Being a Newbie Author …

And the setbacks created by the following:

No blurb

Basically, no one reads books unless they’ve already been reviewed and recommended (how can they tell if the reviews are paid for v. genuine, etc.?). How does a new author (by author, read novel is written and published [self or traditional])? How does a new author find the people who are willing to read their books? [No, forget traditional – they don’t want to have to deal with new authors – too many on their books already who don’t earn enough.]

The question: How to get a review?

It’s not a silly question. It’s deadly serious. Do you know how many people self-publish books/stories/novels each week? It’s a lot. And I know most of it is going to be unworthy of a read, let alone a review, but … if the people who do ‘reviews’ are only reviewing books that someone else has reviewed or recommended already (whether real or not), what’s the point?

Where are the people who want to read the ‘new’ stuff? Get in on the bottom, help the new writer, discover the next greatest thing? Where are you?

Admittedly, we (our group) may not yet be ready for a review, but when we are – who is out there willing to do what must be done? Who but a reader can do a review? Should the writers (avg annual income [in Aust] of LT $8k) PAY to get someone to say something?

No. It shouldn’t be like that. People who do reviews should look beyond what’s already recommended and become trend-setters, give unique understanding to the ‘new’ idea/concept/theme etc.

But this rabbit has already gone down a hole, hasn’t it? No one wants to read the ‘tail’ end of new writing. No one wants to take a risk on reading the new and fresh and distinct – oh, yes, sorry, forgot that you wrote a book too! So, who’s going to review your book for you when you try to get it out there? And trust me, the traditional publishers are not going to even consider a newbie who hasn’t already come to their attention through ‘other’ avenues (and that doesn’t mean social media).

Try as you might to get a review, until someone else has reviewed you to all their friends, you won’t be getting one. Ever.


Now that Amazon doesn’t allow reviews done for books that don’t have a ‘proven sale’ there’s nowhere left to go, is there? The cheats with their algorithms for fake reviews have destroyed any chance the ordinary new writer ever has for honest reviews. And no reviews = no sales because that’s the way the Amazon/Google/etc. algorithm works, isn’t it?


And that’s the rant for the month of May – because it’s getting colder and the leaves are falling and …

Baban

A short story, copyright Rose Brimson 2016


“Take it and run. Grab it. Run. Get away. That tree is Naji; spirit. It’ll kill ya.” Billy’s voice whispered words Immu didn’t want to hear. The tree whispered other words; beautiful, triple-trunked, iridescent white – a ghost gum in full glow under a full moon in mid-Yurluurrp. The cold season. Immu didn’t feel the cold. He should’ve. His clothes were thin, many holes in places there shouldn’t be. No shoes. He splayed his hands on the middle trunk, the thickest trunk, leaned in and whispered his own words.

The air smelled of dry dust, of kangaroo dung, not fresh, and rich, rich, rich bush honey. His mouth watered. No. There was something he had to do. What?

Listen. The whispers descended into sighs; meaningless. He had to get it back, learn what it meant.

“I’ve come, baban. I’ve come for you.” The tree didn’t respond. It knew Billy stood behind Immu, and Billy wasn’t meant to be there.

“Go home, Billy,” Immu said aloud. “He doesn’t want you – you’re not the right blood for this country.” It was cruel, but Immu had to get him away, had to find out why this tree wanted him, wanted to teach him the ways of Naji. He had to know. The native bees sashayed and zubbed in a lazy arc; followed the smell of their hard work. He brushed them away.

“Just grab the honey, Im. We gotta go. Gubba come.”

The Gubba weren’t coming. It was just said to scare him into leaving. Immu pushed Billy, shoved him hard, chucked the sugar-bag honey at him. The little black bees followed the lump as it flew through the air.

“Go – take it. Get outta here. You’re not welcome. Not baban. Not nanga mai. That’s me. This is for me.” The words were not his – they came from somewhere else, something else. He did not know what the words meant – yet.

Dust from Billy’s running feet sifted onto Immu’s skin, settled on the bark of the Naji tree. Iridescent white, triple trunked; his baban. The tree sang its high notes, welcomed him. This was the one. The tree for his journey. The boy named Immu would learn from this Naji and become a man. He would rejoice in the knowledge of his song-lines, or he would fail. Die. Under this ghost gum. His tree.

Immu sat. The dry creek-bed sand crackled and squealed as it adjusted to his shape. It was time.

Legs folded under, hands at rest on thighs black and brown, bare feet that waggled in the red dust. Immu didn’t know what to do. He felt the stir, the need to do something. Eucalyptus drifted down, tickled his eyes and nose. The smell of dry dust filtered through the dark rays of the moonlight.

“What?” he yelled. “What do you want me to do? I don’t know what to do! I’m here for you – help me!” Tears rolled down his face, caught the light in prisms of colour that reflected back to his eyes from the three trunks. Purple clearly defined, then the blue. A rainbow. The colours moved along the veins of the tree; swirled and curled and danced into existence.

Nothing happened. Immu sobbed. He wanted it. Needed to be part of it, as he had been part of nothing before, as he had needed nothing before. Not like this.

Lost. That’s what they said about him. The Lost Boy. No family, no country, no songlines. Billy, too, but Billy was gone now. Immu had sent him away. Maybe it would be better if they did this together. He would go. Get Billy. Come back later.

A hunger that dragged at his memory of all things grabbed him, cramped his body and mind. It would be death if he disobeyed.

Whispers on the wind laughed at him, scolded him. It wasn’t smart to be alone with Naji, with no knowledge of the songline or the ritual or the power of the place.

He was in trouble. He would die here.

The ghosts rose from the tree, pointed at him, laughed, danced and pealed their voices in song. They sang his death. How did he know? He felt it. His heart slowed to nothing. His lungs didn’t take in air, his body slid to the ground in a thump of lump. He would die. Immu let go.

It would be an end to the life of his lostness. At least out here there were spirits, other spirits, people of the land spirits. Maybe some of them would belong to him, or him to them. Maybe not. Did he have to be in his own country to find his own family of spirits? How would he know which was his country? He couldn’t know. He had no one to ask, no family to tell him where he came from. When he was taken from his birth mother at two and placed in the home, he lost it all. All memory. All belonging. And no one came to take him back. They left him. Abandoned him to his fate. A baby in a den of dingoes that smelled blood on the crippled pup.

Alone. Lost. And soon to die.

The body was stuck in the dirt. Things crawled on his skin, sucked on his blood, grew roots through his bones. He could not move. His tears gave them life, grew them stronger. They lived through him, through his body, through his heart, through his words.

Sticks and leaves rattled, whispered, littered the air with little sounds, tiny words that ticked and tacked. Immu spoke the words with a mouth that didn’t move, tasted them in a soul that didn’t have a body, sent them beyond the void, beyond the frame of reference. The words spun out into strings, became one word, one song, one history. His history. His story.

Abandonment. Loss. Aloneness. Mourning. Life in desperation. Fear. No connection. No purpose. The trees were in death throes. The bushes were dead. Insects didn’t come here anymore. Birds long gone. Grasses struggled, barely alive, waited for a guardian. Were there guardians who would come, who would know?

No. None left. The ones who were and did not know would not come. Could not come. The guardians were lost. No one to show them the way home, back to country. Country died, guardians died. Immu died.

No one came back to save any of the Naji. All Naji gone – all but one. The last one. The tree and Immu, the last link to the spirit of place.

His heart stopped beating, became stone. The red stone, the red granite. No feeling, no wind to shape the story into him. No words to bring life to his limbs, his body, his mind. Rocks of the earth, of sand and soil and stones. He was grey, brown, striations of gold and hues of ochre. Stone and earth with no life. Immu was there to deny the movement of time, to be sentinel, a foundation of strength and memories. Immu, as rock, placed there to claim the age, the history of place. Forever. Forever. Now.

Tears became streams, streams became rivers, rivers fed into the ocean, joined with the immense Naji of salt water. Immu cried more. His hurt came from the pain of all the abandoned Naji, left to die without guardians. But what could he do? He was one person, a boy with no blood, no kin, no country. His body rocked and shuddered, racked with sobs and agony.

“Im, wake up, kid.”

It was Billy’s voice. Billy had come for him. He wasn’t alone. Immu jumped up. It was dark. Night. The tree, triple-trunked, iridescent white, glowed at him with a smile of lament.

“No,” Immu said. “I’m not going. This is my place, my country. And if it ain’t now, it’s gonna be. I’m gonna be guardian for this place, this piece of country. I’m gonna be here for all the Naji to find. To come home.” Immu sat, folded his legs, rested black hands on his thighs, brown and red, striped with ochres of yellow and white. Marked. Owned by country. Owned by the tree. This tree. This place. His place.

Billy walked between Immu and the tree. Sat with his legs folded under, hands on his thighs. Words sprang into the air between them. Big words, words of place, words of peoples, words of birds and animals and shrubs and grasses and insects and snakes and lizards and . . . all life, all creatures, all things belonging to this place brought their words.

Bodies sprang up. Feet flung out, lifted and fell, tromped and thumped. Sticks clacked and cracked, hands held them up, threw them down, tapped them together. Birds sang, crickets screaked, snakes smoothed the sand. They came. They all came.

Billy’s sounds, Immu’s words, the magic of the tree Naji, the joining of spirit to soul, of soul to earth, of earth to everything. Home. It was home.

Tears fell, became creeks, creeks became rivers, rivers fed into the ocean. Fish swam from the ocean to the river to the creeks – hid in holes made by red-gums, swished their tails, laid their eggs. Life came to the water. Life that fed the Guardians.

Immu and Billy danced in circles, in shapes and colours and sound. Their movements shaped animals, insects, birds – showed them how to be home. Established belonging, connection to place.

Billy’s hand held another. A girl hand. A woman. Now three of them danced around the iridescent white, triple-trunked ghost gum. Three for three. Guardians of the tree, the three.

Immu reached out and held one hand of the woman, pulled her to a stop. Billy and the woman stood still, heavy and solid, chests heaved and breathed.

“A name. They want a name. Not a name from the other world. A name that belongs here. We have to choose a name.”

The woman laughed, twirled.

“I am djanaba – I laugh and bring joy to my place, to my country.” Djanaba danced away, swung her arms and words and music around the tree. Leaves trickled down, garbed her in muted hues of viridian and cobalt.

Billy closed his eyes, breathed a deep intake of red dust. He smiled as he opened them again.

“I am Barra. I bring food to the people of my place, of my country.” He grinned at Immu. “And what is your name, kid?”

Immu couldn’t think. No. He didn’t need to think. He needed to feel. What should he feel? Solid, unyielding, permanent. A foundation.

“I am Giba, the stone of place. The holder of now. I am sentinel and guardian. I am home.”


three trees3

 

The Wall

A way through the crowd opened up. Issa kept her eyes up and stared straight ahead; she walked into the gap between the scrabbling, stinking bodies. If she didn’t get out soon, it would be too late. Lunch would end up on the shiny, slippery linoleum. Then there’d be a gap, wouldn’t there? Maybe she should go through the motions, see what happened. That was something she wouldn’t do because every face in the whole mall would turn towards her, would make sounds of derision, laugh or pity or … attract their attention.

No, keep going, get out into the wide spaces, where no opacity existed – not to her view. The people who walked the malls, who shopped ’til they dropped, who took up the air she needed with their perfumes and frowns – they stayed inside, in the cool, air-conditioned controlled environment while she needed to get outside to smell the dust, and the eucalypts, and the way home.

Each week the court-assigned counsellor exhorted her to go to somewhere that held these ‘others’  so Issa acclimatised. The escort took her into the concussive crush of people who had no mind open, no eyes to see what stood before them. People who consumed, but never became. Issa could have objected, she could have fought the control, but …

Their plans had yet to work on her. Issa hadn’t even touched the devices she’d been given; she wasn’t blind. She could see through them all, in the mall and in the offices, as if they were pieces of glass. The outer coverings, the layers of labels and colours and aromas didn’t cover up the inner core.

What lay inside each of the shells was an emptiness that lit up with a little spark of light only when the plastic card was offered to the line of AI. A tiny spark, but it was an addiction no other living soul seemed to see.

Issa couldn’t even touch the plastic. She felt the links it had into the very hearts of all these people in her community. Links that manipulated and pushed, that rallied to a cause – or not, that shone guilt or shame on some things and not others. The little pulses that created pleasure or pain – whatever floated the boat – for the shortest time.

How many people walked in the mall with their accessories glowing with a connection to that thing? No, wrong question – how many people did she see who weren’t connected to it?

Her eyes blazed along the lines in the air – millions of little zings of energy zapped through, in, around, over, under – she felt them on her skin when she had to walk through them – millions, even if there weren’t millions of people there were millions of connections. Never turned off. Never out from under the influence of the over-brain that no one knew existed.

And she was the last of the no one tribe, wasn’t she?

Copyright Karel Jaeger 2017.

A Full-Fledged Feature of Shorts

We have grabbed the shorts and pulled them up and here they are:

What’s in there?

Stories Written by:
Cage Dunn
Shannon Hunter
Karel Jaeger
Rose Brimson
Cisi De

Cat’s Eye                                        The Old Man and His Desert
The Truth About RumpledStiltedSkin: A Very Ugly Old Man
To Tell it How it Really Is               The Garden of Souls
Shrine                                               A Quiet Night
Practical Issues                                The Storm
A Thought                                        Was it a Light?
Gone                                                 Someday, or The Day After
Maneki Niko                                    Survive
Cat Whisperer                                  Burglar!
Baban                                               Tones of Dawn
Min-Min


Enjoy!!

Cat’s Eye

“Put it back!”
“What for? It’s just a rock.”
“It’s not a rock, it’s a cat’s eye!” Punched the arm.
“More like a lizard-eye, if you ask me.”
“Put it back. Now. Before the wizard gets ya!”
“It’s just a story! There are no wizards, ya dumb bugger!”
“Are, too. And if’n it’s not a wizard, it’s a dragon!”
“Ya mad, and so’s ya da!” Thump.

The two boys fought; in the scuffle the stone fell to the ground, and they ran. Squeals and thumps and scattered stones followed them. Gone.

Pity. If he had a mouth to sigh, it would have been gutteral. Only a few minutes absorption of warm blood would be enough to reinvigorate, to be reborn. Even a weak thing like a human boy could be a vessel of life, and he could adapt from the initial life form – become once again what he truly was – given enough time. Always a matter of time.

The witch and her curse – when the day came, when the life returned, when he had a body – what he was going to do to that witch! Vengeance would be all the sweeter for the wait. He could keep her alive and screaming for centuries; use her screams to help him sleep, as he had not slept now for millennia. Rocks do not sleep. Rock eyes do not close.

The mind was aware; dulled, but aware. His eye could see the things around him, but not sense them any other way. No smell, no taste; the occasional sense of touch when he brushed up against a living creature.

The beasts left him alone; walked around his place; seemed to sense his mind. But the children – no; they came to tell each other stories of the ghost, of the beast, of the terror of being seen by the ‘eye’ – his eye. He just wanted one of them to be curious enough to put it in a pocket, to hold it for a few minutes, to give him enough time to breach the veil between stone and blood.

The dream. He dreamed it often. Food; fresh, tangy blood on his tongue, salt water on his skin as he cleaned the kill. A dream, not reality.

If the witch were here, still alive – he wondered if she would be, after all this time – he’d dream of her and the torments he could impose, but his dreams were of food – hunt, chase, kill; the preparation, taste, the sated sensation when sun-basking after.

The zoom on a glide through the air, to zone and cut the quarry, quarter the ground, herd until the beast was in the best place for the grip on its neck and back, the gnash of the teeth on the throat, the  . . .

If a rock could sigh, it would create a wind to blow all the rocks from the mountain as far as the ocean, the tiny blue speck that was visible on a clear day, so far away.

Wind! Of course. Movement. Here to there. More warm blood moved along the coast – did it have to be warm? It could be any living creature, he was sure. Almost sure. He could try. What harm could it do? Could he wait another millennia? No.

His mind was beginning to warp, changed with the solidness of the stone, with the rigidity of rock. Soon, his thoughts would become as still as the rock that imprisoned him. Already, his thoughts were slower, otherwise he would have thought of this escape sooner, much sooner.

The small stone with the eye of a lizard rolled a little, listed until other stones and loose earth moved it, or rolled it, or caught it up in the flow – and he moved, little by little, down the mountain, into the stream, and from the stream he flowed with the spring melt into the ocean.

Home.

Time and wind rolled him, ever downwards, to the sea.

The young woman held his hand, sang a sweet melody. Her body was lithe and strong, unlike the young man.

He sent his wish to her, showed her his bright side; the glint of gold and green. Enveloped her mind in a rush of warmth and lust as she placed the stone in the pocket of her skirt. He wasn’t close enough to the skin yet, but soon. Soon.

Heat and pain forced the touch of his cold stone against the pulse of her warm blood. The young lad only too eager to take her up on the offer. Hands groped and grasped; skirts lifted and spread – skin! He touched skin; hot, inflamed, lustful skin. The hearts beat, a rhythm of life. The eye merged with the beat, reached out with this new power, sucked on the juice of life – the young man’s body jerked and flopped.

She sat up, shoved him off. The blue eyes wavered, became green, glinted gold as she sneered at the weakling.

Akarta looked at the world through his new eyes. He exulted, lifted his arms to the sky and yelled – the world would know the true ruler was back. The young girl walked to the ocean. The body was not under his full control. What was wrong?

She dragged the body of her young man. She tossed him to the waves; would she leave him to the fish?

She did not. The water came up to her waist, up to her chin. She pushed the body in front of her as the feet came free of the sandy bottom. Akarta tried to exert his mind into hers. His mind met stone harder and colder than his own. He met the mind of . . .

 

The jagged reef captured the two bodies; small fish nibbled the flesh. The shiny glint of a stone with the eye of a lizard fell to the bottom, slid down the embankment, sludged down and down and down until the hot magma met him, absorbed him; claimed the rock that held his soul.

Copyright Cage Dunn 2016

 

The Garden of Souls

The noise echoed and rolled within the tight confines of the severely overcrowded Inn of Loca. Every resident shouted louder and louder to be sure Ol’ Stumpy heard their call on the desired number. Arms waved and hands clapped, heads thumped and spittle flew in exclamation as the tall, narrow-necked jar lit up a single square for each bet.

Ol’ Stumpy sat as calm as a well-fed Inn-cat as he scribbled on the black slate when a voice chipped in with the number or word or a shake of jowl. How he knew which name-sigil to put against the number was impossible for Livia to see. She didn’t need to – Stumpy did it as he always did, and the magic wouldn’t work for him if he did it wrong or cheated.

Each scrape on the slate was accompanied by a nod and a lit name-sigil appeared above the person, followed by a gold coin which flew through the air to clink into the large jar that sat on the very edge of the raw timber bench. A few more coins and it’d be all over for the year.

Roars erupted on the far side, amid the smoke and crackle of the large fire-pit. Two more sigils, two more coins appeared and dropped into the neck. One more. The last. Voices calmed; spittle dribbled down chins with mouths closed. Like a roll of thunder in reverse, the sounds decreased, then ceased as every head in the overflowing, crowded, hot and steamy room turned towards Livia.

She crossed her arms, scowled, sneered – nodded as the outer ridges on the jar lit up with her sigil and the last empty mark in the grid pattern of squares. The room erupted in another roar, hid the chink of her last piece of gold as it stoppered the neck. Hot glass melted from the top and sealed it.

It was done.

Livia turned to leave. The heavy iron-studded door tried to resist her efforts to open it, but relented when the tears began to burn down her cheeks. Cold air hit her as she stepped out into the last night of Winter. Her last night.

Cold. Bitter frost. She pulled her sheepskin coat closed, curled the wool scarf over her head and neck, and wrapped the tail end over her mouth and nose.

The yellow moon shone her glorious light of fullness on the signboard, newly erected for the season. The words weren’t visible; they were painted on the other side, towards the direction where the strangers would come from. Livia didn’t need to see the words; she knew them as well as she knew the path to her home on the edge of the gorge. She wrote the same words every year, the same warning to the pilgrims who would begin arriving on the first day of Spring. Tomorrow they would read the words she’d used to try to stop them.

 

‘Venture Not Forth to the Garden of Souls
‘For it Feasts on your Hope
‘Leaves nought but Holes
‘And your welcome to the World Beyond
‘Is Doomed.’

 

A smaller line at the bottom laid out the only written law of Loca: ‘We hold your belongings for one Moon only.’

Of course, the pilgrims were always offended; they seemed to think the villagers of Loca wanted to keep the Garden to themselves. The pilgrims didn’t appreciate the sign, the warning, or the lack of accommodation – it was their right to expect the courtesy of the towns where they paid in gold. Many times Livia heard the same words: “A hand with a gold coin is the hand that should be shook with welcome.” But those words belonged to the low-landers, not here.

Here, the only inn, the Inn of Loca, offered no food or drink or rest to those weary from the path to the Garden. Stumpy always offered to show them to the path that led back down the hill – to anywhere Away.

How many took his advice? How many took seriously the words on the sign? In Livia’s lifetime, not one. The betting on how many hours would pass before the sign was ripped from the ground and tossed down the ravine was an annual event. Pilgrims with rage, offended at the polite warning. They should come and live with the Garden; maybe that would change their mind.

Maybe not.

They kept coming. Someone or something kept sending them. And because they kept coming, this would be her year to tend the Garden of Souls.

Another sign. She needed a new sign – a Truth Sign they couldn’t ignore – and put right at the edge of the path of No Return.

She ran home.

The cupboards were bare of food, but she had paint from the work on the main sign; she had timbers to hold it up at head height; she had a pre-finished black background flatten to put the words on. White words? Or red? Both?

Yes, both. Red centre, white edges. Red for the blood of souls, and white for pure of intent.

She set up her work space in the middle of the small main room. Sat on her stool. Listened for the right words to come to her mind – words of Power were what she needed. Her black slate slid onto her lap with the last piece of white chalk. Wrote a few letters, rubbed them away; wrote some more, rubbed them off.

Tried again.

‘No words pass this way’ – No, she rubbed it clean, wiped a damp cloth across the surface before putting the chalk back to the surface. Moved.

‘No words are to be spoken
‘Hum or sing or chant
‘No words – do not whisper or giggle or run or play
‘This Garden of Souls offers falseness
‘It is not the Well of Wellness to swell the senses and soothe the soul
‘There is no peace
‘No tranquillity within
‘Do not pick the Sage or Marjoram
‘Do not lean forward to sniff the lavender or rosemary
‘Do not crush the verbena or rose
‘Beware the hedge that borders the Garden
‘Beware the thorns and aroma and touch
‘Walk not upon the path of white shell
‘Walk only upon the grass verge
‘Or on the muddy sludge of the run-off ditch.
‘Do Not Let Them Hear You Breathe
‘Unless in Song or Chant or Hum
‘Pray for your life and your soul and your sanity
‘For if you come to worship in the Garden of Souls
‘You had best make your peace with All.’

 These were the words she painted onto the black flatten sign. The tears came again as Livia placed her belongings in caskets and boxes. Clothes neatly folded, tools packed in wax-coated, purpose-shaped tombs of timber, words of magic-doing and herb lore sealed closed until her death.

On her last look around the Cottage of the Gardener, she saw her end. The end of her journey or the end of her life? Only time would show if a pilgrim came to force the Gardener through the Gate of Offering to accompany them to the Rites of Passage.

If she survived her season as Gardener of the Soul, she would return to this cottage.

Sometimes, the Gardener returned, but usually not. Of those who did return in the husk of dried out skin and crackly bones that barely held them together, no words escaped, no smiled lifted lips or eyes, and the people of Loca swallowed their pain and pity and turned away.

The hut of the Gardener was banished to the outer edges, to the point of the cliff path that had no end, far enough away from the palisade of the village that the howls could not be heard, that the overwhelming sadness did not penetrate. The hut was both refuge and doom of the one chosen to tend the Garden, to stop the Resident of the Garden of Souls from walking beyond the hedges that held it.

A new jar would fill with gold for the demise of the Gardener. Or the return. Would Livia return? If she did, and a new betting jar was opened, would she last one day, one quarter moon, one half moon, one full moon? Would she last until the dark moon hid the yellow moon?

Would she be able to open her mouth to eat or drink. Would she have the will to add new words of knowledge to the tome of the Gardener?

Faded words in the tome of the Gardener Task said that to survive until the Dark Moon passed over the face of the Light Moon would break the curse of the Gardener of Soul Magic – would Livia be the first to bear the burden and live through the Sadness of All Souls?

Or would she join her predecessors in the end that came with the madness of the task? Would she take the final walk along the path that led to Nowhere but the bottom of the Gorge?

spiderweb2-006

 

Copyright Karel Jaeger 2017