Farewell, Year of the Green Horse

godivaThe Year of the Horse was always going to be a wild year. I knew that from the outset but I was of the mind that with the reins in my hands, with firm goals, I would have some control over the wild energy.

The less than salubrious energy began with the arrival of my Lady Godiva necklace. She’d broken from the locket. In fact, when I looked closer she was only glued on. Barely held together and not crafted to make the journey. I should have taken it as an omen and done something radical to transmute the energy. By the time October rolled around and I finally replaced it with a jade horse, so much had already broken me. And the jade medallion lasted less than three weeks before it sawed through the leather strap (enough said!)

We all know how wonderful hindsight is. How we could have, should have, would have done it better if only we’d know.

BEYOND THE BREAKS

I don’t want to focus on the bad though. I have tried hard to keep the challenges of the year off the public radar to give me the space to deal with them in my own time and space, with the help of those I chose to confide in (my Furious Lovelies, Helen and Stacey, I would never ever have survived without you). When I sat down this afternoon to do a tarot spread to try and pick through what gifts 2015 managed to bestow, it was clear, there had been gifts some of which I could speak of here and others that I could not, so I will refrain from speaking of any of them.

What I can share is (what I thought was a small) list of things the Year of Audaciousness brought my way. Each in their own way asked me to be a little (or a lot) brave and bold. To take risks.

  • I returned to the QWC for the second year to deliver my editing and critiquing seminar. This year people turned up on the day in the hope that there would be no shows.
  • I taught two new courses: Intro To Short Stories (through a new partnership between QWC and the Brisbane City Libraries) and ‘Beyond Crossing the ‘i-s’ and dotting the ‘t-s’, my first corporate gig focusing on peer review and technical editing.
  • I wrote poetry throughout the year (sporadically but with intent).
  • I completed Post-It Note Poetry in February but compliments of a less than stable life at the time and breaks from social media I don’t have the combined efforts of my work.
  • I took the mic at SpeedPoets for the first time in April (and won to my absolutely gobsmacking surprise!). From then on I became as regular as I could, fighting back the overwhelming tide of depression and anxiety in my every day life to take the mic.
  • I took the mic for the Call Back finals in November where I performed Paper Mache, Body Warmth for Beginners and An Open Letter… I didn’t win but I made sure I did my best and I’m really looking forward to being part of the SpeedPoets community in the coming year. Having the finals at the end of the year kept me trying to write poetry.
  • I wrote a dedicated collection of flash fiction, ‘No Need To Reply’
  • I self published ‘No Need to Reply’ when it did not place in the original competition, and then only one of the stories placed upon the first round of submissions, that I would honour the collection as a whole and the time and effort that had gone in it, to self publish.
  • ‘No Need to Reply’ is the first publishing project to break even and some. The chapbooks outstripped the electronic sales about 5:1 which surprised me. This included busting the mockers and finishing a book cover with a friend from high school – something we didn’t quite manage with the paper version of Elyora that never quite made it.
  • I accidentally spawned the #6in6 challenge, on the back of the original rejection of ‘No Need to Reply’ and wrote 19,000 words in 6 weeks on 6 different stories.
  • The Magic Puppies (an online writing group) grew out of the original accountability post on Facebook about the #6in6 challenge. There are now 31 members and the original #6in6 challenge amassed an incredible combined word total and many of those stories have gone on to find homes with publishers. I had not planned on becoming a ‘group Mum’ but I relished the chance to support and encourage  creative from a diverse group of people. Especially watching one of my oldest friends, Kim submerge into this accidental tribe.
  • I was blessed to have champions of my work behind the scenes, from people within and beyond the writing circle I consider more family and less a loose professional configuration of like minded people. People who believed in me, even when I could not believe in myself.
  • I collaborated with Clare Jansen to write the interconnected story ‘Twenty Four’ – this broke all my rules of how and who you collaborate with and it was a brilliant experience.
  • I wrote three articles for The Writers Bloc (who are awesome – they pay their contributors). The Practical Guide to Beta read made their most read list which was humbling.
  • I subbed stories to pro markets for the first time. I found the submission process brutal, especially as I was struggling with depression. But it was motivating and I have no regrets at the insights which came out of it.
  • I wrote magical realism for the first time – best exponents of these efforts: ‘At Arm’s Length’, ‘Womb-of’Mine’ and ‘Poms and their Bombs’. Then discovered it’s a hard market to crack. But that’s okay, because
  • I made my first pro sale, to the Lane of Unusual Traders (the only market I desperately wanted to succeed in). ‘Womb-Of-Mine’ is an unsettling exploration of  the power of women and their fertility in what will be my first published example of #birthpunk. It will appear sometime in 2015.
  • ‘Ambrosia’ was published in ‘Vine Leaves’ and racked up the honour of my first published poem.
  • ‘Paper Mache’ followed many months later taking the honour of first print publication in ‘No Need to Reply’.
  • My cricket story, ‘First to a Hundred’ found a home with Daniel Young at Tincture. It was a relief to see that it went somewhere, to editors, who loved it as much as I did.
  • I flew to Melbourne to attend Continuum for the first time, and had more firsts staying in the Con hotel, and rooming with Stacey and Helen. I shied away from putting my hand up only for one panel (to do with story telling outside the box) and it was a good thing. I spent most of my time without a voice (or attempting to cough up both lungs) which made all that bar chatter incredibly interesting. I came home and spent another 8 weeks with a voice who belonged to a two pack a day smoker.
  • My social glue was maintained by Furious Drinks once a month at The Fox. I went even when the idea of being near other people made me cry. It was my life line out of the hungry maw of suburban obscurity.
  • I spawned my first brand publishing project in more than three years. Later this year ‘My Heart is an Echo Chamber’ will come out – a sequel to ‘Not Need to Reply’ written by eight people close to my heart. Each story is a reply to one in ‘No Need to Reply.’
  • I returned to ‘work’ after two years rest I stepped up late in the year, to guide the Literary Mix Tapes Film Project to (almost) completion.This included a serious honing of my skills as a story editor, as much as it was remembering how a script is formatted. It also meant I was included (by proxy) in my first ever film shoot.
  • After five years of promises ‘this would be the year I finished my first birthpunk novella’ – I did it. On the 31st January, just before midnight I put the final words down on ‘Encursion’. It came in at 40K. It’s a solid first draft and I’m ready to tidy it up and get a second draft off to beta readers sooner rather than later. I can see how the second will shape up and from that the third and so forth. At the moment I have enough characters and narrative lines to write eight novellas in this world.

INTO THE FOLD

Sometimes its a long (very long) time between brushes with serendipity. So long that you forget the magic and wonder when it arrives. November hustled Nic Holland front and centre into my writing life and while he refuses to accept he took me under his wing, adopting me as his writing partner (which was honestly a bloody joke for the first two months – given I spent most writing sessions knitting instead of writing!) he pestered me consistently enough for me to park myself at my desk and write every day through January. Without Nic ‘Encursion’ would still be a 16K pipe dream on my hard drive’. And then in December, Linda Brucesmith quietly took a seat beside me, a seat I am sure has been waiting for her for some time. Our first coffee date lasted three and a half hours and it could have been twice as long.

There were long dinners and shorter coffees with Rob who has come to assume the position of extended family rather than friend. There were email threads with Stacey and Helen, sleep overs, game nights, life lines, dates by the river and all the things that best friends are and better than because these two wonderful women take me as I am and there is something liberating in being accepted for yourself. There were unexpected coffee dates with Clwedd; Melbourne adventures with Sean and Brisbane adventures with Jason; beers with Ben and the gang; beers and babysitting with Tom; brain storming sessions with Emily, along with a liberal dash of interior wall paint and Rowena returned from London to keep me company in the dark hours. There was Whispers with Nicky and the other part of the gang, NatCon planning meetings with Damon and Aimée, Angela was always at the end of FaceBook when needed, Alex and Paul always turned up at just the right time, Rus continued to inspire me from the other side of the world and Adam remained at my side despite the fact Piper’s Reach ended up on the back burner for both of us. And there were my Owlish-Elven sistas Kim and Cat who kept me entertained and sane through the festive season; Kevin, who kept pushing me to see my positive place in the world and Lois initiated me into the arcane pleasure of building worlds, when we weren’t building stories or growing ideas or doing any of the other half a dozen things we do when we get together.

THE VIEW FROM HERE

It’s also easy to feel like you’ve done nothing all year when your actual achievements deviate from what you set out to do. It’s why it might be self indulgent to write a list like the one. But essential in the bigger scheme of things.

It is easy to focus on only the terrible things and I could compile as impressive a list, but I don’t want to. My cards today reminded me that I’ve had significant shifts in belief and head space in the last 13 months. While the nagging fear I will disappear, swallowed by suburbia, never quite goes away, I no longer feel trapped here. I can take the changes in circumstances that have come with homeschooling and make them mine. I can reap advantages and rewards. I can shift boundaries so I don’t feel imprisoned. I can make my life my own. The past is gone and the future is impatiently waiting.

Rather than see myself as escaping a bad situation I can see myself emerging from it, not necessarily stronger, but tougher. As the final lines of the final tarot card said today:

… its time to move on. You’ll need help. Ask for it. Be brave. Be decisive. Feel the winds of change and gaze into a fresh future.

 

Six In Six

Weedy TypewriterI momentarily crawled out of my sick bed Friday to chase up what I hoped was not a rejection. Alas – another one. And with that it occurred to me I haven’t had a single short story accepted for publication all year. If I’m honest, I haven’t written anything that’s seen the light of day since 2012, given the year I had last year, my focus on longer forms and then this year my unexpected turn back toward shorter forms of the short and realism. It’s enough to sink you down into the deepest mire of despair.

And it did – for about an hour.

I decided to spend the next six weeks writing six new stories, because nothing blows away the cobwebs of submission doom better than new stories for submission (yes, there is a definite hint of masochism to it all that I am well aware of).

Making myself accountable, I went onto Facebook and declared my intention. This is when the surprising thing happened. Someone said they’d join me, then another and another. At the moment there are 11 of us hiding out in a closed group on Facebook ready to put pen to paper.

If you’d like to leak new blood onto the page, feel free to join us. It doesn’t have to be short stories – perhaps you have six chapters that you need to write or edit, six poems that have been aching to be released. I think we’ll be trading war stories on Twitter under #6in6 and on Facebook. If you are not inclined to join us, please feel free to bring your pom poms.

Ambrosia Published in Vine Leaves #10

vineleavesMy first ever poem’Ambrosia’ is published today in Issue 10 of Vine Leaves Literary Journal. I have to have a bit of a giggle, because it’s a love poem, but as far removed from the angst-ridden and terribly rhymed poems of my adolescent as possible.

The original imagery (of a woman in red stepping from a train onto a grey dismal platform) came in early December, not long after I’d finished writing my novel, my brain broke and poetry came out. While I had various lines of poetry, it took almost three months to bring it all together.

The line about the brulée I recited from Toowong to Wilston, down Coronation Drive, when it came to me en route from Stacey’s place to Lois’s in early February. As soon as I pulled into Lois’s I grabbed my phone and madly tapped the line into notes, so grateful I hadn’t lost it on the trip.

I share the ToC (and ironically, the same page!) with Adam – who also gets to claim the title of ‘published poet’ today. You’ll find us on page 23.

Vine Leaves is a free publication and can be read online with Scribd or can be downloaded as a PDF. Many thanks to the ever-wonderful Jessica Bell for taking a chance on the poem, and those in my writing group for their feed back (especially Stacey who went through it with her trademark brand of razor sharp editing).

I’m Not Afraid of my Big Bad Manuscript

…so what the hell’s wrong then?

I have been thinking a lot about fear the last week or so. I’ve been trying to understand why I can’t begin the second draft of my novel. I assumed I was afraid, after all, it’s fear* that usually roots me to the spot and renders me incapable of forward momentum. When I burrowed under ‘fear’ to try and find out exactly what it was that was holding me back, I came up with nothing. (And no, honestly, I wasn’t deluding myself!)

THE ART OF DISSECTION

Confused, I started to look at the problem from a different angle. I know a lot of what I wrote is last November is crap, but I also know there are some awesome gems in there, I know the story absolutely has legs and I know you have to start somewhere. I know the manuscript is riddled with plot holes and half-baked characters but I know with time, research and patience, I’ll work out how to fill the holes and round out the characters. In summation I know its going to require a lot of work to get it up to speed. I also know I have done it before and I will do it again.

BEYOND KEEPING IT SHORT

When I read through Dalhousie, the first thought was: oh shit I’ve done it again. Thrown words at the page in record time and now I have to make sense of it. Just as I did with Elyora. Sheesh, you don’t learn, woman! Six drafts is what it took to get Elyora up to standard. The idea of six drafts of a 80K length novel is absolutely daunting.

The moral of the story, which I pointed out to myself, is: I’m not lacking in a track record or the skills. I did it with Elyora and followed it up with Post Marked:Piper’s Reach. I have no doubts whatsoever the PMPR manuscript got at least six passes over it. Yet it never felt difficult, or arduous or consuming. I always came out of an editing session filled up, rather than emptied out. It came out better for all the rewriting.

So honestly, what the hell is my problem?

NOT DROWNING… MUCH?!

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 7.05.32 PMI’m overwhelmed (not scared) of what awaits me. There’s 79K crappy words and just me to get it tidied into a solid second draft. No one has my back. There will be no kooky Skype sessions. No-one but me will leave humourous or insightful comments in margin bubbles. While I have friends like Rob Cook to assist in untangling things, it’s just me and the manuscript right now.

I want to work smarter, not harder this time. I don’t want to have to do six drafts (but you know, if that’s what it ends up taking, so be it!) For a start, I want to somehow have it all straight in my head when I sit down to do this next draft to expedite the process; understand the characters and their motivations intimately, know how the clockwork mechanisms and the house works. I don’t want any more huge gaping structural holes at the end of this draft.

Consequently I’ve been kind of floundering. And as I’ve floundered I’ve let myself drift into any form of procrastination that will keep me safe from having to front up and sort out the mess. I’ve blamed it on fear, but fear has a new name. It has the correct name: overwhelming.

BEYOND THE NAVEL GAZING

What does this change? I’m still overwhelmed. A novel is big, really bloody big and I might not be able to fix everything right now. But… I can incrementally stick plot holes and characters in my head and mentally masticate them into shape.

Indries Shah’s said: Enlightenment must come little by little – otherwise it would overwhelm. Oh damn, don’t I know it! So I welcome enlightenment to come slowly and I’ll be ready for all it drops.

Then there was the wisdom of a midwife friend almost ten years ago: How do you eat an elephant?

I can take small, mindful bites at the manuscript. Not choke, trying to force more than I can cope with down my throat. I will do what I can, something small every day, until the momentum picks me up, my home life settles and my confidence bolsters. I’ll be the consummate nibbler and know, sooner rather than later, the second draft flow will be upon me, replacing this horrible sense of being buried alive by my own words! Then nothing will stop me.

*Thank you Adam for your article today, prodding me to articulate what was swirling in my head!

From Short Story to Short Story Collection (and all stops between)

An interview with Dan Powell

I’ve known Dan Powell since mid-2009. We stumbled across each other between Constantine Markide’s Fourth Fiction and the inception of #fridayflash. We were both relatively new to writing and wrote shoulder-to-shoulder through much of the second half of 2009. I greatly admired the scope and versatility of Dan’s writing. There seemed to be no style or genre he couldn’t turn his hand to with style and efficacy. In time we fell into a critiquing partnership that has endured the birth of children, moving countries, breakdowns, work pressures, time pressures, and all other things life can, and does, throw your way.

DanAuthorPicI’ve had the honour to publish three of Dan’s stories (‘This Be The Verse’, ‘Driver and the Beautiful Highway’, ‘Perfect Light’). He is an editor’s dream. In 2012 I had the opportunity to adapt ‘Driver and the Beautiful Highway’ for a short film script.

Behind the scenes I’ve had the joy of watching so many of Dan’s story grow and evolve and go on to find homes in magazines, anthologies and on prize lists. I tell in my editing seminars, in the section on beta reading, how Dan once sent me a story which was just an opening and closing. In the middle was a note: [something goes here. Do you have any ideas what it might be?] Those days are long past for Dan!

Dan’s work is uncompromising and at times uncomfortable in its exploration of taboo subjects or hidden ‘domestic’ situations. I have been disturbed and delighted by the characters and stories Dan has penned. In 2010 I (jokingly!) said to Dan: no more shit stories. Read ‘Soiled’ and ‘Did You Pack This Bag Yourself’ and you’ll understand the comment in context of a stay-at-home Dad going through toilet training!

Dan is one of my writing heroes: his dedication to the writing communities he belongs to (in the early days of the Friday Flash community he read and commented on every story, even when the list blew out to 70 odd stories), his dedication to the craft (his commitment to the Short Story a Day challenge back in 2010 was one of the catalyst in the evolution of his stories IMO), his dedication to Flash Fiction as a form (he has reviewed and shared countless stories from sites such as Metazen) and his work ethic (write, sub, and keeping subbing).

Then there is the huge investment Dan has made my work over the years as my crit partner. He knows my work inside-out and has consistently challenged me to write learner, harder and deeper. His editorial stamp is on so many of my stories, including Elyora/River of Bones.

Today it’s my pleasure to look across my desk and see copies of Looking Out of Broken Windows sitting there… and to grill him about the process of creating a short story collection.

Lou Reed said: I can’t do anything I want to. I mean, I can’t have my own TV show. I can’t have my own movie. But within my little world, no body tells me what to put on the album. It made me think of how writing stories is not too different to writing songs.

bookondeskThat is exactly what I love about writing. I write exactly the stories that I would love to read. That level of control is unique to the prose writer. Every other type of story-telling requires collaboration and as such means you relinquish some of that control, some of that freedom. I’ve written comic scripts and I love collaborating with artists and watching the words come to life in a kinetic fashion, but you cannot beat the raw freedom you get faced with a blank page about to be filled with prose.

I am genuinely excited by what I am writing about at any given time. You can’t beat that feeling of writing exactly what you want to write. Seeing that work go on to be accepted for publication and enjoyed by readers is particularly thrilling. It justifies all those choices, both conscious and unconscious, that you make during the crafting of the piece.

David Byrne said that sometimes there is an unconscious thread that runs through the songs on an album. The same could be said about writing short stories; that as writers we are drawn to tell certain types of stories and or give voice to certain types of characters. How indicative is Looking out of Broken Windows of the types of stories/characters you are drawn to and how did those stories influence the inception of the collection?

This collection is absolutely indicative of the kinds of stories and characters I was interested in exploring over the last four or five years.

I am drawn to the broken and damaged parts of people. In those aspects of character lie the real stories. All of the characters in these stories are a little broken, a little damaged and struggling to deal with the events and actions that have made them that way. This thread emerged in an unconscious process. Once I began filtering the stories during selection, it was very clear that a certain core group would provide the spine of the collection.

Being broken is a major part of the human experience. If you’re lucky you pick yourself up and carry on, hopefully with the help of others. This collection explores that side of being a person.

From that inception point, what was the process of creating Looking Out of Broken Windows? What was the hardest part and what was the easiest part of the process?

The short stories are the backbone of the collection. Once I had that group it was a matter of selecting the flash fictions that best complimented the stories.

The hardest part of the process was realising that certain stories just wouldn’t make the cut for the collection. I knew early on that a good few stories that I really loved, that I thought were good enough to include, just didn’t fit the overall theme and feel of the collection.

Looking at the collection now I can see that I absolutely made the right choices over what to include. And of those that it really hurt to cut, a good two or three have a firm place in the next collection, which they are perfect for, so it all worked out. Conversely, the easiest part was probably the removal of those stories that weren’t quite good enough.

LOoBW has 27 stories in it. How many stories did you have the pool and how did you choose what went in and what was held over?

I pulled the very best stories from the last five years or so of my writing to make up the collection. From a total pool of around 26 stories and 32 flash fictions I ended up with the 27 pieces in the collection. So by that reckoning, I trimmed away just over half of the stories that might have earned a place.

Most of those were cut because they simply weren’t good enough. Others were kept back for my next collection as they simply did not fit the emerging theme of this collection.

The real turning point for selection came with the writing of the title story (which was the last story to be completed in the collection). I knew as soon as I typed the final words that the collection had a story that would act as its figurehead. Once I had that, I had a title for the collection and the rest slotted into place.

Many of the stories in LOoBW were published previously in journals, magazines and anthologies. How does including previously published stories impact on the logistics of putting a collection together?

LOOBW lower res coverThat side of things was all very simple. All the stories were published at least a year ago and therefore out of any exclusivity that their previous publications claimed. For all of them I have copyright so that side of things was not an issue.

All of the stories that appeared previously elsewhere are mentioned in the acknowledgements of the collection, along with my sincere thanks to all the editors who championed my work by putting it online and in print. Their support was a crucial stepping-stone to this collection being accepted for publication.

Do the previously published stories appear as the fans of your work will remember them? Or did some require re-working to fit the overall feel of the anthology?

All the stories appear pretty much as they were originally published. The exception is ‘Did You Pack This Bag Yourself?’ which you will remember appeared in Chinese Whisperings interconnected short story anthology The Yin and Yang Book as ‘This Be The Verse.’

It was a story I absolutely needed to include, as no character of mine is more broken than poor old Calvinsweetheart. The rewriting was not about making the story fit the theme in this case, but taking the story back to its core, removing the elements that tied it in to the world of the Yin and Yang books, so the story could stand on its own two feet amidst my other work.

In the past when I’ve configured anthology ToCs I’ve been very mindful to place each story so it’s position amplifies the narrative but also builds the stories around it. Who decided on the final ToC order and how do you think your stories are altered/experienced differently in having them together in a single collection?

The final order of stories was totally my own decision. Salt are happy to trust their authors to shape their books. I think they believe that no-one knows the book better than the author and as such they give you a great deal of freedom regarding which stories you include and in what order.

I think my stories all stand up as separate pieces of fiction but hopefully, when read together like this, the reader will see the connections and resonances between the many narratives squeezed between the covers.

Hip hop artist Mos Def says all his albums are snapshots of where he is artistically. How is Looking Out of Broken Windows a snap shot of you are both as an artist and a person?

It is definitely a snapshot of me as a writer between 2008 and 2013.

All of the stories were written during that period and as such can’t help but reflect where I was at that time both as a writer and a human being. Many of the stories focus on the domestic, which is probably a direct result of my being a househusband and full-time-father during that time. It’s why there are so many stories about pregnancy and babies in the book, why there are so many stories about marriages, so many stories about parent and child relationships.

Are there any hints at what might be in your next collection?

My next collection is already taking shape. I have five or six stories for it already. This one is going to be all about the idea of masculinity in the 21st century.

It’s creative process is quite different as I have a clear idea of the general feel of this collection from the off and I am consciously writing stories that have something to say about that idea. Hopefully this will mean that this one won’t take so long to complete. The first of these stories, ‘Rip Rap’, has just been short listed for the Willesden Herald Short Story Prize. With luck some of the others will start appearing in publications and prize shortlists very soon.

– – –

Dan Powell is a prize winning author whose short fiction has appeared in the pages of Carve, Paraxis, Fleeting and The Best British Short Stories 2012. His debut collection of short fiction, Looking Out Of Broken Windows, was shortlisted for the Scott Prize in 2013 and is published by Salt. He procrastinates at danpowellfiction.com and on Twitter as @danpowfiction.

Dan is giving away a signed copy of Looking Out of Broken Windows to one reader of the blog tour; he will post to anywhere in the world. To win just leave a comment on this post or any of the other LOoBW blog tour posts appearing across the internet during March 2014. The names of all commenters will be put in the hat for the draw, which will take place on April 6th.

Looking Out of Broken Windows (Salt Publishing) hits the shelves Saturday 15th March. You can pre-order at the following locations:

The Salt store
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository

‘Nothing New To Begin’ Published in Tincture

…proving, yet again, my blog is suspiciously similar to a bus station platform

My string of vignettes ‘Nothing New To Begin’ is available now in Tincture Journal, Issue Five. I share the ToC with two of my PINPS colleagues: Stacey has the short story ‘Diary of a Tree-Sitter’ and Sean has a poem ‘The King’.

NOTHING NEW TO BEGIN

I wrote this piece back in August 2012 while Adam and I were in the middle of writing Piper’s Reach. I wrote it partly as therapy, partly to see if I could pull off the concept: each section a stand alone vignette, a snap shot of a moment, an ambigious  space for the reader to fill and be no longer than 250 words.

Even though they were all intended as separate pieces, I wanted them to fit together to tell an ever evolving and deviating story. It was a piece that I put through the beta reading wringer. I got a number of non-writing friends to read and comment on it before I sent it off to Dan Powell who expertly cut 250 odd words from it. Adam and Stacey all had input at varying junctures.

Here is a taster…

The silence of the car trip followed them inside with the chill of night air. She paused in the doorway then backed away, staring at the queen-sized bed. “I’ll sleep in one of the other rooms.”

A single bed had less lonely space to fill.

“I wasn’t suggesting…” he said, and she forced a smile to stop him finishing the sentence.

“Are you okay?” The car trip haunted her. How the conversation had petered out with the suburbs, becoming polite inquiries about the next CD and the best rest stops once they hit the highway. If she’d known it would be like this, the melancholy clinging to them like the damp sea air, she’d have never suggested it.

“We should eat,” he said. “Something proper.”

She nodded and watched him put his bag down on the far side of the bed.

Thunder heaved and the first iron pings of rain began to fall. An overhanging tree branch clawed the guttering. The window lit up.

“A storm?” he said, looking surprised.

“Of course a storm,” she said and placed her bags carefully on the other side of the bed.

Want to know what it is all about, how it ends. Buy your copy here for just $8.

Welcome, Year of the Horse

We are a week into the Year of the Green Horse and I am only now returning to this half written blog post to complete it (before there is a total grid lock of blog ideas and posts lined up behind it). This time last week I was running around preparing the fire for the backyard and writing out all the things I was ready to let go off. The pile was impressive in breadth and in stature, and didn’t just focus on the Year of the Snake. It was an act of complete shedding.

The Year of the Green (Wood) Horse

The Chinese have a brilliant take on the horse. It is strong and magical. The magical elements include the ability to fly. In Chinese mythology Kwan Yin, goddess of compassion, flew through the heavens upon a cloud horse to bring peace and blessings.

The year of the Horse is a time of victory, adventure, exciting activities and surprising romances. Decisive action brings results. Energy is high and production is rewarded. Under Horse’s strong influence, there is no middle ground. ~ SUSAN LEVITT

The Horse Year is also the middle of the 12-brand cycle and is the culmination of the preceding six years.

The Year of Audacious

godivaEvery year I purchase a medallion to wear around my neck. I’m not much of a horse fan (I was never that little girl who dreamed of owning a pony, who wanted nothing more than to speed across the countryside on a horse. In fact, if I am honest, horses scare the shit out of me!) So the idea of wearing a horse around my neck all year… I was a bit meh about it. A thorough trawl of Etsy turned up a locket that gave me the final hint for what the theme would be.

With Lady Godiva around my neck, the theme for the year had to be: audacious. (No, not naked!)

A quick flick through the dictionary turns up the following definitions:

  • Showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks
  • Extremely daring, fearless and brazen
  • Extremely original or inventive; unrestrained by existing ideas, conventions or propriety

After a year of being pulled inward, both by thematic intent and every day circumstances, I feel the need to break out. **cue Swing Out Sister** Given two of the definitions include the word ‘extremely’ and Levitt says there is no middle ground, I’m preparing for one hell of a ride on the back of my words this year.

In Essence

I’m steeling my resolve to push the boundaries of my writing and myself, to be open to take risks small and large. In action it means chasing down the dream in reality: writing and submitting like a professional, securing an agent, promoting, communicating, getting books into the hands of readers (whether they be my books or those of my friends). I am committing to being brave and present and accountable for what I do (and for what I’m not doing). For the first time, I am giving myself an entire entire year to take my writing seriously. I will not allow my best efforts to be undermined by fear [insert any number of them here]. I am busting through everything that stands in the way of what I want to achieve.

In Business

It will be another year of hiatus for eMergent, (although there are two more books scheduled for release, but no new eP generated projects). While there is an itch to return to editing, it’s not strong and there remains a lot of uncertainty in the family realm. What extra time I do have at my disposal will be invested (at least in the next few months) in securing some freelance typesetting/ebook design work to help cover the cost of Mr D’s new schooling arrangements.

Slated Projects

A list of projects/goals is always a good start. While I know goals need to be SMART, for now I’m not attaching time frames on them other than to have Post Marked: Piper’s Reach ready for submission by the end of February and to have the second draft of my novel done by April, in time to swap with Dan.

  • Complete, ready for submission, (still unnamed) gothic horror novel — including adjunct projects.
  • Brainstorm stage play adaptation of novel.
  • Shop Post Marked: Piper’s Reach to agents and publishers.
  • Complete radio script and record the Piper’s Reach chapbook
  • Complete, ready for submission, Encursion and first drafts of another two birthpunk novellas.
  • Write and sub one short story and one poem every month.
  • Make a pro short story sale.
  • Get my first poem published.
  • Complete first draft of Elyora screen play.

And the Year of Audacious begins with an invite to read at the Queensland Writer’s Centre’s first Whispers salon this weekend at the State Library. If you are looking for something to do Saturday afternoon, swing on by and listen to a bunch of super talented Queensland authors read. I’m sharing the stage and the theme of ‘false starts’ with Emily Craven, Lee McGowan, Kim Wilkins and Robert Morton. The event kicks off at 3pm at the State Library Café.