Wow, am I excited and motivated!
Over the last few days (sick in bed, mind you), I have written over 7k words toward my small YA novel. I am guessing it will get to around 60k when finished – which is odd for me (as I tend to write them a lot longer). 11k in all has now been written. I am on a roll big time, and I don’t suspect it will sustain at this rate all the way to the end (yes, work is calling), but it will make a sizeable dent to the novel and, more importantly, I am in the groove – there will be no stumbling blocks now.
This is new for me, but it feels right. I call it a YA novel, but I am guessing the core readers will be girls aged from about 13 to 17 – I am guessing, as I am 48 and a male. That’s radically different! Does this constitute a YA novel? It wont be long before I start to find some of my nieces and get them to sanity check what I have written.
I have a short story posted on the Internet that is pretty close to what the prologue of my novel will be. Here it is to give you a bit of a taste what the story is about (but only a taste – there is a lot more to it!).
I call the short The Painting.
It was a balmy night but Maree shivered, buttoning up her coat. It was fear. Not for something specific, but the unknown – the back lanes of The Rocks were dark and menacing at midnight.
This was one of the oldest parts of Sydney and many of the narrow buildings she silently passed were nearly two hundred years old. In the old days the narrow byways were frequented by footpads and other villains. They killed for a few shillings. The history of the area was tangible: you could smell and taste it, and every shadow seemed to form into a knife-wielding psychopath.
She kept reminding herself that it was just her imagination as she continued down Kendell Lane, looking for No. 42. She still glanced over her shoulder every few seconds.
"There," she whispered, when she spotted the rusty number in the dim light. She read the signage underneath it: ‘Azimuth Galleries – viewings by appointment only’. Not this night, she thought.
Maree looked around her, making sure that no one was in sight. When she was sure it was clear she pulled out a pair of wires and expertly picked the old lock.
She quickly entered the old building and shut the door. She then pulled out a pocket torch and switched it on, immediately flashing it around to get her bearings. It was, in some ways, scarier in the gallery, as the paintings in the shadows seemed to come to life, shifting as the torch flickered by, the eyes of abstract figures seemingly following her. She shivered again. She wandered into the next room, picking her pace up as if to avoid the gaze of the phantoms behind her.
Her torch light almost immediately found the painting she was after. Wings. The work she saw in the magazine, the magnificent work of art she had to have. This was not going to be theft for profit; this was for her.
She had been dreaming about the painting for weeks, the swirling reds, greys and oranges of barely discernible winged figures; angels perhaps, but the subject matter wasn’t angelic. There was grief and death in it. She needed to study it alone, to absorb the artist’s impression, to feel the paint under her fingertips, to grasp the complete meaning of the work.
Maree held her breath and approached the painting. It was larger than she thought, perhaps four feet square. The colours were richer, more penetrating, and the winged man and… yes, woman! were more easily discernible. She was in awe, frozen in wonder before it.
"A beautiful work, no?" a deep, masculine voice came from behind her.
She started in surprise, but she didn’t move an inch. She was now frozen in fear.
The voice came again, this time a little closer. "Do not worry. I am a stranger in this gallery as well. I too have an… affinity with the painting."
A sweat bead ran down Maree’s neck. She found the courage to turn around. A tall man stood before her, no more than five feet away. He had short cropped hair, dark but the exact colour was unclear in the shadows. His eyes seemed light, perhaps grey; his face was thin but his body seemed full and fit. "I suppose you are wondering why I am here?"
Maree’s voice was weak, still with fear. "I… I suppose so…"
"I too wanted to view the painting. I have seen it before but I never tire of viewing the captured emotions on the canvas." He slipped past Maree and came within a few feet of Wings. "Do you mind?" he asked, pointing to her torch.
She complied, standing next to the stranger, and illuminated the painting.
The mysterious visitor’s voice seemed to mellow, almost break with emotion. "This is the story of Alanar, the Guardian of the Northern Sky Realm, and his consort Mirriam. They were Protectors and fought the daemons of the Fire Lands valiantly, never allowing the enemy to taint the Homelands. Protectors always worked as pairs, as a team." The stranger started to cry, not vocally, but allowing the tears to cascade down his cheeks. "Then one day a stray arrow dug deep into Mirriam’s breast, cleaving her heart. Alanar was devastated, and he caught her as she fell and carried her in his flight to the Homelands.
"This painting captures the moment when Mirriam’s body was caught. It faithfully portrays the agony of Alanar, his yellow-tipped wings rippling in the wind as he concludes his terrible descent. The swirling colours reflect the awful light of the Fire Lands but they also depict Alanar’s darkened heart. I look upon this work and I cannot but weep."
Maree heard his words and they all rang true to her. How could this be? she asked herself, for this was but an artist’s fantasy; and yet she now realised why she was drawn to the painting. There was some inherent truth in the canvas. Something that needed to say something to her. She also began to weep.
His hand gently clasped her shoulder. "You feel this too?"
She could only nod. Words were too difficult to say.
She shrugged her shoulders. She still couldn’t speak.
"Come with me."
Maree turned to the stranger, looking up at his face. She saw compassion in him, and yet she only met him a few minutes ago. She wanted to instantly reply ‘yes’, but all she could do was look at him quizzically.
He laughed while he cried. "Look at the painting again."
She did. The swirling colours suddenly seemed to have a life of their own; they actually were swirling. The tall man’s hand was still on her shoulder, and it ever so gently urged her to move toward the canvas, but not forcibly.
She didn’t know why but she allowed herself to fall into the painting, and then, without warning, she unfurled her expansive, blue-tipped wings, and flew into the maelstrom of colours.
He never let her go.
"It has been a long time, Mirriam."