by Martin Brennan
AS A little introduction, recently the Digital Writers’ Festival with a few different events, projects, and livestreams that emerging writers could participate in. One such event was the Swinburne Microfiction Challenge, where for ten days a single word theme was released, and you could submit a five hundred word piece on that theme. I managed to submit for five of those days. This is the first, where the theme was HOME.
The trees had not changed, nor had the hills or the meadows, in the years Ignacio had been at war. Golden stalks of wheat rippled in the breeze by the roadside, and his horse puffed and snorted now and then at some familiar scent.
Pain nagged at his thigh, a reminder of the arrowhead that had lodged there. He was one of the lucky ones. Injured rather than sent screaming to his judgement. Mud and sweat clung to his skin in the throes of battle. That washed off at least. Many a man’s blood was still on his hands.
Home was never driven to the dark corners of his mind, even in such a hell. It was the only thing that kept him and the other soldiers going most days. You’d know each man by the name of his village. Cortegana. Mojacar. Inazares. They’d fought and died together, and most never made it back to tell their tale.
Not Ignacio though. He was there when the tide had turned, when the great gates of the capital came crashing down, when they had charged forth to sweet victory. And now he idly rode among the fields he’d known since he was a child. Home to his beloved Maria, and a lasting peace, warm hearth, and honest work. No more killing.
Though some nameless dread nagged at his mind. Once there had been goldfinches chirping, flitting here and there across the wheat, clamping insects in their tiny beaks. There was none of that now, only the lonely sigh of the wind. No woodsmoke hung in the air either. Could it be that the wind had merely swept it away?
Ignacio urged his horse into a trot. The village would be just around the bend in the road, right where he remembered it. Blacksmith’s anvil ringing, the laughter of children at play, the baying of dogs and goats. The sounds of peace. His sweet Maria waiting to take back the favour she had given him for good fortune all those years ago.
It looked as though it had been razed some time ago. Weeds grew among the clumps of charred wood and stone. The bleached bones of a dead dog were scattered in the street. Not a single building was left standing. Despair threatened to drown him, so he dug in his spurs and galloped toward his cottage. Toward home.
Maria did not wait for him there. She was gone, called back to the Lord with the others. He dismounted and limped toward the threshold. A deer raised its head from the wreckage at his approach, turned its great sad eyes upon him, then fled from that place of slaughter. Ignacio fell to his knees at the lintel, sifted his hands through the ashes to find proof that his beloved had ever existed.
A silver cross. It had once dangled from her slender neck and caught the sun. He kissed it and held it close, and wept until the sunset.
Everybody knows me at the dump— Tom Waits
I CAME across this wonderful interview with Tom Waits that Elizabeth Gilbert did for GQ magazine back in 2002. She mentioned it in her Ted talk Your elusive creative genius which is also a great watch. In the interview there were some gems of wisdom from one of the most unique musicians and writers in the 20th century, certainly one of my favorites. I thought I’d collate the quotes I found interesting here but I’d urge anyone to go read the article itself in full.
Kids are always working on songs and throwing them away, like little origami things or paper airplanes. They don't care if they lose it; they'll just make another one
Tom said this after relaying a story where his daughter came up with one of the key lyrics to Hold On off the top of her head. What it says to me is that you should focus on just getting creative work out there, and not really worry about whether it succeeds or fails. Just write another story, or another song, paint or draw another picture, just get it out there and keep going.
He believes that if a song "really wants to be written down, it'll stick in my head. If it wasn't interesting enough for me to remember it, well, it can just move along and go get in someone else's song."
I can really relate to this and I’d say it’s part of my creative process, but in equal parts I think it’s also important to do work that doesn’t come to you. Sometimes you need a prompt, or a guide, or something. But all of my novel and longer short story and novella ideas have come to me in this way. I’d read an article, or see or hear something, that gets me thinking on an idea. I don’t write it down. If it’s still stuck in my brain after a few days percolating up there, I know I’ve got something to work with.
A collaborator at heart, he has never had to make the difficult choice between creativity and procreativity. At the Waits house, it's all thrown in there together- spilling out of the kitchen, which is also the office, which is also where the dog is disciplined, where the kids are raised, where the songs are written and where the coffee is poured for the wandering preachers.
This is how I want our house to be as my kids grow older. The boys already like reading, and I hope to continue to guide them that way, and maybe they’ll do a bit of writing when they’re older too. It’s a great outlet. My partner loves it too, reading and writing. It’s one of our common interests that we can talk about for ages (when we can get a word in over the screaming and the barking).
I’ll stop here, but you really should go and read the article. It’s beautiful. Then, go and listen to Rain Dogs, and thank me later.
by Philip K. Dick
What profit it a man if he gain the whole world but in this enterprise lose his soul?— Philip K. Dick, Man in the High Castle
READING about World War II is always fascinating. Tragedy and human suffering was perpetuated on an enormous scale by some of the most despicable men in history. In Man in the High Castle Philip K. Dick imagines an alternate timeline of human history where the Axis powers are the victors of World War II. A history where the world is divided up between Germany, Italy, and Japan. The novel is set in a conquered United States of America, in which the west coast is owned by Japan and renamed the Pacific States of America (or PSA) and the east coast is ruled by the Third Reich, with a buffer zone along the continental divide. The central conflict of this novel is the machinations the great powers have between each other and within themselves, as well as the reemergence of American culture, and the idea that the whole world may not be real at all.read more...
by Haruki Murakami
'For a while' is a phrase whose length can't be measured. At least by the person who's waiting.— Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun
I‘VE BEEN trying to broaden the genre and writers of the books I’ve been reading this year, so I read South of the Border, West of the Sun as recommended by my partner. I devoured it in just a few two hour reading sessions, and Murakmi’s simple and straightforward writing style mixed with the beautiful imagery he weaves left me thinking about the book long after I finished reading.read more...
by Cormac McCarthy
A MAN’S at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he dont want to. Rightly so. Best not to look in there. It ain’t the heart of a creature that is bound in the way that God has set for it. You can find meanness in the least of creatures, but when God made man the devil was at his elbow. A creature that can do anything. Make a machine. And a machine to make the machine. And evil that can run itself a thousand years, no need to tend it.
— Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
My whole life is such a waste— Benjamin Braddock
IN THIS classic film backed by a Simon and Garfunkle soundtrack Dustin Hoffman plays Benjamin Braddock, a clean-cut golden boy with loving parents and the world at his feet. He has just graduated from four years at college and his future lays vast and limitless before him, and at his graduation party all of his parent’s friends are happy to see him and offer their advice. So why is Ben so eager to get away from the people he has known all of his life, to shut himself away in his room? Why does he look as if he is on the verge of a panic attack while his party guests are all smiles? Why is this young, smart kid so worried about his future?read more...
by Martin Brennan
THIS is the first post in a series of posts where I will explore my writing style and process, for a few different reasons. I hope by writing out my process in some detail I can identify areas where I can improve, have something to look back on when I’ve written more stories and novels, and hopefully help others gain insight into different areas of the writing process. I would also love to hear feedback from other writers no matter how far along you may be in your career or hobby. We are going to start toward the mid-point of the novel-writing process, which is where I find myself at right now. I’m writing a book I’m calling Bottom Feeders, which is about the Crabs Motorcycle Club, a group of misfits and losers fallen from grace and at the bottom of the shitheap, doing jobs for a larger club, the Devil’s Faithful MC, just to get by. It’s a mixture of crime, humour, and action and sitting at 85,000 words at the completion of the first draft. I’ll get to how I wrote it in a future post (it involved a lot of cheap notebooks and pens) but for now I’ll focus on the editing.read more...
by Martin Brennan
I WANTED to take this opportunity to explain what I like to read and write about, so you may be able to understand my frame of mind when you read my fiction. I guess I have kind of a predictable taste in writing for a late-twenties white dude. My favourite authors are Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King, JRR Tolkien, George RR Martin, Hunter S Thompson, George Orwell, and Bret Easton Ellis, and I’m starting to get into Papa Hemingway. If I had to pick any of these authors as my biggest influence I would say King for his fairly simple writing style but engaging character building, and for whom I aspire to be like it would be Cormac McCarthy who writes words so bleak and so beautiful I suspect he’s some sort of southwestern vampire who’s been alive to see the world from its primeval beginnings.read more...
by Aldous Huxley
O, wonder!— William Shakespeare, The Tempest
How many goodly creatures are there here
How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world, that has such people in't!
IN A perfect future everyone is genetically engineered to know their place in a caste system, every want or need is catered for, and if a citizen is ever feeling down, soma is there to take them on a holiday. Though in this bright imagining of the world where even death is no big deal, fractures form in the perfect facade with the elimination of free will, love, and family in the name of the betterment of society. In Brave New World Aldous Huxley goes in a different direction from the normally grim, brutal, dystopian future towards something that is still in our eyes fundamentally wrong.read more...
by Hunter S. Thompson
He died in the best outlaw tradition; homeless, stone broke, and owning nothing but his clothes and his Harley— Hunter S. Thompson
BRUTES. Huns. Thugs. Murderers. Rapists. Lowlifes. Outlaws. The Hell’s Angels, a motorcycle club out of Oakland, California, was a force to be reckoned with in the mid-sixties, with a terrifying mystique surrounding them akin to the one that surrounds the wendigo and the sasquatch. Hunter S. Thompson, intrigued by the horror stories circulating around the state and the media about this band of criminals, threw himself into their midst.read more...
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