A little bit about my novel…

So, what is The Glorious Face of Sorrow all about?

The story starts, in April 1999, with Jack Spalding, a jaded, middle-aged Sydney Solicitor. We learn in the Prologue that his wife, Cassie, has left him on a trial separation. Will she come back just long enough to announce that their marriage is over? Or will she stay?

In the next Chapter, Jack is consulted by Harold Macauley, who is seeking legal advice about his missing son, Hugh, and his missing daughter-in-law, Jing.

So, within the first 15 pages, the two intrigues facing Jack Spalding are set up. Will his marriage survive? Will he find out what happened to Hugh and Jing?

The story then goes back in time, to 1996, when Hugh meets Jing. They each tell their side of the “meet-cute” story.

From then onwards, Jing, Jack and Hugh take turns to narrate the story in the first person.

A marriage in trouble. A burgeoning romance. The daily travails of a working lawyer. The tensions which arises when a changing society struggles with its immigration levels. And a book of poetry which may solve a mystery.

I think it’s a good story. I hope it finds an audience.

Archie

My Upcoming Novel

So….after over two decades…we’re almost there, I think.

I started writing The Glorious Face of Sorrow in the late 1990s. It’s taken so long to complete that what started as a contemporary novel is now a period piece! A glimpse of life in “turn of the millennium” Sydney.

To be honest, the first draft wasn’t very good. Neither was the next draft, or the one after that. Far too much “telling” and far too little “showing”. Did I really think it was necessary to have the characters explain the story? Oh my lord! So much exposition!

But after a major re-write over the last two years, I’m now proud of my novel. I’ve excised all the dross, added a lot of better written material and I’m happy, now, to put my work out into the world via Austin Macauley.

I’m currently working on the final proof. Still tinkering here and there. Deleting an adverb. Adding some imagery. Cutting a paragraph which does little but interrupt the flow. Inserting a hard-working little detail which elevates the storyline.

I know that when I send back my revisions, that will be it. No more tinkering. It’s done! I find that prospect a little daunting.

But after 22 years…it’s time.

Archie

“The Horror” | The True Story

This is one of my favourite micro-fiction items to date:

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/the-horror-by-archibald-hobbs

It, too, is inspired be a true road-trip event When I was in my late teens, my father and younger brother went on a 4-day drive to northern NSW. We camped the first night and decided “enough of that…”. So we booked into a motel the second night.

My father was exhausted, so he decided to have an afternoon nap. Soon his snoring was echoing around the small room. But my brother and I were wide awake, so we decided to have some fun by tossing a tennis ball to each other as we lay on our backs on our beds.

It was my idea to try and throw the ball between the rafter and the ceiling…

I can’t, now, remember how many attempts I made, but I was finally successful. But the extra elevation required to send the ball through the gap between rafter and roof saw it sail over my brother’s bed towards my dad’s…

Whilst the piece published on Friday Flash Fiction hinted at a tragic ending, in real life my brother was sufficiently nimble to leap from his bed and catch the ball mid-flight.

Thanks god!

To this day, however, some thirty years later, what may have happened – had the ball landed on my sleeping father – remains a source of comedic speculation in my family.

Archie

“Mist Covered Mountain” | The Story Behind the Story

Here’s a link to my most recent flash fiction.

Mist Covered Mountain, by Archibald Hobbs – Friday Flash Fiction

I like this wee little story of a man with tartan blood running out of gas on a mountain road, playing his pipes to keep himself warm and unintentionally provoking a social media storm of Highland Ghost sightings; although I’m not all that happy with last line. I don’t think I quite stuck the landing.

The fictional tale was inspired by a true event.

Many years ago, I looked at my calendar and was disappointed to find that a weekend industry conference in Canberra clashed with an annual Highland Gathering in Bundanoon. Whilst both south of my home in Sydney, the two locations are approximately 150 kilometres apart. In any event, my wife and I resolved to attend the industry conference on Friday and Sunday, whilst dashing up to Bundanoon for the Highland Gathering on the Saturday.

Leaving Bundanoon after a long day and a lovely dinner, we headed back south to Canberra. It was close to midnight and I was still dressed in my tartan kilt and Prince Charlie jacket. I didn’t pay much attention to the position of my petrol gauge, but the warning light came on around the same time as I turned left onto the Federal Highway, still close to an hour from Canberra with nothing but farmland and Lake George in between.

My wife was enjoying her view of the stars in the clear mountain sky, so I decided to live and die, in silence, with every sweeping bend and rolling crest, whilst praying that the petrol gauge might miraculously start moving northwards.

I contemplated, during the agonising drive, what I would do if my car did drift to an unforgiving halt. It was past midnight and flagging down a passing car meant placing our trust in the hands of strangers. And if we did, what next? Does one of us stay with the car? Do we both hitch a ride? Would the stranger even be willing to drive us back to our car once we had secured a can of petrol?

And, of course, I was still wearing my kilt! Would anybody stop, when confronted by such a shocking sight, emerging from the darkness? Or would they think they’ve seen a ghost?

Thankfully, we limped into Canberra and found a petrol station which was open. Had we run out of petrol on that lonely highway, I suspect my wife would have organised a piper to play a sorrowful lament at my funeral…after she’d killed me…

Archie

“Hide & Seek” | The Story Behind the Story

So, my short story, Hide & Seek, was published today at Pocket Fiction, which appears to be a relatively new digital zine:

Hide and Seek – Pocket Fiction

I like the look and feel of Pocket Fiction. I also like their mission to publish ‘pocket-sized‘ stories which you can read ‘from start to finish in the same amount of time it takes to drink your morning cup of coffee‘.

To answer the question posed by the publishers, yes, that does sound good! Both from the perspective of a writer and from the a reader’s viewpoint.

Anyway, Pocket Fiction looks like a start-up…and this blog is a start-up…so let’s start up together, shall we?

The story for Hide & Seek literally came to me in my sleep. For some reason, as I woke from dreaming, the premise of two brothers engaged in a decade-long game of hide and seek was rumbling in my brain. I told my wife about it and she laughed. I must confess, however, that the twist at the end only came to me as I was writing (which so often happens to me).

The story, I’ll also admit, is weird. I don’t often embrace the realm of weird, but it’s nice to try something new. Let’s see whether I venture down that giddy path again.

The only other thing I’ll say about Hide & Seek is that I had a mate who loved to embrace the unconventional. If he came to a fork in the road, he’d always choose the path more likely to freak him out. Unfortunately, my mate succumbed to cancer several years ago. But I think he would have liked this story. Perhaps he visited me in my dreams…

Archie

“The Power of Guilt” | The Story Behind the Story

Having only recently discovered Flash Fiction, I’m pleased to have my first piece published at Friday Flash Fiction today.

Here is the link to my piece:

The Power of Guilt, by Archibald Hobbs – Friday Flash Fiction

There are several things I like about my Flash Fiction piece.

Firstly, I’m pleased with the echo created by the sequence of “puerile derision“, “servile submission“, “vile indecision” and “mobile precision“, spread across the four paragraphs of the story. I’m pretty chuffed with “corrosive tears venting from his eyes” too. I think the original placeholder text was the cliched “tears welling in his eyes“, or something similar.

Secondly, I like the pay-off in the final paragraph. The events in the set-up took place over 20 years ago, yet our Asian friends still face discrimination and prejudice today. Whether that prejudice was caused by the pandemic, or whether the pandemic merely helped reveal the prejudice which already simmered under the surface, is an open question for the reader to decide.

So what is the story behind the story?

The event in the set-up is inspired by a true event at a house party I attended shortly after graduation from high school. As you can tell, it still haunts me. An Asian friend – the only Asian in our class – was racially attacked by a white classmate who had far too much to drink. The only thing more harrowing than the look on my friend’s face was my failure to do anything in that moment.

Over the years, I have thought about whether I should have tried to reason with the aggressor or whether I should have tried to physically restrain him. But they say you should never argue with a drunk.

Perhaps the better step would have been to put my arm around the victim’s shoulders and lead him from the room. I think that is what I should have done.

Instead, I was overcome by peer pressure. I didn’t join the baying mob. But I didn’t do much to help either.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my story. I welcome feedback. If you liked my piece, let me know. If you have feedback on how I could have done a better job, I’d love to hear it. And if you hated it, I’d love to hear from you too (but don’t be surprised if I return fire!).

Archie

Flash Fiction

I must admit that I’ve only recently discovered Flash Fiction, but I adore it!

It’s where storytelling and poetry mix.

I’m truly stimulated by the mental challenge of telling an entire story in a set word limit of, say, 100 or 300 words.

For what it’s worth – and having regard to the fact that I’m a Flash Fiction novice – my process begins with writing the first draft quickly; typically into my iPhone whilst on the train or when I need a break from the technical writing required by my day job.

At this point, I’m just looking for structure. I try to paint a small picture which allows the viewer a glimpse of the story which exists beyond the canvass. I leave space, so that the reader has to use their imagination to complete the story; particularly what transpired before I entered the fray and what might have occurred after I left.

Once I have the structure in place, I start playing with the words and the sentence structure. I alliterate and I rhyme and do my best to enhance the rhythm of the word patterns. I dwell over every word because when you are competing with a hard word count, every word matters. Every word has do more work than any self-respecting word should be called upon to do.

And when I think I’ve got it about right…I put it aside for a day or a week and try again later.

I’ve written half a dozen Flash Fiction pieces in the last little while. Let’s see whether they get published.

Archie

Hello!

Welcome to my writer’s page on WordPress! I’m glad you visited me and I’m thrilled to get started.

I should have done this a long time ago. You see, I’ve always loved writing, but I’ve never given serious thought, before now, to developing my own writer’s page.

The catalyst for launching this site now is the impending publication of my first novel, The Glorious Face of Sorrow (Austin Macauley), which I expect to be published later in 2021.

The funny thing about my novel is that when I started writing it in the late 1990’s, it was a contemporary story. But now – following two decades of picking and stripping – it’s become a period piece!

I’ll have more to say about my novel in future posts. Stay tuned. I’ll hope you’ll follow me here and on Twitter @archibaldhobbs.

All the best! Thanks for visiting and staying for a while. I appreciate it!

Archie