Friday 14 October 2011

Friday Flash - Late

I left the house at 7:30am. I hauled the front gate shut, wincing as the hinge squealed. I glanced up at the window, worried the noise might have woken Barbara. The curtains hung untouched, and the room beyond stayed dark. I heaved a sigh of relief, and checked my watch for what felt like the fortieth time that morning. I had twenty nine minutes to catch my train. Perfect.

Mist hung heavy in the late December air. A bus rolled past, its yellow lights cutting a swathe across the road. A handful of people sat in their bus seats, dead eyes staring into space. Early mornings will do that to you. I'd often thought that the apocalypse would begin during that eerie pre-dawn, witnessed by no one but lonely commuters.

A shuffling in the darkness broke my train of thought. I'd heard that sound before, and I crossed the road to avoid one of the town's growing homeless population. I didn't have time for pleas. Not today.

The shuffling followed me, and a figure loomed out of the mist. Dozens of horror movies crowded my mind, and I gripped the handle of my briefcase. It was empty, except for my lunch, but I figured it might catch someone off guard.

"Excuse me, sir, but do you have the time?"

A voice floated through the quiet morning air, and the figure became a hunched old man. Eyes the colour of dark chocolate peered out of his pale brown face, and grey curls lurked in his tight crop of dark hair. The man carried a briefcase of his own, and a white label adorned the top corner. 'J R Coker' sprawled across the sticker in childish scrawl. His white shirt showed through holes in his threadbare brown jacket, and the battered briefcase matched his scuffed shoes.

“Sorry, I’m running late.”

“Hehe, sorry, sir, I meant to ask if you know what time it is?”

"It’s 7:45."

"Thank you, sir."

The man's accent threw me. He sounded American - Deep South, most likely. Not the sort of accent I heard in Surbiton.

"No problem." I moved forward but the old man blocked my path.

"You’re awful kind, sir. Say, where is it you're hurryin' off to at this hour?"


"You seem awful keen to get some place. You got somethin' important to do today?"

I thought of the stack of unpaid bills, and the train timetable floated in front of my eyes.

"Yes, I do, so if you don't mind, I'll just be on my way."

I made a show of looking at my watch, but the old man just pursed his lips at me.

"You young 'uns, you're all alike. Always so busy, always in a hurry. You ever jus’ gone for a walk? You ever stopped to see how beautiful the world is at this time in the mornin'?"

"I'm sorry, I really wish I could stop and chat, but I have somewhere I need to be."

"Yes, you do, child. You won't believe me, but you'll get there." The old man smiled, his skin wrinkling around those puppy dog eyes. My face returned the smile before I could stop myself.

"It's been a pleasure talkin' to you, Mr Johnson."

The old man shuffled away down the street. I watched him go until the mist swallowed him up, and I was left alone in the darkness.

Another bus rolled past, sending dry leaves skittering in its wake. I snapped out of my trance and looked at my watch. I was running late. I didn’t even realise that I’d never told Mr Coker my name.

I broke into a run and careered headlong through the empty streets. I reached the bridge as the train trundled along the rails below. Not just the train – my train. I watched the carriages disappear from sight, and looked down at the empty track. I was too late.

An electronic chirp sounded in the depths of my coat. I yanked off my right glove and fished around in my inside pocket. My fingers found my phone and I looked at the screen. I didn't recognise the number. The old man's warm smile drifted before my eyes, and I pressed 'Accept'.

"Hello, is this Eddie Johnson?" A female voice, vaguely familiar.

"Yes, it is."

"I'm so sorry for calling you this early, but it’s Stella, from JR Creatives? You came in for an interview a couple of weeks ago?"

I remembered. Stella was a bubbly, welcoming director at an advertising company. I thought the interview had gone well, but two weeks and three days passed without a word.


"I'm so sorry for not calling sooner but things went a bit manic in the office. I just wanted to say we'd love to hire you, if someone else hasn't snapped you up since we met!"

My lips refused to form words. I stared at the railway line below, mute with shock.

"Mr Johnson, are you still there? Do you still want to come and work with us? Oh please say yes, I think you're just what we're looking for."

"Yes, yes, I do. Sorry, it’s just a bit of a surprise."

"That’s alright! Listen, are you busy today?"

"No, nothing I can't postpone."

"Would you like to start this morning?"

"I'm on my way."

"Great! See you soon then!"

Stella hung up. I stared at the phone, and then my empty briefcase, and I sighed. I could finally stop lying to Barbara about going to the office every day. She'd never need to know that I'd spent my days at the JobCentre. Something white caught my eye, and I spotted a feather at my feet. I picked it up, and twirled it between my fingers.

I looked down at the tracks and tried to remember when the next train to London was. I stuck the feather in my buttonhole and smiled.

I was glad I’d missed my train, and glad I hadn’t jumped.

* * *

JR Coker is a character I've worked with before, and he appears in my short story, The Strangest Comfort, which you can find in The Yin and Yang Book!

Thursday 13 October 2011

More books!

Not only will I have a short story appearing in the upcoming anthology by Pulp Press and For Book's Sake, I also have stories in TWO anthologies put together by Emergent Publishing!

I wrote my story for the Chinese Whisperings anthology, The Yin Book, which I blogged about here, back in October 2010. The Strangest Comfort comes from somewhat personal experience and it's wonderful to finally see it in print. The book is already available in Kindle format from Amazon, but as you can see by the photo, it'll also be out in paperback format! It's a wonderful collection of interrelated stories, all located in an airport at the moment when an airline collapses. It's quite a bold fictional experiment, and pulls together work by a diverse group of upandcoming writers. I also owe Emergent somewhat, since it was on the Chinese Whisperings project that I met Rob Diaz, who has gone on to become a trusted friend and beta reader! It's also nice to see the Yin and Yang books collected alongside each other - there are plenty of interesting characters to get to know here!

As well as The Yin & Yang Book, I also have a story in the forthcoming Literary Mix Tape collection, Eighty Nine. All of the stories were inspired by songs released in 1989, my own being 30 Years in the Bathroom by The Wonder Stuff. Some of the stories are testament to the social and political upheaval that characterised the end of the Eighties, while other stories (mine included) pay homage to the rich pop culture of the era. Thirty Years in the Bathroom stars an ageing actress who'll do anything to maintain her youth, in a bit of a twist on the Dorian Gray idea.

Both books will be available for purchase very very soon, and I'll post more details once they're on sale!

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Say hello to Nerine Dorman

I love throwing open the doors of my blog to different writers, so today I'm very pleased to welcome South African word mistress Nerine Dorman! Nerine Dorman works as a newspaper sub-editor and writer by day; at night she writes and edits fiction. Her novels are an indulgence in black magic; vampires; tall, dark and looming...

You've got several books available, and more on the way. What first attracted you to writing as a career?
This is one of those very difficult questions I’m not quite sure how to answer. It’s safe to say, I’ve been story-telling since a young age, be it my worlds of make-believe I’d dream myself to sleep to, or make up games with friends. During my young adult years I used to do a fair amount of fantasy role-playing with my geek friends.

But I remember very clearly at about the age of 13 when I wanted to write a novel. It seemed such an unattainable goal and I had no idea how I was going to go about it, but it kinda stuck through all my phases—like the time I was convinced I was going to be the next best thing after Trent Reznor and Peter Steele for the South African music industry. I’ve always come back to the written word.

You work as both a writer, and an editor. Which gives you greater satisfaction?
This is a tricky one. I love both equally. I’m always thinking up better ways to say stuff. Nothing gets my goat more than reading a passage and wanting to reach for my red pen. I guess it stems from the fact that both my parents were school teachers.

But seriously, I get as much kick out of writing as I do making authors improve their writing. When an author turns around to me and says “thank you” or refers to me as their “super editor” on a blog, it makes me go all warm and fuzzy, and I have to go sit down ’cos I feel all teary-eyed. Working with an author who visibly improves after the first novel is just the best feeling ever.

As November is nearly upon us, what do you make of the NaNoWriMo phenomenon, from both a writer's and an editor's perspective?
Luckily this year I’ve talked myself down from the very high place of doing NaNo. I know I can do it. After all, at the start of the year I wrote a 95 000-word novel in just over two months. But to be honest, it’s very intense and since I’ve already proved that it can be done, I don’t want to go down that road again. It’s exhausting. Also, with my editing deadlines—I’d be treading dangerous ground headed for a burn-out.

NaNo is great if you’re a writer who needs the focus but as an editor, I see a lot of authors rush off their manuscripts the moment they’re done, and that’s not always so good. Usually about a month or two after NaNo I see an influx of submissions. Not all these are ready for publication.

Speaking of editing, you recently launched an editing service. Tell us about it.
At some point I’d like to resign from my day job and do the work I really enjoy—which is editing from home and not having to commute or get out of my PJs. I’d like to build solid relationships with authors who need a personalised editing service that isn’t going to cost them an arm and a leg; my rates are, I believe, affordable. I’ve been editing professionally now for a number of years and have a pretty good handle on the most obvious issues that occur in a manuscript. My preferred genres are horror, urban/dark fantasy as well as epic fantasy. I’m not averse to romance, erotica, BDSM or paranormal.

What hobbies or interests do you have that you find most compatible with writing?
I have a huge love for music. Considering that music features in a lot of my stories—some characters are involved in the industry—this is definitely a plus. I have particular soundtracks I prefer to listen to while I work that help to create a positive mood for my writing and editing. After that it’s magic, history and philosophy. These themes are recurrent. After that it’s travel and the environment.

Travel’s a big one for me because it offers me a lot of inspiration for creative world-building. Many of my readers have commented that my settings are very realistic. Even if they haven’t visited Africa, they feel as though they walk every step with my characters.

I am, by proxy, also involved in South Africa’s subcultures—be it the goth scene, the body mod tribe, indie filmmaking and the fetish scene. My husband is an indie filmmaker and photographer. I meet some VERY interesting folks; this ties into my writing quite nicely.

As your day job is related to writing and you do so much in your non-day job time, do you ever worry you'll get bored with the written word?
Bored? What’s that? I don’t have time to get bored. There’s always one more deadline I need to take care of. If I need a break, I play in my garden a little or spend time with my animals. To be honest, I’m on the go nearly all the time. I compulsively have to fiddle and if I don’t have a computer keyboard, book or ereader handy, I start getting twitchy. Sometimes I get a yen to play music on one of my guitars or even haul out my piano accordion. The sounds I produce are usually so discouraging I go back to my computer. A wee bit OCD—that’s me. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

You can find Nerine's author page on Facebook here, while her editor page is here! Go and check out her blog here, or go and follow her on Twitter @nerinedorman

Monday 10 October 2011

Photo Prompt 54

New prompt available!

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 54th prompt is Doors.

Old Door

All photo prompts are my own photography - you can find more of it on Flickr. You can also buy my prints from Deviantart. 20% of all proceeds go to charity - the other 80% go towards my PhD fees!