Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bored + Wine = Pantsing

My family is in China. My mum, my sister, her husband, and their kids. My sister is also my co-author, so I'm kind of at a loose end. (Although, I did completely rewrite our WIP with a different setting to see if it's better. I think it is, and it was important to do this now. Kath will probably sensibly think it could have waited until edits.) So I'm bored. The other night, feeling the urge to write something new, I sat down with a glass of wine. Then another glass of wine...you know how this goes! Anyway, the next morning when I read through what the alcohol fairies had written, this is what I found: 

Source: Flickr
     Mitchell can’t walk since they cut his hamstrings. The bandages have been on for three days now. The blood has soaked through them. They are brown like sepia, like coffee filters, like they are streaked with shit. They stink. He stinks. The whole shed stinks. 
     The wounds have turned septic. 
     That’s what you get, the Captain said, for trying to run. 
     I knew Mitchell’s face from Home. He ran with the pack from under the railway bridge. We had a truce with them. They were okay. I didn’t know Mitchell though, not until we got caught in the same hunt. 
     It was a moonless night. Those were always the most dangerous. It was cold as well, but my growling stomach drew me out to the water’s black edge, to the jagged skeletons of the jetties and the warehouses and the shipping containers; to the sharp smell of rust and saltwater. 
     The Men have electricity. They’ve got it in their guns. 
     When I heard the crunch of a boot on the gravel I spun around. I felt a pinch like wasp stings on my skin, and the moonlight caught on the wires that twisted back from me to the Man, that caught me like spider’s silk, like fishing line. My breath snagged in my throat, then click click click and the electricity ripped me apart. 
     My body wasn’t my body. Electricity sliced through every nerve ending. My muscles contracted. Pain tore through me. First it dropped me, then it held me tightly, and then it shook me. I made noises like an animal with a cut throat. I thought the Man was killing me. 
     Even when it was over, when I was lying on the gravel and the man was tying my wrists and ankles, I couldn’t stop twitching. Like the old man from the T-House whose fingers trembled like every day was winter. 
     I blinked away hot tears and looked up at the Man in the darkness. He wore a helmet with protruding black goggles attached to it that took up most of his face. The top half of his face was an insect’s face, a robot’s face, a nightmare’s face.  The bottom half was smooth and angular, and his lips were curled into a smile as he reached down for me. 
     I couldn’t struggle. The electricity had broken me. 
     I couldn’t even look around to see if Pax had got away. Had the Man seen her? Fizz would never forgive me if Pax got caught because of me. Not Pax. She was our best thing ever. 
     I whimpered as the ghost of the electricity teased my jerking muscles and bit at my shocked nerves. 
     The Man dragged me to the truck and hauled me into it, and I lay on the floor in the back and shook. Mitchell was already there. He wasn’t called Mitchell then. They put our names on us when they drove us back to the Settlement. 
     When the truck engine roared, my leaking hot tears became a flood.
     At least they didn’t get Pax. At least Pax is okay. 
     There were four Men in the back of the truck. The one who had caught me, I learned later, was the Captain. Even when I didn’t know that I knew that he was the most important Man in the group. The other Men looked to him. 
     Shafts of torchlight burned my eyes. 
     The Captain gazed down at Mitchell first, at his rust-coloured hair that hung in thorny tangles halfway down his back, and at the big, scared eyes that stared out of his dirty face. 
     “Mitchell,” he said, and then said it again. “Mitchell.” 
     Mitchell shrank back against me. We knocked against each other as the truck bounced over the broken-up road. 
     I didn’t know what the Captain was doing until he turned his narrow gaze on me. He shone a torch in my face, and smiled. “Ryan. Ryan.” 
     That’s not my name, but I learned to answer to it. 
     It took less than a day. 

God, I love pantsing. I've been trying to be disciplined, and going back to wild abandoned pantsing was like stumbling across a packet of cigarettes a week after I quit. So bad, but so very, very good. 

Pantsing, my secret love.

Anyway, I have no idea where this one is going, but I'm not going to ask it difficult questions. It's going to be my happy place when my brain aches from plotting. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Blogfest: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Blogfest time! Today it is "What I did on My Summer Vacation" which I entered despite it being winter! Hey, there was no timeframe on it. You're not the boss of me. 

My summer holiday was back in January, when it was actually summer here in Australia. I went to Melbourne. I saw penguins and trams. Not at the same time, sadly, but I can dream.

If only the world was this awesome

While all of you in the northern hemisphere have been having your summer vacations, I have been enjoying a tropical winter. A tropical winter is like any other sort of winter, except you only need a light jacket.  

Winter. Brr. Chilly. 

While my extended family is holidaying in China, the dog and I have been enjoying walks on the beach. Well, I’ve been enjoying them. Cleo’s not so sure.

Why have you brought me to this place where my feet might get wet?  

Winter in Townsville means sunny days and cool breezes. The nights can get cold, but when we say cold we mean about 5 degrees Celsius. That translates to 41 degrees Fahrenheit, apparently. 

Don’t be jealous, top-siders*. Karma will get me back in summer when my brain is melting, I feel like I am trying to sleep in a slow oven, and the only respite from the humidity and the clouds of dengue-carrying mosquitoes is the monsoonal rain. Then this: 

Ah, the Wet Season
So, what did you do on your holiday? 

Check out all the entries via Michael's blog here: What I Did On My Summer Vacation.

*this is my new slang term for people who live in the northern hemisphere.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Campaigner Challenge: Imago, Miasma, Lacuna, Oscitate and Synchronicity. OMG.

Here is this week's Campaigner Challenge, and wasn't it a doozy! There were the rules: 
The Challenge is:
Write a blog post in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should:
  • include the word "imago" in the title
  • include the following 4 random words: "miasma," "lacuna," "oscitate," "synchronicity,"
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional and included in the word count), make reference to a mirror in your post.
For those who want an even greater challenge (optional), make your post 200 words EXACTLY!

And here is my effort: 

 Mirror Imago

     The explosion brought us running.
     A greenish miasma hung over the workshop floor. The place was quiet, the silence as laden as a protracted lacuna in an orchestral piece.
     “Uncle Tiberius?”  I peered through the fumes. “Uncle Tiberius?”
      “Oh, sir,” squeaked the maid. “Is he dead? I know he’s dead!”
     “If he’s not, Aunt Constance will murder him.” My jaw dropped at the sight of the smashed mirror. The empty gilt frame leaned against the wall. And, dear Lord, the grandfather clock! Cogs and weights and springs littered the floor.
     “Don’t oscitate, m’boy!” a cheery voice exclaimed. “Bally bad manners, wot!”
     He rose up out of the green mist like a phantasm.
     My uncle was not the same man I’d seen at breakfast. He was young and ruddy-faced.  He was wearing a grin from ear to ear. The only things that remained of his familiar elderly features were his large sagging ears and tufty white hair.
     He studied himself in a shard of the broken mirror, and tugged ruefully at a floppy lobe. “Ah, a success, all in all, apart from a few issues with synchronicity!” He beamed. “Lead on, m’boy, what’s for luncheon?” 


Check out the rest of the entries here at Rach Writes
If you liked mine you can vote for it. I am number 3 on the list. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I am workshopped, confused and versatile!


On Saturday I attended a workshop called “From Cleanskin to Crime writer” with the lovely PM Newton, author of The Old School. The workshop was organised by the Queensland Writers Centre. 

You can buy The Old School here. 
It was a very interesting and informative day, and reminded me that I really should sign up for every workshop opportunity that presents. There is nothing better for your motivation than to be in a room full of people who are passionate about writing. It was a full day and we touched on a lot of things. Most of it is applicable to all types of fiction. Here is the stuff I underlined:

Social enquiry: what does good crime fiction say about society, politics and culture?
Location is vital: Time, sense of place.
Place: does your character relate to place as an insider or outside? Does the landscape provide solace or provoke stress? 
Creating scenes: In late, out early!  A scene should always reveal something about the character, not just advance the plot through exposition. If nothing happens, why is the scene there?
Grief: respect it. A body is not just a plot point. A victim is the most important character, even if defined by absence.

And, as PM said: “Land the plane.” Just get that first draft down on paper.


Scrivener, bloggy friends. What do we think about Scrivener? I like what I see so far, but I am still more confused than impressed -- my fault, I haven’t played with it much. I have the trial version on my Mac and it seems okay, but I also do a fair amount of writing on my PC. I understand that Scrivener is only in a beta version for PC, so I’m wondering if it would be simple enough to switch between using the two platforms. Is anyone else in this position?


Thanks to the The Patient Dreamer for awarding me a Versatile Blogger award!

The rules for accepting the award are as follows:

1.    Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post.

2.    Share 7 things about yourself.

3.    Pass this award along to recently discovered blogs and let them know about it.

So here are my seven things:

1. When I was five I left Sunday School and refused to go back. This is because I had an asthma attack and Jesus, who they told me was in charge, didn’t even apologise. My mother didn’t respect my theological position much, but she did feel sorry for the teenage girl who read us Bible stories so she didn’t force me to go again.

2. I want to buy two chickens. Not because I like eggs, but because I like chickens. The only reason I haven’t is because I am afraid chickens will attract pythons.

3. I own too many books to fit on my bookshelves, but it is still not enough books.

4. I have a BA. It is called a BA because it qualified me for Bugger All.

5. I have worked in the same job for eleven years. I’m not sure how this happened.

6. I don’t have a favourite book, or even a favourite genre because I love too many to pick, and it all depends on my mood. I can’t even commit to a favourite colour.

7. I am faking being an adult. The only reason I bought my own house was because I wanted a puppy.

And here are some newly discovered blogs that I am loving (and you should too!): 

TF Walsh
Pauline's Prose

Check them out, and share the love! 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Age Inappropriate

I was cleaning out my study today -- an event as bizarre and freakish as a rainfall of frogs -- when I came across a little gem called "Lullaby Land", published in 1898. The front cover has been missing for as long as I've had the book, but the title page is still intact. Most of the poems are meh. There's a lot of talk about going to sleepy land and saying your prayers and someone called the Hushaby Lady from Lullaby Street. It's all very cloying. But there's one poem called Little Boy Blue by Eugene Field, and it's not the nursery rhyme about the kid falling asleep while the cow's in the corn. This one traumatised me as a child, and it still does. So, if you don't know it, now I'm going to traumatise you. All you have to do is remember that this is a bedtime poem for small children

Little Boy Blue 

The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and stanch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket moulds in his hands.

Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.

"Now, don't you go till I come," he said,
"And don't you make any noise!"
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
He dreamt of the pretty toys;

And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue---
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!

Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place---
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face;

And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
Since he kissed them and put them there.

Of course, it doesn't help that Blue looks like some sort of creepy soulless china-doll-come-to-life: 

I think I was about eight when I first read this poem, well above the intended age. I remember telling Endors, my stuffed elephant, that if an angel tried to kill me in the night that I wouldn't leave her behind. I might have been eight but I knew one thing: how could it be heaven if they didn't let you bring your toys? 

(I've always had very strong ideas about theology. I once walked out of a Sunday School class when I was five, and I refused to go back. Not until Jesus apologised. He knows what he did.)

But the point is -- I'm almost certain there was a point -- why are we worried about what our kids are reading? At least in modern stories, however terrible, however scary, we're not letting kids go quietly into the night. And we're not telling them that the things they love will wait for years, wondering, hoping, until they turn to dust. 

I was similarly disturbed by The Story of Ping. I blogged about that here.
Any literary childhood traumas you feel like sharing? 


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Winner of Possum Magic, Blogfests and Writing Groups

Drumroll, please. The winner of Possum Magic is:

Lindsay Currie! 

Lindsay - I hope you enjoy these fictional possums much more than I enjoy the real thing!

In other news, I may be suffering blogfest madness. I have signed up for three, and I think you should join me! First up is What I Did On My Summer Vacation, hosted by Michael at In Time... I like this idea because I'll get to know more about my fellow bloggers without having to ask intrusive questions!

I have also joined the Killer Characters Blogfest, hosted by Deana and Emily. This is a fun blogfest with some awesome prizes. Check it out!

Sign up here: Killer Characters

And everyone should sign up for the Monsterfest, hosted by Sommer Leigh at Tell Great Stories.  You get to pick what monsters to post about, and what dates to post throughout October. I've picked some Australian monsters that aren't very well known in monster lore, so I'm hoping to boost their profile a little. Sigh. All the famous monsters are European.

Sign up here: Monsterfest

And this Saturday, after some judicious shuffling of my work roster, I am going to a Writers' Workshop! Yay! I'm reallly looking forward to it, because I haven't been to one of these for a gazillion years, and it also takes away some of the sting of not making it to the Brisbane Writers' Festival. Look at me, being all professional! 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Flash Fiction is Fun! And I learned something...

How much fun was this week’s flash fiction challenge for the Platform Building Campaign? 200 words was the biggest challenge for me. My first draft was 648 words. So, yeah, a teensy little bit of editing was required. And it was hell. I really had to work hard to cull the last fifty words, but I’m glad that I did it. It forced me to strip the story down to the bare bones. I tore through my writing like a razor gang, and what I learned will become one of my new rules for writing:

Cull every unnecessary word.

This isn’t a new rule, of course. It’s only new for me. Until I had a word limit that forced me to try harder, I just assumed every word I wrote was necessary. Now I know better!

In other news, my entire extended family is in China for the next three weeks. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to wallow in abject loneliness, I’m using it as an opportunity to write for three whole weeks with no familial obligations hanging over my head. All I have to do is keep this jade plant alive for my nephew Tom:

And write!

In other, other news, I’ll be drawing the winner of Possum Magic in a few days. If you want to enter, leave a comment letting me know either here, or on the original post here. I will be using a random number generator (bits of paper in a hat) to pick a winner.

So, what’s everyone else up to this week?

And what did you learn from the flash fiction challenge?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Campaigner Challenge - Flash Fiction!

Here is my entry for the first Campaigner Challenge! It's 200 words, it starts with "The door swung open", and (because I'm in the Dystopia group) it's a bit of a tribute to the best Dystopian novel ever - Nineteen Eighty-Four.


The door swung open.

Where did you get this book?

Just an old hardcover book with a faded green cover. The title had worn off.

Matt’s hands shook, rattling the cuffs against the metal table; his body’s delayed reaction to the bombing. He was sweating, nauseous. He could still smell the blood, still see where Carter finished and that red, screaming thing began, and they were showing him a book.

Where did you get this book?

A book. Matt looked at the book, at the men in suits, at the blacked-out windows and the water-stained ceiling. Every time he blinked he saw how the vehicle in front of his had landed crumpled, burning, on the side of the road.

Where did you get this book?

Shh, Elodie had whispered when she’d slipped the book into his shirt, but Matt didn’t understand. He couldn’t hold his fractured thoughts together. He couldn’t stop shaking. He watched his fingers twitch like spiders’ legs across the table.

Elodie, he murmured, his secret incantation, his strength and consolation, his now and always. Her name on his lips was only ever worship: Elodie.

Realisation came too late.

The men thanked him.


The door swung shut.

You can view all the entries in the first challenge via Rachael's blog here: Rach Writes

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I want to send you a book!

This week I was very excited to pass 100 followers. All credit goes to Rach Harrie at Rach Writes and my fellow Campaigners. But, in honour of reaching this landmark, I'm going to give someone a book. Nobody panic, it's not my book. But I did want something that reflected the ongoing theme of this blog, so here it is, the fantastic, whimsical, Australian children's classic: 

Possum Magic is the reason why, despite my hatred of my own possums, I can't possibly be cruel to them. Possum Magic is why I look at little Sid Vicious squeezing through my kitchen shutters and go "awww". Possum Magic is why I secretly want to domesticate all of the possums who have tortured me over the past few years. It wasn't Stockholm Syndrome after all, it was their damned cuteness.  And nothing is cuter than Hush. 

Grandma Poss uses her best bush magic to make Hush invisible. But when Hush longs to be able to see herself again, the two possums must make their way across Australia to find the magic food that will make Hush visible once more.

So, if you have a small child, if you know a small child, or you still listen to your inner child, all you have to do is be a follower of this blog and leave me a comment letting me know you would like to be included, and in a week or so I will use a random number generator (bits of paper in a hat, probably) and draw a winner. I'll also post internationally. So, to recap: 

1. Be a follower of this blog. 
2. Leave a comment. 

That's all. You don't have to Tweet it, but it would be awesome if you did. And you don't have to recommend me to your friends so they can enter as well, but you might do that anyway, because you're already awesome. 

I know this, because this week I got given the Liebster blog award! Twice! 

Thanks, Krista, at I Take The Pen, and TB McKenzie at Magickless.

The goal of the award is to spotlight up and coming bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers. The rules of the award are:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!

To I would like to share the bloggity love by pointing you towards a few more Aussies and Kiwis hanging around the traps: 

Pauline at Pauline's Prose - she loves her history as well! 
Aldrea at Thardrainian Thoughts is a fantasy writer, and
Jolene at Everything is Possible, who is full of inspiration! 


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