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Writing What My Soul Needs Right Now

I admit I had a bit of a meltdown last night.

I live in Tweed Heads, in the Norther Rivers region on the Far North Coast of New South Wales in Australia. Tweed Heads is right on the border with Queensland. The suburb of Coolangatta is on the Queensland side, and our two suburbs are known as the ‘twin towns’. Before COVID, our communities were virtually one and the same, as many people live and work either side of the border. I cross over into Queensland every day on my afternoon walk.

In late March, The Queensland Premier (the head of state)  shut the state’s borders to interstate travellers. Only ‘border residents’ were allowed to cross over into Queensland and for essential purposes only (work, exercise, medical appointments, caring for someone etc) , and were required to display a special pass on the windscreen of their car when they passed through the checkpoint. This checkpoint is manned by police, army personnel as well as the SES (State Emergency Services) volunteers. This checkpoint turned the relatively quiet main street of Tweed Heads into a car park, with major traffic jams during morning and afternoon peak hour, and other random times of the day.

The Queensland Premier opened the border a few weeks ago just before school holidays, yet excluded travellers coming from the southern state of Victoria, which has had a major recent outbreak. More and more ‘hotspots’ have since been declared in New South Wales, and people coming from those places have also been banned.

At first I was rejoicing at the news that the Queensland border would be re-opening, but when I learned about the new restrictions, I had my doubts that anything would change. In fact, things got worse. Checkpoint personnel were checking every car with a Victoria or New South Wales number plate, and the traffic delays were horrendous.

The school holidays are over now, and the traffic has reduced significantly, but due to recent outbreaks in Queensland there is serious talk about closing the border again.

Across the street from where I live, there is a COVID testing clinic. I can see it from my kitchen window. The waiting area is outside in the open air; sometimes there are two or three people waiting to be tested, sometimes there are twenty. It is a very confronting thing to see every day while I’m making my breakfast.

Every day on my afternoon walk, I pass by the traffic signs warning of the checkpoint ahead, and see the cars queuing to cross the border.

Which brings me to my meltdown last night.

Up until now I’ve coped fairly well mentally and emotionally with the pandemic. I’ve had my moments; all of my family live in Queensland and at least an hour’s drive away. It was hard, and I felt very alone over here in New South Wales. But I kept busy studying and writing, and I have had the opportunity to see friends and family while the border has been open. However, the uncertainty resulting from the recent outbreaks has been really wearing me down.

Living in Yeppoon last year, I missed my home on the Gold Coast , and was so excited when the opportunity arose to move back earlier this year. Yet recently I’ve had serious doubts as to whether moving back was the best idea. Having the uncertainty around the border, seeing the checkpoint every day, and the testing clinic across the street. I waited so long and worked hard to get back here, and it breaks my heart because I love this area so much. But as they say in The Handmaid’s Tale: Don’t let the bastards grind you down. In this case, the bastard is COVID.

Earlier this week I sent my latest short story, Bedouin Boy, off for editing, and tomorrow on Writing Friday I will start typing the sequel, Grave Bargains. Between working on these two projects, I have decided to dive back into my Irish psychological fiction novellas.

I had put these novellas on hold for this year, to focus on getting my five previously published books back into distribution, and to publish Bedouin Boy and Grave Bargains. But I’m feeling like my soul needs to be working on my Irish novels right now. They are my passion project, my life’s work. I derive a certain type of joy from working on these particular stories that no other story I have worked on before has given me. I’ve decided to use this as my ‘dabble’ project, just something to tap into on the weekends and in my spare time. No deadlines, no pressure. Just pure creativity. That is what my soul needs right now.

This year, I have learned how to return to the pure joy of writing. I have remembered how to write just for me. To distract me, to lift my spirits. And if you too are struggling, I encourage you to seek out what you love, what sets your soul on fire, and do more of that.

This picture was taken on my first trip to Ireland in 2012. It is at Dún Aonghasa on Inishmore, one of the three Aran Islands, off the coast of Galway.

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Camp NaNo July: Bedouin Boy Pages 22-23

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Dusk had fallen on the city of angels, but the lights in the roadside motel room had been left off. A cream-colored cloth was spread out over the cigarette-stained carpet, and on top of it Jasem had arranged six candles, white and purple in color. The aromas of burning cinnamon, frankincense and sandalwood sweetened the musty air. Jasem carefully unfurled the fragile scroll and arranged it on the cloth in front of him. Beside it he placed a piece of paper and a pen. He sat on his legs, resting his hands on top of his thighs, left palm down and right palm up. He closed his eyes.

‘I call to the spirit of Ruby McCallum; I wish to speak to you here. Hear my voice. Come to me; I call you now, Ruby McCallum.’

Jasem lifted his hands forward and picked up the pen, pressing it to the paper.

‘Can I confirm that I am speaking with the spirit of Ruby McCallum?’

Jasem opened his eyes to view his writing. On the paper, he had scrawled ‘Yes’. He closed his eyes again.

‘Can I confirm that you are no longer here on this earthly plane with us?’

Yes

‘Can you tell me how you came to pass to the other side?’

The writing was nearly illegible.

Murder

‘Who caused you to pass to the other side, Ruby?’

Peter Atkinson

‘And where does your earthly body reside?’

Jasem’s clothes were laid out on the floor nearby; he slipped on his shirt and trousers, and shrugged on the dark suit jacket. On his head he placed the charcoal grey porkpie brimmed hat. Outside, he sat down in the driver’s seat of the car, turning the engine on and speeding off down the road.

Thanks for reading these excerpst from my July Camp NaNoWriMo work-in-progress, Bedouin Boy! I hope you have enjoyed the posts. Bedouin Boy will be published on Halloween, Saturday October 31st 2020! Be sure to subscribe to my blog for alerts on new releases!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Camp NaNo July: Bedouin Boy Page

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Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

The streets were cold and quiet as Jasem approached the corner. A man in a jacket and beanie sat on the ground in front of his newsstand unpacking one of several stacks of papers still bound with plastic string.

‘I open at four AM,’ the man grunted. ‘Come back then.’

Jasem flicked the man a dollar coin and picked up the paper from the stack he was unpacking, ignoring the man’s protests as he walked away into the night.

Back in his hotel room, Jasem opened the paper on the table and flicked to the Classifieds section. The advertisement caught his eye almost immediately.

‘FOR SALE: Four pre-Islamic pagan scrolls dating back to at least 200 BC. An ideal gift for an educational or religious institution by an individual or group. Serious buyers only. Enquiries should be written and addressed to the Business Focused International post office box.’

The clerk watched Jasem as he tried on a charcoal grey porkpie brimmed hat. The young man waited for the right moment, and then approached Jasem with a dark suit and jacket.

‘Excuse me, sir, but I thought you might like to try these on for size too.’

When he was finished shopping, Jasem paid for the items and the clerk placed them in bags, walking around the counter to give the bags to Jasem.

Stepping off the subway in Paterson, New Jersey, Jasem found and entire Middle East squeezed into a dense and lively area that spanned only two and a half miles. An entire world was channeled into a few bustling, intersected main streets, which housed numerous halal meat markets and restaurants, Lebanese bakeries, and stores that sold Syrian sweets and spices from Turkey. Shop signs were in Arabic, and loud Arabic music spilled out of stores that sold hookahs.

It was midday on a Sunday in the Silk City, and every table in the restaurant was occupied by locals and their families. A basket of large lafah bread arrived at the table. The man sitting opposite him was an antiquities dealer named Ahmed.

‘Do you understand the true nature of these particular scrolls, Jasem?’ Ahmed queried. ‘They are very different to the others.’

Jasem nodded.

‘Yes, I do.’

‘How do you know?’

‘I am Bedouin. My mother came from a long line of pre-Islamic pagan Arab practitioners. She herself was one back in Israel,’

Ahmed sat back and folded his arms, nodding slowly as he studied Jasem in silence.

‘The family is ready to sell. For the right price, of course.’

‘How much are they asking? Jasem queried.

‘Two hundred and fifty thousand,’ Ahmed replied. ‘Non-negotiable.’

 

Jasem followed Ahmed into the bank, trailing behind him as they approached the front desk, where there sat two bearded men in suits wearing kippahs.

‘I’m here about a numbered account,’ said Ahmed to the man in front of him.

The man placed a card and a pen on the counter.

‘Write down your account number, please.’

The second man at the desk stood from his seat. When Ahmed had written down the number, the first man passed the card to the second man, who disappeared through an ornate steel gate door behind the desk.

Jasem and Ahmed stepped out of the elevator and were met by yet another man in a  suit. They followed him and along a corridor of steel gated rooms, much like prison cells. They entered one such room, where the man placed four long, flat safe deposit boxes on the table in front of them, promptly leaving them to view the contents in private. Ahmed carefully lifted the lid of one of the boxes and pulled back a translucent protective sheet to reveal the scroll.

Jasem leaned down to look closer, and Ahmed leaned with him, observing the wonder in Jasem’s expression.

‘Two thousand years old,’ he stated. ‘Extraordinary, isn’t it?’

‘How did they get to America?’

‘Bedouins in Israel sold them to the family, who smuggled them to the U.S.’ Ahmed

paused thoughtfully.  ‘Be warned, Jasem. These are extremely powerful documents. They could be very harmful if you are not ready.’

‘I am ready,’ said Jasem.

Thanks for reading! Final excerpt coming tomorrow!