She recognized the steps. Stone steps which looked far colder than she ever remembered. But did she really remember anything from that time with clarity? She knew the answer; need not say it to the chill morning air.

The steps were another marker to the place she was going. Like the ones she had passed, paused on, they increased her feelings of anxiety, and she thought about stopping. It would be that simple. She did not have to go back. She had a life, a full life with no gaps which would keep her busy until she was done. She did not need this. She did not.

She stopped, turned and sat on the second step down, her lower back resting against the vertical of the stair above. It was a feeling she’d always liked; a security she never questioned. Yet security was a fickle beast that fed on innocence and asked for repayment at the very worst of times.

It had asked much of her and simply laughed and pointed and blamed whenever it had whipped the rug from under her feet. That was why she was going back. She knew the day would come when the house would ask for its own repayment, and she did not believe she would survive that fall unless she was the instigator.

The cold of the steps came through her clothes, seeped in slowly, made her uncomfortable. If the plan was to keep her moving, she denied it and took in the view the seat offered. Before her, the land fell away, until some way down, trees forced themselves out of the stony ground. They were coniferous, their deep green offering sanctuary and mystery at the same time. She had played in those trees, got lost in those trees, found herself in those trees. They were a part of her childhood, and she believed that, on the right day, in the right conditions, she could venture down into its depths and come face to face with her young self, her other self, and she would smile.

She thought the child would look up at her, perhaps take a step back, but wonder all the same. The gaze in her eyes would be familiar, after all. The lips remained the same whichever way they turned. It was not difficult to frighten a child, she knew, but if she did it right, she believed there was enough common ground to form a friendship.

Beyond the tips of the trees, and several miles further out she could see the water, as grey as the steps under this sullen sky. She remembered the water, too, though with less relish. The water was dangerous, needy, clamouring, and she had found out in the hardest way. That had been one of the first times security had surprised her with its sudden disappearance, and what miracle had it been, what god had answered her floundering arms and allowed her to catch hold of that old wooden pier. She had not seen or felt the splinters in her hands until she had caught her breath, her sweet breath, and had walked back to the house holding her palms down and away like it’d never really happened.

There had been many days since where she’d wondered whether she had, in fact, drowned on that warm August day and that everything since had been her own personal hell. She knew that was dramatic, but like false accusations in the heat of an argument, doubt remained in the silence.

Beyond the water, she saw the other side. It was filtered by mist but the town she remembered still rested on the hill that rose from the deep. People were alive over there; were going about their business – working, sleeping, hoping, yet she could never remember seeing anyone. There were times the town had become her own personal plaything, her mind inventing the inhabitants and moving them between one place and another. She wanted to make them happy. She wanted to see them smile. She had known something of love and had simply imagined the rest.

She wondered just how insular her life had been, was still. She felt an urge to scream but kept it inside; opened the box in her chest and tucked the exclamation at the back, where there was still a tiny piece of room. She surveyed the contents for a moment, raised a finger to her lips, then gently shut the lid and half-turned the key. She never fully locked that box; she knew it might be needed at a moment’s notice.

Yes, this place was so familiar. It had once been all she knew, and that was how the house had wanted it. She thought everything was hers, and yet nothing was; she was the property. The young frail body, with eyes that would dart for approval, watch for reproach. She felt a tug at her temple, looked down as was surprised to see her hand tightly winding her hair around nervous fingers; oh, how she’d once longed for forbidden braids.

She breathed in deeply, understanding everything she could and exhaling the rest.

“I loved you, once,” she said to herself.

She thought she heard a sound, a branch snap in the black of the woods and she stopped and waited. No one was there, of course, not least her younger self, yet she raised her hand and waved in a show of hope and solidarity.

“I’ve come for you.”

She turned and moved onto the top step. They were strange steps, indeed. Just four set into an incline in the hillside. Were they ever any more than this? Was there ever something at the top or at the bottom? She wanted to think there had been, but she doubted, still.

Perhaps, if she survived her insecurities, she would come back and change it. Build a glass house to keep out the wind but let in the view. It was possible to change things, she knew better than most.

She turned and made her way up the hill, to the next landmark, feeling the weight of the steps behind her. She was thankful they had survived, would survive, and wondered who might sit on them, next.

Posted by Simon in Prose, Short Stories
Redrafting Your Novel – First Redraft

Redrafting Your Novel – First Redraft

Redrafting Your Novel – First Redraft

These are not hard and fast rules; such things rarely exist, and if they do, they would not be easily portable from person to person. Here are a few things I tend to do on the first redraft, either knowingly or subconsciously.

When do I start redrafting?

I start when I feel happy to. This could be anything from immediately, to several months later. Redrafting is a difficult process to muster enthusiasm for. After all, you’ve already written the story once, so rushing into it could do more harm than good.

So, the moment you feel happy to revisit the novel, revisit it.

How do I start redrafting?

Start to end, that’s pretty much how I do it. There are some novels that I’ve broken down into sections, and these I’ve been known to work at individually. You could argue that these are smaller novellas that I’ve brought together into a larger volume.

What do I start redrafting?

In this initial redraft, I’m looking at all the stuff that is no longer applicable. There’s usually a lot, a hell of a lot. At the beginning of a novel, my creative brain goes off in many directions, and a lot of these directions are lost along the way, or never become as important a part of the story as I first thought. This is where you change them. Ideally, your correcting the errors, without worrying too much on creating a lyrical masterpiece.

There are other parts of the story that aren’t errors, but are just no longer needed. If they are longer passages, I tend to cut and paste them into an ‘Offcuts’ document which I can refer back to if I need to.

I will also make note of any additional passages that I think are missing. Sometimes I write these as I go, and other times I just put a little note into the place that needs to be expanded.

In Summary

Redraft when you’re happy to. Don’t rush, but it’s probably not best to leave it for years, either. If it helps, write something else before tackling the redraft, to cleanse your writing pallet.

Posted by Simon in Blog, Simon's Blog
The Ostrich Race

The Ostrich Race

The Ostrich Race Novel

Published in July 2012, The Ostrich Race is my first published e-book. The summary is written below:

“Gordon Paige, retired author, now lives alone, seven years after the death of his wife, Brenda. She was his life, and now all he has to fill the long days is ‘The Ostrich Race’, a competition that’s been running in Brenda’s family for well over a hundred years. But this year the Race is going to be different in more ways than one. This year, along with the regular players, there’s another, anonymous one, who seems to know a lot about the Race, and the only way Gordon can find out their identity is by tracking down the original Race entry envelopes. Little does Gordon realise, however, but during the next twelve months, his life is going to be turned upside down, with family secrets and lies being uncovered, until, at last, the shocking truth behind the player is revealed.”

The Ostrich Race is available as a Kindle e-book on Amazon or a actual book from!

Posted by Simon in Novels
Gone Comic Book

Gone Comic Book

Gone Comic Book

Writer: Simon Birks
Artist: Tom Eddy (Website)

If a tree falls in an abandoned spaceship, does it make a sound?

Gone tells the story of a spaceship where all of the crew have disappeared. Waking up after many years of hibernation, the AssistA robot must piece together the mystery of the missing people, and try to get the ship away from the phenomenon just outside the window. But all is not as it seems, and AssistA is not as alone as it thinks it is…

Welcome to Gone.

Gone on Facebook

Posted by Simon in Comics, Featured Slider
Sinners Comic Book

Sinners Comic Book

Sinners Comic Book

Issue #1 – Hope Is Dead

Today is not a good day for Hope Martinez.

Waking in a strange bed, with a not so strange body laying lifeless in the corridor, she panics. Disorientated and confused about the previous night’s events, Hope runs, but only so far as the black Limo waiting for her outside, and its mysterious driver who offers her a job she may not be able to refuse… gather the sinners.

Sinners on Facebook

Posted by Simon in Comics, Featured Slider
Kick-Ass is Not Tough (Homework)

Kick-Ass is Not Tough (Homework)

Kick-Ass is Not Tough (Homework)

Well, being a writer (or just having it as your hobby) is great fun. The last few days I’ve had the arduous task of reading graphic novels in order to come up with an in-universe short comic. This is for the Millarworld Challenge which is asking writers to come up with a short story (around 4 or 5 pages) within the Mark Millar universe.

The options are:

  • KICK-ASS story set between Trades 1-3 (5 pages)
  • KINGSMAN story starring Eggsy/Gary (5 pages)
  • HIT-GIRL solo adventure set during the Kick Ass trades (4 pages)
  • STARLIGHT starring Young Duke McQueen on Tantalus (5 pages)
  • AMERICAN JESUS set during first trade (5 pages)
  • CHRONONAUTS set in the past, during first trade (4 pages)

So, having bought the Kick-Ass trades at the weekend (how much??!!) and also the Kingsman book, I’ve been working my way through them.

I’m part way through Kick-Ass 3 at the moment, and whilst it’s as violent as I thought it was, I’m enjoying the series. I’m leaning towards doing a Hit-Girl story, so need to buy the Hit-Girl trade (they didn’t have it!) so I can be sure I have the character down right, and am not duplicating any ideas.

Really, there can’t be any easier things to have to study for a competition than comics!

I’d encourage you all to enter – such chances in the writing industry are few, more so in the comics one!

Good luck and Kick-Ass!

Posted by Simon in Blog, Comics, Simon's Blog
Last Contact : Blog 12 : The Pilot

Last Contact : Blog 12 : The Pilot

Last Contact : Blog 12 : The Pilot

So, it’s now June 2013, three months since we filmed the show. A lot of things have happened, but it’s that duck legs paddling furiously metaphor time, with very little having changed on the surface.

The editor is sending me updates regarding episode 1, and we’re hoping to get a rough cut of the whole episode over the next few days. This has to be okayed, and then the sound and the picture will be worked on. I hope that these won’t take too long, and that they’ll be a pilot episode ready by the end of June.

This means it will have taken a month or so for one episode, which is fine, but it does present me with a problem.

What to do with the first episode (ie. the pilot)?

I’d really like to get it out there as and when it’s ready, but ideally I should wait until we have the majority of the episodes completed before beginning to show them. But I’m just not that patient. Also, having the pilot episode out there may garner more interest for the rest of the series.

I really appreciate the amount of support that people (cast, crew, supporters) have given, and I really want to reward them for that.

But, if there’s a couple of month gap before we show the remaining episodes, will that be a problem?

Hmmm, what do you think?

Posted by Simon in Blog, Last Contact Blog
Last Contact : Blog 11 : Why?

Last Contact : Blog 11 : Why?

Last Contact : Blog 11 : Why?

Why do any of this? After all, I work in IT. I sit behind a desk, tapping at a PC all day, 5 days a week, most weeks of the year. I have no formal training in writing, producing, directing or acting. It’s costly, and timely, and stressly.

It’s especially stressly.

I’ve had to organise people and places, props and costumes, get cover for pets, shop for more people than I ever thought I’d shop for, and organise camera and sound crew.

I’ve taken two and a half weeks off of work (and I get paid by the hour), I’ve had to act in another film at the same time (that’s where I was on the first Saturday, when I originally should have started filming Last Contact). We’ve had to change actors at the last minute, manage issues with the property, worry about getting the right insurance, and then hope that I didn’t have to use the insurance (the excesses are how much?).

There’s been a website to create from scratch, maintain, write blogs for. There’s been a Facebook page to attract potential viewers, advertise with, respond to questions, and generally keep the interest levels up.

There’s been last minute costs that have cropped up, facilitating the use of the overdrafts. There’s now the learning of the editing software, and the countless hours that Marielle and I will have to sit looking at the terabyte of film footage we shot over two weeks.

Oh, yes. The whole thing took only two weeks. That worked out about 16 pages a day. Even more than they do on Hollyoaks, I’m told. Getting up at 7.30am, starting filming at 9am, taking 45 minutes for lunch, and finishing filming around 7pm if we were lucky.

So why? Why did I do all this?

Well, if you haven’t guessed already, see above.

Posted by Simon in Blog, Last Contact Blog
Last Contact : Blog 10 : Location

Last Contact : Blog 10 : Location

Last Contact : Blog 10 : Location

Wow. There are a number of things I’ve learnt so far on the Last Contact journey, but one of the big ones is how not so easy it is to find the perfect spot. No wonder cats take so long to settle down.

One of the things that was definite in my mind was where the sitcom was set. In a university, in a large room that could house three people’s desks with a kitchen off to one side. Wood panelling would be good, but it had to have a lived in feel, as if our protagonists had been there for years.

One thing I can tell you about locations for filming, they’re expensive. Super expensive. Prohibitively expensive. Basically, unless you know the person who owns it, or you just don’t tell them, you’re going to find it difficult to shoot anything.

And, typical of me, I wanted to film six episodes, around two hours of usable film. And like the 80/20 rule, but much worse, 120 minutes of usable film equates to about three years of filming. All right, maybe not three years, but a while. Two weeks worth of filming almost non-stop. And then maybe a little bit for editing.

So I needed to find a place to shoot that we could have for three weeks. It also needed to have other rooms that we could use for Bernard’s office and Nina’s office. At this stage, I hadn’t put any action in the kitchen. It was just a door that people went in and out of. But I’ll come back to that.

And hopefully, it’d be somewhere we all could stay, otherwise the expense bills were going to go through the roof. It was a long shopping list. Just so you know, when I was enquiring about locations, they were coming in at least £1000 per day. At least.

Not having £21k to spend on locations, I had to think of something else.

I turned to holiday cottage sites, since at least most of them would have accommodation provided so long as they were large enough. I looked at quite a few, and arranged to see one of them. It looked okay. Just okay. None of the others did, and I was getting worried.

So, on a dark evening we drove the hour or so to the place, which was off a country lane, off a country lane, off another country lane. You’ve got to love England.

But we saw it, and we walked around it, and by golly it was exactly what we needed. The main room was perfect, tall ceilings and lots of space. It had a couple of rooms we could use for the other offices, but the best part was the kitchen. The kitchen was great. It inspired me to move a lot of the scenes into the kitchen, which is a good thing.

And whilst the cost of renting it was not cheap, it was far, far cheaper than anything else.

With bated breath, we contacted the owners the next day with the proposition of us filming there, and thankfully, they said yes.

We had our location. That’s not the end of the location story. But the rest I’ll leave till another time.

Posted by Simon in Blog, Last Contact Blog
Last Contact : Blog 9 : The Series

Last Contact : Blog 9 : The Series

Last Contact : Blog 9 : The Series

I can’t recall exactly when I decided on the date I wanted to start filming Last Contact. It must have been around the same time as the casting calls went out, as I had to have some sort of sensible answer when potential cast members asked ‘If I got the part, when would I be needed for filming?’

But once it was decided for February, there was yet another, more pressing, factor. Will I have the whole series written by then? Or even half of it? I seem to work best under pressure, but four episodes in a few months was even pushing it for me.

Then reality, like a falling elephant, hit me; I didn’t really have a few months. Sensibly, I needed to have the series finished by Christmas (2012) so we could sit down and have a read through to make sure it was funny to other people who weren’t me.

That left about six weeks. I got to work.

Fortunately, I long ago learned that to write something of any significant length required the ability to just sit down anywhere you are, and write.

This also coincided with a new contract (in the day job) that meant I could journey by train. I like the train, it means I have to think less about what I’m doing, plus it’s not illegal to use a laptop whilst you’re doing it.

So, that’s what I did. I got on the train, sat down and wrote whatever was in my brain. I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, so it took extra effort (though it’s quite clearly not manual labour, so you don’t have to feel sorry for me or anything). As with everything, some of it was very good, and some of it was very not.

Trains being what they are, there were a few occasions where I missed my connecting train, and so had to wait at Horsham station with my laptop, a cup of coffee and a Tunnock’s wafer biscuit (this is so nearly heaven on earth). I wrote some good lines in the cafe on that station.

It was hard. It was a lot of work. But it was writing. And writing is fun. To me, anyway.

So, a week before Christmas I put the final dot and crosses on the i’s and the t’s of the final episode. I went through each episode several times, adding stuff, correcting stuff, changing stuff so that it was as funny as possible.

And what I was left with was really quite good. I’m very pleased with it. Especially when we had the read through and…

Wait a minute, that’s another blog post entirely…

Posted by Simon in Blog, Last Contact Blog