ambition, beauty, fiction, politics, short fiction, women

Let It Burn

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(http://charmander831.deviantart.com/art/let-it-burn-638659914)

Pam watched the dorm burn. She stood with the crowd of onlookers, phones and tablets held up to capture how the flames licked at the windows, vomiting black smoke, thick from the feast of plastic it had found in every room.

Theresa came over, weeping in a way which Pam found unsightly. The histrionics of someone who saw the world through a filter of utter solipsism. She reached out her thin arms and threw herself into Pam’s arms.

Pam patted Theresa between her shoulder blades, perfunctory gestures interpreted as awkwardness but were about her distaste for physical contact. Pam had built herself an ideology which avoided the messy business of sex through a seething bolus of gender variations. The likes of Theresa challenged her but tonight her drama would prove useful.

‘Who’s done this?’ Theresa said.

She devolved into a series of wet, rough brays before Pam shushed her and kept on patting her back as though it meant anything.

Pam watched the crowd. A news van had parked at the end of the row and she turned Theresa around without speaking. Theresa sniffed and wiped her face.

The Dean of Students, bleary-eyed and grimacing made his way through the crowds. His silver hair stuck up from his head in soft tufts like dandelions, which offset the melancholy raptor features of his face, furrows from a perpetual frown and thin, pale lips. He taught American Literature before accepting the Dean’s position and Pam imagined he would press lots of old white authors upon them. He had changed into a white shirt and sweater, smelled of cologne as he saw her.

‘An absolute tragedy, Pam. I’m so sorry.’

Pam collected apologies from authority figures. This one was not up to the standards of the soft drink manufacturer or the best-selling author of the young adult trilogy but it was a good start.

‘Thank you, Dean. I have prepared a statement.’ Pam said.

He frowned and looked around him.

‘The fire’s not even out, Pam. Give yourself time to process this.’ he said.

Pam’s lips drew back over her teeth before she caught herself. She pushed Theresa aside.

‘Acts like this demand an immediate response.’ she said.

She had practiced it in the mirror, perfected the lift of the chin and the slight turn of profile.

The dean sighed and gave a short, terse nod.

‘But I would argue the use of the word act. It has connotations.’ he said.

Pam pointed to the blazing dorm, fighting the urge to give into her emotions, not from fearing their impact but because it was too early.

No one was watching.

‘The only connotations I see is an old white man playing down an act of ethno-gender terrorism.’

Pam enjoyed how he shuddered.

‘Now I think you should -‘

Pam’s heart leapt in her chest, higher than the flames in the dorm room.

‘You think, Dean. What should I think?’ she said

She raised her voice. People turned, their phones already ahead of them.

The news camera pointed at her. Its lens was a shining white disc, a medal for her sacrifice.

She started into her monologue. The firemen in the background added just the right note of disaster to proceedings. Her face was lit from within, eyes aflame with self-righteousness and the joy of wounded victimhood. In the weeks afterwards, she watched it a hundred times.

Protest footage with clusters of students marching and holding placards.

Aggressive scenes in the library, earphones snatched from ears and snarling challenges into the pinched faces of other students.

An investigation. The arrest.

Her trial.

Pam in orange prison clothes, her face slack with acceptance.

When the dean collapsed with a heart attack, Pam would have celebrated but she was too busy fighting off a bull who wanted to get romantic without having to memorise Pam’s preferred pronouns during pillow talk.

Before sleep, she remembered the orange glow of the flames and the desire to stay and watch it burn away her privilege..

The memory kept her warm. Whether there was enough to see her through ten years remained unknown.

.

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ambition, beauty, fiction, politics, women

Cycles of Ambition

Louise slid the envelope into the mailbox outside the town hall, surging with triumph before walking inside. Her appearance was no accident, the smart, glamorous appearance offering a great deal but promising nothing. Her makeup was war paint and she thought of herself as someone determined to advance her position by any means necessary.

The paperwork was the last feint in the duel. A hasty gathering of signatures to support her candidacy and even that was not without its difficulties. David had taken his time in deciding, putting up a litany of excuses but Louise had circumvented that by studying the gestalt of his signature and signing his name. She trusted in the ambition that had taken her from intern to candidate and used that velocity to power her upwards.

It was better to ask forgiveness than permission.

She caught her reflection, pleased with her appearance. Pretty but not soft, which meant that the right people wanted her but were afraid to cross that boundary by virtue of a single hard stare. She could take or leave sex, but power or the chance to grasp it, made her shudder with a deep and profound want.

She walked up the stairs to the town hall, hoping to catch Nigel or Paul around to share her good news. The clip of her heels on the stairs was pleasing to her, a warning that real power was entering the premises. The future held the warmth of sunlight on bare skin, and she was pleased to accept its burdens.

‘You’ve done it already, haven’t you?’

The voice was a broken, mechanical wheeze, too many cigarettes and screams for too long. Louise blinked in shock as the woman came towards her. Her hair was a fallen angel’s halo of white roots and poorly applied dye. Her face was disfigured with a thick, gelid scar along her jawline and a left eyelid that drooped like it had fallen asleep on duty. She carried the thick, condensed odour of unwashed flesh and sour milk. She wore a faded grey t-shirt and jeans that hung too low, revealing a fringe of wrinkled, off white stomach.

Louise grimaced and looked around for assistance.

‘Please Lou, have you sent it in?’

Louise looked at the other woman and realised she was not another at all.

Older yes, but beaten with the club of hard years and missed opportunities until what stood in front of her was an insult made tangible.

‘Oh fuck off, you can’t be me.’ Louise said.

Louise held no truck with weakness and here, was its avatar wearing some of her features like hunter’s trophies.

The elder version cackled with bitterness and put her hands in front of her. Louise noted the yellowed nails, packed with dirt.

‘No, it’s me. I mean you. Just tell me you’ve not sent the paperwork in. Or at least that you didn’t forge the signatures. Please?’

Louise’s skin rose in gooseflesh, she darted her expression around to make sure no one was in earshot. Voices travelled in the town hall, and someone was always listening. She sneered and swallowed the knob of nausea that was stuck at the back of her throat.

This could not possibly be her. She would never have let herself look that bad.

The older woman smiled and revealed an abandoned graveyard of teeth.

‘You stupid bitch. You have, haven’t you?.’

Louise started to back away, holding onto the polished oak banister for support as her world collapsed in on itself.

‘David had no idea. They won’t check.’ she said.

Louise heard the pleading in her voice and hated herself for it. She wanted to ask who this version of her was, where she had come from, what she could pass back to her.

‘They will when David and the others tell them you faked their signatures, you stupid cunt.’

The girl from the Barracks was never that far from the surface and she pushed forward, steeling herself against the barrage of foul, bacteria-strewn breath that peeled a layer of skin from her face.

‘No, this is bollocks. I don’t know you are but -‘

The woman’s arms shot up, clamped onto Louise’s shoulders and she smiled in a way that suggested pity and beneath that, a terrible and complete madness.

‘No, and unless I fix it, you will know me. Every time you look in the mirror.’

She shoved Louise hard and she toppled backwards. The back of her head hit the lip of the stairs with a wet crack that was loud in the solemn air of the town hall. A final riot of her broken brain revealed the woman standing over her, already beginning to fade into translucence.

‘It’s better this way, love. We can always try again.’

The world went away and Louise, thwarted and confused, went along with it.

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ambition, beauty, books, craft, women, writing

Writing Update

I finished the second draft of Lawful Evil yesterday. 435 pages. 79,904 words. It is not finished in the respect that it will need another draft or two before I am happy with it, if I ever am. The more that I learn, the more nuanced my appreciation is and so I drive myself a little harder each time out. The process allows me to gain courage and reach further for each new piece. It is a mixture of relief and regret to finish a project, and from there, where to go next.

I cannot control whether a publisher will pick up a submission but what I can control is the quality and depth of the work I do. If I study, practice, commit to the work then I know that I am doing all that I can and taking pleasure in it. I love what I do, and have written with that in mind. I do not wait for inspiration but keep working until she shows up, and enjoy the look of surprise that I have things to show her.

So next up is either starting the second draft of Stranger Lights or an entirely new piece that I have percolating called YOU KNOW WHO WE ARE. I believe in remaining productive and present with my craft, and sometimes it is not about finding an idea for a book or story but which one to choose from. It is the same with the short fiction and poetry, all sourced from within me, reflecting thoughts and feelings at any given time and not always presented here. Chris Rock characterised the difference between a job and a career as there never being enough time for the latter, which is true for me.

I have a process and an approach that works for me, which is why I seldom give writing advice. There are no shortcuts for you as an individual artist, even if you take on every single piece of wisdom offered to you. Life throws up external and internal obstacles to us all, and it is how we negotiate them that defines us. I am not pretentious about what I do, proud and dedicated to it, yes but the same approach applies to a lot of things in my life. Discipline, focus and passion underlying the principle of it being about the work and what it offers rather than me. I call it my purpose because it is, and the more that I have aligned my life around it, the happier I have become.

Thank you for reading this, your likes and comments are important to me as they let me know that someone is reading my work and relating to it. I work towards the point where there are tangible pieces of my work in the world for you to buy and share, and when that point comes, you will be the first to know.

 

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ambition, short fiction, war, women

Tag

the_better_way_by_james_hackland_by_jameshackland-daz6u3z

(http://jameshackland.deviantart.com/art/The-Better-Way-663767279)

The train sat, a dying king over a ruined kingdom, scarred with a million journeys and covered in a mosaic of graffiti, each one the manifestation of a singular intention.

Mostly to be seen, but other intentions were captured there.

Now, look at this one. Looks like it was done for practice, but if you see the lines here and how they converge into those curlicues, you’re actually looking at something far more interesting.

No, don’t touch it. Trust me.

There are roughly sixty-three thousand homeless people in New York. A chunk of them are families, which always makes me call bullshit on the idea that people choose to be there. There are those who see it as an opportunity, their own self-interest merging with the pretense of indignity and finding a mutual benefit.

It isn’t hiding out on a tropical island, or a bunch of papers with your face but not your name. It is however, one of the most effective ways for someone to disappear and remain that way.

So, this my padawan, is the work of Veronica Imogen Cathcart. She had eighty million dollars in offshore trusts but chose to live on the streets. She framed it in the context of a ritual sacrifice when Odin hung upside down from the tree to gain hidden wisdom. It was mostly for the shock value though when some testosterone flushed asshole tried to intimidate her and she would give him a verbose tongue lashing or deliver a curse in fluent Enochian that would send him straight to the psych ward. She owned a lot of the streets she slept on.

Now, this one next to it is interesting.

It is a ward designed to counteract the effects of Vic’s strike. That is reflected in the interlocking colours used. Someone had studied the impact of astrology, which the consensus determines as bullshit, but there’s power in it, so they made this at roughly four am on March 31st. Aries. So it’s designed to push back against whatever’s sent against it.

Now let’s go back to Vic’s work?

Yeah, Vic. Not in Victoria, but in her initials. Veronica Imogen Cathcart.

So look at it again, defined by what opposes it. It is not a collection of lines and curlicues; it is a statement of will. Intention focused into a single point and then driven.

BAM

Straight into someone’s heart.

Now the ram here is the work of Pyotr Davidovitch. It wasn’t his real name, anymore than Vic’s was. You never reveal your true name to anyone you’re unsure of. It’s like giving your heart over to someone who is careless with it. Or cruel.

Yeah, six months now. Why do you ask?

Ah, smart ass here. Excellent, means I won’t have to explain the dry stuff.

Now duels like this and it was a duel, conducted with the dry familiarity of ritual have to be carried out in secret. You know how people like that English kid with the glasses and the scar, expelli-something? Yeah, now those people, if it was explained to them that there was an entire school of physics with real world, tangible applications, they would be screaming in the streets.

Stake burning.

Lynching.

You’re with me so far? Now, that lends us all a kind of power. Power is not money in the bank or property, or influence. It is the ability to move, to make decisions without considering their impact. It is about the ability to impose your will however you see fit.

Add that to the things that we already know how to do.

Now see why some people choose to live off the grid entirely?

Ugh, no. I like Netflix and a good wireless connection. I like restaurants and shoes without holes in them too much to pursue that path. I do pretty well with what I have.

Pyotr and Vic were too much alike to see how they were reflected in one another. When siblings fight, normally it’s sort of pathetic.

It’s sad, really. They really did bring out the worst in one another.

So, you’re thinking, it was over money?

No. It was about a book. Of all things, a fucking book.

It was translated from the Sumerian tablets by an entire monastery in Bruges. Once it was complete, two things happened to it.

One it was bound and covered with the skin of the last monk to translate it. It was sent to the patron who commissioned it after it had been cured and tanned to the consistency of leather.

Once word had been received, then every single person in the monastery committed suicide.

Now, who wouldn’t want a book like that, huh? Dangerous equals powerful.

Pyotr got word of its arrival in the US first, started bidding for it with his share of the family money. Vic got wind of it, initially concerned at what her accountant told her.

Yeah, I know. Imagine the amount of air freshener she had to use afterwards. Probably put another hole in the ozone layer.

Then she started to bid for the book herself. They had words. Not a conversation because these words were vandals at play in the physical world. Their arguments broke windows and set off car alarms eight blocks away.

Nothing was resolved and both of them continued to bid for the book.

Then Vic sent an elemental to steal it. Pyotr banished it and took the book for himself.

He would have said it was his plan.

Which was when Vic challenged him to a duel. WIth the prize being the book.

The loser, well you figure it out.

It went on for five years. Some people think it might have contributed to the financial meltdown, all that back and forth fucking with bystanders on a psychic level. Prescriptions of anti-depressants went up twenty percent and the crime rate soared in any area that their work featured.

So, these are marks of a personal, bitter war between two people who shared blood with one another.

Now, it’s inside that we see the final outcome.

Yeah, no matter what they use, the smell never really goes away.

That stain there, looks like an oversized Rorschach blot?

Pyotr.

That might look like someone spilt a quart of crude on the floor there, but if I told you that said stain was worth eighty million dollars, you would nod and agree, yes?

Excellent.

They met here, having grown frustrated with the perfect interdependence of their magic and their antipathy towards one another. They would have had tattoos made, I think, judging by the force of the respective blows.

Sad, isn’t it?

The book? It’s not that exciting. Would probably make a good movie if you got the right director. Guillermo Del Toro or Nicholas Winding Refn.

Now, let’s take photographs and bounce.

Photographs? Yes, because we are going to use these for our own purposes.

It’s an election soon.

(Thank you for reading this far. Please like and comment)

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ambition, beauty, craft, creative writing, creativity, emotion, empowerment, inspiration, love, nature, passion, poetry, process, purpose, sensuality, stoicism, strength, Uncategorized, wisdom, women, writing

Spark

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Trials lie in wait

On every corner

I hold within

A spark of purpose

I am earth, air, fire, water

And all things

Within it

Undefined

By anything

Beyond will

And purpose.

Each quiet hour

Before dawn

Pen makes

Love to paper

Fingers seduce

The keyboard

If you would

Find me anywhere

Find

Me

There.

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ambition, art, beauty, creative writing, desire, emotion, empowerment, hunger, lust, masculinity, passion, poetry, sensuality, spoken word, strength, Uncategorized, women, writing

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So often
Tattered rags
Costumes worn
To uninvited parties
Disguised as
Flags
Uniforms
Nonsense spoken
With solemn expressions
Is not eloquence
And there are those
Who call for no
Power from
Fear of acknowledging
Their own powerlessness
But I have
Found my dominion
A battle within myself
A purpose.
A path
The struggle
Is only in
Competition
With who I
Was yesterday
Always training
To defeat
The man of tomorrow
And you’re welcome
Only if you
Understand the path
Leads further than you
Might have the strength
For
But you’re welcome
To keep up
And in the pauses
When my attention
Turns to you
Ravishing you
With the force of
My self
A man about
his purpose
A beast of
The field
Who knows what
You want
And within that
Gives it
Until you’ve
Been broken
Beneath it
Beautiful in surrendered
Bliss

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ambition, beauty, craft, creative writing, desire, dominance, emotion, empowerment, erotic poetry, experience, hunger, love, lust, man, masculinity, passion, pleasure, poetry, seduction, sensuality, strength, touch, wildness, wisdom, women, writing

Muse

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Always striving

Never complete

I make art

In so many ways

With a focus

That robs you of breath

If you let yourself 

Consider what it is

That you might

Be it’s inspiration

Come to me

Every ounce of courage

Hold nothing back

You might settle

Out of fear

But here in unknown territory

You might find

Beauty marks your soul

When seen through my eyes

And you will be a stronger

More passionate woman

For the experience

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