A pretty busy week. I’ve been working steadily on my second novel, a crime thriller set in a rundown town on the coast in North East England. I’ve also downloaded the photo editing software GIMP and am finding my way around it. GIMP’s open source and free to download, and I hear that it has many of the features of Photoshop. Meanwhile, my first novel, Secrets by Lawrence Estrey, continues to sell on Amazon.
Another busy week…
I’ve had a busy few days with little access to the internet. On Saturday afternoon, I went out in the rain with my camera and took a number of shots in Highgate Wood, North London, trying to protect the camera from getting a good soaking. I would have stayed longer and done more, but I didn’t want to risk damage to the camera.
I set the camera in aperture priority mode, f/8. Later, I reduced the saturation considerably, using Photoshop Elements.
I’m currently working on a new novel, Halfway House. It tells the story of Wayne, a boy who resorts to desperate measures when confronted with a problem at the age of twelve. The story opens with the central character, now 19, living in some dire hostel in a run down, neglected town by the sea in the north east of England. Like with my debut novel, Secrets by Lawrence Estrey, this one’s part psychological thriller.
Everyone’s perceptions vary, I guess, but to me the sea resembles a stagnant mass, set alongside bare and wild hills with a faded sepia-like sky thrown in for good emphasis. A couple of oldish blokes take their motor boat out when the weather allows for it, but generally the promenade’s deserted, apart from the seagulls screeching in the distance and the dog walkers in their winter clothing, hurrying along in the chill. People who don’t fit in also congregate around the promenade, either alone or in huddles. Often, you’ll see junkies shivering in huts or oddballs drinking cider out of a two litre plastic bottle with the labelling torn off. In the evenings, groups of teenagers in hoods run around the promenade, making as much noise as possible as they search unsuccessfully for interesting things to do.
During late autumn and winter, the cold bites and gets deep into everyone’s lungs. Mists fall regularly, along with icy rains and battering winds. The cold is everywhere. You can’t escape it, even with plenty of layers on, but the nights are worse at the Halfway House. You can feel the cold then and hear it, alongside the slamming doors, restless pacing on the floorboards and thudding music. Six men currently live in the house. At nineteen years of age, I’m the youngest one there.
A couple of shots taken late afternoon in Highgate Wood, North London:
I’m working on a new crime thriller set on the outskirts of Manchester and told through central character Wayne (12). The biggest challenge, I think, lies in the narrative style and getting it to reflect the age of the character. At the same time, the character, an only child, seems to have developed in ways that other twelve-year-old boys might not have.
The following section tends more towards the psychological thriller aspect of the story:
Ginger and I finalise the arrangements for tomorrow, and I set off for home, shivering from the cold and wishing now that I’d taken up Ginger’s mum’s offer of a lift. I could go back, I suppose, and say I’ve changed my mind and that I’d appreciate a lift, but it would probably look awkward of me or rude. In any case, the cold isn’t the real reason why I regret accepting the lift. It’s what happened last night after I left Zipper’s place: the weirdo chasing me along the main road, ducking into shop doorways and following me into the side alleyway, down to the mews at the back of the maisonette where I live. Tonight, I chicken out of walking home via the usual route, cutting through quiet side streets and crossing roads further up from the main road, until finally I have no choice but to face the main road and run the two blocks home. I leg it as fast as I can, racing those final yards, and then I’m tearing up the concrete steps like I did last night, my heart hammering hard in my chest, just like then.
Empty. A thundering silence greets me in the hallway, and suddenly I don’t want to be home at all. The maisonette has a bad feel to it, as if someone’s come in and wandered through all the rooms, touching things, looking at things. I keep expecting the figure to leap out at me – or, worse, for someone like Tara Wilde to appear. I jump when the phone rings unexpectedly and hurry to the kitchen to answer the call.
The line goes dead.
I dial 1471.
I took several shots on the way to work yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, I couldn’t carry my “proper” camera around with me in the middle of the day, but the camera on my smartphone enables some degree of control in regards to white balance, ISO and metering.
Darlands Lake, Totteridge , North London:
First day of February, and the temperature has dipped. You can feel the chill against your bones, and apparently things will get worse at the weekend.
Recently, I read through viewpoint sections of Dark Whispers, the first ever novel I wrote (the one I felt just didn’t come alive for me in the way I’d hope), and I can see certain parallels with some of my earlier photo shoots. When I was editing the shots in Google’s Picasa, I tended to bring out the colors and emphasise contrast – but I can see now that the photographs would probably have benefited from less color/saturation. I think the idea extends to the writing too, especially in Dark Whispers, that first problematic novel that never seemed to work, no matter what changes I made. The tone of the writing, I suspect, contained too much “color”, when it needed less.
I think the choice of subject matter didn’t necessarily help. The other novel tended to have an otherworldly feel and contained classic whodunnit clichés: the village, the vulnerable (possibly paranoid) wife, rhymes, etc. When a writer paints a picture like this, s/he often has nowhere else to take the story because the story has a tight but limited focus preventing further plot and character development. However, when I worked on my debut novel (Secrets by Lawrence Estrey), I ditched about two-thirds of original material and began almost entirely from scratch, resetting it in a different part of the country (no more villages) and concentrating on varying degrees of crime. Suddenly, I had plenty of places to take the story and ways of broadening the central characters, plus better ideas of how to make sections truly chilling.
I’m currently working on a new crime thriller set in Manchester and the central characters have already begun to make an impact on me.