I started Boom Town last year, put it aside for the Summer, and returned to it recently. Click on the image above for the full gallery.
I also did a walk around video, which is a little shaky and blurry. When it gets it right, my phone’s macro focus is great. But when I’m working on something so close, and moving around, it keeps getting confused.
Just bumping the content of a couple of posts from earlier this year, and pointing you all at Sounds of Soldiers again. Sounds of Soldiers is currently an incredible bargain at $0.99/£0.99/local equivalent. But, if you want an even better bargain, pick up Britain Looks To The Future (also just $0.99/£0.99/local equivalent), which includes it and eight other great tales by independent British authors.
I did this interview for The Daily Rundown last month in May, and only just worked out where to find it. It’s a little segment on the inspiration for Sounds of Soldiers, and why it’s still relevant- maybe even more relevant- in the age of Trump.
Luckily, the premise genuinely was fiction within a few days of starting the project, as Obama was elected US President, rather than McCain. Thus the (implied but not stated outright) backstory for the book- that Sarah Palin rose to commander-in-chief and started a stupid war with Europe- genuinely was fiction. For the next eight years, anyway.
Now, the USA is, once again, teasing us with the potential has delivered the setup for thousands of dystopian novels, in the shape of Donald Trump. Trump’s far scarier than Palin ever was. She’s stupid and incompetent, but he takes those two traits and piles bullying, vindictive, (more) racist, and thin skinned into the mix. If anyone had written President Trump (or even potential-presidential-candidate Trump) before this year, people would have said the character wasn’t believable.
If anything, Sounds of Soldiers is an optimistic read in a world where “The Donald” could be leader of the free world. A Trump inspired future would look a hell of a lot more like Mad Max.
Not all the tweets. I’ll leave out the automated posts, most of the promo tweets, and the argument with the guy who blamed everything on immigrants and sharia law, but got offended when I told him he was being racist.
It happened just as President elect Donald J Trump went off script whilst swearing his oath of office. A figure appeared from nowhere, gun hand outstretched toward The Donald, finger already pulling the trigger.
She had come from the future, her mission- to kill the President before, on January 25th, he nuked Latvia to prove the country’s Prime Minister wrong and show that his fingers were long enough to press the atomic button.
Even before the bullet had left, she was joined by dozens, maybe hundreds of other assassins. With everything from lasers all the way down to clubs, each of them had come back with a specific mission- eliminate Trump before he could carry out the action that blighted their particular future.
It was one of the lasers, by an almost immeasurable fraction of a second, that got the job done. Which triggered the second wave of temporal assassins. These were dedicated to cutting down Mike Pence before he could institute his plans for homosexual re-education camps and sexuality snooping.
Into the middle of this already confused mess came a pair of twenty-second century Men’s Rights Activists. Angry at the unfair advantages equal wages gave females and the sissification inherent in paternity leave, they had decided to travel back and kill the first female President. Incompetence had shunted them sideways as well as backwards, but they never found that out, as they were burnt to a crisp by one of the many flamethrowers present.
With so many bodies and temporal anomalies overlapping, a critical mass was formed. A gore explosion was followed by collapses in the fourth dimension. Time went crazy.
Washington is now the flickering city, to look at it is to watch a jump cut time-lapse of the city’s past and possible futures. Buildings and people appear and flash away randomly, as the time-line tries to knit itself back together.
The inauguration was ground zero, but the effects have radiated out, and there are pockets of temporal instability all over the world. There are pockets where you can step into the past and pull people and things back. The USA is currently being run by the dream team of Kennedy and Lincoln, snatched up just before their assassinations.
It’s a crazy world, ripe for adventures and wacky hijinks. Annoyingly, I can’t think of any silly stories to tell in it right now.
The black tower was a stake driven into the heart of the city. Overbearing and ugly, it loomed over the pale sandstone and red brick of the lower rise buildings cowering under it.
Terry knew the story- a version of it, anyway. The development had been proposed by a pair of footballers, looking to invest in property for lucrative retirements. But post-Brexit decline meant all the floors remained unsold, and the sportsmen wanted out of the project. Mysterious partners and backers- Russians, everyone agreed- stepped in to buy out the famous faces and finish the buildings themselves.
No-one got into the tower. No-one that anyone knew, anyway. It was a mystery. A slab of darkness looking down on the city centre. There were shops at ground level, then two storeys of offices, but, above those, the dark windows swallowed sunlight during the day, and never lit up at night. So it was surprising- and thrilling and frightening- that Glenn said he could get in.
Terry wavered between being wary of Glenn, and being in awe of him. The older man- only a few years, but it seemed to count for so much- gave the impression he had decided to be Terry’s protector. It didn’t feel like the other times men had taken an interest in him, Glenn didn’t look at him the way they had. And he wouldn’t let anyone else. There were plenty of predators around Tent Town, prowling for a piece of fresh meat who looked as young as Terry did. But Glenn wouldn’t allow them the chance. So far, he hadn’t asked anything in return. Perhaps he was truly a good person.
They were in an alley behind the towers, where the goods for the ground floor shops were delivered. In front of them was a heavy door, clad in pale grey metal, and with a large shiny handle and security grade brass lock. To the right were the roller shutters protecting the windows of one of the shops. Left of the door was a galvanised fence, to keep them from falling into the bottom of the ramp that ran down to another large roller shutter. This lower shutter blocked the entrance to the tower’s exclusive underground parking.
Glenn put his hand on the door handle and turned to grin at Terry. “Wait’ll you see inside here! It’s mad.” He pressed down on the handle and pushed at the door.
The door didn’t open. Glenn’s confident smile faltered, until they heard a click, and the door opened.
It was dark on the other side of the threshold. Much darker than under the bright security light outside. Terry waited on the threshold, unsure, until Glenn grasped his cuff and pulled him in. The tug was more violent than Terry had come to expect from his protector. He was too shocked to pull back, though, and quickly found himself inside.
The door closed with an ominous thud. Terry flinched at the sound, then again as a light in the ceiling turned on. The glow was only around them, the rest of the space wasn’t illuminated yet. The darkness was thick, and the detail revealed by lamplight fell off quickly. Terry could see the door, the wall either side of it, and a short way along the narrow corridor. There was no handle on this side of the door, just a vertical pull bar from top to bottom of it, and a brushed steel number pad on the wall.
Glenn was his smiling, reassuring self again, the flashes of impatience and anger gone. He beckoned Terry to follow him. As he strode into the dark, another light came on above him, revealing more of the corridor.
The floor was marble, Terry thought, looking down at the blood red veins marking the shiny off-white surface. A stone stuck in the tread of Glenn’s boots clicked against the floor with each step.
The space wasn’t very large, but it was lavish. The marble of the floor extended halfway up the walls, where a narrow gilt band separated it from the dark wood of the upper half and the ceiling. The lights were set in the cornice at the top of the wall on alternate sides, and activated by movement. The sections behind went dark as they left them. When the fourth set of lights turned on, they were at the far end of the hall, standing before the polished brass of an elevator’s door.
Glenn pressed a button on the wall and, with a ping, the door opened. He stepped in, beckoning Terry after him. “Come on. Come on. He’s expecting us.” Terry worried about what that meant, but stepped in anyway.
The floor and lower wall of the elevator was the same sort of marble as the hallway. There was a wide band of pleated and padded red leather at waist height, and flat brass above that. The metal gave the appearance of having been polished to a gleam, then brushed with a stiffer metal to take the shine off and distort the reflections until they were matt shadows.
Terry stroked, then pressed, the leather, and found it surprisingly soft and supple. He looked to Glenn for some explanation of what came next.
There was a polished panel of buttons set in the brass. As the door closed, Glenn pressed the top one.
The box rose up its shaft rapidly. Terry felt the acceleration in the soles of his feet and the pit of his empty stomach. Glenn had promised him food if he came along, but had said nothing about someone waiting for them. Terry knew, now, that he should have questioned Glenn more. The hunger was stronger than the worry, though, so he leant back against the soft leather and waited to reach the top floor.
Suddenly feeling light, Terry knew the lift had halted. How high up were they, he wondered, as the door opened. He couldn’t remember how many floors the tower had, but he knew they were above anywhere else in the city when he looked across the wide space that had been revealed, and took in the view through the dark tinted windows. “Penthouse suite.” Glenn told him.
Terry walked toward the windows, drawn by the view. The floor was the same marble again, but he couldn’t make out many other details. The room was dark, lit only by small lights in the ceiling. Reaching the window, Terry touched fingertips to the glass, finding it warmer than he expected, and looked down at the Town Hall. A long way down.
The lights that illuminated the Gothic façade of the Town Hall were muted, made a strange grey by whatever coated the floor to ceiling window. This must be the tint that kept the building dark, no matter what time of day it was.
“Life in the sky, mate. Innit brilliant. We can have this view as long as you keep him happy. He does like pretty boys like you, he said.”
Terry didn’t turn round to look at Glenn. He just had to look up to see the reflection in the glass. Glenn was about halfway across the floor, under one of the lights, the lower half of his face shadowed, so Terry couldn’t properly see his grin. The top half of his face, however, showed greed. Terry was going to fight his expression back to passivity before he turned. He wouldn’t show Glenn his disappointment. The older man wasn’t his friend, but his pimp.
“Lap of luxury, am I right? You’ll let him do what he wants, and we’ll be set.” Glenn wasn’t asking. He expected Terry’s compliance.
Focussing on his own reflection in the glass, Terry forced the down turned edges of his mouth flat. This was just another betrayal in a lifetime of betrayals. He was angry at himself for having thought Glenn wouldn’t let him down.
“He should be here soon. I mean, he said he’d….” Glenn’s words were cut short, and he made a sucking sound, then a strange, pained whistling.
Still, Terry couldn’t bring himself to turn. He shifted his gaze to Glenn’s reflection, and fought down a cry. Glenn’s head was tilted to the left, an expression of wide eyed surprise on his face. The skin down the right side of his neck was torn open in a jagged U, from which blood flowed profusely.
The more powerful spurts leapt out into the air, then disappeared. They were going into a red rimmed hole, which might have been in the shape of a mouth, ringed with sharp, even serrations that could be teeth. Two of the teeth, at the top of the circle, were longer than the others.
Glenn managed to move, finally. His right hand reached into a pocket, and drew out a knife. The blade flipped open with an instinctive move of his thumb, then came up and back. Most of the determination drained away, however, before the knife reached the top of its arc. It struck something, slid to the side, then dropped from Glenn’s hand. There may have been the hint of a line of blood, raised by the blade, hanging in the air.
The bloody mouth closed, then opened in a grimace to let out a little sound of disgust. Glenn collapsed, a soft bag of flesh and loosely connected bones.
“Do let me see you, little one. Are you as pretty as he promised?” the floating lips of blood said.
There was something about the voice that could not be ignored. Terry turned slowly. What he saw made him take a frightened step back, until he was pressed against the glass.
Standing over Glenn’s body was a woman. She was tall and slim, with long, jet black hair, wearing a tight sheath dress, split on the left to reveal a shapely thigh, and with wide sleeves that hung down from her arms like limp wings. She reached down, and tore a strip from Glenn’s shirt, using it to wipe the blood from around her mouth. Running it across her forehead, she dabbed up the blood from the wound that Glenn had inflicted. The skin under the thin red line had already closed. Done with the rag, she dropped it so that it draped itself over Glenn’s face.
“You are lovely. Yes, you are. He was a horrible little man, and he tasted foul, but at least he was honest about that.” The woman took a step toward Terry. She was beautiful, even in the unforgiving light directly above her. Terry felt himself relaxing, when he was sure he should be running. His limbs weren’t under his control, it seemed.
Just as Terry felt happy to succumb to this stunning woman, her expression changed. She was hungry, looking at him like a delicious meal. Somehow, without lines appearing on the perfect, pale skin of her face, she appeared ancient. Centuries showed themselves for the briefest of moments.
Terry could do nothing as the woman drew right up to him. His head tilted to the left, exposing his neck to her. “You will taste so much better than your friend. And I will not tear at this perfect skin, no. No. And you can take a taste in return. You shall be so much more than just one meal.”
The teeth entered Terry’s neck so gently he didn’t know his skin had been penetrated. An ecstasy he had never before felt flowed out from the wounds and filled his body.
This video has been several months in the making. As mentioned, it started with a conversation in the pub, but that was back in January or February, and I only got to make the pie last weekend. Thanks to wonderful timing, my local butcher, after months of not having them, had lambs’ fry in again just in time for me to make the pie and take it along to a party where it could be sampled by my challenger.
Now I’m looking for other food related challenges to video. Any suggestions?
They find your patriotism distasteful, your concerns about immigration parochial, your views about crime illiberal, your attachment to your job security inconvenient.
They find the fact that more than seventeen million voters decided to leave the European Union simply bewildering.
Because if you’re well off and comfortable, Britain is a different country and these concerns are not your concerns. It’s easy to dismiss them – easy to say that all you want from government is for it to get out of the way.
Now, I am neither comfortable nor well off, but I’m probably one of the people Theresa May thinks she’s attacking here. So let’s clear a few things up.
I fear the xenophobia and immigrant blaming that passes for patriotism in the Tory party and UKIP. My distaste may well be expressed in ways that could be read as sneering, but that’s because stirring up racism to hide your own failings deserves contempt.
If you want to see sneering at true patriotism, just take a look further down the Prime Minister’s speech.
But we will never again – in any future conflict – let those activist, left-wing human rights lawyers harangue and harass the bravest of the brave – the men and women of Britain’s Armed Forces.
I’d say that holding the country and its representatives to the standards we claim to stand for- standards Tories would probably tell you we invented- is the essence of patriotism. This harassment and haranguing is principled people bravely striving to stop torture and murder being done in our name. And for that, they get sneered at by a certain type of well off and comfortable politician who’s confident that they’ll never be punished for putting troops in situations where they could act like monsters.
Let’s have a grown up conversation about immigration. Let’s talk about how the arrival of new people in certain areas has exacerbated existing problems, shown up weaknesses created by cuts and poor provision of services. Or how some of these newcomers have trouble settling in and some communities are actively hostile toward them. Let’s not have that tired old refrain from politicians and commentators of “We’re not allowed to talk about immigration!” when that’s all they ever do, at length, and particularly when they want to get the subject away from the many ways the Government has failed us.
Unless May’s making a play for the ‘bring back hanging’ brigade, I haven’t a clue what she’s talking about on crime.
I worry about my job security too. But I know I’m in more danger from a Brexit and austerity fuelled depression than from being undercut by an immigrant who’ll take less than the minimum wage I’m currently on.
I’m not bewildered that a small majority of people voted for Brexit. I’m disappointed. And I’m simultaneously angry at, and sorry for, all those people who voted out. They’re not going to get what they voted for, and they shafted the rest of us just so they couldn’t get it.
Again, I’m neither well off nor comfortable. And I live in a very different Britain to the one Theresa May sees and wants to appeal to. I can agree with her on one thing. I want her government to get out of the way. The sooner they’re gone, the better.
Not some of my 3D designed products, but definitely ones of which I approve. Digitawn has designed a load of variants on popular cars (all Fords so far, I think) from the 60s to 80s. Originally available in 1:87th (HO), they’re now also in 1:76th (OO).
My first car was a Mk2 Escort estate, and, as far as I know, this is the first time it’s been available in this scale. There are some very good diecast models available, but they don’t have the variety of versions that Digitawn offers.
Last week, I was lucky enough to get a look around Todmorden, to see how the Incredible Edible group in the town has found ways to bring food and colour to its public spaces. Thanks to my action cam and a selfie stick, I was able to get a view of the project from the point of view of some of the insects it helps promote.
I found these old negatives in a neat album, some of them labelled so I know what they are. They’re larger than 35mm, so my slide scanner can’t take them. I’m experimenting with photographing them, backlit by my light box, to see what I can find. My Canon G11, in macro mode, was used, then they had minimal editing in Photoshop. You can see the parallax, but, less obviously, there is also some reflection from the windows and me leaning over them.
I’ll try boxing the negatives off for future shots, to cut the errant light down, and maybe build a simple frame to keep the camera a set distance from, and parallel to, them.
Rick is a Lupan- human/wolf hybrid, whose forebears were created for war- tending his small bar on the lowest levels of a dead end station in neutral space. When he comes into possession of a small vial of genuine Earth water, he sees a way home and away from the dangerous situation he’s put himself in. But is the water a McGuffin? Are there more important things at stake?
This is a universe, and characters, you could happily find more and more about. It’s almost a shame it’s self-contained and doesn’t appear to be setting up further stories.
Murder mystery and natural disaster collide in America’s tornado alley.
Chief McKechnie keeps the peace in the quaintly named town of Friendship, having transplanted their from New York ten years earlier. It’s a quiet beat, usually, but over one long day, that’s set to change. The wife of one of the town’s more prominent citizens is found dead in a tornado decimated house, shot in the head. The prominent, but secret, lover of her sister-in-law is also in town, and needs protection. And, because things aren’t complicated enough, there are a pair of cop-killer bank robbers trying to make their escape through the county, and larger and larger twisters touching down all around.
The story moves at a good pace, playing the various complications off each other as McKechnie investigates, getting caught up in keeping political secrets from his fiancee, the editor of the town’s paper. You know what event the story will end with, but you want to know where everyone is when it does.