NaNoWriMo 2017: Creating A World

Last year I mothballed an idea for a science fiction who-dunnit, featuring a law enforcement officer who is framed for the assassination of an alien diplomat.

Recently I decided to reprise the idea for this year’s NaNoWriMo, and in preparation I’ve been scouring the web for some visual inspiration. This is often how ideas start in my head, with a visual clue, or jumping off point, and I find it very useful to hang on to those clues, if for no other reason than to make sure my imagination doesn’t get too carried away!

For this story I had a pretty specific idea already of what my setting would look like; a high density alien city of ancient origin, built in and on a long dead volcano. Finally, I wanted it to be surrounded by a lake, or shallow sea.

Desktop wallpapers are a great source of inspiration for landscapes and cityscapes so I headed over to AlphaCoders to browse their impressive collection. Fortunately, I found exactly what I was looking for, or as near as damn it at least.

This fabulous image reminds me of a painting by John Constable and I was particularly struck by the juxtaposition of the old French style chateau with its compact, masonry walls and tiled roofs, and the gleaming, high concept towers that appear to be growing out of the rock, just as a city half buried in an extinct volcano would do.

The chateau in particular intrigues me. I know I don’t have to stick to every detail of the image, but the story involves not just the murder of an alien ambassador, but also a cold case. That cold case is the strange death of an elderly astronomer, and I need somewhere for an old man to call home. A crumbling chateau, or perhaps something a little more modest, but equally ancient, could be perfect.

Next I need to find my principal characters…

The Hollow

The Hollow was written for a Scribophile Flash Fiction contest and published in Heater Magazine on April 14th, 2015.


There was an empty space across the street where the girl once stood. It wasn’t a particularly interesting piece of pavement, framed by a pub and a betting shop, spattered with chewing gum and cigarette butts. It had been the girl who had made the space beautiful.

Every day for nearly a year she had stood there, playing her guitar for money. As regular as his heartbeat, from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, the sounds of Flamenco had filled the narrow street and Vadis had listened. There was a tube station a few hundred feet away and Vadis had wondered at first why she didn’t play there, but commuters lived in a world of their own, with their headphones and their mobile phones. Her music was wasted on them. The drunks and the gamblers were her audience instead, unlikely appreciators on the sublime.

No-one had known her name. He’d asked around. No-one even recalled speaking to her. Perhaps she didn’t speak English. On the few occasions Vadis had plucked up the courage to cross the street and drop a few coins in to her guitar case, she had merely smiled her thanks and played on. It was a smile he would have emptied his bank account for.

To read the full story you can download Heater Magazine from Amazon.