Archive for the ‘authors’ Category

Every morning multitudes of people wake up and reach for their phone to check their facebook newsfeeds. On their specially crafted reel of favourites, they’ll scroll through and maybe like or share content with other users. Instead of going to websites, perhaps even newspapers now, people open facebook for connection to society and the world.

It’s the portal to end all portals; one that sucks us in and keeps us there. There are quizzes and tests to take on facebook that predict everything from which movie star you look like, to the year you are going to die. It’s both infotainment and a humongous time waster.

I took one of the tests once – the one about which celebrity you look like. I got the ‘grumpy cat’ – a facebook famous identity. Yes, it’s a real cat who looks grumpy and has more than 8,000,000 followers.

Are we stupid to devote so much time to an artificial and I would say influential learning environment? As of the third quarter of 2015, Facebook had 1.55 billion monthly active users. While the grumpy cat mightn’t have much to teach us, the news, lifestyle and new age sites might. Just about everyone – artists, authors, the Dalai Lama – is on facebook.

I remember when I first started out on facebook. I liked Oxfam and the RSPCA, spiritual sites and the New York Post. As newspapers realised the news distribution had entered a new era, they too began to build their facebook platforms but the twist for them is they don’t control the advertising dollars. Facebook does.

And it is attempting to control our memories now too. Aside from the greeting facebook gives you when you logon in the morning, it is now providing you with ‘anniversary’ posts for you to share – so you and your friends can reminisce.

What’s next? Hopefully it won’t attempt political influence though I’m sure there are subtle signs there if you looked.

I would really ‘like’ to take a break from facebook for a week. It would take real discipline, as I’m one of those people who reach for their phone and newsfeed each morning upon waking. Someone once likened that to reaching for a glass of whiskey. They might be right.

It’s a humble Friday night and I’ve finished stewing my apples. My three sons are out and about, getting on with their busy lives and my husband has the remote – everyone’s happy. Me? I’m here in front of this computer screen and talking to you. I’m happy about that too.

The dogs are at my feet – Koster (English Staffy) is licking his paws in his clumsily, silly way and Fiona (Shih Tzu) is doing a better job of being dainty. A lot has happened since my last post, including finishing the edit on my new horror/paranormal thriller, Blood Visions.

My short story horror/paranormal collection, Evil Imminent, was released before Christmas to good reviews and I’m busy thinking about my next project – another paranormal thriller. Can’t wait to start writing that one.

As I sit in my upstairs home office, I’m looking out on a new year – one that is full of creative promise, time with family and cultivating my garden – which reminds me, the figs will be ripening soon and I can’t wait to taste those. There is definitely something wonderful about eating your own produce. Now I’m digressing from the real reason I began this blog tonight.

Below is one of my absolute favourites from Evil Imminent about a young couple who literally miss each other in this world. Without giving too much away, it’s here below for your reading. I hope you like it. If you do, head over to Amazon and pick up your e-book copy of Evil Imminent and the other six short stories on offer http://www.amazon.com/Evil-Imminent-Collection-Paranormal-Stories-ebook/dp/B00QRE42J8.

LOVE OUTLASTED

She drove down the long, overgrown driveway with its rambling greenery that once was a clipped hedge. The thick canopy overhead reminded her she was in the woods, miles from the nearest town. That had been their dream, to get away from the city and find a place where they could start a new life; one that was definitively their own – not their parents, or her sister’s, or even his older brother’s. One that was their’s: Gabby and Levi Allman.  “Of course, it would be rambling and eerie looking,” she said to her husband in the passenger seat, but like the shattering of glass all over again, remembering he wasn’t there. Would never be there again.

She brushed the tear away, as it slid down her cheek, the next welling up and spilling over to follow its track. With an impatient sniff, she wiped her hand hard across her face. Tears would do no-one any good she had learned in the past months, least of all herself.

It had been twelve months since the defence force messenger arrived at her work to break the news that Levi was missing in action, presumed dead. The allied forces had sent several platoons to search for Levi and his companions, without any luck. The Special Forces ranger had been on patrol with four of his regiment when they were ambushed close to enemy lines. At first the family liaison team had given her daily updates and it became clear it was unlikely he had survived the attack. As the weeks wore on, and then months, their visits became less frequent. Now she felt like a stalker, trying to get information out of them.  After receiving the news she had put her life on hold. How could she not? Their future was entwined like the heart-shaped ruby with its filigree patterned ring that he’d given her when he proposed five years ago. ‘Forever Together’ was engraved on the gold band.

It was only when she felt herself slide into depression, mixed with what had become nightly drinking sessions to obliterate the pain that ached like a knife in her heart, that she knew she had to at least try and move on. She called the real estate agent they’d been talking with before Levi left on deployment; it was supposed to be his last with the army. They had agreed that she would continue her playwriting, while he investigated establishing his own security firm. She would try; just try to live the way they planned, but without her husband. The air in the car felt stuffy, so she opened the window and swallowed the lump rising in her throat. She would not cry.

She slowed the SUV for the deep potholes that had carved their way into the road. How much further, she wondered, to the three bedroom cottage they had chosen, complete with verandas and a garden of lavender and honeysuckle roses…. She wasn’t disappointed. Through the trees ahead she saw the house. It was just like she had imagined. She felt the glass inside her begin to shatter again and taking a deep breath, she gripped the steering wheel and slipped the car back into second gear for the climb up the steep track.

Slowing the car to a stop in the driveway, she sat for a minute to take in the landscape. It was isolated alright and she wondered how she would cope with that, but she reasoned that nothing could be worse than losing her husband. The psychiatrist she’d been seeing during these long, lonely months without Levi, had warned her against the move.

“You’re not strong enough,” Dr Gambert had said. “Barely twelve months widowed …I mean having lost the love of your life, and you are planning to leave all your support systems behind. It’s not the sensible thing to do, Gabby.”

She had shaken her head at the doctor’s attempt to influence her decisions. She was having none of it. She knew what she wanted to do and she owed it to Levi to start the life they planned. Gabby still hoped Levi would come home to her and what better place to come home to, than their dream home which they had been looking at online – it ticked all the boxes – to begin their new life. She hardened her resolve and opened the car door, grabbing her overnight bag from the backseat – the suitcases and boxes could wait until the morning. She trod wearily up the stairs. The agent had left a ‘welcome’ note on the door and the key was under the mat. She jiggled the old lock and, opening the front door, she was hit by the dust that enveloped the inside of the house. She sneezed. This would not do at all. Inside she heard the phone ringing and, slamming the front door, made her way through the dim light that struggled through the blinds, following the ringing, until she found the wall phone in the kitchen.

“Hello,” she said impatiently, annoyed that someone was disturbing her already. The worried voice of her protective sister, Carey, greeted her.

“Gabby. Oh, thank God you’re there safe and sound. I’ve been worried about you all day.”

She stood on one foot, hand on hip and gripped the receiver. “Why would you worry Carey? For the hundredth time I’m telling you ‘I’m okay’. I know this is what Levi would have wanted. Why won’t you try to understand?”

She could hear her sister’s thoughts, wondering how best to pacify her, without her taking offence and hanging up the phone. “You know Gabby I’m not trying to interfere. It’s just that it’s miles from anywhere and you haven’t been well lately. I’m worried about you.  At a time when you should be near people, you remove yourself altogether and isolate yourself. Come on Gabby, have a think about it.”

“If you think I’m coming back to be fussed over and have other people make my decisions like you’ve all been trying to do, you’ve got another thing coming. I haven’t forgotten sis, that it was you who signed the forms to put me in that hospital. Emotional exhaustion they said. Well that was no excuse for those drugs they pumped into me, day in day out. I couldn’t think.”

Her sister interrupted, hoping for common sense. “You and I know you’d been drinking, and mixing that with your sleeping pills. God knows what could have happened. Look Gabby, I don’t want to fight. You are my sister and I want to help you.”

Gabby was about to hang up and Carey knew it.

“I’ll call you tomorrow?” her sister said, before the line went dead.

She leant against the bench. It was a modern kitchen with a view of the woods stretching all the way back to the nearby mountains. Perfect for cooking romantic dinners. She let her mind wander to happier times.

“You got the wine, Honey?” she called to him from the kitchen. She was making his favourite dish, beef fillet mignon and he was supposed to be uncorking a twenty-year-old Shiraz.

“I have,” he said, breezing past her with a kiss and selecting two long stemmed glasses from the cupboard. “Music too.”

“You’ve thought of everything,” she said, taking their meal from the stove. “Done.”

She lifted the fillets onto the waiting white plates. The steam and fragrances reminded her she hadn’t eaten all day, thinking about his impending departure. It was only two weeks until he shipped out and she desperately didn’t want him to leave. She carefully carried the plates into the dining room and heard him draw in his breath.

“Beautiful.”

“Oh, I hope it’s okay,” she said, not entirely confident in her cooking skills.

“No, I mean you. You’re beautiful.”

She looked at him, held in his gaze for what seemed a long moment. He mouthed, “I love you.”

She smiled. “I love you,” she said out loud.

Gabby shook her head, suddenly aware that darkness had fallen while she was lost in her dreaming.  She wasn’t in their marital home anymore. She was in a cottage, miles from anywhere and waiting for God knows what. She felt the cold emptiness of the room drowning her. She felt the tears beginning again; the glass breaking. With renewed determination, she flicked on the light and lit the small gas heater in the lounge room, briefly contemplating starting the fire in the hearth but the thought of gathering wood in the dark was too much. That was something Levi would have done. She wandered upstairs and opened the window in the master bedroom, glancing ­­ at the queen bed. She felt the loneliness of the room and its emptiness. She knew she would never look at a marriage bed again without the sharp pain that hit her in the chest.

As she opened the window, she paused. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw the familiar red flannel shirt he used to wear at home. “Levi,” she called, questioningly. She peered into the darkness. No, it was just her mind playing tricks. She sighed and decided that she would eat the sandwich she hadn’t wanted at lunch time and then go to bed. A deep fatigue overcame her, as she descended the stairs and dug the sandwich from her bag. She made her way to the lounge room and sank into the sofa near the heater – their sofa – that had arrived from the city a day before her. She tugged the rug from the other end of the sofa and covered her legs, watching the red and blue flames of gas dance their way across the heater. It was no open fire, but it would do she thought. She leant her head back on the sofa’s arm, adjusting the lumpy cushions. Perhaps she would eat that sandwich in the morning; or perhaps not. She slipped the blue sleeping pills in her mouth and took a long sip of the wine she had brought in from the car.

Gabby woke from a deep slumber to the early morning rays of the sun warming her feet. She rolled over, remembering she had fallen asleep on the sofa. Sounds from the kitchen startled her. She was alone in the house, but there was no mistaking the clatter of saucepans, and eggs being beaten in a ceramic mixing bowl. She crept to the door and holding her breath, peered round the corner. She saw red flannel. Unmistakeable. Shock ran through her body, electrifying her fingers with excitement. “How…” She swallowed hard and called his name. “Levi.”

He turned, gazing intently at her, as though he was seeing her for the first time.

For that one, long moment their eyes locked. “You’re home. I knew you would come,” she said.

Levi Allman drove the hire car all night. He didn’t care that tiredness seeped through his bones. It was winter and he’d only been back in the country for a month. Long enough to learn what had happened.

He turned the radio up as far as it would go, listening to the sounds of Coldplay’s Violet Hill. Why? He’d been asking himself this question over and over. For twelve long months he and his companions had been detained in a Taliban training camp, along with a handful of westerners captured around the same time. He’d fared better than most of them because of his training, but he’d learned the hard way that there is no ‘why or how’.

The countryside was slipping away as he pressed harder on the accelerator. He wanted to get to the cottage. It should have been their cottage; the home they’d planned to live in, long into the future. He’d been driving since yesterday afternoon and it was nearly dawn. He just needed to see the house. Carey had told him what had happened. How deeply Gabby had grieved for him until it sent her over the edge. The early morning fog was drifting in, giving the forest an eerie feel. He stared ahead at the thin white line in the middle of the road. When they had discussed moving to the country, they had joked that miles from nowhere they’d still have each other. He let the memories wander – of their anniversary dinner just before he went on tour, of their last night of lovemaking and the way he had held her until the early morning hours, stroking her hair and promising he’d come back.

Oncoming car lights brought him back to reality, and the last hour on the interstate slipped by in the memories of their life together. Before long he turned the car into the winding driveway, with its thick, overgrown hedge and the encroaching woodlands. She would have found this eerie, but kind of fun. As a playwright it would have appealed to her ‘sense of the dramatic’. He gripped the steering wheel as the rustic cottage came into sight with its honeysuckle covered veranda. The sweet smells of home, he thought with such irony that it hurt.

He found the key under the mat and let himself in, taking no time to absorb his surroundings. He was hungry after the long drive, so he found the kitchen, not wanting to disturb the deathly quiet of the house in the dawn. He searched for the ceramic bowl they always used to prepare scrambled eggs and took half a dozen small brown eggs from his backpack, along with the loaf of bread he’d bought at the last town he travelled through. He whisked the eggs just the way she liked them and set two places at the table. Old habits were hard to break. In the long months in Afghanistan he’d dreamed of their breakfasts together in their new home.

It wasn’t long before the eggs were cooking in the pan and he turned the mixture over, not wanting to overcook them. He shivered. The air in the cottage was cold. Perhaps he would turn on the heater after all. Something in his periphery made him turn toward the door and he could have sworn he smelled her smell. He looked into the dusty air hoping she would appear, but knowing that was impossible.

He sat down heavily at the table and let the pent up emotion wash over him, wave after wave, and he cried until it seemed there were no more tears left. One month. One month was all it took between her suicide and his repatriation. A special operations force had broken the Taliban’s defences and he, along with the other prisoners were liberated. But he had come home to find his wife couldn’t wait for him. Consumed by her grief, she had chosen this house, their future home, to take her life.

“Oh Gabby. Why?” he said. “Why couldn’t you have held on…not let hope slip away…I had nothing but hope to live on, but you…you stopped looking for it…why?”

But there was no answering him in this world, and perhaps the next.

He would not stay on at the cottage. He could not. He ate the cold eggs and cleaned up quickly. There was nothing left here for him. Gathering his backpack, he walked slowly to the front door – a doorway that marked both his past and future. He stopped at the lounge room. Carey had told him it was here that she’d done it. He shuddered.

“Goodbye my love,” he said, through the tears streaming down his face.

With grim resolve he walked through the door, shutting it firmly behind him.

I have been catching up on my reading these holidays, something that a writer never gets enough time for. With any spare time I get I’m usually plotting, writing or editing, marketing or on the social media juggernaut. But reading plugs up the gaps just as surely as writing and reflecting on what I’ve written. Such is the creative process that it is cathartic and insightful, and getting the insight from other writers is just a huge privilege.blog

I’m not going to harp on any more about Stephen King. Anyone who follows this page will know that I have a professional crush on his storytelling genius, but I’ve also been thoughtfully reading other authors’ blogs and musings and am loving their descriptions. I read Hayden Thorne’s blog today about how he spent New Year’s eve watching Hercule Poirot on Netflix while drinking out of an old [possibly lead laden] teapot. It struck me as very comical because I pretty much did the same thing minus the teapot. I had been out the night before and most of the day and the very thing I wanted was an early night. And that was that. So I rang in the New Year with sleep and living up to my own expectations at that time. It all worked and was a great way to start 2015!

On that subject, one of my main aims this year is for better health. That means saying ‘no’ more often, doing what energises not what depletes and being around positive people sans any draining drama. Yoh! Now that’s what I’m talking ’bout.

I also watched an interview with Ariana Huffington over the break. My god that woman resonated with me. She’s just released a book called ‘Thrive’. Her message is that power and money [and the pursuit of] are not enough [not a new concept I know] and that you need to find a rich inner life, including sleep, to be successful. Her story is borne from experience when her former overworked self collapsed at her desk giving her the wake up she needed.

It was so good to hear her speak about the importance of finding meaning within yourself; of developing that inner life which is what I’ve been raving on about for decades. As a former workaholic I know only too well the dangers of giving your all to a pursuit you really haven’t thought all that deeply about. Yes workaholics can be shallow, stupid people until they wake up to the fact that life is so much more than the external. The answers to life’s riddles are within.

We all have creativity inside us and I would urge anyone to follow that, in between whatever external life demands you have. And it can be as simple as putting in a garden, a vege patch, painting up some old furniture, getting a good lead pencil and drawing what you see. If you are like me it is finding the meaning and joy in the words.

Here’s to 2015 and an abundance of creativity and free flowing prosperity in whatever it is you are imagining and creating.

Speaking of creating my short story collection Evil Imminent has just been honestly reviewed over @iheartreading. Head over and take a look at what I was creating last year.

Well, now that we have Christmas behind us, it’s full steam ahead with plans for 2015. I’m still in the middle of editing my horror manuscript Blood Visions, have released my short story collection Evil Imminent which is currently on a book tour, and I’m tossing around ideas for my next work.

Early ideas have been around a manuscript that might focus on the lives of four psychically gifted women who attend Thursday night art classes together. They are babes in the woods when it comes to acknowledging, or even using their gifts, until one woman gets stuck between worlds and the other three have to help her return. It gets complicated when the woman is put into a mental hospital because outwardly she looks like she is having a psychotic breakdown.

But back to the present. My horror/paranormal short story collection Evil Imminent is currently on a virtual book tour. As part of this tour, I was asked to delve a bit further into one of the characters Dutton Forrest from ‘Dark Star’ and provide a character interview for readers. Here it is, along with an excerpt from the book for your reading.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Dutton Forrest and I’m a huge fan of Star Trek. I’m what’s known as a ‘Trekkie’ actually, but seriously – I mean we take it seriously – the Great Barrington chapter of the Star Trek Foundation that is. I live on a pig farm with my dad. My mom died when I was three. We don’t talk much, me and my dad, and he definitely doesn’t understand about Star Trek, or my night-time excursions to hunt down aliens. I’m not supposed to talk about that though. Let’s just say I’m into astronomy and I spend a lot of time outdoors. Between you and me, they’re real. The aliens that is…they’re out there. 

What is your role in the story?

I go out searching for the Dark Star. I know my mom is still alive. I’ve seen her, only they have her in that place. It’s like a dark cave and silvery beings come and go from it. It’s deep in the woods but I haven’t told anyone ’cause they wouldn’t believe me if I did. I’m going to rendezvous with the Dark Star soon, and I’ll be able to see my mom then.

What is your favorite hobby? 
Why searching for aliens of course. That, and watching reruns of Star Trek. Captain Kirk is my favourite. Then again, he’s everyone’s favourite isn’t he?

What is the challenge you’re trying to overcome during the story? 

If I can just find my mom, everything will be alright. I’ll fit in better at school and I’ll have more friends too. And I won’t have to be so alone all the time.

If you could make one wish, what would it be? 

To have my mom back.

 

Excerpt:

It glided over rocks and grassy mounds, jumping the small creek, pausing every now and then, as if to call him forward. He followed until the silver light stopped in a small clearing at the front of a cave. Dutton stopped too, hidden by the safety of the tall forest trees. He peered around him, trying to see what was happening. As the silver light paused he saw something drift out of the cave. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on edge. His heart missed a beat. It looked like a woman – with hair the colour of a cornfield.

He choked on his breath. The woman looked identical to the photographs at home. His mother. He squeezed his eyes shut. Was he dreaming? When he opened them again she was still there, walking toward the silvery light. As she reached the light it engulfed her; she became one with the light. The silvery beam spun in his direction, motioning to him. His knees began to shake with excitement. His heart pounded so loudly in his ears, he thought they would explode. The light floated toward him, closer and closer until he could feel it pulsating on his skin. He raised his head and gazed into it. He had hoped to see the kind, gentle face of his mother but, instead, dark eyes blinked from within the silvery cloak. He frowned. This wasn’t his mother. It leant closer to him and hissed, “Look to the skies in three days; look for the dark star and you will find all you seek.” He nodded frantically before he blacked out and slumped to the ground.

Where to get Evil Imminent:

Amazon US: Amazon US

Amazon UK: Amazon UK

Amazon Aust: Amazon Aust

Gumroad: https://gumroad.com/l/QkWF

It’s an interesting process writing a novel in a month. I had to laugh at the same old suspects bagging out National Novel Writing Month this November from the lofty perches of artisan pretension, and failing to grasp it’s true significance. A look through the twitter feed of #nanowrimo reveals a multitude of writers embarking on their first ever writing ‘baptism by fire’. Many try and fail and many try and succeed every November and some attempts create the novels that sustain and inspire us. That’s a good thing not a bad outcome if you leave the failures behind for one minute as practice runs. (You really can’t be forced to buy them you know).

A lot of writers are young writers and if a frenzied month of writing gets them to attempt novel writing, then all the better. The industry needs young voices just as it needs the older, first time manuscript writers and everything in between. Why? Because words are the building blocks of communication and writers inspire readers to cross mountains and raging rivers to get to reflection and understanding. A book can really change a life and, at the very least, can be the escape pod from a painful reality.

My month began full of enthusiasm and I not only made the word counts, I blitzed them. Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 kept ringing in my ears. This was the novel he expanded from a short story in nine days. And the best selling Nanowrimo novel Water for Elephants was an inspiration too. I got to work with fervour and passion, creating my main plot from the draft novel plan I’d done a few months earlier. My story “Blood Visions” had been rattling around in my mind for more than 18 months. I’d told it so many times to people who asked and I could see the point they became interested was around about the time I began to believe in the concept. Nanowrimo was my biggest excuse to write the manuscript, and my inspiration. I used all the comments from writers undergoing the same hell, as a motivator; and I used that horrible graph on my Nanowrimo profile page as the enemy I had to beat.

My story began to come alive; my characters began to speak to me and plots and sub plots came to mind just as quickly as I was able to bang my fingers logically on my keyboard. I went to sleep thinking about a scene and then the next and next, and I woke up thinking about what was coming next. I mulled over the plot twists and took some turns and kept going straight with other ideas. I wrote and I thought and I reflected, and a lot of it was cathartic. Getting thoughts out on page is like listening to yourself.

About midpoint, I waned. I became tired and then I returned to the twitter feed again and read a Nanowrimo hint of leaving the day’s work at a scene that you would enjoy writing the next day. It worked. I pushed through and learned to go without sleep and get up at dawn and do it all again before the day job.

Toward the end of Blood Visions, and as the end of the month approached, I was conscious of a mild thought in the back of my head that this story was ok. Maybe not fantastically competent – it’s a draft at this stage – and maybe one that can be made better, but it had held together throughout the month and I’d finally gotten the idea down on paper. By today, 30th November in Australia, I am mightily pleased with the draft. So thank you National Novel Writing Month for inspiring me to tell the story that had been inside me waiting for the right time to come out. Seems November was that time.

I’ll be busy editing during December now – late at night and at dawn, with the day’s inspiration in between. That’s why I proudly call myself a writer, and even an artisan, because I’m living the dream. I’m writing. As impossible as it may seem some days, I’m writing novels.