It’s been a long week. To differing degrees we’ve all been ill (even the pup,) and we’re shattered. Hubby has gone to bed early, taking the pup with him and the toddler passed out, still clutching her favourite book, hours ago. I’ve just finished watching a silly horror movie and should be working on the review, but as I turned off the TV it hit me: The silence.
It’s not totally silent, the heating is doing that low hum, the clock next door which hasn’t told the right time in months is ticking and I can hear people and cars outside but I close my eyes and it’s so quiet.
A new set of voices has been nagging me recently, demanding I tell their tale. There’s been muttering, waking me in the night with a snippet of dialogue, a name or an action scene, a delicate whisper whilst making tea or a shout as I prepare our bags for the day.
And tonight, in the silence, their voices are a roar. I’m hoping tomorrow I’ll be able to make sense of the assorted post it notes I’ve written on, that half-formed ideas will percolate and be brewed overnight and things will be a little more cohesive. They’re whispering their names, shyly letting me know their preferences, twirling their costumes and sharing their voices. They’re coalescing, becoming more real (or as real as the Lamb’s assorted imaginary friends). I’m learning their wants, desires and mostly their challenges. This band of beaten women who want me to tell their story, now have an enemy to face and it will be a hell of a battle!
Day eleven of our 100 Days of Happiness say the Lamb and I head to one of our favourite places, Killerton House. We met her bestie and I got to catch up with her mum (and my dear friend) which always lifts the spirits. The girls had a lot of fun belting around the gardens, I shared a delicious Victoria Sponge with the Lamb, then we all went on a ‘mouse hunt’ around the house. As always, we left very impressed at the volunteers who help run these National Trust houses and the assorted activities they have to keep little people entertained.
Here’s a bonus shot of one of the flowers still in bloom. So pretty, even on a rather cold, damp day!
As always, once the Lamb was in bed, it was time for me to get to work. I’m prepping a new novel, with elements of fantasy, horror, supernatural and adventure. It’s my first ‘big’ writing project since having the Lamb so I’m hoping to get back into it, and make a start on it during National Novel Writing Month in November. There’s lots to prepare for it, with character bios, locations and multiple fantasy worlds to create. I’ve been struggling to get back into writing for a while so I’m hoping this preparation will help and I’ll be blogging more about my experience so pop back to find out more.
Last year I was interviewed with Adele for SFF World as part of our launch of Fennec Books, the imprint of Fox Spirit Books, for whom I’m commissioning editor. Our first book, Ghoulsome Graveyard (written by me) is already available, and our next book, which I commissioned, will be out soon. It was such an interesting and exciting project to read submissions and choose the novel I really enjoyed and to work with such a gifted writer. I can’t wait for you to read more about what were doing. In the meantime, check out our interview here.
My collection of short stories, Weird Wild, was published on 20 March 2014. The first story I wrote for it was called ‘The Lake’ and was written as part of an online writing challenge. I didn’t know then what it would grow into!
I’ve always loved the woods. There’s nothing more relaxing than walking through forests, unless you’re being chased by a werewolf! We’ve visited forests in the UK, including ‘Wistman’s Wood’ in Dartmoor, as well as rainforests in Latin America and Asia and all helped inspire ‘Weird Wild’, with creepy mists, crooked trees and hidden dens.
The Stone Circle in Weird Wild is definitely inspired by my love of archaeology. I love Stonehenge and have been fascinated by stone circles, both in terms of what they tell us about our ancestors, but also the more mystical elements. My logical, scientific brain (and a number of my tutors!) debunked the idea of ley lines but there’s still something magical about these stones. Who’s to say they aren’t portals to the fairy realm?
How pretty are bluebells? It was an annual tradition growing up to visit ‘Bluebell Woods’ and see them when they bloomed each spring. I was fascinated to learn some of the more nefarious uses of this beautiful, if deadly, bell. I’d also never claim to be a poet, but the poem for Weird Wild was written fairly quickly, the voices and the bells ringing clearly.
So many beautiful lakes inspired ‘The Lake’. Whilst Lago Roja in Bolivia isn’t surrounded by trees like the lake in Weird Wild, the stillness and sense of isolation crept into the story.
Out in the wild!
As always, any sticky plot points were worked out during long walks. There’s something about being outside which definitely clears the fog and helps the writing process.
You can get your copy of Weird Wild from Amazon, or contact me below for a signed copy!
We love stories here. Be it the worlds of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler for the Lamb, Scott Snyder for hubby or Gaiman for me, there’s always a yarn being spun (I’m tempted to insert a pun about my knitting addiction here, but I digress).
But whilst I love to read stories, I also love to craft them. I’ve talked before about the voices in my head, telling me their tales (and more than once, their tails!). Way back in 2012 I submitted a short story ‘The Last Dragon Keeper‘ to the monthly Fantasy Faction Writing Challenge. In an open vote, my short story won! As part of National Share-A-Story Month, I thought I’d do a Throwback Thursday to the world of Eui, Rowan and dragons. Click the link to see the original article and carry on reading for my story of The Last Dragon Keeper.
The Last Dragon Keeper
Eui watched as the waves surged towards the shore. Ice had formed on the water, the motion turning it to mush as it covered the smooth grey rocks that acted as boundary between land and sea. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying but failing to keep out the wind, which threatened to tear her clothes and pick at her bones. She knew that her mother would scold her for forgetting her jacket but in her desperation to get out of the house, she had left it, stowed snugly in her wardrobe. Eui stamped her feet to try to warm them but the wind kept forcing its way through her thick boots, biting her toes.
The ground began to shake. It started with a slow trickle of the smaller rocks, which quickly blended with the mush of the ocean water. The larger rocks began to vibrate then roll down the hill and into the water. Eui stood her ground as rocks large and small snapped at her heels, flinching as the larger ones bruised her. Eui breathed deeply, inhaling the familiar ash scent that covered the island more deeply than the perma-snow.
The earth juddered to a stop and Eui carefully stepped out of the pile of stones that covered her feet. The icy slush boiled along the shore then all was still once more. Eui turned as she heard footsteps crunching on the gravel and smiled at her father.
“Your mother is worried about you,” he said, not looking her in the eye but focusing on the ocean.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I did.” Eui risked a look at her father but could not read his expression. The silence settled over them, only slightly comfortable.
Finally, taking a deep breath, Eui said, “The dragons are dying father.”
“As are we, Eui, as are we. We can only hope that they die before we do. A dragon alone in this world, without a Keeper, would soon fall prey to the blades of the Sagar.”
If they’re lucky, thought Eui, but she did not pursue the matter.
Every Keeper knew the challenges faced by the dragons. The Sagars were hunters who sold dragon meat and their scales and teeth, which held magical properties. For over a generation they had hunted and killed dragons, depleting their numbers in an unending quest for the perfect hunt: A mythical beast, defined by its purity and beauty. With each retelling of the myth, the dragon grew in grace and size until Eui, who had been told stories of the Sagar which had kept her awake at night, did not recognise the creature as being a dragon but an animal of pure virtue. Knowing no dragon had ever been born matching the myth kept the Sagars hunting and Eui from peaceful dreams.
However, the biggest threat was the dragons themselves. Females would lay between 15-20 eggs and would continually defend her nest from attacks by males. Of the eggs that survived, not all would hatch, with some being trampled. Finally the female, tired and undernourished, would die. If she was lucky, she might see the one or two of her offspring who would emerge from their eggs, snorting flames and growling to be fed.
In the absence of a mother, when the infant dragons smashed from their eggs, they would bond with a Keeper. The Keepers were almost as old as the dragons themselves but they too had slowly grown fewer and fewer until Eui and her brother Rowan were the only non-bonded keepers. The last surviving female was guarding her egg, waiting to die.
“It’s a very special time for your brother. He will be bonded, probably today,” said her father, his eyes remaining on the waves.
“And what about me?” asked Eui.
“Is that why you wish to leave? You lack purpose?”
Eui flashed a quick look at her father. He would claim that it was the wind that brought tears to his eyes, but the clench in Eui’s stomach reminded her of the argument with her mother.
“There is a world beyond the isle, father. I wish to explore and there is nothing here for me. There will be no more dragons once this has hatched and bonded with Rowan. A Keeper with nothing to keep.” Eui’s eyes flooded with tears that threatened to fall. Her father swung an arm around her and gently pulled her close for a brisk hug.
“Come, Eui. They are preparing for the ceremony. I have to get to the Great Hall. Greeson and the elders are waiting for me.”
Together they walked slowly up the beach, slipping occasionally on the loose gravel. Kissing her on the head before gently pushing her towards the settlement, Eui’s father walked towards the mountain. Suddenly he called Eui and she ran to him as the wind stole his words.
“Eui, Keepers are like the seasons. We are currently in the darkest winter we have known, filled with darkness and despair, but after the winter, the spring warmth always comes. Remember, your name means spring in the old tongue. Wait and you will see the beauty when we emerge from the darkness. I know you feel there is nothing for you here, but your brother will need your support and love. Being a Keeper is not easy and he still has a lot to learn.”
Eui gave her father a small smile, then turned and jogged into the settlement, flinging open their door. Her mother looked up from where she was sat by the table, her sewing needle raised. She regarded Eui with a stony expression.
Eui paused, looking contrite under the glare of her mother. “Father said you might need some help preparing for the ceremony,” she said finally.
Her mother laid down her needle. She studied the garments laid out across the table then quietly said, “Go and wake your brother. He needs to get dressed. The ceremony starts soon. The egg is hatching.”
Eui dipped her head and avoided eye contact with her mother as she wound around the large table and up the stairs. Launching into her brother’s room, she jumped onto his bed, bouncing up and down.
“Wakey, wakey,” she called as Rowan swatted at her.
“Get off,” he shouted as Eui continued jumping.
“Mother says you have to get up. The ceremony is going to start soon so you need to get into your dress,” teased Eui.
“It’s a robe,” roared Rowan, sitting up and pushing Eui off the bed.
She landed with cat-like grace, giving him a smug smile. “Whatever. The egg’s hatching. You’re about to become a Keeper.”
“Yeah,” said Rowan without enthusiasm, pulling a shirt from the floor and sniffing it. Deciding it didn’t smell, he dragged it over his head, then ran his fingers through his hair.
Eui watched her brother. Three years older than her thirteen, his training made him appear older but seeing him first thing in the morning always reminded Eui of how young her brother really was.
Playfully kicking him, she ran from the room, calling, “Your dress is on the table. Hurry up or I might spill my breakfast on it.”
Eui charged into the kitchen, Rowan a few paces behind. They both stopped when they saw their mother’s stern face.
“Hurry up,” their mother said, handing Rowan his robe. Smoothing her hair, she stood a little straighter and scowled at her children. “I will see you at the Great Hall,” she said, leaving them.
Eui grinned at her brother. Rowan ignored her and carefully picked up the robes his mother had spent weeks embroidering. Slipping the delicate fabric over his head, it cascade down his body. Checking the sleeves were straight, he tugged at the hem. Eui bit her cheeks to stop from laughing while Rowan slipped into his boots.
“It’s a robe,” he growled.
Eui couldn’t contain herself and started laughing.
Looking down at himself, Rowan sighed, then he too started giggling. “Ok, it’s a dress. Can we go? I have a dragon to meet.”
Together they walked from the settlement towards the Great Hall, Rowan complaining about the cold and the snow getting into his boots. Entering the cave that would take them to the Great Hall, they could hear the Elders singing, and the pained final breaths of the female dragon. The Great Hall was a large cave, which had formed in the mountain, decorated by generations of Keepers. There were designs showing the bonding ceremony, the history of the keepers and dragons, with some designs used to train young keepers.
Eui and Rowan joined their parents, on a large platform just above the pit where the dragon rested with her last remaining egg. The female dragon was large, her scales a burnt orange turning to red on her belly and yellow on her wings. Her breath was shallow and laboured; the keepers knew that it would not be long before she would join her brethren in the flame halls of the underworld.
Eui stole a peek at the egg. It was about the size of a boulder, with mottled brown spots and she heard the frustrated squeaks as its occupier nosed its way out. The Elders stood on the opposite platform, their chants rising and falling with the breaths of the female. The large dragon’s head drooped, rose, then fell again.
Greeson silenced the Elders with a raised hand. “She has passed to the underworld,” he said.
No one made a sound as they watched the dragon ease its nose, then its body and finally its long tail from the egg. It opened its mouth and coughed, sending a ball of flame harmlessly against the wall. Shaking itself, its wings unfurled and the Keepers stood amazed. The baby dragon’s body was a paler colour than its mother’s, but its wings were pure white, veins highlighted in golden scales that caught the light. Shaking its head, it emitted a small bark before experimentally flapping its wings. Its dark green eyes took in the unmoving body of its mother before it spotted Rowan standing on the platform. Another flap of its wings and it was eye level with the platform, barking happily.
The Elders began chanting in the ancient tongue. Eui did not understand all the words but knew it was the song to encourage the dragon to choose its Keeper. Rowan grinned as the dragon looked at him and bowed deeply as he had been taught. The dragon started to dip its head when it caught sight of Eui behind Rowan. Cocking its head to one side it forgot to move its wings, flapping quickly as it began to fall. Rowan remained bowed, but his mother shifted nervously. Rowan dared to peek and frowned when he saw that the dragon was not returning his bow. Finally, he stood and looked at his father, who shrugged his confusion.
Standing, Rowan blocked the dragon’s view of Eui. The dragon craned his neck to look around the boy. Eui looked back wide-eyed back at the creature floating effortlessly before stepping past Rowan and raising her hand towards the dragon.
The dragon swooped close, it’s sudden movement causing Eui to step back in surprise until the dragons long black tongue flicked out, licking her hand. Eui giggled, running her hand along the dragon’s muzzle as it growled contentedly.
“The dragon has chosen its Keeper,” called Greeson, his voice echoing.
Eui stopped playing with the dragon as the words struck her like a physical blow. She looked at Rowan, his face contorted with anger, her mother with her hand covering her mouth in shock and finally her father who was smiling at her. Stepping forward he lifted Eui onto the dragon’s back. Eui hugged the dragon’s neck as it rose and circled the Great Hall.
“Spring has come with the last Dragon Keeper,” Eui’s father said.
You’ve already been treated to a close up of my felting work so I thought I’d show you a close up of the cover for ‘Akane: Last of the Orions‘. I told you redfacedmonkey added depth of colour and detail to his work! Simply gorgeous and truly captures the feel of my book.
Yay, it’s my book-irthday for Weird Wild! To celebrate my publication anniversary for Weird Wild, I’m doing a quick throwback to when I was interviewed by Margret Helgadottir on her blog about the inspiration for Weird Wild, how I get writing and other musings. You can read the interview here. If you’d like to contact me about my writing, reviews or anything else, please comment below 😊
I’ve said before that I know far too many lovely, clever and generally wonderful creative people, however I know that they’re also very shy so I’ll just add links to their assorted wonders and say why I love them!
First up: redfacedmonkey Yes, he’s my hubby but he’s also a fantastic designer who contstantly challenges himself to learn new methods, and create unique pieces each time, often with a short deadline and with only a vague brief (and only a few mutters about ‘bloody authors’ haha)
Secondly, my crafty buddy: Handmade by Jo. Whilst she’s a terrible ‘Crafters Anonymous’ supporter (honestly, she was supposed to STOP me buying more fabric at the last Craft 4 Crafter event, not encourage me to get more!) she’s wonderfully imaginative and creative. Check out her papercuts, they are beautiful! (above is one she did for me after I challenged her to design a dragon. Stunning isn’t it?)
And thirdly someone who would probably claim not to be that creative, but who inspires the creativity in others, Adele Wearing, aka Fox Spirit Books. I met Adele when we first returned to the UK and I was just starting out on this journey to being a professional writer (whatever that means!). She set up the Girls’ Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse. Since then she’s continued to inspire and challenge the boundaries of genre fiction with her ‘skulk’ of writers, including me! There are some fantastic authors who have put their book babies into her care and she’s not disappointed. Sometimes the most important creative friends and those who create themselves, but who inspire creativity in those around them.