#CoffinHop…The Winners are…

kim-coffin12
Well as you know I participated in a crazy little thing known as the #CoffinHop – a Hop for lovers, writers and readers of Horror, Dark Fiction and all the tales that send chills up and down your spine. I also ran a FLASH TRICK for a TREAT Contest.

Hold your breath, hold your screams in…

I have the WINNERS + their chilling Flash Fiction.

*Warning: VL + Horror*

First Prize = Andrew Drage (The Brewin)

THE LAST HANGOVER © Andrew Drage

~ By Brewin ~

It hurt.

Bruce wasn’t sure what it was, but it hurt like fuck.

Bruce opened his eyes and saw that he was on the couch in the lounge room at Aaron’s place. Closed curtains cast shadows across a room strewn with takeaway food packaging, beer bottles and dirty plates.

His head throbbed and his tongue felt like it was wrapped in plastic. Struggling to swallow and dampen his mouth, he noticed drool over his face and pillow…

It was a dark colour and sticky.

He touched the sides of his face and recoiled with pain. Deep gashes from his own fingernails ran from his eye sockets down his jaw line.

It had been a big night. Bruce, Aaron and Jason were drinking at Aaron’s place until sometime after the sun came up this morning, but he didn’t remember this happening. Yesterday seemed like a dream.

Oh fuck. Frank and his dad Barney died yesterday. That wasn’t a dream.

And the idiots they were, they’d decided to go down to the police scene whilst drunk to see what happened. Vincent the driver, didn’t even have a full licence. Now he’d lost it for six months and had a huge fine to pay as well. They didn’t even find out what happened at the farm. The exact events that occurred were indistinct this side of the drinking binge, but he did remember Vincent going off at them for the idea and leaving in a huff. Bruce, Aaron and Jason went back to Aaron’s place after that, numb by the day’s events… And kept drinking.

And now he’d woken on his mate’s couch to find half his face clawed off and blood all over himself. Fuck!

Bruce scanned the darkened room and spotted a light switch next to the doorway opposite.

Fuck he needed a glass of water.

Beyond the doorway lay a short carpeted hall to the rest of the house.

With some effort he sat up and yawned.

Then he heard a squelching sound from down the hallway. It ended as suddenly as it began.

Bruce felt the hair on his neck bristle from the chill of fear. He felt simultaneous needs to piss and vomit.

The squelching sound came again, this time longer, ending with a slopping thump. It seemed to be coming from Aaron’s room.

What the fuck is that?

Nature’s demands took control of Bruce’s senses and he rushed into the hallway seeking the toilet. Trying to ignore the sound coming from down the hallway, he opened the first door on his right. He closed the door behind him and sighed with relief as he disgorged his bladder. He pondered sticking fingers down his throat to get rid of the alcohol still in his stomach, but decided he didn’t feel as bad as that.

He then went through the sliding side door into the bathroom. Finding a light switch first, he grabbed a glass from the bathroom bench and filled it under the tap. He saw how bloody his hands were and looked up at the mirror.

A pale face presented itself, streaked with blood from his scratches, his eyes swimming in blood-tinged sockets.

What he was going to say to Aaron?

As he turned the tap off, he again heard rhythmic squelching, this time accompanied by a louder slapping.

I don’t remember Aaron picking up last night! Wow that’s a first!

Bruce sculled his glass of water and poured himself another.

Now the sound was accompanied by strange deep grunts that did not sound human.

Bruce shivered and spilt his water.

Then the phone rang in the lounge room and Bruce jumped, spilling more water.

The phone echoed through the house, causing the sounds from Aaron’s room to cease.

I’m fucked if I’m going to answer that.

The phone kept ringing, as the noises down the hallway resumed.

Oh shit, I better go see what the hell that is.

Bruce stepped back into the hallway and noticed a potent stench that didn’t seem to be of alcohol or cigarettes. It smelt like something rotten. The squelching and slapping continued, as did the animalistic groans.

Shit maybe I should just leave.

The phone stopped ringing as the sound of crashing objects came from the lounge room behind him. Mercifully, most of the lounge room was out of view.

Fuck! Now what do I do? The front door’s that way!

Bruce hesitated in the hallway. The sounds in the lounge room stopped but not the wet sounds from Aaron’s room.

Just stop thinking about it and go see what it is you bloody pussy!

As Bruce crept to Aaron’s door, he saw it was slightly ajar. His trembling hand pushed it open on squeaky hinges…

The door pushed aside the lurking shadows to reveal a scene of sickening slaughter. Aaron’s eviscerated corpse lay strewn over the bed and surrounding floor, dripping entrails hung out like decorations. Splashes of blood and the stench of decay saturated the room. Before closed and blood-splattered curtains stooped a hairy beast in a pose of the basest horror. In colossal claws it held Aaron’s decapitated head, rhythmically thrusting its erect member into a bloody socket. The horrifying sound it made was now dampened by the sound of its demonic bestial laughter.

It paused to meet Bruce’s dumbstruck gaze with malice. It laughed again and licked its slavering lips before resuming its necrophilic task.

The hallway creaked behind Bruce. He turned to face the huge chest of another of the demons. Its bulk towered over him as its arms swiftly enveloped him.

The last thing he remembered was a crushing grip around his throat…

___________________

Second Prize = Eric Tolles

MALICE’S ABSENCE IN WONDERLAND © Eric Tolles

Down here we all float.

Even through the mud I can hear those words; recalling some story I read as a child long before the fall. Before I ended up in the dark trying desperately to find my way back into the light. I can hear a thousand other voices, memories, talking to me as the muck impacted inside my ears hardens and scrapes against the edges of a thousand others just like them.

Down here we all float.

A lie.

It’s not even close to the truth.

I can hear footsteps occasionally, their percussions traveling through the seemingly endless feet of dirt between here and there. Like the strange muted voices of people gathered around the edge of the swimming pool that you have sunk to the bottom of, holding your breath and ticking off the seconds inside your head. Trying to break your personal record as you look up at their distorted reflections as the ripples in the water make a mess of their faces. I’m not counting anymore; I stopped a long time ago. In fact I don’t really have any use for oxygen. I stopped breathing a long time ago, too. I have no idea how long I have been down here, trying to swim back to the surface through this rock and soil. The hands of the clock bloodied and bruised and ripped, the ribbons of the flesh they used to be are back there somewhere amongst the scrabble that ruined them. A strip or two may still be in the back of my throat curled around my vocal chords like a bow; I think I can feel a tattered end tickling me, though it may just be me laughing at myself out of sheer frustration.

They jumped me, of course.

It felt like I had just woken up. My head was still full of fog from the dream I had been having; a walking dead version of Alice showing up at my door one afternoon. A small pile of bruises in a torn dress and bedraggled sweater, but her eyes gave it away-her intentions, I mean. Always ablaze with coppered fire, those two. Forever one of my favorite science lessons: that if you heat copper up enough to burn, it burns with a green flame. I let her in, cleaned her up and she repaid me with teeth somewhere in the dark. I woke up, cursing the slippery edges of subconsciousness, only to find myself wandering down the middle of a street somewhere between dusk and dawn. I froze, fairly sure that I was awake, that this wasn’t a continuation of the dream, when my stomach began to growl. And I mean that literally. Loud twistings of my guts churning against each other with a hunger I thought could only exist in my head.

And then the noise.

It came from behind me, an explosion that stretched my shadow halfway up the block. Whisper thin and slightly darker than the pavement beneath my feet, I followed it back to them to discover I was missing a shoe. But it was not completely naked, that foot, as when I reached down to touch it my fingers came back wet. Sticky. I rubbed my fingers together and brought them to my nose, thinking perhaps I might understand what it was that my foot had gotten into, and found that it smelled acrid. Metallic. My stomach growled again as I turned towards the light behind me in hopes of revealing more of the mess gathering in my palm and my jaw dropped.

The skyline was on fire.

It looked like half the city was ablaze. There were plumes of smoke rising into the sky and casting themselves against the moon like clouds. A number of the taller buildings appeared as candles burning in the darkness, their tops all wreathed in orange as the moon’s face hung above them staring down as though it was her birthday and she was gathering breath to blow them out.

Maybe that is what is all over my foot; frosting.

I’ve been running around over the top of a birthday cake.

Louder now, the noises that woke me up. I can hear breaking glass, terrified screams amidst the pattern of percussions that are shaking the ground at my feet. And gunshots. And I wondered as I stood frozen in the middle of the street, was I somehow responsible? Perhaps this group of men running towards me might be able to tell me what is going on. As I watched their rapid approach I realized that something was wrong. The pattern of their gait was off. The way they were carrying themselves was far from normal. They were zigzagging, lumbering up the street in my direction, but not towards me. Past me, it seemed, with the intention their broken frames suggested. One of them was dragging its leg. Another passed me by with both of its arms hanging limp and slapping against its sides as it ran. I tried to get the attention of a man who was missing his pants, but he didn’t seem able to respond as a large wad of hair that ended in a chunk of scalp was hanging out of his mouth.

Then shouts. More gunshots ringing out against the cacophony of voices. Someone runs up behind me, her attention turned towards the group that had lumbered past, and I reach out and grab her. Not out of thought, but of something instinctual. I yank her head towards mine and I tear her ear off with my teeth. My stomach unwinds just a little as her blood spills over my tongue and I find myself relishing the coppery sting as she shouts, “You bit me in my ear!” I quickly find the gaping wound on the side of her head and plunge my teeth back into her torn flesh, making quick work of it before the crunching of her skull against my jaws fills my ears.

It’s like music.

I take her down to the ground with me, my hands pulling skin from bone to the sound of her screams creating the score for this act. Finding purchase with my teeth at the edges of her ear canal and widening it with each bite until impatience and lust causes me to grab her head with both hands and slam it against the pavement. Again and again and again until it cracks open like a coconut and spills it’s sweet milk all around my knees. And I lap it up like a rabid dog. I pull handfuls of her brains out of the broken cereal bowl of her skull and devour every single thought she ever had.

And that is when it hit me.

Not realization.

A baseball bat.

It caught my shoulder and spun me around. The second strike landed against my ribs and I clearly heard something snap, but I didn’t feel anything. The third hit home at the back of my head. Fireworks went off inside my skull and I looked up at the moon, seeing Alice’s face reflected back at me through a gray haze just before my lights were turned off. I thought of her; her throat and the warm release of her blood. The world went black around me as I imagined eating my way through her bones.

Strike 3.

And now I am here.

For how long I have no idea, and until when I cannot say. I cannot fathom the fathoms. I feel like I have been digging my entire life. I was born amongst the deepest of roots and nursed on the blood meal of worms. Taught arithmetic with the clicking of beetle wings. Told bedtime stories by tongues of crickets. Daylight is just the dream of maggots, down here. Their slick white bodies are the contrast to the underbelly of roaches. Like angels squirming through the loam above my head. Always above my head. Always just beyond my fingertips. But I am coming, Alice.

I am coming, Alice.

And I am going to eat you alive.

I whisper that mantra into the dirt with split lips.

I scream that incantation into the rock with a ragged tongue.

It’s her name coupled with this insatiable thirst me that keeps me moving through the dark down here somewhere underground. No map lines to follow nor any light to read them by, just some instinctual narrative that escaped me in that other life, telling me when to bear slightly right or turn sharply to the left to correct my path. Save for the darkness I imagine it’s her heart I’m navigating, that’s all this is. Practice. Eyes closed tight against the brightness that reveals the interiors of those chambers.

The first, a roost for crows. A room full of murder waiting for my foretold arrival and the squawking that heralds it. They sing in unison, Who is that tapping, insistently rapping, rapping at our chamber door? And so coyly so, considering the carnage their claws are craving to create. My feet fall upon a floor of feathers as I enter, the target of 99 cocked heads regarding me with eyes of onyx. I am blinded by a rainbow of light streaming from beneath wings as they slip from their perches and their talons finding purchase in my skin. That rush of air that delivers the penance to be paid from the flapping as they struggle to maintain flight while engaged in the evisceration of flesh. The behavior once rendered now repaid in the rending of beaks. The pound of flesh, flayed and flung into the furthest of the four corners my limbs are pointing towards as I lay flattened upon that floor.

The second is full of rocking chairs. They move seemingly of their own volition until my eyes focus-still stinging from the blinding colors found in the first chamber-to see that each of those seats is occupied by a terrifying grin sitting on the face of a black feline. Each of them smiling between the stroke of their tongue across the surface of their paws while they lock their gaze upon my own. They take their time, torturous taunts delivered by the twitching of tails ending in a snap in my direction. I stand frozen, unable to see the other side as the joints of those chairs fill the room with creaking music that threatens to drive me crazy. All at once, just before I feel that sanity is about to give me the slip, the rocking stops abruptly and in perfect synchronization they all disembark from their stations and as silent as milk they pad into a congregation gathering around my ankles. They expertly zigzag between my legs avoiding the drops of blood dripping from my chest and hitting the floor beneath my feet in a pattern of soft splashes. Safe as houses, I think as I lift a foot to step forward only discover that I am quite mistaken. Several tails wrap themselves around my ankles and but with a slight tug countering my movement brings the whole mess crashing down. My face slaps against the floor and I am reminded of a similar incident as a toddler that led to that first loss of blood. I look up and those furry smirking faces have all turned into leering, yawning chasms of teeth string down at me. I await a chewing that never comes. I discover that they have opted for an endeavor far more indicative of their nature as the sound of claws clicking into place fills the air and they set upon my back. Ribbons of my flesh begin to fall in front of my eyes like the fluttering remnants of Christmas presents. They each take their turn dragging their nails across my back like an amorous lover, along with a farewell scrape of sandpapered tongue as a post script.

Room number three finds me walking barefoot through the entrance of a hedge maze whose walls stand so tall that they blot out the sun and seemingly wag their finger in God’s face. I anxiously stick a toe through the archway before following with the rest of my bloodied and bruised body. Vaguely familiar, this, as I come to a “T” intersection of a green barrier stretching out for what appears to be miles. I turn left as I hear a caterpillar in my head speaking with an English lilt, “If she’d ‘ave kept on goin’ down that way she’d ‘ave gone straight to that castle!” Well, who takes directions from a caterpillar, anyway?, I wondered. I walk for days. I walk for nights. I chase the moon into the sea and run the sun right over the cliff, looking for a sign in the twisted emerald writing that criss-crosses the walls I’ve become prisoner to. Counting my footsteps quicken the passage of time that never seems to end inside this labyrinth; but I am not lost. Dawn creeps over the horizon and I see just up ahead a pair of trees situated in the wall much like the hundreds I have walked past, but I stopped to look and then laugh about how they seemed to be like a pair of legs stretching into the sky, attached to some giant who had dropped his pants. The ivy had formed amongst the roots of these two trees like a pair of folded jeans, complete with even a belt and a buckle made of leaves. And that is when I saw it. A darker squelch of viridian that formed a symbol in the center of the belt buckle:

¥

So how’s that working out for you, I thought as I looked up and grinned towards the sharks swimming around in the sky above my head. I reached down to touch it, and my finger fell short. I thought perhaps it was my depth perception failing me, but I attempted to grab it this time and I fell forward as my balance was foiled. The symbol was on a leaf lay well past the trees, and I found myself inside a hidden opening in the wall. I stood up and brushed the dirt from my knees and this time, I turned right. I was quickly led into a neatly manicured clearing, save for a hole located directly in its center. I made my way to the edge of that opening and got down on my hands and knees and peered inside. I could see nothing. At first. Then a few distant lights began to flicker the longer I looked. Then a shadow moved against the darkness, and I bent down even further to try to see when a white paw reached out of the hole and firmly grabbed ahold of my nose. I could see the silhouette of twin ears against the dim light of the stars on the other side and then two eyes staring up at me. “Well, what are you waiting for,” its voice asked from the depths.

And then it pulled me into hole.

The fourth room made me dizzy. My stomach flip-flopped over itself and I was turned upside down then immediately right side-up in the blink of an eye. My shoulders wedged tightly inside the opening of the portal and my hands slapped themselves helplessly against my sides on the other side. My legs kicked against nothing but the air underneath them as I attempted to find some footing. I looked around but the rabbit was nowhere to be found, just a short stretch of earth around me that was surrounded on every side by an ocean. Then I saw her. My Alice, making her way out of the waves, her skin glowing. Luminescent. Wet and wild white locks plastered to her forehead just above those eyes that threatened to burn themselves right out of your skull. She bent down over me like the moon itself had come down out of the sky and whispered into my ear, “Darling, do you remember this part?”

Then the rabbit reappeared and chimed in his part, “Off with his head!”

Then mine, “I do.”

Then the blade, raised high above her head, catches the reflection of her throat and the hollow I never want to escape just before it falls upon mine and my head rolls down the shore and is carried out to sea. It eventually sinks to the depths to become home to some mutant-limbed crab, my tongue lolling out of my mouth like a welcoming mat for his crustacean compatriots.

I wake from this daydream to find my fingers wrapped tightly around a tree root and I realize that her heart is only but a few minutes and handfuls of dirt away from me.

Do you hear me, Alice?

I have been down here for years digging my way home, dying to get my hands on her heart. To see to fruition the seeming eons of honing my finger’s skill to tear a hole into her chest and unmake the puzzle of bones keeping it safe.

Are you listening Alice?

Her heart belongs to me. Her brains belong to me. Her body is mine. There is nothing standing between her and I and this beautiful oblivion other than these pages. They are but kindling to the fire burning beneath this oven. Nothing but a thin sheet of glass in its door is obscuring my vision now. But for just a little application of pressure to its surface and I will be free from these constraints.

Free to bind her in some of my own and consume her in kind.

As I climb out of the grave much worse for wear than when I entered it I muse upon the idea of rebirth, Is this what it feels like to be born?

Did I feel this clarity back then, a wet mewling thing inside my mother’s womb? Was I nothing more than a blank slate, a thoughtless beast scratching at the walls of her guts to get out? Or was I full of bloodlust then as I am now? Digging my way out of the darkness with teeth and fingers if only to use them again to get back inside? It is the only motivation I have; a raging desire to claw my way back inside her chest. I am the dead dying to make a feast of her flesh and a bed from her bones. I can only think of her blood and the warm bath my face is waiting for. The thought maddens my tongue as it pushes up and out of this thin layer of soil my mouth has wrapped itself around. My fingertips breaching the ground far above the grave I have left, timeless behind me in the depths of the dirt.

And like she did so many years ago, she once again rolls her hips and spits me out.

A wriggling mess of flesh, damp and heaving as I emerge from the darkness into the light above.

I use the roots of this tree to pull myself free of that space, the miles of hell between then and now, and towards the short distance that lay between me and her neck. I attempt to pull myself up, but my legs seem to be uncooperative; or perhaps their buckling is some kind of joke that they are making me the butt of as I seem to keep landing directly upon it. After a dozen or so attempts I finally manage to pull myself up and I lean against the face of that tree, my own pressing itself against and into the ridges and valleys of the bark that covers its trunk. I feel the wind scratching across the surface of the small areas of skin that aren’t covered by mud and for a moment the rage inside my head is soothed by the sensation. It rustles past my ears and I am reminded of the whispers that once fell from her lips and filled my head with a heat that still burns with a temperature that my lust for blood could only hope to attain.

And then my legs buckled again as my stomach, apparently awoken by the thought of a meal, churned and empties itself of the unknown amounts of mouthfuls of dirt I swallowed during my graven exodus. A river of mud and bile and bugs comes pouring out of my mouth and splashes across my hands.

And worms, still wriggling.

I pull myself back up again to embrace the tree when I hear shouting coming from behind me.

“Holy shit, man, did you see that? I didn’t know that zombies tossed cookies!”

“That fucker just pulled himself out of the ground. I thought that only happened in the movies!”

I turned to see the source of that ungodly noise and spotted 2 men on top of a white building across the street from where I had unearthed myself. I was trying to ascertain the situation, gauge the danger when something bit into between my left shoulder and my chest. I looked down to find an arrow sticking out of that space. It had yellow feathers on it. An arrow. A fucking arrow? Really? And it seemed that it had gone all the way through my body and pinned me to the tree that only moments before had been my salvation.

And then another one hit me in the stomach.

And then another through my right arm. And then another through my hip.

“Yeah! Got ‘em! Look at him, trying to get free! You see that shit Johnny? I pinned that dead motherfucker right to that tree. And you said that taking archery classes was for pussies!”

“Yeah, yeah. You got him. Now grab your machete so we can go kill that bastard.”

“But it’s already dead-shouldn’t we say something different?”

“Oh, not this shit again. Look, it’s not fucking dead if it is up and walking around. Dead is dead. Dead is not breathing, not standing, not mobile and certainly not fucking eating to sustain itself. Ok? That thing is only half dead, if you have to get technical about it. It doesn’t breathe, it doesn’t have a heartbeat. Sure, it still has use of its limbs and it certainly seems to feel the need to consume, and it has the ability to do so. That is not dead. It is some kind of disease, you know? A disease that turns it into a mindless eating machine.”

“Yeah, but the TV said…”

Fuck the fucking TV, Johnny. That’s your problem; well one of them, anyway, mindlessly believing everything you saw and heard from it. When it still worked, that is. Let’s just get down there and kill it before the sun goes down, ok? ”

“Fine.”

I watch them lowering a fire escape ladder to the level of the street. They disembark the ladder and make their way across the street towards me. They walk over to me. The shorter one pulls a knife from a sheath on his belt and starts poking me in the chest with it. It doesn’t hurt. I don’t cry out. But I do begin to feel that rage creeping back up from behind my eyes and it quickly spreads through my body. That space doesn’t belong to them. None of it does. That knife shouldn’t be wielded upon my skin by anyone other than her.

“See, man? It ain’t alive. It don’t cry out or nothing when you poke at it.”

They turn their attention away from me for a moment, arguing.

“Are you serious? It’s doesn’t bleed either, but the fact that it is standing there, that it just minutes ago pulled itself out of the fucking ground should be a rather large clue that it isn’t fucking dead!”

I think about pointing out to them that I actually am bleeding. That when I began to anger about them piercing my flesh with that blade and how that act is only meant for her; and that this thought made something stir within my chest. Something warm. Something with a life of its own. That thought motivated my legs, and I kick the one closest to me. My foot landing firmly in the center of his chest and knocking him off his feet. He rolls a few times before landing on the pavement, looking up at me in shock as his own blood began to seep from a long scrape that the pavement left on the side of his face. His buddy was quicker, and seemingly at the same time his blade caught sunlight and momentarily blinded me, the edge of his machete had cleanly sliced through all but one toe from my foot before my leg had dropped back to my side after kicking the stupid one off of both of his. I looked down at my foot in amazement, only my pinky toe remained.

And I laughed, looking back and forth from it to the finger I have been missing since I was 2.

Then I realized that I had laughed.

That I had somehow had taken in and expelled oxygen. Maybe you don’t know shit about being a zombie either, I wondered, just as the machete cleaved the air again. I ducked just in time for him to bury it in the tree behind my head, along with a portion of my left ear.

I laughed again.

Justice, perhaps?

The fatal flaw in their plan was thinking that I had a single concern for a few pieces of flesh from my body, or the couple of holes that their arrows had made. My only concern was for the body that I hoped to find behind that door up the street, not my own. That saving my own was a worthless endeavor if it could not be delivered through that threshold. I don’t even need limbs, not really, as long as I had the teeth in my head firmly held between jaws that are up to the challenge of dragging my skull across that porch and into that house. With that thought I used my one good foot to shove myself free of those restraints. Those four arrows ripping through my flesh; like a laboratory frog pulling itself free from a dissection board. The feathers tickled my skin as Mr. Machete struggled to loosen his weapon from the tree behind me. I notice a gun holstered at his side, and I pull it from his belt just as he managed to pull his machete loose from the tree. I smiled as he looked down and notices his mistake and I pressed the barrel of his gun to his chest and put the other hand around his neck.

I pulled the trigger, and his body buckled.

His arms beat against my back like bird wings and I lower him to the ground, my teeth finding purchase in his neck as I tore out his throat. I fed greedily on the sinew of tendons that had tightened as he gulped in his last remaining breaths. Too busy, too hungry, too famished to notice his buddy creeping up on this gruesome scene. Too loudly smacking my lips around the ragged flesh of his neck, tearing strips of flesh from him like ripping a piece of paper into halves to hear the approaching footsteps, or the cock of his gun.

The bullet ripped through the top of my back and exited my stomach. I looked down to see the hole it created, and I find myself wondering how deeply into the ground it went. Did it travel the same path as I did, but in reverse? Did it bury itself into one of the shoes I left behind?

I hear him cursing his miss.

Announcing his sin at the top of his lungs as he ejects the spent cartridge from his gun and fumbles with a full one. I pick up the machete lying beside his dead friend and with one deft movement I separate the lower half of his left leg from the upper half, and he drops like a bag of wet potatoes. I get up from my meal and I stand over him; my shadow falling across his face like a sun dial. ‘Time to die’, reads the clock. I slice open his throat with the edge of that blade and watch the intermittent jet of blood arcing through the air. I stand and observe until it dies off, slowly losing the angle until it turns to seep. I pick up his head by the hair and flip him over onto his back. With a firm grip on his scalp, I plant my good foot firmly against his buttocks and pull. Hard. A satisfying, wet ripping fills my ears like a new favorite song as his skull fully separates itself from his neck and is followed by his spinal column tearing free of connective tissue. I let go of his hair and pick up the end of his backbone and I turn and walk away, enjoying the rhythmic thud of his cranium bouncing against the sidewalk as I set eyes upon the walkway to her front door just down the street.

This is a dead man’s town.

My town.

Perhaps I am just lucky. Perhaps I conjured some kind of spell down there, whispering her name into the ears of insects. Maybe their legs repeated my mantra over and over, rubbing them together like man making that first fire, creating magic out of desire. Or maybe it’s the thought of our friction that keeps me safe, relatively speaking.

I make it to her porch without incident.

But only that far.

I hear screaming over my shoulder. “Zombie!,” they yell. I pay it no mind. I swing that spinal column through the air and it’s skull slams against her door with a pleasant percussion, announcing my arrival. A bullet screams its way through my right calf as I knock again with the bones of a dead man. Then another whizzes past my face and splinters the frame of her doorway to the left of my head. I knock again, and another bullet lands in my right shoulder as I hear footsteps rapidly approaching from behind me.

And finally she opens the door.

Standing but a few feet in front of me, and my legs threaten to give out under the weight of her gaze. Those eyes that lit my way through the ground, through the hours and days and weeks and months that I was in the dark. Those lithe porcelain hands and fingers that I dreamt of, plucking muscle from my bones like tearing stems from cherries. Those appendages that are now leveling a gun at my head. I toss the spinal column and skull at her feet. An offering. An appeasement. But I know that to die right at this moment with nothing more than this momentary glance would be fine. A gift, really. I close my eyes waiting for the penance of my brains being forced out of the back of my head like so much oatmeal splattering across a kitchen floor from a dropped cereal bowl, but all that comes is the deafening noise of two gunshots that missed their mark.

And I open my eyes to find out that she didn’t.

Two bodies just behind me, one on the right and one of the left now lay dead on her front porch. Each bearing pistols of their own as well as matching entry wounds in the center of their foreheads. No sin here, I notice; none at all. I turn back to face her as she stands staring at me. At the mess staring right back. Does she know of the fever that is now building in my fingers and toes? Well, what’s left of them. Does she know the danger she is in or the danger that she just dispelled being pale in comparison? Does she know that my tongue is but a whip driving my teeth into a frenzy?

She reaches out and takes my hand, and I realize with the look in her eyes that I am in no less danger than those that are decorating her front porch like it is Halloween.

And with her it always has been.

She leads me into the bathroom while informing me that “you look a mess, sir.”

I follow, letting the hunger build even as dessert sits on top of the oven, the smell of it thick in the air as I watch her leading me down the hallway, the small of her back leading down to the swell of her buttocks, the muscles pushing against each other as she moves. The sway of her hips, and something else stirs. She instructs me to sit on the edge of the bathtub, and she takes a moment to assess the situation, her hands on either side of my face as she studies it, and I see a shadow pass in front of her eyes. Her hands drop. She cocks her head a little to the left and her mouth curls down just a little as she lands a strike across my face. Hard. And another. And another. Then just one more. My lip splits apart from the slaps, and I let it trickle down and over my chin.

She smiles, and leans down and lick it from my face.

“An appetizer,” she whispers.

Then with steady hands she removes all of my clothes. I stand in the shower coated from head to toe with hardened mud, leaves, grass, dead bugs and dried blood. She undresses and climbs in behind me and turns on the water, forcefully positioning me under the showerhead. The water runs over my head and follows the maps of worm trails crisscrossing the dirt I am coated in. Slowly and deliberately she begins peeling me free of the muck and carnage I am dressed in. We spend an hour in there, together, with the mud swirling around our feet.

After, we embrace, wrapped up like Eskimos in towels, letting the heat between us evaporate the water.

Naked, we take positions in the center of her sofa. From behind her back she produces a survival knife. A Rambo blade. She giggles, that smirk that I could never deny crossing her face as it elicits the same from my lungs. She offers it to me, and I take it. I study it, and it is just as I remember them being as a teenager. Heavy, black handled and serrated on one edge. A compass is screwed into the handle, and I unscrew it, revealing the small compartment housed within the handle. Inside is a small package containing matches, fishing line and hooks. I look up at her, watching me. I toss aside the compass. No need for it, I’ve only ever moved in her direction. I toss aside the matches, because this fire has been burning out of control for years. As well I dispose of the fishing line and hooks over my shoulder; she caught me the first time she ascended those stairs so many years ago.

And I hand the knife back to her.

She presses it against my chest, and smiles as the tip penetrates my chest. A little trickle of blood slips down my abdomen. I feel the fingers of her other hand pressing into the back of my neck, her nails digging deeply into my nape and she pulls me forward and uses her full weight to shove that blade through my skin. I feel it separating muscle from bone just before the crunch of it breaking through my sternum. She twists it. Then I hear the serrations cracking apart bone as she saws through ribs to create a hole large enough for her fist to enter. Her mouth is open, hanging slightly askew as she loses herself in the endeavor, and I cannot keep my eyes off of her lips, quivering ever so slightly, and not even curiosity of the mess she is making of my chest can drag away that attention. Her hand finds purchase behind the swell of my heart, and in one deft movement I feel her pulling it free. I watch her bring it up to her mouth, and the slow stroke of her tongue pulling itself from the bottom to the top of that still beating muscle nearly drives me right out of my skin. I watch her teeth tearing into it with frenzy, and I look up for about to see the fire in her eyes moving to the knife she discarded in my lap.

And they widen.

Impatient and suggesting.

I pick up the knife and I repay the favor. Her head leaning back to offer her throat and I acquiesce with pleasure. I do what I have always wanted and what several illustrations have implied, that her neck is a Pez dispenser delivering love letters into my hands. And into my mouth. I drink from that wound like a starving man. And I am. I can feel her jaws working against mine, tilted and slurping from her throat. My teeth take over as I make that hole large enough to shove my hand into and down. Down through her body until I find that angel, that demon beating within her chest, and I tear it loose and into the air. She tilts her head back down as I lean back to examine it. To smell it before I devour it in kind. And she watches, much as I watched her, smiling. Dying. Her hands working themselves into a fury in both our laps as I finish, as we share in a literal Lupercalia. I take my free hand to replace hers between her legs. I lick the last drop of blood off my lips and she smacks me one more time, a raspy, “mine, fucker,” before pulling me in to get a taste. She pushes my hand away and she slips over and down upon a favored station, and there in the dark we create shadows of a four-limbed beast devouring itself around mouthfuls of wanton whispers until even our teeth grind each other into the dust.

And with but a bated breath, we breathe ourselves back into being.

Always one more round to take this treasure to the other side and taste this forever.

What great entries! Which one was your favourite?

#CoffinHop … Haunted by the dark

Click on the “EYE” to take you to my COFFIN HOP TRICK for a TREAT Prize Page…Enter if you dare…Enter or be scared….Contest ends at the Witching Hour (3am) 31st October 2012…(Contest closed)

kim-coffin12

So we are a day away from the end of Coffin Hop 2012. Just like last year it has been a BLAST. However it is not over until it is over so don’t feel glum. If you have not had a chance to hit up all the incredibly talented authors on this blog tour, you still have 2 days left to catch up & still 2 days left to enter my contest *Click on the EYE above*. Just click on that skull at the bottom of this post and it will take you to the Coffin Hop Boneyard where you can find all the other incredible authors.

Now, I know some may scratch their heads wondering what sort of person writes horror or reads horror. Well I can’t speak for all horror authors but I can speak for myself and I can speak of most of the other coffinhoppers since I am privileged to call a lot of them friends. I think Horror has got a bad rap over the years and Horror Authors along with it. So much so that the publishing industry uses every other euphemism to market a Horror Author and their Horror Fiction other than the term: Horror.

In May I wrote a post on: What is Horror? It was a question posed and answered by a group of horror author bloggers. You can find the full post here: Shivers down my Spine

But here are some passages that I would like to highlight for you…

horror |ˈhôrər, ˈhär-|noun1 an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust: children screamed in horror.• a thing causing such a feeling: photographs showed the horror of the tragedy | the horrors of civil war.• a literary or film genre concerned with arousing such feelings: [ as modifier ] : a horror movie.• intense dismay: to her horror she found that a thief had stolen the machine.• [ as exclamation ] (horrors) chiefly humorous used to express dismay: horrors, two buttons were missing!• [ in sing. ] intense dislike: many have a horror of consulting a dictionary.• (the horrors) an attack of extreme nervousness or anxiety: the mere thought of it gives me the horrors.2 informal a bad or mischievous person, esp. a child: that little horror Zach was around.ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from Latin horror, from horrere ‘tremble, shudder’ (see horrid) .

I think the very origin of the word answers the question: What is Horror? Horror is an involuntary trembling and shuddering from sheer terror. For me however, true horror is those scenes that play with your mind. Psychological fear is far more intense and horrific than mere physical fear. The mind is a scary place. It’s capacity for imagining the worst and the darkest is scary. Think of your favourite horror movie, the imagined monster behind the shadow at the foot of the door that is ajar is far scarier than the monster that is seen and can be fought. What is unknown is far scarier than the known? For me, that is true HORROR.

Horror is the difference between the UNKNOWN vs the KNOWN and theUNTHINKABLE vs the IMAGINED. Horror is those shivers down my spine, that prickling on my skull and the bone-deep chill that makes my heart want to stop.

This is how Stephen King defines Horror:

“The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”

So what is so different about Horror Authors? I will tell you this. I think Horror Authors are the SkyJumpers of the publishing world. To be a Horror Author you need to plumb the depths of the human heart and all its terrible secrets. You have to face the darkness and then shine a light on it, exposing it. Not only are we SkyJumpers but we are SkyJumping into a dark night sky. That takes guts! It requires a strong spine and a streak of recklessness. On top of that we are the red headed step child that the Publishing world does not want to acknowledge.

But when you – as a reader – read a piece of horror fiction, you have no other choice but to dig deep yourself into your own emotions and FEEL. Horror Fiction strips away all your defences and lays you bare as an emotional being with equal amounts of joys and fears. Horror Fiction strips away all polite etiquette and gets you to connect with your most primal and your most HUMAN instincts and emotions. You may be scared stiff but you won’t stop turning the pages to find out what happens. Horror fiction is a guaranteed Page-Turner. Horror Fiction has a way of getting under your skin and being unforgettable. For a time, while reading that Horror story, you forget your own horrors.

“Blessed are the weird people – poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters and troubadours – for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.” – Jacob Nordby

Horror Authors > Are we crazy? Are we dark? Some may be. But then great minds are always called Crazy by someone, somewhere.

But is it crazy or dark to have the courage to acknowledge both the light and the dark, the day and the night, the joy and the fear? Call me crazy then and call me dark. But it is through writing down the dark stories that I can get to the light. It is through writing down the dark stories that darkness does not overwhelm me. Humanity can be a horrific thing and sometimes we need to acknowledge the truth of that horror to let the wild and precious beauty shine in through the cracks in the dark. You cannot appreciate the Dawn unless you have experienced the coldest, loneliest, darkest hour of the Night. If I didn’t write the stories and poems that I do…then I would truly be haunted by the dark…

“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Remember to visit all the other coffin hopping macabre and haunted places buried in the

COFFIN HOP BONEYARD

for frightful contests, spookilicious giveaways and horrific halloween inspired swag.

You can also click through to the linky list included on this blog here or click on the creeptastic skull beneath…

Tell me do You CoffinHop?
x marks the spot where the spirits watch you from veiled shadows…
Don’t forget to enter my TRICK Haunted Flash Fiction for TREATS
Enter if you dare…Enter or be scared…

x

#Coffin Hop…The Haunted Voodoo & The Haunting Magic Cocktails

Click on the “EYE” to take you to my COFFIN HOP TRICK for a TREAT Prize Page…Enter if you dare…Enter or be scared….Contest ends at the Witching Hour (3am) 31st October 2012…(contest closed)

kim-coffin12

Day 2 of The Haunted & The Hauntings takes us to a place of Voodoo and Magic. This city is famous in the Horror and Paranormal Circles. It has inspired legends, myths, tales that terrify and movies that horrify. It has also been a favourite obsession of mine and has inspired my new WIP – The Tattooist Trilogy.

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

File:StChasJan07HouseB2.jpg by en:User:Infrogmation
File:LoyolaStreetcarMch08.jpg by en:User:Infrogmation
File:New_Orleans_Skyline_from_Uptown.jpg by en:User:VerruckteDan
File:Jackson_Square.jpg by en:User:Dschwen
File:New-orleans10.jpg by de:User:Falkue

This city has been called the Most Haunted City in the USA. It has also been called “The Crescent City”, “The Big Easy” and “The City that Care Forgot” I first became familiar with this city through, what else but my favourite medium, books: specifically The Vampire Chronicles of Anne Rice. I could not get enough of this series and could not get enough of this strange haunting city. This city is one of the main settings in my NEXT BIG WIP – The Tattooist Trilogy. I am also planning on a 2013 trip – it falls under research – to this city of Hauntings, Voodoo & Vamps. In my thirst for knowledge + WIP research I explored the earliest times of this notorious city.

Perhaps the earliest legend that has fueled the Hauntings in this city is that the vast swamp that was New Orleans was once a sacred Indian burial ground. In 1718 King Louis XV founded the city of New Orleans, named after the city of Orleans lying on the banks of the Loire River in France, in the hope and belief that it would be a profitable trading station for the French because of its appealing location on the Mississippi River. Once people started trickling in to live here though;  murderers, thieves, rapists, common criminals and laborers were the first inhabitants. I assumed they came here and set up camp to escape their various crimes and the punishment they were sure to face on apprehension. In these early days of New Orleans, it was only the desperate and the damned who would choose to make their home here: They called it The French Quarter in 1721. It was a topography that perfectly mirrored the depraved, the desperate and the damned who settled here with natural harsh elements like quick sand, alligators, venomous snakes, mosquitoes and rampant disease. For the next hundred years the murder rate in this new city was high and along with numerous major fires, hurricanes, wars and the dreaded yellow fever epidemic this city became  a place of death, decay and destruction.

Description: Tomb of Marie Laveau (The 1830s notorious Voodoo Queen)
Source: New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
Date: 8/10/08
Author: Charles M. Gandolfo
Permission: Jerry Gandolfo

During this first 100 year period of New Orleans, the Haitian slave revolt (1791 – 1804) happened in Haiti. To escape the massacre the refugee plantation owners, bringing with them their slaves, escaped Haiti to make their way across the ocean to a new home and refuge in New Orleans. For the first time New Orleans heard the sacrificial drums of Voodoo. Voodoo had come to New Orleans. Voodoo is a strange mix of various African – originating in Benin and Nigeria – magic, belief and rites mixed with Catholic elements. Voodoo brought with it snake magic, seers, ritual animal sacrifice, fortune-telling, black magic, bonfires and orgies and notorious Voodoo Queens: the most famous Voodoo Queen would have to be Marie Laveau. Both a practicing Catholic and a Voodoo Queen; she acted as an Oracle, conducted private rituals, performed exorcisms and offered sacrifices to spirits. To this day people still come to her tomb to offer up favors and offerings. Her grave is the one of the most visited graves in the world. There are still sightings of this Voodoo Queen in modern-day New Orleans.

It is no wonder that this city with its notorious history, its birthplace founded on a purported sacred Indian burial ground and its mix of the depraved, the damned and the illicit combined with the black magic of Voodoo Queens has spurred the title of the Most Haunted city in the USA. It is a place layered in history, in magic and ancient sacred rites. It is a place where the veils between ritualistic beliefs, fears are thin. It is indeed a place where spirits watch you from veiled shadows.

Another thing that this city is famous for is Cocktails, decadence and illicit deliciousness…It is not known as “The Big Easy” and the home of “The Mardi Gras” for nothing. So for a treat today I have included some New Orleans cocktails and some Halloween inspired cocktails for your enjoyment.

New Orleans Classic Cocktails

Click on any of the DECADENT COCKTAILS

– this will take you to my Pinterest page,

One more click will take you to the delicious concoction’s RECIPE…

What is the use of posting cocktails unless you try them for yourself?

Come back and tell me which was your favourite flavour!

The Hurricane

Source: seriouseats.com via Kim on Pinterest

The Sazerac

Source: seriouseats.com via Kim on Pinterest

The Bywater Cocktail

Source: seriouseats.com via Kim on Pinterest

Some Halloween Decadence…
Ashes to Ashes
Paranormal Activity or Licorice Trick
Smoking “Colour-changing” Martini
Vampire Kiss Martini
What’s your favourite decadent cocktail?
What’s your favourite New Orleans Haunted Legend?
Join me here tomorrow for the next X spots that mark the places where the spirits watch you from veiled shadows…

Remember to visit all the other coffin hopping macabre and haunted places buried in the

COFFIN HOP BONEYARD

for frightful contests, spookilicious giveaways and horrific halloween inspired swag.

You can also click through to the linky list included on this blog here or click on the creeptastic skull beneath…

Tell me do You CoffinHop?
x marks the spot where the spirits watch you from veiled shadows…
Don’t forget to enter my TRICK Haunted Flash Fiction for TREATS
Enter if you dare…Enter or be scared…

Summer-Spiration & Showing Up

The Winter of discontent is over and Summer-Spiration has officially begun…at least in my corner of the world.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a Winter person. Winter constipates and depresses me mentally, emotionally and creatively. I need the warmth and vibrancy that summer brings to feel truly in tune. This winter has definitely been a winter of discontent and hibernation. On Sunday morning our clocks changed to Daylights Savings and my Creativity Savings kicked into high gear.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London

A few weeks ago I shared a post about this discontent and my creative constipation. I am usually not one to whine, complain or moan. Quite the opposite I tend to always forge through and look for the sunshine behind the cloud. But this winter things fell in on top of me and I swallowed my pride and told you all about it. You see it wasn’t that my well had run dry or the ideas had abandoned me. Rather I curled up in a fetal ball and hid from the dreck, muck & mire of my real life. As soon as I posted this messy confession, I was twisted into a contradiction cook-sister. *another analogy would be pretzel* One part of me felt “damn Kim you scraped off your protective tough outer layer and let them see the fragile messy parts.”… But once the comments and the emails started rolling in from all who read the post, there was a cathartic healing; that feeling that I was not alone in my discontent. These were some of the comments/responses that helped me uncurl myself from that fetal position to a sitting position…

I read this post and felt a deep recognition: I could have written this…I’ve been so stuck this year, and every time I un-stick… bam: another storm to weather, another day to survive. It is making me realize I need other sources of stability beyond just my writing. Putting so much pressure on my writing to be The One Thing that Makes Sense and Always Helps is putting too much strain on my creativity. As much as this year has been difficult, it is one that is teaching me how to Be. It will be worth it – for both of us…

I feel like not writing is a form of self abuse…

Well said, darlin’. It’s been that kind of year for me, too, and I’m only just starting to get out from under it. Write on…

I have been here, Kim. I have been shut up behind the dam. The put it bluntly, it f-ing sucks. You pound and pound and pound and yet nothing will come out. Nothing did for me, anyway, until I took the advice of a friend and started writing a journal about writing. It helped a lot. Perhaps give it a try. It is where I found my honesty with myself when it came to dealing with the stuff that was preventing me from actually getting my work done. Sometimes I still do it, though I am no longer dammed. I hope you find the fissure through which to burst…

Write whatever you need to. They don’t have to see the light of day but may help you, both in getting through the difficult time and getting back in touch with the writer in you

Honey, I’m with you. I make you look perfectly normal. If writers struggle to get past the “why isn’t this sounding like I’d envisioned it” stage, it’s because they’re still amateur. When a writer hits this point, however–like you and me–it’s a show that we’ve hit another level of knowledge between life and writing. Because dealing with difficult emotional memories in life is the coloured picture, and writing it into a fictional story is the black sheet with little peepholes the writer carves out so the reader can glimpse into what’s being told…

When your dam breaks, I’m sure beauty will spring forth. If a little on the dark side…

The fact is, writer’s block is not funny.

When the words elude me, I start to feel desperate. I have a harder time dealing with the crap in my real life because there is no escape. The absent words haunt me, and wound me. I feel this vague sense of constant irritation, an emptiness where words used to be.

Right now, I’m making myself write. Every day. Even if it’s only one word. It seems to be helping, though I may be 90 by the time this ms gets finished…

Just get up everyday and keep going. You will prevail over this. Go for a long walk and just keep being you. We all sadly have something that tries to beat us down. Keep going please…

You are fighting your demons, but you are also dancing with them. This takes the greatest courage of all…

I loved your quote : “Life should not be about surviving. It should be about LIVING.” I’ve been avoiding an essay I started about a childhood trauma and you have inspired me to get back to it.

Thank you so much for sharing your struggle…

Wow! Talk about “Knowing it, Feeling it, Living it.” These comments were my inspiration that uncurled me into a sitting position again. That post was written a month ago. That was the first step into a sitting position. September was all about uncurling myself from a sitting position into a standing position. Now I stand here in the “standing position” and I am ready to put one foot in front of the other into a walking position. Because life is now about “not, not getting knocked down or not, not getting knocked back, but it is about getting knocked down or knocked back and standing up again. Once you start moving, walking forward you start taking a step to dancing with your dreams, your goals, your aims, your aspirations, your joys.

So to each and every person who inspired me to uncurl myself into that sitting position…

So this Summer is all about getting from that “Standing” position to the “Walking Forward” position. I am really excited about what I have in store writing-wise.

  • I am in the middle of writing “The Tattooist – Liquid Ink” *more about this WIP here*
  • I am working on a short story that will be included in an exciting anthology *watch this space for more* with some awesome authors later this year.
  • I am also working on a six-book *so far* series of stand-alone novellas that will be published next year. Series working name: The Red Gates Secrets *The series is paranormal horror and one I have been itching to write for a while now-Based on fact*
Life should not be about surviving. It should be about LIVING and that means the dark shades are as important to colour in as the light shades are. Perhaps the darkest shades are the ones we need the most because if there is no dark there need be no light. I am ready to un-dam those waters and let the dark words out so the spark of a match will lead me back to my creativity and back to my place of sanity: writing. I have to remind myself  that even the rubbish words are still words. As scary as it is, it is time to un-dam the words. Otherwise I may as well just give up now. I am too stubborn to give up yet. 

I’ll leave you with my new favourite motivation song…

Pink says it best > “Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame
Someone’s bound to get burned
But just because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die

You’ve gotta get up and try try try!

What gets You up to Try-Try-Try? 
What do you desire enough to take a Risk of getting burned?

 

Getting the words down | Electric Keyboards & Grand Pianos

Meet Jessica Fletcher

kim-typewriter1

Not the character Angela Lansbury played in Murder She Wrote…No this Jessica Fletcher is my newly purchased vintage typewriter. Yes, my typewriter has a name. If you can name your car, then I can name my typewriter. Jessica Fletcher is one of my all-time favourite fictional characters so what better name to use to christen my beautiful “new’ typing baby. As much as I am a technology-addict and have all the latest gadgets I am also a bit of a purist when it comes to the act of writing. I like a little of the old and the new. I have been looking for a vintage typewriter for about 5 years now and this month I found Jessica Fletcher. She is an Imperial Good Companion 5 Typewriter Circa 1957.

cropped-cropped-kimkoningbanner.jpg

Typewriters are works of art. Comparing them to our modern-day machines from MacBooks to iPad is like comparing a grand piano to an electric keyboard. Yes the electric keyboard is more portable but it is not a thing of beauty. Nothing beats a grand piano. For me a typewriter is a work of art. There is something that gets me excited about that clickety-clack of the keys or the smell of the ink or getting the ink stains on your fingers as you adjust or change the ink ribbon. The other day I read an article about an author who types out their first drafts on a typewriter for that sheer “inspirational digital-distraction-free ambience” and then transfers that to the computer for the editing stages. I LOVE that idea. It inspired me. Soon after reading this article, I found “Jessica Fletcher” online and I knew I had found my “machine of inspiration”.

Being the enlightened writing purist that I am 😉 I used Google to look up the history of “Jessica Fletcher” and her sister machines. I was delighted to unearth a few gems. The Good Companion Portable Typewriters were named after a best-selling novel “THE GOOD COMPANIONS” by English Novelist J.B. Priestly published in 1929. (Aside, a typewriter named after a best-selling novel – KISMET for this writer.)  The first Good Companions were unveiled in 1932 with the Marketing Campaign of: “The Good Companion brings fame to writers.” The typewriters went on to becoming the most popular typewriter in England when it got the Royal stamp of approval (Royal as in the The House of Windsor of Buckingham Palace.) when His Majesty King George V (Reigning Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather.) purchased one for his own use.

From 1932 to 1963 the Imperial Good Companions went through 7 different designs and were called Good Companion 1 – 5. The Good Companion 5 – “Jessica Fletcher” was the last design and most modern version of these typewriters. Imperial then went on to manufacture three other typewriters after the Good Companions but the company ceased production and closed its doors in 1974.

“Jessica Fletcher”and her sister machines were very modern for the day. The innovative design contained these new additions to the Companion Portable Typewriters:

  • An aluminium body in a fibreglass case
  • A 4-colour choice ribbon
  • Touch-Control (where the writer/typist can choose the striking power of the keys to match individual finger strength)
  • Two colour Stencil Selector
  • Total Platen control for precision paper register
  • Automatic Ribbon Reverse
  • A Finger-friendly basket shift which means very little pressure is needed to operate the keys

I have tested all the keys and they all seem to be in perfect condition. I do need a new ribbon so will have to still buy that. The keys feel much smoother than any typewriter I used to use at school. The keys also feel much more tactile. “Jessica Fletcher” has the very sexy, curvy style that the most gorgeous 1950s ladies had. (Think the stylish female cast of Mad Men.) The colour is gorgeous too: a metallic silvery blue-green. It is not an accident that I compared the vintage looks of “Jessica Fletcher” to a Grand Piano. When I lift the lid and take a closer look it reminds me of a harp or an opened Grand Piano. “Jessica Fletcher” has only had one owner and it is obvious that she took good care of her baby.

No matter what instrument I use to “Getting the Words down”; whether it be pencil, pen, fountain ink, typewriter, MacBook, iPod, there is something about a vintage typewriter that inspires me in some deeper place. Perhaps it is the sensual feel of the keys that are made for my fingers or the sound of those letters hitting the paper but there is a definite sensuality that typing on a vintage typewriter brings to the craft of writing. Maybe it is a longing for simpler times and slower times when you did not have a million immediate distractions and a clamouring to use up time at a rate of knots. Perhaps it is the storyteller facet of this writer that is drawn to working on a vintage typewriter or longhand writing with a fountain pen because storytellers are the history-keepers of the world. So perhaps it is up to us storytellers, us history-keepers to constantly bring Renaissance to our corners of the world. Perhaps it is up to us storytellers to teach the stories of the past to inspire the storytellers of the future. What I love about “The Good Companions” in particular is that they were among the first portable typewriters that were not only inspired by a novelist and his novel but were marketed and manufactured for the Writers not the Typists or the Secretaries. This is a machine that must be cherished but must be used. It was never manufactured to collect dust on a shelf in an attic. It was manufactured to help writers tell their stories to the world. That is what this writer is going to do. “Jessica Fletcher” is going to let me tell my stories  with a romantic blush of the past and all the writers and their stories that have gone before me.

Jessica Fletcher, my literary Grand Piano, sits in pride of place next to MacGyver, my literary electric keyboard, my Macbook. Sitting, pride of place, in the centre of my beautiful antique roll top desk Jessica Fletcher has found her home.

” The Good Companion brings fame to writers.” – Kismet with perhaps a hint of destiny for this writer…

but

“This Good Companion brings joy & inspiration to this writer.”

There is a place for The Typewriter in the 21st Century.

Would you/Have you found a place for a Typewriter in your world?

If you have not ever used a typewriter, what are your thoughts on typewriters?

Which favourite vintage model typewriter do you lust after?

Related articles

Call me Writer 007 ~ I take my Coffee Shaken or Stirred with Words on the side

An image came up on my Facebook feed this week and sparked the idea for this blog post…

Image courtesy of: http://www.panyl.com/blogs/news/6369590-time-for-a-refill-study-shows-ambient-noise-other-people-working-leads-to-higher-individual-productivity
Image courtesy of: http://www.panyl.com/blogs/news/6369590-time-for-a-refill-study-shows-ambient-noise-other-people-working-leads-to-higher-individual-productivity

Coffee and Writers go together like Petroleum and Grand Prix.

Coffee and I began our love affair lustful addiction in a town on the southern coast of Greece, 50kms from Athens. I was 21 and on my first overseas trip to visit my BFF in Greece. I left South Africa innocent of the vice that was soon to have me addicted, enthralled and enticed. In Greece my two drink options were Coffee or Ouzo. With that first sip of dark viscous liquid (I am speaking about the small cups of Greek coffee not Ouzo. 😉 Ouzo is a post for another day. ) that looked like a cross between mud and volcanic ooze I was hypnotized and Coffee became my favourite vice. From there it was a short fall to sipping the sweet, strong, rich goodness of a Greek Frappé. (I am not talking about the Westernised Frappucino that tastes more like a milkshake than any cousin of the original Frappé.) The lustful addiction had entrapped me and I was lost to the rich, decadent embrace of caffeine.

Writers drink coffee. Writers love coffee-shops or cafes. There is an ambience to writing in a coffee shop that is akin to a GP racing car driver at a race track. Just like the aromas of petroleum and exhaust fuel excite a professional GP driver so do the aromas of caffeine and the inexhaustible supply of dialogue inspiration and quirky characters at a coffee shop excite the writer. This is especially true for the writer who writes full time. Writing is a lonely job at the best of times but when you are tucked away in your writing cave – just you and the voices of your characters – it can be very lonely. This is when a visit to the coffee shop offers fresh inspiration. You order your favourite order of coffee, tuck yourself in at a corner table, open up the laptop/macbook/pen&paper and start writing. I like to choose a corner table with a view of the baristas & coffee machines and a view of the comings and goings of the coffee shop patrons. At this spot, I can keep an eye on what is happening around me but also make sure that nobody sneaks up behind me: very important since my pages/screen tend to be filled with ghostly hauntings, chilling killers stalking my main characters and dark places.

Luckily great coffee is never difficult for me to find since I live on the northern coast of Auckland-New Zealand, rated by Conde Nast traveller as one of the 9 BEST places in the WORLD to have a Coffee.

Every time I drink a cup of coffee I am transported to the places I have enjoyed great coffee…from the coast of Greece to the souks of Dubai to the alleys of Melbourne to the many cafes of Auckland…coffee is a passport not only to creativity but to the memory of the places I have been.

There are still a few places I want to travel to enjoy coffee in…Rome, Vienna, Barcelona, New York but the top of this list would have to be…

My Coffee-Passport Bucket List

Paris, France

I would love to walk in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre in Paris, another of the 9 best coffee places in the world. Every writer should travel to Paris and soak up the literary ambience. I shall save that for the Bucket List.

In the meantime, excuse me while I brew myself an Espresso Macchiato and open up the next page in my WIP. Mmm I can smell the rich smell of that decadent nectar now and it is sparking some fresh words in the WIP.

Do you have a love affair with coffee? What are your favourite coffee orders?

Do you write in coffee shops? 

Where in the world is your favourite place to enjoy coffee? What place is on your coffee-passport bucket list?

Below are some of my favourite coffee-writer quotes and some of my favourite coffee orders.

Oropos, Greece – where Coffee & I first met

Image credits: Apostolos J. Doulias @ http://www.panoramio.com/photo/49551457
Image credits: Apostolos J. Doulias @ http://www.panoramio.com/photo/49551457

“Coffee. Creative lighter fluid.”
–Floyd Maxwell

My favourite ways to drink the decadent dark nectar

Greek Frappé in Santorini, Greece

Image courtesy of: http://www.melbournecoffeereview.com/2008/07/a-greek-island-frappe.html
Image courtesy of: http://www.melbournecoffeereview.com/2008/07/a-greek-island-frappe.html

Make your own Greek Frappé

This recipe makes enough for one serving.

  • 1 1/2 tsp instant coffee (Nescafe Original red label is the most popular brand) 
  • (Greek Nescafe is super strong so for all other Nescafe use 3-4 tsp coffee)
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • Sugar
  • Milk
  • Ice cubes

In a shaker or blender mix together 5 Tbs water, coffee and sugar to taste.

Shake contents for about 30 seconds or blend for about 10 seconds. The result should be simply foam.

Pour into tall glass and add the ice cubes. Add remaining water and milk to taste. Put in a straw. Milk and sugar are according to taste. It is not obligatory to add them.

 – Recipe courtesy of http://www.ineedcoffee.com

Espresso Macchiato

1 shot of espresso top with foamed milk

Image courtesy of: http://bananaleafespresso.wordpress.com/
Image courtesy of: http://bananaleafespresso.wordpress.com/

“Coffee falls into the stomach … ideas begin to move, things remembered arrive at full gallop … the shafts of wit start up like sharp-shooters, similies arise, the paper is covered with ink …” -Honoré de Balzac

Espresso Con Panna

A double shot of espresso top with whipped cream 

Image courtesy of: http://www.steamykitchen.com/79-espresso-con-panna.html
Image courtesy of: http://www.steamykitchen.com/79-espresso-con-panna.html

 “The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. 

Cappuccino

A double shot espresso + 2.5oz frothed milk + 2.5oz steamed milk 

Image courtesy of: http://www.gourmetcoffeecorner.com/tag/make-cappuccino/
Image courtesy of: http://www.gourmetcoffeecorner.com/tag/make-cappuccino/

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” –T. S. Elliot

Image courtesy of: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americannovel/timeline/lostgeneration.html
Image courtesy of: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americannovel/timeline/lostgeneration.html
Ernest Hemingway wrote, “It was a pleasant cafe, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old water-proof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a cafe au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write.”

The Next Big Thing #11 | Blood & Ink

I have been tagged in The Next Big Thing by Judith Van Praag @ Hope Filled Jars. So in this game of “Tag, You’re it” my current Work in Progress gets to be tagged and then I have to tag 5 other writers’ WIPs. When Judith tagged me in this post and emailed me the idea behind it, I was thrilled to be in and to be tagged. This blog-tag post is perfect for writers as most writers I know, including myself, hate talking about ourselves but ask us about our stories and our characters and we can wax lyrical. Look for the five writers I have tagged at the bottom of this post – their “Next Big Thing” posts will be posted between the 11th and the 17th of September so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for those.

What is the working title of your book?

The Tattooist – Blood & Ink #1

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was reading an article about tattooing and how intimate an art form it can be and it sparked an idea. A few nights after reading this article I dreamed the first scene of the story. I woke up at 4am and started jotting down the dream and within a couple of hours I had the first draft’s main plot-points drafted out.

What genre does your book fall under?

Paranormal Psychological Thriller

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Heroine = Sasha Roulette
Keira Knightley is the perfect actress to play my main character in The Tattooist. She has that rare quality of being believable as a bad girl turned good but also has this raw vulnerability that gives her depth. Keira IS Sasha in The Tattooist.
Image credit - wallpowper.com
Image credit – wallpowper.com
Hero = Shane Patrick
Colin Farrell IS my bad boy hero. He is the perfect flawed character, the bad boy who you want to reform. He IS Shane Patrick, my bad boy hero.
Image credit - collider.com
Image credit – collider.com
Villain = Michael Dali
For my villain I needed to cast someone intense, charming, seductive but chilling – who better to fit this role than Viggo Mortensen. My villain is known by many names but the one he chooses to call himself is Michael Dali. Killing is not just an occupation but it is a calling and an art form to this ice-cold killer. Viggo IS Michael Dali.
Image credit - releaseddonkey.com
Image credit – releaseddonkey.com

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A paranormal psychological thriller about a tattooist who bonds psychically with the people she tattoos who realizes that she can now read a sadistic serial killer’s mind and is the only one who can stop him but if she can read his mind, can he read hers?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will be submitting it to agents.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I am still in the process of the first draft but typically a first draft takes me 4-6 weeks to write.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I have long been fascinated with tattoos and I have been designing my “dream” tattoos for years now. I have not yet found the perfect tattoo that I would want inked on me permanently yet so the search continues. But a tattoo is so much more than a symbol or a fashion accessory, in many cultures it is an integral part of the culture’s history and spiritual practices. Tattooing is a bizarrely intimate ritual: a ritual where a person literally carves a symbol, words or an image into your skin with permanent ink. As a writer alone this bizarre ritual where blood and ink are fused together into a permanent “stain” sparks my imagination. This long-held personal fascination with tattoos and the desire to seek out their history in different cultures + the article I read sparked the idea for The Tattooist.
The Tattooist is the first book in a Series: The Blood & Ink Series. The what if’s started piling up in my imagination and before I knew it I had a plot.
Next the characters themselves inspired me to write their story. All three main characters, the heroine, the hero and the villain have a very strong voice. I also wanted to write a story where the heroine is not your typical girl next door or perfect heroine. I love flawed characters and characters that have to fight their way through life. All three of my main characters are deeply flawed and in this story the truth is never just black and white. Nobody is all good or all bad in this story.
The story’s theme is about facing the fact that we all have darkness within us and that we could all be pushed to give in to that darkness if the stakes are high enough. All three main characters, the two protagonists and the antagonists fight this inner darkness as their own demons threaten to overwhelm them. At the end of the day whether they choose the darkness or the light is what will be both the making and the breaking of them.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

  • Tattooing
  • Samoa
  • New Orleans
  • Crime
  • Criminal Profiling
  • Serial Killers
  • Evil vs Good
  • Darkness vs Light
  • Psychic powers
  • Clairvoyance
  • Precognition
  • Telepathy

Tag, your WIP is “The Next Big Thing”

Message for the tagged authors and interested others:
Rules of The Next Big Thing
***Use this format for your post

***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress)

***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.
*****
Writers: What is your Next Big Thing keeping you awake at night?
Readers: What Next Big Novel are you biting your nails for in anticipation?

The Cost of Creativity: Unblocking the dam before it breaks me

*Warning: This post is messy and doesn’t sugar-coat the ugly truth and is a personal confessional of sorts*

Writing is hard work. Writing is especially difficult when you are expected to plumb through the dreck, muck & mire in real life dramas to find a spark of creativity. Non-writers who think that writing a story is easy have obviously never tried themselves. Life is no easier for a writer than it is for a non-writer. There is no “escape” from real life dramas. Real life is Messy at the best of times and at the worst of times it takes all your strength to keep swimming to keep yourself from sinking and drowning. Sometimes the mess that is LIFE drains all the energy – both physical and mental – out of you and you are as creative as a dried-up sponge with all the water squeezed out of it. It is so tempting to stop swimming and just let the tide take you. You tell yourself “It is not giving up. It is just giving in to the inevitable.”. You wonder what the point of fighting it all is for. Why bother to keep swimming if the tide is going to overpower you and wash you out to sea eventually?

The thing is LIFE is a journey and not a destination. Nobody said it would be a vacation. Nobody said it would be fair. Nobody said it would be easy. Nobody said there would be enough good to balance out the bad. Creative people are by nature more emotional and more sensitive. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and with every tear and every scar from our lives we flesh out our characters, shade our stories with emotional truths and try to make sense of the MESS. But sometimes real life truths are too painful to plumb for a creative spark and a kernel of inspiration. Sometimes the last thing we want to do is rehash real life in a story. Even fiction has an underlying element of emotional truth. And sometimes it is easier to believe the white lies than face the truths. This is when writing is hard for me. This is when I go into hiding from my own creativity. This is where I have been living for the past two months. Although ‘living’ is an optimistic term because really all I have been doing is ‘surviving’ at the best and treading water just keeping my head clear enough to gasp out a few breaths at the worst.

Usually writing helps keep me sane. Only 3 times in my life have I been in hibernation from writing and now is one of those times. I look at my screen and the flashing cursor mocks me. I take out my notebooks and try to write down words, any words at this point will do. But the words don’t come. It feels like I have a dam inside me just about bursting through the walls of my heart. I know I should let the dam wash through but I am scared the heaviness of the waters will pull me under. So instead I tamp down on the dam’s strength, I build the walls higher and bolster them with false euphemisms, easy white lies I tell myself. Every time I look at the screen or open a blank page of my notebook I know what I want to write but they are not good words, not a creative spark. They are dark thoughts, heavy emotions and poisonous threads that will weave themselves into a cobweb around my words and my creativity.

As I write this post I realise though that I am a writer and words are my way of dealing with crap that I don’t want to deal with. Which is why the cursor mocks me, the blank note-page empty of ink splotches mocks me. Because I am fooling nobody but myself. I don’t want to process the dark emotions. I want to hibernate from everything but especially words. Because one thing I cannot do is write a white lie to make things easier. That is just not how I am built. My words are the truest part of me. When I want to take a vacation from my real life I escape into the world of stories. I realise I have been blocking myself. I am my writer’s block. Hibernation and not writing is easier but it kills me a little more inside. I am the dam wall holding back the words, keeping the emotions at bay. Life should not be about surviving. It should be about LIVING and that means the dark shades are as important to colour in as the light shades are. Perhaps the darkest shades are the ones we need the most because if there is no dark there need be no light. I am ready to un-dam those waters and let the dark words out so the spark of a match will lead me back to my creativity and back to my place of sanity: writing. I have to remind myself  that even the rubbish words are still words. As scary as it is, it is time to un-dam the words. Otherwise I may as well just give up now. I am too stubborn to give up yet.

I am reminded by an old saying that some parents tell their toddlers: USE YOUR WORDS. 

How do you find the creative in the dreck of real life drama?

Have you ever felt like you were your own wall, your own block?

How did you work through it?

I leave you with the advice of one of my heroes: F. Scott Fitzgerald. A man who knew the darkness and wrote a way out of it.

November 9, 1938

Dear Frances:

I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.

This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories “In Our Time” went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In “This Side of Paradise” I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.

The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming—the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.

That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is “nice” is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the “works.” You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.

In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,

Your old friend,

F. Scott Fitzgerald

P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent—which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.

*Aside: For my writer friends out there, this is a great letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald about the price one needs to pay to be a successful writer. 
A little background, in late 1938, eager to gain some feedback on her work, aspiring young author and Radcliffe sophomore Frances Turnbull sent a copy of her latest story to celebrated novelist and friend of the family, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Before long the feedback arrived, in the form of the somewhat harsh but admirably honest reply seen above.*
[Source: F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters; Image: F. Scott Fitzgerald, via. Globe Bookstore and Cafe (facebook)]
***
The greatest creative minds don’t waste time telling white lies and don’t waste words sugar-coating the ugly truths. They dive into the deepest tides of that sinking mud and they get messy with the truth. They embrace the dark to give the light a canvas to shine from.

Related articles

Kick-Ass Heroes – No! Make that Kick-Ass Heroines

I have two new addictions to add to my telly watching: Missing and Unforgettable. These two shows have been added into my favourites:

  • Alias
  • Nikita
  • Missing
  • Unforgettable
  • Rizzoli & Isles
  • Women’s Murder Club
  • Cold Case
  • Bones
  • Castle

What do all these shows have in common? Crime, Murders, Mysteries, Adventure and Intrigue – Yes! But they all have one important factor. All of them are headlined by powerful Kick-ass Heroes Heroines. What a change to see how far the world has come that top crime shows are no longer just headlined by men but that the shows headlined by women are becoming more and more common.

As a woman this makes me excited and as a writer it makes me doubly excited. I love writing about strong, independent women in a man’s world. I love reading about strong, independent women in a man’s world. What I also love about these shows is that every single one of these kick-ass heroines have not sacrificed their femininity to portray these roles. I love that a woman can still be a woman and do a “man’s job” as well as the man. I love that women are no longer held back by their gender and instead are empowered by their sheer femininity and their differences from men are what set them apart.

What a different world we live in and how things have changed, gender stereotypes most of all. I remember when I grew up, my favourite shows were Magnum P.I., MacGyver, AirWolf, The A Team, Rip Tide. These shows also had the common elements of crime, murders, mysteries, adventure and intrigue but they had a major difference in that they were headlined by men. Admittedly there was Murder She Wrote which was headlined by a woman but as much as I love Angela Lansbury, she was hardly going to be chasing down any criminals in an alleyway.

I shared with you, in a blog post last week, that I would have loved to have been an FBI agent. I guess this is one of the reasons I watch the television shows I do. I also love reading these types of stories. Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series, Kathy Reichs’s Temperance Brennan series and James Patterson’s Murder Women’s Club are all favourites of mine. The women in these stories and in these television shows are feminine, intelligent, strong, independent, tough, take-no-nonsense kind of gals.

Kick-ass heroines are also a reason why I do not read romances or watch romances or write romances. I have nothing against romance but I have a big problem with the so-called “heroines” of the traditional romance. In my opinion there is hardly anything about them that can be called heroic. These women are characters who traditionally need a man to fix all their problems, to give them happiness and to show them the way. As a woman I am really annoyed by this completely false and outdated view of women. But this post is not about romances and the romance genre and again each to their own. Those genres have their fans but I am not among them.

Back to my favourite kick-ass heroines…

Not only are these headline characters strong women but the shows have great plot-lines. In particular, Missing is a show full of twists and turns, cliffhangers, lies and secrets: after all what else would a show about the CIA be other than this. But the real winning element of this show for me is the main character played by Ashley Judd. Her emotion and her adrenaline keep me on tenterhooks each week. For those who are unfamiliar with the show, it follows the story of a mother (Ashley Judd), who just happens to be a retired CIA agent, who is looking for her son who has gone missing. Each episode opens up a little more of her back story while also giving the viewer more questions. Each episode also takes us to a new destination in Europe as she is on the run both being helped (at times) by the CIA and more often than not being hindered by them. But nothing will stop her looking for her son and finding him. You know she will not rest until she has found him. What more womanly trait could you find then a mother who will not give up searching for her son and making sure he is safe? But this mother is no housewife. She is a tough, no-holds-barred, trained government agent who ends up getting in more skirmishes than the average mom would be.

As a woman first and a writer second it is so refreshing to watch, read and then to write about stories where the heroine is the one fixing her own world, solving crimes and mysteries and still having to navigate being a woman in a “man’s world”. These women are not given any special privileges because of their gender and if anything have to work harder, be tougher, and prove themselves more to be respected in their roles. They still fall in love, are still emotional and feminine and still feel conflicted about having to walk the tight rope between being a woman and being a woman in a “man’s world”. This is what draws me to their stories. I find they are more complicated, face more challenges and are more conflicted then men in those same roles are. They bring an emotional angle to stories that traditionally shy away from emotion. The best thing is that there will be even more stories to watch, to read and to write about Kick-ass heroines and that makes my day.

This keeps me inspired to write the stories I do. As a woman I want adventure, thrills, chills and spicy romance. Now we aren’t just the swooning young girl or the calculating older woman, we are the kick-ass heroines fixing our own problems and standing on our own feet. No longer are we the Bond girls. We are now Bond! No more Superman needed because we can be Lara Croft.

(Aside: I am also thrilled that for the first time ever, this year’s Olympics was a triumph for women when every single country that took part had at least one woman athlete competing for her place in Olympic history.)

Tell me… Who is your favourite kick-ass heroine?

What do you enjoy about series (television and/or literature) with women lead characters?

A Tendency to Obsess…

I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent; curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas.”                           – Albert Einstein

Is obsession a bad thing? Sometimes it can be especially if your obsession is a person. But for most careers and most dreams obsession *in a particular field/set of skills* is not only healthy but necessary for success. I – like so much of the world – have been caught up in the Olympics over the last few weeks. With 9 dedicated channels to 24/7 Olympic coverage on the television, there is always some event to watch or some interview with an athlete. These Olympian athletes are prime examples of Obsession being a necessary boost to fulfilling their ultimate dream of besting their personal best times and ultimately standing on the podium accepting a medal.

Growing up I was fascinated by the law, science and journalism. I chose my high school subjects with that focus in mind. It was a toss-up between being a criminal prosecutor, a pathologist, a criminal psychologist or a National Geographic journalist or a war journalist. I was also enamoured *and still am* with the FBI and MI6. Unfortunately though geography did not favour me here.

“A writer is someone who writes, that’s all. You can’t stop it; you can’t make yourself do anything else but that.” Gore Vidal (Writer)

Life had another route for me though, one that would lead me to the truest path for me and that is writing. If I had pursued any of those adolescent dream careers I might have come to the writing path much later. I am certain no matter what route I chose it would have eventually lead me to writing. But for now I am really glad that due to life circumstances I did not pursue any of those careers.

obsession |əbˈseSHən| noun the state of being obsessed with someone or something: she cared for him with a devotion bordering on obsession.• an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind: he was in the grip of an obsession he was powerless to resist. DERIVATIVES obsessional |-SHənl|adjective,obsessionally |-SHənl-ē|adverbORIGIN early 16th cent. (in the sense ‘siege’): from Latin obsessio(n-), from the verb obsidere (see obsess) .*Dictionary Definition*

I am a 100% all or nothing type of person. When I put my mind to something I put it in 100% effort and everything else falls to the wayside. I also have a perfectionist gene inherited from my German mother that won’t allow me to be anything than the best or put any less than 100% effort in. Which is why I am glad I did not pursue those early dream careers. I would have thrown myself headfirst into them and writing would have fallen to the side.

The creative habit is like a drug. The particular obsession changes, but the excitement, the thrill of your creation lasts.” – Henry Moore (Sculptor)

But my dogged determination, my stubborn perfectionism and a tendency to obsess serve me perfectly in Writing. As a writer my characters have their own careers, their own obsessions that have to come across as authentic. So here is where my leaning towards the law, justice, science and journalism can be played out on the page.

I’ve been called many names like perfectionist, difficult and obsessive. I think it takes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good.” – Barbara Streisand (Actress)

One of my favourite parts of a new story, any story, is the research. To come off as authentic your plot, your setting and your characters have to be obsessively researched. Once you have come up with the idea then the FUN part begins. You get to throw yourself into a hunt for information of all kinds.

“If you don’t have obsessions, don’t write. My characters are obsessed.” – Marguerite Young

My current WIP deals with serial killers, psychics, tattooists and the FBI. So to get my facts correct I must study up on everything I can to get the characters right and to come up with an authentic plot. The internet is fantastic for the modern-day writer. Now with a tap of a button I can research millions of articles related to the subjects contained in my WIP. I can connect with experts in these fields through their online presence by following their blogs, emailing them pertinent questions and picking their brains on likely hypotheticals.

What moves those of genius, what inspires their work is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.” – Eugene Delacroix (Painter)

Even though I am writing fiction, I still have to get the facts straight. If I don’t, the errors will be picked up by readers. The worst thing for a writer is to come across as inauthentic. So for this WIP a tendency to obsess combined with an adolescent fascination of criminal law and justice gets to play out in my research. This means I am in my element. For the time that I write in the Voice of my characters I get to see the world and the story through their POV. I get to “be” a criminal profiler much like the actors on shows like CRIMINAL MINDS (One of my television obsessions.) have to step into the shoes of criminal profilers. I also get to understand the alternative world of the tattooists and psychics.

The trade of authorship is a violent, and indestructible obsession.” – George Sand (Writer)

So even though I did not become a criminal prosecutor, a criminal psychologist, a pathologist, a National Geographic journalist or a war journalist…I get to “be” all these for a time period in my stories and through my characters. I get to write about people in these fields and for as long as I crank out the words in the drafts I get to “be” these people. I get to rub shoulders with the experts who are willing to assist me.

“You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed.” – John Irving (Novelist)

Yes, a tendency to obsess over the details and the facts and to walk in your characters’ shoes/inhabit their lives is necessary to write authentic fiction. I know I am a writer because even in life’s worst circumstances in real life I am spinning these seeds into story ideas. I hear things, see things, experience things and my itch to get it into a story is nothing if obsessive. It is true what they say, be careful what you tell a writer…you may read about it in one of their stories. Writers are the obsessive magpies of the world always on the hunt for that shiny new idea.

What are your obsessions?

If you could have your life over, what dream career would you have?

As a reader, have you come across glaring errors in stories that have had you questioning the author?

As a writer, what has been your favourite subject to research and obsess over?

The hot fresh smell of Home-Made Bread…

Free Stock Photos - Bread
© Photographer Anatoliy Babiychuk | Agency: Dreamstime.com

Mmmmh…There is nothing like the smell of hot, home-made bread, fresh from the oven. I wish the internet/WordPress could figure out how to embed scents into blog posts but since I know you have a great imagination…Close your eyes and picture/smell bread fresh out of the oven.

Bread is a world-wide symbol of nourishment. In my own home, I have many fond memories of my mother baking homemade German bread *recipe passed down through the generations* and the amazing smell wafting through the house, guaranteed to pull all of the family to the kitchen.

So…what does this have to do with writing? Well, bread has to have one key ingredient to give it that rise and that ingredient is yeast. Much like a story has to start with a kernel of an idea. A question of what-if? A character with such a compelling story that you have to be the one to write their story. A setting that teases your imagination. Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Secrets. All of these are the yeast to a writer’s baking.

Home-made bread is the symbol for my month of August.

July was a wash-out for me as personal issues pushed writing to the background and at times I felt like I was a wheat kernel on the threshing floor waiting for the harvester to scoop me up. But sometimes we don’t or can’t control our external lives and we just have to keep our head above water and keep swimming.

The good thing about real life dramas is that we can use them for fodder in our stories. I don’t mean writing a tell-all or fictionally “killing off” your most troublesome relatives. *Even though it is incredibly tempting to do both.* No, you can use the emotions – both high and low – to bring depth to your fiction. Going back to my bread analogy: Baking bread is tough on the muscles. You need to knead away any imperfections and to continue until you get the perfect consistency. Then you need to have a hot oven or hot fire to bake the bread. In just the same way the fire of real life dramas can help you bake a story that is rich and layered. For this writer, writing is both my therapy and my sanity. It is the best place I know to throw excess emotions leaking out from real life dramas…

So this August I am going to be baking my bread and watch it rise into a hot, fresh and new manuscript. (Genre: Paranormal Psychological Thriller) I already have all the ingredients mixed in especially the yeast of a sparkling idea, now I just need to pop it in the oven and see what rises. Hopefully what comes out of my efforts is hot, fresh and delicious. I am really excited about this new WIP and have been itching to get to work on it. The main character is already a favourite of mine: She is complicated and strong-willed but she has a secret she can’t tell anyone because if she does they may just lock her away in a padded cell. But keeping this secret makes her the #1 suspect on investigator’s lists which leads her into a whole world of trouble. Watch this space and I may drop a few more breadcrumbs about her story.

I have a ^word count goal all set in Scrivener^ for the whole month and broken down into the individual word counts for each day. I have a plotted out first draft, character profiles and backstories. I am ready to make this the month of the WIP.

(Aside: ^^ = To edit and utilise Project Targets in your Scrivener project. See below.)

On your Scrivener Menu – Go to Project, Then Show Project Targets

There you can edit either a session goal (words/pages/chapters) and/or a project goal. You can also add in a deadline date as well as mark what days you will be writing on. Then Scrivener will calculate it all together for you and give you a daily total of words/pages/chapters needed to reach either/both the session and the project goal. *This instruction is for Scrivener Version 2.3 for Mac*

What are your goals for August?

Bread-wise…do you have a favourite bread recipe you would like to share?

Stories: Passports without borders

Stories are passports without borders. Stories are passports without visas. Stories are passports to adventure. Stories are passports into the exotic and the extraordinary. Stories are portal doors into worlds unknown. Stories are magic carpets.

One of the first reasons that made me fall in love with stories is the ability to travel to exotic places, experience exotic cultures all without leaving my chair. I love traveling and often call myself a Gypsy at heart. New places usually mean new people to meet and new adventures to experience. In an unknown place the average and ordinary can suddenly become extraordinary. Having a coffee in my local cafe is very been there, done that. But having a coffee in some little plaza in an Italian village on the Amalfi coast would immediately be extraordinary for me. In the same way, that Italian local may find having coffee in my local cafe an extraordinary event.

For this reason I have always read books that are based in foreign countries and even foreign cultures. I come from South Africa, now live in New Zealand – to me neither of these two places is exotic. They are what I know. They are familiar. But when I have told American friends that I come from South Africa and now live in New Zealand – they are always fascinated. They want to know if I have seen lions in the wild. When I tell them that we had a family of leopard living on one of the farms my father managed, they go: “WOW!”. They want to know all about New Zealand especially since the Lord of the Rings Trilogy that really put NZ on the map. But for me exotic places are in Europe or in Central Africa/Northern Africa or the Amazon in South America. But I doubt those same locals who live in these areas think that they live in an exotic locale.

That is the joy of reading stories and in my case going one step further and creating your own stories. I love writing about places I have not been because I find often what may be fairly ordinary to the locals there becomes extraordinary and special in my fresh eyes. One of my favourite pastimes is searching for fresh inspiration for not just story ideas but setting ideas. Pinterest (new addiction) comes in as a very useful tool in these moments. I also love reading/studying/researching the history of each setting and often finds it seeds an idea in my imagination that I let lie and germinate to see what it could potentially blossom into. Nowadays with the ease of the internet and software like Google Earth/Google Maps your research into a place can become acutely accurate down to the street names and the name of that cafe on the corner in that Italian village on the Italian Amalfi Coast.

But at the end of the day the best research you can do when checking out a setting in an exotic locale (if traveling there is absolutely ruled out) is to talk to the locals on the internet. In this day and age there is an internet group for just about everything and there are blogs for just about every type of subject. So I trawl the blogosphere and see if there are any local-specialised blogs devoted to the locale I want to set my story in. Setting is so much more than just a geographic location or street names. Setting is also about the quirks that make that place unique. Is there a particular smell? Smell is a big one. For instance when I smell oranges and lemons I immediately think of Athens, Greece. One of the strongest memories of my time spent there 12 years ago was the tree-lined streets with trees heavy with oranges and lemons. So the smell of oranges and lemons now sums up Athens for me. Location bloggers will give away a lot of these type of tidbits in their blog posts. And most people are always flattered when you tell them you want to learn more about their home because you find it fascinating.

So while I have begun writing on my next project I have been trawling the internet for setting ideas. So I will leave you with some images from my Pinterest board. Some of them are definite settings in my story and some of just teasing seeds of inspiration right now…Mum’s the word (for now) on which settings I am actually going to be using in both the current WIP and upcoming ones. Perhaps you can guess which settings I have chosen.

Perhaps you have been to these places or live there. I would love to know at least 2 quirks that I could not find out from the internet that is unique to each place. Leave me a comment in the comments.

Tell me>> What exotic places would you like a story to be set in? What places grab your imagination?

Source: weburbanist.com via Kim on Pinterest (Abandoned mountain town in Sardinia, Italy)

Source: worldtopjourneys.com via Kim on Pinterest (Manarolo, Cinque Terre, Italy)

Source: toptenz.net via Kim on Pinterest (The City of the Caesars, Patagonia, South America)

Source: underthesunexperience.blogspot.co.nz via Kim on Pinterest (Carcassonne, Languedoc Roussillon, France)

Source: earmchairtraveler.blogspot.com via Kim on Pinterest (Meteora, Greece)

Source: accommodation-bol.com via Kim on Pinterest (Dubrovnik, Croatia)

Source: une-deuxsenses.blogspot.com via Kim on Pinterest (Swallow’s Nest, Crimea)

Source: toptenz.net via Kim on Pinterest (Angkor-Wat, Cambodia)

Source: weburbanist.com via Kim on Pinterest (Gunkanjima, Japan – “Ghost Island”)

Source: roman-empire.net via Kim on Pinterest (Herculaneum, Italy)

All imaged embedded via My Pinterest boards – Feel free to follow me there…