FridayFlash: Miss Amanda

This follows on from last week’s Dirk Hartog in the Whorehouse.

Miss Amanda’s eyes lowered and her gaze held the warp and weave of her suit pants as she contemplated her answer.

“As you can appreciate, Detective – my business is of a delicate nature and we normally protect the identity of our clients. But in this case..” she broke off and poured herself a glass of water. Long French-manicured fingers curled around the crystal glass. She drank slowly then replaced the glass. “Portia had a number of high profile friends through our agency.”

“Miss Amanda,” the words fell out his mouth before he could catch them. He felt like he was addressing the old bitch who had taught him third form algebra. “We both now these are not friends, you run a business, you have clients. But you know what, you can have your weasel words. Just give me a name.”

“Let me remind you Detective you were invited here for this discussion.”

“And I can walk out right now and come back with a search and seize warrant as well as a tribe of Feedos.”

“You seem to be having lapses in social graces from all angles, Detective.” Miss Amanda’s pointer finger, rubbed at a spot on her breast bone, but Hartog kept his eyes screwed into hers. “Surely you realise I have friends who sit in places much higher than you.”

“Touché.”

Hartog stood, reaching out for the recorder and turning it off.

“Strictly off the record. Who?”

“Howard McLean.”

“The Minister of Defence!” Hartog rocked forward, his face crumpled into disbelief. “You are telling me the Minister of Defence, the former leader of the Puritan party pays for sex… and implicated in the murder of his favourite call girl.” Hartog laughed. “I’m sorry Miss Amanda, but I just don’t believe that any more than I believe he was in love with a prostitute.”

“Detective, you seem to be caught in the notion we only traffic flesh here. Let me remind you for the second time, my girls are not employed to just have sex.” She sighed and drank the rest of her water. “Mr McLean has a penchant for smart, witty women. He likes conversation. Portia was good at conversing. You only have to look at his wife to know he’d be seeking stimulation outside of his marriage.”

“Are you sure we’re not talking about sex?”

Miss Amanda ignored him. “I am telling you Detective that someone got to Portia as a warning to the Minister. And I imagine that would be of interest to you and your colleagues at the Department of Civil Welfare.”

Hartog turned the recorder back on and placed it on the table between them.

“Was there anything special about Portia?”

Miss Amanda reached out and switched the recorder off.

“You insult me with such a question Detective. Come back when you’re prepared to actually listen to what I have to say.”

Hartog stood again, slipping the recorder into his deep coat pocket.

“Thank you for your time. I will keep you updated as to the progress of the case. And I do appreciate our little chat.” He emphasised the final words, mimicking her faux politeness. Smiling a crooked smile he left before she could get out of her chair.

As he rode down in the elevator he slipped an ear pod in and waited for the phone call. He sat further down the street drinking bad coffee when the call finally went through.

“They do have Hartog on the case. Your source was correct.”

“Did he mention anything about the InfoCap?”

“He said nothing about anything found on the body and I didn’t want to venture with leading questions.”

“Did you really think someone like Hartog would whip the InfoCap out onto the table and ask if you knew what it was?”

“I did as you asked. I invited him in and feed him the information. Now what?”

“We wait and see. Did he mention Portia’s brother?”

“He’s got no idea. He never mentioned her surname. He thinks it is just another whore being cut up – quote unquote.”

“The department would not put Hartog onto a whore slashing. Sit tight. You have done well Amanda.”

“My pleasure, sir. Would you like me to book you someone for this week? I think you’ll enjoy Portia’s replacement.”

Hartog smiled, pulling the earpod out and took the tiny capsule out of his pocket again. So it had a name.

An InfoCap.

He charged his coffee streaked mug in mock toast to Miss Amanda and waited while his notebook brought up all the information the City’s database had on Portia, tapping a link and wirelessly hacking, via the NavSan, into the last known address for her neurologist brother Benjamin. It also bought up all other associated files.

When the photo came up Hartog had to look twice. Portia’s brother wasn’t any old brain boffin, but BenJin, the city’s most notorious Feedographer.

Hartog was a purist and nothing about Feedography appealed to him –24 hour news-tainment, bull shit, paparaazi styled intrusion which was cast out on everything from electronic billboards to the microwave oven.

Feedography was the scum-of-the-earth, hybrid offspring of journalism, the cult of social networking and a cultural belief everyone had something important to report and someone else was interested in that unimportant something. It didn’t free society to give everyone access to technology to film and upload for mass consumption. It was the Propaganda of the Irrelevant realised on global level for a miniscule programming budget. The Politicians and public loved it. No one had to think too hard. Hartog hated it. It was worse than anything Big Brother could have thought up. CC TV in everyone’s hands.

He did admit, BenJin did make it work for him and had made more than one City Elder or Politician cringe. He’d bought down at least two corrupt corporations. BenJin took his job seriously, more so than the average two-bit freelancer. The ten second sound-bite was BenJin’s kingdom. And now, BenJin’s only surviving relative was dead.

The game had just become a whole lot more interesting.

Crystal Tumber from Warwick Crystal Designs UK.

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Fourth Fiction: 12.9

Because of a simple blood test one baby would live and one baby would die.

Sylvie wished she hadn’t sent Marcus for the suitcase. Almost as soon as he was gone, she wanted him back. Under his scrutiny she’d felt exposed and vulnerable – naked and freezing under the water. But it was nothing compared to how she felt with the Crone’s eyes screwing into her back. The chill which crept through her when ever the Crone set foot in the room.

Sylvie thought she was smart. A blood test to solve the riddle. A legitimate excuse to make Marcus leave. Now she was alone and scared, trying to keep her fear from racing and fuelling the anxiety of the labouring woman.

Her knees ached, in fact her whole body felt ancient. Worn out. Used. There was a dull thump in her forehead, where the blood had crusted and tiredness threatened to cloud her judgement.

It didn’t take long to realise the labouring woman was not a woman, but a girl, probably no more than 16 and she was not part of the commune or whatever they called the enclave out here in the urban desolation. It was also clear something was not right – something outside of her understanding of human biology and birthing.

The girl refused to share her name, where she came from or how she got there and the other women in the room were mute to her questions.  The inside of the girl’s arm had the silvery calling card of old track marks, but it wasn’t withdrawal which was competing with labour. The girl seemed to be utterly terrified. Not just of the labour but of the Crone, cowering into the nest of cushions every time she heard her rasping voice. Sylvie had done her best to protect and calm her.

Sylvie had fought the Crone, losing her professional calm and yelling, when she’d discovered the girl’s lips and mouth were burnt and blistered from being force feed garlic.

“Do not question, midwife, what we do here,” was all the woman said then turned her back on Sylvie. That’s when she’d really lost her col and hurled bunch of garlic at hunched, back of the old woman as she shuffled to the door.

Regaining her composure Sylvie had sunk down into the birthing nest, gently sponging the girl’s mutilated lips with melted snow and stroking her brow, singing softly the old birth songs taught to her by Maia. Her hands massaged the slight hips and back, feeling the bones and ligaments shifting to release the babies.

But labour was faltering despite the girl being calmer. This wasn’t the rest and be thankful which segued into birthing. This was the warning things were not progressing as they should. The girl’s skin burnt and when Sylvie flashed the pen light into the girl’s eyes, the  pupils failed to respond.

Now Sylvie sat back on her heels waiting. But waiting for what? At least the crone was gone now – for good. Sylvie had  ocked the door after her last exist and pushed a chair under the knob. Then under the baleful stare of the three women trapped in the room with her, she stepped out a protective spell. If the Crone was who Sylvie suspected she was, she wouldn’t try to force her way back in.

Halting at the door, Sylvie closed her eyes and reeled when she felt the energy rising. It was then she realised this wasn’t a birth house. It lay onto of one of the lines of power which ran through the city.

– – –

The girl slept fitfully, the contractions at a complete stand still. The three women clustered by the altar and looked on as though it were a spectator sport and they were full of knowing of how to do it better.

“How many births have you been to?” Sylvie stretched and went over to them. She couldn’t get it out of her mind, the power which she had been able to raise when she’d sealed off the door to keep the Crone out.

One in a tattered red dress, with a serpent pendant clasped at her throat stepped forward.

“None of us. We are priestesses.”

Teleia is not coming back, is she?” ventured a woman in a purple dress, but with the same pendant in the hollow of her throat.

“No.”

The three women looked nervously at each other.

“You have a midwife here, among you>”

They nodded.

“Why is she not attending this woman.”

“She is unable to come.” It was the woman standing at the back, in the flickering shadows. She stepped out into the light.

“And you three?”

Simulataneously three hands went to the serpent pendants, as though an invisible strings pulled them in symmetry.

“We had no choice.”

Sylvie snorted.

“I’m guessing you were dragged kicking and screaming in here?”

She turned and went back to the girl, taking the rag from the earthen bowl by the cushions and throwing it at the group of women. The rag cart-wheeled through the air, tiny droplets coming off it like sparks off a Catherine Wheel, catching the light from the fire as they fell.

The last woman to speak caught it.

“Keep it on her head. And you two, stoke the fire. We need to get the temperature up in here.”

– – –

With the other women occupied Sylvie settled down next to the priestess.

“I’m Sylvie,” she said.

The other woman remained mute, reapplying the compress with an unexpected tenderness.

“You can think what you want,” she said, turning to Sylvie. “But sometimes you have to play out the part destiny chose for you.”

Sylvie pulled up her knees to her chest, as she’d done as a child.

“It is hard for someone like you to comprehend.”

“Maybe if you explained I would understand better.”

The woman shook her head, removing the warm compress.

“We are all here to do a job. Everyone.”

“Her temperature indicates a massive infection of some kind. I have nothing with me to treat that. Even if I had my suitcase with all my gear.” Sylvie reached out and gently grasped the woman’s forearm as she reached out for the earthen bowl. “Please, can you tell me about her?”

The woman shook her head.

“At least tell me your name then.”

“Tisi and the others are Alec and Meg.”

“Ok Tisi, how about we broker a deal. I won’t question what you do, if you don’t question what I do.”

Tisi nodded. Sylvie released her arm and watched the rag submerg in the water, cool and release its filth, then be wrung out and reapplied to the feverish forehead to begin the process again.

The fire roared to life and the room warmed steadily. New candles were lit from old ones. Sylvie watched, waited and silently prayed that she knew the right thing to do. The girl’s pulse was weakening and the contractions had yet to begin again. Both heart beats remained strong but the mother was struggling.

Sylvie turned her satchel upside down and a small jar clattered to the floor. Maia called it The Elixir of Life and Sylvie, with nothing else to call upon, prayed to the Goddess the sweet, thick liquid was just that.

The girl lay on her side, her breathing erratic and her enormous stomach pushing out as though it were trying to escape from her emaciated body. Sylvie crawled up next to her, unscrewed the lid and dipped her forefinger deep into the rich warmth. With the jar between three fingers, she used the other two fingers to push back the girl’s lips.

“No… stop!” yelled Tisi, lurching across the next of cushions and knocking Sylvie out the way. The jar flew from Sylvie’s hand and Tisi landed on top of Sylvie. She looked up at Tisi  in confused anger.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“She might bite you.”

Sylvie pushed her off and crawled away from  both the other women. The entire situation was finally clear to her.

“You purposely infected a pregnant woman.”

When Tisi didn’t answer, Sylvie scrambled through the cushions for the jar of honey, rescuing the small amount which had remained in the jar.

She picked up the sticky jar and climbed out of the cushions. She scooped out the last of the honey and positioned herself so Tisi couldn’t tackle her a second time. Pushing the girl’s lips back and Sylvie applied a thick smear of honey to the gums, the inner lips and the rough tongue.

Tisi had crawled free as well and was standing away, with her Alex and Meg on either side of her. Sylvie wiped her fingers down the front of her track pants with a defiance she hadn’t felt she was a tiny girl. The three of them took a step backwards as she stood up.

Sylvie moved across the room with an unchecked fury which had been waiting years to be unleashed.

“What was she what – some lab experiment? A lost junkie who wandered in here? What the hell are you women doing?”

Tisi squared her shoulders.

“Reclaiming what was taken from us,” Meg said, the fire catching the red highlights in the tattered material of her dress.

The girl moaned behind them.

“There were experiments, but she wasn’t one of them. We found her out there, attacked by The Dogs,” said Tisi. “That’s what Teleia calls them, the Old Ones who roam around looking for blood. She’d been raped and mauled. We bought her back here. We expected her to die… or change.”

“They’re going to kill me,” screamed the girl.

“Who knows she’s here?” Sylvie asked.

“Just us.”

“That’s why the midwife wouldn’t come. She doesn’t even know?”

Tisi nodded her head.

“I’m sorry you were bought into this Sylvie… but we all have a part to play in the Prophecy. Then we can all be free.”

“Prophecy? Give me a break.”

“It is said a woman will bear two children from her womb at the same time, one dead and one alive. A child who will free us from the virus.”

“The end will be the beginning and the beginning the end,” added Alec.

“And you fed her this bullshit.”

“It is what we believe.”

“Oh shit… I get it now. Tisiphone – avenging murder. Alecto – unceasing and you Megaera – grudging. The Three Fates.”

“I don’t want to die.” The words sliced through the air.

“You’re as committed to this us the three of us,” Tisi said.

“I will let you out if you want to. All of you.”

The three shook their heads.

“Tell us what we have to do?”

And in that moment, Sylvie knew she couldn’t do it alone, as much as she hated the three women who stood before her.

– – –

It took all of Sylvie’s prowess to calm the girl. When she lay quietly, Sylvie showed her the tiny dried flower bud which had been in the bottom of her satchel with the honey.

“This is a Rose of Jerusalem,” she said. “It is a birthing flower. It looks dead doesn’t it, but it isn’t. It’s waiting to bloom. The petals open slowly as heat and moisture wakens them. Your body is like this – it is opening, slowly and gently. It is what it is designed to do.”

She passed it to the girl.

“It feels worse than anything I’ve ever felt before.” It was the first time she’d spoken to anyone and the words although barely audible seemed to fill the room.

“The more you are afraid the more it will hurt. Do you think you can imagine you are this flower.”

The girl nodded, looking at the tiny bud in her sweaty palm.

“It’s ok to have been afraid, but you don’t need to be afraid anymore. I blew zombies to bits to get here and be with you. And I’ll do it again if I have to. I will kill anyone who tries to harm you or your babes while I am here. Do you think you can trust me?”

The girl nodded again, damp lanks of dirty blonde hair falling onto her forehead.

“Ok… we’re going to get you up. You’re going to walk, work with gravity to open the last of your cervix.”

“I can’t…”

“Yes you can.”

When Tisi bent down to help her up, the girl cringed.

“No one here is going to hurt you sweet heart, no one. I promise.” Sylvie kept her voice low and melodic and the girl let Tisi touch her.

Between the two of them they hauled the girl to her feet and began the slow perambulation around the room. The drafts, coming in from various different directions upset the stoic burn of the candles, distorting their shadows on the wall. The pungent tang of garlic was still thick in the air, along with the harsh smell of the candle smoke.

The girl groaned and stopped as the contraction washed through her body, her legs bending and her back arching backwards as she opened her mouth and release a piercing scream.

“Breathe out slowly, sweet heart. It will help you with the pain.”

“no.. no.. no..”

“Sh… shhhhh. Yes… yes… Breathe…” and she exhaled slowly close to the girl’s ear.

“Noooooo! I can’t”

Between each contraction they walked. By the time they returned to the nest of cushions the screams had become moans, animalistic urgings of a body bringing forth new life.

When the girl started screamed she was going to die, she couldn’t do it and began begged for forgiveness and for them to take her own life, to end it, Sylvie smiled.

“Your babes are close, sweet heart.”

When the maelstrom inside the girl’s body subsided Sylvie lead her over to the fire.

“Open your hand and look at the flower.”

The girl shook her head.

“I crushed it.”

“No, look,” Sylvie urged and when the girl’s small fingers opened, the petals of the flower opened with her. “See…”

The girl’s eyes devoured the majestic spread of the petals and the way the flower filled her small palm.

Sylvie walked away and left her to absorb the lesson of the flower in her hand. She found an unlit candle on the altar. She offered up a prayer as the flame sprung to life. Tisi, Alec and Meg followed her. They each took a handful of rosemary, lavender and clary sage and threw it onto the fire.

“A crash course on breech birth,” Sylvie said once they had completed their rites.  “There are four rules. Don’t push until completely dilated. Upright – work with gravity. Hands off – don’t touch the baby as it emerges. Warm room – don’t give the baby a reason to breathe before the head is out.”

Alec and Meg, you will both kneel, one knee up and the other down to form a birthing seat for her. Tisi will stoke the fire. Do you understand me? If it is a long second stage, you can swap.”

The three women nodded. Alec and Meg followed her to where the girl stood silhouetted against the flames.

“Gather up some blankets, towels, cushions. We need to make a birthing space here, close to the fire.”

When the space was ready Alec and Meg got down as directed. Sylvie took the flower from the girl and put it on the floor where she would be able to see it. Settling her on the knees of the women, Sylvie looked her in the eye.

“If you breathe with me, your body will relax and do all the work for you. When you feel the urge to bare down, to push, I want you to wait. You understand.”

The girl nodded.

She stroked the girl’s hand, listened to the heart beats then placed a hand on her massive stomach waiting for the womb to stir beneath.

The candles and the fire leapt when the womb stirred.

“Don’t push, breathe with me… long out-breath. That’s a girl.”

Tisi left her place by the fire to wipe the girl’s face with a cool cloth when the surge passed.

“You are doing brilliantly,” Sylvie said, her eyes full of admiration and encouragement.

The girl moaned, tears wetting her cheeks. They breathed together through three more contractions before the girl cried out, “I have to push.”

A low guttural cry tore through the room making all the tiny hairs on Sylvie body stand up. A gust of wind followed and extinguished all the candles. Alec and Meg attempted to pitch the girl from their knees.

“Don’t you dare move,” Sylvie threatened. She looked up at the girl from where was she crouched between her battered feet. “It was too light. It is perfect now. Relax.”

But Sylvie had felt the chill like the others and it wasn’t just the cold air, something else was trying to get in.

The girl’s eyes snapped open and her body stiffened. Another cry ripped from her mouth and her body born down. Sylvie saw a small round lump trying to push free.

“Gentle now sweetheart.” Sylvie applied counter pressure to the  girl’s perineum careful not to touch the rosy bottom of the baby.

On the next contraction the bottom emerged and baby hung with its legs dangling down, hidden from the stomach upwards. The girl grunted and worked to catch her breathe. Sylvie wanted to urge her to keep pushing but she held herself in check. A deathly second sense was crawling over her skin like a plague of bugs.

Everything was fine, she assured herself. Everything was going the way it was intended to.

She checked for a prolapsed cord and seeing everything fine, Sylvie moved back and waited, shrugging off the dread.

As the next contraction started Sylvie reached into the void and positioned herself to catch the baby under the arms as it dropped into the world. As it fell free from its mother, Sylvie felt herself in a free fall of her own, as though she was being sucked through time, out through the back of her head.

The sensation of the warm, wet skin of the baby hitting her outstretched hands bought her back with a start. The moment nothing more than a split second of disorientation. She slipped one hand behind the head and the other under the bottom. Alec and Meg to help the girl to lie down. The baby opened its eyes and coughed, then a cry filled the room. The room filled with the heady, metalic-laced scent of amniotic fluid.

“He’s normal,” the girl sobbed when Sylvie held him up for her to see. “Oh my God, he’s normal.”

Placing the boy on teh girl’s stomach Sylvie watched as he crawled slowly upwards, the girls’ hands stroking him gently, but not hurrying him. When he reached her breast he attached himself and begun to suck furiously.

As he did, the girl cried out again. Her body stiffening.

“It is OK. You can birth the second one here… relax.”

Sylvie grabbed some string and tied off the first baby’s cord and cut him free with her scalpel. She motioned for Tisi to hold the girl’s leg up to give the second baby space.

When Tisi lifted the leg Sylvie recoiled at the tide of blood free-flowing from the girl, soaking out into the old blankets and towels, inching its way towards her.

“Tisi, you have to go out. You have to get my case. She’s going to die other wise. And the other baby.”

Tisi froze.

“We have one live baby, that’s all that matters.”

“No it isn’t.”

“Our work is done.” Tisi dropped the girl’s leg and got up. The three priestesses drew back.

“Don’t you leave me here alone,” yelled Sylvie.

The girl began to convulse as the door opened and they were gone. The baby pulled away from the nipple and began to wail.

“You stay with me… you stay with me,” Sylvie urged the girl, coming up to her head and lightly slapping her cheeks.

The girl’s eyes rolled into the back of her head and her body shook. Sylvie cradled her head and when the eyes rolled back the pupils were gone.

“Shit!”

Sylvie scrambled away and grabbed the baby away from its mother, hugging it close to her as it screamed. She shuffled backwards on her bottom from the mother, crushing the Rose of Jerusalem as she went. The girl twisted and writhed in impossible ways. In the final moment he threw her legs apart, her back arched and her womb disgorged the second baby in one massive contraction.

As the second baby open its mouth to howl an angry salutation, an explosion tore through the night, cracking the walls and showering the birth room in a thick layer of dust.

A Short Story a Day for a Year: Catch Up

Three weeks in (two as a warm up and one official) to reading a short story a day I have a little catch up to do.

To date I’ve read two anthologies and have begun my third.

I started of with 10 Short Stories you Must Read this Year, which was a not for sale promotional anthology as part of the Books Alive campaign last year (an initiative of Art Council Australia).

It features the work of ten well known Australian writers, most of whom, sadly I had not read prior to picking up the anthology.

While all the stories were interesting in their own ways, the stand out was the final story of the anthology by Jack Marx, Letter from a Drunk to a Long Gone Wife. He explores a terrain which I have been long interested in, where do you  stop when you cross your moral boundaries. Just when you think Marx’s unnamed MC can’t possibly sink any lower, you are punched in the stomach – over and over again as he reveals all in a letter to his wife. Dark and brilliant writing.

Other greatly enjoyed stories were Melina Marchetta’s Twelve Minutes for the emotional landscape it explores juxtaposing the happiest of times with the most lost of times, Anita Heiss’s Manhattan Dreaming especially for it’s local references and use of colloquial Aboriginal language and Toni Jordan’s You Can Change Your Life because it sends up self development as the shallow and sensationalist activity I’ve always thought it was.

Kathy’s Lette’s Hate at First Sight reinforced to me, all the things I hate about chick-lit and why I won’t be picking up one of her books or any others of the ilk,  in the near future.

Moving on from 10 Short Stories you Must Read this Year I grabbed One Book, Many Brisbanes: an anthology of Brisbane Stories, which is the big competition all Brisbane writers aspire to win and be published in.

I have the special 150th Queensland edition from last year – where five writers were chosen as part of the competition and five well known Brisbane writers were invited to contribute. Given this mix I had high expectations of what would be between the covers.

All in all, it was a great disappointment as far as stories and Brisbane go. Many stories I felt could have occurred anywhere – just substitute suburb A for suburb B in any other Australian city. Most of the characters I really didn’t care too much about and I felt entirely lukewarm about Karen Foxlee’s winning entry Little Bird.

The stand-out stories were Adair Jones’ thought provoking 100 Points about a silent protest (the scene where he sews his lips together is chilling) and Janet McFadden’s Tunnel. McFadden’s story is all the more powerful for the fact it is a true tale with an unexpected twist at the end. She also masters and potrays the Irish accent with authenticity in the dialogue.

Along with many other Brisbane writers, I can’t understand how many of the stories ended up in the anthology. The other two thirds of my writing group both submitted stories last year which were brilliant, had fantastic twists and truly embodied the essence of Brisbane, but neither made the final cut.

I am thrilled to see, after doing a little bit of research that Beverly Fitzgerald, who I met in Kate Eltham’s short story writing class last year, secured a place in the 2010 One Book Many Brisbanes with her excellent story Sixteen Years of Beetroot. Congratulations Beverly.

At the moment I am enjoying Em Newman’s eAnthology From Dark Places. Well and truly worth the five and a bit dollars it cost to download from SmashWords. More on Em’s stories when I finish the anthology.

What has the past three weeks has shown me?

The short fiction written by ‘unknown’ and unpublished writers’ both on and off the web is of a far higher standard in many cases, than that of published and well known writers being picked up and published in the mainstream. I think we’re spoilt for choice and given most of the short fiction available on the web is free, very lucky.

Dan Powell was mad enough to join me on this reading adventure. You can find his week one wrap up here.

2010 Business Plan

This year I’ve fleshed out my plan a little more than dot points (as I did last year). I wrote it almost two weeks ago and already freaking out about a couple of things… but that’s cool.

It is the Year of the White Tiger and I’ve dubbed it my ‘Year of Adventure’ as I seek to push boundaries and really explore what it means to be ‘adventurous’.

Without further ado – my 2010 Business Plan

Writing

Write something every day

  • One writing exercise a day.
  • Building up to writing three pages/1000 words a day

First draft of novel by July (80,000 – 100,000 words)

Second draft of novella by October (20,000)

Fiction Friday/Friday Flash minimum of twice a month

  • Dirk Hartog series
  • Adam and Eve series

Submit something for publication every month

  • One submission each  to The Island, Overlander, Meanjin and Griffith Review this year.

National Novel Writing Month (50,000)

Develop and run a creative writing course for school aged kids.

Be open to paid writing opportunities.

Editing

Beta reader

  • Up to four a month
  • 48 hour turn around

Edit/rewrite two stories a month.

Be open to paid editing opportunities.

Blogging

Write Anything column – Monday

Write six guest columns

365 Photo Challenge

Two blog posts a week for Writing in Black and White

Read and comment on minimum of one blog a day/6 days a week.

Reading

Read three books a month (or a minimum of 900 pages)

  • Make a to-read list
  • Minimum of six from 1001 books list
  • The Name of the Rose & Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Keep a ‘have read’ list

A short story a day, for a year

Professional Development

Writing Festivals

  • Emerging Writers Festival 21st- 30th May
  • Byron Bay Writers Festival
  • Brisbane Writers Festival

Courses

  • Festival adjunct?
  • Annie’s course
  • The Artist’s Way/Vein of Gold

Writing blogs

  • One new RSS for a writing blog per month

Memberships

  • Renew QWC membership
  • AWM Online membership

Extra Curricular Fun

Watch one movie a week

Dancing classes

Life drawing

Sewing

Extra Stuff

One day away from the computer a week.

One week of reading deprivation a year

Computer off by 8:30pm four nights a week.

Networking

Attend QWC talks/seminars/book launches

SLQEdge

Editors Unleashed Forum

Projects

Chinese Whisperings

  • 2010 ‘Yin and Yang’ anthology, for release 10/10/10
  • 2009 ‘The Red Book’ anthology, for paperback release 17/03/2010
  • Photographic project
  • Short film project

eMergent Publishing

  • Register company etc
  • Beta version of platform by October

Reclaim Sex After Birth

  • Revise and extend eBook
  • Renovate website
  • Monthly workshops/discussion groups
  • Every second month newsletter
  • One new blog post every month

E-Publishing Opportunities

  • Kerry and Jane?

Captain Juan

  • renovate the site
  • one new installment a month

Image: Tiger Folk Art Exhibition at Gallery I, Insa-dong via Korea.net

#FridayFlash: Dirk Hartog in “The Whorehouse”

Last year I was visted by a character, Dirk Hartog, when I was musing on a [Fiction] Friday prompt about unrequited love. I was encouraged by MD Benoit to keep writing, that this character… Dirk Hartog, was a keeper! And it appears she was right. After a long break Hartog’s back…

To make it fair, I’m starting from the start in a new revised, shorter delivery style (thanks Lily Mulholland for the idea of busting it up into tiny little segments – though my Hartog is no Jo Carter!) offered up for the foreseeable future as my #fridayflash. I hope you enjoy.

~THE WHORE HOUSE~

The leg lampHartog stood at the brothel door holding the tiny capsule between his bent pointer finger and thumb.  He turned it over allowing what little sun penetrated through the smog haze to bounce off the titanium covering then slipped it back into the inner pocket of his coat.

It was too hot for a coat like his but it was the one thing Global Warming couldn’t make him give up. Hartog felt naked without it.  Hot and smothered in it. Still he wore it.

He pressed the buzzer on the intercom and wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his sleeve.

Before the receptionist could, reply he said, “Detective Hartog here to see your boss.  She knows I’m coming.”

“Good morning, Detective Hartog.”

So polite.

He wondered what she was wearing.  He couldn’t help himself.

A French maid in vinyl – or leather?  After all this was an up market establishment if his research was correct.

A flimsy silk nothing with cheeky nipples peeking out at him or a gushing black creation of lace revealing a lush expanse of cleavage?

“I appreciate your enthusiasm for you work Detective, but I will just confirm your appointment with Miss Amanda.”

Damn it!

The woman had summonsed him.  And here he was loitering at the door like some common Joe.  He pulled himself up again.  This was an establishment, not a brothel and the door looked like any other door on the strip.  He could easily have been waiting for his accountant or lawyer or style guru to buzz him up.

“Thank you for your patience, Detective Hartog.  Miss Amanda will see you now.”

Hartog glanced at his watch and waited for the door to click. He’d now been awake for 36 hours.

It was a good thing he’d never had an interest in getting on the Vice and Device team. His mind was too fertile, too active already before adding sex and breasts and legs up to here into the mix. And too little sleep…

He could deal with the sleep dep, it never clouded his judgement.  Women however…

Dead – they didn’t screw with his head. Not that he wished the entire female population dead. He just…

The door clicked open and he left the train of thought behind with the welcome door mat. He recognised that train of thought only too well and knew which station inevitably terminated at.

The receptionist was waiting for him when the elevator door opened into a large elegant waiting area. She was wearing a simple black suit, a flourish of scarlet beneath the jacket.

Fumbling with his holographic badge, he mentally dropped kicked himself – caught up in his own fantasies. No lace or leather here. Purely business.

“May I get you something to drink, Detective Hartog?  Coffee, tea or perhaps something a little stronger?”

“Water will be fine.” He’d given up the hard stuff. His doctor telling him it was booze and an early grave, which for a while had seemed the better option.

“If you take a seat Miss Amanda will be with you in a moment.”

Ten minutes later Miss Amanda appeared in an almost identical black suit, this time with a violet blouse beneath, plunging to unbusinesslike depths beneath the tailored suit jacket.  Hartog dragged his eyes from the cleavage and rose from his seat.  She towered over him and that was saying something. Even without heels she was a giant.

He knew, she knew.

“I appreciate your expediency Detective,” she said, striding down a corridor to a large, sun drenched office with lush tropical plants at strategic decorating points. He wondered if it were feng shui.

It had to be a trick of lighting.  There was never that amount of clean, clear sunshine in the city. Everything was painted in the tawdry shade of pollution – but in here, the den of iniquity it was bright. No shadows dancing in the corner.

“I was just tying up a loose end. I apologise for the wait. Are you certain we can’t get you a coffee?

“No, I’m fine with water.”

Miss Amanda motioned to a spartan leather chair to the side of her desk and settled herself opposite him, a pitcher of water between them and two crystal glasses.  No expense spared here. The couch was more comfortable than it looked.  Many things in this place were more or less than they seemed.

Miss Amanda, the Madame was one point in question.  She was neither young nor old.  Her dark hair rolled into a timeless French Roll at the back of her head and her long legs casually crossed.  Neutral make up enhanced her natural beauty.  She could have been stunning but she chose not to be.

“I am interested to know how Portia’s case is progressing Detective.” She poured and offered him a drink.

The girl hadn’t even been dead for 12 hours and she was already on his back.

“It looks like the case of another whore being cut up.” He took a long gulp at the ice cold water and winced the pain freezing his frontal lobes for a moment.

Miss Amanda uncrossed her legs and lent forward.  “My girls are not whores Detective.  Let’s get that straight from the beginning.  Portia was one of my highest paid girls. She has a Masters degree in Engineering and was studying for her PhD.”

“And her death is bad for business.”

Miss Amanda lent back and recrossed her legs. Hartog took out tiny recorder and placed it on the table in between them.

“You don’t mind if I record this conversation.”  He couldn’t bring himself to call her Miss Amanda and she didn’t fit the title of Ma’am. And he wasn’t really asking her permission any way.

“Portia came to me about a month ago and told me she had a problem.  It appears one of her clients had taken an unhealthy interest in her.”

“It’s a rather unhealthy business you dabble in.”  He narrowed his right eye and looked hard at Miss Amanda – no surname that he could find on the City’s database.

“I told you Detective my girls are not whores.  They are paid for services other than sex. They are sought after because they are intelligent and beautiful. Portia was worried he was falling in love with her, that it would complicate things.”

“Don’t mix love and business hey?”

Miss Amanda didn’t bite.  She didn’t even twitch.

“Who was this client Portia was upset about?”

NOTE: This is a work in progress and any comments and critiques gratefully accepted.

Image: Kevin Dooley via Flickr

Chinese Whisperings Book Trailer

Alive and brilliant today – the trailer for The Red Book.

Kudos to Tina Hunter for her hours of work and patience with working with two people who didn’t initially know what they wanted, 10 writers who had different ideas about what they wanted as photographs to represent their work and then getting her head around the various movie programs.

Stellar job Tina… and thank you, very much! May the goosenbumps be with you…

Fourth Fiction 12.8

Marcus paused in the courtyard to listen. The sounds from within had changed. The small hairs on his body stood up… his entire body alert to the waves of energy building and crashing through the wall. A powerful, guttural roar tore into the silent night and he felt the hunger rise and possess him in an unprecedented fashion, even though he had feed before he had left to hunt down Sylvie.

The danger was all around and he thought he’d prepared himself… but he realised now, nothing on earth could have readied him for this.

Marcus held tight to Sylvie’s suitcase in one hand and the decapitated head inthe other,  desperate to stay in the present. He felt the earth shift, then the images came.

…screams amid flourishes of bright tie-dye material. A flash of facial piercing and tattoos. Groups sitting calmly, like monks in Vietnam, in submission rather than protest. No cameras to record bloodied mouths and frenzied looks as man, woman and child devourd each other. A seething maelstrom of rage and cannibalism. A split second choice to be bitten and the earth shifted – the course of what this history should have become, altered forever.

…a filthy room. Holes in the wall. A naked light bulb. Beautiful bare legs beneath cut offs. Her face growing out of the shadows. A realisation he could not abstain. He could not give her what she deserved, regardless of what she argued.  She had a life. He merely existed. He was not the man for her. He was no man. The flash of his scars in the broken mirror. The clatter of her diamond belly ring falling to the floor. A single tear.

… Sylvie’s flesh on his. The earth shift again. The spark of feeling. Of recognition.  The name on her driver’s license. A wound reopened. Memories resurfacing…

“What are you doing here?”

He gasped in the cold air as though he had been dead and a stab of adrenalin in the heart had brought him back. The world spun for a moment, a tornado of memories stilling and setting his feet back in the present.

You’re not in Kansas now Dorothy.

The crone stepped out of the shadows.

How long had she been there? What had she seen? Heard?

“It is not time.” She turned her back on him. “You will be called when it is.”

He took a few steps closer to the Birth House, his anger at the Crone protecting him temporarily from the temptation within and he threw the head at her, hitting her squarely between the shoulder blades.

“Responsible owners keep their pets on a leash.”

She snarled as she turned, picking up the inert head, the pupil-less eyes reflecting the glow of the full moon before it was once again covered by heavy clouds.

“They could have killed Sylvie.”

“The world is in flux boy, and I have no intention of letting just anyone walk in here tonight.” She held the head up. “Did you think you could scare me?”

Marcus took two crunching steps closer, his words white in the freezing air.

“I have something for Sylvie.”

“You’re on a first name basis with the midwife.” She threw the head out into the snow. “How sweet. But given our arrangement – completely inappropriate I would have thought. I’ll take the case.”

She moved out of the shelter of the crude eaves and into the snow to take the suitcase from him.

“Uh-ah… patience, old woman.” He put up one condescending pointer finger just to piss her off. “Things just got a whole lot more complicated.”

“We had a deal.”

“Deals off.”

“The deal is not negotiable.”

“You lied to me.”

“I did nothing of the sort.”

“You did not tell me who the midwife was.”

“She is nothing important in the bigger scheme of things. A baby will be born, a midwife was needed.”

“There you go again, old woman, telling lies.” Marcus put the suitcase down behind him and planted his feet at hip width, crossing his arms across his muscular chest. “Omission of the truth is the same as lying.”

“So… she’s the daughter of Dr. Johaanson.”

“The sins of the father do not need to be visited upon the daughter. Don’t you think she’s suffered enough?”

“Suffered enough…” The words flew out through the gap in her teeth with a hiss and her withered featured contorted into a look of sheer hatred. “You either take her and feed from her when all of this is over or I throw her to, as you have called them, my pets. Either way she will not be leaving here. His flesh and blood will pay for what he did here.”

“She wasn’t even born when this started. She’s been punished for his other sins. His whole family has.”

“What do I care about what Johaanson got up to after he tried to kill us all here? What do I care for his family.” The crone moved in on him, shuffling through the snow in a stop motion version of a circle. “Why do you care so much for her? What would one like you want with Sylvie?”

Marcus squared his shoulders.

I wont let her get to me.

“You are nothing more than beast. Nothing more than the first plague. Like him.” She pointed to the head lying with one cheek to the snow. “Living in the shadows on the perimeter of society. You can’t be normal, any more than they can.”

“You are wrong!” He spun around and grasped the suitcase, pulling it away from her outstretched hand. ‘Take me to see Sylvie.”

“You think that girl is going to redeem you?” She laughed, a sound like a flock of annoyed crows alighting from power lines. “Oh, Marcus. How does one so evil, still find shreds of innocence and naivety.”

She shuffled away from him, back under the cover of the eaves, muttering and shaking her head. Brushing the snow from the thick shawl around her shoulders she regarded him, one hand bloodied and the other holding onto the suitcase as though it were a life raft.

Another roar exploded into the night… shifting the lines between them, as the it went deeper.  Raw. The  primordial sound of the ecstacy and pain of life. The crone noticed how Marcus’s skin flushed and despite the sub zero temperatures, a thin layer of sweat broke across his brow.

She smiled, then sucked in her bottom lip for a moment as she thought, her cheeks sinking even further into her skull, letting the birthing sounds hang between them a little longer.

“You want to broker a new deal. By the grace of the Goddess we’ll broker another deal.”

The blood raced through Marcus’s body, the snow melting in a halo around him. The labouring woman’s roars and pants thundered in his ears, as his defences dissolved like the snow, the sounds pounding in time with his heart beat.

“You give me the suitcase and I’ll give you the other baby. And I give you my word that nothing befalls the midwife.”

He could feel the heat in the room, the smell of garlic, the lines of power that Sylvie had stepped out to protect the space. Ineffectual against him, since she had touched him earlier. The touch of Sylvie’s hand on the woman’s searing skin.

“I want both of them,” he gasped. “The midwife and the baby.”

He squeezed his eyes shut and focused for a minute on the smell of the snow and the rancid, polluted blood of the plague still thick on his hands, pulling himself out of the birthing room. He shook his head as though to free the connection with simple kinesthetics.

Focus.

“Shake on it?” He extended his hand and he saw The Crone falter and hesitate. “If the deal you make is true then you have nothing to fear in shaking my hand.”

She closed her eyes and took a minute to think on it.

Just say yes you old bitch. Do it. I can’t hold on much longer…

Marcus tried to keep his focus on her, but the strong, steady heart beats of the twins, about to break free from the womb called to him drew him in. One promised to him.

How long could I live with the life energy of a new born babe? One of them was meant to die anyway… it was the prophecy? But Sylvie…

…I don’t care what she thinks… the chance…

“Indeed Marcus, we have a deal.” He fought to stay present – to be patient. The hunger was clawing him, like a rabid beast fighting its way out of his flesh. A frantic dance to the dual rhythm of the heart beats.

The crone is going to seal the deal.

She’d shake his hand and they’d all have insurance against any deceit.

“I have nothing to fear in shaking your hand.”

“Ok, old woman,” the words barely came out of his mouth. The trembling had begun, the primal parts of him swamping the civilised parts. He took an unsteady step towards her, the suitcase heavy in his hand, the other outstretched to grasp hers.

The crone nodded her head, urging him towards her as a woman jumped from the wall behind Marcus, landing lightly with a crowbar across her thighs. With a single swing Marcus lay face down in the snow, the suitcase wedge underneath his prone body.

This installment incorporates Mum and Robbi’s challenge (a lie) and Anna Barros and Em’s (walking the boundaries, garlic)