Christmas with a Difference

A short story subverting Christmas …

 

My eyes fly open.

Christmas morning. Sunlight streams around curtain edges, but the room is shrouded in darkness. It’s early, early Christmas morning. Usually Cody and Jasmine bounce on the bed until I wake. Early, but not this early.

I love my Christmas morning with Cody and Jasmine. It only happens every second year. Perhaps they’re exhausted from yesterday’s skiing? I am. Aching and bruised too.

This Christmas we’d agreed to spend at Evergreen Ski Lodge. With my family. Our time away from home is the perfect invitation for me tease them. I’d tell them Santa skipped us because we weren’t home. To see their little faces, light up when they see presents under the tree? Priceless.

A door clicks shut. I can’t tell, is it our room or another room?

My heart races. And not with excitement – call it intuition. Something is wrong. I fling my doona, and grab my gun from the room’s safe.

“Cody? Jasmine?” I call. What if they don’t answer?

My job puts them at too much risk.

My bare feet pad over the carpet along the suite’s bedroom corridor.

Silence.

I reach Cody’s bedroom door first, and peer inside. His bedcovers are pulled back and crumpled, but his bed is empty. Does he wait by the tree? Is he with his sister? Or does he walk Spot?

Somehow, I stumble to Jasmine’s bedroom door. The pink elephant bedspread she loves so much, and made me pack and bring, is all mussed up. The room is devoid of life. They’ve gone to the Christmas tree without me. Except they always wake me first. I shiver, from the bitter chill me as much as the fear – where are my kids?

My feet move so fast, like skis down a black slope. Controlled and tense: stalking steps.

Splatters of blood on the kitchen floor. No! My stomach drops.

My gun is a cold and hard: a comfort in my hands. Holding it with two hands, helps control my trembles. I jump around the kitchen corner, into the living room, and thrust out my gun.

In front of the tv, lays our white speckled Staffy. Another one of Jasmine’s demands. Bring her.

Spot lay unconscious, and blood pools around her chest. Fresh blood. From a puncture. I’ll bet this is what woke me.

No kids.

Just the Christmas tree and no presents. I’d left presents under the tree last night. Robbed. I don’t care about that. I only cared about my kids. And Spot.

I rush to Spot’s side, my gaze darting around the room. I rip the bottom of my nightgown and press the material into her wound.

What do I do? Spot is dying in front of my eyes. Cody and Jasmine would never forgive me. I would never forgive me. Oh, God, I wish I left you at home. Without the kids, there is no forgiveness. Only my own regret. My family is only complete with Cody and Jasmine … and Spot.

I know the procedure.

“I’ll be back,” I whisper to Spot.

I race for mother’s room and bang on the door, until it opens.

“Mum, get Spot to a vet. ASAP. The kids are missing, I’ll call 000.”

She nods. I leave her and rush to my room. From my bedroom, I grab my phone, a jacket to throw over my nightgown, and dash to the living room, to Spot’s side.

Mum is already there. She kneels next to Spot, staunches the blood flow, with my ripped nightgown, and she’s on her phone.

With a curt nod, I run outside, dialling 000 as I go. The corridor blears. My kids. This feels totally different to the job. Personal. I take three or four stairs at a time from our first floor.

“State your emergency,” drones a computer-generated voice. “Police, fire, ambulance.”

“Police.”

No one at the lobby desk. There’s no one else here either. A stand of brochures. I push the main door open. Cold air slaps me in the face. My warm breath huffs in white puffs of mist. I stare at the fresh snow. Footprints. Two sets, and deep. Both are too deep unless … they’d been carried. Cody and Jasmine. They’d be so scared.

No blood splatter. No drops.

The tracks went right.

“Police,” a gruff male voice answered.

“This is Detective Janice Fletcher,” I said, my voice cracking. “I’m at the Everglade Ski Lodge. Someone took my kids, left our dog for dead and stole our presents. Send a team. Hurry.”

“10-4. ETA ten minutes.”

I keep my arms straight, clutch my gun with two hands and follow the footprints to the carpark. My gaze scans car to car, under and inside, and through dense pines to the fence-line.

The footprints end. Just stop. The place where they should be? It’s an empty car space. There’re tire tracks to the road.

Gone. Cody and Jasmine are gone.

In a daze, I holster my gun. Collapse to my knees, cradle my head. Hot tears trickle through the gaps of my fingers.

He’d promised vengeance, and now he was out? They were gone.

 

Interested? Out next week …

Like thrillers?

Cage Dunn: Writer, Author, Teller-of-tall-tales

Blurb:

Brimpaen. A country town in rural Victoria, Australia. It was supposed to be a quiet place for a cyber-researcher to take up a new role after the attempt on her life.

But the town bristles with an undercurrent of fear that newly arrived Hella Solaris, recently retired from covert ops, can’t leave alone. The instincts that have kept her alive this long are burning worse than the scars from the last failed sting. And it smells bad.

Like someone followed her, like it’s personal. Like someone sent them after her.

When they try to kill the horse, she needs to use any asset she can, including a young girl and her overprotective-cop-father, to find the who and the why – or is she seeing shadows where there are none?

Can Hella leave her past behind and start a new life?

————– The new Novel – due to be published…

View original post 5 more words

HOW TO START A NOVEL

That first line is so crucial.

K. D. Dowdall

How toStart a Novel: A Checklist Posted by Laura DiSilverio

Great opening lines

Consider the following . . .

“All this happened, more or less.”  Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs.”  The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

“‘What makes Iago evil?’ some people ask. I never ask.”  Play It as It Lays, Joan Didion

“The snow in the mountains was melting, and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we understood the gravity of our situation.”  The Secret History, Donna Tartt

“I don’t think my stepfather much minded dying. That he almost took me with him wasn’t really his fault.”  To the Hilt, Dick Francis

“Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy.”  Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi

Did these first lines draw you in, make…

View original post 1,307 more words

What’s on your bucket list?

Do you need a bucket list? Do you have one already? Are you doing it?

I’ve experienced just how short life can be, I had a stroke at 41 years of age (and I know plenty of people younger than me. Yes, stroke happens at any age, not just to the old). So, make that list. And do it … because a life of all work and no play? That’s kinda unfulfilling. Don’t you agree?

Before my Nan passed away, she told me to travel young . In fact, she actively encouraged it. And so I did. On the top of my bucket list was visiting Prince Edward Island on the East coast of Canada. Why there? Anne of Green Gables, of course.

The island inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery to pen one of the most popular works of fiction for preteen girls. And because I followed my dreams, I’m able to say I’ve seen first hand why. The grasses are as green as a rich moss, the sands a deep ochre and the water a sparkling blue. Place these colours next to one another and they create a distinctive and memorable canvas which, at the time, sent a surging swell of admiration through my heart.

That’s the kind of emotional response a bucket-list experience should elicit from you.

Can you name what could do that for you?

Do you long the weightlessness and colours experienced with a scuba dive? Or crave the rush when you skydive? (although, I’d rather dodge a cobra – and I don’t dodge, I’ve enough trouble typing this – than skydive, but more on that later.)

Perhaps venturing into the tunnels under a pyramids is more your speed, or watching the sun set over Ayers Rock.

There is a funny show on Stan called No Tomorrow (at least, it’s on Stan in Australia, but it’s a Canadian production, so I expect it’s in America and Canada at a minimum). That show is all about ticking off the two lead character’s bucket lists, all because the guy (yum) believes the world will end in under a year. Yeah, that pans out well. The girl thought she’d landed a hunky-dory catch. Then hearing him say the world is about to end? Not so much a catch anymore.

It’s like she taken a big bite into a grapefruit. And do you blame her? Really?

They’re bucket lists don’t just include experiences, there are “forgiving dad” moments and “saying sorry” moments too.

Great show, by the way.

So, what’s your poison? Leave a comment below, you never know, you could inspire someone else’s bucket list.

Who doesn’t like garlic?

I’m sorry, I can’t understand how anyone can’t like garlic. Do you? There’s nothing comparable to that pungent odor wafting through your kitchen – what can match it?

For my entire childhood I was deprived of this exquisite flavour. Oh, how my childhood was filled with bland boring food. My mother didn’t like garlic, so she never cooked it.

Seriously, I know kids can be fussy (I have 3 of the fussiest humans alive), but isn’t not using garlic some kind of child abuse? It should be. And although my kids are fussy they will eat garlic. I’m not saying they love it, but they eat it and don’t complain, so that’s a bonus, right?

And if my fussy trio eat garlic, how can an adult not like it? There are some people who claim they are allergic to garlic, but then eat food like Indian. I’m sorry, that’s not an allergy, that’s being a pain in the arse. Have you met an Indian? Seen them cook? I personally don’t know an Indian dish that doesn’t have garlic in it. Do they know how to cook or what? Frigging delicious.

Mix garlic with ginger and you have one of the most potent, mouth-watering bases for a meal on this earth. Was that created by God or what?

Yes, eat too much of it and you have garlic breathe. To my mind, that’s not a reason to not like garlic. Just think how healthy that person is being because, as if the sumptuous taste of garlic wasn’t enough, it’s good for you too. And it wards off vampires 😉

All in all, there’s indisputable evidence that liking garlic is worth your time. You do like living in your body, don’t you?

Are you a writing masochist?

Why should you come out of your shell, out of that warm womb you call your writing space, and partner with other writers? Because you want to be an author? Hmm… maybe. Because you want to improve your writing? Likely. Most of all, because you love to write? Hell, yeah.

Will it be easy to bare your soul? Your baby? You’re writing? Yes, of course … spoiler alert … if you’re a masochist. Because, guess what? You know what I’m going to say, don’t you?

You have to be a masochist if you want to write.

Think about it, you squeeze every ounce of your being into your work and, just when you think you’ve done enough, you reveal a piece of it to other writers. And they tear it to pieces (or so you think). Ah, the sting. Can you get passed it? Do you want to?

Now here comes the tricky bit. Do they really tear it to shreds? Or do they teach you something more of your craft? And how do you know if you should listen to every bit of advice?

Well, ask yourself, is the other writer helping your book become the best it can be? Or is their advice tainted with jealousy? Are they familiar with your genre? Do they have their own agenda for what they think your book should be? Or do they give you free rein, without pressure, to turn your book into what you envisage it to be? And by no pressure I mean not harming your ideas or voice. Instead they teach things like show don’t tell or point of view etc.

Is that the end of criticisms? No siree! Then there are editors and beta readers. They will no doubt read your book and point out a wealth of niggly sections that no one else noticed. All in an effort to help you create the best book possible.

Crikey, that’s got to be the end of it? That would be a negative. Not if you want to put your book ‘out there’. To make this leap, at some point a writer shift their mindset to an author’s mindset. Because the last barrage of criticism comes in the form of the public.

So when I say you have to be a masochist, I wasn’t exactly right …more like the Superman of masochists.

I’m fortunate to navigate the valleys of kryptonite with nurturing critique partners. Are you lucky too?

The No. 1 writing tip

Think about it. What could the #1 writing tip be? Interrogate yourself. Dig deep. Why are you really writing? Perhaps you want to impress your family and friends? Perhaps you want to show off how smart you are? Or maybe you want the prestige of being able to call yourself an author? Or, best of all, you love it.

Are these valid reasons to write? Hell, no (except for the last reason). But don’t get me wrong, they are all great motivators. The trick is not to let your motivation shine through the pages of your book. People read to be entertained, not to entertain your dreams.

For one, you can’t sustain the passion you need to tell and finish a readable story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read my WIP. Hey, I could have sex with it, I know it that intimately. And like every love story, I find something I love about my WIP every time I touch it. There is no divorcing it, no walking away from it. I’m in for the long haul. Sure, there are moments I’d rather pull teeth. That’s because I’m in a book-relationship.

I can hear you saying … “that’s me too.” Well, great! You’re on the way. Now do the time 🙂

I ask you again, why are you writing?

What’s that #1 one writing tip?

We all want to write a good story. That’s a given. But in fulfilling that desire, we are in danger of losing sight of the end of the rainbow. How can a story be good if it’s only read by three hundred people? If sales don’t reach that number or a similar number, word of mouth isn’t weaving it’s elusive magic. A magic that says, “hey, buy this book. It’s really good.”

Everyone is frantically busy these days, they don’t have the time to read a book that doesn’t deliver (or money to spare to drop into an author-charity bin).

So, what does a low number tell you? It tells you something isn’t working. And that’s perfectly okay. Just don’t give up. Start the next book.

If you’ve written what you think is a good book, the proof of whether it’s marketable, is in the sales. Now, perhaps, like me, you’ve written in a very niche market and therefore lower sales are expected. That should be the litmus test for your book – do you have the sales what an average author expects from their market?

There are tips out there on how to improve your grammar, your voice, on show not tell and countless other scalpels available in an author’s toolbox. To get ahead of what may not be working in your book, educate yourself. Use those tips.

And the single most important piece of writing advice? Write for your reader. Not just any reader, but your reader. Know who they are and how to elicit a reaction from them. Know what kind of reaction or impression you want from them. Get excited about it. Love what you create, even the stuff that needs work, because we only get to the good stuff if we keep trying. So keep trying.