A little story (and some regulation trivia).

Continuing on with my short piece, The Appointment, because I am too lazy to think of another blog topic and also because I like stories and wanted to see where this writing prompt would go.

Image credit.

All credit to: Urban Circus.

The Appointment – Part 2

Although feeling a little adolescent, Miranda silently chanted her mantra as she stepped onto the train: ‘You’re okay’. She’d had a few mantras over the past three years since “that awful business”, as her mother had put it. Kathleen O’Sullivan had only censured her daughter once but her bewildered expression stung more than any curt retort. Her father hadn’t said a word, but the look on his face spoke volumes – tomes. He’d already had his piece when she’d moved out and in with Jimmy: “’Shacked up’ with more like! You’re a fool, my girl, if you can’t see the real Jimmy…the man beneath that smooth front.”  Patrick O’Sullivan was proud of his only child. She was the first, the only, member of his family to go to university, but somehow that made the shock of her decision to live with Jimmy worse. It was 1963 and not yet commonplace to live in sin, at least not for good Irish Catholic families newly arrived on these vagabond shores.

Jimmy was everything that her father wasn’t. At times (not often, for she’d tried to expel him from her mind during the past two years), she’d wondered if that had been the attraction. Where Patrick O’Sullivan was dour and economic with his words – joking rarely and only in a grim, scathing fashion – James Nelson was warm and loquacious. Charming. There was no avoiding the fact that Jimmy was charismatic, despite the pain it cost Miranda to acknowledge it. He laughed a lot and had a way of looking into her face with a peering intensity that made her feel as though she were fascinating. No one before or since had ever made her feel that special.

Her mother was less critical and inclined to hope that Jimmy would do the right thing. She hinted about an engagement and Miranda’s heart ached that she couldn’t produce one just to satisfy her mother’s dogged sense of convention. She herself didn’t mind, so heady was her adulation of Jimmy. “Mum, I don’t care about the ring…it isn’t important. He loves me!”

Miranda blushed to think of it now. Enough! She swept the rogue thoughts from her head and opened her briefcase, withdrawing the contract and smoothing it over her knees. Is this skirt too short? She’d been a bit daring but then it was an informal kind of affair. Affair…what a faux par – a Freudian slip! It was an interview, an appointment, that was all. Miranda couldn’t work out which was the more daunting word for her meeting. She felt a bit like a schoolgirl, not a junior partner at Bradley, Stein and Parker.

Her heart began to pump at an eager staccato pace and to deflect her nerves, she at once began scanning the document. She knew just how much reading she could accomplish on the forty minute commute.

….to be continued.

Image Credit

All credit to: My Darling Darlinghurst.

Regulation Trivia.

On writing.  Apparently adverbs are the enemy. Experts of a high calibre have warned writers and would-be writers (who are writers anyway as they write), to avoid using adverbs because they’re clumsy and bad writing. My friend Pinky is working on a novel and she’s been advised not to go down the adverb-path-of-ruination, however, I am sceptical. J.K. Rowling got away with an abundance (but then she was J.K. Rowling) yet Stephen King hates them. Jane Austen rarely used them but ‘Adverb’ was Charles Dickens’ middle name. That probably gives us modern wordsmiths scribblers carte-blanche. 🙂

I’ve only included ONE adverb in the above little piece and feel very virtuous. But before I become overly pompous, I’ve used twenty four adjectives! 😦

Food Selfie. I frequent a lot of cafes because I am a decadent and self-confessed cafe whore. Also, it’s easier to meet friends in cafes rather than subject them to my inferior coffee and cake. I recently blamed Poppet for taking ‘food selfies’ and posting them on Instagram but if I’m honest, snapping pics of nice food is a teensy bit addictive.

I simply had to take a photo of this when I caught up with some friends in the school holidays (that was 2 weeks ago, but we all know I’m a bit slow with posts). This gastronomical experience was a first for me – a Scone in a Pot. BizarreA purist would be appalled as I don’t think it’s etiquette to dig scones out of earthenware pots. 🙂

Scone in a Pot (bizarre)

All credit to: ME!!

Enough about me, what do you think? 🙂

  • Do you to prefer to have friends over instead of going to cafes? It’s certainly easier when you have young children. But then you miss out on all the gossip when you’re stuck in the kitchen frothing milk and opening packets serving freshly baked muffins.
  • What’s the rule on adverbs and adjectives? Do you like your prose richly descriptive or spare and economic? Seriously, life is too short to stress about parts of speech – even in the interests of your epic masterpiece!

I’ll leave you with a meme my Pinterest addict expert sent me. It highlights the perils of online dating superbly (another adverb – why oh why are they so bad?)

pinterest - pitbull

 

Next time, I am moving out of my comfort zone with a post entitled ‘My Friendly Stalker’, on flirting – a true story. However, on reflection, I may not as it shows my character in a very poor light…

Linking up today with Jess and IBOT because, well, it’s Tuesday. Joining Grace’s FYBF  for her bevy of blogging brilliancy. 🙂

*Clutching the baton*

While this post deals with the much vaulted topic ‘Why I Write, I must first be consistent with my reputation and blog title – Important Trivia – and start with a meme.

 

Image: Pinterest.

Image: Pinterest.

An array of dazzling blogsters, from the famous Mrs Woog to the infamous Pinks Pointer (JOKE), to that feisty queen of hawt hot (spelling counts – at least in my classroom blog 😉 ), the Fab Mumabulous…it’s now down to little moi. *Attempts stoicism under pressure to be entertaining and witty. Loses battle and buckles. Reaches for wine tea*

This move of Pinky’s has propelled me from blogging complacency to posting twice in 3 days. “Ho hum” you say but for a novice who only posts once a fortnight, this is traumatic!

As I’ve alluded to previously, I don’t have a niche. I am niche-less.  But rather than be scarred by this gaping hole of niche-lessness, I’ve acknowledged – like many bloggers before me – that as well as narcissism, blogging in any form, is therapy. Coupled with abundant coffee and cake, wine and cheese or magic tea, it is far more enjoyable to baring (or is it bearing??) one’s soul to an expert.

Work Stations (pretentious moi?)

I rather like the term ‘work stations’. It’s a bit like the ‘learning spaces’ that schools and education are fond of, and lends a certain gravitas to my frivolous penning.

I am incapable of remaining in one spot.

Desk, kitchen bench, gazebo and garden.

Desk, kitchen bench, gazebo, garden.

Down to the business:

Flippancy aside, I was flattered – honoured – to be mentioned by Pinky, whose eloquent wit is legendary in the blogosphere. However, such an honour involves reigning my usually wayward ideas into the semblance of order:

Why do I write?

In short, because I enjoy it. I didn’t write as a teenager as I thought I was much too cool for doing anything so nerdish. But one of my best writing memories is sitting beside the sandpit writing long-hand, while my toddler made a castle. I was lucky enough to have this manuscript published by Penguin as a little teenage novel – This Summer Last – a big fluke really, since it’s not high literature. It’s about loss and deals with the theme of grieving. Heavy stuff I know, but I’d just heard a true story about a family who’d experienced a sudden death of a child and I thought about how difficult this would be. I based my book around their inability to come to terms with the tragedy.

Again fortune beamed kindly on me and I won the Ashton Scholastic Award for Older Readers with Jake, about a damaged city kid, fostered by a family in the country. There was another book but before you hate me for all this insufferable bragging, they’re all out of print and only available in the National Library Archives. Haha, so much for fame and fortune! 😉

I got very busy with more kids and teaching in High School so writing took a bit of a back-step until recently when Poppet was badly bullied, (cyber and face-to-face). I wrote So Not Funny, as a parents’ and teachers’ resource, releasing it as an e-Book. I was advised to start blogging, but have never before used my blog space to promote my book (except now – please don’t hate me!)

How does my writing differ from others in my genre?

I’m not sure, except that I am VERY flippant and much of what I babble about is either tongue-in-cheek, ironic, silly, or all of the above. I probably include too many chook and dog pics, but hey everyone has their Achilles’ heel.

 How does my writing process work?

Randomly. As the above fancy collage suggests (for a non-techno person aren’t you impressed?) I am hyperactive and can’t sit too long in one spot. So when I’m not in the classroom or attending to domestic/family/farming matters, I’m hyped on tea and writing something.

What I’m Working on.

I won’t bore you because I’ve already written a post about my brutal rejection by a large publisher for my latest literary masterpiece little manuscript, Non-Compliance. Suffice to say, I am EDITING. This is a painful process, involving a self-discipline that is quite foreign to my character. So, my writing consists of:

  • shopping lists.
  • marking students’ work and writing tactful suggestions on essays, stories et al.
  • new units of work to stimulate class into brilliant adequate English skills.
  • ‘to do’ lists (to make me a more efficient, productive and better human being).
  • posts – the best fun of all.

Now it’s my turn to pass the baton to two bloggers, and it was a difficult decision as there are just so many brilliant bloggers out there. I’ve chosen Deb and Susan, each accomplished and eclectic in her own way.

But just before I leave the subject of blogging, one of the things I love most about this type of writing is – corny n cheesy as it sounds – the friends I’ve made. And the comments. I think I can safely liken the high of a delightful comment to a hit of ice (in my cocktail of course).

Credit: Pinterest.

Credit: Pinterest.

I can’t claim credit for any of the silly pictures I include in my posts – they’re down to Poppet and a funny dog-friend. (I do, however, claim credit for being consistently silly).

Over to you. What’s your best skill – within or without the blogosphere?

Just added my link to the delightful Always Josefa and Maxabella Loves and their ‘Why I Write’ link-ups. Joining With Some Grace’s FYBF, as it’s Friday. 🙂

The Appointment.

 

It’s been months since I wrote any fiction in response to a writing prompt, but inspired by Lydia (Where the Wild Things Were) and her ‘first of the month’ writing prompt (and as a nice foil to my current regime of editing), I embraced this creative little project and wrote a short piece of 100 words entitled ‘The Appointment’.

 

As Miranda stepped outside, a blast of air tussled her carefully blow-dried hair. Buttoning her jacket, she wound the scarf twice around her slender neck.

Winter had arrived. Breathing in deeply, she lifted her chin and strode the well-worn path to the train station. Her calm gait was at odds with the thoughts in her head, which ricocheted like the remnant gold leaves flung high by the helter-skelter wind.

The appointment. A fifty minute slot (they were precise), could make such a difference to her, to everyone. Its power loomed and Miranda dipped her head and repeated her newest mantra.

 

Some clever person once said something like, “It’s not about originality, it’s what you do with it that counts.” What prompts you? External stimulus or do you have a fertile imagination, just bursting with original ideas? 🙂

Flogging today With Some Grace and FYBF.

A little tableau of trivial importance.

IMG_1367 Poppet sent me this. It really isn’t the sort of thing a girl should send her mother, being inappropriate on all levels. I sniggered then began doubting my parenting skills, while acknowledging how hard it is to raise children to be decent, well-rounded individuals. Parenting is a challenge, requiring an abundance of these liquids qualities: wine, patience, ingenuity, Buddhist-calm, kindness, alcohol, patience, resourcefulness, tolerance, humour, energy, Zen, empathy, champagne, liquor, aperitifs, patience. Unlike the classroom, where you’re on call for a 50 minute period per grade per day, parenting is relentless. And just when you think you’re through the taxing early years, they morph into teenagers and cause you more worry and angst.

This quote by Oscar Wilde is food for thought: “Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.”

Skeleton tree.

Skeleton tree.

A few posts ago I was going on about the beauty of Autumn leaves. Well, our Chinese Tallow tree is a skeleton that signals winter. It is no longer “Winter is coming”, winter is here. (BTW I’ve seen all 4 seasons of Game of Thrones and I don’t recall it ever being Summer. Did I miss it, is it just me?)

 

So after the hottest May on record, I’m welcoming the cold and its accompanying haute couture uggs and trackies, but especially food like this, Mini Cottage Pies. Cool weather makes me hope global warming is an illusion…

Blossom and Poppet. Lots of selfies go on Blossom’s ‘story’ on Snapchat. For blog Poppet tells me Shapchat is all about the narrative and not just fleeting photos to interest and dazzleI obviously misuse Snapchat because I just send the 3 people on my list, photos of the cake I’m about to eat so they’ll be very jealous.

But seriously, dog or Ewok? Those ears are growing exponentially! It’s a pity the Star Wars prequels and sequels have waned because Blossom might have scored a cameo appearance. IMG_0962The Pecking Order: In the little coop, chicks Lasquisha, Lacy, Cinnamon and Princess are fast growing into hens. IMG_1384 Lasquisha continues to dominate. Not content with pecking her minions on the head, she now jumps on them.

I'm Lasquisha and I'm GORGEOUS!

I’m Lasquisha. Get in my way and I’ll jump on your head.

A similar dynamic exists in the big coop where Madam Peck is bullying the new pullets, Cherry and Merry, who’ve taken refuge in the shed.

"Has she gone yet?"

“Has she gone yet?”

"Don't mess with me!"

Madam Peck.

For an ex-battery girl, she has a lot of attitude. On the one hand, it’s great she’s recovered from the first traumatic 18 months of life in a tiny cage. On the other hand, you’d think she’d be more sensitive, a little kinder to her flock. This is probably what George Orwell meant in Animal Farm – the oppressed become the oppressors. A grim world view…but on the plus side, there are DUST BATHS. In the chicken world dust baths aren’t just fun, they eradicate lice and other parasites. (I wonder if it works for headlice?)

Chook equivalent of bubble bath.

Cherry and Merry in dust bath (equivalent of bubble bath).

Our local florist had this quotation written on her blackboard and it reminded me of the concept of average and our endless quest to rise above it.florist quoteBlooming is an individual thing and everyone’s blooming is different. I see it in the classroom when the ‘under-achiever’ has a good idea that sometimes eclipses the confidently brash student’s idea. The tentative smile of delight on her/his face – the bloom – is wonderful. 🙂

And while I’m on the subject of average, a few months ago in A Waiting Game I wrote excitedly about a manuscript that had survived the publisher’s slush pile – the first harrowing step in the process to turn Word document into book. Well, the waiting is over – my manuscript has been jettisoned declined.

Image courtesy of Amalie Howard

Image courtesy of Amalie Howard

The word rejected is never uttered in these ever-so-polite letters. How the world loves euphemisms! “We have decided not to proceed with an offer of publication at this stage”. Evidently, and I say this with no sarcasm (for they do know their stuff), my ‘book’ lacks structure and its context (Sydney in 50 years) needs work. Oh well, back to the drawing editing board. It was the first draft, so what was I expecting?!

I’ve found that in publishing – for self-protection at least – you shouldn’t be too optimistic; hopeful and doggedly persistent, but never overly confident or presumptuous. But manuscripts are a bit like babies, they make us a little protective and sensitive to criticism,. So I’ve devised some rules:

  • Rule 1: let go of ego.
  • Rule 2: develop the skin of a tyrannosaurus.
  • Rule 3: share manuscript with an expert – a paid mentor or a clever friend who will tell you the truth, even though you will hate her/him forever be hurt or offended and probably both.
  • Rule 4: Give clever friend a VERY nice present.

My 1 year Plan:  EDIT. Don’t waste time. In spare time (after school work, family and urban farming duties) be more disciplined, EDIT, refuse coffee/drinks with friends. Work harder, EDIT, avoid being frivolous, EDIT, avoid whiling away hours on social media. EDIT.

I don’t need an epiphany to tell me that this 1 year plan may not run to schedule.

Over to you. What is your biggest challenge and what do you need to be more disciplined about? What virtuous goals are on your 1 year plan?

Linking up with My Little Drummer Boy and joining Grace for FYBF.

I still have my marbles…

Jack Nicholson’s face encapsulates my attitude to blogging lately:

Image courtesy of smashinglists.com

Image courtesy of smashinglists.com

 

Recently, I only seem to be able to write with prompts. This is bad because it shows an unimaginative and lazy character, and good because there are prompts to lure me from my slothfulness. So hopping on late to Anna Spargo-Ryan’s flash fiction prompt “they ate grapes together in the fog of afternoon”…

I Still Have My Marbles

With a deft motion, Arthur slipped the small beige pill into his jacket pocket while the nurse poured his cocoa. What was her name? A person couldn’t keep track of the staff nowadays…always changing, barely any time to stop for a chat. So busy.

“Don’t forget to take your pill, Arthur.” He nodded a bit too vigorously, to hide his guilt. My legs might be gone but not my marbles. They’re all I have left.

He sipped the bile-coloured liquid – lukewarm and too sweet. He’d complained once, politely requesting more chocolate, less sugar, but the nurse – one of the new ones – made tsk-tsk noises and spoke to him as though he were a wayward schoolboy. Arthur, it all comes out of the same pot, you silly thing. We don’t have the time to go making special drinks for everyone. We’re not baristas, Arthur! She’d laughed as though her comment were witty, when all it did was make him feel small, troublesome. He understood now that the senior citizens were all a generic bunch at the facility, individuality and preferences were left at the gate.

Arthur thought of Marianne’s cocoa, rich and dark like Marianne herself. It wasn’t too much trouble for Marianne to make him a separate cup, once she’d noticed he wasn’t drinking his communal cocoa. It’s no trouble, Mr Mackenzie, I like it this way myself, she’d said, her singsong voice making him think of wind-chimes.

Arthur tried not to be offended that she hadn’t said goodbye. So busy, everyone is so busy these days. But if the truth were known, he was a bit hurt. He’d grown attached to Marianne, to their little conversations punctuating his day. He’d learnt all about her family, the few that made it to Australia, the rest still in the Sudan. He’d even contemplated making her a gift, just a small sum to help ease her life here…perhaps pay for music lessons for her little girl. But that would have meant running it by Steven and Arthur felt Steven wouldn’t have approved.

He was due for a visit from Steven, who confined his appearance to special occasions – birthdays, Christmases, Father’s Days and perhaps at Easter, if they weren’t going away. Belinda rarely came. Too busy with the children. How many are there now – two or is there a third?

Arthur gazed at the photo of Millie and him beside his bed, their smooth faces sublime under the purple mountains, grazed with afternoon sun. Why do they call it the Blue Mountains when they’re purple?

Arthur’s thoughts meandered. You’re batting for the Ashes with Millie, Arty, not the local club, said his mate Bill, who applied cricket metaphors to every contingency. But Millicent O’Grady had accepted him on that foggy afternoon. There was a bit of a mix up as he fumbled with the camera in one hand, the ring in another, down on one knee. Please get up Art, I don’t like my chin from that angle! Millie had thought at first he was taking a photo, before he’d begun his stilted proposal – suddenly inarticulate, shy. They’d laughed and laughed about it later, as they ate grapes together under the fog of afternoon.

As fortune had it, there was a photograph. A lone bush-walker happened by and seeing their bliss, captured the moment forever.

Ten o’clock was the lights-out curfew but all the residents – they called them that instead of patients as it sounded more respectful – dozed off earlier. It was the pills, and the boredom. Arthur was lucky having his own room, where he could read or watch television whenever he liked. Steven had organised it at great expense (and frequently reminded him of the fact). Arthur had resisted the urge to tell him that it was his money, after all. Increasingly, he was glad he hadn’t signed that document Steven waved before him at regular intervals: Power of Attorney.

Arthur refused to wear his pyjamas until the very last minute. It was a rule of his – one of the few he had left – a kind of last bastion of independence. And tonight he was especially glad he’d hung onto that rule.

A faint knock at his door, a mark of civility not often afforded, and a woman quickly crossed the room.

“Hello Mr Mackenzie…Arthur, I hope it’s not too late to pay you a visit…my new hours are so long.” She lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “That new nurse was very disapproving.”

“Marianne!” Arthur couldn’t manage any more words, just a grin that bisected his face and sparked his eyes.

 

Do you have trouble thinking of blog topics? What inspires you?

Linking up today With Some Grace and FYBF

Flash Fiction: As she fell…

 


cinnamon buns

Linking up this week to Anna Spargo-Ryan’s Flash Fiction prompt. The prompt: And as she fell, she remembered the tea cakes with their cinnamon clouds.

And as she fell, she remembered the tea cakes with their cinnamon clouds, shooting out of her hand, plunging down the escalator behind her, spraying a sweet fragrant film over the stunned commuters below. And when her head hit the sharp metal, a white light exploded and for a second there was no pain.

She watched the sunlight weaving a mosaic high on the wall. Her tongue felt thick but she could still taste the sugary icing where she’d nibbled the corner of a bun. Morning sunlight, yet it was evening. She closed her eyes once more then remembering, sprang up as her head ricocheted and a dull throb made her cease all movement. Gingerly, she touched the lump on the side of her brow. She glanced around the room – a pretty room with floral wallpaper and matching curtains, but nonetheless a strange one. For the first time, a sliver of fear swelled in her breast.

The door opened. “Good morning, I hope you’ve slept well?” A youngish, bland- featured man held a tray before him on which stood a tea pot, cup and buttered toast. He was tall and slim, yet solid.

Agog, she stared, instinctively wrapping her arms around her chest and hunching a little, as though to ward off something, she didn’t know what.

“Who are you? Where am I? Why am I here?” The staccato questions were rude but she didn’t care. She swung her legs out from the covers and onto the floor, suddenly aware that she wore only her underwear.

“You suffered a nasty shock. I wouldn’t get up if I were you.” He averted his eyes. “Rest. That’s what’s needed. There is no concussion.”

Gwendolyn continued to look at him, the surrealness of the situation, of their conversation weighting her body like a drug. His pleasant features curved into a smile and she thought absently that he had a nice face. In another context he might be handsome, though jowly and likely to turn pudgy in middle age.

“Where are my clothes…and my phone, I need my phone?” Her memory crashed through the haze and she recalled the rush to jump onto the escalator, the brushing past her of someone – a careless commuter who bumped her, toppled her and propelled her against the cold sharp metal. “My bag? Where is my bag?”

The memory was clear. She was on her way to Suzi’s, running late but determined to go anyway. She’d bought cinnamon buns especially, to complement the new coffee machine. Suzi had been effusive. I’ll make your fav…what is it again, soy caffe macchiato or some such wank? My amazing machine does it all! Her wide grin had diffused the exasperation as she looked indulgently at her fussy precious friend. Her fad-crazed, allergy-prone bestie.

“Luckily I was there to catch you!” He smiled with cheery good-nature and as she stared at his straight white teeth, his vacant blue eyes, she turned cold.

“Where…please…is my stuff?” Fear bloomed in her stomach and a wheedling, whining note crept into her voice. She wrapped the sheet tightly around her body and upper thighs, eyes wildly scanning the room. She bent and peeped under the bed.

“Sit down and have some tea, you’ll feel much better.” He poured the tea primly, like a maiden aunt. “And toast. You need nourishment.” He smiled condescendingly, head tilted slightly to the side as one would to a wayward school girl.

Fear gave way to anger and she ran to the door, yanking it. “Where the fuck is my stuff?” She noticed for the first time the padlock. The deadlock. She leapt to the window but it too was bolted and bars lined the pane like straight soldiers standing to attention.

“There’s no need for vulgarity, Gwendolyn. Manners are always paramount, as my dear old mother used to say.”

Her scream split the air and when she stopped his smile had gone. A deep frown creased his seamless face.

“They can’t hear you.” He said softly, lifting his leg swiftly and knocking the wall with the bottom of his shoe. Gwendolyn heard the soft dull thud of metal break the silence. A sharp memory shot into her head, crystallising: someone pushing her – a man, a large man – as she stepped onto the escalator.

“It was you!” She continued to scream as he walked slowly across the room towards her, his eyes perfectly still, perfectly mad.

A Waiting Game.

I took some time off teaching to write this. The manuscript survived the first gruelling stage, where the publisher asks to see more and sends it off to another expert. I’m awaiting judgment, to see if it will live or die. And florid images – the condemned awaiting execution – seep through my head. Though an optimist by nature, I am too much the realist and expect a rejection very soon. I’m not stressed about it but sanguine, with a sliver, barely a sliver of hopefulness. 🙂

Image Credit: MMRule.

Image Credit: MMRule.

‘Non-compliance’ – the blurb.

Narrated in the present tense through the eyes of twenty year old Violet Chen, Non-Compliance falls into the political, speculative genre. Clever and beautiful, Violet lives with her father and brother in East Zone (erstwhile Sydney), her mother having lately been banished for non-compliance.

East Zone is an oppressive society, controlled by the Council. Many offences are deemed ‘non-compliance’, punishable by banishment or ‘closure’.

Violet attracts the interest of a powerful sentinel, Leon Janssen, who begins to pursue her. Repulsed, Violet must navigate a wary path – avoiding his anger and consequent punishment, while maintaining her own integrity, her sense of self. Will she manage it?

Linking up today with Daily Prompt BYO(ookworm)