A Week Later

I’ve been noticing lots of talk recently about getting back to basics. Not just in my writing community, but in the community at large.

Yesterday at my son’s parade, the Principal spoke to the student’s about organisation, Organisation is the green key (one of five coloured keys which provide the emotional and social framework for the academic curriculum to slot into).

He explained goal setting, as one of the most important elements of organisation and gave a fabulous analogy. He told the kids a dream is really just a nice idea – I’d like to get fit, I’d like to improve my spelling… I’d like to get back to basics in my writing. He said it was good to have dreams, but at the end of the day they were really just nice ideas. They weren’t a practical way of getting what you want.

To make a dream a reality you had to take conscious steps to manifest it. It required both reflection and action. What can I do to get fit – Walk every day to get fit. What can I do to improve my spelling – spend time every night practising spelling. What can I do to get back to basics in writing – work with the elements I listed last week.

Looking back, a week on from my revelations post, I’m no longer sitting bemoaning the state of disrepair my writing life has fallen into. No… rather than it be a nice idea, I’ve actually been doing something about utilising those basic building blocks.

In my Monday column I spoke about something having to give, in order to make writing a priority. In my case, I’m sleeping less. That’s OK, because writing fills up a need in me, which stabilises my moods, compels me to connect with those around me and generally makes me happy and chilled out (despite the lack of sleep, which would normally cause me to be a cranky, nasty harpie!). Everyone in my house has been smiling this week.

Since Monday I have written a new (prequel) episode of Captain Juan based on last week’s Fiction Friday prompt. I have edited up the final episode of Captain Juan for this cycle and posted it. In addition, two stories (one which had been languishing, the other forgotten) have been critiqued, reworked and are now ready to be sent somewhere. I’ve also done one major edit for someone else, and a critique for another. And last night, for the first time ever – I wrote a first draft of my Write Anything column – days in advance.

While the creative juices have been flowing (fighting an uphill battle with procrastination which wants to keep me safe from failing or tackling the too hard stuff), there have been numerous blog posts rolling around in my head.

So expect to see this space less sparsely populated in the future. There’s posts about conflicting advice on rewrites and how to pick the wheat from the chaff in a critique, a post about dreams (of the nocturnal landscape variety) and a couple of posts about the short stories I have been reading.

Thank you to all my friends and writing colleagues who rallied last week. It was the soul food I was lacking and the creative support which, like my basics for writing, is a cornerstone of my craft. I am a better writer, and produce high quality stories because you are in my life.

Image via The Road Ahead

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Prosopopoeia

Jasper drew the curtain aside an inch and peered out. The pit was full just as Valentina had said, not that he questioned her word. He just wanted to see for himself. The three tiers rising around the pit were also full to brimming.

The agitators he had sent into the pit appeared to have carried on the work they had already done on the streets, in the market queues and in the tavernas in the days leading up to opening night. The right words in the right ears had the entire theatre was buzzing with the rumours of Cardinal Alessandro Medici. Jasper knew they were divided in opinion and was glad. He didn’t want to convert them all with mere street conjecture.

Valentina swore the audience were assembled like spectators at an accident.

A cool hand touched his arm and he let the curtain drop.

“There is still time to call this all off.” Valentina’s face was serious beneath the thick stage make up.

Jasper shook his head.

“I have listened to all you have had to say, my love. But this is something even you cannot sway me from. Not now.”

“You make a powerful enemy Jasper.” She pulled the shawl around her shoulder, as chills ran through her

“No, it is the Cardinal who has made a powerful enemy in me. Look out there Valentina. You cannot argue the power of the theatre. I have waited-”

“You cannot guarantee-”

“I have been careful in writing the script. Without the rumours spread the past few days, people may not have connected the dots. And even then.”

“Trial by public opinion Jasper – is that fair?”

“You cannot be defending him, after what he did to me as a boy – after what he did to all those boys and is probably still doing to them.”

“I am not condoning his behaviour. I am just worried for you Jasper. There is word The Angel of Death is in town.”

“There stories of the Butcher of Capena are just that. Stories. If only I were to think of such extravagant phatasies as a man who kills in the name of the Lord. A wingless angel who walks shoulder to shoulder with ordinary man. Bah!”

“They will shut you down after tonight. We’ll be excommunicated or worse.”

“There will be such an uproar after tonight he will be unable to touch us and keep his integrity. In fact, by the end of the week he will be removed as Cardinal. No parent is going to allow their boys into the care of the Church if they cannot guarantee their safety under his guardianship. He buggered me, my love. He stole my soul, just as certainly as he was the Devil himself. My soul was not his to take. I will spend the Eternity in hellfires because of him.”

“No God could condemn you. You were only a boy.”

Jasper moved away from the wings with Valentina trailing behind him.

“You should be with the others, preparing for the curtain to go up.”

Valentina hesitated, then drew herself onto her toes to kiss his rough cheek.

“May tonight be the redemption which your soul yearns for… then we can start over without the spectre of Medici one step behind you.”

Valentina moved away to where the players were milling, nervous and excited. She was calm – the sort of quiet she’d come to associate over time, as the prologue to something awful.

None of the players knew the real subtext of Jasper’s play or the potent veins of revenge which sustained and fed the play. They feed on the rumours just like the audience, Devouring and then debating the merits of them.

Only herself and Jasper’s circle of writing friends were privy to the horrible truth.

Turning back, Valentina saw one of the stage hands with his lips to Jasper’s ear and a smile spread across her betrothed’s face.

“They say the Cardinal is out there. Can you believe it? Come to see what all the fuss is about I’m guessing,” said a man dressed as Vice.

“Come for you more like,” joked a woman.

“I’m the Devil’s man.”

“As is the Cardinal,” snapped Valentina, nerves raw from worry. She forced her way out of the group of players and making her way to the left wing to await curtain call.

* * *

Dressed in civillian clothes, with a fake beard, Alessandro sat with members of the silversmith’s guild as a travelling artisan. Dante had secured the private booth seat for him, in the top tier of the theatre. As always Alessandro didn’t ask how he had done so. Ignorance was bliss and left him with little to repent at the end of the day.

Alessandro had a vague recollection of the playwright as an altar boy. He had been evil – ones of the boys who bit in a vain attempt to protect themselves from him. All the soft talking and bribery did little to charm his sort. He exerted only enough force to subdue them. The bruises easily dismissed as the boyish adventures. Afterwards he always dispelled teh boy from service so as not to taint the disposition of the other boys. The ones who shut up and took it stayed, and were advanced.

His spies told him the play featured him as the central character. As the First Act dragged on, Alexxandro saw they were correc – he had been elevated to the status of Everyman, though no one seemed fooled. The main character was a thinly veiled archetype, a clever device which enabled the playwright to point his feeble finger at the Arch Bishop. To flaunt weaknesses of greed and lust. To have his vices on public show was too much for Alessandra.

“Still in the Arch Bishops fold?” queried the man sitting next to him, when the laughter died down. “I have to say I thought His Excellency above such moral depravity – but now, I’m glad I wasn’t a boy in his church.”

“You are quick to judge,” snapped Alessandro.

“My apologies. I did not realise you were such a pious man, stranger.”

“God will sit in judgement of those who are wooed by lies and deception.”

Alessandro’s teeth screeched against each other, grinding them so hard his jaw hurt. His knuckles were white beneath the fancy lace cuffs of the shirt. The audience booed at yet another seduction of a young boy. The shape and construction of the theatre seemed to not only amplify and carry the words of the players on stage but the reactions of the audience, so he was surrounded in an eddy of malcontent.

A tap at his shoulder brought him back to the real reason for his presence tonight.

“It is time, Your Excellency,” whispered a familiar voice.

Alessandro stood and peered one final time over the balcony to the aberration below. In that moment it was as though he were bearing down judgement on all, rather than the reverse. He pulled his arms into the ornately embroidered jacket and slipped out into the empty space between the outer wall and the balcony.

The two men found the stairs and moved swiftly to the ground level. The tall hooded man secured the door behind them.

“Everything is in readiness.”

“Then go. I am sickened to the stomach.”

“As you wish, Your Excellency. May God have mercy on their sinful souls.”

Alessandro moved away from the theatre and found a viewing position from a nearby grove of trees. He counted off the minutes, knowing Dante waited for the exact moment when inside the theatre the stage was set alight to mimic hell and the roasting of the soul. Seeing the small spire of smoke rise, Alessandro counted off no less than a minute before a ring of fire encircled the theatre, licking at the dry wood, moving impatiently inwards to devour flesh and bone.

At a special Mass the next morning Alessandro boomed hellfire and brimstone from the pulpit ensuring the congregation knew of the blasphemy of the theatre and God’s wrath of such an abomination. Women and men wept.  Some shuddered fearful of the retribution in order for them because of the rumours they had helped perpetuate. Others wailed for the dead. In the back row Dante folded his left hand over his scorched right hand and smiled.

This story is a prequel to the Captain Juan serial, linking with Coruna: the man who was Uncle and is inspired by [Fiction] Friday prompt #152: “A segregated audience at a school play leads to a town revelation.”

Image: Bengt Ekerot as Death, from the film Det Sjunde inseglet (The Seventh Seal) (1957) via Wiki.

Revelations and Back to Basics

Over the last couple of days I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and a lot of reflecting about where I currently am as a writer, what was important to me when I started writing and what I want to do from here out.

Two things occurred to me:

  1. I wasn’t writing, and
  2. I wasn’t happy about that fact.

It was a bit like going off on a safari full of enthusiasm for the thrill and adventure, then getting lost, only to discover you are going around and around in circles, and really just wanted to go home.

Small signs started to appear this week to confirm I was lost (because there is nothing like denying and making excuses to legitimise the fact you are not writing).

There had been niggling jealousy and envy of those around me who continue to produce. There was the contemplation of how my lovely friend (and talented writer) Em Newman manages to fit the demands of family, work and writing. There was a throw away piece of advice (from me) in a virtual interview a few weeks ago saying, you had to make writing a priority and then that very line being picked up by the fabulous Jen Brubacher (who continues to read and comment here although there’s not much to read or comment on, or the fact I’ve become an infrequent reader at her blog). There was a tweet from one of my followers with reference to why we can’t treat ourselves like clients (ie. bend over backwards to get it done, stop the world type of behaviour we flick into when we’re working on someone else’s project) Then there was Tony Noland’s wonderful essay earlier this week “Rule #1 – You Must Write” – which was like the nail in the coffin of the self delusion.

You must write.

I must write.

And I decided I didn’t want to be lost, stuck out in the wilderness, on the fringe any more. I wanted to go home.

But where is ‘home’ for me as a writer?

Home is what I was doing when I first decided I wanted to write seriously. It was the foundation from which all other great things were built on (Reclaim Sex After Birth, Chinese Whisperings and eMergent Publishing)

There were four things which were the cornerstone of those early times:

  1. I wrote [Fiction] Friday every week – usually as part of my Friday night ritual. It was getting blood on the page, it got me connected in with my foundation group of writing friends (many of which have continued on the journey with me in new and innovative ways), it got my writing out there – read and critiqued. But more so, it gave me insight into how my writing worked… that I needed a prompt to get and keep writing.
  2. I wrote Captain Juan and was always itching for the next person to write so I could have my go again. It was my ‘writer’s candy’ or ‘comfort writing’… despite whatever else was going on… there was always Captain Juan.
  3. I blogged – almost every day and my blog was a lifeline to other writers who were also on the journey. It challenged me, supported me and spurred me onto greater heights. It was what got me connect in, before there was Facebook and Twitter.
  4. I made reading a priority for the first time in my life.

Three years on I find weekly writing has slipped to something which is a ‘treat’ every now and again, when the time opens up (rather than opening up the time to write). I think I have written one new episode of Captain Juan (the Christmas special) in the past year and every day there is a dull ache, like an amputated limb. Blogging? What blogging? Unless there is some new piece of writing to put up (see back to the start of this paragraph) the blog lies idle and forgotten. My connection to the rest of my writerly folk is now made through Facebook and Twitter, which quite frankly, while convenient is just not the same soul food of connection or insight. And reading… well it is still there, though has been teetering lately into falling the way everything else has gone.

This month, as I was setting my goals, I developed a theme for the month, ‘Back to Basics’. I want to go back to what was important and what kept me nourished when I first started out.

This month writing will be a priority.

And the other little piece of wisdom which came to me this week. Life isn’t a balancing act – so let’s can the image of scales, or tightropes, of seesaws and the likes. It is not about balancing at all.

Life is a jigsaw and it is about the investment in making the pieces fit. Sometimes they pieces fit easily – especially when they’re very different… but when you’ve got 100 pieces of blue sky.. the task takes on new meaning. And when your work is editing and publishing and writing… the ability to make them all fit, because they look so similar, can be a greater challenge. It is easier to take the pieces which belong to others and make them a priority to have fitted into the bigger picture and leave your pieces behind.

But no one ends up being happy – least of you all, when you relegate yourself to the poor third cousin.

So over the next month – expect more blogging and a new look blog, more fiction and some exciting news about Captain Juan.

2010 Month in Review 2

The new moon was last Wednesday – just an hour or so after the launch of Gnarly Planning at the State Library. It has taken until now to get around to reflecting and plotting… and somehow it feels far further into the year than it actually is (well the creative year that is!)

Reading Goals

Last month:

1. HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

2. Cat’s Eyes – Margaret Atwood

3. Bluebeards Egg (Anth) Margaret Atwood

The short story reading is struggling to gain legs again, but I’m having a go. I’m intending to read some flash fiction to get me caught up (thanks Dan for the idea!) Bluebeards Egg was purchased as my attempt to climb back on the story a day for a year cart. I found it a bit hit and miss, even for a favourite author such as Attwood.

It made me realise I am

1) in a different era as a women, and

2) in a different era as a writer (how much I love short, short stories that get to the point!)

As it is Mercury Retrograde for a fair swath of the coming month I’m going back to revisit some favourites this coming month.

1. Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley

2. Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson

3. 36 :the collected short stories – Jeffrey Archer

4. Thieves and Scoundrels – Absolute Xpress’s FFC #3 winners

Blogging

From last month:

  • Pre-post the old WA columns (no – going to try this month to get it happening)
  • Give the Photo Challenge a break (yes – and glad to be free of the guilt)
  • Follow up Abigail about the guest post (no – she’s more snowed under than I am)
  • Put down some thoughts for a blog make over (adding it to the list for this month)

Blogging remains a much maligned part of my writing life. I did get a couple of brand new posts up – to do with the launch of Thieves and Scoundrels and to track the fact I was keeping my head above water and not drowning (the power of positive thought).  I want to do some more as I aim to return to my roots as a writer this month.

For this month

  • Just blog and enjoy doing it.
  • Put together some ideas on what I’d like the blog to look like – and do it!
  • Accept the two blog awards I have outstanding.
  • Read and comment on a blog a day.

Writing

From last month:

  • Dedicate Tuesday night writing races to writing Hartog (where I could, I did)
  • Thursday is a CW free day… reserved for writing – looking to hit four Fiction Friday inclusions (no – didn’t do a single one and Thursdays got swallowed by more pressing projects )
  • Write and post 12.11 of Novella before the end of the lunar cycle (no)
  • Submit Pearls of Wisdom to Australian Women Online (no – though it did get a rewrite an two new critiques)
  • Submit Graceville to Meanjin (no)
  • April 1 – new Flash Fiction Challenge from Absolute Xpress… ideas for a story (yes – I have two!)

Thieves and Scoundrels which has my story “The Chameleon” in it was published at the start of the month and the virtual launch was on the 10th in which I was interviewed as part of the online marketing for it. I also wrote a dialogue only piece which was well received. The very first exploration of the novel noir I want to write later on in the year.

For this month:

I’m seeing a theme of making writing a priority emerging… listen to the Universe when it speaks to you!!!

1. Four Fiction Fridays for the month – or four #fridayflash pieces
2. Finish novella… only two episodes to go
3.  Submit Pearls of Wisdom
4. Write first draft of Dirty River (nee Summer Girl)
5. After Mercury Rx – send in Graceville
6. 4/4 for the Writing Races
7. First draft for FF#4

Editing

From last month:

  • Do a complete rewrite/make over on Summer Girl (I didn’t actually write it – but I got the hook and ideas on how to progress and a new name – Dirty River)
  • Fix the ending of Pearls of Wisdom. (I tried and it didn’t work)
  • Edit and refine each Hartog installment before posting. (At least one went up)

This coming month:

  • Rewrite Pearls of Wisdom
  • Complete my editing duties for BOFF.
  • Rewrite the next four installments of Hartog
  • Edit my final installments of Captain Juan

Professional Development

From last month

  • Investigate YONonline (did but decided it wasn’t the right time)

In a weird quirk of fate I ended up attending two workshops and a public talk. The workshops were on motivated characters and a second on editing. The public talk by Kate Eltham was on writing grant applications (with the 100 Years of IWD project in mind)

For the coming month

  • Book for EWF.

Movies

From last month:

1. Remember Me* (excellent)

2. Time Travellers Wife* (terrible – travesty!!)

3. The Rebound* (not too bad)

4. Love and Other Catastrophes (was almost as good the second time – 14 years on)

5. Lantana (finally – didn’t blow my socks off though kept me guessing )

6. Nanny McPhee (wonderful)

7. How To Train Your Dragon (excellent – though told it destroyed the book)

8. Brother Where Art Thou (brilliant)

Month Coming

1. Clash of the Titans

2. Date Night

3. Iron Man 2

4. Love Letter to Juliet

*designates those which were on last months to see list

Projects

Chinese Whisperings

Moving along well. My editorial duties were put on hold while I was away (picked up nicely between Tony Noland and Dan Powell who collaborated to fuse their stories while I was out of contact) We’re now at the midway point.

We’ve picked up an artist (Carrie Clevenger’s husband, Lucas) to do the book covers. With Paul back on board the work load has eased up a bit (not shouldering the pressure of both anthologies).

By the end of the month:

  • Have a physical copy of The Red Book
  • Finalise stories 1 – 5
  • Reset price and have it listed a various external bookstores

eMergent Publishing

We completed our first non-fiction project AND had our first non-fiction launch – at none other than the State Library of Queensland on 14th April. After saying we could do it, we did it, converting Dr Jane Stanley’s wonderful book “Gnarly Planning:tools for local and global action” into a digital format complete with downloadable chapters and a funky looking website.

By the end of the month:

  • Finalise the website for GP – including the dial up version of the site
  • See the first of the money flow in and the downloads flow out.
  • Map marketing ideas
  • Get an eMergent website up (we finally got an URL which is more in keeping with what eMergent has become)
  • Become a legal entity (finally)

Captain Juan

I am determined to have my bits for the current narrative stream up… I need to get back writing the good ‘old Captain and wondering if it is time to take on a new writers to inject some life back into the story?

The Great Adventure

This is my year of adventure – and last month I finally did something small. I took my first ever karate class and loved it. Looking forward to this becoming a regular part of my week and something to share with Dylan. Thanks Annie for sharing your wonderful karate school with us.

Virtual Launch Interview

For those who missed the virtual launch of “Thieves and Scoundrels” and my interivew – here it is. Apologies for the dodgey formatting in places – it is an artefact of cut and paste.

And finally, our very last author of the day, joining us from Brisbane Australia, Jodi Cleghorn.

Jodi’s Bio:
In a world-building master class in 2008 Jodi was overheard saying, ‘Oh, but I don’t write science-fiction’. Up until that point she’d never given any real thought to genre.
While her characters are still unwilling to allow their muse to be shoe-horned into any one genre there is a growing appreciation of the freedom to explore ‘what ifs’ in speculative- and science-fiction, along with urban fantasy.
Love, betrayal, identity, dynamics of power and time travel are recurring themes in Jodi’s writing.
As well as writing, Jodi has a passion for editing and publishing, and is the co-owner of eMergent Publishing with Paul Anderson, creating short story anthologies which push the boundaries under the Chinese Whisperings brand.

Good morning, Jodi!

Good morning Tina. It’s 8:45am Sunday morning here in Australia and the mist is hanging about the trees in my suburb. Thanks for having me along.
Well thanks for getting up early for us.

Still hard to believe I’m talking to someone from the future (it’s only 4:45 pm on Saturday here)

Why don’t we start off by you telling us a little bit more about you? Where are you from, what do you do, and how did you find out about the Flash Fiction Challenge?

I currently in Brisbane – in what often feels like the end of the world (or the beginning) when working across massive time zone gaps. I’m a full time writer, as well as co-managing a small Indie publishing house, eMergent Publishing, which produces conceptual anthologies under the imprint Chinese Whisperings…
I first learnt of AXP and the FFCs last September through a writer who contributed to Chinese Whispering’s debut anthology, ‘The Red Book’.
Awesome. Without giving away the plot of the story, can tell us about what you’ve written for Thieves and Scoundrels?
Many of my stories come from that wonderful question “what if?”…
“The Chameleon” is a sci-fi story, unashameably influenced by my own domestic situation in December last year (though the actual story bears no resemblance to it). The spark for the story came from a conversation about 24 hour retail trading…
“The Chameleon” was also shaped by the growing numbers of reports of identity theft, as well as the themes of loss, love, the dynamics of power and time travel – though in this regards it is not time travel in the most literal sense…
I guess it addresses important questions regarding identity, scientific innovation, psychology and humanity .“The Chameleon” asks… are we more than just the sum of our parts? Is there something more than the reductionist version of science?
Wow. Pretty deep stuff. Is this what readers can expect from your other work? More thought provocking science fiction?
Yes… well I hope…
In past I haven’t written sci-fi though I seem to be pulled more that way because of the freedom for exploration the genre offers and the ability to really probe social issues…
Plus I love being able to toy with science, technology and innovation – push it beyond know boundaries and then apply it back to the human experience…
Right now I’m working on several sci-fi projects: a novella set in a society where natural birth has been outlawed as a crime against the State, punishable by death. The main characters are young midwife, a fallen angel and a Government agent hell-bent on getting ‘his woman’; also a cross-genre detective serial named “Hartog”…
There are several other short stories in varying arrays of “finished-ness” and I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t fishing for a story to submit for the next FFC. There are two scenarios gestating – but as of yet, no definite story emerging from either idea.
Well I guess that answers what you are working on right now. 🙂

Are there any authors or books which you particularly admire, or which have influenced you as a writer?

It does…
The more I read of Margaret Attwood, the more I like her writing and admire her as a woman and an author. Her ability to produce such diverse work, of an amazingly high standard is something any writer would aspire to. I am in awe of her descriptive narrative (something I struggle with in my own writing) and ease of story telling…
As for influences – it seems I take a little from every book I read and apply it in small and large ways to whatever I am working on at the time – it is often completely subconscious…
I’m lucky enough to belong to a wonderfully talented and supportive community of writers – both on and offline. A small group of these writers are my beta readers and it is their insightful comments and critiques which help to shape the final drafts I produce. “The Chameleon” is an example of how a good story can be made a great story with the critical input of others.
That’s great.

What is the hardest part about writing for you, in general or just flash fiction?

Telling a rich, evocative story in just 1000 words isn’t easy at the best of times. Throw into that mix, the need to do some type of world building and you have what I consider, the hardest part of writing flash fiction in the sci-fi genre…
For “The Chameleon” – my world building had to be based on small, potent symbols. I focused on technology to build Clarissa’s world. There’s no space to explain them, so I used simple, easily recognisable items or concepts… then pushed out from 2010 usages into a place in the not too distant future…
“The Chameleon” utilises three novums – an identity chip in the back of the hand, DNA rewriting and DNA litmus paper.
You mentioned that you also manage a small press. Would you rather be known as a writer or as a publisher?
Jodi Cleghorn:

This seems to be a question which keeps popping up recently – a bit like would you prefer critical acclaim or popular success…

I’d like to be greedy and be known for both I think. I wish I could be one or the other, but it seems I am pulled in both directions.
I can understand that.

Maybe you can tell us when and why you began writing? What gave you “the bug” so to speak?

I began writing aged 10 with a sappy piece about Willy the Australian mascot for the LA Olympics…
Jodi Cleghorn:

It was the light bulb moment that I could string together my own sentences, create worlds, action. A bit of a “God” moment so to speak…

As I got older the pull was to escape. My life wasn’t particularly awful – but there was something about being able to escape into a world were you had ultimate power (what teenager wouldn’t want to do that?)…
Now I realise that it is my characters who control me to tell their story, and not the other way around!
Alright, one more question before I open it up to the audience. How can readers get in touch with you?
Jodi Cleghorn:

There are three ways…

Facebook fan page http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Jodi-Cleghorn-Author/294766224588?ref=ts
Jodi Cleghorn:

Twitter @JodiCleghorn

Wonderful. Thank you Jodi.

Looks like we have our first question…

[Comment From Robin Robin : ]

You seem to have some profound insights into people. Do you have a degree or anything in psychology?

Nicely picked Robin… I have never finished my degree in Psychology – but have definitely spent a fair chunk of time at uni studying for one. My son came along to spoil my last attempt to get my piece of paper. I’m also an avid people watcher and like to think a lot about what makes people tick…
I’m also blessed by the appearance of many interesting and complex characters who choose me to share their stories.
We’ve got time for one more if anyone has another question for Jodi.
[Comment From Trixy Trixy : ]

What kind of story are you writing for the next FFC?

I have two ideas kicking around in my head at the moment Trixy – both will end up being sci-fi I guess. One has an element of time travel and the other about the complex nature of love and regret. They are only seed ideas and the actual story has yet to come. I was lucky enough to have some pretty potent dreams while I was away over Easter.
And one more…
[Comment From Red Red : ]

How do you balance your publishing, writing and home life? Any useful tips for achieving the discipline needed to make it all happen?

It is like juggling – as friend once said to me – you keep your eye on the ball in the air…
I have to admit I get the balance really askew. I am lucky enough to have a wonderful husband and son who are ever patient and allow me to do what I do…
The only advice I will give – is make sure you give writing a priority status. Until I made writing a priority (and it was only on a Friday night!) it languished for a decade untouched. I am sad that I lost those years.
Well it has been wonderful chatting with you this morning Jodi. Thank you so much for getting up early for us.

And thank you to Robin, Trixy, Red and Jim (whose question was very similar to Red’s).

Thank you Tina… and thanks to those last minute questions!
You’ve just watched the interview of Jodi Cleghorn, who wrote the story ” The Chameleon” in the Theieves and Scoundrels anthology.

“Thieves and Scoundrels” is a publication of Canadian Press, Absolute Xpress. Stories were selected as part of AXP’s third Flash Fiction Challenge.

The anthology available from Amazon (US$14.95) or as an eBook from Smashwords ($3.00)


Time Is On My Side

…oh yes it is!

I refuse to think of myself as time poor. This is despite hammering down the door of a major deadline for the first of eMergent Publishing’s non-fiction clients, keeping the fires of Chinese Whisperings stoked, preparing for my first virtual book launch and trying to keep afloat in life. If I bring a poverty mentality  to my working and creative life I can’t expect keep my head above the water.

Yes – I’d like more sleep, yes – I’d like more time to read, yes – I want to spend time with my family and yes – I am yearning to write (especially since my kind characters chose this very week to reveal the previously hidden hooks of a story to me in the shower on Thursday) but this too will pass.

The non-fiction project is a planning text called ‘Gnarly Planning’ by the wonderful Dr Jane Stanley. The book is amazing and definitely not your run-of-the-mill university text. Instead it is  full of inspiring personal stories from Jane’s adventures overseas, humbling accounts of people making do with very little and lots of good old common sense, that doesn’t just apply to the area planning, so I’m discovering as I read and layout. While it continues to be a very consuming experience for me – the plethora of astounding photographs and the text in general keeps me going. It is the only experience of working/reading a non-fiction book where I have been inundated with waves of goosebumps.

Speaking of time –  tomorrow is my first time as part of a virtual book launch (Saturday for those folks in the Nth Hemisphere)  Absolute Xpress’ “Thieves and Scoundrels” anthology, which my short story “The Chameleon” is published in, is officially launched tomorrow.

There are two parts to the launch  – a rolling stock of  ‘virtual’ interviews with some of the anthology’s authors (12 authors, in 9 time zones, across seven hours) as well as an Amazon chart rush.

While I’m part of the virtual interview section – to promote myself, my story, my writing and of course the anthology, I’m also participating to see how it all works and what sort of fit it might be for The Yin and Yang books in October.

My “spot” is on at the following times:

  • New York: Saturday 6:45pm
  • Chicago: Saturday 5:45pm
  • Calgary: Saturday 4:45pm
  • LA: Saturday 3:45pm
  • GMT: Saturday 10:45pm
  • London:  Saturday 11:45pm
  • German: Sunday 12:45am
  • Afghanistan: Sunday 3:15am
  • Brisbane: Sunday 8:45am

I’ll be talking/typing about about my story, what I’m currently working on, my influences and what I find challenging about flash fiction. You can be a part of the author chats by following this link.

The other aspect of the launch is an Amazon chart rush.

To participate I’m asking my friends, family writing colleauges and blog readers, between 10am – 5pm Mountain Time (Pacific: 9am – 4pm, Central: 11am – 6pm, Eastern: Noon – 7pm, GMT: 4pm – 11pm, EST Queensland: 2am – 9am on April 11) to go to the Thieves and Scoundrel’s page and considerdoing one or all of the following:

  • buying ‘Thieves and Scoundrels’
  • view the ‘Thieves and Scoundrels’ page
  • add the book to their wish list
  • suggest to a friend

All these things will increase the book’s ranking on Amazon.com.

Now, speaking of time… I have some interview questions to get sorted and some sleep to be had.

Image: Temporal Paradox by PatsPiks via Picture Post

Friday Flash: The Rain

The two of them swayed down the alleyway, doing the drunken two-step, Hartog fighting to keep the older man on his feet as they came around the corner of the alleyway and out into the scrutiny of the main street. Hartog got his good ole drunk voice out and they were transformed into two derby supporters who’d returned from leaving their mark on the wall of the apartment building.

“What about them girls, eh?” Hartog said to the door man who raised one eye brow, as the two of them staggered through the door.

“Can’t say I know Detective,” the doorman said, the disdainful smile playing over his ultra bright teeth. “It may be the National Sport now, but myself sir, I’m a hockey man through and through. Good thing my father’s passed on. He’d be appalled to see what’s happened to the state of hockey in this country.”

“State of hockey, yeah,” Hartog slurred and dragged Joe off to the elevator before the doorman could draw out their exchange any further. Hartog had seen the way the doorman did it with other tenants when he was investigating something he considered awry.

“Yah – go girls!” Hartog howled just to piss the doorman off, who shook his head and picked invisible flecks of lint from his immaculate coat. The power punch punctuated the frigid wheeze and the doors opened and the two of them toppled into the safety of the elevator.

With the door closed, Hartog carefully propped Joe up in the corner. The old man’s head bobbed of its own free will as though the tendons had turned to rubber bands. The elevator groaned to a halt at the fifth floor, his head shot up and bloodshot eyes on Dirk.

“I wish I ha’ a son like you, Dirk.”

“No you don’t. Don’t mistaken random acts for kindness for some kind of inherent goodness.”

“Random acts don’ happen twice, m’boy. No… no, no they don’”

Hartog dragged him out of the elevator and tried not to think what three random acts of kindness would actually mean. Joe was his secret and no one need know – no one other than Joe’s daughter. Hartog was mentally pencilling her in for a visit tomorrow, as he keyed in his security code.

***

Benjamin looked up, squinting into the sun. His gaze settled on the top of the building across the road and the spinning turbine of the water mining units topping it like an architectural disaster. Round and round the blades went, faux momentum, because the trajectory never changed. Stuck.

As a kid he thought the city looked like it was trying to escape. He expected that one day the buildings would gather enough lift from the massive propellers and fly away. The buildings would flee to Somewhere Else. A place where the rain would wash away the City’s sins. Where wounds would be salved. A chance to recover and move on. The building would take him and Portia away with them and they would start again. A new beginning.

Portia had loved the rain. She was always reminding him how cathartic it was to cry. Mother Nature cried and she never got it wrong Portia said. Even now, knowing the flood of good hormones which would follow, Benjamin could’t bring himself to cry. To cry was to admit Portia was gone and he was all alone. That the small light, which had raged in his life, had gone out. But the battle was just beginning.

Portia never got over the fact it would never rain again. When the water crisis threatened to end civilisation as they knew it, some bright spark invented a system to mine the moisture from the air and turn it water. Atmospheric aqua mining upset the balance of condensation and evaporation in nature. Precipitation became a thing of the past – a meteorological relic. Portia was just ten the last time it rained – old enough to remember and forever miss it.

The last time rain fell she pulled on pink gumboots and jumped in puddles. Portia had said she wished she’d stayed out playing longer. If only she had known it was the last time. Benjamin knew all about last time regrets.

But Portia had never seen it that way. There was never time nor the inclination for regrets in her life. She’d believe the City had the ability to redeem itself but the city sucked the life from Portia and then spat her out in a filthy alleyway among broken crates and bags of garbage.

She had been too good for a place like this.

A job like her’s.

Maybe if only he could cry something would move inside him. His heart might actually break and if it broke maybe it had a chance to heal. Or the lump in his throat all these years, might finally choke the life from him.

What life it was.

Benjamin turned his attention back to the street level, and the ebb and flow of pedestrians stepping around him. A taxi eased into the lay-in and Hartog stood half in and half out of the taxi haggling over the fixed fare until he finally allowed the flustered drive to scan the back of his hand for payment.

Hartog stepped away from the taxi and glanced at the digital tickertape NewsFeed above the door of the bar and then to Benjamin.

“Slow news day?”

Redemption in an Alleyway (Part 5)

Blood Derby Redux (Part 4)

Blood Derby (Part 3),

Miss Amanda (Part 2)

In the Whorehouse (Part 1).