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Disrupting Places

Disrupting Places

Disrupting Places

By Susan Browne ©Susan Browne 2006 and 2018

Short Story set in North Kerry. Inspired by seeing an extension being built. Came first place in 2006 Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine Writing Competition, North Kerry, Ireland. Written in North Kerry colloquial language. 

‘I couldn’t sleep after all that at all,’ she said, pouring more milk into my tea.

‘Because of the holes in the yard?’

‘Not just holes – deep trenches. Cut out of the ground. Ones deep enough to bury a horse in. Stretching this way and that.’

‘The foundations of your extension?’

‘Yes. It kept me awake.’

‘That’s nuts. Why would it keep you awake? Just excited, I s’pose.’

‘Excited yes, but scared too. Scared that it might be disturbing old spirits.’

I pulled me tea over to myself, for fear she’s put even more milk into it.

‘The old spinster that lived in the house before us mightn’t like it. Us rooting around and all that. And those that lived before her, that lived on this patch of land. They might be bothered. Those who lived as far back as when you didn’t wear shoes and central heating was your stomach after the dinner.’ Her eyes shone.

‘Sure extensions are going on every day in North Kerry. And as far as I know no spirits have come bothering people yet.’

‘But how do you know?’ she said. She was right of course. Spirits may not simply arrive in their Sunday best and say ‘Hello, you have caused me great upset by building on your new conservatory. ‘They might do subtle things.’

‘Subtle things like what?’ I asked.

‘Well just hanging around in a dissatisfied manner.’

This made me smile so I had to turn away a little. My imagination is fairly vivid, you see. ‘But what about the existing house?’ I said. ‘That’s only built since the seventies. Wouldn’t that have upset a few spirits that weren’t quite as old back then but older than the seventies people all the same?’

She said ‘Yeah but they’ve had time to adjust by now. This is a new… ahh… disfigurement. A new wound. She used her hands for emphasis. ‘Now how can I explain it? Have you ever been into a new building and found it uncanny that just months before the place you are standing would have been in thin air? And beneath you the mud and whatever grew and lived there are now suddenly drowned by concrete?’ She briefly mimicked a person drowning. My mouth opened and closed.

‘Like the new building in the hospital. It’s like it doesn’t quite belong there yet. The air and the space there just hasn’t had chance to accept the change.’

‘Ah now you’re really doing the dog on it,’ I said.

This time she smiled. But I knew out of coyness and not irony. I knew she was really serious; and being kind of an agreeable person I had to agree a little. I mean none of us really know.

‘Now the walls are up,’ she said, ‘it’s not so bad. When we get living in there, happily so please God, we will start to make the place exist.’

‘As ye imprint yourselves on the space and air and time and stuff?’

‘Now you’re talking.’

I stuck my nose into my mug and finished my tea. I left the scone till after, knowing it would be divine. From the new bakers in town. The one that might be upsetting the old clothes shop spirits, since we were on such matters.

‘I hope the tea will taste as nice in there.’

‘What do you mean?’ she said.

‘Well if the spirits were upset then they could put a bad taste into it.’

‘Really? I never thought of that.’

Then neither of us knew who was codding who.

‘But Mary,’ I said, ‘how do you know they’d be troubled by it all anyhow? They might only be delighted of the change.’

She wrinkled up her nose before considering it. ‘Well that’s true too of course. But then you never think of that when you wake in the darkest hours of the night.’

‘No then, you don’t I suppose.’

THE END

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The First Dance

The First Dance

The First Dance

by Susan Browne

© Susan Browne 2001 & 2018, all rights reserved.

Genre: Romance

About this story: This was written in 2000 and published in 2001 by Woman’s Way Magazine, Ireland. It was a particularly exciting milestone for me, being my first ever published story!

It had been a tough few months for Siobhan, but a new job signalled a new beginning – unless she blew her chance.

Siobhan was excited for the first time in ages. I was a funny feeling, she felt like a teenager finding her freedom and found herself giggling at silly things. She felt… happy. Claire was giving her peculiar looks underneath a rock-hard face pack. This only made Siobhan giggle even more as Claire’s face wrinkled and cracked.

“This is like Christmas. You’ve enough makeup here to open a small market stall!” Siobhan exclaimed, rummaging through boxes and small bags.

“Siobhan, calm down, you’re making me nervous,” Claire said slowly, keeping her face as motionless as she could.

Siobhan ignored her and turned up the radio. “Time for another drink,” she announced, marching towards the kitchen.

“Not for me, I’m still on my first, believe it or not,” Claire replied.

Siobhan had had a tough month. Her boyfriend of two years had ended their relationship, telling her that they weren’t going anywhere, whatever that was supposed to mean. She suspected he has been seeing someone else but had no proof. Claire had worried about her. She wouldn’t phone, hardly wanted to go out. Then she got a new job, starting next Monday. Her ‘dream-job’ she’d called it. It had given her self-esteem a kick start and they were going to celebrate her success, even though Claire didn’t really approve of her buying a £100 outfit for tonight, courtesy of the Visa card.

Siobhan finally had the dress on. She looked truly stunning with her auburn hair tied loosely above her head and long tousled bits dangling down, framing her pretty face. Claire’s mouth dropped when she saw Siobhan.

“Wow, girl! I have to hand it to you. You look like a film star.” She sighed as she looked down at her own outfit, dreary in comparison.

The party mood was certainly catching, and Claire found herself changing outfits several more times than usual. She lavished make up on her face and applied more body glitter to her neck and shoulders. It was as though the two were off on a hot date. Claire looked over guiltily at the photo of her and Martin, her fiancé. Still, what would he care if she wanted to dress up? He was having a great time on holiday with the lads. Probably out clubbing every night. A pang of jealousy swept over her and the shorter of the two skirts won out.

“Well I don’t know about you but I’m ready,” announced Siobhan, checking the full-length mirror for the last time. Claire’s flatmate had promised them a lift into the city centre. That would save them bothering with buses and taxis.

“So am I. Wait here and I’ll give Angela a shout,” said Claire.

Before long the car was in the city centre. “Where do you want dropping?” asked Angela.

“O’Callaghan’s will do fine,” said Claire, looking at Siobhan for any hint of protest. There was none. For weeks Siobhan avoided O’Callaghan’s because it was where she had met Robert. Claire was glad she didn’t care. It was her own favourite pub. But she was pleased that they didn’t see Robert in there, whether Siobhan would have minded or not. It might just have been enough to tip the apple cart.

The two friends didn’t see anybody they knew and soon moved onto a night club. They chatted quietly in the queue, eavesdropping on other conversations. There were four girls in front of them, very young looking. “God, I feel like an old granny,” Claire whispered. “You watch, they won’t even make it past the door.”

Sure enough, the girls were refused entry. They walked off looking very sorry for themselves. Claire and Siobhan couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Evening ladies,” said one of the bouncers as he ushered them in. The girls smiled smugly.

“Can’t be too bad to be a granny,” breathed Siobhan.

Claire queued at the cloakroom while Siobhan went off to get the drinks. A double gin and tonic for Claire, and a very large cocktail for herself.

Poor Claire was still in the cloakroom queue by the time half of Siobhan’s cocktail had disappeared. She waited for Claire by a door, spotting a very good looking young man in the process. She glanced over coyly. He caught her eye, looking for a moment, then carried on walking. She wasn’t giving up that easily. She dashed up to Claire to tell her the news. Claire was just putting the coats in.

“Quick, oh perfect, he’s on the dance floor. Come on, I’ll go and test out my charms.”

Claire watched her friend saunter over to the dance floor and gradually work her way around until she was in sight of the man who caught her eye. She got closer until there was direct eye contact. The cocktail had gone straight to Siobhan’s head and it made her feel brazen. She flung an arm around his neck and danced close to him. Then teasingly turned her back on him. When she turned around again she noticed a sheepish smile on his face. A woman came storming up towards the two of them and pounced on Siobhan.

“Excuse me, I think you’d better find your own fella to be draping yourself all over. He’s mine, now get lost!” she snarled. Siobhan blushed and turned to Claire for help. Claire was busy chatting to someone she knew and hadn’t seen any of it. She explained, and Claire thought it was hilarious, which helped Siobhan to see the funny side. But that was the last man she approached that night.

Monday morning came around quickly, Siobhan had bought the lovely outfit she’d seen, and the boots. Nevertheless, she felt nervous going into work. Like a girl starting school for the first time, not knowing anybody. Damien Moriarty welcomed her in warmly, and made her a sup of tea.

“The assistant manager, Carol will be in shortly,” he said. “She’ll be showing you around the office. She’s very nice, don’t look so worried.”

“Right so, thanks for the tea. I’ll wait here will I?” asked Siobhan.

“Yup. I have to go unfortunately, but you’ll be fine. She’ll be in to you in just a minute. Bye now.” Off he went.

Siobhan felt so nervous. Suddenly she heard another door in the corridor close. Footsteps. The office door swung open. To Siobhan’s horror it appeared that Carol was the girl in the nightclub whose boyfriend she had taken a liking to. Carol smiled, and then examined her closely.

‘Don’t recognise me, please don’t recognise me,’ Siobhan chanted over and over in her mind.

“weren’t you in.. it is you, isn’t it?” Carol asked, a smile dancing across her lips.

“I’m afraid so, listen I’m really sorry about that,” Siobhan stuttered. Carol laughed out loud. She laughed until tears came into her eyes. Siobhan wondered if she should just leave.

“No really, I’m the one who should be apologising. Cormac isn’t my boyfriend at all. He’s my first cousin, we’re good friends. I had a bet with him that I’d ruin every chance he had to get a woman. He was so angry about that. He really liked you. But he couldn’t find you afterwards. I really ought to introduce the two of you.. that’s if you want me to.”

Siobhan realised she’d been holding her breath. “Yes, that would be really nice, yes please.”

“Great, we’ll discuss it over lunch. Now let me show you the layout of the place before we both forget exactly where we are.”

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The Seer

The Seer

The Seer
by Susan Browne

© Susan Browne, 2016 and 2018 all rights reserved

Flash Fiction Ghost Story. John is struggling to move on, and his girlfriend Jeanette isn’t helping. He finds one of her friends supportive, as she has a very unique perceptive ability, and a way of communicating with other realms.

‘I love you to the moon and back, don’t ever leave me John,’ she says, and flings an arm out over me. Her love spills out all over the floor and the walls and the bedclothes, like the blood of someone all shot up.  She is wearing that lace black tiny slip that doesn’t cover much. Long curled auburn hair spreading out over both pillows and over her shoulders. Eyes closed, biting her lip.

I’d love to give her one. But there’s nothing left to give.

My clothes are in a pile ready. A bottle of water, and my gloves.

‘Off you go, so,’ she said. Always encouraging me to train hard, pushing me towards my dreams. And off I go. Out of our flat, onto the street, grimy from holiday-makers and slovenly locals from the night before. Chip papers, pizza boxes, cans. Outside the gym the neon sign reads ‘open’ and has the same flickering body builder lifting weights over his head.

I go downstairs to the basement where the ring and the bags are. Patcheen is there training already, sweat flying out of him. He’ll fight that fight now. It was going to be me. I don’t resent him. He swings again and again. I want to show him how to develop his left hook. But he can’t see me. I move in between him and the bag, letting his fists go through me over and over. He thinks that someone has come in and put the aircon on. I made the air cold.

‘Hello?’ he calls. ‘Rory?’

No answer. So he keeps going. I like that he can feel me.

The ball is hovering nearby. It changes to a distasteful swamp green/brown colour. The ball follows me everywhere. I have no idea what it is. It doesn’t talk back, it just changes colour and shape.

I can see things now that I never knew were here. Pockets of grey that follow people around. Some of them are spirits, cling-ons. These have crazy long hands and claws. They don’t look human. Patcheen has this grey cloud over the middle of his back. It moves with him.

Then there’s the alco’s, that lay in wait for another drink. They hang around bars and around drinkers. Hold on till the person is drunk, and then lodge in them. Tasting and unfurling. I tried to pull one out one day. He hit me so hard I thought I was dead all over again.

‘Mind your own business, hero,’ he laughed, showing yellowed rotten teeth. The girl, a tourist, lay there on the grass. Her eyes rolled over to white. It was ages before anyone found her.

Sparkles – silver and gold, bounce out of happy people. They fill up the room sometimes and even help the people with the grey stuff. It’s like a Disney movie when that happens. It’s a weird thing, being able to see all this shit. Kind of interesting. But I know I don’t belong here. All of us that linger are lost. We don’t fit any more.

Later I am back home again. Jeanette has a friend over. Trisha. Jeanette has gone to make coffee, so it’s just me and her. The TV is on silent, some chat show flicks across the screen. She is watching that, then she looks over. Her eyes fix on me. She blinks, then looks at me again.

‘Can you see me?’

She smiles. I know she can. I don’t have a body, but the seers can distinguish your old body outline, and some of your features. The sensers channel information about you, and have a knowing about you. They are both rare enough, so far anyway.

‘Can you let me know that you can see me for sure. It’s so fucking lonely.’

‘I see you John.’

‘I want to go. But she won’t let me. I don’t want to hurt her, but I don’t belong in this place. Tell her she needs to let me go.’

‘I can’t tell her that, she wouldn’t listen and it would upset her too much.’

‘If you don’t tell her..’ I was about to threaten her, tell her I’d mess up her head, and then I watch as she just smiles and closes her eyes. There’s a weird feeling in the room. Then all these angels. Gold. Then a massive blue angel with a white sword. Michael. The ball is unravelling. It’s no longer a ball. It’s an angel too. It makes me want to cry, but I don’t have any eyes or tears.

Jeanette shrieks from the kitchen and Trisha goes to her. They are on the tiled floor. Jeanette is crying, Trisha’s hugging her. They rock back and forth. I look at Archangel Michael, and his eyes are like pools of sapphire. He points to her and I see another massive angel wrapping his wings around her.

‘Let’s go now,’ he says.

‘I can’t leave her.’

He gets his sword and cuts a grey cord that I see now tethering me to Jeanette. It shrivels up and disappears. She lets out a loud sob and takes a deep breath as though a great pain is just leaving her.

‘Now you can.’

‘Will she be okay?’

‘Of course. Look at all the help she has.’

I don’t know if I believe him, but I follow him. A feeling of peace comes over me, followed by euphoria.

I see the place on the street where I got hit by the truck. I see the bystanders doing all they can. The bawling kid that someone should have taken away somewhere. The paramedics, the body bag on the trolley being zipped up. Jeanette screaming. Like its happening right now. But I am risen above it. There are all these angels there. The ball is my guardian angel, and it is beside me always.

My baby. She’ll see when she gets here.

About this Story: This story was a response to a writing prompt for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge in July 2016, and it successfully made it through to the next round. 

The Prompt: Genre = ghost story, location = a boxing ring; object = a neon sign.

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The Snowflake Method for Writing a Novel? Part 2

The Snowflake Method for Writing a Novel? Part 2

Okay, it’s time to regroup. It’s Tuesday Morning, the first in April. I had set a deadline of the end of June for my first draft, with a specific word count to achieve weekly. I was doing that, and then I re-discovered the Snowflake method by Randy Ingermanson. It seems like the perfect idea. The seat-of-the-pants style writing has severe drawbacks and has failed me in the past more times than I care to remember.

Seat-of-the-pants writing is just going for it, without creating a plan or structure beforehand. Some very famous writers, notably Stephen King, write this way very successfully. There is no right or wrong way, only as an aspiring writer you need to find the way that works best for you. I like the idea of this style, as I like being led by characters, who start to come alive. Wake me up in the night, get in my head. Tell me what to do. But it simply hasn’t worked in the past. I’m approaching forty and I have never finished a fiction novel using that method. Maybe the Snowflake is my answer. It’s the planner that allows flexibility. You can go back and change things if the characters don’t agree with you. You are not in a creative straight jacket.

This morning is a writer morning. I will get out of the house, into either a library or lately a café. Away from home, to write. As any writer-mom will know, there is always something more pressing to do at home, even when there is no one in it but you. Out in a café, just you and the laptop and not asking for the Wi-Fi code.. it’s just you and the book. If you mute and turn data off the phone of course.

I finished the Snowflake method book yesterday. In the car, on the way back from a lovely family outing in picturesque Killarney. Now there is NO excuse. Get on with it. I’m going to buy an A4 folder with plastic pockets inside and get cracking on the character bibles. I got as far as Step 6 though which is writing your long synopsis.

I will print off what I have, after checking it over today, and put it in the folder. The magical folder. The magical book to teach me how to write. The magical story board….. arghhhhhhhh. Just get on with it. Stop talking about it. Just do it.

Writing Goals for today:

  • Review all of the steps so far of the snowflake 1-6

  • Buy folder

  • Print off what I have so far and put it into the folder

  • Brainstorm and jot down any more ideas or breakthroughs

Goal for Finishing the ‘First Draft’ Snowflake of my Book = 30th of April 2018.

Goal for complete first draft was 30th of June, I will have to review this goal at the end of May, to see if it’s realistic and if it needs pushing out further.

Another Goal for Today, somewhat related to writing, in an indirect way = 30 minutes exercise. It really helps with ideas and clearing the mind. It’ll have to wait until the afternoon, but it must get done.

Here is a photo I took yesterday, in the middle of nowhere, on a very kindly tolerated photography diversion by my family. Tell me the story you see in that?!

Happy writing, and thanks for reading this much of my ramblings,

Susan.

The Snowflake Method for Writing a Novel?

The Snowflake Method for Writing a Novel?

The Snowflake Method for Writing a Novel?

Part One

I’m making this a part one because it’s still in progress. I have begun. I bought the book of Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method, I bought the software … err, and remembered I think I bought this ten years ago also!! Heck, I even bought it on Audible so I can listen when I run. Yesterday I went for a run in the woods and listened to it as I huffed and puffed past families and dog walkers. The day before I listened on a sunset walk on the beach. I love it and don’t want it to finish. Because that will mean I will have to get on with it and not use the excuse that I am still reading the book.

The Snowflake in Summary

So, let’s stay on topic here… what is the snowflake method? Well, as Ingermanson points out in the story so far, as I am still reading, baby bear’s porridge was just right. Papa Bear’s porridge and his method was too hard. Mama Bear’s too soft and squishy ‘feel your way around your story,’ type thing. Baby Bear recommends creating a one-sentence summary of your novel, then a paragraph, then a page, then character summaries that also get grown later on as the method progresses. It makes it easier. He argues that seat-of-the-pants writers who make it all up as they go along with the plot having no plan can run into problems, whereas ‘snowflakers’ have answered so many of their questions beforehand.

Left Brain, Right Brain

I quite fancy myself as a creative right-brain dominant person. Apologies to any doctors or brain-educated people reading this, it’s a little simplistic for you guys. Truth is though, as flaky as I might like to think I am, I am also a planner, a left brain, logical and nerdy listie type too. I love to write to-do lists. I like check boxes, and especially checking things off. The Snowflake Method looks like a left-brain tool, and it is. But you need your creative right brain to create those characters, the plot and all the story details. So, it’s both. A win-win for me.

So Far, I Have Managed To…

  • Write a one sentence summary for the novel of seventeen words

  • Write a one paragraph summary for the novel

  • Write about the five main characters

  • Write the short synopsis

  • Expand some of my character synopsis’

  • Make a start on my long synopsis

  • Plus a pre-snowflake wordcount of 32,820

I have a goal of completing the first draft by the end of the first half of this year. That’s June the 30th, 2018. I’ll keep you posted, that’s the plan anyway.

Are you writing a novel? Tweet me how it’s going and what you find helpful.

Kindest writer vibes,

Susan.