Well, it’s been more than a week since my last update, and here was I thinking I might start to get a bit more ‘regular’ with Drifting Astray – but never mind. This will be my third entry within the month of March, and that’s got to be a good sign!

The last two weeks have been exciting indeed (many, MANY lovely occurrences, such as meeting up with Squeaky, her hubby and Talulah, as well as finding a shiny new apartment to move into with teh Wereboy) and I haven’t had a world of time in which to write, but Aisling Weaver’s Weekend Writer challenge helped, once again.

This week I have another short story to offer, although I’m not convinced that it isn’t the start of something longer. AND I had tremendous fun/trouble fitting the images in … some of the links are quite tenuous. Some of them are laughable.

Either way, you should be warned that it is about naked alien boys and the nice girls who go looking for them. 😉

Here’s the prompt …

… and here’s what I wrote!

Earthbound

I looked down into the clear waters of the fountain and saw, in the reflected sky between the lilypads, something falling towards the earth.

I turned around to look, and saw that the falling thing was a boy who was descending gently, feet pointing towards the ground. It was as if an invisible parachute suspended him, slowly dropping him through the sky.

I felt a prickle of fear and excitement as I watched, but at the same time I was rooted to the spot. If I moved even an inch, everything in front of might begin to make sense again.

The boy in the sky was falling towards the earth. It couldn’t be real … but it was.

He’s not falling, I thought. He’s just following the most natural path through curved space. (more…)

Last week I observed the beginning of a new challenge posted by Aisling Weaver on her blog, Rebirth in Buffalo. Every week, Aisling will roll nine story cubes and post a picture of the outcome on her blog.

This is what she said:

Every week I will roll the dice. They will be posted Friday at midnight(EST). I invite all writers, no matter your genre or your style, to try your hand at this challenge. Short, long, prose, poetry, I welcome all!

Your challenge…to write a piece that encompasses the nine elements shown on the dice. Once completed, add your link below and crow your success on twitter under the hashtag #WeekendWriter! If you don’t have a blog to post to, please post it in the comments!”

It is completely ingenious, and I couldn’t wait to try it.

Here are the dice from Aisling’s blog for this week’s challenge:

… and below you can read what I came up with. I couldn’t believe how quickly the images started to trigger new ideas. I also loved reading entries from last week’s #WeekendWriter, all of them completely unique. It just goes to show the real significance of the writer’s mantra: “write what you know”.

There are many themes in life, in writing, in art, and everyone will interpret them in their own completely unique way. 🙂

The Mystery of N

“Open your eyes,” Dawn said. “You have to look at this differently.”

How? I thought.

The map was abstract. It was drawn on a square piece of parchment, depicting a rugged, rocky island with a mountain right in the middle. It was just like a treasure map from a pirate legend.

An arrow drawn above the mountain showed north, but from there, all similarity to a normal, navigational map disappeared. The shape of the island was scrawled over with symbols, hieroglyphs and letters that had no meaning for me.

“I know you have the answer all figured out,” I growled, “so why don’t you just tell me?” (more…)

There’s a place near my house where a stream twists through a little gully, and an old, ruined car sleeps in a bed of earth and leaves. To the questions one asks it, it has no answers; only secrets.

(more…)

At the beginning of the year I made several resolutions, which included giving up smoking (semi-successful so far; my willpower has been tested but still holds), writing one short story a month (very successful as I wrote two in January and have a short thingy written for February, but we’ll see how that one holds up) and writing down all the books I read this year.

I read a lot of books, but I am incredibly bad at writing them all down. It sounds silly, because surely it can’t be that hard to remember to write down their names?

It isn’t that hard, so I’ve started making more of an effort. In fact, I’ve noticed that a lot of my resolutions and goals for the year involve wasting less time – but more on that as the year goes by. For now, I’ll talk about the books.

(more…)

September Sunset

There should be more cloudscapes like this one, I think …

I took this picture a few weeks ago. It’s the view from my back window – well, specifically, I glimpsed it from my back window and then legged it outside to take as many pictures as I could before the view changed too much.

That’s the moon rising through the clouds, not the sun setting. At first I wrote this without thinking, calling the view a ‘sunset’. But of course, it isn’t. It’s the setting sun illuminating the clouds in the east.

My dad took his camera outside too, but spent so long playing around with the exposure and flash settings that he didn’t win on the overall quality-picture count. I felt a little proud of myself (or, dare I say it, smug), since I have an aesthetically pleasing but fairly basic-by-digital-camera-standards point ‘n’ click job.

Anyway, I’m going to let this photo speak for itself. To whoever may be out there reading this: enjoy your sunsets and your beautiful views. Don’t be ashamed of staring dreamily at the scenery outside, or the clouds, or the way the sun shines through the trees.

A sense of wonder at nature is a good thing. My inner child is kept alive by views like the one above.

And if you gaze at the scenery for long enough, you might be inspired to create something, too. 🙂

… and thoughts on its future.

A few days ago, I started doing something I hadn’t done for years, not since I was a carefree 17-year-old writing Tolkien-derivative short stories …

I started making a Fantasy Map™ and boy, did I enjoy it.

There is some background to this. About a week ago I started thinking about my WIP again. The WIP has been in my head for over a year now and it’s already changed forms several times. Soon after getting back from Portugal last year I got the initial idea that set it all off. Then, as charted in this blog, I started writing it in September. Months went by, I got somewhere around the 60-90,000 word mark when I realised that the story was changing again.

It was almost like the story had its own ideas about how it wanted to be told. I blogged about it again and thought (hah!) that I was actually getting towards the end of my first draft.

How very wrong I was.

I wrote more, and more, and more. I got frustrated, was ready (again) to chuck it all away. So I left it, and let it rest. It rested, in the end, for months. Back in May I chucked down some ideas in note form about about how I could rewrite the story, because it was becoming apparent that in its current form, I would never be able to write anything resembling a coherent ending for it.

Now, those ideas have spent long enough brewing in my head that I’m ready to exorcise them and commit them to paper. I have a plan, people. A plan. Complete with – and this is the best part – an ending.

And now, the WIP has its very own Fantasy Map™. So it should all be easy from here, right?!

Well, no. Yesterday, while poring over the map in its rough form, I got a completely different idea for another story set in the same world, which is shaping up to look suspiciously like a prequel. Which ISN’T HELPFUL AT ALL. But it’s kind of cool though.

So, let the fun begin. The WIP will be reborn and in the meantime, let’s see where this other-story-that-could-be-a-prequel takes me …

Map Teaser

Oh my, is this a blurry, out-of-focus teaser image? I think so!

I’m going to do something I’ve never done before on this blog. I’m going to post the  rough draft of a new project I just started today.

When I say ‘new project’, I mean pretty much exactly that. Right now I have a few ideas, a few characters, and a vague sense of plot and direction. All I knew when I started writing it was that I liked the idea of this halfway house between heaven (if there is a real heaven in this story; I don’t know yet) and earth, and the idea that there are many ways of falling.

Josef, one of the characters in this short prologue, believes that goodness is not determined by how far Below you go. Maybe that’s the essential idea that I’m intrigued by. The idea that’s going to make me write and plot and develop.

I didn’t spent much time editing or polishing this piece of writing. It’s just a something at this stage. But maybe it will turn out to be a decent something, eventually.

(more…)

Hello, and welcome back to Drifting Astray! A lot has been happening in my life of late, which doesn’t excuse, but perhaps explains the long hiatus.

I started my new job at Waitrose, quickly took on lots of overtime and spent my hours at home watching Bad TV instead of writing much. Bad TV is only enjoyable for so long before you start to crave something richer. Books, then, have also been filling my time, and Better TV. I’m currently reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, which is enjoyably dark and subtle so far.

I’ve also been reading (although I’m yet to finish) Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, which has further opened my eyes to the possibilities of magical-realism and omniscient voice (which you can also find in the wonderful One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez).

I’m still toiling away at the WIP-novel, which is trickling along merrily, if slowly. I’m thankful for the fact that I seem to still be writing something, instead of nothing. A couple of years ago I might have abandoned writing completely, for several long months, after starting a new job. So I think I can say that although I’m nowhere near perfection just yet, I’m a better writer than I was back then. 🙂

I have a lot of people to thank, actually, for keeping me on the writerly straight-and-narrow. Twitter has been the safety net which has prevented me from falling off the edge of the communicating world completely, and I must give thanks to @squeakattack, @jenku70 and @atrinza in particular.

Your encouragement and wisdom has been of invaluable help, guys. 🙂

Now, in penance for neglecting you all, I offer up this short story for your entertainment …

(more…)

Sunlight on the Snow

The snow falls every year, here in the north. Winter comes with a sombre promise to take and give nothing back. But we are stubborn people. We hold on to our homes, even when it costs us dear.

South of us the valleys stretch out, welcoming warmth, sheltering it in a cradle of trees and soft grasses. But we have the mountains and the spaces in between, the small cracks where we find what warmth we can.

In the summer the frozen rivers melt and flow again in the deep ravines. The water filters through the rocks until it’s pure and sparkling – the best water you ever tasted. It nourishes the roots of the trees, and the deer drink from the streams. We kill the deer, and the snow hares, and the mountain lions. We eat them and we take their pelts for warmth.

We survive in our mountain home.

(more…)

Chihiro and the beleaguered river spirit in Spirited Away

2010. It’s the beginning of a whole new decade. I want to start this decade by being more like Chihiro, the young heroine of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated masterpiece, Spirited Away. There are many points I could draw from the film – especially as an example of fantasy that has reality, truth and humanity at its heart – but I’ll be content with just one, for now.

Forced to work in a bath house run by Yubaba the witch, Chihiro has to undergo many trials in the hope of rescuing her parents, who greedily ate the food of the spirits and were turned into pigs as a result. On one particular occasion, a stinking monster comes into the bath house. He wants a bath, and he has lots of gold to offer in return. Greedy Yubaba likes the colour of his money enough to ignore the foul sludge which oozes from him, filling the bath house and scaring off the other customers.

Chihiro is given the rather daunting task of making the guest feel welcome and escorting him to his bath, which she does with heroic determination. As the monster soaks in the hot water, Chihiro realises that something is stuck in his side, and it won’t budge.

With the help of Yubaba and the other bath house attendants, Chihiro succeeds in tying a rope around the mysterious object. Then she pulls. And pulls. And pulls …

(more…)