Okay, I’m Writing, I’m Writing! – An Update

 

#amwriting

Someone’s child, possibly one of my own, (I’m not going to name names) recently decided to lay a guilt trip on me and asked me when I was going to get on with it and finish the sequel to The Galian Spear.

I responded by mentally planning a graph showing how long the first edition of Book One took me, with copious vibrant rectangles added to display all the other writing and editing projects with which I am engaged, other larger rectangles communicating the amount of time given to certain child-related and household tasks, and figures along the lower axis estimating final completion dates, some of a uniquely distant nature. By the time I completed this, said child was watching YouTube.

I condensed my findings. “When I have time,” I said.

The child gave an absent nod, eyes fixed on the TV.

I am writing, I reassured myself.

Okay, I have posted few word counts.

Blog posts have not been abundantly numerous, I am the first to admit. But their lack of abundant numerosity does not preclude prolificity (I am not sure if everything in that sentence qualifies as a word).

Most of my writing time is taken up by work on my political thriller The Frozen Man. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

I have been editing and beta reading some amazing books, one of which is due to be published in 2016. That’s all I’m going to say about them.

Last, and far from least, the new edition of my children’s novel, The Galian Spear, is set for publication in 2016. Those who cannot wait can read the prologue here:

More will be revealed.

Soon!

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Her Name was Luka

Luka took a long time to die, four or five years at least. She left a large part of herself behind when the first blood vessels burst and bled into her brain. The freezing winters of 2010 and 2011 caused her body to collapse under the weight of the arthritis that had been threatening her hips for half a decade. She disintegrated further with time, losing her hearing, control of her limbs, her balance. Her eyes became two deep watery wells. Only on occasions would her true self flicker beneath the vacant lids.

One morning I arrived downstairs to find Luka in a heap on the ground, her limbs splayed, eyes fixed in an open stare, completely still. I kneeled down beside her, put out a hand for a final goodbye caress. Her face twitched at my touch, however. Her eyes flicked open and she looked at me, some part of her original self still present in that stare.

If she could have spoken, she might have said, “Not yet.”

This scene repeated itself over the years. I grew to expect to find Luka’s dead body when I woke up, when I arrived home. I grieved for the loss of her more than once.

Luka

Luka was the progeny of a beautiful black pedigree Labrador and a local farmer’s sheepdog, whose boisterous appetite had marked the end of her breeder’s plans to raise a litter of expensive purebred pups. We considered several of the ten puppies that presented themselves to us when we were choosing, but Luka threw her soft black bundle of a body on top of the entire heap and demanded to be seen. We chose her because she chose us and because of the four white paws that danced beneath her as she ran. She sat on my lap, crying, for every moment of that first drive home.

Luka was joyful and friendly puppy, but she was also aggressive and demanding. During that first year, she ate her way through three table legs and an armchair, tore the hems off several items of my clothing, and objected with sharp little growls to every effort to stop her climbing onto the sofa. My efforts to train her seemed hopeless at first, but then, with the abruptness of a switch being flicked, she turned into the obedient, gentle, energetic creature she would be thereafter.

That is the Luka I remembered after she finally lost all remaining control of her body less than a month ago and I watched a vet’s injection achieve the release she had resisted for so long. I remembered her bounding excitement at the use of the word “walk,” which she recognized even if it were spelled. How she would accompany anyone for a walk, her joy at the experience trumping any loyalty to family or home. I thought of her chasing sticks or tennis balls or stones, returning them in endless succession. I can still feel the dampness of the saliva soaked objects she would bring back at repeated intervals and leave on my lap or beside my hand, the soft nudge of her muzzle as she asked me to throw them again.

When she slept, even when her body was twisted and worn and useless, Luka would dream of chasing. Her front paws and haunches would twitch and her mouth would open and release the tip of her pink tongue. She was happy.

Luka clung to life with characteristic tenacity, and for those who knew the young dog, it was painful to see her during her long decline. Every now and then, however, the spark that was Luka would appear through the vacant fog in her eyes, and I knew she was still there. She was there right up until the moment when the injection took effect. Then she was gone. Free. Chasing sticks through eternity.

I’ll miss you Luka. Goodbye.

The Water

water

The branch was not very strong, and Kayla’s weight made it bend toward the river’s choppy surface. The bracelet, which was snagged on a piece of damp wood and protected from the current by a clump of reeds, was now just inches from her outstretched fingertips. She was certain it was the right one, although some of the stones had fallen out.

She remembered how the stones had glowed when she held it up to the skylight in the kitchen.

“Why are opals unlucky?” she had asked her mother, “They are beautiful.”

“Superstitious nonsense,” her mother had replied, smiling. “Come on, girls, we’d better go if we want to get to the leisure centre on time.”

“Kayla! Come back. Please!”

Kayla raised her shoulders away from the branch and looked back at the riverbank. Emmy’s crimson duffel coat was visible through the willow leaves.

“Emmy, it’s Mammy’s bracelet!” Kayla called out. “I knew it was. I can reach it, if I just move along a bit.” She shifted her legs and felt the entire tree tremble.

The water below was muddy and dark. They had been learning to swim, but Daddy had canceled the lessons. He no longer wanted his daughters near water. He did not know how much time they spent by the riverbank, trying to find some trace, to work out exactly where it was that the current had sucked her down.

Emmy began to cry. Kayla could hear her, but her mother’s face was in her mind and the stones on the bracelet were glimmering. Tightening her legs against the slender branch, she dropped her shoulders toward the water, stretching out her arms until she almost touched the bracelet. One final stretch. Her fingertips brushed against the smooth surface of the stones.

Emmy shrieked, “No Kayla! I’ll get it!”

There was a loud splash. Kayla twisted her face around and saw the darkness closing over her sister’s head.

With no time for thought, she let go of the branch.

The water felt soft on her face and hands as she searched in the murky brownness. The river had hands that pulled at her clothes, but she fought against them, kicking off her shoes and stretching out her arms. A patch of colour was visible through the gloom. She reached out and grabbed it and with a few strong kicks, she was at the surface with Emmy in her arms.

They scrabbled at the riverbank until their fingers found a lifeline in a clump of weeds, and they pulled themselves onto a stony ledge. Kayla looked out across the water. The piece of wood had finally been dislodged. It was floating on the current, the opals giving a faint glow as the bracelet slipped from the twig and sank.

Arms tight around her sister, Kayla whispered her goodbye.

 

 

© The Water – Copyright Safie Maken Finlay 2015

Nothing in Life is Free (except for this audiobook version of Michele W. Miller’s The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery)

The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery

For certain people and in certain situations, there are exceptions to what many believe to be the infallible rule that nothing in life is free. Another exception is the copy of the excellent audiobook version of Michele W. Miller’s hugely entertaining novel The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery, which I have the pleasure of giving away.

This is an actual giveaway. Of an audiobook. For free. That is, for no charge. Without cost. Gratuit. Libero. Kostenloss. Saor in aisce. Besplatno. Zdarma. Illiure. Libre. Ledig. Wolny (And free in many other languages that don’t use letters easily available on my keyboard).

If you become the lucky recipient of this free audiobook of Michele W. Miller’s The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery, I will not ask for anything in return. I won’t turn up at your house with a saw and scalpel, claiming that you have unwittingly agreed to donate two of your limbs and a small intestine to the cause of scientific research. I won’t ask you to tick a box claiming that you have read and agreed to fifteen pages of terms and conditions when clearly you have not, because who does? And even if I did ask you to tick such a box, I would leave it for at least ten years to claim ownership of the home you signed over to me as a result of your immense negligence. (What were you thinking? Don’t you listen? ALWAYS READ THE SMALL PRINT!)

I had the pleasure of reviewing The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery on my review blog, the Reluctant Reviewer. If you would like a free copy of this wonderful literary achievement rendered in high-quality audio by a terrific actor (and you really, really should want this), answer the question below and send in your answer using the contact me page on this blog. The winner will receive a voucher to download a copy from Audible.co.uk.

The question is:

Which actor narrates the audiobook version of Michele W. Miller’s The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery?

I will pick the winner’s name from a receptacle of my choosing, possibly a hat (but only if I can find one that isn’t a bobble hat), on Wednesday January 14, 2014, some time after lunch.

Good luck!

My Fear of Flying Is Not What It Seems – So Please Stop Trying to Help Me Cure It

flying

After a previous blog post, Why Jeff Bridges is Responsible for My Fear of Flying, in which I may have given the slight impression that the actor of that name is the reason why I am somewhat jittery whenever I am forced to get on an airplane, I received quite a substantial number of communications from people offering me lessons in overcoming this “irrational” fear.

Now, irrational fear is just that, irrational. To my mind, there is nothing irrational about the fear that several tons of heavy metal being held in the sky by pure momentum may, with very little prompting, suddenly cease to remain in the sky. And the added component of that fear, that the subsequent transferal of this heavy metal object from sky to ground is likely to be a harrowing experience for anyone inside, or indeed in its way, as it hurtles inexorably downwards, also seems to me to be quite reasonable.

In truth, to call what I have a fear of flying is misleading. The flying bit is great. When I get on an airplane, flying is exactly what I am hoping it will do. What I am afraid of is that gravity will have a good look at the airplane as if endeavors to push its way into the atmosphere and point out, with a gentle tap on the fuselage, that large heavy objects are supposed to go down, not up. It is not the flying I am afraid of, but the crashing.

“Ahah,” the anti-phobics say, when I politely repel their offers to overcome my fear of flying with a variety of solutions that have variously included hypnotherapy, counseling, Benadryl, gin, and chocolate, “but far fewer people die on airplanes each year than are killed in car crashes, fall of cliffs, or eaten by giant worms.”

As a strategy to help people to overcome fear, quoting statistics about other potential threats always seems to me to be counterproductive, but it is what people invariably do. All that such statements achieve is to add to my fear of flying a fear of driving in cars, taking cliff side walks, or visiting giant worm emporiums.

So thanks for the offers, but I do not wish to spend 450 dollars or euros on a course of five lessons to overcome what I perceive to be quite a rational response to the laws of physics. I will continue to drag myself onto airplanes, making sure that I have written a will beforehand, sending any last messages I have for people I know before frantically switching everything to airplane mode as soon as the Switch off Laptops light comes on, compulsively checking for the position of the emergency exits and gauging the number of steps it will take to get to them in the blind and smoky panic of one of the innumerable plane crash scenarios that play out in my head.

No, this fear is not irrational at all.

From Twitter, with Love and Gratitude

twitter

Three weeks or so ago, Twitter e-mailed me to congratulate me on the one-year-anniversary of my Twitter account. I was impressed that a faceless corporate body had taken the time to remember such a thing (albeit most likely via an automated computer program), especially in light of the fact that I hadn’t remembered the anniversary at all.

So, imagine my surprise, when I returned to my house later that day to discover that Twitter had also sent me a large bunch of flowers, thanking me for putting up with so many irritating updates to the Twitter app, the kind that change your settings so that the app wakes you at two in the morning with the news that three people you have never heard of have just followed someone with an egg for a face and the twitter handle @fjfjs84jf74jdu.

Two days later, a card arrived, expressing Twitter’s appreciation for me having put up with promotional tweets appearing on my Twitter feed, distracting my attention from all the riveting tweets from writers trying to get me to buy their books. (On that note, if writers want to sell their books, why do they follow other writers? Has their experience of the writerly profession not taught them that this is the one social grouping most guaranteed to have no money whatsoever?)

You would have thought that Twitter would have shown their affection for me enough at that stage, but the next day, I was again surprised to receive a gift from them of a brand new Google smartphone, replete with a 46-inch display and all apps and numbers replaced by a direct button connecting me to Google headquarters, on the theory that all I have to do is tell Google what I want and they will do it for me. A tiny card from Twitter accompanied the gift, informing me that this was in appreciation of my having ignored over 1,000 needy direct messages from Twitter users thanking me for following them and asking me to like their Facebook pages as well. The card explained that people ignoring so many of these requests was responsible for a certain drop in usage of a rival social network that made the people at Twitter very happy indeed. Twitter users who ignored over a million DM requests of this nature, it pointed out, were rewarded with small blue ticks and Hollywood mansions (or Killiney ones, if you would rather have Bono as a neighbour than Justin Timberlake).

A week later, two executives arrived at my house, offering to clean my windows, make dinner for a week, and drive the kids to school. This, they explained, was in appreciation for my having propped up their organization to the tune of over 3,700 tweets. They explained that they felt that this was the least they could do given the substantive imbalance between their immense salaries and the annual income of the average Twitter user.

In case the reader is either deluded or possessed of an unusual abundance of optimism, especially in relation to the corporate sector, I probably do not have to explain which of the above events actually took place. If you are in either of the categories I mention, I leave you to enjoy your happy optimism/delusion. Who am I to get in the way of such happiness.

A letter to my good friend, Discredit Means

“hello!,I really like your writing very a lot! share we keep in touch more
approximately your post on AOL? I need an expert in this area to resolve my problem.
Maybe that is you! Looking forward to peer you.”

I recently received the generous comment above from a person named Discredit Means. Now, there’s a name. If you are a celebrity, and you are about to give birth, take note. If the names of all the bridges, countries, states, terrorist organizations, football teams, and characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are taken up, Discredit Means is the precursor to an inexhaustible supply of noun-verb combinations. Other options include Humiliation Procedure, Ignominy Agency, Ill Repute Mechanism, and Stigma Channel.

When Discredit’s parents were naming him (or her – the message does not make the gender entirely clear), they clearly had his (or her) future in mind. “Our dear son (or daughter),” they said, “may one day wish to become a Bond villain or a private detective in the mold of a cheaply made 1950s crime melodrama. If so, he (or she) will need a name truly fitting this role.” Alternatively, they may have sensed in their son (or daughter) a criminal instinct, and being people of an ironic bent, felt that such a name would offer some small glint of humour in an otherwise dreary day in court.

If only because of the name, I decided to give the comment the lengthy reply it deserved.

Dear Discredit

So glad you like my writing so very a lot. I look forward to our approximate keeping in touch on AOL. I am not sure how approximate keeping in touch works in general. Do we almost send each other e-mails but change our minds at the last moment? However, I am interested in seeing it put into practice. Maybe you could post some examples on your website: fhfkfgsdhsfdlr843jnfjafhaekerj854j.com

Your problem sounds very bad if you may need my expertise to resolve it.  Gosh, maybe that is me. It seems I will have to peer you to find out for sure. Not sure what peering you involves, but I respect your earnest commitment to the practice.

Kind Regards

Compliment T. Paucity