Stuffed – Full Length Fantasy for Free on Inkitt

Good morning, lovelies 🙂

So my novel Stuffed has been up on Inkitt for a while now. If you’re someone who was about when I was doing a lot more blogging, you may remember me referring to this particular novel as “Tom”, after the protagonist. It’s a fantasy/thriller-ish/young adult-ish story set in a world resembling the late 1800s where steam trains and gramophones are the height of technology and mystical creatures near extinction. Stuffed is intended to be the first of a three-part series. It may be some time before I start Book 2 … it’ll be an interesting process. My style has changed a lot since I wrote this.

Stuffed is currently entered in Inkitt’s Grand Novel Contest – winner gets published. Good prize, yes 🙂 Love-heart votes required to push it up on the site listing – basically, more love = more love. And Stuffed would love your love, as would I.

So if you’ve a spare few moments – or more … I think last check it was roughly 136,000 words, so would probably take a few sittings – I would love if anyone could give my novel a look and a vote. Any comments and feedback would  be adored – it’s currently sitting on 5/5 from the lovely three reviews I’ve gotten so far. Check out these reviews, maybe, if you’re wondering what it’s about.

Also if you’re wondering what it’s about, here’s the short summary:

Snatched by a taxidermy-happy countess and her unsettling assistant, young shapechanger Tom Ness only wants to live. But how can he save his skin when that’s all she wants?

Also if you’re wondering what it’s about, for your enjoyment, an excerpt from Chapter 1: The Silver Vixen:

The silence in the shallow valley but for the breath of wind through pines was total. Weary and weighted by age, Vera did nothing to disturb that quiet, even as coughs clawed to escape her withered lungs. She hid in a tangle of scrub just beyond a little shack. Micah squatted beside her. He had chosen their cover; its view of the dwelling was uninterrupted. Micah’s black eyes were fixed on its crude door.

The shack stood—slumped, rather—at the base of the valley. There was a little glade there dotted with flowers. The patches of heather and clover brought to mind a classic cottage garden, though the clearing appeared natural. There were signs a few trees had been felled for fuel—a cluster of wood and a small axe rested by the wall nearest. Vera was pleased to note those trees chopped down had been replaced. Most were saplings, but several fine, strong young fellows stretched their branches into the air alongside seniors.

There was little evidence of the outside world, only a lead pipe stuffed through the thatched roof to pump out smoke. The shack’s walls were stone to Vera’s thigh, then interwoven twigs given strength by clay, insulation against the wind. The only window was shuttered; they couldn’t see inside.

But there was no one inside. Not yet.

Though the shack was primitive, probably constructed by its inhabitant—apparently they were determined, though lacked notable building skill— it blended so well with the undergrowth it was near invisible from all but a few perfect angles. Vera and Micah had traipsed the taiga for three weeks before they happened upon it, about to sit down for lunch. Vera’s grasp of the forest’s spoils and the rabbits and scrub fowls Micah shot kept them well fed.

From above, the taiga was a stretch of embroidered velvet; green, grey, black and glimmering night blue. Such fabric spun the gowns of countesses of old, donned to welcome the most esteemed of guests and dazzle at the most important parties. Streams and rivers twined flashing silver chains and sparkles of white—evening frost on twigs and stone—were tiny precious gems. The great lake was the crowning piece: a glistening sapphire brooch so large it would topple any silly old countess who pinned it to her breast.

Vera was a present-day countess. She wore no such finery, not now—not even when she was young, some sixty years ago. The only jewellery she wore was a small pendant on a fine chain. It was as precious to Vera as life. She never took it off, the pendant forever nestled to her bony chest.

The fresh scent of pine on cold air seemed auspicious and filled Vera with expectation, stalling surrender to the ache of her stiff old body as late afternoon eased toward twilight. Her information promised the shack’s inhabitant would return by then. It couldn’t spend the night exposed. Even in late summer, it grew bitterly cold in the dark so far south.

Light waned. Vera reached beneath her collar and gripped her pendant. Beside her, Micah was a statue. Though Vera was intent as he, his eyes were sharp, her own touched by age. It was Micah who first spotted their quarry.

A silver vixen ambled into the clearing with a scatter of needles and pine cones. Though fleet, her gait was clumsy, as though the vixen was unbearably tired or her limbs slightly crooked. The creature padded toward the shack; the clearing her home and she was unafraid of danger there. Vera’s gnarled grip tightened. The glass capsule of her pendant, around which gold and gems were fashioned, seemed to pulse, the rare syrup within rippling green-black as Vera’s hand trembled.

The last rays of sunlight filtering from heaven vanished.

The vixen gave a shudder, nose right to the tip of her limp tail aquiver.

Vera almost groaned and clutched her pendant all the more tightly. Any other capsule might have shattered, but this was a Moore heirloom. It would take more than pressure to damage Vera’s pendant; what it protected was too precious.

The vixen began to change. Her limbs lengthened and fine silver hair retracted, leaving human skin. Her tail vanished, body lengthening and bending upright so she stood on her hind legs. Soon nothing remained of the vixen. A naked woman stood in her place.

She was bent and crooked, thin silver curls sweeping to her wrinkled waist.

She was old. Older even than Vera.

Micah uttered a soft sound of satisfaction, no more than a sigh of wind. But Vera’s heart dipped, crestfallen.

The very old shapechanger stepped into a pair of worn boots and took a faded bluebell dress from a nail stuck in her door. It was a young woman’s dress: practical, smart attire for ducking out to the market, taking tea with friends or visiting relatives. At least, it would have been fifty years ago. Vera had owned several like it, buttoned down the bodice on an eye-pleasing curve, tied with pretty white sashes.

‘Countess, what’s wrong?’ Micah asked, barely moving his lips as the shapechanger wriggled into her dress. It was very loose—she was as string held up by some miracle. ‘She’s just what we need. I’ll set the traps once she sleeps and we’ll have her at first light.’

‘She is too old,’ Vera sighed, deflated. Despite deep regret, she couldn’t tear her eyes from the magnificent creature. The aged shapechanger took a stout cane, muttering about disobedient kits and quarrels over mates. Her voice was the scratch of sand on stone, the rustle of dried leaves. A voice of the earth and forest. Leaning heavily on her cane, she tottered about patches of vegetables at the edge of her clearing, gardens disordered so they appeared wild. The shapechanger filled a small sack with a few potatoes, onions, carrots and a sprig of thyme.

‘Too old, Countess? What do you mean?’ Micah asked, eyes narrowing.

‘She is too old,’ Vera repeated, initial devastation fizzling to sad resignation. She was used to disappointment, but the loss of her precious shapechanger hit hard. ‘She is beautiful, but how would she look by our other pieces? The shapechanger is our very last creature to collect. I want perfection.’

Micah wasn’t impressed. Their contact, a tanner from the south, had written of a story widespread in his town, that silver foxes became human with the setting sun and threw great parties filled with food, wine and dance. Scornful of the tanner’s reliability, Micah had reluctantly accompanied his eager mistress south; the countess had hunted shapechangers for over half a century and lived for such tip-offs. His fervour on the hunt had kindled when they found faint boot prints where no sensible villager would roam, and discovering the dwelling had sparked terrific excitement. At last seeing the shapechanger, all recent hardships were now worth the great effort he’d spent.

That it had been pointless was not what Micah wanted to hear.

‘We have spent the last month slogging through this damn forest, tailing every silver fox we’ve come across. Now you forsake possibly your very last opportunity to complete the Moores’ collection for mere cosmetic concerns?’

‘It is not only that,’ Vera insisted, eyes locked to the shapechanger as she ambled to her door and opened it with a creak. As though a signal to charge, a quintet of kits bounded from a nearby bush and skittered through her legs, barrelling into the shack. She sighed, but chuckled with two vixens and a fox that followed more sedately. They gazed up at her, noses twitching.

‘Yes, you can come in. At least you’ve got manners to ask. Those kits…’

She shook her head as though nothing could be done with them.

‘Let’s get in, then. Hope the kits’ bellies’re full, else they’ll be disappointed. Getting my fill of roots tonight—bowels’ve been letting me know I’m not getting enough.’

She chuckled again. The foxes seemed to join in.

‘Might have a bit of old fowl lying around. They can fight over it, if they’re diresome hungry.’

Impatient as his mistress listened, entranced by the one-sided conversation, Micah reclaimed Vera’s attention.

‘Tell me then, Countess Veradine: why would you abandon your life’s work? Why would you forsake your dream?’

‘Do not be so dramatic,’ Vera chided, but Micah scowled. ‘I am hardly giving it up. It is only she cannot be collected. She just cannot. She is…’

‘Too old,’ Micah grumbled.

‘We need something younger: a young, firm shapechanger that will heal well. Our traps might kill a creature as old as her.’

‘If that’s the problem, I don’t think we need to use traps,’ Micah said, again eyeing the door, lids so narrowed he might squint through solid wood at his target. ‘We can ambush her inside. I can overcome a small skulk easily,’ he declared, hand at the revolver on his hip. ‘And she can’t put up much of a fight, old as she is. I would be gentle, Countess.’

‘I know you would handle her with utmost care,’ Vera said. Micah behaved gentlemanly towards women whether toddler or school girl, maiden, married or crone. Perhaps due to his time in the army, he considered women rather delicate, as well. The few times Vera had been annoyed with Micah was when he hinted that, as a woman, Vera was in any way incapable. ‘But such an old body may not take well to the mounting process.’

‘What of the kits?’ Micah wondered, unwilling to give up on their prize. ‘Or the younger vixens and fox? They are the perfect age.’

‘But they are not shapechangers,’ Vera said sadly.

‘If she’s lived her life with the foxes, no doubt she’s bred. They could be hers. They might just change on different schedules. This is such a rare opportunity, Countess,’ Micah pressed. ‘We must be sure.’

‘I am sure. Shapechangers do not pass on their abilities,’ Vera reminded. Micah grimaced. Vera had taught him that. He’d read it many times in the museum. ‘If they could, no doubt enough of the creatures would remain that I wouldn’t be so desperate to find one.’

‘Of course,’ Micah replied.

‘And if the tanner’s story is true, and her schedule renders her vixen in daylight, how could she have carried any offspring? They would not have survived.’

‘You are right, of course,’ Micah relented grudgingly, but gave a short bow where he crouched. ‘I’m sorry to complain, Countess. Disappointment is a brute of a thing.’

‘That it is,’ she smiled sadly. The two waited until they heard the scamper of kits at play within the shack and a crackle as dry kindling was set alight. Then Micah helped his mistress to her feet. Together, starting slow to stretch cramped muscles, they began the long trek from the taiga.

Hooray if you read this far 🙂 Hope you go on to read the rest at Inkitt!

The Bunker Diary – Book Review

Bought Kevin Brooks’ The Bunker Diary randomly after seeing it in a list of recent-ish YA books. Entirely worth it. You can check it out at Goodreads, and here it is on Amazon.

Here’s the review:

When I finished this book, I slowly rose, lifted it protectively to my chest, walked a short distance to place it tenderly on a shelf, slumped to the floor, and stroked my sweet kitten. Only then did I begin to cry.

Did not expect that. Thinking on it, though, it makes perfect sense. Poetic, beautiful, miserable, realistic, empty-but-not, pointless-but-not sense. How many kidnappings happen like this? How many lives of the most unfortunate, whatever their circumstances—war, abuse, famine, bigotry—happen like this, in total ignorance and agony? Why? There’s no reason, none good enough. This is real stuff. No movie gloss, no impossible stunts. Just cruelty and slow, sad loss of almost everything.

Expected this to be sort of a combo of hellish reality TV and Saw. Bits of both, with added essence from Danganronpa and Changi, with some seriously twisted psychological experimentation included, whether that is His (the unknown captor’s) purpose or not. Was numb throughout most of it, but heavily compelled to read on, gutted by the helplessness, desperation and almost-utter-hopelessness—there is still some lovely, stubborn optimism hidden in here—every sensation delivered painfully by the diary format, nothing to do but self-reflect, survive, and maybe try to make things less terrible for those you’ve come to care for and depend on. Being as in the dark as the characters as to every how and why was frustrating, but, again, it’s real. Most everyone’s guts would be twisted and minced, reading this.

Loved Linus—he’s nothing but a sweet kid trying to sort himself out, only to be snared into nightmare by his good heart. Seeing him left to try and finish this sorting out in such a brutal situation is heartbreaking. Every character, their reactions, their attempts to cope—they’re all relatable, all understandable. Linus’ perspective of his fellow prisoners is poignant—through him, I see much of myself in this mixed bag of individuals. Not a great thought, in some cases. They don’t all get on—there’s some serious dislike going on with any number of causes—but there’s no desire to hurt, no sinking en masse into uncontrolled violence, despite no hope of salvation (though things get rougher with His intervention). I’m glad of this. It’s one of very few bright-ish points in this bleak novel.

The stream of consciousness parts are pretty intense—don’t think I’ve read any quite so raw. The random reflections and great importance of such little things, like remembering rhymes, worked well. What do people think about in this situation? What can they think about in this situation? Anything to distract, even when they can’t think about finding distractions any more—a powerful protective mechanism, I think.

I’ll repeat a few words to finish, I suppose—painful, realistic, beautiful. Very dark, clever and thoughtful, terrible content handled not quite delicately, but humanly. Kevin Brooks is most deserving of the high praise The Bunker Diary has received. Four and a half stars from me—shall be thinking of random moments from this book at random times for a long while.

Walking: Five Short Stories from the Sands – Book Review

Met a nice author on Goodreads and read their book. Enjoyed it. You can have a look at W.G. White on Goodreads and purchase the book (it’s cheap) from Amazon.

walking

Here’s the review:

It’s a challenge with 100,000 words or more. But with Walking: Five Short Stories from the Sands, White has created depth. Introducing a new protagonist with each story, each bringing a new perspective and trudging through poles-apart circumstances—this is despite the Walkers and Riders living practically on top of each other and highlights the distrust between them—White has crafted a full world with limited page space. More little touches, such as differences in speech even among the Walkers, help flesh out the life going on around the stories and make this book fulfilling on more levels than only the surface plots.

I’m a fan of dystopian stories and was attracted to this uniquely-imagined rover future. The people here still manage to be selfish and bigoted despite having lost everything—somehow I’m not surprised. But there’s still good, and it shines through in each story in different ways, both blatant and quiet. A literary boost now and then, reassurance there’s no need to give up on our race just yet, is always welcome.

As with many indie books I’ve read, there are some grammatical issues here. As well, there were a few words that seemed out of place, a few sentences that were confused and briefly confused me. However, White’s style is generally engaging, and there are multiple examples of quite powerful descriptive writing.

The Rider and The Shuffler stood out in my mind, the former painfully close to the bone and the latter a solid redemption story. The Cultist was violent and sad, always a poignant combination. The Walker manages to be both twisted and touching, a feat I respect, while The Chaperone covers twisted and twisted, if that’s your thing—White should be proud of that creature of horror he’s created here.

Walking imagines a bleak, evocative world through appealing characters we can get behind, even if we don’t agree with what they’ve done. Three and a half stars from me; I’d recommend this book to those who like satisfying, visceral reads in one sitting.

More Exciting News! Chasing Nonconformity Soon To Be Released! Its Cover Is Shiny!

And now it’s December. Hope everyone’s November was lovely. Had a successful NaNoWriMo experience over here, so that’s good.

Here to let you know there’s more good news from author Michelle Proulx: the sequel to her fabulous debut novel Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It will be released in spring 2015 (that’s northern hemisphere, people – autumn for we southerners). The sequel is titled Chasing Nonconformity, and, in case my prose is lacking tonight and you can’t tell – feeling a bit creatively clunky here – I’m excited.

And now, the cover reveal:

chasing_ebook

A lovely piece of work this is. The talented artist here is Ravven, who you can visit at http://www.ravven.com/ and is also responsible for the lovely new cover of Imminent Danger, revealed last month.

Not only is the cover revealed today; we also get a taste of the story. Here’s the book summary:

Still reeling from accidentally marrying an exiled alien prince named Varrin, and from almost getting her head blown off by a six-armed lizard man with anger management issues, seventeen-year-old Eris Miller is ready for a vacation. But Varrin is desperate to rescue his beloved spaceship, the Nonconformity, from the clutches of the galactic government, so her vacation will just have to wait.

While Eris and Varrin chase after the stolen ship, they’re unaware that trouble is brewing on the other side of the galaxy. The villainous Emperor of Rakor has assembled a task force, led by the commander of the deadly Skin Slicers, to hunt Varrin down. With enemies closing in and the Nonconformity slipping further and further from their grasp, Eris must ask herself: how much is she willing to sacrifice to ensure her happily ever after?

If you want to know more about Michelle and her books, you can visit her at michelleproulx.com. If you’d like to support her creative endeavours, maybe consider donating to her IndieGoGo campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/book-imminent-danger-ya-sci-fi. There’s many lovely perks on offer for as little as $3 for a little bit of love.

That’s all from me for now 🙂 Shall quietly look forward to the next book in the Imminent Danger series over this long summer.

Exciting News! New Cover of Michelle Proulx’s Imminent Danger Revealed! Will Be Re-Published In Coming Months!

I love the NanoWriMo 1 November midnight sitting. Already feel like I have a head start. Project this year: Treading Twisted Lines. The short story cycle’s not technically a novel. But why not be a NaNoRebel? With any luck, this year’s NaNoWriMo will see the next few stories complete, possibly released before year’s end. Cross all of the limbs.

But no more NaNo for now – there is some exciting news I must share. Hopefully many of you are aware of Michelle Proulx.

MP Author Photo

This is Michelle…

…she was born on the market moon of Vega Minor where she spent her formative years reading, writing, and gambling at illegal underground jsgarn fighting rings. While en route to Alpha Centauri, Michelle crash-landed her space yacht on the planet Earth. She now lives in Canada and divides her time between observing the local fauna and repairing her star ship.

If you have not met her, she lives here online and is the talented author of what remains the best indie book I’ve yet read – Imminent Danger and How To Fly Straight Into It. I would gush here, but, to save on postage, here’s a link to my review. As it happens, Imminent Danger has just gotten some work done in the cosmetic sense and now has a brand new shiny cover for its upcoming re-publishing!

Imminent Danger Cover Reveal

It’s just so pretty!

And now, from the author herself, the story behind the shininess:

In the far-gone year of two thousand and twelve, a naive young authoress with a trusting heart gave unto a company called iUniverse thousands of dollars with which to publish her novel. But alas! For this foolish young authoress did not realize the assisted-publishing path was fraught with peril, and the thousands paid were not in value received. Control was relinquished, prices did skyrocket, and the young authoress cried out to the heavens, “Woe is me! Would that I had done this publishing business myself!” And the young authoress did take it upon herself to publish the novel, commissioning a talented artist to provide her with a new cover that doth more accurately capture the spirit of her novel. And lo! The new cover is revealed.

And in case my word of its quality and the promise of a beautiful cover to spruce up your bookshelves isn’t enough, here’s the book summary to further entice you – there just aren’t enough young adult sci-fi romances in the world.

High school junior Eris Miller thinks she’s having a bad day when her roommate’s boyfriend catches her stepping out of the shower wearing nothing but a towel. Then she gets abducted by scaly six-armed aliens with a strange fondness for the color blue, and her day suddenly gets a whole lot worse.
Trapped on a spaceship bound for the slave markets of Sirius B, Eris fears she’ll never see her home again. But then fate whisks her away from her reptilian captors and into the arms of Varrin, a fast-talking space pirate who promises to deliver her safely back to Earth. He claims to have her best interests at heart, but Eris soon discovers that her charming rescuer has a hidden agenda.
As they race across the galaxy, outrunning a villainous figure from Varrin’s past, Eris begins to realize that their relationship is putting her planet, her life, and her heart in imminent danger. She knows that trusting Varrin could prove deadly … but what other choice does she have?
Cannot recommend this read enough for fun and giggles and excitement. And there are alien shopping scenes – I love shopping scenes! And the aliens just make it better! Shall provide links to purchase pages once this fine work is re-published. Very much hope all you lovely people will support a deserving artist by enjoying her work.
Also, an exciting giveaway is happening on Michelle’s blog – get over there to see what you could win and how to win it!

Imminent Danger Book Review

I took my time about it, but here it is:  a review of Michelle Proulx’s exceptional novel Imminent Danger and How to Fly Straight Into It. A fantastic read—why not head over to her site (links above) for a look? Definitely worth more than a click.

*

I’d been meaning to read Imminent Danger for some time. When I finally did read this independently-released young adult science fiction romance—a genre I’m now hoping to see much more of—it was after trudging through a book a really didn’t enjoy at all. I’m not meaning to make comparisons here, but reading Imminent Danger directly after that disappointing book did highlight many glowing aspects of this very well-written novel.

For starters, despite being set predominantly in space surrounded by many-armed blue aliens and the like, this novel felt real. And if there’s one thing I love, it’s a good, realistic speculative fiction. Extra-terrestrials and setting aside—vivid as the descriptions of beautiful space crafts and sprawling alien marketplaces are—I think a heavy contributor to this strong sense of real is the dialogue. This was natural and unforced—an author’s skill in generating such dialogue may be easily overlooked until a few samples of novels chock-full of unnatural dialogue are endured.

Eris I found to be a brilliant protagonist. Though she spends much of her time forced to be a damsel in considerable distress by the increasingly dire situations she finds herself in, she is down-to-earth about it, a determined individual and very easy to relate to. Varrin is terrible and wonderful, charming and appalling—the kind of person anyone would dearly love to shove in a muddy puddle. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone would be able to pull it off—he’s too wily. I hope Eris manages something along those lines in the sequels—sequels I’m very much looking forward to.

This novel was exciting to read, fast-paced, and somewhat addictive, but perhaps what I loved most about Imminent Danger was that it made me laugh. A lot. A sizable fraction of my time with this novel was spent giggling aloud—there are not many better signs of a good time than that.

Michelle Proulx’s Imminent Danger was an absolute delight to read and a novel I highly recommend to all lovers of the young adult genre. Four and a half gold stars for you, Michelle 🙂

Dry Spell Released

Decided now was as good a time as any to release Dry Spell, an uber-short story that I wrote in January.  It’s up for free on Smashwords if you’d like to have a look.  Young adult drama with a hint of fantasy, Dry Spell tells of teenager Paul Fields’s difficulties getting through drought when an inner voice keeps urging him to hurt anyone nearby.

cover2Paul Fields has had a rough few years: elfin mother assaulted, well-known father arrested, and unfairly turned away from his rugby club. Now, the weight of the clouds is upon him. And as Paul sits unwillingly through his younger brother’s school play, intrusive thoughts of violence assail him, demanding he act. His brother in his arms, will Paul break him to ease the suffering of all?

Click here to have a look or download 🙂

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…

Setting Deadlines to Streamline the Writing Process

Wrote two chapters over two days this week. Probably the most I’ve written at once since National Novel Writing Month. I brought it up briefly when a friend asked how I was going. Cause that’s how I interpret that question.

How are you going = how’s your writing going

He has a large project coming up, and asked how I managed it. I claimed by setting deadlines, and writing 1000 words a day, whether I feel like it or not.

The second one I don’t really follow. I try to. When I’m really on a roll, I can get out between 3000 and 6000 a day; I think my record is around 9000 (much easier to accomplish when unemployed). But only over short periods do I generally keep this up. Suppose everything averages out in the end. Sort of.

Setting proper deadlines, however, I find works really well. When there’s no deadline, I just kind of potter around, jump between main projects and side projects, plan a bit, read over a few things. But when I have a date to work towards, like the last day of November during NaNoWriMo, everything kind of streamlines. I can focus. I’m inspired. I don’t want anything to distract me, and it doesn’t. I don’t remember feeling stressed out during NaNoWriMo, either. 30 November was approaching, nice and calmly and slowly. And I knew I’d meet it

Maybe that wasn’t stressful in November as I knew if I didn’t meet it all would be well. The deadline I’ve currently got is mostly the same deal. I’d be highly disappointed if I didn’t meet it, but it wouldn’t spell the end for me.

Decided last week that Pulp Runner (the NaNoWriMo novel) wasn’t ready for the young adult novel competition I plan to enter come the end of March. So, decided to work full throttle on Tom, instead. He’s not quite finished, but I’ve been working on him a lot longer, and I’m more satisfied with the story in general. The plan is to pump out the final four chapters (after the two I wrote across Monday and Tuesday) fairly quickly – I have reams of notes filling my pink book for them – then spend until the end of February editing. Hopefully, I can find a few people to read it for me quick-smart, and I mean to send it on 10 March. Could probably wait a few days longer. But it has to be sent conventionally, and reach its destination by 29 March. Would rather have a bit of leeway.

A lot of work to do. Not hugely worried I haven’t been churning out the same word count over the last few days. Was working on a timeline, and getting a few resultant small, but major edits out of the way. And I’ve mostly written one of the most important parts of chapter 22 already – it was one of the earliest things I wrote for Tom.

The Pink Book is almost full, by the way. It won’t have enough room to finish Tom’s notes. But that’s okay. Already got some nice new ones to start as soon as it’s full. And a lot of stuff for Tom’s sequel is in the pink book, anyway. A bit of crossover is fine.

Now almost full, it has served me well

Now almost full, it has served me well

So, deadlines. Might seem obvious to set them. I’d recommend it, if you’re not. Once Tom’s done, I’ll have to set a good deadline for the next Treading Twisted Lines story. Think I’m developing a bit of a block against it. Hopefully setting a publishing date will kick me into churning it out.

The Elusive Chapter 18 and a 1500 Word Limit

No, no, of course I’m not finished chapter 18 yet. Despite my aiming to finish it mid last week. Odds are it won’t happen tomorrow, either. Up early for a soul-challenging sing, then carolling gigs that evening and early Monday morning, too. Between gigs, shall be working on the short story I started today. That and washing – forgot to put loads on this morning, and the washing basket’s overflowing.

Blogged briefly about getting the idea for this story a while back. Now I’m actually getting it down. Made some fair changes to the original plan, aiming it more at a young adult audience. As I already have two major works in progress and several minor ones as well, starting up an entirely new project probably isn’t the best idea. But it is short. As in, very short.

Writing this for a competition I came across while browsing today (Stringybark Young Adult Short Fiction Award 2013); the word limit’s 1,500. Deadline’s mid-January, and I’ll probably need it. Might be able to write more than that in a day, but that’s novel writing. I’ve always found novel writing much easier than short story writing, and I’m sure many would agree. In novel writing, you can just ramble on and on and on, then dice it up and smooth it all out later. Much less room to ramble with such a stringent word limit. Shall treat it as a challenge, though. And shall edit it to the bone, once it’s all down on the screen. I’ll post it here once the competition’s over, assuming I do not place. Quite a logical assumption, really. Not only are short stories harder for me to write, I’m also much worse at writing them. The short-short ones, anyway.

(Something being hard for me, and me being bad at the same thing, are different to an extent, I believe …)

Also a young adult novel competition run by an Australian publishing company coming up in March that I’m looking into. May try to clean up the NaNoWriMo novel in time for it. In which case, both Tom and Treading Twisted Lines shall probably be neglected a little for a while. But come hell or high water, or any other threatening cliché, chapter 18 shall be complete before the year is done!

So better chapters 19 and 20, but I’m willing to be a little bit more lenient with them. After all, this time of year’s a bit busy.