Before and After – Haikus on a Sunday Morning

Here are two Haikus. I wrote one before I read the Sunday papers. I wrote the second after I read the Sunday papers.

 

I shouldn’t have read the Sunday papers.

 

Before
Magnolia walls
Sunday sleeps long in this house
Safe in our cocoon

After
Wild wind sweeps the earth
Rain drowns sorrow – futures grow
Blind in our cocoon

 

Home – Haiku, book recommend and Journey Notes for Writers

I’m currently reading Herman Charles Bosman’s short story collection: The Collected Works of Herman Charles Bosman. If you want a peek into a version of early South Africa, then I recommend it. Beautiful stories. Some very funny, some achingly poignant. South Africa has her battles, but she’s come a long, long way since those early colonial days.

Here’s a little Haiku called Home:

 

Leopard in the grass
Dawn to dust, sun on his back
The door is open

 

Journey Notes for Writers: Writing a novel takes as long as it takes. Some people crack their nut in the first year – like they were born with a clear path. Others wander through all sorts of hills and valleys on the road to getting there.

With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about the size of your canvas. Some artists paint intricate scenes on an inch square tile in minute and exquisite detail. Others need the side of a building.

So if you’re a “journey writer” then take a moment to consider the canvas you’re working on. Some writers work well within the rules and confines of a tight genre. Some don’t. So if what you’re doing isn’t working, consider whether your story needs more space. Perhaps you should be writing an epic that stretches over generations and worlds. Just a thought…

A Friend in Zuma – Flash Fiction and Journey Notes for Writers

Following a request from family in South Africa, here’s a short piece of flash fiction called “A Friend In Zuma“.

 

It was a dark night over the desert. Light from the stars refused to touch the earth. Not even scorpions wanted to witness the meeting between two men splitting a decanter of Remy Martin. It tasted like rocket fuel but neither would admit it – the stuff cost $2000 a sip.

“You need a distraction,” the bald man said. “Don’t make it so bad that it sticks, just bad enough to occupy people. Sex always works.”

“With… ahh…”

“No, not too young. That’s the wrong kind of bad. Make it with a woman but make sure she doesn’t talk. You need to control the conversation.”

The blonde man sipped his brandy. Liquid scorched his throat. He didn’t flinch. “I can do that. I’ll use an affair I had a while back.”

“You’ve had a few.”

The blonde man laughed. “I still do.”

Both men rocked on their heels and listened to the silence.

“I like our talks,” the blonde man finally said. “It’s not often I can have a frank and honest discussion with an equal.”

The bald man chuckled. “The world doesn’t understand us.”

Both men nodded. A cricket chirped then fell silent.

The blonde man frowned. “You think a sex scandal will be enough to divert attention?”

The bald man thought a moment. “Better add murder. Kill the girl. People will stew over that for months. By then the Russian deal will have gone through.”

The blonde man held out his hand. “Thanks again,” he said. “I value your advice.”

The bald man smiled. “You have a friend in me, Donald. Not many men can say that – but you can say you have a friend in Zuma.”

 

 

Journey note to writers: Over the last few months I’ve processed feedback from the last novel. Some of the key issues that killed it included backstory, sequencing and exposition. The way Kathryn (most awesome editor from Cornerstones Literary Agency) put it: “You cannot afford to give them (agents/editors) a single excuse to turn your work down”. When you look at it that way, it’s easy to see how all those lovely passages of prose become irrelevant. Cut whatever diverts from the story. She added that established authors get away with rambling nonsense because a fan base forgives many things. But readers still skim over the bits that don’t carry the story. As a new author, a reader won’t skim – they’ll just put your book down and not pick it up again. So back to that golden advice: “You cannot afford to give (anyone) a single excuse to turn your work down”.

 

Writing is Great Therapy – Haikus and Journey Notes

I woke this morning with a feeling of dread and impending doom – couldn’t pin down why. I expect you’ve felt it yourself on occasion – like you’re standing on the edge of a cliff with a strong wind at your back. Here’s a Haiku to explain what I mean:

 

Tendrils reach through dreams
Sticky fingers on your soul
Wake up to what’s real

No… that doesn’t really describe it. It’s more like this:

Crow roosts on your dreams
Dread, the oil slick on your soul
Messenger from Hell

Still not right. Too dark. The dread always lifts when you get up and move, write and create, breathe and grow back into your skin after a restless night. So this is closer:

Black oceans below
Dreams beam sunshine on shadows
Water wings – dive in.

 

Journey Note for Writers: Writing is a great therapy. Use it.

 

Independence – Flash Fiction

The Scottish National Party and Westminster are forever at loggerheads on whether or not Scotland should be independent.

In recognition of the great debates on the subject, here’s a little flash fiction called “Independence”.

 

“I’m leaving!” Sarah stamped her feet on the hardwood kitchen floor. Her fists curled into white-knuckle balls. “I’m going to live with Heinrich and Jean-Paul.” Sarah’s red curly hair fell over her eyes. She forced it back so hard strands came away in her hand. “And don’t treat me like a kid!” She screamed. “I’m not a child!”

Mary Ben stirred her tea. The teaspoon tapped the side of the cup. “Heinrich and Jean-Paul don’t want you to move in with them. They’ve already said so.”

Sarah squeezed her eyes shut. “I  don’t care. They’ll change their minds when I’m there.”

Mary Ben put the teaspoon on the saucer and sipped her tea. Strong, hot and good. Heather tea. A gift from Sarah a long, long time ago.

Sarah picked up her bag. “It’s not like I ever belonged here.”

“But this is your home.”

“How can you say that? You’re not my mother. You don’t own me. You can’t make me stay.”

“But I am your friend.”

“All you’ll miss is my rent.”

“Sarah.” Mary rested her hands in her lap. “You haven’t really been paying rent.”

“I’ve paid my whole life!”

“Sure. You’ve paid £1000 a month, but it’s cost the house £2000 for food, utilities, clothing, medical care, education.” Mary turned the teacup in her saucer. “Heinrich and Jean-Paul will expect you to pay your full share if you move in with them. Or at least a good chunk more than you are now.”

Sarah opened her mouth and shut it again.

Mary smiled. “And Siobhan and Gwen will miss you. Why don’t you stay a while so we can talk about it. We’ve just moved house. It’ll take some settling in.”

Sarah rapped her fingers on the kitchen table. “If I stay I’ll want the big room overlooking the garden.”

“You already overlook the garden. The best part of it, in fact.”

“I’ll want a key so I can come and go as I please.”

“The door is never locked.”

“I want to do what I want. I want to go where I want. I want to be in charge of me.”

Mary picked a second cup off the shelf, poured the strong, hot tea into it and slid the cup across to Sarah. “Why don’t you tell me exactly what you want to do with your life.”

Sarah stared at the cup. Steam twirled off the top like a dancer in the mist. “I don’t know,” she mumbled. “I just want to be free.”

Mary Ben took the lid off a tin of homemade shortbread. “But you are free, Sarah. And you’re among friends. You always have been.”

Last Thoughts – Flash Fiction (a brief look into someone’s mind)

This is a little Flash Fiction about what might be going through the mind of someone who thinks it’s okay to murder innocent people in the name of religion. Maybe they’re not as complex as we think. Maybe they’re not so devout. Maybe they’re just complete fucking idiots.

 

Last Thoughts
“I can do this. I’m right. I have right on my side. Haven’t I? Someone said I did. Anyway, I can’t back out now. What’ll my buddies say? They’re all watching. They said they’ll do it if I go first. Crap. Could murder a bacon sarnie. Ketchup, sausages. Proper fry up. In and out. That’s it. It’ll be over in no time. Maybe I should call Mum in case something goes wrong. But what could go wrong? It’s all planned. It’s the right thing to do. And they know, right? All these guys who did the planning. They know what they’re on about. Justified. Honourable. Honour! Fuck, yeah! That’s me. Now I’ve gotta pee. Come on!! Nut up! I can do this. I have to. Too many people watching. My place in history. History! I’m a fucking hero. People will talk about me. Talk about ME! They’ll put my name in headlines. I’d better call home. Just a quick call. Or she’ll be worried. Don’t want to worry my mum. She’ll understand. Dad won’t. He’s always for talking. Talk, talk, talktalktalk. He says there’s always another way. He’s just a teacher so what does he know. He knows jack about the real world. All he does is read his history books and say there’s no way our way will win. He says there’s a better way to relate. Is he kidding? Relate?! I wanted a car. Did he relate to that? No. I wanted to travel to Syria. Did he relate then? Hell, no. I wanted to go on holiday with my mates. He said no. I wanted a gun. He said no. No. No, no, no! Well, now I say YES! I choose. I say what happens next. I’m in charge. I’m the boss. Me. Me. Me, me, mememememememe….”

News Headlines
“A 21-year-old man was shot dead by police last night after running a van into pedestrians. He killed four people and injured a further nine. The terror threat has been raised to critical meaning an attack is expected imminently.”

 

 

Journey Notes: It’s not hard, I think, to understand what goes through the minds of people who commit these atrocities. I think there are three camps:

  1. Angry people who refuse to accept that their deeply held beliefs are misguided, misinterpretations of a story told a long, long time ago.
  2. Deluded sheep who follow in a doctrine that doesn’t make sense. What it does do is allow them to vent their fury at their own inadequacy and then blame and blow up the world. Cowards really. Weak and deficient.
  3. Inadequate, confused fools who can’t hack the world so join a gang who says it’s just fine to kill folk as long as they shout “Allah” before it.

There’s a special type of hell for these people. We’ve talked about this before… Here are links to So What’s Next, Jihadi John and to The Stalker.

Hearts and minds to the victims of the latest attacks.

Self Reliance – Haiku and Notes for Writers on Trusting Yourself

Journey Notes: As a writer, you have to learn to stand on your own two feet and trust yourself.

No one is as invested as you are in your progress. You are the only one who wakes before dawn tying dreams and reality together like overcooked spaghetti.

If you anchor your progress and development to someone else, you create an illusion of safety. You begin to think that that person (or organisation) will find what’s wrong with your book and fix it. They can’t. And they shouldn’t. They can guide, encourage and support you. They can tell you when you write complete crap. They can point out your weaknesses. But the rest is up to you. So keep pushing to be better. You are more resilient than you think.

Here’s a little haiku to help explain what I mean:

Self-Reliance
Water all around.
Cling to the side of a boat.
Stand up. It’s shallow.

You know what I mean?
Have an excellent day, folks.

 

P.S. I’m using Scrivener to outline Trilogy (new project). They have their cross device technology right. As long as you can tolerate DropBox, then syncing between devices is seamless. I run it mainly between an iPhone and iPad. I don’t know how it functions on Android and I haven’t tried syncing what’s on my mobile devices to my PC yet. But as an on-the-go tool, it’s good.