blog, garden, Pat Aitcheson writes

Numbered days

tulips_Skitterphoto
Skitterphoto via pixabay

I feel like a cool writer today.
I’m sitting outside under a parasol with a cool drink and my laptop, listening to birdsong and the faint hum of traffic. It’s surprising how easily you learn to tune out some sounds, leaving more room to hear cawing crows and squawking nestlings.

When we look back, these are the days we remember. The patchwork greens of spring burst with life and Demeter’s promise renewed, warm sun on my legs and a soft breeze stirring the pages of my book.

My daughter spends the day inside, hunched over her laptop. She refuses my call to come and sit out, to enjoy the sun, to simply be. She’s certain there are many more opportunities waiting for her. She doesn’t see the point, because the wi-fi signal is better inside and the sun is slanting in through the windows just the same.

It’s not the same.

I remember a scene from The Simpsons, with young Homer pulling hairs from his comb. Plenty more where they came from, he says, and we laugh because we know what he does not, yet.

The future is not promised and all our days are numbered, whether that number is large or small.

So I allow myself to enjoy a fine day like this, storing it up in memory. It’s a blessing to live it now and will be a future joy to relive it with a smile. I will turn it over in my mind like a smooth water worn pebble, warming my heart, hearing only birdsong.

audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, poetry

Consumed

book on fire_StockSnap
StockSnap via pixabay

He tasted her mind and realised he was starving – unknown

listen: 

Dancing girls twirl bright and golden, limbs lustred to slip through the hands in a whisper of scented oils. A brilliant array, spread out to tempt a prince mired in jaded expectation. Perfect sweetmeats, empty glossy promises on the lips.

Bright. Gold. Red. Gone.

She is silent, an insubstantial shadow in the light of her better favoured sisters. Eyes lowered, plain garbed, unremarkable, she vanishes behind another dream confected in jewelled feathers.

He rises, leaves the orgy of consumption behind him, seeks her in the forgotten labyrinth of the palace. His hand stays her flight. Understood.

And so to a perfumed chamber. Purple and maroon, silk and velvet, secrets and lies.

Apparently submissive, her hand slips into a pocket. But when she raises her head, fire blazes defiance from her eyes. He steps back, hand on sword.

I do not refuse my esteemed prince, asking only that I might read to him first.

She opens the small volume, gold letters glowing on its spine.

And the universe cracks open and explodes before him. Questions, answers, songs for eternal ages, ancient wisdom and otherworldly beauty. His desert heart blooms, cool rivers quench parched lips. Her voice swathes him in clouds and galaxies and everything that has not yet come to be. Time sits at her feet and listens.

The prince savours thoughts, feasts on ideas, nourishes his soul, gobbling all. The moon sets; she does not stop reading. He is drunk on limerence, enthralled by wonder.

 

He wakes alone, faint afterglow of her words in his ear. How could this lyrical banquet leave him so hollow with longing? He did not know true hunger till he tasted her mind.

He had not understood.

A lifetime might not be enough. He searches still, for his hidden spirit with the phoenix burning in her eyes and dragon flames dancing on her tongue.

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

The Last Piece – pt 2

rainbow landscape edit
k_r_craft (edited) via pixabay

part one here

“Bedtime stories are the best kind. Some of them are even true. What would you say if I told you that my life is a kind of story, a search for something most do not believe in and have never seen?”

I sat up. “I would say, tell me more.”

“I found the end of the rainbow.” He glanced at me and went on.

“It happened many years ago. I was a poor farmer’s son then. I thought I saw it touch down in the next field, brilliant and about a yard wide. I dropped my tools and ran, but to my horror there was another man running for the same thing. He was weighed down by saddlebags, but he got there first.’ Gavin’s tale had my complete attention and I nodded at him, fascinated.

“Oh. And what happened next?”

“I was prepared to fight him for the gold, but to my surprise he dumped the saddlebags as soon as he reached the rainbow. Gold spilled all over the grass. I thought he was crazy, and I ran faster than I ever had in my life. As I drew closer, I saw his hair turn white. He aged in front of me, becoming bent and wrinkled, but he continued to smile. The yellow band of the rainbow widened and grew bright like sunlight, and he stepped into it and vanished.

Continue reading “The Last Piece – pt 2”

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

The Last Piece -pt 1

rainbow landscape edit
k_r_craft (edited) via pixabay

part one

The stranger looked the type who didn’t stay in one place too long. While I served the other customers, I watched him drink his pint of dark ale and brood silently. He wasn’t local and we don’t get much passing trade.

Dark hair escaped from his dark green knitted hat and curled over the collar of a very shabby leather jacket. The rest of his clothes were an odd assortment; ripped jeans, well-worn cowboy boots that he must have got from a charity shop somewhere, and a spotless open-necked cream shirt. He brought a couple of messenger bags with him and kept them at his feet.

I found him fascinating, and the symbols tattooed on his hands only added to the mystery. Obviously my inspection wasn’t as subtle as I hoped because Sam, the other barmaid, started to tease me about him.

“Watching the customers again. Or maybe just Mr Mysterious over there, eh?” She nudged me while handing change over the counter.

Continue reading “The Last Piece -pt 1”

blog

Rejected? 7 ways to bounce back

how to come out swinging… again

person-woman-sport-ball
image: AlexVan via pixabay

So, your competition entry was unsuccessful. You get a polite standard email from the agent, or you check the calendar and realise that no news is bad news.

During the Olympics it’s fantastic to watch people at the top of their game perform. But don’t forget that the losers, those who didn’t make the cut, those who were pipped for the bronze, or who were off their best, all worked just as hard. They gave everything, but it didn’t work out.

“It is possible to commit no mistakes, and still lose. That is not a weakness, that is life.”

Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation

What to do when that happens to you

1. Reframe

You are not your writing, even though you put part of yourself into it. This is not the worst thing that could happen, and it doesn’t mean you are a total failure as a writer and a human being.

Make sure that you followed all the submission guidelines, met the deadline, and didn’t fall before the first hurdle.

2. Review 

It’s uncommon to get useful feedback. If you get any, use it. I sent a piece to a magazine once, and while they didn’t accept it, they offered feedback. I grabbed with both hands. They liked the writing but weren’t sure about the plot. I used that comment to improve, by going back and reviewing the story.

3. Rework

Maybe ask a trusted writing friend, or use point 1 and pretend it was written by someone else. By taking the emotional attachment out, you can see more clearly where it could be better (pro tip: it can always be better). Relate the feedback to your work, but take the useful parts and discard the rest.

4. Resubmit

If you conclude that the story is still good, it might be suitable to submit somewhere else. Keep a file of stories tagged with themes, and look over it when you’re thinking of submitting again. The judging process is subjective, and the next reader might love it.

5. Regroup

Writing Magazine publishes a Writing Competition Guide twice a year. There is an online edition, but I like to read a physical copy with a mug of tea in hand. Plus, there is a section each month on where and what to submit, apply and enter. It’s invaluable, and keeps me thinking about the next opportunity. Other magazines such as Writer’s Digest do the same, and Google is, as always, your friend in finding options for your work.

Find a reputable information source, and check back regularly.

It’s important to have a portfolio of completed pieces, first because finishing things is essential to progressing in skill, second because it gives a sense of accomplishment, and third because one day, someone will ask “do you have anything else?” and you want to be able to say yes.

6. Release

Write something new. Make it the best you can.

That’s easy, compared to the next part.

Take a deep breath, and let it go. Procrastination hides perfectionism; perfectionism hides fear, and fear is the enemy. Call it by its name. Step out of fear’s shadow and do the thing anyway.

You cannot win if you don’t enter the race.

7. Reward

You did it! You got in the game, and learned from the experience. Now you have to do it again, and that’s hard. Remember though, that whether they got a medal or not all those athletes have to get back out there; training, eating clean, logging the miles and gym hours, all without a guarantee of reward. And they have to perform the miracle again while the world is watching.

Pat yourself on the back. You faced down your demon and won this fight, though the battle continues. Keep a record of your campaign, take a small reward for effort. And make sure you have the right incentive in mind, a gift to award yourself for that glorious day when it all comes right and you are a winner. Be like an athlete.

Visualise success, work for it, believe in yourself.