Friday 13 April 2012

Friday Flash - Regular Guy

My name is Henry Carpenter and I am just a regular guy. I tell myself this for twenty minutes every morning, beginning at 8:02, and I repeat the mantra again at 6:36pm. If I tell myself this, I do not hurt people. If I don't...

An insurance salesman called at 6:34pm. I didn't realise what he was selling until it was too late - normally I don't even answer those calls. I hung up when I saw it was 6:38. I said my mantra all the same, but there was blood on my shoes the next morning, and a claw hammer was missing from my garage. I found it the same day the missing woman reports appeared. It was wrapped in plastic in the trunk of my car. The hammer, not the woman. They never found her. I always feel guilty about that. The remorseful part of myself wishes I could remember, so I could let someone know, and the families would have something to bury. But the remorseful part of me is weak, and I do not remember.

Eight months passed before the next incident. A power cut damaged my alarm clock and I slept beyond 8:02am. The next day, a man went into an underground parking lot, but he didn't come out. That night, I couldn't find my straight razor. I didn't look very hard for it. They never found the man or the razor, and eventually people said he simply ran away with a secret lover. I do not remember what happened but I doubt that is true.

Four months later, I was on a business flight to Europe. The time zones threw my system out of line. I woke up in a strange hotel with a corpse at my side. Bleached blonde hair, blackened green eyes - not my usual type. The remorseful part of me wanted to report it - that was the first time I'd been faced with what I'd done. Instead, I slipped out of the hotel and disappeared into the early morning shadows. I told myself that no one would miss a prostitute. As far as I know, no one did.

These incidents keep happening. I say my mantra for weeks or even months at a time and all is well. But real life has a habit of breaking a pattern. I have moved three times over the last year. I meet people in bars and they ask me why I move around a lot. I tell the men that I am escaping from bad women. They laugh, and welcome me into their circle. I tell the women that I am a restless nomad, always wandering, and searching. They cluck and fuss, and seek to be what they think I need. I am sure I have left behind more than bad memories and broken hearts - I simply don't let myself remember.

I do not know why I am telling you this. None of it really matters because, like you, I am just a regular guy.

I could be anyone you know.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Post Marked: Piper's Reach Blog Tour

I love playing host to other writers here at the Blunt Pencil, and today I'm throwing open the doors to an ambitious antipodean pair, Jodi Cleghorn and Adam Byatt. The duo are aiming to resurrect the art of letter writing through serial fiction, but I'll let them explain the project! "Post Marked: Piper’s Reach is an ambitious organic narrative collaborative project between Jodi Cleghorn and Adam Byatt traversing an odd path between old and new forms of communication, differing modalities of storytelling and mixed media, all played out in real and suspended time."

The official blurb reads thus;

In December 1992 Ella-Louise Wilson boarded the Greyhound Coach for Sydney leaving behind the small coastal town of Piper’s Reach and her best friend and soulmate, Jude Smith. After twenty years of silence, a letter arrives at Piper’s Reach reopening wounds that never really healed. When the past reaches into the future, is it worth risking a second chance?

So what do Jodi and Adam have to say for themselves?

1) How do you resist the urge to fill in backstory by having characters remind each other of things they already know?
(JC) In short we don’t! The two decades silence serve as permission for them to remind each other of things... some remembered, some forgotten (like who hurled down Jude’s back at the after formal party: Bart or Paul?) They retell their time together as a deconstruction of the past, sharing how they felt and thought about different events, revealing the side of their relationship they kept hidden from each other at the time. On one hand they are prompting, but it is juxtaposed with things never known.

(AB) A letter is perhaps the one form where backstory is integral to understanding the characters, their relationship and their current situation. The events of the past inform the present. As the characters replay significant events from their past, they focus on their perspective of that moment. The reader is able to understand each character’s perspective and point of view, what they focused on and why it is important to them, in the past and present.

2) Do you miss dialogue when writing fiction as letters?
(JC) Letters are really a delayed, one-sided conversation, so my inner dialogue addict hasn’t gone into withdrawals. I still hear the voices in my head—I hear Ella-Louise talking with her friends Ava and Matt (and their daughter Ellie). The voices thing only happened recently for this project and it’s more to do with Ella-Louise trying to sort out her feelings, about what she should say, and do and think about Jude in 2012. Ella-Louise’s ‘voice’ in my head is, more often than not, couched in the one-way communication of the letters, rather than an actual conversation.

(AB) As Jodi said, a letter is a one sided conversation. Dialogue allows for tics, idiosyncrasies and favourite expressions to be developed in the character. A letter is a concentrated version of a character’s idiosyncrasies. When writing Jude’s letters, I hear how he speaks and translate it to paper. He has a poetic feel to his writing and a letter allows it to speak through his recollections and how he remembers and reimagines the past.

(JC) There are tiny snippets of dialogue inserted - but it’s as narration of what is being said around the characters and how it makes the characters feel. It would stand out as appallingly contrived in a normal short story/novel, but I think it’s used sparingly and to good effect in both our letters.

3) The rise of e-mail has largely done away with writing letters. Do you agree this is a shame, since families can hardly pass on emails etc. to the next generation?
(AB) I have a foot firmly entrenched in both camps of the digital and the analogue. I love the immediacy of email, facebook and twitter; I can skype with my sister who lives in America. I can have conversations with people in via different web media in real time or over a couple of hours or even days.

(JC) All my old friends and I lament the digital age and the fall from grace of letter writing. While we love being able to see what each other is doing on Facebook, have instant access to photos, status updates and to comment on them... we miss receiving a letter: of making a cuppa, finding somewhere comfy to sit and escaping from life for a bit and of the mindfulness involved in finding paper, pen and the time to sit and write. We do still write though it tends to be a treat for birthdays and the occasional handwritten Christmas missive.

(AB) A letter requires thought, time and preparation. An email is quick and convenient. You can spend time on an email, but its impermanence doesn’t endow it with long-term meaning. We have traded connection for convenience; the private for the public. We need to learn, and to teach, how to find the personal space and personal connection again.

4) Who was the last person you wrote to?
(JC) Ironically, Adam. And no, I’m not talking the scribbled post it note on the back of one of Ella-Louise’s letters. I was home sick a fortnight ago and was reading an essay on loss in the age of hyperconnectivity, which was followed by an intense discussion about connection/disconnection, quiet spaces. And running on the fuel of a pretty wicked fever, I had this moment of fearing I was dissolving into the page as Ella-Louise. My first and greatest love, letter writing, was being consumed by a fictional character.

So I sat and wrote a letter as me, then stressed for two days about having sent it because I had transgressed out of one intimate space and into another. Which is actually quite daft! I think we need to spend more time in these intimate spaces--with ourselves firstly, and then with others in the intense and private spaces afforded by letters.

(AB) I do not know who I last wrote to. It’s quite embarrassing to think I haven’t written someone a letter for such a long time. I leave notes for my wife from time to time, but she was probably the last person I actually wrote a letter to. I have recently seen a number of blogs advocating projects focused on letter writing. It’s a wonderful example of the immediacy of the digital age allowing a reconnection with the beauty and intimacy of the past.

* * *

Thanks to Jodi and Adam for stopping by.  You can find out more about the project here and meet the authors here. Follow the blog tour schedule at

Monday 9 April 2012

Photo Prompt 80

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 80th prompt is Butterfly.

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!