RIVER OF BONES: Life is a Highway

Road trips are a way of life in Australia, so much so Triple J and ABC Open ran the Road Trip Relay last year (if you needed proof of the institutional position of the road trip in Aussie culture!)

My childhood and adolescence are liberally peppered with road trips. No one lived closed to us when we moved out of Melbourne so we were always on the road. At 14 my parents sold up everything and we spent three months traveling up the east coast pulling a 32-foot caravan. Aged 22, I left Cairns to join my boyfriend of the time and travel the wheat harvest trail from Roma in Central West Queensland all the way down to Padthaway in South Australia (I saw lots of the country side at 25km an hour from the passenger seat of a combine harvester). The road trip is something I’m well acquainted with, and for which I have a deep abiding love of (wind in your hair, stereo cranked up, wide open road ahead), but River of Bones didn’t begin as a story about a road trip. It evolved into one.

WRONG WAY, TURN BACK

From the morning I took down my dream I knew the main characters in Elyora were a band. This gave them a reason to be on the highway. Originally I had them pegged as a young, sassy Melbourne outfit making their way north to Sydney. And then I travelled the Hume highway.

Most. Soulless. Road. Ever.

So it was a double take on where they were going and who they actually were.

BRISBANE 475KM

My in-laws are scattered across the New England Tablelands in NSW. The New England highway is the direct route there and cuts straight through the townships of Tenterfield, Glenn Innes, Armidale and a multitude of tiny little places with their own stories lingering by the side of the road. (Deep Water for instance has the great falling down Eclipse Theatre, the exterior a faded, peeling blue).

When the Hume Highway failed to inspire I knew the New England was a perfect fit. There are a plethora of little roads coming off it, unlike the Hume which is all big off ramps. Not to mention I knew the New England highway well and could immediately envisage Faunabate traveling down it.

2013-05-21 12.50.11Armidale was a starting point. It has a Uni, a social melting pot perfect for an emerging indie band but it was too close to where I wanted the band to turn off the highway (all spawned by Jo wanting to devour a meat pie at the Glenn Innes bakery to stick it to vegan Benny in her passive aggressive assault on him, which was cut in subsequent drafts but the location markers remained!)

I took the starting point further west to Tamworth and decided that Hal and Jo would be from one of the tiny towns along there (Jo from Nundle and Hal from Woolomin). In doing so I realised the band was more than just a creative outlet for Jo. It was her escape pass from the country. And I had underpinnings of what was to play out later in the narrative – the irony of claustrophobia in a vast landscape.

IMG_2240The additional benefit of Hal and Jo as country kids was the impact of their reaction to Elyora. They are both well versed with rural economic degradation and isolation, of being in parts of the country where there is no phone service, so their entry into Elyora is not simply city meets country culture shock, but a deep sense of something being intrinsically wrong there.

I KNOW WHERE ELYORA IS

This is what Dave casually said to me on our trip to Gloucester in January and there was an immediate shiver down my back.

Although I see Elyora Road and all the buildings along that decrepit strip of tarmac as clearly as any of the other almost dead country towns I’ve been to… I’ve never believed it’s real. That’s just crazy talk.

“What are you talking about?”

“I know where Elyora is,” he repeated.

“It’s not a real place.”

“I know. But I know where it would be. Want to go there?”

Did I really want to turn off the New England highway in search of a proposed version of Elyora? Surely one learns lessons from their writing? Surely. Especially when one has also watched The Cars That Ate Paris.

Curiosity killed the cat…IMG_2339We stopped in Ben Lomond on the way back to Brisbane, when I’d got my head around tempting fate. I felt more than a faint tremor of filthy anticipation in the pit of my stomach as we drove down Ben Lomond road. The only thing that stopped me from freaking totally was the fact I videoed the whole thing, you know, in case I ever needed a book trailer.

ALMOST BUT…

No town is every going to look exactly like Elyora… it is a mash up of elements from all the tiny country towns I’ve ever been to, but there was one house there that gave me the absolute willies.

IMG_2341The town also has three churches. One of them totally cordoned off so you could only peep at it from the road.

IMG_2356One with weeping angels in the graveyard.

IMG_2361I’m glad we visited without incident but now, every time we drive past I get the icky feeling on the back of my neck that perhaps Elyora does lie down the Ben Lomond Road. Lord forbid I ever hear stray strains of The Andrews Sisters as we drive past.

2013-01-06 13.05.30AND ACROSS THE DITCH

It wasn’t just the aspects of rural NSW that shaped the characters and narrative in River of Bones. Tomorrow I’ll talk about how finding the perfect monster fed and expanded additional locations central to the novella.

We’ve all been to ‘one of those towns’… where the twang of banjos claw at the back of our brains. Where is your Elyora?


Thank you to everyone who has Tweeted, Facebooked, downloaded and talked to others about River of Bones. As this goes to press the novella is #6 on the free US charts under the horror sub-genre of the occult and #9 in the UK free horror charts.

RIVER OF BONES: Dream a Little Dream

River_of_Bones2RIVER OF BONES, my supernatural thriller, is free for the rest of the week. You can pick up your copy at Amazon UK or Amazon USA (best for Aussie readers). To coincide with the giveaway I’ve lined up a series of blog posts to take the reader behind the creepy exterior.

IT BEGINS…

…in 2011, in a chalet in the middle of nowhere–a place four hours west of Brisbane called the Bunya Mountains. Amid the towering ancient Bunya Pines, and cold, howling winds, I tried to reconnect with my writing via Natalie Goldberg’s WILD MIND. While my Mr Ds were off exploring I’d spend an hour reading and work my way through the writing prompt for the day, scribbling with mad abandon in a tattered red exercise book.

In the earliest pages are two dreams: the first about an overburdened lint filter (looking back it’s the perfect metaphor for how I was feeling at the time!); the second, an epic dream in technicolour, twisted and distorted as all good dreams are. I remember waking from it knowing there was more than a kernel of a story idea.

TO DREAM, TO WRITE

21st of August, 2011

Last night I dreamed about a place–with dilapidated houses. The fist one had a grand driveway and stone pillars which would have once held an impressive gate. When you looked up the hill there was nothing. You expected to see a grand old house–in good repair or falling apart–but there was nothing of the sort. At the top a neat chalet with the lights on.

Further on there were tumble down houses, over grown yards. One house was three storeys high at one end, two at the other, white weatherboard, ugly, ostentatious in the fact someone felt the need to build a third level to an extremely ordinary and ugly house.

There were men living in the town and a ramshackle service station–the old sort with a shed like store and two pumps out the front. In the drive way there was a hippie stand of food, festive flights festooning the drab surrounding giving it all a surreal look.

Walking up to the hippie food stand there were large goodie-balls rolled in coconut. I wanted to buy one but the stall holder told me they were specifically for the IT people who were coming (a hang over from finishing Snow Crash yesterday?)

In the forest there was a water hole fed by a creek and in the water hole were mermaids who lured men it to swim with them. When they did they were caught forever to live in the tiny town. There was one woman and one child–a merchild. She was forced to give up her tail to raise her child on land.

(Realised my people travelling through are musos–in an old town that breaks down. My MC is the only other woman in the town–the male band members lured there. The town of Elyora is not even on the map. The woman with the child had the name Elyora–decided it made a funky, weird sounding name. The sort you’d find in the middle of nowhere–travelling between two towns).

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW

I unearthed the old exercise book several weeks ago. I was amazed at how much of the dream I recorded and how much of the original dream made it into RIVER OF BONES/ELYORA (anyone who has read it, will pick up the crossovers immediately). What I had forgotten were the strings of festive lights, the hippies, the goodie balls and the IT folk. Though I’m certain the wait for the IT people to arrive is probably the foundation for the Government facility on the other side of the river. Ironically anything that may have had a hint of lightness/happiness was exorcised. Well, I did set out specifically to write horror!

I’d also somehow forgotten, in the search for the perfect monster, that I’d started off with mermaids and a female mermaid forced from the river to care for her baby on land. That shocked me (how fragile the memory is!) The boy child laid unconscious foundations for  Gus and the mother’s ‘enslavement’ (being forced from the river to raise the boy) the forerunner of what waited for Jo on the other side of her fever in the Elyora homestead. Funny how things lurk even if they’ve been jettisoned from the conscious part of the brain.

INDEBTED

It’s so rare for me to keep any kind of record of what I’m writing. I’m so grateful for the hand scrawled dream and the record of the earliest word counts on the original draft. Writing on the original draft ended on 1st September with 5953 words.

With the birthpunk novellas I’m mindful of keeping some kind of recollections of the journey. Whether they’ll inform anything in the future other than my own keepsake, remains to be seen.

Do you keep a record of what you are writing? What inspired/shaped it? Do dreams inspire or inform your writing?


Download your free copy of the Aurealis shortlisted RIVER OF BONES (Elyora) now at Amazon UK or Amazon USA. For those who read the novella in it’s first incarnation as ELYORA, the new opening expands the characters of Mrs Briggs and Stanley Blessing in a stand alone piece of flash fiction.

Eighty Nine

Available today in full and free at Amazon USA and Amazon UK.

When it came time to create the third Literary Mix Tapes, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do an actual “mix tape” and base it in a single year.

I chose 1989 for many reasons, but the core of the inspiration came several years ago when I ran across someone from my high school days on Facebook and I was given a small insight to what might have been that year. A novel idea immediately followed, but in the interim I created EIGHTY NINE and wrote “Cocaine, My Sweetheart” which is a small glimpse into what that novel might be one day.

A Playlist of Champions

I asked all the authors from Nothing But Flowers if they’d nominate a song from 1989. Those 26 songs created the backbone of the anthology. There is everything from Bon Jovi to Bob Dylan on the list… and just about everything in between, from hit to obscurities. I contributed Deacon Blue’s “Real Gone Kid” and I find myself wondering what Rebecca Dobbie may have written had I chosen Madonna’s “Express Yourself”.

Constructing EIGHTY NINE

The interpretation of the theme by the authors is as varied and colourful as the music and events of the time. ~ Alan Baxter

I struggled to succinctly articulate my vision for EIGHTY NINE. I started the project just before my first fall into depression last year. It was frustrating when the concept for Nothing But Flowers had been so easy to share. So I told the authors they had to create a story using:

  • the song they’d be randomly assigned
  • an event from 1989
  • spec-fic parametres

A Rolling Stone Gathers….

By using lyrics to inspire authors, editor extraordinaire Jodi Cleghorn has compiled a body of work that doesn’t have a single cementing theme… In a way it led to the creation of its own theme: a bunch of writers having a whole heap of fun. ~ Zena Shapter

It was one of those experiences (of which I seem to be accumulating) where stepping away from the concept allowed authors and their stories to blossom across genres which include, but are not limited to, alternative history, horror, science fiction, urban fantasy, paranormal fiction, cyberpunk, ghost stories and modern mythology.

Who You’ll Find

Journeying into worlds populated by book-burning terrorists and shape-shifting political activists, by ghosts, vampires, devils and a cybernetic freedom crusader with one last trick to play, “Eighty-Nine” is a testament to the imagination. ~ Zena Shapter

There are some brilliant characters in EIGHTY NINE: creepy wax workers, a lost Russian soul, a revolutionary who is more than the sum of his parts, a Japanese seer who is consort to the Emperor, a band of futuristic criminals looking for the ultimate jailbreak, a book-loving air-guitar playing priest, aliens in the skin of secret police and a vampire with tragic imprinting.

Some of my all-time favourite stories are in this anthology. It was a pleasure to publish stories from a number of authors I’ve worked with for a long time, who really producing tour de forces for this anthology.

Why Am I Blathering About EIGHTY NINE?

Today for the first time EIGHTY NINE is available in full and free at Amazon USA and Amazon UK. You don’t need a Kindle to read it. You can read it on your phone, tablet or computer with a quick click of one of the nifty Kindle apps.

So you want the official low down…

Blurb (abridged)

Eighty Nine re-imagines the social, political, cultural and personal experiences at the end of the decade which gave the world mullets, crimped hair, neon-coloured clothing, acid-wash denim, keytars, the walkman, Live Aid, the first compact disc and MTV.

Table of Contents
Ashes to Ashes – Adam Byatt
Shrödinger’s Cat – Dale Challener Roe
Diavol – Devin Watson
Nowhere Land – Maria Kelly
Chronicle Child – Lily Mulholland
Angelgate – Tanya Bell
All I Wanted – Rob Diaz
Drilling Oil – Kaolin Imago Fire
30 Years in the Bathroom – Icy Sedgwick
Amir – Benjamin Solah
Over the Wall in a Bubble – Susan May James
Disintegration – Stacey Larner
Choices – Laura Eno
Divided – Emma Newman
Blueprints in the Dark – Rebecca Dobbie
Eighteen for Life – Jo Hart
New Year, Old Love – Jim Bronyaur
Solider Out of Time – Laura Meyer
The Story Bridge – Josh Donellan
If I Could Turn Back Time – Alison Wells
An Exquisite Addition – Paul Anderson
Maggie’s Rat – Cath Barton
The Banging on the Door – Jonathan Crossfield
Now Voyager II – Monica Marier
Cocaine, My Sweetheart – Jodi Cleghorn
Paragon – Jason Coggins

Go forth and enjoy some truly amazing stories and if you are inclined, consider leaving a review or rating on Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Goodreads.

Next week’s free promo is Emma Newman’s FROM DARK PLACES. A truly nifty pick up considering the gorgeous Emma has just signed a three book deal with Angry Robot for her Split World project (which is the world her story, Divided from EIGHTY NINE, is bound in).

Chinese Whisperings Anthologies Free on Kindle

https://jodicleghorn.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/free-funrocker-com-08.jpg?w=270

FREE! Yes, you read correctly. For the first time The Red Book and The Yin and Yang Book are free and complete. But only for the next 48 hours on Kindle. For those of you late to this blog, Chinese Whisperings was eP’s publishing foray and became in imprint in its own right at the end of 2012. It’s actually out of The Red Book which eMergent Publishing was born. All our successive publishing endeavours have stood on the shoulders of The Red Book. It’s where I cut my teeth as an editor and found even when I had my ‘bad cap’ hat on, writers were willing to come back and work with me again.

Once we’d pushed the boundaries of short story form, the anthology structure and collaborative writing, we did it again with The Yin and Yang Book, taking interconnected to a whole new level of madness with 22 writers!

WHAT MAKES CHINESE WHISPERINGS ANTHOLOGIES UNIQUE?

Each anthology is a collection of interwoven short stories by emerging writers handpicked from across the English-speaking world. Unlike other anthologies, Chinese Whisperings is created in a sequential fashion and each story stands on its own merits while contributing to a larger, connected narrative. It takes around nine months to complete each anthology because of this.

The Red Book has each successive writer taking a minor character from the preceding story and telling their story as the major character in the next story. Each writer also references events from the preceding story to tie the ten stories together. The anthology can be read forward, or backward, and you can begin with any story you want because of its circular nature. (I’ll focus a bit more on The Yin and Yang Book tomorrow.)

THE RED BOOK

In a small North American university town ten lives are intersecting…

Miranda reaps what she has sown.
Mitchell understands there is no resisting fate.
Clint dreams of forging a violent destiny.
Elizabeth is about to make a discovery.
Robin hides a terrible secret.
Simon hasn’t slept in ten days.
Sam is pursued by nightmares.
Susie has lost everything.
David has just been found.
Jake atones for past evils.

Ten ordinary people struggling to keep their sanity in an insane world.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Eight other hearty souls set off on the initial experiment with us, including Emma Newman who has gone on to publish From Dark Places and 20 Years Later as E.J. Newman and is currently working on the Split Worlds series. Jason Coggins has gone on to write three series of Bloggin’ Brimstone. Tina Hunter  co-founded Tyche Books last year under the name Tina Moreau. All eight authors also penned stories for the Yin and Yang Book and many have contributed to Literary Mix Tapes anthologies as well.

Mercurial Jodi Cleghorn (Ed)

Something Mean in the Dream Scene Jason Coggins

Kraepelin’s Child Annie Evett

Discovery Paul Servini

Innocence Tina Hunter

Not Myself Dale Challener Roe

Not My Name Jasmine Gallant

Out Of The Darkness Rob Diaz II

Heartache Emma Newman

One in the Chamber Paul Anderson (Ed)

If your looking for a unique reading experience this is it. And for today and tomorrow The Red Book and The Yin and Yang Book are free. Honestly it doesn’t get better than that.