This Saturday, the Mess welcomes Vanessa Wright, a 46 year-old visual artist and homebody who suddenly decided to pick up her writing again and couldn't stop. I think you'll be glad she did. She has been published in two anthologies, My kort vir jou sop as well as Write for Life. She is currently in the process of self-publishing a short story book, Twisted, and is putting the finishing touches on her crime thriller, Artifacts. You can see a story board for the upcoming novel on her Pinterst board in order to see how it is going.
Vanessa and I found each other via Twitter. However, you can also find her on Facebook as well as Pinterest. And make sure you check out her blog, Humoring the Dark, in order to enjoy a variety of her short stories. Be sure to click those links and keep up with what Vanessa is doing.
Today, she will be sharing a bit of her writing life with us as well as an excerpt of her short story, A Flabbergasted Skipping, so sit back with your morning coffee and enjoy!
The writing life or lack thereof:
I woke up this morning to find that my muse had packed up and left the building. She seems to be doing this a lot lately and heaven only knows where she disappears to; only to come sauntering back with a healthy tan, an umbrella drink sporting psychedelic colours and a straw concoction on her head. She is a whimsical, elusive creature. At times I think she would be happier and more forgiving if I travelled the world, sitting in dark corners, plying my talent. Alas my shoestring budget would be strung to non existence and the bullion ship I have dreamt of my whole life would sink in the harbour.
Thus my solution remains to apply ample butt to chair and bleed words; at this stage even nonsensical ones would do. The litany of advice runs through my head: write what you know, write what you observe...just start writing damn it! There is nothing as daunting as a blank screen or a blank canvas for that matter. The best advice I have ever received (thanks Jeff Goin) is to just write something on that empty screen, even if it is just CX&&*()*&%%$$%#5- it’s a start and no these aren’t swear words in ancient Gaelic. Eureka- the screen isn’t blank anymore and you have made a start to a magical story where people speak in symbols and chocolate rivers run through villages. Keep at it even if you never use the story again; it has transported you to that area of your brain where you paint with words...... and you have kicked the elusive muse to the kerb and told her in no uncertain terms to sit still and be quiet.
Happy writing one and all! Remember that arguing with your characters is only the beginning to a mad cap world filled with wonder.
A flabbergasted Skipping:
The metallic, blue space ship whistled out of the stratosphere and nimbly landed on the planet. Six light years ago the memory banks were encoded with the precise co-ordinates of this exact world; Planet Potential X. The Skippings’ planet had lost nearly all of its gravitational pull and Skippings could be seen deflecting off Rope (this was their planet’s name) like rubber balls. Every Skipping had to be anchored by heavy iron boots, which made life decidedly unpleasant and cumbersome. This was the exact reason why the council of elders decided to send their most level headed scientist to test the waters or gravity if you will, of the planet on which their space ship had landed barely five minutes ago.
The Skipping scientist, upon whom the doubtful honour fell, was named Oxblood Red Skipping Rope. All Skippings carried the surname Rope to signify the planet on which they were born; obviously the middle name Skipping was their race and the colour Oxblood Red was appropriate to one of the trillion phases of their fifteen moons. Hence each Skipping knew the exact date and time to the second on which he or she had been born. As you have no doubt gathered, Skippings were not your normal, run of the mill race. They were sentient, intelligent beings who were never ever flabbergasted by anything at all. Their expressions were much like those of a Hollywood starlet who had received one too many Botox injections; making their faces rather like blank canvases, really. Concepts like surprise, shock or incredulity did not even exist in their language which primarily consisted of random blips and beeps with the odd burp thrown in for emphasis. Skippings had ropy, twisted hair, purple skin and four legs with appropriate foot appendages (the iron boot business was booming). The rest of their features were fairly humanoid.
It bears mentioning that Rope had no reflective surfaces, no mirrors, no shiny materials and no lakes. The Skippings got their water from tree like plants which shimmered into existence at exactly five nuts past moon ten. A nut is approximately ten minutes of earth time. They had managed over the eons to capture a tree for every household. To be able to tap the tree, Skippings carried a wooden spigot around their necks which they inserted into the trunk, turned the handle and viola, water would be on tap so to speak. In this way large wooden tanks were filled to provide daily water for washing and cooking. The point we were trying to make before we got carried away with a watery issue, is the fact that nary a Skipping in Rope had an inkling of what they looked like. Of course they looked at each other and glanced down the length of their bodies the same way we do, but that is definitely not the same as really seeing yourself as you are.
Meanwhile, inside the space ship, Oxblood Red Skipping Rope prepared to disembark. He inserted the translation bug into his inner ear and felt the ten legged creature squirming for a foot hold. It emitted a low frequency buzzing which caused four seconds of vertigo before its suction pads attached itself to Red’s (for brevity’s sake, this is what we will call our reluctant hero) stereo cilia. Red packed his spectrometers, graphs, microscope and various finicky devices into Bag. This was his Second Bag as he had worn the previous one out by either demanding that she carry too many items or that she kept track of precisely where each item had been stored. She was currently being treated for stretch marks and depression. Second bag, having heard of Red’s scatter brained approach to baggage, was blatantly sarcastic and quoted several of the trade union’s laws regarding use of Bags at the top of its voice at every opportunity. Red had learned by default to under burden Bag; it was the best thing to do to get it to shut up. He also treated it to the odd polish and scrap of leather.
Red opened the hatch warily and stepped out onto the multi coloured grass of Planet Potential X. It was a decidedly curious planet that he found himself on. The colours were altogether too garish and the plant and animal life were, to say the least, not what he was used to on Rope at all. He spied a tree which seemed to have frog heads attached to the ends of some branches while others carried tiny, webbed frog legs. A soft “ribbit” could be heard each time the gentle breeze wafted through the leaves which were composed of tiny tadpoles clustered together. Red blinked his eyes firmly, sending a digital image to the ship which would in turn be sent to Rope for the elders’ perusal. He mentally titled the image: frog tree as that was what the translator bug was screeching in his ear.
Although the frog tree had been a somewhat unusual find, Red remained his usual, level headed self and largely unperturbed. He scientifically deduced that the tadpoles were some kind of seed which eventually would metamorphose into adult frogs and drop off the tree. They would procreate and plant another seedling in the mauve ground. A dusty squawking interrupted Red’s deductions. The sound was coming from the yellow air in which three and a half suns were blithely sailing. The sails of the lead sun were unfurled, catching the breeze and zipping about like a deflating balloon. A few pink, candyfloss clouds scattered before a flock of what Red could only think of as birds. The clouds grumbled loudly, which the translator bug immediately reproduced:
“What utter nonsense, we cannot even undertake a leisurely evening stroll anymore without these youngsters sticking their beaks into everything.”
Red’s only eyebrow rose questioningly, however his heart did not gallop in surprise, nor could he detect any wonder hiding in the cobwebby recesses of his mind. He shrugged, looking up at the strange flock.
“Broomstick birds, they sweep the heavens”, translator bug offered.
Indeed, Red thought or more appropriately: blip. Their bodies were made of a simple broomstick which had a pair of spindly legs and feathery claws attached to the top of the handle. Their bulbous eyes sat on either side of the wooden piece which held the bristles together. In between the bristles a bright orange beak peeked out. As they squawked raucously, little clouds of dust appeared which were blown away by the breeze. They had no feathers to speak of, but rather had what looked like dust rags tied to middle of the handle, which they flapped manically; Red remained unflappable.
He waved his intello-meter in the air, hoping to catch some sign of life with an intellect that matched that of the Skippings. The reading remained constant at 180 IQ per subject; somewhat disappointing, Red reflected. His pliable, handmade boots (what a relief not to have to wear the dreaded iron boots) took him up a slight incline on top of which stood a large, square silver plant. It emitted a loud humming noise and fairly bristled with switches, dials and knobs. A single, large lens poked angrily out of what Red presumed was the front. He was still trying to make sense of it all when the translation bug interjected:
“Transformer,” it said.
Red bravely fiddled with some dials, flipped switches and when that didn’t produce any results he viciously kicked it with one of his right legs. On Rope this usually produced the desired effect when the feeding machines became stuck and you had already deposited your hard won ten ropees. The machine plant produced an ear splitting HUMMMMM and transformed Second Bag into a large polka dotted blowfish which promptly burst and scattered Red’s finicky devices to the four winds. He wiped pieces of sticky blowfish from his face, blinked furiously while walking around the plant and made mental notes on the small blackboard embedded in his cerebellum.
Red was mildly inconvenienced by the loss of Second Bag but he wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination bowled over with surprise. He gathered his belongings, stuffing them into any pockets he could find on his outdoor ensemble; he even succeeded in making a few new ones. He trudged onward, aware of the blips, bleeps and clicks which came from his instruments as they relayed valuable information to the home planet.
Red became aware of the flashing first. The sailing suns were playing a game of hide and seek between the strolling clouds which were by this time grumbling louder than ever and had become a decidedly scary shade of deep purple. Translator bug kept its peace as Red stared at the sky. As their game took them closer to a wooden copse, he saw the flashing once more. Intrigued, he allowed his four feet to carry him onward. Within ten minutes he had entered a large, wooded area. The mauve ground was covered with various types of lichen and moss in kaleidoscopic colours. Flashes of bright, reflecting light could be seen everywhere. Silence blanketed the area, which Red ascribed to the complete lack of animal or bird life. Silver objects hung from every branch and reflected the dazzling sunlight that broke the canopy. A faint tinkling grew louder by the second. Translator bug’s voice broke the spell as it whispered frantically in Red’s ear.
“They say they are mirror trees. Only those who are of strong character may enter. They warn that you may not like what you see.”
“Blip, bleep, burp,” Red answered which, when translated, meant that he would do as he liked (less diplomatically it meant that the trees could go to hell for all he cared). He asked translator bug for an explanation of the word mirror. A lengthy discussion ensued where various scientific terms were bandied about. No sense in boring you with the details, though. Suffice it to say that Red was informed of their reflective surface and that he would be able to see himself therein, although it would be a mirror image. Boldly Red approached the first mirror and was quite shocked by the image. He saw himself as he really was. He knew he was purple and of course he saw other Skippings, yet the sight of a full length image of himself was quite disconcerting and upsetting. He wasn’t ugly, yet not the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, though he had always thought of himself as handsome; something for the ladies to look at and lust after.
“This mirror is named perceived truth,” translator bug broke in.
‘Bleeeeep,” Red answered plaintively, grimacing as he said it.
In the next mirror he saw himself as a squat, plump little figure with shortened legs.
“This mirror is named what you may look like if a ton of bricks fell on you.”
Red’s angry silence greeted translator bug’s sentence. He walked away stiffly, knowing that inside him something was stirring ever since he had set foot in the wood. Despite his outward attitude a sense of wonder and awe was silently growing in that same cobwebbed corner he had thought derelict. The following mirror showed Red as a veritable tall, skinny giant with arms and legs that seemed to stretch to eternity. His face creaked and cracked as a smile stole over his lips. It was truly comical to see himself thus portrayed.
“Burp, blip, burp,” Red silenced the bug before it could utter a word, chuckling quietly to himself.
As Red walked through the wood he saw his internal organs, his nerves, his dissected brain, the blood flowing through his veins, water sloshing around in his system, strange bubbles and gasses in his digestive tract; his total biological make-up on display. The last few mirrors showed him his haughtiness, his ego driven manipulation of others, his hatred, distrust, disloyalty, and lies as well as his love, friendship, work ethic and sociability. At last Red was flabbergasted by what he saw, bowled over and knocked out. He knew the full truth about himself and it was awesome to behold, not to mention a little scary.
He plucked a few of the mirrors and carefully conveyed them back to the ship. On Skipping his name was immortalised in the history books as the one who brought awe, surprise and a lot of laughter into the lives of every known Skipping as well as a few unknown ones. They had a new facial expression- they called it “to be flabbergasted”. Flabber was their bleep for tongue and gasted loosely translates into “it hangs on the floor”. Nowadays whenever they bounced off their planet they were flabbergasted and would shout with glee, even though it happened at least twenty times a day. In the end the Skippings decided to stay on their home planet as life was better with reflective surfaces and the gravity issue became negligible in the light of their flabbergastedness.
An ordinary item, folks, which you take for granted became extraordinary by virtue of being rare....think about what you take for granted each day and wish to become a flabbergasted Skipping.
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Other posts you might enjoy ~ The Mess Welcomes Stephanie Neighbor
Thanks for visiting The Mess! Keep chasing your dreams!