Tomorrow afternoon in Brisbane, Australia, my friend Pamela Jeffs will launch her new book, Red Hour and Other Strange Tales. A first for Pam, Red Hour and Other Strange Tales is a speculative fiction anthology that explores the transformation theme. Brisbane based Jeffs is an award-winning speculative fiction author who has had numerous short fiction works published in both national and international anthologies and magazines.
The stories, although strange in nature, are set against familiar backgrounds of Australia and her surrounding oceans.
“Each character is intended as a study into the emotional significance of change, be it mental, physical or spiritual”, Jeffs said.
Jeffs grew up in rural Australia, and her storytelling inspiration is drawn from the natural world. I first met Pam in the Kenmore Creative Writing Workshop (Brisbane) about three years ago. I was drawn into the stories she told by her details of characters and scenes and interesting plot twists. Before I met Pam, my stories were all based on real events and true stories. I had never imagined I could craft a whole story purely out of my imagination until I listened to her stories. You can read one of her short stories, “Greysin’s March” at the end of this post.
Please find below the details of the author’s contact and the book if you want to purchase. The author would appreciate any feedback on the stories.
Book Title: Red Hour and Other Strange Tales
This collection features a mix of stories in the following genres: Dark Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror and Paranormal Fiction.
The coarse volcanic ash caught in the wisped snarls of Greysin’s dreadlocks and in the back of his throat. He coughed, but it didn’t help. It never helped. Ever since the eruption, the air had been tainted. Greysin reached back for his threadbare scarf. Twisting it, he secured the scrap over his nose and mouth. He lowered his chin and resumed his march through the dead city.
Ash-coated facades of abandoned buildings filed by him like pale ghosts. He felt as if the empty windows stamped into the walls were watching him. In some ways he wished they were. It would mean another sign of life.
But Greysin knew he was alone.
For days after it happened, he had searched the city but found no other survivors. He only kept going, kept searching, because it was either that or die, and he wasn’t ready to give up. So he walked on, watching the ground and counting out each footstep as it was etched into the inches of ash that covered everything.
He let all else pass by in a blur. The charred trees that lined the roadways, the dead cars crumpled against shattered gutters and the ash-covered corpses of citizens still sitting within them. Sometimes he thought he could hear the people calling to him, begging, pleading. Or perhaps it was his own ghosts that haunted him. He wasn’t certain anymore.
Greysin halted. He lifted his head. He could hear the music again: his daughter’s violin. The sound was coming from ahead. But he could see nothing through the curtain of falling ash. He rubbed his eyes, dislodging ash from his eyelashes. Still nothing.
He stopped himself from breaking into a run. He had been disappointed so many times before. But he was definitely hearing music; what if he wasn’t going mad like he thought? What if this time it was real?
The song was faint, a thin melody. Greysin heard silent words floating in each note. He heard his daughter calling to him in the cadence of the tune, felt the strains of her music push past the boundaries of his grief and instil within him hope.
‘Daddy?’ Her voice was barely a sigh against the silence of the city.
‘I’m coming, sweetheart,’ he whispered, the words cracking over his tongue.
The music faded briefly, but then surged, louder. Greysin broke into a tired run. She was waiting. He must find her. Would the others be with her?
An intersection materialised from the ash and volcanic darkness. The music stopped. The crossroad was empty, no footprint marring the ashy surface. Just like every other time he had followed the music, there was no one waiting for him.
Greysin glanced up at the streetlights that stood like sentinels at each junction. North. South, east and west. Four lights. Four compass points, one for each of the lives lost because his strength had failed him: his wife, his two sons and his daughter.
Greysin squeezed his eyes closed, trying to shut out the memories. Their screams as they had slipped from his hands, swallowed by the mudslide; the feral desperation he had felt as he dug barehanded through the slop in a futile effort to save them.
Greysin opened his eyes. He looked down at his trembling hands. They were broad, and seemed as though they should be strong, but he knew looks were deceiving. He hunched his shoulders and pulled his worn jacket closer. Once again ghosts had led him astray.
He stepped out onto the roadway; ash shifted in eddies around his calves. He looked left and then right. Which way to go? Where could the people be? Left, he decided. He clenched his jaw. He walked on.
He almost missed the sound from behind him. It was a whisper against the profound silence that held the city. It had been so long since he had heard a real sound that it almost seemed unreal. He twisted on his heel, falling into a wary crouch. His fingers clutched at the service revolver he kept concealed at his side, the one he had carried when being a police officer mattered. He pulled it free.
A black dog stood silently in the middle of the road. Its lolling tongue was a shock of red against the impossible white of its teeth. Its eyes were pale blue. Greysin shuddered; his own eyes were that colour. Greysin waited. The dog seemed to be waiting also.
The animal was thin and starving, but Greysin saw in its bearing the mark of a survivor. Even worn so thin, the dog was no victim to its circumstance. Its life spark was vital, bright; the dog, if Greysin dared to believe it, was real.
A sudden desperation gripped him. He holstered the gun and reached into his pocket for his last precious scrap of dried meat. He held it out. The dog extended its nose and sniffed, testing the scent of Greysin’s offering on the air. One step followed another as the animal approached with caution. Greysin drank in the details: the coarseness of its fur, the sprinkling of white across its muzzle, the gold tag that hung from the faded red leather collar circling its neck.
The dog stopped a few steps away. It stretched out its neck, lips extended to snatch at the meat. The dog’s teeth caught at Greysin’s fingers and he almost laughed aloud in delight. Such close contact with another living creature was intoxicating.
With the meat secured, the dog skittered away. A snap of its jaws and the morsel was gone. The dog twisted to look back at Greysin, its long thin tail wrapped like a whip around its rear legs. Any more?
‘No more,’ whispered Greysin.
The dog stood up straight, ears pointed forward. It walked up to Greysin, eyes imploring.
‘I’m sorry. No more.’
The dog seemed to understand. It looked up the street in the direction that Greysin had been heading. It pushed its head into Greysin’s hand. Let’s go, it seemed to say.
Greysin reached down, lifted the dog’s nametag and thumbed away the ash coating it. The writing beneath was scratched, but he could make it out. ‘Your name is Delusion?’
The dog’s eyes glowed as they held Greysin’s gaze.
Greysin smiled. He let go of the collar and began to walk up the road. Around him the city was dead. Its people were dead. The land was dead. But at least he had the dog by his side. Greysin kept walking, choosing to ignore the fact that the animal left no footprints in the ash as it passed.
She lived a life that some would describe as being on edge. Amile rubbed the twins in her red Yves St Laurent coat. She ‘borrowed’ the coat from her one-month-old employer. With minimum wage, Amile was desperate for money. She heard about a game at Vipers, a dingy bar downtown. The stakes were nice and high. Gambling left her habits after Lucas was born, but times were hard.
That night, as the game intensified, all players dropped out except for Snarky Joe and her. Snarky was rumoured to kill at a drop of a hat.
Grandma Magda’s lucky twin coins made Amile fearless. As the dealer began, Amile winked at Snarky and raised all in. Snarky’s hungry eyes lavished her full honey glossed lips, high cheekbones and large brown eyes. His eyes couldn’t go beyond the poker table; instead, he held Amile’s gaze.
Revealing her win, Amile reached for the chips. Snarky pulled out a .22 calibre.
“I win,” he said.
Click on short stories on triblamysticstories blog, to read more 150 word short stories created for Mondays Finish the Story flash fiction.
The carrot and the egg-plant showed up at our house today. In actual fact, the carrot slept in our house and the eggplant came to meet his fellow ‘vege’. These two ‘vegetables’ were preparing for the Year 12 free dress day at Kenmore High School, Brisbane. My son Chris and his friend Ethan have almost reached the end of high school. The dress-up is the beginning of the ending. These two had to dress as a vegetable that shared the first letter in their names. That’s why the boys used the letters “c” and “e”. Now, who could have thought of such a thing?
Watching them from the window as they were painting their limbs, I thought they were heading in the right direction – they had the right colours. After an hour, I came down to photograph the boys and started to laugh. Instead of two vegetables, two aliens were peaking back at me behind large bug eyes.
“You don’t look like vegetables, at least not the real vegetables – perhaps the futuristic vegetables,” I said.
They were not impressed with my jokes. ………………………………………………….
Discover the remarkable story of one of the world’s oldest continuing cultures in this major exhibition.
The show is the first major exhibition in the UK to present a history of Indigenous Australia through objects, celebrating the cultural strength and resilience of both Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders. This culture has continued for over 60,000 years in diverse environments which range from lush rainforest and arid landscapes to inland rivers, islands, seas and urban areas today. Hundreds of different Indigenous groups live across this vast continent, each with their own defined areas, languages and traditions. The exhibition runs from 23 April – 2 August 2015.
And here is another view of the exhibition has sparked.
Exhibition Sparks Protests
Published on Apr 23, 2015 (YouTube)
On 21 April 2015, the British Museum’s BP-sponsored ‘Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation’ press launch was disrupted by activists, criticising oil sponsorship and calling for the repatriation of stolen indigenous objects.
ABC reported this fascinating story about one of the earlier body builders of our time. I was particularly interested in the long strong arm because my own is not working very well at the moment, especially with ‘writers’ elbow’.
The most interesting thing about this story is the first paragraph…
His first Sydney appearance promised he would exhibit his “400 phenomenally developed” muscles, tear packs of playing cards in half, and lift – at arm’s length – a grand piano on which a musician was performing, and support on his chest “a platform (weighing 800lbs/363kg) on which three horses play at see-saw”.
With his golden curls, waxed moustache and bulging muscles, Eugen Sandow cut quite a figure when he performed in Australia in 1902.
Born Friedrich Wilhelm Mueller in Prussia in 1867, Sandow was billed as the strongest man on earth and has come to be regarded as the father of body building.
The National Library of Australia (NLA) has a collection of material related to his Australian tour, including handbills, newspaper reports and a local edition of his book The Gospel of Strength, which included exercises that outlined Sandow’s theories on physical culture.
I found this article by Jane Sullivan interesting because the argument she has discussed is the same used for other creative professions. Are institutions ‘killing’ the creative mind? How so I ask? And if creativity (in writing) cannot be nurtured through mentoring, writers’ grants nor creative writing workshops – what are we suppose to do?..Quit?
Having said that, aren’t we (bloggers) all lucky that we could write stories here on WordPress for free in our own genres, languages etc and build our own readership without worrying about whether someone reads the stories or not?
Turning Pages: Is criticism of creative-writing courses justified?
There’s a scene in the Simon Pegg TV sitcom Spaced when a writer is kicked off the dole and has to get a job washing dishes. She complains to the manager: “But this isn’t me. I’m a writer.” The manager replies: “Oh, everyone who works here is a writer, dear.”
They used to make that joke about actors. Now it’s writers. Not that it’s new, exactly. Writers have always taken pride in listing menial and bizarre jobs on their book cover bios, and have taken comfort in the thought they were following in the footsteps of Hemingway and Beckett. A full-time writer is still quite a rare beast, and is usually a writer of books for children, or of books in a highly commercial genre.
So why is a Nobel Prize for Literature judge, no less, complaining about the rather meagre and intermittent help writers can get from institutions? You’d think Horace Engdahl would be totally in favour of writers’ grants and creative-writing programs to nurture talent and to supplement what are usually very modest incomes.
But no, he thinks they are impoverishing Western literature. Just before the Nobel team announced that the 2014 prize had gone to the French author Patrick Modiano, Engdahl told the French newspaper La Croix that “professionalisation” of the writer’s career is having a negative effect: “Even though I understand the temptation, I think it cuts writers off from society, and creates an unhealthy link with institutions.” He cited writers including Samuel Beckett, who had to work as taxi drivers, clerks, secretaries and waiters to make a living.
Engdahl’s comments were reported in The Guardian, which drew some miffed responses from writers (one of them mentioned the Spaced scene). They just don’t view their lives as he does.
Most writers still take the Beckett route, combining paid work with writing in their spare time, and most don’t get any other income until they are published. Grants are still few and far between, last for a few months at most, are always under threat of cutbacks, and the competition for them is intense.
There’s always someone ready to rail against literary grants as a waste of taxpayers’ money. Creative-writing programs are similarly under siege. Although they have grown at a huge rate, they are as vulnerable as any section of academia to cutbacks, and they regularly get attacked.
Writers and teachers themselves have joined the offensive. The British novelist Hanif Kureishi has denounced creative-writing courses as a waste of time, even though he teaches one himself, at Kingston University. He complained “99.9 per cent” of his students were not talented, and many of them couldn’t tell a story. Lucy Ellman has agreed with him, calling creative-writing courses “the biggest con-job in academia”.
It’s true most creative-writing students will not end up in full-time careers as published writers (though they might well end up working in the publishing industry). They may not have the talent; they may not have the right teachers; almost certainly they won’t have the fanatical determination that is necessary. But it’s a huge jump from there to assert that all courses are a waste of time, or a con-job, or part of a “professionalisation” that diminishes literature.
Writing is a vocation that attracts a huge number of beginners; very few stay the course. Those who stay need all the help they can get. And the charge that a bit of intermittent assistance from a creative-writing course or a grant will put them out of touch with society seems out of touch with reality.
The mosquito net was white, light and airy. I could see everything outside my enclosed bed. I would not have been five yet, and mother and I shared this bed on the floor. It was made of a blanket and a sheet with a pillow on the wooden floor. The room was packed with our clothes and things. To cover, we would use one of mother’s laplaps.
The mosquito net flopped around me. Mother had tucked its ends by weighing the net down with some clothing. At the bed head, the net was tucked under my pillow. To keep the net from touching my head, my old T shirt was rolled length-wise into a sausage and laid behind my pillow. If the net did touch me, the mosquitos would penetrate through the holes and get me.
Mother was a nurse. She knew how seriously and often I got attacked by Malaria. She had told me last time I was too tall to be carried to the nearest clinic, several hours walk away.
In this bed, the mosquitoes will not get me, and Malaria will not touch me. I drifted off in my sleep and enjoyed the comfort of my luxurious bed in Wagang Village, outside Lae, Papua New Guinea.
I prayed: “Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for his mercy and endurance, forever and ever, Amen”.
After what seemed like a whole night had gone by, I was woken by strange voices talking. There were two new voices. I could also hear my Uncle Sam speaking in English. Uncle Sam only spoke English when he joked or when he was drunk. His English was impressive. His voice was quiet but Uncle Sam sounded confident. “Yes, you can go and see her”, Uncle Sam told someone.
I recognised my grandmother’s low disapproval as she told Uncle Sam that no-one should disturb my sleep. I heard footsteps coming towards me. They walked up the old steps of the Fibro and timber house. Mother and grandpa build this house from his teaching and her nursing money. Most of the fly-wire was ripped so I could hear everything.
At the top of the landing, the shoe soles brushed the sand on the wooden floor as they approached my room. There were more than one person. I felt nervous and I wanted to call out to my mother but I was not sure if the footsteps would come to me.
The footsteps stopped at my door. My heart pounded. My door opened and I looked up. In the light of our small kerosine lantern by the bed, I saw two white men peeking down at me through the mosquito net. One was fair and the other had dark hair.
“Mama! Mama!”, I yelled out.
The one with the dark hair sat down and reached out to me, smiling. I saw his white hand come to me and I threw my cover and crawled to the end of the bed. The man’s thick black hair was brushed back neatly. His eyes were dark with thick eye-brows. I stared at his face. I had never seen him before. I started to cry. The man tried to hush me but he seemed nervous. He said in English, “It’s ok! Everything is ok”.
The more he tried to speak, I became terrified and recoiled into the further corner of the mosquito net. I called my mother and cried louder as I backed into the corner. There was no way out and they were at the door. The man with the dark hair put his hand in his pocket and pulled out some notes and coins. There was a lot of money. He put them on my bed and beckoned me. He told me that money was ALL for me. I had never seen so much money. I was sure I was not dreaming. It was unbelievable and scary. “Come!” he said again.
“Mama!” I yelled and my mother came running up the steps.
She walked into the room and the fair haired man stepped outside. My mother smiled and I could not understand it.
Why was mother smiling at this stranger? And why was the stranger giving me money? Was he going to take me? Was he going to buy me from my mother? I did not move. I wanted my grandmother.
Welcome and thank you for reading my blog. My name is Joycelin Leahy. My blog name is Tribal Mystic. I am an Ahe (pronounced: aah hee) woman from Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG); one of the most unique and diverse countries of many tribes, languages, cultures and natural beauty. I now live in Brisbane, Australia and work between the two countries.
Whether you come from PNG or not, we all come from tribes and we belong to some kind of tribal group and material objects or things that give us our identity. I believe each person and each thing has a story. I am hoping to share with you some of these stories about people, animals and things that have been part of my life. I hope that you would find these stories interesting and share them with others. I have been a journalist, artist, an arts curator, business woman, climate activist and story-teller and a mother of two amazing sons. I have also been a cleaner, house painter, body painter, sales person, renovator, telemarketer, campaigner – you name it, I have tried many things…As present, I write for pleasure and I paint and teach others to paint while I run my art gallery in Bellbowrie called Beyond Pacific Art.
I am very passionate about sustainable heritage particularly with the effects of climate change. I would also like to see more women in PNG and the Pacific Islands become self-sufficient by using their traditional heritage to do contemporary business and at the same time, not give in to too much commercialisation and losing their traditional skills. Teach your daughters and grand daughters your skills now. I only hope for eco-tourism in the future and I would like to see Pacific Island countries, particularly the Melanesians work extra hard to preserve their unique heritages. We are losing many languages. I support visual artists and embrace all the challenges that women face around the world and particularly in my country and the islands. There will be posts about many of my interests I have just mentioned as part of my introduction to this blog. I hope what I write would support, educate and be simply enjoyed. Please give me some honest feedback.
I have been contemplating this role as a blogger for almost three years and was always afraid and concerned that I would never have the right content or quantity to write about. Just writing this tonight makes me feel like a very excited small kid dying to play in a large playground with strangers. I took some time to speak to friends and family who are expert bloggers (thank you Mari Ellingson – Island Meri) and looked at veterans Malum Nalu and Masalai and after some research and feedback I have finally taken the giant step. I hope that I can stand comfortably on my feet in the coming months and make another step towards sharing extraordinary stories and pictures. I will write about art, culture, heritage, climate change, creative writing, nature, family women, business, music, beauty and fashion, but to name a few. Each post will be different and could be from any of these topics. In this first blog, I would like to share an image of two birds – both lorikeets that have come to live with us here on the outskirts of the city in Bellbowrie. Over the years my sons and I have loved and cared for animals and insects and I often get a shock when without warning I find a dead beetle in the freezer, waiting to be buried properly. I have also been deeply moved often when my sons make me stop at roadsides to pick up road-kills and take them home with us. Whether it be a possum or bird they wanted us to take the animals home to give them a good burial in our yard. Next blog I will share with you one of my short stories about life in Brisbane City. Tenk yu tumas na lukim yu! (Thank you very much and I’ll be seeing you!).