Thank You For Dropping By

This blog will feature novels I've written for adults and YA's, plus some illustrations and designs. Some of the novels will only have sample chapters posted and their cover designs. I'm also hoping to post scrap kits for free download as soon as I can.

Well, that's all from me just now.

Thanks, again, for coming :)

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Well, still no release of Winter Roses Never Die. It's now about fifteen years since I finished the first, very rough, draft. I keep changing minor elements of the story which then changes other things that have to be correlated as well. And, of course, the continuing quest for perfection also delays the release. I'm not really an artist by any means, but I feel compelled to illustrate this story even though it's time-consuming. As you might have noticed, I tend to work very slowly as my first attempts aren't satisfactory. In fact, the cover only came to completion last year after nearly a decade of attempts. I believe the reason for these unsatisfactory attempts and delays is lack of confidence. When we don't feel great about ourselves, this is reflected in everything we do. But I believe that the potential of every human being is immense, if we can overcome the negative self-chatter. This can be a lot of work depending on the severity of our insecurities. But although progress has been snail-paced on this project, I'll never give up on it. I'm hoping it can shine into the darkness of negativity and provide some answers as well as provide a cracking story without disgusting elements only the feel-good ones. You might have noticed in my profile to the left, I mentioned that the story has similarities to Fifty Shades Of Grey. When I made this claim, I hadn't read the book and didn't know much about it. I still haven't read it, but I've seen the trailers since they've come out. I see there is very little similarity to Fifty Shades Of Grey. I had heard the book described as fan fiction for Twilight and assumed there was a vampire element. There is a strong erotic element, however, which seems from the trailers to be well-handled, especially as the character of the male lead is shown in great depth and sympathy. However, it's interesting that the character of the 'sweet and ordinary' girl seems more well received or popular. Or is this just my assumption? I like both of them. Anyway, here's the final cover which I'm happy with.

If you click the picture, it will show at a larger size.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book Trailer made with the help of Wondershare's PPT2 Video Pro

The original book trailer - mentioned above - no longer exists as I've done newer versions. This version was not done with Wondershare video editor but with ProShow Gold. I also composed the music and designed the illustrations. Hope you enjoy:

GiveAway Of The Day

There's a great site on the internet, Give Away Of The Day, which features free program give aways every day. The software is posted by their publishers as a promotion with certain limitations, including no technical support or free upgrades when they become available. It's a lot of fun to visit the site and try out new software ranging from technical stuff that improves the running of your PC to multimedia programs enabling you to create movies, music and illustrations.

In a moment I'll post a video I just created with the help of Wondershare's PPT2Video Pro which I downloaded from GOTD today. This is a book trailer for Winter Roses Never Die, of course. :) If you're interested, you've got about 12 hours - as of the time I posted this blog entry - to download it at the above site.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Roses Are Finally Coming! Do You Know Where The Roses Grow?

With hard work, much effort and a lot of enjoyment, the dawning of the roses is approaching. Over a long time, the story has grown to how I want it, and the illustrations are almost there, too. Just done a poster for the ebook which captures the surreal and romantic nature of the story. Will attach it here now. :)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Overcoming the Idea Originality Blues

For a while I've been rather down about stories I've written that were original at the time they were a wip, but after taking decades to bring them to completion, I suddenly find that those ideas I thought original are everywhere. Just today I discovered an animated movie called Magi Nation: Fighting the Shadows. About thirty years ago I started writing a novel called Magination about an adolescent boy fighting shadow creatures who are really his own personal demons. Along the way to enlightenment, he finds a true friend, Runiah, and another dimensional world, The Autumnland. I borrowed elements from Peter Pan and Celtic mythology for this story, but the rest was original.

However, I've began to realise that perhaps original ideas aren't as important as I once thought. Perhaps what you do with those ideas or elements matter more. In my efforts to find publication for Winter Roses, and when having it assessed, no one has ever commented unfavourably about the similiarity to Twilight. The similiarities (I counted around 16 major story elements that were similiar) were devastating for me when the movie came out last year, as in reviews from 1994 the biggest praise my story garnered was in the 'great original concept' category. But what the critics have focused on lately have been plot holes and stylistic errors. So perhaps ideas that have become classic and even over-used can still be strong and make a statement as long as all the other elements that support them in the story are used with thought for the big picture: the versimilitude and charm of the world you're creating.

The Harry Potter saga borrows heavily from so many other stories that have gone before it. In my own personal library I have a series of children's books called The Worst Witch which is about a young witch girl attending a school for witches. (This was written long before the Happy Potter saga.) However, why Harry Potter succeeds so well, I think, despite the recycling of mythological elements (wizards, witches, broomsticks, magic wands, magic academies, potions and spells, and well-known mythological creatures) is the well-structured nature of the story world and the vast array of ideas that support this huge world. The reader can easily become submerged in the well-structured and believable environment of the story world - especially the more lonely child who can find a home-away-from home where they feel a kind of belonging and an ability to identify with another child (Harry) who is a misfit and yet overcomes his problems and is a good and likeable person. This is positive reinforcement for the reader while experiencing a life-style which is exciting and fun and about developing one's innate gifts and powers - something we all suspect we have but are tantalising just out of reach.

So, in summary, perhaps the writer can't go wrong if they put their effort and focus not into ideas that haven't been done before but on developing the story ideas so that each supports the other in a strong structure that will stand the test of scrutiny and time, and - most importantly - create a story world the reader can confidently enter and explore with wonder and delight. The writer's focus could also be on creating ideas that bring something special to the reading experience, something fun and/or charming and fantastic that is currently beyond the non-reading world, and, also create something the reader can take away with them that will enhance their non-reading world: positive reinforcement (which we all need)and/or concepts that help us to cope with our world and the people we encounter in a way that is a win-win for all.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chapter Two - Winter Roses Never Die

By request, here is the second chapter. Hope you enjoy...


When Jennie awoke next morning, she thought of last night's dream. She didn't like what she remembered as it made her feel guilty. But at least it hadn't been a defeatist dream which focused on people treating her with disdain. These eroded her confidence and made it harder to talk to people. This dream seemed more symbolic than actual, perhaps a premonition or a warning. She often remembered her night adventures. They appeared vividly real and she could fly, not that any of the dream people seemed impressed.

In the dream just before waking it was dark as she wandered into a parking lot. The area was empty and unremarkable, except for the far end where a bush of luscious red roses grew up from the concrete and darkness. While picking the roses, she spotted someone watching from the street – a man with black hair. She felt guilty allowing him to watch as if she was undressing in public. She left in the opposite direction to where the man watched and waited. By the time daylight arrived, she was passing a country church with cream painted walls. Children streamed out the open door. Seeing their fresh, exuberant faces, she felt even guiltier.

An hour after Jennie had left her warm bed to confront the chilly day, she walked through the small grove of lilly pilly trees at the front of the property, unlatched the iron farm gate, and stepped onto the long grass of the nature strip. The frosted, overgrown grass was crackly and slippery beneath her sensible shoes; however, she had no intention of catching the bus that day. With the beret pulled down over her ears and hands plunged into the pockets of her heavy, green cardigan, she ventured down the country road that was bathed in the Snow Queen's icy breath.

She hurried along a further one-and-a-half streets then turned into an intersection where a light mist made the world seem even more like the realm of the Snow Queen. On the other side of the T-junction was the high wall of the cemetery where the exit gate was open and waiting. Jennie remembered leaving it open the previous night. The mist appeared more opaque on the other side of the gate as if it had swirled up from the swampy wetlands at the lower end.

Last evening the grounds had a velvety, black-on-black appearance, but this morning everything was white-on-white sharpness. The leaves and grassy weeds near the exit gate were white and stiff with frost. Most of the graves and monuments were on higher ground near the library end, but the few graves further up the slope on her right were hidden behind milky swirls. Eyeing the great gum trees thrusting branches at her through the fog, she wished she had brought a camera.

A familiar face appeared out of the mist. She smiled as she neared the statue of the Christ. The warmth of his deep red cloak seemed to vanquish the frosty cold. In the revealing light of day, she admired the statue's eyes. Their expression was knowing and kind making them seem real. Those wonderful eyes seemed to watch as she approached. Jennie realised that the eyes of all portraits and statues evoked this effect, but it still gave her a warm feeling.

As she stared up at the loving face, Jennie received an inspirational. These were ideas that helped make life seem more bearable and easier to understand. It was inspirationals that helped her to take control of the defeatist dreams. They weren't eliminated entirely, but they had lost their power to influence and upset once she realised these were false dramas that in no way showed her real worth. Before falling asleep at night, she reminded herself of this; and when she was able to carry this realisation into the world of dreams, she became more in control and powerful.

Her inspirational was now saying that contrary to popular belief, human love was not the most powerful force. While love was the most ennobling emotion and had the power to bring the most happiness, faith (unwavering belief) was needed to receive love from others – in the form of confidence in yourself and trust and understanding for others. But to have faith you didn't need love, although it was harder to experience faith and confidence if you were feeling angry or negative. And love wasn't more powerful than death. Only faith was. People who loved each other and wanted to be together forever were still separated through death. While love didn't stop anyone from dying, faith could conquer anything, even death.

Jennie tried to remember Jesus' take on the love and faith thing. He put emphasis on the power of faith and said we could achieve everything He did – if we had faith. And He conquered death. He always believed He would and had predicted his death and resurrection to His apostles. That was real faith. But what if love gave faith a purpose and a direction? What would happen if you combined faith and love, that is, evoked the two emotions at the same time to achieve something? Would the result be even more powerful? Isn't that what Jesus did? He had died to become the perfect sacrifice – to help others. That was real love, wasn't it?

Perhaps the third part of the perfect triangle, the other part of the Trine Unity, was wisdom. With knowledge, faith and love could human beings become as powerful, and more importantly, as perfect as the Divine Trinity? Could ordinary people attain the perfection of the Godhood?

As usual when she received an inspiration, she felt uplifted and happy. She smiled up at the statue and whispered, "I love you, Jesus."

She could have stayed meditating some more, but time was moving on. Focusing on the mist enshrouded world around her, she crunched along the path towards the main gates. The grave with the roses was now just a few steaming breaths away. She looked forward to having a closer look; but as she drew nearer, something even more fascinating came into view.

Although he never even glanced her way.

The young man in the wheelchair sat to the left of the rose-covered grave. He sprawled out of the chair like a force of nature that couldn't be contained. One long leg stretched past the footrest while the other thigh jutted out at a forty-five degree angle. The opposite arm disappeared over the side of the chair; the arm nearest her partly rested on the armrest and partly in his lap. His face inclined slightly towards his chest as if he was sleeping.

With mouth still agape, she tilted her head sidewise for a better view of his face. Unfortunately, his eyes were covered by dark glasses. The glass was reflective, effectively blocking any glimpse of his eyes; however, his dark eyebrows showed above the silver frames. He was unusual, too pretty for a man, his skin soft with a rosy golden glow. Despite the frostiness, he was lightly dressed in a white, loose-fitting, collarless shirt. It was an amazing shirt with voluminous amounts of material that made it seem several sizes too big. It shimmered and clung softly to his chest as if made from the most expensive silk. There was carelessness in the untied strings at the neck and the opening which sagged unevenly towards one hunky shoulder. The whiteness of his pristine shirt contrasted with the blue-black sheen of his hair. Jennie had never seen a man's hair that not only reached his shoulders but was as dark and shiny as moonlit water. It was also unusually styled with a curved, high fringe.

She gazed across at the roses which covered the wide gravesite he was facing. Like a cloak of red velvet the flowers flowed down the headstone, across the gravestone, over the sides of the marble surround until overlapping the graves either side. The marble showing beneath the roses had a flawless, snowy white surface. In the pale morning light the roses appeared less radiant – although still rich and gorgeous. How surreal was this scene of the unusual man and the flowers, both of which contrasted so vibrantly with the misty morning.

She tried to walk away but paused and looked back. He still hasn't moved. Perhaps he's a new kind of sculpture called living art. Her smile faded as she began to feel concern. I hope he's alright. He must be freezing.

His right hand made a slight jerking movement as it lay in his lap. Like the rest of him, the hand didn't look discoloured or cold. Normally she would rather die than speak to strange men, especially in isolated places, but he appeared vulnerable and boyish which set off her maternal instincts.

"Um, are you ok?"

His head continued to droop, and her question remained unanswered.

She hopped up and down on one foot wondering what to do next. Her fingers moved to her woollen scarf. She unwound the thick material then stepped towards him. A piece of silver jewellery caught her attention. The pendant was secured just below his strong neck by a silver chain. From the side she could just make out the colourful design within the silver circle. She wound the scarf around him capturing his soft hair beneath the woollen folds.

"Thank you," he murmured as if in a faraway dream.

Startled, she stepped backwards. "I thought you might be cold."

He didn't stir again, and Jennie had no more time to remain by his side. I hope he's alright, she thought as she strode towards the entrance gate. But she sensed he was better than alright.

Jennie was the first to arrive at work. She rubbed a frosted branch of the apple tree.
"Keep warm, little tree," she told it sympathetically. The tree appeared a fraction more cheerful from this small attention.

She unlocked the heavy sliding doors and disappeared inside. Moments later, she returned placing the 'Library Open' sandwich board on the footpath. After retrieving the books that had been dropped through the Late Returns chute, she waited impatiently for Sylvia and Helen. When she heard their chattering voices, she looked up from the pile of overdue notices with a smile of anticipation.

"Sycamore should be renamed Icicle Land!" Sylvia announced as she bustled into the room. Helen was still not to be seen. Jennie assumed she would be making her usual pit stop at the ladies room, just off the entrance foyer, to torture her unnaturally black hair and touch up her dramatic make up.

Jennie smiled warmly at Sylvia over the ancient wooden monolith that was the checkout desk. The prematurely white-haired woman in her mid-fifties smiled back just as warmly. Jennie couldn't have asked for a better boss than this understanding, kind lady. Sylvie's respect and affection meant a lot, gave Jennie confidence and a real reason to come to work. Today, her small bird-like face seemed to radiate good cheer. Always a model of understated elegance, her tiny frame was encased in a mohair twinset and woollen pants.

"You started work early today, you workaholic you," Sylvia said brightly, joining her behind the checkout desk that ran parallel to the wall behind them. Along the wall were two doorways, about eight feet apart. One opened into the tiny staff room on the left; the internet room was on the right.

As was sometimes the case, Jennie could think of nothing to say but gave her the biggest smile she could.

"And you probably worked late last night as well," Sylvia added.

"Not really. Well, only a little."

"And what are your plans for tonight?" Sylvia inspected her glasses and then adjusted them on the chain around her neck.

"Well, none." Jennie replied and grinned self-consciously.

Sylvia smiled, obviously use to the young woman’s lack of communication.

Helen's voice came from the other end of the long, narrow room. "What? A wild party animal like you?"

"Mmm," Jennie hummed, wishing she had a better comeback than this.

"If only there were some interesting people in this town to party with," Helen said, teetering towards them on spiky high-heeled boots.

Jennie noticed that the other Library Technician was decked out in black ankle boots, purple and black striped tights, a black mini skirt, and a purple jumper that matched her lipstick. For someone who was on the plump side, this wasn't a good look. While giving the appearance of being more at home in a shop for the macabre than a conservative library, Helen was actually very practical and down-to-earth. Disappointingly so, Jennie sometimes thought. It was actually Helen's current boyfriend who had inspired this look. Nick was originally from Melbourne and into Gothic music and the whole Goth scene, and as Helen was rather flamboyant, she had adopted the Goth style as well.

"I saw the most amazing man on my way to work this morning," Jennie abruptly announced.

Sylvie stared at her, looking over the top of her glasses.

"What? Where?" Helen demanded to know.

"In the old cemetery. He was like a statue," Jennie blurted, hoping they wouldn't think her strange for going through the abandoned cemetery.

As if recovering from a mild case of shock, Sylvia blinked several times then said, "Are you sure it wasn't one of the statues? They’re very life-like, I believe."

Jennie chuckled and shook her head. "He was as gorgeous as a statue but very real."

"I thought I knew all the eligibles around here." Helen sounded distracted as she examined her purple nail polish.

Sylvia switched on the computer sitting on the check-in part of the desk and waited for it to finish loading Windows. "What was he doing in the old cemetery?"

"He was sitting beside one of the graves. He didn't even look up." She was going to add something about her worry for his light state of dress and catatonic manner, but while she was trying to find the words, Helen jumped in.

"One doesn't normally notice other people in a cemetery, does one?" Helen said, adopting a posh accent. In the same accent she asked, "Do you, Sylvia?" In her normal voice she added, "Shows how desperate the single women are in this place. The newly bereaved are snapped up before anyone else can descend."

"They don't use that cemetery any more, do they," Sylvia observed.

Before Jennie could answer, Helen replied. "They've got the newer one out of town. This one has historical value, though, and crumbly old graves and statues. Pity the Council's let it run down."

"Oh, no," Jennie started to protest but was interrupted by Sylvia.

"The land isn't owned by the Council. It's a privately owned cemetery. The Catholic Church owns it, I think. It's a wonder they don't do more with it. The land would be worth a bit."

"The statues aren't crumbly at all. They're–they're amazingly intact," Jennie pointed out. "It's beautiful in there, like a huge garden."

Helen rolled her eyes. "Who's the gardener? Edgar Allan Poe?"

Sylvia gave an exaggerated shudder. "Rather creepy hidden behind that wall. I don't know how you can walk through there, Jennie. You must have nerves of steel."

"Or no imagination," Helen added.

"I have plenty of imagination, but I try to use it constructively." With these words Jennie surprised herself as for once she'd parried one of Helen's thrusts.

Although Helen could be sarcastic, Jennie still liked her; but she tried not to see anything bad in anyone, although those same people were sometimes quick to judge her.

"Tell us more about this hunk from the cemetery," Helen said. "Was he drop-dead gorgeous?"

"Ha, ha," Jennie said.

"Oh, she's a clever little thing," Sylvia joked of Helen.

"How old was he?" Helen persisted.

"Umm..."Jennie had to stop and think. He was young, obviously, but there was something ageless about him. His shoulders and arms were well-developed, although people who spent years in a wheel chair often had broad upper bodies while their lower body withered. His face – or what she could see of it – was unlined and boyish. And now she thought of it, there was also something sweet and gentle about him.

"Near your age, I think, about twenty-five."

Helen snorted. "Perhaps you could adopt him."

"Thanks." Once more she pictured his bare neck and hands and sleepy demeanour. "Perhaps he needs adopting," she said, half to herself.

As usual, Sylvia came to her rescue. "Jennie only looks in her mid twenties herself."

"Oh, she does not!"

"She certainly looks much younger than thirty-four."

Jennie gave a grateful smile. "Thank you, Sylvia."

It was true she looked younger. Partly this was because she was spectacularly slim. On the rare occasion she wore tight-fitting clothing, her lean torso, tiny waist and long, thin limbs made her appear as coltish as a teenager. The other reason for her youthful appearance was due to her shy manner and expressive face.

Helen sighed. "Who'd have thought the cemetery'd become the in-place to meet singles? Still, everything's pretty dead around Sycamore. The old cemetery's probably jumping by comparison."

Helen was always entertaining, and Jennie was touched by her interest. She felt an overwhelming urge to share the other details with Sylvia and Helen, too.

"Actually," she hesitantly began.

Two sets of eyes turned upon her.

"I'm almost afraid to tell you this..."

Sylvia and Helen exchanged furtive glances.

"Well," she begun again, then cleared her throat, "I don’t want you to think I’m crazy, but lately the cemetery is really jumping."

Speaking over the top of one another, Helen and Sylvia rushed to inquire what she was talking about. A patron entered the room from the foyer, but the women were too engrossed to notice.

"I also took a short cut through the cemetery last evening."

Helen's heavily made up eyes looked even huger while Sylvia slipped down her glasses to peer at Jennie more closely.

"An-y-way," Jennie continued, though regretting she hadn't kept to her plan of saying nothing, "while I was taking the short cut..."

"Yeah? Yeah?" Helen prompted, looking amused.

"I...heard music," she said, then smiled sheepishly.

"What kind of music?" Sylvia asked.

Helen hummed the theme for The Twilight Zone and Jennie laughed, relieved that some levity had been introduced. "It felt like I had stepped into The Twilight Zone at the time," she told them.

"And this music?" Sylvia prompted.

"It was wonderful and kind of sad. And there was a voice..."

"Good God," Sylvia said.

"...a man's voice. He was singing about being a shell full of sand." Jennie sighed. She'd really let the cat out of the bag now.

"So-o-o," Helen drawled, "not only is the cemetery the new place for singles, they've started up a nightclub."

Both Jennie and Sylvia laughed.

"I wonder where this music could have come from?" Sylvia asked, as she flipped through the files in a cabinet drawer. "Is there a house or a shop bordering the cemetery?"

"The cemetery takes up four entire blocks – well, more if you count the swampland at the end – and the music could be heard wherever I went," Jennie explained. "It wasn't coming from just one place."

Sylvia blinked a few times, started to say something, but then just perched her glasses back on her nose. She looked down to the computer keyboard and began typing.

Obviously now on a roll, Helen joked, "Perhaps we should frock up and hit the scene. "How about you, Sylvia? Feel like doing the Monster Mash at the next Graveyard Bash?"

"No, thank you," Sylvia said quietly and firmly. She looked over her glasses towards their first customer of the day and added in a warning whisper, "Girls, I think Malcolm is heading this way. Try to look like you're doing something."

"Oh, shhhh-eesh," Helen murmured. "He's all yours, Genesis."

Jennie's name was actually Genevieve, but Helen sometimes called her 'Genesis' because of the time she had quoted the Bible.

A huge bear of a man walked towards the desk carrying CDs, DVDs and books. Jennie watched, making a note of the way he walked and his appearance. He was new to the area, probably from Melbourne. His bushy white hair and old, nondescript clothing indicated he might lack confidence and energy. He probably wasn't working or, if he was, he would be doing poorly paid, repetitive work. She knew from past conversations with him that he didn't lack intelligence; to the contrary, he was articulate and well-read. But there was an air about him that suggested life hadn't been kind.

He dropped the objects onto the desk and grinned.

"How are you?" Jennie asked, and began running the scanner over the barcodes. Although Malcolm didn't answer and she didn’t look up, she could sense his eyes were upon her.

She briefly held up a book entitled From the Banshee to the Incubus. "This looks like an interesting title. I've heard of the Banshee. They're a female fairy from Irish mythology. And isn't an incubus supposed to be a malevolent spirit that leaches your, um-"

"Blood," he finished for her.

Being a big man with a big voice, his answer seemed to reverberate across the quiet library.

"I was going to say spiritual energy," she said, smiling.

"None of these creatures are just stories, you know. Some of the things I've seen and heard would scare the bi-goodies out of you."

"Oh." She wondered if he was a mild eccentric and also what he must have been through to bring him to this point in his life.

He leaned closer to the desk but only lowered his voice a notch. "Most people don’t realise that these so-called mythical creatures are part of another realm that surrounds this one, for the most part unseen, but more powerful than the one we can see."

"Oh, really?" Jennie said, blinking. Most people around Sycamore wouldn't have dared voice such an opinion even if they suspected such a thing – which was unlikely. These country folk believed only in what they could see, or if they had a religious up-bringing, in what they'd been taught. In the past she had wondered if what he claimed might be true. She just wished it was someone else doing the confirming.

Malcolm tapped his finger on the case of a DVD. "I have a feeling you’d really get off on something like this." He had finally lowered his voice to below the level of a sonic boom. "The truth is out there," he added.

Jennie smiled as she angled her head in an attempt to read the title of this provocative DVD. "Is it The X Files?" she joked.

"There’s a meeting of The Believers, tonight, at my place. You'd be most welcome if you’d like to come," he added, staring into her eyes.

"Thank you for the invite, but I'll have something on tonight." Jennie gave him an apologetic smile.

He seemed unperturbed and smiled cheerfully as he replied, "Well, perhaps some other time."

"I hope you enjoy your books and DVD," she said pleasantly.

He smiled again then, mercifully, gathered up his borrowings and departed.

As soon as the door closed behind him, Helen quipped, "You've finally found your soul mate."

Jennie wrinkled her nose and chuckled.

"So what have you got on tonight?"

"My jammies."

Helen rolled her eyes.


On the dot of five o'clock, Jennie whisked down the library steps and across the road. The sky was still clear and blue. After the frost had melted and the fog dispersed, the day had blossomed.

The cemetery looked very different to the shadowy eeriness of the previous night and the austere whiteness of the morning. As the sun hovered near the horizon, sky and foliage were stained with amber light and everything appeared golden and glittery. Gossamer rays of sunlight that had pierced the overhead foliage glittered with dust motes and perhaps something more magical. As she hurried down the path, Jennie again admired the bright winter flowers that bloomed in the aisles and between the graves. However, towering above the trees from a distant hill was the one thing that remained dark and shadowy: Mordred's Castle.

It must be a huge place, Jennie thought, eyeing the black towers and their equally black peaked roofs. Even from this distance it looked legendary. Although it was a tourist attraction open to the public in summer, she had never actually visited, but she'd read about the castle from reference material in the library. The architectural design appeared to be stunning and one-of-a-kind. Flying from the direction of the castle, a black winged bird swooped and then disappeared into the trees fringing the cemetery grounds.

She slowed her pace as she came nearer to the aisle with the rose-covered grave. From several rows before the rosy grave, a tall monument shaped like an obelisk obscured her view of the grave, itself. When she past the row with the monument, she saw him still sitting beside the roses.

Has he been there all day? She walked a few paces down the aisle, but he continued staring moodily at the grave. She walked closer. He didn't move an impressive muscle.

"Umm," she began.

Still looking away, he held up her scarf in his right hand.

"Oh, thank you." She stepped closer and took the scarf. He dropped his arm.

"Um," she began again, "how are you feeling?"

He looked around. For the first time she saw his face almost straight on; although, frustratingly, he still wore the reflective glasses. There was no doubt he was gorgeous in the extreme. She almost chuckled but fought to compose herself. His appearance seemed strange as he didn't fit any stereotype or person she'd ever seen. Most often you really could tell a book by its cover as everything about a person combined to tell the story of their lives. But this man's appearance had no story that she could understand.

He looked back at the rosy grave as if his interest was already lost.

There was something about the softness of his face which made him appear gentle and appealing; yet his full, pale lips were set in a churlish scowl. His strong, dimpled chin gave his feminine face more masculinity while his prominent cheekbones and straight nose added to the classy look she had noted earlier in the immaculate clothes and square set of his shoulders. The long, fine hair gave the air of someone more bohemian – in a sensitive, arty kind of way while his colouring suggested someone with Latin or Arabian or Indian or even Native American heritage; and yet his feminine features weren't really from these races.

Then it occurred why he might be so different: he was avant-garde, modern and sensitive. This was the new age kind of guy she'd heard about but never encountered in Sycamore. He must be from Melbourne. No, Sydney.

As if sensing Jennie was still nearby, he sighed, looked up and shook back his hair. Jennie smiled awkwardly but could think of nothing to say. Usually people were inhibited or outgoing when encountered by a stranger of the opposite sex, but this man gave the impression he didn't want or need to make any effort. Despite his looks, his indifferent, arrogant attitude was puzzling as, after all, he was confined to a wheel chair.

"Um," she began for the third time. As if to encourage her, he raised his eyebrows quizzically.

Although he now appeared to be blooming with health, she risked saying, "I was worried about you."'

He gave another small sigh and looked back toward the rose-covered grave.

Her gaze followed his. "The roses, they're mesmerizing. Such a deep red."

"All red roses are deeply red, aren't they?" he asked in a soft, masculine voice. She wasn't surprised his voice had the trace of an accent.

Jennie wanted to laugh both with nervousness and delight. She wasn't offended; in fact, she thought this an interesting response. Even though he wasn't looking at her, she smiled her sweetest smile. "But there are so many, so perfect...and blooming in winter."

A faint smile appeared on his lips. "Winter roses never die."

She peered at his profile. From this poetic comeback, she decided he was definitely an arty type – maybe a poet or an artist who suffered for his art. She pictured him working over a paint-spattered pine table in a studio apartment agonising whether to add a blue or purple background to a still life of the luscious roses. Jennie became aware that minutes had ticked past, and she was still wordlessly staring.

He snapped a rose from the briar. "Have a love stalk," he said tossing it in her direction.

She jabbed herself on a thorn as she caught it.

“Ouch!” A drop of blood oozed from her finger and fell onto a petal, merged and disappeared. As the petals were the same colour as her blood, she wondered if the drop had rolled invisibly over the side. She held up the rose to examine the underneath. Realising he was watching, she flashed another awkward smile.

Furrows appeared between his brows as if he was equally puzzled by her.

"It's beautiful," she said as if in admiration of the rose, but never taking her eyes from him. "Love stalk is a very poetic name for a rose. Are you a poet?"

"You're an innocent," he said, emphasizing the final letter.

She was startled but attempted to gather herself. "I-I saw these last night. They...had a faint glow about them."

His handsome face was still marred by a scowl. "Do you come here at night?"

"NO! I Well, last night was the only night."

In a low voice he said, "Be careful, I've heard a strange man haunts these grounds at night."

Wide-eye, Jennie exclaimed, "I know! I heard him...last night...singing!"

He stared at her for a few moments. She wondered what he was thinking and wished she could see eyes.

Then he firmly grasped the outer rim of the large back wheels. "Anyway, there is somewhere I must be. People are waiting for me." With practised ease he turned the chair, manoeuvred past and then wheeled towards the pathway.

Despite her fear that he probably thought her a lunatic on the fringe, she called, "Ehm, I don't know your name!"

"Neither do a lot of people," he answered, without raising his voice or turning his head.

"Ouch," Jennie said then screwed up her nose and chuckled. He was as prickly, luscious and mysterious as the roses growing over the grave. And she would probably never see him again.

"Oh well, que sera, sera", she said to herself, determined not to give him another thought.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Some Writing Fun

I discovered this via Nathan Branford's blog. Nathan is a well-known agent for Curtis Brown and his blog is worth visiting for the wealth of writing related information, sheer entertainment and charm.

You can create a word cloud of your latest work-in-progress by pasting a copy of your ms into

This was the result of having a word cloud done on Winter Roses Never Die. The bigger the word, the more often it has been used. You can click on the picture for a larger image.

Wordle:winter roses