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Volume XXIII

Lost in Authonomy

 

There are more guns in the United States than there are people; have you ever wondered how many pens there are?

It’s everybody’s right to write their own story…

"The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man.  Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law." 1.

In America, it seems, that it is everybody’s right to write that story until they bleed…

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” 2.

…but is the pen indeed mightier than the sword?

We live in a society drenched in mass communication, yet we couldn’t be more disparate if we tried.

WARNING! This is a novelette designed to make one consider how we communicate in a modern world... on the disparateness of our society despite being drenched in mass-communication. It's also a comment on defending our rights and what those rights should be.

There’s been a lot of talk about futuristic dystopian societies lately, but what if we were already occupying one? Are we actually that connected, as we believe, or is our society more disparate than we would ever care to admit… is there hope for a society so consumed with electronic communication?

We barely communicate. We all have mobile phones, yet we use them to text rather than talk… texting and blogging; two worlds where we can choose not to answer questions or not to answer at all... where we remain anonymous and faceless to a large degree. Where we espouse great treatise, yet we are increasingly politically sterile in real life.

There are more guns than people in the U.S.A. More books unread than read, yet it's a country that espouses the freedom of speech as a right and the freedom to defend one’s self against itself by bearing arms!

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This is an experiment, a novelette, a few thoughts on  modern communication and the rights of humans and how these have shifted with a subtlety most of us have missed.

This is a fictional story based on the communication of two characters online, Kathy and Lex, both attempting to discover what is real and who is sincere in a modern world where communication is rarely face to face.  It also explores the dangers of people becoming buried in their own Id, unseen, unwatched and not cared for... until it is too late.

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Part I

 

Bookend (a theme)

 

1.

 

From the moment of my birth

To the instant of my death,

There are patterns I must follow

Just as I must breathe each breath. 3.

 

 

Kathy knocked tentatively on the frosted glass that framed the front door.  She was already dreading the response from within.

There was no door bell.  The solid wooden door had been framed securely behind a faux-antique security screen door.

The doorway belonged to an unremarkable brick house built in the Sixties.  The house was designed with a standard 3-piece frontage, the vacant front corner of its rectangular plot covered by the obligatory laser light veranda that faced west.  The bricks were a faded orange colour with dark brown cornering and window trim.  The matching front fence showed signs of being taller once, with holes for wrought iron inserts.  The oblong shaped front lawn was large enough to accommodate a family pool, yet it never had.  It had always been lush with grass that was neatly trimmed, its edge lined with local volcanic rocks and stacked behind was a horticultural collection born of English fantasy.  The design suggested an older taste, perhaps from the Eighties, and it was well cared for despite the summer heat and lack of native Australian plants.

Kathy stood nervously at the door step for a few minutes, her long blondish-brown hair flicking across her face with a slight wave, before she turned to flee.  She felt like a stalker.  Her actions screamed of it and yet here she was and now she was about to flee.  It was the first logical decision she had made in a week.  She could not believe that such a mad tangent in her life had brought her to this place.  Perhaps stalker was the wrong word; perhaps she should have been screaming out the word desperate!

Thank God she had changed her mind!

“Hello, can I help you, dear?”

Kathy shrank into her sandals.  There was barely enough room for her toes, painted as they were in a lovely shade of ink-stamp purple.  She turned slowly.  There was an older woman where the door had been.  The woman at the door looked as though she was in her mid to late sixties.  She stood a little over five foot tall.  Her dumpling shape was homely as was her permanent; resplendent in a natural silver grey and cropped relatively short.  She was smiling carefully.  The western suburbs of Melbourne were no longer the peaceful haven they had been when the house was built.  The suburb’s name seemed to sigh with the regret of this; Ardeer...

“Yes, sorry... I was looking for Alex, Alexander.”

“Aren’t we all... have you travelled far?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“Alexander and his friends seem to spread far and wide, all over the world... and yet I’ve never left the state.  Would you like to come in?”

“Is he in?”

“No, but he is online and he’s due to post any minute.  He’s such a thoughtful boy.”

“Oh, OK.”

Kathy followed the older woman inside, slightly reluctantly.  She wasn’t quite sure what she was letting herself in for, but then jetlag could reduce one’s capacity to think logically and decide clearly.  Kathy found herself following the older woman inside, somewhat foolishly; yet again she neglected to heed her own advice about books and covers...

 

2.

 

No I would not give you false hope

On this strange and mournful day

But the mother and child reunion

Is only a motion away 4.

 

The house was as immaculate as the garden and the carefully hosed-down front driveway that led along the side of the house to a secure if slightly imposing set of iron gates.  The main hallway was carpeted and ran almost the entire length of the house.  Kathy carefully noted the rooms; three probable bedrooms to the left and a bathroom at the end.  The hall was wide, but it was dominated by a large veneer and chipboard bookshelf.  This was packed with photos, trophies and books.  The photos almost exclusively featured two boys from birth to adulthood, the trophies screamed lawn bowls, while the books seemed to feature cooking and gardening.  The opposite wall of the hall was dominated by framed cross-stitches as was the lounge to the right and this was where Kathy was led now.

Kathy was kicking herself.  Had she ever been this wanton with her own personal safety?  Didn’t all mass-murderers seem ordinary and homely?  How many bodies were buried beneath the double garage out back behind those imposing iron gates?  She needed a cup of tea to calm her nerves.

“Would you like some tea, dear… and perhaps a seat?”

Spooky...

“Yes, please,” Kathy found herself involuntarily blurting out.

Shit!  She was about to be poisoned... and willingly!

Kathy watched herself in the mirror that hung opposite where she now sat at the kitchen table.  She could barely see herself through the football club icon that adorned it, but she could see her stiff resigned pose.  Was that really her?  Was she actually accepting a cup of tea from a total stranger and raising it to her mouth?

The tea was hot, so she baulked.

“Would you like some milk with that... I, I’m sorry, dear… I don’t know your name yet, do I?”

“It’s Kathy.”

Kathy was surprised that her own mouth uttered her real name; she just couldn’t help herself.

“I’m Rosemary, although most of Alexander’s friends still call me Mrs Lunt.  Did you meet Alex in the States?”

“No, I’ve never been to the U.S.  I’ve just come over from the U.K.”

Kathy was staring across at the kitchen island-bar, pretending to admire an enormous bowl of fruit; her distracting tactics worked a treat.

“Lovely, isn’t it...?  I have that sent from a shop on the other side of town every other week.  Nothing like that here in the western suburbs.”

“It must’ve been expensive.  That large green one looks more like a kiwi fruit than an orange!”

“Oh, it is dear... but then you know that, don’t you?  Same odd sense of humour… I can see why you and Alex get along, so how did you two meet?”

“How did we meet?”

Kathy shrunk a little with embarrassment.  She had sworn that she would never drift into the world of online dating sites or anything of the like and yet here she was.  She felt like a 15-year-old under the gaze of Alexander’s mother, not the 30-something that she was, yet Rosemary seemed so damn accommodating.  Was this her act or was this her usual state of being?  Kathy was drifting into recklessness now, but worst of all, she felt like a character in a cheap try-hard novel and yet she knew she had far more colour than grey.

Kathy needed to focus now and it was imperative that she avoid the truth about how she knew Alex.  She wanted to make a good impression before the truth was revealed and she was desperately trying to avoid eye contact with Alex’s mother in order to achieve the right state of mind.  Kathy scoured the room for another distraction only to find it right in front of her.

Rosemary had served cakes.

Kathy reached out for the distraction.  They looked so inviting; carefully portioned soft biscuit slices with a coconut topping melted over a blackcurrant conserve.  Yum!  Kathy held the slice close to her mouth without sampling it for fear of what might really be within, yet Rosemary did not notice.  Her soft brown eyes, yellowed slightly with age, were concentrating on the laptop that sat beckoning for a keystroke at the far end of the table.

“He should have posted by now.  He always posts by 10:30 in the morning… 10:45 at the latest… he’s as regular as clockwork is our Alexander… as regular as clockwork.”

Kathy knew exactly how Rosemary felt.  She knew exactly how it felt to wait on a post that would never come or an email that never received a reply.

 

 

Part II

 

Old Friends?

 

3.

 

Yes, we speak of things that matter,

With words that must be said,

"Can analysis be worthwhile?"

"Is the theatre really dead?" 5.

 

The minutes wore on as they would for an expectant groom awaiting a hesitant bride.  Kathy felt that same hesitation.  She wished she had felt that at any time in the previous week.

Rosemary flicked her fingernails nervously until they sounded like the rhythmic tapping on a computer keyboard.

It was a familiar sound and a welcome memory; a recollection between old friends and rivals, fresh acquaintances and co-conspirators.

Kathy found herself drifting back a few weeks, to England and to where she had been holed up for months; in the loft of the old barn in Much Wenlock...

 

 

Kathy had been taking a self-imposed hiatus.  It was her first real break in years and she needed it badly.  Sure, she had the dream job in the dream location with the much vaunted remuneration, but all she ever really wanted to do was write.  She had plugged away at Emily in the Attic for three years in her spare time, but she had come to the realization that at some point she would have to take her baby more seriously and here she was… just like a real writer… not!

The view from the first floor window of the old barn, what would have been the old loft, was not spectacular, but then its lack of draw was conducive to writing.  The small walled garden below her window had a neatly laid out lawn and little else.  She could only just see the top of the square Norman tower on Holy Trinity Church and the famed Wenlock Priory was completely obscured.  The rear fencing of other adjacent properties and the village’s drop into the nearby Severn Valley saw to this distinct lack of visibility nicely.

The old barn was difficult to find, hidden as it was in a narrow excuse for a lane which ran behind the more picturesque half-timbered buildings that lined the village’s main street.  Fortunately, obscurity was the theme here and the object of Kathy’s short-term residence.

Kathy found her village location absolutely perfect and despite the view or lack of, the loft of the old barn was not a disappointment.  She often found herself spinning around in her chair between paragraphs and drifting off into the great oak beams that adorned the ceiling.  The old barn was a dream come true in the accommodation stakes, as long as each night she remembered to duck at the top of the stairs where the ancient beams defied the more modern layout.  Kathy doubted that she could dream up a more appropriate Shakespearian fantasy, although she did like to try.

But what of Emily in the Attic?

Kathy was no longer typing.  She completed her novel in the first few weeks here and she was tired of the endless re-writes, the punctuation fixations and the POV’s that she struggled with seemingly endlessly.  She required a break and as such she had been continuing her trawling of the Internet for Publishers, Agents and writing competitions.  Who knew it would be this hard?

Kathy had begun the process of self-promotion long before the beginning of her three month tenure here in Much Wenlock.  The fact that she had delved into this some months before, without success, only highlighted the inherent faults in her writing and perhaps the lack of a really snappy pitch.

Between re-writes Kathy had also spent a large portion of her sojourn in Much Wenlock reading and critiquing novels from other aspiring authors in return for comments and critiques about Emily.  She had sampled various websites in order to achieve this, but the one that seemed to soak up most of her precious time and energy was Authonomy.  This was a site set up by Harper-Collins as a writer’s forum.  The site offered the unique carrot of a read from the professionals, if your unpublished novel was voted into the top five in any given month.  Once a novel received a review from the Editor’s Desk, Harper-Collins might even consider the manuscript for publishing.  The website drew aspiring novelists like flies to yesterday’s newspaper in the backyard out house and Kathy had been no exception.  Her novel, Emily in the Attic, was number six with a bullet and there were only a few days left until the end of the month.

Go Emily!

Kathy was currently trawling through five read swaps.  To be brutally honest, they were a mixed bag.  Two were quite remarkable, but not in everyone’s opinion.  The other three needed a lot of work and Kathy hated to give any aspiring author bad news.  She was well aware how it felt to be rejected, but she also knew that a decent star rating via a book swap from any one of these authors might propel her into the top five this month.  Like everybody on the website she so wanted to be read by a professional editor who actually worked in a publishing house.

Come on Emily, don’t let me down now.

Kathy began typing the first of her five critiques.  She always tried to be fair and honest and not too rude or critical and she always hoped that she would be treated just as fairly.  She was not particularly nit-picky with grammar, but she always pointed out the more obvious errors and typos.  She fully understood what it meant to receive a nasty critique; it was devastating… some people could be terribly cruel.

Kathy drifted back to the keyboard of her laptop and began to type, only to be interrupted by a new message that flashed up on the screen...

 

Lex.L backed Emily in the Attic

 

Kathy had never been so excited to be interrupted.  This was an unexpected bonus read and shelving from someone she had never even shared a blog with and whose book she had never set eyes on.  Kathy was a member of all the more popular forums on Authonomy and Lex.L did not ring a bell.  She had very quickly discovered that a writer posting in Authonomy had to spend time to get known, so as to get their novel out in the wild.

It was always quite intriguing to receive unsolicited blog, as it usually meant that the sender was spamming the site to up their rankings or that they had simply been intrigued by her pitch… and she was never really sure how a good pitch should be worded.  Many of the favoured novels here had awful pitches, yet they had sold their novel to dozens of other aspiring authors who had duly read and critiqued favourably.

Despite the workload Kathy had already committed to on this site, she decided to answer Lex.L, perhaps she was just being too nice... this was a competition after all!  Kathy laughed at her distraction; no wonder Emily had taken three years to complete.  She had the attention span of a goldfish!  She wondered if every writer’s first novel took this long, without pondering on the thought so long that it prevented her from sliding her mouse across to her most recently delivered email from Authonomy.

Kathy clicked on the link and a new web page opened up.  This was the actual message from Lex.L.  She checked his ranking… 5402.  He was a newbie as she had been not so long ago, but his avatar was interesting.  It was a morphed picture that blended the faces of two actors; Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey.

Classic.

Kathy always considered that any response to an unsolicited blog required a moment or two of thought.  One should never rush into a blog with an unknown and one should never divulge too much of themselves too early.

Kathy clicked on Lex.L’s profile for inspiration and a little background.  She smiled with recognition after reading a few lines of his about me and immediately opened a reply message.  They had a number of things in common according to his profile, they also seemed to like all the same books and there was something quirky about the way he had presented himself.  Kathy let her imagination run wild, yet despite her impetuousness Kathy typed slowly and with due consideration.

 

Hi Lex.L  Thanks for backing Emily in the Attic.  Any thoughts so far? There’s no Kryptonite buried in the Attic, so what skeletons drew you in here?

 

The reply button lurked beneath her mouse pointer for an eternity before she finally clicked.  She exhaled and almost gasped as she did, as she always did.  Who knew who these people were?  She doubted that many of the people here showed their true selves; they certainly didn’t all reveal themselves in their avatar.  Kathy even doubted the wisdom of placing a complete novel online; too late now…

 

.

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4.

 

The first thing I remember, I was lying in my bed

I couldn't've been no more than one or two

And I remember there's a radio, coming from the room next door

My mother laughed the way some ladies' do  6.

 

Kathy found herself in the middle of a frenzy.  She’d been at it for six hours straight.  She had reviewed five novels on Authonomy, based on her notes, which she had scribbled copiously on a pink post-it note pad.  She was pleased with her notes.  They had all made perfect sense; far more sense than sitting alone in the dark lit only by a computer screen, in an ancient barn beyond an obscure English village.  She didn’t even know why she was in this particular village, an hour west of Birmingham and half an hour east of Wales.

How did that go again?  Search English cottage websites.  Select by budget.  Choose cutest, oldest looking period property within that limited budget and book.

Despite her criteria, there was no real logic in Kathy’s final decision; it had been based purely on availability in the end, yet she had discovered the perfect writing retreat.  That was nearly three months ago; yes... she was pretty sure about that timeline... time seemed to drift by in a flash up in the loft of the old barn.  She had given herself a three month window to complete and expose her novel… so what was she doing editing the works of five complete strangers?  She was hopeless and she knew it well and it must be time for bed.  Kathy reached for her mouse.  Oh look, a new message from Authonomy!  Kathy clicked on the link without thinking.  It was from Lex.L.  About bloody time.

 

Hi Gargoyle-in-the-Attic.  Sorry, but I haven’t started Emily in the Attic yet, just finished up on another author.  You are next.  I put your book on my shelf instead of on my watch list, but I did like the premise and some of the favourable comments from others.  Perhaps you’d like to read mine.  It’s set in Melbourne, Australia (at least at first), but I like to travel with my novels a bit... that’s sort of a warning.  The story ends up in France and England and finally Central America.  Cool avatar BTW... that couldn’t be an ancient carving from Canterbury Cathedral, could it?  Emily will be my lunchtime reading.  What do you suggest I eat while I’m reading?

 

Whoa... who was this guy?  Nobody had ever commented on her avatar before.  How did he know it was her picture of an ancient carving discovered in the spoil on a reasonably recent dig at Canterbury Cathedral?

Interesting.

Kathy began to type without thinking as it seemed that Lex.L had.  Sometimes that was the best way and sometimes you found out a lot more about the mind behind the avatar on the profile… and sometimes it was just dangerous, but Kathy was too tired to heed her own warning bells.

 

Oh that’s such an original question!  Love it!  Well, Emily is set in France and England and Australia as well; travelling’s a bit of a thing for me too.  Perhaps you could go an Aussie bar-b-que with a few shrimps, English with sausages and potatoes or you could be real smug and go French with Champagne and truffles!

 

Kathy re-read her response carefully through leaden eyes before she clicked on reply and leant back in her comfy ergonomic chair.  The chair was her only dip into decadence here in Much Wenlock.  It had cost her nearly 500 pounds, but she knew that if she could sit and wonder in comfort without realizing it, her mind would drift into storytelling and general creativity effortlessly.

Lex.L had intrigued and energized her despite the lateness of the hour and she was soon typing away furiously at her computer again.  However, she was not the only writer with a renewed sense of enthusiasm in cyber-space tonight and she soon found another message awaiting her.

 

Hmmm... bangers and mash.  Very English, but BBQ’s a bit passé, so I’m leaning towards the French.  Perhaps I’ll get myself a maid!  I once heard on the radio that a man needs a maid!  What do you think… a French maid serving champagne and truffles?  My brother was in Peru recently and they served him up a local delicacy – roasted guinea pig!  Segue… don’t they use pigs to search out truffles?

 

Kathy replied immediately.  She was enthused by Lex.L’s enthusiasm and she felt obliged to immediately return the read.  She clicked on Lex.L’s novel... A Picture of Lily... OK, so who was Lily?  His girlfriend, no... his mother… noooo, she was a French maid, a sex fantasy!

 

OK, well it’s late, but I’m about to start your book.  I have a jar of peanut butter with a spoon beside me ready to go.  You can make of that what you will!

 

Kathy clicked reply and spun around in her chair.  She slid off effortlessly, catching her reflection in the cheval mirror in the corner by the door.  She was not a pretty picture.  Thank god Authonomy did not have a video chat component.  She pulled her sloppy two-day-old t-shirt down over her hips.  It was her favourite.  It was pale blue with a procession of silhouettes in black beginning with an ape.  This was followed by a series of bigger silhouettes, ranging from a Neanderthal, a hunter, a man in a suit, a woman in heels and a woman lounging in front of a computer reading a book.

Kathy had always been reasonably content with her shape.  Her legs were reasonably thin without being supermodel sticks and there were no signs of developing kankles or thighnees!  Her general body shape was hour glass-like thanks to the not too generous proportions of her hips and shoulders, yet her breasts were a little disappointing… nothing a good push-up bra couldn’t fix, but then she wasn’t currently wearing one.

She caught herself in a frown before continuing downstairs. She would have to be careful with her peanut butter intake and she would have to remember to duck... NOW

 

 

5.

 

I have my books and my poetry to protect me;

I am shielded in my armour,

Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.

I touch no one and no one touches me. 7.

 

The sun flickered off the stainless steel spoon, probing Kathy’s eyes.  She stirred with annoyance, blindly striking out at the object that was disturbing her restless sleep.  She was lost in the north of France amidst fearful trenches filling with gas.  The thick globule of peanut butter from the spoon felt like mud on her face as she inadvertently smeared it across.

That woke her up good and proper.

The room’s appearance shook her somewhat.  She hadn’t quite settled it into her psyche that she was living such a fabulous dream, something she would have only written about months before.

Kathy inspected her hand... ew!  She had fallen asleep at her laptop and this was not the first time... sucked into the world of Authonomy again!  She was covered in the remnants of her peanut butter snack... again!  Kathy peeled off her t-shirt and wiped her hand on it before stomping off dozily to the bathroom.  She stepped straight into the shower, unaware of her peanut butter blush and eye shadow, turned on the taps and completed the strip.  She didn’t realize until she had cleaned up that it was already midday.

Toast followed a coffee and then she was back in front of her laptop.  She had read three chapters of Lex.L’s book and it was worthy of being shelved.  That should get Lex.L a few ranking points, but how was her book going?  Email... she had new email.  It was Lex.L again, so her own ranking would have to wait.  She stuffed another piece of cold toast into her not quite empty mouth and clicked on the link.

Well, well, what a surprise.  I started reading a book called Emily in the Attic and found myself reading about a guy in his mid-forties.  Is that your hubby or your dad?  Very vivid.  I like the psychotic bit in chapter one.  Quite disturbing really.  I did Emily on cheese in the end, but reverted to peanut brittle.  Must be careful of my allergies, my head could swell up like Ron’s with spattergroit!  What a ghoulish thing to do!

Kathy had no doubt that this guy was reading similar things, yet his way of expressing himself was a tad odd.  Kathy had already decided she liked this and yawned again as she realized what she’d put herself through the night before.  She really needed to focus on Emily, but Lily was so beguiling.  Lex.L’s novel just felt so real, so personal and yet it was obviously a fiction.  Kathy replied quickly before reading on.

Thanks for your comments.  I hope you continue to read.  Peanut brittle... mmmmmm!  No allergies here as far as I know!  You feel a bit Potterish to me.  I do love a good Potter.  Just read JK’s adult book, bit of a disappointment.  Have you read it yet?”

Kathy signed off.  She dressed quickly in a t-shirt, a pair of tracky-dacks and some sandals.  She realized that she needed some supplies and she required a little bit of fresh air to get herself focussed.  It was a lovely day outside for once.  The weather was obviously beginning to turn as spring head into summer.  The wind was fresh and whipped her blondish-brown hair about wildly as she stepped into the lane behind the old barn.  This was the front door, yet it stepped straight out into a lane.  Fortunately it was a quiet dead end, as Kathy couldn’t see a bloody thing with her hair all wild and blowy.  She quickly captured it up in a pony tail that lobbed across her shoulder and down across her left breast.

She felt free, having completed her novel, yet she felt stifled because she knew she would probably have to edit it again.  How long would it take to begin getting replies from writers’ agents or publishers?  Her research suggested that it could be months, as did the forums on Authonomy.  Should she re-edit, re-do her pitch or just start writing something new?  She did have a few ideas, but then she had read so much from others recently, she was beginning to wonder where her ideas began and where others ended.

The corner shop was a block away and it was also a petrol station.  Kathy had not used her zippy new car since she had arrived, yet she had frequented this place on an almost daily basis.  It was here that she found her bread and her peanut butter, her crumpets and her marg, her energy drinks and her midnight snacks.  The woman behind the counter knew her well thanks to her unusual array of snacks and greeted her warmly.

“Hello Kathy… how’s the book going?”

“It’s finished.”

“Congratulations…”

“Well, at least I think it’s finished.  Have I announced that before?  I’m sure I have.  I must be so annoying.”

“No, but you must be proud of it.  So when do I get to sell it in here?”

“I have to find an agent first and then a publisher and then strike up a deal while it’s probably edited again, but I’ll have to go back to work before that.”

“You’re not going so soon?”

“No, I still have a week or so here yet.  Maybe I’ll start on something new.”

“Maybe you could put me in it!”

Kathy smiled politely, but she couldn’t see it.  Theresa was unremarkable.  She was lovely and great company, but totally devoid of story, she looked just like any other village shop girl serving until she got served.  Kathy half imagined that she was a princess whose family had been duped out of the English Crown generations before; the shop-girl who would be queen.  However, the way she chewed her gum open-mouthed quickly dismissed that thought… although she did have interesting hair.

“You should go down to the Priory, Kathy.”

“I should, shouldn’t I… but not today, I have a book to review.”

“I thought you were writing.”

“So did I, but it seems that I have to review to be reviewed and so I must review while I review!’

“You know, you’re fucking mad, don’t you?”

“At least someone understands me, Theresa.”

Kathy purchased her supplies, packing them roughly into her non-plastic eco-bag, before she almost ran back to the old barn.  A Picture of Lily was spread out on the laptop screen before her in no time and she soon realized that she was reading a novel with parallel plotlines; 1918 versus 2008… nice!  She dove in quickly and was another chapter into it before she was rudely interrupted.  Fortunately, it was a pleasant nudge and Kathy opened the email quickly.

Good ol’ J.K.  I must admit that J.K.'s Potter books had me gripped from the start, unlike say the Millennium trilogy which took about 150-200 pages to get into. It was great after that. One wonders how he ever got published (seems that it may help one's career to die!) Even the movies omitted the start! As for J.K.'s newbie, I've had three friends read it. Two hated it outright. The other loved the first chapter and the last 100 pages which means there could be a lot of manure to shovel out in between!  I'm torn whether or not to spend my time as I've just finished my Lily (now fully uploaded on Authonomy) and only today I began mapping out a new book called The Maia Calendar (different spelling intentional!) And I'd like to get published - wouldn't we all!

Wow, Lex.L was writing again already.  Who had that many ideas?  Maybe a real writer.  Kathy was slightly intimidated, as she had been writing her novel for three years, but maybe that made it all the better or did that just make it all the more disjointed and full of manure to be shovelled?  She sighed.  There were so many good books out there and hers was just one of thousands on a site that contained thousands of unpublished wannabes.  There were people here who had trilogies and more… entire worlds of their own making with languages to accompany them.  What the hell had she been doing all this time?

Typing and responding to others it seems, as she was already beginning to do again!

 I've just been thinking about a second novel, but need to balance out what I’ve been reading with what I’m actually thinking.  The problem is I'm so bloody busy.  I spend far too much time reading other peoples stuff here on Authonomy.  I've done barely any more writing... whoops!  Must spend less time here, thus ensuring I never make the desk.  Aaauugghh!  Am I getting sucked into the void that is Authonomy? :(  Oh woe is me; I’ll have to change my name to Dr. Smith!

I felt the same about Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo!  I gave up on it so many times, but my hairdresser said it got much better after the 200 page mark.  It was bloody tough going until then and so pointless really!  I read that that's the Swedish style, big set up... but boring!  Not quite sure where the setup was.  I think I'd really prefer to be alive and kicking when I get published.  It's been my dream for so long… just like everyone else in here!

So are you English, you sound English... and living in Oz or is that something else I misconstrued?  You seem to have a connection there and judging by the opening of A Picture of Lily you must have been there or know someone from there as it is too eerily close for comfort!  How do I know, well you might ask!  Are you enjoying this site? I have found it pretty helpful.  There are quite a few really genuine people Authonomy... the type who will honestly critique your work.  Have you found that yet or is it too early?   Should I get back to it and give you some hope.   I am enjoying Lily; quite intriguing… I hope I enjoy the rest.

Kathy was disappointed that she didn’t get an immediate reply.  Perhaps she was asking questions that were too personal.  What time was it in Australia?  Some ridiculously early hour in the morning.  Australia could be so far away some days.

 

6.

 

Hello darkness, my old friend,

I've come to talk with you again,

Because a vision softly creeping in,

Left its seeds while I was sleeping 8.

 

Kathy decided she needed a break beyond other people’s novels by three o’clock.  Her novel had now cracked the top five thanks no doubt to Lex.L’s shelving.  A few extra star ratings and some positive feedback from the other five authors she had critiqued the day before should push her a little higher and guarantee her a spot on the Editor’s Desk by the end of the month.  So excited!

Drifting into the oak beams of the old barn Kathy began to realize that perhaps her ambition to write another novel and be more than just a one-book-wonder was right in front of her.  She began taking in the old barn, beam by join by dowel.  She remembered how the woman who had presented her with the key, Doris, had mentioned that this was her family’s barn when she was a child.  How many stories were there here?  How many lovers had rolled in the hay and how many rodents had scooted up and down these solid old oak beams?  Ew!

Kathy began to explore as she realized that she had been here for nearly three months without really doing so.  She had just sat down in her new chair on the very first day and begun to write.  After the writing had been completed she commenced the editing and somewhere in between she had continued to put her feelers out on the Internet and now it was nearly three months later and she still seemed to be lost in the same vicious circle!

The old barn had been quite nicely converted.  It had a second level that was probably not here originally except in the form of a loft, yet it was not an obvious add-on.  The old beams that featured throughout showed no signs of being cut off or manipulated crudely at all.  They were all painted black and the plaster of the walls in between were a bright low-sheen white.  The beams up in the top floor, where the bedrooms were, would have passed for a decent coat hanger in any code of football.  Although they blended quite nicely, they were extremely dangerous at the top of the stairs where the obtrusiveness of the renovation was actually obvious, yet elsewhere they were just another magical feature.

Kathy leant up against the wall in the hall as she reached the bottom of the stairs.  It bowed as if it was pregnant with ideas bursting to explode outwards, to flood Kathy’s wild imagination with her next novel.  It didn’t, but it certainly had her eyes flashing back and forth and her mind racing with possibilities.  She continued her tour.  She only made it to the lounge before the urge to write got the better of her again.  She had discovered the visitor’s book some weeks back and on flicking through it, hoping to find the names and stories of people from all over the world, she only found locals.  While that was frustrating, it did give her another idea.  There was a pad and a pen on the coffee table.  It had been left for guests to scribble short notes, but within a short while Kathy filled it.

The room was dark and her eyes were straining through the gloom when she finally gave up, but not for lack of ideas.  She just needed some light and there was a horrible ache in her stomach.  Was that all the peanut butter from the night before or could it be something else... hunger?  Kathy had lived off the feverish adrenalin of the write all day without eating anything except a few pieces of toast.  Shit!  She was starving.  What time was it?  8 o’clock... shit!  She had burnt another entire day!

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Kathy slid into the kitchen over the polished tiles which should have been flagstones, found a light switch and dug around for some food.  There wasn’t much here... it would have to be crumpets and a spread... again.  What she wouldn’t give for a good take-out or a pub meal.  Sigh.  She stuffed the first of the hot crumpets in her mouth as she spread three others and then stomped upstairs.  It amused her that one could only stomp in this place; such was the makeup of the floors... solid irregular creaky beams with no covering and no insulated ceilings below.

She fired up her laptop with a flick of her mouse.  It had been forlornly flitting through pictures of her journey; pictures that desperately required more friends to make this journey an interesting one!  She had another new message and although she baulked at clicking on it, as she wanted to type up her new plan, she saw it was from Lex.L and she was so waiting for his next reply.  Click.

No, I'm a born and bred Aussie, we go back to 1850 on both sides - no convicts, drats!  Wot about you?  The added countries in Lily are due to my love of travel... and I have an English/History degree.  I'm starting to enjoy the site, but find it difficult to work out how to get read.  I am finding the critiques reasonable, although some focus too much on minor editing things and the actual critiques are too few and far between – am I expecting too much too soon?  I must admit that I am more interested in the effect that the story might have on someone, rather than where an extra comma should be go.  I hope that came across with my partial critique of your Emily (posted a little earlier.)  I don't think minor edits will keep us from being published!  I agree with you on the Dragon Tattoo, but I hadn't heard it was a Swedish thing, I guess they have long winters and nothing much to do but sauna!  The one of mine that you are reading now is a stand-alone with a pike and a triple twist at the end!   I'd be interested to know more about your new ideas... so write on McDuff... you can't hold it in or you'll explode... Lex.L

Kathy began typing a reply immediately.  She was having one of those days, bursting with ideas and the walls here seemed to be pushing inwards and squeezing them out of her fingertips!

Born and bred Aussie, no way, me too!  I’m a bitser though... English Irish German mix, born and bred in Melbourne, no convicts either.  I lived in Sydney for a few years and Queensland when I was younger… god that sounds so aging.  I used to tease my Sydney friends in my best posh English accent (and it is pretty good) that they were all convicts... that the rest of us are free settlers.  Personally I think we’re all just Bogans!  Hey, guess what… now I live and work in London (when I’m not writing), so now I’m just a Bogan with a fake accent!  :D

I so wish that I had done English and History at school... if only I could time travel... LOL!

As for your writing questions, it really is best to join one of the Authonomy groups where people do read swaps.  I’m in CWOG, Cool Writers Only Group.  They are the funniest group and the least bitchy.  They can talk a lot of rubbish day to day, but they do generally give good honest reviews.  I like to give honest advice about a novel’s characters and plot.  Unfortunately, there are a few people who write insincere comments and you can sooo tell that they have barely read anything of your book.   Have a run through a few of the reviews I’ve got and you’ll soon work out who is genuine.

A lot of the people here will only read the first chapter or two, out of obligation.  That’s so you read theirs in return and that’s so you might put them on your shelf and increase their ranking points – get the idea! Sometimes you get lucky and a read swap will result in someone actually liking your novel enough to read on through to the end!  I have already chapter swapped entire books with a few and that has been really helpful.  You really get a better idea of the plot the novel’s pace, its characters and the writer’s intentions.  You know, how much they’re trying to fuck with UR mind!  It’s a good idea to tell people what UR looking for and what kind’ve feedback you want.

There is another group called YALF.   In that one you go on a waiting list to have your novel become book of the week (or is that fortnight, I forget).  Everyone in the YALF group has to review your novel.  I'm stilllllllll waiting for my turn and it could be a while as I haven’t been here that long… only months!   Some people have been locked in here for years!

Beware though, as some of the threads are really bitchy.  Sometimes they gang up on people.  Obviously there are some people who need to get a life outside of Authonomy, best to avoid people like that in here!

My new idea revolves around an old barn and its history and all the people who may have passed through it or been conceived in it, blah blah blah, you get the idea!

I had a moment to check out your website.  Goodness me, how impressive is that and amazingly intimidating!  Where the hell have you found the time to write that many books!  Have you actually approached any publishers?

Kathy clicked on the reply button and drifted back to her new ideas.  Was that verbal diarrhoea or what?  She wondered if there was something you could take for that… Dr Wonderblust’s Verbal Inhibiter Cream – applied directly to the tongue!  Kathy wondered if she could apply that to her maniacal fingertips and then she realized she was drifting again… too much sugar, not enough vegies!  Kathy so did not expect a quick reply from Lex.L, yet she received one within minutes.

Don't blah blah blah UR new ideas or UR completed story too much, especially no to me, have a little faith.  Thanks for looking at the website.  Designed that myself.  Still working on it and developing it.  Lots of nice little tid bits in there.  Where do I get the time?  Let's see, I'm actually a time traveller and I keep going backwards in time to write and then I return to the day to day grind without anyone being any the wiser!   Actually no, I write every lunch break for one hour. I actually do that with a pen!  Then I go home and type it out, go to sleep and repeat!   Two months later I have a book worth 80,000 to 120,000 words.  Mind you, they could all be crap! You just never know… you know, I just sort of got into a groove back in 2004 after spending a few years writing primarily as a songwriter.  I always wanted to do a novel, which turned into five.  Then I branched out and tried a few different themes.  I also travelled a lot more.  Each trip gives me new ideas.  My next trip is to the UK for more research, but I might have to venture home first… time will tell.   I like to have been in a place, add the history get a mad idea and then write until my fingertips bleed.  Thanks for the help with the forums.  I think you could get lost in this place and that gave me another idea for a novel on the way home from work - about getting lost in Authonomy.  I'm thinking of calling it Why Don't You Write Me No More, Man (if that’s what you are?)  One more thing, as a hint and a toy for all my prospective readers, I usually choose an artist’s songs to name my chapters after.  I also often have song snippets or poetry or quotes at the beginning of a chapter to shed light on it somehow - just for fun.  I like a good challenge.  As for publishing, I have tried a number of times, with a couple of books, but not hard enough me thinks!  I’m just too bloody busy travelling and writing and stuff.  As for U, how the hell did you end up in England and then in here?  I was there in 2008 last.  That’s when I saw Canterbury.  I have your avatar hanging on my lounge room wall!   Lovely place, awesome space... Lex.L

Oddly enough, this was now becoming a conversation despite the supposed distance and Kathy continued on quickly.  She was typing as feverishly as she had written earlier and that was always a good thing as far as she was concerned.  This was stream of consciousness stuff!

SNAP!  Canterbury, one of the few places I’ve been to.  Too busy working and drinking and writing... did I say drinking, LOL!  Don’t you just love a good English pub?  I love it when you place quotes or poetry that reflects the chapter at the beginning of a chapter.  I wanted to do that with Emily, perhaps I will now!  In fact, I have an idea for that now – did you notice that I stopped and scribbled some notes before I continued typing!  I had been thinking that if I did a poetry/song thing I might be trying too hard – now I’m not so sure! So many ideas, so little time…

I moved here to London some years ago and found work immediately because I didn’t have any money.  I got paid a shitload and now it seems that I’ve worked ever since.  I suppose that could be considered a waste.  I’m no longer sure that the big career thing and the associated money is all it’s cracked up to be.

I'm obsessed with England and English classics, so coming here is a dream come true and I think I’m finally making it such.  I’m currently on a three month writing sabbatical... and I’ve not told anybody that in here or out in the wild.  What is it about you, mister?  But I digress, yet again… I’m in this out of the way village called Much Wenlock, ever heard of it? Betcha haven’t!

Talk soon! So stoked to have found another Aussie I can yak to! Whoo hoo!!

Kathy sent her reply and then drifted back three months.  She had quit her job in London, but her boss offered to give her a break without pay instead... so that she could travel, if only they knew!  The book thing was on the QT.  Her boss even offered to sponsor her for an extended stay in the U.K. if she was willing to come back following her break.  Kathy already knew that she would be following up on that offer; she even had a fixed date that was looming quickly on the horizon.

The research Kathy had conducted while in Much Wenlock suggested quite early that she would not be published in the three months she had given herself.  Now she was wondering if she should actually be following up on some of that travelling instead of being lost in here.  She didn’t have to think too long.  She was already reading Lex.L’s extended review of Emily in the Attic and she knew that she would have to return the favour, as she always did… oops, another new message.

Much Wenlock, home of the first Olympics!  I was there in 2008.  Stayed in an old barn in St Mary’s Lane out the back of town.  What am I saying; it’s a two street town!  Have you seen Wenlock Priory, yet?  Orsum!  And then there’s the half-timbered buildings along both sides of the main street.  Some of them are nearly 500 years old!  You should have a meal at the George and Dragon (great pub sign – I have a picture!)  Up the road a bit there’s also Ironbridge – it’s a town and it is named after the first iron bridge ever built, that was around the 1780’s I think... babble babble, I do go on.  Funny, I threw in a job about a year ago because I was tired of the stress of it... less peak hour driving and less bullshit now.  What am I saying; I’ve thrown in dozens of jobs for the same reason.  I just don’t want the stress; I’d rather work for a bit and then travel.  Sometimes I think I only work because it forces me to stop and reflect and then I write.

I love the UK too, can't you tell.  Been there 3 times, driven all over it twice including Ireland and the Outer Hebrides off the north west coast of Scotland and still have places I want to see.  I even did the Jane Austen route; saw her house in Chawton, her grave in Winchester Cathedral (stood on it by mistake – whoops) and the museum in Bath.  I even visited a couple of Austen-style movie sets, in Lacock and Chatsworth House, but my big thing is the Bronte’s.  Went to Haworth and walked the moors and visited the parsonage.  One of the few spots I've been spooked or had an eerie sense of the place (Dachau and Stonehenge were two others.)  I was standing in the parlour and there was this long divan against the wall which gave me a chill.  A lovely old lady, one of the guides, walked in and then explained that Emily had died on that very divan!!!

Spent last evening mapping out my next two novels, the ideas I mentioned earlier.  One is quite developed now - The Maia Calendar - and the other is a bit weird, that blog thing I mentioned.  Its gathering steam at the moment and I even have chapter themes (Simon & Garfunkel to be the inspiration) and I have the two leads... one in the UK and one in New York.  Guess where I am at the moment, but not for long.  It can get quite scary here at times, although the people in general are quite lovely.  I think Americans in general are way too pigeon-holed into stereo-types that don’t really exist when you’re at the coal face.  I have to say that the blog thing is getting creepy... but in a real delicious way!

PS A song for the asking - just between 2 Aussies... inspired by your good self...

 

Take out the papers and the trash

Or you don't get no spendin' cash

If you don't scrub that kitchen floor

You ain't gonna rock and roll no more

Yakety yak (don't talk back)

 

Just finish cleanin' up your room

Let's see that dust fly with that broom

Get all that garbage out of sight

Or you don't go out Friday night

Yakety yak (don't talk back)

 

You just put on your coat and hat

And walk yourself to the laundromat

And when you finish doin' that

Bring in the dog and put out the cat

Yakety yak (don't talk back)9.

 

Kathy laughed.  Yes, this was getting a bit creepy, but so intriguing... enough for her to want to write back immediately… again!  She would be here all night if she wasn’t careful and then she’d be on New York time.  What the fuck did she care?  She didn’t even care if she finished up living on New York time, it didn’t really matter and this was kind’ve fun.  At least she understood why Lex.L hadn’t replied immediately when she wanted him to; he was probably working.  He didn’t seem to post between nine and five New York time.

New York... bullshit!  I thort you were in Oz!  It does explain your hours though.  OMG it’s so been my dream to do a road trip throughout the UK.

 

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