Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

A lot has happened in a month. We’ve started 2017, set our goals, and our sails, and got on with the start of the year. I was pleased to start a new year as 2016 brought many personal and health challenges. However when the new year ticked over it was like someone had wiped my slate clean. The old fears and worries disappeared, replaced with optimism. Yes, optimism.

I’ve always been relatively optimistic,  believing that opportunities and new horizons would come my way. That was a belief that was based on experience. I’ve been incredibly lucky throughout my life to have had many adventures but the horribleness of cancer treatment during 2015 and 2016 made me wonder if there’d ever be anything to be optimistic about again. Well somewhere along the line, something switched and I greeted 2017 with excitement. I wasn’t sure why I should feel that way, the old challenges were still there, but I couldn’t help it.

Without conjuring anything up, I really feel optimistic about this year. That’s based on   an expansive view of the future and renewed interest in the present. And also something else. I’ve decided that there is nothing to be gained from being pessimistic or doubtful even if the situation is dire. Far better to keep a positive mood because any other way is just a waste of time. I don’t know about you, but I’ve not got any time to waste.

So whether it’s watching my favourite English drama on tv or writing a report for government or industry, or writing a future bestselling manuscript (gotta have hope), or walking the dogs under the canopies of Elm trees, or yarning with old friends, I’m interested in having a go. And that makes me optimistic about the future.

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When I returned home to the farm between uni and finding a job, I began walking the couple of miles down to the front gate each afternoon. It was a hot and dry walk; another big dry had our family farm firmly in its grip.

Undeterred by the heat, and with John Mellancamp Jnr blasting in my ears, I strode out across the paddocks with my eye firmly on the horizon, at the place where an orange sunset met the red earth.

Black crows circled overhead and, despite their caws, there was a stillness and a peace about the land. Somehow the big dry was as natural as the green paddocks that had rolled into a blue horizon only a few years before.

On those hot, burnished afternoons, I loved that land. It spoke to me with a sense of place and of belonging. It was a belonging that drove away all fear; that somehow, if I were to die there and then, its peace and stillness would wash over me and I would become part of it.

I never forgot that feeling or the way a sense of place and belonging can drive away all insecurities; all fears.

I travelled overseas in my youth and across Australia for work. I’ve lived in a city and in other rural communities but I’ve never found a place like my childhood home. It’s not with regret that I look back at that home that was eventually sold, but with gratitude that I was able to experience a childhood in the country.

As I grew into adulthood, I made the deliberate decision not to live in the cities. My spirit craves nature; I need to look at the horizon and everything in between.

Today I live in the country and I’m happy with that decision. I walk out of my front door to trees and birds, snakes and lizards. Every now and then, there is an orange sunset and that sense of belonging stirs. When I get that feeling I know that time is endless, and that our spirits are a part of something much bigger, yet the same, as ourselves.

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 Saturday; a beautiful and gentle sunny day. Right now I’m overlooking poplar trees swaying in the breeze, a graceful liquid amber and a gnarled (and most likely dead) ghost gum. All things of beauty, even the twisted, dry branches of the gum, still standing despite a lightening bolt hit and a termite infestation.

Like the breeze that feathers my bare arms and cheeks, I’m feeling easy as I also overlook the golf course next door to our home. It’s dotted with the bright colours of the golfers who, literally, play rain, hail or shine.

Today is a good day – a busy day and a relaxing day.

I’ve decided I like good days. They’re the ones with just the right combination of activity, sometimes even action, and that sit back and survey the world, let it pass you by feeling. They are definitely days for positive thinking, for creativity and for enjoying the company of those lovable human beings you were lucky enough to meet in the past, on another good day.

That’s not to say that every day is good. It isn’t; can’t be. You need the dark to appreciate the light; the grey to appreciate the rainbow.

And that’s ok with me. I’ll take it all because that’s what it means to live. What I hope never comes my way is the despair or the bitterness I just can’t shake. I choose to have as many good days as I can, in the here and now and to create memories for me and those closest to me. There is everything right with generosity and little with selfishness.

My word for today is gratitude.

A few months ago I told you that my first horror/supernatural novel was being published by Whiskey Creek Press, a division of Start Publishing in the US. So far, I’ve worked with an editor and cover artist and I’m now working with a publicist who requested five of the top quotes from the book.

Well…I couldn’t choose five so I gave her 15 and said, “you choose“. I’m sure she wasn’t impressed because I guess this is a job for the author. In any case, I’ve selected five from the 15 tonight and will publish the other 10 here over the next few nights.

  • Fortuna had been having strange dreams which she called her “blood visions” because they were bathed in blood red violence—suffering and torture, which always ended in a kill.
  • He opened the bedside drawer and took out the knife, running its metal blade along his arms, just enough to cut the hairs. He drew in his breath and held it, closing his eyes and remembering his last kill.
  • Life had a way of dealing one bad card after another, and when Danny Manchester walked out of the Police Force, he found his wife was taking his two kids and leaving with another detective.
  • All she could manage was a guttural groan of disbelief and then despair, into the dark space surrounding her.BloodVisionsback
  • He looked like failure had paid him a visit too, like someone had knocked him around when he was at his most vulnerable. The way a dog looks when it’s been kicked by its master.

I hope you like Blood Visions. I’m finding, more so nowadays, a real joy in creative fiction writing. It is flowing like never before, and I take great joy in creating a ‘killer’ plot. Blood Visions is published on 12 November 2015, and you can preorder on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Visions-Maryann-Weston-ebook/dp/B015DCH3CW

It’s raining here. The air is still, although the clouds overhead are heavy and grey. Despite the lack of sunshine, it’s comfortable, warm and welcoming within my humble abode. Such luxury; to have the time to write this blog post. This time last year I was toiling away, completing multiple jobs, juggling people and deadlines, in an office where my colleagues were equally busy, stressed and strained.

In February this year I made the decision to take some time off and focus on my health. 2014 had been a tough, tough year and it, along with a backlog of decades of hard slog, child raising and getting through a long and merciless to do list, had taken its toll. I was sick and I needed to get better. So I removed myself from the stress of an executivebless level job and burrowed into my home haven. Six months later, there is no resemblance between the me of last year and the me of now.

Often it takes a health crisis to bring on an epiphany. My realisations are simple – all he best ones are – I’ve realised that the things I was focusing on and allowing myself to be burdened with were really very trivial. We are given a short time here; no-one is immortal though we tend to act like we are, and yet we waste precious energy on the people and situations that don’t matter.

I used to worry about the office politics or get resentful when I was overworked. I stressed over my children, money and the future. I looked for approval in all the wrong places, and for the wrong reasons. I missed the moments that mattered because I was too preoccupied with my worries. I was tired all the time. The truth? I was holding onto the edge of the cliff by my finger nails. Looking back, I wondered how I kept going.

Now, I’m in the now. I am conscious of the rain, getting heavier on our tin roof. I have my dog at my feet. He understands my slightest expression. I answer a text from a friend, wishing her well. I have quality interactions with my friends now – I used to fit them in vaguely and infrequently before. I have time for my writing and to immerse myself in literary journals, books and the writing craft generally. I notice the passage of time, and indeed the interplay of time, and I hold it in my vision, grateful that I have it.

I don’t take anything for granted anymore. The now is my sanctuary and it sustains me like my previous chaotic, high achieving, life never did.

I have had a few momentous happenings this year also. After years of slogging away with my creative fiction writing, I am beginning to gain traction as a creative writer. Earlier this year, I was selected among 25 other writers from around Australia for a writing mentorship program. The judging panel thought my non-fiction manuscript had merit. Just this week, I also found out that my horror novel ‘Blood Visions’ would be published by Whiskey Creek Press, an imprint of New York based Start Publishing. Also, one of my short stories ‘Dark Star’ was chosen in an upcoming, and successful, horror anthology series.

All these happenings are welcomed and gratefully received, but they are not the main game. The main game for me is to continue to live without complacency, and within the full awareness of the gift of life.

My novel ‘Blood Visions’ is due out in November. If you would like to read more of my writing in the horror genre, you can head over to Amazon to find my collection of horror short stories ‘Evil Imminent’.

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.