Day Ten #nanowrimo

Day 10Words for the day: 3851 (target was to reach 30K)
T-shirt: Infinity
Best song vibe: More of The Preatures (this is getting a bit ridiculous!)

Hello and welcome to the end of the first third of NaNo. I reached 30K today (30623 if I’m going to be pedantic about numbers). I’m ahead of the word count for 50K and for 75K. That’s a good feeling.

What’s less of a good feeling is the realisation I have a lot to pack into the next 5-7K in order to line the events up for the mid point switch back. After feeling like it was taking forever to get to where I wanted to go now it’s like arriving far too early. So I need to sit down and think hard about what needs to play about between the first dinner party and Tabitha’s visit to the sculptor.

I knew there was something not quite right about the trajectory of Tabitha and Christian’s sexual relationship and I think I fixed that up today. Added an extra scene in and now I think it is a smoother transition.

I’ve ended today with all residents sitting down to their first fancy dinner. Christian and Tabitha are playing a married couple to conform to the protocols of the house, Becca has been running off at the mouth and I’m still unsure how the character of Marie fits in. I keep thinking there needs to be two of her to get through all the work that is required (and that just gave me a brilliant idea).

I’ll leave off with the horizontal folk dancing for a bit and leave you with a sweet and tender moment. I’m intrigued at how all these moments come via Christian and not Tabitha!

* * *

A shiver ran down her back.

“Someone walk on your grave?”

“Just me stepping over my dead thoughts. The bits of me I left behind to come here.” His stroked the side of her hip and moved his hand down to settle on her stomach. “I think the silence might have crushed me if I’d come here alone. I thought I could do it. But I don’t think I would’ve survived.”

“You would have done it. You are stronger than you think you are. The waif of a girl I knew at high school, she grew into an amazing woman.”

“But Robert –”

“You can define your life by your past or by your future.”

“What am I to you? Past or future?”

“You are and have always been my present.” He reached up so his hand nestled on top of her heart, the pound of it an aphrodisiac of a different kind. “You are the gift of life. You made me feel alive when I didn’t even realise I was dead inside.”

“We’re not going to come out of this the same people we went in, are we?”

The rhythm of her heart beneath his hand sped up. “Probably not.”

“You remember how I asked you when we’d know it was the end?”

“And I said when it was the end. I was trying to be all philosophical for you. I thought that was the sort of person you’d be attracted to.”

“I was only ever attracted to you, not some other version of you.” her hand rested over the top of his. “I think it’s only now that it’s starting. Everything else was just prologue.”

“Then let’s just be happy then and not worry that every prologue is bookended with an epilogue.”

“Is that you trying to be philosophical again?”

“No, that’s just me being wanky and thinking shit aloud that was probably best unsaid,” he said, kissing her shoulder.

“Speaking of the unsaid, do you see the light in the walls?” Tabitha asked, rolling away from him so they were looking at each other through the void of the darkness. He felt her fingers on his cheek bones and on his lips.

“I don’t see anything. It’s dark.”

“The light moves through the walls like clouds across the sky,” Tabitha said in a drowsy voice that like the night before, felt like it came from a long way off even though he felt the words on his lips. “I saw one that looked like a rabbit.”

“I only see you.” He moved forward until his lips brushed hers.

“What do I look like in the dark?”

“Perfect,” he said, kissing her harder.

The only protest, when he lifted her leg up over his and he slid slowly into her, was from a body that was two decades too old to keep pace with his desire for her.

“We’re in no rush,” she whispered as if she’d heard his thoughts and he surrendered to the motion of two bodies learning to fit together.

NaNo Bound

nanowrimo2It’s time. Time to return to the madness that is the National Novel Writing Month.

Last year I had spent most of the year writing and had just completed the final edits on Elyora/River of Bones and didn’t feel NaNo was the thing for me. I also spent the first ten days travelling and I just wanted to enjoy the time away. In 2011, NaNo was the straw that broke the camel’s back (so to speak). When I had to concede I just couldn’t write and I pulled the pin less than half way through it was like pulling the pin on a hand grenade and I imploded. It was the start of the second serious bout of depression I suffered through in 2011.

Ironically, what I wrote in the year I didn’t ‘win’ provided the only published work from a NaNo adventure to date. A section of the opening story in Seeker Lover Keeper became the vignette ‘Intersected’ published in the first issue of Vine Leaves Literary Journal.

In 2013

So this year, I’d been toying for a bit as to what November would hold for me. Would I? Wouldn’t I? It was seeing that Rus Vanwestervelt was planning on doing it, that pushed me over the line. I needed a writing buddy. Someone I could confide the dark corners of the story to. Someone I know who will be an awesome inspiration. And that’s Rus and more.

The plan is to write a novella length adaptation of my steampunk romance ‘Between Minutes’. From my NaNo pages:

A passionate love affair.
An impossible house.
The opportunity of a life time.

The six-week creative programme offered at “Dalhousie” is like no other in the world. Tabitha’s offer of a place in the programme is the opportunity she and her secret lover, Christian, have dreamed of. A chance to escape into a Bohemia of naked passion for music, words and each other, where the pressures and frustrations of their suburban lives have no place.

But Bohemia has its limitations. The claustrophobia of the house and it’s Victorian workings, fuelled by Christian’s obsession with the future, Tabitha’s entrenchment in the past and the competing motivations of the other residents, threaten to unhinge their sanity and commitment to each other.

When Tabitha is called to honour the undefined debt in her contract, the cost of the residency will be more than a minute of their mundane existence on the outside.

Born between the promise of mad machines and crumpled sheets, “Between Minutes” is a dark, erotic meta-steampunk novella of cognitive dissonance.

It’s not a perfect little (*cough*) blurb but it is a start. I haven’t yet decided if I will go toward the romance, happily ever after bent, or the darker horror version. The original short story walks the path between the two.

Ready, Set…

With less than half an hour until kick off I am happy to say I have:

  • an extensive playlist of early 80’s music (it all started with a single Kids in the Kitchen song!)
  • a tidy writing space
  • the relevant bits of the original story (and it’s plethora of earlier drafts) printed off
  • ‘What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew’ bought and loaded onto my Sony

And the best bit of all, this close to things starting… the characters have begun to talk. I always imagined it beginning with Tabitha talking with her closest friend Mish and that’s where I’ll be beginning tonight.

Throughout November I will be snapping a photo a day, noting the tshirt d’jour (sadly I don’t have 30 different ones but it will be close!) and hopefully putting up a snippet of work.

The plan is to write every day, in the morning. I know it is possible.

Do I want the 50,000 words? Well yeah, that would be nice but more important to me is a completed novella. I am aiming for 30,000. It may end up at 40,000. It may go all the way to 50,000. Anything is possible. If I finish with words to spare I will jump back in to my birthpunk novella.

Now… time to go boil the kettle, do a dozen start jumps and wake myself up, ready to put the opening pages down before bed tonight.

Thirty-Eight Degrees South [FGC#2]


This week’s challenge: write a contemporary romance, open form, maximum of 2500 words.

Heidi stopped at the caravan door, looked at the pile of showering paraphernalia in her arms and sighed. Why bother? Solace wouldn’t be found in a caravan park shower block, the first week in January, with a whinging five-year-old in tow. It had taken the first real sleep-in for six months to see the stupidity of forcing her home routine here. Besides, it was after 10.00am. If they hurried they might still beat JayDee and the girls to the beach.

“How about we skip a shower?” she said, heading back into the caravan and dumping everything on their unmade bed.

“No shower. Woo hoo!” Joel hooted, breaking into an impromptu victory dance.

“Yeah love, no shower. Reckon you could handle going straight to the beach?”

She laughed at his exaggerated air punch and “Yesssss!”

“How ‘bout you get our swimmers off the line and I’ll pack some lunch.”

“Sure Mum.” He whistled, bouncing down the stairs of the caravan, the semi-musical hiss stopping as he negotiated the plastic strips hanging in the door, moving from happy bard to stealth operative in a heartbeat.

Not for the first time, she wished she could be more like Joel, less like herself: go from one thing to another with little thought to what was left behind. Baggage made you look back and it came with responsibility, with being an adult. And now there was just her. She didn’t know how to balance responsibility with fun the way JayDee did it. But she was trying.

“Mu-um. JayDee’s here.”

“Crap!” She grabbed a robe and tied it over her pjs. “Hi,” she said, poking her head into the annex, affecting nonchalance she didn’t feel. He stood in the annex door, sunglasses pushed up above a faded cap, a smile on his tanned face. So at ease in the world—so different to Elliot.

“You left this last night,” JayDee said, holding up her cake plate. “The girls ate the rest before we got up. Best breakfast ever they said.”

“Wish I could eat mud cake for breakfast,” she said, her face relaxing into the smile she’d come to associate with JayDee.

“Hey JayDee, we’re going to the beach without a shower,” Joel said, his eyes full of excitement, and Heidi didn’t know if it was missing a shower or the unexpected appearance of JayDee.

“You have a shower before going to the beach?”

“Not anymore,” Heidi said, reaching down for the swimmers and towels in Joel’s arms. “Where are the girls?”

“My parents took them to Lorne for a picnic. I thought, perhaps I could take you and Joel out for brunch?”

“Brunch?” She couldn’t remember the last time anyone asked them out for a meal. Now two in the space of 24 hours.

“If you’re busy—”

“No. No we’re not busy. It’s just—”

“Why don’t I take Joel up to the bouncing cushion and let you have a shower in peace?”

Heidi laughed and ran a hand through her tangled hair. “You don’t know just how good? that sounds.”

“Maybe while you’re gone, you’ll think about coming with me to the surf club? They’ve got a live band tonight.”

“Out, I—”

“My folks offered to have Joel. The old man would love to have him over again. I’m a bit of a disappointment, you know, producing three daughters.”

“Can I Mum? Pah-lease. I wanna go.  Pah-lease? Granddad Keith rocks.”

“I don’t know if I can ask them to do that.”

“Mum can I?”

“You didn’t ask—they offered.”



“Joel, please, just give me a moment.”

“Hey Junior—what do you think? Would you like to hang with Granddad Keith while I take your Mum out?”

“Sure. You should go Mum. Just no… kissing.”

Heidi blushed and looked away.

“Only dancing,” JayDee said, “scouts honour, mate.”

Heidi caught a new spark in JayDee’s eye, and the guilt demons stirred. They could stir all they wanted. For one night she’d do what she wanted.

A mild breeze blew across the river, tangling the bits of hair Heidi had strategically left loose around her face. They walked past the surf shop, the general store, the Melaleuca Gallery and on to a strip of new holiday apartments.

“This used to be old Californian bungalows and vacant paddocks,” Heidi said. “You ever get the feeling of dislocation… when somewhere you used to know really well is all changed when you go back? And you feel lost.”

“It felt like that when Ruth died,” JayDee said. “That’s why I sold the house. Every time she didn’t walk out to meet me when I got home, I lost her all over again.”

Heidi nodded silently looking up the path to a strip of fancy shops and more holiday apartments. “That used to be The Three Kings milk-bar and takeaway. I remember being tiny and bouncing on the trampolines next to it. Twenty cents a go. Then it was a hardware store and now it’s more holiday apartments.” Heidi sighed. “I’m talking too much. I’m sorry. I’m so starved of uninterrupted adult conversation.”

“I know the feeling.” JayDee took her hand and squeezed it.

Heidi waited for him to let go. Instead his fingers snaked through hers, the sensation of being the smaller hand in the grasp foreign. But good. Right. He smiled at her and for the first time since leaving she gave herself permission to fall into the moment and forget everything else. She squeezed his hand back.

They walked on in silence until they came to the bend in the Great Ocean Road and the music from the Surf Club filtered down from the dunes.

“You know what. I don’t even care if the band’s shit and I don’t know the songs,” Heidi said. “For a few hours I can just pretend this is all there is. Not that I wish… oh shit. I mean, excuse my language. I—”

“It’s okay Heidi. I know what you mean. C’mon.”

* * *

The band worked its way through the usual 80’s hits: “I Ran”, “Karma Chameleon”, “Modern Love” and “You Spin me Round”. Heidi grinned as she drank her beer, dancing on the spot until the opening bars of “Footloose” spurred her into action.

“We’re dancing. Let’s go.”

She took the stubby from his hand and half-danced half-dragged him onto the dance-floor. Heidi lost herself, becoming one with the music and the bouncing, sweating mass surrounding her. JayDee danced closer with each inward press as more people jammed onto the dance-floor. Closer and closer, his body shadowing hers.

When the lead singer screamed, “Everybody cut loose,” JayDee grabbed her hand, spinning her around and around. At the end of the song he deftly dipped her backward, the two of them breathing hard. The band broke into their final song of the set and JayDee pulled her back to her feet, holding her close.

The band crooned a pared back “Hold Me Now” and Heidi put a hand on JayDee’s muscular shoulder, letting him take her other hand in his. They danced slowly, the strict dancing position collapsing until Heidi lay her head against his shoulder, eyes closed.

Her lips mimed the lyrics, “Hold me now. Warm my heart. Stay with me. Let loving start.” Her body moved in tune with his, until the speakers filled with music she didn’t recognise, the live set over.

JayDee relaxed his embrace and slid his arm around her waist. “Another beer?”

Heidi nodded. “I’ll meet you on the balcony.”

She looked into the pitted mirror over the basins in the washroom, splashing water on her face and scraping the damp hair back from her face. The guilt demons stirred in the pit of her stomach.

Not tonight. I give you 364 nights. This one is mine. All mine.

The guilt demons temporarily immobilised, she smiled at her reflection and went to find JayDee.

He sat at a table nearest the railing, two beers in the centre of the table frosted with condensation. Heidi took the chair sitting opposite and pulled it around, sitting close to him.

“I haven’t had this much fun in… I don’t know how long,” she said, taking a long drink from the stubby, drowning the last hisses of the guilt demons. “I knew you’d be good for me. I knew the first day I saw you on the beach, how you managed to be both parent and friend to your girls. You seemed to have it all together. Made me realise how fucked up I am. But…” she put her hand up to stop him interrupting her. “You gave me hope, when I thought it was all gone.”

“You’re not fucked up Heidi. You’re beautiful and brave and you’re doing an incredible job with Joel, just how he needs you to be.”

He caressed her cheek. “When I saw you on the beach that day, for the first time in years I felt… something. Something I thought died with Ruth.” He leaned closer. “And every time I see you, every day we spend together, when we say goodbye I fear you’ll walk away and I won’t see you again.”

Her heart thumped. “I see you and it’s like…” she paused, her heart thumping. “You’re so full of life. I just want to…”

She leaned in and kissed him before she lost her nerve. His lips yielded to hers, the feeling of his hand rested on the back of her neck, so natural. As they pulled apart, guilt tore free—a whiplash of competing emotions.

“I’m sorry,” she said, regret sucking the oxygen from the air.

“For what?”

Heidi pitched her seat backward and ran off the balcony, fighting her way through the crowd at the bar. Panic, the guilt’s hellhound, seized her. She stumbled through the crowd, looking for the exit. Lost. Decimated by panic and guilt, a freak show of hysterical laughter and leering faces pressing in on her, she sought the nearest corner and folded herself into it.

You’ll just ruin him like you did Elliot.

“Heidi?” His hand rested on her arm and she recoiled.

“No.” She fought against his touch

“What did I do wrong?”

“Nothing,” she sobbed. “It’s me.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I lied to you.”

“About what? Hey, sweetheart.” He tried to push the hair out of her face. “Stop crying.”

Heidi caught sight of the exit through her tears and pushing past JayDee she ran, only stopping when she reached the footpath.

“Heidi, stop! Talk to me! HEIDI!” He caught her arm and stopped her from crossing the road. “I’m sorry if I came on too fast.”

“I thought I could do this. I wanted to so badly, but I can’t.” She couldn’t even look at him, staring instead at the initials drawn in the concrete. “I need to go get Joel.” She shook his hand free. “Alone.”


“You need to forget me, JayDee. Don’t come to the van. Don’t come to us at the beach.”

“Heidi! ” He ran across the road after her. “Stop, please!”

She turned. “I lied to you JayDee. I’m still married.”

“But I thought—”

“I know. And I let you.”

She walked away, tears blurring the way ahead, wishing someone other than JayDee’s parents were caring for Joel.

* * *

Heidi dropped the bags beside the annex door and went back inside for her keys and the esky.

“Why do you need keys?”

“We’re going to a different beach today,” she said. “Point Roadknight. Awesome boats and rock pools. It’s Poppy’s favourite beach.”

“Will JayDee be there too?”

She passed him the keys. “How about you pop the boot and put the bags in?”

“Sure, Mum.” It felt like a stab, the way he said ‘sure’. So like JayDee.

Heidi heard voices at the car and went out.

“Look Mum, it’s JayDee and Granddad Keith,” Joel said, his face bright and excited.

“He’s not your Granddad,” Heidi said, walking between Joel and JayDee, keeping her back to Joel and lowering her voice. “I thought I made it pretty clear last night I didn’t want to see you again.”

Joel looked up at her, confused. “Mum?”

“C’mon sport. JayDee tells me you’re pretty good on the bouncing cushion,” said Keith.  “Wanna show me?”

Joel looked to her and she looked to Keith and nodded. She’d do anything to save Joel from a bitter scene.

JayDee waited until they walked out of earshot before he spoke. “Joel told the old man his Dad was sad and got sick and had to live in a hospital.” His eyes bored into hers. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Heidi swallowed hard, wanting to keep her composure. There was no recrimination in JayDee’s voice, but the idea of talking about Elliot undid her. She’d already cried an ocean of tears for Elliot, for Joel, for everything lost.

“Elliot’s been in a coma for six months. He couldn’t even get killing himself right.” The venom in the words surprised her. More chow for the guilt demons.

“I’m sorry Heidi. So sorry.”

“So am I.”

She walked back into the annex and sat in the doorway of the caravan.

“The Doctors have given me until the end of January. Then they’re turning off his life support. But they can’t do it without my signature. My parents suggested Joel and I come away, have a break before we had to go through… what’s next.” She put her head in her hands. “I just want to be released. But I don’t want to kill him.”

JayDee knelt on the ground in front of her and she looked up.

“I kissed him goodbye that morning, so relieved he looked focused and together for the first time in months. So bloody happy he’d finally got his act together.”

Heidi started crying. “A security guard found him unconscious in the carpark of the local shopping centre. He’d diverted the exhaust inside. I told him once, when I wasn’t coping, if he was going to kill himself, not to do it at home. Oh God…”

She cried until her chest seized and the air caught at the base her throat, and she thought asphyxiation would take her too.

“Breathe,” JayDee said, holding her tight, rubbing her back. “You’re not going to choke. Breathe.”

When Heidi calmed, JayDee boiled the jug and they sat at the tiny table staring at an open packet of Mint Slices and the floral mugs. He reached across and took her trembling hand.

“I don’t want anything from you Heidi, that you’re not willing to give. And I’ve got your back for however long you need me there.” He squeezed her hand. “I’m not going anywhere. I’ve been going nowhere since Ruth died,” he cleared his throat. “And if you decide, that you don’t want us to be friends, well, we’ll always have Anglesea. And I’ll always be grateful for that.” (2489 words)


– – –
Thanks go to my the writing partner who wields the sharpest editing blade in the South, Ms Laura Meyer. Tip of the hat to Adam Byatt who came along with his virtual pom poms and the one-handed, multi-tasking, proof reading-extraordinaire, Stacey Larner, who weeded out the last of the mistakes.