Story in Focus – Lost

Lost started its life as an unsubmitted entry to the 2011 Maj Monologues competition in Perth. The theme was “Treachery and Lechery in in the 21st Century”, and this seemed to fit the idea I had in my head about the consequences of losing your iPod on the train.

The life of the commuter has always been about how to make the time pass as quickly as possible. The main option used to be reading a book or magazine, but now the range of options is endless – reading on a kindle, watching movies on your iPad, playing games on your phone.

For some people this is a casual, fun arrangement. But if you look around your train or bus, you will see people who are very fastidious with their entertainment rituals – everything is set out and plugged in just so, and they adopt an “I’m not here” expression on their faces as they escape to another place, far from the crowds and the pressures of the workday that is about to commence, or is being left behind.

Lost is the story of this escapist routine being shattered by the loss of the essential electronic device. Just how far would you go to get your iPod back?

Read Lost and find it and ten other short stories in Cracks in the Ceiling – available now!

And loved the iPod story – made me laugh during the middle of the night, during a night feeding!”

 

Where is home?

By the time I reached age 23, I’d lived in thirteen different houses, in three different cities.  In their own way, each of them had been “home” to our family, even if some of them were just short term rentals while a new house was being built.  We were all there, Mum and Dad and my sister – but still, none of these places was home for us for very long. 

My own personal response to this as an adult, subconsciously at least, has been to stay put.  When it was my choice about where to live, I stayed in one place for the next twenty-three years of my life, and having moved recently, intend staying in the place I live in now for just as long.

The day we brought our oldest son home from hospital as a newborn, the builders were plastering the renovation that had taken over a year to complete – our first builder had gone broke, and left us living in a construction site through much of the pregnancy.  There we were, new parents with a tiny new born in a drafty half-built house in the depths of winter.  But our sense of home was still so strong now we were “three”.

The events of the last few years have challenged the way we think about
home.  So many people have had their dreams about a future of owning a home dashed in the financial crisis that started in the US in 2007 and reached around the world during 2008.  Lost jobs, falling property values, mounting debts.  Foreclosures, permanently stained credit ratings, unemployment.

Those close to or in retirement have had to rethink their plans, many continuing to work well into the time they thought they’d be living it up in the active phase of their retirement. For some, this has been a time to take opportunities to buy assets cheaply – especially houses.  Houses that represent someone’s shattered dreams are someone else’s high yielding investment – after all, those people who’ve been foreclosed on by the banks and other lenders need to rent somewhere to live. And they’ll be doing it for the rest of their days.

As tough as those stories are from the western world, it’s also good to remember that for many in the world, home is a mud hut or a shack in a slum.  For over 10 million refugees, home is a place they left behind and are yet to arrive at.

Cracks in the Ceiling is a collection of short stories I’ve written over the last couple of years, inspired by ordinary people who’ve had to cope with the situations they’ve found themselves in during these turbulent times – sometimes of their own making, sometimes not.

For less than the price of a cup of coffee, you can buy a copy here.

Happy Birthday!

Writer O Henry

September 11 means something it didn’t eleven years ago.

Before then, it was the birthday of famous short story writer O. Henry.  This was the pen name of William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), and he wrote something like 300 short stories during his colourful life.

My love of O. Henry started when one of my English teachers wrote “That’s a great O Henry twist” as a comment at the end of one of my pieces in early high school.  I started reading his work to find out what exactly the comment meant, and quickly grew to love his use of language, and of course, his twisted endings.

Here’s a tribute to O Henry for those who want to read more. And here’s a link to the 1950s movie of five of his stories, O Henry’s Full House.

And as for my attempts at the twist ending, you can read “Lost”, “I Can Touch the Walls” and “The Tipping Competition” in Cracks in the Ceiling.

Food and Fiction

Over ten years ago, in the early days of the interweb, I started up a cooking website called Cookings.  It was a recipe and cookbook review site that was fun at the time, but now looks pretty clunky – especially as I haven’t updated it in over five years. Now it would be a blog, I guess.

Back in those days, I seemed to spend more time cooking and having dinner parties than I can imagine having time to do now.  There’s one main difference – now with three children in the family, we’re just to busy.

One of the stories in Cracks in the Ceiling is The Dinner Party.  It follows four couples in their mid-fifties, who have known each other all their adult lives, as they prepare for and then get together for a dinner party.

What can we bring?” is a question that always gets asked in these situations, and each of the couples deals with this in a different way.  Their choices about what they cook, and how they make their choices, reflect the state of their lives and relationships.

I couldn’t resist inserting some of my own favourite dishes into the story, and one of the couples offers to provide the starter, and chooses to make “Arugula Salad with Pistachios and Chocolate”.

It’s by Molly Wizenberg, and you can find it in her book A Handmade Life.  It’s a delicious dish, with the bitterness of the arugula (or rocket) balanced beautifully by the chocolate.  

Molly is a well known blogger at Orangette,  but as far as I can tell, the recipe isn’t on her website, so here is a link to a page from the book, at Google books.

More recipes from The Dinner Party in a later post.

On Sale!

Yesterday I completed the uploading process, and after a few hours, Cracks in the Ceiling – Tales of Turbulent Times went live last night on the kindle store.

It’s a big landmark in both my professional career and my person life.   Looking forward to celebrating over the weekend.

Then this week: uploading to more on-line stores, sweating on reviews, promoting the book and starting on the next projects:  making a TROPFEST entry, and writing a novella with the working title Cake Knives Don’t Kill.

 

On Covers

As the writing process drew to a close, I had to turn my attention to the cover for the book.  After shipping my precious manuscript off to the editor (well, emailing it), I set about trying to describe the book so a designer could respond with a cover.  Finalising that description had to wait until the title was settled, which happened about half way through the editing process – but that’s another story.

A friend has used designcrowd.com for a bunch of design work, so that’s the road I
chose.  I posted the brief, set the budget, invited a few recommended designers, and then . . .waited, but not for long,  As it turned out, the wining deisgn came in on about day 2 of the 10 day project run.

I am thrilled with the winning entry, but not so impressed this time around with the number of entries, and the quality of the entries at large.  In the end, I had two great deigns to choose from, from two designers who had responded thoughtfully and imaginatively to the brief.  The other designs submitted I thought were superficial “quickies”, that didn’t really rank with the others.  Next time, I’ll frame the brief a little differently.

So, here’s the cover I’ve chosen.  It looks good as small and medium sized icons (for the ebook stores) and great full-size if I ever have the book printed.