Sunday, 30 November 2014


Police deny occult link in suburban district murders
By Steve Connors
Crime Editor

In homicides which took place within yards and hours of one another two suspects were being held by Dallas Police yesterday, one charged with butchering his family, the other with murdering his girlfriend.

In a scene reminiscent of a cult killing Martha Vaughan (42) and her two children, Alice (6) and Stephen (8) were found partially dismembered at their family home in the quiet suburbs of Dallas last Thursday. Patrick Vaughan (48) was being held in custody by Dallas police on suspicion of having committed the triple homicide, Neighbours were shocked by the murders, 63 year old Robert Dashiel, lived next door to the Vaughans for 4 years, ‘they kept themselves to themselves, the children were polite which is unusual nowadays, they seemed the perfect family’ In a cruel twist an unrelated murder took place nearby on the same night when a woman Sharon Willeymeyer 37 was stabbed to death in the street, her husband Jack Willeymeyer, 47 was arrested for the crime which apparently occurred after the couple had a violent argument the cause of which is unknown. Some locals were worried that there could be a cult connection, Thursday was a full moon and is said by some to have been a day of ‘exceptional occult significance’.

It was not the giant hoarding or the poster that caught her eye but the big black crow which sat perched upon it. The Crows eyes stared unblinking into the city scene, sending out what seemed to Jo like waves of despair and hopelessness. With difficulty she tore her attention from the Crow and it settled inexorably on the thirty foot high poster, proclaiming hedonistic bliss in the form of a seemingly magical cocktail and its equally magical, if improbably perfect female consumer. Jo was not the jealous or envious kind, so she was wondering why she found the features of the model so fascinating, when it happened. At first she was so surprised her initial reaction was denial, but then it happened again and there was no doubt, the poster, or rather the model in it winked at her. In that split second her reality seemed like it had been torn apart, her shattered view of the universe exploding out from the picture like shards of broken glass. Then just as she felt that she too would disintegrate into sand and blown to nothingness, normality returned, like the sun breaking through the dissipating clouds of a departing storm. 

As she tried to regain her composure, the Crow turned towards her contemptuously and threw back its head letting out a gigantic caw of triumph; it spread its wings so wide that as it rose into the sky it seemed to blot out the sun, before spiralling down towards her, its beak so wide, that in it Jo thought she saw the seeds of a different reality, staring back at her out of an endless void.

She woke up covered in clammy sweat and shivering pulled the white linen sheets tightly around her body, this was the third time in a week she had had the dream, each time it was more vivid than the last. In her hand she held her grandfathers poem, she didn’t know why but she was certain the poem and the dream were somehow linked. She thought of him as her grandfather, even though they were not really related, at least not by birth. She was an orphan and she never knew her real parents, the man she regarded as her grandfather was her adopted father’s father and through the poem he came to mean more to her than anyone else in her life.

I am the wave on which I travel 
I cannot change my fate
The future and the past unravel
Until the beach on which I break

I am the wave that has no end
I cannot win or loose
But the beach on which I break my friend
Is mine alone to choose

When she was a little girl and just getting over the loss of the tooth fairy and Father Christmas in quick succession, it suddenly occurred to her to question the existence of God himself and to wonder, why we are here and where we are going. She was sitting on her grandfather’s knee and looking up into his wizened face when she asked ‘Does god really exist or is he made up’? And before he had a chance to answer ‘What happens to us when we die’? He lifted her gently from his knee and placed her on the ground in front of him. He looked at her in a way that made her feel her questions really mattered. 

‘Jo’ he said, 
‘Life is not what it seems to be, everything you see, time passing, growing up, and even death itself is all an illusion. Most people will never see through the illusion at all and to them there is nothing beyond this life. No-one can see through it completely but it is possible for some people to see glimpses of the truth and I know that you are one of those people Jo. We must all find our own way through life but I can tell you this; nothing that is can ever truly cease to be. Time is really only a function of our point of view, because something with no beginning and no end cannot be divided into days, or weeks, or years because there can be no percentages of eternity’. 

Later on she would find the poem under her pillow, it was unsigned but she knew who wrote it and why. Occasionally she would question the meaning of the words and wonder if she was reading things into them that weren’t really there at all. It was as if everyone else around her were crippled in a way that made her a cripple, or at least some kind of a freak. Maybe she was some kind of a mutant, able to see things that normal people were blind to, with the ability to see what is really there, not just what is expected. Or maybe she was just mad.

One time Jo took a test she found on the Internet about perception. The person taking the test had to watch two teams, one dressed in black, the other red, playing a ball game where they would pass the ball to one another in an effort to score. The objective was to count the number of passes very carefully and report your result. Jo concentrated intently on the game and counted 19 passes. What she found strange though was the man dressed in the Gorilla suit who walked on to the court in the middle of the game, beat his chest and then ambled slowly off again. Apparently almost everyone else other than her failed to see the Gorilla at all on their first view, apparently it was a well known scientific phenomena and as the web site said reassuringly, ‘don’t feel as if there is something wrong with you if you didn’t see the Gorilla the first time, no-one ever does’

So when Jo saw strange things which no-one else ever did, she was never sure if those things weren’t there, or it was just that it was only her who saw them. More than that, she often felt as if there were other things she could not see, hiding just beyond her field of vision and that if she just opened her eyes wide enough, they would be revealed to her. Then she would remember the Crow and suddenly she didn’t want to open her eyes wide at all, suddenly she felt comfortable with things the way they appeared already.

When it turned out that she had an unusually high IQ and that as a result she qualified for special schooling, it was with a certain degree of relief that she left home for boarding school at the age of eleven. The relief turned to elation when the school she attended seemed to be open to what everyone else had seen as her silliness, the teachers allowed her to explore what they saw as her gifts rather than embarrassing delusion. At the age of eighteen, she was gently pointed in the direction of Harvard where she studied criminal Psychology, during her time there she was approached by and eventually recruited into the bureau although her special duties required her to report to a specialist division specialising in the profiling of serial killers, the kind who might end up as assassins. As a federal agent she knew where her duties lay and she was loyal unto death. Nevertheless as an individual she disagreed with the death penalty for civil cases and therefore working in Texas where Governor Morissey seemed to see it as an everyday deterrent offended her sensibilities. She had profiled seven murderers in two years all of whom had been put to death by Morissey’s hand, seven men whom she had gotten to know better than their mothers. Somehow though she had been able to separate her personal feelings from her professional duty, consigning them to that other dimension to which she had access and from where her powers seemed to come. 

Her job as a profiler had a very practical historically proven purpose whose antecedents went back to Dr Thomas Bond’s observations following the murder of Mary Kelly by the famous uncaught killer we know as Jack the Ripper. Neither were the tricks of her trade reserved for working out the MO’s of mere murderers, Profiling was next used during World War II when the Office of Strategic Services (now the CIA) asked Walter Langer, a psychiatrist by profession, to provide a profile of Adolf Hitler. In the main a profilers success depends on their knowledge of human nature and their ability to make observations which could either link cases to a single person, or more rarely that could help to predict future behaviour. It therefore went without saying that a profiler had to be smart and qualified but it was it was equally accepted that being smart and qualified was not enough to be any good at the job. Arguably if you needed to be trained, you couldn’t do the job and anyone who could do the job didn’t need training. Hence the use by police forces around the world of individuals who may in other circumstances be seen as cranks and weirdoes but then again its’ surprising what even hard bitten cop’s will resort to when they need to find a seven year old boy suspected of having been abducted by a serial child rapist and murderer, yup, suddenly those cranks and weirdoes seem mighty attractive. So what if their success depended on their psychic abilities, so what if they needed to be led to the victim by a naked three hundred year old Indian guide called Tonto, when you were desperate any straw was better than no straw and sometimes, just occasionally they turned up trumps.

To those around her, Joanne Lawless was a slightly hyperactive quirky character who just happened to have an almost uncanny ability to create disturbingly accurate profiles of almost every type of deviant criminal. Her colleagues sometimes wondered what demons lurked beneath her milk and honey complexion and whether the there was a picture hanging up in a loft somewhere the image of which was stained with the evil twisted thoughts which she must entertain to do her job so well. What really made Jo so good at her job were the cracks in reality, the glitches in the program that she could see but that would go unnoticed by everyone else. As a child when she saw glimpses of disturbing things that she didn’t understand, she was scared. Now her job helped to neutralise the fear and to make sense of her gifts. 

Jo was rare because despite being self evidently unusual, she was neither a crank nor a weirdo, she was trained and she had ability, it could be said that given her background and selection she was a national resource. For this reason she was more of less allowed to go where she wanted when she wanted and although she had to report in just like everyone else, her remit was as loose as a goose. Jo Choose Texas because of its history of violence and deviance, she placed her self up front and centre, personally interviewing every sicko who found themselves on death row, if she dressed in black she would have been seen as the angel of death, as it was the wardens and inmates thought of her less as an emissary of doom and more like Rainbow Bright. It is inevitable that even a job like Jo’s eventually starts to exhibit elements of the humdrum, that the mind starts to fill is larger and larger sections of what should be new experience with hackneyed old clips recorded and embedded by past experience. Jo was very aware of this tendency and therefore was at great pains to develop a routine which would ensure her openness to every new encounter so that she would be able to pick up on the unique nuances of the deviant mind, carefully eliciting another piece of the jigsaw puzzle, however small or insignificant, that would somehow reveal the human psyche in all its glory, a bit like the completion of a massive five dimensional Rubik’s cube. It was therefore ironic that it would be this very routine would lead to the very case of intellectual solidification which Jo was trying to avoid. Jo knew it was happening; she could even distance herself in a way and comment on her decline as if she were a disinterested third party. The truth was that it wasn’t Jo who was losing her edge; she had simply hit diminishing returns. With every new case, murder, torture, and every variant thereof slowly began to loose their capacity to shock, new insights became harder to find and there was a danger that, reaching for something which wasn’t really there, she would make a mistake and undermine the value of her work. And her work was valuable, she was already regarded as something of a phenomenon in the bureau although with traditional cynicism the department was waiting for the inevitable come down, the point where their talented enfant terrible finally blows a fuse and has to be dealt with in whatever ruthless way is most appropriate.

Jo was aware of the precariousness of her position and the predatory nature of her employer, she had already decided the time had come to quit while she still could and she had resolved that the Vaughan case would be her last and because it was her last she was determined that it would be conducted by the book, there would be no expectation of last minute revelation or redemption, she was quite happy to bow out gracefully without fanfare and more importantly without drawing any more attention to herself than was necessary. Her competitive nature perceived that in some way leaving the bureau quietly represented winning, more so than rising up through the ranks and becoming one of the grey soulless ghouls who pulled the stings on puppets that had more life than they did. No, Jo did not crave that kind of power, she saw it for what it was, a disease for which there was no cure and she had no intention of exposing herself to infection any longer than was necessary. Looking forward to a life beyond the bureau was for Jo a bit like the inmate of an institution looking forward to being released into the outside world. It was both an exciting and scary prospect in equal measure, Jo realised that for all its faults, the bureau was home for her and those same soulless grey men were her family. She had no particular plan for when she left, she felt it was better to focus on the job at hand until the very end, she hated it when other people coasted, knowing they were coming up for re-assignment or retirement, she had always prided herself on her focus, no matter what the distractions she always got the job done.

Her Interview with Patrick Vaughan therefore came as both a surprise and a challenge. The surprise was caused by her almost inevitable assumption that after interviewing so many killers, that she had seen it all. Despite being aware of the trap, it was almost impossible not to fall into it, this was after all the reason for her deciding to leave. To her credit it took her less than the blink of an eye for the fragile shell of her pre-conceptions to be shattered, there was something about the man, something about the air surrounding him which resonated with wrongness, the second she saw him she knew that Patrick Vaughan would have a different story to tell, if she could get it out of him. A strange thought, a negative thought, she realised suddenly that for the first time she had placed a question mark against her ability and she had done so without her subject needing to make eye contact, never mind about opening his mouth.

Charlie Jackson sat motionless the remains of yesterdays donuts strewn across his disorganised looking desk. It was unusual for Charlie to experience a quiet moment; normally he was ‘action Jackson’ careering from one crisis situation to another with scarcely a second for pensive consideration, far less self examination. Those who knew him well would say Charlie had no truck for the endless band of do-gooders, ambulance chasers and political wannabe’s who followed him and his colleagues around, endlessly hoping to be thrown a bone that would lend meaning to their otherwise meaningless lives. To Charles the world was largely black and white, consisting of ‘perps’ and victims and whilst he accepted that sometimes things weren’t that simple, he was happy to leave the subtle nuisances and shades of grey to those who could give a shit. Today was different though, today something, or rather someone had got to him and that someone was in the form of a small hyperactive female, lawless, the irony of her last name was not entirely lost on Charlie although irony and other such nonsense would be the least of his problems if what she was saying had even a grain of truth.

It was all beyond his comprehension, why would a psychological profiler working for the Fed’s decide to walk their delicately heeled feet all over his personal cabbage patch? To make matters worse it wasn’t as if the woman was unattractive, normally you could tell a Fed from fifty feet by their dead pan expression, matched up close by their uniform like dress sense and total lack of humour and empathy. This woman on the other hand was colourful, yes colourful was the only way to describe her, right from her brightly made up but not over the top face down through her well cut pink twin set and cutsy fruits of the forest handbag, the woman was colourful for Christ’s sake. To make it worse she was also talkative, no more than that she was bubbly, not in an irritating grating way but more in a champagne like effervescent way which made you feel like you were at an occasion. She walked in the room and suddenly the lights got brighter and you became aware of your unshaven chin and two day old shirt, things looked shabby in a way that normally didn’t matter. It was all very disconcerting, disconcerting and ultimately unwelcome, Charlie had no time for it; he had to think of a way of getting rid of this woman before her disarming colourfulness caused him to do or say something stupid.

Jo paced up and down her tiny office with the air of a slightly manic budgerigar, the birds bright plumes replaced with an extravagant Mohair and Cashmere jumper which seemed to take on an almost organic quality as it slid around her trim figure in sync with her movements. She took small but decisive steps, speeding up as she reached the middle of the room and slowing markedly before turning with unerring precision just before bumping into the upcoming wall. This process had been going on for some time and because of the half glass partition separating her office from the rest of the department, she was in full view of around fifty colleagues many of whom regarded her pacing as a welcome distraction from their hum drum duties. More than once there had been a book open on how long she would go on for, or whether she would absentmindedly walk into the wall perhaps breaking her nose and spoiling her teasingly neat features. Finally Jo stopped her pacing, her facial expression changed, taking on a more purposeful look, it was clear that she had come to a decision about whatever it was that was bugging her. She returned to her desk and picked up the phone, carefully dialling a number which she appeared to know by heart.

Governor William ‘Billy boy’ Morissy was in an uncommonly good mood, his usually florid complexion positively glowed with satisfaction as he poked and preened at his reflection in the extravagantly inlaid full length mirror which dominated his boudoir. And why should he not be happy? Today was going to be a great day, he was going to be confirmed as the parties official presidential nomination, he was going to have the unmitigated pleasure of signing the death warrant on not one but two heinous murderers, plus he was all teed up for a great game of golf at his favourite club, life was sweet, yes, life sure was sweet.

When he moved on to the presidency, the achievement Billy Boy would look back at with most pride during his term as Governor of Texas would be the reduction in the time delay from when a death sentence was passed to when it was carried out fro 12 years to 9 months. Yes indeed, not only had he saved the state a shit load of money in keeping the condemned, there was also the time and wasted resources he had freed up in the judicial system, sure he had a few lawyer friends who might disagree but hell, they made enough money anyway. It was crazy keeping killers locked up so long that by the time it came to fry them they had seen the light and were holier than the average citizen, half the time it used to be like executing the local Padre. Yes he’d been criticised for being harsh, immoral even blood thirsty but no-one, not even his aunt Sally could argue with the serious crime figures, which had fallen consistently since his term began. He was on course and in key and no bleeding heart liberals were going to divert him from his mission, when he took federal office the first thing he was going to do would be to expand the policy nationwide, lets see how the lowlifes like them onions.

Standing back from the mirror Billy boy eyed himself up and down approvingly, yes, he had to admit it; he did look sharp, very sharp indeed. The subtle pin striped suit had just enough gravitas, its Italian cut spoke of style and not to mention wealth yet it was in no way ostentatious, the carnation in his button hole was set at just the right angle and as usual it was fresh that morning. Many of his colleagues and political adversaries had mentioned over the years that it was the carnation that was responsible for his phenomenal success and who was he to disagree? It took a certain type of gent to wear a carnation and carry it off, it was his signature and he revelled in it. Then right in the middle of his self congratulatory reverie, his thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of a telephone. Now a man as important as Billy boy had more than one phone, even in his bedroom and this phone was the one he liked to refer to as the bat phone. Yes the young women he sometimes liked to entertain were always suitably impressed when the bat phone rang, especially when he explained that he and only a tiny number of other important statesmen had such a phone. It was totally secure, it could happily take care of a call from the president if need be and discussions of vital importance to national security could take place on it with no fear of eavesdroppers, nope the bat phone was like having a personal line direct to god. But what was it doing ringing now? Who would call him today, knowing how important a day it was going to be? With more than a little chagrin Billy tore himself away from his reflection, casting one last approving glance at his well cut and brushed black hair, slicked back with just the right amount of brilliantine and showing just the right amount of grey at the sides to make him look even more distinguished, yes today was going to be a great day alright, dam straight.

He picked up the phone and stood upright, almost at attention, in his best Senatorial voice he stated his name, William Morissey speaking, there was the briefest of pauses after which Billy boy immediately recognized the soothing tones of his assistant Lance on the other end of the line. 

‘I’m sorry to bother you Governor but I thought you would appreciated a heads up. There’s been a Fed nosing around the office asking questions about the Vaughan killings, she wants to speak to you and she’s pretty persistent’

‘Get rid of her’ Growled William H Morissey, he absolutely hated it when anyone, much less some pushy Fed poked their noses in State business.

‘If she wants any information on the case she can talk to the DA, I’m going to play golf’

There was a slight pause as Lance gathered his courage in the face of the expected rebuttal, he had prepared a response but he knew that if he wasn’t careful the Govenor would flip him off anyway.

‘Sir I don’t think that would be wise, especially given your imminent nomination, I know it’s an irritating intrusion but you know, the Fed’s, we want to keep them sweet’

Billy boy grunted in reply and Lance followed through with the advantage.

‘I’ll tell you what sir, I can fit her in for an 11am appointment, that way she won’t have more than 5 minutes to make her point and you can do a bit of glad handing before sending her on her way, what say you’?

Billy boy thought about it a moment, maybe Lance had a point, it couldn’t hurt to keep the fed’s sweet and five minutes wasn’t long, he was dammed if he was going to let a little thing like this put him in a bad mood on his big day, no he would see the infernal woman, why not, it might be a good opportunity to up his image with the bureau, kind of get them acquainted with their soon to be new boss.

‘Set it up he barked gruffly and slammed down the receiver.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

12 Step Story Writing

Step 01 

Story Creation Step 1 should reveal the following:


The main character ("Hero") is in his/her world (the "Ordinary World") doing the things (s)he normally does. At this point the Hero is not engaged in the activities that will encompass the rest of the story. Through this everyday activity, the Hero's personality is also revealed. 

Keep in mind that the Ordinary World of the Hero can be presented through some ordinary activity, the typical condition of the Hero, or even the Hero's normal state of mind. Of course, what's "normal" or "ordinary" for the Hero is relative. In some cases - especially fantasies - the Hero's "Ordinary World" might, to us, be quite extraordinary.

NB Where a Specific Story-Creation Step describes the Hero as being at "home”, "home" can be interpreted broadly. 

Examples of Personality Revelation

* In A Christmas Carol Scrooge is a mean, grasping old man, without any charity in his heart. 

* Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz is a dreamer who wants to get away from her life and escape beyond the rainbow. 

* In Star Wars we quickly learn that Luke Skywalker is an innocent devoted to helping his parents. 


The Hero interacts with the Hero's Helpers who populate the Ordinary World.

Examples of Interaction

* Scrooge's nephew invites Scrooge to a party, to which Scrooge is determined not to go.

* Dorothy interacts with the travelling showman (who later becomes the wizard in her dream) and the farmhands (who become the scarecrow, tinman and cowardly lion). 


There is just a hint of the "Extraordinary World" that the Hero will be entering in the future. This hint will have something to do with the Hero's Antagonist, though usually the Antagonist is not yet introduced directly.

Examples of Foreshadowing

* In A Christmas Carol, that hint is revealed by the fact that it is Christmas time, the anniversary of the death of Scrooge's partner (and Antagonist), Jacob Marley. 

* In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy meets the real people who will later become, in her dream, the scarecrow, tinman, cowardly lion and wizard, all of whom are elements of the Extraordinary World to come. 

* In Star Wars, Luke is at home leading a very ordinary existence when he first discovers Artoo-Deetoo - the hint of an Extraordinary World. 


Story-Creation Step 1 should be a masterly crafted prelude, presenting all the motifs that will later, bit by bit, scene by scene or page by page, be tied together. 

In a sense, Step 1 should suggest an imbalance in the Hero's World, an imbalance that, by the story's end, will be corrected. 

Examples of Mood and Context

* In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is shown at his counting house. Christmas cheer and forgiveness (the Antagonists) are all around him.

* In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is shown in Kansas, dreaming of a world 'somewhere over the rainbow’. 


The scenes in this step should take up about two percent of your story. (NB: For a 256-page novel this amounts to around five pages.) However, this is a guideline only; your story's need is the final decision maker. 

Step 02 

Story Creation Step 2 should focus on two main scenes or sequences of scenes:

1) Point of Attack

The Hero is presented directly with the "Extraordinary World". In theatre terms, this Step is sometimes referred to as the "Point of Attack" (or "P.O.A.”). 

Something from the Extraordinary World (usually the World of the Antagonist) is witnessed or experienced by the Hero that is a kind of challenge, or call to adventure. 

Keep in mind that there are a number of ways in which the Extraordinary World might be presented to the Hero. It may come in a new activity, something that causes a change in the Hero's ordinary condition, some significant gain or loss in the Hero's life and so on. 

2) Initial Reaction and Ultimate Response to Point of Attack
In almost all Plot Category stories the Hero willingly accepts the call to adventure with little if any hesitation. 

Examples of Point of Attack and Reaction/Response

* In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge sees the face of Marley's ghost on the door knocker. When he is unable to find Marley behind the door, he responds, "Bah. Humbug”. 

* In Star Wars, Luke sees the projection of the Princess, who begs for Ben Kenobi's help to save her. This having excited his curiosity, Luke begins inquiring about what has happened to Ben Kenobi. 

* In Hamlet, various guards and a friend of Hamlet tell Hamlet that they have seen his father's ghost, the late king. Hamlet agrees to meet them later to see the ghost for himself. 

The scenes in this step should take up about six percent of your story. 

Story Creation Step 3 should focus on:


In Plot Category stories, the entire step is the Hero's meeting with a Helper, or Helpers, who will assist the Hero in resolving the major issue of the story. 

Although the Mentor advises or befriends the Hero, (s)he does not usually accompany the Hero on the "journey”. (Remember, all stories are journeys or adventures, broadly speaking. A story can be a literal, physical adventure, or it can, for instance, be a spiritual, psychological one.) 

Perhaps the most famous example of a Mentor is Merlin from the King Arthur stories. Mentors are, in fact, often Shape Changers, who have magical powers, either figuratively or literally. 


* In A Christmas Carol, the ghost of Marley is Scrooge's Mentor. 

* In Star Wars, Ben Kenobi, Luke's Mentor, explains to Luke the significance of Artoo-Deetoo's message. Initially, however, Luke refuses to answer the "call" and fight the Empire; so he turns back home. When, on his return, he finds that his village has been destroyed by the Empire he changes his mind and accepts the call to adventure. 

* In Great Expectations, Miss Havisham is Pip's Mentor. 

* In Hamlet, the ghost (Hamlet's father and Mentor) tells Hamlet how his brother (Hamlet’s uncle) murdered him to obtain the throne. Hamlet listens willingly. 


The scenes in this step should take up about five percent of your story

Step 04 

Story-Creation Step 4 is the Step at which the Hero's "journey" is about to begin. The Hero is at the edge of the adventure, the edge of the Extraordinary World of the Antagonist. This Step includes some event, planning, preparation or other experience that sets up the first major turning point of the story (to come at the next Step). 


* In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is thrown into space by a tornado.

* In Star Wars Luke enters the bar on the edge of the galaxy. 

* In Great Expectations, Pip sets off for London to be trained to be a gentleman. 


The scenes in this step should take up about 10 percent of your story. 

Step 05 

Story Creation Step 5 should reveal the following:

The Hero at the Point of No Return and Committed to the Journey

Step 5 is the step at which the Hero steps squarely into the World of the Antagonist. He or she is at the point of no return and committed to the journey ("crossing the threshold"). 

Wonderment, Eagerness and Anxiety

The Hero is fully in the midst of a different, wondrous, perhaps fearful, World. At this Step, the story should bring out clearly the Hero's reactions to the Extraordinary World, especially to those things that would cause wonderment - and perhaps fear - in the Hero. 

Activity of the Antagonists' Helpers

The Hero comes in contact with many of the Antagonist's Helpers but not generally or substantially with the Antagonist. Although the Antagonist might appear - at least symbolically - for the first time, at this stage the focus is clearly on the Antagonist's Helpers, not the Antagonist. 

The story shows how the Antagonist's Helpers go about carrying out his/her wishes and generally how they interact with the Antagonist. To a slight degree at this point, the Hero may interact with the Antagonist. Although the Antagonist is not yet the story's focus, his/her goals should begin to be explained at this stage. 


* In Moby Dick, Ahab speaks to the crew about the White Whale, indicating that this is no ordinary journey. 

* In Star Wars, Luke arrives on the Death Star, where he meets its crew and the Emperor. 

* Anna Karenina makes her fatal decision to have an affair. 


Step 5 is the first major turning point of the story. If we think of a story as having three acts, this is the transition to Act II and what all the preparation up to now has been about. 

Some teachers refer to the previous [first] quarter of the story as Exposition and this point as the beginning of Development. 

Caution: Good stories never make the mistake of having the Hero appear suddenly in a new place for no obvious reason. They do not, in other words, change their plot at this Step. The plot must continue its logical progression. 


The scenes in this step should take up about three percent of your story. 

Step 06 

Push and Pull
Story Creation Step 6 is the Step at which the Hero is in a near-continuous "test" with the Antagonist's Helpers. 

The Hero's Learning Process
In Step 6, the Hero is, in whatever sense fits your story, being tested. Through those tests – and through the tests to come, especially in Step 7 – the Hero begins a gradual, subtle learning process. A process that will lead to a major change or discovery later in the story. 

This could amount simply to the Hero discovering more about what is going on: for example, who his/her enemies are, who his/her friends are and generally how things work in the Antagonist's World. 

Show, Don't Tell

Try not to tell your audience most of what happens; instead devise scenes that show the tests and the beginnings of the learning process. 

* In Star Wars, Luke, with his Ally Hans Solo, faces various challenges from Darth Vader's Helpers. At this stage, however, Luke has no direct contact with Darth Vader, the Antagonist. 

* In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her Allies (Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion) face constant challenges from the Witch's Helpers. The Witch (an Antagonist) appears only occasionally. 

The scenes in this step should take up about 22 percent of your story. 

Step 07 

Push and Pull II

Story Creation Step 7 continues the testing period begun in Step 6. The Hero is now, however, facing a number of challenges and difficulties coming directly from the Antagonist, while the Antagonist's Helpers are largely in the background. 

The Hero's Learning Process Continues

As in Step 6, the Hero is still being tested, by whatever means. Through the tests, the Hero continues a very gradual and subtle learning process, a process that will lead to a major change or discovery later in the story. 

Show, Don't Tell

Again remember, try not to tell your audience most of what happens but rather to devise scenes that show the tests and the beginnings of the learning process. 

* In Star Wars, Luke, with his Ally Hans Solo, faces various challenges directly from Darth Vader (the Antagonist) as well as from his Helpers.

* In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her Allies (Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion) face challenges directly from the Witch and the Wizard as well as from the Witch's Helpers. (Remember, the main Antagonist is the Land of Oz, which manifests itself through its Helpers as well as through the Wicked Witch, her Helpers and the Wizard.) 


The scenes in this step should take up about 11 percent of your story. 

Step 08 

Story Creation Step 8 completes roughly the middle of the story (what some refer to as "Development"). It is both the personal-crisis moment for the Hero and the point of near-triumph for the Antagonist. 


Since the Antagonist has gained an overwhelming advantage over the Hero in his/her ongoing "tests" in Steps 6 and 7, the Hero is now facing the darkest time. The Hero suffers either a serious reversal of fortune or a confrontation with death itself. 

It is, in short, the personal-crisis moment for the Hero. (At the end of the story, of course, there is also a crisis, but generally that will be a plot crisis - the final resolution, as it were, of the elements that have been building all along - not a personal crisis.) 

Up until this time there have been many conflicts – that is what makes for a good story – however, in all those instances, the Hero and the reader, has a sense of hopefulness. Even though the Antagonist and the Antagonist's Helpers have constantly been creating difficulties for the Hero, the Hero hasn't given up, or even pretended to give up ... until now.

In Epic and Character stories, this is a building moment for the Hero, who will be forced to choose between one lifestyle and another (the actual choosing comes in the next Step). It is the set up for a radical change in the Hero's will or attitudes. In this Step, though, the Hero thinks he or she has failed, or committed some unpardonable sin and has, seemingly, no good choice. 


Since the Hero is in the darkest and most fearsome parts of the Antagonist's (Extraordinary) World, Step 8 is, not surprisingly, the Step at which we'll get to know the Antagonist personally. Interwoven throughout this Step is the presence of the Antagonist and the Antagonist's World. 

Only the external nature of the Antagonist should be revealed; there should be no sympathy or psychological observations. 


* In Gone With the Wind, Rhett parts with Scarlett, who has what amounts to an obsession to go home (the Ordinary World). When she arrives, however, she finds that that World has become part of the Extraordinary World, where her home and way of life was destroyed by the war. Her problem, therefore, is to learn from the Antagonist how to live in this new, changing world - but that is yet to come. 

* In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is shown his grave by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Although he was intellectually convinced by the first two ghosts, this moment frightens him most of all. 


The scenes in this step should take up about 12 percent of your story. 

Step 09 

Story Creation Step 9 begins what some teachers call the "Resolution" section of the story (in the "three-act system" this is the final part). It is so-named because the story is now leading directly to a major resolution that will, at least to some degree, resolve all the controversy that has been building from the beginning. 

This is the most important Step in any story, for it is the stage at which the Hero bounces back from the depths of despair and gets a second chance, a new lease on life. This Step should reveal the following: 

Profound Change in the Hero
The Hero's "new knowledge" is more directly practical and the Hero's "new lease on life" is more literal and immediate. That is, the Hero gains some knowledge, not about him/herself so much as about the immediate predicament. That knowledge allows the Hero finally to break loose from his/her bonds (immediate problems, obstacles, etc.) and win the day. The Hero's fortunes have changed; the tide has turned. 

The Most Remarkable Qualities and Strengths of the Hero

At this point the most remarkable qualities and strengths of the Hero should be brought out. These qualities and strengths could be superhuman qualities or some special abilities that cause the most important plot development in the story. 

Thwarted Aims of the Antagonist

The events and actions occurring at this Step should illustrate how the Antagonist has faltered in some way so as to allow the Hero to win. 

A New Stage

This Step should bring the Hero to a new stage at which the Hero now has at least a fighting chance for the final confrontation with the Antagonist, which is to come in Step 11. 


* In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge completely rejects his former self. 

* In Hamlet, by watching the reactions of the current King to the play within a play, Hamlet realizes that the murder of his father, the former King, was not a figment of his imagination. 

* In the Old Testament, Job is reconciled to God. 

* In the New Testament, Paul accepts Christ. 


The scenes in this step should take up about three percent of your story. 

Step 10 


Story Creation Step 10 is generally a setting up of the confrontation to come in the next Step. It usually focuses on some or all of the following three main scenes or sequences of scenes. 

Transitional Incident or Recounting (Optional)

In many stories, Step 10 can begin with a short incident or a recounting of events by the Hero. This explains how the Hero got from the point of the major change (in the previous Step) to his/her current situation. It may be very short – and in some stories it may not even occur. Take as an example, Hamlet relating how pirates rescued him from one of the King's plots against him and then set him ashore. It is short, but it sets the scene.

Note that in some stories (most Intense Love stories, for example) the confrontation, which normally begins at the next Step, may be so long that it needs to begin at this Step. In such instances, this Step might start with only a very short confrontation set-up scene (if it has one at all) before beginning the confrontation. 

A Sequence in which the Hero is preparing for Confrontation with the Antagonist

The majority – if not the entirety – of this Step is devoted to readying the main characters for the confrontation, which will begin immediately in the next Step. 

The Hero may have a renewed sense of confidence and, therefore, may be particularly busy preparing for the confrontation. As an example, in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy returns to Oz to make the Wizard keep his promise. 

A Sequence in which the Antagonist is Preparing for Confrontation with the Hero

The Antagonist, now desperate, is preparing for a confrontation with the Hero and is, perhaps, pursuing the Hero. (Note that some stories may not require an actual pursuit here - even though some Story-Type outlines may refer to a "pursuit”.) 

Remember, the Antagonist has in the previous Steps had all of his sophisticated plans and efforts thwarted by the Hero. The Hero has been winning lately in spite of - and often because of - the Antagonist's best efforts. The Antagonist, therefore, might now conclude that the only way to deal with the Hero is to remove him/her - in some cases this will mean to kill the Hero. Thus this Step always gives the sense that the stakes are now very high. 


The scenes in this step should take up about 11 percent of your story. 

Step 11 

This Step should focus on only one sequence of events:

Confrontation of the Hero and Antagonist in a Life or Death Struggle

Story Creation Step 11 is the Step at which the Hero confronts the Antagonist directly. Although the Hero may have had other dealings with the Antagonist in past Steps, this time the Hero has already made his or her critical choice. So this confrontation marks the Hero's public display of their new confidence and knowledge about the circumstances. The fight marks the Hero's general proving of him/herself and his/her application of what has been learned. 

This Step is the resolution of all the plot development to this point. Therefore, this Step is not so much about the character as it is about the plot. The Hero has already had his/her personal, or character, Transformation. Now (s)he has simply to take action to resolve the general challenge that the Antagonist has been presenting from the beginning.

This Step is usually the most exciting of all. There is normally a chase sequence or other major plot development involving the Antagonist. 


* In Hamlet, the battle ensues between Hamlet and Laertes, culminating in Hamlet's killing the King. 

* In The Wizard of Oz, the Wizard has difficulties granting Dorothy's wishes for her friends, but finally solves their problems. Then, he tells Dorothy that he can get her back home, travelling in a balloon, if she clicks her magic shoes together while reciting the words "There's no place like home”. 

The Antagonist as Sympathetic Figure

There should be little, if any, sympathy for the Antagonist. Love Stories are, however, the exception to this, since something terrible usually happens to the Antagonist – the Hero's lover.

"Death" of the Antagonist

Often, a result of the confrontation is the "death" of the Antagonist. Note that, although the "death" might be a literal death, it can also be only a symbolic one, referring, for example, to the Antagonist's loss of power or control over the Hero. For example, in order for the Wizard of Oz to grant Dorothy's wishes, he must "die", that is, reveal himself as who he is and no longer be a wizard. 


The scenes in this step should take up about 10 percent of your story. 

Step 12 

The final Story Creation Step, Step 12, is composed of two main parts:

1) Final Resolution of Conflict

The final conflict is resolved - which takes up most of this Step. 

2) Restoration of Balance/Return to the Ordinary World

The Hero physically returns to the Ordinary World after the final resolution. Unlike the beginning of the story, however, where the Hero's World was, in some sense, out of balance, the Hero’s problems have been eliminated and the Ordinary World is no longer troubled. 

Endings: Happy or Tragic

There will always be a happy ending. This is the primary step where you make clear the Category of your story. 


* In The Wizard of Oz, the balloon in which Dorothy was supposed to travel, pulls away by mistake, leaving her alone. Her friends say they'll adopt her, but all she can remember are the words: "There's no place like home”. She then returns to Kansas (awakes from her dream), having gained the knowledge that There's no place like home. 


The scenes in this step should take up about five percent of your story. 

The real cause and consequences of the Global Financial Crisis

Written as an email newsletter to our property investors in 2008

Are we witnessing the last days of the American Empire, the death of Capitalism and the end of the free market as we know it?

The biggest mistake that is being made in interpreting the cause of the financial crisis is to confuse the operation of the free market with elaborate fraud, let me explain. 

The current story which is being pedalled around is that the de-regulation of financial markets led to unbridled greed within the banking community and this greed produced the highly leveraged toxic derivative financial products which are now killing the world’s financial system.

On the surface this is true but you need to pay attention to get this bit because it is where the political sleight of hand comes in. 

We are being told that it is the free market which has allowed this to happen whereas in reality it is the free market that is in the process of purging the system. 

Let me illustrate the point. One of the essential features of the free market is that it is open and transparent. In other words, when a free market operates correctly, everyone gets an even chance to succeed and those who do are the best at what they do. 
The financial markets have been anything but open and transparent, in reality they have been made overly complicated in an effort to hide the true nature of what has been going on, the plundering of our societies wealth for short term gain, this is not the operation of the free market it is more akin to piracy!

Financial smoke and mirrors  

As an example of the way in which financial markets have been manipulated and undermined by the greedy and the short-sighted, let’s take a look at one of the so called sophisticated financial instruments which are being cited as the cause of the instability.

Credit Default Swops    

A merchant bank insider was bemoaning his fate recently and complaining that the wicked hedge funds were deliberately manipulating the CDS market in order to scare the market about their shares while they took out short selling positions and made huge amounts of money as the shares plummeted.

All of this meant precisely nothing to me and although I grieved for him like a lost brother, to be honest I didn’t know what he was talking about. So, out of curiosity I made it my business to find out what CDS’s really are.

It seems that at some time in the last few years one of the ‘creative’ merchant bankers came up with credit default swops as a way of enabling them to lend more money than their capital base would normally allow. 

In essence, as we all know, banks lend more money than they actually have. The ratios for this lending are strictly regulated and are there to prevent a bank lending irresponsible amounts of money. If a bank does lend too much money, there is an increased risk that any defaults on the loans could eat up the banks capital and make them insolvent.

So a credit default swop was invented to get round these capital ratios while remaining inside the regulations. What happens is that a bank lends money to a borrower and then goes to another bank and buys the equivalent of an insurance policy which means if the borrower defaults then the lending bank can go to the second bank to get the money back.

By doing this the first bank can lend ever more money because it has ‘laid off’ the risk of a default with another bank. The only problem is that the second bank is also doing exactly the same thing only they are using the first bank to insure their loans against default, hence the coy name ‘credit default swops’.

To make matters worse, these ‘cdo’s’ were then classified as tradable instruments in their own right, which meant that other banks and institutions could purchase them on the open market. In this way they became a barometer for the creditworthiness of the issuing bank which is how hedge funds were able to use them to spook the market about a particular bank while they were short selling the banks shares.

 In hindsight this might seem a pretty obvious sleight of hand which would have been picked up by the ever vigilant regulators, well it wasn’t and you are left wondering why not.

The Black Swan   

This theory was described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2007 book The Black Swan and it helps to explain how the financial markets pulled off such an enormous confidence trick. In essence, all banks have to calculate risk when adopting any buying, selling or lending strategy. The assessment of risk is important because it is this process which protects the backsides of the executives if things go wrong. 

In other words they employ highly qualified scientists, experts in risk assessment to tell them that what they are doing is OK. Of course if any of these brain boxes make the mistake of saying that what is going on is not OK then they are promptly rendered unemployable. It’s a bit like getting an expert witness at a trial, what the witness says very much depends on whether they are being paid by the defence or the prosecution.

The idea of the black swan is based on the simple concept of deductive logic. Deductive logic is really precise and elegant and neat but unfortunately it does not tell us anything we don’t already know and so it is totally useless in predicting the unexpected. 

So if we start off with a simple statement called by scientists a ‘hypothesis’ that says ‘All swans are white’ then, if we are presented with a swan, we can say with 100% certainty that ‘this is a swan, therefore it is white’. Of course the problem comes within the terms of the hypothesis itself, it states that all swans are white but it does not say how this conclusion was reached.

The reason for using the example of the black swan is because until the discovery of black swans relatively recently, all observed swans had been white, it was therefore very reasonable to assume if presented with a swan that it would be white but the process of coming to this conclusion is not based on certainty, rather it is based on probability, two very different things.

It therefore follows that if the boffins who create the value at risk models depended upon by banks use deductive logic in their hypotheses to try and bypass the unknown, then all their complex workings will be worthless in the face of just one black swan. 

Not the free Market
So this type of behaviour is not the operation of the free market, it is actually the antithesis of the free market (the exact opposite). Given time it is only the operation of the free market that will provide the catharsis needed to heal and restore order to the system. 

Better Start Learning Chinese

The fundamental cause of the crisis was the irresponsible use of leverage. There is however yet another black swan out there to take into consideration.
Just as the out of control credit bubble had to burst eventually, so the flow of cheap goods from China to the western economies will also exact a high price. Just as our stock markets have crashed the Chinese find their coffers filled with our currency and as we don’t produce anything they want what can they do with the money?

Oh yes, there is one thing they might quite like, how about all our major companies. Yes, that’s right, now our company’s values have fallen so low, the Chinese can come in and give us back some of our currency in return for becoming our economic masters.

Never fear though, our leaders will save us, won’t they? Well probably not, the more disturbing likelihood is that they were all in on the whole scam in the first place. Their argument that no-one could have foreseen this situation is patent rubbish, Warren Buffet saw it, I saw it and countless others saw it too, it was just ‘an inconvenient truth’.

So it’s financial Armageddon then? Which means that property along with everything else will become and remain worthless forever, we don’t think so.

You see just as those pesky Black swans come out of nowhere to spoil the party and suddenly all swans are black, there will also be a white swan which will come out of nowhere and a new party will begin. 

What does this mean for property investment?

The reason we think all this stuff is relevant is to demonstrate how fickle and untrustworthy the alternatives to property investment have proven. The price of the financial turmoil will be paid by the tax payer in the form of higher taxes and lower benefits. What this means is that relying on a pension or the state to look after you in retirement is going to be even more foolhardy than it was before.

Buying property as an investment remains the only way that most people can insure themselves against poverty in old age and now, for a short time at least, we have been presented with a great time to get started. The reason prices have been falling so fast is nothing to do with an oversupply of property, the reverse is true. On our website we receive about 65000 new visitors per month and in the past year we have seen enquiries from tenants increase fivefold. The demand for property has merely leaked into the rented sector and as a result rents are rising and as prices have fallen, this means yields of 7-8% are possible once more and at these yields it is possible to make a profit from the rent, a profit which will grow as interest rates fall. What this translates to is the real possibility of a 20% return on your deposit putting aside long term capital growth prospects. 

The catch is that these favourable buying conditions could end sooner, rather than later, all it would take is the re-introduction of the 100% mortgage and the market would be off and running again. 

Stop Press: ‘Government insists newly nationalised banks restore lending to 2007 levels’

In the mean time builders are de-stocking at an ever faster rate. The new property discounts are now real and relate to yield, not some invented valuation. The catch here is that builders have stopped building so once they have de-stocked there will be nothing else new available in volume for some time.

As private individual investors this is the time to be bold and get your portfolio off the ground. If you don’t act now then housing associations will step in and mop up this stock before you get a look in. With our help you can buy property at the same fire sale prices that are being paid by bulk buyers. This applies to second hand part exchanges as well as completed and partially completed new property. 

As a company Choices Acquisitions has retained its credibility and integrity as an advisor by refusing to put our clients into overhyped, overpriced off plan development at the height of the boom. For this reason you should take us seriously when we say that now is the time to start buying in earnest while the current climate of fear persists.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Architect of all we see

The Architect of all we see
Is somehow hidden from our view
And yet the art of being free
All depends on what we do

Our eyes and ears cannot perceive 
The blueprint there for us to find
The message there to be received
By open hearts and open minds

For large or small as we may be
Contained within is one design
One celestial symmetry 
Created by a force divine

Sunday, 23 November 2014

If you could live a thousand years

If you could live a thousand years
Your beauty burning like a fire
With all the wisdom of your peers
To hone the edge of your desire

How strong and bright would be the lure
A promise no one could resist
Worth any price but are you sure
Or is their poison in the mist

If after all your seasons bright
Your light would dim and fade away
No future just the black of night
No sun to rise and greet the day

A hundred summers flowing by
Our lives are short we seldom see
but even though we quickly die
We have our own immortality 

We do no have much time to spend
Upon this earth of care and woe
But a life that has no end
Is waiting for us when we go

The Dark Lagoon

A Novel by Simon Shinerock

Read a sample chapter

Product Description

Rex Proctor had a problem, he'd spent a thousand years building his fantasy island from the goodness he stole from the souls of his victims. But now the Dark lagoon was nearly full and unless he found a solution it would burst its banks and ruin everything he had created.

Friday, 21 November 2014

The Big Bang a Short Story

By Simon Shinerock  

Utter contentment, they were the only words Virginia Smith could think of to describe her feelings. Never in her twenty seven years could she remember experiencing anything like it. However, gradually, as the euphoria started to recede and full consciousness began elbowing its way through her wakening mind, Virginia started to panic. At first she became aware of a vague pressure somewhere in her head, an ominous pressure which was slowly but inexorably building, a pressure that started whispering to Virginia that something was not right, no, worse than that, something was terribly wrong.

At first the panic threatened to overwhelm her, it became caught in her throat, paralyzing her breathing reflex, realizing she could not breathe Virginia fought for breath, willing the familiar rise and fall of her lungs but it was no good, she was going to suffocate. Little by little though, the panic started to ebb away, Virginia, realising that panic was not working recalled the old Chinese proverb, ‘when crash inevitable, sit back and enjoy’. On the plus side, she was experiencing no pain, other than the self inflicted pain brought about by her own fear. She started to look for answers and began to speculate on how she came to be dying in this way, (because she had decided that she must be dying). She remembered her mum telling her about some kind of genetic heart defect that saw off Uncle Tom at a youngish age, or was he that young? No, Tom was 87 when he died but nevertheless, she was sure his heart gave out, so it still seemed relevant.

Then she began considering the time it would take for her to expire, it seemed like she had stopped breathing about three minutes ago and she knew that a person couldn’t survive much longer than that without air, so it would all be over quite soon. Wistfully she started to think about Will, her boyfriend, and then randomly, Trig her pet hamster, except Trig had himself expired 23 years earlier when she was four years old. Just as a feeling of calm had more or less asserted itself, she had another morbid thought, perhaps she was already dead? Yes, that had to be it, she was dead; after all, she couldn’t breathe, in fact she had no impulse to breathe whatsoever, added to which she couldn’t open her eyes either which meant she had to be dead.

Then another thought dawned, what if she was in limbo? Suspended between life and death, her eternal fate being considered by higher powers, clearly it was not a black and white heaven or hell decision, because it was taking so long. So Limbo it was, come to think of it she did feel very floaty, as if she were suspended in a calm sea, waving backwards and forwards with the warm gentle eddies. She started to wonder how long the deliberations would take, it seemed like another twenty or so minutes had slipped by and she was starting to feel a little bit impatient, her apprehension turning to irritation, the practical side of her nature trying to take command. If these higher powers were so omnipotent, it shouldn’t take them so long to make up their minds should it? Why couldn’t they just get on with it and put her out of her misery, if she was going to heaven she wanted to go there now and if it was hell, well then the sooner she got used to the idea the better.

Virginia was abruptly taken out of her metaphysical reverie by a new sensation which began to nag at the corners of her consciousness. Until now, she had believed that her eyes were closed. This was a logical deduction because she could see nothing and appeared to have no ability to open her eyes. Her mistake was becoming obvious as a startling variety of colours and images began to emerge out of the gloom. She tried to speculate on the cause of these new phenomena, dismissing the afterlife theory at least for a moment.  Could it be that she had experienced a stroke or a brain haemorrhage? It seemed quite plausible; after all, such a brain injury would explain just about all the symptoms she had been having. She decided that she was probably in a hospital somewhere linked up to a life support machine, or, even worse on an operating table undergoing emergency surgery. She had heard about cases like hers where the patient regains consciousness during the operation but can’t say anything to alert the doctors to the fact. Then with horror she remembered reading a book called ‘the Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ where the poor author was left in a totally inactive state with the exception of having the ability to blink one eye. The thought of spending the rest of her life in a chair blinking one eye to communicate changed in Virginia’s mind from a possibility, to a virtual certainty in the blink of an eye. She felt the panic starting to rise again and if she had have been able to breathe she would have been hyperventilating.

Her surroundings were however oblivious to Virginias emotional fragility and even as she rehearsed her imaginary doom, colours became clearer and strange shapes and structures started to hove into view. The horizon was dominated by a rich pulsating red, its surface mottled and flecked with patches of light and areas of dark shadow. For the first time, Victoria started to feel as if she had become a part of some kind of alien landscape. She suddenly realised that in some strange way she actually was a part of the ebb and flow that flashed ever brighter at the forefront of her mind and that in a way she could not fully understand, she was being absorbed by it. Virginia had always prided herself in being an individual, someone who you couldn’t pigeon hole, a little quirky even. Yet here she was; no more that an hour into this new dimension to her experience and her individuality was melting away like a choc ice on a hot summer’s day. Soon she felt like there would be nothing left of the old her, nothing except her inner core, wiped clean.

Just as she was drifting past the point on no return, she felt oddly relieved, relieved of all the cares and responsibilities of her life. In that final moment between existence and non existence she experienced an amazing moment of clarity. The folly of her previous life was made clear and the solution to all life’s problems was laid before her. She felt herself nodding inwardly with approval, her fading inner voice whispering ‘I see now’. But as she tumbled over the cosmic falls which would take her to oblivion, the peaceful acceptance of her fate was shattered by an equally powerful but far more violent force. The whole of her universe shuddered to its core. There was no other way to describe what was happening, it was like an earthquake but so much more than an earthquake. Earthquakes only reform the land and the ocean, they leave the sky and the heavens untouched. What was happening to Victoria was far more than a local event, it was a universal shifting of perspective, a transition into another dimension and the transition looked like it was going to be a traumatic one.

The one good thing about this new drama was that it shocked Victoria back to herself; it somehow triggered a deeply buried survival instinct which took hold of what was left of her mind and asserted her right to retain her individuality no matter what the cost. It was as if Victoria had taken her first hit of Crack and followed it with a Crystal Meth chaser. Her senses, sharpened, every muscle in her body tightened, assuming that is that she still had a body, an issue she felt was still open to question. 

Then there were noises, there could be no mistake, she could hear noises. The sudden presence of these noises revealed how quickly the absence of sound had become normal to her. What’s more, these noises sounded disjointed, grating, irritating. Victoria wanted to flick them away like an irritatingly persistent fly but she had nothing she could use to swat them with. The noises were not in sync with anything else, there was no rhythm to them, they did not belong to her new universe and immediately she associated them with its imminent destruction. As the violence of the cataclysmic disturbance subsided though, the noises remained but now they were changing, morphing into something familiar yet almost forgotten. 

‘That’s good’. The phrase brought her up short, startling her out of survival mode, there could be no mistake, she clearly heard the words emerge from the midst of the annoying noises. Worse, there were other words and phrases coming through as the seemingly random static turned into a language she once used without thinking. And then the penny finally dropped, she had gone insane, and was currently in an insane asylum undergoing ECT. 

The thought made her half remembered flesh crawl, she had once seen a documentary about mental asylums and the way they treated patients. She imagined herself tied down, strapped to an infernal machine, her eyes covered, her mouth bandaged shut, undergoing God knows what experiments in the name of progress and medical science. Then, there was another rip in the fabric of space and time, this time though it was far more powerful than before, it felt as if she was being torn apart atom by atom, her own personal big bang, heralding the beginning of a new universe.

‘That’s it Mrs Smith, you’ve done great, its all over now, you can relax, nurse, give Mrs smith her new baby, there you are it’s a beautiful baby girl, any ideas on what you want to call her’?

‘Yes doctor, her name is Virginia’.

The End

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Endless Love

Nothing that we do or say
Is really free from selfish gain
Every penny that we pay
Has our interests as its aim

There is no cause that turns our heart
Or makes us something we are not
For we are made to play a part
We cannot choose to change our lot

But there are things that we can choose 
To value that which has no price
To understand we cannot lose
To step right up and roll the dice 

Every generous thought we think 
For every act of kindness made
We pull our souls back from the brink
In endless love we are repaid 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Some Men Deal in Coin

Some men deal in coin
And some men deal in gold
But whatever a man may deal in
All men will grow old

remember as you plot and plan 
however fast you run
Your days are numbered to a span
enjoy your moment in the sun

And when the light is dimming
Face the growing haze
And take a heart that's brimming
With you through the maze

Lie Still my Brother and Listen Well

Lie still my brother and listen well
To the music deep inside
Hear the ringing of the bell
And feel the turning of the tide

Hold hard now sister do not weep
There is no need to cry
For when you look into the deep
Your heart will not run dry

Silence is where the wisdom lies
In melodies both rich and clear
and yet the sound of silence cries
So all who hear it lose their fear

Monday, 17 November 2014

Sky Fibreoptic Broadband Beware

I realise that my experience with Sky may well apply to other providers but it acts as a cautionary tale for anyone feeling seduced by the flashy adverts for super fast fibreoptic broadband. I certainly was and was on a waiting list for Fibreoptic once it reached our house in East Sussex.

So when Fibreoptic became available last year promising stratospheric download speeds I thought my days of waiting interminably for data to come through were over. However, this was not exactly what happened. Sure, I did notice a slight increase in speed but the service was still by no means 'super fast' and no more reliable than it used to be.

Eventually I did a speed check myself, there are several services available online. I found out two things. The first was that my average download speed was between 4-6 MB per second, really marginal for modern media. Second that if I took off the faceplate from my telephone point and plugged the router lead directly into the BT outlet the speed more than doubled to 13MB per second, in no way 'Super Fast' but better.

So I called Sky and this is the interesting bit. During the conversation it was explained to me that although our exchange does have fibre, the fibre ends in the road near our house and that the signal completes its journey by copper wire. This is why the speed I get is barely different from non 'Super Fast' broadband. Of course once the copper wire is replaced with Fibreoptic cable I will get the promised speed but there is no timescale for this big job to be started, never mind finished.

The very helpful Sky rep offered to downgrade my account if I wanted as it would mean I would pay less than half. However no offer was made to refund me what I had already paid. In my opinion this is yet another misrepresentation scam. It is misrepresentation by omission, not what they say but what they don't say. It is clear Sky are aware of the risk, hence the helpful attitude. I have just found out 'Which' is on to this abuse but the program I saw did not point out the actual technical reason for the problem which is really what customers need to know.

What any provider can do is tell you what you personally can expect from their service irrespective of the claims of maximum speeds. This has to be made clear before orders are taken and mislead clients need to be refunded.

What is the Future for UK Property Investment?

When I was 24 (back in 1981)! I joined the Imperial Life of Canada as a development manager and two years later I had relocated my family to Birmingham where I took over their moribund sales office. What Imperial Life were good at was teaching about need selling, about helping people achieve their goals through intangible products they neither wanted or understood.

As the business of financial services became more regulated, despite having myself become a prolific pension salesman and having recruited and trained a large team of salespeople, I decided it was time to leave the business. However I didn't jump ship hastily, I relocated back to the south east and started my current business Choices in 1989, our first office was in Crawley, I'm proud to say it's still there, although the original premises has long since been demolished.

The early 90s were a hard proving ground and as financial services became ever more regulated, the Home sales market remained depressed. Despite my selling and a few creative ideas it was all looking dicey until in 1995 the market started to recover and I managed to latch onto the beginnings of the Lettings boom. Since 1995 Choices has expanded, today we manage over 2000 properties for clients, most using our unique Primary Tenancy business model.

Last year and again this year we won the AllAgents best UK estate agent award, an achievement of which I am very proud and grateful. However, this history is a mere anecdote, the point of this post is that in 2000 I founded Choices Investment division on the premiss that most people can't achieve financial security and freedom through work alone, would be better off investing in property than stocks and shares and would bet more likely to achieve their goals with our help than going it alone.

This led into auction information and advice, below market value property, off plan and even international investments. During the last 14 years the concept has evolved and simplified into a hands free end to end service where we find property and manage it all over the country on behalf of our retained clients.

We are in essence a buyers agency specialising in buy go let, a market that has grown in size much faster tan it has developed the services to support the people in it. My vision of the future includes working in a two way relationship with estate agents and introducers, we already have the start of a nationwide network. To some we are seen as a clearing house for properties they want to sell fast, for others as another string to their bow when local clients want access to nationwide property Investment.

What I see is that like in the old days of the Imperial life, the future of the industry is teaching advisors need selling and how to build a loyal client bank who stick with them through life's journey. This is very different  from just finding and selling cheap property, a much more satisfying business and one that with the right people involved could be scaleable into something very substantial and worthwhile.

I'm interested in at least putting in the initial foundation stones of such a project I think we already have, at least to some extent. I would be interested in other people's views and in hearing from anyone who wants to explore the future in more depth, either as an agent, partner, or through a more ambitious joint venture.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Look into the Starry Night

Look into the starry night 
And tell me what you see
Is the future bold and bright
Please tell me what will be

Are the stars like grains of sand
Upon an endless beach
Do you see a creators hand
Throughout the endless reach

Or are we standing here alone 
With just our thoughts to guide
Will our hearts be turned to stone
As through this life we ride