Thursday, July 2, 2009

Moved House

Zenquill has finally moved house and would love you to follow along. Come on over and play in the new domain. You can find me at:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dust by Christine Bongers


Last night I had the pleasure of attending Christine Bongers launch of her debut novel 'Dust'. The launch was hosted by Riverbend Books and Teahouse in Bulimba. The event was a sell out. Every copy of Dust in store sold out as well.  The place was packed with family and friends who braved the rainy weather to support Chris on her special night. 
Actor and playwright, Billie Brown got things underway with a witty and fabulous speech. Chris followed on, her opening line being, "Now that's a hard act to follow".
Not true at all. I sat in awe of this woman who delivered a beautiful and inspiring account of her writing journey. She stood confident and strong, was funny and entertaining and had hold of her audience from start to finish. 
I sat listening to her, considering my own writing journey. As a fledgling writer, plotting my own path into this writing world, I am overwhelmed with the generosity of Queensland writers. It was the first time I had met Chris in person, having raced with her on several occasions on a Tuesday night in the Australian Writers Market online writing race forum. I came away last night feeling like I had caught up with an old friend. She was warm, welcoming and friendly and I can see why the place was jam packed with supporters. 

I met many writers at the launch and each and every one was encouraging and supportive of each other, welcoming me into the fold. Camaraderie washed through the crowd last night and made me realise what an incredible industry it is. Writers and writing industry professionals are amazing people as are the families and friends who support them. 

As I listened to Chris sharing the journey of Dust, her face told of her passion and commitment to her craft. She spoke with eloquence and warmth and at one point moved me to tears as she shared anecdotes of her childhood and family life. It is that kind of connection that inspires me to write, to buckle down and believe I can do as she and many others have done. 
After reading her blog about her motivation to write Dust the dedication in the front of her book speaks volumes, and are words that inspire and move me as well. I was grateful to share her special night with her and her family and friends as well as her extended writing family. I am only two chapters into the book and already I can feel it moving about inside me the way a good book does.  

The night was a huge success and I am sure a great time was had by all. I look forward to immersing myself in the journey of Cecilia Maria, and I say thank you to all you good folk who inspired me last night and make me want to grow to be a great writer.


The Launch of Dust












Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Editing Cauldron

It began in a small dank cave on the side of a mountain. The coven huddled around a cauldron as it bubbled and spat. The sorceress was yet to arrive, and the novices waited, rubbing the cold from their pale eager hands. Outside, a full moon hung in a cloudless sky, its light spilling over the treacherous path. A bitter wind blew in from the west, bringing the first frost of the season. It made the cave feel warm and inviting, despite the task they had come to perform.
 
Inside the cave, three novices paced. Tonight, their skills would be put to test. Tonight, their worst afflictions would be slain. They leaned into the cauldron and examined the roiling broth.
"What if I can't do it? What if everyone hates what comes of my spell?" one asked. 
"Faith is the key," said another. 
" You just have to trust..." added the third, wiping beads of steam from her face. They all moved back from the fire.
 
At the far end of the cave, three warlocks gathered, chatting and slapping each other's backs. Occasionally, one ventured forth with a long metal rod to stoke the fire that raged beneath the smouldering pot. 
"Here, let me do it - that's not how you stoke a cauldron fire," one said, taking the rod from his warlock friend. He proceeded to dig and poke at the fire, dispatching glowing red flecks into the musty air. 

A sudden gust swept through the cave and at once, the din of voices fell silent. The fire crackled a welcome, and the novices turned to the cave's entrance, their robes still settling from the flurry of air. Before them stood the sorceress. She glided toward an altar, where she lay down her magical tools. Her hair was jet black, her eyes glistening, catching the flare of the fire beneath the cauldron. She surveyed them all, her hands clasped daintily before her. They were hands of ritual magic. Hands that could make or break those before her. If that's what they chose.
"Who goes first this evening?" she asked. A moments silence slithered among them before a trembling novice emerged from the crowd. 
"I do," she said with an unsteady voice. She was small and frail, with one eye gummed shut. 
"Come forth," the sorceress said.
The young girl edged her way to the front as the sorceress lifted a roll of parchment from her satchel.
"This is your spell you wish to cast?" she asked the novice.
"It is," the novice replied, licking the dryness from  her lips. The sorceress glided toward the bubbling pot, detached and methodical. She lifted the parchment high in the air and then thrust it deep into the bubbling stew, unbothered by its blistering heat. The only sound was the crackle and spit of the parchment as it purged its secrets into the brew. 
 
The others looked on, opened mouthed, their breath caught in their throats as the cauldron took on the spell and diffused it into the air. Slowly the novices closed their eyes, inhaling the scents, kinking their necks to the sounds, their eyelids filling with fantastical sights. 
"So?" The sorceress asked the coven once the spattering cauldron had settled.
"I think the beginning could use a dash of eye-bright, you know, might help clear up the point of view, " a brave voice offered. 
"And perhaps some eye of toad might stop all that head-hopping," said another. They all nodded in agreement.
"And what about structure - perhaps a set of Mojo bones might come in handy - had you thought about that?" asked one of the warlocks.
The novice trembled and slipped her hands slick with sweat into the pockets of her robes. Her good eye watered and her other stung as their words filled the cave and her spell was dissected again and again. 
"Some balm of Gilead might help all that passiveness, as might a dash of the old Devil's claw but overall,  I think your spell has great potential..." said someone at the back.  
The young novice watched them all nod again and then turned to the alter where the sorceress stood with a sleek black quill in her hand. She scrawled furiously upon a clean sheet of parchment, and then lifted her arm and thrust the paper into the pot. The cauldron roiled again and a diaphanous mist rose to the roof of the cave. It hovered for a moment and then fell slowly to settle about the young novice. The novice shuddered and her eye pained and she thought she might cry. A single tear fell from her good eye while her closed eye wept only with pain. 
She rubbed at her stinging eye, and felt the gummy slit of her eyelid widen. A needle thin shaft of light split the darkness and pain filled her head. She staggered a little and then slowly prized her afflicted eye wide open. Silence fell over the room and she stared at her fellow novices, their heads bathed by a murky white light . She rubbed again at her eyes, and slowly her vision cleared. A miracle. At last she could see the work to be done. The curse had been broken and now she had hope.  The sorceress stepped forth and  handed her a clean sheet of parchment and a new purple quill. 
"Here, you'll be needing these..." she said with a smile. The novice watched her glide back to her alter, wishing one day to be half as smart.
"Shall we break for some tea? I think one of the warlocks brought fairy cakes..." the Sorceress announced, licking her ruby red lips. An appreciative murmur rippled among them and the novice breathed a sigh of relief.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

It was March 25th when I heard my great aunty calling to me over the fence. I was playing with my neighbour. I was eleven, she was almost seventeen. Our game involved loads of giggling and bad makeup. The stuff an eleven year old dreams of. She was applying the final touches of blue mascara to my eyelashes when I heard my name. I'd been staying with my great aunt during my mother's recent extended illness. My aunt called that my father had arrived - a surprise random visit I wasn't expecting. He visited a couple of times a week, in between work and visiting my mother in hospital. I downed tools and ran through the yard and leapt over the fence, a small wriggle of fear lurching about in my stomach. My father detested make up on any woman, let alone his eleven year old daughter. 

I ran up the front porch steps, to where my aunt was waiting for me, the screen door yawning open. My father was no where in sight. The house was chilly and my eyes took a while to adjust to the light as  I stepped into the hallway and heard the screen door slam behind me. My aunt  led me into the front room. The good room. The special room that was only ever used for important occasions. I remember her face as she looked down at me, her brow creased and her mouth pressed to a thin line. My worm of fear instinctively grew as she ushered me into the room and then closed the door behind me. 

As the door clicked shut, I turned and saw my father sitting in a chair. He pushed a smile onto his face and silently waved me over to sit on his lap. He was wearing a pale green and white checked shirt. I can still see it clearly to this day. I have never forgotten that shirt. He slapped his knee and pulled me close, and so I wriggled onto his lap. This was a new thing. We didn't normally do laps. Silence hung between us, crammed with the moment that would change the rest of my life, and would morph and warp the person I was. It took him several attempts to get going. A bit like a mower flooded from too much choke. I could see he was choking on something. It was the first time I had ever seen him cry.

I felt the warm rush of adrenaline as he opened his mouth and finally got the words to come out. The sensation began in my knees and crept upward to form great sloshing waves in the pit of my gut where fear and denial churned for many long months to come. A sense of something bad saw me wrap my arms tightly around his neck as he said the words. Through his sobs he said, "Mummy died today." 

He pulled me close and for a moment I couldn't breathe. I couldn't tell whether he held me too tight or whether I was too scared to take another breath. If I froze in the moment perhaps it might all go away. I remember grief and confusion balled tightly inside me, like it were jagged on an edge that it couldn't get past. Eventually something shifted and I heard myself scream. Long and hideous screams of a frightened child. My mother was dead. I have never felt so terrified in all my life. 

I folded in his arms, my tears falling freely and landing as blue black blobs on his shirt as the mascara washed from my eyes. He held me, and rocked me until my tears finally dried and my cries reduced to shuddery gasps. It's a memory that still pains me after so many years. But that's one bad memory amid a million that tilt the scales of happiness in my favour. And to preserve those memories, I will spend more time capturing them on paper - and may share some in here, as memory lingers and beckons to be set down in ink. It's Mother's day - a great day to start chasing memories in order to pin them to paper.

Somewhere, her spirit runs. I see her love of things just about everywhere; in gardens, in kitchens, in creatures great and small. And there is still sadness but no longer loss. I am coming to realise how badly our culture responds to death. How we spend so much time revering  the dead that we forget to honour the living. And regardless of all our spent  grief, the show must go on. And on it goes...

If you have a mother. Hug her. While you still can.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pink Mousse and Scrambled Egg - A Dessertation

The place was busy and I watched as lunches arrived. A commotion erupted from one of the tables.
"I didn't order PINK MOUSSE," shrieked a woman. A colleague of mine stopped and enquired what was wrong.
"I'm not eating it. I didn't order it and I'm not eating it... you take it away right now and bring me what I ordered..." she demanded. Her face took on a shade that complimented the mousses pinkness as she poked at her free Unhappy Meal.

 I wondered if she considered just pushing it to one side and not eating it, opposed to blowing a gasket over a bowl of pink mousse. I had visions of decorating the bowl with antlers and eyes and a cute little elkish mouth - perhaps make the mousse more endearing but I value my job so instead,  I watched her react, and began to wonder what makes us flip out when we don't get what it is we think we deserve. 

Why do we incite a mini riot and throw tantrums that would make a two year old proud? I wondered in her case, what lay beneath the pink mousse? What past experience drove her thoughts to make her behave this way. Was it about control, or having her desires ignored? Was it the colour pink? Did that remind her of some horrible childhood incident that dredged up unexplained angst at the mere sight of pinkness? Or was it all over nor getting her own way? She clearly had an agenda, and pink mousse was not on it. 

This got me thinking about personal agendas. Everybody has one - that fragile basket of eggs we carry around each day; each egg a delicate thought, a seed of potential being that we have conjured from the marketplace of our mind. I wonder what drives the thoughts we fill our heads with from moment to moment. My day to day thoughts roll around in my basket, knocking together trying to get out of each other's way, each vying for pole position as my ego swaps and sorts and deems which thought is more important. And the more thoughts I entertain, the less present I am to the moment and the more likely I am to end up with a head full of scrambled egg. If I can't be present in the moment, can I create characters that are present in their story? 

I watched the pink mousse scenario pan out into a semi happy ending but the experience had me thinking about the stories I create, and how I could use this experience as a way to delve deeper into the lives of my characters. I started asking myself what is driving the thoughts of my main character, Max? What are his past experiences? What could make him flip out like the woman had over a bowl of pink mousse? I may never know the reasons behind the woman's aversion to rose coloured wobbling desserts but I can see how important it is to be able to recognise what pushes my character's buttons. To not know him at such a deep level may lead him to become a flat and flawless being. No flaws=no cause. No Cause = no claws to fight for what is important to him - even if it is just a free unhappy meal. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Un-Deadly Deadlines

I have been thumbing through Chris Baty's No Plot? No Problem ! book.  Chris is the founder of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which formed back in 1999 when he was working as a writer in the San Francisco Bay area. During this time, he decided to write a novel. He had no idea how to write a novel but that didn't stop him. His plan was to write a novel of 50,000 words in  a month. He decided on 50,000 words after pulling the shortest book from his bookshelf, doing the math and coming up with the magical figure of 50,000. The book was Huxley's Brave New World. Quite a serendipitous title, given that NaNoWriMo is all about creating brave new worlds - all in a month. 
"We were in our mid twenties, and had no idea what we were doing. But we knew we loved books. And so we set out to write them," he says.

During the first year that NaNoWriMo ran, twenty one people signed up to undertake the task. NaNoWriMo is now celebrating 10 years with 1,643,343,993 as a total collective word count for 2008. In his book, Chris highlights a quote by writer and champion figure-skater, Ralph Waldo Emerson, "In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed." 
And speed is the thing Chris swears by. Speed underpins the NaNoWriMo concept. You see, it's all about deadlines. 

He proved this theory by taking three months off work, to live that dream we all dream of - to write full time and uninterrupted by the vexations of work. He failed miserably.
With nothing to do all day but write, he found himself doing everything but writing. He had no deadline. He claims a rough draft is "best written in the steam cooker of an already busy life." He also points out Isaac Newton's observation; things in motion tend to stay in motion.

I glance back over my own writing journey and I can see there is validity in his claims. I perform best when there is a deadline to beat. Over the past several Tuesday evenings, I have been heading into the Australian Writer's Marketplace online. www.awmonline.com.au
AWM run a friendly and supportive writing race from 8pm - 9pm and often have special guests along for the ride. It's not so much about racing against each other. It's more about setting a writing goal and for an hour, going flat out to achieve. 

During that hour, I can crank out between 1200-2000 words. And I am coming to realise, it's all because of the deadline. I have an hour to perform so it's lights camera action. For one hour, I can block out the world and focus fully on words pouring forth. I have worked on my novel in progress during this time and I have also written first drafts of short stories.  The short stories would probably never have surfaced had a deadline not been in place that made me think fast and write furiously, trusting that stream of consciousness writing that our inner critic loves to bully into submission. During a writing race, that kick boxing critic just doesn't have time to get a leg in. 

The beauty of racing is that you can do it anytime. Whilst it's nice to do it with friends and it's nice to have that support, there really is no excuse not to do it anyway. All you need is a clock, some time telling ability, a notepad or computer, a realistic writing goal and of course that all important ingredient - the deadline- be it an hour, 30 minutes or whatever time you can spare. For me, an hour works really well. Longer sessions see my mind wandering and my fingers itching to click on that time sucking icon that leads me into that wicked wide web. 

An hour gives me the chance to follow Emerson's lead; to skate over thin ice, knowing my safety is in the speed that I go. If I stop, the weight of my hesitation will sink me. And, I have to agree with Newton - things in motion really do stay in motion. Racing, either alone or with friends is a sure way to get black on white. The once dreaded deadline is now an exciting and brave new world in which to create. 

To join in the fun at AWMonline, follow this link;
Subscriptions start at $19.95 and you will be rewarded with a wealth of support and information to help you along on your writing journey.

NaNoWriMo runs from November 1st -30th. 
Details can be found at www.nanowrimo.org

Friday, April 10, 2009

Inspiration

I so wish inspiration could come in a bottle. I would keep a vat of it sitting under my desk, a syphon attached and ready to pour forth over the page when required. If it were only that easy. Instead, when I seek inspiration, I turn to people and places that inspire me to write. Here are some;

A Change of Scenery:
To escape cabin fever, I venture down to the local library. Here I can churn out words amid toddler screams, old friends catching up over coffee, community announcements over the P.A system. For some reason, the sounds and the sights of the library feed my creative spirit and I always achieve amid the hundreds of surrounding tomes. 

Reading inspirational work by others:
I am presently reading Julia Cameron's Walking in this World. It is a wonderful book about nurturing your creativity. She suggests a weekly walk some place special and an Artist's date once a week - part of a day set aside doing something that will feed your creative side. I practise both - and they work. They take me outside the box and let me live in a space that is new and bright. When I go back to my work, it always seems so much more manageable. 

Going Somewhere I Love:
When I head anywhere near water, I feel my creativity surge to the surface. There is something about paddling through water that connects me to some bigger, brighter source. It's akin to the feeling I get when I am actually writing. I resonate with a force I can't fully grasp nor wish to question. It just is and it works and it makes me happy. And it makes me write.

Friends Who Get It:
As much as we all love our friends, many friends just don't get what the fuss of a writer is all about. You burst at the seams with excitement over a new plot point and they look at you with that little half smile, wide-eyed and expecting the rest of the conversation - you know, the important bit that they are sure must be following anytime soon.
"And?" they say, ever so politely, waiting patiently for you to finish the sentence. Except you already have. You can tell straight away who they are, with that unmistakable expression that creeps over their face. They just... don't... get it. 

But then there are the friends who do. The writing buddies who know every inch of your angst and excitement without you barely even having to open your mouth. I am so blessed to have several writing friends - I treasure their friendship. They offer their undying support as they wade through their own writing journey. You know you can call them or email and rave about the good, bad and ugly of writing, and that they will listen and council and guide you gently back into some safe little harbour where you can rest for a while before returning to uncharted waters. Without these people, I am certain the writer in me would wither and die. So to all of you, and particularly Arienne, Marie and Katherine - I thank you from the bottom of my inspirational vat.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

QWC- AWM Writing Race - The Great Unblocker

It's official...I am now unblocked. I attended the QWC-AWMonline writing race last night and cranked out 2307 words of a short story from scratch - all in an hour. I can feel the winds of change rushing through me! I finally out-stared the Big White Blocky Page... and won.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Writer's Block

It's official. I'm blocked. Not literally. Just literarily. I have been opening this blog daily since the last entry and sitting and staring at a blank screen. I've felt like a captive stuck in a room with white walls.  Walls I can't see beyond or around. It's been a cold and unwelcoming place where no matter what I do, I can't get a grip that enables me to pull the walls down. And it feels like I have been stuck here for ever. I'm almost finished my Year of the Edit course. Kim has been a fantastic teacher but I feel I have failed her. I have failed myself. Because instead of carving my manuscript into pieces that I polish like gems, I sit down every day to write and nothing comes. Not a thing. My fingers walk their way across the keyboard and engage the Off switch of my mac and once again, the big white block on the screen wins the staring comp. 

So what does one do, when blocked beyond all comprehension? When the project you loved with all of your heart lies abandoned upon the desk in a dust gathering pile of no hope? I have no answers to offer, and when I can't find words of my own, I turn to the words of others and I read. And in a way, I use it as an excuse to read for hours in a day - because somewhere amid the words of another, I will find my voice lurking behind the ink on their page. It will niggle and jump up and down and demand my attention, like a small child whose mother is on the phone talking. Eventually, after I ignore it enough by spending time with others, my muse and my motivation will edge its way back and demand I give them the attention they think they suddenly deserve. Eventually. 

Until then, I will read. And when the magic returns, so will I. And judging by the noise in my head as I write this, exposing my muse's resistant behaviour, I am guessing that I will be back at it sooner than I ever imagined. 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

True North 2

"Not far away. How about you?" 
"Down from Melany for the day," he said.
"She's a beautiful dog," she kept her eyes on his face. Out the corner of her eye she caught the other woman, shifting from foot to foot.
"I found her by the side of the road. She was only a pup,"
"She's a lucky girl,"

 They talked for nearly an hour, there beneath the trees, the ocean a giant blue backdrop. 
"I should let you two get going," she finally said. They walked as a small silent group back to the car park, the woman striding ahead. As they bid their farewells, he pulled a card from his pocket and slid it into her hand. He looked down at her and smiled.
"Maybe we'll catch up down here again, sometime," 
"Maybe. I usually end up here on Tuesdays" she said, closing her hand around the card. 
"See you later,"
"Maybe,"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

True North

Before her was endless ocean. She sat beneath the trees on a white park bench and contemplated her life. She felt unsure. About everything. The day was perfect. A cool breeze blowing in and a sun round and warm shining down, warming her feet. She bowed her head - not in prayer. Someone once told her that prayer was all about talking to God and meditation was all about listening. That's what she needed to do; just listen. 
She closed her eyes, the sound of the wind and waves filling her ears. A dog barked in the distance and she opened her eyes for a glimpse of it. Dogs. They were her weakness. She watched it chasing the waves, bouncing through the clear water, not a care in the world. Her life should be like that, she thought. Carefree and playful and void of all worry. If only.
She closed her eyes once again, resisting the temptation to get up and move. Resisting the uncomfortable feeling that sat in her chest. A feeling of loss like she had come adrift from her moorings and had lost her way. With eyes closed, she asked for a sign. Just a small fragment of a clue to help her regain her bearings. She imagined her heart like a compass within. She prayed for direction; she begged for true north. She licked at her lips and could taste the salt and was unsure whether it came from the sea or her tears. She answered her question by wiping her face. 
  She glanced at her watch and stood. It was time to get home. There were things to be done. She made her way up the hill to the car. Crossing the park, she saw him. He was standing beside a woman. They seemed together but not as a couple. Nearby was a dog - black and white, a heeler. She was beautiful. The dog was drinking from a bowl near a tap. She glanced down at her feet still covered with sand and then felt a pull, like some guiding force leading her sideways toward where they stood. She stopped in front of the dog. 
"Ah, you've come to pat my dog," he said, smiling down at her. She looked up at him. He had blue eyes the colour of lapis and a gentle face. She looked down at the dog, who looked up at her. Its eyes were the colour of autumn and its face was as gentle as her masters.
"What's her name?" she asked him, returning her gaze to his face.
"Maggie." he said. 
Her eyes settled on his face. A happy and gentle face. He was beautiful.
"You from around here? " he asked.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wrestling Ideas

I often wonder where ideas come from. Do they hang about in the ether and  filter down into available space? Or do we attract them on some vibrational level? What makes me wake in the middle of the night with a story line running through my head? The subconscious has a lot to answer for but that still doesn't explain why certain people get certain ideas. What made J.K Rowling think of a wizard boy, as she chugged along one day on a train? I wonder, if she hadn't taken notice of him, would he have moved on and appeared to somebody else?Do thoughts and ideas already exist as some kind of ethereal energy that beg our attention in order to populate our reality? I can almost see them floating about in the air, bumping into people's heads, demanding to be taken seriously. Like all the times I think of something and say to myself,
"I'll remember that..." and then don't. The idea moves on, never to be seen ( by me) again. Is there a great conscious creative connection going on that we must acknowledge and tap into or else be left without a clue? 

So many questions...so little time to ponder it all. The one thing I have learned is to take notice when a little whisper of an idea swings my way. Instead of relying on memory, I grab it and pin it to the closest piece of paper I can find. A $2.00 investment in a packet of mini notepads now strewn through the house have helped wrestle these fleeting ideas from the air. The notepads have at least given me the time to consider the idea's worth later on - before it moves on and is forgotten for good.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Staying on Track

I recently became motivated to get my life in some kind of order. Part of that clean up was learning to utilise my electronic calendar. I have been plugging in important things that need to be done for the day and so far, it is working right on schedule. 
For my writing, I enter a block of time that is specifically dedicated. It might be a two hour time slot for plotting. Or a one hour session on scene tracking. Whatever it is, it becomes an important appointment with myself that I must keep. When I log onto my mac in the morning, and start checking emails and surfing the net, my calendar is running away in the background. When I procrastinate past my allotted time to "play, trapping myself in the sticky wide web, a calendar reminder pops up and lets me know that I have a word count to meet, or a scene to develop etc. It helps me refocus. And it makes me set goals. It is easy to click it away but it is far more rewarding to acknowledge it and get on with what task I have set to improve my writing.
They only take minutes to set up and once they are in, you can drag and drop them from one day to the next when you plan for your next writing session. It's a little like having your conscience online and having to be accountable. Which reminds me...time for bed!

So, how do you keep yourself on track?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rewards

Yesterday, after a long writing session, I'd had it. But I  had reached my goal, so in order to reward myself, I took off to Sandgate. One of the things I learned in Monique Beedles workshop was that it is important to reward yourself when you reach a goal. 
The pay off was just what I needed. The weather was perfect and after a healthy lunch at a cafe, I sat and pondered some more scenes for the book. Because I was out "paying" myself, the extra work I did at the table didn't seem like work and the new atmosphere fuelled my creativity. I rounded the afternoon off with a walk by the sea. It emptied my head and cleared out the fatigue I was feeling after hours spent in front of my computer. So from herein, rewards are the way to go - after the hard work is done - of course.

Rewarding yourself keeps your energy flowing. When I don't reward myself, my creativity flags a little and it all becomes like a lot of hard work with little or no gain. Not all rewards have to cost, financially. They can include a walk by the sea or through your favourite park, coffee with a friend, a walk around the block, an hour of reading or gardening or just doing your favourite thing. Whatever it is that you need to feel recharged after the work is done. Julia Cameron, who wrote 'The Artist's Way', advocates having an artist's date. This is a pre-planned date with yourself that you must keep, and it is to be spent doing something creative and fun. It is simply a way of rewarding yourself. 
Next time you  reach that goal, no matter how small or large, take a moment to reward yourself in some way. It keeps the enthusiasm alive knowing that something nice is waiting at the other end of the slog.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Big Picture



My Official Board of Story-ness.



Yesterday I attended Dr Monique Beedles workshop -  Project Management for Writers. It was a fantastic workshop filled with many tools and tips on how to meld daily life with a writing life as well as figuring out how to squeeze in time for yourself. I wonder how many writers out there take the time to plan out a schedule that is dedicated to writing. I know that when I have a dedicated time slot  allotted for writing, I am more likely to feel in the mood. When I wing it, and fit it in where I can, I often find excuses to not write because so much else needs attending to. 

After doing the workshop with Monique, I am ready and rearing to get on with the tasks. I have a long term and short term map and goals all plotted out on a story board. My head feels lighter and I feel so much more organised and inspired to get on with writing instead of muddling through the quagmire that is my brain when there is no plan to follow. If you have a plan or routine that works for you - I'd love to hear about it. The board includes scene maps. plotting templates, a writing map, word count goals, a plan for the next week and month plus a "free" area to randomly jot general stuff that comes to mind.

After planning my writing life, I realise that blogging everyday is no longer a possibility if I am to achieve my major writing goals so I will instead blog with days that have "U" in them - Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday.  Saturday will be my writing  day off. 

I'm off to plot and plunder the muse...


Friday, March 13, 2009

The Penny

"Marshall, think carefully. He means what he says," Angie said. Her voice was soft but convincing. I stared at the door and then turned to face Pa. 
"What if I can't find her? Then what? It would be like losing her all over again."
"Finding your mother is a choice you must make. Taking on these powers...I'm afraid, isn't." Pa explained.
"What do you mean?"
"The power accepts you. You cannot escape it once it has chosen," he said.
"What makes you think it has chosen me?"
"The penny that you now carry in your pocket..." I instinctively felt for it. 
"How did you know about the penny?" I hadn't told anyone I had taken it.
"There are many things I know about. And it is my job to teach you all of it. The penny has chosen you, Marshall. You are wasting your time if you think you can run away from it." I felt the warm pulsing of the coin and for reasons I couldn't fully understand, I found myself walking back toward Pa. I fell into the chair, my head swimming a little and my limbs heavy as lead.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Getting Away

"Is this meant to be funny?" I asked him. There was no way my mother could have survived. 
"You think I would joke about my own daughter's death?"
I felt hot and sick and needed air.
"I don't know what to think. How can she still be alive?" I felt sweat trickle down the back of my neck.  I pushed myself up from the chair.
"I need to get out of here."
 I wanted to know but couldn't handle believing it had all been a hoax.  I'd spent so much time getting my head around her being dead. I moved toward the door.
"You can't leave here. Not tonight," Pa said. His voice was slow and even. It was clear who was now in control. 
"Why not?" I glared across at him.
"It's not safe. People know you are here. They know why you have come. My brother will be watching out for you. The thing is, it isn't your mother he wants. It's you. He will draw you out, Marshall. And then he will kill you. Trust me. He has killed before. He will kill again."
I stood halfway between the door and the chair, uncertain which option to take.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Finding Mae

The room fell quiet and nobody moved for a while. I glanced at the clock on the mantle. It was nearly two. I heard rain against the roof, a soft and constant reminder that the weather had turned. 
"So you're telling me I'm next in line? I'm the one who is meant to take over these...powers?" 
Pa nodded slowly.
"That's right. It's all up to you."
"Why me?" 
"Like I explained, if you don't take on the position as Time Keeper, then the title goes to my brother. We can't let that happen. There's something else I probably should tell you..."
I waited and wondered while he shifted himself in the chair. He leaned forward, his arms on his knees. We were mirroring each other. He looked at me, concern spread over his face.
"I don't think your mother is dead." My heart skipped a beat.
"What do you mean?" I asked him. My heart thudded about in my chest. I took a deep breath and waited for him to answer. He said nothing.
"What do you mean?" I insisted.
"I think she's alive and I think you can find her," he said.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Beginning

He walked slowly into the room, his hands pushed deep into his trouser pockets. He looked younger, and not so cranky. 
"Surprised to see me?" he asked with a chuckle. I could feel his enjoyment oozing toward me. 
"Can someone please tell me what's going on?" I asked, looking from him to her.
"It would be my pleasure," he said, pulling his hands free, and taking a seat on the couch. He leant forward, resting his arms on his knees, his head bowed low. Finally, he lifted his head and looked at me. 
"It began when your mother was born..." he said. I settled back in my seat. This was going to be a long night.

Monday, March 9, 2009

He Shows Up

We moved into the lounge room and she motioned for me to sit. I sat in a chair opposite where she stood. I sunk back into the cushions for protection from what she was about to deliver.
"So? You planning on telling me now?" I asked. I was tired of the cat and mouse game we were playing.
"It will probably sound lame," she offered.
"Try me,"
"Your grandfather has powers you obviously don't know about,"
"Yeah, like he has the power to be a royal pain..."
"That's not what I mean. His powers are well known here," she explained. I wished she would cut to the chase. I looked to my right. There was a photo of me and my brother taken when we must have been about three. It felt weird seeing a part of me in such a strange place.
"So what are these so called powers?" I asked, looking back at her.  She paused for a moment before answering.
"He can manipulate time," she said. I stifled a laugh.
"You're not serious. You brought me all the way here to tell me this?" 

"No," someone said behind me.
"She brought you all the way here so I could tell you all this..." I recognised the voice straight away. I spun in the chair and saw my grandfather standing in the doorway.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Home

The gate snapped shut behind me and I followed her down a  narrow path. Torches flickered and spat along the path. 
"Keep up, we don't have much time," she said.
"For what?" 
"The guards will have seen us come in. They will be wondering what we are up to?"
"Can you blame them?" I asked.
" Just keep up, OK?"
The path led down into a valley, where buildings sprawled across the land. We turned onto another path that led to a small house. We reached the house where she fumbled through the keys she still held in her hand. She found the one she was looking for.
She stepped up onto the porch and opened the screen door and then slipped the key into the lock.
"How many houses do you have?" I asked.
"This isn't mine," she answered, opening the door and waving me inside.
"Should I ask?"
"It belongs to your grandfather. This is his house. Welcome home," she said. 
I stood in the foyer and looked to her, as the porch door slammed shut. 
"So why are we here?" I asked. She closed and locked the door.
"Because here is the only safe place to tell you the truth,"

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Gate

We jumped off the ferry and headed from the wharf. The place felt different - kind of eerie. I felt suddenly on edge. There was no one around and the narrow streets were lit only by lamplight that glowed feebly into the dark night. We walked in silence for several minutes before I asked.
"Where are we going, exactly?"
She cast a quick look over her shoulder and then quickened her pace.
"Shut up and keep moving." There was an edge to her voice that matched the uneasiness I was still feeling.
"What's wrong..."
"Don't say anything," she whispered through clenched teeth. "And don't look back," she added.
I resisted the impulse to do so. I cranked up the pace to keep up with her, and strained my ears to hear footsteps other than ours but all I heard was our hurried steps along a dark street now lined with old stone cottages. 
We hurried up the hill, my breath catching in my throat from the cold night air. As we neared the top of the hill, she dug in her bag and pulled out a large set of keys. We came to a high stone wall at the top of the hill and we stopped before a large wooden gate. She slipped a key into the lock and pushed at the gate. It groaned open as if in pain, allowing us passage into another world. 

Friday, March 6, 2009

Feelin' Dizzy

I Dizzy is and Dizzy was
Too dizzy now to write a blog,
Catch up tomorrow...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Ride Over

Just as she promised, a ferry arrived before I had time to stamp the cold from my feet. I was glad to get on and huddle inside away from the wind. I took a seat near the front, and she settled beside me. Not as close as I would have liked. I stole a quick glance at her as she rummaged about in her bag. She was pretty, but not too pretty. And not much older than me, maybe a year or two. She caught me staring.
"What?" she asked, her blue eyes flashing toward me.
"Nothin'...I was just wondering...how old are you anyway?" I blurted. My face warmed in the cool night air.
She giggled a little and then looked away. An uncomfortable silence slid between us.
"I'm seventeen," she finally confessed.
I'd been right in guessing our age difference. She was only a year older than me.
"You live by yourself in that house?' I asked. She looked at me again, her face more serious now.
"Marshall, this place isn't like where you are from. We do things differently here," she explained.
"Is that why you're taking me to some strange island in the middle of the night?"
"It's hardly the middle of the night, and yes, partly. Our parents don't hassle the way they do in your world. There's more freedom here. For now, anyway..." Her voice trailed away and she looked away, across to the other side of the boat.
"Where are your parents?" I asked. I watched as her teeth sunk into her lip. She bit down hard and long before answering.
"I don't know where my parents are." 
She turned and spoke the words looking directly into my eyes. Her gaze was hypnotic.
"It's a long story. Not one to start telling tonight. Another time, perhaps," she said, looking away. I felt bad for pushing the point. The look on her face told me I'd stepped over a line. 
"No problem..." I muttered, looking out of the window. 
My mother had been missing for days.  I at least had some small chance of finding her. I tried to imagine not knowing. Not having a single clue.  The thought terrified me.

The ferry pitched through the chop of the water, and the motion threw us off balance. The movement  left us closer together.  I wondered how long since she had seen her parents. I could feel the press of her body against me as she fought beside me, against the swell of the sea. 
"We're nearly there," she said, suddenly standing. I felt a chill whip into the space where she'd been. I got up and followed her to the door. I wanted to know more about her.  I wondered how long she would keep me out in the cold.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ferry Due

We ate dinner in silence. My mind was miles away, trying to piece together the past few hours. Patience wasn't my strong suit but I had little choice. She wasn't giving anything away.  She, too, seemed to be lost in thought. 
"We can go when ever you're ready," she said, clearing the things from the table where we sat.
"I'm good to go," I said, noticing my plate was barely touched. 
She grabbed her coat and bag and I followed her back down the hall. 
It was freezing outside, and the wind had picked up, shaking the limbs of the trees on the street. We made our way back down the hill and through the town to the wharf. 
"Where are we going?" I asked. 
"There'll be a ferry along in a while. We're going there," she said, pointing to lights that blinked out in the middle of the black sea. 
"Were is there?" I asked. Her secrecy was beginning to bug me.
"It's where your grandfather lives when he's here. It's where you'll find out your truth," she said.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Truth

"It's not really my place to tell you. Why don't I fix us something to eat. I'll make a call and we can go on from there," she said.
"Why isn't it your place to tell me? Tell me what?" I asked.
"Tell you why you ended up here, Marshall. It's not my place. But I can take you to the one who should tell you."
"And then what?"
"And then you can find out the truth," she said.
The truth. That seemed to be something that was lacking of late.
"Who is this person?" 
"Be patient. You'll find out soon enough," she said. 

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pa

"Let's say we've been expecting you here for a while..." she said.
"You want to explain that a little better?" I asked. She pulled out another chair and sat next to me.
"Marshall, has your grandfather told you anything?" 
"Like what?"
"Like why you even found this place. Do you know who your grandfather is?"  I laughed.
"Of course I know who he is. He's my grandfather - what else could he be?"
"Your grandfather isn't just a grandfather. He's quite famous here," she explained.
"How's that?" I wasn't following her at all.
She leaned back in the chair and rubbed at her temples. It reminded me of my mother.
I sat patiently and waited for her to explain.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wait

"Where did you get that?" I asked her. I crossed the room to pick up the letter but she beat me to, snatching it up from the table.
"I need to explain somethings..." she said, pulling a chair out for me to sit in.
I sat and waited for her to speak.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Envelope

We climbed the hill to her house; a small terrace that looked over the island. She opened the door and stood to one side, waving me in. 
"After you," I said, waiting for her to lead the way. I followed her, closing the door behind me. She led me down a narrow hall and into a small bright kitchen, flicking on lights as she went. I stood inside the kitchen door and watched as she filled the jug.
"Would you like tea?" she asked. 
"No, thanks. Just some idea of what's going would be good," I said. I thought of leaving - going on without getting involved. I glanced around her kitchen. It was neat and tidy and gave little away. On the table however was proof that convinced me to stay. Leaning against a vase full of flowers was an envelope. There was no mistaking the writing. It was my mother's hand and the note was addressed to Pa.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Possibilities

She looked around at the crowd passing by.
"We need to find somewhere where we wont be noticed...in case..." she said.
"Lead the way then," Something in me trusted now her, perhaps her link to my mother.
"The Inn isn't a good choice. Not if the person chasing you is who I think it is. We can go to my place. It isn't far,"
I considered the possibility of it all being a set up. My logical side wore me down and I let her guide me through the village streets of this foreign island I had dreamed about. Suddenly, there was the very real chance that things might work out.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Lead

She looked surprised.
"Marshall, its OK. I'm on your side. I know all about you. People have been expecting you for a long time. Though I get the feeling nobody really  knows you're here yet. Who does know you are here?" she asked.
Questions flew through my mind so fast I couldn't keep up.
"What could you possibly know about me?" Her head tilted a fraction, and her brow furrowed. Her face softened into some kind of understanding before she finally spoke.
"Your mother is missing, and your brother and father are supposedly dead. You grandfather is old now, and wanting to retire...his tools are missing and you're looking for..."
"All right, enough..." I said, looking around. She knew way more than I imagined. The next question was how did she know so much. But that's not what I asked.
"Somebody tried to kill me back on the mainland - a guy with a knife," I felt for the handle through the thin cotton of my shirt. 
"What did he look like?" she asked.
"Kinda tall, thin. Ugly and bleeding. I smashed his nose with a can of beans. He followed me down to the wharf," I explained.
"So someone knows you've arrived. Marshall, you're not safe. I can help you, if you will let me,"
"Why should I? I don't even know you,"
"I think I can help you find your mother. You just have to trust me, " she said.
It was the trump card that won my hand. 
"Let's talk then..." I said, re-linking our arms.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Trust

We bustled along the gangplank and onto the wharf.  The sky was now dark and the wind whipped at my face, leaving me icy cold. 
"Where are we going?" I asked her. I knew nothing about the island, only what I had seen in my dream. I figured little of that could be considered a reliable source. 
"Have you eaten? I'm starving. There's a small inn at the town square. Let me buy you some dinner," she offered, pulling me along, our arms still linked. I stopped suddenly, alarmed at her taking control. 
"Answer my question first. Before we go any further. Explain as we go like you promised," I said. I had no idea if I trusted her yet. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ashore

Her hair flipped across her face, obscuring her features. The sensation of knowing her well swelled in my gut but my head couldn't connect to a time or a place. The ferry's engines churned the water around us, slowing us in order to drift onto the jetty. She pulled back her hair with one hand, and with her free hand brushed the remaining strands from her face.
 I rubbed at the lump on the back of my head, hoping her name might slip out from under the swelling. Only pain came to mind as my lapse in memory became glaringly obvious.
"I'm Angie. We met at your grandfather's store," she said.
The pieces fell slowly but firmly in place. I recalled her admiring Pa's Grandfather clock. I'd backed into her hauling some boxes inside. 
"What are you doing...here?" I asked. I was confused by her presence. How did she get here? I'd fallen through some kind of portal. Of that I was sure, but we had first met on the other side -and now again here in this place that was still foreign to me. She laughed but I was missing the joke, and my face told her so.
"You really don't know, do you?" she said. 
The ferry docked and the gangplank slammed down, bridging the gap between ship and shore. For once,  I was speechless. The crowd shoved from behind, edging me forward. She moved next to me, linking her arm through mine.
"Come on. I'll explain as we go," she said.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Her Name

The ferry gathered speed and the man on the wharf shrunk to a  speck. My fear shrank along with him. I stood up straight and walked over to the other side of the boat. I could see the Woe Islands up ahead, and could tell as the boat veered to the left that it would stop at the North Island and most likely go on down the coast to the point. I leaned against the rail and felt the sting of the knife's tip dig into my flesh. I'd forgotten I'd slipped it under my belt as I leapt on the ferry. I subtly readjusted its edge, pulling my tattered shirt down low to conceal it once more. 
The ferry was crowded. It would be easy to jostle my way off without paying. I made my way closer to the exit, where a young girl stood staring out at the sea. Her face was familiar. She yanked up her collar, protecting herself from the breeze that had suddenly picked up. I watched her for a while, her long blonde hair flicking about in the wind. 
The engines wound down as we approached the North Island, and I looked ahead to see how close we were. When I looked back at her, she was staring right at me. She cocked her head to one side and a smile crept over her face.
Marshall?" she said, turning to face me. I wracked my brain trying to think of her name.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Running

I snatched a can of beans from the shelf and flung it hard at his face. I heard the crack of bone as he grabbed at his nose with his free hand. I sprang to my feet and lifted my leg and kicked him hard in the face and then smashed my fists down on the back of his head. The knife clattered to the stone floor. I swept it up and slipped it beneath my shirt and scuttled out of the pantry and back into the crowded bar. I spun around and caught his bloodied face through the crowd, one hand holding his dripping nose and the other, pointing at me as I escaped out the door. My feet pounded against the cobble-stoned path as I bolted along the lane. I turned down another lane that led down to the dock. A ferry sat at the wharf and passengers crowded the gangplank, shoving their way on board. I ran as hard as I could and sprang up the gangplank. I was the last one on. The deck hand hauled in the plank and the boat sounded three blasts of its horn  as it slowly reversed from the wharf. I leaned against the cabin, sucking in air. I saw him running down to the wharf, still holding his bleeding face. I was safe for the moment but hadn't a clue where I was headed.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Excuse

He led me through the crowd and into a small room next to the bar. 
"What are you doing you here?" I asked him. He ignored my question and shoved me into the corner. I slammed into some bags of flour, a cloud of white dust rising up from the impact of my landing. 
"How about I ask you the same thing?" he said.
We were in a small pantry off the main kitchen. I scanned the shelves for a weapon that might help keep me safe. Aside from canned beans and a round of foul smelling cheese, there wasn't much I could grab for. 
"SO?" he insisted.
I had my excuses for being here. I just wasn't up to explaining. The less I told anyone, the better it would be for me in the end. I shrugged my shoulders toward him and kept my mouth shut. The silence angered him. I watched the veins pop out from the side of his head. I probably should have considered the knife in his hand.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bluff

I fought the urge to throw up as someone grabbed hold of the back of my shirt. I closed my eyes and screwed up my face against the oncoming blow.
"Leave 'im alone..." said a voice. It belonged to the man who had hold of my shirt. He shoved me through the door of the tavern before I could get a good look at him. Inside, I turned and  saw who it was.
"Shut up and act like you've never seen me before in your life," he whispered into my ear. I did as he said, and felt the tip of his knife pressing into the small of my back. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Punch

I followed the cobblestone path down the hill, its edges lined with clusters of flowers. The colours lifted my spirits. I felt exposed as I traipsed down the hill and I imagined anyone down in the village could see me as plain as day. It made sneaking into the place impossible. I quickened my pace and scanned the narrow lane ways that separated the village huts. Smoke drifted from chimneys and disappeared into the washed out sky. Over the water, the sun was sinking into a band of cloud that stretched over the horizon, and the windows in the huts began to glow as the villagers lit their evening lamps. 
I reached the bottom of the path where a walkway led into a narrow street lit with lamps already burning brightly.An old man pushing a cart of apples turned out of a lane and onto the street. He nodded and smiled at me as I passed. I nodded back, taking in the baggy trousers and un-tucked shirt that he wore. He was dressed as shabbily as me. The shops were all closed, some bordered up completely. They looked unlikely to ever open again.
 I crossed over the path and turned down a lane where I saw an old tavern at the end. I could hear laughter and music spilling onto the street. It was as good a place as any to get lost in a crowd. Perhaps I could find somewhere to sleep for the night. I was headed for the tavern door when a fist landed hard in my gut. I folded in half, the wind knocked out of me once again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Village

I fell backward into the darkness. Out of control, I flipped through the air, spinning faster and faster. I reached out for something to grab. There was only the wind rushing between my fingers. I felt my stomach lurch as I flipped several times. I closed my eyes and hoped I wouldn't throw up.
 
 I slammed against something hard and the world became suddenly still. When the pain in my back and head settled, I opened my eyes and sucked in the breath that had just been knocked from my lungs. I blinked several times, getting my bearings, trying to make sense of the last few minutes of  life. I looked around me and realised I was lying under an old stone bridge. 

I rolled to one side. Next to me, a door was set into one of the pylons. I could see old worn steps leading upward. I climbed to my feet and stepped toward the door as a gust of wind barrelled under the bridge and slammed the door shut. There was no handle to turn - just a keyhole and nothing more. I pushed at the door. It didn't move-I was stuck in this place and had no idea where I was. 

I raked my hands through my hair and spun around. There was no one nearby. Up the hill, the road disappeared into forest. Downhill, the road swerved to the left and ran down to a small village. I rubbed the back of my aching head where a lump had begun to rise. I needed to find somewhere to hide, until I figured out where I was. I headed off down the cobblestone road, following its curves, trusting it to lead me to safety. 
 
Around the corner, the road continued on but a path veered off to the left. A broad leafy tree grew at the side of the road, its branches forming a green swaying arch over the path. I stood in the shade of the tree and looked down at the town below. It skirted a coast where dozens of boats dotted its shores.
 
Some distance off shore was a small island. I stared at it, disbelief clouding my judgement. On the island was the place I had dreamed of the night my mother went missing. The sun was inching its way down through the sky. It would be night before long. After such a long search, I knew this was place. I had found it at last. I stepped from the shade of the tree and made my way down the path into the village. I felt for the coin in my pocket. It hummed beneath my fingers and without even looking, I could tell it was already aglow.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Blast

“Marshall, there’s been an accident,” 

Penny’s voice waded through the quietness. My eyebrows sagged from the weight of a frown and panic seeped up into my belly. It continued to rise and it settled somewhere in my chest.  I pushed myself to the edge of my seat.

 “Is my mum OK?” 

I could feel my heart pounding through fear.

Penny said nothing for a moment, then placed a hand on my shoulder. The smell of fresh lemons drifted past me. 

“ The police found some of your mother’s belongings...at the ferry terminal…” 

I wanted to speak but my throat felt like it had twisted shut.

“What things…’ I finally croaked. The room seemed suddenly darker even though the curtains were open. 

“Her handbag, actually.  It seems she was about to get on the ferry. She was holding something that… exploded. Marshall, we think your mum fell into the water - from the force of the blast. We haven’t been able to find her. We believe that the force of the blast…it…it was an enormous explosion, Marshall. It seems highly unlikely anyone could survive being that close…” 

Her voice was barely audible by the end of the sentence. Despite the details, I couldn’t make out what she was saying.

“I don’t understand…” I said to her.

“We think your mother might have been killed in the blast,”

 I felt hot and sick and needed air. I pushed myself from the couch and staggered. Penny grabbed me and sat me down again. 

“You’re joking, right?” I asked, half laughing, half crying, searching her face for the punch-line.

Her expression didn't change.

She dropped her gaze and stared at the dying roses in the vase on the table.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Waiting

Penny reefed open the curtains, flooding the room with afternoon light. I winced from the brightness and looked down. In front of me, on the coffee table was my mother’s favourite vase. A fine pale crack snaked from one end of the vase to the other.  I knocked the vase over when I was five years old and my mother had spent hours painstakingly fixing it, telling me that if you loved something enough, it was worth all the time in the world to put it back together again. The vase stood brimming with blood red roses she had picked yesterday. Petals were scattered around the base of the vase. At some point during the day, the roses had wilted and died. 

Detective Bletcher walked back into the room, his mobile still stuck to his ear. He finished the conversation and snapped the phone shut.

“I’ve got to go,” he announced, nodding toward Penny, and then toward me. He left without saying another word. 

Penny crossed the room and sat next to me. I leaned in to her as her weight sunk down into the cushions. I edged away and stared straight ahead, wondering when someone was going to say something. Her partner perched himself on the edge of the seat of an armchair, his head instinctively cocking to one side as a siren wailed somewhere off in the distance. The room grew uncomfortably quiet, filled only with the rhythmic ticking of the clock above the mantle. 


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bletcher

"Who are you?" I asked.
"Andrew Bletcher. Marshall, I'm a detective. I need to ask you some questions, if that's all right..."
The closer he moved, the harder my heart thumped in my chest. 
"About what?" I said, an edge of meanness in my voice. The weight of the stolen book hung in the bag over my shoulder. 
"You should talk to my mother first," I said, changing the subject, buying myself some time. If he was willing to wait for her, I could figure a way to dump the book somewhere by the time he explained where I'd been and what I had done.
"It's actually your mother I need to talk to you about. Marshall, there's been an accident. We should all go inside and talk," he said, looking from me to the other two officers who now stood beside me. 
The bag over my shoulder thudded to the ground, and the world slowed and crowded my head. I wasn't sure what he was saying but the look on his face told me something bad had just become part of my future. Something far worse than me stealing a book.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Police

I slowed as I approached the driveway. One officer sat in the car, the radio crackling staccato bursts of a nasally voice that told him to “stand by and await further instructions…” A female officer appeared from beside the house, speaking into a handset. 

“House is secured…the kid’s not here…over…” 

I hated being called kid. I thought about running but didn’t need the extra attention, and it was too late to dump the book. I just kept walking, pretending not to notice them.


I glanced backward, in case Mum was on her way down the street. The man in the jacket was behind me.

“You're Marshall Kincade?” he asked.

 I stopped and slowly turned to him, his question sounding more like he was stating a fact. It was only his rising eyebrows that told me otherwise. His shadow stretched toward me, his head shading my feet. I stood motionless, recalling Nellie's advice about strangers. 


I hesitated in answering him as he fumbled inside his jacket. I comforted myself with the fact that if he were going to shoot me, he probably wouldn’t do it in front of two cops. From his jacket he produced a wallet. My shoulders sagged with relief to see it wasn’t a gun. He flipped the wallet open and held it up. An impressive looking police badge stared back at me. He lifted his empty hand, palm facing toward me, as though he meant me no harm, as though he knew I might run. I edged backward, out of his shadow before I answered him.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Direction

Beneath a thin layer of dust, I recognised Pa's loopy handwriting. I blew the dust from the pages, revealing directions and a roughly sketched map. At the bottom of the page was a single line - 'COME ALONE'  it read, in large letters. A gust of wind carried along the back corridor. There had to be an exit somewhere further down.  I shone the torch down the passage, where a wall kinked the passage in another direction. I picked up the book and started walking.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Passage

I shined the torch around the room. In the pale light I caught glimpses of boxes and trunks and old clocks that Pa had been storing away. I moved the beam of light over the walls. There was a switch on the side wall and I crossed the small room and flicked the switch downward. A feeble glow filled the room but it was enough to see all that was around me.  The air was musty and damp and again, I felt a gust of cold air blow over me. I looked around and then I noticed a passage led off the back wall. I crossed the room, and shined the torch down the narrow opening. At the end, I could see a small table on which sat a book, its pages splayed open. I moved slowly toward it, wondering why Pa would hide it away.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Trap Door

She crept down the stairs and into the shop. The outlines of the clocks began to take form as her eyes adjusted to the dark. She made her way between the shadowy forms, toward the main counter. She stepped behind the counter and with her foot, felt for the edge of the old rug that covered the floor. She fumbled in her coat pocket and pulled out her torch, flicking it on. A puddle of light fell over the rug.

Crouching down, she pushed back the edge of the rug, revealing a trapdoor set into the floor. She slipped her fingers through a cold metal ring handle, and pulled up hard,setting the torch down and slipping her free hand underneath to haul the door fully open. A gust of cold air swept up to her face as she yanked on a lever to wedge the door open.  She picked up the torch and pointed it at the opening, where there were several  old wooden steps leading down to another room.  She stood and took one final look around the shop and then headed down to the room below.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Trying Again

He felt the heaviness of the decision he was to make. He sat at the water's edge and considered each outcome. He reached for a twig that had washed up on the beach, and he drew a line in the sand. He could step over it and walk back to the boat where he would be free to go on without worry. It would be easy. Just go. 

In the pit of his gut, anxiousness stirred at the thought of returning to Pan's Palace, and trying again. He knew he couldn't go back. Not as he was. He looked over his shoulder, up at the face of the towering  cliff. He  would need a new plan, and a disguise so clever that no one would know who he once was. He stood and turned to face the craggy sharp edges of rock and without further thought, he took the first step and began the way back, leaving the line in the sand for the others to cross.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Over

There was nothing left to fight for. Max tossed the stone into the water and walked back to the boat, alone.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Waiting

There was only the ticking of the clock to be heard as they waited for the battle to begin...

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Horizon

Beneath the first light of dawn, he climbed the narrow stairs up to the deck. On reaching the top, he noticed the pain in his leg was almost gone. He lifted his shorts, and studied the scar that ran across his left thigh - a pink puckered track pulled together by skilful stitching. A few more days and the wound will be healed, he thought. He needed no further setbacks to keep him from getting the stone. 

He looked out at the water. A white-naped crane swooped low to the surface, and then circled its way back toward Max. It fluttered and flapped its wings as it landed on the side of the boat. Max watched the bird, its head turned toward the open sea. Following the bird's gaze, Max saw on the horizon, a shape that quickened his heart. It was the form of another boat, double masted and moving slowly toward them.  Max strained to see the shape of the boat, and the flag that flew from the tip of its foremast but the boat was too far away. There was no time to take any chances. He pounded on the galley roof, alerting the others, as he watched the boat gather speed, the wind moving  it closer toward them.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Memories of Home

A blue moon glow fell through the night air. Max leaned over the side of the boat and stared down into the still black water. The glassy surface helped calm his troubled thoughts. A round moon face beamed up at him, and beside it, he caught his own reflection. It was a face he barely recognised. The others slept soundly below, exhausted from the day's torrid events. For them, the fight was nearly over. For Max, it had only begun. 

He winced as he moved; his injured leg something he was still to get used to. He gazed out at the sea as memories of Pa and Laila drifted toward him. In his mind's eye, he could see Pa, at home, his slippered feet up on the table and his dinner balanced upon his knees. He never thought he would miss him this much. He regretted leaving without saying good bye. He only hoped he would get to see him again. Max stared back down at the water, its glassy surface finally disturbed. He felt the dampness on his cheek and only then realised it was his tears that had broken the water's surface. 
"Are you crying?" he heard her voice carry softly toward him. He hadn't heard her climbing the galley stairs.
"Just a sore leg," he replied, not looking up at her, his lie hanging thick in the still night air.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Their Royal Lowness

She barged inside the shop like she owned it, and muttered an insincere "excuse me, please." Her tone made it an order more than a request. Max shuffled to one side as the Madam took up all the room, pulling maps from shelves and shaking charts about, flicking pages, snapping orders to her sick-kick who had caught up to her barking voice. Max recognised her face, and knew to stay just out of reach. He could smell the trouble lingering on her skin. She snapped and snarled instructions at the wiry man, scolding him like a child. 

Max cast a sideways glance at her. She looked nasty-mean, a face pinched hard into a scowl, and hair that looked as though she never washed.
"Just shut up," she snapped as the wiry weedy man with the rotting teeth began to speak. He cowered back into his shell, awaiting further insults or instructions. She folded up the map, and shoved it back up on the shelf. She clearly wasn't buying; not when she could get her information here for free. 
"Let's get out of here," she snarled, turning slowly, casting Max a savage look. The wiry thing ran after her, catching up to her out on the sidewalk.

The sudden howling screech of brakes pulled Max's eyes toward the street. The howl was followed by a sickening sound; two thuds and then some screaming. Max stared at where the Madam and the wiry man had stood. Now they both lay motionless upon the path, the driver of the car leaning forward over them, screaming, yelling, "Someone help," 
The two lay still, without a movement. No rising chests, no flickering eyes,  their life blood slowly trickling off the path and down the drain. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Light

He closed the door, his eyes shut tight, as though not watching might somehow mute the snapping lock.  He leaned against the door and heard the clomp...clomp of passing clogs against the wooden floor, and the muffled whispery giggles of the servant girls. He held his breath as silence fell and then he felt again, for the icy handle of the door. Fear forced the breath from his lungs as his palms and fingertips travelled up and down the door.  There was no icy handle. He was trapped. 

His eyes fought against the dark and it took him several seconds for his pupils to adjust. He turned and looked around, and could feel his eyes stretching wide, trying to make out shapes amid the inky black. His head began to spin, his balance thrown out by the lack of light. He blundered backward - stumbling up against the door. Frantically he searched for a button or a switch. Something that would spring the door and let him out. He couldn't yell. There was no one to help. He turned and leaned his head against the door, blinking back the tears that held his fear inside. The wooden door smelled dirty -  dank, and reminded him of being on the boat and he longed to be back aboard, sailing on the sea.

"Pssst." He heard the noise hiss through the air. Max stiffened at the sound and slowly turned around, his throat all but closed, his voice reduced to little more than a husky croak.
"Who's there?" His eyes scanned the blackness and then he spied it in the corner of the room. A tiny blob of light, the same colours as a peacock's feather. Blue- green-blue-green. It pulsed just like a heartbeat.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Dark Room

The door creaked open and Max squeezed from his hiding spot behind the bins. He watched and waited for the servants to bid their night farewells. Above, the moon was nothing more than a sliver in the sky; an ally to help him on his way. One servant held the door ajar while she chatted to her friend. One final parting bow, and then they were on their way, leaving Max alone. 

Pressed against the palace wall, Max edged himself toward the door, and slipped his hand between the door and jamb. He pulled the door back slightly and poked his head inside and looked around. The door led to a passageway, rooms running off from either side. Max slipped inside and closed the door behind him. He crept along the darkened corridor, his ears straining for the slightest bit of noise. The smell of cooking onions wafted down the hall and his stomach sang in protest once again. He tried to think when he last ate but the thought just made his stomach grumble more. No time for food, he told himself.

Ahead, he saw a stairwell, dimly lit, leading up to yet another door that blocked his way. He heard the doorknob turn and then a shaft of light fell down the stairs and voices carried down the hall. People coming; more servants finished for the night, he thought. He scanned the passageway, looking for a place to hide as the servant's clogs clumped down the wooden steps. 

He pushed himself flat against a door. No good. He would still be seen. He felt behind and grabbed the icy doorknob. It was a chance he had to take, and the risk weighed heavily before him. He  had no idea what lay behind him. He could see their outlines moving closer and slowly felt the panic seeping through his body. His legs began to shake and his mind began to fog. He turned the knob as gently as he could, and the door clicked open. The room expelled a musty fug as he leaned against the door. He held his breath and slipped into the darkness.