Lost and Found 8: Journey

Lost and found earringEveryone thinks Journey is a bit dizzy, a bit flaky, a bit of a hippy. (Her name doesn’t really help.) They think this almost like it’s a bad thing.

People like her, it’s true – in that abstract way that most of them like summer, or a glass of water when they feel quite thirsty, or a starlit night sky, which they only look at once in a while and think it’s pretty but then go on with whatever they were doing before they looked up into the diamond-studded infinite.

People like Journey almost like it’s a habit, and one that refreshes, but doesn’t linger for long. She seems apart from them somehow. She seems like she knows something that they don’t. She acts like she has the key to uncomplicated happiness.

Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the people who like her are a bit jealous. They don’t know how to let go of worry. They’re never quite content with who they are and where they are; all too busy being distracted by the concern of what now? what next?

It’s not like Journey radiates an over-the-top, sing-in-the-street, look-mum-I’m-dancing joy. She just seems content with her lot, though distracted in thoughts of, not what next, but this right here right now is kind of lovely.

Journey likes natural fabrics and fresh, organic food and jewellery of pure silver that jangles when she walks. She likes the way cats purr and the vibration travels from their tiny bodies right into her hands when she strokes them and calls them sweet little kitty. She likes how bees are fuzzy and how oranges sometimes squirt you in the eye when you bite into them and the sound of horse hooves on the tarmac of the city street and the ding of the tram bell and the squeal of kids running through the fountain in front of the casino in summer.

She likes rain on her arms and wind in her dark hair. She likes the sun on her face, and that her dark brown skin doesn’t burn.

Journey likes walking everywhere. She likes stopping to smell the flowers in a very literal sense. She’s been known to stop and smell grass.

And she likes all these things in a low-key way. She’s not all manic-pixie-dreamgirl about them, despite her name and the tinkling silver jewellery. It all simply makes her calm and mindful and content.

Here’s a secret.

It’s true. Journey does know something that other people don’t know.

She knows what comes next. Came next. Will be next.

Grammar is difficult when you are living in your own past; when you’re a grain of the future stranded back in the time Before (but you are still the Yet To Be for the environment you inhabit, for the acquaintances who like you but don’t know anything about you).

Journey knows a lot about quantum physics and the machine powered by an entire sun that sent her back to gather data. Her understanding of climate change is very good too – all the survivors, rather belatedly, have a good understanding of the stupidity humanity did to itself.

The machines in Journey’s head and skeleton interact with the ones she wears on her body to send vital data through space and also time. Earrings and bracelets of silver (and many other things) make her whole body a transmitter to her lost future as they try to work out how to save the little of the world they still have. (In the meantime, the survivors have transplanted to the moon, a staging place before they take themselves to other barren landscapes further from the sun if they can’t work out how to get the drowned Earth back.)

Six years after arriving through a tunnel of improbability and bent light, the transmitter is still transmitting.

The receiver broke, though, six months after her arrival. A man wanted to take something she wasn’t interested in giving, and he grabbed her and insisted on having what he wanted.

Journey broke his arm in three places, four of his ribs, and his neck. The parts of his body were weighed down and went into the river. Journey feels a little bad about the death, but where she comes from, he and everyone around her died hundreds of years ago, so it doesn’t bother her too much.

Journey is surrounded by ghosts, in many ways. Some of these fleshly ghosts are awful, frightening things. Some are sweet or kind or funny. None of them know their fate, but Journey does, so mostly she is willing to offer the benefit of the doubt. She’ll live and let live because they’re all dead, but they don’t know it yet.

Journey didn’t realise the receiver had been snapped from her ear in the struggle until later, and then she couldn’t find the missing piece. Perhaps she could have repaired it, but she decided not to. It was so much more peaceful not to listen to the commands, the directions, the directives. To the envy and the anger and the railing against the people who appeared all so unwittingly in her transmissions, who were partly at fault for the Death of the Earth by Flood and Fire.

Journey knows that each individual couldn’t do much to stop it, and she knows that collectively, humans are a bit thick.

She has been inhabiting her past, creeping towards a future she won’t live to see again, and she likes it here.

Journey likes that she can’t go home. She likes that she’ll never hear those strident voices through the receiver again. She likes that she still sends them data – it’s a relief that it was not the transmitter that was lost – but she loves that they cannot summon her home.

Good luck to them, if they think the data will save them somehow. She’s sad for the future, of course – for what they’ve lost and what they’ll never have, living on their island of rock, gazing down at the blue ball that used to be humanity’s home.

She used to be like them, salvaging hope from the away teams that go (went, will go) to salvage scraps from the ball of water and wasteland that once housed a trillion life forms. The fraction that remain are all caged in some way. Animals and insects in the great Moon Zoo – too many slowly dying off because the gravity and the air are all wrong. Plants in greenhouses, and no-one can predict yet which will thrive and which will fail.

Not to mention the people. In their domes and in their environment suits that don’t always work. Humanity is ingenous at survival but also, it seems, at self immolation. The individual will to live is nothing like the collective lunacy that convinces people that someone else will fix it.

But here, in the past full of ghosts, Journey already knows that no-one fixed it. She already knows the limited life that awaits the survivors.

So Journey goes through her ghost life, enjoying every simple pleasure before it’s burned or drowned, and she breathes the open air and is content to just be in the moment.

After all – what could she possible do? She’s just one woman. She can’t change the future alone, and collective humanity won’t listen to her if she tries.

Because if it were possible, surely she’d have done it.

Lost and Found is an irregular series of posts about random items I find abandoned on the streets and the stories I make of them.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

The Cannibal Writer

One writer, served in the Australian style

The Cannibal Writer

First of all, I tender my apologies for the length of time between blog posts. The last few months have been fraught not only with a lot of work, but with a lot of family drama that has swallowed up my writing energy even when I had the time.

At the risk of sounding like an appalling human being… at least all of the drama will someday be worth the pain when it gets mulched, ferments and comes back out somewhere and in some form in a story.

Because that’s part of what writers do. It’s not the only thing we do, of course. We don’t only make stories from our own experiences. Our own joy and our own pain. No. Sometimes we make stories out of the pain and joy that we observe in others too.

We sound awful, don’t we?

But part of what it is for me to be human (I can’t speak for anyone else) is making sense of my world, both observed and experienced, through my words. I tell stories to explore the universe in which I’m immersed, and this ship of flesh and bone in which I navigate that universe.

My writing is filled with the things I’ve learned, or am curious about, or am hopelessly ignorant about but hope to become less so, as I burrow into motivation, unpack detail, peer at the nuances of my own reactions and guess at the motivation and reactions of others.

I do sometimes put people directly into stories but mostly, I dismember myself and others to build characters and situations. I make a great big soup out of my life and splash select parts of it onto the page to tell stories to myself first, and later to others, about the enormous, complex beauty and terror that being human can be.

I know already of something that happened last week that will find a way into my stories.

Walking along a hospital corridor with my youngest brother as we accompanied my ill mother into an operating theatre to have her broken hip repaired, we were filled with anxiety and grief, because the surgery was risky but the only option.

But we were haunted down that corridor by the clacking of my mother’s false teeth in a plastic box, which I promised her I’d keep in my pocket so they wouldn’t get lost. It was like we were being followed by a ghost right out of a schlocky Victorian-era horror novel.

In one of the most emotionally intense moments of our lives, we kept giggling – because life is filled with tragedy but also absurdity, and often at the same time.

(Oh, and spoiler alert: My mother came through the operation and is getting stronger every day.  She also got her teeth back.)

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

The Wearable Blog: Introducing Collective Tee

nerd2One Sunday in March, I was walking through a little market in Fitzroy and saw a table full of unusual T-shirts. On the fronts were some cool designs, and on the back of each was… a blog post.

Fascinated, I spoke to stallkeeper Jason Scully, one of the creative people behind the idea of taking blogs out of the the digital space and putting them onto the backs of readers in the walking world.

Jason has kindly answered a whole bunch of questions about this fascinating concept in writing.

Tell me about Collective Tee

Collective Tee is a Melbourne based street-wear brand that is redefining the humble T-shirt.  We are a social experiment,  creating a unique garment that changes the way people connect with those around them using the ubiquitous T-shirt.  We start with a story.  An engaging story that we hope people will want to share time and time again.  We then take the story to one of our many designers. The chosen designer then interprets that story and that design becomes the front of the t-shirt.  We also print the story on the inside of the t-shirt so that there is a story literally behind every Collective Tee.

How did you get the idea for a wearable blog? Was it cumulative or did you have a big lightbulb moment?

I was walking down the street one day wearing a t-shirt with Bruce Lee on it.  I was stopped by a guy who asked, “Hey, did you know that it was Bruce Lee’s birthday yesterday?”.  All I could say in response was, “Erm – no but thanks”.  That made me wish that I knew more about the design behind my t-shirt.  I wish I knew more about who the designer was and what did the design mean.  I wish I had more to say to that random Bruce Lee fan on the street.  That was how I decided to print a T-shirt which has a story literally behind each T-shirt.   Hence Collective Tee was born.

issue-4-slide2How do you expect the T-shirts to work out in the world? Will people sit still while friends read their backs, for example?

The aim is that people will only talk about the story when other people ask about their T-shirt.  It is about starting a dialogue or conversion that will usually start with the words “Hey, Nice T-shirt”.

We like that only the person wearing the Collective Tee knows the story so that they can decide how they share the story.  They can make the story their own and inject their own personality or spin on the story.   Also, we have had some people come up to us and say that the inside looks so cool they would be happy to wear the t-shirts inside out.  I told them – go for it!!

What criteria do you have for blog topics?

Our blog posts or stories have to satisfy three simple criteria:

  1. Firstly, they have to be entertaining.  For example, the stories can be funny or thought provoking.
  2. They have to be engaging.  People must want to tell them over and over again; and
  3. Lastly, we have to be able to visualise the story as an awesome t-shirt.

This simple criteria so far has led to us producing some truly unique t-shirt designs.

Who does the art for the shirts? How did they get involved in the project?

A different designer designs each Collective Tee.  Our designers are located in all parts of the world.  Designers in the UK, Indonesia, Italy and Malaysia have designed our first few issues.  We choose the designers based on their past designs and on whether we think that the story will resonate with them.  We like that a different designer designs each issue as this gives our designs a wealth of different styles and viewpoints.  However, each Collective Tee is produced right here in Melbourne so that we can support local business.

We are always looking for new designers and are more than happy for designers to contact us.  When we have a story or blog post that is suitable for that designer we will generally contact the designer to see if they are interested.

What do you see as the ultimate goal of the project?

Here at Collective Tee head office we have noticed the growing trend for social interactions to only happen online through social media.  We want to reverse this and return social interaction to the streets, bars and bus-stops of the world.  We feel that Collective Tee is helping achieve this each time the person wearing a Collective Tee shares the story behind their Collective Tee.

We would love to have a collection of Collective Tee stories.  We would love it if everyone who has bought or received a Collective Tee as a gift would send through their own Collective Tee story. We want to hear about the people they have met and the conversations they have had because of their Collective Tee.  I would like Collective Tee to actually make a difference in the lives of the people who wear Collective Tee.

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Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

What We Do in the Shadows

What do you get when you cross Flight of the Conchords with vampires?

Perfection, that’s what.

Recent publications: erotica, essays and scars

The last few months have been good to me, writing wise, with a couple of things published.

Scar Tissue

One is a story about life and the scars it gives us. It’s a complete departure from form, as it’s non-genre and not romance either. Scar Tissue is still a love story of sorts, but it’s about family and redemption. Like so many of my stories are. You can read it in issue #49 of online magazine Mildred.

Homecoming

Two other stories are in my expanding (I was about to write ‘burgeoning’) field of erotic romance.

(I’ve now that I’ve started writing erotica that everything I write has a double meaning, and not always a subtle one. To quote Tom Lehrer, ‘When correctly viewed, everything is lewd’.)

homecoming (1)So, in March 2014 (in time for the Queermance festival) my M/M adventure/romance Homecoming was released by Clan Destine Press. Some nice reviews of it so far include:

“The author truly excels at capturing the emotional components of intimacy along with the physical aspects. I can foresee many more adventures for these two with no danger of them becoming tired of each other or boring the reader. They have wit and charm enough to take them (and us!) through many more adventures.” – Lin S – Amazon.com

“‘Passion and adventure together’ is absolutely right. Sweet and sexy story with lovely writing and some dangerous crime-solving as well! Both the leads are incredibly appealing: the steady protector Jack and the willowy and joke-cracking but secretly vulnerable Elliot. But the best part is what a good team they are, both in their investigations and in bed, and how much they care for and adore each other. Lots of fun. Highly recommended!” – Shadowphoenixfire – Goodreads

I always enjoy Relle’s Australian settings, which are fair dinkum while remaining distinctly urban. There’s always a real feel of life as it is lived in Australia today. Her characters are interestingly layered as individuals and well juxtaposed as a pairing. Her plot, meanwhile, keeps the pages turning.” – Julie Bozza – Goodreads

So that’s very lovely. If you want to get it (and it’s only a few dollars), Homecoming (A Talbott & Burns Mystery) is now available at:

Late Bloomer

Queermance-Vol-1-CoverAnother M/M story is in the Queermance anthology, where I share digital pages with writers like Kerry Greenwood and Matthew Lang.  Late Bloomer is the story of a rather melancholy judge, his night-blooming garden and his gardener, Jake.

Queermance Anthology  Vol 1 is available at:

Sex and Intimacy

If you’re interested in how I approach writing erotic romance and sex scenes, I wrote about Sex and Intimacy for the Queensland Writers Centre in March in issue 237 of their magazine.

Kitty and Cadaver

I’m also still publishing Kitty & Cadaver online – the entire book is written and the last part is scheduled to go up on 2 June. I’ll be looking for a publisher after that, and if/when it’s accepted the story part of the site will come down – so go over there and read it (and leave comments) while you can!

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Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

The Peacemaker Playlist – guest post by Marianne de Pierres

Peacemaker Tour Banner

A lot of writers listen to a particular set of songs while writing a specific book. It helps to set the mood while writing and can sometimes influence a little of what’s going on.

With Marianne de Pierres’ new book Peacemaker out soon, I asked her to share the playlist she listened to while writing.

The soundtracks that authors compile while writing novels are often quite revealing: better, at times, than an interview. Thanks to Spotify, you can now hear PEACEMAKER soundtrack in all its quaint glory. My dad would approve!

Gunfighter-Ballads-Robbins-CD Big Iron – Marty Robins

 Wild, Wild West – The Escape Club

 Riders on the Storm – The Doors

 Timber – Pitbull/Kesha

 Rawhide – Frankie Laine

Alvin_harlan county line Prairie Fire – Marty Robbins

 Harlan County Line – Dane Alvin

 Bad Things – Jace Everett

 Saving Grace – Everlast

 They Call the Wind Mariah – Paint Your Wagon

Timber Pitbull Kesha The Gospel of No Name City – Paint Your Wagon

 There’s a Coach Coming In – Paint Your Wagon

 Counting Stars – OneRepublic

 Royals – Lorde

 Sitting on the Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding

Do you listen to music when you write? What playlists have you got for your books?

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

The Secret Life of Dashes

dashesI was explaining the difference between hyphens, en dashes and em dashes the other day, and the recipient of my edited-for-brevity wisdom suggested I should blog it, as it was the first time she’s understood the differences.

So here it is. It’s certainly not comprehensive – the hyphen has a number of rules, all of which you can disover at  Purdue University’s handy OWL site.

But here’s a quick rundown on the hyphen, the en dash and the em dash for everyday, contemporary use.

The hyphen  is only used to combine words into a compound word, or to add prefixes to terms for clarity.

  • Some juice company wants you to buy a rubbish-free lunch, as opposed to a rubbish free lunch (that is, a free lunch that is rubbish).
  • Students benefit from one-one-one time.

Note that hyphens are not needed when combining an -ly adverb with an adjective.

  • Golf is sometimes played with a brightly coloured ball.

The en dash (so-named because it was originally the same width as a printer’s capital N) is usually used to separate number ranges and has a space on either side. The keyboard command (using the number pad) is ALT 0150.

  • Turn to pages 16 – 18.

In online texts, the en dash is also often used in place of the em dash to separate words or sub-clauses that might otherwise be separated using brackets or commas, and to add emphasis to the item following the dash.

  • I used to live in Canberra, if you call that living.
  • I used to live in Canberra – if you call that living.
  • Canberra’s environment offers outdoor activities (bushwalking, bird-watching, rock climbing) for the brave and bored.
  • Canberra’s environment offers outdoor activities – bushwalking, bird-watching, rock climbing – for the brave and bored.

The em dash (which was the width of a printer’s capital M) is used without a space on either side and generally separates words or clauses.  As with the en dash, it often adds emphasis to the word or phrase following the dash. This dash is much less commonly used in online texts these days, as it’s considered harder to read on screens. The keyboard command is ALT 0151.

  • I used to live in Canberra—if you call that living.
  • Canberra’s environment offers outdoor activities—bushwalking, bird-watching, rock climbing—for the brave and bored.

This is a very broad guide and is certainly not definitive. The use of dashes might vary depending on the style guide for your company/publisher too – but this’ll do for starters.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

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