Short and Sharp

A quick note today. Why? The race (tdf) is still underway, sleep is short, and I’ve been helped out with my misbehaving address page (I should send that person a lollipop, yes?).

Anyway … as always, a slight digression, but here comes a small insight (first draft only, so susceptible to changes/amendments) into the Ghost Story (soon to be renamed … any suggestions?). Copyright Rose Brimson & Cage Dunn 2017


Scene 20

Not a single truck passed the shop while Anna stood and stared at Arni in the middle of the shop-floor. Otherwise, she could have blamed a heavy rig for the thundering of the floor, the sensation of an earthquake that rose from her feet and into her legs and stomach; that wrenched her heart into skipping more than one beat.

This was worse. Arni stood with her hands on her hips, and the long skirt wrapped around her hands. The bare legs glistened and twisted in the light of the blue-white LED overhead light.

The scars looked freshly healed. Redness and puffy edges Anna could almost feel the pain from. The twists of ropy tendrils of half-healed scar tissue from a burn. A hot burn. One that went deep. That was meant to kill.

“It was a dream!” Anna felt the words come out of her mouth, even as she pulled the sleeves of her arm up. The handprint scar on her arm burst with heat and became red and white slashes of angry pain, as if it was happening again.

Arni stepped forward in a creeping sidle. The edges of the scar on her left leg oozed a pink fluid. She put her hand on Anna’s scar. It was a perfect fit; her hand covered the whole scar.

Anna’s eyes widened as she looked into Arni’s face and recognised the features. She hadn’t been wrong. Arni had Nan’s features, her hair colour – and her eyes.

“You’re one of us?” Anna squeaked.

“No. I’m a … I don’t know what. But not blood. Not as you know it. Not clan. But …” she looked away and dropped her skirt as the loud bang of the back door intruded. “It was a dream, but it was more.”

Rod stepped through the door from the residence into the shop.

“She knows, does she, love?”

Arni nodded without taking her eyes off Anna.

“What is this?” Anna asked.

“We know,” Arni said She reached behind and found Rod’s hand. He stepped up beside her. “We know what you’re here for. We want to help. Tell us what you need. What we can do. Please, let us help.” Tears poured down her face as she spoke.

“Is this…?” Anna had to think, and fast. Had she been sent here? For this? Did Nan mess with her mind and make her think she was doing something of her own volition, but really sending her out for the Task?

“I don’t understand,” she finally said.

“Bullshit,” Rod snorted. “You’re going to be a Valki, and a Valki has to … do things … to get that name. We know.”

“We know a bit, not all of it,” Arni finished. “I’m an extra,” she added.

“What is an extra?” Anna raised her eyebrow. “And what does it have to do with me?” It better be a good story, or she was out of here – now!

“Illi.”

It was all Arni said. It was enough.

“We can discuss this later, when I’ve …” what? What excuse could she come up with to give her time to find out what the crap was going on?

“We know. But we had to let you know.” Arni turned away. “Rod, love – can you get the supplies she needs? You know, the salt and litter and stuff?” She didn’t wait for an answer, just walked out of the shop.

Anna’s face must have reflected her shock.

“It’s alright,” Rod said. “Things will come together when they should. That’s the way it goes, isn’t it?”

But Anna had no idea. If she’d been set up, it was amazing. If it wasn’t a set up, it was worse because it was too real.


 

The Final Scene Outline

For the Ghost Story (still to be named properly).

Due to the vagaries of winter, TDF, time-stealing-stupid-activities (see housework, etc.), and other silly little things that take time away from writing — it has taken longer than usual to complete the final scene outline for the ghost story.

But — tah-dah — it’s now complete! Each scene for each major character is written up (short-form only at this stage) and Rose and I have put our butts on the chairs, the computers on the desk, and the story in our heads – and we’re writing up a storm!

What that means is:

TDF is in its last week (soooooo exciting!!!!)

35k words are up on Ghost, and the story is increasing by 7,500 per day (two people, so easy-peasy [famous last words, those] and the premise is stronger and more compelling than it was before). It should be complete, in first draft, by the middle of Aug. [please don’t see the fingers crossed behind the back.]

And – In the process of chasing up Ms Hunter to check on Equine (need to do another one of those scene outlines, I think, because the mid-point was sadly lacking).

Life is good.


When I mentioned the scene outline, and five stories, someone said “What is that?” so I decided to show them. The eyes widened and widened and widened, and by the time I got to the end, I could see the story in her eyes. She’d found a way to ‘organise’ her own scenes, and she made the flimsiest excuses and ran home. I haven’t heard from her since …


So, what is a scene outline?

Imagine a table, with the names of all the major characters across the top. The left column has the time and place, setting and conditions, etc. Main character (MC) is the next column, then the major antagonist, then the lesser players (still the majors, though – and by that, I mean: if a character has a POV in the story [from their mind], they get a piece in this outline).

Usually, there’s 1, 3 or 5. Funny how it’s usually an odd number, a bit like the balance act that goes into the design of gardens …

Anyway, I digress.

In the blank cells under each name goes the ACTION that character will undertake at that time/place in the story. Fill ’em all in and then see how the most power comes from putting this one before that one and adapting to suit this new progression.

There you have it. When you ‘timeline’ the scene sequence like that, it opens the story to a sense of completion. Of course, now the real work starts, but when you can see the end of the road, when you know where you’re going, it’s so much smoother (and you stop saying to yourself “is it over yet?” because you know that not only isn’t it over, this is the best bit, the most exciting time, the most productive time – the fun bit about being a person who spins tales and stories that other people enjoy.

words in scenes

So, I’m back to work – and so is Nan (otherwise known as Rose) and Shannon – where are you Karel? Your turn next!


 

An Excerpt

Or a Short? Could be both, depending on how it’s read, but … it’s still TDF (and it was so exciting to be Australian), so here is something that’s been done before:

Retribution

The dreams had claws; they dragged at her skin, screamed at her, sucked at her life force. The weight of numbers pulled her down into the morass of pain and horror, of creatures that wanted to eat her, wanted to tear her flesh from her body. They wanted her soul, her spirit. She felt them; heard them scream, heard their minds – the claws pulled her apart, piece by piece.

Van struggled to pull herself into waking. A dream – a nightmare. It had to be. She tried to scream. No sound came out. She pushed at her mouth to force it open so she could scream. She had to wake up. Her fingers pinched at her mouth. It didn’t wake her. She tried to fight off the arms attached to the claws, swiped at them, dragged them off. It didn’t work. Too many. There were too many.

She cried; hot tears burned down her cheeks.

Why could she feel her tears? Was she crying in the real world? Why couldn’t she wake? She knew she was asleep, knew this was a nightmare. She knew she had to wake up. If she didn’t, she would die.

Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. She would see her mother again. And Olympia. She let go. Felt her body being dragged down through the gelid mass, felt the black swirl of oily death reach for her. She would drown in this hell; it would be worth it to be with her family. She would be with them, wouldn’t she? If this was death they would be here, wouldn’t they?

Her mother’s face rose into view, wafted like a reflection on not-quite-still water.

“This is not where you belong. This is not your time.” The voice belonged to her mother, but the lips had not moved.

“Mum,” she tried to whisper.

“In this place, I am not what I was to you. I am not physical. I am not your mother. I am still Rosa Lapa, the child of Pella, but that is a label, not . . . what I am now.” The voice stilled; a tinkle of piano keys synchronised with the lapping of the watery edges of the face. “I am Rose. There are no last names here, no other names, only the names we have attached ourselves to.” The voice wavered. “I am fallen. This is where I belong now. My soul pays penance for my actions – and lack of them.” The face looked away; a silver mark drew a fine line from one eye down her cheek. A single small drop of shining essence fell from her chin. The creatures below fell on it, as if starved for that tiny thing. “And She, my other child, is not here. Her soul has moved to another level.”

The vision wavered, almost disappeared. Van cried out, but the only sound she heard was the keening of the things attached to her arms. She reached out towards the vision, tried to hold it. Sobs wracked her body.

“Mum,” she thought she screamed.

“My name is Rose. I cannot hold you. I am the architect of my own fate. I cannot forgive.” The voice drifted again, seemed now to come from behind Van.

“My first child. Do not ask me to name you here, in this place.” A deep sadness echoed in the dark eyes that looked at Van. “What you did wasn’t a deliberate act. Your soul does not have to pay this price,” the face looked down at the creatures. “I do. I acted with intent. My ignorance and failure are inexcusable. You can leave here. Believe it. The only creatures that belong here,” she pointed down, “are those who intended to take a life – you did not.” The face drifted closer, an icy touch, a slither on her skin, came with it. “Go home. Live your life. Live as an innocent would live. Your actions were not deliberate. Go home. And do not speak your sister’s name in this place. Do not bring her here. I will not let her be part of this.” The vision faded. “And do not come again. You will become nothing if you come here again.”

Van struggled against the snare of claws, screamed at the pain. She looked down into the morass. The faces were blank, human but not. Soulless. Without souls. That was what they wanted. Needed.

Not from her. Not from her mother. Not from – she tried to think of her sister’s name, but it slipped away – my sister. Van would find a way to give her mother peace. There must be a way for – Rose, my name is still Rose – to move on to where – Sister – was now. There had to be a way for them to be together. At peace.

The roiling black mass swam up against her; all the faces coalesced into one, separated out into hundreds, thousands, countless swirls of bloated faces screaming with mouths wide open, teeth bared, eyes black and bloody.

One face swam closer, became familiar. The face of the man she killed. The name on her list. She reached for him. He reached for her. Ice burned her hands as he touched her with the tips of his translucent, greasy fingers.

They were in a cold, dark emptiness. His eyes were red, wide; his mouth open, toothless.

The empty black space around them was full of black eyes scarred by ages, eyes that had never seen light. A creeping cold numbness crept up Van’s scalp, folded over her face, slid down her back, became her only sensation.

She opened her mouth, nothing came out.

His thoughts rode back to her, tingled on her mind like an ice burn.

<<I am not the one. It was not me. Your mistake. I am not the one. Not me. Mistake. You made a mistake. You belong here. I am not the one you seek. I am not redemption.>>

It was a lie. Do ghosts lie? Can ghosts lie? If they came to this place, was this a place for truth? How could she know? For sure? With absolute certainty?

She hadn’t meant to kill him. It had been an accident. He must know that. Van had only meant to find evidence, and pass it on. It wasn’t her fault.

A movement to her left. She looked. Cold fear knotted at her belly. A black man, with brown eyes, shining white sclera, pink on his lips where they parted in a smile. Van smiled back. This man had black skin, but she knew he was a complete man, not one of the soulless. She felt his life force, saw the glow of energy around him.

<< You cannot trust the soulless,>> the black man’s mind said. <<They will lie. They do not forgive.>> He moved his head around, and as he did, a grove of ghost gums seemed to settle on the blackness, drove back the fetid cold. Leaves rattled on the high branches. There was no breeze.

<<Are you real?>>

<<I am real. You are real. The trees are real. We do not abide here, but we can visit – briefly. This ritual of death is not for you at this time. You must leave this place, or leave your soul.>> His eyes bored into her. They were now the only things she could see, but she still felt the blackness, the ravening cold of the soulless. <<She,>> he looked back over his shoulder, <<has chosen to wait for him; to hold him here so he cannot be reborn. It is the worst fate, and the best choice.>> His voice dimmed, softened at the end. <<There are many now. Too many.>> His hands reached toward her.

<<You should leave here now.>> His hand was warm on her wrist. <<Do you know how to leave?>> he asked.

Van cried, tears spilled in burning tracks down her cheeks as she shook her head.


Copyright Cage Dunn 2016.

Moordanar_CageDunn2016final2

 

Still …

TDF, but today is the rest day, so I get slightly more sleep … or should that be zzz?

Anyway, here’s what should normally happen tomorrow, but the race is back on tonight, so tomorrow may not happen then, so it’s happening now.

cropped-header1-words


A Timely Reminder of The Simple Things About Story

Sentences, Paragraphs, Scenes, Chapters

Following are some notes for a simple view of how it works for story:

Sentences

are a simple structure. They contain a subject, a verb and an object. Someone does something to someone/thing. That’s basic sentence structure. Any more than that requires books and learning to get a grip on the complexities (some of us are still learning (moi!), especially about what order things go in to make good, logical sense to a reader [clarity]).

Read the words aloud to get the most defined understanding of how it fits/works. Does it sound the way it was meant to sound? Produce the right effect on the ears that hear those sounds?

Para/sentence structure should not be all the same.  How have we built our sentence?  Is it repetitive?  Does it build? Length – variation; what type of rhythm/flow is required?  Is the content and structure interwoven?

Rhythm is connected to length. Smooth flow, waxing eloquent; sharp, sudden (the long sounds, the short sounds).

Grammar helps pace/rhythm and is used to show the sense of movement of sections/paras.

Active v passive – do active; remember that drama is character in ACTION.

Cause and effect (separate them out) – ensure effect comes after cause. Don’t have someone leap up in the air before they hear the shot/creak/yell, etc.

Relevance is how ‘it’ contributes to sentence/para.

Redundancies – get rid of repetitiveness, unless they serve a specific purpose.

Feed movement, not stagnation (we want to progress), something always happening; movement of characters through the story.

Use a power position (begin/end of para/sentence).

Words:

Should be in character; different people use different words (an artist would use more colour words, a musician, a deaf person, a blind person – choose carefully, and be consistent).

Precise, specific (where it suits the character) – see it, hear it, smell it, touch it, taste it. Any other senses? Use them.

Use strong nouns and verbs to say what they’re supposed to say; to create a mind-picture – Walked = strutted, marched, staggered; building = factory, hospital, school). Be specific.

Get rid of words you don’t need (then, that – find your overused words and banish them).

Remove nothing/filler words (ie really, nice, next, then, pretty, good, bad).

Try to remove adverbs (‘ly’ words) – these are ‘tell’ words.

Remove redundancies (it’s worth saying this in as many different forms as possible).

Tags: use said, asked, replied (don’t distract the reader with the guffy tags).

Use fewer adjectives (and make sure the ones you use work); must contribute to noun.

Remove clichés (clichés are culturally connected, so for fantasy, create your own).

Check facial expressions and don’t go overboard – action does not equal only scowls, raised eyebrows, frowns, etc.

Check for overworked gestures (max 3 gestures per page – includes facial expression). ‘Character in Action’ does not mean only gestures and/or face movements.

Use precise, specific words – use all the senses to create the reality (instinct, hunch, sight, sound, taste, smell, touch/feel).

Paragraphs – Ensure We Leave No Sentence Behind

There’s an adage: ‘The purpose of the first sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence. The purpose of the second sentence is to get them to read the third sentence. And so on.’

So people focus on the first sentence, and/or the second, and their interest wanes after that. If any sentence in the structure isn’t doing a specific job to keep the flow moving in a specific direction, it doesn’t matter whether it’s there or not because no one will read it.

Every sentence matters. Always.

A single sentence that doesn’t move readers forward (with intent), axe it. It’s not meant to be there.

Good Paragraphs Are a Chain of Thought

Every sentence in a paragraph refers back to the one before it.

The first paragraph is the setup/introduction and sometimes the hook. It introduces the idea you want to put across. A new paragraph refers back to the last sentence of the paragraph before.

How do you know when to end a paragraph?

One paragraph makes one single point.

That might mean only one sentence is needed to make the point. Sometimes, it might need a few sentences. This is the introduction of complexity (complex sentences, rhythm, pace, structured movement, etc.).

Then move on. This para needs to relate back to the point that came before, move in a specific direction to make its own point (in the power position), and get to the end.

One para = one point.

Chapters

A chapter can be one scene, it can be two, it can be several. The writer makes a choice about what a chapter is, if they have them. As long as each chapter holds to the principle of:

Each sentence has one subject (ie POV);

Each paragraph has one point (ie purpose);

Each scene (you know this one) has one (action) Event (in one place/setting, one moment in time) from one POV (character) [ie character in action] where something changes;

Each chapter has one ‘story’ – what this means is that a chapter has a setup, a response/attack, and a resolution (which may be a setup into the next chapter);

Each story has … see notes on Structure: one Main Character (heroic), one seriously bad Antagonist (the reverse image of the heroic MC), and one Goal (which is blocked by … obstacles).

 

And that’s my understanding of what they are: Sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters, stories.


gratefully reprinted from 5bayby14u (now closed for business, but souls residing here).

 

That Time of Year, and What it Elicits

Well, it’s TDF! Which means I don’t sleep, forget to eat at the normal times, stay up all night to watch the lycra legs and mountains and pretty landscapes – the Tour de France!

So, in a nutshell, what you get is what there already is – a third scene from the WIP (the Ghost one without a title).


Scene 5

If there was ever going to be a woman stamped with the word ‘sexy’ it was this one. She was beautiful. Auburn hair that fell halfway down her back, a svelte figure that clothes clung to as if their life depended on her, and a sultry lilt to her voice that would have dragged the males in from all directions. In the city.

“I’m absolutely sure he didn’t introduce himself properly,” she purred. “I’m Sylvina Harrihan – call me Sylv – and this is my husband, Robert – but everyone calls him Bud. Don’t know why.” Her fingers danced in the air in front of Anna’s hand, but didn’t touch.

“I’ll go get it happening. You two get to know each other, and I’ll be right back.” Bud disappeared, followed by clanks and clatters and a loud and slightly out of tune whistle.

The front room was warm and bright, even lit only by the fire and candles. Dark hollows muffled and softened the corners and edges, but Sylv had a shine all of her own. Her conversations were intellectual, and concentrated on world issues. Except when it came to hairdressers, masseurs, the things women always wanted to help them look beautiful.

“Why don’t you move to a town?” Anna asked, after Sylv had complained for the third time about the lack of facilities.

“Oh, no, my dear. This is my home. This is where my Bud lives. This is where we met and where we’ll die. It’s home. I love my home.” Her hands flourished to show the room with damask curtains in shades of silver and dusky pink. The complementary colours in the big, soft chairs glowed with warmth from the open fire and the row of candles on the mantle. “This is my home.” The arm dropped.

A chill ran down Anna’s back. Hackles of hair rose to attention on her neck and scalp. Had she imagined a purple tinge to Sylv’s skin? Was that eczema? The scaly, upraised section showed when the sleeve of silk slid up. It was ugly, red and inflamed, and at the same time grey and old. A scar? No, not a scar. It looked like dead skin. Really dead. Like the bodies in the morgue dead. The same colour, the same flaccidity, the same sense.

Anna sniffed. She looked up into Sylve’s eyes. The bright blue had changed to a black glare. Sylv’s eyes glanced at the offending arm, and slid a hand over the pleats in the sleeve. A dark shadow seeped into the air as Sylv stepped up close to Anna.

“We don’t speak of our problems, my dear. We deal with them. In our own way. In our own time.”

The door swished open and Bud waltzed in with the tray. He chatted about the food, the butter beans he’d grown himself, the tiny pea-sized aubergines, the crispy potatoes.

“She doesn’t need a rundown of your farming skills, dear – do you, young lady?” Sylv leaned over the tray he’d placed on the table. “Is there any meat?”

When Bud shook his head, the lines on Sylv’s face deepened, darkened. She turned and stomped out through the swing door towards the kitchen. Bud seemed to ignore her.

“Come and sit, Anna. We’ll get started; we’ll get the best bits. She’ll be sorry when she comes back.” He looked up as Anna came to the table. “She always does that. Doesn’t mean anything. She just doesn’t like to eat in front of people. A thing about her teeth. Something. Doesn’t matter. Let’s just eat, shall we?”

The chat was impersonal. No questions about her past life or where she’d come from. A general outline of the history of the town. Why the trains didn’t run anymore – nothing left to mine, apparently. Nothing about Bud and Sylv. Nothing about people who lived in the region now.

“What were you saying about ghosts on this side of the tracks?” Anna asked.

“Oh, well, maybe this isn’t the time to be speaking of ghosts,” Bud said. “You still have to sleep in the haunted house tonight. Can’t go and give you nightmares, can we?”

“Did I offend Sylv?” Anna asked as she stared at Bud with direct eye contact. What is going on here?

“No. It’s like I said. She’s a bit touchy about what people see. Doesn’t like to looked at.” He shovelled food into his mouth. “Got funny teeth,” he said around the mess in his mouth.

Anna picked at the food. Wondered. What had she seen? Was it scarring? Was it a skin disease? In her gut she knew it wasn’t, but she didn’t want to consider the other options. Whatever it was, it was none of Anna’s business. And nor was Bud. Not this time.

Tomorrow, she’d find someone else to help her with the renovations.


Copyright Rose Brimson & Cage Dunn 2017

E-Publishing Slip and Slide

K. Jaeger 2017. Re-listed from 5bayby14u (now closed).

About to set sail with your opus? On the cusp of publishing your story/novel/opus? E-publish or self-publish or …?

The questions that come after completion of the major work seem overwhelming, but consider this: it’s the best distraction for a long enough period of time that you can completely push the work out of your head and focus exclusively on something that is so much more and so radically different from the creative side that your mind will clear.

When you finish the process of looking at the ‘how and where’ of publishing your words and you re-read your mss – how much easier do you think it’ll be to see the tiny little flaws you couldn’t see before? I’ll tell you – soooooo much easier. And it’s all because you took your focus elsewhere. Here. To the publishing questions. So, think of it as a good thing, of value to you, the writer.

Publishing 101:

For e-books – and this is probably the best start unless you want to submit to a ‘big five’ publisher:

Format the document in the best way possible. Read how the e-saler wants it, learn it well and do it. Smashwords has a whole document on the best way to format your story and you need to follow the instructions. Why? Because if you stuff it up and the formatting is wobbly, wrong, or has only one word on each line/page etc. do you think a reader will go beyond their first look? I wouldn’t, and nor would you. So, do the formatting properly.

Amazon is a little trickier, but if you find somewhere to convert your document to e-pub (for free or otherwise), then use this site to check how it looks before you put it up (not for commercial use; single-use non-commercial only – commercial users can buy it). If you think you know how to format – think again! Things get chewed up because you used a particular software program, something’s hidden in the background (like bookmarks), something’s funny about the non-true-type font you used for your heading or centering, or …

Do the formatting before you even think about submitting to the e-salers. Do it now. The first few times may take some effort, but after the first few (dozen, or so, by my recollection) you can (maybe) trust yourself to do the quick skim before submitting (and if you do this, what have you lost? Those first 3 days, that’s what).

The reason you want to do this part so carefully, with so many finicky checks and balances?

The first three days. That’s how long you have to get the ‘new’ skimmers. These are the people who look for new stuff that comes online. If you have a good title and a great cover and get people looking inside, these are the three days that count. As soon as you press publish, the countdown starts. Three days to stay in the flash of light of e-saling. A good cover with a good title that shows the genre, audience and what that story is about on the inside can get you 80-800 looks a day (your writing will determine whether there’s a sale or not) – a non-cover with a rubbish title will get you precisely none/nil/zip.

And there you have the intro to e-publishing your story. The info’s out there, you just have to understand that it’s there for a reason, and it makes sense to make the most of the effort you’ve put into that story/novel/opus, doesn’t it?


2017.

the word

 

An Excerpt from WIP(2)

Scene 4

“Did you know about his gold?”

Anna rolled her eyes.

“If there was gold anywhere in this house, even a rumour of it, don’t you think it would be gone by now? That people wouldn’t have ripped the place apart to find it?”

“No. The ol’ bastard – did you know him? You look a bit like him in the eyes; Alecsander Brynerson? – he lived here his whole life, and now he haunts the place, so no one will get his stash.”

“A ghost?” Anna snickered, shook her head.

“Don’t laugh. At least not until you meet him and –”

“There are no ghosts,” Anna cut him off. “People die, and that’s it, they’re gone from this plane.” She wiped off the table and pulled out a chair and pointed him into it. The hand behind her back crossed two sets of fingers and tapped three times.

Bud sat down and pulled out a notepad.

“So, what is it you want done?”

“What can you do?” she said.

“Don’t ask for the builder licence numbers, ’cos I ain’t got ’em, but I can do anything. At least most things; sometimes it might take more than one person, but there’s nothing I can’t do once I put my mind to it.”

His pencil made a sketch of the floorplan of the house, marked the area of the kitchen and fireplace in the lounge.

“Do you want to get rid of the stove?”

“No.”

His face relaxed, a slight smile stretched the lips.

“A good thing – they weigh a ton or more, and I don’t know anyone who’d take it, or even help carry it out. Would’ve had to cover it up and leave it in place, anyway.”

“I like wood-stoves. I’d like to run pipes behind it to heat the water.”

“Good move. Right. What next?”

“I’ve never done electrical – always left it to the professionals,” Anna said. “But I could learn if you want to teach me.” She took a breath. “You can do electrical?”

“Yep.”

Anna got out her own notebooks, pencils and overlays and marker pens. She leaned her phone against a grimy tea canister and swiped until the photos of the house presented. Stopped.

“This is what I planned, and I’ve got a schedule – sort of, depends on a lot of things coming together at the right time – and these bits are my preferences, if possible.” She put the main items on the table in front of Bud.

It was so easy. So simple. The tasks came together. The plans built up until Anna could almost smell the new paint, the waxed floorboards, the wood-smoke.

The sun dipped far enough for the light in the window to become darker than inside. Anna looked up, realised how late it was. Bud went outside and came back in with a glass-topped lamp. A small flame created a golden glow. The smell was kero.

“Is that yours?”

“Nope. Was in the back of the laundry. He always had a few in different spots.” Bud looked her straight in the eyes. “He used to throw them at anyone who trespassed.” He leaned in so close she could see the sparkle in the black pupils. “Lit.”

“What? It would’ve burned the house down.”

“Nope. His aim was good. Always hit the target. Whether with the lamp or the bullet. Always.”

Anna began to slide the bits of paper into a neat pile. She put the main plans in one set, and notes and lists in another. Slid it all into the compartments of her folder.

“I suppose you have to go? It’s too dark to work now, but-”

“Yeah. My wife’s waiting. Don’t want to be too late when there’s a new woman in town – you know how they think, don’t you?”

“Yep,” Anna said. Married. Of course. She shrugged. “When things get worked out a bit more here, can I invite you both to dinner?”

“Why don’t you come to our place tonight? She’d love the company. No one ever comes to this side of the tracks anymore.”

A frown creased her head. What?

“Why not?”

“Since the trains stopped running. People say the ghosts on this side are bad. Of course, they’re talking about old Alecs, but you know what country people are like.”

Yep. Anna knew.

“I’d like to offer you a bed for the night, but …”

“That’s alright. I’ll be fine here.”

Bud raised his eyebrow as he stood up.

“Don’t sleep in the front bedroom,” he said. “Just trust me. Sleep in your car would be better, but if you sleep in the house, don’t go in the front room.”

Anna smiled and nodded. He meant well.


the house

Fortune, fortunate

A Wheel of Fortune spins and spins, clickety clacks until the leather flap holds firm. It has stopped. There is a winner. The Writer leans in and reads the Title and Number.

Title is ‘Agoness’ and number is 15. This will be the next story she works on. This is her way of deciding what comes next, who gets to be created on the page, who gets to live out their story for the next project.

Agoness is not a new story. It sat in the darkness as an idea for a long time, then it became a pattern of recognition, otherwise known as a beat sheet. From that beat sheet came the characters who’d share the journey, who they were and what their relationships were to the main character (MC). The setting, the world, was clearly outlined on a separate stage, with pictures and maps and money systems, with political news and disputes, with the ways of learning and judging – the world, the hidden background that influences without having to be explained except through MC’s actions and reactions, through her journey in this story.

And 15? The numbers are used until a story is complete and its number becomes vacant, until it’s time for another story to show its head, to pop up from the unknown and start wagging the tail. When Agoness is completed and published, the number will become associated with a different Title.

Because, well, the Wheel of Story Fortunes has a limited number of spaces – and please don’t ask how many there are on the real thing. This is the world of a writer, and it is made up as required, as needed, and as desired. In the current Wheel of Stories, there are 32 numbers, and therefore 32 stories waiting for their turn at the keyboard.

Some of these stories will be written up and finished at this stage, but mostly what happens is that they go through another stage, either a planning and development stage, or an Act or two will be written up or plumped out or plotted and staged, or a dimensional understanding of ‘what the hell happened’ stage. If the Writer doesn’t understand why or how things happen, it’s not finished. And sometimes, these things take time to bubble up from deep wells of Writerly Thinking before they can be added to, or finish, the story.

Today is one of those days. Rather than thinking too hard on the current WIP(s), pick up another gauntlet and let the brain wander in a new world until it meets up with the bubbles of treasure it wasn’t searching for in the front-brain activity. Then stack it away, back in the slot for that number, and get cracking.


C’est la vie!wheels

 

A Mirage

It shines on the horizon, a shimmer of something that seems glorious, something to be followed with wide eyes and avid heart. It is an illusion. It will trap you in its simple beauty and lead you far and away beyond the ken of life.

The desert does that. It spells the wanderer into thinking it has life, but just carry on, go a bit further, over that next ridge, and all will be revealed. It won’t. There will be another and another and another. On and on and on.

In the desert, to move is to die. To stay still, to wait, is the only option. Once the wanderer leaves the trail, or the vehicle, it may as well be all over.

Out here, out there, nothing will find the body but ants and sand. Years may pass before the bones rise again to the surface, brown and white and cleaned of flesh. It is the way of things.

The glowing message on the horizon? The trap for the unwary? It gives hope, and hope – out here – is not something to chase, but something to give.

Hope will come when the next vehicle along the tracks sees the broken down fellow traveler. Hope will be lost when it’s found to be abandoned. No one will go beyond the border of the track, not without air support, ground support, water trucks, radio support. Out here, out there, there is no hope, no chance, and that mirage is the only thing of substance.


A short one today, but that’s how it goes sometimes. And yes, I do miss the desert; the smell as the sun rises, the sounds that show just how much life is there if you know where to look, the washes of colour and movement that don’t seem quite real. The big, big open spaces where I can stand on one hummock and sense the rest of the world, where I can see the ‘roos digging in for the day, where the rocks glow with the heat or crackle with the change in humidity – night to day. I miss it, and even when I lived in it, drove through it every day, worked on it, and loved it, there was always the fear, because out here, out there, you are the only person who can offer hope to yourself. And that may be the biggest lesson of all.

desert

A New Story [Perhaps]

An excerpt from a new story in the paranormal field. Copyright Rose Brimson & Cage Dunn 2017 (of course).


Scene 1

“It’s a beautiful old house. Probably best described as original, ’cos it needs a fair amount of work, but I’m sure there’ll be someone to do work in the area – it’s a farming region, so lots of trades in those places.”

The words seemed to ring in Anna’s head as she sat in her car and stared at the house. Yes, it was beautiful. Once. A long time ago. Not now. Original. Yes. Raw timber because the paint had flaked off decades ago. That real estate agent was going to cop it when she found him. And the contract of sale would be withdrawn. She had three days left of the cooling-off period.

How long would it take to get the deposit back?

Hot sun streamed onto her denim-covered legs and she opened the door to get out. At least she could look around, and tell the miserable, low-down, rotten-stinking-lying pretty-boy prick that she’d inspected the place and found it to be not as advertised. That would be enough to ensure she could back out.

One of the windows glinted. A movement? From inside? No. Just a breeze. Were there still curtains? Or was it the casement falling out? She shook her head. Stupid, really, but she felt a need to look. To check. To make sure.

All her savings, all her money, was tied up in this. Her future. Hmmmppphhhh! If she were a bloke, she’d spit on it.

There were no trees to park under, no bushes, no shrubs, no green lawns – no grass at all, just dust and gravel and rocks – and so hot the black asphalt stuck to her sandals as she ticky-tacked across the road to inspect the house that should have been her new home.

One hand grabbed the veranda post as her foot landed on the first step and sank. And sank. She stepped back with a gasp.

Rotten.

Her fingers clawed at the soft timber of the post. Rotten.

She glared at the boards on the wrap-around veranda. Holes, warped boards, the hum of wasps from somewhere below the gaps. Rotten.

Nails stuck up at odd angles, lay on the surface, or produced rusty circles on the timber. Anna raised her eyes to the entrance. The door hung partly open, twisted into a shape that meant that’s probably where it’d been for decades. Rotten. Everything was rotten, rotten, rotten.

Her chest expanded with a gust of breath as she stepped backwards and turned back to the front gate. The long grass to left and right was too tall to walk through with sandals on, but she had to get around the back. She had to see just how bad it was, document it all and compare it to the photos on the web, so she could back out of the deal.

So far, her life hadn’t changed at all.

Puffs of dust followed her footsteps down the rutted driveway. The equally-spaced paths were well-tamped. Nothing would ever grow there, and it gave her a safer place to walk. But she stomped anyway. Just in case of Joe Blakes. That would really be the final straw.

The back door was open, resting against the torn-off flyscreen framed in curlicues of pink-painted wood. That would be worth rescuing. Except not by her. She wouldn’t be here, would she?

No.

Anna stepped up onto the concrete slab that passed for a patio or veranda. The timber that held up the roof was solid, but paint peeled in long scrabbles down to lay at the base. One fingernail pushed as hard as possible and didn’t sink in. She turned toward the back entrance, squealed as a spider web drifted down across her forehead. She swiped and slapped until she was sure it was gone.

Crap!

A grimy bannister brush lay against an old timber fruit-crate. She leaned down and picked it up, held it up in the air as she stepped through the back door, literally, when it crumpled to frothy lumps at the first turn of the old handle.

Crap!

More and more like her life, but with more dust.

The light was dim. The layers of dust and grime didn’t help. Ash and greasy yellow marks slid along the walls of the kitchen. Anna knew it was the kitchen because of the table, the chairs, the trough-sink, and the wood-stove tucked into the wall.

A wood-stove. She’d always wanted a wood stove. A dream, because she remembered the tales of her gran and the time it took to get it started, the time it took each morning to prepare, the time it took to ensure enough wood for the season. But it was beautiful. Solid iron, all the doors and lids, the lid-lifter hook, the green enamel doors, the black sliding grate. Two fingers caressed the cold enamel, ran along the full length of the old lady. Bits of ash drifted to the floor.

Anna smiled and looked around. The small door on the left, between the stove and the trough, showed a pantry. Things were set up on shelves, too dust-covered to see what they were, or had been. She closed the door and turned back to the large kitchen. Sun glowed into the window on the far side. No curtains, just dust and webs. And one or two egg-sacs. It was a good home for spiders and such. But not her.

The double door had to be persuaded to move in the grooves. She’d have to change this to a top slider, and get rid of the bottom bit; that’d make it easier to maintain. The room behind the doors must have been the living room, lounge room. The fireplace was huge, but with a small central grate. Blocks of wood lay in neat piles to either side, and the hearth was swept clean. Except for the dust, the fire was ready to be lit. A small triangle of kindling sat in the grate waiting for the spark.

The two chairs, overstuffed and overworn, sat at an angle to the fire. One had an antimacassar over the back and one on each arm. The other was unadorned, dark and stained, but the rose pattern – red and white and green – was dimly visible. She ran a hand over the arm. This one hadn’t been used. It was just one of a pair. She touched the antimacassar chair. Body grease, a deep indentation on the seat, the shape of a body almost outlined. This chair had been well-used. Maybe there were two for symmetry.

She looked around. An ornate bookcase with glass doors hid objects with shapes that were indiscernible, but she wasn’t going to open it to see what it was. Not with that amount of web to fight through.

Two doors led off the main room. She shoved at the door nearest the front window, but didn’t budge it. The other one slid open to reveal an iron bed-stead, wardrobes that spoke of art-nouveau designs. The rug on the timber floor was a hunters design, an original, probably hand-woven if the tie-offs on the upturned corner were any indication.

Anna didn’t lean down to check. She felt a tickle at the base of her scalp and turned around, expecting to see someone.

Nothing.

She walked back to the lounge room. Empty. Still. She looked out the windows. No one out there, so sign of movement. As she walked up to the front door, she noticed the lack of window coverings. No curtains, no blinds, no mosquito or fly screens.

If she believed in ghosts, now would be the time for her to consider that what she’d seen from outside came from the other realm, but she didn’t.

“I don’t believe in ghosts,” the loudness of her voice was shocking in the echo of empty space as she retraced her steps through the kitchen and out the back door.

“I didn’t take any pictures,” she said. The stillness of the air and building remained. Nothing moved except her breath.

The open area to the south of the concrete block outside the back door had a double trough and a hand-pump. It was irresistible. She pushed on the pump. Rusty red water gushed into the concrete trough. Maybe this place had been empty longer than she thought.

She stepped off the veranda and walked the length of the ruts to the back fence to get an overall view of the house.

The double chimneys on the south side were stone and brick, grey and red, in a design she’d never seen before. The roof was square, even if the iron was rusted and lifting like wings in several places. The gutters were gone; the hooks remained and she could see the internals. No rot in the roof that she could see. It was fixable.

Her phone peeped. She pulled it out and checked the message. Deleted it. Skimmed to the website for the house and enlarged the pictures as she compared the real with the e-real. If she put a gauze in front of her face, it looked the same. A dusty, sort-of block-out effect that blocked nothing but the worst of the decay. The house looked just like it was advertised.

She wouldn’t get her money back. Wouldn’t be able to back out of the contact.

The only choice she had was to make the place liveable.


Unedited, so subject to change at no notice at all (until publication). Title: something about a Ghost …. and Gold …. and a Country Town ….

the house