Thursday, 31 December 2015

Your Turn - the unfinished short story

In April 2015, I presented CWD with an opportunity to join in a collaborative writing project. I set the story outline and invited others to write a scene each. I got some excellent responses, but only for a couple of scenes. It was fun, and interesting to see how others interpreted my original ideas. Because the whole story didn’t get written, I thought I’d pitch it again, and hopefully because we are in semi-holiday mode, other writers might like to have a turn.

The rules: 1. Write according to the scene synopsis I have pitched; 2. Write in order; 3. Give your name and city/town to identify your work.

There were a couple of proposed endings which I won’t put up, as I’d like to see how the story unfolds first, before going straight to the end.
For those two contributors, Linsey and Cindy, whose scenes I will include, I have made a few minor edits. If and when the story is finished, I will publish it on my website, and give credit to the contributors. Have fun!!

Setting – small rural Australian town, mid winter

Main charactersMichele (pronounced Mick-el) named after his Italian great-grandfather, 30 year old farmer who has just taken the reins of the farm as his parents have bought a caravan to take a year travelling around the country. He agrees to take in a house mate to help the local school with a short-term accommodation for one of their temporary teachers.

Charlie – 23 years old, is named after her grandfather. Fresh out of Uni has won a short-term temporary contract at the local primary school for a maternity-leave staffer. Charlie is from the city but has been assured they will find her suitable accommodation.

Scene One – Charlie has left the city at 4am to reach her new school in time for classes, but she has a flat tyre. She Googles ‘How to change a tyre’, but the wheel nuts won’t loosen. Michele comes along, is condescending and she is offended. The tyre is changed. It is raining.

Scene 1 by Linsey

“Oh no, please don’t do this to me.”
This was the perfect time for a few choice four-letter words but Charlie bit her tongue and eased her foot down on the brake. She maneuvered over to the side of the road and flicked on the hazard lights.
The last thing she needed was a flat tyre. How in the heck did one change a flat? She’d never had one before. Trains don’t get flats. Charlie considered calling roadside assistance, but out in the country at 6.30am, was it really worth it? She’d probably be waiting for hours.
Charlie swallowed another mouthful of coffee, instantly regretting it. It was stone cold and foul.
What was so hard about making coffee? Apparently everything, judging by the horrific swill she’d been ingesting since 4am. She should have brought her own thermos.
Wrestling with her bag in the front seat she managed to locate her mobile.
“Yes, reception!” Charlie typed ‘how to change a flat tyre’ into Google search and a YouTube video popped up.
That looked easy enough. Charlie sighed and peered outside. The only light came from her headlights and rain still pelted her car. It was the middle of winter.
“I so don’t want to go out into that.”
But from the video it looked as though changing a tyre was an outside job.
“It’s okay, I can do this. I can do this.” Charlie put her hand on the door handle in what she hoped was a determined way. “I am twenty-three years old, independent, I am a teacher, and I am on my own. I am going to have to do this. And I’m going to have to stop talking to myself.”
Charlie took a deep breath and stepped outside. The rain hit her in the face, stinging her eyes and cheeks. It took a few seconds before it started to trickle down the inside of her jumper. Her coat was in the back. She ran to the back of the car and popped open the boot, this time letting a few expletives escape. It was chock full of her luggage. How could she possibly get to the jack thingy and spare tyre? Did she even have a spare tyre? She was sure Poppa must have kept one—he was very organised. Charlie began tossing her things into the backseat. At least with the hatch up she was shielded from the rain.
Success, a jack thingy and yep, there was a tyre snuggled underneath the mat. She wished she could trade places with it.
“Okay, I’ve come this far. Be brave.” Charlie slammed down the hatch.
She got down on all fours cringing as the mud rushed up to meet her jeans. This was going to be a long, long morning.
After wrestling with the jack forever Charlie stood up, groaning as her knees straightened. She surveyed her work. The back wheel was actually off the ground. The jack had done its job.
She let out a whoop and punched the air. “Yes!”
Now, to get the thing off. She fumbled around in the dark trying to find the first nut and managed to fit the wheel brace around it and pushed down hard. It didn’t budge. She took a deep breath blew on her frozen hands and pressed down as hard as she could. Her hand slipped and she almost landed in the mud.
Who had tightened this thing, Superman? There was no way she was going to get it off. Charlie straightened and screamed in frustration. She’d have to call road-side assist.
“Do you need any help?”
Charlie’s heart slammed into high gear and took off down the highway. What the heck?
“Oh my gosh, don’t do that to people.” She yelled, still staring at her car.
She turned around, hand on her still racing heart and faced the intruder. It belonged to a male rugged up in a Driza-bone and Akubra. Who was this guy, the man from Snowy River? She almost told him it wasn’t the nineteenth century. But then noticed the soaking rain was running right off him. So, maybe the jackaroo get-up was justified.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” He had to yell to be heard over the engines and rain. He gestured to his ute which was parked behind her hatchback, it’s headlights spotlighting her car. How had she not noticed him drive up?
“Looks like you could use someone who knows what they’re doing?”
Charlie took a step back. She wasn’t some damsel in distress here. She’d just jacked up her car in the pouring rain, for crying out loud.
“I’m sure I can figure something out,” she said, the words jumping out harsh, but then she’d meant them to be. She unconsciously wrapped her arms around herself to try and preserve some warmth.
“I’m sure you could.” The guy replied and then raised his eyebrows as she forced her hands back to her sides.
Charlie groaned inwardly. This guy was going to make her beg for his help. If it had been any other situation, she’d have told him to get lost. But she needed him if only to get out of this weather before she began to go into hypothermic shock.
“I would really appreciate your help,” she forced herself to say between gritted teeth—gritted to stop them from chattering more than anything else.
“That a girl.”
She forced herself to ignore his condescension, though she would liked to have decked him.
‘Jim Craig’ took the wheel brace in both hands and then pulled up.

Scene two – Charlie reads instructions to Michelle’s house. When a man opens the door – the man she has already met on the road, she asks after Michelle, and he is annoyed, as he is Michele. She’s expecting a woman, he is expecting a man. Charlie says she doesn’t feel comfortable moving in with a man. He says ‘suit yourself’.

Scene 2 by Cindy Shultz, Melbourne

Charlie’s teeth were still chattering even though she had the car heater on flat out. She tried to stop her hands shaking so she could read the notes on how to get to Michelle's house.
"I'll probably catch pneumonia thanks to you." She aimed a clenched fist at the steering wheel. A car horn tooted as ‘Jim Craig’ sped off. He’d finished changing her tyre and then helped her re-pack her boot.
"Arrogant self-righteous male," she yelled after the disappearing taillights. "If I never see you again, that will suit me just fine."
She’d only just indicated to pull back onto the road, when she began to regret her outburst. Now that she was back on the road she realised she might still have been stuck in the mud and icy rain if he hadn’t stopped to help her. No other vehicle had passed them during the whole drama. It was just the smug air about him that had ticked her off. "Him with his ‘Jim Craig’ hat and coat," she groused. She had conceded defeat and sat in his car while he changed her flat tyre, already soaked to the skin. He had insisted after loosening the first wheel nut, pointing out she was wet and freezing. Stating the obvious. He had held out his keys in a condescending manner and instructed her to start the car and crank up the heater. His steely blue stare had stopped her rising protest and instead she had ungraciously snatched the keys from his hand and retreated to the dry, heated interior of his car. Watching him from the warm interior through the swish, swish of the windscreen wipers, she had been amazed at how quickly he had finished the task. In no time at all he was on his way with barely another word.
"Come on heater, get warm faster." Just the brief walk from his car to hers had been enough in this foul weather to add to her already sorry state. She sneezed violently and wiped her nose on a tissue she’d found in her handbag. Peering at her directions once again she tried to forget the roadside encounter and concentrate on getting to her destination. It was slowly beginning to get lighter around her, though the rising sun had no hope of breaking through the low-hanging rain clouds. Turning on her interior light she squinted at her notes again.
"Hurry up heater," she mumbled again. The rain was still teaming down on her car as Charlie carefully drove on. After taking a left turn off the main bitumen road, she needed to make an immediate right turn, and found the road was mud. The grip of her tyres was dicey, and she slowed down even more as she heard mud splatter up underneath the car. "Good grief, I'm in the middle of nowhere!" There was no sign of civilisation in any direction—just paddocks and wet cows and sheep, blowing trees and endless drumming rain. She pulled to a stop and snatched up her notes again. Her hands had stopped shivering now, and she was beginning to feel a semblance of warmth, despite her wet clothes clinging to her back. Peering at the road ahead she made a decision. "Ok, so I think this is the right way. I need Woolshed Lane on my right.” She put the car into gear again, and moved slowly forward. Out of the dim morning light a crooked signpost with faded black lettering appeared. She indicated, though she wondered for whose benefit. Perhaps the cows would like to know which way I’m going to turn. If she’d thought the last muddy road was a hazard, this was a whole new driving experience—Water-filled pot-holes, thick gluggy mud that caused the car to lose traction as she felt herself slip and slide along. She was now at snail’s pace carefully navigating the first section "Bet the locals all have 4 x 4's. Never mind old girl, we're nearly there. Should be on our left soon." Peering through the slashing wipers she could just make out the shadowy shapes of buildings. She almost laughed when she automatically indicated again before turning left into the driveway, and continuing down the long tree-lined drive. As her car turned onto a wide circular drive in front of a large timber homestead she felt a rush of relief. The lawns out the front were manicured and gardens well kept. Wow, this is lovely. I hope Michelle is still home.
Switching off her car and grabbing her handbag she stepped out of the warmth into the freezing rain, quickly slammed the door and navigated the front steps as fast as she could, without slipping on the wet tiles. She paused on the veranda for a few seconds to flick water off herself and pat her hair into place. She couldn’t help admiring the house as she took in the long veranda and the large carved timber front door. The brass horse-head knocker in its centre seemed to be staring at her. Swallowing her nerves and shaking off the frustrations of the early morning drama, she raised her hand and let the brass knocker rap three times. She was still subconsciously brushing rain off her clothes when the door opened.
"What are you doing here!"
Charlie was startled by the question, but more so when she saw who it was who’d opened the door. Jim Craig! Determined not to be intimidated, she put on her most polite voice.
 "Is Michelle home? I believe it’s been arranged that I’ll be staying here for a few weeks. This is her home, I assume."
A strange look crossed the man’s face. Why is he annoyed? There was a definite flash of something in his steel blue eyes.
 "The name is Michele pronounced Mick-el."
“Michele,” Charlie said, blinking in confusion. “Does Michelle live here?”
“No. This is my house, and my name is Michele, and as you can see, I’m not a woman.”
“Yes, I can see that.”
"And in any case, you can't possibly be Charlie. You’re not a man."
Charlie frowned at Michele trying to piece the situation together. He just stood there in the doorway in his dry jeans, blue shirt and boots and frowned back. Charlie opened her mouth twice, but nothing sensible came out, so she closed it again. Then she began to shiver as the cold wind against her wet clothes sent chills through her body. Michele suddenly stepped to the side and waved her inside with a sweep of his arm. "For goodness sake woman, come into the sitting room and warm yourself by the fire while we sort this mess out." The increased chill factor made the decision for her, despite the mix-up, and how they had somehow managed to tick each other off. The warmth and crackle of the wood stove drew her and for a few minutes, Charlie forgot about her reluctant host, and just held her hands out over the heat and let it soak into her bones. After a while, she remembered the man in the room with her. She stole a quick sideways glance at Michele. Now Charlie could see him without his coat, she noted he was handsome, tall and muscular. She rubbed her hands together and turned her gaze back into the fire. It had never occurred to her that someone might think she was a man. What a disastrous day this was turning out to be.
"So Charlie." Michele had sat on the couch, crossed his ankles and folded his arms across his chest. "I assume that's your name.” She nodded.  “We’re in a bit of a predicament. You thought I was a woman and I thought you were a man.” She nodded again.
“Well, my offer of a room still stands. I'm out working all day, and I guess you will you be too, so we will hardly see each other at any rate."
Charlie pulled herself up to her full height. This was not what she had signed up for. "I can't possibly stay here. It wouldn't be proper for a single woman to move in with a single man. I take it you live alone?" 
"I do now, as of recently."
"Relationship breakup?"
"No!" Michele sat forward in his chair, annoyed again. "This is my parents' house. They've just set off in a caravan for a year trip around Australia."
"Oh." Charlie didn't quite know what to think—he was definitely single, but he lived with his parents, until recently.
“Anyway, we hardly live in the Victorian era now," Michele continued. "I really don’t think relationship status is of any consequence as to whether we should live together.”
“What would people say?”
“Doubtful they’d say anything. The school asked me if I’d take in a boarder for a few weeks, I said yes. I was just expecting another bloke, that’s all.”
Charlie shook her head. She wasn’t so sure, 21st Century or not. She didn’t know him, and didn’t think it was wise just to trust him like that. “No, I don’t think it will work. Thanks anyway.”
“Suit yourself.” Michele got up from the comfy chair and opened the front door, letting the cold wind blow in.
Charlie was annoyed that he was so quick to throw her back out to the weather, but then she realised that she was the one who had refused his hospitality. Just like she’d been rude to him when he’d changed her tyre. Chagrined, but too proud to admit it, she picked up her hand bag and crossed the room. Without giving him another glance, she walked out the front door, pulling it closed behind her. The brass door-knocker rattled in protest. Perhaps she had been a bit too forceful in her staged protest. Still, she wasn’t going to go crawling back. She had her pride.

Scene Three
Charlie finds her way to the town and the primary school. She is met by the principal who gives her the details of her job, and then tells her to take the rest of the day to organise alternative accommodation, get dry and sorted. Charlie goes to the local pub. It is run down, poorly run, and the owner is a bit sleezy – as are some of the patrons. Charlie gets a key to a very run down room. She goes to have a counter meal and gets propositioned. She stands her ground, but not very convincingly. Michele has come to the pub to see how things turn out. He plays the hero and fends off the unwanted attention. Charlie is annoyed with him, as she says she can look after herself. She decides she would prefer to trust Michele than the men in the pub.

Scene four – Charlie’s second day at school. The classroom is a little chaotic.  A ten year old informs her she is Michele’s cousin, and tells Charlie all about what her mother thinks about Michele and his impossible love life.

Scene five – Charlie discovers she and Michele have something in common: they both love footy (AFL). She agrees to go watch him play on Saturday. She sits in his car, pulled up around the outside of the oval. It’s all good until he takes a hit in the head and is carted off the ground on a stretcher. She waits until his mates come to get his car. When they see her, they suggest she could take him to the hospital in the next town. She has the car and the keys, and they basically leave her with it.

Scene six – The doctor says Michele can’t drive, and someone should keep an eye on him for his concussion. Everybody makes assumptions. She sits up with him for the whole night.

Scene seven – They have something else in common: they both go to church on Sunday. Charlie drives. More raised eyebrows and assumptions

Scene eight – Michele’s young cousin if full of gossip and what her mother thinks of the situation. Charlie sets her straight, and determines to set the record straight with Michele’s aunt.

Scene nine – The six weeks are up, and Charlie has packed ready to go. She has a little farewell party with the kids at school. Michele’s cousin tells her that Michele doesn’t want her to go. He’s never said anything to her, so she is a bit confused by this. 

Scene ten – writers, choose your own ending. Let’s see what you come up with.

Have fun with this, and don't forget to check to see how the story is developing in the comments.

Meredith Resce has published 17 titles - her most recent 'Echoes in the Valley' is now available as e-Book and paperback internationally.

Monday, 28 December 2015


Can you believe we are almost into 2016? 
A brand new start ... if we choose. And our well-placed   hope in God makes all the difference.

As Christian authors, I’m sure we write stories to give hope. I always add romance as the plot is usually about someone's dreams being fulfilled. Maybe not as they'd visualized but with a wonderful end result. And I always allow my main characters to grow emotionally and spiritually.

There's no doubt hope is what keeps us going...moving forward and never giving up. God has given us that ability. Even so it is still a choice we have to make even when things seem impossible.

Thousands of years ago when God allowed the Jews to be captured by the King Nebuchadnezzar, the ruler of the Babylonian kingdom, He gave them hope for their future. Yes, they'd sinned against His Word, by listening to evil prophets and diviners, consequently being caught up with horrible practices. Yet, even after they'd been carried off to a far land he granted them hope. Hope that if they repented of their wrongdoing, He would again bring them back into their own land. In fact He said an amazing thing to them through the prophet Jeremiah. We read:

"I will fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

We may face some limiting circumstances today. We may have lost a dear one, or are facing financial difficulties, or a debilitating illness. Now is the time to seek the Lord Jesus with all your heart. Find your hope in Him for this coming year.

God bless you dear reader

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Follow that Shepherd by Anusha Atukorala

I've been re-reading the Christmas narrative and studying it over the last few weeks. What a compelling story! Can you imagine the thrill in the heavenly realms as God and the angels prepared for the birth of the Son of God? Picture the stage being set. Lights out. A flickering lamp in a stable. The innkeeper’s wife scurries around with hot water and swaddling clothes. Joseph paces outside, along the cobbled path, his heart pounding. A donkey brays, loud and harsh in the still night air. Stars come out one by one; winds murmur in the trees. Mary writhes in agony, sweat pouring down her sweet face. And then … and then … we hear a wail, a baby’s cry. In an instant, God has entered our world.

Joseph gently wipes the sweat off Mary’s face. She smiles at him, then gazes at her infant, mesmerised. He is the most beautiful baby in the world. His name is Jesus. A short distance away, shepherds are keeping watch over their sheep. A bright light dazzles. Abel jumps out of his skin … almost. Noah’s mouth opens wide but no sound comes out. Adam’s hand clutches his long beard. He is staring wide-eyed at the scene unfolding before them. Angels—a mighty host of of them are singing in the heavenly realms. The shepherds move back in fear. But an angel speaks. “Don’t be afraid.” His voice is clear, low, melodious. “For I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all people. Unto you is born this day a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord”.

Wouldn’t you like to have been there?
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending an Elton John concert. It was a fabulous night and the music was full, rich and intoxicating. But an hour before the event, as we stood outside, waiting for the doors of the Entertainment Centre to be opened, three people ranted at us, placards in hand, belting out a gospel message. But oh! It annoyed me immensely and made my blood boil. I wanted to march up to them and ask them to shut up. I prayed for the listeners that they would find God in spite of what was being shared. It shocked me that Christians could sound as they did. A good message but mouthed in the worst possible manner. Enough to put a saint off!

As a writer, I too need to be careful about how I come across to my readers. Those defenders of the gospel drew people away from God rather than towards Him. Did they glorify God? Hardly. When I read Luke’s gospel last week, I found some helpful pointers for my writing journey (chapter 2:15-20) from what happened that Christmas night.
1. The shepherds were faithful to their calling, doing what they should be doing, so the angels knew where to locate them. What about me? Am I doing today what He asked of me? Am I in the right place so I can be found by Him?
2. They listened to the Angels’ message. Am I hearing God about my writing?
3. They obeyed. They took the angel’s word seriously. Have I obeyed Him this year in my writing journey? What about the year ahead? What does he require of me?
4. They spread the word. I found it interesting that the angels didn’t ask them to share the good news. All they were told to do was to go and find baby Jesus, the Saviour of the world. But when they did, they couldn’t stop themselves from sharing. It was an overflow of the joy of meeting Jesus. Have I met with Jesus lately? Am I consumed with the desire to use my writing and my life to share God’s truth in the genre He’s called me to write?
5. All who heard the shepherds were amazed. Have people been smitten by God through my writing? Have they discovered who He is because of what I write?
6. The shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Is praise a big part of my life? Do I glorify God through my life and through my writing?
7. And then there was Mary. She pondered over all she heard and treasured it in her heart. How much do I ponder over the God’s truths? Do I treasure it? How often do I marvel over the Good News? Does it change my life?
The shepherds were unschooled men. But that didn’t prevent them sharing the Good News far and wide. We read in Luke’s gospel that they discovered the stable scene just as it was told them. And that is our starting point too. The faithfulness of God. He who calls us can be wholly trusted. This Christmas let’s follow the shepherds in how they responded to God’s call. And don’t forget we have a Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for us. Let us follow Him. He came that the world may be drawn back to God.

Warmest greetings to you all for a very Blessed Christmas!

Anusha Atukorala has two places she calls home, the beautiful island of Sri Lanka, and this very special land Down Under. She loves writing in any form, be it creative writing, composing songs and poetry, or simply emailing family and friends. She also enjoys reading, walking, singing, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation, making friends and sharing the love of Jesus. Her first book, 'Enjoying the Journey' is a collection of 75 little stories of God's reality in every day life. Do drop in at her website to say G’day. She’ll be very happy to see you. Dancing in the Rain

Monday, 21 December 2015

Writing life stories by Ruth Bonetti

What more precious gift to relatives and future generations than to write a family history or memoir? Do it now, before stories and insights are lost to dementia and coffins.

But first consider: for whom do you write?            
                                                                                    Photo 1890: Ruth's grandfather stands front left.

  • Will you circulate amongst family some copies produced at the local print shop? 
  • Or might your stories resonate with Everyman and Everywoman? 
That challenging option, with good marketing and distribution, can reach more readers.
  • Will you present facts as a historical document, with diligent footnotes and bibliography? 
  • Or through creative nonfiction put flesh on bones, words in mouths, and look under the surface to the motivations that drove actions?                                                           
If so, one writes with relatives peering over the shoulder, while wondering what flak the finished book might draw. They caution: “Change the names, write a novel, and avoid offence.”
Kate Grenville took this path with The Secret River.

My attempts to novelise felt stilted. Why waste my treasure trove of archival letters and diminish a great story? Let the characters speak for themselves. Narrative nonfiction morphed into memoir as I discovered and interpreted stories. Accepting my role as storyteller unlocked the cage to write more freely.
Others might write different books, equally valid.

Dare to share?

Fact checking early drafts might elicit useful information–or invite criticism. Steel yourself for unsolicited advice: “Don't include aspects that dishonour ancestors…”

Memorise a short but gracious mantra:
"Thank you. I hear what you say. I’ll choose appropriate content with care and prayer."
Clamp your mouth on justifications.

Black versus white sheep?

Some families draft ancestors into pens of white and black sheep, with little variegation between. What demons drove the reprobate to that more interesting story? Avoiding all conflict makes for dull reading and robs readers of the opportunities to learn from generational patterns.

Shame on the family!

What family tree doesn’t sprout illegitimate twigs? Recent generations shrug but Great Aunt Flossie concealed scandals with hushed euphemisms for 90 years. She threatens legal action if her family name is besmirched. Living relatives cannot sue on behalf of “defamed” deceased. The defamation twins are libel (written words) and slander (spoken) false or malicious statements that damage someone’s reputation. Avoid pitfalls with nonjudgmental, factual reporting. Australian Society of Authors membership includes legal aid if needed.

If you choose narrative nonfiction, cover yourself with upfront disclaimers:  “This is my interpretation...” and intersperse “I imagine that…” and “perhaps...” throughout. Endnotes can delineate fact from elaboration and acknowledge sources.

What is truth?

Contradictions are inevitable when sifting truths from myths of oral history.
Relatives view my many-faceted Grandfather from varied kaleidoscope angles to mine. This is the paradox of history; the events of World War 1 written by people from Germany, France, England or Australia would differ, even contradict in some details.

Relatives who share letters, documents, information and memories may envisage the book they would write and recoil if your version departs from their preconceptions.

My preferred style is life writing, to look under the surface of dates, events and facts and find the persons beneath. What drove two brothers to flee their native Finland to settle at the far end of the earth? Did they struggle, away from the security of the nest? 

After a decade of research, countless drafts and edits, Burn My Letters: Midnight Sun to Southern Cross I'm exploring publication options. I hope it fulfils the calling of Psalm 102:18.

Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD. (RSV)

Want to hear when it’s published? Email

Ruth Bonetti co-founded Omega Writers in 1991. She is author/editor of 12 publications through Oxford University Press and her imprint Words and Music. These and her presentations seek to empower those who present through Words and Music.