Friday, 30 August 2013

The queen

He was their leader but he was old. His advancing age made him weak and therefore desperate. He clung too tightly to what he owned; he didn’t appoint a successor and the uncertainty left the community nervous.
He had no heirs of his own. Her sons were dead. Taken from her by illness when they were travelling with him. That was what he had told her, but she didn’t believe him. No one else had fallen ill. He told her that they would have other sons. Every night he moved over and in her and every night she turned her face away and endured. He did nothing to give her pleasure, as if the act itself was reduced to breeding and no longer gave either of them any joy.
Her womb did not quicken. She suspected that it was precisely because he did nothing for her pleasure. She had thought him old when they wed and another ten years had not been good to him. She had never loved him but now she didn’t respect him either. It was the loss of respect that finally soured the relationship.
She mourned for her boys. Her beautiful boys. Tall and dark of hair like their father. She told him she needed proof and he said the bodies had to be burned because of the disease. Not even a lock of their hair remained. Without the proof of her eyes and the touch of her hands as she washed them and laid them to rest, she clung to the belief that they continued to breathe and to grow.
They had grown too tall too fast and perhaps it was that that had given her away, for they were not his sons. Her womb had quickened for her lover because her whole body had ached for him. She had clung to him, drawn in every part of him that she could, tasted him, bitten him and swallowed him down. By all the gods, when he had filled her it was the final part of a long journey and every part of her welcomed every part of him.
The contrast made it worse.
The leader sent him away. A long and dangerous sea voyage; a raid on the lands to the West. He was too cowardly to just have him killed. She knew better than to ask for mercy for him. Or for herself. Her body missed him and her heart. She had taken comfort in her twin sons but now, they too, were gone.
She turned her heart to her people. She watched as she sat next to him in the great hall to listen to his judgements. The stupid, vain old man was destroying his kingdom rather than passing it whole and strong to another. His closest advisors were bullies not fighters. The laws were twisted to his purposes. She did her best to temper his wild accusations, to defuse his rages, to suggest results that were fairer, to countermand his orders and to take his ire when he found out that she had interfered. The people learned to appeal to her first; to send her alms. The cleverest sent their children to ask.
He was destroying the kingdom as fast as he was destroying her. Each night the act wore her down a little more. He rubbed away at her and a little bit more of her disappeared. Soon, she would be gone, as well.
The next council meeting, she heard voices outside, raised in alarm, but no warning trumpet. Armed men entered the great hall. Some greeted them as old friends. She allowed herself to hope.
The men parted respectfully for their leader. He needed no deputies to force people to follow him. He strode towards her and she put her hand over her mouth. His height and his walk. She knew every movement of that body. She glanced at her husband and saw his eyes narrow.
He had returned, against all the odds… and yet, she was not certain of his motives. Not until she saw the figures behind him.
She lifted her skirts and she ran.
They tried to behave like men, but failed and behaved like boys who thought their mother lost to them. She inhaled the scent of their hair, ran her hands over their faces. She kissed them repeatedly. She made odd noises of joy and wonder. Her lover waited patiently.
“How?” she asked her sons.
“He tried to kill us, mother.” They pointed at the leader.
He blustered and denied, but his accusers stood resolute. His lies exposed, he ordered his bullies to attack. The great hall filled with the sounds of clashing weapons and the shouts of battle. The fight, such as it was, was over quickly. The veteran fighters won easily.
Her husband was forced to his knees.
The people demanded to know why he had tried to murder his sons.
“They are not my sons,” he answered.
Her lover met her eyes with astonishment.
“The gods sent them to their father,” she told him.
“I protected them because I knew they were yours, I did not suspect that they were mine.”
“Whore!” Her husband spat at her skirts.
She stared down at him. She looked every inch a queen, dark and dangerous.
She reached her hand back and the dagger was placed in her palm.
His eyes quailed. There was no valour in a death like this. And he knew death stood at her shoulder.
“The kingdom is done with your incompetence,” she told him.
She stabbed him cleanly in the heart. It was more than he deserved but she had always been fair. He looked incredulous.
Her lover knelt to her and she embraced him. She held him to her heart and buried her face in his hair. When she opened her eyes, the whole hall was kneeling to her. Her sons led the cheers and the people shouted her name. They buried the king with due honours and confirmed her as their leader. She had earned their respect not demanded it.
That night she and her lover made a daughter.
© AM Gray 2013

Thursday, 29 August 2013

A most unusual house.

This weeks's challenge from Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds.
I’m going to give you ten words. Your job is to work all ten of these words into a flash fiction story, ~1000 words in length. That’s it. End of mandate.
The story’s due in a week: Friday, August 30th, noon EST.
Post at your online space.
Link back here.
The ten random words are as follows:
A most unusual house.
She hated funerals. It was the insincerity of most of the mourners that made her want to barf. When she died, she hoped a few firm friends showed up, not a crowd of rubber-neckers with hearts full of deceit, and eyes devoid of tears. One person had even bought a flower arrangement that had a balloon in it for goodness’ sake. She was hoping that it didn’t say ‘Congratulations; it’s a boy!’ or something equally inappropriate.
She glanced around at them. The crowd had left the chapel and followed the family to the interment. She thought that was a bit rude. She felt as if that part ought to be more private. She didn’t know anyone other than her mother and a few vaguely familiar faces from other family events; weddings, christenings and funerals. Maybe people should have get-togethers for divorces? Just to even things up? A right of reply to those hideous wedding speeches.
Their greed seeped out of the pores of their skin. Her grandmother was a wealthy woman. Everyone wanted a piece of the pie. They all pretended to be captivated. Hanging on every word the minister said as if they actually cared.
She was one cousin among a dozen, the chances of her getting anything of value was unlikely. The insincerity of it made her mouth taste sulphurous, as if she had chewed on brimstone. She edged slowly backwards and finally, walked away.
The cemetery was close to her grandmother’s house. She had a vague memory of walking through it as a child wearing her favourite sandals with the enormous plastic daisy on them. The place brought it back. She must have been about five or so. They had been on an epic road trip holiday. Even done the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore and then they had dropped in to visit grandma. She remembered now. The actual memories were disfigured by the photos and the stories told as you looked at the album. There was a stream around here somewhere. She stepped carefully around the graves until she saw a willow, leaning over the clay banks and trailing its long branches on the surface of the water.
She huffed out a breath. She could breathe now, by the river. She bent down, cupped her hand and drank from the clear water. When she turned around her grandmother was sitting on the roots of the willow.
She closed her eyes. When she opened them again her grandmother was still there but looked slightly more transparent if that was possible.
“Shouldn’t you be at your funeral?” she asked.
The old woman shuddered. “Horrible things,” she muttered.
“Yeah… that’s what I thought.”
“I know.”
She nodded. “Your friends came,” she tried.
“None of those people are my friends.”
“I am sorry to hear that.” She genuinely meant that.
“You’re here.”
“Yes.” She hesitated. “And you’re here.”
“I have something to tell you.”
“The house is yours and all of the money. Every cent.”
“Me? Good Lord. Why?”
“You love it. Like I did and you will need the money to protect it and maintain it.”
“I hardly ever visited here.”
“I know. That wasn’t your fault. But it is still obvious to me that you are the right one out of them all.”
“They will fight me in the courts.”
“No, they won’t. I have built in some curses. Always hated lawyers.”
“Ah… okay. Will they know that?”
“Of course! It’s in the will. Once the first few drop dead, they’ll get it.”
“And you expect a lawyer to read that out?”
She chuckled. “Read it? He drafted it. Stick with him. He’s not half bad.”
“For a lawyer?”
“Exactly. He’s handsome, too. Pity about the lack of soul.”
She suspected that she may actually mean that literally.
She heard her name called by a man whose voice she didn’t recognise.
“Here!” she called back. “Will you be around?” she asked the spirit.
“If you wish.”
“I think I will need your advice and I’d like to get to know you better.”
Her grandmother seemed pleased by that. The spirit stood and floated patiently just behind her. She saw him now, well dressed, tall and dark haired and picking his way through the grass as if it would wreck his shoes. He was good looking.
“Don’t sign anything without reading it first,” her grandmother said.
“I take offence at that,” he said.
“You can see her?”
He nodded his head in a sideways movement that was almost more of a bow. Respectful.
“Are you ready for the reading?” he asked her.
“I-I think so. It will be bad won’t it?”
Atomic.” He held his arm out to her. She put her arm through it and he patted the back of her hand where it rested on top of his. “You’ll be fine with two advisors.”
“She’s coming, too.”
“I’m sure she wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“I don’t know… she missed her own funeral.”
He laughed and she thought he got better looking.
“How will we stop them from taking things from the house?” she asked. If they were disgruntled after the reading, she knew a few cousins who were highly likely to slip the silverware into their handbag.
“It won’t matter; the things will eventually find their way back.”
She blinked. Clearly she had inherited a very unusual house.
© AM Gray 2013

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Aqua alta

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

Source and picture credit:

Every evening she went down to the waterfront. The bread shop closed at sunset. They sold the remaining loaves at half price. She could just afford half price. With her loaf clutched under her arm, she started up the winding hill and followed the cobbled path back to her home. Her boarding house was probably the furthest away from the water, too. She rented a room and it was cheaper the further away from the water it was.
She liked being away from the water the problem was, the water didn’t like being away from her. It followed her, up the hill - the opposite way water was supposed to flow. She looked over her shoulder and glared at it. It usually gave up before she got home. But not tonight. Tonight it was determined to shadow her.
She stopped at her bottom step.
“No,” she told it. “You have to go back. You’re sea water. You will ruin the drinking fountain again.”
It burbled happily at her feet but didn’t withdraw.
“I’m serious.”
She pointed back towards the lighthouse and the waterfront. “Go back!”
It murmured something. A susurrus of sound.
She leaned closer to it. “Swim? Is that what you said?”
“Yessss,” it agreed.
The air was not cold. She wore only a summer dress but it was too late in the evening for swimming.
“Tomorrow, if the sun is shining. I will swim in the sea.”
“Sunssset,” it insisted.
She glanced at the moon where it hovered over the sea. Almost full. Tomorrow night it would be complete. She knew the moon, the sea and the tides were linked even if she didn’t know how.
She frowned. Whatever the sea wanted, it had never hurt her. It followed her like a disobedient puppy but it meant no harm.
“Fine,” she huffed. “Now, off you go.”
“Sssweet dreamssss.”
She patted it - a reward for being obedient and watched it ebb away, leaving the cobblestones slippery and glistening in the light of the moon. She knew her dreams would be of seaweed, surf, silvery fish and darting seals.
They always were.
© AM Gray 2013

Saturday, 24 August 2013


A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

Source and image credit:
Her heels clicked on the pavement as she hurried to class.
“Hey?” The hissed call came from the stairwell, down below street level.
She looked around stupidly for a second before she glanced over the railing and down. She saw a guy with dark spiky hair and the bluest eyes she had ever seen. He seemed to be hanging onto the wall as he peered up at her.
“Can you help me?” he asked.
“Ah...” She was late for a lecture and she might have thought of her herself as a good Samaritan but there was something edgy about this guy.
“Never mind,” he grunted, clearly assuming her hesitation was a ‘no’.
She saw the blood on his leg. “You’re hurt.”
He gave her a look that basically told her to go away and leave him to bleed. He had already bled a lot.
“I didn’t know you were hurt,” she argued.
“What can I do to help?”
“You did ask me for help,” she hissed down at him.
“Do you have a car?”
“Bring it.”
She blinked. Talk about curt. He just ordered her. She rifled in her bag for her keys, trying to think if she still had the towel from her yoga class in the trunk. Wait a second, her common sense said. You can’t just put this guy in your car. Where does he want to go? Hospital? How did he get injured?
“To... take you to the hospital?” she checked.
“No!” He was almost too vehement. “No hospital.”
Now she knew that how he had got hurt was illegal or dangerous or both. Hospitals would keep records and records could be given to Police. She started to back away.
“Please,” he said. Those eyes pleaded with her.
Her hand on her keys, she turned and hurried back to her car. This was insane.
She parked in a no standing zone right at the top of the steps, grabbed the towel and left the motor running. As she started down the stairs he had moved towards them but couldn’t get up the bottom step. She hesitated for a moment and then put her shoulder under his arm so that he could use her as a crutch. Together they made their way up the flight of stairs. He grunted in pain a couple of times.
“Back seat,” he said when he saw the car.
That was a good idea; he could lie down and hide below the window level. At least it seemed like a good idea until she saw how tall he was. He fitted in and she shut the door.
“Last chance,” she said to herself, but she wasn’t listening. She had felt hard lumps under his coat that had to be guns and something else on his back that she couldn’t begin to guess what it was. It couldn’t be a sword even if it looked like one. That would be nuts.
She risked a glance at him at a traffic light. He had passed out. The bleeding had slowed. His belt was literally holding his leg together. Looking at the wound made her feel like throwing up. His leg had been cut multiples times in a parallel row. It looked like claw marks.
She drove into her garage and then hesitated to wake him up. She sighed. He was already here and he would know where she lived. No going back now.
She touched his face and he startled, grabbing her hand much quicker than she expected.
“W-we’re here,” she squeaked.
“More stairs I’m afraid. But they are inside... so nobody can see.”
He gave her an odd look.
“What?” she demanded.
“That was smart.”
She humphed a reply.
These stairs were just as painful as the first set. She left him sitting, leaning against the wall in her kitchen while she found the first aid kit.
“Should I pour alcohol on the wound?”
“Fuck, no!”
“Oh, is that bad?”
“The worst. Just water.”
She poured some disinfectant in the water and tried to clean the wound. “You need to take the pants off...”
“Boots first,” he said.
She unlaced and pulled off his boots, then he slid sideways and clunked onto the floor. They were guns. He pulled them out and placed them down carefully; one black one white - a matching pair. He shrugged out of his leather coat. He looked at her face before he started to pull off his pants.
“I’ve... seen it,” she mumbled. Not him, technically, but she wasn’t an innocent.
The belt had to be loosened and the blood had dried and stuck the material to the wound. He groaned. “Just... pull it off-”
She grabbed the legs of his jeans and pulled them off before he had finished saying it. His sentence ended in a yowl. He panted quickly. She kept her eyes on his leg. Or tried to.
When he had got his breath back he said, “You need to bleach the blood off the floor.”
“Later. This will take weeks to heal,” she muttered as she sponged at the wound.
“I won’t stay more than one night.”
“One night? Really?” She passed him a bottle of water.
“That’s all I’ll need.”
“What? How?”
He shrugged. “I heal fast.”
“That fast?”
She didn’t believe him. Nobody healed that fast. She taped it up with loose dressings and helped him to her bed. She only had one bed. He pulled his tank top over his head and lay down with an exhausted groan. “Weapons,” he mumbled at her.
She fetched them and put the guns on the side table and the sword on the floor next to the bed. It weighed a ton. She pulled the top sheet over to cover him but could not resist checking him out. Gah. He had a beautiful body. Wide shoulders and slim hips like a swimmer and covered in muscle. All he wore was a pendant on a leather thong and a bandage.
She cleaned up the blood, rinsed out his clothes and washed his boots. It kept her busy. She ate a light dinner and poured a large glass of red wine. She stood in the doorway and watched his chest rise and fall as he slept. She was worn out but felt odd about sleeping next to him. She started watching a movie and fell asleep on the lounge.
A noise woke her. She stared at the TV screen, glowing bluely. The dvd player had turned itself off. She peered at the led clock on the display. Nearly three am.
The shower was running. She stood and stumbled towards the bathroom. He’d left the door open. She got a glimpse of his muscled back and an odd white tattoo at the base of his neck through the glass screen. It was glowing.
“Hey,” he said.
He was washing his hair. Her eyes dropped down to the injured thigh. Nothing. Not even a mark.
“Told you.” He sounded smug.
“That’s impossible.”
He turned the water off and stepped out of the shower. He stood right in front of her naked and wet.
What are you?” she asked in a tiny voice.
A half angel? She shook her head. “Not possible,” she repeated. She noticed he had brought a gun into the bathroom. Why did half angels need guns? “If that’s true, then this isn’t your world.”
“No. I fell through a rift.”
What hurt you?”
“You do not want to know.”
Perhaps he was right on that one. “It had claws.”
He nodded.
“Can it hurt me?”
“You cleaned up the blood?”
She nodded.
“Then... no.” He looked down at her, gauging her reaction.
“What’s your name?”
She nearly snorted. It was perfect. She stared at his bare chest. Reaching out slowly she brushed down his flesh with her fingers. “You feel...”
“Human,” he said. His voice sounded throaty and low.
He was warm. Wet. He had smelt like sweat and blood before he was clean. She looked up at his face. He had a scar going through his right eyebrow and down to his cheek. She traced it. He kissed the inside of her wrist. She was surprised. Maybe she shouldn’t have been. He was naked and standing very close to her.
“Let me thank you,” he suggested.
“You can’t...”
He raised an eyebrow.
He could.
© AM Gray 2013
AN: I had to look this one up. Devil may cry is a computer game and the pic is a guy (drool) cosplaying the central character Dante. I have probably broken a lot of game rules or canon, but *shrugs* … this is what fell out of my head after five minutes research.

Friday, 23 August 2013

For once, her sleep wasn't dreamless.

Writer’s Block

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

For once, her sleep wasn't dreamless. She assumed that it was because of him. He was the only thing that was different. She slept in her bed, the large, white wrought iron one she had inherited from her grandmother. It still had a chenille bedspread that had belonged to her grandmother as well. The whole house was full of things that seemed too old for her. That was the way she liked it.
She had woken herself up. Tossing and turning; caught in the dream that was closer to a nightmare. She always slept close to the edge of the mattress so the fact that he took up half of her bed, asleep on his stomach with his hands folded under his head, should not have upset her. She barely touched him. If she had, she might have woken him up with her restlessness.
It took her a few seconds to work out what was different. Until she heard his quiet breathing. She was half surprised he was still there and then she heard the rain. Rain was a comforting sound to her, so that wasn’t what had caused her nightmare, but it explained why he had not left.
She slid out of the bed, picked up a t-shirt from the floor to wear and went to the bathroom. He hadn’t moved at all by the time she got back. She slid in next to him and stared at his face, willing him to wake up. She fancied another roll around with him before she kicked him out of her place.
He didn’t open his eyes but he said, “Stop staring at me.”
“Ha! It worked.”
He yawned and stretched out one arm to snag her and pull her closer to him. “Go back to sleep,” he mumbled.
She scraped her nails up his bare back. His eyes popped open.
He frowned at her. “I thought you’d be the type to throw me out.”
“I am. But I usually do it before I fall asleep.”
“Huh. Lucky me.”
“You’d better believe it,” she purred at him as she pushed at him to roll onto his back. She clambered astride him and his hands reached up under her shirt. He was hard and ready, just like she knew he would be.
He sat up a little to strip her of the shirt. Her hair tumbled around her head as he pulled it off her and threw it back on the floor.
“Nice... didn’t see that last night.”
“What?” she asked.
“The tattoo.”
“What tattoo? I don’t have any tatts.”
He looked surprised. He pointed at the oval standing mirror at the end of the bed. “Yes, you do.”
She looked over her shoulder to see her reflection. A large, bright green tattoo snaked down her spine.
“What the Hell?”
She panicked.
He grabbed at her arms and hugged her in against him. “Hey, hey... really? It’s new?”
“Yes. Why would I lie about a thing like that?”
“I dunno.” He made a face at her.
“You don’t believe me.”
“It seems,” he paused as if he wasn’t sure what to say. “ ... odd,” he finished.
“It’s some kind of writing.”
“Looks like it.”
“What does it say?”
“It’s not English. Let me see.”
She lay on her stomach and let him study her back.
“It’s also not new,” he said. “Looks like it has been there for years. No swelling... no redness.” He ran his hands over her skin and then leaned down and kissed her on the back of the neck.
“Seriously? Now?”
“Oh, come on... what else were you planning to do today when you can do me?”
She rolled over. “Find someone I can ask about my crazy dreams and instant tattoo unless you can help me with that.”
“Dreams? You had dreams?”
“Weird ones.”
“Like what?” he asked. He sat back on his heels.
“End of the world stuff.” His nudity was distracting. She glanced down.
He knew it, and he grinned at her. “After ... breakfast... we’ll go talk to my grandfather.”
“Why?” she asked suspiciously.
“He reached out and stroked down her bare leg. “He’s a dream reader.”
“Oh.” She didn’t push him away now. “Dream reader, huh?”
“Yep.” His hand locked around her ankle and he pulled her leg down the mattress towards him.
“Odd that this tatt showed up after we fucked.”
“Yeah... that is odd. Want to see what else happens if we do it again?”
She laughed and let him haul her towards his body. It was odd, though.
© AM Gray 2013

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Closer to god passed three quarter million hits


Back in 2010 when I started writing Twilight fanfic wolf stories were mostly all about Jake (what if she kissed him in the truck? Sheesh) but I was intrigued by Paul. At that stage he didn't have a surname and he seemed (to me) to be a bit more worldly than the other baby wolves. Jared and Sam were imprinted and therefore boring. I have written for Sam since then but I still get nothing from Jared.
I started writing a story where Paul was the main character and he was not a nice guy. He picked up a girl (Bella) in a bar and he marks her when they have crazy outdoor sex. He refuses to give her his name and tells her she can call him God. Thus the title and it's a NIN song, of course. I can’t remember where I got marking from; it’s a common theme in fanfic. So they are not imprinted; they don’t have the perfect imprint relationship but they are joined by the mark and then the worst happens - she is pregnant.
That was the story line for Closer to God. It has just passed 750,000 hits on fanfic and has nearly 2,000 reviews.
I called him Paul Aaron, to differentiate him from my W series Paul. I am constantly astounded by readers who tell me they love this Paul. I think he is an ass! He emotionally blackmails poor Bella. He is just horrible to her and he thinks that sex is intimacy or love. He doesn’t know how to date. He flirts with other women to get her to jump him. He knows she will do it in an attempt to prove to herself, and him, that they belong together. It becomes a game to him. But he almost loses everything when that game gets to a point where he doesn't even notice her walk out of the room. She finally grows a spine and dumps him. He gets a terrible shock. He tries to be a better person for her and their baby.
I guess that is it. The bad boy being good for someone? Redemption for the irredeemable? I don't know, but I know lots of people tell me they love him anyway; that I made them care about him, even though he is still an ass.
And plus, if I read one more daft comment on fanfic, that pregnant women couldn’t have sex… I mean… really? Again, in my wild effort to educate all the young girls out there about safe sex, wet spots and the reality of sex, I wrote 75,000 words of pregnant sex. Bwahaha. Might have overdone it a touch.

*banner made by Enjoyyourjacob 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013



A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

“SING!” she screamed at the tribal Elders.
“Why?” one asked.
“He’s dying,” said another.
“He’s not dying,” she insisted. “Trust me.”
She looked between their hesitant faces, latching onto the eldest. “Grandmother, please? What is there to be lost?”
The old woman didn’t answer her, but she did start chanting; a low, rhythmic song that the other voices joined. They sang together in perfect harmony from years of practise. A song without words.
She breathed a sigh of relief. The life force that she could see draining from his body was halted. He was dying, unless they sang. It pooled under his head and shoulders.
She had to touch him. She often played the drum for them and today, without one, she used his body. She slapped the rhythm on his skin as if she could push the life back into him. Force his heart to beat.
Her grandmother gave her an odd look.
And now, she added her voice to the song. It lifted and danced; singing around and over the others. She led the song and her grandmother became another follower. She didn’t notice. Her whole attention was on the song and the man they sang to.
Where her hands touched him, she could see his skin glow. Golden light echoed her touch. Still singing, she reached down and scooped up the essence in her hands. She poured it back onto his body and it was absorbed into his flesh. While they sang it did not drain away. It ran together like mercury until she had reclaimed every last drop from the earth.
His head tilted back and he gasped in a breath. His body jolted.
His hands lifted to press, palms together, in front of his chest.
Tendrils of darker energy grew upwards from his mouth; they twisted and grew into a tree. His body lifted up and floated in the air. The hands of the singers all touched him; drawn magnetically into contact. The tree grew thicker. Leaves sprouted from its reaching branches.
The song intensified; all the singers could feel the urgency. The tone lifted and the volume. Higher and higher and louder and louder they sang until with a final shout, the tree that grew from his mouth touched the setting sun and there was a flash of light.
The panting singers collapsed on the ground. His body lowered slowly down, his hands still together but now his eyes were open. Golden light poured from his face where his eyes should have been.
She watched, squinting in the glare. When his body touched the dirt, his eyes closed and the light and the visions faded.
She knew the balance had changed. She led the song now, and he? What was he?
They would find out what he was when he opened his eyes.
© AM Gray 2013

Sunday, 11 August 2013

In August 2010 I saw Joss Whedon speak at the Opera House in Sydney

In August 2010 I saw Joss Whedon speak at the Opera House in Sydney. I got home and typed up what he said, just so that I would have it always. And now, so do you. But in any case, he chatted about self-doubt and the writing process as well.
He was funny and self deprecating – is that almost a trademark now?
He told a story about talking to Stephen Sondheim about writing and he said he would always write about teenage girls with neat super powers and Sondheim said he would always write about ‘yearning’. God, why didn’t I say that? That was such a cool answer. I need a time machine to go back and say that instead.
So he decided after the fact, (endearing because we all do that right?) that he should have said he wrote about helplessness. He wrote from a dark place within him and it was not the dark place that babies came out of. That helplessness became cluelessness as he got older.
He said he had a normal childhood with brothers who picked on him and a stepsister and he is not sure why he writes so darkly sometimes. His mother insisted that in the school holidays from breakfast to lunch, no body spoke. She called it ‘quiet time’. So he started to make up worlds and adventures. He hoped to work in whatever industry would allow him to not actually work hard. Coming from two generations of writers he said he had thought of other things as a career but just never did them. He said he drew but stopped at the standard of a 12 yr old. He has trouble moving any of his skill levels to a higher plane, except for writing. He enjoys making it harder for himself for example, write an episode where nobody speaks. (And weirdly won an award for script writing for it.)
His father and he had a tradition where they get really drunk once a year and play all the Sondheim musicals in a row.
His first job was writing for TV sitcom Roseanne. He was told to ‘bring his number 2 pencil to work the first day’ and rushed out and bought a hundred, having a panic attack that it was a literal command not a metaphor and what if was the only one who didn’t have a pencil?
He said it took him a very long time to realize that Buffy was him; his avatar if you will. And that he wrote her to release the feelings of helplessness, you have when you are small and defenseless. He described himself therefore, as a ‘literary transvestite’. He shared the information that the original idea was “Rhonda the immortal waitress”; he wished he was joking about that. Given the power of immortality she uses it to be a waitress?
He said that killing off characters you have got close to is why it is more touching; nobody cares if you kill off a character that nobody likes. He gave the example of the movie Speed, the actors were all cast when he changed the script somewhat. The annoying lawyer that everyone hated and was supposed to be killed, he morphed into the irritating but ultimately likeable tourist. Then the execs wouldn’t let him be killed. He said that they had to do it now, because people liked him. But they were adamant.
He said that he just wrote and the controversy that came with some of the things he wrote was a surprise to him. He had no idea that Willow and Tara being lesbians would cause such a stir.
He said one thing he regretted was a story arc in the final season of Buffy that would have brought back Tara alive, but that the actress Amber Benson was unavailable. He said he liked where it went with Willow’s guilt and self-blame for her death and described Kennedy as his ‘most liked’ character (I think he was being sarcastic here). When Willow moves on and kisses someone, she magically turns herself into the guy who killed her girlfriend in guilt. He said he had only written 8 bad episodes out of nearly 300 he thought that was ok. He didn’t say which 8 episodes were awful in his opinion.
He said sometimes he wrote something he thought was terrible and it turned out ok and he had to apologise to everyone involved for doubting them. The example he gave was ‘the thin dead line’; an episode of Angel about zombie cops. ‘They are undead, but they still walk the beat’. He thought it was a ridiculous idea but the episode turned out okay.
He said Dollhouse was changed so dramatically from season One to Season Two because they were told it would be cancelled and then it was approved and they had to change everything, again. He assured us that there were monkeys who understood his stories better than some studio execs.
He disliked the obsession with him killing characters and assured us that life had a 100% mortality rate and he wasn’t nearly that bad.
He talked about the Avengers and how initially he was terrified at the prospect of writing for such a huge cast of outstanding actors. Then his wife told him it was what he always did and not to panic about it. They are still actors; she told him. He said being better actors helps him and he had a ‘nerdgasm’ (a Joss word) discussing the hulk’s motivations and emotions with Mark Ruffalo. He likened writing for the Avengers like writing fan-fiction; he got to play with other people’s realized characters.
He refused to say who the bad guys would be as he is bound by contract.
He has no problem with fan-fiction with his characters, but thought most of the Buffy story lines tended to be porn. He giggled at the thought that he had made series 6 and it was basically porn anyway. (Heck yeah, and therefore my favourite – spike…sigh)
The compere made a joke about comic books and they riffed on the names and came up with Dick and his sidekick Balls. Joss held his arms like a gorilla and imitated Balls; then laughed at himself that we had paid to see him imitate balls. He complained that he couldn’t see the audience and they didn’t get the hint and turn the house lights up until question time.
He spoke of a comic ‘the body’(did he mean that episode of Buffy where her mother died?) that I hadn’t heard of but one audience member said it had got him through a very dark stage when he lost his partner to a brain aneurism.
Comics allowed him to do anything that someone could draw; he loved TV because it allowed him to have a longer story arc and to play with and expand the characters and he loved movies because he got bigger budgets and could do ‘cool’ stuff. Each had their own attraction for him and he didn’t express a preference.
He said he knew true grief when they cancelled Firefly. He described it as losing a limb. He would get over it, but would always miss it. He spoke of many plot lines and dark stories that he had outlined for later episodes and it killed him that they would never be made. Evidently he was going to take Captain Mal to a very dark place. He had taken a vacation with his wife in London after series 2 of Buffy. Their idea of a vacation was reading ten books in a London hotel room; adorable. He read a book on the civil war; ‘something angels’ (sorry forgot the title). He came up with the idea for Firefly; a combination of 1970’s western movies, with Elizabethan language and set on the millennium falcon. Elizabethan language spoken in a modern American accent sounded cool and different. He said it was exhausting juggling 7 characters with strong storylines and constant interactions.
He described his wife as formidable, she spoke other languages, travelled the world on nothing and made things with her hands; he said he had married MacGyver. (should he have said Michael Weston?- showing his age)
They opened the floor to questions. One twitter question was about Speed. The person wanted to know if he had written what they described as the best line in any movie ever, which was “Jack, you forgot your muffins.” There was complete confusion as no one could remember where this occurred in the movie let alone who had written it. (Is it at the beginning when the first bus blows up?)
He loved musicals and was trying to find the time to write an opera or a Broadway show. He thought Buffy would make an awesome opera but getting the rights would be tricky. Dr Horrible was so much fun he thought he would work with his brother Jed again. Nathan Fillion’s only request was that they lower the register of his song and have the line ‘better than Neil’ in there somewhere.
He said it is the only thing he has written where the woman was an everywoman and had no super powers. He didn’t realise until they printed the t-shirts that she didn’t even have any good lines. There are therefore, no Penny t-shirts. He thought he might be Tim with a side of Moist if he had to say who was him in Dr Horrible.
Someone asked him about writing good dialogue and he said he did like dialogue where one character drove it to an eventual conclusion. He much preferred his characters to bounce off each other with more ‘real’ conversation.
He said he had no idea how obsessed his fans were until the first comicon he attended with Nicholas Brendon and Alyson Hannigan from Buffy. He thought that now he had the best fans ever and he loved us all. He was blown away that people liked him and sat pinching himself after that first session as he was sure it was a dream.
Someone who had the unfortunate name of Bella (the whole audience giggled) asked if he took credit for the current vampire obsession. He said no, but would take credit if it was good, ‘oh yeah, that is totally me.’

Saturday, 10 August 2013

My self-doubt is crippling

I have so many ideas for stories and I write a bit on them or thrash out some ideas and then I will realise that I have written a hero’s journey trope, or a chosen one trope, or I have made a female character who only changes when she meets a man, or I have written a vampire story and they are so overdone, … or whatever.
And I stop.
For some reason it doesn’t worry me in fanfic. There, I just write. My fanfic issues are writing battles - gah, I am no good at writing fight scenes. Or researching Twilight Volturi vampires. I hate Volturi vampires… their gifts are just dumb. You cannot touch someone and read every thought they have ever had, your head would just explode. And it would be really annoying… ‘pass me the wine, oh, that’s what you thought when you were two?’ Or how exactly, do you track the mind of someone you have never met? Or the gift to repel other vampires? Just… no.
It also doesn’t worry me in short stories. There, I just write. The stakes are not as high. It’s only 1,000 words. Nobody cares.
In fanfic I can push my own boundaries. I’ve never tried co-writing with someone*; I’ll give that a go. I’ve never written slash*, I’ll give that a go. I’ve never written femslash*, I’ll try that. I will mash together odd pairings, and I will take challenges from readers for songs that I don’t even like* let alone ever listen to.
So what’s different?
It’s me. Or my attitude, I suppose.
In one I am willing to try and in the other I am scared to do so.
I saw Joss Whedon speak at the Sydney Opera House in 2010. I am sure I wrote a summary of his talk for another website. I will have to find it and post it here. I have a vague memory of him talking about doubt.
So if the giants are afflicted by it, I should be comforted?
So my new motto should be: I’ll give that a go. Right?
* I co-wrote A Man Apart - Vin Diesel fic with my beta
* Best friends share everything - Quil and Embry together - ended up being poly
*Swan’s mate for life - again, ended up being poly

*I wrote a fic for the song Payphone once