The Haps IX
Blink and you'll miss it.

Miss what?

Miss the rainbow tapestry that is my life at present.

I've just begun another very interesting contract (again, for an agency) with a client that makes medical products (pacemakers, stents, pain relief devices, even deep brain stimulus machines for Parkinson's sufferers).

It's going to be an interesting Summer...

I made some initially good progress with writing a book about creative graphics using Microsoft Word, but as my time has been taken up with working for a living I've been forced to let it lie. Just for a while. I will get back to it.

I need to. It's one of my lifelines.

I also had to stop maintaining two separate Story-Lines sites (one .com and one .net). It was hard enough keeping one going, let alone two.

So now the .net version redirects to the .com version (this one) and I'll develop different content for the .net version in due course.

The Haps VIII
December 2004 and January 2005 were a bit of a muddle. I finished a contract, didn't think I was going to get another, had one suddenly offered to me, and now that has unexpectedly finished thanks to some fiscal short-sightedness on the part of a client's executives.

Oh, well. If they don't wake up they'll be fired. But too late to do me any good.

So I'm back looking for another gig (and there is one that appears very, very interesting).

I'm also trying to get at least one current writing project finished. It's a book aimed at doodlers and uses Microsoft Word's Draw facility to generate creative graphics. It will be one of several in that vein (different applications -- PowerPoint, Excel -- different languages) and I have other publications planned too.

These may be self-published projects (ePublished, probably) or they may be handed off to a traditional publisher (I have started a conversation with one major player and we'll see where that leads).

I am also still trying to get ideas down on paper (well, hard disk) for a number of creative concepts, and details should be given elsewhere in this News section.

Keep watching this space.

The Haps VII
Life (with a capital Hell) has a habit of being thoroughly confusing at times.

I had resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to get a follow-on contract after the holiday season. I'd had no contact from my agency, and it was apparent that I was going to have to pull out all the stops and look for another job, pronto.

Almost a month after the end of my contract, and after I had revised my resume for the second time to try and make myself "attractive" to another agency's client, so that they might want to interview me, I suddenly got a call out of the blue letting me know that the paperwork had finally gone through and the contract (90 days worth - what I began with over two years before) was mine for the taking.

So. Back to having a bird in the hand, two in the bush (almost - the new contract I was trying to get would have lost us $1000 a month and I had no idea how I was going to make up that shortfall). What to do?

Well, I knew I could do the continued contract standing on my head, and it was at the same rate as before (albeit with a different job title), so we'd not have to struggle to make ends meet. And I knew most of the players involved, so I wouldn't be starting afresh.

In the end, and because I had to make the decision quickly, I accepted the invitation to return to the previous agency's client and reluctantly let go pursuit of the new opportunity (which was not a sure thing - I had several hurdles to get over before even walking in through the door, so I could still have failed to earn the position).

I hope I don't live to regret it. So far it's taken me three days just to get my old ID badge back, I have no computer, no phone, no network login, no email, and no permanent desk at which to work.

But that's the way things started in late 2002, so I'm on familiar ground there :).

The Haps VI
The last time I updated this column I said I was amazed at how little time for creative writing I had.

Then I lost even that little time, and "amazed" ceased to have much meaning.

But now I have a breather. For reasons that are too arcane to go into, I find myself sitting on the bench while I wait for someone to sign a small piece of paper that will free funds to employ me.

Once that is done (not sure when) my enforced break will be over.

You might think that this is an excellent opportunity to catch up with my creative writing projects, but in practice I am just too exhausted. I will just have to take the time to recharge my batteries.

But I haven't been slouching during the last several months. I have further concepts registered on WriteSafe, and more in the pipeline.

Look elsewhere here for more details.

I hope everyone had a great festive season and holiday and I wish everyone (including me :)) the very best for the New Year.

The Haps V
It never ceases to amaze me how little creative writing time I seem to have these days.

At the beginning of this year I found myself esconced in the Palm Garden Hotel, using it as a base from which to work 12-14 hours a day, 6-7 days a week for almost three months.

The overtime was nice but the lack of a life was not, and in the meantime Casey's health was deteriorating as her knees disintegrated and I wasn't able to be there for her much of the time.

Six months later and I'm not at the hotel and the hours are back to "normal" but my free time still doesn't allow me to write creatively.

So I'm left to establish creative concepts with a view to finding some time "in the future" to turn them into absorbing stories - I hope - and those concepts appear on WriteSafe every quarter (primarily for safe keeping).

The current concept is Nex, Necis (provisional title - LATIN for violent death, usually murder), and is based on the recent discovery of more Roman ruins near where I used to live in Wantage, Oxfordshire.

Still in the early stages of development, it's the story of a Roman centurion stationed in Britain somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd century AD, charged with the task of investigating the murder of one of his men.

On the surface, the culprit is a local leader of native tribal Britons, but all is not as it appears.

We follow the investigation through the eyes of an archaeologist almost 2000 years later as s/he sifts through the tantalising evidence left behind.

To be continued...

The Haps IV
I was tied up with work the last time I wrote something here, and in the meantime my contract was changed and extended to the end of March 2004, but the workload was so much greater that I worked evenings and weekends up to Christmas Eve.

I now function more as a QA engineer than as a scientific technical writer, but what the hay -- it's all work, and the daily mental gymnastics keep my brain in working order. Sort of.

The Full Monty sequel still hasn't made it to WriteSafe, but another project, AustrAliens, has. Still only bare bones, I think it has good potential with the right writer(s). Fellow writer Eddie Crismani (see next column) contributed some creative ideas and so deserves credit.

Check out the StoryLines page for the link.

The Haps III
I've been so tied up with my ongoing contract as a scientific technical writer that I have had no time at all to keep my ramblings current. In a way, that's good news -- it means I'm still working!

I have a good handful of ideas on which I have been working when time permits. Among those are a sequel to Coneheads (currently on WriteSafe) and a possible sequel to The Full Monty (Double Exposure), which has yet to be developed enough to be placed on WriteSafe.

The most important new entry though has to be the work of a friend of mine, Eddie Crismani. You'll find his pages here and I hope to extend them as time permits. A panel in the news section provides more information.

The TooWrite Competition is now into its 9th session and if I can get the work done in time, I'll be sending in a handful of stories to them.

The Haps II
Phew! Work, work, work. Then unemployment, unemployment, unemployment. Then work, work, work again.

So much so that I have not had time to keep this site up to date (not that anyone's reading it, apart from me :))

The contract with the semantic analysis software company fizzled out. They ran out of work for me, and then I waited and waited...

Finally my agency suggested that I should look elsewhere for another contract.

So I did, and ended up working on one of the most satisfying gigs I've had in years.

The original contract called for 90 days at no more than 8 hours a day (with national holidays off - unpaid, of course).

It has been extended for another 42 days and I'm hoping for more (but nothing is certain).

The gig is 40 miles away from home but luckily I'm able to rideshare with a friend - someone I used to rideshare with on a previous contract.

I'm working for a biopharmaceutical company, writing scientific papers for researchers. The work is fascinating, not least because it's been 30 years since I last looked at Chemistry and a lot has happened in that time.

It's also great because I get to do tons of online research into things like fractal geometry and draw pretty pictures of Sierpinski's Gasket and similar esoteric objects.

It's great fun, the people are extremely nice to work with, and my boss is the best I've known in a long time (and 30 years before that). [To give them all names: Alastair M, Angela C, Don G, Steve W and now Ed M.]

The downside is getting up at 4:30 am every day and not getting home until after 7pm, which means about 90 minutes to eat, chat to Casey, check email, and crawl into bed ready for the next day. The weekends are reserved for sleeping, doing chores and sleeping...

So no time or energy for creative writing just now - but lots of ideas, which are being committed to my organizer ready for the time I manage to sit down for a few days and write for myself!

So, check back every couple of weeks or so and see if anything's changed (the home page update date will always reveal if anything has).

Oh, and did I mention that I just had my 50th birthday? I wonder how I managed to forget about that...:)

The Haps
So what's the haps?

Or to put it more sensibly, what's been happening?

It's been a while since I had time to keep StoryLines up to date (not since July, in fact). I've been working on a fairly intensive contract that involves semantic analysis software and XML-based documentation, to which I have devoted all my time and energy.

'Nuff said.

Now I'm benched for an uncertain period (i.e., I'm not working and not being paid but the contract is still in existence) so I'm taking the chance to get some more writing done as I keep my eyes open for the next opportunity.

Call Me Silvie (aka Îsle de Trésor) has been registered with WriteSafe but that's about all the writing I've done in the last few months. I have a good half dozen stories that are partially complete and I hope to be working on those over the next few days, and a few more concepts to play with and see what I can develop.

A New Home!
StoryLines now has a mirror in Europe!

In London, to be exact, - and a new domain name - - registered by and hosted by ASSOCIATED NETWORKS LTD.

ANL have a very fast point of presence in Europe - so fast, in fact, that you may find that this site loads faster than the original Tripod site does...

Both sites will continue to present the content of StoryLines, but one will be without certain very, very annoying and intrusive banners.

Site Map
StoryLines is quickly becoming so complex I decided it needed a site map.

The basic structure is borrowed from ideas I got after running a demo version of SiteXpert from Xtreeme.

I hope it makes navigating a little easier - in any event it's a different approach.

I will devise a way to automate the map shortly; for now it's a (manual) labor of love (so if you find a broken link please be gentle :)).

Frankenstein and the Seven Dwarves
My previous "current" project -- Nex, Necis -- was put on hold while I quickly put together a concept called "Frankenstein and the Seven Dwarves" and placed it on WriteSafe in time for the competition held at the end of the last quarter of 2004.

It's one of those silly ideas that just might turn out to be workable. I'll have to wait and see.

Fellow Writers:
Eddie Crismani
I met Eddie when we both worked for a small telecomms company in Glendale, California, back in 1996 and we've kept in touch ever since.

Eddie hails from Coober Pedy in Oz, originally. Coober is one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, and has been used as a backdrop for films such as The Road Warrior (it turned into Mel Gibson's Mad Max series), Pitch Black, and Red Planet. If you search through Google, you'll find plenty of sites covering the area.

People still live there, despite the terrible temperatures (many buildings extend under ground) and when Eddie lived there, it was an opal mining center and his father was an opal miner -- a very dangerous occupation, in more ways than one.

Eddie took his experiences growing up in Coober and turned them into an extremely good script.

Good enough to impress seasoned actor Harv Presnell (Fargo, Saving Private Ryan, The Legend of Bagger Vance), and Rena Owen (Once Were Warriors, AI, Star Wars).

Good enough to impress writer, director and producer Leszek Burzynski (Blood Harvest, Trapped Alive, Cry Wolf, Wooly Boys (Peter Fonda, Kris Kristofferson, Keith Carradine)).

More details on The Fellow Writers Page.

WriteSafe Progress: #3
WriteSafe's second quarterly competition saw two of my pieces make it to the semi-finals, and the Malcolm in the Middle script - an earlier incarnation of which made it to the semi-finals in the previous quarter - made it to the finals.

I have some more edits to make to it when I can find the time to complete them, and then maybe it will go a little further.

So not quite all the way there, but progress, definitely progress.

The current candidate is the premise for Call Me Silvie (see The Haps), and we'll see how that does over the next few weeks.

Well, it didn't go anywhere - them's the breaks. But it's still a workable idea, I think, so I won't be dropping it any time soon!

The TooWrite Short Story Competition
The Sixth TooWrite Short Story Competition closed on May 10, with five of my non-fiction short stories entered.

The organizers report that they have over 900 entries to sift through, so it will be weeks before they can announce a winner.  I'll just have to be patient...

No luck at TooWrite - my stories didn't make the grade.  This time.  The next competition has started and I'm working on another five shorties to go into it!

Silly Therapy For Beginners
The idea for Silly Therapy came to me after having spent over an hour on the phone to the Internal Revenue Service, trying to persuade them that executing a federal tax lien on my assets would only have a purpose if I had any assets to begin with (it's a long story).  When you have financial hardship, being hit with a lien doesn't do anything to lessen the hardship, as we all know.

Well, those of us not working for the IRS do, anyway.

Silly Therapy For Beginners isn't a competition piece (yet) but it might turn into an electronic book if I wave a magic truss over it.

The Do It Yourself You Lazy Bastard self help guide to coping with life's obstacles is designed to be read tongue in cheek.

This makes the reader sound demented if they're daft enough to read aloud, and is all part of the fun.

The Silly therapy regime has been known to help with clinical depression, male pattern baldness, corporate financial instability and cheese making.

What other lies can I tell you?

Oh, yes, it makes you attractive to women or men (especially those with a dog and a white cane) depending on which side of the street you read it, on alternate Thursdays.

Enjoy and don't sue me.

Dodger Bogbrush Saves A Bit Of The Universe
This concept arose out of the rediscovery of some characters I created back in 1973 during a holiday in Barmouth, Wales.  I even have photos of most of them.  You can read more of the story behind Dodger and his somewhat suspect looking relatives here.
A Grab Bag of Concepts
I have quite a bundle of concepts at various stages of development. Since I haven't kept the site up to date (lack of time) I have fallen behind with reporting, which means that some of the concepts are now up on WriteSafe (Nex; Labyrinths of Mars; Coneheads II: Blunt and To The Point), others are in revision (Jolly Old Aliens, What?; Frankenstein and The Seven Dwarves), and a handful of others are at the "what shall we do now we've got a title?" stage (A Dish Best Served Cold; Britonia Waives The Rules; Cuthbert Does It Again; Eight Belts To Save The World; Neee and Urtals; Sands of England; So Bite Me!; Stranger Than Truth; This Is Not A Game; Time Tainting; Inane Secrets of The Yo-Yo Brotherhood).

I would dearly like to have time to develop all of these fully but unless I can find a sponsor willing to back me for at least two years (which means something like $250K of investment) I'm going to have to be patient...

The Shire Reeve of
Notting Ham
It occurred to me that there are a number of stories around that are based on misconceptions (sometimes even on deliberate distortions of the truth).

I've never seen the legendary story of Robin Hood told from the perspective of the supposed villain of the piece: the Shire Reeve (or Sheriff) of Nottingham.

So far this is just a pitch - I don't have enough research done to even begin a treatment - with a rough working title.

One thing I found: Nottingham was originally closer to being called Snottingham (spelled a little differently: Snotengaham).  Luckily for us, the Normans apparently dropped the leading "S".

Otherwise the people of Snot might have given us a different version of Robin Hood...

I can see the story going forward either as a comedy or a drama - both are feasible (especially with a name like Snot).

Well, the premise did better than I thought it would during the WriteSafe Competition - it got to the semi-finals!

It also attracted some interest from a small Film and TV production company in Oz. We'll see if anything comes of that.

Archived News
Links to Archived News are given below, in alphabetical order (by title).  Click on the relevant link and you will be taken to the relevant news item.

Please note: the original date stamp is no longer present.  Only the date of archive (or last update) is given.


The Business

Call Me Silvie I and II

The Classical

Competition Winner!

Death In The Family

The Divide II

Layout With IE

The Haven

Maurice, Dancing

Punting As A Water Sport


Say "Aaargh!"


TooWrite Short Story Competition

Under Cover Job

Web Trek

Wednesday's Child: WriteSafe Progress

WriteSafe Progress #2

Last updated: January 7, 2006

Peter Brooks

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