Sunday, August 28, 2011

Judge's Report from Melinda

Yet another bunch of fab Fabo stories. Many of the entries needed some serious re-reading and editing and were desperately in want of some good punctuation. If you plan to have a twist ending, plot twists work best if the reader has known the truth all along but is still surprised when it comes out. Please watch out for long sentences. Still, there were some real gems in there. I very much liked the inventive Spike Milliganesque qualities (with a little bit of Edward Lear’s ‘The Jumblies’ thrown in for good measure) of Arabella Cameron’s story and the amazing imagery. The team especially liked:

"Sophia and Bruce hadn’t seen each other in months so they spent every moment talking “ did you forget about me?" Questioned Bruce no said Sophia “ you were asleep in my heart and it hurt to much to wake you up, “ and they finished that conversation by embracing each other warmly,


Jim had found a splendid boat called Wild Water ship that had a sail and shone in the morning sunlight, but at the moment no one felt like admiring it because the wind was so heavy it felt like a scratchy cotton blanket

And I thought the ending of Arabella’s story was beautiful.

I laughed heartily over Dionne and Emma’s story, especially the following lines

Her goldfish was called Sam until it died in court (did I mention he’s a goldfish rights lawyer – and - She felt lonely so she went back to Fabowood to see her pet goldfish Sam Number Two. Sam Number Two did an amazing act so good that he got One Million dollars and an interview on Fabowoods got talent. But he didn’t say anything because he is a goldfish. – and - Sam Number Three was so awesome that he got his own cooking show: Cook like a goldfish (hosted by Sam Number Three) It got over one billion hits so now people all over the world are fascinated on how goldfish can cook. If you want to watch it go on www.Cook like a or you can just watch it on the TV on channel Nine hundred and nighty-nine at 4:00pm. It’s a big hit I dare you to watch it. I know I will what about you?

And I liked Jacinta Prior’s line - They couldn’t even afford to buy a drip of water or a crumb of cake.

Matthew Illing’s story was well written and I enjoyed Caroline Moratti’s story too. Her story felt most complete and yet left us hanging with a most tantalising final question. Whose over-councillor gravestone did she cry over? While I think other stories were more technically polished, this week’s winner is Arabella Cameron for the most imaginative and poetic story, Across the Lake.

- Melinda Szymanik

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dark shadows, Detectives and Dame Curried Iguana - Judge's Report by Brian Falkner

What an exciting week for FABO, the last round! The theme this week was detective and the contributors showed a fantastic flair in creating stories that fitted within that genre.

There were dark shadows and dark alleys, trench coats and fedora hats, all the elements of the classic noir hard-boiled detective story.

This week was a really great test of the writer’s ability to write in a particular style. As well as the elements that have become standard in these kind of stories there is also a taut style of writing that goes along with it. Short sentences, pithy comments, sudden action. Well done to all the contributors who managed to combine these things with clever storytelling.

There were some great lines too. How about this from Arabella: “Shadows decorated the room like souls having a bonfire.”

Or this funny line from Matilda: “A strong man with a golden cape and bright pink fluoro pants riding a wave of monkeys that were pushing him into lava as he ate KFC. It was very, well, RANDOM.”

Here’s my favourite opening line. It fits very well within the genre. This from Caroline: “The alleyway was dark… too dark… Sam Spader thought, as the darkness leered at him.”

And the overall winner this week: Caroline Moratti and “Ain’t no Coward.” (Read it here).

Code words, great villains, humour, and a neat reversal of the usual tough guy hero. Well done Caroline.

Congratulations everyone on a great bunch of stories.

My own story is below.


The Opera singer

She walked into my seedy west-side office like she was auditioning for a role in Fabowood. She was tall and elegant, with legs that went all the way up to her body. Which was fortunate. She’d fall over otherwise.

She wore a moonstock fur cape and a hat made from fluorescent pukaheke leaves. Around her neck a large gloomstone hung from a silver chain. She was a real classy dame.

‘Sam Spader?’ she purred my name in a voice like molten chocolate moose. She could be an opera singer with a voice like that.

‘Who wants to know?’ I asked. It was a silly question. Clearly she wanted to know. You didn’t have to be a private detective to work that out. I guess I was just a little intoxicated by her beauty. Or maybe it was the bottle of twelve-year-old pomato juice in my filing drawer.

‘I’m Dame Curried Iguana,’ she said.

‘Dame Curried? The famous Opera Singer?’

She nodded.

A Dame and an opera singer. I’d been right on both counts.

‘What can I do for you, Dame Curried?’ I asked, gesturing for her to sit. She did so, elegantly.

‘I have been sent here by the Fabo Over-Council,’ she said. ‘They need your help.’

‘Really? My help?’ I fixed her with a gun barrel stare. ‘Have they forgotten who it was that fired me as the Erewhon Chief of Detectives?’

‘Ah yes,’ she said, ‘That unfortunate business at Glottis Castle. That’s in the past now. Grand Moff Mewburn himself sent me to find you.’

That didn’t make sense. Why would the grand moff send an opera singer to hire a private detective. There was more to this case than met the eye.

I pulled my diary out of a drawer and pretended to study it. It was empty, but I wasn’t going to let her know that.

‘I might be able to fit in an appointment on Thursday of next week,’ I said.

‘They need to see you now,’ she purred. The light from the window reflected off the gloomstone around her neck, it sparkled, like her eyes.

‘I’ll rearrange my schedule,’ I said, grabbing my trench-coat from the coat-stand, my hat from the hat-stand, and my hand from the hand-stand.

The Over-Council

Twenty minutes later we were pulling up outside the Council Chambers in my classic ’73 Ford Moustache convertible.

I trotted up the ornate marble steps, trying not to slip over on the ornate marbles, and walked in the main entrance.

The building was strangely quiet. There was nobody on reception. The guard’s desk also was empty. It was as if a swarm of suckerpunch spiders had just swept through, leaving nothing in their wake.

‘I got a bad feeling about this,’ I said.

There was no reply. I turned. Dame Curried was gone. I was alone.

The hairs on the back of my neck started to rise. I drew my weapon. There were few problems on this planet I couldn’t solve with hot lead from cold steel.

I found my way into the council room. I stopped. I put my gun away. I wouldn’t be needing it.

Whatever it was they wanted me for I was too late. I was half past too late.

The Fabo council were slumped in their seats. They were dead. All of them. Deader than a ghost in a slime pit.

Tania; Kathy; Maureen; Melinda; Michele; Elena; Brian: all of them. I didn’t need to check their pulses. The wide vacant staring eyes, the drooling mouths, the pale, waxy skin: they looked like a bunch of children’s authors who’d just had their latest manuscript rejected.

In the middle of the table was a jar of jelly beans. Red ones. I hate those ones. I looked again at the body of Vice-Moff Colston. One of the jellybeans was still lodged between her teeth. There was a red smear around Treasurer Beale’s lips.

I picked up one of the jelly beans and sniffed at it. A strong smell of cinnamon.

Next to the jar was a yellowed envelope. A piece of parchment was half-tucked inside. I picked it up and was about to read it when there was a commotion by the doorway. I tucked the envelope into my coat pocket just as a squad of police stormtroopers burst through, weapons drawn.

The new Chief of Detectives, Angus Smith followed them into the council chamber.

‘Caught you red handed,’ he said in a voice that cracked like a whip, ‘Sam Spader you ‘re under arrest for the murder of the Fabo Over-Council.’

‘I guess it wouldn’t help to point out that I only just got here,’ I said. ‘The councillors were dead when I arrived.’

He shook his head. I figured as much. I knew a stitch up when I smelt one and this one smelt like a bad Moonbeast curry.

Speaking of curry, where had the lovely Dame got to?

I put my hands in the air while one of the red-shirted stormtroopers relieved me of my weapon. They frisked me, but didn’t find the envelope. I decided not to advise them of their oversight.

I spent the night cooling my heels in the Fabo City Jail.

The Interrogation

It was the next morning that they finally hauled me in for interrogation. My hands were cuffed securely behind my back. A single light bulb swung low over a table in the darkened room. Video cameras whirred in the corner, capturing everything.

Chief Smith sat opposite me. He stared at me.

‘Why’d you do it?’ he asked.

‘I’m not going to be your fall guy,’ I said. ‘You know I didn’t do it. But I know who did.’

‘You might have a hard job convincing a jury,’ he said. ‘Come on, let’s hear your story. Who did it?’

‘Mr Groat,’ I said.

‘Mr Groat?’

‘Yeah. He believed that the Fabo Over Council was brainwashing all the citizens of Fabo. Blocking out their creativity and imagination.’

‘Why would he think such a thing?’ Smith asked.

‘Would you believe me if I told you that an alien named James Bond who spoke only in movie quotes gave him a letter telling him so, and freed him from the brainwashing?’

He answered with a single word. ‘No.’

‘Well it’s true,’ I said. ‘It’s all in the letter. The Fabo Over Council tried to snare him again, and thought they had succeeded, but Groat was only pretending to be brainwashed. The letter told him that the only way to free the people of Fabo was to murder the Over Council, and that is exactly what he did.’

‘Totally preposterous,’ Chief Smith said. ‘A feeble excuse to try and get yourself off the hook. You’ll be sent to the slime pits, or cast into the great crater for this, Spader.’

‘Somehow, I don’t think so,’ I said. ‘In fact, I’m going to walk out of here in just a few moments.’

‘And how exactly are you going to achieve that,’ he said.

‘You’ve seen the strange scar on my hand,’ I smiled at him, ‘I got that when a sucker punch spider bit off my hand a few years ago at Glottis Castle. Fortunately Dr Bixley was able to replace it with a bionic hand, and it’s detachable. It makes getting out of handcuffs real easy.’

He stared in shock as I brought my arms up from behind my back and clicked my artificial hand back into place.

‘Now let’s go find Mr Groat,’ I said.

Smith was quick. He ran for the door. I was quicker. I got there first and kicked it shut as he tried to open it. He stabbed a finger at an alarm button and a shrill siren filled the room. There was a banging on the door, but I threw my weight against it, preventing it from opening.

‘You won’t get away with this, Spader!’ Smith yelled.

‘You’ve got it all wrong,’ I said, ‘It’s you that won’t get away with it… Mr Groat.’

I grabbed at the skin under his chin and the rubber mask that he was wearing came off like old milk. I moved away from the door, and the stormtroopers burst in. They looked at me, then in shock at Mr Groat, the remains of the Angus Smith mask in tatters around his neck.

‘You’re going away for a long time,’ I said. ‘You and Mrs Groat. Disguising herself as an opera singer fooled me at first, but I don’t stay fooled for long.’

He laughed maniacally. ‘I don’t care what you do to me. The people of Fabo are now free. Free to let their creativity run wild. Free to have inspiration and imagination once more!’

‘That may be true,’ I said slowly, ‘But you’ll still have to answer for your crimes.’

I turned to the captain of the stormtroopers. ‘Here’s your murderer, book him. ’

I pushed past him out of the room.

‘Where are you going?’ I heard Mr Groat call out behind me.

I raised the collar of my trench coat and pulled my hat low over my eyes. I muttered under my breath as I walked away without a backward glance.

‘I got a dame to catch.’

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Riding Off Into The Sunset

Well howdy there strangers....This here FaBo team was left slapping their jeans with mirth....what with disappearing almond and vanilla fudge cake, a ten foot bright pink sand-caked octopus and towns that were so small they didn’t even have trains ....

The inhabitants of Planet FaBo have expanded with a circus of trained sucker punch spiders...not to mention show ponies and fantasy dwarves.

There were some great lines from

Izaak Glynn

‘Eddie whipped his shot gun from his back and blasted their slimy little peanut sized brains out.

Matthew Illing

‘But as he got closer he realised that it wasn’t the glint from a real sapphire after all, but one of the eight automatic pistols of the most evil villain in Western history, Octo-puss.

Caroline Moratti

‘Tightening his boots, he started to descend into the desert, leaving a broken heart and all hope of civilisation behind him.

Overall this week's batch of stories often took a long time to get going. When you have only one thousand words you can’t spend eight hundred words on back story.

Writers also seemed to have difficulty with structure and tense. Read your stories aloud to help with tense. If it sounds odd then there is usually a problem with tense ... have you put a sentence in the past instead of the present? This can happen really easily just by changing one word, is to was or hasn't to hadn’t.

Westerns can have shootouts and punch ups but they are there for a reason. They must either carry the plot forward or develop the character by the choices made when faced with a life or death situation.

Violence to fill up space in the story or because there hasn’t been any action for a while, leaves the reader feeling battered and questioning what was the point of that scene. Too much violence in a story can have less of an impact because the reader switches off. Your duty as a writer is to grab your reader and keep them reading every line because they need to know what happens next ... not to have them skipping lines because it’s just another punch up or shootout.

Poor old Eddie had a rough ride from some of you, dying in the last few sentences of the story. Killing a character has to be thought out carefully. Does it complete the story in a satisfying way or raise the stakes of choice for remaining characters or leave the reader feeling cheated ... (but why and what happens next?).

This week's winner was Matthew Illing (Read Matthew's story on the winners page.)

Matthew wrote a complete story that had a satisfying end. Eddie returns home as a hero ... but he has a choice to make. Matthew, that sapphire must have been a magic one as the villain's death was very quick ... spend a bit more time on the climax of your story next time.

Mozey on down to read my Planet Fabo story...Western style.

Maureen Crisp

There and Back

Eddie bellied up to the ridge of the small hill and peered over the top, careful to make no sudden moves. He didn’t want to die before he had taken the first step.

The plains stretched in front of him, fifty leagues of scrubby tussock, unpredictable windstorms and a tribe of fearsome Suckerpunch spiders. He needed money to save the farm and this was the quickest way to get it, if he could stay alive. He would be rich if he could gather a herd of moonstock drive them to the saleyards and find a buyer.

Eddie slid back down the hill to get his pack off Sparky, his trusty quadruped. He pulled out the netting his mother had made and began to tie bunches of tussock all over it. When his tussock cloak was finished, he flung it over himself and Sparky. By pretending to be a windblown ball of tussock he could travel safely through the day hunting a sleeping herd. The moonstock were active at night...and so were the spiders. He would hole up at night avoiding the spiders and hopefully the fearsome outlaw Octo8.

After two weeks of drifting with the wind over the plains, Eddie finally found a small herd of moonstock grazing in a hidden gully. He dug into his pack for his secret weapon, salted peanuts. Carefully he tossed a handful of peanuts in front of the lead stock unit. Bait taken. He flung the peanuts in front of as many noses as he could. It was working! The moonstock milled around noisily casting this way and that looking for salted peanuts.

Eddie’s heart sank. Travelling with a noisy herd of moonstock was not going to help his chances of getting off the plains unseen. He flung the cloak around him and trailed along with the herd, every now and then throwing a handful of peanuts in front of them.

By nightfall Eddie was exhausted and he thought his arm would fall off. He carefully flung a few handfuls of nuts into a small gully and watched the moonstock stumble tiredly about looking for them. Eddie quickly strung a rope fence across the mouth of the gully and covered it with tussock. Then he settled down to wait out the long dangerous night.

Eddie woke up with a shiver. He could hear a rasping sound. Spiders were near. The sound was joined by another and another. Soon the night was filled with horrible noise. The Spiders had caught a prisoner.

Eddie eased out of his sleeping bag, covered himself with his tussock cloak and crept towards the sound. He knew he was endangering his life and all the money on the hoof he had in the gully but he hated the thought of any one in the clutches of the spiders.

He peered around a rock and saw a large circle of Suckerpunch Spiders surrounding a web bound prisoner. It was Octo8, wearing his famous sapphire belt. His tentacles were bound and he was about to be lunch.

Eddie thought fast. The reward money for Octo8 was more than he would get from the sale of the moonstock. While the spiders were occupied he could get the moonstock out of the area. Eddie raced back to the gully and saddled up Sparky. He pulled down the rope fence and flung peanuts in front of the herd.

Eddie ran Sparky around the dozing moonstock, whacking them on the rumps with his rope to get them moving. ‘Hi yah,’ he yelled. The moonstock stumbled out of the gully in a boiling mass. Eddie grinned, his plan was working. Eddie flung another handful of nuts. The moonstock ran towards them.

The Spiders heard the sound of charging feet and tried to get out of the way. Moonstock thundered through the camp. Eddie pulled away to one side. He flung handfuls of nuts into the seething mass of stock and spiders. When the spiders were totally confused, Eddie rode forward with his knife. Octo8 fainted. Two slashes later and Octo8 was a bundle hanging from his saddle bow. Eddie lit out, running Sparky straight for the hills.

Behind him the spiders tried to capture the rampaging moonstock. The moonstock ran after the disappearing peanuts. Then Eddie heard a rasping scream of rage. The spiders had noticed their packed lunch was gone. The hunt was on. Eddie out in front, the spiders and moonstock behind.

Sparky began to tire. The weight of Octo8 and the half sack of salted peanuts was too much for the trusty quadruped. Down a little gully Sparky stumbled, out the other end and off the side of a cliff.

‘Arrgh,’ yelled Eddie as he found himself and his steed falling through midair. A gust of wind sweeping up the cliff caught them, slowing their fall.

Behind him the following moonstock tumbled off the cliff also. The wind slowed their fall. The Suckerpunch spiders weren’t so lucky, being lighter they floated up with the wind disappearing into the dawn sky.

Sparky hit the ground. Eddie was flung out of the saddle. The moonstock tumbled about him but they were soon on their feet, hunting peanuts from the broken sack. Eddie limped towards Octo8. He was unconscious but not badly hurt.

Sparky scrambled up and stood trembling while Eddie untied Octo8. He dragged him into the shade of a cactuspear tree. The moonstock settled down. Eddie made a fire and began to fix up Octo8.

The fearsome Outlaw came to and stared at Eddie. ‘You saved me.’

‘Yep,’ said Eddie, fixing another splint to Octo8’s leg.

‘Are you going to let me go?’

‘I’ve got enough stock here to save the farm.’ Eddie limped over to Sparky with some cactus pears. While Sparky was munching, Eddie took off his saddle and limped back to stretch out in the shade. He would start for home in the evening.

When Eddie woke up, there was no sign of Octo8, only a belt of sapphires lying beside him.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Love, Romance, and Goldfish - Judge's Report by Tania Hutley

What a great bunch of stories this week! Romance was in the air on Fabo2, and I could tell you had as much fun as I did writing about it.

I was impressed by your brilliantly creative plots and funny lines. It was difficult to choose a winner, but Caroline Moratti has taken the prize. Caroline's story is quirky and funny, and contained my two favorite lines:

- "Donovan could smell the almond vanilla scent the earwax carried, and it
smelt like heaven."

- And, "Maybe love was like a goldfish tank, Donovan mused. You put two goldfish in there, and they fall in love. Take one goldfish away, and the other one eats its children. Simple!"

Special mention this week goes to Hayley's story, which I enjoyed very much. Hayley, I liked that your heroine was the one who knocked out the bad guy. I also liked that she "... called him a certain word that no one would put in a story."

William's story about a boy's ambition to join the circus was also very good, but William, you forgot to include Donovan in your story. I loved that your heroine could juggle three TV sets though!

Anyway, here's my attempt at a romance story. Click the WINNERS button at the top of the page to read Coroline’s winning story.

A Voice From The Caves

- By Tania Hutley

Donovan woke in the middle of the night, his heart beating fast. The mournful call that had woken him was still echoing through the cave. Everyone said the voice called out warnings about burgers, but Donovan knew better. Really it kept calling out his name; this time he was sure of it!

Donovan knew he shouldn't get up. His body was still repairing itself from the day before - his belly hadn't fully tightened and his beard hadn't yet disappeared. But, darn it, he couldn't just stay in bed! The cries had been waking him every night for weeks. What if the legends were true, and there really were ghosts in the caves?

Donovan sprang up and grabbed a light-stick. As he slipped silently past all the other sleeping-caves, the snores of the rest of his tribe followed him out. Most of them had gone through the pairing ceremony ages ago, before they'd reached 10 solar-orbits old. He and Flicka were the only two people still un-paired.

He and Flicka would pair at some point, Donovan supposed. The whole tribe assumed they would and were impatient for it to happen. The problem was, Donovan didn't love Flicka. Not like he'd once loved Aurora.

Aurora's eyes had been golden, and her hair a lovely mud-brown. Her smile still lingered in his memory - more beautiful than any girl he'd ever known.

Donovan sighed. If only Aurora hadn't been sucked into the black slime pits, suffocating in the sludge while her flesh was eaten by carnivorous slugs. After a love as strong as his and Aurora's had been, how could he possibly settle for pairing with Flicka?

His thoughts in turmoil, Donovan was hardly aware of how deep he was going into the labyrinth of caves. The long, sad cry sounded again, calling him. Urging him to go deeper into the caves than he'd ever been before.

It seemed like a different world this far down in the cave. Instead of the comforting dry grey stone of home, these rock walls were covered in slime and cave-worms inched blindly across the dampness.

Ahead of him, a ghostly light flicked. What could it be? His steps faltered and then stopped. His heart raced.

The voice he'd been hearing for weeks called out again, clear and strong instead of weak and distorted.

"Don-o-van. Don-o-vaaaaan."

Shock made his voice squeaky. "Aurora?"

The light came closer and now he could see a ghostly shape inside it. The shape of the woman he'd loved.

"Yes, it's me. Aurora. The strength of my love kept my soul here after I died, trapped in the cave underworld. Yearning for you. Every night I've been calling for you, calling your name, over and over. Didn't you hear me?"

"Something's been keeping me awake," he admitted. "But most of the tribe think the voice has been calling out, 'Beware the burgerrrrrrrrrrrrr'."

"Um," said the Aurora-ghost. "That was Fred."

The ghostly shape of a boy flickered from the darkness and glared at Donovan. "A pile of burgers fell on me," said the boy in a resentful voice. "Didn't know they'd be heavy enough to squash me flat."

Aurora's ghostly figure drifted forward and held out shadowy hands towards Donovan. "Now you are here, my love, and we can finally be together!"

Donovan blinked. "But, Aurora, you're a ghost, pale and insubstantial. I can see the cave walls through your body! How can we ever be together?"

"You must join me. Become like I am."

"Become a ghost? You mean, I have to die for us to be paired?" Donovan took a step backwards.

"My love, it's the only way."

Donovan hesitated, taking in her misty form that hung so weakly in the air. Through her ghostly shape, he could see the wet cave walls glistening and the blind cave-worms crawling. It almost looked like carnivorous slugs were still sucking the flesh off Aurora's long-dead bones.

He swallowed hard. Then he said, "Flicka expects me to pair with her. I must go and talk with her. I must explain."

Aurora nodded. Her smile filled with joy. "Hurry back to me, my love! Join me and we shall haunt these caves forever. I will call out for you every moment we are apart, until we are together once more."

Her voice followed him as he stumbled away from her, back towards the surface, thinking hard. He'd gone so deep into the caves that by the time he got home it was morning and all the tribe were stirring, but he could still hear Aurora's faint and mournful cries.

"Flicka," he called. "Where are you? I've something to tell you."

She came out of her sleeping-cave, yawning and stretching. "What is it, Donovan?"

"Last night I went deep into the caves. Deeper than anyone has ever gone before. And I made a decision." He hesitated, taking a deep breath. "I'm going to get paired."

A smile spread over her face. "Oh, Donovan! I've waited so long for you to ask me! I'm so happy."

Flicka threw her arms around Donovan, but instead of hugging her back, his hands stayed by his sides, clenched tight into fists. With a confused look on her face, she drew away from him.

Donovan lifted his gaze to meet hers. As he looked into her jewel-green eyes, he thought how lovely they were, sparkling with life. Her hair was limp and straggly, but maybe it just needed a good brushing. And her smile, although slightly crooked, was warm.

Best of all was the way her arms had felt when she hugged him. Solid and real. Not ghostly. Not in the least bit damp.

Slowly, he opened his hands. He was holding four small, rounded pieces of cave-worm. Although he had no imagination, desperation had driven him to create something entirely new.

"What are they, Donovan?"

"An invention."

"What's that?" She frowned.

"Dearest Flicka, they're a pairing present for us. I call them 'Ear Plugs'. I have a feeling they're going to come in very handy."

Listen to A Voice from the Caves