Coil of Koi in Dark Water


Coil of Koi in Dark Water, 21cm x 29cm, 8" x 11.5", 2012, Moleskine folio Sketchbook, multi-media.

Finished, unless I slightly whiten some of those Koi edges. I sparingly brushed the koi with some translucent paints (vellum, blue, orange, yellow), which glimmer. The fish have a pearlescence that you can see if you tilt the painting in the light.

They are like angels rising from Dante's Inferno.



Earlier version: 


Coil of Fish, 21cm x 29cm, 8" x 11.5", 2012, Moleskine folio Sketchbook, multi-media.


I have rubbed this out many times! Was going to scratch the koi out and add oranges, yellows, golds; so far, it's not working. I used a wooden toothpick to scratch the koi out, but the underpainting of acrylic 'bone black' had dried too much, leaving them with a ghostly presence.

They are like angels rising in dark water, and I may have to just accept that.

In process!

From my recent NaNo novel: 'When the plump Chinese lady who owned the store came over to feed the koi, the fish swirled to the top of the tank, a mass of watercolours and oils coiling and curving and looping in and out of each other as each fish rose to eat bits of the koi feed. Their gills translucent against the misted windows of the store.

The glass thinned, melted and the koi are flung out of the tank as the water rushed out, a coiling, spawning tidal wave. The gills of the koi became soft wings, they grew like when you drop a stopper of ink into water and patterns of ink coil and flow outwards and upwards as they disperse. The koi’s filmy, translucent wings spread and grew thinner as they rose, a coiling mass of golds, oranges, yellows and browns, a living tree spinning upwards, a whirlpool of fish like leaves flowing into the sky, for the ceiling had disappeared.'


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NaNoWriMo 2011 excerpt


Still 1400 words to go tonight, but you can see why I hit a rough patch, and was resisting writing. My characters are going through a lot. This story, like most of my NaNoWriMo novellas, is dark, troubled. It is full of densities, difficulties. That's why I haven't been posting bits. 

The green invaded everything.

It took over the plane like a fungus, a fine film of sticky mould. Or like the encrusted barnacles of a long drowned boat. Inside the cabin she saw it growing up the curved walls and over the ceiling, a corrosive green lace.

She felt it in the corners of her eyes, and when she looked at her brother she saw the green seeping through his hair, his skin became jaundiced as the fine feathery lace spread down his face and arms. A fine green mist hung in the air; they were all breathing it. The passengers, the flight crew.

Her mother woke back in their house in her bed unable to move because she was tied by the green ivy that had grown around her in the night.

She lay like a fly in a spider’s green net. Something tasted bitter in her mouth and when she brushed her tongue over the back of her hand she saw her saliva was a deep, algae green.

The ivy had grown through her room and filled it with tendrils that had claws which stuck to everything, the ceiling, walls, floors, the bedroom furniture, it had crept under the broadloom which was dissolving. It covered the windows with its hungry green leafy mouths, making the room dark.

Her teeth began falling out of her gums, and she spat them out, but some stuck in her throat and she coughed, and coughed.

She could not reach her phone; she did not know where the phone was in the jungle her room had become overnight.

Or had it always been like this? She could not remember, the green was seeping into her brain.

She was shaking, or being shaken.

Slowly she opened her eyes, and saw Curtis saying, “Do up your seatbelt, we’re arriving.”

Steig shook. “I had a dream, a nightmare, the green was invading everything. Mother was encased in green ivy.”

“Ha! She’d deserve that,” he said.

“It was worse, Curtis… like I was her by the end, coughing out my teeth, my brain seeping with green.”

He sighed. “Never mind, sis. It was only a dream. You’ve been asleep for hours. Dad will be waiting for us at Heathrow.”

“Can I go to the bathroom?”

“Not now. Can’t you feel the plane is descending?”

“Yeah, I guess so. I’m thirsty.”

“Steig… you’re my older sister. Stop acting like a baby.”

She lay back against the high nap of the chair, on edge, waiting to feel the bump of rubber wheels on tarmac. Such a delicate and crucial moment, touching earth.

When the plane landed lightly with a gentle thud and kept moving, but parallel to the ground, she breathed with relief.

The air was invisible, clear. Without any green tinges. Her brother’s hair was dirty blonde, there was no green ink seeping through it. Her fingers were lace free.

Yet the dream remained with her, colouring her vision.

The best part had been the attack of the plants on her mother, wrapping her like spider-prey in a web of green vines. The natural world gone awry had moved to de-potentiate her. It imprisoned her in organic shackles. Thinking about that part of the dream, Steig felt safe for the first time since she had returned from school the day before to meet her mother’s fury, and the green whip which her brother had broken. 

When he broke it it revealed itself as a magic spell that was worthless now.

Soon the plane stopped rolling and the door opened and the passengers began filing off. Curtis and Steig waited in line to exit.



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NaNoWriMo ongoing and on track



I forgot to post a widget this year to mark my progress. Other than falling behind a bit near the beginning, which I did catch up on, I've been steadily making my 2000 words a day and am now just over half way to the finish line of 50,000 words.

No excerpts to share, sorry. The story has taken such a different direction to the one I had originally thought that I'm trying to keep up with it, even as I resist writing it. It's far too late now, and I spent all day resisting, and all night, but the words came anyhow, one after the other, sentence after sentence until I came to a place to stop and looked at the word count. Ah, time to rest, to sleep perchance?

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Excerpt from NaNoWriMo, Day 5

She was fleeing from her origin-woman mother, the beginning of her, whose womb she was carried in, given birth from. Tearing at the gusset, a rupture of blood and amniotic fluid, like raw egg white spilled salty and bitter, and she found herself lying in that spreading pool of bitterness. Her mother had never wanted her, her first child, who tied her with a chain stronger than iron to a man she didn’t love.

Steig ate broken eggshell while the white spilled down the white smock of her party dress. She carried a basket of fresh hen eggs and picked them up one by one and hurled them at the womb of the tree where she hid when she escaped. They broke, and broke, and broke, yolks sliding like deep yellow suns and the whites glossy as mucus  over the fallen trunk, in the tomb where she lay, flowers growing from her mouth filled with earth, she, composting into the disintegrating wood.

His eyes, sharp, hawk-like, thin man, spindly legs, and wings, skylark wings grown large, speckled brown, watching.

Steig was coughing in her sleep. Coughing so hard that she woke. She was trying to rub broken egg off her skin when she woke into clean dry sheets, a soft pillow, a fragrant night. She hugged her pillow, tears flowing.

She wished her father were home; everything in the house was so different when he was home.

As she lay in her bed crying she wondered why Granma Blé and Mr. Lipsig had come to tell her such things as made her mother mad and cruel.

She called to her Grandmothers in the night, and her Uncle Zez, for help, but the room remained dark, and silent. If the ghosts were nearby, they did not appear.

The soft pre-dawn light was slowly washing the sky when she drifted off again.

She was rushing away.

Like an ocean sucking itself out because of the cracks in its seabed and never  returning. Or the wind blowing across the land, rushing on until depleted. She fell down the whirlpool circling the drain and the current was too strong to fight.

Then, the colours. She drifted between spheres of bright colours, red, yellow, blue, green, purple. It was peaceful, a moment of the infinite.

She had this dream frequently, like floating with molecules in a vast and enormous darkness that was warm, safe. The colours glowed and each floating sphere seemed a fairy godmother, and to smile on her and bless her, she couldn’t explain the feelings, but they made her calm, and happy.

It was like floating with coloured moons on merry-go-rounds, or swinging on swings, soothing, and swinging ever higher brought a forgetfulness with it, as the colours swirled by, she, flying through the air, back and forth, around and around, a little dizzy, giddy with joy, its freedom.

Alone, but not alone, for the coloured balls were there, glimmering with her.

She came out of this rich and nurturing place of her dreams when she woke. She lay in bed, still feeling a mystical warmth.

We’re all only floating molecules, she thought. Nothing lasts and that gave her relief.

Or was she an old woman now, remembering backwards a life rushing towards her? Steig had a moment of pure confusion, a lonely teen, and yet something else, her future bringing her into being.

She imagined herself old, sometimes, she didn’t know why.

Sometimes she stared in the mirror until she saw wrinkles appear and jowls, a heavier neck, stared until she saw herself grown old in the mirror.

But not today, she got up with the coloured globes ringing in her ears with music of the spheres, the sound of molecules whirling in their vast inner spaces.



(image from my videopoem, the dancer's backskin)

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NaNoWriMo 2011 excerpt

What I wrote last night, exhausted after a long day, so tired I could barely keep my eyes open, not 2000 words, but I'll catch up today.

Chapter II

Across town, red and yellow fallen leaves were swirling in a whirlpool upwards towards the open palms of a figure in a black woollen cape.

Out of the swirl of leaves a spirit seemed momentarily to emerge, a deva, a nature sprite, only rather than playful, as she might be in spring, she had a sharpness, was fierce, pointed.

The leaves swirled like the nose of a bullet, or a sharp beak.

Then they fell back into the heaps of reds and golden fallen leaves the wind collected from under the trees and flung in banks across the yards and streets.

She smiled, her pale grey hair visible under a tweed flat cap. Her black flat-heeled leather boots as high as the knees, and black leggings under the woolen cape were visible across the street, where he was watching.

“Good!” he shouted. “Another take?”

“No!” she shouted back. “Not now. That... was enough. Sorry!”

“Okay, take a break.” And he turned to a thin young woman whose hands were resting on a large camera on a tripod that was locked on its wheels, and said, “Cut. That’s it for today, Clare. You can go if you like.”

Clare looked at him warily, then abruptly dropped her hands from the camera. She left without saying anything.

“Come back tomorrow, same time,” he called after her. “You’ll be paid for the whole day.”

Standing beside the camera, almost guarding it, he waited for the caped woman who was walking towards him. “Shall we take a look?”

The woman shrugged, murmuring indefinably. He opened the viewfinder, clicked some buttons and the caped woman was seen to be standing before a drift of fallen autumn leaves. They did rise like a whirlpool under her palms. Clare had zoomed in when the leaves formed their sharp point. But they did not appear as a sharp object coming to a head. The director and the actor stood, gaping, at the image in the viewfinder.

Rather, the leaves formed into the face of a woman.

The leaf woman blew with sharp breath on the outstretched palms of the woman standing over her. Then, like a genie returning to her bottle, she shrank back as the leaves fell into a heap joining the leaf encrusted garden.

“I can’t create a character for this,” the actress said, her face framed by her hat and flying hair - a wind had picked up catching the silver grey hair around her shoulders.

“You don’t need to, Madge. It’s all there. No more takes on this one.”

“What’s there, Jeb? I’m sorry if I’m a little spaced out - I experienced something in that shoot that I’ve never felt before.”

“What, Madge? If I may ask?”

“Oh..." she wavered, and then as if finding her voice in a deep canyon, slowly said, "For a moment I felt a presence, a flutist of the Maenades of the leaves approached under my hands, drawn by them. She was like a koi coming to the surface of the pond and looking at me before disappearing back into the depths of her world. I heard a bamboo flute in the wind.”

Jeb was listening carefully, but said in a calm, practical voice, “Let’s see how tomorrow goes, because that sounds really interesting, Madge, and I believe Clare has captured something of that mysterious moment in her filming.”


(a bit of a drawing of mine,
just to add an image)

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NaNoWriMo 2011

Doing NaNoWriMo this year again. This will be my 4th novella. I like to write without knowing where it'll go or what will transpire. I am always amazed at the coherence of the final manuscript, though I haven't edited any or sent any out or even shown any of them to anyone else. They just pile up on my hard drive, whole books that I am quite proud of. Each one, a teacher.

The last time I wrote a novella in the month of November, and it was erotic fiction, and I'd be embarrassed to show it to anyone, was in 2008. I like to set a 2000 word a day goal. That 2000 words usually takes about an hour of straight writing. It is hard work, no denying. But wonderful when you find you have a whole manuscript, a story at the end of the month.

Usually I just write. While I have a general theme in mind, and a genre, I don't pre-plan the story, or map it out beforehand. That wouldn't work for me. Each day's writing is, rather, a discovery of the story that is unfolding. The characters form themselves and create their situations. It's a great way to let writing pour through you.

It begins officially tomorrow, on Nov 1st. I've managed it working temp jobs as a single mother - often I wrote through lunch at work because my kids were so demanding at night - so really it's simply a commitment to write. I can't write on my desktop because the 'inner' editor would kick in. I need something small and intimate. The first two novellas were written on a small old laptop, the third on a now defunct netbook, but don't have any of those anymore. So this year it'll be on the iPhone via a wireless keyboard. Cute huh? ::smiles::

Today I wrote about 300 words, and discovered what the story this year is to be about. While I don't think it's a good idea to show something new and nascent and in the process of forming, below is what I wrote. It's going to be a surreal novella this year!





At last she sat still, still like a bullet in a gun ready to fire. She floated high over the tree tops. But only for a moment - as long as it took to blink.

Shadows were watching, in each stalk of grass. Fields of watchers. The grass was rising, murmuring, rebelling. Then the grass flew. Tufts of green following her over the hill tops.

No, that didn't happen. She was on the ground. The blades photographed her image in the photosynthesis of each plant cell and thus followed her hologram through the sky.

Each blade screamed in green bleeding joy, blowing in the wind, rootless, free.

Then it came to an end. The grass fell on her head. When her mother came to get her, she was covered in grass. Her mother screeched the way some mothers do, and shook her daughter and brushed the grass off roughly with her hand, but some of it still stuck. She smelt like a freshly mowed lawn. Scuffs of green razor cuts covered her clothes and skin like a painter had daubed her with virescent green. She was a holy plant child of the holy green earth.

How do you imagine a consciousness so wholly natural that there is scant distinction between the landscape and the mind? The outside was in her. The sky that is blue with its dark clouds. The soaring dipping diving birds. A fossil alive. A woman from pre-history who was the future. A surreal madwoman.

The dreamscape is real. She was untameable. Wild in her abandon to the forces. She danced with trees and sang with brooks. I'm not saying it was bucolic, or a pastorally nostalgic vision. Not utopia. Rather, a reality.

This is a story of the greening fires, the ones you see in people's eyes when they are elsewhere.

Let's say it is surreal, so it's going to be a crazy write where logic is twisted, braided, looped and denied. Abandon yourselves, dear reader, to the mad sensibilities of a storyteller's dreams.


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