Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lone Rider

Recently I put a story called Lone Rider up at the Six Sentences social site. The theme is something different for me, but does it work?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Quick Response is a Good Response

Every writer gets rejections. Lots of them. I won't complain about that fact, right now. Every writers waits weeks and months for some of their rejections. I'm not talking about novels: even short story and flash fiction submissions can take months to get rejected.

We'd all like to get quick responses to our submissions. In his post memorial day miracle, fellow writer and blogger Milo James Fowler recently told of how he wrote, revised and submitted a story and then received an acceptance all in the same day. That doesn't happen often, and the story is truly inspirational.

Yes, we'd all like to get a quick response to our submissions. I have my own quick-response story to share. Last Saturday night I finished re-revising and editing a previously-rejected 400-word flash fiction piece. It's more of a scene, or a vignette, than a standard beginning-middle-end story, which was the stated reason for the first rejection. Using my head, and duotrope's digest, I identified the perfect market; one that loves short sketchy scenes and vignettes. I was a shoe-in. I e-mailed my submission, and like Milo, received a same-day response. Same hour response, actually. To be precise, the return e-mail came 13 minutes after my submission e-mail.

The response was not positive.

So no, a quick response is not always a good response. Sometimes it feel like a slap in the face with a wet towel. Sometimes you spend a week thinking, "Thirteen minutes? That's crazy! Thirteen minutes... how can...?"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Two Year Plan

This story was published today in Issue 89 issue of Shift Miner Magazine. I hope this isn't your story too...

Callum and Mary had money problems. They weren't in debt, except for their credit card, but each fortnight was a struggle. They tried not to argue about money, but sometimes they did. One Friday evening, Mary put her solution to Callum. “I think we should do two or three years in the mines,” she said.

Mary had dropped hints like this before, and Callum had been able to deflect them, till now. He loved his job, and his friends were in Rocky. So were hers. “What about your friends,” he asked her.

“I think we need to make a small sacrifice for a while. We can still come into Rocky to socialise, and shop, every month or so.”

Mary took Callum through the numbers. “If we live on what we do now, plus a bit, we should be able to save two-thousand dollars a month. In two years, we could save seventy-eight thousand dollars; more with interest.

That got Callum's attention. He applied for six jobs from Saturday's paper. Over the next weeks, he got three interviews and an offer with a contractor based in Moranbah. He accepted it.

The plan took an early hit when they went to find a house. Rents were a little higher than they'd expected. “This is extortion,” said Callum.

The property manager mumbled something about supply and demand. They paid the rent, every week, because they needed a place to live. Still, it felt dirty paying that sort of money.

The rent wasn't the end of it. “Can you believe tomatoes cost six dollars a kilo here?” said Mary, after Callum's first day on the job.

“Is that bad?” said Callum. “It's been a while since I bought a tomato.”

“Yes, it's bad.”

It wasn't just tomatoes that were more expensive; everything was.

The first pay-packet had some surprises, too. “Are you sure this is right?” said Callum, as he went though the pay-slip. They must be taking too much tax, surely!”

They decided to sacrifice the discounted private health insurance that came with the package to save more money. It turned out that the Medicare levy surcharge – the extra tax for not having private health insurance – costed more than the insurance itself.

Mary crunched the numbers again. “I think we can still save thirty-thousand in two years,” she said.

The trips to Rocky didn't really happen. The first attempt cost them just over five hundred dollars, not including the shopping. They went to Mackay to shop, but decided to try and avoid that. Still, they needed to get out of town sometimes to keep from going nuts.

Other things helped, to keep them sane. Mary didn't need much convincing to get a big flat-screen TV. They negotiated a good price on a surround sound system, to complete the home theatre setup. Sometimes Mary got her hair or nails done in town, just for something to do. When their station wagon went north of two-hundred thousand kilometres, they leased a Prado.

When they finished their their two years; they had saved only ten thousand dollars. “Well, we improved and upgraded a lot of things,” said Callum. “And we had our first overseas holiday.”

Callum said maybe they should do another two years, and really knuckle down and save. Mary did mention the idea of going overseas, to somewhere like Indonesia, to really save some serious money, but Callum managed to avoid that subject, so far.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It's Got to That Stage

The two old ladies carried their coffees to the only table in the crowded airport café with spare seats. A young man was already at the table, hammering away at the keys to his laptop computer, drinking a beer. He tried to ignore them.

One of the ladies was clearly younger than the other, and plumper. She said, "I've got a perfectly good computer at home, but I don't use it."

The older, skinny lady said, "I'll have to get lessons, to use mine."

"It's only just for emailing all my children."

"I've got a perfectly good computer, but I don't need all the other jazz. I can't be bothered; too many other things on my mind."

The younger lady nodded. "Too much else to do."

"I'm going down to…," said the older lady, then hesitated.


"Yes, Urangan. My youngest daughter is there, and all her little ones."

The plumper lady looked at the lunch board. "They have special lunches for seven dollars ninety."

"That's good. Sophie has a little boy at school there. I don't think Felix has started school yet."

"Do you know what street she's in?" asked the younger lady, still eying the menu.

The older lady reached down for her purse.

"No, no, don't get it."

"I've no idea," said the older lady, going through the purse.

"Don't worry. I just wondered if she lived near me."

"I stay with my son and his wife. I have so much fun with my great-grandchildren." She continued looking through the purse.

The younger lady admitted, "I don't have any greats yet. Just grandchildren."

"I've got six grand and six great," said the older lady. She was distracted now. "I haven't got her address. I know its Urangan."

"Please, don't worry."

"I thought I had it." She continued looking through her purse for a few moments, then put it away.

The plump lady said, "It might be one of the new estates."

"No, they bought a two-storey house."

"Townhouse. They're popping up everywhere."

"No, I don't think it's new."

The younger lady said, "My son in law runs the sky diving place."

"There used to be a young chap in the unit next to me. His daughter used to sky-dive. He was working for this flying school attached to the air port. It was a tiny little airport."

"Is Melbourne home for you?"

"Ah," said the older lady. She paused, and groaned. "I live there, yes"

"What part of Melbourne are you in?"


"My daughter is in Hillside."

"Oh yes?" said the older lady.

"That's not far from Albion. She's a manager at Coles there."

"Oh, I don’t go to Coles, as it is. I go to Safeway."

"I go to Woolies. Which is Safeway up here."

The older lady didn't respond, so the younger one added. "It's got to that stage, I only see her once a year."

"Well, I haven't seen Sofie and the children since Easter."


Friday, June 11, 2010

Published at Full of Crow!

Standing Up For Peace is a very short flash fiction piece of mine that has just been published in the July 2010 Quarterly Issue of Full of Crow Fiction. Many thanks to Lynn Alexander, the editor, for including this piece. Best wishes also to Paul Corman-Roberts, who is now taking on the role of editor of the Full of Crow Fiction Section.

Please have a read of the July 2010 Issue. I hope you enjoy Standing Up For Peace, and I look forward to your comments.

Someone is Wrong on the Internet

I'll admit it. Sometimes, when I'm feeling annoyed, melancholic or even bored, I'll go and anyone someone on the internet. I'm not a troll at all: I'm always polite, on topic, and of course, I'm always right. It's just that there's so much that's wrong out there, and from time to time I'll feel the need to fix it.

I was thinking about this today, which made me remember a comic that I'd once seen. Just remembering it made me laugh, so I looked it up on the internet, just for you:

(Image embedded from here).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

His Job

He walked into the office, to his cubicle. His cubicle was immaculate, his desk clear and clean. He put his bag down and went to the kitchenette to put his lunch in the fridge and make a cup of coffee. He carefully measured out the coffee, filled the cup with boiling water, and then added the milk and sugar. He smiled as he added the milk. He'd started adding the milk after the water when he'd heard Glenda the receptionist loudly insist that the milk should always be added first.

"Otherwise, you'll burn the coffee," she'd say.

He went to his cubicle and started his computer and began to look busy. After an hour he picked up a clipboard and some envelopes and made his face look stern and marched down the corridor

When he was in the elevator by himself, he smiled. He loved his job. It gave him the time he needed to work on his novel, and he knew he was next in line for an opening in middle-management created by complications with Nick's triple-bypass.

The number four lit on the elevator and it stopped and the doors opened. He put on his serious face and marched down towards Tracy's cubicle to ask her out to dinner Friday night.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Spiral: A Definition

A spiral is a straight line, increasingly diverted from its intended course. See also: circle, and curve.

Curve: A Definition

A curve is that part of a straight line that is diverted from its intended course, provided the diversion does not reach or exceed 360°, in which case the straight line is consistently diverted, and is therefore a circle.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rent Money is Dead Money

This story appears in today's 88th edition of Shift Miner Magazine. You can read the current issue, and a number of back issues, here.

I haven't had any hate-mail yet; but I'll keep you all informed.

Matt was happy to live in a rented house. He didn't plan to spend his whole working life in the mines, and there was less financial risk than buying. Matt was happy renting, but Jo, his wife, wasn't. "Rent money is dead money," she'd say.

After a few months of persuasion, Matt wasn't so happy to rent any more either. They'd been saving more money than he'd thought, and if the mining boom kept up they might even make a tidy non-taxable capital gain. They talked about what they wanted in a house, and started looking. Jo found a place on Maraboon Street that she liked the look of, and booked an inspection with Dawn, the real estate agent. Matt got off work early to come along.

Dawn was a plump, middle-aged lady in a slightly too small black skirt. She had a bubbly personality, and wore too much jewellery, perfume and make-up. She was too much all round, Matt thought; but he smiled, shook her hand, and got in the back seat of her car beside Jo.

In a few minutes they were outside the Maraboon Street place. "Can we go in now?" asked Jo, unlocking her seatbelt.

"No, this house is occupied. We need to give the tenants a few days notice first."

Jo said nothing. Matt was confused, and asked her, "Didn't you make this appointment last week, so we could look inside that house?"

Jo nodded and shrugged. Matt shook his head.

Dawn perked up. "I've got a great home I can show you around that I think is really undervalued. No tenants. I've got the keys here." She took them to a house near the river.

Matt looked suspiciously up an down the street. He'd seen the peak river levels in this area during the 2008 flood. "We're not interested in areas that were affected by the flood," he said.

Dawn said, "You can still get flood insurance for this property."

"Our flood insurance will be to buy a house that wasn't half filled with water."

She didn't seem to like that, but wasn't easily put off. She jostled out toward the house to open it up.

Jo shrugged again. "We may as well look inside while we're here."

There were a lot of things that Matt felt like saying, but he held them all in, and was almost immediately glad that he had. He let Jo lead him by the hand into the house.

Dawn showed them around. The place had two bedrooms and a two-way bathroom. They wanted three bedrooms and an en suite.

"I should tell you, said Dawn, "that there was termite damage found during the repairs after the flood."

Matt snorted, and got two dirty looks. He commented that it didn't look like a very big block. "How many square metres is it?"

"I'm not exactly sure," said Dawn.


"I've got all that in the car," she said. "I'll look it up for you. It has a lovely gourmet kitchen."

Matt thought his head was going to explode. "Hold it right there," he said, raising his hands in the air. "I really need to clear some things up."

Dawn looked at him expectantly; plastic smile in place.

"We may not have been clear enough. We are interested only in three bedroom houses, with an en suite, on at least a 700 square metre block, in areas not affected by the 2008 flood. Do you have any houses meeting those criteria?"

Jo looked either embarrassed or about to laugh. Matt could see Dawn's mask slipping.

"Yes," she said after a moment. "The home on Maraboon Street."

"Great. And when Jo called you last week, did she say that we wanted to inspect that property during this appointment today?"

"She was certainly interested, but they really are asking too much for that place. Especially for a lovely young couple like yourselves, buying your first place. This home here is really affordable, and I think, quite undervalued."

Matt realised that his prejudice against estate agents had just became a genuine loathing. He took a deep breath in, and then out. "I think we're done here," he said at last, and walked out of the house towards the car.

A Good Book

The word for Sunday Scribblings No. 218 is "mess". This is my micro-sized story.

He went to his bedroom and made his bed. He made it very neatly, so that the blankets were tight across the mattress. He picked up all of his toys and clothes from the floor. Clean up your mess, he said to himself, over and over, as he worked. He said this in his head, not out loud. He was careful not to make much, but was very quiet as he tidied and sorted.

When the room was perfect, he sat on the floor in the corner and read his book. The book was good. He could imagine himself as one of the people in the book, in another place. When he was reading a good book like that, he couldn't hear the real-world sounds, like his parents yelling at each other.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Legend in His Own Lunchbox

I wrote this story, published in Shift Miner Magazine, as a response to a challenge. I blogged about this story here, but only provided a link to the on-line version of the magazine. By popular request, the full text of the story appears below.

"So, how's business Nathan?" asked Julie. Nathan had been her boss until he'd left to start his own company just over a year ago. Julie had stepped up to take his old role as Maintenance Superintendent of Freshwater Coal. Nathan was a bit of a diamond in the rough, but she still cared enough to ask how things were going.

Nathan smiled and smoothed his hand over his mostly-bald head. "Fantastic," he said. "Can't get the men or materials to meet demand." He added with a bit of a smirk, "You must be pretty jealous, huh Julie?"

Not again. She'd thought Nathan was just cruising around site, flying the flag and trying to win some more work. Instead, he was starting his "small cog and big wheel" routine. Julie was sick of it. "Why would I be jealous, Nathan?" she asked.

"I know what it's like in that job," said Nathan. "You're a small cog in a big wheel, inside an even bigger machine. It's the same with all the multinationals. Unless you're head of Australian operations on a million bucks a year, you're a nobody."

"And you're not a nobody, I suppose?"

Nathan looked shocked at the thought. "Of course not. I'm numero uno: the man in charge. I run my own company, and I'm my own boss. I'm not hidden away in a big corporation reporting to numb-skulls any more." He pointed vaguely towards the administration building.

"No, now your hidden away in your own company."

Nathan's jaw began to hang a bit low. Julie had never talked to him like that when he was her boss, of course. Poor bloke; she almost felt sorry for him. "It's not like you've become an international super-star. You're a legend in your own lunch box. You've got ten blokes working for you now, right?"

"Eleven, actually." Nathan pulled on his goatee.

"Fine. With supervisors, planners, engineers, trades and others, I have 23. What's your annual turnover: one and a half million dollars?"

Nathan's forehead was covered in sweat. "Just under $1.7 million."

"Great. My budget this year is $18 million. How much of your work this last twelve months came from just my department? Fifty percent?"

"More like forty," said Nathan. His face was red.

Julie thought it was probably more like sixty, but she let it go. "That means that I'm your boss 40% of the time, and I can sack you at any moment by only inviting quotes from other suppliers. You're not your own boss: your customers are your bosses now."

Nathan looked like he'd had enough. "Look, what's your point," he said softly.

"My point?" said Julie. "My point is that there's nothing wrong with being a lowly superintendent, or a fitter, or an operator in a multinational mining company. I – we – like to be a small part of something big. That doesn't make our part any smaller than yours. You've chosen to be a big part of something small. If what you're doing makes you happy, that's fine. Just don't assume that the rest of the world is insanely jealous and wants to be like you. And please, don't try to put me down for what I've chosen to do." Julie smiled, then added, "Especially when I'm 40% of your boss."

Nathan slunk out of her office. They got on fine after that.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Jack be Nimble

"I've got a theory about women," said Allan.

"Do tell," said Reg.

"All women hate me," said Allan. He lit a smoke. "They've made some sort of pact."

"You idiot."


"That's not a theory," said Reg. "That's a hypothesis."

"You're red hot, you are."


"I'm pouring my heart out here," said Allan, "and you pick on my grammar."

"It's not your grammar what's wrong; it's your choice of words."

"You never give, do you?"

"I consider myself to be most generous," said Reg, "but, if I'm right and you're wrong, I will not budge."

"Forget women; I need a theory about you."

"You mean a hypothesis?"

"You need to loosen up. You need to be kinder, and a bit more flexible; not so quick to jump on people."

"Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick."

"You are certifiably insane."

"That's a theory."

This story was written with the inspiration of Three Word Wednesday Issue CXCII. The words are: budge, nimble and theory.

Circle: A Definition

A circle is a straight line, consistently diverted from its intended course.