Day 27, 28 and The End #nanowrimo


The dawn of an all-nighter

Words for the day: 6341 (target was to finish)
T-shirt: It was a mismatched collection of warm and cool clothing
Best music vibe: “Beach” San Cisco

I’m writing this from the comfort of December. The adrenalin has worn off, as has the adrenaline withdrawal. I’ve been out to piss it up with jugs of sangria, I’ve slept and I’ve had enough days away from my characters to miss them terribly.

I decided on Thursday night while out walking the dog that I would pull an all-nighter and finish the novel. That was at about 9pm. I made the decision without the foresight to stock up on biscuits and chocolate and other necessaries to haunt the hours everyone else is sleeping through.

At 9:30 I put the coffee on, sorted out my writing space and sat down wondering what the fuck I was thinking. I was tired before I had committed a single word. I cranked up The Pointer Sisters, drank my coffee and chair danced until the coffee was gone, just to get the energy flowing. In my notebook I wrote down the scenes left and filled in some simple detail. I probably didn’t need to do it but again, it helped to get everything flowing. And I sat and wrote. Knowing I wasn’t coming up until it was done.

last brain stormI was lucky enough to have a friend awake and available on the other side of the world. He helped to keep me awake as the story slowly flowed out of me. As the bodies rolled, and the horror amped up, as I typed and typed and typed and typed.

Facebook looked something like this:

See you all at the next 1,000 block or next death. Whichever comes first. #mad#thisnovelendstonight

Three: three cold, twisted bodies in a pool of blood in an upstairs room. This brings the Count’s body count to four: four dead Dalhousians. *uhahuhahuh*

76,000 words lingering in the heat of Antoinette and on the cusp of the big flicking of the switch on the chronometric pulley and the next death.

77,000 words pass in a blast of cardiac flesh smeared on brass.

Oh, and one: one young woman once a bitch throwing a spanner in the words with an exploding heart. This brings the Body Count to five. Five dead bodies. *uhahuhahuh*

One: old man with a cold chisel through his chest ending three centuries of life and an epic love affair. This brings the Body Count to six: six dead bodies *uhahuhahuh*

78000 words slinks past in a hail of difficult words in the face of a no-win situation. What would you sacrifice for the person you loved?

One: a young man who gives his life for the woman who helped him find the way back. He rides out on a bottle of laudanum. This brings the Body Count to six. Six stiffs in Dalhouse. *uhahuhahuhah* And the death count ends. And the book not far away either.

It’s undisclosed as to whether or not I really did go a bit mad by the end.

Somewhere throughout the evening I found San Cisco and their song “Beach” and it went on loop. Became a bit of an end line anthem.

The End

At 5:11am, after going it alone for an hour and feeling as though I was writing from blood squeezed from my thumb, the last words were committed: THE END.

Screen Shot 2013-11-29 at 5.11.45 AMBetween Minutes came in at 79,153 words. There was absolutely no temptation to find a scene and flesh it out to make it 80,000.

It is currently safely tucked away in my hard drive and I’ll print it out when I get a new toner and do the cliched bottom drawer thing (hey, it’s my first novel!). The plan is to leave it there until February. I have my eye on a Writer’s Retreat at the end of February. If it comes off I will work the second draft while I am there.

In the interim I will continue to take notes about the characters, read A Christmas Carol and Pride and Prejudice and think of nifty ways to steam punk an average Victorian house.

Thank You And Good Night

There are so many people I’d like to thank that I fear I’ll leave someone out.

First up to Rus Vanwestervelt who was the original impetus to write this year (it was stubborn me who decided it had to be finished manuscript this year, not just an arbitrary word count) and who ended up being a just world-away muse, confidenté and one-man cheer squad.

Secondly to my Mr D’s who put up with a month of take-away food, a mostly absent mother and partner and just general weirdness from me.

Thirdly to Rob who let me prattle about all the broken bits and do what outsiders do best: pointed to the obvious connection between it all and gave the the road map to THE END.

Lastly to the support team: Stacey, Helen, Adam, Ben, Nichole, Rosemary, Jo-Anne, Daniel, Emily, Paula, Sean, Kat, Kelly, Monica (many of whom were also madly scrabbling for words) and all the people who read, liked and commented on the snippets that went up on Facebook, gave a cheer on Twitter or who generally just gave me a break as needing to be a functioning human being.

Screen Shot 2013-11-29 at 8.15.17 PMAnd to end it off, perhaps one of my favourite scenes amid the blood bath that came Tarantino style at the end.

* * *

He held the church door open for the Darlinghursts.The night air felt alive as Christian escorted the Darlinghursts out: warm and expansive and pure before the smells of Victorian life seeped in to crowd him.

“I’m unfamiliar with this part of town, Lady Darlinghurst. Where do you suggest a cab at this hour.”

“Cab? Dear boy, you expect us to travel home in a cab.”

She bustled off through the churchyard and as he followed, Magdelena slipping her arm through his bringing his momentum to a halt.

“One small kiss as a token of your affection?” she asked, closing her eyes and waiting for him to kiss her.

“Or as an act of good faith on the part of your patron,” Maelene added and followed her mother toward the carriage waiting at the front gates of the church.

Christian cupped one side of her face in his hand, closed his eyes and pretended he was kissing Tabitha for the first time.

“Mr Butler,” she gasped when he finally pulled away and he held her arm, aghast there really was such a thing as a swoon.

“Will you do my a favour, Maggie?” Christian asked.


“Do not come to the demonstration tomorrow. Forget you ever saw me, you were ever in that house and if someone ever offers your mother an investment that seems too good to be true, then it is. Don’t accept it. If you accept it you will end up destitute.”

He took the promissory note from his pocket. “If you don’t, in the future you will be cleaning the piss pots in Mr Ramsey’s house and your mother will be kneading bread. And for your sister’s sass will end with her having her tongue cut out.

“Mr Butler!”

“You are a sweet girl and your family would never have been dragged into this if not for me.” He executed a terrible bow and took his leave of her.

“But, Mr Butler. Tea?” Magdalena called as he walked away. “Perhaps next week.”

She was waving the promissory note in lieu of a handkerchief when he turned back and he shook his head. “My wife will be more understanding of that kiss if I don’t.”

He turned back to the church and kept walking, telling himself he’d done his best to save them.

Day Nineteen & Twenty #nanowrimo

days 19 and 20Every story has a dark night of the soul that the character must survive and walk out the other side, changed in some way, to complete their quest.

It wouldn’t be a month of intense writing without a dark night of your own (not that I was intentionally courting one – I’m not that much of a masochist!). The last two days have been that for me (don’t let the happy smile on Day 19 fool you!).

There are any number of reasons, catalysts and contributors to this (some I would talk about and others I won’t) but I am glad to say that through the doubt and the tears and the struggle through a bunch of behind the scenes stuff, I kept writing even when I lost faith. The story rumbles on, carrying me kicking and screaming where necessary.

* * *

“In my novel, he lies to her,” she said, her voice choked up. “It’s a blast furnace that destroys everything that tries to come near it. The lie is like a piece of rotting meat in the esophagus of their relationship. They’re both choking on it.”

The image evoked the carnivorous hourglass in his dream: Aliyah masticated in the copper jaws, Joshie drawn into it. And in all these nightmares, where was Tabitha? The woman whose red tresses ate her.

Tabitha with her fading, red hair bound up in an untidy mess, looking as though someone had pulled her apart and sewn her back together in a way that wasn’t quite right. Like Ramsey had said about being in love.

‘What’s the fucking point,” she swore. “You’re not even listening. One day, Christian,” she said, standing up half-dressed in her corset and skirt. “One day, I’ll become the thinnest sheet of glass. And I’ll shatter and disappear.”


Day Seventeen #nanowrimo

day 17Words for the day: 2276 (target was 2.K)
T-shirt: The Book was Better
Best music vibe: “Get Me A Macchiato, Pronto!” The Yacht Club DJs

This morning I left the house to get my words. A bit like yesterday, I wasn’t coming home until I had 2K. The only problems today weren’t just that I had a time limit and I had to also get groceries while I was out… the real problem was my brain was mash and I feared I’d hit the wall of my creativity. 50K in two weeks was tempting creative fatigue.

There are several days every month when my brain departs, my body shuts down and I’m best found on the couch or immersed in a book. I sleep lots. I expect nothing from myself. Yet yesterday I expected the biggest word count of this campaign.

And my primordial days kind of crept up on me, even though I was meant to be mindful of it’s sideswiping tendency.

It took forever to get words. To sink down.

It didn’t help that I found a glaring structural error in the book. I sent Christian below far too early. I need to space it out to build the tension – have him come up from the cave for Becca’s salon and disappear again. I have to build into the narrative the believability he’s doing something with Becca, or at the very least, make it look like Becca is chasing him.

So, in my mucky headspace, I took in the dark places that Tabitha goes to. It’s not a dreamscape like Jo goes through in Elyora, but the ethereal game of checkers Tabitha plays in the foyer with the ghosts of her children comes close to the storm scene in Elyora. The writing has the same lyrical horror of it.

I want to interweave her madness with Christians feverish work to prove himself to Ramsey. And in all of this two things are apparent: there is not enough of Ramsey (does this mean I remove him altogether?) and that I started far too early. I wonder if in the second draft the chop will be the first three chapters?

I need to plug all of this into Scrivener and begin to tease it apart so I can get the momentum rolling again for the ending.

And just when I think I don’t need any more threads I get the most poignant image of Maya at the grand piano in the drawing room playing. Ahhh – perhaps this is what might be seen during Tabitha’s lonely walks through the house at night.

Tonight I’ll leave you with the what goes down in the foyer in the dead of night.

* * *

The hallways were the highways and byways of Tabitha’s decay riddled heart at night. In the maze of thoughts they were unchanging, as she turned right and left, into parts of house she hadn’t even explored with Lucas. They called her into their embrace rather that sit alone in the room staring at the empty page and feeling the absence of her story as viscerally as the Christian’s.

But what was night? All the windows were clothed in heavy drapes to block out the inky void that lived beyond; a hypnotic nothingness beating a subliminal pulse. If you stared long enough into it, you would feel the ever so slight gravity, pulling you into it. She’d almost opened the window one night and climbed out into it, when it felt as though there was more beyond than was left within.

Night. Was it really night? What was night other than the absence of daylight and in the absence of daylight, could there be night?

The extinguishing of the lamps was hardly a ‘real’ night. False salutations of ‘Good evening’ at the dinner table when they arrived. ‘Sleep well’ when they left. If only she could sleep. The bed empty and cold and cavernous with only her in it.

Tabitha turned the corner and looked down the never-ending dark hallway, her PJs pants wavered in a breeze that skimmed the surface of the worn carpet.

A thousand other insomniacs, lost, wandering bare foot in the freezing cold, looking for their way home.

She followed the cold air and found herself at the door of Ramsey’s study. The handle turned and the door gave when she pushed it. The light from the lantern brushed against the walls like a paint wash over crayon. She remembered Jacqui thinking it was magic, the way her drawings lept off the page. The delight in her eyes.

“Mummy.” The laughter of children rang out from out in the foyer, small foots steps running, skipping, jumping. Ghosts playing hopscotch.

Her bare feet were silent on the black and white tiles. She moved from one thinking about how she had taught Louis to play checkers last summer while Robert was away.

“Crown me, Mum. Crown me, Mum,” he had chanted the first time he’d won through to the other side of the board.

Her bare feet slipped across the black tiles. Always moving diagonally. White feet, black tiles. “Now you can move forward and backward now.”

Forward to the edge of the board. And backward again. But no one here to play against. Just the good parts of her trying to hold out while the bad parts jumped her, and lined them all up out of reach. The good parts of her out of the game now.

“You be red,” he’d said. “I’ll be black. Then you can be black and I can be white.”

The cold burnt her feet and she started to cry.

There was nothing good left in her. Her children were ghosts from a life she wanted to escape. She had left them behind. Purposely.

You’ve forgotten your own children.

They’re home still. Asleep in the same minute I left them.

But you forget them.

The voices in her head tailed off until there was nothing. Just the cold press of silence and loneliness.

Day Sixteen #nanowrimo

day 16Words for the day: 8382 (target was reach 50K by the evening)
T-shirt: Fashion was less important that words today
Best music vibe: “Love Me Again” John Newman

I lay in bed half awake contemplating the possiblity of hitting 50K. It wasn’t something I had gone to bed thinking was doable but something in the haze of a 6am Saturday morning skim of consciousness, I thought it was.

I got up. I didn’t bother with a shower (I’m photographed again in my nighty!). I boiled the kettle, made tea and sat down. I checked my word count. I was just shy of 9K from the elusive ‘win’. Even as I typed, I wasn’t sure if I could make it. If I was setting myself up for disaster to even announce my intention publicly. Somewhere along the way I did.

Despite the eddy of arguments in my household and plans that shifted like quick sand, I left with a tissue drenched in ‘focus’ oil and headed to the Write In at Milton. It was my first chance to attend one and Mel did a great job of getting me sorted out with all my paraphenalia. Jon offered to put my catch up stickers on my card, until I told him I was waiting until I hit 50K. That was what I was there to do. And write I did.

If I had have been at home, you know, I would have wandered away and done washing, swept a floor, anything, because it was hard. It hurt. And when I realised that I was going to have to write the scene between Tabitha and the sculptor as my final scene for the day it felt like a cruel irony I would end up here.

It came with a silver lining. That scene in the sculptor’s lair is the only fully fleshed out scene in the entire short story. I copied and pasted it into my manuscript and reworked it to fit the new narrative. And then the end. Oh Christ! I found out exactly why she gave in and let him do what he did. While it’s no explicit about what happens in the end, you don’t need to be Einstein to work it out and perhaps that’s what makes it all the more horrible.

But I won’t leave that as my legacy at 50K.

This is the most I have ever written in two week (actually two weeks and two days). While I’m not writing this on the eve of the 16th day (I came home, sunk into a bath with a beer, tried to eat something and passed out in bed) I feel as though I can do a far better job of capturing it all with a brain that works.

I  know when writing is hard, it often means it is good, but hell…

Speaking of hell, let’s see what happens how Christian comes to sell his soul to the devil we will come to know better as The Sculptor (or John Hardgrave away everyone but Tabitha calls him!)

* * *

Christian knocked the scotch back and felt it curdle with the eggs in his stomach.

“That’s what I want to talk to you about.” He inclined his head to the book and the pages depicting breakfast that morning, sketched in. John would add colour later.

“I’d like to barter with you.” The words sounded ridiculous and he pulled at the place where his suspenders joined his breeches.

“Barter.” John took a slow savouring sip of the scotch.

“You want us all to sit for you. Tabitha refuses. She doesn’t want either of us to sit for you.”

“What do you have to barter, Christian?”

“I’ll sit for you,” Christian said rubbing his damp hands against the top of his trousers.

“And in return.”

“I want one of your sketch books. A blank one and a supply of pencils.” He knocked the rest of the scotch back and sat rotating the glass on the table top waiting for the reply.

“We are friends, are we not comrade. This seems a rather, formal request. I’d be happy to just give you one.”

Christian swallowed hard. “This is the only way it can be and Tabitha can’t know. She doesn’t want either of us in here.”

“Intriguing.” John poured more scotch for them both. “I generally ask that those who come here refrain from talking about what goes on in these four walls. I like to protect my subjects in that way.”

“And what goes on in these four walls?”

“Artistic surrender. On both our parts”

Christian felt a cold sweat break out over his body.

“Honesty. I demand honesty.” He sipped at his scotch. “What I produce is a multi-faceted experience. It is my story, your story and the story of us all reproduced in plaster and clay, in ink and watercolour. Art demands naked expression. It does not abide falseness.”

“I have nothing to hide,” Christian said and slammed the rest of the scotch back. “I’ve… been naked before. For. For Art.”

John poured more scotch and Christian saw the door open on the past, himself peering in: Aliyah passed out on a mattress, her long hair in a snarled halo around her head, hands and arms encrusted with oil paint; Grim plucking funk baselines in stained pair of Y-fronts on a battered couch, his chest gleaming with sweat and come down from the last hit.

“To show the good faith of our deal,” said John and the door shut. Christian was back in the messy studio a world away from that share house and his first and last taste of fame.

He placed the black sketch book on the table, several pencils alongside it and then topped up their glasses.

“For art,” toasted John.

“For art.”

Day Fifteen #nanowrimo

day 15Words for the day: 1487 (target was 2.5K)
T-shirt: It was write in your nighty morning!
Best music vibe: “Stonefield” self-titled album

“…sometimes it starts as a drop in the ocean and you don’t think too much about it. You don’t mean to hurt people.” Tabitha MacLeod

Welcome to the halfway point of the month! It’s hard to believe two entire weeks have passed by in a flurry of words and awesome camaraderie.

Today was one of those weird days where a scene came to me and I went with it, even though it’s from later on in the novel. Writing someone totally unhinged was a of fun, looping the conversation, riddling it with non-sequiturs, unexpected disclosures.

What I got out of the mouth of Lucas Hammond blew my understanding of the band apart. And now as I write (the morning after because my routine is totally shattered) I wonder if it’s the truth. Or if it’s a version of his truth which is so far removed from normality that it doesn’t matter is it’s actually true or not. It certainly makes the trajectory of Tabitha’s madness seem less extreme.

I put a small snippet up on Facebook when I was done yesterday and Lois Spangler commented: “I married him so I didn’t feel like a failure.” There is an entire social treatise wrapped up in this one line. And she is so correct. Only in this instance it comes with the added impetus of marrying someone so incompatible to escape the failure bred into her as a child who didn’t meet her parent’s expectations. Plus, in this paragraph I found out just what Robert does: a patents lawyer. As such they would be rolling in money!

I didn’t get back to the page in the evening. I spent the morning with homeschooling Mum’s at Alexandra Hills and the afternoon with Emily Craven. Both filled my soul so now, topped up with three rounds of awesome conversation (if I add in Thursday with Stacey) I’m word-powered to aim big on day 16!

Here is a little of the bizarre conversation between Tabitha and Lucas (Ham) Hammond.

* * *

“You come here too.” Tabitha startled and when she turned saw the slightly darker shape in the doorway.

“It looks that way.”

Lucas sat on the left hand side of her, the chair scraping through the night.

“I like to sit in the puppet master’s chair too.” Lucas drummed his fingers on the table top in an elaborate beat she struggled to follow. “We’re all his meat marionettes. He plucks the strings and we dance for him. Pinocchio Pinocchio, where art thou, Pinocchio.”

He moved about in his seat, the wooden structure creaking.

“You know where he keeps the booze. Something strong. Fuck, I need a hit of something.”

“I don’t know,” Tabitha said, feeling waves of desperation and something else peeling off Lucas. “I don’t come down here to drink.”

“Why do you come down here then?”

His hand fumbled in the dark and clasped around hers, cold and steely and sweaty.

“To be alone. It’s easier to be alone here than upstairs.”

“Becca and Gordy won’t let me back in there.”

The slow crush of his fingers around hers gave her every reason to think they were sensible in locking him out. But now he was in here. With her. “Are you scared of me? I can smell your fear.”

“How about we raid the kitchen.” The false lightness of her voice made her fear he’d see straight through it. “I’m starving and you know, I owe you for the night you brought me up food to my room.”

“Let’s make shadow puppets.”

He let go of her hand and she heard the scramble and smash of things falling, or pushed, dropped, from the sideboard.

“Fuck it.” More smashing.

Tabitha slowly slid the seat out from beneath the table. If she ran…

“Tabby, ahhh fuck it hurts.”

“Lucas?” She stopped trying to move away from the table.

“Did Christian fix that bath?”


“I think I want a bath. Will you run me a bath?” Tabitha guessed from the sound he was pacing. “The only thing I remember from MacBeth – Lady MacBeth all fucked up and scrubbing her hands. All of Neptune’s seas and all of that. I need a bath. Fuck it. Bath, yeah a bath. I wanna go swimming. But it’s too cold to go swimming. Yeah. Too cold.”

Tabitha sat afraid to break into his rambling conversation.

Day Fourteen #nanowrimo

day 14Words for the day: 2203 (target was 2.5K)
T-shirt: Another bikini day
Best music vibe: “The Mostly Come At Night, Mostly” Yacht Club DJs (aka the Elyora soundtrack)

My first day of cafe writing but it was underwhelmed by an (unrelated) panic attack on the way there. Once I’d finished writing I felt a little adrift. Having crossed the midway point it is all about things slowly going to shit. And it kinda of smarted to be in the middle of the first of Christian and Tabitha’s arguments.

The drive over to Stacey’s provided the headspace for what comes next. I can see Tabitha not necessarily wandering the halls alone in her madness but perhaps sharing it with Lucas (Ham) Hammond who has his own demons to confront. And then there is the back story of Christian, the one he hides very neatly from Tabitha, and how if he told her, there would be no way she’d ever think Christian was doing anything with Becca. And there is the looming big scene with the sculptor. I need to work out what comes between now and then.

There is still so much to write, but it is the dark twisted stuff. You know, the stuff I sink totally into. I will give Tabitha and Christian one more sweet moment, perhaps seen through the prying eyes of Ramsey (as I haven’t quite worked out how to wind his stuff in here yet?) Then its all about breaking it apart.

So today we meet (and then leave) Tabitha alone in the dining room, wrestling with her thoughts.

* * *

In the same chair Ramsey had held court from hours earlier, she sat shivering in her PJs, presiding over the huge table that yawned like a mortician’s slab before her. Slow moving shadows converged to perform an autopsy on her unreliable heart. To dissect and tsk over machinery made imperfect by doubts and failures and the inability to trust. To always and only ever believe the worst.

Go back upstairs. Stop the slow rot you’ve infected Christian with. Or he will morph into the villain you know too well.

Days 13 #nanowrimo

day 13Words for the day: 1344 (target was 2.5K)
T-shirt: Another bikini day
Best music vibe: Dire Straits

Bianca: Behind every engineer is an awesome woman who is probably smarter than him anyway. Just sayin’
Stacey: Except if that engineer is a woman. And then it might just be her mother behind her!

It’s actually Day 14 and I am trying to remember what the hell happened yesterday, other than Dave came home and the quietly and hardly cultivated routines all fell apart. Thus its 6am and I’m playing catch up before I go and dissolve into the novel.

Ahhh, yes. I remember. There was an outstanding spat between Tabitha and the Sculptor to engineer. And it was the toast the Ramsey give Tabitha that sets it off. Her rally against ‘the woman behind the scenes’. Like a few days ago, I was able to draw on information from, of all things, an Engineering documentary from 10 years ago and insert some feminist righteous anger about Emily Roebling who was the wife and daughter-in-law of the original designers. She is merely a footnote in the story of the Brooklyn Bridge even though she oversaw the construction of the bridge for 14 years (until completion), taught herself calculus and advance engineering design, project managed it from the day to day onsite issues to consulting with politicians, other engineers and the workers.

While I try and find my feet again, take in a little of Tabitha’s righteous anger as the scene is set up for these two to tear each other to pieces in the not too distant future.

NB: After getting all excited that I could roll out my second dare today, it’s been put back to another dinner party conversation.

* * *

“It’s a good thing, Christian’s not here,” the sculptor leaned in and whispered in her ear as the food arrived, placed at strategic locations along the shorter table.

“And how is that,” sneered Tabitha.

“Your opinion wasn’t asked for.”

“My opinion wasn’t, what?”

“Just saying.”

She glared back at him. “Just saying, what?”

“It’s not the time and place for it.”

“And where would be the time and place for it?”

All those times she’d sat back and said nothing. Hell, she would not sit back and say nothing. Or worse, apologise to this bohemian fossil.

“Your art.”

“My art,” Tabitha spat. “You are telling me I should sit here and allow terrible things be said about me and wait to write them down, deal with them when I get to the page, because… because then no one is upset by a little passionate debate.” Tabitha took a moment to catch her breath. “The very act of that, of waiting for the right time to bring it up, perpetuates all this shit.”

“Just saying.”

“So you said.” She took the lid off the turine and filled her bowl, thinking soup would be kinder on her stomach folded in on itself like a flattened origami figurine. She replaced the lid and turned to the sculptor who was helping himself to the warm bread rolls. “Perhaps you can do us all a favour and just say nothing unless you have something to add to the conversation.”

“It’s the typical response isn’t it, to batter down any dissenting opinion.”

“When your dissenting opinion is relevant and adds to the debate, I welcome your views. But you know what, I live day-in and day-out the dissenting opinion and I can tell you it does nothing to add to my life, or that of my best friend, or my daughter. Patriarchy is –”

“I was under the impression we were talking original thought. The patriarchy –”

Tabitha pushed her bowl away and the clear vegetable soup slopped onto the starched tablecloth. She pushed her chair out and stood.

“I’m feeling unwell,” she announced and walked out the door without a backward glance, her stomach erupting with hunger as the smells of dinner followed her down the hallway.