Category Archives: Short Story

Shana Rae’s Challenge

I was looking at Shana Rae’s Blog earlier on: Shana Rae’s Books, and she wrote a challenge to her readers: To look at two pictures, and see what we could come up with from them.
I normally get my inspiration by just typing whatever comes into my mind – a sort-of stream-of-conscience writing, where odd ideas will pop into my mind as I write, but I have occasionally used pictures, mostly when I write poetry, so I thought I’d give it a go to write a very short story 🙂

 

Room 02

A breath of wind stirred the layers of dust as the door reluctantly opened. The squeal of  the hinges showed the years of neglect, and it seemed to Laura as if there were a miasma of gloom darkening a room that, in other circumstances, and long ago, had once been bright with lights and merriment.

As she looked around the ruins of her past, she sighed in despair, not knowing where to start first. The once loved glass-fronted cupboards, that had held the history of her family, were now gaping wide, some of them bereft of glass, and all of them covered with the neglect of ages. It seemed that people had sheltered in the house, and they had cared nothing for what the room had once been. She saw that some of the frames had been broken to use as kindling in the large stone fireplace that, in wintertime, had constantly held the warmth and light needed to chase away the cold.

Laura slowly walked into the room, and gingerly perched on a chair left abandoned in the middle of the room. It sat besides a round table, that held a few of the books that had been taken from the cupboards – at least these hadn’t been used for keeping a fire going, nor left strewn across the floor like the detritus of the ages!

Laura looked at the books, and realised that they were actually some of her favourite ones from childhood. The fairy tales written in them had been read to her by her parents at bedtime – a much-loved action that immediately brought back to her the sound of their voices, the laughter as her father deliberately changed the stories to suit them to her own wishes. She remembered those times, when her little family had spent long winter evenings  in front of the fire and, at Christmas, when the tree glittered with decorations, and piles of presents sat expectantly under it, just waiting for Christmas morning when they would all open just one present each, until her grandparents arrived for dinner. She remembered how even her grandparents would pile into the presents, excited as children themselves…….

Room 01

But those times were dead and gone, and Laura knew they would never come back again. She put down the book she had been holding while her memories played back to her, and sighed a weary sigh. She knew she had a lot to sort out if the house was to be made saleable, and sitting, thinking of a past long dead and buried, wasn’t helping it get done.

Brushing the dust from the book from her hands, Laura stood up again, and with a determined stride, she walked out of the room, ready to get the cleaning things needed to sort out those dusty old memories.

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Filed under Celebrations, Childhood, Choices, Family, History, Memories, Short Story

The good news and the bad news . . .

My good news is that, as of yesterday, I have passed A363, Advanced Creative Writing, which also means that I’m now the proud owner of a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing. ;~))
I got a Grade 2 pass which was, frankly, a huge surprise for me – so I’m well delighted at the result!
I only learned that the results were in, because a couple of my fellow students posted on Facebook that they had passed, so I, figuratively, hot-footed it to the Open University site, and signed in to see how I did 🙂
I got 77%, which amazed me, considering how ill I’d been throughout the whole course, so I’m just so grateful to whoever the kind person was who marked my ECA, and who must have given me the benefit of the doubt {grin}


My bad news, is that I got a letter in the post yesterday, and I hadn’t even been placed in ‘The 4th Annual Ted Walters International Short Story, Poetry and Playwriting Competition 2010’ 😦
I had entered my very first attempt at a sci-fi story, so I guess I wasn’t surprised at the result, especially considering that the competition came from a Merseyside Creative Writing group, with the help and full support of the University of Liverpool’s Continuing Education Centre.
Still, it’s a learning curve that every writer has to go through, I guess :/


As I didn’t get anywhere, I’ve decided to post my story on my Blog, and would be grateful for any critique that may be offered on my efforts. It’s the only way I’m going to learn what I’m doing wrong, I guess. 🙂


Anyway, here it is below. It’s 2,000 words long, and it’s called:


And There Is A Right Way (c)


As the stark, white sun sank beyond the horizon, Zed placed the burning torch into the Ptwarin in front of him. For a second nothing happened; the only sound was the wind whipping the flames, sending sparks flying in the air to dance briefly in a firefly waltz. Zella quietly intoned the requiem, as was her role in this passing of a mate and, in the next instant, flames flared brightly and the wood, stacked neatly in the sacred pattern of the cremation pyre, caught and quickly spread to envelop the tightly wrapped form of Zarn.

            Zed stood back, placing the torch in the waiting holder. He turned to face west, and saw a flare, an after-image of coruscating green, where a shard of light from the setting sun reflected back from the clouds. He knew this was a sign of their mate’s soul reaching the Place of the Gods, and he felt a deep happiness that Zarn would be there, waiting patiently for them to join him, when their turn came.
            Zella finished intoning the requiem, and then joined Zed. She stared at him for a second, and bowed.
‘You did well, Zed.’
Her thoughts came clearly to him, and Zed felt relief that she approved of his actions.
He bowed in return, feeling that deep, mutual sadness at their loss.
‘Your actions will speak well of you when Zarn reaches The Place of the Gods,’ Zella continued. ‘He will tell the Gods of our faith in them. It will mean much when it is our turn to journey there.’
‘I only did what I should to make his passing as quick, and painless, as possible.’ Zed responded. ‘It was as I should do for a mate, just as tradition demanded of me at this time of death-dealing.’
            Zed remembered how he had used his paddle claw to quickly chop at the exposed section of Zarn’s neck, where the chitin was segmented for ease of movement. He had made sure that it was done at exactly the right moment, so that Zarn would know nothing of it. As he remembered, he felt the soft touch in his mind that indicated Zella’s sharing of his memory, and he was content. This death-dealing, when a mate became too crippled to continue in a traditional role, was the only way that made any sense to them, and they knew they had done as they should.
Now Zarn should be almost in the presence of the Gods, transfigured at his death back to the vigorous being he had once been; this, so he could serve the Gods in whichever capacity they chose. This comforted the two remaining mates. They knew the time might soon come when it was their turn to join him, especially with the present war against the strange, bipedal race, that were trying to take over their planet; a race that seemed to have a never-ending supply of soldiers to keep on fighting.
Zed found it hard to imagine that anything could be so aggressive as to annihilate his people, just to have the land that they lived on – a mistake they had quickly realised, and tried to rectify. But this bipedal race seemed determined to capture his planet, and kill every living triad it could find – even the young brood that were totally defenceless against this aggression! Zed was only grateful that there had been a break in the fighting, so that they could arrange for the correct death-dealing for Zarn.
They had fought hard, struggling to keep their sector free of the bipeds, but not having much success against the strange machines that the bipeds carried, which gave out great surges of light, that burnt to a cinder any organic matter that it touched. It had been one of these machines that had crippled Zarn. They knew that the struggle was nearly over, and they had both known it was the right time to do what was necessary to ease Zarn on his way.
            As they watched, the pyre slowly burnt down, until only ashes remained. Zed and Zella waited patiently and, as soon as the ashes were cool enough to handle, gathered them into the beautifully carved wooden box waiting nearby in its special niche. With solemn steps, and respectful silence, they made their way along from the headlands, scrambling deftly down the steep cliff, until they reached the promontory that led out for a distance into the sea.
When they reached the furthest point, where there was nothing else but the water almost entirely circling them, they continued their task with all the solemnity it deserved.
‘Zed, would you start the scattering?’
Zella’s question came quietly, and Zed turned to her in some surprise, knowing that their tradition dictate that she start the ceremony.
‘Are you sure, Zella? Wouldn’t you prefer to do as is usual?’
 ‘I’m sure, Zed. This honour should be yours. After all, you were the one to ease Zarn’s passing.’
Zed responded with a bow to her, and took the first claw-full of ash from the box, scattering it into the sea. Zella took the next and, with each dispersal of ash, intoned the many deeds of Zarn, making sure his war deeds were recounted, so that the Gods would know how brave a servant they were getting. They sang the songs created for him, after his bravery in rescuing a young brood of larvae that had been attacked by a rogue trio of Larns, two seasons ago. It was an injury caused by this rescue that had slowed Zarn down, and so enabled the bipeds to catch him with their light beams the previous day.
            Just as the last claw-full of ash was spread, they looked eastwards, and saw the sun beginning to rise once more. They had timed it perfectly. They looked at each other in the quickly growing light of the hot, white sun, and the nictating membranes that served to protect their eyes in this bright-lit world automatically slid down. With a last look out over the sea, they turned, their segmented bodies almost forming a circle as they did, then they stepped back along the promontory and upwards, using their powerful back legs to push up the steep cliff, and back to the headlands again.
Zella carried the emptied box in her central arms, using the front set to clamber over the rim of the cliff. She stood for a moment, staring back to the place where the ashes were now just part of the heaving green of the ocean, and then she turned once more, and walked back to the site of the pyre. With a dignity that Zed quietly admired, she set the box back in its place, ready for the next cremation. As one, they stepped back from the area, heads bowed, the rapid nictating of their eye screens showing the correct form of sorrow.
 Quietly, they turned, and began to walk along the path that led away from the site. The light was swiftly becoming almost unbearable, with the eye movements necessary until they made their way to the living-cave.  Without the warmth and humour of their mate, it would now seem a darker, and more solemn, place to be. But they arrived at last, grateful for the dim coolness it afforded them. They immediately started clearing out everything that had belonged to Zarn, carefully placing all of Zarn’s body trinkets outside the entrance to the cave, displaying them on a large, flat rock, so that all could see what was there. This was now the time that any passing Larn could look at what was offered and, if they liked a certain piece, could take it. None of these could be kept by his mates, as it might create a link that would draw him back away from the Gods, so close was their partnership. Zed and Zella watched from the mouth of the cave as his possessions were slowly but surely claimed by those living around them.
Night was once again nearing by the time the last object was taken from the stone, and Zed breathed a sigh of relief that everything had found acceptance with their neighbours. It would have been ill luck to have anything left behind. They retreated back into the cave, slowly cleaning any last vestige of Zarn’s occupancy, both still silent, as tradition demanded. With so little energy left, neither of them felt much like eating, but they did so quickly, knowing what was to come. They then settled into their respective nests, grabbing sleep while they had the chance.
Bright morning light flooded the mouth of the cave, and they woke with a sense of dread, knowing that the war against the bipeds was imminent once more.
‘Can you smell it?’
Zella’s though came slowly into Zed’s mind, and he turned to her, rubbing his mandibles against hers, in a reassuring manner.
‘Yes, but they are still far enough away that we can do what we must.’
Zed tried to keep his thought-tones light, despite his own doubts. A smell on the breeze came clearly into their cave; a sharp, actinic smell, which the biped’s light burners exuded. Zed knew that they were nearing the cave complex and Zella, realising just how near, quickly started to prepare their defences. She rapidly ate the store of fat-rich Klettl they had put aside for this very purpose and, within moments, she felt the spinning bulb beneath her abdomen start to swell. With no time to spare, she immediately went to the cave opening, turned around and, with a careful side-to-side movement, started to exude a fine spray of liquid from the bulb.
As it hit the air, the liquid started to solidify then, as it touched the ground and sides of the cave mouth, it formed a fine, breathable, mesh. Zella angled her body so that she covered all of the entrance, and then started once again from the base, until a thick, rigid wall had formed, creating a barrier as strong as the stone around them. As soon as she completed it, Zed came forward, and began to regurgitate a liquid from his second stomach, which he spread into the mesh using his paddle claw. Once covered, the liquid dried into an almost diamond-hard consistency and, having left a small section above uncoated for air-flow, they felt satisfaction in knowing that the entrance looked like part of the natural stone surroundings. Now it was time to wait.
Waiting was all that Zed and Zella could do, and they knew that their neighbours would be doing as they were. They didn’t question the instructions their leaders had given them two nights previously, but they did wonder why they had been told to prepare for metamorphosis at this time. Zed suspected that this was the only way they could ensure the survival of their species, and that, by hiding away in their chrysalis forms, and adjusting the chemical balance to slow down the process of change, their race might, just, survive this initial invasion, and be able to continue their eons-old cycle further along in time.
So Zed and Zella did as instructed, knowing they were doing as tradition dictated and, as soon as the entrance was hardened, they attached themselves to the extrusions on the ceiling that had been prepared when they first came to the cave.
‘Until awakening!’
Zed sent this anticipating thought to Zella, hoping it would raise her spirits at what they feared was ahead of them. Zella looked over at Zed, almost amused at the unusual sight of her mate hanging upside down.
‘Yes, I look forward to that day!’
With that thought, they immediately began to spin the threads necessary to form the chrysalis that would protect them through their long change.
Soon there was silence in the cave, with only a few intermittent movements of the chrysalides hanging from the ceiling to disturb the cool darkness.
Then all was still.  

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And the wait goes on . . .

It’s only been a couple of weeks since I sent off my ECA, with an August deadline for my results, and I’m already impatient to start my new course {g}

I must admit that I’m always happier with a structured way of life, which is something I get when following a course. I like to know exactly where I am in my chosen job of work, so-to-speak, and I’m missing this with no deadlines to meet 😦

I admit to trying out a schedule of my own, but I can never kid myself that the world will stop if I don’t get ‘X or Y’ done, and so things fall by the wayside as I get distracted, with the countless things that come along as I try to write my daily ‘bit’.

I confess to feeling ever so slightly nervous at the thought of a completed degree, and I’m not sure what I’ll be doing to replace my constant studying once I achieve it. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to afford to at least do a 10-pointer each year, so that I don’t lose the impetus of studying.
There are a lot of science starters I’d like to try, especially as science subjects are well out of my comfort zone, so I’ll need to be on the ball to keep up with them 🙂

Another thing happening at the beginning of August, is the results of a short-story competition I entered a few months back. I had written my first-ever science fiction story, and it was the right length for entering, and so I did so.
I don’t know how it will go, but I do hope it’s at least enjoyed, as I had a favourable feedback for it during my A363 course, which is what I had written it for.

I’ve been reading science fiction since I turned 10, when I came across my very first Isaac Asimov book, and couldn’t put it down 🙂 I’ve progressed to reading a mix of Sci-fi and fantasy stuff now, but will never foget the thrill of my first book, I, Robot, still one of my favourites today 🙂

On that note, I guess I’d better get back to my daily dose of writing nonsense – and waiting for my course results . . .

}:{

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I’ve heard back from the sci-fi mag . . .

I received an email from Neo-opsis, the magazine I had sent my first grown-up sci-fi story to and, as I had mostly expected, they didn’t want it.

The reasons, to my relief, weren’t that it was absolutely awful but, as the very kind editor explained, she:

‘got the feeling that the story wasn’t over, that And There is a Right Way was only a small part of a much larger story, and [she] felt somewhat cheated with the way the story ended. Other publishers may not feel the same way. They will love the story just as it is written.’

So, along with the disappointment, there was also much encouragement to persevere with this!

What I’m going to have to do, is decide whether to contact the list of publishers she, very kindly, gave me, or whether to work more at the story, and maybe develop it more fully than it is, especially after she indicated that it felt only part of a larger whole . . .

I guess this is something I should sleep on, and decide after I see if I’m capable of developing it further.

I see that tommorrow will find me looking at the various publishers I was given, to see if my work is suitable ‘as is’ and, if not, a thorough examination of my work so far seems the next step.

Ah well, I never expected the life of a writer to be easy so, ‘on, on,’ as they say! Lol
.

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Filed under Changes, Competitions, Short Story

With nothing to do . . .

It is feeling really strange, not having a deadline to get something written down.

Towards the end of my course, ill health had dogged me, and it took me everything I had to keep going, and to get that final TMA, and then the ECA, written and sent off. But, now it’s all done, I feel quite empty, and am already looking forward to the beginning of A363 in October!
I received my registration papers today for this, have signed them, and will post them forthwith on monday, so at least I know my place is guaranteed now.

To keep myself involved, and as busy as I can be at the moment, I decided to do the rewriting on my ‘And There Is A Right Way’ story, adding the dialogue that my tutor felt it needed to be complete and, now I’ve done so, I see exactly what she meant – it brought a good story alive, and I’m so pleased she pointed it out to me.
I finished editing it for any mistakes and tweaks it might need, at silly-O’Clock in the morning, this morning and, rather than pick, pick, pick at it, until it is changed beyond recognition, I bit the bullet, and sent it off as a submission to a magazine that was asking for short stories of a sci-fi/fantasy genre.
Now I do what all prospective writers do, and wait to see if it’s acceptable! Lol.

I also received a letter in the post this morning (saturday), asking me to submit my ‘On The Trapeze’ poem for an anthology. I won’t be paid for it, but then, neither do I have to pay, so I decided to go ahead, especially as I keep the copywrite for it and, you never know, someone might read it, and be interested in all the other stuff I’ve written over the years! (We can all dream, can’t we?) Lol
This will be my sixth poem to be published in an anthology, and I guess my ultimate dream, would be to have an anthology all to myself – just me!

And, in the meantime, I shall do as was recommended in the BRB, and just keep on writing every day so that, hopefully, by the time I start my new course, there will be plenty of ideas written in my notebook!



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Filed under Changes, Exams, Health Issues, Poetry, Short Story, TMA's, Writing

My 05 results are in!

My results for my TMA 05 came in today, and it was with some trepadation that I went to extract them.

I had written my very first sci-fi story, a bit of a risk, but it was a story that needed telling, as it had been buzzing insistently in my head, ever since I had written the outline for it in activities 11.3 & 11.4.

I extracted my results, and opened them, silently breathing a prayer that it wouldn’t have too low a mark then, much to my amazement, I saw that I had received 86% as my mark!

I confess that I double-checked that it was actually my story written there – but there was no mistaking it, and I sat for a second, mouth agape in shock, before letting out a relieved whoop!
My husband came rushing into the room, and once glance at my madly grinning face showed him that it was good news, and he was delighted for me that I’d got such a mark, although I don’t think it touched how I felt! Lol

There were a couple of glitches with my story: I had let slip the indents needed for each new paragraph, something I’m amazed I didn’t notice in my final check-up. And I hadn’t used any dialogue in the story, which my tutor felt made it a little dense in places.

I’ll have to work on that for the competition I’m planning on sending the story to, now that I know it was liked by my tutor.

I did have other favourable responses to it from friends and family before I had sent it off, but I had trusted my tutor to give me an unbiased view on it and, as she wished me luck with the competition in her notes to me, I’m taking it that, with that little addition of dialogue, she feels it’s professional enough to submit – so hold this space, folks, and I’ll let you know in August if I get anywhere with it! Lol


Now that my final TMA is back with me, all I have to wait on is the results of my ECA, which will also let me know on what level I have passed the course entirely.

So now the waiting commences . . .

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Filed under Celebrations, Short Story, TMA's