Saturday 1 January 2011

2011 - New Year, Same Icy

So it’s finally 2011. I could sit here and dissect how well I maintained the resolutions I made in 2010 but I’d rather look forward than back. (For those who are interested, I managed two out of ten, but considering one of them was to master teleportation, that’s hardly surprising).

I don’t actually like the idea of resolutions, particularly since my inner rebel seeks to break them as soon as they’re made. Why should I wait until January 1st to decide to do something new, or to attend something about which I am unhappy? It’s nonsense. As a result, I’ve decided to compile a short list of things I would like to have done, or mastered, by the end of 2011.

1) Complete The New Author One Million Word Challenge.
I accepted this challenge on Twitter (the brainchild of @TheNewAuthor), and as the name suggests, I have to write one million words between January 1st and December 31st. For the mathematically minded, that equals 2740 words per day. Blog posts, fiction, journaling – they all count toward the total (although tweets don’t). The word count meter on the right will show how I’m getting on.

2) Fiction.
I want to finish the new novella I began on New Year’s Eve for Pulp Press, edit my YA novel and begin getting it out in front of agents, and I want to release the Parrots and Piracy e-book. These are the main goals, at least. There are other things I’d like to do, but these three are top of the list.

3) Academia.
I've wanted to do a PhD ever since I graduated in 2005 with my MA in Cinema Studies, and in the summer of 2010, I finally made enquiries about beginning a PhD in Film Studies. Things have been going well thus far, so with any luck, I’ll be starting in October. Getting work underway on it is one of my major goals for the year.

4) Crafts.
I’ve now been knitting for two years, with a reasonable degree of success. I had a go at knitting on dpns (double-pointed needles) over Christmas, and I’d like to master that particular skill, especially so I can knit my first pair of seamless socks. I also want to learn to crochet at some point.

5) Art.
I remembered how much I enjoyed art in 2010, and I’d like to continue this momentum into 2011, whether I’m taking photographs, whipping up e-book covers, or drawing cartoons.

Now, you’ll notice that I haven’t listed the banishment of any bad habit, or the imposition of a new diet/exercise regime. This ties in with my desire to master or complete something, as opposed to resolving to do something. All of these choices are achievable, and steps have already been taken to point me in the right direction. They give me something to both aim for and work on whilst remaining realistic about my chances of completion.

It’ll be interesting to revisit this list 365 days from today!

Friday 31 December 2010

Friday Flash - New Year's Dance

A full moon hung low in a clear night sky. The Dead Calm drifted through calm waters, the sea lapping at the hull of the ship. The crew gathered on the deck, their raucous songs of celebration filling the air. Captain Scarlight tottered between them, refilling their mugs with rum.

"Happy New Year, lads! Let's toast our health, and hope next year is a good 'un!" he cried.

The crew cheered, raising their mugs to the skies. Dark droplets of rum spattered the deck. Methuselah fluttered across the ship to perch on the wheel. The telepathic parrot nodded his agreement with the Captain's sentiment.

"Gaaarrrr, ye shouldn't toast on New Year! Not during a full moon," said Flintlock Francis. The grizzled bosun lounged on the rigging, a mug of rum in his hand.

"Why not?" asked Captain Scarlight.

"Gaarrr, yer but a young pup, ye won't know....The Legend," said Flintlock Francis.

"What legend?" asked the Captain.

"THE legend," replied Flintlock Francis.

I do believe he is employing stalling tactics to increase the tension associated with what is no doubt a popular slice of local folklore. In the name of peace, I believe it would be best to allow him to tell the tale.

Captain Scarlight looked at Methuselah and nodded in agreement. Flintlock Francis flicked his bloodshot eyes between the Captain and the parrot.

"Do ye want to hear the legend or not?"

"Aye, we do, we do!" cried the crew.

"It's a legend few know, but ye should! It's said that if ye toast to health under a full moon on the eve of New Year, then ye can expect a visit from the Reaper 'imself," said Flintlock Francis. He looked at each of the crew in turn, fixing them with an ominous look.

"Is that it?" asked the Captain.

Flintlock Francis nodded, taking a swig of rum.

"That's rubbish! I never had ye pegged as being the sort to believe in fairytales!" cried the Captain.

He spun round to face the crew. His boot slid across the spilt rum, depositing the Captain on his back. His head connected with the deck with a dull thud.

* * *

Pain throbbed in the back of the Captain's skull. He opened his eyes, and stars exploded across his vision. He expected to see the crew huddled around him, but he gazed up at the sky. Silence drifted across the deck.

"Bloody hell, what happened?" he moaned.

"I believe that would be called 'taking a fall'. You slipped on a patch of rum."

Captain Scarlight wriggled up onto his elbows. He expected to see Methuselah perched somewhere, the familiar disapproving look on his avian face. Instead, he saw a young woman standing near the ship's wheel. Raven hair tumbled around her shoulders, and her eyes formed dark pools in the stark white of her face. She smiled, her purple lips parting to reveal black gums and grey teeth.

"Who are you?" exclaimed the Captain.

"I am someone who has not had a dance these forty years together. Would you do me the honours?" asked the woman. Her cold voice rasped with decay.

"I don't think I'm up to dancing," replied the Captain.

"Of course you are. You need only try," said the woman.

Captain Scarlight rolled onto his stomach and pushed himself onto his knees. His jaw dropped open at the sudden lack of pain in his head. Somewhere in front of him, fabric caught on wood and ripped. He looked up to find the woman standing over him. A slender white arm snaked out of her midnight cloak. The woman held out her hand. The Captain shuddered at her icy touch.

"Music, Maestro!" cried the woman.

A violin creaked into life, singing its eerie melody to the full moon. The woman pulled the Captain to his feet and they set off around the deck. Captain Scarlight knew he didn't know how to dance, yet his feet possessed a mind of their own as he led the woman in the dance.

They spun around the deck, carried along on the haunting violin music. Captain Scarlight tried to avoid eye contact with the woman. Confusion and fear competed for his attention.

"Why do you fear my gaze, mortal captain?" asked the woman. The laughter of flies buzzed at the edges of her voice.

"I'm a bit bewildered, if I'm honest," said the Captain.

Before he could stop himself, the Captain looked the woman square in the face. Vertigo seized him as he gazed into the velvet depths of her black eyes. Stars glittered beyond his gaze, clouding his vision. The music grew faint as the world closed in around him.

* * *

"Cap'n? Cap'n, are yer awake?"

Captain Scarlight opened his eyes. A spike of pain drove itself into the back of his skull. He groaned, suppressing a wave of nausea.

That was quite a fall you took, Captain. Are you alright?

Methuselah sat on the Captain's chest, peering into his face.

“I’ve got the headache from hell,” replied the Captain.

You were humming.

“I was?”

Yes. A doleful yet infectious melody.

“I could have sworn I was dancing,” said the Captain. He sat up, raising tentative fingers to his head. He winced when he found a bump.

Dancing? With a woman?

“Well it wasn’t with you, Thusie,” replied the Captain.

Captain Scarlight struggled to sit up. Methuselah fluttered across the deck. He watched the Captain stumble away to his cabin.

“The Cap’n was dancin’, alright,” said Flintlock Francis.

He leaned in close to Methuselah. He gestured to the deck with his mug, slopping rum across the wood. Methuselah followed Flintlock’s gaze.

A patch of midnight glistened below the ship’s wheel.

* * *

If you enjoyed this tale, you can find more of Captain Scarlight and Methuselah's adventures on the Parrots & Piracy section of my website. The Macabre Mademoiselle first made her debut in my Christmas story for Jodi Cleghorn's Deck the Halls project, Fast Away The Old Year Passes.

Monday 27 December 2010

Photo Prompt 13

Thirteenth prompt, ready and waiting.

If you want to use the prompt, all I ask is that you include a link to this entry and a credit to me for the photograph, and that you post a link to your story in the comments box below so I can see what you've come up with! If you don't comment on this entry, then I can't comment on your story.

The thirteenth prompt is Overgrown.

Belsay Castle 4

If you want more prompts, check out Walt White, Eric J Krause and Jen Brubacher!