My first acceptance for the year (actually to be honest – for almost two years!)
My short story ‘The Chameleon’ will be published in Absolute Xpress’s third anthology ‘Thieves and Scoundrels.” Very exciting.
A short story a day, keeps the creative merde away…
Beginning in earnest next week, I will be committing to read one short story a day, for a year… as my own weird twist to the 365 Day challenge and also as one area of my professional development for 2010’s Year of the Silver Tiger.
Why short stories?
I write them, but I never read them. Despite my best efforts I find anthologies impossible to get through, cover to cover. At night I’m too tired and distracted to want to make the investment to get to know a new character and go on a journey with them. I want to pick up a book where I already have befriend the character and am eager to continue on with the story. It might only be five pages some nights, other nights it could be 20 or 30 pages.
It seems pretty likely that I am not going to stop writing my own short and flash fiction any time in the near future, so I’m adopting the philosophy that you should ‘read in your genre’ (substituting genre with form).
For the past three mornings I’ve taken the ‘story a day’ for a test drive with some pretty amazing results.
Day One (Monday) I grabbed the first anthology my hand fell on, which turned out to be 10 Short s\Stories you Must Read, a promo anthology (not for sale) from the Books Alive 2009 campaign. Our old flat mate scored it last year and it got left behind when he moved out.
I was in a pretty awful mood, if I’m being totally honest Monday morning. It was my son’s fourth day at school and ‘the empty nest syndrome’ was descending on me like grief shroud, sapping my will to do anything and killing my creativity dead in its tracks. Enter left of stage Robert Drewe and his wonderful story View from Mount Warning.
By the time I had finished it was out of my funk, had drunk my pot of tea and was inspired to get in the car, go home and get on with it. It wasn’t the story per se which was the motivator – it was act of shifting my attention away from feeling sorry for myself and into a creative space which seemed fifteen minutes earlier, was most definitely light years away and perpetually barred from me. It seemed a pretty strong indicator I was onto something.
After Monday I felt a short story was the perfect way to ‘warm up’ for the day and embarked on my second, Kathy Lette’s Hate At First Sight and William McInnes’ Life in a Hotel.
While three days is hardly enough time to ascertain if the committment will last – it has given me a window into how it might work. I’m confident of a few things about reading a short story a day:
I’m going to continue on for the next 11 days and imagine it will be a seamless transition into the ‘officia’l story a day for a year on the 14th. Care to join me?
Image via One More Chapter.
There was a knock at the door.
“Sir, we’ve decoded the message.”
Coffey opened a window flashing at the bottom of the massive flat screen. The three men read the message and took a moment to let it sink in.
“She was heading into The Dead Zone.” The Director pinched the small bruised space on his nose, just above the eyes and squinted.
“It seems that way,” answered Coffey, in a nonchalant way which drove the Director crazy. It was as if nothing phased the Head of Intelligence, even when it came as a surprise.
“Of course she was.” Mullholland’s booming certainty stilled the undercurrent between The Director and Coffey. “It’s been under our nose all this time. The Underground are based out in The Dead Zone. ” He walked over to the screen and pulled up the photo of Midwife #2, Sylvie Johanssen. “She was the bait.”
“Bait?” queried Coffey, scratching at the sandpaper growth on his jaw line.
“Why lead us in there then?” asked the Director, pulling the his tie off. “And why kill the agents before they got there?”
“Nothing works in The Dead Zone – you know that as well as I do. The electro-magnetic disruptors put up by the hippy-scum thirty years ago were amplified by the Government after the infection to ensure no one went in.”
“And no one came out,” added Coffey.
“Kill them once they’re in there ,” Mullholland continued ignoring Coffey’s comments, “and you’ve lost your calling card.”
The Director turned to stare at him. “You honestly think the Underground is based in there.”
“Yes. We’ve spent years trying to locate it. It all makes sense now.”
“I’m unsure. The message seems to be sending her into there. Rather than out of there.”
“Sending her in there without an escort though. ” Mullholland said, staring hard at Coffey. “This is totally removed from the normal modus operendi. Midwives never go anywhere alone. They are considered by the underground too vulnerable and too valuable to wander around by themselves.”
“Have you been able to isolate where the message came from?” The Director wound the tie around his hand and pulled it tight, the meaning not lost on Coffey who shook his head in reponse.
“It was routed so many times it is basically background static. Their communications system is more sophisticated than anything we’ve seen.”
“Or more basic than anything we’ve experience in decades,” suggested the Director.
Coffey nodded his head. “We’re investigating that angle also.”
Mulholland bought up the picture of Jamieson again and blew it up to fill the entire wall sized screen. It looked as though the dead agent would crumble to dust, like a Hollywood corpse and blow across the screen to cover them in Death. He turned and pointed up to it for added effect. To their credit the other two men didn’t look away though Mulholland caught The Director flicking imaginary dust from his shoulder, completely obviously to the fact he was doing so..
“Let me pose something to you… if The Underground isn’t The Dead Zone, then something in there is trying to get out.”
“You don’t think your two ideas are mutually exclusive ?” said the Director, looking up to the feed coming in from the sewer..
Mulholland shook his head.
“We can’t discount that The Underground, regardless of where they may be based, had strong links when the first encampment was established. Parents and grandparents would have been wiped out when the virus was released.” He paused, letting his words sink in. “What if they now want to unleash something on the City, like the City unleashed on them. And I’m not talking biological warfare.”
To emphais his point Mullholland pulled up the only remaining photo of on of The Dead Zones infected – eyes ablzed in a gaunt barely recognisable face. The Director sucked in his bottom lip and thought for a moment. Coffey looked away.
“We’d need to go in on foot.” The Director sat down on the edge of the table. “Mulholland search our databases and work out what will and wont work in there, and if we’ve got it on hand here.”
“See what old military junk lying around, yes sir.”
“And Coffey, I want all intel on what’s been going on in there the past twenty-five years.”
“TYou are not seriously considering going in there.”
“I’m seriously considering all option and I’ve asked you for something.”
“Well it won’t be too difficult – there is basically nothing. The best I can offer is a blank page and heresay. We turned our back and walked out of there when the virus mutated, you know that as well as anyone. No one wanted to know what was going on in there. There was an official decree to destroy all the files. What was left is what we already know. There are no secret files. Nothing.”
The Director pinched the aggrevated spot above his nose again.
“Arnold – I’m asking you, not as the Director, but as a fellow citizen of this great city we both love and wnt to protect, if you’ll put aside your personal and professional issues and work with me on this.”
Coffey coughed and typed something into a mobile communicator and a new window appeared on the screen, showing all the satellites.
“I can position one of our probes to the quadrant The Dead Zone is in, but it will take at least two hours before I can stream any images live. That’s not me, that’s just the way it is. And I can’t be certain the electromagnetic disruptors wont interfere with what images may or may not come out – assuming anything is bounced back. And nothing will be accessible in the field.”
“Shit,” the Director shook his head and jammed his tie into his pocket. He wasn’t a military man, before his rapid rise to power, he’d been an auditor. He was way out of his depth – he should defer it to someone in Stateland Security but the lead was cooling and if Mulholland was right…
“Thirty minutes gentleman – you’ve both got thirty minutes to supply me with the information I want. And Mulholland, organise a debriefing for an hour’s time. I will have made my decision and spoken with the Mayor by then.”
This installment incorporates Dale’s challenge (a blank page).
Late last year a fellow Chinese Whisperings writer Tina Hunter contacted me about Absolute Xpress’s Flash Fiction Challenge. She told me to keep an eye out for the 1st December when the prompt for the challenge would be announced, adding my writing would definitely suit the anthologies they were producing.
Thieves and Scoundrels is the third anthology, coming in the wake of Creatures of the Night and The Seven Deadly Sins (Tina had stories published in both!) cementing Absolute Xpress’s committment to the Flash Fiction form, which is growing in popularity with writers and readers alike.
There is nothing like someone making, even the smallest investment in your writing life, to spur you on to bigger and better things. In many ways it was the indebtedness to Tina which made this a priority once I had submitted to the 12 Days Project (work begets work… I’m convinced of that!)
The prompt was:
Would your characters try to swindle a dragon out of his treasure? Perhaps they’d try to steal the fastest spaceship in the galaxy? Or are they after something a little more sinister that’s in need of taking? Where ever and when ever they take place, the stories of these Thieves and Scoundrels will take hold of your imagination and ransom it back to you.
I had a couple of ideas floating around in my head, especially after Vasia Markides and Anna Barros posted to their Facebook pages an article about a group of elderly Cypriots being charged with illegal gambling. The youngest was in their mid-70s. While it didn’t end up firing for this competition but it is latent waiting for the right trigger.
It was a moan about shopping hours which lead me to ask: What could possibly happen to someone in the dead of night in a supermarket. ‘The Chameleon’ answers that and is my debut story in the sci-fi/spec-fic genre. This from someone who said two years ago, “Oh but I don’t write sci-fi.”
While I’m indebted to Tina for encouraging me to enter, I’m also indebted to some wonderful people who read the first draft, commented and compelled me to distill and capture the essence of the story. These wonderful beta readers were Chris Chartrand, Annie Evett, Dan Powell, Diane Ballard and Jen Brubacher… oh and my Mum, who is captured here mid-story. Why mention them… because these amazing folk are the real powerhouses behind any writer, the unseen who help to sculpt and solidify creative flights of fancy. Who ensure a piece goes from “er, yeah,” to “OMG!”
The anthology is scheduled for release later this month, so watch this space.
Flat out with a bad back today. The view from over the top of my book. I realised the back issues (energetically associated with ‘support’) probably have much more to do with Dave being away and being fed up playing solo Mum, then any actual back injury per se.
Gratefully, Dave arrived home, unexpectantly tonight. Looking forward to the back pain taking a hike.
I took all my old drafts and mark-ups ( a pile around 4cm thick) which had just been sitting there, doing nothing… and I burnt them in a mini bonfire in the back yard. I took some rocks from around the pool and made a fireplace (something I’ve been meaning to do for the longest time and just never moved beyond the idea of..) and set about the task of turning them to dust.
Before you call the mental health professionals there was method in my madness. As I was cleaning up my desk (so I could finally return to it after an 8 week absence due to piles of CRAP!) I came across a timeline/flow chart I wrote out in the dead of night in December last year as I was checking all the stories for The Red Book actually fit.
It seemed disrespectful to then take that and throw it in the recycling. So I hit on the idea of burning it. I took the mortar out on the back verandah and watched it burn. That’s where I got the idea to burn everything I didn’t want any longer. I love fire (I’m a double fire sign) and there is something cathartic about committing something to flames.. the ashes then go in my vegie garden.
The Phoenix is one of my favourite mythical images and I am hoping that by committing these past works to ashes something brand new and brilliant will rise from the smouldering remains. To prove my timing will always be impeccable this year… just as I committed the final pile to the flames the rain came down. Standing in it I felt cleaned and empty in a good way. Ready to fill up on new writing adventures.