Missing Exhibit Sent Off

Just wanted to let you know, my Tom novel got sent off to the competition, no problems, yesterday afternoon. The title I wound up with after much brainstorming with Mum and Dad – the only people who’ve read the novel thus far – was Missing Exhibit. Thanks to those brainstorming sessions, I now have working titles for the second and final books in the series as well. Hooray.

Evoked some tears, and apparently there’s a lot of perceived depth. So, that’s good. Got some other nice comments as well. Very much appreciate them; I hope others like it as much as my lovely parents.

Just some basic figures now:

Final page count: 303

Final word count: 155900

Doing some more work on Behind Glass now, as well as some much overdue Treading Twisted Lines, and also starting transposing old notes of my next novel. Also also wik, want to get the bare bones out for a short story while I’m bussing this weekend. Heading to Rockhampton over Easter to sing in the Queensland Choir Eisteddfod. So, plenty to keep me busy.

Should probably leave Tom sequels alone for a while. I’ve done enough to him for now.

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Darkness and Heat

There was lightning. And wind. Rain pelted and walls shuddered with air surrounding as the original tone of power pulsed through all being nearby. Now, there’s only darkness. Darkness and heat. You hear a lot about darkness and cold – the combination’s used so often to generate atmosphere: chilling, desperate, evil, and fell. The lights go out and the temperature drops when spirits are near, and countless stories begin along the lines of “it was a cold winter’s night.” Perhaps I’m biased here, given where I’m from and what I have more experience in. But darkness and cold, I find, cannot generate the eerie stillness that is darkness and heat. Stifling and close, time doesn’t stop – it’s heavily medicated, minutes sluggishly oozing on while the unearthly, tense expectation of unknown mounts. A different atmosphere to the cold and dark. Under used, I think. Nothing quite like the stage between sweating and not, the odd discomfort and twitch of warmed skin as innards slowly turn, waiting, always waiting.

Power should be back on by one.

Dry Spell

Just saw the results for the young adult short story competition I entered back in January. Failed to achieve any recognition, though was expecting that more and more after reading something indicating that the judges may not approve of violence in young adult stories. Excuses are bad, though. Just wasn’t good enough. But even though it’s not literary magazine material, I still like it. Wanted to share. There are a few Australian terms throughout – if any non-Australian readers need an explanation, let me know 🙂

*

The instant the engine spluttered silent, Paul threw himself from the passenger seat.

Don’t speak. Don’t engage. Don’t look up.

Monstrous clouds soaked up the sky, so black and harsh they could have been smoke. The stagnant air Paul breathed was near as thick with moisture, though the earth was sucked dry, two years of drought tanning the adjacent school oval, blades sharper than a field of thumbtacks. According to the most recent dam levels update, Wivenhoe lingered at a distressing eighteen per cent. Paul had long since gnawed his nails down to ten tiny, stinging nubs.

Don’t look up.

Parents and friends congregating in the car park peered skyward with such expectation. Several optimists even carried umbrellas. Paul threaded through them, knowing better. Heaven wouldn’t spare a drop.

Don’t engage.

He shouldn’t be here. He wouldn’t last. Not with the clouds bearing down on him. Not with the itch of his knuckles, each larger than a quail egg. His fists were solid enough to collide with brick, a truckload of angst and hard teenage muscle behind the blow, and retract un-shattered. That was fact. He’d seen for himself only two days ago, five times in a row.

Don’t engage.

“Paul! Hang on, love.”

Mum at last disentangled from her seatbelt.

“You should really think about getting your learner’s,” she said, gliding across the bitumen in her slip-on sandals.

Both dust-choked vehicles flanking theirs had large red Ls stuck in both windscreens.

“How can we give you the old ute if you never get your licence?”

“Don’t want to drive,” Paul muttered, edging away from her apprehensively.

Operating a malfunctioning machine gun under urgent orders to cease fire. That’s the sorry disaster Paul likened his driving to.

“You could change your mind,” Mum countered cajolingly. Beneath the car park floodlights, Paul’s looming mass cast her elfin form entirely in shadow.

You could break her… you should…

Paul’s breath shuddered in his chest.

Big Bill got her pretty good…

Rain had bucketed horizontally that day, distorting the sirens. In his mind, Paul saw Mum splayed on the cold tiles in his mind, shattered like a lobbed porcelain doll’s delicate face. Dad was crumpled beside her, bawling. Paul had been forced to leave his rugby club, once Dad’s arrest hit the news. The managers would have no connection with the disgraced forward.

“Lucky it wasn’t worse. And lucky it was me,” Mum had said fervently to a newly-subdued Paul once she’d been discharged, “not you or Deano.”

You’re bigger than him… you could do more…

Mum reached to touch Paul’s arm fondly.

“It’ll be hard to get around, once you’re on your own.”

His giant’s hand smashed Mum’s skull into the bitumen with a nauseating crunch, splintering her nose, riddling her bleeding brain with bone shards…

Break her… Do it…

NO!

“Don’t touch me!” Paul hissed wildly. Mum’s chipped pink fingertips stilled, just brushing his T-shirt sleeve.

“Don’t want the ute,” Paul mumbled, despising himself. “Save it for Deano.”

Leaving Mum behind, Paul ducked into the auditorium, passing near the diminutive principal. He remembered her from his own elementary school years.

She’d do…

The principal’s right forearm shattered in his grip…

Paul shook his head violently.

Don’t be so choosy… What about him…?

He slammed that cheery kid collecting gold-coin donations into the wall, fists buried in each kidney…

Paul groaned, mashing his face into his palms.

“Paul Fields?”

The principal studied him, mildly alarmed.

“Is something wrong?”

Paul’s fingers twitched.

Don’t engage!

“Nothing,” he muttered, sure he’d almost grabbed her. Evading her gaze, he escaped to an isolated seat in the second-to-back row. He’d barely hunched down when satin rustled, and chair-legs scraped beside him.

“Can’t you sit someplace else?” Paul growled as Mum arranged her skirts.

“Paul, love…” Mum began hesitantly as Paul knotted and drove his fists into his thighs, hard.

“Jenny!”

Voices meshing in child- and traffic-related banter, three mums and a grandma filed into the seats beside Mum, demanding her attention.

“Bloody ridiculous—roadwork at six, Jenny! On a Friday! We almost didn’t make it!”

One hit… That’s all it’d take…

Paul snapped that old hag’s collarbone…

No!

He moaned as a beefy dad dropped heavily into the seat on his right.

Paul’s fists pummelled relentlessly into his bloated gut…

Please stop!

How long can we last like this…? Stop being selfish…

“No,” Paul whispered as the principal stepped under spotlight in the darkened hall, audience hushing compliantly.

Yanking a scratched MP3 player from his pocket as they were welcomed to the end-of-year performance, Paul muffled the principal with his soundproofing earbuds, turning up the volume. Satisfied, he tucked his chin into his chest, and closed his eyes.

You can’t ignore it forever…

But there was no blood. No pain.

Paul began to unwind, near-permanent state of distress waning.

Clueless of what passed onstage, Paul coped well until the intermission. The vibrations of hundreds of unseen soles scuffling to buy drinks and queue outside the bathrooms were hard to endure.

Anyone… Choose anyone…

Paul stayed glued to his seat. He nearly sprang when a petite hand brushed his shoulder, overwound and nearing snapping point. Heart galloping, Paul snatched the water Mum offered, gulping down half the bottle in two swallows.

Settling down as the lights dimmed, Paul was half asleep when Mum prodded him gently. He groggily opened his eyes. Red curtains were closing.

“Over?”

“No, grade three’s next. Deano’ll be looking out for us. It’ll upset him if you’re not watching.”

“Can’t watch,” Paul protested as Mum pulled out his earbuds.

“You never talk to him anymore,” Mum whispered as the curtains re-opened on scraggly lines of eight-year-olds in rat ears and whiskers. “I know you’re still having a rough time…”

“I’m fine.”

“But how’s he meant to take it when you leave every time he enters a room?”

Onstage, Deano sported a magnificent handlebar moustache, presiding over the townsfolk as mayor. He’d probably been cast due to his bulk. Paul had been chubby at eight, too.

Little worshipful Deano… he’d more than do…

Paul’s hands were at his brother’s throat, slowly squeezing, strangling…

“Mum…” he breathed, petrified.

“Just watch.”

Unwillingly, Paul watched Deano hire a spritely piper girl in coloured tights to lure the rats away.

Ease the suffering… break him…

Deano refused to pay up in the next scene, crossing his arms pompously across his chest. The finale saw him weeping noisily as the tiny classmate playing his son danced away to a lively, pre-recorded tune.

Imagine if you killed him… that would fix everything…

“No,” Paul frantically denied as proud applause swept through the auditorium. Mum nudged him, and he mechanically brought his trembling hands together.

Deano found his family quickly amid the hubbub outside; Paul stood out like a burning lighthouse.

“Mum!”

“Deano! You were fantastic, love!”

Mum flung her arms about her younger son, hugging enthusiastically.

“How was I?” Deano looked to his brother, scratching his face beneath the itchy moustache before pulling it off. “Paul?”

“You were… great,” Paul managed to say. ‘Just great.’

Alight with glee, Deano lunged, fastening his pudgy, loving arms around Paul’s middle.

Unstoppable headlights glared.

Snap his neck…! Use those gruesomely engorged fingers and kill him…!

“Deano…” Paul choked, fighting for control. “That’s enough…”

But Deano wouldn’t let go, burrowing his grinning face into Paul’s chest.

KILL HIM NOW!

With a wild cry, Paul violently shoved his little brother away. Surprised, Deano nearly hit the concrete, Mum just managing to snag him before he toppled. Deano sniffled, skinny lips rippling with heartbreaking hurt.

“Paul, what the hell?!”

But Paul hurtled drunkenly to the side, heedless of Mum’s exclamation. Every scrap of his impressive weight and power summoned, Paul hurled himself into the auditorium’s solid stonework wall, elbow first.

The hideous crunch split the festive atmosphere. Paul howled. Savagely, he gritted his teeth, forcing his anguish back behind them.

That’ll do…

“Paul!”

Mum rushed forward, aghast, as Paul slumped down the wall. His tears stoppered by shock, Deano trailed after her.

“Paul… oh, love, why would you…? Come on.”

Mum swiftly gathered her wits.

“Let’s get you out of here.”

Every witness stared, shaken by the violent conclusion to the night’s events. So enthralled by his gasps as a pair of burly fathers gingerly raised Big Bill’s son to his feet, it took the first thunderous rumble and a few excited children’s cries of “it’s raining!” for onlookers to notice they were already drenched.

It’ll do for now… But it won’t be long before you’ll have to break another dry spell…

Rain pelted from heaven, drops larger than bombshells. Beneath the deafening tumult hammering the car roof, Paul gulped brokenly as Mum snapped the wipers on full-blast, and sped out onto the road.

Next time, don’t wuss out… Deano might’ve bought even more than Mum did… He’s worth a La Niña, to you…

Editing Chapter 23 and Exciting New Titles

Laptop’s overheating. Need to wait for it to settle down before continuing with editing. So, thought I’d jump on for a brief blog. Break the self-imposed leave, just for one post.

Finished the first draft of Tom on Sunday, 24 February, I believe. Been in severe editing-mode since then. Currently working on chapter 23. Been getting roughly two chapters edited each day – I’ve split screened the computer, and am re-typing everything from scratch. I think it’s easier to spot errors this way, and realise when something looks/sounds just plain wrong. It can, however, get a little tiresome. Been feeling rather burnt out. Hence why I played roughly two hours of Sims 3 today.

A little concerned that I’m not cutting and/or changing as much as I thought I’d be doing in these later chapters, considering how quickly I wrote them. Perhaps I didn’t leave a long enough gap between the writing and editing, but I am fast running out of time. I don’t think I’ll make my original 10 March deadline; aiming now for between 15 and 20 March. If I use express post and what-not, I should still be fine to submit the story in time for 29 March. It only has to snail-mail it as far as New South Wales, shouldn’t be a problem from where I am. Might be a little expensive though, considering how many pages it’s going to be. Does anyone know if there’s a general rule when it comes to writing competitions, whether the hard copy manuscript can be printed double-sided, or if it has to be printed on one side only?

New and exciting news! Working with a title for Tom, a much more official one than just… Tom. Currently referring to this novel as Tom Ness Changes. I’ve run through a few other ideas e.g. To Keep the Memory, Preservation, Tom Ness and the Mystical Museum, and just plain Tom Ness. While I liked most of these, all of them seemed to place the story in a different, rather rigid box. Tom Ness and the Mystical Museum, though it sums up the story quite well, sounds like a book only for quite young children, which it certainly isn’t; To Keep the Memory sounds more romance/drama than fantasy,  and doesn’t quite suit the folksy feel I’m trying to go for. Tom Ness Changes has a kind of abrupt feeling that makes it quite appealing to me, plus multiple interpretations, which is always a … plus. I think it might evoke curiosity about the story more than any of the other titles I was working with.

And in other totally non-story related news for a change: had a job interview. Crazy. And it actually went well, so I might actually get the position. Which means working in the day, writing at  night, and doing all other stuff… never. Hooray! Entering the ranks of all other struggling working writers 🙂 Hooray … blarg.

Shall return to more regular blogging once Tom Ness Changes is all packed up and ready to send, complete with synopsis and 50 word author biography. Have to write those, too…