In other news

August 30, 2010

On Saturday I was invited to facilitate a “Writing for Pleasure” session at the Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre, in Joondalup – a northern suburb of Perth.

I got to set an exercise, listen to the previous week’s homework and set the current lot of homework.

I was drunk with power.

And I really enjoyed it. The workshop, not the power.

It is fun to be surrounded by people who want to write, and so much quality work was written and read on the day that I would happily recommend the PCWC to you all. They’re a great group of people, and the Saturday workshops – if last Saturday was anything to go by – could prove incredibly useful to your writing!

Disclaimer: probably not so useful if you don’t live in Perth.

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First Place – Amber Hunter

August 21, 2010

The Hammer’s Fall

By Amber Hunter

Emilie squirmed under the tight grip that the older woman had on her shoulders.  Her face, pale as the moon and streaked with dirt and tears, tilted up to look her captor in the eyes.

The hammer fell again.

Emilie’s eyes shot forward at the sound; her body tensed.  The hands on her shoulders tightened their grip as the older woman leaned down to whisper in her ear.

“Child will stay with Mouma.  You will see.”

“I’m frightened.”  Emilie’s lower lip trembled and tears pooled in her silver eyes.

“I know, child.  Mouma is frightened, too.”  Mouma stroked Emilie’s hair.

The crowd before them began to shuffle forward again.  Mouma released her grip on Emilie’s tiny shoulders to give her a gentle nudge.  The crowd behind them swelled to fill the position that the pair had occupied the moment before.

Mouma’s wrinkled hands settled back into position on Emilie’s shoulders as the girl leaned back into her.  Emilie took the opportunity to stretch her cramped legs, one after the other, pointing her toes like a tattered ballerina.  A soft rustling sound distracted her from the pain in her legs.

Emilie twisted from Mouma’s grip to stare at a man standing next to them.  His face was thin like all the others and his eyes bulged from sunken sockets.  Stubble shadowed his cheeks and his hair was thick with dust and and body oil.  He reeked of desperation like all the others, sweet with stomach acid and sour with urine.  But this man carried a more tantalizing scent with him that the others did not; a smell so faint that only a child could have detected it.  Emilie watched with hungry eyes as he lifted something concealed in his palm from his jacket pocket to his mouth.

Emilie tugged on a corner of his jacket and pleaded with the man with her eyes.  He glanced down at Emilie, batted her hand away and stole another bite of the substance hidden in his jacket pocket.

“Just share a little,” She whispered, her voice rising to a whine. Emilie began tugging harder on the man’s jacket to get his attention.  The man grunted and spun away from her, but Emilie’s grip was firm.  The pocket of his jacket ripped open, sending bits of stone cold meat and maggoty bread skittering onto the warehouse floor.

Emilie dropped to her knees.  She plucked up bits of the fallen feast, and one hand after the other began stuffing them into her mouth.  If she noticed the extra bits of protein wriggling around in the bread, she didn’t seem to care.  Something was filling her hollow belly.

The man’s hand tried to snake back into his torn pocket to steal another bite, but his questing fingers connected with nothing but air.  He snapped his head around and saw Emilie on the floor, inhaling the precious bits of food.

“Little bitch!”  He snarled as he struck the girl on the crown of her head.

Emilie shielded her head with her arms as the blows continued to fall.  She huddled back against Mouma’s legs, seeking her protection.  “Mouma!” she wailed.

“Child, what…”  Mouma stopped.  Her face flushed with fear.  She pushed the man back into the press of bodies with the full force of her bulk, and then scooped the child up into her arms.

Emilie watched in dazed silence over Mouma’s shoulder as she pressed forward into the crowd.  Blood trickled like red tears over her ashen cheek, skin split from the beating the man had given her.  Then man shook his raised fist at her and a string of four letter expletives erupted from his angry mouth.  Others in the crowd began to perk up and take notice, drawn by the jostling and the noise.  Emelie saw the man kneel down, never to rise again, as those nearest fell upon him.

The crowd of once men transformed by hunger into an unrecognizable mass of flailing limbs as each tried to get his portion.  The dull thuds of fists and feet connecting with flesh echoed in Emilie’s ears, audible even over the din of angry voices and screams of the dying.

Mouma kept pressing forward with Emilie in her arms as guards in riot gear, faceguards black and shining like the carapaces of beetles, began to pour into the crowd behind her.  Heavy black batons fell amongst the crowd without discrimination, and raised slickly painted in red.

The hammer fell again.

The sound ricocheted through the building like the blast of a gun.  The throng of hungry men and women quieted and the guards paused with their batons paused in mid-air.  All eyes focused front and center, facing the platform each knew lay before him in his turn.

Amber is a professional writer who writes content for businesses. She blogs over at Webliterate. Check it out to get some great tips to improve your writing!


Second Place – Annette Ong

August 21, 2010

Lunar Phase

By Annette Ong

Clouded by disbelief, he follows close behind. He had to see it with his own eyes.

The flame wavers; casts dancing shadows on the limestone corridor, like spectres they lunge to and fro, diving at each other’s necks.

His breath: irregular, short and urgent. Ascending the stairs, the rush of cool air flows from above, whispers at the nape of his neck, travels down his spine and pimples his skin to gooseflesh. Approaching the attic, he shivers. The Land of the Hidden: where forgotten things go to die.

Silence pervades, as his breath thickens and escalates. Cautiously, he pushes the door further ajar and takes his front row seat at the top of the stairs, sitting with the dying flame at his feet. The stairwell: a bottomless void.

Her dress lies ripped and ribboned at the entrance. Sweat on his brow, breath like lead in his lungs, he waits, watches. Full of fear; for himself, for her.

Her naked ashen body is curled in the foetal position. Her spine protrudes. A ghastly ladder of enlarged vertebrae, straining against skin.  There is nothing of the softness, the sweetness, familiar to him. The moon cut bars of silver light across the floor. It slices through the window and lies in fallen shards around her. She shivers and shakes, quakes from within, begins to claw at her skin, leaving ruby red ribbons of blood on her flesh. She closes in on herself, grasps her knees to her chest. She gasps, takes in air, short and sharp.

He trembles with her. He wants to reach out but fear keeps him on the stairs, a weakening flame the only other witness. She sweats it out, writhes on the floorboards, aware of what’s happening but unable to quell the heat. The Heat. It builds, boils her blood.  She is gripped from every angle. There is no escape, no relief. Just scorching Heat, bearing down on her bones, crushing them like chalk. Her body contorts, assailed by invisible phantoms, by unrelenting beasts. They clamp down on her skull, rattle it, ravage it. Her every cell under attack, cowers into submission. Suddenly, she is on hands and knees, her back arched. The floor creaks with the strain of her shape-shifting body. She moves, jerks forwards and sideways to throw her assailants from her frame. She jolts; an electric current coursing through her animal veins. Covered in sweat, a fever grips her, throttles her. Shuddering, her nerve endings are frayed, shred raw. Synapse collapse.

The smell of blood and musty sweat fill the attic.

The sweat covering her body, melts away, becomes a blanket of downy grey hair. She fails to muffle a growl. She hopes he has not heard but is still soundly sleeping downstairs. She is not afraid. This is her heritage. Her ancestors revived through her convulsing frame. They rush towards life; bound for liberation through transfiguration. Her breath becomes a low, slow rattle emanating from expansive new lungs. She shakes out her mane of soft grey fur. Standing on all fours, she pads, paws softly at the ground. Her tail unfurls beneath her. Finally, relief has come. She stretches in her body, feels the strength in transformed limbs. Blinking icy blue eyes at the moon, she sees as if for the first time. New Sight: lucid, brighter, and potent. Objects around her become sharper; their precise edges slice at the space they inhabit.

She hears a trapped moth beat against the window, eager for freedom. Every beat of its translucent wings reverberates like a thunderclap in her ears. Over and over, it meets its reflection against the glass, leaving a dust outline, evidence of its efforts.

Everywhere, noise clamours to be heard. Every movement, deafening.

Uncomfortably he stirs; slides closer to get a better view.

She peers towards the door. The subtle movement of his body on the staircase: inaudible to mortal ears. To her, it is amplified, akin to the buckling of tectonic plates, shifting, shattering the earth’s surface with a quake.  She knows it is him.

Nudging the window open with her nose, she breathes the night air. Sitting at the ledge, she surveys the land below. This is freedom. She leaps out the window, slips through onto the balcony and charges towards the woods, causing him to push the door open and shout Christine!

Hurrying over to the window, the flame is extinguished. With human eyes, he scans the trees, and sees her in the distance, a darting shape of grey. She turns back, drinks him in with her icy blue eyes. And with a flick of her tail, she’s gone.


Third Place – Ghylene Palmer

August 21, 2010

By Ghylene Palmer

Josie woke up sweaty, sticky and the effects of the hangover hit her the moment she opened her eyes.  Her vision was slightly blurred as she gazed around the dark lit room.  She thought to herself:  “I must be at Harper’s again.  Why do we keep doing this?  Oh wait, this isn’t Harper’s place.”

The slightly confused and dazed Josie glanced to her right and noticed a skinny lanky man’s arm sticking out from under the covers. “Great, who was it this time?  Who did I fuck this time?”  She woozily got up from the bed and headed over to her jeans on the floor. As she slid them up her thighs she thought please please please let there be a condom! She walked over to the skinny man’s side of the bed and saw the used condom in the purple waste paper basket.  Oh Thank Christ!

Heaven knows Jamie Lee doesn’t need a brother or sister.

Oh Lord, where is my daughter? Josie hastily made her way across the room to her floral red blouse and as she started buttoning it up, a stream of memories from the night before began to flood her mind.

Once again she wanted to head out for a night on the town but Jamie

Lee’s daddy, Harper, decided he had better things to do than to look after his two year old daughter on a Saturday night.  Hell Josie wasn’t going to stay home and let Harper have all the fun so she took her baby girl with her as she had done many times.

As she was leaving her apartment to head to the Honka club wearing her favourite red heels and her little blonde haired wonder on her hip, the phone rang.

It was Stacey, her best friend. Stacey, the social butterfly, was having an impromptu party at her house!

Josie was relieved that she would be going to Stacey’s house especially since her studio friends were always great at playing with Jamie Lee, which meant she could relax and flirt. Suddenly filled with glee, she grabbed her handbag as well as her daughter and headed out to catch a cab. During the drive, she remembered that Harper would be there too and she quickly realized this would give her an opportunity to make him jealous.

As soon as she walked through the door, Josie spotted the tall-legged brunette in a mini, smoking a bong with Harper but she was not going to let him affect her tonight. She was going to make him jealous, make him want her. Jamie Lee ran straight to the other kids who were all playing under the table and sharing some brownies.  Stacey would not have put a large amount of marijuana in them; just enough to send the kids to sleep. Josie greeted her bestie who introduced her to a tall lanky bearded guy with smiling eyes. His name was Bill and he was just perfect for her plan.

They drank, they smoked, they talked, they laughed and they listened to the music rolling in the background all the while Josie made sure they were within Harper’s direct line of sight. She saw him make his way to the bathroom and took the opportunity, excused herself and followed him.  From the minute they faced each other in the corridor, the chemistry between them made Josie shiver.  She hated the fact that he had that power over her and she hated it even more that Harper knew this.  She tried to play it cool but as the words “Nice date!” came out of her mouth she knew she had blown all the good work she had done throughout the evening. Back to the drawing board she thought and then he placed his hand on her wrist, stopping her from walking away.

He said: “You look beautiful. I miss you.” Within seconds they were all over each other in the bathroom. They were kissing passionately when Harper pulled away with a smile.  It wasn’t a happy smile; it was that smirk he would get whenever he had full control of her.  It aggravated her so she slapped him and walked away. He knew how mad and frustrated she was and he was satisfied with himself.

Josie came back to tall, lanky guy, sat down on his lap and took a swig out of his bottle of vodka.  Bill unknowingly placed his hand on her thighs and smiled up at her.  Josie just wanted to drink her sadness and frustration away.  She took mouthful after mouthful of straight vodka sitting back on Bill smoking until she would forget about how much she wanted to be with Harper.  She wanted to forget how much she resented him for having gotten her pregnant and yet loved the connection it forced them to have. She also realized she would be miserable if they ever got back together. There and then she wanted to be free of him once and for all and tonight would be the night.

She looked at Harper and his brunette making out in the corner of the room, stood up, turned to Bill and said “Take me to your place.”

Bill, without hesitation, took her drunken shaky hand and followed her out of the room.  As they passed Harper, she clumsily whispered in his ear: “It’s your turn tonight Daddy. Jamie’s asleep under the table. I’m going home with Bill.”

Bill almost had to carry her to his grey VW combi. She was far too drunk to care.


Winners are Grinners: Reverse Inspiration Challenge 2

August 21, 2010

The results for the latest Reverse Inspiration Challenge are in!

The winners are:

1. Amber Hunter

2. Annette Ong

3. Ghylene Palmer

It was really pleasing to see that the two Commended entrants from the first challenge have backed it up and jumped into the placings this time around!

CONGRATULATIONS EVERYONE!

I’d like to send out my thanks to Kylie Ladd, for judging the competition.

I’d also like to thank Kylie, Tehani Wessely of Fablecroft Publishing, and Tansy Rayner Roberts for providing copies or signatures!

Find out more about Kylie Ladd here.

Find out more about Tehani Wessely here, and Fablecroft here.

Find out more about Tansy Rayner Roberts here.


After The Fall by Kylie Ladd

August 18, 2010

Continuing my look at the books available as prizes for the latest Reverse Inspiration Challenge, I now want to review Kylie Ladd’s, After The Fall. I want to review it, but I’m not a reviewer. As I said previously, I want you guys to know what I like about these books.

Building on Naked, a non-fiction collection of infidelity confessions and discussions that she co-edited, Kylie Ladd’s first novel After The Fall follows the lives of two couples as they are thrown together and then torn apart.

There’s lots to like about After The Fall, evidenced by the fact that it has been released in both Australia and the United States.

But what do I like about it? I’m going to put on my writer’s hat and highlight the three points that to me make this a great novel.

1. It is unflinching.

The language and viewpoint are brutally honest. Ladd is on the inside of the situation and comes at it from four different angles. The infidelity is looked at from the cheating partners, the cheated-on partners, and occasionally even their friends. It feels like an anatomy study of infidelity.

2. The structure.

Because we know upfront what is going to happen, all the events retold carry a sense of dread, or anger, or sadness. We aren’t given the luxury of hoping there could be a happy ending. The story is coloured by this knowledge, like a Greek tragedy.

3. The characters.

Each chapter is told from a character’s point of view, and that character is fully inhabited so that we are given full insight into their thoughts, motivations and actions. As Ladd jumps from character to character it allows us to overlay the characters’ points of view over the top of each other, exposing lies, secret motivations, and misunderstandings.

For me it is the strong characterisation that really makes this novel special and allows it to be such a nuanced and brutal evaluation of what happens to these couples. The direct access to each character feels unfiltered and immediate.

I say go grab it! You’re wont be sorry. Kylie Ladd is a clever, poignant, and honest writer who has written a novel that is easy to access but imparts a layered, intelligent story.

Find out all about Kylie here. Well, about her writing at least. Follow her on twitter (@kylie_ladd) to fill in at least some of the rest. You wont be sorry.


We have a Guest Judge!

August 17, 2010

The second Reverse Inspiration Challenge is now over… and we have a judge!

Kylie Ladd, is a renowned author, keen tweeter (you can follow her on Twitter via @kylie_ladd) and has a PhD in neuropsychology. What does that mean? Well, she’s pretty smart. Pretty funny too…

Her proper, grownup bio read like this:

Kylie Ladd is a freelance writer whose essays and articles have appeared in The Age,Griffith ReviewEtchingsO magazineThe Sydney Morning HeraldGood Medicine,Sydney’s Child, and Readers Digest, amongst others. In 2006 she co-authored Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias (Michelle Anderson Publishing), and in 2008 co-edited Naked: Confessions of Adultery and Infidelity (Allen and Unwin). She holds a PhD in neuropsychology and continues to work in public and private practice in this field.

Kylie loves reading, swimming, running, the beach, reading, eating, reading, her PC and reading. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, Craig, and two young children.

As well as judging the competition, Kylie has donated a signed copy of her book “After The Fall” as one of the prizes for the competition.

Get to her website by clicking here.