The uneducated rumbled Rube.

I’ll be honest – I had to look this daily prompt up and work out what it meant: Rube! It’s a word that I’ve never come across before. However, I have recently been writing a chapter where I think this is demonstrated…

The tower appeared on the road. Made from large grey stones, hewn from the local mountain side it was quickly lost in the canopy as they drew closer. It was a large square building with stables and cleared paddock beside it. A pair of bay horses looked up as they approached, tails shaking off the pestilence of summer flies. A large archway extended across from the side of the tower, over the road. Where the pillars of the arch ended, and on the far side of the tower, a stone wall extended. This was the border between Ipito and Staven.

They were forced to slow their horses, or charge through the guards who stood in the centre of the arch. Their helmets were rounded at the top and shone with polish. They were both tall, broad men wearing chain main beneath a tunic with the King’s crest emblazoned on the front. As Kit and Lyris approached, they levelled spears at the charging horses, the wooden butts pressed into the hard dirt and steadying the points. Kit’s pony was first to stop, skidding to a halt and twisting away. Kit turned her quickly and waved a greeting at the men.

Storm, always reluctant to obey anyone other than his own desires had run further and was forced to rear, kicking out at the spears. Lyris clung to his neck, praying that she wouldn’t fall off and break her neck, before they could rescue Arn. When the horse landed on his four feet again, huffing with fury, he danced on light feet and she remained, clinging to his main. Her legs and arms felt like water, flowing and trembling with every small movement. This was not the time to be afraid. The young woman forced herself to sit up. Sparrows were hopping between the pine trees and a hawk circled overhead, casting a shadow on the mottled ground.

‘Speak,’ the first guard demanded, ‘what is your business in Staven?’

‘Did a cart pass this way?’ The words tumbled free, breathless. Lyris had intended to introduce herself, thoughts of formal requests for help spinning through her mind. The young woman knew that she needed their assistance, and quick passage through the pass but despite the churning concern, the words came again before the guard could answer. Lyris steadied Storm with a hand against the tall horses’ neck.

‘Did a cart pass this way?’ She demanded, urgent.

The guard, affronted, glanced at his companion before, features stern. ‘Our question first, mistress.’

As Lyris opened her mouth to protest, he lifted a gloved hand from the spear and set the weapon on it’s end resting against his shoulder. The guard beside him copied his action and Lyris felt Storm release a breath of tension. Long legs quivering beneath her.

‘It’s our duty to stop and question all those who pass,’ confident that he had regained control the first man had settled into a slower speech and northern drawl. His a’s and r’s extending.

Kit had circled his pony again and drew level with his companion.

‘Sir,’ he bowed low across the front of the saddle, hand swept with dramatic gallantry to one side. The trader looked to Lyris, begging a moment of her patience before he continued. ‘We’re tracking a wagon that passed through these gates,’

The guards looked uninspired.

‘Has a wagon passed through?’

The young woman lifted her eyes to the heavens, the pale blue sky was starting to darken again. A natural rain was gathering at the peak of the mountain.  If they could move on with their journey, she could track Arn without draining her powers.

‘A lot of wagons’ pass through here, lad,’ the first guard lent on his spear, ‘but that doesn’t explain your business beyond the border.’

So this is more of an extract from the Poisoned Well and it’s the chapter responsible for slowing me down! The paragraphs from this section must have been written months apart but hopefully you can’t notice…

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Wisps of smog spun around her

Two days to go!!!

In response to today’s Daily Prompt: Snippet please find a little taster from Burning Embers below. I’m trying not hard to reveal spoilers and ruin the story, so it’s just a little teaser really and I hope that you enjoy it! Remember to comment below!

TWO DAYS TO GO! ARGH

The study was cosy in the approach to winter. Behind the High Priestess’ gilt chair was an arched window where the sun shone through, fracturing on the panes and scattering across the room. The perfume scent was thicker and Feia saw an incense holder in the shape of a sun, perched on the large desk that dominated the space. The fire was stoked to a roaring blaze and wisps of smog spun around her. The sounds of Temple life stirred beyond the door as it closed.

High Priestess Fraelyn was seated behind her desk. She was slender, her skin the parched porcelain colour of someone who rarely ventured outside, and her hair was tightly bound. Feia couldn’t help that think that if anyone looked like a ghost, it was the High Priestess. She struggled to keep the thought in check. She’d heard too many rumours that the Priestess would hear stray thoughts, that she had been a Seeker for the Champions of Light. That respect for this woman was the only thing that prevented the Knights from visiting the Temple.

Fraelyn stroked the edge of her desk with an absent gesture. The sun broke over the high back of her chair and washed her in a golden glow.

‘You know why you are here?’ It wasn’t really a question.

Feia nodded. The fireplace flickered beside her.

Remember – that there is a full short story from Arenith available on Instafreebie, make sure you get your copy of The Last Charter.

Happy Reading!

Fibi xx

We bring you this programme today, sponsored by: The Lewis.

Hello.

My name is Lewislewis I have taken the decision that you, female human whom I tolerate with some affection, will be privileged to stare at me instead of that black box with the moving pictures and squeaking voices.

I have some minor requests. Please can we have some better food? I prefer fresh chicken over anything else. I also would like some more shiny spherical objects. Last month there were a lot on that tree you insisted on bringing inside. I hid as many as I could under the sofa along with tin foil and other shiny objects. However, I don’t have any thumbs and so it was difficult for me to unhook them and you did seem determined to tie them securely on.

You may pamper me because I am gorgeous. But don’t think that you can tickle my belly. This is very undignified and you know what happened last time. I may soon grow bored of demanding your attention. Please warn the male human whom I also tolerate with some affection, that I intend to walk purposefully under his feet so he’ll have a split second decision to make. To stand on me, or to seriously injure himself. I hope he chooses wisely. I’m sure I’ll make him feel incredibly guilty no matter the outcome.

Thank you for your attention.

Now, please let me outside and then inside. And then outside. Then inside…

 

(A response to the Daily Prompt. This was the last picture on my phone…)

Horsing Around

Combining my thoughts for today with the Daily Prompt:

My random photo for the word horse, is this beautiful one.

horseThe reason I’m thinking about horses was because I found this article about George R R Martin never seeing a horse before writing the Song of Ice and Fire is satirical and quite funny. It nudged my into thinking about the horses in my own work. Now, horses do tend to feature in fantasy. They’re a large means of transport for people and for goods, but frequently I feel that they’re very underwritten.

Robin Mckinley in the Hero and the Crown does an excellent job in describing how Aerin learns how to ride bareback on a wounded horse, Talat. She describes the process that horse and rider go through together. Tamora Pierce also gives very good descriptions of who the horses ridden by Alanna and Keladry are and how the riders build bonds with them. With Daine, the bond with animal kind is explored more directly.

So what have I been doing to make sure that the horses in my manuscript behave realistically, as well as look the part? Well, as with most things I believe the best way to write accurately and believably is try whatever it is out. The manuscript features a lot of snow and so I took an opportunity to live in Canada a few years back. Horses are important to me, and so I’ve spent a lot of time with my Aunt (who fortunately for me, owns horses and isn’t averse to her crazy niece riding around on a pony pretending to be a knight…) I have to say that the hours I’ve spent at the farm have been invaluable and I learn something new every day.

Below is me on said pony – having a Black Beauty moment!

33Speaking to my Aunt she despairs at how in films and books (not just in the fantasy genre) the hero will jump on the nearest horse and canter off into the distance. For anyone who has ever ridden, we know that this is a virtual impossibility. Yes in alternate universes and fantasy worlds the horses could have reached a point of training where they will follow whomever happens to be riding them over the hills and far away. But in reality, what herd animal is ever going to be happy running off into danger with a stranger? There’s no build of trust, no relationship. So is the horse simply submitting to the demands of the rider? If that’s the case there is only so far that you’ll be able to push it before it explodes (not literally) but has an almighty hissy fit in which endangers itself, it’s rider and anyone within a near radius, particularly other riders. Presumably, if you still have the horse on the end of the reins after this hissy fit, you’ll be feeling a bit shaken up.

Now all of these things of animal behaviour could be interesting plot point. Added problems in  it the journey from A to Z. I’ll admit that I’m not exploiting the antics of the horses in my manuscript, but I’m making a concentrated effort not to make it look easy. My heroine needs to learn how to ride and she’s not going to be an expert after a day. She’s not been bought up in a stable and so she’s uncertain and she’s worried about riding, but she has to do it. The horse is nervous because she’s nervous and they have very little trust between them. But they’ll get there with time and patience. I only hope my reader joins them with an open heart. Because if there is one thing I definitely do know about the magnificent equine – is that they’ll find a way into your heart if you let them, and then it’s very hard to let them go.

Further research I’ve done into riding, other than riding, is to look through various websites of how far a horse could travel in a day. For anyone else for whom this information would be valuable one good website could be found here.

Last year I rode cross country for a day (man did that hurt) and a detailed account of my exploits can be found here: Day Two: Team Horse joins the Adventure. My current horsebound plan for this year, along with said Aunty – is to ride from the South Coast of England to Scotland. We anticipate this could take a few years…

What are you researching for your writing? How do you do it?

I Got Skills: Kabaam. Empathy!

So this daily prompt popped up and I was thinking about a post. The appalling acts in Paris are fresh and they’re raw. I’ve had a few moments wondering today, if writing fantasy is selfish? If there is so much anger in the world and injustice, then why do I feel the need to create a new one to explore? Why do I not tell the story’s that history might one day forget? Why write fiction at all, when there are so many truths to present to the reader. Now this is a post that I feel will need to be written and expanded on, but reading the prompt in its entirety, I was bulldozed by another idea.

If I could be mistress of anything in the world, what would it be? Now, I may be venturing onto a precarious limb here, but I’m going to interpret this as ‘what super power would you like?’ and I know. Today, I know.

I would like the power of enforcing empathy please, thank you. Imagine. Two squabbling neighbours arguing about why or why their mutual fence should be painted green. ZAPP! Empathy. They can both understand the other points of view. They’re suddenly imbued with knowledge and understand that the fence is very important to neighbour A because his mother, who passed away a month ago would always comment on how lovely it looks and to neighbour B – it’s important to him that the fence is painted blue, because he desperately needs something more cheerful to look out at in the morning. Perhaps painting the fence is trivial to one, and not the other, but they’re both standing their ground… KABAM! Empathy.

Now this is a poor example and I know, but imagine. Could many of the world’s problems be solved with a little empathy and understanding? There is so much anger out there and I feel like many people are desperately trying to keep the balance tipped toward peace.

The premise that we have no clue what is happening inside the heads of the people we meet. Yes, that shop assistant might have been a bit of a moody grumpuss when you told them you had the wrong change. Maybe they had bad grace in handling the situation and perhaps you then walked out feeling like a bear prematurely woken up from hibernation. But maybe it’s all that shop assistant can do, to keep standing at their till and scanning things through because their mind is a messy tangle of worries, thoughts and grief. Maybe they’re only just hanging on in their mind and when you leave, your anger is going to be the thing that pushes them beyond a point where they can cope.

The complexities of what we share, with who and what we hold back in our thoughts and even from ourselves, is something I’m currently exploring in my manuscript. I hope to share the prose with you all at some point. Mental Wellbeing is something that I believe is less often explored in fiction and perhaps most especially in fantasy. Robert Jordan provide an excellet character who’s mind fragments and explores perception and the importance of believing what you see thought dreams, but its something I feel is lacking. Something which could be done well and something I aim to do.

A very wise person once told me, that we’re all responsible for our own emotions. Another person also told me, that when you listen to what someone else is telling you, you don’t need to identify with them. Because they’ve done X,Y and Z – doesn’t mean you should go out and try it so that you can form a connection and it doesn’t mean you should step aside from your own moral boundaries. But we can be empathetic and understand that what we see, isn’t the whole picture of what is happening within a person. They might be having the worst day ever, or the best. Who knows? It’s our small, daily actions which have an impact on the world around us. I aim to continue with small acts of kindness and hope that somehow, in someway I’m keeping the balance in a better way.

Just imagine that place, where everyone used their empathy.

Links:

Here is Geek Ergo Sum. Although the link I’ve provided is not his repsonse to the prompt, I often find his blog posts amusing and well worth a read and this seems to tie in nicely with my thoughts for today:

Here is Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink. Their take on the prompts also caught my interest and I thought that I’d share.

 

One more time I tell you – Just one more time!

Machines, appliances, and gadgets sometimes feel like they have their own personalities — from quirky cars to dignified food processors. What’s the most “human” machine you own?

This is my response to today’s Daily Prompt However, I cannot remember if I’ve already done a post on this pressing matter.  Either way the, printer and I are going to have a falling out. We’re having a break-up really. This is all I have to say.

Dear Printer,

I love it when you’re printing out what is need and everything fine. You do your job, I do mine. Our relationship is in harmony. We’re a team.It’s working. Pages flow out in a continuous stream. But then you decide that you need a clean. That is fine. I’m really okay with it. Everyone needs to have a little tidy every now and again. I’m happy that you feel so confortable that you can take a break, and have a clean. But why printer, why after cleaning, do you print one page and then decide to clean again?  How can you print so merrily for so many days, and then suddenly need so many breaks and why do you need so much time off, when it is most important that you work efficiently? Now, I musn’t get to angry, or suspicious that you’re planning this on purpose.

I also struggle to understand why whenever I need a dozen copies for a meeting and you decide to start chewing up paper. Or do your new favourite trick, folding over paper corners and then printing some words on a random slant – on the wrong side of the sheet!

Now, I like to think I’m eco friendly and where possible, I try to make electronic copies and save things to the computer rather than print. But sometimes printer, sometimes I really need to print and I need you to respect that.

I’ve  been told that I’m not allowed to threaten you and I want to get past the problems we have. I want to learn how to accept you as you are. But I’m telling you, if you tell me you’re cleaning one more time today- just one more time!

Well then. I’m sorry. But no one will be able to find PARTS of you big enough to work out what you once were.

Your loving Fibi xxx

Or in the words of the great from Red Dwarf:

KOCHANSKI

One more time, and you get *this*. D’you hear?? Don’t think I don’t mean it! One more time, just – one more.

KOCHANSKI

Have you ever listened to those clapped-out old pipes? ‘Nureek’ing and ‘retut’ing, and just when you expect them to ‘nureek’ again, they ‘squrlookal’!

It’s enough to make a perfectly sane person crazy!!!

Off off off the hook! Daily Prompt

A second #RoyalBaby will soon be joining the Windsors in England. Given the choice, would you rather be heir to the throne, or the (probably) off-the-hook sibling?

This is my response to the Daily Prompt above:

Well baby news is something close to my heart at the moment. We’re currently anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new baby nephew. I am so excited to meet him. I’m a very lucky Aunt to have three nieces and a nephew and every day I can’t help but miss the little monkeys and wish I could see them more often. Every baby is so special and as my nieces and nephews have grown into such cheeky individual I can’t help but be reminded of how privileged I am to share in their lives.

I feel a bit young to have children of my own but delight in creating things for them, making them water-colour story books to treasure with the hope that, maybe one day, in years to come they’ll be worth something. Who knows, if I become a successful novelist people will be dead keen to get their hands on my early little cartoons and miniature books.

But back to the prompt. Which would I rather be? Power is something I explore in Burning Embers and the sequels. Can you ever feel prepared to rule over a country or does power always corrupt? Is it best to watch from the side-lines and enjoy the ‘freedom’ the comes from this. Or does being a sibling automatically open you to a more negative commentary in comparison to an older sibling? Will you never be as good, where as your sibling is considered charming as appropriate to a prince, will you automatically always be seen as verbose. Are you defined by the need to create a clear distinction between the favourable and unfavourable candidate for King or Queen?

I think being heir to the throne would be far too responsible a job for me. It would probably be best if I were far further down the list of possibilities. A castle would be nice though, and a sword…and a dragon……..please? (Just a tiny one????)

Happy lunch everyone,

Fibi xx

I can’t stay mad at you – Occupational Hazard!!

My cousin Alex is doing ten amazing challenges in ten months to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis and the Fire-Fighters trust to mark ten years since his sister passed away due to this destructive disease. In the past four months he must have walked, cycled, horse ridden and kayaked more than 300 miles! Not to mention the miles put down by everyone joining in with the cause. So, to help him I decided to pull together a collection of poems, short stories, flash fiction and art work from friends, family and fellow creative people and create a book that we will be able to sell; all profits donated to charity.
I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the submissions I’ve received and they’re still coming in! The theme is You Mean the World to Me. Now, this post is supposed to be forgiveness based and I’ve named it Occupation Hazard. I’ve come a long way around, but I’m finding it hard to read the submissions. They’re so beautiful and so many of them are raw. I’ll be honest; the first reading of each submission is tending to leave me in tears.
I’m not usually an emotional person. It takes a lot to choke me up and I’m certainly not one to wear my hearty on my sleeve – well, that’s what I like to think anyway! But I keep choking on the words that other people have sent to me, in honour of this amazing cause. Don’t get me wrong by any means. I am LOVING pulling everything together and working on something physical which will both help the charity’s and act as a kind of record for what my cousin Alex is undertaking. I didn’t expect to need a box of tissues when reading through though.
Luckily, after the initial waterfall-inducing whammy of the pieces, I’m able to step back a little bit. Or at least, I know enough of what they each are to put them into a cohesive order for the book. Make me cry once, shame on me, make it happen twice – well…well done your creative geniuses for creating such moving pieces.
I forgive you all though.
Thank you.
Fibi xx

Missing the bus of life.

I can’t help it, but instantly Taylor Swift’s song ‘fifthteen’ burst into my head when I read this daily prompt. Stop it, stop it – get out my mind. It’s not that I don’t like Swift, it’s just that it’s the wrong year, and has no connection to my own time as a sixteen year old as it was released a decade after that fact! Right, I think…I think I’m free of it.
So…Sixteen? I was just starting Sixth-form. I had to catch a bus every morning to the nearest town. Perks of living in a tiny village. I remember one October day, huddling in the stone shelter out the way of the rain. Proper heavy rain, with deep grey clouds above. Cars flashing past, splashing up the puddles then, out of the mist, I could see the yellow glow of the bus lights. It zoomed up to the bus-stop and carried on going. No college for me that day! I wasn’t prepared to make the four mile hike in.
When I managed to catch the bus though, I remember chatting with excitement to three other girls who I’d known through secondary school, (one who became a very best and even closer friend a couple of years later – but that’s a saga to be told another day…) We’d be talking about how our lives would go, from here on out. What choices we would make about University’s and why. I was definitely going to University because, and this is somewhat ridiculous – after reading, and obsessing over Enid Blyton books throughout my childhood, I had once demanded that my parents sent me to boarding school. They said NO. And that was that.
My dreams of having a ‘trunk’ and a tuck shop, of being Head Girl, waking up in dorm rooms was over and only slightly mitigated by having a tuck shop at my secondary school and the fact that it was very unlikely I would ever be head girl, anywhere. So, I was going to Uni. I was going to study literature because, well I quite liked sitting literature exams and I liked the idea of reading books for a degree. I also have a lot of useless, historic literature related knowledge, like what a piz’nez is… I loved reading; I loved writing essays – win win. From experience, I can now appreciate the fact that my parents were so laid back about my degree choice. In the past decade I’ve come across so many peers who were told they could NOT study certain things, or had to choose something like ‘Law’ in order to be doing a ‘proper’ degree.
For some people this is a positive thing, I have one close friend who is amazingly artistic and talented and just wanted to make things for her degree. She was ‘encouraged’ by her parents to pick a degree that would lead more directly to a job, instead of ‘fine art’. She chose a model making course and is now a very successful model maker within the film industry, credited on Harry Potter, Captain America, Gravity…the list goes on and on and on and I’m so proud of her. Not only that, but she’s doing a job that she loves. For other people, the firm shove in a particular direction is very negative. I have another friend who is another wonderfully talented artist who was told she had to do a proper degree and become something ‘proper.’ She was ‘encouraged’ into studying Law with the view to becoming a lawyer. After a few years of repeated modules, I’m not convinced she’ll ever be as happy in that profession as she would have been, had she followed her creative dreams. So, I was lucky that my parents didn’t try and push me into any particular direction. Now this is slightly owed to the fact that they knew very very very little about higher education and my mother feels that it is somewhat pointless to have a degree (don’t get me wrong, she’s very proud) but she also spends a lot of time telling me that it’s not necessary to have a degree because you could get one and work in MacDonald’s – yes…yes you could. And what is wrong with that? They have an excellent career progression scheme. But you do have a better chance of a more successful, higher flying career.
Not discounting work experience at all, because I’m a firm believer that you need to have both. Experience being a proper ‘people’ and working your socks off in low, entry level jobs and building experience and connections in the work – place. Learning how to be a professional –kind of grown-up-person-thing. But it’s important to back skills up with qualifications. Yes, you can see that I can manage difficult, challenging situations and I am very very unlikely to pour soup over an annoying customers head – but I can also string together a sentence, in writing – see I have degree to prove it! You can feel confident that I will answer your e-mails and not embarrass the company with ‘street ism’s in professional correspondence, isiiiiiiitttt??? Kind of thing. Sorry, I digress… I chose literature. It was something I loved.
I also decided that I would travel during my time at Uni and have a year studying abroad. All to kick-start my life as a ‘travelling writer’. I had no idea what kind of career or path my life would take ‘beyond the degree’ but I knew I was always going to write. I planned to live for six months in all the countries I wanted to visit and have a patch work life. Building on my experience with different cultures and landscapes in order to make my writing better.
I have to say, that despite being lucky enough to travel through quite a lot of Europe and living in North America, that whole patchwork thing has dropped to the wayside. I’ve managed to begin building a good career in something I never expected to, and no I’m not a teacher, despite the belief that that’s what ALL literature students ‘do’. Can you imagine me a teacher? Honestly? I was always worried that I’d be that teacher who hides from her class in the stationary cupboard…
But all the rest of those dreams I had on the bus? I made them come true. I stuck to what I believed was the right path for me. I went to Uni, got my degree, have travelled and I write. I may have ended up a little sideways to where I thought I’d end up, but I’d not change anything for the world (well maybe travel more?) But it is also my firm belief that it doesn’t matter where you end up, as long as you’re happy. As long as you have a plan in mind and put one step in front of the other, on this crazy road called life, you’re doing great and you’re moving forward. Who cares if you end up askew from the original destination?
Well…that’s a rather long post from me and I’ve definitely gone a bit off topic! What do you think? What do you believe in?

 

Daily Prompt – 1950’s Pirate Chic?

What do I love wearing? – Response to Daily Prompt which was ‘Tell us all about your best confidence outfit. Don’t leave out the shoes or the perfect accessories.’
Wow. Well I love my heels. I have a favourite 4 inch-platform pair which are gooooorgeous – see below.
shoes
See, they are lovely… pretty pretty shoes.
A couple of years back in my twenies (late teens, super early twenties) I had the ability to run in such shoes, in snow. It was pretty awesome. I’ve always been co-ordinationally challenged however had the theory that in the big heels I had to concentrate on walking and so fell over less often. 99% of the time this proved to be the case. But that skill is sadly slipping away and I’ve exchanged my 4 inchs for well, currently some rather lovely flip flops. (I’m taking advantage that today IS the British summertime)
On the other end of the spectrum, I also love wearing bandanas. When I’m really focused on getting some words down and getting some writing done, I bandana up!
bandana
It’s so useful to keep my hair out of my face. When you’re bent over a manuscript wrestling with the dreaded comma, the last thing you want is an all-out battle with your hair (which I never win). I was first introduced to the wonders of a bandana as a Girl Scout Camp Counsellor in New Hampshire, one summer many years ago.
But back to the confidence…
The best outfit.
If I had to go out somewhere right now and be dressed to impress. I’d run home and change into a knee length dress. It was an absolute bargain and was perfect for what I was looking for at the time. It’s a deep blue with a pale purple detail. It fits beautifully and works well for evening wear or work wear. I love it.
So combine all three items together?
I guess I’ll end up as some kind of strange 1950’s housewife-looking-pirate. Arrr!