I Come Bearing Good News!

15 Sep

I got the news in the BP service station outside Caboolture. I was on my way to Brisbane for the writer’s festival, and it was the first time I’d had phone service since I’d left home.

I didn’t expect to get a place – in fact, I was so sure that I had no chance of winning that when the email came through – “delighted to let you know you have been accepted” – I was struck mute for at least a few minutes.

I had just won myself a place in a mentoring writer’s retreat.

I’ve wanted to tell you all this for a while now (I found out a couple of weeks ago), but I didn’t quite know how to put it into words before. I’m still not sure I’ve done the news justice. Sure, to some out there this may seem a bit like overkill: to get so excited over something that, when compared to a publishing contract or something of similar magnitude, is quite small. But to someone like me, someone who has previously been too afraid to even put my work out there for critique, someone who has been knocked back with short stories and poems, someone who has felt the lowest of writing lows (and more than once), someone who has doubted her skills almost at every turn, well, this is huge and exciting and I still can’t believe this happened to me. Is happening to me.

My completed novel, “Times of Bright” is already with the author who will be conducting the retreat in a month’s time. During the three days she will provide me with feedback on my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, in order to help me polish the manuscript into something I can then send away to agents and publishers for consideration.

I envisage many rewrites in my not-too-distant future, but that’s okay, because I’m on the track to publication now. And I can only go forward from here.

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Brain Fodder 1: Fisher Boy & Me

12 Sep

There are so many blog posts I should be doing right now. I need to finish the second part of my time at Brisbane Writer’s Festival. I need to reveal the exciting news I have to tell you (it really is quite exciting, I swear!). Right now, I can’t find the words to do those blogs justice, and that’s probably because my brain is all abuzz over what I hope will soon be my new WIP.

Below is a collection of images I’ve saved to use as inspiration for my latest work. The title is an old one now – it was what I’d originally planned the novel to be when I first starting the initial plotting months ago. But since I’ve completed ‘Times of Bright’ and come back to this, the story has evolved so much, and while I have a new title and a new plot to go with it, I don’t want to reveal too many details about it just yet (for fear of jinxing my fickle muse, and also because it could change another half dozen times before I truly start writing).

What I can say (because this has remained a constant right from the start and will continue to be a constant until I finish the drafts to come), is that this novel is a love story about a girl and a boy and fishing.

All these images I have found on WeHeartIt.com (a truly heaven-sent site full of the most beautiful pictures you will ever find anywhere).

BWF 2010: Part 1

9 Sep

 

My first impression of the State Library of Queensland (SLQ), and the writer’s festival in general, was a slightly panicked one. I was running late. My first panel was due to start at 1:00pm – it was 12:50pm when I caught my first glimpse of it all… as my car sailed over the new “Go-Between” bridge and into the city!

I was pretty stressed at this point. My friend and critique partner extraordinnaire – the lovely Ali Smith from LoveMissAli – was already there and having a crisis of her own (she’d left her ticket at home and was in the ticket line to get it re-printed). So, I was on my way to Roma Street Station, when I should have been at SLQ, and Ali was friendless (because I was so late) and hoping she’d get her ticket re-printed before the session started. Not exactly a promising start to our festival plans.

Thankfully, that was about the worst that happened during our writer’s festival weekend. I managed to get the library on time (thanks to my lovely hubby cutting across some traffic where he perhaps shouldn’t but he got me there safe and sound so that’s the main thing), and Ali managed to get her ticket and we got into the session with a minute to spare and seats still available.

We needn’t have rushed, let me tell you. We went into the panel thinking we were going to get some juicy tips on how to craft the perfect short story, but what we actually sat through was a bunch of short stories from the author’s life – real-life stories – that rambled across time and back again, from friends of his to his son to some couple in an emergency room… I don’t know, I didn’t follow it all that well. It was literally a bunch of rambling stories, and at one point I think I asked Ali whether our speaker was drunk or not.

Highly disillusioned, I found solice in the QWC headquarters, where I chatted with a lovely lady behind the counter, picked up a copy of the latest AWM book, and bought a raffle ticket (I didn’t win, FYI). The few minutes I spent in the QWC office refreshed me: I was ready to go back out into the festival, and I was ready to put that rather unusual panel behind me (after about an hour of serious bitching between Ali and myself over coffee (on Ali’s part) and water (on my part) and countless cigarettes (on both our parts)).

If you’re feeling brave, you tackle the walk to West End in the daylight hours. I’d been warned before that West End wasn’t a place you go unless you really have no way of avoiding it, and I really wanted to go to Avid Reader, so there was really no way of avoiding it. The walk there wasn’t so bad – there was the usual riff-raff you’d expect in a not-so-safe district of a capital city, shoeless men slurring drunkenly at passers-by with open alcohol containers on the footpath – but it was the walk back to SLQ that opened my eyes just a little bit, and had me dashing across the pavement a little quicker than I usually would. A man staggered over to the ANZ across from us and started bashing on the glass doors, which were, of course, locked solid. He was cussing loudly (something about being ripped off?), was obviously very drunk, and I feared the glass might actually shatter at one point. Ah, West End, the memories.

What I remember most fondly about that first day at the festival is:

– Meeting the lovely Ali Smith for the first time in person

– The sheer size of the SLQ (to a small town gal, it is seriously monstrous and so beautiful!)

– Cigarettes on the steps overlooking the river

– The realisation that Avid Reader is perhaps the most perfect little bookstore of all time, and I want it to be mine (or to have a bookstore just like it)

The things I remember not so fondly? Waiting 30 minutes for a takeaway coffee at the SLQ’s cafe (though it wasn’t my coffee so I was perhaps less impatient than if it actually was mine I was waiting for), everything about that first panel I attended, and the addition of the bloody bridge that almost made me late for a panel that, in hindsight, I wouldn’t have minded missing in the least.

Stay tuned for part 2 (which I swear will be much more exciting than part 1).

Pre-Writer’s Festival Madness

3 Sep

I started packing and organising myself for the Brisbane Writer’s Festival two days ago. I’m sure I’ll forget something important – I usually do when I travel.

I’ve realised today that I should have taken the day off work. The madness of planning a road trip is slowly taking me over – I can hardly concentrate on the tasks I have to do, my mind is full of traffic plans and road closures and getting to our accomodation on time and getting to the festival panels I’ve purchased on time. The fact that Brisbane’s biggest festival of the year just happens to coincide with my arrival for the writer’s festival certainly doesn’t help the planning – or my sanity levels! But I shall prevail… I think.

The most important things I need to remember are:

– The accommodation booking confirmation sheet

– My writing samples, CV’s and synopsis’ (probably a little optimistic of me, but better to have them than to not!)

– The house keys, so we can get back home again

– My laptop, notebook, and ample pens (for when the muse strikes)

– My underwear (possibly the most important of them all).

As this is my first proper writer’s festival attendence (I went to Bundy WriteFest in May this year, but that was tiny in comparison to this extravaganza of an event!) I think I’m allowed to be excited/nervous/overzealous/embarrassing-squealer-girl. That being said, I promise to cover my mouth if I fear a squeal coming on; much like a cough, only without the spread of noxious germs.

If you’re interested, I will be tweeting like mad from the festival for the entire weekend (probably including the long, boring drive south). Follow my Twitter alias, IAmTheAnt, if you’d like to keep updated on my festival musings; otherwise, stay tuned, for I will be blogging extensively about it all once I’m home again. Or maybe before, if, you know, I manage to slot in a bit of free time in amongst all the literary minglings and oglings and such.

Heart: A Short Story

30 Aug

She’s standing on my doorstep in a grey pencil skirt and blazer. There’s colour in her cheeks but I think she’s a ghost. She knocks, breathes out a jittery sigh and I open the door. Not a ghost. The vein on her neck pounds fast and hard. She’s definitely alive. Familiar.

She has a photograph in her hand. She presses it into mine, curls a blonde strand around one finger and waits. I shake my head.

Are you sure? Look again.

She looks like you, I say.

Yes. She’s my sister.

I hand the photo back. I’m sorry.

You’d remember her. If you saw her, she says.

Yes.

Are you absolutely sure you didn’t see her? She wasn’t ever here?

I’m on the defensive. I try to close the door but she holds it open with her shoe. A ballerina flat; Dorothy red, the same as the girl in the Polaroid is wearing.

Please, she says. This is important.

I look at the picture again. I’m only half seeing.

There was a party a few weeks ago, I say.

Was she here?

I can’t be sure. She might have been. I’m not sure.

Can I come in?

She’s standing on the threshold. She’s biting her lip, worrying it between her teeth. She looks so much like her in that instant that I cave.

Yes, I say. Okay.

*****

I’m lying to her: this girl who is achingly familiar, right down to the scent of her skin. I know who she’s looking for. I saw her, the night of the party. She was here.

Sorry I couldn’t be more help, I say.

A lie.

She gives a delicate shake of her head, fair mane flicking in a halo that tells me I shouldn’t be sorry, not at all. She puts her empty mug on the counter. Her breath smells like coffee beans, over-roasted.

I really appreciate it, she says. Thank you for the coffee.

My hands are trembling. I stuff them in my trouser pockets. She’s stalling. She hovers near the door, and I already know what she’s going to ask before her lips move. Petal pink, arced like a cherub’s kiss. Just like her sister’s.

Yes, I say – and I can’t help but say it. I’ll help you. I’ll help you look for her.

*****

The first time we have sex she cries. She rolls over, thinks I can’t hear her as she sobs quietly into her hands but I can. Normally it wouldn’t bother me. I am not this person. I am not the one who comforts, who cares, who loves. I put a hand on her naked shoulder and squeeze.

It’s just, my sister’s missing out on all this, she says.

All this?

Life. Love.

I don’t say anything. It’s been weeks since she turned up on my doorstep and thrust the photograph in my hands, looking for her sister. We’ve found nothing so far – not a trace. She knows, just as I do, that it isn’t good news we’ll find at the end of it.

She clutches at my throat. Her eyes are wild, and for a moment I see something in them, something sinister and unsettling. She blinks it away and only blind desperation remains, welling behind heavy lids.

You love me, don’t you? You love me.

She begs it, like a dog.

Of course I do, I say. I love you.

More lies. There’s an endless stream of them now.

*****

Enter Sandman hammers in my skull. It is mood music for the soul. It feeds the monster in me. I lift the Corona to my lips. The glass is already perspiring against my palm under the heat of the low lighting. My eyes, meanwhile, scan the mass of bodies gyrating around me.

I spy her across the room. She’s got her back to me. She doesn’t see me to begin with but then she turns ever so slowly, long cascade of blonde floating effortlessly across the arch of her back.

I register the moment her eye catches mine. The light reflects the subtle sparkle in her gaze. Someone reaches out from behind her, rubs a hand down her forearm. She laughs over her shoulder, reminiscent of a church bell pealing, all sweetness and candor.

My blood hardens were it rests in my veins, a lead weight forcing me down. She is anything but sweet. She’s watching me, half her attention tuned to the body hiding in her shadow, but I know she’s focused on me, waiting, gauging my reaction to her little performance. She has always been one hell of a tease.

She leans towards the stranger now – I’m yet to see his face – presses a hand to the heart hanging on a chain around her sinewy neck and curls her lips to form a neat oval. Her tiny bell laugh tolls again and I snarl. My fists clench.

I’m through with it: through with her and her childish games. Our gazes lock for just a moment and I know that she knows.

The game’s up. She’s done.

*****

I take the charm out whenever I’m alone. When she leaves I don’t know where she goes and I don’t care. I head straight to the top drawer of my bureau, reach into its depths and pull out the old maroon football sock twisted into a messy ball.

I lift it to my nose, sniff. I can smell it through the cloth, metallic like the blade of the knife that now lies at the bottom of the river; bitter, pungent, death. I unravel the sock, take the little heart between my fingers and touch it to the tip of my tongue.

If I close my eyes I can almost taste her on its golden surface. I can smell her perfume, cheap whore with undertones of musk. I can hear the chime of her bell laugh, the grating sound of her whispered voice in my ear. I can see her lying there, wanton and open, totally unaware.

I press the golden heart to my lips and breathe it all in, the memory of her. It all reeks.

*****

It’s the police who find her in the end.

She gets the call early one morning and comes to me with bed hair and a trench coat. Her face is blotchy, her eyes red raw. My sister, is all she says, and I know they’ve found her. I know they’ve found the body.

She wants me to go with her to make the identification. She says she needs me, says she can’t do it without me. I protest, make it seem like I want her to do this on her own, but I was always going to go with her. I need to do this. I need to see the body as much as she does, to make sure.

We’re lead into a sterile room by the detective, a box with white walls and a chill that penetrates my bones. There’s a gurney in the centre covered by a white sheet. Standing next to it is a severe-looking gentleman, his hands clasped behind his back.

He beckons us forward and when we’re close he lifts the sheet, revealing a head that is swollen and blue and not at all familiar; a shock of blonde hair limp and filthy with mud. She gasps beside me, grips my hand until it hurts.

My baby, she says, my sister.

I’m sorry.

Her eyes flash with that same steel I saw once. Cold. Unnatural. Inhuman.

Don’t say that, she says. You’re not sorry.

I am, I say, and I think I’m telling the truth. I really am sorry.

You never knew her. You can’t be sorry if you never knew her.

The sheet falls over the body of her sister. No longer an angelic face. The water has made her bulbous, grotesque. She’s nothing like the girl I used to know. And I did know her. I knew her very well.

I loved her.

*****

The argument stems from nothing and everything. The party is in full swing but we’re outside, hidden if not for the pale shine of the midnight moon, pressed up against the rear fence. She’s in hysterics and I’m clutching her shoulders and shaking her for all she’s worth. Her head snaps forward and back like one of those bobble-head animals on a car’s dash.

The grating of her bones is piercing but I don’t care and neither does she. This is what she’s been wanting all evening. She’s been asking for it – practically begging, tormenting me into action with her hair flicks and her incessant laughter.

I stop the ragdoll act but my grip doesn’t let up. She collects herself, claws at her skull where it throbs like a club speaker. We’re both breathing shallow, both over-exerted and gagging for it. When her dizziness subsides and the echo of my heartbeat dies in my ears she mashes her lips into mine, crashes her breasts into my ribcage and rubs up against me like a cat on heat.

I tear the spaghetti strap on her leopard print mini in my race to get at her flesh. She laughs at the damage, barks like a bitch and then takes my nipple between her teeth and bites down. I roar and shove her back. It isn’t the first time she’s drawn blood. She scratches at the wound with a set of manicured nails. I wince and groan like she’s expecting but the truth is I tired of this sport long ago. She is cowardice personified. She doesn’t have the guts to take this further, to turn this into the kind of game I crave and I know it. And she knows it, too.

I watch as the light dies in her eyes when she realizes I’ve grown bored of our tryst. She mouths at the mark she’s made. I don’t even flinch, I just watch her from above, eyes lidded with the monotony of the moment.

So that’s how it’s gonna be, she says – snarls it. I shrug my shoulders and she spits at my feet. You’re disgusting, she says, and the pedestal I had erected crumples beneath her. The tiny heart on a chain glints in the hollow of her throat as she swallows.

I loved you, I tell her.

It’s only when she scoffs at this I strike.

*****

No evidence. It’s the only words that register in my mind. She’s still speaking but I hear none of it. Her sister didn’t kill herself, I imagine she’s telling me. The hole in her fragile chest where the knife has been proves that her death wasn’t an accident, she says, but I’m not listening.

No evidence. The words are exactly what I wanted to hear – the only thing I wanted her to say. No evidence means no conviction. No evidence means the killer goes free.

It’s nothing more than the bitch deserves.

She’s crying again. Ever since they found her sister’s body it’s like the faucet has been turned on full and there’s no turning it off. When I try to touch her she flinches away as if one touch from me will knock her stone dead. She snarls, backs herself into a corner with her claws unsheathed, spine arched like an angry feline.

She’s becoming more and more like her sister with every day that passes.

*****

I don’t go to the funeral. She doesn’t ask and I don’t insist upon it. I stay home with the golden heart and hold it to my chest, press it into the hollow of my throat and swallow just as her sister did the night she broke me.

She’s grown distant these last weeks. She’s slowly slipping away and I don’t know how to hold on tighter. I should be through with her by now – I don’t love her – but I can’t bring myself to let those final pieces of her go.

She’s all that’s left of my Tania and I need her to stay.

I need her to stay.

*****

When the police give up the manhunt I’m relieved, and so is she. I ask her why. She’s got that steel glint in her eyes again. All she says is that it’s over.

What’s over?

The nightmare, she says. Now I can wake up.

*****

The river stretches before me to the horizon, the moon turning its surface into a body of molten silver, and all I can think as I’m waste deep amongst it is that I should have seen this coming, but I didn’t.

She’s standing on the bank, arms held taut towards me, shivering even though it’s hardly cold. The whites of her eyes are shining eerily bright. She’s got a grimace on her pretty face that is more animal than human, and when she speaks to me her voice is as frozen as the Antarctic.

You’re disgusting, she says, and she sounds just like her sister.

I should have known the day I found her on my doorstep. I should have known when she didn’t ask me to the funeral, when she shied away from me, when the manhunt was called off and she was relieved, but I didn’t. I didn’t have a fucking clue.

More fool me.

She doesn’t ask me if I have any last words, she just takes a purposeful step forward into the wet and pulls back on the trigger in her grasp, and the look in her eyes, all ice and nothing more, tells me exactly what I need to know. She knew all along what had become of her sister. She knew it all, right from the beginning – what I’d done, everything.

She knew.

I don’t even hear the bang.

*****

NB: I entered this in a competition recently and unfortunately it didn’t get a short-listing. Oh well. You live and learn. I still love “Heart” just as much as I did when I first wrote it, so I thought instead of getting myself down over the rejection, I’d do something positive and post it here for all my wonderful readers to read and enjoy. And I do hope you enjoy it.  xx a

**pops cork**

24 Aug

THE END!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The End is Near

24 Aug

Current Status: Elated & emotional

Food Consumed: Nothin’

On The iPod: 9 Crimes; Damien Rice

Word Count: 4 pages (longhand)

I will be finished my novel-in-progress very soon. This week. Maybe even today.

Soon, my work-in-progress will no longer be a work-in-progress – it will be complete, whole, a piece of my soul in a bunch of jumbled up scenes that tell a story I hope you’ll all like. And although I’m yet to write the final scene (which is, coincidentally, perhaps the hardest scene I will have to write in this novel, that one pivotal moment where everything changes for my protag), I’ve already started to feel a bit teary – not because I can’t/don’t want to write this last scene, but because it’s so close to being over, and soon it really will be.

It’s been about 18 months since  I properly started this novel (give or take a few months, I’ve never been good with numbers). Along the way I’ve loved and loathed many things about it, but one thing has always been a constant throughout the writing of this piece: I have always loved my characters, and I think I always will.

Now, the thought of letting them go – finally letting them go – is a little scary and almost too much to bear. I want to cling to them and never let them go, but if I do that then you will never get the chance to love them as much as I do, and I really want you all to love them, or at least have the opportunity to love them.

I’ve mentioned that I’m going to have a blog contest soon and give away something pretty to one of my lucky followers. I think I’ve been waiting for this moment – the moment I write “The End” on my novel for the very last time – to start the contest. It’s fitting, don’t you think?

I must get back to the words – I’m on a roll and I don’t want to stop! While I finish this novel and try ever so hard not to cry at the thought of saying goodbye to my characters, I’ll leave you with a mini-inspiration post, a few images that sum up my final scenes quite perfectly.