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Reading a new book

A few months ago I picked up a very sword and sorcery style fantasy, a bit reminiscent of David Eddings’ work (I love his Belgariad series and have re-read it several times) and several other epic fantasies that I’ve read. Up til then, I’d mainly been reading middle grade or YA fantasy, which are also the genres I write in, so I though this book would make a nice change. What I didn’t expect, however, was for the sheer amount of detail in it – the type that makes a simple trip to the well seem to last an age because every flower, tree and creature is mentioned along the way.

While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and in fact is generally expected in epic fantasy, I found it quite jarring and it took me away from the characters and the story. I think the reason is because the pacing between a middle grade book and an epic fantasy is very different, and I wasn’t prepared for that. The whole story seemed to take so long to tell, and, quite frankly, I wasn’t used to it. But I liked the main characters and was intrigued about where the plot was going, so I tried to carry on to find out what happened. Yet every time I looked at my bookshelf, I could hear the other books calling out to be read (well, not literally, because I’d be questioning my sanity if that were the case, but I think you understand that they were very appealing).

I started reading less and less, wanting to start something new but not wanting to ‘give up’ on the book I was trying to finish either. I was feeling low because I wasn’t reading as much, and I felt like I wasn’t doing the books justice by just letting them sit there on the shelf, or rattling around, dog-earred, in my bag. Then I got to the point where I wanted to do anything other than read, because I simply couldn’t get on with that book.

So I did finally put it aside.

At first, I felt bad. I hardly ever stop reading a book before the end (in fact, the only other book I’ve taken a break with is ‘The Silmarillion’ by J R R Tolkien – it’s not an easy read, so I need to fully focus on it to absorb the plot, something that’s a bit hard to do on the bus or during a break at work).

Then I read the prologue of the book I’d been waiting to read, which is a middle grade steampunk novel, and it was like someone tearing a hole in a plastic bag that happens to contain your world. I got a full lungful of fresh words describing new people, places and concepts, and for the first time in months, I want to read again.

Perhaps I should have changed books as soon as I knew the other one wasn’t pulling me in. Who knows? At least I get to visit exciting worlds again.

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

Extract: The Door Between Worlds

They turned a corner and found themselves in a street full of stalls of every kind and colour, stretching as far as they could see. There was a black stall with yellow stripes to their right, selling honey and beeswax candles, and to their left was one which was deep purple, selling various creams and powders. One of them was called ‘Anti-Wart Cream’ and was advertised as being perfect for witches who wanted to avoid looking evil.

As he read the label, a woman with a greenish tinge to her skin and six extremely large warts on her chin came up to the stall and looked at the powders and creams with interest. The vendor, a tall, stout woman, smiled at her.

‘Ah, Baltinda! It’s good to see you again. How’s the anti-evil cream coming along?’ she asked.

‘Well, as you can see, my skin is gradually fading back to its natural colour now. I can’t believe I was involved with that coven for so long that my skin turned green! I only went there for a laugh, I never thought I’d start becoming a wicked witch like the rest of them,’ the green-tinged woman replied.

‘Ah, you can’t help things like that. Wicked witches are very clever at deceiving good witches. I think Wilhelmina is the only good witch I’ve ever known not to be lured by their charms.’

‘Oh, don’t talk to me about Wilhelmina. She’s so full of good spirits that it makes me sick,’ the woman spat in disgust. Ramble noticed that her green skin darkened slightly as she spoke.

‘Now there’s no need to upset yourself, Baltinda. Here, have some more anti-evil cream,’ the vendor said, handing her a large jar of it.

‘Thank you,’ the witch said, taking it quickly and spreading some on her cheeks. The green diluted within seconds. ‘I know I shouldn’t carry on, but have you heard that she’s made friends with Ramble now that he’s come back?’

‘No, I haven’t. What’s she up to then, I wonder? I knew that she’d met him several times before, but they were never very—’

The vendor stopped as she caught sight of Ramble looking over the witch’s shoulder. Seeing her stare, the witch turned around. She let out a small cry and stepped back, knocking several packets off the stall. Ramble bent down and picked them up, handing her one of them.

‘Here,’ he said. ‘I believe you need this one.’

The witch looked down at the packet he’d given her. It was the Anti-Wart cream. ‘I—’ she began, but before she could say anymore, he gave a curt wave and turned away to merge with the crowd.

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

Extract: Unofficial Detective (Thordric series bk 1)

 

Thordric woke to the sound of his mother rapping on his bedroom door. ‘Thordric. Thordric! It’s time to get up!’

He furrowed his brow, his eyes still too heavy to open.

‘Thordric, get up,’ his mother continued, still knocking on the door. ‘You must go and apologise to the Inspector.’ He heard her sigh and turn away.

At first it didn’t register with him what she had said, but then he remembered. He had fallen into the Inspector and left him barely conscious. Swallowing the sudden lump in his throat, he scrambled out of bed and fumbled on his clothes before bolting downstairs.

His mother was waiting for him when he got there. He thought she looked especially pretty today. Her dark, wavy hair was loose about her shoulders and she wearing her crimson heels; but he knew that if he told her she would see it as buttering her up. That was one thing she hated.

‘I hope you realise the seriousness of the damage you did yesterday,’ she said crisply. ‘When the poor Inspector finally got his wits back I had to plead with him for hours to give you another chance.’

‘I…’ Thordric began, but found he had no words.

‘I expect you never to make a mistake or cause trouble like that again. Had the Inspector not been the type to demonstrate perfect chivalry, then it may have well cost my job as well as yours. As it is, he values my friendship very deeply and has agreed to overlook the matter. But only this once.’

‘I understand, mother. I won’t do it again, I promise.’

‘Well, then,’ she said. ‘Off you go, and don’t forget to make his tea exactly how he likes it. And don’t complain about the constables, you deserve their crude remarks at the moment.’ Thordric had to agree. How could he have messed up his first day so badly? Not even the other half-wizards he had read about had that much bad luck.

He sped to the station, arriving even before the Inspector, and had a steaming mug of tea and a plate of Jaffa cakes ready for him. When the Inspector finally walked in he said nothing, choosing to ignore Thordric completely. Halfway through his fifth Jaffa cake, however, he decided to speak up. ‘I never want to speak of what happened yesterday. It was a normal day like any other. Understood?’

‘Yes, Inspector,’ Thordric said, bowing his head.

The Inspector wiped the crumbs off his moustache.  ‘Here,’ he said, thrusting a piece of paper at Thordric. ‘Go to the dry cleaners on Warn Street and show them that. They will give you my sister’s dry cleaning, which you will then proceed to drop off at her house. Here is her address.’ He scribbled on another bit of paper and handed it to Thordric. ‘You are then to ask her if any chores need attending to, and if she so wishes, you shall do them for her.’

‘But…’ Thordric protested, but stopped at the Inspector’s glare.

‘You are then to go to the bank and give them this,’ he continued, giving Thordric yet another piece of paper. ‘And then you are to get the Jard Town Gazette. Make sure it is today’s copy, and not a leftover from yesterday. Is that clear?’

‘Yes, Inspector,’ Thordric said, trying to keep his voice sounding positive.

‘Remember Thormble, no mistakes.’

Thordric left the office with as much grace as he could muster. He looked at the notes in his hand, trying to remember which was which. The Inspector’s sister’s address was easy to recognise, but the notes for the dry cleaners and bank were both numbers. Each had been written in a great long line with no breaks, and there was nothing to differentiate between them. He gulped.

Extracts/ Flash Fiction, Uncategorized

Extract: Unseasoned Adventurer (Thordric series bk 3)

None of them, especially Thordric and Kal, were used to going this long without a bath. Lyanis laughed at them, saying that the only time for washing was when it rained.

As she wasn’t human she didn’t sweat like they did, and simply couldn’t understand what was making them feel so grimy. She did, however, notice the distinct whiff of week old body odour radiating from them, but far from being repulsed, she thought it was pleasant.

‘It’s just your natural smell. I don’t see why you should be ashamed of that,’ she told Thordric, Kal and Hamlet after they’d had a particularly long discussion about what they would all do at the first sight of water. Unfortunately, they were now flying over a vast desert which carried on far across the border into Fyoras, so it would be at least another three days before they found even the merest trickle. ‘And you,’ she said to Ourellus, who was also feeling distinctly dirty and itchy, ‘shouldn’t be complaining either. I don’t remember you ever washing except during a downpour when you were a child.’

‘That was then, before I knew how good being clean felt,’ he said defensively, as Thordric shot him a disgusted look.

Lyanis pouted and sat down next to the food bag, rummaging around for more of the bobbled fruit. The sun was scorching hot now, heating the planks of the ship so that it burnt their hands if they touched the wood for too long. Their water flasks were also nearly empty; they’d had to ration it out so they had enough to last until they got to Fyoras.

No-one was happy about the situation, and their conversation had become snappy and waspish. Hamlet stayed in the cabin reading, and Ourellus and Lyanis spoke about times before they had been frozen. Kal and Thordric had given up practicing their shielding spell, as neither of them had the energy to do it. Instead they played a game of chess, betting that the loser would be the one to wring the sweat out of the other’s clothing. Kal was good at chess, seeing opportunities and taking them before Thordric could even remember how each piece could be used.

So far, Thordric had wrung out Kal’s clothes five times already. It was foul, but at least it gave them something to do while they waited to reach the border.

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

Extract: Accidental Archaeologist (Thordric series bk 2)

‘But it didn’t. Yes, it was risky, but I knew it would be fine if we were all working together to save people. With determination like that, our powers were almost linked anyway. The chain just gave everyone that nudge to complete it.’


Thordric raised his eyebrow. ‘I don’t think Lizzie would have approved of that explanation,’ he said, grinning as Vey’s face went pale at the mention of his mother.


‘We don’t need to tell her about it,’ he said hastily. ‘It would only make her worry, anyway.’

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

‘The Orphanage of Unknown Origin’ – the start of a story that popped in my head one day

My underpants were on fire. Again. For the fifth time this week. And it’s all that firebug of a fairy, Gwen’s, fault. Not that she’s a real fairy, she’s actually part leprechaun, on her father’s side. Unfortunately, her mother passed on her fabled dusting gun just before she died, a weapon constructed from leaves and vines that shoots out fairy dust like a sudden downpour whenever the owner wishes it too. Which is why it’s so dangerous in Gwen’s hands, especially when you count the fact that she’s only 150 (approximately fifteen in human years) and decides to use it to punish anyone who annoys her…which usually ends up being me.

Anyway, back to my underwear being on fire. After I scared Gwen off by shouting at the top of my voice that I was going to tell Haroda, the matron of the Orphanage of Unknown Origin, what she had done to me, I scampered off into the weed ridden pond at the end of the garden and jumped in. There was a hiss from my shorts as the water quenched the flames, and luckily, being an ogre, my skin was only lightly scorched.
Ripples appeared by my ankles, along with a silvery light that steadily came closer. Then, with a sudden splash of algae and pond weed, Floe popped her head up from the water. She squinted, her aquatic eyes adjusting to the night air, and finally turned to me. ‘Oh, it’s you, Ragcuff. I thought for a moment that it was the gardener cleaning the pond a day early, though I admit he doesn’t usually do it in the evening.’ She stood up next to me, letting the water drip off her nightgown of woven reeds, and stretched her webbed fingers and toes. ‘What are you doing out here so late?’ she asked, frowning as she noticed my reddened skin and blackened shorts.
‘I, uh…I just wanted a bit of a stroll,’ I lied lamely.
‘So Gwen didn’t chase you at all? Or set your clothing on fire again?’
I sighed. ‘Alright, maybe she did. But she’s gone now, so it doesn’t matter.’
‘Rubbish. Of course it matters. You can’t keep letting that spiteful wretch bully you; it’ll only make things worse over time.’
‘But Haroda says she’ll grow out of it eventually,’ I said.
‘Eventually could mean years from now. What’s she going to do to you between now and then, huh? She’s dangerous, we all know it. We need to find a way to get that dust gun off of her,’ Floe argued.
‘How? Only someone with fairy blood can touch it, anyone else will just get wrapped up in its vines.’
Floe smiled. ‘Who says we have to touch it?’