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Things I’ve Learned This Year

In response to The Hack Novelist‘s post today, I thought I would do my own “things I have learned this year” post. Not nearly as exciting as his

  • builders never, ever finish on time (and always run over budget)
  • weddings are expensive
  • weddings are the best time of your life
  • saxophonists rock!
  • writing a book is easy, but writing a good book is more time-consuming and considerably more difficult
  • it’s easy to self publish a book, both through amazon and smashwords
  • it’s not easy to design your own cover for said self published book
  • if you want to be ripped to shreds, try your hand at writing
  • getting angry with the customer service rep gets you nowhere
  • don’t take those pictures of your nether regions
  • if you do, don’t send those pictures to anyone

So, what have you learned this year?

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Free read Friday!

Free read Friday! That’s right. In the coming weeks, my next short story will be released as a standalone e-book. It’s a story based on the mystical magical tree that lay, powerful and waiting, in my childhood neighbourhood. The story is first person, told by a boy of perhaps 7 or 8. Sound exciting? You bet! For a bit of a teaser, I’ve put a snippet of the first draft below for a free Friday read:

“Where?” Ty begged, breathless.
“I don’t know, can you see a tree?” I searched, my hand in a salute blocking out the sun.
“What does a magical tree look like anyway?” We craned our necks and scanned their yard for what seemed like hours, when eventually a voice got our attention from below. I looked down: Mothuzi was watching us.
“What are you guys looking at?” He asked. He still had some marmite on his face from lunch.
“Have you heard about the magical tree?” I asked. The look on his face made us clamber down to hear his story. Mothuzi always had a story.

“Do you guys know the truth about the tree?” He looked at us with big, important eyes, and we knew he was about to give us a massive piece of gossip that no-one else knew. Mothuzi knew things: he was Thabang’s older brother, and he had been on K-TV and he could do karate and he had a Sega 16 bit, with the Michael Jackson game on it. “Let me tell you about the tree. Come, let’s go to my house.” We followed Mothuzi reverently; everyone knew he was going to be famous one day. He even knew the answers to those questions on “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”.

He led us into his house and went straight into his bedroom. We waited in the passage outside; nobody went into Mothuzi’s room without him inviting you in. We stood at the door and looked at his TV and Sega 16 bit and the poster of Jurassic Park on his cupboard door, and waited. Eventually he came out and pointed us to the living room, where we sat on the two-seater couch opposite his chair. He didn’t say why he went to his room, and we didn’t ask. You didn’t ask questions like that when you were with Mothuzi; you listened carefully to every word he said so that you could soak up his coolness and maybe one day people would say you were going to be famous.

Enjoy, and share with your friends if you do.

Brett

Haunted House

Whilst reading up on some things for one of my stories, I came across the story of the Winchester Mystery House. Not knowing anything about it, I decided to do a bit of research (which admittedly involved reading the article on Wikipedia) and found the results fascinating. The house, or mansion, really, was owned by one Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Winchester.

Supposedly, after falling and having her two children die, a medium suggested that the spirits of all the people killed by Winchester rifles were haunting her, and that only “continuous construction” would prevent the spirits from harming her. From 1884 – 1922, the house was under continuous construction, and the final structure has some 160 rooms, of which 40 are bedrooms. There are 47 fireplaces, 17 chimneys, 2 basements and 2 ballrooms.

Mrs. Winchester also had an affinity for the number 13 and for spider web motifs, somehow connected to her will to protect herself from the ghosts. In her honour, every Friday the 13th the large bell on the property is rung 13 times at 1 o’clock p.m. (13:00). Fascinating! The thought of all those ghosts haunting the person responsible for their deaths…makes for an excellent story.

While looking that up, I thought about some famous haunted places in South Africa. The one I’ve been to – Pilgrim’s Rest, a town in Mpumalanga that was declared a gold field in 1873. It still has all the old style buildings left and is a national monument. Perhaps most famously, it’s graveyard houses the robber’s grave – where all the other graves are laid in one direction, the robber’s grave is placed perpendicular to them, and contains only a cross and the words “ROBBER’S GRAVE”. I never experienced any haunting when I visited, but others have, and it’s said a particular room is haunted.

Another place that I would love to visit is Matjiesfontein – supposedly the most haunted town in South Africa. One ghost in particular is said to be a wounded British soldier who appears at the turn-off to the Memorial Cemetery with his arm in a sling and a bloody bandage around his head. The Lord Milner is also reputed to be haunted by ghosts that can be heard laughing in empty rooms.

I love reading about haunted houses and towns – it’s always fascinated me, and always gives a spark of inspiration for some creative writing.

So – have you ever been to one of the places mentioned, and have you ever experienced a haunting of your own? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Brett

Trouble Down South

An excerpt from Into the Rift, “The Cloaked Man”, appeared on Katrina Williams’ blog yesterday. Check it out here. If you’re interested, you can also get her book, Trouble Down South and Other Stories by clicking the image below:

Nocturnes

As a boy of eight, I received a much-loved birthday gift from my father. Entitled “Horror stories for thirteen year olds” or something of a similar note, I distinctly recall its green cover, with a black and white sketch of a small boy running amidst spooky trees and long strands of giant hair (by that, I mean the hair of giants, which naturally is giant in itself). I read the book with glee; the kind of childish pleasure that you get not only from doing something forbidden (an eight year old reading scary thirteen year old stories, can you say forbidden!) but also from discovering a delight you have never savoured. It was this delight which would stick with me, ever-changing, but never leaving, throughout my childhood, and until now.

That delight concerns horror stories. Not your slasher type horror story, where humans can act out on their terrible desires and cause harm and terror on whomever they so please. No, the supernatural horror story: ghosts and ghouls and demons, giants and spiders and bats and the undead. Terrifying vampires, lurching zombies, spooky banshees. My fascination for this genre drove me to discover the wonder of the public library, where weekly I would shuffle in and devour any and all horror / supernatural material I could get my hands on. Naturally, this fascination has driven my taste in books, movies and tv shows, and of course my own writing. However, it has been a long time since I’ve stumbled across something that could take me back to that joyous feeling of my childhood – that pleasure in reading a book that is fascinating and terrifying at the same time, that sends shivers up your spine and makes you think twice about wandering around in the dark. I recently had the joy of reading John Connolly’s short story collection, Nocturnes:

Though not all reviewers agree (see some of the reviews left on Amazon.com), I think that this book shows a mastery of the short horror tale by Connolly. Whilst some of the longer pieces in the book are works of art (the Charlie Parker novella at the end is gloriously creepy, and actually freaked me out at one point, late into the night) the shorter pieces are of equal beauty. Tales of giant spiders, humanoid bats, ghosts, strange gods and lurking childhood fears will keep you awake late into the night, even after you’ve finished the book in one sitting. As a fan of horror, of King and Koontz and Barker (among others), I am in love with this book. It lies on my bedside table, awaiting the next read through. If you enjoy horror, do yourself a favour. Buy this book. You will not be disappointed.

On Writing

You often hear the question “Why do you write?” You get various answers from different writers, each reflecting their own views on the process. In this post, I’ll attempt to outlay why I write.

People ask me why I write. The honest answer? I don’t know. I just do: I sit down and tell myself I need to write a cool story, because, well, it’s cool. I tell myself I have an imagination which, when let run wild, can produce a worthwhile read for someone else, and so I bang off a few thousand words and get going. Honestly though, do I mean those things? I can’t say for sure. I’m still sitting down, writing. So that’s one thing.

I like a good story. I think I have many of those in my head, and like to think I’m decent at telling a good story. I guess that’s the main reason I write. There are supplementary reasons, though. Like money. I’ve yet to make any money from my writing, but I’m led more and more to believe that there are people out there who enjoy what I write, and would pay a few dollars to read it. That thought spurs me on to write more, but there are other reasons, too.

It’s a challenge. Writing is hard work, at the end of the day. You can spend hours, days, weeks, or months (some people spend years) on a story, and at the end of it have something that nobody wants to read because they don’t think it’s any good. That’s a hard pill to swallow. I think I’m better than that. I think that each time I sit down to write, I’m a little better than the last time. Sometimes I read a story or book and think to myself, hell, I’m better than this!  I’m, challenging myself to fight the terror of failure, of rejection, in writing. The thought of people reading my work and not enjoying it is terrifying.

So, at the end of it all, am I any closer to answering that question? Probably not. It’s not something I can really explain to someone who doesn’t write. But hopefully one day they’ll buy my books, and then they’ll know why. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Why do you write?

Published!

After some hectic scrambling and throwing together of words, covers, formats and what not, Into the Rift is finally available. You can find it on both amazon.com and SmashWords:

Into the Rift – Kindle Edition

Into the Rift – SmashWords Edition

It’s a culmination of some hard work and frantic editing. At the end of it all, I’m feeling a few different things; excited, obviously, but also slightly drained, and most of all, terrified of the thought that someone might actually buy the book and read it. Strange, huh?

Nonetheless, the book is out there and despite my misgivings I’d love for you to sample it, perhaps buy it if you like it. I’d also be thrilled if you were to throw in a review while you were at it. There might be a signed print version in it for you if you do.