ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Bickering Blogfest - June 30 (Secrets Blogfest entry below...)

Thank you Kristen for hosting the Bickering Blogfest. My entry is from an early scene in a short story. The couple have a long-standing row about their differing aims in life. He’s Mr Important Bossy Boots and she is fast tiring of being Mrs Dutiful Nobody Wife. The MC has made her choices and is taking a beach walk, looking back to past events that brought her to this wonderful place in her life. I warn you though, I'm a lover not a fighter, so I know it's a bit weak...


I stopped for a break, realising my breath was coming in ragged gasps. ‘Too much chocolate cake!’ I chuckle to myself, ‘or is it just thinking about Michael that makes me breathless?’ I look across the rolling ocean. I shake my head. Sighing, I walk to my favourite spot amongst the dunes and spread my towel. Lying in the dappled shade watching the puffy clouds drifting overhead, my mind wanders…

…When we returned from our backpacking adventures, we fought bitterly. Michael insisted we buy a small apartment in inner-city Brisbane so he could be close to the law courts. I wanted to live in a leafy suburb, one with lots of coffee shops, maybe even buy one.

Michael had his way as usual, so we settled into our jobs and our new digs. He was snatched up by a prestigious law firm, while I took the first job I applied for—a journalist with the Courier Mail, a Brisbane daily. Michael had a meteoric rise to the top in International Law, travelling constantly. My ambitions lay elsewhere.

We entered a very turbulent period. On the few occasions we saw each other our conversations went something like this:

Me: ‘Michael, what sort of job requires you to work 16 hours a day?’

Michael: ‘Don’t ever call it a job. It’s a career. Why don’t you put a bit of effort into your career?’

Me: ‘How much effort does it take for me to hang around outside the Law Courts and shove a microphone in the face of the latest paedophile, white-collar criminal or wife beater?’

Michael: ‘That’s just your problem, Cassie. You’ve got no ambition, no drive,’ he sneered. ‘You could be where the action is, reporting from Baghdad, Afghanistan or Darfur. But what do you do? You rust away in a no-news town, counting your precious pennies for your ridiculous coffee shop.’

Me: ‘At least I’m not wasting my money on designer clothes.’

Michael: Sniffs. ‘My career demands a certain quality and Armani does very well. Anyway, I’m too busy to have this conversation. I fly to Moscow in exactly three hours.’

Me: ‘Moscow. How exciting. Plenty of Armani there I don’t think.’

Michael: ‘You’d be surprised what’s there. You’re just jealous. And you don’t like vodka. Really Cassie, you’ve become such a bore. Get yourself an assignment somewhere exciting and we might have something to talk about when I get back.’

I knew we were over. We weren’t a team any more. Had we ever been? But I’ll give it one last shot, I promised myself. To me, marriage was forever, but my resolve on this point was weakening. My resolve to own my own café wasn’t.

The decision in the end wasn’t as tough as I’d thought it would be. I took a plumb reporting assignment based in Paris, with opportunities to travel all over the world, not to mention the market research opportunities.

Even though I’d done what Michael wanted, our relationship didn’t improve. The spark had gone and neither of us had the time nor the inclination to do anything about it. We were both on the move constantly. We became tired of meeting in London, New York, Paris, Prague. We met less and less. I finally decided I was ready to make my dream a reality. I arranged a meeting with Michael.

‘Michael,’ I began tentatively over a snatched lunch in a sumptuous New York eatery. ‘I’ve had enough. I can’t stand this jet-setting life any longer.’

‘Oh, no, not this again.’ He snapped his snowy white napkin, throwing it across his lap.

‘You know what I’ve always wanted. I’ve put my dreams on hold for so long. I have enough capital to sink into my bistro. I’m ready.’

Michael looked across the table at me, an eyebrow cocked. I saw him glance around the room in case anyone was eavesdropping. Appearances were so important to him. ‘Cassie, are you still on about that?’ his voice was steel coated with velvet. ‘You haven’t mentioned it for ages. I thought you’d seen sense. It’s a stupid idea.’ He picked up his cutlery again. ‘I’ve always thought so and I haven’t changed my mind. All that hard work. Let someone else do it. Keep on the other side of the counter.’ He stabbed the space between us with a speared asparagus stalk, looked me in the eye, dared me to challenge him. I did.

‘Michael,’ Patient voice, ‘you know I’ve had this dream forever. I’ve taken jobs I’ve hated, travelled to places I’d rather never have seen, seen things that will disturb me all my life. As I said, I’ve had enough.’

‘Cassie, you always were a wimp. Always satisfied with so little. Never wanted to do anything important in your life. Food! Food! Food! What is it about your obsession?’

‘Why are you so against this dream of mine? There’s no shame in providing food for people. People always have to eat.’ I could hear my voice rising. ‘I’ve had lots of ideas I’ve never been able to share with you.’ I leaned closer, trying to placate him. ‘My idea is to provide healthy options for people. Light French fare. Taking the best of the cuisine I’ve discovered, and adding less fat and sugar.’

‘Fat free food tastes like crap. No-one will buy it.’ He folded his arms, leaned back in his chair and stared, his eyes like fire. It was the end of the matter as far as he was concerned.

‘Low fat can taste amazing,’ I continued. My turn to slap my napkin into my palm. ‘I’ve done my homework. My travels have shown me I’m on to something. Look at all the diabetics in the world. How do they get on when they travel to France or Italy? What about the gluten intolerant? Those on special diets? They can’t eat cheesy pizzas and creamy sauces. I could start a line of healthy, specialised food.’

‘You’re such a dreamer.’

‘That’s the nicest thing you’ve said to me for, like, forever.’



© Denise Covey 2010

Confused? Two Blogfests in one day! Secrets Blogfest and Bickering Blogfest

Thank you, Tara from Midnight Ink,  for hosting the Secrets Blogfest. Here is my entry.

This is an extract from the beginning of a short story of mine. The whole story is full of subtle secrets which all come together in a crescendo in the last line, but I’m sorry, you won’t get to see it all here… *weeps loudly*. So I offer this little teaser...


The old lady snapped open her purse. With trembling fingers she gently caressed the object through its silky velvet pouch.

‘Yes, this will be fine. It’s just down the lane,’ Raissa said, peering out of the window at the darkening landscape.


‘Are you sure, lady?’ the bus driver’s voice was uncertain. He knew the area. Once a body wandered into this forest, there was a good chance they’d never walk out again.


With a shrug, the bus driver turned the key. The ancient bus juddered to a halt.


He watched his passenger in the rear-view mirror. He saw her apply bright red lipstick, check her hair in the fancy compact, snap it shut and return it to her purse.


‘No luggage then love?’ he asked.


‘No, I don’t need luggage this trip.’ He watched her smile dreamily and he wondered exactly who she was meeting in the bush. As far as he knew, all the houses had been bulldozed years ago to make way for the sawmill. He remembered there’d been quite a kerfuffle at the time but these things always settled down. People had short memories.


He turned around in time to see her popping something in her mouth, then take a tiny sip from her water bottle. She stood up slowly, wobbling a bit, clutching a parcel.


‘Well, I’d best be going then. Let you get on,’ she said. She held a posy of red roses in her white-gloved hands.


The bus driver was on his feet in an instant, remembering his manners. All his other passengers were long gone. No one came this far out. He’d added this stop to his itinerary just for her. He could hardly let her hitch all the way from Anernene.


She took his arm and he helped her down the steps. He smiled at the picture they made — they could be heading to the dance floor to perform a quadrille.


Once on the ground, she turned to him with the sweetest smile. Her face was lit from the inside – he could see her delicate beauty shining through.


‘Thank you kind sir. I’ll be on my way.’ A smile, a gentle touch of her hand. Looking down, he saw he was clasping a tiny red rose.


He watched her, twirling the flower absently in his hand. ‘How will you get back?’ he asked.


‘Don’t you worry about that,’ she called. ‘That’s my secret.’ She winked, waved, then walked off, her back ramrod straight, her steps faltering. He saw her clutch her bright red coat around her tiny frame, though the late afternoon was balmy. Strange, he thought. In a moment she was just a shadow amongst the trees.


‘A lady of quality, that,’ he mused as he stepped up into the bus. He sat pondering a moment before he could bring himself to turn the key.


The old lady heard him gunning the engine. For a while she’d feared he would stop her. The age of chivalry was not dead. She smiled and walked on into the darkness…

Monday, 28 June 2010

Calling all Romance Writers!

Reading an article over on Raquel Writes who blogged about an article in the May/June issue of Writer's Digest , talking about just how popular romance novels are. The genre is constantly one of the top sellers of books with authors such as Nora Roberts et al, constantly on NYTimes' bestseller lists.

So, all you romance writers, or would-be romance writers out there, here are a few tips. Some are well known, some may be new. It never hurts to be reminded. No 3 is a point worth noting for those who don't consider themselves romance writers. I was reading recently that no matter what the genre, readers like a bit of romance *sighs*.


What Your Romance Novel Should Have:


1. "HEA"- Translation: "happily ever after." Romance stories should always have a happy ending.

2. "Morality Reflective of the Majority"- Basically the characters have to be in a monogamous
relationship.

3. "Variety"- Contrary to popular belief, romance novels are not all the same. There are several
subgenres of romance which includes, romantic suspense, paranormal, erotica, inspirational, urban
fantasy, contemporary, historical, and comedy, and thriller. That's a lot if you ask me.

4. "Sexual Tension"- This does not mean explicit sex. The misconception is that romance novels are filled
with explicit content. Not true! There is no need for sex unless it reveals character or advances the plot.

5. "Character Growth"- This is true for all genres in my opinion. Nobody likes a flat character.


The article also states there are 10 things you can add to make you romance novel a success.


Spice Up Your Romance Novel

1. "A strong hook or concept"

2. "Sympathetic motivated characters"

3. "Evocative Setting"

4. "High-stakes conflict"

5. "Unique voice"

6. "Credible emotion"

7. "Tight pacing"

8. "Skillful layering" (with regard to plot, themes, characters, etc.)

9. "Reversals" (surprises and challenges)

10."Authenticity"


Publishers Seeking Romance Writers:

1. Harlequin Enterprises

2. Random House

3. Penguin Group

4. HarperCollins

5. Kensington

6. Dorchester Publishing

If you want some links to some Australian Romance Publishers/Writers, I have a link if you troll down on the right sidebar.

Good luck, fellow romance writers. Maybe there's some little thing you learned from this post.

Let me know if there are any other gems you'd like to share with moi!

Have a great writing week -

Denise


Sunday, 27 June 2010

Chocolate Alert!


I know that many of my blogger friends are chocoholics, so if you haven't discovered David Lebovitz' blog, click the link. His chocolate page is lickable. Read it and you'll never be the same again. Well, I wasn't. I'm checkin' the flight times to Paris again! I've added it to my Current Faves Page, clever me.

Hope you're all having a great weekend!

Do tell me your reactions to David's site...swoon...


Friday, 25 June 2010

#Friday Flash Fiction


Today Belongs to Her

She lies in her bed with her eyes half open and watches as the room slowly fills with light, the rays gently patterning the gauzy curtains as they stir languidly in the morning breeze. She can hear the birds leaving their nests, flying free to welcome the new day, singing with joy and happiness.

Lately she’s become acutely attuned to morning sounds.

The day is dawning. Her final day. It belongs to her alone. How will she spend it? What choices! The day spa - a few hours of being pampered and blissfully zoned out? Or maybe she will go on a leisurely walking tour of her favourite haunts along the river – coffee at the Mary Ryan Bookshop café with Nessie’s delectable cakes, perhaps? Then along to the Caffè Club for a panino al prosciutto? After that, humm, back into the city for a sumptious French High Tea at the Sofitel? She reconsiders. Maybe a bit much for one day! she chuckles. But the first two choices are definitely doable.

She looks out the window. A glorious sunny day. Make the most of it my girl!

She dresses with care in her trendy Nike sportsclothes and snaps on the Colorado shoes that look like ballet flats but are actually trainers. Hair and make up done, she checks herself out in her full-length mirror, turning this way and that.

Not bad, she decides. All that exercise, healthy eating and vitamins look like they have paid off. In her reflection she sees a trim, well-cared-for figure. And a head of bouncy brunette curls. I’m going to be a rebel for once and not wear a hat, she decides. I want to feel the sun beating down on me, activating the life force. She grimaces. Pity about the curls, though. She brushes a little tear from her eye, shakes her head, takes a deep cleansing breath.

She throws her voluminous Louis Vuitton bag over her shoulder, averting her eyes from the smaller bag in the corner. She could swear that it looks accusingly at her every time she enters the room. Oh! Nearly forgot! She snatches the latest Anita Shreve novel from her bedside table. Altitude, she smiles at the name as she flicks the pages, maybe it’ll take me higher. She will read it over coffee. What bliss! She rushes out the door as fast as she is able, ready for her carefree adventure.

***
What a world this is! She sighs as she admires the sleek ferries making their way up and down the river, trailing their wakes behind them like long bridal veils. Maybe I’ll add a ferry ride to my agenda, she muses. She leans over the boardwalk rail, takes a deep breath and inhales the river smell - reedy, thick and brackish. She looks wistfully at a young family on bicycles, heading off on an adventure, chattering happily as they pump the pedals. The mother smiles at her. She nods in acknowledgment, smiling back. Tomorrow I am heading off on an adventure of my own, she whispers.
 


Tomorrow she will leave all this for another, entirely different world.

Tomorrow is out of her control. Tomorrow will be hospitals, doctors, nurses, orders, prodding, jabbing, false hope.

Whatever happens, today belongs to her.

The End

© Denise Covey 2010




Thursday, 24 June 2010

Teens turning away from blogs - what should a YA author do?



Read a recent study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which finds that teen blogging and tweeting are down. For starters, the researchers list teens as 12 – 17 years old and young adults as the 18 – 29 set which is interesting. The whole report is quite informative, but for those who don't want to read the whole thing, here are some key facts from the report:

•Blogging is less popular among teens and young adults now than it was 4 years ago. Think kids are still reading and commenting? Maybe, maybe not – teen blog commenting stats have also dropped.

•14% of online teens now say they blog, down from 28% in 2006.

•In December 2007, 24% of online 18-29 year olds reported blogging, compared with 7% of those thirty and older.

•By 2009, just 15% of internet users ages 18-29 maintain a blog–a nine percentage point drop in two years.

•73% of wired American teens now use social networking websites, a significant increase from previous surveys. Just over half of online teens (55%) used social networking sites in November 2006 and 65% did so in February 2008.

•72% of online 18-29 year olds use social networking websites, nearly identical to the rate among teens.

•The specific sites on which young adults maintain their profiles are different from those used by older adults: Young profile owners are much more likely to maintain a profile on MySpace (66% of young profile owners do so, compared with just 36% of those thirty and older) but less likely to have a profile on LinkedIn (7% vs. 19%).

•8% of internet users ages 12-17 use Twitter. far less common than sending or receiving text messages as 66% of teens do, or going online for news and political information, done by 62% of online teens.

•Older teens are more likely to use Twitter than their younger counterparts; 10% of online teens ages 14-17 do so, compared with 5% of those ages 12-13.

•High school age girls are particularly likely to use Twitter. Thirteen percent of online girls ages 14-17 use Twitter, compared with 7% of boys that age.

•Young adults lead the way when it comes to using Twitter or status updating. One-third of online 18-29 year olds post or read status updates.

What do you think? Does this worry the YA authors amongst us?


Monday, 21 June 2010

The Versatile Blogger Award


Thank you to J. Kaye from 365 Days of Novel Writing for this award. With this award comes a few duties. Those are:


1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.


2. Share seven things about yourself.


3. Pass this award along to fifteen bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason!


4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.


Seven Random Things About Me:


My worst habit is...coffee and chocolate everyday (and cake too if I can manage it)

My guiltiest pleasure is...TV news, I am the biggest news junkie out. I listen even if I'm not watching. Sure, not much joy there but I like to know what is happening even if I can't do anything but shake my head!

The hardest thing I've had to do...is think of 7 things about me (just kidding!)is ...keep on believing in my writing through the down times. I've finally reached the point where I am soldiering on, believing in myself, and not letting rejection get me down.

As a child I...had a short story published in a major newspaper when I was 11. This set me off into a dream world from which I've never returned. I've got lost on the way, but I have found my way back.

One of my ways to relax is to...bake. I love baking cakes, biscuits (cookies), cheesecakes - my Toblerone Cheesecake is to die for. I also like to create chef-style meals when the spirit moves me.

I love blogging because...it inspires me to hear how everyone else is going. I also learn a lot trolling around the blogosphere. I don't look on it as a time waster. Much better than playing solitaire between scenes.

I love to travel...and this is reflected in my writing. I keep journals on paper and in my head and these ideas/settings pop onto paper, catching me unawares. But I love it...


So there you are. I used a different format as by now everyone must be sick of the numbers 1 - 7 or 10, depending on the award. Feel free to respond any way you want.


Now for the fifteen bloggers:

  1. THE STORY SO FAR
  2. elisa - random thoughts
  3. vintagesusieandwings
  4. Carol's prints
  5. The Writer's Funhouse
  6. Jen Chandler
  7. Publish or Perish
  8. Miss Ali
  9. Laughing Monkey Stick
  10. Culture Served Raw
  11. Laughing Wolf
  12. Jaded Love Junkie
  13. Flutey Words
  14. Starlight Blog
  15. Terripincha
I tried to choose bloggers who haven't already received this award as it takes ages to do! However, if I doubled up, please send the award on to someone else for me.

Looking forward to reading your 7 things...you Versatile Bloggers...Here's a slice of Toblerone Cheesecake for you!


Cheers, Denise


Bad Boy Blogfest entry

I'm sorry I'm a bit late for the blogfest. I got my dates mixed up. I didn't have time to conjure up a new bad boy for this entry, so I'm using a story I jotted down last week and it was the only one that came close to the criteria. I haven't had time to polish it, but I had to get something down quickly. I  hope no-one is offended by the subject matter. It is Flash Fiction, a complete story as it stands...


Lost Treasures

I was dreaming of the sea again. It happens every night. I open my eyes and watch the moonlight creep across my bed with a soft lover’s caress. The sheets are tangled and fall over the bed like waves. I kick off the covers and throw myself across the bed like a beached whale.

The moonlight dancing on my bare skin makes me look beautiful. Its gentle light overlooks the angry welts criss-crossing my legs. Instead, it hovers over my belly like a benediction. The welts throb, but I have no ointments to ease the pain. But that is his intention.

I hear his loud breathing coming from the next room. Loud snuffles and snorts as he sleeps the sleep of the damned. I hear him tossing and turning. I pray he stays asleep. For a long time.


***

‘You will not marry that infidel!’ he’d screamed.

‘Ahmed? An infidel?’ I’d begged. ‘He is of the same religion as we are.’

A vicious fist across my mouth.

‘You will marry who I say,’ he had spat in contempt.

His eyes had turned red with rage and he’d reached for his belt. I couldn’t believe what had happened. My father had always been the gentlest of men.

‘Father!’ I’d screamed, ‘don’t do this!’

My pleas were ignored.

The hard leather bit into my soft skin. The pure force of his anger made the blows harder to bear. My heart broke afresh with every slap of the tough hide.

‘I will kill you!’ he’d screeched in his rage.

‘Mumma, help!’ I’d pleaded to the black-clad figure cringing in the dark corner. She remained silent but I could feel her pain for me.


***

Night after night. Night after night. The beatings continue. Only the moonlight and the night sounds are my friends. My door is bolted against the outside world. The food is passed in, served without love, eaten without relish. No-one speaks to me. I am a prisoner. Just me and the new life growing in my belly. I’m sorry.

The crashing waves are coming closer and closer as high tide is reached. Soon the water will be just below my window. I hear its relentless pummelling. The sound and rhythm reminds me of my father’s blows which continue without mercy. He will not be denied his will.

There was a big storm earlier in the night. Tomorrow there will be rubbish lining the beach below the dunes. My father will leave his bed early to collect it before the tide snatches it back again. He loves to find treasures that someone else has lost.

He will be surprised at the treasure he will find tomorrow.

The open window draws me. The moonlight bathes me. The sea calls my name.


Friday, 18 June 2010

Apple to the rescue? Self-publishing debate continues...

Did you see any of the articles where Apple has invited  authors to self-publish on iPad bookstore?

We all know that getting a book deal isn’t easy and Apple is now offering an alternative to the traditional publisher. The company this week opened a new portal for independent authors to self-publish their books for the iBooks Store open to iPad (and soon iPhone) customers.

More from the article:

Apple’s iTunes Connect program has a section where authors can self-publish their work under certain formatting requirements, MacLife first reported. Basically, the books must be made in the ePub format like the rest of the offerings in the iBooks Store.

With iBooks and the iPad, Apple’s biggest target is Amazon, who hosts its popular Amazon e-book store and sells the dedicated Kindle e-reader. Amazon, too, allows authors to self-publish books through their market. Their e-book sales now outnumber their print sales.

What do you think? Would you take up Apple's offer?

Have you self-published? I'd love to hear about it...

There is an informative article on Amazon e-books here...and another here...and a great site full of info on self publishing here...Thank you Lisa Shae.


Friday, 11 June 2010

Sex and the City 2 - so not the review

Hey, I'm no Sex and the City gal, I'm Moonlight and Valentino all the way, but I'm very much a going-out-with-my-daughters kind of mum, so when my girls invite me along for a girlie experience, I'm there. So off we trot to see the latest effort from the Awesome Foursome and I'm still gagging at the crudeness and laughing myself silly at the ugly clothes. Really! High heels in the desert? Seriously...Sorry anyone if you actually enjoyed  this latest Hollywood/Abu Dhabi combo where the girls go from the Empire State to the Emerati States. For those who are intending to attend, I'll try not to drop too many spoilers...hah!

Anyone who reads my blog knows I'm a positive person, so I thought long and hard about this experience. It is nice to know Carrie is only human and is cut when she gets a bad review on her newly-published book, but what else did I learn? Nothing is wasted, right? So I've compiled a list of positive/useful/useless info I've learned from my Sex and the City 2 experience:

  1. If I hold my head a certain way, flick back my long locks, then spritz just so, I can have hair everywhere just like Sarah Jessica Parker. Wow!
  2. If I'm 52, facing menopause, and I take a bucketload of hormones I can be turning 30 when my daughters are turning 50! (I think I heard right! I swear it was something like that!)
  3. At a gay wedding between 2 guys, Liza Minelli is de rigeur. Unfortunately she is just plain embarrassing! Give me Beyonce's Single Ladies anyday!
  4. To survive marriage, (even to someone as hunky as Big) I need 2 days away from him occasionally (to write!! we know that's a given, although how Carrie can afford to keep her apartment in NYC is a mystery!) Unfortunately he'll cotton on and want 2 regular days away PER WEEK so he can be a slob, lie on the couch and shock! horror! bring home gourmet fast food! 
  5. The pampered, your-own-personal butler experience at a top Abu Dhabi hotel comes at a price - $22,000 per night for the room and service, while your butler comes from India and only sees his wife when he can scratch together the plane fare home - every 3 months or so.
  6. In the Arabian Desert they ride 4WDs, as well as camels, over the sand dunes.
  7. The UAE is made up of 7 states, but I only got to learn 4, as Carrie's ex boyfriend Aiden found her too kissable to relate the other 3! I had to look them up on google! But I can't spell them!
  8. Hollywood thinks it's okay to mock the Saudi Arabian culture, especially the women who have to eat French Fries from under their veils. The Saudi women have the last laugh, though, but I won't spoil that!
  9. Further to the above, in a culture that requires its women to wear the burkha, apparently belly dancers are allowed! Strange, but can we believe everything Hollywood tells us?
  10. Sorry, I've run out of inspiration. I was really reaching to get the last couple! Oh, that's right, if you have sex on the beach you'll still get arrested! Yeh, probably the cocktail, too, will do it!

Long story short, the movie is cringe-inducing, but a day out with my lovely single ladies makes it enchanting! Especially the shopping trip afterwards where I shouted us all a scarf so we can re-live the experience of floating through the Arabian Desert together! Come to think of it, I could hold it over my face when I want to sneak some fatty chips...no, bad idea...just like Sex and the City 2.


Saturday, 5 June 2010

Gone in 60 Seconds - #Fridayflash

Here is my entry for this #fridayflash. Previously posted in a blogfest.



Gone in 60 seconds


As I begin spiralling downward, I panic and forget everything I’ve been taught. Okay, 60 seconds of free falling has been sweet, but now the parachute is supposed to take up the slack, but guess what? Yep. Just my luck. The wanky thing gets itself stuck and here I go, free falling, free screaming, heading for the ground at a great rate of knots.

Tug! Tug! It’s stuck all right! I lose all hope of hearing that thunderous whoosh, seeing that gentle puff of parachute silk billowing above me. Nah, this time it’s just me, the sky and that old enemy, gravity.

I’m no longer floating - I’m dropping towards the ground like a lead ball, faster, faster. I force my eyes open again and try to reason with myself. I probably have another 60 seconds before impact. Think! Think!
I manouever my body back into the arch position which isn’t easy when my limbs are stiff with terror. In training I’ve been shown how you can actually direct your flight in free fall, so with a great deal of effort I pull my arms slightly back at the shoulders and straighten my legs as I’ve been taught.

My heart begins to thump again. The adrenalin is rushing through me. I know what to do and I do it. I move backward by extending my arms and bending my knees like I’m trying to touch the back of my head with my heels. From this position I can make a left or right turn by twisting my upper body slightly.

You might be wondering why I’m bothering but I’d been told in training for my solo jump that you can actually survive a free fall from up to 50,000 feet if you stay in control and hey, I’m only at 11,000 feet so I must be in with a chance, don’t you think? A survival float, they call it. Choose your drop zone. I know I’ll have a better chance of survival if I land on a nice soft spot. Or in deep water. Or even on a car or a rooftop. Anything but cement. God, not that…


My tactics seem to be working. I have slowed my speed and am heading towards the beach. Of course I can’t hear the waves crashing or the seagulls calling or the surfers cursing - all I can hear is the sound of wind screaming in my ears and my desperate prayers…‘help me, help me, oh God, oh Godddd...’ About 30 seconds to go.

 
You know how they say your life flashes before you as you drown, well, I’m drowning in wind and extreme velocity and my life is flashing before me like a flickering movie in fast forward. I see my children, their trusting baby faces. I see my daughter’s triumphant smile smeared with my bright red lipstick. I see my son’s joyous high five when he won his soccer game. I flash on their birthday parties and am sorry I probably won’t be there to share any more. Nor will they share mine. Today they’ll be waiting for me to come home from ‘Mummy’s air jump all by herself’ so they can yell ‘Surprise! Clever Mummy!’ I see my husband, his face white with shock when I tell him I intend to go solo for my thirtieth. ‘That’s far too dangerous!’ he’d yelled. ‘For God’s sake, you have children. You can’t keep jumping out of planes! You’ll be sorry!’

I’m sorry now. I wasn’t then. The one time I’d been determined to do something just for myself, look what happens! Any moment now. Yikes, here comes the ground, faster, faster.
I’m aware of the beach flashing by. It always lifts my spirits, gives me strength. I won’t make it. The waves, too far away, in and out, in and out, the rhythm of life. Ah, life. Relax! Relax! More chance if you relax! Bend your knees! Aim for that soft, billowy sand just ahead. Dip shoulder to the left, get ready for impact. Drop zone. Drop zone. Sand dune. Yes! Careening towards me - colours blending-whirling-blue-green-sandy-use balls of feet-point toes-swish-thwump-roll-bounce-cover head-arms close to ears-use elbows to protect-hold tight-grassy knoll coming-thump-thump-thump-that hurt-ooh-ah-blessed blackness…

 
‘Hey! Over here! Quick! She’s alive! Call Emergency!’


Friday, 4 June 2010

Flash Fiction Writing

I've recently been trying my hand at Flash Fiction. For the uninitiated flashes are usually 500 - 1,000 words of short, snappy fiction. I've found it an interesting way to learn how to edit more succinctly, to make sure every word counts, which is a must for short story writing. Flash fiction is the way to go when you have one of those stories that just jumps into your head and wants to get onto the page with a minimum of fuss.

If you like to write rambly short stories that meander to their conclusion in their own sweet time, then flash fiction is probably not for you. But if you want to give your readers a quick jolt, then you might have found your form. Some writers say writing short stories is good practise for writing novels, and I agree, but I'm aware others seem to think it takes a whole set of different skills. In the same way I think writing Flash Fiction will help my short story writing by helping me to cut to the chase. One can only hope...

Flash Fiction seems to have found its home online and I've been having a great time checking out as many stories as I can. Mark Budman, whose elegant quarterly Vestal Review publishes a half-dozen flashes of 500 words or under in each issue, says, "I love flash's intensity, its ability to say much in little space, and, let's face it, its instant gratification." Most editors are pretty open about the genre, so whatever you write, you can turn your hand to flash fiction.

OTHER NAMES: Sudden fiction, flash fiction, micro fiction, smoke-long fiction, postcard fiction--all are names for the short short fiction, seemingly designed especially for online reading.

Any search for 'flash fiction' brings up plenty of hits. I've collated a few good sites here, mostly ones that pay a small amount for your work.


The Green Tricycle


SmokeLong Quarterly


The Vestal Review


Per Contra 

Nick Daws' Writing Blog

Writing Forward (exercises for writing flash fiction.)

Let me know if you've found this helpful, and tell me of any successes in the flash fiction market.

I'm going to publish my first attempt tomorrow in the Beach Scene Blogfest. Hope you like it.


Tuesday, 1 June 2010

A Desperate Housewife

No, not me! I'm never happier than when I'm cleaning, cooking, and choking on my words...but...in response to Talli Roland's post today about writers writing for love (or was that cupbakes?) not money, (as there's precious little on offer,) I came across this...

I've just been reading about Grace Metalious, the author of the slutty Peyton Place, and found some inspiration in her motivation. Grace was a 32 year old stay-at-home mother of three. She was truly a desperate housewife and sat down to pen Peyton Place hoping it would lift her out of the 'cage of poverty and mediocrity' where she felt trapped. She was driven and passionate, neglected her 'wifely duties' to write ten hours a day. The dishes piled up in the sink and dust accumulated throughout her ramshackle home, hmm, there might be a link here! Independent and single-minded, she was certainly not typical of women of her day.


In her book, Grace lifted the lid off the box of repressive 1950's society and there was no putting it back on. A controversial figure, she became an instant celebrity, both applauded and reviled. Fan letters from some, brickbats from others.

Sadly, the pressure of fame bacame too much and she turned to alcohol, lost her fortune, then her life, all before her fortieth birthday.

Whatever we think of Peyton Place and Grace's life, it is an undeniable fact that it took tremendous courage for a wife and mother in the 1950s to write and publish (after about five rejections) a bombshell of a book like Peyton Place. It became an Academy Award nominated film, a sequel, and a wildly-popular television series which paved the way for Dallas, Twin Peaks and yes, Desperate Housewives where Wisteria Lane is truly an extension of Elm Street and Maple, the thoroughfare that criss-crossed the town of Peyton Place.


When asked in an interview if she thought her creation would be remembered, Grace replied, 'I doubt it very much.'  Last I heard, Sandra Bullock was planning a major motion picture based on Metalious' biography. So, Talli, Grace got more than cupcakes!

See what can happen if you write for ten hours a day, every day! Are we up for it?