Tag Archives: writing

Microcosms 44

Another crime prompt this week. I’m really happy with my story: it basically just wrote itself over the course of an hour once I’d researched the setting (my US geography is pretty rudimentary) and allowed the characters to introduce themselves to me.

I’m starting to think maybe I should practise crime writing in more depth!

Entries have closed for this week BUT you can still go vote for your favourites and leave comments at the moment (until the end of Saturday).

No Quarter

Character: Reporter

Setting: Martha’s Vineyard

Genre: Crime

300 Words

As she gazed unseeingly across Nantucket Sound Jennifer let out a sigh. Three days she’d been here now, chasing up the story of her career, but the locals were not giving her an inch.

And really, why should they? It was the first murder in the tight-knit community of Oak Bluffs in over a decade, and here was some upstart reporter from Boston feasting on their trauma like a parasite.

An icy wind blew down from the Arctic, a preview of the winter ahead. Jennifer shivered and hunched deeper into her overcoat, sighing again. Maybe it was time to call it quits.

“Folk still not talkin’ Miss Jennifer?”

Jennifer smiled ruefully at the gravelly old man approaching her. “I’m afraid not, Gerald isn’t it?” She gestured for him to join her on the park bench. He smiled back and took his seat, gazing out over the grey water too.

“Don’t take it too much to heart, love. We like to keep ourselves to ourselves here.”

“Yes, I got that,” Jennifer replied with a laugh. She glanced at the fisherman, his face as craggy and weathered as the land around them. “I’m just not sure where to take it from here. This assignment was supposed to be my big break, don’t you know.”

Gerald smiled knowingly, eyes remaining fixed on the horizon. “Ah. Well, if there’s one thing I know about breaks, it’s that there’s always ‘nother one not too far behind.” He met her gaze and gave her knee a comforting squeeze. “So don’t you fret none.”

Jennifer laughed again and offered him a handshake. “Thank you, Gerald. That was the politest brush-off I’ve ever received.” They shook hands and she stood up. “All the best, sir.”

He doffed his hat as she turned to leave. “And to you, ma’am.”

Advertisements

Stocktake

I just took a moment to re-read my own Pages to try to get back to the spirit of my mediocre little blog (and update some of the info).

I’ve really strayed pretty far, hey.

Lately I’ve been very much back in la-la land, trying to be a snowflake, getting caught up in daydreams and fantastical creative notions about how one day I might be a famous writer/dancer/crafter/politician/chef/actor/singer – and rehearsing the inevitable interviews that would follow. (Obviously.)

My house is back to being a mess, my kids are back to being screen-junkies, and I have little to no routine going on. Again.

I don’t want to stop the little bits and pieces of creativity I’m doing (especially my writing and musicking) but I really, really have to get more order and predictability going again.

I have to.

So here’s the plan.

– I was toying with the idea of doing NaNoWriMo or NaBloPoMo, but I really don’t want to “sign up” for either of them. Instead I’m aiming to do the Daily Posts every day for the next month, to keep polishing my writing chops and make it more habitual.

– I’m going back to 30 Days to a Clean and Organised House by Katie Berry to pull the house back together. I’ve started trying to work through it a couple of times over the last year or so (including last month) and always stall around day 3, losing momentum and failing to get it back up again. I’m not going to work through the book again at this point, but I am determined to get through her Daily Cleaning Checklist each day to make it into a habit. My house is really not that big. I can easily get to the point where it takes 10min to blitz the obvious stuff each day! Surely!

AND THAT IS ALL

That’s all I’m going to commit to each day. Anything else is a bonus right now. If I get a wind up me I will expand my to-do list – maybe blog a bit more; maybe crack out the uke or saxophone; maybe sketch out some other writing ideas; maybe do some culling or extra cleaning – but if I get overwhelmed and despondent I will fall back to these two little habits I want to cultivate for now.

(If my blog goes dead for a while you’ll know I cracked under the pressure…)

(I know you won’t judge though!)

Microcosms 43

After judging Microcosms 42 last week, it’s back to being a regular old entrant for me this time.

Not that I’m complaining, mind: it was such a fun prompt this week – an homage to Rocky Horror Picture Show, to celebrate Halloween.

I will readily admit it, back in the late 90s I used to dress up and head to George St cinemas in Sydney every Friday night to watch the regular screening/performance. I knew all the call-backs, sang along to all the songs, got to know the cast.

Good times.

Here’s my tongue-in-cheek entry to celebrate an incredibly fun movie. I managed to submit it with a few hours to spare this week! But it’s now too late for you to vote for your favourites. You should totally go read all the other entries anyway though.

The “Character” and “Activity” prompts were drawn from the lyrics to Science Fiction/Double Feature.

Give Yourself Over

Character: Bride

Activity: Coming from Space

Genre: Romance

300 words

Michael paced nervously. The clearing where they’d agreed to meet was a little more dark and remote than he would have liked – and now Rainey was late.

He checked his phone for messages and pulled up Rainey’s profile again.

Those curves, that crazy hair, that vintage pin-up style.

Yep. Worth the wait. Assuming the pictures were legit (he’d been burned before).

Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the centre of the clearing and Michael dove to the ground. When he looked up again, Rainey was there.

He scrambled to his feet, agog.

“Michael,” she purred warmly, “I am Nellorain, agent of the Infinite Joy, and I have come to claim you as my bride.”

Michael blinked and swallowed. “Uh, what?”

She walked towards him, her sinuous body contained by a black corset and heels, her dark hair piled high upon her head, a gossamer negligee billowing behind her.

“My people study pleasure in all its forms and you have been chosen to help expand our understanding of this planet.”

Michael glanced around him, unsure how to respond.

Rainey continued. “You have no worldly commitments, no real friends, and many, many frustrated desires. Come with me and experience a bliss beyond your imagination.”

Michael slumped a little. “Wait – are you calling me a loser?”

Rainey cocked her head. “I believe that’s the vernacular, yes.” She reached out and took hold of both his hands.

A surge of pure ecstasy coursed through his veins, knocking the wind right out of him. Her voice echoed in his head.

“Will you join me willingly, Michael?”

He shivered and smiled, any doubts or hurt feelings forgotten. “Well, when you put it that way…”

Rainey beamed and turned her face to the heavens. Another lightning bolt struck the ground and the clearing was empty once more.

Microcosms 41

Late to share this one, but….

*insert drumroll*

I WON THE JUDGE’S PICK!

So stoked. Had a lot happening this weekend and I miscalculated the new deadline due to the start of daylight savings here (managed to add an extra hour somehow…) so entered my story late. I found the prompt really inspiring though so I’m glad my entry was accepted – and rated so highly. 

I don’t normally dig crime as a genre, but I was reading This Book Is Full of Spiders by David Wong when the prompt was posted and had the creepy ghost/monster/child Anna in my head. It all kind of snowballed from there.

Anyway, here’s my *winning* entry for Microcosms 41. I’ll be judging next week so please go enter and give me a bunch of amazing stories to read!

Inspiration or Title: Sweets from a Stranger [I made this my title]

Genre: Crime

279 words

Clyde shivered and blew into his cupped hands. The basement was icy and dank, reeking of cat piss. And sadness. 

Still, all his good leads had dried up. And all his less good leads. Now he was onto wild notions and speculation. The Smithy family had once stored belongings here with a friend, two years before their mysterious disappearance. The friend had sold the place to developers a few months later (“It was always so damp and depressing! I couldn’t handle it.”) and it had sat empty and neglected ever since.

He opened the door that lead to the alleyway outside, seeking out fresh air but finding only refuse. A young girl skipped around the corner and froze when she saw him.

“Hey Mister,” she said, “what are you doing in the bad house?”

Clyde snorted. “I was just wondering that myself!” He walked toward her and pulled a mint from his pocket. “Would you like a lolly, young..?”

“Lucinda,” she responded, snatching the sweet from his hand.

He smiled. “Why do you call it ‘the bad house?'”

She flinched. “Because the bad man waits for the children. He poisons their toys and whisks them away!”

At the sound of footsteps Clyde started and turned to see his partner, Keats, in the doorway. “You okay out here Clyde?”

“Sure. I’m just chatting with Lucinda here.”

“Who?”

Clyde turned back. There was no sign of the girl besides a stray mint wrapper cavorting in the breeze.

He shivered again.

“Boss?”

“I’m fine, Keats. I want a detailed history of this property, and a chemical analysis done on the Smithy kids’ toys. I have a feeling there’s life in this case yet.”

Microcosms 39

I haven’t done much writing for the last few weeks but managed to just scrape it in for this week’s Microcosms contest. Do go read the entries and vote for your favourites – and make sure you sign up for email notifications (or follow them on Twitter @MicrocosmsFic) if you want in on it yourself.

My entry this week:

293 words

Character: Linguist

Attribute: Giant

Genre: Science Fiction

A Giant Among Bugs

“Get outta here, kid!”

Daniel scurried out of the way before the burly kitchen-hand’s boot could make contact. He bolted from the dumpster, clutching his prize to his chest: a loaf this big could feed the colony for a week.

At the end of the alley he paused, getting his bearings. Artura Prime was a chaotic city. It was built for the big shots, riding high on their beasts or zooming through the sky on monorails. A small kid like Daniel was easily ignored.

Finding his way underground, he went straight to the central cave. At Daniel’s appearance, a soft squeal of joy rippled through the gathered crowd of critters and they swarmed him, covering his hand with tiny kisses as they each took a crumb of bread.

He smiled.

When he first stumbled upon them he’d been afraid: the horror stories told about the fauna native to this planet ringing loudly in his ears. But they’d shown him compassion, fed and comforted him, embraced him and taught him their ways.

He’d always had a knack for languages and found their communication methods easy to pick up. They were clearly angry that their home above had been colonised by aliens, but felt helpless to stop them.

Daniel understood how that felt.

He promised to help, although he had no idea how. The critters didn’t mind though. It was the first time they’d experienced hope in generations and for now that was enough.

Daniel settled down with his friends. They snuggled up to him, trilling contentment, and he let out a happy sigh. Up there he was nothing, just a dumb kid to be kicked and ignored. Down here? He felt bigger than the cave.

A hero in waiting, destined for great things.

Microcosms 34

I didn’t get around to posting my last Microcosms story (it was my birthday that week so I was too distracted for blogging) (because I’m a big woman-child who still gets excited Every. Single. Birthday) but there are HEAPS of stories this week, so think of it as a double dose.

Entries have closed, but do go read them all and vote/comment on your favourites if you like.

Here’s my entry this week.

Character: Driver

Setting: Rural Road

Genre: Romance

(I ignored the photo prompt)

The Final Lesson

Melissa checked her reflection before sliding into the driver’s seat. 

Looking hot, babe!

She smiled at Peter as she did up her belt. She’d been resistant about learning to drive as an adult, but the move out bush had necessitated a change of attitude.

Plus her instructor turned out to be a total dreamboat.

Truth be told she could have passed the driving test weeks ago, but she wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Not yet.

Possibly not ever.

Peter smiled back politely, trying to remain professional. Melissa’s scent was maddening in such confined quarters. Truth be told he should have sent Melissa off to do her test weeks ago, but he wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Not yet.

Possibly not ever.

“Alright Melissa. Pull out from the kerb and head for the highway. We’re practicing tight, curvaceous- I mean,” he swallowed, “curvy roads today.”

Melissa stifled a giggle. Time to play.

She slowly shifted into drive and stroked the shaft of the handbrake a little before gently easing it off. Peter watched intently, biting his lip to stay in control of his treacherous body.

They drove out of town to a secluded section of road that twisted through the undulating countryside. As Peter guided her through the motions – “Ease into this bit”; “Lean in harder”; “Watch out for rear-endings here” – the tension became unbearable.

Finally he could take it no more. He directed her to park and took a deep breath.

“Melissa, this has to be your last lesson. I… I can’t be your teacher anymore.”

Melissa deflated a little. Have I read this wrong?

“May I take you out for dinner instead?”

She beamed and internally pumped her fist.

“That works for me.” She smiled slyly. “I’ll drive.”

Flash Fiction

I still love it. I’m not a full #flashdog by any stretch, but I really do love to squeeze in a bit of short, sharp writing whenever I can.

My current favourite weekly challenge since the demise of Micro Bookends is its successor, Microcosms. No matter how random my week gets, I always check in with it each Friday and try to give it a shot.

It’s a really great format: each week you are provided with a character, a setting, a genre, and an optional photo prompt, with which you then weave a story in 300 words or less. You can spin the wheel to get different parameters, but I personally love the challenge of sticking to the initial elements. That limitation really gets the creative juices flowing!

I can’t recommend it enough if you want to improve your writing technique.

And even if you don’t write fiction, there are always some amazing stories to read – you can upvote your favourite one(s) to win the Community Pick for the week, no matter whether or not you choose to enter.

For this week’s competition I well and truly missed the deadline (it was a busy day…) but I found the prompts so inspiring that I entered a story late anyway. Given that I am fairly consistent with it, I figured I’d start sharing my stories here each week too. Maybe that will prompt me to blog more in general again…

Microcosms 32
Character: Inventor

Setting: Grand Hotel (I only subtly evoked the setting this time…)

Genre: Fantasy

(I chose not to incorporate the optional photo prompt.)

The Exchange

The door didn’t so much burst open, as burst into pieces. 

Jax didn’t flinch – though, to be fair, trolls were widely renowned for their unflappability. 

“Katrice,” he rasped in a voice forged from granite. “Dramatic as always.”

The wily battle-Elf smirked and tipped her head. “One does have a reputation to maintain,” she replied. Her eyes darted to the corner of the elaborately furnished room. “Is that him?”

Jax grunted. “Yep. That’s the freak you want. Take him!”

Katrice tossed the troll a bag of coins and sidled up to the industrious blond man. He was tinkering away at something on the floor and ever-so-slightly rocking back and forth. She nudged his shoulder with her foot; he didn’t react, focussing laser-like on his task.

The troll shuddered with a sound of grinding boulders. “He gives me the creeps! Why d’you want him so bad?”

Katrice shrugged, sheathing her sword. “The boss says he’s the smartest guy ever lived. He “has use” for his inventions – whatever that means.”

She hooked her hands under the inventor’s arms and hauled him up. “C’mon sunshine! You’re my property now.”

The blond man suddenly grinned and held aloft an intricate ball of gears and tubing. He pressed a button on its side, threw it to the centre of the room and kicked Katrice’s kneecap with such force that she could do nothing but collapse, releasing him.

As he darted through the broken door towards the lobby, the device released a sickly green gas that made Jax seize up, while Katrice helplessly retched on the floor beside him.

“Fuck. That. Guy!” Katrice gasped between convulsions.

Jax swivelled his eyes to look through the window, where he could see the inventor wandering aimlessly away.

“Always the weird ones,” he muttered through clenched teeth.

Life goes on?

I’ve lost too many friends already.

But this one? Literally unbearable


Notice the 7 News insignia in the corner? That’s because this death was newsworthy.

My heart can’t bear it. My beautiful old club-buddy, with whom I shared many a late-night trashy conversation during my formative years – and with whom I once, memorably, shared my body – was stabbed to death. In front of assorted friends.

And his girlfriend.

It’s just too much.

I hadn’t seen him for many years, but whenever I did randomly bump into him he was always – always – genuinely happy to see me. He was always so generous with his time, his shoulder, and his smile.

And now I’ll never randomly bump into him again.

He was only 35.

So. Much. Life was yet to be lived. And if anyone packed their life full of Life it was him.

I only have a couple of photos. In all honesty I hadn’t even thought of him for years. But since I found out about his murder 24 hours ago, he’s all I can think about.

I’m cursing myself for not curating my memories of him better. For not recognising their importance, and letting them fade.

And now I’ll never have a new memory of him again.

Thankfully, both of us being naturally gregarious and sociable, we have a large sample of mutual friends. I’ve been on Facebook for a fair chunk of time today. Reconnecting. Reminiscing. Consolidating half-recalled events and re-confirming his AWESOMENESS with countless others who have similar stories of his charisma and generosity.

It’s just so damn sad.

I know from experience that this immediacy of loss and bewilderment will abate, but for now I’m adrift in the rawness and shock of unrelenting grief. It’s too much to sit with. Too much to bear.

Hopefully this tribute will soothe the hurt at least a little. Not that any amount of writing could really do him justice.

Damn I’ll miss you, Guy. xx

JUST SHUT UP AND WRITE, DAMNIT!

Well that sure was seven weeks between blog posts.

What can I say? Life has been pretty crazy in Meg land. Mostly crazy-good, but also a lot of hard work and stress.

My homeless friend and her 6yo are still living with us at the moment. It’s tough, but she’s been trying her hardest to find a place on her own this whole time. Sadly Sydney is a pretty harsh place for renters in the best of circumstances: given that she’s a single mum on a disability pension with a checkered rental history… well, let’s just say that most real estate agents are too busy fending off all the money being thrown at them to be bothered with listening to any sob stories these days.

She’s had enough. She’s looking at one more property tomorrow and if nothing comes of it she’s going to front up to a shelter. I feel pretty awful about that but the strain of the situation is really starting to affect all of us. If we want everything to turn out amicably for our relationship then it really is time for them to move out.

Plus, our own landlord has been renovating the property next door so we’ve opted to keep him abreast of everything. He’s been burned by dodgy share houses – and even an illegal boarding house! – in the past and has made it clear that he’s not comfortable with the situation. If my friend stays here much longer it will jeopardise the deal we have going and lead to us having to move too.

While most of me just wants to flip him the bird and move out on principle due to his callous attitude, we are in no position to take that step right now. We’re definitely going to start planning to move within the next year though, given how much we’ve soured on him over this.

I wish I’d been blogging – or even old-school journaling – through this situation, but I’ve had a full-blown writing aversion this whole time. Life has been about taking each day as it comes, and any time I’ve had to write has been spent cleaning or unwinding. Writing just takes too much mental effort – I’d rather crochet or read or do puzzles instead.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I’m feeling pretty good about myself though. I’ve surprised myself with how zen I have been throughout the upheaval. My friend is Hard Work (to put it mildly) with some pretty severe mental and physical issues that have really intensified over the last few years. She’s never been formally diagnosed, but I do suspect she has borderline personality disorder. You really have to handle her exactly right to get her on the same page as you without her flipping out or collapsing into an anxiety-riddled heap. It’s exhausting, and my husband hit breaking point over the whole thing weeks ago.

But for me? I’ve just been working out what is and isn’t in my power to change or control and letting things slide as necessary. And it’s been EASY to do this. I’ve just been focussing on the kids – all three of them – and trusting others to cover everything else.

It’s this weird sort of lucid survival zone that I’ve been inhabiting and I must say, I like it. I’ve been feeling really happy and optimistic and mature. Even throughout the really rough times when my patience has run thin and I’ve snapped at the kids or had to run off on my own for a bit (and REALLY not wanted to come back), I’ve been able to say “Well, what’s the alternative here? Can I do anything to change the situation? No? Well let’s go work with it then,” and shake it all off.

I honestly never knew I could do this.

Maybe it’s the medication, maybe it’s improved gut health from daily water kefir, maybe it’s the raw, urgent pressure of meeting the needs of three children rather than two (and especially given how completely different the extra child is!!), but my head is the clearest and calmest it’s ever been. I’ve even been able to earmark a bunch of stuff for my friend to take to her (eventual) new place without even the slightest bit of angst. I want to offload everything! What is up with that?!?

I could easily let this situation continue for as long as necessary, but the pressure is just way too much for the rest of the family. My girls are suffering from the constant presence of their playmate (who is every bit as much of a handful as her mother, sadly) and I must say I’ve had to be a far less fun mum than normal in order to manage all their emotions and impulses and still keep everyone fed, clothed, educated, and entertained. I definitely don’t like that part of it: being harsh and authoritarian has never sat well with me.

On the plus side? Everything is going to feel SO. EASY. once they’ve moved out. Like, seriously – I’ll have more energy and attention for my girls; I’ll have far fewer dishes and laundry loads to deal with; there will be less chaos in the house (my friend’s daughter is REALLY oblivious and destructive…); there will be more space and peace; I’ll have the time and headspace to blog again.

It’s just… it’s going to be so amazing, you guys. I can’t wait!

At the risk of jinxing things…

…I had a bit of a revelation today:

I feel like an adult.

Like, seriously. I don’t feel like a clueless woman-child pretending (and failing) to know what I’m doing anymore.

Wha..?

I’m not entirely sure what has changed, and I’m not entirely sure if it’s going to last, but it sure does feel good right now.

I think it’s at least partly because I kind of feel like I’ve found my calling:

I am a writer.

And even though I’ve yet to make any actual money out of it, I just, kind of, know that it’s going to work out.

And pretty much every time I’ve felt like this about something in the past, I’ve been correct. Not always – so I’m not going to be complacent or anything – but more often than not.

Anyway.

I’m mostly posting right now so I can share this photo:

2015/03/img_2162.jpg

My parents came to town this weekend specially to babysit the kids yesterday while hubby and I had a long, leisurely date for our anniversary. We went to a lunchtime screening of “Jupiter Ascending” (such a fun movie! I finally get the Channing Tatum thing…), had some coffee, bought a new kettle and a second-hand PS3 (to replace an old one that died) and did a bunch more window shopping. We had long, fascinating conversations that WEREN’T constantly interrupted by little people and really got in touch with where we’re both at right now. We then went to our local pub for dinner (after double checking that the girls were ok – and learning that naughty Gran took them to the toyshop. So of course they were all having a ball!) and talked some more before heading home so my parents could head to their hotel with Miss 6, who was having a sleepover with them.

We cracked open a bottle of bubbly to share with my parents before they left and I got Miss 2 off to sleep in seconds flat after her big day with no nap. Then hubs and I finished off the bottle and ate chocolate while binge-watching The Big Bang Theory for a while (it’s my guilty pleasure!).

Then we shared a quiet spot of tea before bed, using the teapot set and candle holders I uncovered in the 5th box that were wedding presents all those years ago.

It was pretty magical (despite how tired we were by this point).

I just wanted to share this meaningful moment since it was only possible thanks to my hard work confronting my hoarding. Which is only possible thanks to the accountability provided by this blog. Which is only possible thanks to YOU guys.

So thanks for reading. Know that every favourite and follow and comment only drives me to keep going and improve things even more. You really make a difference to my life!

I can only hope that by sharing this stuff with you I inspire you to feel just as warm and fuzzy too. ❤