Sunday, April 29, 2012

Quicksand - Part 7

The heatwaves made the still grass appear to dance. Everything was too hot and too dry. It seemed that any second the whole world would burst into flames.

Minty never looked as if she was effected by the heat. She stood on the hot earth with bare feet and regarded the scene disinterestedly.

Craven Lorne shifted uncomfortably. They had been standing together in the field for over a minute, now, just staring at each other. He considered killing her right then, but he couldn't bring himself to do it; her torture was nowhere near complete.

Minty cocked her head to the side – an action which Craven Lorne was becoming all too familiar with – and continued to stare. In her hollow, echoing voice, she asked, “Why?”

Craven Lorne did not jump back, although it was his first impulse. He held his ground, appeared amused and asked, “Why what?”

A few seconds passed before Minty answered. “You are always in the field. You always find me in the field. Why?”

 Craven thought about it. She was right; every time they'd met, every time he had made himself known to her, they had been in that spot, in that field at that time of day. It wasn't an accident, not really; he looked for her there. “I don't know,” he told her. “Does it matter?”

“No,” Minty said, tilting her head to the other side. “There are never any humans here.”

“No,” he agreed. “They don't tend to come this way.”

She straightened her head. “Is that why?”

“Maybe,” Craven conceded. “I tend to avoid humans when I can. They tend to get in the way of things.”

“They are useless.”

“On the other hand,” Craven said, trying to sound ominous, “maybe we're just destined to meet here.”

“Yes,” Minty said, hollowly. “I believe it is destiny. We shall meet in the field, where no humans venture. Yes.”

Craven Lorne was surprised to find he was not exasperated, but rather uncomfortable. There was something eerie about Minty, beyond her horror-show appearance. Her complete lack of concern for his intentions, the way that, from her side, their conversation held no pretence, it was disconcerting at best.

He was curious to hear what she would say next, how she would answer his questions or respond to his threats, but the growing unease which her robotic stare occasioned prevented him from staying any longer. He reached up and touched the brim of his hat. “It's been a nice talk. I'll kill you later.”

 If you enjoyed reading this, stop by next week for another instalment. You may also like my published novel, Aigaion Girl ... a story of the end of days, available here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rules of Writing Question

Jonathan Franzen said "It's doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction."

What do you think?
Personally, I would go nuts without having the Internet, mostly because I couldn't bring my various reference books with me to England, so my dictionary, thesaurus and anything-else-I-need-to-look-up are online.  I work 9-6 at a day job, so the library isn't an option for me either.  I use the Internet to fact-check, come up with character names and, yes, to procrastinate.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Quicksand - Part 6

A quiet breeze blew through the long grass that surrounded the tree, carrying the scent of summer flowers. Craven Lorne leaned against the tree and sighed contentedly.
“Pass me that bottle, would you?” Voss asked. A smart, black fox mask covered the top half of his face, revealing a narrow chin and thin, Cupid's bow lips.
Craven Lorne passed the wine and smiled. “Here,” he said.
Voss drank from the bottle and passed it back to Craven.
“We should get a place, don't you think?” Craven said after a minute. “Set ourselves up.”
Voss smiled. “Yeah, where?”
“I don't know. There's that old warehouse. It's quite big. We could clean it up, some.”
Voss chuckled. “I'm sure we could.”
Craven Lorne took a sip of wine and passed it back to his friend. He looked up at the leaves of the big tree and at the bright light on the grass that lay beyond their circle of shade. “You know,” he said, “I think today might be perfect.”

 If you enjoyed reading this, stop by next week for another instalment. You may also like my published novel, Aigaion Girl ... a story of the end of days, available here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


So, I am alive...

Also, I watched this just now, and I think you'll all find it as interesting as I did:


(Minor swearing)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Quicksand - Part 5

A man in a silver fox mask and a white suit sat on a high throne – Well, it wasn't a throne exactly, it was a huge pile of boxes with a drop sheet draped over them. 

Craven Lorne paced around on the floor below him. “I've got her where I want her.” His voice was confident, certain, even, but the way he moved told more truth. There was obviously something bothering him.

The man on the boxes said nothing.

“Do you know, she doesn't even care that I'm going to kill her?” Craven said, after a brief pause. There was no indignation in his voice; he sounded like he was sharing an amusing but impossible anecdote. He seemed to have forgotten that her total unconcern for his intentions didn't qualify her as being right where he wanted her. “Of course, why should she care? She has every reason to believe herself as worthless as we both know her to be. After all—Voss, you look cold. Would you like me to get you something hot?”

The other man waved a gloved hand dismissively and shook his head.

“You will let me know if you change your mind?”

Voss nodded, almost imperceptibly.

“I can get someone to bring you something back, if you're in the mood.”

“No,” Voss said.

Voss spoke very rarely to Craven Lorne and never to anyone else. For Craven, hearing Voss' voice was a sign of approval and he relished it.

 If you enjoyed reading this, stop by next week for another instalment. You may also like my published novel, Aigaion Girl ... a story of the end of days, available here.

The Long Road Home

 For Chuck Wendig's Terrible Minds flash fiction challenge, Death is on the Table...

Buttoncup put a paw on the rock face to steady himself. The pain in his chest was getting more intense, shooting down the length of his left arm. He considered going back—but back to what? Candy Cloud wasn't what it used to be—and he'd be damned if he was going to let them ship him off to The Cottage. No, there was one place left for him to go and he was going, come Hell or—he coughed, hard, and blood sprayed into his matted yellow fur.

He stood as straight as he could, turned and continued up the dirt path. There was a rush of cold wind and, of course, mist. There was a time when Buttoncup had liked the mist. That was before it got so cold, before the damp would seep deep into his bones and stay there for days—it was when he was young.

A task like this should have belonged to Clovershield or Copperclock; they were the warriors, but they were long gone now. He was the only one left. He started counting them in his head, as if ticking off a list. Mopwatch had died in the mines and Sweettart had gone trying to avenge him during the rebellion. Clovershield had walked this same path years ago and fallen to his death during a storm. Copperclock had hauled up in The Cottage with only gin and old books for company.
The Cottage: the windows were shaped like hearts and the only people who ever came to visit were naughty children in need of a lesson from a wizened elder. And soon, even they stopped coming. Buttoncup shuddered to think of Grandmother Goose, how they'd found her, and worse, how long it had taken before they did.

Nookworm had died defending the library from sugar ants and Snugboat had, eventually, rusted out.

There had been more, so many more, but Buttoncup stopped counting. He could hear thunder. He was getting close now. He allowed himself one more rest, drew one more stabbing breath, and turned the corner, mindful the sheer drop to his right. Thundercloud Castle loomed enormous, its rolling grey base flickering with the occasional crackling lightning bolt.

Security on the castle had never been great. There had been times – countless times – when Buttoncup, Sweettart, Mopwatch and Cottondandy had snuck in for a bit of mischief, just to give Unjust and the Baddies a taste of his their own medicine.

The Baddies were gone too; the sugar ants had seen to that. They had been replaced with a red velvet rope, a metal box with a slit in the top and a sign that read, Suggested Donation cc2.00. The sign was covered in cobwebs. No one came here anymore. Sooner or later, everything got forgotten. Everything and everyone.

Buttoncup was disappointed. There had been no guards to kill, trip up or outsmart. Even on this, his last heroic quest, he couldn't be bothered to step over that damned velvet rope; he had unclipped it from its brass pole and let it fall to the ground. And now, when he should be charging up the stairs, he found himself sitting on them, struggling to catch his breath. The pain was almost unbearable, it felt like someone was standing on his chest in a sauna, like any moment could be his last.

Old images flickered across his memory. He wondered if Mopwatch had ever known—certainly Sweettart had known—how Copperclock felt about her, how her choosing Mopwatch had eaten him up inside—but had Mopwatch known? And Cottondandy. Buttoncup had known he wasn't her first choice, or even her second. But he thanked his lucky stars every day that Copperclock and Clovershield were beyond her reach. She did, too, in the end. That was the last thing she said to him – I'm glad it was you. Buttoncup closed his eyes. He could almost see her, almost pick out her sweet, sugary scent.

Thunder always sounded louder from inside the castle. It jerked Buttoncup out of his revelry, forced him to his feet. He climbed, wheezing, to the top of the staircase. With every step, every stab of pain that felt like a red hot poker being rammed through his chest, Buttoncup reminded himself, it was Unjust's fault. Unjust had ruined everything, made Skyland unstable—and when the sugar ants came, the Snugglebuns had been desperate. They'd given up Candy Cloud, they'd worked in the sugar mines, they'd watched their home be carried away, one grain at a time. They'd sold their souls. Someone had to pay.

At the top of the stairs was the throne room. Buttoncup knew that once he entered, he wouldn't be coming out; in fact, he had every chance of being struck by horizontal lightning as he entered – and he accepted this with perfect unconcern. But he also knew—he was determined—that if he died in Thundercloud Castle, Unjust would die with him. Buttoncup was the last of the Snugglebuns; this was his duty.

The door squeaked open – a sound more tragic than ominous. He steeled himself, stepped over the threshold. The room was deserted. Buttoncup clutched his chest and hit the ground with a thud.

“Who's there?” Unjust limped out of the shadows, his steps as slow and unsteady as the voice from beneath his cowl. “I know there's someone there. There's nothing worth taking.”

“I've come to kill you,” Buttoncup groaned, trying to pull himself forward.

Unjust chuckled. “Buttoncup? It's nice to hear a familiar voice. Forgive me, I can't see anything now.”

“You're blind?” It wasn't fair. Unjust could have at least tried to be threatening.

“As a bat.” Unjust shuffled forward. “I was hoping someone would come. You know, before the end.”

Suddenly, the past didn't matter. They were mortal enemies and they would die together.

“When they find our bones,” Buttoncup ventured, “do you suppose they'll think—”

“One can hope,” Unjust answered. “One can hope.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Rules of Writing Question

 Geoff Dyer, in his 10 rules of writing says:  
Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it's a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It's only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I ­always have to feel that I'm bunking off from something.

Do you think it's better to have a few things on the go or to focus on one project at a time?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Quicksand - Part 4

So... we meet again.”

Minty didn't give Craven Lorne the satisfaction of even a small acknowledgement that he had spoken; she was busy smelling a worm.

“It's getting quite close to that time, you know, the time that I mean to kill you.”

The worm proved more interesting. Minty continued sniffing at it while her dress dragged on the dusty road.

“I won't make it quick,” Craven warned her, but it was almost a question, asking if she cared at all.

Minty moved away from the worm and munched on a scrubby piece of dry, golden grass.

Craven pulled at his collar. It was always so hot in the field and there was something unnerving about Minty, the way she looked at the world with vacant intensity, like she didn't quite know what she was so interested in. She was impossible to deal with.

Rabbit!” he shouted.

Finally, she looked at him. Slowly, she stood up on two feet.

“Do you want to die?”

She cocked her head to the side. Her eye whirred as it focused on him.

“Well? Do you?”


Craven Lorne jumped back. He realized then that he couldn't remember having ever actually heard her speak. Her voice nearly whistled, like a sigh coming through the metal pipe of an electronic organ. There was something tragic about it; it was almost painful to listen to.

Minty walked away, she didn't run. Craven stood in the field, and for a long time after she was out of sight, watched her go.

 If you enjoyed reading this, stop by next week for another instalment. You may also like my published novel, Aigaion Girl ... a story of the end of days, available here.

Mock ups

We've talked a fair bit about how figuring out what characters' names are and what they look like can give us a better idea of how they'd behave, so after ages of trying to work out the personality of my protagonist(s), I've come up with this mock up for the book cover (I came up with the working title in the process).  So now I have the looks, I just need the names... and to figure out if I want to write in first or third person. 

I know it's important in all fiction, but this piece is going to be SUPER character driven, so the names have to be perfect; I need to nail these characters.

Any suggestions would be more than welcome :)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Damaged Goods Part 2

So, a couple of years ago (my, how time flies!) I wrote this article, questioning whether some kind of personal damage or substance abuse problem was a prerequisite for good writing.  As someone who used to do her best writing buzzed, drunk or miserable, I thought it seemed pretty likely - and research was certainly on my side; so many of the "greats" battled depression and/or drug and alcohol abuse.  Of course, when I wrote that article, I wasn't exactly happy.  I wasn't unhappy, as such, but, on the surface, my life was missing most of the things that I felt it needed (IE my own place, a decent job, somewhere to write) and one of the things that I knew I wanted (wuv, twoo wuv), so overall, the best I could call myself was discontent.  Having been to both ends of the happiness spectrum, I have reached a conclusion:

Writing sad is easier.  Writing happy is better.

The quality of one's writing relies on other factors, skill and effort, to be exact.  Strong emotions and strong emotional memory are definitely mixed in there, but I think for fiction writers especially, writing should generate emotion, not the other way around.

I write easier when I feel dissatisfied or ill-at-ease.  Words just seem to pour out of me then, whereas, when I'm happy and feeling generally content, it's more of a struggle.  One of the pluses to being human, though, is that we're never satisfied, not really.  The human race never would have progressed if we could be satisfied with just food and shelter.  We would still be living in caves.  But we're built to want more, no matter what we have (iPhones are a perfect example of this; how can a phone which takes pictures, allows you to edit them, has Internet access, games and lets you watch movies not be good enough?  How do they keep marketing new editions of these things?)  

So, to clarify, I don't mean that your writing will be better if you're happier, I mean that it's better to write while happy.  Because, in the end, your writing will be (or, I should say can and should be) just as good as it would be if you wrote while sad/angry/depressed/drunk, but - and this is the important bit - you'll be happy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Another Random Question about Writing

Thought I might make this a weekly thing.  So here's today's question:

Do you think there is an unbreakable rule regarding (ad)verbs to carry dialogue?

I've heard it said many times that writers should never use any word other than "said" to carry dialogue and that adverbs should be avoided altogether.  What are your thoughts?

Personally, I use tonnes of other verbs to carry dialogue (the two most frequent being "told" and "admitted", though I'm also fond of "mumbled" and "screamed"), but I try to avoid awkward ones like "intoned" or "admonished" unless I'm trying to convey something really specific.  I also like to use verbs which you aren't technically supposed to apply to speech, like "smiled" and "sneered" - and I think in children's books, it's fair game to go ahead and include ones like "huffed" and "snarled", especially if your characters are animals.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Quicksand 3

In a cold, dark warehouse, a green light blinked on and a possum jumped back.
“You've woken her up now,” the possum whispered frantically. “I told you to leave her alone.”
“I just want a bit more,” the other man answered. He jabbed a couple of sharp fingers under his prisoner's ribs. “You worry too much. Look, she's not even moving.”
Darren winced. “Yet.”
“She's tied up. What's she gonna do?”
“She probably doesn't need to do anything,” Darren said, unaffectedly mysterious. “Honestly, Frisco, just leave it.”
Frisco, obviously tired of his cohort's apprehensions, turned his attention back to the unfortunate captive. “We've been waiting a long time to get our hands on you,” he told her. “A long time.”
Minty hung motionless from her chains. She gave no indication, other than the weak glow of her right eye, that she was still alive, let alone awake. Frisco moved closer to her, took a handful of her dress in his spider-leg fingers and gave it a sharp downward tug. His breath crawled over her neck. “The boss will be back soon,” he whispered. He licked the corner of her mouth, dragging his papery tongue slowly across the point where the light from Minty's eye turned the escaping Dust green. He let it linger there for a moment before going on, “Then we'll have some fun.”
“The boss will be back soon,” Darren said, his whisper lost in the urgency of what he was saying. “I think we should go.”
Frisco turned on Darren suddenly and hissed, his own eyes glowing bright yellow in the feeble light that seeped in from under the storeroom door.
Darren took a step back. He didn't like Frisco and he really didn't like being left alone with him. At the best of times, Frisco was malicious, spiteful and psychopathic. He seemed to truly delight in causing pain and he was unnaturally at ease around Minty – a walking disfigurement whom Darren regarded with mortal dread. But at least, Darren realized, taking another backward step toward the door, he knew where he stood with the rabbit girl. If she decided to back to life and kill them all, he was sure it would be done without pretence. Frisco might stab him in the back as soon as look at him – and with Frisco, the stabbing would be as literal or figurative as the bastard chose to make it.
“I'm busy,” Frisco growled, displaying a mouth full of too-long, crooked teeth.
Darren couldn't work out why the boss kept Frisco around. Well, he amended mentally, he wished he couldn't work out why. But it was obvious. Frisco wasn't afraid to get things done. Frisco would get anything done.
“Maybe she's not the only one who needs to be taught a lesson,” Frisco said, taking a step toward Darren and raising a horrible hand. With his sick grin, it was impossible to guess whether or not he was joking and Darren wasn't keen to find out for sure.
There was a sound in the corridor, the telltale sound of their employer's footsteps on the concrete floor. Frisco heard it, started and appeared to melt into the shadows and Darren, under the seemingly watchful eye of Minty, crept away as quietly as he could.

 If you enjoyed reading this, stop by next week for another instalment. You may also like my published novel, Aigaion Girl ... a story of the end of days, available here.