Where to begin with this week….my nomadic lifestyle has seen me move house yet again, I’ve had a full on week at work with volunteer work days, tractor driving, getting chainsaw-happy on fallen trees thanks to the after-shock of the latest hurricane hitting the English south coast, a late Halloween event on Friday night, and to top it all off, today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month. And I signed up. Oh fuck.

Seriously though, life’s never been this much fun.

So, the house move….here’s a thought for the writers out there who have moved house before: the hardest part is letting go of a place where you finished that fantastic draft. I closed the doors on my last flat two days ago thinking ‘This is where I finished Shadow’s Talent.’ It was where I wrote the penultimate draft as well. I moved there as a full time volunteer with a certain well known countryside organization with two missions in mind: to become a ranger and to finally finish a novel and self publish. I’ve now done both. I shut the doors on that flat with both goals complete and moved myself to a new bolthole, closer to work and slightly cosier than living next to a windswept sandy beach and a great lump of rock behind it.

I’m not a songwriter, but thankfully Eric Johnson beat me to the sorts of feelings I got from that moment with ‘Brilliant Room.’ It’s up there with my favourite songs, because it hit on an idea that I’ve had for years and I expect a lot of writers have: a room is brilliant because sometimes everything you ‘might look for’ happens inside it. Listen to this song. Yes it’s by one of the worlds most brilliant and indulgent guitar players, but this is him leaving the shred behind and letting the music do its job. It absolutely rules.

I digress. I don’t have time to get too caught up in nostalgia, and tiredness is only a state of mind, because today begins National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. This year I signed up, because of ideas burning a hole in my head that haven’t escaped yet because I’ve spend several years solid working on Shadow and the Talent Show series.

In the college Easter holidays of 2012, I started a side project that I called ‘Oscar’s Kitchen.’ I combined my love of cooking and sci-fi to make a story that had no direction except that Oscar Murdoch was on a cruise liner to the urban utopia of Sentago, working in a pot-wash with ambitions of become a famous and respected chef. Why a cruise liner in the age of space craft? Because I wanted my protagonist to almost drown. No other reason at the time. Having barely clung to his life, Oscar Murdoch is about to be picked up from hospital by the family he doesn’t want to see. I didn’t know why yet, I just wanted him to be a runaway. Except he’s about to be helped by the most unlikely of people. When he wakes up, he hears:

‘Hi, I’m Screft. Welcome to Sentago.’

Welcome to Sentago. I liked that as a new title. Sentago is where it all happens. Yes, the name is a combination of Senegal and Santiago, but nothing like either. Neither has four levels of space traffic and illegal shape-shifters for a start.

Screft is a Kendrii, who once achieved full marks in military school for his impeccable human form. Now disgraced amongst his own kind and on the run, he’s unlicensed on the planet Carnathia, hiding from the authorities, and making a pretty decent living off betting on himself to win no-holds-barred fights in the ring. Being a Kendrii helps, because they are unstoppable killing machines. Except Screft, who’s decided to go straight as soon as he can find a way out. Not to mention he’s pretending to be the son of a promising human senator.

Enter Oscar ‘The Otter’ Murdoch: a basically decent human being, but who’s recently been very naughty to the tune of hundreds of thousands of credits and left his family not liking him very much. His redemptive new life as a gormet chef is just starting to work out, and he’s almost forgotten he once lead a party lifestyle and was a star at his university swimming club only to attract the affections of anyone who looked his way. Then he wakes up in Sentago with the sweetest young man at his bedside who isn’t really human at all, but might have a way to convert to human form permanently, with the right amount of cash and someone to support him for life…

Throw a few other characters into the mix for good measure: a journalist just dying for a story, a successful fat chef with murder and avarice in his very soul, and a psychotic Kendrii solider of fortune who likes any excuse to literally bury the hatchet with humans, and this story might just cook. Pun deliberately intended.

So, with a good few thousand words already written on the first day of Nano, I’ve christened my new bolthole in the usual Tommy-esque way: a good wine, some home-made pumpkin soup made from the left over vegetables from last night’s work event, garlic bread and olives, manchego cheese, a good helping of music from Planet Rock, some chocolate cake, coffee, some chillout music and this blog entry.

Welcome to a new brilliant room, and hopefully Welcome To Sentago will be on Amazon within the next year.

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Oh yeah, and my new housemate has a cat.

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