A short, short story, aka flash fiction. Enjoy!
I can’t believe I let myself be talked into doing this.
It had seemed like a simple, and safe, bit of fun. A challenge from my colleagues. But now I’m up here I’m not so sure. Okay, so I have a rope attached to me, but what if I fall and it doesn’t hold?
Splat. That’s what.
The boards quiver and seem to sway as I shuffle out a few more centimetres. The muscles have constricted in my throat and around my lungs, my gasps for air amusing my colleagues on safe ground.
“Get moving! You’ll still be there this time tomorrow at that rate!”
A deep breath and I move a few more centimetres. You can do this.
Sweat trickles down my face as I shuffle forward again.
“Are you chicken? I thought you said you weren’t afraid!”
“All talk and no action!”
The city moves beneath my feet—it’s a long way down. I’m going to chuck.
“Just do it!”
I swallow—no mean feat when your throat is clenched as tight as your butt—and look up.
Slide your feet…one at a time…ignore the tremble…you’ll be fine…
The far side didn’t seem to be getting much closer.
Another bead of sweat follows the first. The strain of keeping balanced burns in my thighs. I have to finish this.
I can hear the shouts from behind, but can’t make out the words. My heart pounds, drumming in my ears.
Okay, you’re steady. Breathe…slide…slide…
Hang on; the end is only a metre away!
Breathe…slide…breathe…slide…wobble…to heck with it…
A quick step and I reach solid ground. Or concrete. I don’t care—I’m safe. I untie the rope and send it swinging.
“Now you have to come back,” someone called.
I don’t think so. There is a door on this side, and it’s ajar.
“Nah, I’m heading down the stairs. I’ll see you at the bar. Unless you want to join me over here?”
They laugh. Until they see me hold up the key
I’ve locked the door on their side. They can’t get off the roof unless…
There’s been a bit happening in my writing world at the moment so I thought I'd fill you in.
The next book for release has been critiqued by my beta readers and is now with my editor. The image for the cover has been chosen, the blurb has been drafted, and I’m hoping to be able to announce a release date soon!
It’s now only two months until the big trip! So many of the destinations are wrapped up in my stories that it will be an emotional time, and an exciting one. I plan to post on my blog while I’m away, and there will be heaps of story-related photos too. I’ll be putting an itinerary of the book related places I’ll be visiting up on my blog before I leave.
Work on a new book is progressing sporadically. It’s frustrating – I get a load of words down and then something happens (like getting a head cold) that stops me from being productive. It is coming along though – I’m about a third the way through writing it. I’m loving taking my characters through an adventure. Some of them are showing me new things about themselves, and some are pushing their way forward for more attention. It’s a wonderful process and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
While I’m working on that story, I’ve also started planning the first book of a new series. At the moment I think there will be three books in total. Early days yet. I hope to start writing the first book over Christmas. That’s always assuming I don’t choose to do one of the many others I want to write. So many ideas!
That’s it for now. Don’t forget – if you want to hear the big announcements before anyone else, sign up to get them delivered to your email.
I was asked a question a month or so ago about my choice of organisations—namely the FBI and the US Navy—that I have set my books around. It’s not something I’ve ever asked myself, because to me the answer is obvious.
Like many others of my generation, my parents lived through WWII and we had many relatives in the (mainly British) defence forces. My dad did National Service after the war, so the military has always hovered in my past. When my brother turned 17, he joined the Australian Army as an apprentice. He loved it, and his enthusiasm infected me and after experiencing a week of work experience at the Army Apprentice Barracks, I eventually went on to join the Australian Army Reserve at the start of my final year of high school.
I loved it! I loved it so much that at the end of that year I applied to join the Royal Australian Air Force as an Education Assistant (similar to being a library technician). What a great life! I worked in a variety of areas including a training unit, base support wing, and a pilot training squadron. I volunteered for ceremonial parades and was picked to be colour orderly for two different units, and also the Queens Colours when they were brought out to Australia. I got a kick out of having to work at my desk wearing ear-muffs because the FA-18s were outside doing hot refuels (refuelling with engines going). Hubby joined the same time I did—that’s how we met. Yes, a rookie’s romance! He went on to be a police-dog handler, and our lives centred on the RAAF.
The fun I had in the Army Reserves and the RAAF has stuck with me, and when I joined it with a love of police dramas and detective books, it seemed natural to base my writing around military and law enforcement. I have a general understanding of how organisations such as these operate, and with the vast amounts of information available on the internet, or by simply emailing with a question, the rest falls into place.
Okay, so I may not get everything right, but most of it is. I’ll admit to a degree of creative licence, too.
One of the most often quoted pieces of writing advice is ‘write what you know’. With the internet holding such a large amount of information on every topic you could think of, I’m not sure that advice holds much weight. I certainly haven’t paid attention to it. Do I write what I know? I prefer to think I write what I’m passionate about, what grabs my attention and fascinates me. Why else would I do it?
One thing that worries me from time to time is how many books I still have waiting to be written. It’s not a complaint—I’m lucky to have such a fertile imagination that allows for a never-ending stream of stories. My worry is that the stream will never stop and some stories won’t get written. I don’t let it bother me for long, instead I get writing!
In the spirit of sharing more stories, I am now in a position to send the next manuscript to my wonderful beta readers for their feedback. Yes, there’s another book on its way! This one will be the fourth of the White Rose books, and while the title is pretty much set, I won’t be revealing it yet.
Tick, another story done bar final tweaks.
That then brought me to a dilemma. I have no less than three books I want to write next, but three at once isn’t a good idea. Can you imagine it? Three plots getting tangled, characters appearing in the wrong story, and the whole thing ending up a huge mess! In typical me style I decided on a story that had to be next and then promptly changed my mind. I think it helped that the one I changed to was already partially written—it gives me a direction to head towards.
Research has begun and plotlines are suggesting themselves, so it's all go here.
I hope your lives are moving in the direction you want, too.
Espionage – the stealing of confidential information to pass on to another entity, country, organisation.
Espionage is a favourite topic amongst crime writers. There is considerable scope for spy stories of all kinds – from the James Bond’s of this world, to a PI following a suspected cheating spouse. Spying no longer relies on an agent doing a drop of plans, or a secret pass-off – quite often spying is done electronically, but the old-school stuff still applies and still thrills.
I chose espionage as the crime in Secrets Within because of an article I read about a civilian engineer selling the plans for the US Navy’s latest aircraft carrier to someone he thought was an Egyptian intelligence officer. The article sparked an idea and Secrets Within is the result.
So why do people spy? There are many reasons – here are seven of the main ones.
Contact is made, an offer accepted, information passed on, and hey-presto, suddenly you can afford a nice holiday in France. Recent statistics show that while this was a leading reason for spying in the past, the number of people doing it purely for financial gain is dropping rapidly.
This is something we see a lot of these days. People will do crazy things in the name of whatever ideology rocks their boat. Fanatics gather and pass on sensitive information ‘for the cause’.
Some people put on a uniform or join a government agency to show their patriotism. Some spy on other governments and organisations and pass important information back to their own leaders.
Sex and Relationships
Some people will do anything to get the, er, affection they crave, including spying on their country. Also, there could be a family connection, or they could be drawn into it by someone close.
If your partner and children were being threatened, would you spy? I know I probably would – mind you I’d also get caught before I even got close. Another technique used to get people to spy is blackmail. It plays on fears and drives the victim to do what is demanded to stop the dreaded revelation of their secrets.
The act of stealing and passing on information can give the person an inflated sense of self-worth. A clerk working in a busy office might see spying as a way to become important, not an insignificant clerk in a large organisation.
Not a common reason, but it has been known to drive a person to spy. The thrill of outwitting the opponent and living a secret life can entice someone who is bored with their life. How many of us played at being a spy when we were kids? It was exciting, right?
Espionage occurs every day, all around the world. Real spies seek out and pass on information for whatever reason motivates them. It’s a dangerous business, and one that will never go away.
by Alison Clifford
He stumbled over a small rock lying on the road. The surface had been smooth so far—a soft coat of earth, compacted down by wheels that had passed, and sandy in the centre. Each side of the road was boarded by a small ditch—only a few centimetres deep and easy step over.
That’s if the traveller wanted to leave the space of the road for the thick undergrowth barricading the virgin forest from the man-made clearing.
The man looked over his shoulder, wiping beaded sweat from his forehead, and then quickened his pace. There was no sign of them yet, but they would come. He listened for them, trying to keep his pounding heart, echoing in his ears, and his breaths as quiet as possible. Would he hear them from a distance, or would the thickness of the forest around him muffle their approach? He had no idea, and he certainly had no time to think about it. He needed to be gone.
He rounded a sweeping corner and saw the forest thin out on one side. This was his opportunity to escape the confines of the road and vanish. He shuffled on, trying not to leave tell-tale signs of his progress by keeping to the harder surface. The less chance they had to find his shoeprints, the better.
He drew alongside the thinned undergrowth and after throwing another fast glance over his shoulder, considered his options. The road was a trap. It went one way with no forks or junctions. If he stuck with it they would find him eventually. He had to leave the road.
Was the clearing was too obvious? They would see it too and would almost certainly search it for signs of his passing. But it was his best bet of escaping their pursuit.
He glanced back one more time and stepped over the ditch. He carefully pushed into the thinned undergrowth, the fresh, sharp scents of the forest intensifying now he was within it. The plants around him scratched at as his skin, tangling in his clothing, but he made it out of sight of the road in a short time and then paused. He looked back at the way he’d come. This was as bad as staying on the road! Small branches on bushes had bent as he’d passed and the tiny plants that formed the ground cover had been flattened. The damage to the plants would lead them right to him. He had to think fast.
Could he go up? He looked at the trees within his range of sight, but their trucks were smooth, the first branches starting several metres from the ground. Stopping to hide wasn’t a part of the plan either—he had to keep moving. He listened, but there was still no sound of pursuit. He continued his path through the forest. At least in the thick undergrowth he had a chance of hiding.
He took another step forward, carefully moving the brittle branches of bushes aside and avoiding the tiny plants at his feet as best he could. Another step, and another—it was painfully slow progress. He looked back, pleased to note his passage was less obvious this time. Gaining confidence, he continued to creep his way deeper into the forest.
The ground under his feet began to rise—not dramatically, but telling him he was starting to climb the hill the road had skirted. He looked back where he’d come from. The plants looked undisturbed to his untrained eye, and he was satisfied those coming after him wouldn’t be able to track him now. He stopped to rest, standing beside a giant tree. He leaned back against it, allowing his weary body to enjoy the support of the solid trunk. A bead of sweat trickled down between his shoulder blades as he plucked at his shirt to pull the damp fabric from his skin, allowing cool air in. The sounds of the forest surrounded him as he closed his eyes and he listened, searching for the noise of engines. Nothing. Or wait…there was something different—water.
He opened his eyes, pushed off the tree, and listened again. It was definitely water—not a gentle trickle, but something bigger. The waterfall! A grinned—surely the first time since he’d started this hellish journey. He hadn’t realised the road had taken him so far into the forest, but it was definitely the sound of water rushing over rocks, like a violent downpour hitting the ground outside his home during a storm. Home. What he would give to be sitting down in the comfort of his own house. He shook his head. Now was not the time to dream of what might be. He was hot, tired, and needed a drink, and he knew where he could get one.
He set off in the direction of the sound, moving cautiously as before. The sound of rushing water intensified until he could see the trees thinning ahead. The air had changed as he drew close, a dampness teasing his now parched throat. A few more steps and he broke from the forest and into a clearing.
“Congratulations!” a voice called, followed by a smattering of applause. “You made it to the camp without being found!”
The man grinned. “By luck rather than plan,” he admitted. “I thought the waterfall was further into the forest.”
“Well, you made it here before the others, so I pronounce you the winner of our getaway adventure weekend!”
“Thanks!” The man walked towards the small group who had greeted him. “Now, where’s the beer?”
by Alison Clifford
I write fiction, which means I make stuff up and write it down. Unfortunately the truth gets in the way at times. I couldn’t write a story that had the snow three feet deep on Uluru – unless I was writing something set in a very different time period or after an asteroid strike. While I can take some artistic licence, there are some things that need to be as accurate as possible.
With the romance suspense stories I write I have to research certain aspects so the story seems possible. The advent of TV shows dedicated to forensics and criminal investigations has made this both easier, and harder. Anyone who has watched CSI would think they had a decent idea about certain aspects of forensics, but quite often it’s far from reality. Overworked labs, lengthy waits, and insufficient supplies are the norm. While this can be glossed over in a novel, a detective getting a definite DNA test in a couple of hours is unrealistic.
Settings are also something I try to get close to real, but again a degree of licence is acceptable so long as it’s not too far-fetched. Putting a shop where it doesn’t actually exist is fine, but putting a five star hotel in a poverty stricken suburb won’t work. All of my stories so far are based in the USA and I have researched the locations as best I can by using websites, photos, and Google maps.
So what happens when an important part of the story contravenes reality? Either the story has to be rewritten, or the issue has to be acknowledged and written around. I had a problem in Roses with the growing relationship between Warren and Beth. Warren’s department was investigating the disappearance of Beth’s husband, so technically Warren shouldn’t have allowed their friendship to develop. It is, however, pivotal to the story, so I had to write around it. The solution was to have one of Warren’s friend’s call him on his actions, and Warren to respond to the challenge in a typically Warren way -
“If the Bureau realizes you and Beth are friends, you’ll be off the case with a possible reprimand as well.”
“If I lose the case then I will still be there for Beth as a friend, but I don’t think that will happen. Only a few would know about our friendship, and they would trust me to make the right choice when it counts. Beth is well aware that catching Markov takes priority. She’s never hindered the investigation. As for the reprimand,” Warren shrugged his shoulders, “just add it to the list.”
- (from Roses)
I think that dealing with it in a way that rings true with the character is the best method and makes it plausible.
It’s my job as a writer to tell stories to the best of my ability. Sometimes it can mean walking a fine line between pure fiction and reality, but that’s half the fun of it. For me it adds a bit of magic to the world to have fictional stories woven in to the reality around us.
What's it about?
It's about words and my life as a writer. There are also tips for those starting their writing journey, with a focus on self-publishing, and encouragement all round.