Friday, 29 March 2013

Pearls Before Swine

In honour of this  Easter weekend, I thought I post my favourite short piece from my back catalogue.  I was asked in 2011 to write a piece for the lovely Matt Potter at Pure Slush. If you don't know about this goldmine of gorgeousness, they are an Australian based online flash fiction site that also publishes hard copy theme based anthologies.  Go have a sneaky peek at them here:

Matt asked me to contribute a piece on the theme of Religion, up to 1000 words...I struggled. As many of you know, I'm a Christian, a member of the Mormon church. I didn't want my piece to be preachy. I just wanted it to be good writing. To this day I couldn't tell you where it came from, and it's still my favourite piece.

Happy Easter.

Pearls Before Swine 
          The day had just begun when we found her.  It was barely light; Donnie was herding Baby and me to school. We were dragging our feet, shoulders and ears hunched against the sharp crystal air.  The ground was cold and hard from a late spring thaw; deeper patches of snow still clung despite the warming days.
               “What is it?” Baby whispered, standing well away.
               “It’s an angel,” I whispered back, my fingers poking small wet flakes from her dark hair.
               “That ain’t no angel,” Donnie hissed. “Don’t touch her; you know what Dad says about strangers.”
               “Strangers carry diseases. Strangers can kill us.” Baby recited, sucking her thumb.
               Donnie dropped his school bag in the snow. “Cassie, I’m going to get the horse. We’ll take her up to Old Winston. She might be worth something to him.  Maybe he’ll cut us a break.”
               It didn’t take a genius to know we’d had a bad season last year.  Money was tight, the rent was months overdue. Mother and Dad thought we couldn’t hear when they sat over the kitchen table at night, counting out the pennies and fretting, but we knew.
               Old Winston was our landlord. He had the big farm house and hundreds of lush acres. We paid him four hundred a month for a leaking, wind-rattled shack and twenty acres of the hardest soil in the county. Father ploughed Winston’s land to earn steady money but it wasn’t a lot, so we farmed our bit to make up the difference.
I didn’t like Old Winston.
“Get lost, you skinny little bastards,” he’d grumble, snatching the brown rent envelope from Baby’s hands, swinging at her ankles with his walking stick. He wasn’t very quick and Baby was always off the porch fast, laughing as the wind blew his curses across the fields after us.
On top of that, he never fixed anything on the house, even when the roof fell in over the kitchen. He smelled of sweat and old pipe smoke and dirty socks. And when Father was away at market he’d come round and touch Mother’s hair and find excuses.
               I stamped my cold feet, and blew on my cramping fingers, staring at her as she lay on the hard ground in nothing but a thin dress.  “You can’t do that,” I choked.  “He’ll hurt her, and you know it.”
               Donnie grabbed my wrist hard and twisted. “What I know is mother’s got cancer, we got bills, and she’s going to Old Winston.”
               As soon as Donnie disappeared down the hill, her eyes opened. They were the colour of dewdrops glinting on ferns in the early light.
               “Hello, Angel,” Baby cooed, handing her a boiled sweet.
               “Thank you Baby. I love Lemon Drops.” The Angel’s voice sounded like old church bells ringing on a faraway hill.
               “What’s your name? Are you really an Angel?” I whispered, voice catching in my throat. She was glorious: her eyes, her hair, her skin. They all had a glow that was nothing to do with the frosty air. Every inch was beautiful.
               “I’m whatever you need, Cassie. My name is Pearl. ”
               “Like from the ocean?”
               “Maybe, Cassie. Maybe.”

               She put her arms around the horse’s neck and climbed on, Donnie still too skittish to touch her. I reached up and held her hand as we walked, down the hill, across two fields. Just to make a point.
               Old Winston grinned ear to ear, the first smile I’d ever seen on him. He wrote Donnie a note, signed and dated.
               All debts forgiven.
               Abram Winston.

               Pearl put her slender white hand on his arm and smiled up at him. Underneath he added:
               Plus two months’ rent free.

               Pearl touched his cheek. He crumpled up the note and started over.

               All debts forgiven + three months’ rent free
               Abram Winston.
               Pearl never uttered a single word, but her eyes said goodbye in a way that scared me.  My heart shrank watching her beautiful pale hand on his leathery wrist. 
“You can go now children,” Old Winston grunted, shutting the door firm behind us. It was the first time he’d ever addressed us without swearing.

               “But he’ll…”  I stood rooted to the porch.
               “Forget about it, Cassie. Pearl said she’s whatever we need. You told me that yourself.”  He shoved the note under my nose. “What we need is THIS. She can take care of herself.”
               Donnie pulled me off the wooden porch and threw me up onto the horse behind Baby. I cried all the way home. I cried all through dinner, never answering Mother’s questions. I cried at bedtime prayers. Each tear sliced through me. We left her there. We left her with him.
               Sometime that night, a fire started in Old Winston’s house. His bedroom and the side porch blazed, scorching the ground, turning the remaining snow into steaming puddles that iced over into a smooth glassy sheet by morning. But for the smell of smoke, the rest of the house stood firm, as if it never happened.
               The bank manager came a month later. Old Winston had no kin. The whole place, main house and shack, was ours if we’d take over the mortgage payments. Old Winston was paying the bank a hundred less a month than he’d been charging us just for the shack.
               That summer we started rebuilding. With soot smeared fingers, Baby and Donnie unearthed hundreds of tiny glowing pearls from the rubble. I washed them carefully, then put them in a jam jar on the kitchen table, kissing each one before it landed, plink plink plonk, in the bottom of the jar.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Doing Stupid things for the fun of it.

So, I entered an online pitch contest.

 Find it here:

There are some great agents involved, and a boatload of hard work going into the process behind the scenes.

Right here, in front of the scenes, on centre stage:

Commence: -nail biting.
                    -excessive refreshing of twitter feed.
                   - repeated trawling of other entrants blogs
                     to read their pitches & make myself feel inadequate

My book is already under consideration with a publishing house. I know it's a long involved process. I know it takes a village to raise a child, blah blah blah.... but apparently it takes a whole CONTINENT to say yes before you get a book deal.

I have ADHD. So I am impatient. IMPATIENT, I tell you!!!!

Recently I bit the proverbial bullet and shopped it to a few other people, which I should have done months ago, if I was smarter. All these things are solitary worries, things hidden with the dust bunnies and old birthday cards under my bed while I get on with life.

Doing this pitch contest is a whole different animal. Suddenly I have been sucked into this warm huggy embracing writerly pit of  angst.... we're ALLLLL stressing.

Communally. So it ramps the anxiety up by INFINITY.

Anyways. Here's the pitch. It's probably not half as interesting as this blogpost. Which is a pretty dire attitude to have, I know.

Anyway. have at it.

TITLE: Blessing Hill
GENRE: YA Sci-fi, spec-fic
WORD COUNT: 100k (I know, shut up already)


  After militant climate refugees invade their remote island home, Azura and her friends must rise against their religiously fanatical captors before their entire way of life is destroyed.


“Scripture! Repentance! Scripture! Repentance!”  A grating voice screeches over the loudspeaker for the third time today. I barely flick an eyelid. Wiping the sweat from my forehead onto my sleeve, I slowly turn the heat off under the sauce. We never know how long a session will last and I’d rather not add burnt sauce to my list of things to repent for.

Lisa kneels beside me, smiling softly, pleased for the break. I don’t know what she’s accused of, but this morning there was a note on the board saying she was on solitary potato duty for the entire campus. All day. All twelve hours of it. We’ve only been here two hours and her hands are cramping, swollen and red raw. Peeling potatoes for the entire campus is normally a three person, six hour job. When I stand near her it’s hard not to wrinkle my nose, she’s already starting to smell of them; mildew, stale, damp. To help her along, every time our attendant Victory turns her back, one of us produces a peeler from our pockets, skinning a few to add to the pile.

Casting a disapproving eye around the room Victory passes scripture to all the girls kneeling restlessly with us. Every time she reaches towards one of us, her bobbed, dark hair sweeps across her cheek into her eyes. She tucks it behind her ear repeatedly as she bends and straightens, pulling books from the box.

My fingers stray to my own hair, pinned back tightly to my head, as required.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Things What Stop Me Writing 1-2-3...


OMG screeching in frustration…see the date on this post? Yeah, you guessed it. I totally fell down on the 2x a month blog posting goal fairly early on, now didn’t I??? Not a peep in February.

And it’s not just my blog…it’s writing in general. What the heck is wrecking the process???

What I want to accomplish VS What actually happens:

1.      MILLIONNNNNNNNS of stories in my head bursting to get out, like NOW, immediately, yesterday would have been great, thanks.
               TRUTH: MILLIONNNNNNNNS of ideas duking it out for attention. Also dishes, laundry, children, piles of Border Collie hair. Until am actually getting paid for this ‘writing lark’ I must justify my existence by being a reasonably interested wife & mother & house slave. (read that as I AM SO NOT INTERESTED) (CORRECTION: not interested in house slave bit)

               TRUTH: I so have ADHD (really I do, actually). OOOH I never really wrote that yesterday, that’s crap! EDIT EDIT EDIT. The dog barks…..the wind blows….OHHH look! Shiny Twitter..shiny, so shiny…..ARGH! Get to work, Girl!!!  I type like an arthritic rhino with rubber mallets for fingers..smash smash, correct correct correct. Ohhhh, wonder who’s on FB?? Ohhh need to start a load of wash…What was that idea I had for another story yesterday? Hey! Where’d the time go? TWO HOURS??? I only wrote  300 words??? ARGGGGGHHHHH.

               TRUTH:  (wind whistles, tumbleweeds amble past)
What the hell happened to those millions of ideas duking it out in my head? They must have taken the fight outdoors, seen the sunshine and buggered off to the park to sunbathe…

               TRUTH: the dog barks.  the  dog barks.  THE BLOODY DOG BARKS. AT ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. when he stops, my body suddenly says…oh, hey. Remember that you have Multiple Sclerosis? Remember that you took some medicine before the dog started barking? Maybe it’s time I made you go to sleep! Right now. and…of course….the dog starts barking again. grrrrrr.

But all these distractions and excuses don’t really matter. I read a quote on Twitter a few days ago that said it all:
                                    “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”
                                    ~ Franz Kafka.

And so I carry on  writing coz as many of you know, I am already crazier than most people can cope with. And there’s still MILLIONNNNNNNNS of ideas trapped in my head…bwhahaha..... oooh look! Twitter, shiny, shiny Twitter......