Choices

September 11, 2015 Leave a comment

Here is a flash fiction story I submitted to Fireside Fiction, but they weren’t impressed.

“She’s coming.” The wind whispered to Maggie, slipping under the door and rattling the windows.  She looked up from her workbench where she was grinding a concoction of herbs and gazed blankly around the inside of her cottage, hoping she had misheard. Perhaps it was a tricksy mouse scuttling across the floor, making fun of her. But the room was empty of mice. The huge kitchen hearth stood centre stage on the back wall, her work area where she was standing to the right of the hearth contained a jumble of benches and shelves holding an endless arrangement of jars, bunches of dried herbs, piles of raw minerals and assorted junk. To the left was a tidy seating area comprising two chairs on either side of a low table.  A small bed rested against the far wall, neatly made up with a colourful plaid blanket. There was nowhere for mice to hide.

“She’s coming.” The wind taunted louder, a swirl of smoke and sparks belching from the fireplace.

Maggie put down her mortar and hurried over to the hearth, stamping on the tiny embers. “Nobody is coming,” she scolded the impertinent wind.

Another gust of wind sent smoke billowing across the room. “You called her,” sighed the wind.

Maggie shook her head, and jiggled the flue to shut out the wind and the smoke and the summons. She returned to her workbench and picked up the mortar and pestle and ground and ground and ground the herbs, muttering to the obstreperous wind.  “Nobody is coming. I was angry, that’s all. It wasn’t a proper calling. Grief shouldn’t count”. The wind laughed.

#

The rabbit hopped a few steps into the clearing and paused. The paw on its rear leg was badly mangled, the leg trailing in the dirt hindered its progress. The fur on the lower part of the leg was matted with blood and pus, picking up dirt and dried grass as it moved deeper into the clearing. It hopped hesitantly forward for a few more steps then paused again, looking around dully.

Maggie knelt down in front of it and reaching out cradled it gently between her bony, work worn hands. It blinked, but barely twitched as she picked it up, cradled it against her scrawny chest and stood. She carried the wounded rabbit across the meadow that fronted her small cottage, shouldered open the door and ducked through the low doorway.

Maggie tutted to herself as she shoved aside a collection of bottles and gently placed the rabbit in the space provided.  Keeping one hand on its back as a precaution in-case it tried to escape, her other hand hovered over the group of bottles, until identifying the correct one she picked it up, shook it a few times and put it back down again. She fumbled the stopper out of the bottle and waved it under the nose of the passive rabbit.

It’s nose twitched, it made an aborted attempt to jerk away and then slowly slumped over.  Maggie quickly replaced the stopper. It wouldn’t do to get a whiff of that particular concoction. She hurried over to the hearth and picked up the kettle simmering gently beside the fire, brought it back over to her table and poured some water into a shallow bowl. Putting the kettle on the floor, she picked up a cloth, dipped it into the water and began to clean the wound.

#

The wind rustled a warning just before her cottage door was flung open and crashed against the wall. Maggie continued dabbing at the rabbit’s leg.
“That’s my kill,” said a female voice.
Maggie looked over at the stocky young female standing in her doorway, legs braced apart and arms akimbo, a bow slung over one shoulder and a hunting knife strapped to her thigh.“Oh no dear, he’s not dead yet.”
The girl strutted into the room. “My trap, my rabbit.”
“But he wasn’t in a trap,” said Maggie, reasonably.
The girl made a move to reach around Maggie for the rabbit. “I tracked him here.”
Maggie grabbed her hand and bore it down to the table, away from her charge. “My cottage, my rabbit.”
The girl wrenched her hand away. “Do you know who I…”
“Oh yes.” Maggie tilted her head slightly, “Well I know who your father is, which is rather more to the point.”
The girl flushed. “You can’t take what’s not yours. I hunt these woods. What I catch is mine.”
“Think of it as a trade. You took something of mine. I take something of yours.” Maggie glanced at the array of bottles on her table. “I had thought to take something else.”
Looking around the Spartan room, the girl sneered. “As if I would take anything of yours.”
Maggie continued talking, as if the girl hadn’t spoken. “I had a cat you know. A marvellous mouser, but she would wander out into the woods, even though I warned her. She also thought she knew best.” Maggie shook her head and glanced at the girl’s bow. “One day she came home with a most terrible hole in her side.”
The girl swallowed, looking a little uneasy. “Well it wasn’t me. I kill what I aim at.”
Maggie stroked the rabbit. “Is that so?”
The girl took a step forward, hand dropping to her knife. “Give me my kill.”
Maggie bent back over the rabbit. “No.”
The girl turned on her heels, stomping out of the cottage. “You’ll regret this.”
“Perhaps, but choices must be made,” said Maggie to the sleeping rabbit.

#

“They’re coming.” The wind whipped through the tree branches above Maggie’s head. She resettled the pack on her back. “They’re here,” cried the wind.
The rabbit stuck his head out the top of the pack and twitched his nose inquisitively. Maggie glanced back once at her cottage as the flames shot skywards with a roar, almost drowning out the screams. The rabbit ducked back down.
“They’re gone, sobbed the wind.

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Categories: Blog Entry, Story

Published Short Stories

April 5, 2015 Leave a comment

March 2013 – Stringybark Erotic Short Fiction Award 2013 (Shortlisted)

Dreamtime Calling

October 2013 – Rasberry and Vine Short Story Competition

Neighbourhood Watch

Categories: Blog Entry

Short Stories that Didn’t Make the Cut

June 19, 2013 Leave a comment

One of the suggestions I picked up from the freelance writers course I did a while ago was to send in stories to competitions. Thinking about that for a few minutes I decided that was an awesome suggestion so I jumped on line and purchased a copy of the Australian Writer’s Marketplace. I really recommend this book to the beginners out there like me. It is a great source for all sorts of things, as well as listing hundreds of writing competitions. I’m not eligible to enter all of them, but I picked a few of the ones that seemed to be for the neophyte.

I’ve sent in about half a dozen stories by now with varying success. I don’t think the children’s story marketplace is my arena; I sent in submissions to two separate competitions and didn’t get a mention. Some of my other stories have been slightly more successful, but I will leave that for a later post.  Following is an entry for one of my alsoran stories.

Categories: Blog Entry

The Dam Builders

June 19, 2013 Leave a comment

This was a submission to a short story competition that didn’t make the cut…

Brad peddled furiously after Mikey and Jack as they pelted down the dirt track. He glanced over his shoulder. “It’s alright guys, she’s gone,” he called out.

Mikey punched a fist in the air, before grabbing for his wobbling handlebar and skidding to a halt. “I thought we’d never lose her.” Brad pulled up beside him and they waited as Jack did a 180 and rode back to them.

“Yeh Brad,” said Jack as he reached them, “why did you let her follow you. Girls are bad enough but sisters are the pits.”

Brad hunched his shoulders. “I didn’t let her. She follows me everywhere and hasn’t got the brains to know she’s not wanted.”

“She’s a girl, stupid. They don’t have brains.” said Jack.

“Everybody has brains,” said Mikey, “otherwise their head would cave in. It’s like guts.”

Jack rocked back and forwards on his pedals, twisting his handlebars back and forwards to keep stationary without dismounting. “Uh, speaking of brainless…”

Mikey glared at his friend. “I meant, it’s like the saying that someone is gutless. It doesn’t mean they don’t have any guts inside them.”

“Ookay, not actually trying to change the subject, because of course guts are cool, but where should we go now?” asked Brad.

“How about the bridge,” said Mikey. We could check out if our dam is still holding.”

Brad and Jack looked at each other, and nodded. “Ok.”

They turned their bikes and headed down a small side track winding through the scrubby undergrowth. Brad looked back, but there was still no sign of Sarah. She rarely followed them this far and was probably back at home already, complaining to mum. His bike wobbled as he hit a rut and he peddled harder, jumping his bike over branches and dodging holes, racing to catch up with his friends.

Jack was in front by a bike length as he took the sharp corner before the descent to the creek. He braked sharply and skidded across the track. Brad was right behind him and turned left to avoid crashing into him, ending up in the bushes. Mikey wrenched to the right but lost control and stacked it, his bike sliding to a stop on its side with Mikey underneath it.

Jack jumped off his bike and dropped it against a tree. Seeing Brad was backing out of the bushes under his own steam, he rushed over to help Mikey. “Are you ok?”

“Ow.” Mikey pushed at his bike, trying to lift it off and get up at the same time. “What did you stop like that for, idiot. I could have been killed.”

Jack grabbed the front of the bike and pulled, allowing Mikey to scramble up. Bending over, Mikey inspected the impressive tear in the knee of his pants. “Oh no. I’m dead anyway when Gran sees this. He picked gingerly at some gravel embedded in his knee before turning to Jack and wacking him on the arm.

“Ow,” said Jack, grabbing his arm.

“Idiot.”

Jack wacked him back. “Wimp.”

Brad finished inspecting his bike for damage and dropped it on its side next to Jacks. He shook his head at his bickering friends and walked down the track towards the creek. “Guys, you’ve got to come see this.”

Jack grabbed Mikey and dragged him over to Brad.

“No way,” said Mikey.

“Fantastic,” said Jack.

Brad laughed. “I guess our dam is still holding then.”

The three boys stared at the pool spread out before them. The small creek they had leapt across just last weekend now spread out on either side of the original creek bed. At its widest point the boys could have stretched out end to end and still not reached both sides. In the sudden quiet, they could hear the sound of running water. They grinned at each other and dove into the scrub on the edge of their new pond, following the musical tinkle.

They slid down the small incline where they had built their dam wall and scrambled over the muddy ground to the base of a brand new waterfall. The boys danced beneath the spray, darting in and out, slipping and sliding on the wet rocks. “This is awesome, “ said Mikey, skinned knee and torn pants forgotten.

“Yeh, much better than last week,” said Brad. ”Who would have guessed the gaps would have plugged up all by themselves.” He jumped up on the rocks at the base of their makeshift construction and poked at a gap between the rocks. “What do you think got stuck behind there?”

“Well don’t poke at it, stupid,” said Mikey.

Jack leapt up beside Brad to do his own inspection, but overbalanced on the slippery rocks and grabbed at Brad. Brad wobbled backwards and forwards for a moment, arms flailing, before crashing against the waterfall with Jack. Their combined weight caused one of the rocks to shift and water began spewing out faster around it.

Mikey hopped backwards a few paces. “Um, guys…”

As one, Jack and Brad looked up as the rocks above their head began to grind and tremble. Grasping at each other, the pushed off the wall and lunged towards Mikey who was backing rapidly away. “Move it Mikey,” yelled Brad. “Get up the bank.”

Mikey turned and fled, with Brad and Jack hot on his heels, the roar of falling rocks and gushing water impelling them forward. Brad saw Mikey fly up the bank, and turn to grab Jacks hand and haul him up the last section, just as a wave of water grabbed him around the ankles and threw him to the ground, dragging him back down the bank.  He tumbled head over heels, before jerking to a stop as something snagged his shirt. He lay there panting as the water ebbed away before squirming around to see Brad and Mickey lying on the ground, each of them griping a handful of his shirt. “Next time, we should use more than one layer of rocks.”

Categories: Blog Entry

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

March 17, 2013 Leave a comment

therosieproject

I heard about The Rosie Project on Radio Nationals Book Plus segment. Usually I get my Radio National book reviews from Phillip Adams’ Late Night Live program because he interviews a lot of authors who write about topics I have never heard about, which is a great way to expand your library. But I am wandering off topic.

So, what did I think about The Rosie Project? I loved it. The main character is engaging and likeable but far from perfect. This book can be read on a couple of levels. If you are after a light read that will lift your mood, this could be the book for you. However, if you want to think a bit more on the topics touched on in this book, there is a lot of scope for that as well.

I don’t like to give away spoilers, so I won’t give a full synopsis of the book. But just to tempt you…

Don Tillman is a research geneticist and is looking for a wife.In typical Don fashion he decides the best way to weed out inappropriate candidates is to design a suitable questionnaire. And what makes an inappropriate candidate? You really need to read it to see.

Genre: screwball romance, comedy
Length: 248 pages
Rating: 4.5 / 5

Categories: Review

Is Freelance Writing for Me?

March 11, 2013 Leave a comment

I can’t believe it has been a year since my last post. How slack am I. So where has my writing gone in the last year? Not very far. I worked on my nanowrimo novel, but I made the classic mistake of talking about it to family. Consequently the story now seems stale and I am having trouble finishing the first draft. In an effort to revitalise my drive I decided to attend a couple of sessions at the NSW Writers’ Centre. I attended a session on Freelance Writing and another on The Essentials of Getting Published. The both had value but I can see how they could pull me in completely different directions.

Freelance writing is a great idea, in theory, but I am already working full time. If I dedicate myself to chasing down opportunities I will have no time left for any other type of writing. And really, do I want to be a freelance writer? There is some scope to make a bit of money, but my true love is fiction writing. Barry Divola ran the seminar and is a successful freelance writer. He knows his topic well and even if I don’t go down the freelance path, I will definitely follow one of his suggestions: Enter Competitions.

I have never really thought about writing competitions as an outlet for my stories. What a great way to keep my writing fresh but still keep my focus on fiction. Ok, I don’t expect to win any prizes (unless all the other writers came down with the flu that week) but the germ of an idea from a short story may result in a larger work. I am already working on a story for the Henry Lawson festival.

And how was the seminar on Getting Published? Eye opening. In summary, the chances of getting published via the traditional route are similar to winning lotto. Don’t get me wrong, I buy lotto tickets, so I will probably try the traditional route, but I am not invested in it. I feel I will probably end up self publishing an ebook. I know there are other options like Print on Demand, but I think I will start with an ebook.

What was that? How do I expect to get people to actually find my ebook out of the 700,000 that were published last year? No Idea. Marketing is a whole other challenge. I think I will creep up on it, one blog at a time.

Categories: Blog Entry

Flash Fiction – The Watchmen

March 14, 2012 Leave a comment

I wrote this one a while ago when I was  all alone, at night,  in the grounds of the old Gladesville hospital. I submitted it to Strange Horizons but they weren’t interested…

The old watchman ambled over to where the new guy was standing, all spick and span in his freshly ironed uniform. A camera lay in the gutter; one of those compact digital jobs best suited for happy snaps. Its lipstick red cover was scratched as if it had been kicked along the gravel path before coming to rest. Sighing he picked it up and flicked the switch to the off position. Continuing on his round, he showed the new guy the meandering route through the old hospital grounds. They rattled doors, checked ground story windows for loose boards and upper story windows for broken panes. They cleared away a pile of broken beer bottles and empty chip packets that had appeared overnight. Contractors came in once a week to mow the lawns and weed the garden beds, but they refused to do cleanup. Back at the gatehouse he placed the discarded camera in the lost and found trunk beside the door before heading for the tiny kitchenette.

The new guy stood a bit awkwardly by the door. “Aren’t you going to look at the pictures? Maybe it will give us a clue who it belongs to.”

The watchman briefly glanced back over his shoulder before continuing to gather the fixings for tea. “No point.”

“But…”

He turned and lent back against the kitchen bench. “Look, whoever owed it is long gone. And the pictures on it, they ain’t real. Them digital cameras, they’re not like the old sort. The ones with real film, they only showed what was there. The new sort, these digital ones, they record what you see.”

“But isn’t that the same?” asked the new guy as he wandered further into the room and sat at the tiny table.

“Course not. Why do you think there weren’t never any ‘evidence’ of spooks and such before the digital cameras started being used? Since it weren’t there, the old film cameras didn’t record it. Now, you get pictures of all sorts of stuff going around; spooks and weird shadows and faces appearing where no-one is and all that. If you want to work here you got to get it in your head – that stuff ain’t real. Else you’ll end up like the ones who owned that camera. I bet they were running like their pants was on fire. And all because of their own imaginings. Got it?”

“Um, sure.”

“So, cup of tea?”

“Thanks.”

The watchman put the mug of tea in front of the latest new guy before plonking himself down in the other chair. “Anyway, you gonna stick around? Most don’t last the first week but your mum talked me into giving you a go. Said you would be ok. Said you wasn’t one for imagining things. I tell you, I don’t usually bother remembering names unless a guy lasts at least a week.”

“It’s Barry. And I’m pretty sure I’ll last at least a week. Mum would kill me otherwise and I’m more scared of her than…um, stuff.”

“Yeh, she’s a tarter alright. Ok then Barry, you stick by me and you’ll get by ok.” He smiled as a thought suddenly occurred to him. “You play chess?”

It was well after midnight and the two men were into their second game. A muted scream followed by a crash and the tinkle of broken glass caused Barry to jump to his feet, nearly upsetting the chess board. The watchman sat forward a bit but didn’t move from his chair.

“Shouldn’t we …”

“No, wait.” The screaming got louder as whoever was causing the racket approached the gatehouse. Someone charged passed the small building and kept on going. The screaming was cut-off by the slam of a car door. The men could hear tyres squealing against the tarmac as the car rapidly accelerated away.

The watchman settled back into his chair. “Nothing we can do tonight. We’ll see what’s what in the morning.”

Barry walked to the window and peered through it towards where the noise had originated. “But what if someone else is hurt?”

“Oh, they usually run in here if that happens, or we get an anonymous phone call. Only had one dead one, no matter what all them tabloids say.” He glanced involuntarily over at the lost and found box. “God knows what he was doing up on that roof.”

“Only one dead. Um, but what about the missing?”

“Well if they’re missing, we ain’t gonna find them. Now sit on down. It’s your move.”

The next morning the two watchmen stood outside the old psych ward. The basement door had been forced open and one of the second story windows was blown out. A camera lay in the gutter below the missing window; one of those flash SLR digital jobs with a zoom lens. Barry picked up the battered silver case and flicked the switch to the off position. As they continued on their rounds the old watchman explained where the tools and ply were kept, what sort of repairs they were expected to do themselves and what warranted a tradesman being called out. At the gatehouse the discarded camera went into the lost and found trunk beside the door.

Categories: Story