Thursday, 4 May 2017

Canva covers continued

Further to my experiments with cover making, I have now finished a ‘cover’ for all of my fanfics.

I obviously couldn’t use the picture that inspired the Casper story. It was nsfw. *grins*
I posted them all on my Pinterest page and I reckon they look pretty good. I certainly don’t know enough about this to design my own book covers, but for fanfiction, they look fine. If you do use images like this for book covers, make sure a commercial use is allowable. All of the images here are free for all uses, unless they come from the movies themselves.

What I notice now is how many things out there are made from the same templates. I see them everywhere from podcast headers to some real covers on Amazon. I know how to do that for myself.
And as an added bonus, I’ve noticed a few more hits to some of the stories that usually don’t even get one in a month, like my Vin Diesel one.
So, all round, it’s been fun and educational.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Wattpad and publishing

This week I got a lovely review on Wattpad for ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas’.
[Thank god, I mean 10,400 reads and only two reviews… don’t get me started on Wattpad.]
But in any case, this is what they said.

And this confused me.
It’s not my story. It’s fanfiction. This is as published as it will get. The characters belong to Stephenie Meyer while the story - beyond the canon of the books - is mine.
Did they not know they were reading fanfiction? It’s clearly marked as such. The cast is listed as the people who played the characters in the movies, with some extra additions of my own.
Do they not understand that fanfiction cannot be published when the original work is within copyright? Not without pulling the names and changing everything. I write too close to canon to do this. And I feel it’s wrong, in any case. [I’m looking at you 50 shades]
I don’t know what they were thinking and I didn’t ask. I just reminded them it was fanfiction and thanked them for taking the time to review.
I can always write my own original stories. Assuming I can finally get around to getting them published. Still got no idea why that is more of an issue for my original stuff than it is for my fanfic.


Sunday, 9 April 2017

I am the number 25 top reviewer in Australia on Goodreads

Yay, me.
I’ve worked hard on typing up reviews for everything I read and a few that I can’t even finish. I put in quotes from the work to support my critique. I think I’ve learned a lot about writing from doing this and sometimes I can see why a book fails for me. I only read genres I like. I’m not tossing out one star reviews for things I don’t have a taste for. That’d be mean.
But it is a personal thing. I am more likely to be critical of a book where the character expresses behaviour I don’t agree with. I saw a title on Bookbub this week where the author had got the racism right upfront in the book summary. Ewww.
One time, giving a one star rating and a long review that listed just why it was so awful attracted the attention of a sock puppet who then argued with me and gave ALL my works one stars in retaliation. What a dick. [Don’t sock puppet your readers. Don’t be a dick.]
Goodreads has a star rating system. According to the site, the stars have the following values:
  • 1 star - I did not like it
  • 2 stars - it was OK
  • 3 stars - I liked it
  • 4 stars - I really liked it 
  • 5 stars - it was amazing.

There is one negative star. Four positive to one negative, if you want to look at it that way. I don’t give everything five stars either; that’d be equally pointless. My average rating is 3.39. I really hate the idea that you should be nice just because someone published a book. But what’s making me think about this is recently I’ve heard the same message from several different sources.
* Rachel Abbot says never give negative reviews because you always seem to run into those authors at book conferences, or trade meetings. She was talking to Joanna Penn in a video interview and she agreed.
* Dean Wesley Smith argues that every book critic is a failed writer. They turn their inability to finish and publish successfully into criticising others.
* Austin Kleon’s rule #8 was: be nice, the world is a small town.
* There was an article in the Guardian from an anon who had tried to write two books and had given up. In their letter they badmouthed female British literary writers. The next week’s opinion piece told them off for it, said the writer community supports each other, and pointed out two books was nothing. They called the anon a quitter not a failed author, and suggested they’d need a tougher hide if they really wanted to succeed. True that.
High level book reviewers get free advance review copies, publish their reviews on their own sites and (hopefully) earn some kind of return on their investment. I’d do it for free books! If I somehow managed to get through my ‘to be read’ pile first. But being a book reviewer isn’t my dream. I want to be an author.
So, maybe the issue is that if I want to be an author I can’t be a book reviewer as well? It’s like having a foot in both camps. There are a few people I follow on GR who do this but they’re in the early days of their writing career when the people listed above are all past that stage.
Plus, now Amazon owns GR, it is starting to send you a direct email with parts taken out of the reviews from people you follow for a book you just completed yourself. First off, I don’t understand this. I’ve finished the book. Why are you sending me other people’s views on it? I already saw them when I posted the review. Are we supposed to discuss it amongst ourselves? I don’t know that I want my reviews sent right to others. Some I even untick the twitter box so it doesn’t go out publicly.
I have always said that GR is for readers, but I also use GR as my ‘books I own’ record system; a failsafe so I don’t duplicate purchases. I am especially hopeless at updated covers; I see them as a new book. I can look up GR on my phone at a second hand sale and avoid that. My other book database is about to go offline and I’m looking for a replacement but not having a lot of luck so far.
I’d better keep looking.
Dean Wesley Smith - the Essentials workshop week 2
Austin Kleon Steal like an Artist
The Guardian - you're a quitter

Monday, 3 April 2017

And then what happened?

This week I have been listening to Stephen Fry read the complete Sherlock Holmes.
One story, the Adventure of the Crooked Man, tells a locked room mystery. The husband is found dead, the wife is in a brain fever, there are mysterious animal prints in the room, and the door key is missing.
Spoiler warning.
After some investigation, Watson and Holmes discover that the couple were happily married, childless, and that the husband doted more on the wife. Nancy is described as ‘striking and queenly’. She had been into town to a church meeting with her friend, come home, had an argument with her husband that the servants could hear some of, and then the disaster struck. The local police think the wife hit him with a poker. ‘Coward’ was a word the servants overheard her shout at him.
On questioning her friend, she confesses that they met a disabled man in the street. The wife and he had quite a conversation that she did not overhear. He was new in town and did magic tricks for the soldiers.
The autopsy exonerates her. James died of shock. After some more digging, they track down the man she met and question him.
Watson says: “The man sat all twisted and huddled in his chair in a way which gave an indescribable impression of deformity; but the face which he turned towards us, though worn and swarthy, must at some time have been remarkable for its beauty.”
When Nancy was a young woman she had two suitors; both in the army. One was a sergeant James, and the other, more handsome one Henry, was a corporal. Her father, a colour sergeant himself, thought Henry was unsuitable as he had a reckless youth.
During the Indian mutiny, the town was under siege. Henry volunteered to try and get out a message for help. He discussed it with James, who betrayed him and then reported to her that Henry was dead. She and James married and thirty years later, are stationed back in England where he is now a Colonel.
Henry tells them how he was treated as a slave, tortured and punished each time he tried to escape, until he is the crooked man of the title.
The animal? “It was a mongoose!” Holmes cries as if that was the big issue, and off they go back to London.
It is famous for being the story where Holmes ALMOST says, ‘elementary, my dear Watson.’
But my writer brain wants to know what happened next.
Did Nancy and Henry reunite? How could she possibly compensate him? Can he claim decades of lost Army pension? Does she still love him? Can he forgive her for marrying his rival?

That’s the story I want to read. Sighs… maybe I’ll have to write it myself?

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Update on the witch story

from this blog post: march 5th 

After many days scribbling and typing I am up to 77322 words or 86% complete. There are a few things that need filling in, and a couple more scenes to write but it’s pretty close to done. First draft, of course, and I’m not sure it will reach 90k words. But that doesn’t matter. There isn’t a target or a minimum word count required. It will take exactly as many words as it takes to tell the story.
According to Scrivener, that comes out at more than 200 pages, or a pretty standard novel length.
I started off well, but lost it a little in the middle, as I often seem to do, but knowing myself a little better, when the words wouldn’t come I went back to writing with pen and ink - typing it up later. It seems to keep me from wandering off to ‘just look up this’ or ‘just check twitter’ or whatever.
And on one day I didn’t write a single word. If I had kept up with pacemaker I would have been just under 10k words ahead of where I am.
So, all in all, not bad.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Why do I keep writing small town settings?

I just finished a book set in a tiny town. It occurred to me that I have recently set a few of my own stories in small towns, and I got to wondering why.
I guess it’s easier to keep track of everyone. There is the bloke who runs the store, the lady who has the gift shop, the kid who works at the gas station, and so on. There’s a limited population. One of each trade, unless having two is a conflict point.
What happens when a second real estate agent opens? Or a rival gift shop, or whatever.
The rivalry thing is a common romance trope. Or the one-upmanship of your daughter’s wedding must be better than the neighbours’ daughter’s wedding. I’ve read a few of those. They can’t work in a huge town with dozens of weddings every weekend. At that scale it doesn’t matter as much.
Making characters up is hard work. They have to be different, sound like themselves, have their own backstories and so on. Each character is the hero of their own story.
And it’s easier to make them care about other things, or to show them caring.
Their community is smaller and a change of attitude is more noticeable. If they dislike the protagonist because they’re new in town, that’ll show. If that protagonist does something that brings new industry and economic growth to the town, the locals will really care. Some may oppose it if they’re change averse. Others may love it and adore the protagonist for ‘saving’ the town.
It’s harder to write or show that interaction in a population of thousands or millions.
I was born in a tiny town. It currently has 211 people.
I have lived in all kinds of places from a town that small to the second largest city in the world. Jakarta’s current population is 31 million.
That’s a lot of stories to tell.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Stop trying to save me, inner critic

I scheduled reminders in my google calendar so that I don’t forget I have a blog. As opposed to forgetting I have a website; that one’s a deliberate task avoidance issue… sighs. Yeah, yeah… I’ll get to fixing that. Soon…
I was listening to a new podcast - I know, right. It’s so unlike me. Petal to the metal is from J Thorn and Rachael Herron. They ‘met’ talking on other podcasts or being interviewed by Joanna Penn or … god, I don’t know, somewhere in the web realm.
This week they were talking about FoMO - or fear of missing out.
Wikipedia defines this as:
Fear of missing out or FoMO is "a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent". This social angst is characterized by "a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing".
I’ve told you before that I am the worst (best?) book hoarder. Especially if they are free for a limited time, or price reduced or whatever. I subscribe to all the ebook notifiers like BookBub and Freebooksy. I will grab a free boxed set not having read a word of the author. That ‘normally $X.XX now $0.00’ label gets me every time.
I adore books. I believe that you cannot have too many of them. But this also stems from an incident where I did indeed miss out on a price reduced copy. And I was annoyed with myself. So now I will grab it and rationalise that I can delete it later if it turns out to be unreadable.*
But the FoMO isn’t what my brain gets the heebies about. I’ll give you an example from my current work in progress. I was jammed for the last couple of days on the idea that my witch main character, works hard, pushes herself, upgrades her powers and finds a previously untapped power of fire. And she uses that in the final showdown.
My issue is that I am concerned that some reviewer will say ‘yeah? So there must be skeletal remains left’.
I’m worried about a non-existent review for a book I haven’t even finished writing.
Yeah. It isn’t logical.
I’m writing a witch and a shapeshifter. Neither of which is logical.** And a shapeshifter that wears a suit when he’s human to match his cat markings.***
The bad guy disappearing in a flutter of ash is a common trope in TV witch shows like Charmed or Bewitched. It’s arguable that people might even EXPECT it to happen in a witch fight.
So why do I latch onto that as a fear? Probably because it’s my inner critic trying to ‘save’ me again and it’s chosen to pick that particular thing to be problematic about.
Stop trying to save me, inner critic.
* this is how you end up with two thousand ebooks jammed in your kindle app, AM.
** please don’t @ me with comments about how witchcraft is a valid belief system. I'm talking book witches.
*** shapeshifters keeping their clothes on… well the trad Hulk does. Twilight wolves busted out of their clothes when they shifted but never seemed to be naked when they turned human again. What? Seeing Alex Meraz’s ass was high on my list of things to do. I say ‘was’ because my wish was granted in ‘Never back down 2’ And yes, I own it on DVD. Smiles.


Sunday, 5 March 2017

Rain, rain go away

It’s been raining in Sydney. It has been raining almost continuously for the last ten days or so. And we’ve got crazy hail storms.
My back veranda is covered with alsynite roofing. It was punched by fist sized spiky hailstones and it did not win the fight. As far as I can tell the house roof doesn’t have any broken tiles. From my walks, I can see that none of my neighbours are sporting tarpaulin roof covers. So that is some good news. The laundry pile of Mount Washmore is increasing daily and my whole house feels damp; everything has a grimy surface touch. Ugh. I HATE it. Unintelligible frustration noises.
But back to writing… my brain won the ‘hey let’s write that shiny new idea’ battle. I have allowed it six weeks to write one shiny new idea that was almost fully plotted out. It should be about 90,000 words - a standard novel length. [I am aware that being at war with my own brain is … odd.]
Here’s my short blurb for it (which needs work):
Gen, the magic shop owner and low grade witch is just trying to keep her head down when her aunt is kidnapped by some guys who want her to cast death magic on the local sheriff. It’s a trap; she knows that, but she can’t tell what they really want.
Dominic, the cat shifter, thinks he has found a witch who could make him her familiar but she’s got troubles of her own and her power is too low to hold him.
Can they rescue her aunt and foil the bad guy’s plan without killing anyone? And can Dom stay by her side forever as her witch's familiar?
To do that Gen might have to hold her head up and be seen and that scares her more than anything.
Like most things I’m not sure where the idea comes from. I saw a one sentence prompt 'what do you mean you're closed?'. I wrote a short story about a small girl who turned a guy into a toad, I had some other random ideas about shifters and witches familiars and then I saw a cute shot of a black and white cat wearing a bow tie… and voila.
I used pacemaker app to set a random daily target and it is going really well. I even added in a whatsit to the blog so you can see how I’m going, too. Public accountability.

I have it on random, but there are several different ways to set up the daily targets.
40,000 down… 50,000 to go.
The hut - my short story on magic, girls and toads

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

I wonder if there’s a boxed set?

My current Achilles heel with respect to buying books is asking myself,  ‘I wonder if there’s a boxed set?’
It makes sense to me. Why would I buy just one book if I can get three with a discount? Or more! *squees*
Sure, it’s a risk if it’s a ‘new to me’ author. What if I don’t like the first book? What if I hate the author’s writing style? But I can read a sample on Amazon. I can check the Goodreads reviews from my friends and people whose opinion I respect. Sometimes I disagree with them, but it’s rare.
So let’s call buying a boxed set a calculated risk. With audio books it’s a super bonus to use my monthly credit to buy more than one book that counts, to Audible, as one credit.
What I don’t get is why traditional publishers seem to have no clue how to market titles in the ebook trade. Seriously, this IS their day job.
Over and over, I see rookie mistakes. They publish a sample with an ISBN number and a separate listing- the whole shebang - when anyone who actually uses Amazon, Kobo et al at any depth knows that you can open it and have a look inside on the sale page, or you download a sample of the full book to your reading device and read it, or hear a sample for the audiobook.
Making a separate version is unnecessary. It duplicates listings, confuses readers, clogs up sites like Goodreads, and makes more work for everyone without adding any value. Doing it this way makes it look like a short independent work by that author.
But for me, it makes me annoyed. I get what I think is a short story only to read it and find out it’s actually a sample of a longer work. Do you think I’m going to give it five stars in my review?
Nope. It isn’t written like a short work. It doesn’t have a beginning, a middle, and an end so it’s an unappetising read. Angry me doesn’t buy the whole book.
But, back to boxed sets. Why the heck would a publisher box together three works in the same series and then have the price almost exactly the same as if I had purchased them separately?

I get that you can download them in one file. See also, the price of ebooks in Australia… sighs. $13 for an ebook times three is $39. So a HUGE saving of $1.01 to buy all three.
For that price I can buy the paperback on bookdepository and get it posted from the UK to Australia for free. Sure, I’ll have to wait a few days but I can do math, why can’t the publishers?
How dare you suggest that cheaper boxed sets would just mean more books for me! *grins*

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Falling at the first hurdle

This week I tried to be a pro, and I hit a snag. I followed the 'simple' steps to set up a domain name and a webpage so that I can then do what seems like the thousand steps that follow to be a professional author, you know: the mail list, the popups to join the mail list, the auto-responder when you join the mail list etc.
And I messed it up at step one of ten.
I don’t speak this language and it makes me feel stupid to not be able to work out where I went wrong. Then I get anxious about having to try and explain what is wrong to a helpdesk. Writers are generally introverts and the whole process is scary to me.
Kid extra, who works at a tech helpdesk, just said, “I don’t listen to people when they try to tell me what’s wrong; they don’t know what’s wrong. That’s why they’re calling the helpdesk.”
Oh, yeah.
Sadly, kid extra can't help me with this issue but I’ve done things like this before and I’ve worked it out. I set up this Blogger page and it’s not amazing, but I can change a theme or add in a side bar link.
I’ve got a tumblr page and I can change the theme or add special hotlinks.
I’ve got a Goodreads account where the reviews use HTML to make text bold or italicised, and to add in images and set the size, and I’ve learnt how to do that, too.
I can upload and edit posts in fanfiction.
I’m not stupid. I’m just swimming in unfamiliar waters.
It’s exactly like working out how to make the canva covers I blogged about earlier.
Jeez, AM, stop being so hard on yourself.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Making covers with Canva

I was tooling about on my Pinterest page and realised that my fanfiction list is missing an awful lot of entries. I don’t have Photoshop skills, I failed with Gimp - I needed another degree to work that one - and most of the banner makers I know from ages ago aren't doing it anymore.
But in the spirit of learning things from free videos, I was watching one where the person was making a printable book for Amazon. She’d upload it and if it sold, fine - if it didn’t, it had taken less than one hour of her time to make it. With print on demand, it cost her nothing other than time to produce a journal. And she could get weirdly specific: things like migraine journals and so on. She was selling the way to make these journals in more detail.
She used Canva. I had looked at it before, but needed some more guidance and watching the talk helped me see how to use it. It’s a lot like the old Microsoft publisher - yes, I’m showing my age. 
So I had a go with some of the prompts from the Anon twilight one shot contest from years ago. It took me about an hour to make five of them, using the pre-loaded formats and inserting the picture prompts from the contest. The pre-loaded images are also set to the correct sizes for various formats from Facebook headers to Wattpad cover sizes. Neat.

What do you reckon?
It’s a little dark, but it’s way better than this attempt where I used Word to make a cover.

I mean for heaven’s sake… I am so used to seeing the pilcrow - that backwards P that shows formatting marks - that I didn’t notice it was visible in the cover I uploaded to Pinterest. Facepalms.
Why didn’t you guys tell me?

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Listening to sales podcasts

Today I got up early to listen to a podcast. The eternal curse of living in the southern hemisphere.
I worked out pretty quickly that it wasn’t really for me, it was more for non-fiction books, but I left the tab open as the guy talked on - and sniffed too often - ugh.
One of the things he talked about was that writers think they can’t sell things because they aren’t sales people, they’re creatives. He gave some hints about how you can sell things, even if you think you aren’t good at it. One strategy was to show the buyer what failure looked like and then they will be more likely to buy your product.
About fifteen minutes later, he flashed up this scary looking list of all the things people had to do (and the lists below each listing of the smaller tasks required in each individual step) before they could publish a book. He was selling a product that will automatically list all the tasks, and the completion dates for you.
He basically showed us (the buyer) what failure looked like.
He did what he had just talked about to the same audience he had just told that strategy to.
I was checking my emails as he was talking and in the continuing story of the universe throwing stuff at me, there was a blog post from Stephen Barnes talking about how you can educate yourself on sales and marketing by watching these kinds of things and learning from them. There are a lot of people out there making money by selling courses to you on how you can make money.
At that point, I shut it down.
And no, I didn’t buy his product.


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Sometimes mistakes add to things, sometimes they don’t make a lick of difference.

This week I made a huge lasagna; 12x16 inches. I confess it was to use up the milk which was close to the use-by date. [Jeez, you people know all my secrets.]
Kid extra took a slab to work and shared it with a friend. She said to tell me that if writing didn’t work out, I could become a cook.
He told me this and I laughed and then said I had a confession to make over this particular lasagna, it had a secret ingredient.
Things are tight financially, so I buy a lot of generic brands and they all look the same; same colour packet, same font, same packaging and often a similar size. Rolled oats are cheap and healthy for breakfast and I usually store them in a big glass jar. The remains of a bag were squished down, clamped closed and left on the bench. Someone thought it was the remains of the bag of grated cheese and put it in the dairy drawer in the fridge.
When I was making the layers I grabbed the bag of ‘grated cheese’, un-clipped it and poured it all over my pan.
I stood there and looked at the rolled oats and had a crisis.
I could scoop it all out but it would take time and waste some of the sauce. The bench was covered in various pots, pans, packets and implements. I’m constructing a lasagna, people. I don’t have time for this!
So I left it. I thought if anyone notices, I will come clean and confess. And of course, nobody did.
I’m not sure what the message is here: rolled oats will bulk up anything? Keep silent until you’re caught? Remember to put in your oats?
Sometimes mistakes add to things, sometimes they don’t make a lick of difference.
Yeah… that’ll do.

Friday, 3 February 2017

What you find when you aren't looking for it

I was cleaning up my internet bookmark folder while listening to a podcast today.
It started when my brain skittered off with some ideas from that talk that should go in some of my writing. I headed off to find that work, couldn’t find it, and ended up making a note in a different program [google keep] with a reminder to pop up later.
Then I saw a lot of my ‘how to use social media’ posts dated from 2012. Seriously out of date when social media changes daily, so I started pruning and tidying up. I made a new heading of ‘writing tools’ and was dragging bookmarks into it. Some I had to click on to see what they were, and why I had bothered to save them.
And I found a plot generator I had totally forgotten about. I LOVE these things. I love a challenge. And it sounds funny, but it is much easier to write within strict boundaries than it is to write with the freedom of choice of the entire world. Too much choice is paralysing.
There are a number of different genres. I picked paranormal romance (my jam) and let it randomise everything. And voila…

Hilarious. I really love the reviews.
But… I reckon I could write that.

The podcast - Jeff Goins
140: Stop Starving and Start Making a Living from Your Art: Interview with Cory Huff

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

What’s it called when the universe keeps throwing stuff at you?

No, not different stuff; the same thing - a name, a process, a song - that keeps popping up when you are sure you have never heard it before. Suddenly it’s everywhere.
Synchronicity? No, that’s not it… *
At any rate, the universe is throwing two things at me: Mata Hari and morning pages.
It seems like every interview or podcast I listen to, people talk about doing their morning pages. Successful people. People who are at the pinnacle.
Fine… I’m doing them, I’m doing them! **
Mata Hari has me confused though. I lived in Indonesia for many years so I had certainly heard of her. I was surprised to find she wasn’t even a tiny bit Indonesian. She was Dutch. Her story is seriously tragic and it is now suspected that she was falsely accused of spying and executed by firing squad.
Tragedy - the death of her child, evil husband, intrigue, world war, younger lover, execution by firing squad. It sounds like an opera libretto. (NO, brain!)
I’m not sure how I can use this but I’ll research some more and have a think about it. Maybe it’s the basic plot line for a different character? Wouldn’t be romance though, eh? No happy endings there.

*Google tells me it is called Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. Frowns at google. Uh huh.
** morning pages are a daily ritual/habit from The Artist’s Way. Free-write three pages by hand. Reminders to call your sister, awful things you say to yourself, worries about your life, things that made you laugh… whatever. The idea is that if they are out of your head you can deal with them.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Cruel to be kind

Story seed #244 from 400 StorySeeds to Crush Writer's Block Kindle Edition
by M. Kirin
A $1 wedding dress

Yard sales. They were her kryptonite, or maybe more accurately, her catnip. Irresistible.
Cassie could not drive past a sign without taking a quick photo of it for later, or making a note and if there was one on as she drove past, she was stopping no matter where she had to be.
On today, of all days, she should have been able to resist the lure. She was happy, elated, all of the good things. She didn’t need the high that finding a great bargain gave her, but somehow she headed out early and thought she’d just drop in and check the yard sale she had snapped a shot of recently. It was even on the way to the mall where she was meeting her best friend.
She followed the homemade arrows until she could see the faded sun umbrella set up in the front yard. Card tables, a clothes rack, and boxes of yet to be discovered bargains were scattered about.
Clutching her purse in her hand, she picked carefully though a box of paperbacks. Sadly, the only author she knew was for a title she already owned.
The seller eyed her off and flicked cigarette ash into an ashtray. There wasn’t a price tag on the ashtray.
Sidling over to another box, she dug around in it. Her tiki phase was well and truly over otherwise the hula dancing girl would have been perfect.
The seller made a grunt noise. It might have been a question but if it was she had missed it.
She shifted the hangers on the clothes rack and stopped at a garment bag. She unzipped it and peered inside. “What’s this?”
“Wedding dress.”
“Oh my gosh,” she squeaked before she could stop herself. It was too hard to haggle well if she was too eager and the seller knew she wanted something. “My boyfriend asked me to marry him last night.”
The old woman dragged on her cigarette. “Bully for you.”
“Can I open it?”
A shrug she took as permission.
The dress was champagne, not white, but it was perfect. She couldn’t find a stain or a tear or a missing button. No age marks. It was a figure hugging strapless dress, fitted at the front with a train at the back and a short cropped jacket that matched.
She couldn’t guess at it’s age. The style was timeless classic. She also couldn’t see a tag to tell her the size. There were no labels at all. That made sense if it was handmade for a bride. “What size is it?”
“It’ll fit.”
She frowned, but there was nowhere to try it on unless she went inside the woman’s house, and she wasn’t offering.
She hung it back on the rack, carefully zipping it back into the bag before moving on to look at some other items.
Her eyes strayed back to the dress.
Another young woman arrived and she had a moment’s panic that the new girl would steal her dress. Instead, the new customer bought the hula doll and left.
She sighed with relief.
“Did you want it?” The old woman asked.
“The Hula girl?”
“No, the wedding gown.”
“I don’t know...”
“It’s one dollar.”
She stared at the seller. That just couldn’t be right. The garment bag alone was worth more than a dollar. The buttons, the material, and so on. “A... dollar?”
She hadn’t agreed but she was already moving over to the clothes rack.
“That’s the deal.”
“Deal?” She stopped.
“You can sell it for a dollar when you’re done.”
She wanted to ask, but didn’t. It felt like rudeness to ask what ‘done’ meant. When you’re married of course. Who needs a second wedding dress?
She and Aaron had been talking about it for years. They lived together but it was always ‘when we’re married’ not ‘if’. He had finally asked her formally last night and that was why she was so happy today.
It seemed like a sign to see the dress of her dreams today.
“Is it a deal?” the seller pressed.
“You have to tell me the real price.”
“One dollar.”
“I’ve got a hundred in cash.” First time she’d tried to haggle someone up.
The woman held her hand up to forestall her. “One dollar; no more, no less.”
“Is there something wrong with it?”
“Do you want the dress or not. I’ve got customers.”
She didn’t. “Fine. A dollar.”
She had to dig in the bottom of her purse but eventually she handed over a crumpled note.
The woman made her shake hands on it as if they really had made a deal.
She hurried over to her car, fearful that the seller would change her mind. She waved at the woman as she drove off.
Her dress. The perfect dress.
At the corner she paused. If she went to the mall and left it in the car, it might get stolen. It would take her fifteen minutes to drop it off at home. She messaged her friend to tell her she’d be a couple of minutes late.
It was hard to carry the long bag. She parked on the street rather than use the garage door, and went in through the front door. She heard voices as the door swung open.
“Where’s your bride?” a husky female asked with a bitter laugh.
“Out,” Aaron said. “We’ve got hours.”
A sound like a smack and then a small yelp.
“Can’t we use the bed?” the woman whined.
“She’ll notice. We fuck on everything else and she’s too stupid to know.”
“Boring,” the woman agreed.
By then, her feet had taken her to the end of the hall, almost without her permission. She knew what they were doing. She didn’t want to see it, but she needed to. And she couldn’t stop. She even knew who he was with. His work colleague Jennifer. The woman he went away with on business trips. A whole lot of small things she had ignored clicked together into a larger, clearer mosaic.
She clutched the dress hanger so hard her fingers went white. A strength came to her. She didn’t know where it came from. She stepped into the room. “Get out of my house.” She didn’t shout. She was loud and clear.
“Shit!” Jennifer said.
“Hey, don’t talk to her like that,” Aaron argued.
“I was talking to you. Get out of my house, Aaron.”
“This is our-” he stopped at the look on her face.
“You told me it was your house,” Jennifer said to Aaron. She had collected her clothes and she held them in a bundle in front of her body.
“You two can have this conversation somewhere else.” Pulling her phone out, she starting looking for a local locksmith.
“I can explain,” Aaron started but she gave him the hand.
She explained her issue to the guy who answered. “One hour? Perfect.”
Jennifer tugged Aaron backwards. He was just staring at her. “Come on,” Jennifer encouraged.
“I’ll be back for my stuff.”
Throwing it out on the lawn would have been fun, but it felt too emotional. Something had changed, or broken inside her.
When she heard the door slam she went to the garage to get some moving boxes. He’d be on her land for less time collecting his stuff if she packed it in a few boxes for him.
A few weeks later after a lot of tears, tequila and bitching with her bff, she remembered the dress. It had been carefully hung in her wardrobe.
She put it in her car and drove back to the house where the yard sale had been. The seller wouldn't want the dress back; they’d made a deal but she went anyway.
A car pulled into the drive as she parked at the kerb.
“Hi!” she chirped at the weary looking man as he pulled a suitcase out of the car. “I bought this at your yard sale.”
He just stared at her. “Sorry?”
“Yard sale.”
“Jet lag.”
He said, “I’ve been away for a month.”
They both thought of it at the same time. Had he been robbed? He rushed to check, then unlock the front door
“Nothing’s disturbed,” she said as stood inside the entrance. The house looked neat and tidy.
He darted into the rooms and finally emerged looking confused. “A yard sale?” he repeated.
She showed him the shot of the flyer with the address.
“I don’t get it. I’m sorry, can I offer you a drink? All I’ve got is cold beer.” He smiled sheepishly. “After a trip it’s nice to get home and have a beer.”
The dress hung over the back of a kitchen chair as she told him the story. She apologised for just barging into his home. He made a joke about it being rare.
They opened a second beer.
“So it kind of saved you?” he said.
“I guess. She said, ‘when you’re done’. Is that what she meant? ‘Sell it for a dollar when you’re done.’”
“Was it her dress, do you think?” he asked. “Was she married?”
“I didn’t see anyone with her. If it was her dress, why did she use your house?”
“Maybe it was her house. I’m renting from an agency. Or maybe she lives near here and noticed I was away.” He clinked their beer bottles together. “New promotion means no more travel.”
“Congrats and yay.”
“Is it a nice dress?”
She nodded. “Perfect.”
“Pity.” He reached for the bag but she stopped him.
“It’s bad luck,” she argued.
It was only bad luck for the groom to see the wedding gown, not some random guy she’d just met. But, then again, he wasn’t random. The dress had brought her to him.
“I don’t even know your name,” he complained.
“It’s Cassie.”
They shook hands and it felt like she'd just made another deal; a better one.
She wore the dress for her wedding and then sold it at their first yard sale. The clothes rack was set up almost exactly where she had stacked the boxes of Aaron’s stuff. Neil moving in had changed the house in so many ways.
It was a different dress by then. (No, it really WAS a different dress. Now it had a pencil skirt.) She was oddly unsurprised by the alterations she’d had nothing to do with. She also felt half sorry, half excited for the young woman wearing retro clothes and red pumps who bought it.
For one dollar, as promised.
She bit her lip as the girl carried it off triumphantly.
Neil kissed Cassie’s hair. “You did the right thing.”
“I know, but I’m worried she’ll be hurt.”
“Cruel to be kind. You never know what comes next.”
“Or who comes next,” she added with a kiss.
© AM Gray 2017

Saturday, 28 January 2017

New rule for me

This Trump stuff is totally freaking me out.
When kid 1 wakes up, he comes out and asks, ‘damage report’ in his Picard voice. Each time I tell kid 3 the next horrible law that they are passing, she starts singing, ‘oh Canada’.
I get too involved, too upset, too angry… and there’s nowhere for it to go. I kept thinking that someone or something would stop this happening but at each stage the driver-less steam roller continues on. It stresses and depresses me. I do what I can. I have paid dues to organisations that will help where I can’t.
To impose a ban on refugees on Holocaust Memorial day shows an ignorance of history I cannot fathom. The distinct lack of the word ‘Jew’ in the WH release must be deliberate. How could it not be?
I’m Australian, this doesn’t directly affect me; at least until they start the next world war, but I am very worried about my friends and readers in the US. And this will affect the world.
It won’t be solved in days, weeks or even months. I can’t write or work, like this. 
I also know I’m not alone in feeling this way. In the spirit of self-care, I need to focus on something that makes me feel good, and at the moment, that’s my stories. Call it escapism, I know that.
So, for my own mental health I have made a rule for myself: no social media until after 2 pm.
At least it’s socially acceptable to hit the wine cask after I have read a few news stories, freaked out for a while, and got closer to sundown.
Other people have written on this more eloquently than I can.
My earlier post - people will die
Rachael Herron - we rise
Jim C Hines - Highlights from Trump’s January 25 Interview

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The patron saint of writers

Today is the feast day of Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers and journalists. A bishop of Geneva, Francis died in 1622.
His most famous work is ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’ and unusually for the time, it was written for laypeople; ordinary people.
I reckon that’s a good sign. The patron saint of writers wrote for everyday people. He encouraged dancing and jokes! The thought that normal people could experience holiness in their daily life was a new idea. You were only supposed to get this if you withdrew from daily life. He wrote his pamphlets and stuffed them under people’s doors.
He persisted until he succeeded.
Maybe that’s the best advice for writers: laugh, dance and keep writing.
Thanks, Francis.