SPARK Fiction

Spark is a monthly collaborative post written from a spark of inspiration that organically finds its way to us. This month we were inspired to write fiction based on this fabulous picture Rus came across.

Adam

Coven of One by Stephen Mackey

The table was always set the evening before. The mismatched crockery and forks with tines askew and knives with the tips slightly bent. Communing with the future, she called it. A eucharist for the deceased of the past, of the present, of the soon to be.

She set the kettle set on the hob early first thing in the morning and filled it to capacity for guests who would never wet their lips or ask for sugar or decline milk. Rubbing the air between her fingers she felt it at first thicken like rubbing folds of velvet, then thinned out to the vapour of gauze. At the whistle of the kettle she warmed the tea pot, rinsed it and poured out the clean water as a libation before adding spoons of finely cut leaves.

Seated at the table she rubbed the air between her fingers again and the gauze whispered into singular strands of cotton. Wisps of clouds dancing around the spout of the tea pot. She sliced the fruit cake and served herself. Poured the tea and watched the sugar crystals dissolve.

And he was there. A memory. A framed portrait. As if memory was nothing but cake fragments and breadcrumbs to be fed to the birds at the park. And bone china cups held the structure of trauma and the rigidity of tradition. Around her an exoskeleton, a carapace, as thin as a veil, as thick as love. The thinness of the day giving way to the thickness of night.

 

JODI

I wanted the green hat or the sheet. Wardrobe insisted I wear the red. It’s always the way with these things. Everyone knows better than you.

‘We can see your lovely face,’ they cooed.

I screwed it up and everyone said I was difficult to work with.

‘Can we trade?’ I asked.

‘You want me to be the girl?’

‘No. I want you to wear the red hat.’

‘I prefer the green,’ he said. ‘If I can’t do green hat, I’m doing the sheet.’

‘No one listened to me when I said that.’

He shrugged.

‘Can we have a dog?’ I asked. ‘I’m allergic to cats.’

Someone laughed and then they all laughed.

‘We love your sense of humour,’ they said.

But I am not amused. It’s hard to laugh when you’re sneezing.

We are pretend reality, masquerading as common place. We are the things that go bump in the night, tidied up, sweetened up, so you’ll never think we are anything other than what you want us to be.

‘Smile,’ they say.

I grimace and secretly wish they would all go to hell. Or perhaps we are already there.

 

RUS

They waited, with undying patience, for the others to make it through the forest and take their seat at the table.

“Perhaps they have lost their way,” said the ghost, unable to really understand any concept of time.

“Or perhaps they have found it,” whispered the girl, knowing that, sometimes, these things happen.

The cat, though, would have none of it. He was hungry, and he looked beyond the forest for his next meal, staring at us in the distance, as if we would be providing him a tasty rodent for a late-night snack.

On the other side of the wall, where the wild things walked and stalked under the light of an endless moon, three creatures sat under a tree, staring longingly at the wall in front of them.

“Perhaps they have lost their way,” said the goblin, chewing on a recently fallen twig with fresh berries still clinging to the underbellies of bronze leaves.

“Or perhaps they have found it,” replied the boy, proudly wearing a green beanie. “You know how they are, always seemingly finding a different way to where they need to be.”

The dog, though, would have none of it, though. He was longing for the sweet flesh of a floundering rabbit stuck in some hole. It was late, and he was too hungry to think of much else.

Above, the owl sat perched, chin in chest, observing the stale mate of patience as he, himself, preserved his energy with great will.

“Perhaps this is their way,” he hooted. We are never as lost, or found, as we think we might be.”

News: New Title and Cover Glimpse

We are very pleased to offer you a glimpse of the next JAR Collective publication.

HER FIRST REALITY, DARKNESS is the first in a series of eight interconnected mini novels from Jodi Cleghorn.

This series has its genesis over a decade ago. Known colloquially as “the birthpunk novella”, it had the working title of ENCURSION for several years and will go to press as HER FIRST REALITY, DARKNESS.


“The path of radical responsibility is one of facing the places where our unknowing is a catalyst for destruction.”
~ Alina

On the winter solstice, 51 years ago, snow bloomed red in Manhattan.

Six months later, a quiet epidemic sweeps the island on the hottest day in a century leaving less than 1% of the population clinging to a precarious existence.

Now…

Sylvie O’Brien has made a deal with The City’s most powerful Information Architect: Joseph will provide safe passage off the island in exchange for midwifery services for his wife. The only problem is natural birth is considered a crime against the state and Sylvie is only barely one step ahead of City authorities and the outlawed Deme.

In forgotten parts of the urban landscape, among those who have outlived their reproductive worth, Sylvie finds allies, enemies and the truth of her family’s involvement in the Red Winter.

Can she survive long enough to experience a life beyond the damage of the past? Or is some trauma impossible to outrun and outlive?


The full cover will be revealed on the new moon at the end of the month.

HER FIRST REALITY, DARKNESS launches December, 2019.

Pre-orders and links will be made available soon.

6.2 Not Without… Adam

Not Without…

What can a creative person, a writer, not do without? I would have said pants but pants are optional; I only wear them out of mundane perfunctory obligation. Jodi once sent me a second-hand pair of trackies while I was on long service leave to write.

What can I not do without?

My Music

I am a metal head of old. I am nostalgic for the days of my long hair, when it was REALLY LONG. Once I was introduced to someone who upon finding out I played drums said, “Looks like one.” I am a “meat and potatoes” drummer; plain and simple.

Music is my meditation and prayer for peace, for anger, for contemplation, for melancholy, for sorrow, for confusion, for nostalgia, for hope.

My current binge genre is post-rock, which is instrumental music ranging from intimate and ethereal to heavy and loud, and simple to progressive. Often in the same piece of music. I like music that forms a narrative, and post-rock does this for me. My current home-town heroes of the post-rock scene here in Sydney are sleepmakeswaves, We Lost The Sea and Meniscus. The new album from We Lost the Sea is getting a regular listen because it is a piece of artistic majesty. I was in the crowd for We Lost The Sea gig and it was a spiritual experience.

The music acts a filter to bring me focus and clarity; to provide a soundtrack for a scene; to prompt a mood or vibe. I listen to heavy metal in a similar way because I can filter the vocals out, make them another instrument in the mix rather than get caught up in the lyrical narrative happening. I will get caught up sometimes in a song and listen to the lyrics to understand the power of that moment and to find the words to express the power of the emotion of the scene I am writing.

And a set of noise cancelling headphones are a blessing.

My Doubt, My Insecurities, My Fears, My Faith

I have made creativity a central part of my life because I believe in its philosophy as a physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, intellectual and emotional act. I teach because I believe in the power of relationship. There is tremendous power in sharing creative acts. Connection through, and via, art, establishes relationships.

Since my early teens I wanted to write because I loved how I was moved by the stories I read. I wanted to be Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, Julian from The Famous Five, Obelisk and Tintin, The Phantom and any number of participants in war stories, fantasy epics, sci-fi embroilments. I wanted to use language to explore the power of figurative language to engage and to teach through the power of parable and analogy.

And I live with the uncertainty and doubt and fear that I am completely and utterly rubbish at this writing gig. I am afraid that one day I will wake up and the creativity will not be there. That I will not be able to write, or to draw, or to play drums, or to read. I will be the emperor standing naked in front of the people, exposed as nothing. At least I won’t be wearing pants.

Yet…

I persist. I pursue. I proceed.

This is faith.

I create what I can, when I can, how I can. The doubt and insecurity and fear never truly leave. They are a pebble in my shoe. Irritating and leading to blisters but nonetheless a reminder I am moving forward.

My Network

The JAR Collective is a gestalt entity of three people. We live in different cities, in different countries. We share similar (and different) aims and visions in regard to writing and the creative arts. And we work brilliantly together. We encourage, support, share, laugh, cry, whinge, swear, question, answer, and write together.

We are divergent, differentiated, maybe even debonaire.

We kick each other up the bum as motivation.

We hold each other’s hands when times are tough, and the candle doesn’t push back the darkness.

We hold a space for each other.

We celebrate the victories together, from the insignificant to the momentous.

We champion each other.

And I could not do it without their support.

Find your tribe. Find your people. Cherish and love them. Support and encourage them.

 

Lastly, not without doughnuts. I can’t do without doughnuts.

5.2 The Next Story – Adam

The Next Story

Part 1

How long has it been since I have written anything from start to finish?

Too long.

Far too long.

“Post Marked Piper’s Reach” was published in July this year. It was written seven years ago.

What has happened in-between? Between 2013 and 2018, the grounds lay fallow. I started a verse novel. Began the drafting and ideas for a novella. Started collaborating with Jodi and Rus on a novel. At the end of 2018 I finished the draft of a novella that will exist in the Piper’s Reach world but be separate from it. It’s now awaiting an edit. And in-between all of this, I have penned scraps of sentences and handwritten pieces for Instagram, and random poems for Twitter and Facebook.

I have not sat down to write for a variety of reasons: moving house, ill health, work commitments. Other personal reasons. I read books. Kept a record of what I had read and challenged myself to improve on it. Kept adding to the compost heap.

But nothing complete or completed.

Looking back on the past few years it appears I’ve been throwing manure on the compost heap in the hope something other than tomatoes will sprout from the pile of grass clippings, vegetable scraps and garden trimmings. At some point you have to turn the soil, keep turning it, shovel it around the base of an idea and see what grows.

Those works in progress mentioned above have sat idle but I return to them occasionally, turning the soil and adding more thought to them.

Part 2

The question is always of, “What next?”

This year was a focus on getting Piper’s Reach into the world and to an audience. Publication was the end of the cycle and a new cycle has to begin.

But where to begin with that new cycle?

In my head, and in my planning, it is the novella, followed by the verse novel and working with Jodi and Rus to finish our collaborative novel, plans for a collaborative novel with Rus, and thinking of another collaboration with Jodi.

Left to my own devices I have to think about the next story. Snippets of sentences and half-formed paragraphs are easy. Bringing them to fruition is difficult. I write better in collaboration as iron sharpens iron. But I had to prove to myself I can do it by myself. The novella was the first step. My verse novel will be the next step after that. For myself, I am unsure. The horizon is a long way off.

Part 3

But I see a way forward. Beyond plans for completing and finishing, there is the desire to write again. I have felt blocked lately in writing but I think I have a way forward: writing my way into it.

I’ll start by writing anything.

With abandon.

With reckless care for sense or understanding.

To write without fear or favour.

To play with language and experiment with words because no one else will see it.

The freedom of not having eyes to cast a glance and question the structure or word choice.

Part 4

But there is something else that sits with me in terms of thinking about the next story: Why do I want to tell this story?

This is what is pushing me lately. I have a couple of unfinished works on my computer and I circle back to them from time to time to ask why do I want to tell this story? Have I worked out what the story is in order to tell it? The same question applies to my novella and verse novel because the question will help frame the narrative and edits in the future.

The “why” will be the driving force to keep me throwing compost onto the heap and tilling the soil.

The next story will always be there.