Liebster Award

So, thank you to Roderick Wills over at Roderick Will’s 365 Short Stories for my nomination! Roderick is producing some great material so please check it out!

My answers to the questions he asked are as follows:

  1. What three books would you pick if you were told that these were the only ones you could read for the rest of your life? (No encyclopedias)

Firstly, if someone wants to pick an encyclopedia then they need serious help! Anyway, my three books: The Night Watch by Terry Pratchett (I love Vimes, and I am not ashamed), Dracula by Bram Stoker (so many people haven’t read the book, I promise you won’t regret it) and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (John Silver remains by favourite bad guy of all time).

2. If you were to live in any part of the world for a year with all expenses paid where would you go and why?

New Zealand, I love the way of life and the people there. It’s the only place where you can go trekking through snow one day and surf the next!

3. What type of computer do you have?

HP Pavilion laptop

4. Did you have to check to answer the previous question?

…maybe

5. Are there any people, famous or otherwise, whom you have attempted to or are emulating?

I think there are bits of people around me that I respect and therefore emulate, although I actually think fictional characters have guided me a great deal more. There’s a lot of good advice to be found in the pages of books!

6. Would you rather go to a music festival of your choice or on a week long cruise to a destination of your choice?

I think cruise, I’ve been to a lot of festivals but I’d like a cruise around the Pacific Islands!

7. Puff on a joint or sip on some wine?

Wine, I love me some Sauvinion Blanc

8. What is your earliest memory?

Seeing snow for the first time when we moved to England, the house we rented was behind a big coal shed and I remember finding little pieces of black in the snow.

9. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Omlete

10. Would you ever get a tattoo? If you already do or would what’s the meaning behind your ink?

I’ve thought a lot about getting a small bee in rememberance of Granny Weatherwax and Terry Pratchett, his characters shaped me growing up and Granny Weatherwax was an amazing woman.

11. Luck, Fate or Karma? Is what we do predestined or do our actions influence our future?

I believe very strongly that we make our own future, that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

So I hope that was enlightening! I’m nominating the following people because I enjoy their blogs and hope this gives them a little boost too:

Shaun Kellet

Rosemawrites

Nashra

Maria

Sarah Doughty

What you need to do:

Make sure to answer the questions below, then nominate up to 11 other blogs. The idea is to nominate those with 500 followers or less. Ask those you’ve nominated 11 questions and make sure to add the Liebster Award sticker to your blog!

The Questions:

  1. What character has stayed with you the most through your life?
  2. What one piece of advice has helped you the most with writing?
  3. If you could only have chocolate or cheese for the rest of your life which would you pick?
  4. Have you ever had your beliefs really challenged, how did you deal with it?
  5. You get to change one thing for the past, what is it?
  6. Describe the most perfect day you ever experienced.
  7. What one thing annoys you more than anything else?
  8. What was the last dream you can remember?
  9. If there was one movie you would make everyone watch, what would it be?
  10. I’ve written a lot about how people’s lives might be impacted by the discovery of intelligent alien life, how do you think it might affect yours?
  11. Who, alive in th world right now, would you most want to meet?

Enjoy!

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Pahimakas

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘pahimakas’ or ‘last fairwell’. It’s part of a series charting the impact of the discovery of intelligent life in space on five ordinary people over the course of a month. Enjoy!

Image taken from Buzzfeed: “36 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The Philippine Language”. All credits goes to them.

***

“Are you sure about this? You and Adam loved this place, Irene.”

Irene rolled her eyes and carried on packing up a box of kitchen utensils. Sarah meant well, but the little apartment in Sydney should have been emptied and sold a long time ago. Irene hadn’t been able to face it since Adam passed, but it felt right to move on and to let go of a place that she would never share with him again.

“I’m sure and the memories we made here were enough to last a lifetime, it’s time someone else has the same opportunity,” she replied, examining a novelty corkscrew she couldn’t remember buying. “I think I need to have a junk sale or something, I don’t even know why we owned half this stuff! Maybe when I’m back from my trip?”

She tossed the corkscrew into a large box of random items and dug back into the draw of implements. Having been without so many of the items for so long she began to seriously consider the practicality of trucking it all back to her home in the Blue Mountains.

“So you’re still going then?” Sarah asked, her voiced sounded a little off and Irene glanced from her task to find Sarah staring at an old photo of everyone at the beach.

“Sarah?”

Her friend looked up at Irene and smiled sadly.

“I loved him too you know,” Sarah said. “Not like you, of course. But in my own way, as friends, and I miss what we all had. I thought we’d been so lucky to have the chance to grow old together, old people moaning about bloody kids getting on our nerves.”

Irene sighed, her chest tightening the same way it had a thousand times over the past year. But she’d done a great deal of soul searching since she’d begun to come alive again and thought she had a little wisdom to share with her friend.

“I wasn’t sure I could be anything but a shell of a person after Adam died,” she admitted. “Oh sure, I went about my day, I saw people. And I felt nothing. But I realised recently that there’s still so much life out there, the world will keep turning whether I’m part of it or not. And I do want to be part of it, because as long as I’m really living then it feels a little bit like Adam is living too.”

Sarah nodded but kept her face turned from Irene, just as she had when they were teenagers and argued. Setting aside the box of utensils, Irene took her friend by the shoulders and pulled her into a firm hug. She felt Sarah shudder against her, body tense and was pushed away.

“I’m sorry, it just feels so final. Like selling this place is a last goodbye,” her friend explained and gave a watery smile. “Let me pull myself together, no more bloody drama. I promise.”

The sentiment hit close to home but Irene nodded and waved Sarah out of the room. She looked around the apartment, memorising the moment and the chapter of her life that selling it would close. It took a moment to remind herself that it wasn’t the end of her story, just another beginning.

Kinaadman

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘kinaadman’ or ‘knowledge’. It’s part of a series charting the impact of the discovery of intelligent life in space on five ordinary people over the course of a month. Enjoy!

Image taken from Buzzfeed: “36 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The Philippine Language”. All credits goes to them.

***

Maliha shuffled her notes and tried to make sense of the words where the ink had been blurred by her fingers. She couldn’t shake the feeling that everything was moving too fast, like a boulder gathering speed as it rolled downhill; sure to smash anything in its path without direction or control. But almost despite herself she couldn’t seem to stop; in less than five days their building had been cleaned and rearranged. She and Ramin now had offices and the exhibition room was coming along nicely. Ramin had used the time to track down some of their friends and explained Maliha’s vision, some had been interested enough to agree to help out at least temporarily.

But it all needed money, and there was precious little left until they attracted sponsors, which was why it was so important that she make a good impression on Tariq Khan. The man was well known for philanthropic acts and had been vocal about his interest in SUPARCO, Pakistan’s space agency, joining worldwide efforts to develop information on the exoplanet believed to be the source of the signal.

“He’ll be just a few minutes longer Ms. Hassan.”

Maliha, startled from her thoughts, flashed a smile and nod at Khan’s secretary. The chair she sat in was comfortable but she couldn’t help but fidget a little, the air seemed sticky and close despite fans turning overhead. The door to Khan’s office clicked open and Maliha flinched, dropping one of her cards. She scrambled to pick it up, and felt very luck when she realised the gentleman who walked through the door was not Khan himself.

“You can go straight through Ms. Hassan,” the secretary instructed and Maliha chose to ignore the way the woman’s lips had turned up at the corners.

Inside Khan’s office was surprisingly plain, and very modern, decorated in shades of white and grey with a large glass desk. But where the office was simple, Tariq Khan was not. Surprisingly youthful for his age, his thick black hair was cut very short on the sides and tapered into a neat beard. His clothing was in a traditional style and made from the kind of elaborate fabrics that Maliha associated with Eid celebrations, in shades of gold and red with a cream sash fastening over one shoulder. She felt positively casual in her dress by comparison and tugged at the edge of one long sleeve uncomfortably.

Realising she’d been staring, Maliha rushed forward and instinctively offered her hand, only realising her error when it was too late. “Thank you for seeing me Mr Khan, particularly on such short notice.”

Khan smiled and took her hand in a firm shake.

“Not at all Ms. Hassan. From your accent I think you must be American?” he said and gestured for her to sit.

“Pakistani by birth, but raised from childhood in Canada,” Maliha replied. “Most of my mother’s family still live around Karachi however.”

Khan nodded benignly but his eyes were sharp, he reminded Maliha of her father in his mannerisms and she made up her mind to take the plunge rather than dance around her request.

“Mr Khan, as I’m sure you suspect, I’m here to ask for money,” she began. “In the past few weeks there have been fourteen attacks on individuals accused of blasphemy following their sharing information about the signal, this doesn’t include some of the abuse and threats key scientists within the Pakistani community are receiving. I want to combat the problem through the sharing of knowledge. Not at universities, not in private seminars where the wealthy can agree with each other, but in an open location that offers a safe haven for learning and sharing unbiased information with the general population.”

Chest heaving, Maliha paused. Khan was watching her keenly but made no move to speak so she continued. “The work my colleagues and I have already done demonstrates a significant population using online forums and social media as a speaking platform, but there is intrinsic mistrust of internet data; it’s so easy to falsify. We already have a building we believe can be appropriately secured for use as a physical location for peer to peer discussion as well as guest lectures and exhibitions, but not the funding to see it through.”

Khan hummed and sucked at his teeth slightly as Maliha finished but she waited, unwilling to be drawn into babbling any further. Silence was an important tactic and she let it linger.

“I like the principal of the idea and I commend your bravery in approaching me in a forthright manner,” khan said after a moment. “But I won’t commit until I see a working development plan.”

Maliha felt a stab of satisfaction and reached into her bag for the USB stick she’d prepared.

“If you are willing to look this over, I have taken the liberty of putting together an expenditure and business plan along with a 12 month vision timeline,” she replied as she handed the device to him.

Eye’s narrowed, he accepted it and tapped it on the desk thoughtfully. “I’ll look at it,” he said. “Tell me, why do you think spreading knowledge like this is so important?”

While the question wasn’t entirely unexpected, Maliha took a moment to think before she answered, tugging once more at her sleeves as she thought.

“I suppose I believe that the world is going to change now,” she replied slowly. “And I want Pakistan and our people to be an active and important part of that change. We can’t change the history that led us to shape the society we have now, but by sharing knowledge we can give people the opportunity to shape their future.”

Khan stared for a moment then turned to the intercom on his desk.

“Mrs Zaidi, please prepare a cheque for Ms. Hassan before her departure. She’ll let you know the value.”

Dalisay

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘dalisay’ or ‘pure’. It’s part of a series charting the impact of the discovery of intelligent life in space on five ordinary people over the course of a month. Enjoy!

Image taken from Buzzfeed: “36 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The Philippine Language”. All credits goes to them.

***

The lights were dimmed for the movie, but Yuna hadn’t bothered to turn them up again when it finished. She and Shima were comfortable in the artificial twilight, the DVD menu looping in the background as they talked.

It was such simple conversation; their day, people at work, plans to buy a car. And yet Yuna found herself relaxed, happy even. The first date at her home had always been a stage in the game, an invitation to intimacy on the promise of maintaining a socially acceptable and therefore mutually beneficial relationship.

But when Shima had mentioned his desire to share an old movie with her, it seemed completely natural to extend an invitation for a casual Sunday together. The panic afterwards to plan a meal and select a suitably casual outfit had rendered Yuna almost unrecognisable even to herself, but her practiced dinner, nabe followed by flan, and the standard black dress felt wrong when she imagined Shima. He liked colour and spice and relaxation, and Yuna found herself wanting the same things.

“Ah, it’s getting late and I have to get the train,” Shima said, glancing at his watch. “I wish I could spend every Sunday like this, your curry making skills are incredible!”

“So soon? I have dessert too… you seemed to like the green tea cake from Super Sweet very much when we visited,” Yuna replied. Her chest felt tight at the idea that Shima might leave, and she’d deliberately hidden dessert when she’d gone to fetch drinks from the kitchen earlier with the intention of extending the evening as along as possible. “Shall I fetch it? The trains will run for another hour.”

“Yuna! You are a devil woman, but I can’t say no!” Shima declared, grinning as he threw himself back onto the cushions.

Hiding a secret smile, Yuna collected the two plates of cake from the fridge. A glimpse of her reflection in the window gave her a moment of pause and she glanced at the doorway to the living room. After a moment of hesitation she put down the plates and let down her hair, ruffling it slightly, before she bit at her bottom lip to make it a little fuller. Maybe they weren’t playing by the rules of the game but that didn’t mean Yuna wasn’t ready for a little seduction.

“Please enjoy,” she announced as she returned, passing Shima’s portion of cake into his eager hands.

“Still so delicious!” he exclaimed after the first bite, although Yuna noticed the way his eyes slid over the changes in her appearance. He was too clever a man not to notice or to understand what it meant. “Your hair looks very pretty, I think this is the first time I’ve seen it loose.”

“I thought I should relax a little,” Yuna said. She felt her heart begin to beat a little quicker and put down her plate. Nervousness was a new sensation and she couldn’t help the way she tucked her hair behind her ears or dropped her gaze to Shima’s mouth.

“Hey, Yuna… I-I have a question,” he said, setting his own plate aside and leaning closer until Yuna could almost feel the heat of his body radiating in the inches that separated them. “Well, not a question maybe, but I would like very much to kiss you, if you don’t mind?”

The smile that crept over the corners of her lips was unstoppable but rather than answer in words, Yuna lifted a hand pressed it to the side of Shima’s face to draw him near. The kiss was gentle, not a great deal more than the damp press of lips together, but the sensation spread like the sun through her flesh and settled bone deep. The coldness that Yuna so carefully preserved around her heart was warmed, if not quite melted, and she wondered what it would be like to feel Shima’s heart beating in rhythm with her own.

When he withdrew the warmth lingered and he smiled at her so softly that Yuna wasn’t sure where to look. “Now I really must go, a perfect evening should be ended at the right moment I think.”

As much as she would have liked to protest, Yuna appreciated the sentiment. Besides, it gave her time to plan another evening, one meant for seduction.

“If you’re free next week, I’d like to see the sequel?”

Likha

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘likha’ or ‘to create womething through intelligence and skill’. It’s part of a series charting the impact of the discovery of intelligent life in space on five ordinary people over the course of a month. Enjoy!

Image taken from Buzzfeed: “36 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The Philippine Language”. All credits goes to them.

***

The last sample of music from Irene was perfect, it had a strange kind of rhythm that fit the prompt for ‘peace’ beautifully and dropped into the playlist without any tweaking.

“Dad? Dad, come listen to this!” he called, setting the record to play.

His father shuffled into the room, gripping the doorframe heavily until Jo manoeuvred the chair into a suitable sitting position. The groan as he sat gave Jo momentary pause, his father was not particularly mobile but would rather have a tooth pulled than show any outward sign of discomfort.

“Are you ok?” he asked but was waved away with a scowl.

“Just play it, you’ve gone on about this whole message thing enough as it is,” his father replied.

Jo pressed play, eager to hear the collection of music play as a single entity for the first time. His palms itched with a fine sheen of sweat and he rubbed them against his jeans, eyes focused on his father’s reaction, as the piece began. He’d planned every section carefully to represent an emotive learning experience, something that would emphasise a flavour of earth; its history, its people and the desire to pave the future.

It was of moderate length and the first passage was linked to the ideas of creation and dawning, but every section was linked by the use of the key sounds from the signal woven into the underscore. Jo knew the moment Irene suggested the idea that it was perfect and he could hardly wait to send her the complied track. Her lawyer was still looking over the basic paperwork they’d put together, but it was Jo’s hope that they would finish up in the next few weeks in time to meet the first submission deadline.

“What do you-” he began, but was cut off by a sharp glare and a raised finger; a sign that he should be quiet or be in trouble that his dad had used since childhood.

Silenced, Jo began to pace as he listened to the next movement. Irene had responded to prompts for history and evolution by weaving together technical styles, composition and instruments from varying cultures and time periods until a much more modern sound developed. His breath caught as he realised the elements of conflict and peace had merged seamlessly and his heart sped with the tempo then dropped as the original Void Sounds sample filled the air and spilled into the idea of future and possibility.

As it finished Jo realised his face was wet and wiped his cheeks with the corner of his shirt, blaming the soreness of his eyes on the late nights of editing and merging different samples.

“Well, that was different,” Jo’s father said, his chin turned from Jo. “I’m sure it will do very well indeed.”

He stood, wobbling slightly, but pushed at Jo when he tried to offer a helping arm.

“No, no,” he said, and Jo noticed how gruff his father’s voice had turned. “I can get about just fine.”

“Dad?” Jo frowned, he wasn’t sure of the kind of reaction that he’d expected; although he’d have guessed either effusive congratulations or outright disparagement. His dad had become blunt in his old age and discomfort. “Is something wrong?”

His father turned slightly and for the first time since his mother’s funeral Jo saw tears on his face.

“Don’t embarrass an old man!” came the snapped response. “I’m going to go watch the news, get a view on your competition maybe. I’ll let you know if there’s anyone better yet.”

A half smile crept across Jo’s face as he watched his dad shuffle away. It wasn’t the response he’d expected, but maybe it was better.

Makisig

 

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘makisig’ or ‘dashing, well dressed’. It’s part of a series charting the impact of the discovery of intelligent life in space on five ordinary people over the course of a month. Enjoy!

Image taken from Buzzfeed: “36 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The Philippine Language”. All credits goes to them.

***

It was difficult not to fidget with his tie as Luke checked his outfit once more in the hall mirror, but Momma had threatened to change the wifi password for a week if he didn’t leave the damned thing alone for the rest of the night. And Momma never made a threat she wouldn’t carry out.

“You look fine baby, Dr Strass and his friends are gonna be very impressed,” she said, emerging from the sitting room.

Momma looked pretty great too; she’d put on the dress she’d bought for New Year’s Eve and a row of cream pearls that glowed against the deep brown of her skin. The blue of her dress matched Luke’s suit closely enough that their reflections half merged when she slipped an arm around his shoulders and gave him a squeeze of solidarity.

“I just don’t want to embarrass Dr Strass, there’s a whole bunch of important folk gonna be there tonight,” Luke replied.

“I know, I know. Why’d you think I’m polished up and I read all those darned papers you been bringing home? Not that I understood more’n half of it, and when I read them out to your poor suffering Aunty Michele I thought that woman’s head was about to fall off from confusion!” Momma said, a wide grin on her face.

Luke snorted at the thought of his aunty trying to make sense of the research proposals and grant documentation. For all her play, Momma was a sharp woman and Luke hadn’t need to explain anything more than once despite some pretty high level theoretical principals. Aunty Michele on the other hand; she might be Momma’s best friend but a sharp tack she was not. And Luke wasn’t at all nervous about Momma coming with him to the dinner, it was the mess he might make at issue.

If only Dr Strass hadn’t taken him aside to let him know that some of the people attending were from prestigious science colleges, to suggest that it would be a good idea for Luke to start a little networking if he was going to be making applications in the fall. Ever since the conversation it was all Luke had been able to think about, because maybe Dr Strass thought he was pretty good at stuff but one dumb comment and Luke could mess the whole thing up.

“Baby, I can almost hear your thoughts whirling. Take a breath for me,” Momma told him and waited until he did as she said. “Good, now let it go and let all those crazy terrible ideas of yours go too. You’re a smart, handsome young man and wherever you end up will be lucky to have you, one dinner isn’t going to change the world. And even if it did, it wouldn’t change how proud I am of you. Now get your butt moving to the car, ‘cause being late isn’t an option tonight.”

The edges of Luke’s mouth tipped in a smile and he nodded, pocketing his wallet and keys. But he couldn’t help but wonder if Momma was wrong, as guilty as it made him feel, about one dinner not changing the world.

Amihan

In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘amihan’ or ‘northest wind’. It’s part of a series charting the impact of the discovery of intelligent life in space on five ordinary people over the course of a month. Enjoy!

Image taken from Buzzfeed: “36 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The Philippine Language”. All credits goes to them.

***

The wind running through the chimes sent them in a whirl of music, at the pitch Irene had been attempting to recreate in her studio with little success for hours. And wasn’t that just the lesson of the day? When you decide nothing will do but the sound of a genuine wind chime, go record them in the actual damned wind.

Her beaten up kangaroo weathervane swung sharply towards the north; trade winds blowing in her father used to call it. Although she doubted a northeast wind would be that helpful in the southern hemisphere. The chimes were caught again but in a clashing spiral, the soft breeze whipping into the kind of frenzy that happened before a storm.

Chewing at her lip, Irene considered the recording equipment. The chimes were just right, exactly what the sound needed to meet the set of word prompts Jo had sent through. But maybe she was missing something, maybe a good storm would be the next piece of the puzzle. She hung the chimes back over her front door as she mulled the idea over, a pang in her chest at thought that Adam would have been able to offer her the guidance she required. He’d always been better at emotive composition.

A fat raindrop landed at Irene’s feet, making up her mind. She gathered the recording equipment and headed through her house and onto the covered veranda at the back. Already the wind had bent the gum trees in her garden nearly in half as the storm rolled in on the back of heavy black clouds; rain drops falling first in twos and threes until the heavens opened and the downpour started in earnest. It sounded like drums, like rhythm and life.

Irene hurried to get the microphone out and set it up on the patio table, but the wind was fierce and the stand fell. After struggling for a few more moments she gave in and sat, microphone in hand, and watched as the storm raged around her. Whatever recording she made, it was going in the music now come hell or high water.