Friday, November 30, 2007

I did it! I did it!

I did it! I am, officially, a Winner of NaNoWriMo 2007 and my novel is complete!

This has been the most amazing, frustrating, white-knuckle rollercoastering month of my life... I have learned so much about myself as a writer and I think I may have finally found my voice with my writing. It's confrimed to me that I can write and not only that, I can write something half-decent, too.

So, The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life by Miranda Dickinson is complete - what happens now is anyone's guess!

Thank you for your lovely comments... do you want to read any more? Message me if you do.

I only bloomin' well did it! Woo-hoo!

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 7

McBee closed his aching eyes and heaved a huge sigh. He tried to get a hold of his mutinous feelings which, at present, were running round in circles inside him, like a crazed bunch of lab rats too delirious to know which direction to head in after someone had released them from their cage. He attempted rounding them up and getting them to account for their current status – with little success – finally resorting to let them dash around for a bit until they’d calmed down sufficiently to be able to hold a constructive conversation with him.

In many ways, he found himself glad to be alive after all. He had the potential for many more years to live – the prospect of which both intrigued and scared the hell out of him. He was still a young-ish man, he reasoned; he had never really known anything other than being a journalist; never married, never ‘settled down’ – whatever that meant. He couldn’t remember the last time he had laughed, been in love, or taken a holiday. All his days had consisted of, year after weary year, was The Oktaban Times – deadlines, leads, exclusives, reports… Indeed, he realised now that he had spent over twenty years of his life writing about other people’s lives, instead of experiencing a life of his own. The paper alone had been his family, his wife, his mistress, his Master – but had never allowed him to be himself.

When Old Sid brought the bowl of steaming broth over to him, McBee found he was just about able to lift his body into an upright seated position. Sid folded up an old bearskin coat and propped it behind McBee’s back as a makeshift pillow. The smouldering broth was lumpy and tasted faintly fishy, but it was something to eat and McBee was surprised to discover how ravenously hungry he was. As he ate, he could feel his body warming and his strength beginning to return.
After he had eaten, he slept - a deep, heavy slumber with few dreams, simply shadowy images moving indeterminably through his subconscious mind.

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

Coming soon... McBee's epic journey begins in earnest...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 6

He found he was lying in a warm, dimly-lit room, on what felt like a bed of straw, covered with a rough grey wool blanket. He tried to lift his head but found it impossible; every part of him ached and what little strength he had seemed only sufficient to allow him to move his eyes. As his vision gradually sharpened, he could see an old man hunched over a small stove in the far right corner of the room, in what passed for a tiny kitchen area. The old man was busily stirring a black iron pot, which was perched precariously on a small gas ring and wobbled over with a bump with every stir. The old man was humming a raspy, cracked tune as he worked, occasionally singing the odd lyric here and there.
‘…young girl called Rosie Lee… hmmm, hmmm, hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm… longer legs than a hmm-hmm-heee, hmmm, hmmm, hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm… shot a hmmm with a hmm-hmm gun, hmmm, hmmm, hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm… and flashed her hmm for a hmm-hmm hmmm… with a hey and a ho and a big nonny… hmm, hmm, hmm-hmm hmm-hee..’ he took a big breath, ‘Grrreat big hmms and a bag of plums, hmm, hmm…’

McBee began to cough again and Old Sid stopped his humming and stirring to look over.
‘You’re awake then, eh boy?’ he observed, leaving the spoon in the pot and shuffling slowly over to where McBee lay.
McBee struggled to find his voice. ‘How did I…?’
‘Get ‘ere?’ offered Old Sid, ‘I dragged you out the river, that’s ‘ow you got ‘ere, matey.’
‘You? You got me out?’ asked McBee, observing the old man’s wiry frame.
‘Arr, so I did. I ‘auled you out by myself and brought you ‘ome to my barge. That’s where you is right now, by the by.’
McBee tried to smile at the old man. ‘Thank you,’ he said weakly.
‘No need to thank me, son,’ Old Sid smiled, ‘Twas nothing, really. Nearly gave this old sea dog a ‘eart attack, mind. Shocked the ‘ell out of me, you did.’
‘Ah, my jump…’ McBee felt a wave of nauseous embarrassment flood up within him.

As if sensing McBee’s feelings, Old Sid shook his head and patted McBee’s hand. ‘Twasn’t the jump, boy,’ he said, ‘I’s used to jumpers. Bit of a side-line of business for me, jumpers- if you gets what I mean?’
McBee didn’t, staring blankly at Old Sid.
‘Well,’ Sid explained, ‘I’s a ferryman, see? And I works yonder part of the river under the bridge. That’s my livin’, right? Not much of one, truth be told, but a livin’ nonetheless. I comes from a long line of ferrymen and my family’s always worked that stretch – even before the bridge went up. But since they built that bridge, there’s been a steady flow, if you’ll pardon my pun, of folks what want to end it, see? Jumpers, we call ‘em round ‘ere. Anyways, they tend to land in my patch, if you like, and I’s a great believer in the ‘finders, keepers’ theory of life, if you get my meaning? That City Authority pays ‘andsomely for bodies retrieved from the river. Saves ‘em doin’ it, I s’pose, don’t it? So if I gets a jumper, I gets a fair bit of cash on the quiet, see? I likes to think it’s a chance to give yon poor buggers a reason for jumpin’ – kind of like them ‘elping someone to live after they die, see?’
‘Umm...’ McBee’s head was swimming slightly.
‘So when I saw you comin’ out the sky, so to speak, I says to myself, ‘Sid,’ I says, ‘Yon poor bugger there’ll bring you that outboard motor you’ve been ‘ankering after’ So, there I was, waitin’ for your corpse to come up floatin’ – no offence, like – but, blow me, if you don’t come up alive! Couldn’t believe my eyes I couldn’t! I’s been draggin’ yon corpses out of that river for the best part of twenty years and I’s never seen one come up alive!’
‘Well, I must say it surprised me,’ said McBee, as the reality of his reality began to strike home.
‘I’ll bet it did,’ Sid nodded, ‘I’ll bet you was there, thinkin’ you was ‘eaded for some great glowin’ Nirvana, and bugger you if you didn’t find yourself back in the land of the livin’. Twas a bit of a bummer, I shouldn’t wonder.’
‘I’m… I don’t know,’ replied McBee, and promptly burst into tears.

Old Sid took an awkward step back, wringing his hands together, slightly embarrassed at the sobbing wreck of humanity lying before him. ‘Now, now come on, lad, it can’t be that bad, can it? I mean, yes, you wanted to end it all, like, but someone somewhere ‘ad other ideas, see? I don’t know a vast deal about Gods and stuff, but what I see is this: you flew from yonder bridge into that river and you survived – that’s a miracle s’far as I’s concerned, son. So maybe you’s got yourself a Second Chance. You can do anythin’ you wants to. Go anywhere your ‘eart desires, see? There’s not many a soul gets that type of opportunity, lad, I can tell you. Now, I’s made you some broth. I’ll get you some, you can ‘ave somethin’ to eat and you’ll feel better.’
‘Thank you – um…’
‘Sid. Sid the Old Salt they calls me round ‘ere. But Sid will do just fine.’ Old Sid smiled, patted McBee on the shoulder and returned to the stove.

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

What's next for McBee? Find out soon...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 5

When Heston McBee began his working life, he was a young man of nineteen, full of ambition and optimism. Fresh from finishing his Diploma of Letters at the Dianor Academy, McBee was invited to attend an interview at The Oktaban Times by a man who he had inadvertently met in Periphy Park one day. McBee was not one who naturally believed in good fortune, yet he would always say that the unlikely way in which he obtained his first job could only be attributed to ‘someone somewhere being pleased with me.’ During a late lunch-break from Gytha’s Diner – one of three jobs he had maintained to pay his way through college – McBee had decided to make the most of the brave April sunshine and head to the park at the city’s centre. After eating his sandwich, McBee pulled out the faded grey leather notebook in which he kept all his scraps of prose, poetry, sketches and scripts. Unbeknownst to him, a tall man in a sharp suit and dark trilby worn low over his eyes was closely observing McBee’s every move, from a park bench nearby. After a few minutes of studying the young man writing fervently, the tall man in the trilby folded up his newspaper, tucked it under his arm and strolled casually over.
‘Afternoon,’ he said, tipping his hat respectfully.

McBee jumped and looked up, squinting as he shielded his eyes from the sun. ‘Afternoon,’ he replied.
‘I hope you don’t mind the impertinence,’ said the trilby man in a velvet-smooth, well-spoken voice, ‘but I’ve been watching you for a while and I was wondering what you were writing about.’
McBee hesitated for a moment then decided to trust the stranger stood before him. ‘I was just writing about today,’ he said, ‘you know - being in Periphy Park on an April lunchtime and things like that.’
The trilby man smiled a wry smile, ‘And do you do this often, young man?’
McBee wasn’t altogether impressed with the man’s tone, but replied politely, ‘All the time. I try to write every day. It doesn’t matter what I write about – it can be observational, poetic, satirical, romantic – just as long as I write something, that’s all that counts.’
The trilby man smiled again, this time much warmer, ‘Ah, I see. So, you’re a writer?’
‘Yes, sir,’ said McBee, ‘Or, at least, I will be soon.’
‘Have you been secured by a publication?’ asked the trilby man.
‘No, not yet.’
The trilby man gestured towards McBee’s precious notebook. ‘May I?’

Young McBee hesitated – after all, as his writing tutor Mr Lubowicz often said, ‘one’s writing is like one’s firstborn child – to present it for critique is as to present a part of yourself for verdict’ – yet there was something uncommonly comforting about the trilby man’s manner, so, hands trembling, he handed over his notebook.

The trilby man was silent for what seemed like several forevers as he slowly perused the contents of the journal. McBee scanned his face for any sign of emotion, but found none; which only increased his anxiety. Eventually, the man closed the book, handed it back to McBee and then extended his hand to the young writer.
‘Charlton Cavendish,’ he announced, ‘I am Chief Scout for The Oktaban Times – do you know the publication?’
McBee caught his breath, ‘Do I know it?’ he stammered, ‘It’s only the finest newspaper in the whole of the country – let alone this city!’ Then, remembering his manners, he added, ‘Heston – Heston McBee.’
Charlton Cavendish shook his hand, ‘Well, well, Heston McBee, I think you are a good writer. And, with my help, you will become a great writer.’

True to his word, Charlton Cavendish became McBee’s mentor, securing him his first reporter’s post at the paper and working closely with him for the next twelve years. Until, that is, he mysteriously disappeared one morning and never returned.

Cavendish’s disappearance sparked a chain of events in McBee’s life that cast a brooding shadow over everything, ultimately leading to his jump from the motorway bridge. Robbed of his closest ally, greatest friend and most trusted confidant, McBee slowly lost the confidence, hope and ambition that had so characterised the bright-eyed young man writing prose in the sunlit park, many years ago...

McBee gasped and opened his eyes. Coughing violently, he struggled for a moment to wrench enough air into his lungs to breathe again. As the convulsions in his chest subsided, he blinked away the resulting tears from his eyes and slowly began to focus on his surroundings.

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

What happens next? Find out in the next exciting episode!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 4

Old Sid watched and waited.

Around him the sky was beginning to redden as the autumnal evening set in. Flocks of guillegulls rose noisily from the marshes at the edge of the city through which the river flowed, their tiny flapping bodies moving in mesmerising, constantly changing formations like giant undulating black-speckled waves in the sky.

The ferryman had witnessed this spectacle many times, yet even today he still felt a twinge of awe in his aged heart at this natural twilight extravaganza. He lifted his gaze to watch the birds and was temporarily transported back to a time, many years ago, bathed in the warm rosy hue of precious memories –he was a small boy of around eight years old, sitting on the prow of his grandfather’s barge with his bare feet dangling over the edge, while his faithful terrier Tujic sat at his side, barking at the birds flocking across the blood-orange sky. Just as he had done then, he did now - watching the shapes changing above his head for some time, he noted each metamorphosis out loud:
‘…diamond, square, ripples, oblong, cloud, wobbly blob, another squ…’

He was suddenly interrupted by a bubbling sound to the left of his boat and, on turning his head to investigate, was amazed to see McBee’s body – shortly followed by a battered brown suitcase – emerging from the river. It was pale and covered in slimy green weed, but definitely – unmistakably – alive.
‘Bugger me,’ the ferryman exclaimed, plunging the punt into the water and hauling his boat over to the floating body. Mustering all the strength he could summon, the old man grabbed McBee’s arms and hauled his bedraggled frame unceremoniously into the boat.

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

Will McBee survive? Find out soon!

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 3

A ferryman punting slowly across the calm river below the motorway bridge was the only witness to the falling figure, arms flailing and macintosh billowing, as it plummeted without a sound into the waiting water’s shadowy depths. Sid the Old Salt (as he was known in these parts) lifted a white bushy eyebrow in a quizzical manner, stopped punting and waited, leaning his ancient bony frame against the blackened punting pole, whilst keeping his tiny black eyes fixed to the place where the body had been swallowed.

Far above him, the aftermath of McBee’s Final Straw continued, albeit a distant, indeterminable concoction of smoke and clamour now.

McBee, meanwhile, was finding the whole experience a lot more comforting than you may imagine. As soon as his feet had left the bridge’s edge, he had felt an overwhelming sense of calm pervade his entire being – the cold air rushing up and around his body removed the smell of burning from his nostrils as he fell in what felt like a dreamlike, slow-motion descent. Suddenly, he had time to think – acres of mind-space unexpectedly available for him to wander through.

It’s funny, he mused as he fell, that doing something so drastic and potentially deadly to oneself could provide such a clear perspective on one’s life. He looked across his downward-bound body and noticed the battered brown briefcase still gripped in his hand. How strange that I brought this with me, he thought to himself, watching the case swinging happily from its handle. It had been a present from his mother, more than twenty years ago, on his very first day at The Oktaban Times.
‘You’re a professional now,’ beamed Mrs McBee, straightening McBee’s tie and standing back to admire her son, ‘And professionals should always look the part. There. A proper journalist if ever I saw one.’

The thought of his mother brought a sharp, unexpected stab at his heart and McBee screwed his eyes up, focusing on the forces pulling his body downwards to try to numb the pain at his core. Soon, the cool calm returned and he found himself almost enjoying the experience. He opened his eyes – and gasped as the water hit him, engulfing his body in dark, inky blackness, icy daggers attacking him from every side. Struggling to break his momentum, he violently jerked his body round till his head was pointing towards the dim light dancing at the river’s surface. But his eyes were failing as his body began to succumb to the water’s freezing numbness and the light was retreating further and further away from his outstretched hand. Comforted by a deathly sense of surrender, McBee closed his eyes and gave in.

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

What happens next? Will Old Sid save McBee? You'll have to wait for the next exciting episode!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 2

McBee screeched to a halt in the middle lane of the busy G46 – the majestic seven-lane thoroughfare snaking out of the city - sending cars spiralling off in all directions to avoid him. He sat, motionless, a white-hot anger searing through his veins, oblivious to the blaring horns and curses of the approaching drivers.
I have been cut up by a woman with furry dice, he repeated, a manic mantra under his breath as blood pumped wildly at his temples. All the many years of feeling undervalued, the relentless daily grind of his existence and the building sense of disappointment in a life that had once promised so much yet never delivered, suddenly descended as one huge, crushing weight on McBee’s weary frame.
Stunned by its claustrophobic severity, he struggled to catch his breath, grasping frantically at the driver’s side door. Finally locating the small silver handle, he pulled at it with all his might – which took considerable strength, as every movement now appeared to require a gargantuan effort to perform. The car door swung open and McBee grabbed his suitcase from the passenger seat, bolting from the stranded car with all the speed he could muster.
Maybe it was the utter idiocy of the situation; maybe it was the result of too many emotions swept under the carpet for too long – we shall never know. Even McBee himself, in later years, couldn’t exactly explain what it was that made this particular offence so different from all the others he’d encountered in his life.
Whatever the reason, the fact is that this event was officially The Last Straw for McBee - and came to be known as such.
As McBee fled across the lanes of skidding, swerving and colliding vehicles - that were fast becoming steaming, screaming dog-piles of metal and skin, blood and bone - all he could focus on through the brooding purple-grey haze bubbling across his vision was the wall at the edge of the carriageway – and the streak of dark silver water, hundreds of feet below the road, stretching out towards the grey horizon.
Unable to think any longer, he moved towards the wall as if propelled by an overpowering, unearthly force. Beset by the pounding of his heart in his ears, combining with the growing sounds of confusion, fear and pain behind him and the taste of burning rubber and flesh catching at the back of his throat, McBee’s mounting, terrifying panic pushed him – quite literally – over the edge.

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

Is this the end for McBee? Find out in the next exciting episode...!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 1

Chapter One:
‘To Fall At The Beginning Is To Start Again’
Book of Wom, saying 101

It begins with McBee. Or rather, it begins with what happened to him.

They say that the last straw is often the most insignificant thing; in McBee’s case this was most definitely true. The over-fed, arrogant lady driving her small pink automobile, with its ridiculous orange furry dice bobbling about in the windscreen, would probably be very surprised to learn that she was responsible for triggering the most catastrophic, cataclysmic day of someone’s life.

But she was. Or, more precisely, her furry dice were.

For posterity shall record that, a little after 3.15pm on a grey, drizzly Thursday afternoon somewhere in mid-October - shortly after nearly running McBee off the road with an ill-judged overtaking manoeuvre - the sight of this lady’s victoriously swinging fluffy window adornments, now in front, tipped him over the edge. And McBee, to coin a phrase, Finally Lost The Plot.

At any other time, he may have laughed at the scenario; but, as it was, this one, seemingly insignificant happening was the final element in a long, long chain of events – and McBee’s life changed irrevocably from that point on.

It seems ironic that a man who, for twenty-five years, had successfully carved a career out of lambasting the human race’s aptitude for pettiness, should be ultimately unhinged by two preposterously naff cubes hanging from a rear view mirror. But this is how it was.

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

What happens to McBee? Find out tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I must be MAD!

I'm writing a novel in a month...

It's all part of National Novel Writing Month - visit to see what it's all about. the idea is that between 1st and 30th November, you write a 50,000 word novel. That's it - just commit to writing 50,000 words down and see what happens! The prize is proving to yourself that you can really do it - and maybe even produce a half-decent read in the process... So, I thought, why not?

You can visit my profile by pasting the following into your web browser: and you can also see how many words I've written!

Starting from tomorrow, I'm going to be posting excerpts from my novel The Mystical Wombat's Guide To Life here at Coffee and Roses , so you can have a read and let me know what you think!

It's been less than a week and already I've passed the 11,000 word mark! What's really good about this whole crazy idea is that you don't spend hours editing (which, I confess, is an occupational hazard for me) - you just write, and write, and write until it's done. And, surprisingly, I like what's appearing as I scribble... It's very different to anything I've written before, but I'm actually loving what my demented mind is conjouring up.

Anyway, enough of the wittering, I have a novel to write! :o)
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