Writing and Work Update, July and August 2020

What a couple of weeks! I knitted more than I ever knitted before to help out a colleague and also wrote a lot – both for work and pleasure.

What I’ve been up to work-wise

Since I last wrote, I finished the knitting ebook (which you get when you buy a set of children’s knitting needles) as well as some more blog posts for KnitPal, including beginner guides to lace knitting and Tunisian crochet.

In awesome news I also got the one medical content writer freelance job that I really, really, really wanted. I’ve started my first formal assignment this week after writing a few sample articles for the company. I’m also hoping and praying that I get another medical content writer job that I applied for. I truly feel that I can make a difference with my writing doing this kind of work much more than only writing marketing content writing. Plus it will be a good challenge!

So, all in all the past month hasn’t been too bad at all work-wise. I had imagined taking something like 6 months before finding any sort of extra freelance or full-time work! I am under no illusion that getting work right now is a huge blessing. And not even a blessing in disguise. More like a mic-dropping, fireworks-lighting-up-the-sky, walking-away-from-an-explosion type of blessing.

Sky lit up with fireworks, person standing in foreground holding a lit sparkler
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

Notecards! More notecards! Moar notecards!

I’m busy with the Mega, Macro outline of Ruon Chronicles otherwise. Instead of plotting directly into Scrivener, though, I’m making use of notecards of different sizes and colours.

A5-size, white cards are for the overall macro outline and the macro outline of each book. A6 and A7-size white cards will then be for breaking down the macro outline into parts and chapters. I also have pastel-coloured notecards that I’ll be using to plot out the different story arcs and character POVs.

To find out more about The Ruon Chronicles and follow my adventures in writing them, head over to my Substack newsletter!

Lockdown Chronicles — 23 June

In which I publish some fiction, clear out a desk, and redesign the website to be more accessible.

Another week has flown by, I’m a year older, and we’ve now passed the winter solstice!

Today it’s (finally) our department’s turn to go and clear our desks out at the office, which is really sad. At least I’m going with one of my friends at work, so I won’t be standing there all alone packing up my stuff. That would’ve been a lot worse.

I guess today will be some sort of closure because up until now our desks have just been standing there like they were in March (well, besides being cleaned, obviously) and I’ve only taken my dictionaries and reference books home.

This made me realise that I now need to move quite a few books on my shelves around to be able to fit them in. Luckily I did get another bookshelf a few months ago that I haven’t filled yet (can you believe it!). It seems that the universe knew the other books would be coming home and would need space, haha!

Fiction to read over on Substack

Sunday’s fiction over on The Worlds of Carin Marais was “A River Once Ran Here”, a fairytale-esque story of a silver river on the moon, dancing, and adventurous owls, among others.
Click on the link to read “A River Once Ran Here”.

Yeah… I didn’t quite think the design through

If you’ve been following the blog, you would have seen that I’ve done a redesign of the new design last week. This was after doing an accessibility test and finding out that the site really wasn’t optimised at all. Oops. Huge oops.

I was so taken with making it look pretty that I let that part of the design slip completely. I still like the new design though, and am working towards making the site as accessible as possible with regard to colors, fonts, etc.

In writing news

I’m really looking forward to sharing this week’s Sunday Fiction, the outline of which is basically done now. It’s tentatively called “The Night the Stars Beckoned”, but that may change once I’ve actually finished writing the story.

I also still need to finish editing “The White Road to Cremation” before sending that off again and should get that done by Friday.

Wednesday’s “Writing Wednesday” post over on Substack will be about the Ruon magic in order to bring the new readers up to speed with The Ruon Chronicles. I think I’ve also finally figured out how to structure the first two to three books of the series so that I don’t have a lull of “not much happens here” between book one and two. I’ll go over all of this on the Substack newsletter though, so keep an eye out! (Plus, with this plan, I get to keep all the characters, yay!)

In reading news

Okay, so I haven’t finished the Author Brand book, and also started The Heart to Start by David Kadavy. I’m still looking for a good pre-bedtime read though, as all my reads at the moment seem to either be dark or have exercises and then I rather want to do the exercise than actually go to bed.

I have been listening to the The Lord of the Rings audiobooks (marvelous!), but have now reached the end of The Return of the King. But, with Ian Holm passing this week, I don’t have the heart to finish it just yet…

I have to add that The Lord of the Rings usually ends in ugly crying for me in any case, so this will just lead to extra ugly crying. Which is a lot easier to do when listening to the audiobook, mind you. At least then I can take my glasses off rather than trying to read through tears and blurry glasses!

Until later (this week), keep well!

PS. Remember to go check out “A River Once Ran Here”!

Thoughts On Books: Endless Ideas

Endless Ideas: Master Bottomless Creativity by Sean M. Platt and Neeve Silver

A few weeks ago I picked up Endless Ideas, which I had first heard from on The Story Studio podcast.

Initially, I wanted to use it for my article writing more than my fiction writing as I don’t seem to have too many problems getting ideas for fiction. Articles, though — especially work articles where I don’t have a huge say in what I’m writing about — I can always use more inspiration and ideas for. The strategies in the book, however is too good not to use them for fiction as well, though. After all, is there even a thing like too many (good) ideas?

Cover of Endless Ideas book by Sean M Platt and Neeve Silver
Endless Ideas: Master Bottomless Creativity by Sean M. Platt & Neeve Silver

“Ideas come from a restructuring of the information that’s already in your mind.”

Endless Ideas, Pratt & Silver

I really like the way in which Endless Ideas is laid out. Starting with reasons why you (yes, little ol’ you) really are creative even though you may believe differently when you pick up the book, it moves on to show you how to make sure that you have the right “stuff” in your mind to get ideas from.

That is also something that I have been neglecting; i.e. watching TV and Movies and reading fiction. I seem to have gone on a non-fiction binge (which included Endless Ideas, ha!) and really need to get back to enjoying some more fiction again.

“If you stir the pot just a little every day, you’ll open a faucet of ideas that doesn’t turn off.”

Endless Ideas, Pratt & Silver

There are also exercises that you can start doing and pointers to help you not only conjure up a bunch of new ideas (that you can actually use) in a short time, but also to get you into the flow state while working. And I’m sure most of us can use more time in the flow state as well.

In conclusion I would recommend getting this book if you just want strategies to get more ideas, etc. and don’t care as much about what the brain is actually doing to conjure them up. Basically you need to know about the conscious and subconscious and you’re good to go. That was specifically what I was looking for and will therefore give the book five stars.

With the book you also get access to the Stone Tablet resources which is a great way to check out the other books in the series.

Lockdown Chronicles — 12 June

In which I get my writing back on track, winter finally arrives, and I venture into The Outside World

Welcome back to another Lockdown Chronicle. This week has been quite a productive one with regard to work and my own projects. It also seemed to fly by at breakneck speed because of it!

It was overall a good work week, though, and even my flaring let up from yesterday (the reason for which will become apparent below).

The Week’s posted stories and articles

The week started off well with a short book-review-thoughts-on-what-I’ve-read on the blog on Tuesday, followed by the first “Writing Wednesday” post on the newsletter on, well, Wednesday.

Writing Wednesday” looked at some of the possible inspiration behind Sunday’s fiction, “And She Danced With the Moonlight” (which you can read over on The Worlds of Carin Marais by following the link).

Thursday’s Medium article focused on “How I’m Taking Steps to Renew My Writing Routine and Output” during the lockdown. Because of all the changes, tension, and stress, I’ve had to change my routine quite drastically.

The Outside World, or, The Quest to Fetch Books

On Wednesday we had a meeting at the actual office, not over Zoom, which meant that I could finally go into the building again and fetch the dictionaries I’d left at the office. Because I stupidly thought that it was going to be only three weeks before I’d be back at my desk. Ha. Ha. Ha.

It was extremely weird to walk into the basically empty building and walking to my desk that still stood as if I’d left it there the day before. (They had been cleaned and disinfected, don’t worry.)

Luckily I’d remembered to take some bags with me because I’d forgotten just how many dictionaries and language books I had kept at the office. I got my exercise carrying them around, I’ll tell you! (I also have five coffee mugs there. I am not sure how that happened.)

I also got to see the rest of the department in actual real life and not on the screen, which was awesome — well, except that we had to wear masks and couldn’t even hug each other hello.

I’ll probably clear the rest of my desk when I take in all my paperwork and sign the last of the forms.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Writing news

In other news, I didn’t really work on The Ruon Chronicles this week, but I did work on editing “The White Road to Cremation” and “Labirint” (Labyrinth).

Talking of “Labirint”, I’ve started the Afrikaans Substack Newsletter as well this week. I’d planned to only start in a month’s time, I realised that I needed to jump to get the address that I wanted. So I might as well start posting there!

The Afrikaans newsletter is called “Die wêrelde van Carin Marais”, but while the English one is Hersenskim, the Afrikaans one is Hersenspinsel, a synonym of “Hersenskim”. Because that’s how I roll.

Reading news

I’m still busy with Creating Your Author Brand, but should finish that over the weekend. I won’t be reviewing this book on Monday, though — that spot will be kept for Endless Ideas by Sean Platt and Neeve Silver, so watch this space!

Have a great weekend, everyone! Stay safe!

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Thoughts on Books: The 10X Author

The 10X Author: Level Up Or Be Left Behind by Sean M. Platt and Johnny Truant

Disclaimer: This post doesn’t contain affiliate links. The book is my own, not a review copy.

I am an avid listener of Sean Platt and Johnny Truant’s The Story Studio podcast, so I had an idea of what to expect when these guys write a book called The 10X Author. I wasn’t disappointed.

Now, I know that I can’t nearly write the amount of fiction that Sterling and Stone put out — I am only a single mortal, after all — but I seriously needed a pep talk to keep me going. I actually started reading this book on the day I found out that the company I worked for as a senior copywriter was closing down. It was a good choice of book under the circumstances.

I am well aware that I am taking much, much longer writing and publishing the fiction that I want to write and get out there and that that needed to change.

But how? I would ask myself as I was already writing all day every day for work and was spending only a little time writing fiction and didn’t quite know how to change that.

Sometimes you need a kick to the backside to get you writing what you are passionate about. (In my case this is fiction. I really enjoy my job, don’t get me wrong, but fiction will always be my first love.)

This book was the kick I needed.

“[t]he true skills you must [have to] achieve, begin in the mind.”

The 10X Author

Well know, I thought, starting to see Mr Miyagi in the back of my mind. When I read that “It’s not finished because it wasn’t perfect” beats saying “I was afraid” every time, I saw him even more.

I haven’t really stood in front of my mind and beat the part that is afraid of failing into submission. It’s much easier to sit and tinker with stuff and never actually getting around to showing the world, isn’t it? Especially when you start analysing every little way in which the story can be thought to be a huge flop or simply silly.

(But, then again, there are people who absolutely hate the books and stories I love, while I wouldn’t touch their favourite books with a 10-foot pole. I should probably put that up in the Writing Closet so that I’m reminded more…)

However, don’t think that the whole book is just a pep talk to let you feel like you’re on top of the world and can do anything. Hard work, perseverance, “boring stuff that makes everyone roll their eyes, but that only truly successful authors do to the extent that’s required” is not underplayed at all.

So… what happened after I read the book?

“Stick to your guns, even in the face of naysayers… never lose hope in what you’re trying to build.”

The 10X Author

One massive change that has come about because of reading this book, is starting the Substack newsletter, The Worlds of Carin Marais, a few weeks ago. Forcing myself to put my work out there is actually getting to work my creative muscles some more and freeing my mind to start thinking of new ways in which I can create and tell the stories that I want to tell.

Final thoughts on The 10x Author

I really liked this quick read — and will probably read it again some time in the future when I need a good kick — and found that it has a good balance of lifting your spirits and making you feel like you can do it all and bringing you back down and reminding you that a lot of hard work is still in front of you.

I think it’s best for writers who are already busy writing and are not just starting out and writing their first short story, for example. However, it’s not necessarily for people who have already been published. If you’re only writing as a hobby, though, and not really as a job, this is probably not the book for you.

Take caution, though — you never know what you’ll tackle after finishing this book!

Lockdown Chronicles – 5 June

In which I write a bit, knit a bit, and build some stuff in Notion

I’ve been trying to stay optimistic during this tumultuous time, but I’ll admit that it’s easier some days than others.

Creativity is definitely easier when there isn’t so much on my mind — okay, basically I’ve been listening to too much news and lurking on Twitter too much. And that’s never a great idea.

I’m not going to go into all the ins and outs of the happenings over the past days. For one, I don’t really feel like I have the right words. And I really don’t feel like getting into a Twitter row right now while trolls are having a field day. (Hence mostly lurking on social media.)

Busy scribbling away

I’ve been writing quite a bit this week, though not all on fiction.

I’m helping KnitPal’s owner put together a knitting ebook, so that has been a lot of fun to do. (She’s an indie yarn dyer who uses merino wool from Peru. Very cool, so go check it out!) It’ll be finished by the end of June and I’m really looking forward to seeing the end result!

Otherwise I’ve been busy working on Medium stories and Substack stuff while also getting into my new routine. A new Medium story will be available today, with some more Substack fiction being posted over the weekend. (Want to join the free Substack newsletter? Just click here.)

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

I’ve worked out a better editorial calendar though, and hopefully I’ll be able to implement it from next week. Because this week was a bit of a flop. I don’t know about you, but the days seem to be blending into one — even more so now that I’m not technically working. (If you’re new to the blog, the publishing company I work for has decided to close almost all of their magazines and I was the senior copywriter on the advertising side, so… yeah. My heart is broken — I grew up reading many of those magazines.)

Anyway, I think getting into a new routine as soon as possible is a good idea to keep me from getting too down or having me fall into the trap of reading and knitting/crocheting the whole day like it’s Sunday every day!

I’m going to write about this a bit later — and probably on Medium — when I have it all figured out a bit more.

Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Building stuff and playing around in Notion

Some of you have probably picked up by now that I really like using Notion. Well, thanks to two of their Crowdcast webinars (watch them here and here on YouTube), I was really inspired to build my portfolio on Notion as well.
I’ll keep on adding stuff here and there to it, of course, as I continue working on articles and posts.

If you haven’t heard; Notion is now free for the usual personal plan (and no longer has a cap of 1 000 blocks). I’m currently on the Pro plan as I’m loading some larger files onto Notion, especially when it comes to my portfolio. But I think for “normal” use the Personal free plan is perfect.

There are also webinars once or twice a week that teaches all the cool features of Notion and different ways of building pages and databases, etc. They’re free to watch on Crowdcast or on YouTube, so be sure to look out for those if you decide to join the Notion crowd. (Yes, I am one of those people who spend an hour or so on Friday nights watching these, haha!)

Photo by Surene Palvie on Pexels.com

Time to knit-a-bit

I’m still busy with some shawls (one knitted, the other crocheted), and am almost done with the hot water bottle cover that I’m making from a Rowan kit. I’m veering off from the pattern a bit to make a crocheted rose instead of a knitted flower and adding some knitted leaves as well. But, I did finally learn how to read a knitting graph. Now to learn how to read ones that are a bit more advanced. I’ll probably finish the cover this weekend, yay!

Take care of yourselves, stay safe, and stay healthy.

Hear ye! Hear ye! It’s Alive! And Readable!

Well the last week was a bit of a roller coaster… but why go into details when I have News.

My Substack newsletter is live!

I’ve been working on it for a bit now and planning what I’m going to write and send out, etc. Basically, it’s going to replace my Patreon (which isn’t a bad platform — it’s just not for me) and, hopefully, I’ll find that this is a good fit!

The newsletter that you can sign up for is called The Worlds of Carin Marais as I’ll be sharing a whole lot of fiction — much of which won’t be on the blog. That’s not to say that there won’t be anything on the blog anymore, as I’m planning to keep the blog for creative non-fiction and non-fiction (with a soupçon of fiction), while keeping the newsletter for fiction and behind-the-scenes stuff.

The newsletter on Substack will be free, with a paid option coming later when I’ve found my feet. However, there will always still be a free option. I’m not suddenly going all instant paywall on everyone.

What else will there be on Substack?

Audio!

Okay, give me a moment more to get a hang of the software… But there will be audio stories as well very soon. I’m very excited to be branching out and making more multimedia-story-stuff, and, actually, if it wasn’t for all the crappiness of the past few months, I don’t think I would have taken these steps in the first place.

So, I won’t say I’m grateful for all the crappy-going-ons — like the Disease That Must Not Be Named — but there does seem to be a bit of a silver lining after all. It just took a while to show itself.

If you’d like to subscribe to my fiction newsletter, you can click on this link.

Getting my Medium page back on its feet

I’m also working on updating my Medium account regularly again. I’m afraid that I let it slip after The Burnout of 2019. I really didn’t think that it would take this long to recover from the burnout and start to feel fully creative again.

You can read my Medium posts over here and follow me if you’d like to read my future articles.

Now, I’m not going to act like this is all going to happen within a day (I’d rather not burn out again…), but I do have a bit more time at the moment to spend on my creative endeavours, which is awesome.

Finally, here is some Narnia music to brighten everyone’s day! (I know it brightened up mine.)

Stay well and safe everyone! Until next time!

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Lockdown Chronicles – 27 May 2020

In which features ancient forests and trees, books of the electronic and paper kind, and The Writing Closet

The preamble

When last we saw our intrepid heroine, she was busy typing away at stories and articles, and looking forward to a Sunday filled with writing and crafting.
Ha, ha, ha. That didn’t happen.
Turns out migraines love to hit when you’re really looking forward to a day of not doing anything but being creative. A plague on migraines! It may not be The Disease That Must Not Be Named, but it can still put you in bed for a few days!

Well, the blasted headache finally broke Monday afternoon (which was a huge relief as I was starting to wonder whether I’d need to go to the doctor for a pain injection as the pain meds weren’t doing much). That meant that I could, albeit slowly, return to my normal working day. Thank goodness I only had some emails to tend to Monday morning!
I think I’ve been stressed more than I give myself credit for, judging by the flares and the migraines. Fun. But definitely something to work on.

The Writing Closet or, my version of a writing hut in the garden

In other — happier — news, here are some photos of The Writing Closet! Although I still have a few pictures that I want to put up on the walls (I need more Prestik), it is basically done. The desk is also set up in such a way that Sir Tristan the Wonder Cat can still come and sit with me if he so wishes.
I give you: The Writing Closet —

Living on the edge

I finally listened to an episode of the In Defense of Plants podcast (Ep. 265 – Ancient Trees: Living on the Edge), and what an episode!
The episode’s interviewee was Dr. Doug Larson, who had studied ancient cliff-dwelling trees. He also uncovered “some of the oldest living forests on our planet in the process”. How awesome is that?
Plus, he is really entertaining to listen to!
Listen to the podcast or download the episode over here. You can also find more about Dr. Larson’s work at the same link.

If you need some more trees in your life (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t), you can check out these two books which I can highly recommend:
The Secret Life of Trees by Colin Tudge
Nature’s Temples: The Complex World of Old-Growth Forests by Joan Maloof
(Not affiliate links.)

Lockdown Chronicles — 23 May 2020

In which I read some books, work on my portfolio, read poetry, and quote some poetry

I don’t know if it’s the twilight zone of lockdown that we’ve entered into, but May have flown by with all the days melting into one very long, very strange day. But at least The Writing Closet — also known as the home office — is now properly set up, yay!

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Of Stars, Short Stories, and Portfolios

Be sure to check out “The House With the Blue Roof”, some flash fiction I wrote during the week. It starts to set the scene for the collection of stories I’m busy with for Where the Stars Used to Sing.
Other than that I’ve mostly worked on my portfolio during the week. It’s still not ready (sigh) but I’ll finish it in the coming week and then also put the link to it on the blog. At the moment it’s still safely tucked away in my private folders in Notion.
By the way, if you’d like to see how a portfolio can look in Notion, be sure to watch this Notion Office Hours video on design with Marie Poulin and Lennon Cheng. It was this that made me decide to build my portfolio in Notion as well.

I’ve also worked late a few days this week because of some late press releases that needed to be turned into articles, so I did not get as much time to work on Ruon Chronicles as I thought I was going to have.
Okay, and I also watched a few documentaries on Curiosity Stream, including one on Roald Dahl; who remains one of my favourite authors. Although I don’t think I mention him nearly often enough. I’m sure that his books — especially his short stories — helped to warp the story writing part of my brain a bit. Let’s face it, some of those stories are dark!
There is also a — for the moment — top-secret writing project in the works that will go live towards the end of the week, huzzah!

Books by the dozen!

Alright, not exactly a dozen books but more than two!
Thanks to my sleeping pattern that seems to be all over the place for some reason, I’ve been able to read a lot more (though mostly at 2 or 3 am).
The books that I’ve finished (still busy with The Burning Season by Andrew Revkin) have been mostly books about writing craft, branding, etc.

I think some of it is the need to be motivated a bit after The News of Retrenchment. I’m still feeling crushed by the news of the magazines’ closures and seeing the final issues on the shelves when I do venture out to buy food is painful.
So I decided that I needed a kick not only to get me into gear to look for new work, but also to put more time into my fiction.
Without further ado, here are the books:

I’m still busy with:

I’ll be posting some thoughts on the books (I always feel weird to call them “reviews” as they are never looking at them very in-depth, it seems) over the next few weeks, but I really enjoyed all of these.
I can also recommend The Story Studio podcast to listen to in the meantime (just beware — they do swear in the podcast) if you’d like to get a feel of Sean Platt and Johnny Truant’s styles.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Some Poetry to End the Post (Because Why Not?)

I was lucky enough to get an almost-complete (I think three volumes are missing?) Harvard Classics set (yes, those in the beautiful dark green hardback bindings, not the e-book; although the e-book is also very handy) for part of my birthday present (precious!). We found them at a second hand shop and the woman sold them for $7 for the set. I kid you not. Anyway…
Fast forward to me paging through one of the volumes (Tennyson to Whitman) after going down a rabbit hole that ended with Dead Poets Society and how it’s awful that one of my friends haven’t seen it yet. If you, dear reader, also haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a huge favour and watch it. (Although “O me! O life!” by Whitman isn’t in the Harvard Classics collection, “O Captain! My Captain!” is, by the way.)
My eye caught “Ode” (1874) by O’Shaughnessy and, although it was just the first three stanzas and not all nine, I immediately fell in love with it. I want to believe that my pets enjoyed hearing it for the first time as much as I did…
Here are all nine stanzas of “Ode”:

Ode by Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy (1844-1881)

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample a kingdom down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself in our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

A breath of our inspiration
Is the life of each generation;
A wondrous thing of our dreaming
Unearthly, impossible seeming—
The soldier, the king, and the peasant
Are working together in one,
Till our dream shall become their present,
And their work in the world be done.

They had no vision amazing
Of the goodly house they are raising;
They had no divine foreshowing
Of the land to which they are going:
But on one man’s soul it hath broken,
A light that doth not depart;
And his look, or a word he hath spoken,
Wrought flame in another man’s heart.

And therefore to-day is thrilling
With a past day’s late fulfilling;
And the multitudes are enlisted
In the faith that their fathers resisted,
And, scorning the dream of to-morrow,
Are bringing to pass, as they may,
In the world, for its joy or its sorrow,
The dream that was scorned yesterday.

But we, with our dreaming and singing,
Ceaseless and sorrowless we!
The glory about us clinging
Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing:
O men! it must ever be
That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing,
A little apart from ye.

For we are afar with the dawning
And the suns that are not yet high,
And out of the infinite morning
Intrepid you hear us cry—
How, spite of your human scorning,
Once more God’s future draws nigh,
And already goes forth the warning
That ye of the past must die.

Great hail! we cry to the comers
From the dazzling unknown shore;
Bring us hither your sun and your summers;
And renew our world as of yore;
You shall teach us your song’s new numbers,
And things that we dreamed not before:
Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers,
And a singer who sings no more.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Flash Fiction: The House with the Blue Roof

The man of the moon lived at the end of a quiet street in a small cottage that had a curious thatched roof the colour of the sky on a clear spring day. A low fence overgrown with brambles enclosed a small front garden and larger backyard. Although the front garden of the cottage was immaculate, the back garden held a chicken coop with five hens, a large tabby cat (who enjoyed the taste of scrambled eggs more than a mouth full of feathers), a tangle of birch trees, shrubs, and a jumble of buckets and containers. These seemed to have little use, but the man of the moon refused to part with them, even though the neighbours complained and gave him stern, sidelong stares.

In the centre of the garden stood an oak tree that was much older than the cottage, the neighbourhood and even the whole of the long-lived town. It’s boughs stretched upward and outward to touch the birch leaves and form a shaded garden of dappled sunlight. The man of the moon looked after the oak tree day after day, even talking and singing to it during the bleak midwinter when everything seem to lose its colour. Then, on the nights when the moon had waxed fully and the silver light of the moonbeams struck the oak and birch trees, the man of the moon would be outside and clattering about with his containers and buckets well past midnight to the chagrin of his neighbours. Placing the containers just so to fill them with the dripping dew of the moonbeams could take the whole afternoon. Balanced on his rickety, silver-splashed ladder, the man of the moon would hang pails on some of the middle branches of the oak tree, adding more silver-splashed pails, buckets, and even glass jars beneath the trees in the garden where the dew would drip from the heavy summer leaves. By the time the sun finally set, the whole garden would be set aglow as the moonbeams gathered among the trees and the moonlight-filled, silver dew drip from the leaves into the waiting containers. As one container filled, he ran to empty it into the large water tanks that he kept in the corner of the garden, rushing back again, splashing through the silver dew to replace the receptacle before emptying the next filled container into one of the water tanks. So it would go on the whole night. Rushing from one jar to the next, from one bucket to a dangling pail that he deftly hooked and unhooked from the height of the old groaning ladder.

By morning his clothes and boots were as silver-splashed as the garden, but he would quickly close the water tanks before the sun rose and go scrub his face and hands while the jumble of containers settled noisily in their heap next to the water tanks.

By the time the first people up the street left their homes for the day, the garden with its oak and birch trees would look like any other; the moonlight dew faded to nothing but water that dripped-dripped onto the leaf-strewn ground below. The boots by the back door were no longer silver-splashed, but muddy, and even the tabby would have washed the last remnants of silver from its coat. She, of course, would be sitting by the front gate with such a look of malice and disdain for the people of the street that none would dare to come and bother her owner while he was trying to eat breakfast without falling asleep at the table.

It would be with new moon that the man of the moon’s next task would begin. This night, after all, was the best night to see where he painted the stars that would swirl, shine, and shimmer for the next month. The rig that he built to pump the moonlight dew from the water tanks to the roof was almost silent and he turned it on after everyone had headed inside for the day and he was left alone outside. Standing on the blue thatch, he took a large paintbrush from a bucket at his feet and ran his hand over the bristles to make sure that they weren’t clumped together. He dipped the brush into the container of silver at his feet and, with broad strokes of his arm, painted the light swirls of the Milky Way, stippling the stars of the sky and paint the constellations in place with a fine brush. By midnight the swirling night sky was alive with silver light again and he looked at his work with a smile. He headed back inside after taking down the light dew’s rig and climbed into bed dreaming of dancing silver swirls.

The Starry Night (1889) by Vincent van Gogh, Wikimedia Commons

This is the first story that I’ve written that will make up part of the collection titled Where the Stars Used to Sing.

Cover for Where the Stars Used to Sing (2020)