In hot, dry windy weather, harvesting dry crops like wheat is a fire hazard. There used to be Harvest Bans. Now warnings go out, and farmers are meant to make their own risk assessment.
“It’s the dust,” says Travis. “Fine particles of grain floating about, lots of oxygen, they’re flammable.”
I imagine a tractor or one of those giant harvesters on fire, setting fire to the crop on every side. The operator would have nowhere to go. Scruff boy, for example, could be trapped. Hurt.
I’m a great fan of Australia’s National Basketball League, leading up to finals as I write this. I decided that Rosie should be a fan too.
I’m watching last year’s grand final. The game is close, and I’m really into it.
“No, no, no! Drive to the basket, don’t just fling up random shots!”
It misses. I groan in frustration. Poddo doesn’t even raise his head.
A foul is called. It’s wrong, naturally.
I jump up from the sofa and shake my fist at the screen.
“You cheats! That was a charge, not a block! Are you blind?”
Rosie takes Poddo for a walk but he goes on strike and refuses to move. Matt comes to the rescue and Poddo rides home in the cab like royalty.
"You don’t think Poddo should go in the tray with the other dogs?”
Scruff boy laughs.
“I wouldn’t dare try it. Let’s just say, he doesn’t look like his sense of balance is very well developed.”
Work in progress (working title Rosie and Scruff Boy)
Matt explains how harvesting works. Rosie is not impressed.
“It sounds like filthy work. Dusty.”
“Yeah. Usually involves a fair bit of maintenance. Dust gets into everything.”
“It sounds lonely, all that time in the tractor by yourself.”
“It can be. Sometimes there’s too much time for thinking.”
Matt gets a job driving a chaser bin for the upcoming harvest. Rosie is, of course, completely clueless.
“You have no idea what a chaser bin is, do you?”
Of course I don’t. I imagine a small cart chasing after a harvester on busy little feet. “Wait!” it cries plaintively.
I want to hook readers into my stories straight away, so the first lines and first paragraphs are mega important. It’s not easy though. I'm still working on the perfect line.
I slam the door and ratchet the security chain into the lock. The taxi loiters under the streetlight. I watch it through the spy-hole until it moves slowly away. Some of the tension in my neck and shoulders goes with it.
What I was aiming for here was a sense of danger, and to establish that the story will be told in the first person (the first time I’d done that.)
Jud Jeffreys, disgraced detective, stepped off the City Loop tram onto the central island platform.
This line introduces the main character and describes him arriving somewhere. It’s a bit low key.
Jud Jeffreys, demoted detective, recognised another exile.
This first line again introduces the main character, but packs more of a punch. We know he’s been demoted and exiled, and he's observant.
Short story editors say that the most common story beginning is someone waking up in the morning. I hope I can do better than that! Another option is to start right in the middle of the story and then go back to show how we got to this point. I took this approach in my short story The Empty Quarter, published in Aurealis magazine in 2018.
The Empty Quarter
I sign the evacuation order. It’s a relief, really. Sand and vines buried our farms and cities, and there’s no place for humans on Vennia any more.
Great story about colonisation and ecological disruption! (also available from ebook sellers).
Now available in print format from Amazon, Deep Leads, the second in the Detective Jud Jeffreys series. The cover looks fantastic!
Authors choose names carefully.
They have to fit the age of the person and their time. For example, Ernest or Edwin or Ethan go with different historical eras.
They must be different enough from other characters that readers don’t get confused. Mary and Maddison and Mandy would be too much.
And it’s important not to use a name of someone well known. I always search the internet for every name to check this. It’s particularly important if the character is a villain — real people could be VERY upset if their name is an evil person in a book.
Right now I’m wrestling with this problem for a villainess. I though Tamara, but, not sure. Could I get away with Lavender Lundy? What parent would saddle their child with that! Decisions decisions. I’ll let you know the answer when I decide.
Rosie makes the acquaintance of Darryl and Travis' dog Poddo, a round creature of uncertain breed.
He’s like a snoring boulder, dense and immobile.
Work in progress. Rosie stays with family in a renovated cottage. She rests on the front verandah and admires the garden.
A sea of roses and flowers separates the house from the picket fence.
Beyond the fence is what I expected in a country town. An industrial scene. That’s what the country is. Machines. Not lambs frolicking on lurid green pastures.