Mike Schulenberg

Lather: The Twinkle Jackson Story ~ Chapter Four

It’s becoming something of a tradition among one of my writing and blogging circles to hold a blogfest that takes the form of a Round Robin Tale. Basically each blogger contributes a progressive chapter to the story — it ends up a completely crazy mashup of styles and genres, but is loads of fun to participate in.

The current story has unfolded on the following blogs so far:

and the whole story will be housed on the blog of Laird Sapir — who inspired the activity and also created the fantastic graphic to represent the story. It’s my turn to contribute chapter four — but first I strongly encourage you to read the first three installments if you haven’t already.



Chapter four

After his initial shock faded, Twinkle gulped and stared at the hooded figure. Grass brushed the hem of her cloak and she cast a very real and somewhat slinky shadow; yet Twinkle knew she was connected with the Golden Goddess who had commandeered his television the previous evening.

He quaked at the thought of what the Golden Goddess wanted him to do.

The newcomer stepped closer, her hood falling back to reveal a cascade of ginger curls and a wide smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “Hi, Twinkle,” she said, thrusting out a hand adorned with a twisted gold ring.

Something tugged at his memory and Twinkle retreated a step, his gaze darting between her youthful face and the ring. His heart thudded as he tried to make sense of it. “I’m not coming with you,” he said.

A vibration in his back pocket signalled the receipt of a message – probably the one he’d been waiting for – but he didn’t dare retrieve it while his dad might be watching from inside the house. His dad would probably burn his favourite toy if he knew about the illicit smart phone.

“Sure you are,” the woman said, and began humming the tune to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Upon completion of the main melody, she looked at Twinkle expectantly.

He shook his mop of unruly hair. The woman was crazy… and he was just about to say so when his phone vibrated again. He clenched his fist. “Look, I have somewhere I need to be.” A revving in the distance sounded like Gary’s motorbike. Dammit. He was early.

“Yes. You do.” The woman’s smile collapsed into a frown. “I thought this had all been explained to you? Didn’t she say I’d be coming? My name is Jupernia.”

“Doesn’t mean I agreed to anything.” The revving grew louder and Twinkle threw a glance towards the bottom of the empty driveway.

Jupernia inhaled sharply as she detected the motorbike’s approach. “Look, we need to hurry. How can I persuade you?” She grabbed a fistful of his hair and tugged. “What about conditioner? You could have hair all glossy and shiny like mine… or like the Golden Goddess’s!”

Twinkle was unprepared for the yearning which overtook him at the word ‘conditioner’. He remembered his once shiny long golden locks and – just for a moment – he wavered. But if his musical plans came to fruition, he would have all the conditioner he wanted without ever having to use Sparkle Sudz Soap again. “No – conditioner is not enough,” he declared. “Not to do that.”

But in his moment of indecision, Jupernia clamped some sort of manacle around his wrist and started dragging him away from his dad’s house.

“Hey!” yelled Twinkle, pressing his fingers into her arm. But now that she was so close, the scent of her hair product was playing havoc with his conviction. “What kind of conditioner‽”

The revving filled the air now and belatedly Twinkle realised it was far too loud and of too deep a pitch to be Gary’s motorbike. A wind seemed to rush up out of nowhere and an immense shadow fell upon Twinkle and his would-be abductor.

“Shit!” mouthed Jupernia, the word grabbed by the wind or drowned out by the roar. Or both. Twinkle followed her gaze upwards to behold a flying… thing. The jagged edges of its disk-shaped hold, from which ten knobbly appendages protruded, blinked with lights. The appendages curved down to squash his dad’s vegetable patch as the vessel landed like a moon vehicle. “It’s one of Lobstink’s cursed crustaships!” Jupernia shouted. “Run!”

The crustaship engine cut and the world lapsed into silence. Then the haunting notes of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star filled the air.

A shudder ran through Twinkle’s body as, powerless to resist this particular tune played properly, he stood transfixed by the giant space crab. The music continued, sounding like a child at an electronic keyboard, and he hummed his favourite harmony.

“Don’t listen to it!” Jupernia screamed. She clapped her hands over Twinkle’s ears, but the music resounded through his bones and would not be quashed. She moaned. “How the hell did he know?”

As the music continued, a ramp lowered from the suspended body of the crustaship. Out swarmed an army of shrimp-creatures, who surrounded Twinkle and Jupernia with guns raised.

A moment later, the shrimp-creatures flung themselves prostrate to the ground as an immense metallic lobster-shaped figure creaked and jerked down the ramp. Long red eyestalks protruded from behind a visor; the eyestalks swivelled towards Twinkle, twitched and refocused on Jupernia. “The boy looks perfect, councillor!” The booming voice silenced the music. “My Shrimperators told me it would be so. He’s exactly what I need to activate my most fiendish scheme ever!”

“M-my lord?” Jupernia stiffened and seemed ready to bolt. Her hand squeezed Twinkle’s wrist.

“Get up, oh, faceless minions!” he roared and the Shrimperators scrambled to their, er… feet. The lobster-monster’s puffy red claw beckoned. “Bring the boy to me.”


Want to know what happens next? Me too! We’ll all have to tune in to Richard M0nro‘s blog sometime in the next week or so.

Thanks for reading!


Inside the mind of a hoarder

Today I’ve been sorting through my filing cabinet and discovering all sorts of fabulous and strange artifacts I previously stashed away. Some are worth keeping, others not so much…

Very-Inspiring-Blog-Award2To help satisfy the requirements of the Very Inspiring Blogger meme — bestowed upon me by the wittily wonderful Liv Rancourt a week or so ago — I’ve decided to share with you ‘seven facts about me’ in the guise of seven of the more interesting filing cabinet factoids. I’m sure it will be most revealing of my character — heh.

1. Pages from The Age newspaper dated
18 February 1975

This had me stumped until I opened the pages to find a centrefold about the Kings and Queens of England. I don’t know when I decided to keep these pages (certainly not in 1975!), but I don’t think I need them somehow. It has, however, proved quite interesting to see how The Age looked nearly 40 years ago.

2. A piece of unused gift-wrapping featuring Mr Men

Honestly?! This was in the folder labelled ‘miscellaneous’ (as were many of these items) and I can only assume I thought it handy to have a pictorial representation… no, I have no idea what I was thinking.

3. Handouts on Electron Microscopy

Many of you may not realise that, not only am I an engineer, but I actually have a doctorate. Electron microscopy was a huge part of my thesis, and for one of the university open days we prepared handouts to explain what electron microscopy is. I used some of my electron micrographs (er, photos) on it. Here’s what a FLY looks like in the scanning electron microscope!

Images of a fly under the Scanning Electron Microscope (taken 20 years ago!)

Images of a fly under the Scanning Electron Microscope (taken 20 years ago!)


4. Correspondence with ‘famous authors’ – gasp!

Back when I was a mere 20-year old, I wrote (by hand — this was just before email came in) to a couple of my favourite authors, and was very excited to receive responses. Perhaps the most entertaining was my correspondence with Stephen Donaldson: first I wrote to him asking if he could send me a map for his fantasy works, Mordant’s Need; then, upon being told there wasn’t one, I created my own and sent it back to him requesting his feedback. He responded with a very nice letter saying I’d done a pretty good job, and hand-marked some minor changes. Gee, I was so excited! (To be honest, it still gives me a little thrill.)

5. A sketchbook in which my 11-year old self sketched pictures of a mythical school called ‘Kalmora’

I spent hours on this project. It was a girls’ school, and I worked out who was related (sisters had similar colouring), who was friends with who, and when my black texta ran out, all the black-haired girls left the school to be replaced with an influx of brunettes (heh). I drew them in class, on the netball court, in the schoolyard having lunch. Honestly, it’s hysterical. Here’s an example of my DREADFUL drawing skills! Note the emphasis is not on art, but on logic. Every element has to be present and make sense.

Drawing not my thing - will stick to writing!

Drawing not my thing – will stick to writing!


6. Every iteration (including hand markups) of every (unpublished) short story I ever wrote

These number only four, and I only ever attempted to get two of them published. The first is a disaster (the first page bored even me upon re-reading this afternoon), but the second is a piece of writing I’m really proud of. It isn’t a standard story structurally, which is its problem, and one day I may revise it or extend it or turn it into a novel. The thing is I love this piece of writing as-is and I still can’t bear to change it, after nearly 10 years and a few minor revisions. It crossed my mind this afternoon that I could share it on this blog, because it’s only about 2000 words, but I’ll have to think about that a bit further.

7. A folder labelled ‘research’

This turns out to contain a bunch of pamphlets, flyers and clippings about miscellaneous topics — from crystal healing to winemaking to decomposing bodies — that might come in useful when writing fantasy. (I have written a scene with a decomposing body, actually.) Nevermind that all this information is doubtless available from a Google search… Nevermind that I can’t actually remember what’s inside the folder anyway!


So there you have it. Some insight into the brain of a hoarder. But I confess it’s been quite fun to go through all this stuff — and that’s why I’ve kept it, after all. Not sure I need to keep every revision of every story, though…

The rules of this game say I need to nominate three others to play, so I’m tagging

The Rules

Display the award logo on your blog.
Link back to the person who nominated you.
State 7 things about yourself.
Nominate three other bloggers and link back to them.

Now tell me what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever stashed away for a rainy day? When you came across it again, did you keep it?


Spreading blog love

A quick post to acknowledge two things that happened in my blog world this week:

WikiRandom Writers Challenge

A creation of the irrepressible Laird Sapir, the WikiRandom Writers Challenge is a flashfiction competition involving the creation of a three-sentence story using a phrase generated by hitting the Wikipedia random button. Sara Walpert Foster won the right to host the March competition after winning the first challenge in February. It was a lot of fun, and I managed to joint-win the right to host the April challenge. (Stay tuned — this will happen later in the month.)

Sara’s WikiRandom prompt was “an organic reaction”. Traumatised by the death of my mother’s dog, Jeddah, earlier in the week, I wrote the following:

The sheet looked like one of my mother’s, pale with a flower pattern, wrapped round and round with neatly folded edges and strips of blue fabric securing the bundle. Too small; too impossibly small for such a vibrant spirit. A few toys, no-longer needed, formed splashes of colour against the dirt raining down and down, until only three hastily picked geraniums marked the place where our little friend was now fuel for an organic reaction.

Thanks very much to Sara for the nod, and congratulations to Cheryl Byrne, the other March winner.

Liebster Blog

I enjoy receiving the various blog ‘awards’ as they come around, mainly because they celebrate our blog community. Laird Sapir has thrown the Liebster Blog nod in my direction this week. Thanks, Laird!

To explain, I’m going to quote Laird, who quoted Mike Schulenberg:

According to legends that come to us from antiquity, the Liebster is meant for blogs that motivate, inspire, and have 200 followers or less.  Its apparent purpose is to summon new followers like some sort of mystical talisman, increasing the power of those of us who are just beginning. — Mike Schulenberg

The Liebster Blog rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you on your blog and link back to them.
  2. Nominate up to 5 others for the award.
  3. Let them know by commenting on your blog.
  4. Post the award on your blog.

So without further ado, I select the following five to spread the Liebster love:

Barbara Forte Abate — Scribbling outside the lines

April Plummer — Heart of the world

Elizabeth Fais — Where the awesome begins…

Jennifer L Oliver — World beneath the evening star

Alvarado Frazier — Strong women grow here: writing while living life

That’s it for now. Until next post…