Home of authors Holly Hunt & Jophrael L. Avario

How I Write.

Holly sat down at her desk, swung her feet down onto the shelf beside her and laid the keyboard on her lap. Occasionally glancing at the music video playing in the top corner of the screen[1], she stared out the window, lost in thought[2].

One of the sheep outside gave a derisory ‘baa’[3] and went back to glaring at the horses standing at the gate to its paddock. The horses kicked the gate, making a crash similar to a feast-worth of men banging their cutlery on the table, impatient for dinner to be served[4].

Cars came and went along Yass Valley Way, trucks ploughing along among motorcyclists and the occasional police car. About once a month, some poor driver blows a wheel out the front, but that wasn’t today. All that was out there were the never-ending hills, the cell tower, houses, and the llamas and geese carrying on like a fox was out to get them, in the farm across the road.

Rubbing her neck, Holly turned back to the computer, ready to write her essay. The dogs started carrying on in the lounge room. The Husky was fighting the Kelpie again – the Husky had stepped out of place, and now the Kelpie and the Labrador are going to put her back in line. Holly ran to stop them, yelling at them to stop as she hooked her fingers into their collars. She pulled them apart, glaring down the Labrador barking at her until he went quiet. Growling under her breath, she kicked the three dogs out into the cold winter wind and stormed back to her room.

The Kelpie flew past her window[5]. The Husky barrelled along beside him, both aimed for the rabbits fleeing towards the hayshed. They circled the horse float and Holly rolled her eyes. The stupid dogs never seemed to understand that you have to be quiet in order to catch a rabbit.

She turned back to her essay. Well, at this stage it was still a blank screen. She couldn’t seem to work out what it was she was meant to be writing. An essay? Or a story craftily disguised to be an essay? Should it hold the truth of the thousands of authors who have come before her in its folds? Or should it be entirely her ideas?

Briefly, she wondered at the ideas of essay writing – that most teachers simply want a regurgitation of some other person’s regurgitation of some other person’s regurgitation – but pushed it from her mind. No, this essay will be all her own, without the ideas of other authors clouding the issue.

But where to start? Beginnings are such tricky things – they hide in the most unlikely places. You can start in the middle, but in the end, it’s still a beginning. Holly sat up, straightened her back and shuffled around the things on her desk. She opened the bottle of butterscotch schnapps, pouring it into her glass. A glint of steel caught her eye and she dug under the paper, over-ripe pears, ribbon and stapler to grab the knife hidden there.

With a couple of slow cuts, she drew blood from the tip of her finger, dripping the scarlet liquid into the schnapps-filled glass. It looked like a lava-lamp, the bright red suspended in the topaz drink, unable to congeal because of the alcohol in the schnapps. One of her most recent stories featured a human-vampire hybrid, and she’d picked up the blood-drinking habit from that. It was, after all, just the way Alyssa drank her blood.

She stuck her finger into the blood-infused schnapps, mixing it a little. She sipped the drink and turned back to her computer. As she was turning in her chair to look at the screen, she changed her mind and followed the motion. She stood up and walked to her window, crouching down. An array of plants lined up along the inside of her windowsill, giving off pleasant scents: mint, chervil, lavender, box honeysuckle hedges, basil, lemon balm and oregano. She picked some mint and shredded the leaf, dropping it in her drink.

Holly leaned back in her seat again, feet up, keyboard on lap. She hummed along to Green Day until the song finished, then opened iTunes, searching for that perfect song to write to. She’s meant to be writing an essay, so my not a track from her personal soundtrack? Savage Garden? Nightwish? Or maybe AC/DC?

Settling on Meat Loaf, she sang along to the old Rocky Horror track and drank a bit more, drinking. She didn’t need her to drink in order to write, but she had some sorrows to drown tonight. Her girlfriend had dumped her a couple of days before, and Holly missed her terribly. Better to fall into old habits than to dwell on missing the girl she loved.

Trying to force her thoughts away from Inge, Holly switched back to Microsoft Word, staring at the blank screen. The blank page was so … foreign, so hard to write on. Once a word was staining the page it wouldn’t be so hard.

But where to start?

The idea dragged her attention away as she tries to remember how it was she writes. Her absent look focussed on a small pot on her desk, the home of a couple of dozen never-going-to-grow rosemary plants. She stood up and navigated through the clothes, books and paper on the floor to her bedside table. She picked up her seed collection, overflowing from a small cardboard box, and walked back to the table. Chewing on a chocolate bar she found on the table behind the seeds, she failed to see the slippery plastic hiding underneath her papers.

As she slipped, Holly threw the seed box into the air, some of the beans and peas flying out from their packets. Cursing, she nursed the hip she’d landed on as she tried to stand up, arching her back and hearing three separate cracks. She pushed aside clothes and paper, gathering up the seeds that had been across her bedroom by her fall. She stood with a wince and staggered back to her desk. With another sip of her schnapps, she sat heavily and looked through her box of seeds.

There were some peas and beans there, of course, the regular for a gardener’s seedlings. But along with them were harder things to grow, like corn, cucumbers and carrots. Lots and lots of carrots. She had six varieties, all of which she’d planted and failed to grow to full strength because of the confines of the pots.

She searched through the less trustworthy seeds[6], gently brushing aside the packets of melons, cabbages, herbs and bulbs. There was really only one thing she wanted to plant right now, one that she was sure she would be able to grow properly in the tiny pot: wattle seeds. With a smile, she pulled them out of the envelope that stored all the seeds she bought from eBay, but when noticed the instructions printed on the side of the little plastic bag, her smile fell.

Before sowing, cover seeds with boiling water and let soak overnight.”

Would she plant them straight away and run the risk of the seeds not germinating? Or would she follow the instructions and boil the seeds?

She picked up her favourite bowl from the top of a pile of books on her desk[7]. She walked out to the kitchen and turned the kettle on, listening to her aunt tell her sister how to fix a fuse and laughing to herself.

The kettle boiled and she filled the bowl, and dropped four tiny black seeds into the boiling water. In the morning, she’d plant them and wait weeks for them to grow.

On the way back to her room, she placed the bowl on the bathroom cabinet and returned to her room. She sat down and pulled the keyboard onto her lap, turning her attention to the screen.

She looked at the blank page, its bleak whiteness still staring at her. It was mocking her. Taunting her.

She growled at the screen and glared right back at it.

Movement in the corner of the screen. An email!

Holly switched over to Microsoft Outlook and hit F9, waiting impatiently for the Send/Receive option to deliver this email to her inbox.

Holly read the email, her face breaking out into its widest smile.

July 11, 2010 

Dear Holly,

It is with great pleasure that we offer you a contract with Champagne Books for your novel, The Devil’s Wife[8] 

She bounced in her seat as she read. She was taking in the sight of her third acceptance letter[9]. Holly ran out of her room, intending to tell her aunt and uncle. A bit of bounce leaked from her step as she remembered her girlfriend was not there to celebrate with her, but that was only a small hindrance to her giggles. A third acceptance! Before she was 21! This was amazing!

Her aunt and uncle, on the other hand, merely grunted, unimpressed. Her aunt went back to her book. Her other went back to The Simpsons. Holly rolled her eyes and returned to her room, rummaging among the DVDs, gloves, paper and seeds for her mobile phone. She had to call her mum and let her know. The “Extended Russell Family Gossip Network[10]” would share the news around soon enough.

Holly’s mother/proof-reader showed more enthusiasm for the news than her aunt or uncle had. She celebrated with Holly, but soon moved on to other topics. Her brother had lost his license for speeding[11], her sister was currently AWOL[12], and her step-father was driving her mother nuts, as usual.

It was seven o’clock already and by now she’d given her mother all the details of her life that she felt like sharing[13]. She said goodbye to her mother and hung up, then tapped the mobile against her lip. Should she ring her grandmother? Already she was formulating a theory as to why she’d had such a quick response from the publisher. The werewolf story had been accepted two days after her grandfather died. Her mother, like Holly, agreed that there was definitely something to Holly’s theory[14].

However, ringing up her religious grandmother and starting a conversation with the same line she’d used to spark the conversation with her mother wasn’t that good an idea[15]. Holly decided to leave that for a bit – that conversation could be very delicate.

Holly turned back to the blank screen and sighed. She sat for a while, staring at the cursor blinking into existence and out again… in and out… in and out…

She felt her mind starting to wander. She closed her eyes, and let her imagination take over. Her fingers started to move across the keyboard. Holly continued typing. Her fingers picked out the right words with every keystroke, independent to her brain. Holly’s mind soared among the clouds, flying with the dragon from her latest story, riding along on the dragon’s back as she chased and fought a griffin-mage.

Holly opened her eyes and examined the digital pages. A whole chapter had been written out as she watched the movie in her head and she had to admit that it was very good reading.

Her mind snapped back to the unwritten essay. She cut and pasted the words onto the end of the file it belonged with – expanding her work-in-progress by almost 5,000 words – and returned to the blank Word document.

Frustration leaked through her mental shields. It was 10 at night and she needed to go to bed. She had to work the next morning. Thumping herself on the forehead with her hand, trying to get herself to focus, Holly closed her eyes and took a deep breath. This essay wouldn’t kill her, even if it was on the very topic she most hated to talk about[16].

With a growl at herself, Holly started to type the words that entered her mind. She was doing her best to ignore the keys she could feel herself touch-typing into the computer’s memory, trying to ignore the spelling and grammar mistakes she could feel in the pattern.

There’s Writing and Me:…

She recorded what she remembered doing that day, from the time she decided to write the essay. Ignoring the voice that said it was wrong to explain herself to people, Holly typed away.

Click, click, click…

And, as her fingers started to fly across the keyboard and words spread like treacle across the screen, she finally stopped procrastinating. She opened her eyes and watched the first words of her essay spark to life. Something new was being born in the darkness of midnight that was soaking the world outside a frosty white and black… A character was crawling from the back of her mind, bringing with her the story that was both truth and fantasy.

Holly sat down at her desk, swung her feet down onto the shelf beside her…

[1] Currently Crowded House’s “Better Be Home Soon“.

[2] Really, she was imagining turning into a griffin and flying away, but that’s a thought, isn’t it?

[3] Well, more like a deep ‘meh’ than a ‘baa’.

[4] Which was pretty much what the horses were demanding. Dinner.

[5] That dog could be a champion greyhound, if they could get him to focus long enough.

[6] Ones not in packets, but in clear plastic sleeves, bought from backyard dealers rather than places like K-Mart or Bunnings.

[7] Animorphs #1, The Invasion (KA Applegate), The Dark Griffin (KJ Taylor), and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (JK Rowling). Each the first book in one of her many favourite series.

[8] The start of a real acceptance letter, including the date.

[9] The first, for this same book, ended with a dissolution of the Canadian publishing company the year before. The other one, the contract with an American publisher, was for her dashed-off, didn’t-think-anyone-would-look-at-it-yet-accept-it werewolf story*  And here, now, another Canadian company offering a contract for The Devil’s Wife, so soon after the werewolf story was accepted!

* A story of Canadian werewolves taking over the country, and eventually the world. Written after the first Canadian publisher went under, it was the perfect revenge for Holly.

[10] Unofficial title, considering that there are Hunts, Holmes, Russells, Grknicks**, Fishers, Jarretts, McAuliffes, O’Briens and other, not-quite-family members in the network.

** Otherwise known as the ‘Can I Buy A Vowel’ arm of the family.

[11] Really? A P-plater speeding? Well, I never.

[12] Probably took off to Newcastle with her boyfriend again.

[13] It was well-known among the family that you could never tell if Holly was lying until she told you so. Even then, you can’t be 100% sure she’s not pulling your leg anyway…

[14] Which goes: Grumps died, went to Heaven. They let him in, he got the ear of an angel who happened to be the right one for the job, and said to him, “Right, see here, you horrible bugger…”(Holly secretly believes this wouldn’t have happened if Grumps had lived another 5 hours and Holly had been able to read one of her stories to him.)

[15] “I think Grumps got into Heaven.”

[16] Herself.

August 3, 2010 - Posted by | Writing | , , , , , , ,

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