Thursday, February 21, 2013

Encounter with elephants

One minute they were driving amongst sand dunes, then the next as they crested a sand dune, Fenella saw a large area of green in front of them, with a small waterhole to one side. In the distance, Fenella could make out sand dunes again. The green floodplain was ringed by large sand dunes.
“You’re lucky, no tourists are allowed to come here,” said Katerina, carefully driving down the sand dune to get onto the grass below.
“Wow,” was all Fenella could say, momentarily at a loss for words.
“If you do see elephants, don’t panic, just try and blend into the surroundings. They don’t know people, and they are very dangerous,” Katerina warned. “It’s just us woman and children out here, no men to protect us.”
After a meal of boiled rice with weevils in it, which Katerina had called the protein part of the meal, the exhausted children were put into their tent which faced out onto the tall swaying grass of the flood plain. “Mommy-time,” said Katerina with a smile as she made two mugs of coffee and liberally added brandy into the hot brown liquid. “No milk, so we’ll use the brandy as milk.”
“Fine by me,” said Fenella as she opened up the scrabble board by candlelight.

Fenella was leading Katerina by about 50 points in the scrabble game, when both women started when they heard a loud, “Humpf,” noise.
Katerina’s eyes were big with fear, “Elephants,” she hissed, looking ghostlike with the light from the candle giving her face an eerie glow.
Fenella wasn’t sure what she should feel. They were in the cooking tent, so she didn’t know what a big deal having elephants nearby might be.
“Don’t panic on me,” hissed Katerina, blowing out the candle.
Shit, thought Fenella, it was so dark they couldn’t see a thing. Katerina peeped out the cooking tent’s open doorway. “I can see about five, six big ones, in the long grass. Don’t move, otherwise they’ll hear us and charge.”
Katerina’s stage whisper was creeping out Fenella more than the thought of wild elephants a couple of metres away. Then she had a thought, a very frightening thought. “Katerina,” Fenella whispered back, “The kids’ tent opens up into the grassy area. Samantha wakes up at 9pm to go for a wee. What’s the time now?”
“Holy fuck,” muttered Katerina, “What are we going to do?”
So, much for Katerina telling Fenella not to panic. Fenella thought that Katerina was going to burst into tears.
“We have to save the children,” said Fenella calmly.
“How?” Katerina was starting to tremble, she was so scared.
“Here’s the plan,” said Fenella, making it up as she went along, “We’ll get down and leopard-crawl to their

tent, and wake them up quietly, and get them to crawl to our tent.” Fenella bit her tongue as she felt an urgent need to pee. Why did her bladder have to come alive at such a time?
Katerina led the way, with Fenella behind also on her stomach, using her elbows to pull herself forward. They could hear the elephants moving in the long grass on their left. The elephants were so close, they could even hear their tummies rumble. Silently, but surely, the two mothers inched their way forward, not noticing the thorns that pierced their flesh, or the stones that scratched and bruised them.
Suddenly, there was silence. Katerina lifted her head and looked out onto the long grass, “They’re going over the dune; they’re leaving the flood plain!” Katerina’s voice sounded loud in the still of the night.
Fenella was just about to speak, when she heard the ugly sound of Katerina vomiting up her boiled-rice-with-weevil dinner. “Might as well have a quick pee myself,” muttered Fenella now that the immediate danger had passed.
After waking the children and virtually sleep-walking them to their tent, Fenella and Katerina went back to the cooking tent to resume their game of scrabble. “Shit, coffee’s cold,” said Fenella taking a sip from her mug.
“Throw it out,” said Katerina putting on more water to boil on the gas burner. “Think we need something stronger anyway,” she said, pouring the mug three-quarters full of brandy and topping it up with a spoon of coffee and boiling water.

The next day, Fenella was lying on her sleeping bag in the tent, writing a letter to Brendan, listening to Katerina sing, ‘I’m a little Noddy man,” with the children in the cooking tent, when she suddenly became aware of an unnatural silence that made her feel uneasy. Fenella looked up from her writing, to see a huge elephant standing about 5 metres away from the front of her tent. Too scared to move in case she alerted the elephant to her presence in the tent, Fenella held her breath, watching the elephant all the time. The elephant was obviously alarmed by Fenella’s tent flap which was blowing in the breeze, as it started to shake its head and then sway it from side to side, before kicking up dirt with its front foot and expanding its ears until they were perpendicular to its head. Fenella felt herself start to go dizzy from lack of oxygen as she continued to hold her breath. Then, flapping its ears, the elephant started to take a step back, then another, then another, until it turned around and walked away. With the elephant out of her sight, Fenella started to hyperventilate, taking a good few minutes to calm down again. When she was breathing normally again, Fenella peered out of the tent to make sure that the elephant was no longer in charging distance, before hurrying out to see what had happened to Katerina and the kids.
Fenella reached the cooking tent, still a little light–headed from her frightening experience, only to find that Katerina and the kids had vanished into thin air. Something caught the corner of Fenella’s eye, and she looked at the parked Landrover, to see Katerina sitting behind the driver’s wheel.

“What are you doing?” asked Fenella, as she saw Katerina sitting frozen in shock, with one hand on the steering wheel, and the other hand clutching a .38 Special hand gun.
Katerina turned around to stare at Fenella, with eyes huge with fear, “I was coming to save you,” said Katerina in a low voice, “If the elephant attacked, I was going to charge the elephant with the Landy and then fire shots in the air.”
“That’s a wonderful rescue plan,” lied Fenella, wondering if both Katerina and her would have been killed if the elephant had charged. “Where’re the kids?”
“I sent them behind the dune for safety,” said Katerina, “They’re hiding in a ditch.”

Excerpt from Stop the world, I need to pee! Available on Amazon as Kindle and Paperback

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Story behind the Story - Defective

There are writers who can create a whole story in their heads from nothing.  There are others of us who are sparked by an interesting snippet of conversation , a news item, something we've seen.  Anything which ignited the creative juices.  Whatever initiated the story is the story behind the story.
The Spark
As a teenager I heard about a murder case - The Scissors Murder.  It was in all the newspapers, everybody was talking about it.  This story sank into the murky depths of my subconscious and lay buried there until a few years ago.  I'd just finished a novel and wanted to start a new one.  But what to write about?  Where to find a story?  I have always been interested in the dark side of human nature and what motivates them to do what they do.  In a flash The Scissors Murder came into my mind and I researched it on the internet to refresh my memory about what happened all those years ago.
The Scissors Murder
On the 4th November 1974, 46 year old wife and mother Susanna van der Linde was stabbed to death in her home in Cape Town South Africa, with a pair of scissors.  The perpetrators of the crime were 19 year old Marlene Lehnberg and 33 year old Marthinus Choegoe.
Marlene Lehnberg worked with the victim's 47 year old husband, and soon after she started working with him began a 2 year affair.  He told her he'd never leave his wife for her, but was prepared to continue with the affair.  Marlene had had a very conservative upbringing with an abusive father.  Marlene was convinced that the only obstacle between her and marriage to Christiaan van der Linde was his wife.  You can read more about the murder through this link
The Plot and Characters
I was fascinated with the story, what motivated a young girl to embark on an affair with a married man so much older than her?  What drove her to murder his wife?  What role did the husband play in the murder?  There didn't seem to be answers to these questions.  So I thought, what happens if I use the basic plot, create my own characters with their own life stories, and try and figure out what the motivations could be.  I used The Scissors Murder as the spark, the starting point and then let my imagination take over.  That is how my novel Defective came about.
You can purchase Defective as a paperback or on Kindle from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble and the Apple iStore.

Reviewed by Bob MacKenzie for Readers Favorite
"Defective" is the sort of story that sneaks up on you like those elusive shadows that give you shivers in the night. There's something about 17 year old Kara Butler. Though it would be easy to feel sorry for her, it's as easy to cheer her on. With an abusive father and a mother who mostly ignores her but will help in a crunch, Kara leaves home for the big city of Capetown. Innocent in the ways of the world, Kara nonetheless gets an apartment and finds a job. It all seems quite heroic. There is something else about Kara, something not quite right, something that her new-found freedom has set loose in her world. As her story seamlessly moves into darker and darker places, Kara's world slowly unravels. Drawn into Kara's journey of discovery are a promiscuous medical doctor, the doctor's emotionally abused wife, a boy who believes he is a secret agent, an Abbott and Costello team of detectives, and a cast of other quirky characters. The effect of this story is both surreal and chilling.

"Defective" is not a thriller in the truest sense. Neither is it a mystery or a police procedural. The genre is hard to pin down, shifting as it does while the story progresses. In some ways, the television series 'Dexter' comes to mind, in other ways Hitchcock's Psycho. It is tempting to call "Defective" a psychological-thriller. It is certainly psychological, though perhaps more in the way an update of the old-fashioned Gothic novel might be psychological. Quirky and intriguing, this story is clean and tightly written, drawing the reader inexorably to its inevitable conclusion without ever revealing that climax until it arrives. For readers who prefer their books to be intelligent, thought-provoking, and challenging, "Defective" will be an ideal choice.