Friday, February 24, 2012

4th Campaign 1st challenge.

Here are the rules:
Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem.

Begin the story with the words, “Shadows crept across the wall”. These five words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), do one or more of these: end the story with the words: "everything faded." (also included in the word count) include the word "orange" in the story write in the same genre you normally write make your story 200 words exactly!

As always, I find I must add all the optional extras.

This one is called....

The Eclipse

Shadows crept across the wall, their claws finding purchase in every mortar joint. Clare watched them from the corner of her eye, not daring to move lest they see her, not looking at them directly lest they vanish from sight.

The shadows were silent, but they gave off the faintest of smells -- like the tang of burnt metal when her father was welding. But he was gone now -- consumed by the shadows that had come with the endless night.

Clare thumbed the rubber button on her flashlight. Orange light flared, burning away the faint starlight that had lit the car-park. The shadows screamed -- a harsh whisper like a gale across a field of grass. Light was their only weapon against the darkness, but the first thing the shadows had destroyed were the power-stations. Clare waved her beam across the wall, running for the truck just as Archer revved the engine to life.

The batteries that filled her backpack made her slow, and coldness brushed her leg as a sliver of darkness reached for her. Then the headlights came on.

For a moment the shopping center was washed in brilliance, but the truck stalled, and then everything faded.

Monday, February 13, 2012

And the winner is.....

I had a lot of fun looking through all the entries for this competition. I honestly though I would have known most of the dragons people chose, but not so! I have since been exposed to at least 5 new awesome dragons I never heard about, and reminded of a few more I had almost forgotten.

The Manhole: New and Enhanced DOS Dragon

But the winner has to be Carrie-Anne, who opened my eyes to a game I somehow missed in the '80s. The picture above really speaks for itself yes?

I have since hunted down a copy of this game, and now just have to work out how to get it to run on my mac. 

Congratulations Carrie-Anne, email me at travisbmckenzie{at} so I can organise sending you a copy of my book.

I only hope you like my dragon half as much.


About me.

Origin blogfest: What happens next.

What started me wanting to be a writer? I won’t answer what happened to make me actually start writing the book that led to the novel that is now published – that story has been documented, and I don’t think answers the spirit of what this post is about.

I could go back to high school and tell you about a great teacher who loved everything I wrote and encouraged me to consider "author" as an answer to the age old question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” But that is ground covered by so many others that the story is beyond cliché – it is archetypal.

Instead, I will go back to the beginning, and a friend I had when I was 7. This isn’t the point where superman puts on the cape, rather the bit where he lifts up the truck in his red undies.

I grew up in rural Australia: a typical country setting: cows and trees and lots of grass; and typical characters, small town folk who like things neatly compartmentalised. I did not fit into the mold of sport playing, motorbike riding boy, and so I was ostracized accordingly. But there was another boy my age, Brett Wood, and he was everything anyone in this small place could hope a child would be. He was a sportsman of fine repute; he could do wheelies on a push bike and ride a motor bike with two, three and four wheels. Later he went on to join the army and won a medal of honor rescuing civilians in Afganistan. It was also in Afganistahn where he died a hero.

But when we were young, Brett did something much more heroic – for a seven year old at least – he decided to befriend a boy who was everything he was not. Me. This made no sense to the others our age, nor me to be honest. I was terrified of sporting implements almost as much as motorbikes, and whilst I lived around the corner (3 farms away to be precise) Brett was a dairy farmer’s son, and my parents lived on a block of bush with trees instead of cows. Yet for some reason Brett would talk to me in the schoolyard, and even allow me entry into the secret circle of hushed boys handing around torn and grubby pages from a penthouse he had stolen from beneath his step father's bed. The other boys eyed me cautiously at first, and some even tried to send me back to the marble games in the main playground -- but Brett was their leader. As long as he was around, I was safe.

It was not long before I realised what it was I brought to the relationship. I could quote Star Wars almost word for word and I had an unparalleled collection of movies that included all the adult rated Bruce Lee films. I had recorded them all from late night television on a VHS machine (painstakingly editing out the adds of course) and catalogued them into a cross referenced time-coded library to make searching for a particular film (or scene) easy. I was as close to the IMDB and the Pirate Bay that you could find in 1986. It also helped that my parents were a little ahead of the curve and had purchased one of the first apple computers, and both Brett and I were more than a little addicted to a game called Karateka. Good times. 

Then one day, walking back from Brett's farm, it happened. We were talking about the end of the Neverending Story, and Brett asked me what happened next. Neither of us knew at the time that the movie was only the first half of the book, and so his question opened up the opportunity for me to postulate. And postulate I did. I wish I could remember what I told him on the walk back to my house. It would have taken us perhaps an hour of wandering through paddocks and bush, but in that time I wove a sequel that made him push for ever more details as I continued the tale of Atreyu and his horse Artax. Pre-internet Fan Fic at its best. I still remember his reaction when we reached my house and my tale came to an end. “Cool” he said. The best compliment a country boy can give.

And that was it. I had created something through the power of answering the very simple question of what happens next. It was a lesson that I promptly forgot for the next 20 years, and then thankfully remembered before it was too late. 

I lost touch with Brett when we went to separate high schools, and yet his death last year still hit me, his funeral more so. What was he thinking all those times he saved people, all those times he killed them? All those games we played, all those movies we watched -- I can't help but think that in some small way they made Brett want to be the hero he became.  Those same stories only made me want to make up new ones.

But once, long ago, we were just two boys, heading out for a walk from one farm to another, no wars nor writing to worry about.

I will never forget that stories can mean as much to people as they do to us.


*edit from the 2/05/12 Brett had a tribute video made for him by fairfax media. Please take the time to watch it. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

4th campaign for writers

I had a lot of fun with this last time, so i'm in again.... Flash fiction is not something i'd do by choice, but when part of a hive mind I find it not only enjoyable but also challenging to come up with a creative response to the prompts. For some reason though I always find myself writing scifi rather than fantasy when limited to 300 words... 

Hope everyone else is on board!

About me.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Review: The Sirens of Titan

The Sirens of Titan
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It just doesn't get better than this. Sirens was one of those books that made me look not only at writing, but TMOL (the meaning of life) in a whole new way. That is not to say that TMOL was defined in Vonnegut's masterpiece (I know people will argue that Slaughterhouse is his masterpiece, but I still think Sirens is better) rather that the absurdity and pointless nature of the world has never been better set down in ink. When martian armies are combined with space traveling superstars you know you are reading a unique book. And that is before you even get to the wry social commentary on the population's self imposed handicaps to level the unfairness of those born with too many natural abilities. Read this book now, and then read it again later. In between read it a third time and then you may start to appreciate just how much Vonnegut is saying in what is really quite a slim and concise book. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews