Archive for October, 2012


Indubitable

Our ‘Word on Wednesday

37/366: King Johann of Saxony

37/366: King Johann of Saxony (Photo credit: Magic Madzik)

‘ for The Write Practice blog was ‘Indubitable’, and here is what I wrote:

The new King sat on his horse at the gates of his castle and looked down across the town to the mountains and valleys beyond. It was finally his, all his, to rule over as he chose. All he needed, as he had informed the Court this morning, was to find a Queen to rule at his side. Someone to share his vision, support him in his campaigns, reflect his nobility, and most importantly – bear him a son.

“Your majesty!”

He looked down. At the side of his horse, the Royal Chancellor Lord Grovel stood, hands clasped, a pleading look on his face.

“Your majesty, I beg your forgiveness,” he began, bowing his head, “But….with the war having ended so recently, do you think it wise to be travelling off so soon? When your country needs stability –“

“I will give it stability, Grovel.” the King said, firmly, “What my country needs is to see their Ruler with a line of inheritance. My father is dead. I am now their King. I must marry, and have a son to sit on my throne after me.”

“That is indubitable, my Lord,” Grovel was now wringing his hands, looking up anxiously at his master, “But surely the matter could…wait?”

“Wait? WAIT?” the King roared at him, causing his horse to rear up a little. The King pulled sharply on the reigns, and his horse stilled with a ruffled whinny.

“NO, Grovel, it CAN’T wait!” said the King sharply. “I must be married at the earliest opportunity, and have a son to secure my family’s inheritance! THAT, Grovel, is indubitable!”

Lord Grovel groaned despairingly. He was almost in tears. He loved the King. He loved him TOO much. He had dreamt of this moment; to see the man he adored on the throne, in his rightful place, had been Grovels only wish and hope for a life time. But in his dreams he had envisaged that HE, Lord Grovel, would be at the King’s side – guiding him, supporting him, nurturing him. And yes, of course the King would marry in due course, indubitably, but it would be a small matter of no significance. A necessary chore, a ‘by-the-by’.

But apparently the King wanted more than that. He wanted a Queen for his life-long companion. And Grovel could see the life he had imagined slipping through his fingers and landing on the dusty floor of the courtyard, to be trodden underfoot by the King and his guard.

 

 

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The Spell

We had an ingenious exercise for The Write Practice this weekend – to write in the style of one of our favorite authors. Well, my favorite author of all TIME is JK Rowling, but I always try to emulate her depth of emotion and attention to detail when it comes to her characters. So I decided instead to have a go at writing in the style of Terry Pratchett, another of my favorite story tellers. And yes, I do realize I have used the word ‘favorite’ too many times in this paragraph, but its Sunday morning…..it’s ok to be lazy.

 

Lila stood in the circle of wild mushrooms, and took the items she had acquired from the school room out of her pocket. As she did so, the piece of dried up chewing gum that Boltoph had given her fell to the ground. She decided to pretend she hadn’t noticed this. She didn’t think it was likely that the chewing gum had belonged to Miss Sharp anyway, even if it WAS stuck to the underside of the teacher’s desk.

And what she had needed were things that really belonged to Miss Sharp, if the spell was going to be a success.

It wasn’t that Lila was a particularly vindictive girl. It was more that Miss Sharp was a particularly vindictive teacher. Adults were supposed to be wise and learned; they were supposed to guide you kindly, and teach you the sorts of things you needed to know to survive being a grown-up. Miss Sharp didn’t even really teach literacy and numeracy very well.

And she most especially did not like Lila.

As she sorted through the things she had taken from her teacher’s desk, Lila’s subconscious told her that her hands still smarted from being slapped with the wooden metre ruler until they almost bled. But Lila ignored her subconscious. She needed her hands to work, and they couldn’t do that if they were just moping and feeling sorry for themselves.

She had a small blouse button, a hair pin, one of Miss Sharps over sharpened pencils, a small stub of white chalk and a shoe lace. The shoe lace had been a bit of a risk; it was new and unused, and wrapped neatly in brown paper, stored away in Miss Sharp’s desk. Lila was hoping that Miss Sharp wouldn’t be returning to school in the same state she had left that day, and wouldn’t notice the absence of spare shoe string. Plus she needed something to tie the other items together, and had it would have been a much greater risk to have tried to purloin a hair from Miss Sharps head.

Lila carefully tied the items together and put them on the ground, still ignoring the chewing gum that lay just a few inches away. She took the candle and matches from her pocket.

She knew she was supposed to tell the candle what she wanted it to do. Should she tell the match as well? And what about the match box that she would strike the match against to light it? Lila wished she had read the spell instructions a little more carefully.

Just to be on the safe side, she told EVERYTHING what it’s job was, struck the match, lit the candle and then after a few moments, poured melted wax onto the shoe lace. Then she held the flame against it and watched the little pile of objects burn. The flame didn’t last long, and the items were more singed than burnt, but it would do. Then she took the items outside the circle of mushrooms, put them in the hole she had dug in readiness and filled the hole with dirt again.

“Take THAT, Miss Sharp!” she muttered.

NaNoWriMo, dude!

(I love the way Americans call each other ‘dude’…I’d say it all the time, if it wasn’t for the fact I am British and it would make me look pretentious. And somewhat ridiculous. I might adopt it at work amongst my co-workers, whilst wearing the new reading glasses no-one thinks I should have bought, and see what the reaction is.)

BLEAURGH!!! I’ve left way too long a gap between my last post and this one. Unfortunately no-one is paying me to write yet, so I still have to go to work. I live in hope.

So.

Next month is National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo (the name always makes me think of the Judoon from Dr Who… “RO HO MO HO JO”, or something like that…). Originating in San Francisco in 1999, it now has around 300,000 participants.

National Novel Writing Month Web Badge

National Novel Writing Month Web Badge (Photo credit: ajsundby)

The idea is you write a 50,000 word novel starting on the 1st of November and aim to have it finished by the 30th. That’s 1000-2000 words a day, or 1666 per day according to Chuck Wendig (if you fancy a laugh, enjoy really good writing and don’t mind a bit of swearing, I can recommend this guys website. Here is his take on NaNoWriMo).

You are not supposed to come out with a shiny, well edited perfect piece of writing – the idea is you just WRITE, with a devil-may-care, sod-the-housework (because it’s so often on my mind…ahem….), throw caution to the wind, fly by the seat of your pants approach and just get the thing written.

THEN you can go back in December, once you have caught your breath, had some sleep and repaired all the damage wreaked on your house by your family while your back was turned, and turn the bones of your story into something beautiful. Add flesh, paint it up a bit, bring the wobbly bits into line, and then maybe you will have a knicker-gripping, earth-shattering, mind-changing story worthy of publication. Most publishers apparently look for something of around 300,000-500,000 words, and are not interested in a tiny 50,000 unedited piece that was fueled by caffeine and desperation.

There seem to be lots of pros and cons to this approach. For me, the appeal is having a goal; a finish line; light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m not very disciplined  Or very organised. I almost always forget everyone’s birthdays, for example. I lose things on a regular basis (my purse, my keys, my phone, my children and the dog). I am still working on strategies to help me with these every day occurrences  and enjoy the occasional success (I still have my kids and the dog. In case you were wondering.)

I’d really LOVE to get something published, and I know it takes time. The word on the internet ‘street’ is that it takes 6-10 years for the average writer to get their work published. Which is why, I keep reminding myself, I am starting NOW – so that in 10 years time I don’t look back and wish I had started 10 years ago.

But as my husband reminded me recently, if I don’t actually WRITE anything, I will never get anything published EVER.

So I’m giving the old NaNoWriMo thing a go, and I am using October (or whats left of it) to plan. Wish me luck.

 

Here are some other articles I read on NaNoWriMo, if you need more motivation:

Twelve Reasons to ignore the nay-sayers

Why winning isn’t the main reason

Five Good reasons to do NaNoWriMo

and this one again, just in case you missed the link – this one is my favourite:

25 things you should know about NaNoWriMo

 

 

Vociferous

Dragon

Dragon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is another short story that I wrote for The Write Practice ‘Word on Wednesdays’ – the word this time was Vociferous. I may re-write this at some point – extend it and use some synonyms  for vociferous.

 

They were vociferously unanimous in agreeing to the plan, this disparate group of tribe leaders and their henchmen. They had finally found a cause about which they could put aside their many differences, and work together to rid the land of the Dragon.

This huge unwieldy monster had come uninvited into their historically fought over territory one night, in the middle of a crackling, drenching, thunderous storm. The Dragon was every bit as vociferous as the storm itself – booming and crashing and stomping through the forests, felling trees with a swoop of its mighty wings and crumbling villages under its ungainly feet.

“THIS BEAST MUST DIE!” cried the chief of the most vociferous tribe, “OR WE WILL DIE TRYING!”

A mighty roar erupted from the other men, as they shook their swords and shields in the air. Their hearts pounded, their lungs heaved, their limbs pulsed, ready for action. They would take down the Dragon as one. And he who carved out its heart and held it aloft for all to see would be heralded the bravest, most noble chief of all time.

At the edge of the clearing, the least vociferous, smallest tribe member sat alone on a fallen log, chewing at the end of one of her long, flame coloured plaits. Her bright blue eyes had silently taken in the scene before her; her small pixie-like ears had heard their cries. But she knew a better way. She would take the Dragon out on her own, without ending its existence and without cutting out its heart.

She took the pendant out of the little cloth bag that always hung across her shoulders. It glowed with a pinkish-purplish hue, and felt warm in the palm of her hand. She tied the lace around her neck; the pendant lay on her chest. She felt its rhythm synchronise with her heart beat – ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom.

Tonight the Dragon would leave the valley for good. And she would go with it.

 

Very short fiction piece

This was a little fiction practice piece I wrote for The Write Practice. We had to try and use the word ‘indicate’ (or derivations thereof) as many times as we could. I think i managed four…

 

“Of course, they didn’t have the term ‘gay’ in his time, but I think the indications were all there!”  Our prim and proper Scottish Professor swept her furled umbrella over the painting of the ‘Nude Male’, outlining his erogenous zones in case we hadn’t noticed them. “Just LOOK at the way he has painted the genitalia!”

We stood watching her drool over it; paused, lost in her own fantasy no doubt. My friend Jimmy coughed in irritation, and woke her from her day dreams.

“This way!” she indicated with the umbrella, and we all traipsed off again to the next room.

“See? There’s nothing to be scared of with her. She’s an art whore!” Jimmy whispered to me, indicating the Professor with his index finger, and making me snort behind my art books.

She hadn’t heard Jimmy’s comment, but she heard me snort. She stopped dead, causing several member of the class to bump into one another, and turned on me, eyes flashing and nostrils flaring.

“Ellen Fairfax, you might want to try and take your History of Art course a little more seriously. The exam is in two week. So far the indications are all pointing to failure for you, my dear.”

This is one of the stories I entered for a competition recently. Its modern fiction, rather than fantasy fiction, and I don’t feel like it is the best thing I have ever written, but it was my first try at following the rules for ‘Flash Fiction’, which are here if you want them.

The Cat

He didn’t like anyone.

He didn’t even really like himself. He had passionately hated the
woman he lived with for 8 years, until she finally gave up trying to
make herself more appealing to him. Funny how the minute she stopped
trying, decided she didn’t care any more, was the same minute he
realised she was the love of his life. But it was too late by then.

He hadn’t wanted to live alone, in this enormous empty echo-y house, with it’s high
ceilings and grey painted walls, that stood in the shadows of the
tall trees outside, which let in little sunlight even in mid-summer.

Maybe this was why, when an unknown cat let herself in one day through the open window of
the drawing room, he didn’t immediately throw her out again.

He had been sitting at what was once the dining table, in the days when they had held the dinner
parties he hated so much. Forced to become the genial host, to smile,
to pretend to be interested in the petty, boring lives of Clara’s
friends, while they drank too much wine and ate too much food.

Now the table had become his writing desk, covered in old newspapers with half
completed crossword puzzles, unpaid bills, and the discarded, coffee
stained sheets of his music – the agonised pouring out of his heart
and soul that never seemed good enough these days to send to his
agent.

The cat had let herself in and sat on the table in the middle of it all.

She was the colour of pale caramel. He supposed she was a particular breed, though he
didn’t know which. Maybe a type of Siamese. She had bright blue eyes
that stared into his, blinking slowly while she purred loudly,
tapping the tip of her tail rhythmically on the paper beneath her.

Tap tap tap.

He sat staring back and considered her. She must belong to one of the neighbours, he thought.
They had high stone walls and fences all around the huge, neglected
garden, but of course cats are inconsiderate of man made boundaries
such as these. She might have climbed one of the trees whose
branches trespassed from next door and hung untamed, dropping rotting
fruit and dried up leaves onto the lawn he hadn’t mown since Clara
left.

He liked the purring and the tapping – the cat’s own music.

“Make yourself at home.” he told her. He suddenly realised it was the first sentence
he had spoken out loud for several days. His voice sounded oddly
harsh in the crushing silence of the room.

He looked back down at his music sheet. He hadn’t slept well the night before, and usually
that leant itself well to his creative process. When his eyes stung,
his head ached, and his hand hurt from holding his pen so tightly,
the most beautiful music flowed from his pen. Today however, nothing
would come. He had once read an article about ‘writers block’ which
suggested ‘write something, anything, even if it doesn’t make sense’.
So he scratched a few random notes onto the page in the hope that
they would transform into a tortuous, heart rending melody, reducing
the listener to tears, bringing a long unseen smile to the lips of
his agent and increasing his bank balance to at least a liveable
level.

It didn’t help however. They were just squiggles on his page. They weren’t singing to him. He
closed his eyes, and as ever the old familiar images drifted into his
mind, uninvited yet persistent. Clara in the garden, lost in a book,
laying in a hammock between the apples trees; Clara on the beach, her
pale golden hair waving softly in the breeze; Clara laying next to
him in between freshly laundered sheets, her skin soft and velvety,
and her smell of summer.

A soft, rumbling ‘meow!’ woke him from his reverie.

The cat got up and walked right onto his music sheet. She rubbed her head against the
end of the pen and his hand, her purring increasing in volume. She
sat down again, her face close to his, and this time rubbed her head
against his nose, leaving a few tickling hairs behind on his skin
that he had to rub away with his fingers.

Realising the futility of trying to work with this new situation, he picked the cat up and
carried her to the sofa, kicking aside old pizza boxes and take-away
cartons, still covered with remnants of the last few weeks hastily
eaten meals. He sat in the last small habitable space that remained
on the sofa, next to untidy piles of dirty clothes, and rested the
cat on his lap. Whilst continuing to purr, she turned herself slowly
round three times, kneading him as she went with her paws, her sharp
claws occasionally finding their way through the worn fabric of his
corduroy trousers and into the flesh of his legs. It hurt a little,
but he didn’t mind the pain. It was pleasant to feel something
different to the empty ache he always felt in his chest.

She settled comfortably on his lap and he stroked her soft fur. He liked the way he could
feel the vibrations of her purrs on his legs.

He leant his head against the back of the sofa, closing his tired eyes, his hand
resting on the cat’s back, and found that his visions of Clara were
not so vivid in his mind as usual. The images were fading with each
purr; the empty ache eased; his mind soothed.

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