Something Real


Repainted Thift Store FindYou often hear that to write well, write what you know.

A great example of this would be Stephen King. His stories feature real places in and around his home State. The places, and I think sometimes, the people are familiar to him. Real.

This is important. Both to save creative space for the really creative elements, but also to link the reader with something real. Something that they can believe it.

Sometimes just writing about a normal mundane thing can be the catalyst for something ‘other worldy’. Or you can add elements from your world to a regular activity to both explain or show-off the difference between the readers world and one in your writing.

Below I wrote about a day trip to a park with my kids. It is almost moment by moment exactly what we did with one some twist.

I haven’t extend the piece beyond that twist, at least not here, as that isn’t important for this post.

What is, is that I used the real to create a platform for the story to sit in. Real events, a real place IN THIS WORLD. Somewhere that I know so well I can write about it at home and see the place without any imagination.

I could have put in flying cars, or horses and carts to move it forward or backwards in time. I could have used an imaginary animal instead of dogs, or maybe instead of running my children could have cantered on four legs (or more!).

Those however would be extra clues for the reader to understand the world they are now glimpsing.


Today I took the kids out to a nearby abandoned quarry.

I had been told that the bottom of the quarry had long ago been filled with water. As I pulled up in my beat-up by reliable little blue shitbox. My wife had the ‘family car’ as she was visiting her spinning group and needed the extra room for her gear.

Signs near the car park displayed “Warning Deep Water” and “Falling Rocks” and “Drinking Not Advisable”.

The sheer cliff face opposite the gentle grass and garden slope was securely blocked from casual access by some cyclone fencing. I noted that the fencing went a length into the fairly still water.

The kids got out there scooters, and after a stern reminder, had their helmets on they went off to roll down the switch back concrete path to the water’s edge.

Immediately I regret not bringing the dogs. It was clear that this was a mecca for the local dog owners. They greeted each other, and the fur children mostly by name or at worse a nod and a smile.

I called out to the kids to mind the other walkers, but most seemed happy with the smiling girls flying along the path. The dogs were also well behaved and I was pleased to note as my two little ones waited at the corner of the switch back for their slow old dad, asked to pat a cute light brown terrier. The owner commented on how well my kids behaved and I said the same of her fur child.

It was peaceful at the bottom of the quarry. No breeze stirred the air and the traffic noise and city sounds had all but disappeared. I had to strain to hear the Nee Naa of a passing emergency vehicle, at least I assumed that was what it was.

I found a seat and enjoyed the moment of still.

My kids were still scooting up and down and small incline near a steel jetty. A father and son tried out a birthday gift remote controlled boat, I was surprised how far out the boat could go with the simple small controller. Mum types chatted while their fur children mock pounced on each other.

The sun was warm on my face, unusual this close to winter. The last day of warmth before autumn gave in to winter’s will.

It was about then I noticed the fisherman on the left said bank. He was close to the cyclone fence and casting out towards the middle of the lake. I wondered what sort of fish would be found in this isolated body of water.

There were water wrens diving and I even saw a cormorant, so I assumed there was some life in the dark deep water. I recalled by brother had stocked a dam with fingerlings of bass and trout on his farm. So thought maybe someone had decided to gift this water with some aquatic life.

Or else the fisherman was simply doing what I was doing, escaping from the bustle, noise and speed of a city just over the hill. Maybe he didn’t have a child (furry or otherwise) so a rod, reel and some plastic bait were his excuse.

The feeling of contentment within me had reached its crescendo. It was time to come back to my usual world. It was time to open the file.

I unlocked my phone, finger and iris scan, I was always slightly ocd with security. I had recently installed a screen protector which prohibited side viewing. This paranoia in turn made me a terrible person to live with and a sought after security adviser.

The file was in prominent position on my to-do list. I hesitated a sec, looked up. My conscious mind said it was to look again at the peace around me, my professionally side knew it was to check the surroundings. Nothing out of the ordinary, no one close enough to see my newly protected screen.

Pressing down I opened the file, her face appeared.


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Image from David Irvine, check out his work, it really represents what I mean using familiar art (at least the mass produced style is familiar) with the addition of something a little out of the ordinary.
You can purchase original art on his Etsy page.


Building the story


Sometimes you have a great idea. However, you only have one element.

Maybe you just have a scene, or a character, or maybe some dialogue, an exchange.

Below is a simple back and forth from a writer friend, he had a great exchange between two characters. But, it lacked depth.

“I feel I’ve seen you before.”

Her eyes, slightly-squinted,  were serious, eyebrows furrowed as she examined me.

“Yes, there’s definitely something familiar about you.”

I looked off into the distance, uncomfortable with the intensity of her gaze.

“It’s okay to look at me,” she said, but her words were deadpan and her eyes never wavered.

I squirmed a little more before she pulled back and broke stare with a wide smile. The shift in attitude alarmed me more.

“Perhaps our souls are related,” she said, reaching out and tenderly flicking hair from my face.

“The things you find in dark places. The things you never see coming because you’re only human.”

We talked about it and I reworked his original material to help him gain more insight.

“I feel I’ve seen you before.”

At first I didn’t realise she was talking to me. The noise in the bar was at the level I liked it, enough to distract me but quiet enough to have my own thoughts.

Turning slightly I recoiled at just how close she was. Her face was mere inches from mine. Intense serious eyes seemed to burn as she examined me.

“Yes, there’s definitely something familiar about you.”

I nodded, thinking that she was drunk, high or mentally disturbed. I sipped my drink again, trying to ignore the presence beside me.

The intensity of her gaze made me nervous. My eyes darted to the side, her shape was still there. I dropped a shoulder and turned to face deeper into the bar.

“It’s okay to look at me,” she said, but her words were hollow. Still I felt compelled to turn and face her. Those eyes, her eyes, stilled burned with a fire that the rest of her face didn’t reflect. It was as if only her eyes were alive the rest just a shell. Her eyes never wavered from mine. It was almost painful to stare back into them.

I squirmed a little more before she pulled back and broke the stare with a wide smile. The smile cracked her face and at once it came alive. The laughter lines appeared and she became mostly human.

The shift in attitude alarmed me more.

“Perhaps our souls are related,” she said, reaching out and tenderly flicking hair from my face.

“The things you find in dark places. The things you never see coming because you’re only human.”

As you can see I didn’t take anything away I just added some extra elements. The flow was the most affected. The beat was extended to keep the reader engaged.

This is a simple example of how a copywriter or another pair of eyes can add to the written word.


Quill and Axe is happy to help edit or provide revision services.

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He looked at me. Pale eyes searching, yearning. His mouth was half open in lustfulness.

He mouthed something dirty, something sexual and appealing. I wanted to melt into him, to be swallowed whole by all of him. I wanted to be taken, rough and hard. I wanted to feel his breath on my neck, his body tense and tight as he climaxed.

But the moment passed. The train moved on, his carriage going north, mine heading south. Him into the city, me back home to my house. My cold, still, lonely house.

“What a laugh” Dave said, between his fits of giggles and rocking forward. “What a pisser!”

He was telling the story of the train ride in. By his account, if I let him go on, I might have actually fucked her through the windows.

“All I did was mime some fuck words” I said to the others. I turned to Dave “By the sound of it you got a boner over the whole thing, you perv!”

“Oh you’d like a big one from me eh?” Dave gestured the approximate length of his ‘big one’.

“Get off Dave, I’ve see ya after footy there’s nothing big there”

More jeers and gestures from the gang.

I tuned out and thought again about the girl on the train. She was cute in a bookish, geek girl way. Her glasses and hair were the kind you imagined a librarian would have. The cardigan a soft plain brown.

I really thought we had connected. If only I wasn’t such an arse about it.

“Fuck” I said then quickly covering my outburst. “I need a drink, my round” I headed to the bar more to clear my head than buy more drink.

She was at the bar looking straight at me.

I did it, I actually did it. I got out at the next station and headed back into the city. I don’t know why I just knew I had to go back. I had to follow and find that boy.

He was everything I hated about men. The short hair shaved at the sides, clean shaven but so very masculine. He wore fashionable clothes whose price tag would have given me head spins thinking about. He was as neat as a gay man but as crass as a jock. All the mix of things I hated in men, and boys.

He had actually mouthed obscene words at me through a train window. His tongue had mimed acts that I certainly wouldn’t do on a first, or maybe even tenth date.  

I was a strong independent woman. I didn’t need a man to define me. I didn’t need someone to fuck me. Yet here I was, in a club I had no right to be in, with people around me I hated and loathed. Watching him. Watching him and his mates.

I watching him thinking, while he ignored the crew around him. I saw him speak and walk away. Then he saw me.

Shit. Shit, shit shit I thought. What the actual hell?

“Hi” she said to me, putting out a hand. Before I knew it I was shaking it and returning the hello.

“Sorry about, you know, the train. That was fucking stupid.” She grimaced as I spoke. “Shit sorry I didn’t mean to swear. Oh crap” I managed to stop and stay silent.

“No, it’s OK. I just…my friends don’t swear much”

“Mine do” I said. “Do you want a drink?”

She looked around her. She looked awkward and out of place. Her long skirt, white blouse and cardigan were not the normal fashion for a place like this.

“Why don’t we go somewhere else?” I suggested. “Coffee?”

“Yes” she said. “That would be nice.”

Coffee. Coffee was safe. Coffee was easy. I could do coffee. I thought, then. 

What the hell am I doing here? I should be at home. I should be making dinner for one. My Kitchen Rules is on tonight!

I pushed that thought aside and suggested the well lit, frequently visited but crap tasting franchise coffee place down the street. The rules for a first date, public, open, escapeable and known. Not that I feared the young man, it just pays to be wary.

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Sound of Music


“OK, let’s do this again.” Flame pulled a hand through her hair, like she wanted to pull all the frustration and angst out of her body.

Marshall’s sticks did a quick rapid-fire rata-tat-tat on the snare, ending with a loud crash. Blade shot a venomous stare toward the drum-kit, but Marshall was adjusting a nut on his floor tom.

“Enough!” Flame barked. “We have a gig in two days and we can’t even get the chorus change right”

he intro riff, repeating it twice. Then holding the last note he turned to catch the eyes of the bassist and drummer. A quick nod and he began again. This time the rhythm section joined in as one. Thumping open raw drums accompanied by the precise snapping bass guitar.

Flame closed her eyes as she stood cradling the microphone, swaying slightly as the music washed over her. Stuart’s guitar started to call out with it’s sharp notes, leading her to the start of the lyrics. The music enveloped her, becoming everything to her and everything with her was held in place.

The last note, perfectly in sync guitar, bass and drum, faded as Flame’s voice softly fell away.

“Fuck yeah” said Marshall. “That fuckin’ rocked”.

Blade even seemed to share a smile with his loud annoying friend, before the mask slide over once again.

Coming up from her revelry Flame turned to her band mates.

The wild boy behind the drums, almost jumping out of his skin with the energy and joy he had coursing through him.

The troubled sad bassist, had his head down, fingers running silently over the progression he had nailed with precision. He was almost startled and practised with disbelief that he had actually played the part.

Stuart seemed the least affect, his face turned away from hers, his body suggesting he was spent. Just as Flame was about to turn away she noticed the glistening tear fall from a dark eye. It was followed by more as tears streamed down his soft face, he turned to look directly at Flame. He face showed complete bliss, his tears pain as the pleasure left him.

Flame felt the power flowing in her, it was perfection. The song was ready, she was ready, it was her time to shine.

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100 Days of Creativity

Blank Pages

In early April I started a challenge. A 100 day challenge to be creative each day.

At first that seemed a little unstructured to me. 100 days of creativity? What kind of creativity? What can be defined as being creative? Drawing, writing, painting or building?

I needed something to define this if I was going to take this path.

So I decided to do 100 days of writing.

I set myself a goal of 500 words a day. Not a huge task, but also, what I thought, an achievable goal.

I invited some friends to join me, creative writers like me.

One accepted.

At first it was pretty OK, I had some good ideas to work on. Some commission work and an outline of a novel or at least long form story. I got 37 days under my belt until it all fell apart. I added a few more days after that, but I never got back into the swing.

My mate Zles was on a roll, he got to 60 days before his muse ran out of steam.

So what stopped us?

Partly, for me at least, I lost confidence in my process. I was talking with another writer about how I was building the story that was forming. He questioned my “write first” theory. This caused me to re-think my whole way of creating.

You see I didn’t have a plan for this story. The ideas I had changed after each new idea formed. For me the creation of the story – the whole – was being made by little ideas. Tested in a few hundred word bites. To me I wasn’t creating a final piece just pieces that could become a larger story.

I even posted some notes on the wall beside my desk – simple dot points that formed from the writing sessions.

This horrified the other writer. “What is the point of the work, the writing, if you might not use it?”

To him my experiment of writing each day needed to have more structure to it. A reason. He suggested a plan for the whole story, know that before you write anything.

To me this was stunting me, stopping my flow.

It was then that I doubted myself and the point of the 100 Day Challenge.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that planning is important and for the commission work I do follow a plan.

But for me the 100 Day Challenge was about writing. By stopping to plan I lost the muse that allowed me to bang out 500 + words a night.

Lesson learnt:

I work best when I can let myself write. But, that needs to be with some form of structure, a plan or at least an idea.

Also next time, I am going to aim for a short period of time. Aligned with a plan and some structure, I really could get some good value out of my personal creative writing.

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The Art of Creating

Working with a team to create a new world with new experiences can be great fun. I had the pleasure of working on The Tinderbox Book of Lore, a companion book to Red Genie Games highly successful first tabletop game, The Brigade.

The Lore book contains some background to the town of Tinderbox, including the locations found in the game, editions from the Tinderbox Times (newspaper), the playable Wardens as well as the recruits you can bring into your squad.

The team of Ivan Neville, artist Antonio “Nunoh” Jose Diaz Fernandez, the Red Genie Games team (Alex Wynnter and Ben Hoban)  and myself got to build stories about  the game and expand the universe of Tinderbox and The Vague World.

The part that interested me the most, aside from being able to create some short fast fiction, was the way we worked together to create elements that interacted and worked together.

Sometimes Nunoh would sketch a character who was just a name with some statistics or skills, and I could create a story around them. Or Ivan would mention them in an advert or story in the Tinderbox Times or mention something in a classified and I could expand that into a story about a character.

The integration and interaction between us was great.

In one instance I wrote about a giant, Kulari One Shoe. All I had was her name and some stats on what she does in the game. The following is the short piece I wrote to flesh her out some more.

Kulari awoke. Not in the way that a child does, not in the I’m up and ready to take on the world way. She awoke in the way that a mountain might wake.
Her body rumbled and shook. Sinews stretched and popped, bones shifted and ground together. Material of clothing built more like house cladding strained and bent, becoming pliable again.
The earth around the giantess groaned and creaked. The pavement moved in waves as her body moved to wakefulness.
Kulari had found this quiet corner sometime last autumn, she was tired and the warmth from the forge was comforting.
A giants slumber is never short, nor can it be stopped. For nearly half a year the laneway behind Chests-R-us was blocked from the east. It was just a fact of life, living with giants.
Shaking loose the small tree that had grown in the crook of her arm, Kulari rubbed two massive hands over her face. A small deposit of alluvial soil was knocked from her opening eyes.
Shifting from one side to another finally Kulari pulled herself from the crater formed by her slumber.
She looked around, bleary but becoming aware.
Her blinking eyes cleared into focus.
“Shit!” she said. “Where’s my shoe?”

From that Nuno created the following art.

Another example would be when Nunoh created a sketch for Selina Blackflow, a thief in the style of a cat burglar. Along with this Ivan had written a advert in the Times about a lost purse… putting these together – well you will see below.

The moon shifted behind a cloud again. Selina let out a small sigh, and thought for the hundredth time why had she chosen to be out on a full moon night.
She knew the answer, she needed the work. The job was pretty basic really, something she would normally not bother with. A small repossession, a redistribution of assets. Besides, she had reasoned, the Ignis family had enough, they wouldn’t miss a bracelet or two.
What she hadn’t bargained on was the barred window. Who barred a window on the third storey, with a 2 inch ledge? She thought. Reaching around behind Selina’s nimble fingers loosened a strap and extracted a taut piece of thin leather. Slipping the leather carefully between the window and sill she slowly slide the paper-thin steel stiff tool upwards. The bar began to lift.
A breath in, a breath out, with almost preternatural speed Selina flicked the bar up, flipped the window open and slipped into the room.
With casual grace Selina opened her hand and caught the tumbling metal bar. Selina allowed herself a small smile as she slipped her leather tool back into place.
The smile faded as her sensitive fingers noticed something wrong, something out of place. Where is my wallet? A sudden image of the wallet slipping from its place as she removed the thin leather thieves tool.
Too late to go back now, Selina resolved to search after she had completed the job. After all it couldn’t have gone far.

The world of Tinderbox is vast, the town while small has so many stories in it. It’s great that we as a team have been able to create these working together sharing and learning about this world together.

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Imperium City

In order to keep my creative juices flowing a friend sent me the image below (artist linked in the image) and asked me to write 10 sentences to describe the image.

Well I wrote 10… ideas, some of them grew to be more than a sentence. Some might turn into stories themselves…

Anyway in preparation for Nanowrimo I wanted to post this and we will see if they will become more than the short glimpse they are now or whether the idea will bloom and grow into something.


They call it the dark zone, as if there was no light down here, it was true there was never any sunlight, yet I never knew a time when there was no light.

Maybe fifty years ago the Ressha was ‘whisper quiet’ like the faded advert said, yet Tarquin always wore his headphone on the commute from work.

The hotel was nestled amongst a jumbled assortment of bars, clubs and strip joints, Jamison knew they would not look for him here, he paid cash and headed to blissful oblivion.

Imperium City. Indistinguishable from the any part of this continent. Another five blocks of different colour wearing thugs. A temporary home to drink and forget.

Jonas grinned wild and wide. The bustle of the street flowed around him as he stared in wonder at the lights, sounds and movement around him. The cab drove off, its engine’s buzz adding to and becoming one with sounds around him. Stirring from his wonder Jonas turned to find a way into Peter’s apartment.

She watched him as he hurried down the near deserted street, his eyes wide in fear. He turned and she saw the line of blood on his shirt where the arc of spray had ended. She had dropped her guard on the first one, had been distracted by the thrill of the kill. Yet she was amazed how easily she had caught up, how easy it will be to take him. She smiled again, and stepped out of the shadows. She would take her time with this one. She would feast long and slow.

“I.. I.. I got n.. n.. n.. nothing” stammered the drunk “I.. I .. GOT NOTHING!” yelling to everyone and no-one. Travis watched for a moment as the drunk stumbled and bounced off the wall of the alley. His mutterings slowing fading as the darkness of the alley closed in. Travis turned to the camera held by his assistant. “I know we can’t help everyone, but I will make it my mission, if elected, to help those we can”. His pale blue eyes sympathetic in the harsh LED light. “And done” said the assistant with a grin only a 20-something-recent-graduate can muster. “Coffee?” “Sure, my shout”. Travis looked back down the alley thinking of some way to rid his city of the filth.

It pulsed with the traffic the hum of lights and whirls of colour flashed and flared. The competing sounds from the open doored clubs merged and flowed into the street. The suited people morphed into night mode with less cloth and more stumbles. This place never slept, the movement never ceased. The city fed off the people casting them free only as dry empty husks.

Ten thousand credits. Ten thousand credits. The thought thundered through Bevan’s mind. What would he do with that much? He smiled and slipped another cred into the slot. Maybe this time. He thought. Maybe this time.

“Another quiet run.” Simone said to her co-pilot. “Affirmative” replied the neutral flat voice. Simone enjoyed the android’s minimal conversation, it allowed her to concentrate on her instrument panel. Unlike a few of her peers Simone trusted her co-pilot to the scanner. “Operative 576 identified at 40 degrees to port” the calm unemotional voice said. Simone slowed and turned the craft to the new heading. “Target is locked, confirm fire order”. “Confirm civilians are clear” Simone ordered. “Negative” came the response. “Track and wait” Simone countered the fire protocols, “Request ground forces, we are going to be the eyes for this one.” A pause. Simone saw the communication indicator light up and die. “Affirmative orders confirmed and ground crew dispatched”. Simone kept the craft aligned with the target, allowing her co-pilot to guide the ground forces in to capture position. All the while a nagging thought picked away at the back of her mind, what if the co-pilot had refused to wait, what if it had fired on the civilians? What was really sitting beside her?