
‘I’ll get on my way, then,’ said Kaleem.
‘You’ll do no such thing,’ said Lana. ‘You finish your chofa. Anyway, you may find this extremely interesting.’
She sat down at the table and propped her head up on her arm. She leant forward towards Tulla.
‘We have been doing some research about the Poison Cloud on Terrestra which suddenly disappeared,’ she whispered. ‘We now believe that there was something strange in the gases which affected the psyche of the Terrestran. That, combined with years of living underground is what has made them so xenophobic. Keeping disease free is just an excuse. They’re actually rather agoraphobic as well. Even now that they can walk about outside, most of them prefer to stay indoors.’
Lana leant back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest. She smiled at both of them
How on Terrestra do you know that? thought Kaleem. It’s not true anyway. Lots of us go out. Those of us who were born after the cloud went. He was beginning to feel dizzy. Was the effect of the shot wearing off?
‘Gosh,’ said Tulla, ‘that is quite a thought. But how did you find out?’
‘Well,’ said Lana, ‘you know my brother …..’ She stopped suddenly.
‘I think you can trust Detran,’ said Tulla, ‘it’s really his thing, bringing people together.’
Kaleem’s heart was beginning to beat really fast.
‘Well, he was sent on a mission to Terrestra and almost succeeded …’
There was a loud noise in Kaleem’s ears. He could see Lana’s and Tulla’s mouth moving, but he could not make out what they were saying. He felt really hot now. The room was beginning to spin round. He had to get out.
‘Can you imagine how horrid it must have been, living underground?’ he managed to say as he stood up. ‘And I think young Terrestrans really like being up on the surface. They were glad to get rid of the Poison Cloud.’
It began to get dark. Just before he fell  to the ground, Kaleem registered a look of concern on Tulla’s face. In Lana, he saw something else, something almost like horror and then a type of coldness. As he plunged into the blackness, he realised that not only had he defended the Terrestrans  and spoken as if really knew something about them, he had used the Terrestran word for poison. It was similar enough to the Zandrian one, though it was stressed differently. Is that what Lana had realised?
*   *   *
It had just been a faint, caused by an unusual reaction to the shot. The doctors had never seen anything like it before, but in the end, the shot had still done its work. Now, two weeks later, he was completely fit and well, and was beginning to relax about Lana. Nothing had happened to suggest that she suspected anything. The doctors at the hospital had put the strange reaction to the shot as just a part of the virulence of this particular grippa.
It was a good day. He had done his research carefully. He had his best dark blue tunic suit on, the one with the award fused on to it, and the permanent ceremonial scarf. He had charged a love token with the right number of credits. He wondered what they would spend it on and whether when he visited them some time – if he ever did - would they have his name on whatever item it was.
He knew what to expect at the ceremony. He was actually looking forward to the completion dance which took place at the end and he had rehearsed the steps well. He had no fear there. It was a simple dance, and no one was expected to be brilliant at it. You just followed the person in front, anyway.
He could only wish Tulla and Petro well. She was lovely, no doubt about it. Petro was a good friend. He would have his chance one day, wouldn’t he, when all of this was over? The Zandrian sun was shining. It was going to be a great day.
The dataserve told him that there was a someone waiting outside his apartment.
He’s a bit early, thought Kaleem. He had arranged to go to the Executive Palace with Alistare. He supposed it didn’t matter if they got there half an hour before the ceremony was due to begin. They’d get a good seat then, to watch the Domestic and the Legal Executive fuse the attachment.
Kaleem didn’t bother asking the dataserve to show him the visitor. He just grabbed his sachet of flower petals and the charged love token, and made his way to the door of the apartment.
The door opened and Kaleem’s heart missed a beat.
Two security droids were standing there.
‘Detran Malthus,’ said the one on the left. ‘We arrest you on a charge of being a Terrestran spy. We shall immobilise you and record all your thoughts.’
The other droid placed the control capsule on his forehead.

AND THAT FOLKS, IS THE LAST I'LL BE POSTING FROM THIS NOVEL. If you want to reqd more you'll have to buy the book.