A clatter of birdsong

As I know you’re all eager to read some of The Poisoned Well – today is your lucky day! In response to today’s daily prompt of Volume; here are two small extracts. I hope that you enjoy them.

Raucous – Extract One

It was a loud chatter of birdsong that woke Lyris. Sparrows hopped from branch to branch so that the over-hanging vines rustled and bounced; dappled sunlight shaking on her face. It had been a cold night with sleep coming in short uncomfortable bursts. The moss-covered ground that she’d hoped would be soft, had become unyielding. Her left hip and arm felt bruised and bracken poked her cheek as she lay peering at the pale green leaves. Warmth wrapped around her middle and she felt like a stream, suddenly frozen and unable to move.

Lyris couldn’t remember when it had happened but in the cold, endless part of the night, she’d curled up beside Arn and his arm had wrapped around her waist. His belly pressed against her back. His hand was warm on her middle. The weight of it sent tiny flickers through her abdomen.

The young woman let out an uneasy breath and rolled onto her front, flat against the soil, then onto her side again. His arm dropped with a thud and he grunted in his sleep. Shadows moved across his face as he rolled onto his back. It was the first time she’d been able to see him clearly. His hair was a darker shade of blonde than she’d imagined in the silver patches of starlight the night before. His beard was coarse, tracing the line of his jaw and chin and covering his top lip. There was a red line across his nose from a recent break and a healing scar on his left cheekbone. In the dim light, it looked as though a necklace of dull metal curled around his neck and vanished beneath the V of his shirt. Transfixed she watched him lift a long limb and press a hand over his features. Lyris held her breath as he sat up, the movement slow, as though sleeping on the ground had left him feeling just as delicate. Willow leaves scattered to the mossy carpet beneath.

Still – Extract Two

Out on the deck and safe from the biting insects, Lyris considered her options. She could either swing down the rope ladder and wade back to the shore and the bonfire, or she could remain on the ship. The call of her power, was often a distant hum in the background of the world. Travelling over the water though, it increased to a song. The Lake knew that she was there and the body of water showed sparks of colour as she watched it. Roan had explained that with the right weather conditions, blue waves would wash on the beach of the island. Lyris opened her canteen of water and poured it over the edge of the ship. Where it splashed there was a flash of blue light before the shine sank. She drew a circle in the water and watched the flare of natural fire dancing atop the waves.

Arn joined her and leant over the rail to watch, ‘is it magic?’ he murmured the words, fascinated.

Lyris shook her head and passed him the canteen, ‘take a drink,’ she encouraged.

He paused for a moment before taking a sip, ‘it’s just water?’ He was surprised and the young woman nodded.

‘Pour it into the lake,’ she gestured and bent to watch the results.

The first splash was large, it sent up sparks of glowing liquid into the air before they too faded.

‘It’s the algae,’ Lyris explained and folded her arms on the railing, resting her chin on top her hands. The cloud that moved obscured most of the starlight was moving fast. The sails were lowered for the night and the ropes secured. Wood creaked as the ship moved in a slow rock, with the sound of lapping waves in the distance and the scent of the wood-smoke drifting up from the fire. She could still taste his kiss, and remember the sensation of his warm hands on her skin sliding up the length of her spine as he held her close. The breeze moved between them now, though the hairs raised on the back of her arms and neck, heart still drumming and uncomfortable beat.

‘I’ve never seen anything so beautiful,’ Arn looked across from where he lent, his gaze lingering on her features before he looked away.

Lyris cleared her throat, watching the last of the water as he cast it out and the splash moved like a firework, exploding. The blue faded from their sight, but with her power the woman could see the shift in the lake. As the fresh water dropped in through the algae she could pick out flashes of orange and red, invisible to anyone else watching. It was a beautiful sight, with the rising and fall of slow waves, lifted by the wind and cresting against the beach. She could hear Rafa laugh in the distance, and the slow build of Kit’s flute as the music drifted through the night.

‘You told me you were travelling with your brothers. I believe you,’ she added quickly, she had no reason to doubt her companion. ‘Why though? Why so far south and so few?’ He’d mentioned their quest to the southern border of Staven and there hadn’t been a good opportunity to ask him any further. Now, with the quiet sway of the ship on the lake, and no one around to hear them, the young woman studied his face. The starlight that broke from behind the clouds, glimmered on the surface of the waves.

I hope that you enjoyed these two little snippets, please remember to leave me a comment. I’d love to know what you think of them.

Happy Reading,

Fibi xx

Tender – But Should We Be?

A response to today’s daily prompt of Tender

I’ve been giving some careful consideration this week to the creation of characters, and the advice I could share on this.

Tender is a lovely word isn’t it. The tender loving care, devotion and gentle hands are conjured by its appearance on a page. It’s a beautiful description for a character and perhaps embodies a characteristic of personality trait we’d like to explore. However, I think it’s also how we tend to treat our characters – with caution. Your characters, once fully fledged start leaving the metaphorical nest and it’s hard to let them go. Harder still to let them crash to rock bottom. I for one, try to protect my characters. That doesn’t mean that I don’t let anything happen to them, but I always write in an escape hatch – a way out. A way to mitigate the dark circumstances. I can’t help but feel that maybe I shouldn’t – that they would be stronger characters with me hovering around with a parachute or eager to pick them up when they fall.

Enough musings for now – onto the serious business.

Character Creation – Names

(Because I’ve just realised how much there is to discuss around this topic – oh my)

I have a feeling that this part of my ‘writing advice’ series is going to take more posts than intended. That can only be a good thing – right?

Let’s start with the basics

Who is this character? Is it your main character, a supporting member of the cast, or a background extra?

If your answer is ‘Main protagonist,’ then carry on reading – if not, then I’m sure one day soon I’ll have information about the other types of character creation. Although, a lot of my advice is going to be very very similar…

Now, I struggle with names for my characters. Always have and probably always will unless I dive into a Tolkien-esq exploration of language and development. The problem with names, is that they mean so much!

Take Bob Brown as a name. What does it make you think of? It makes me think of someone maybe a bit boring, steady. I think of a middle-aged man and Brown – well it’s not an exciting colour is it. Those two simple words, two simple names come packed with associations we already have stuffed into our minds. What’s more, Bob Brown is alliteration, and when I see names like Bob Brown, Matt Murdock, Peter Parker – I think superhero.

Bob Brown – tax accountant by day, crime fighter by night?

Now transplant Bob Brown into a fantasy setting and hang on a minute. Do those two words have different associations in the world I am building? Brown – is it a colour of power? A symbol of status high or low? What if this is a civilisation where castes are allocated a colour. Brown could be the lowest of the low, Bob Brown could be rebelling against the absurdity of having your life mapped out because of your name and perhaps that is why he’s a super hero in this context?!

What if Bob is short for Roberta?  Bob is a woman trying to gain her shield as a knight.

Looking at the history of the name, Bob from Wikipedia- It most likely originated from the hypocorism Rob, short for Robert.

According to Wikipedia – Robert is a Germanic name.

Now if Bob comes from Robert, and Robert is Germanic, and Bob is my main protagonist in this story – then how closely do I centre the rest of the names in the book on Germanic language? If Bob is the only Germanic name, and the rest has a basis in Hebrew or Polynesian culture – then there might be some jarring.

There are some very very useful name finders online. Baby name search tools are wonderful – and I love forming new words and names from a selection of meanings and finding a name that utterly embodies the personality I’m aiming for.

My advice is to investigate current languages and to play with them for your fantasy worlds. Once you get the name of your protagonist clear in mind, you’ll be naming cities, towns, forests, gorges and everything else that they encounter. If Bob is a stranger to those lands, then it makes perfect sense for his name to be of a different sound and origin. If this is where he was born and has lived his entire life – then his name should possibly be more common in the surroundings.

In The Poisoned Well, I have a character called Redston – A baron. Now, this has raised several questions, are the names of my nobility based on geological features, or is Redston a one off? What I’ve developed is Redston’s backstory, which may never feature in the book, but he is a man of the Northern Mountains. Mountains that are rich with Iron deposits which make them (surprisingly) red. His ancestors were born in the mountains and they carry the name of their heritage with pride. He is proud to be Redstone. However, times move and his own Barony is further to the South in Golden Fort. This may be a fairly simplistic way of naming and world building, but I feel that this small snippet of history has given Redston a feeling of Authenticity. There has been a change in his life, an arc of development that he has undergone – off screen or off page as it were.

What does Redston as a name tell you as well? Red – firey, passionate, red-headed? Stone – stubborn, forceful, slow to move? But the Stone is shortnened – meaning that there has been a development in his history, this is an old name because it’s been corrupted over time. Just like places called Little Town might now be Littleton.

What are you thoughts? How do you find names for your characters?

Our Line Through History

A response to today’s daily prompt: Trace.

I love it when a Daily Prompt ties into something I want to discuss.

Last week I went to see King Arthur. Not going to lie, I’m a little bit in love – with the entire film. Now, I’ve turned into a bit of a King Arthur advocate, but I’m serious – go and watch this movie (even if only so that they can make the entire six part series!) The critics aren’t a fan, and I’m so confused. The pacing is brilliant, the dialogue is fast and witty. It’s an amazing story, well told.

This is not a fantasy film that you can approach, expecting a Lord of the Rings epic. You can’t expect a Game of Thrones straight-faced, unflinching gaze. Think more, A Knights Tale – Heath Ledger, Chaucer, Bowie and Queen.

But darker, grittier…

In the first five minutes of the film, I was sat there with Mr Lovely and I have to admit, I was thinking –oh my. What…what is this? Then it was awesome. We fist-bumped and the film continued to be awesome. So much so, that Mr Lovely and I took my parents and brother to see it over the weekend, and I’m trying to con someone into seeing it with me for a third time. Yes, yes it’s that good. You’ve got to love it for what it is.

How though, how does this have anything to do with the daily prompt? I’ve been sold a lie! I hear you  cry.

Well, I’m glad you mention it.

I was at middle school before Harry Potter. Yes, yes I am that old.

The first I heard about the boy wizard was from my younger brother (mentioned earlier). Now, he being four years younger than I, was prime Potter age when it was first released. About 7 years old? It was the first book he loved and dutifully my mother bought him the first and second books in the series (as nothing else had been released yet.)

Because my little brother thought it was cool, and I was a lofty 11 year old, I was definitely not going to read it – and it definitely wasn’t worthy of my attention. I loved the Worst Witch, Enid Blyton, Agatha Cristie. Then on a trip to my grandparents I got bored in the back of the car, and before the two hour journey came to an end – I’d finished the Philosophers Stone. I spent the rest of the visit and the trek back, devouring pages of the Chamber of Secrets.

I think this episode is important, as for a lot of people Harry Potter is a doorway into a world of magic. Game of Thrones is amazingly popular, and I wonder if its because, in part, it’s being watched by adults who had their appetite for Fantasy whet as children by Rowling?

Growing up, I was always a nerd, and very proud of it. There was the Sword and Sorcery surge of the 1980’s – popularity of Lord of the Rings and love of the Hobbit. There are the Hundred of Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms books, and there are the Dungeons and Dragon’s games. But admitting to enjoying that world as a teenager in the early 2000’s – well that made you a little weird. Fantasy has been a strange, almost underground adoration. Now though, now it feels ‘cool’. I can openly admit to regular playing of table-top games. I can display my collection of Dragonlance books with pride and for GOT fans, I can offer Fantasy words that my friends might enjoy.

It feels as though there has been a shift. If you admitted to playing a little DnD twenty years ago, people might look at you like you’d grown an extra arm. Warhammer was perhaps a bit more forgiving.

With the success of Harry Potter, millions of children were invited to explore a different landscape. Encouraged to find Narnia, Middle Earth and now as we’re grown up, Westeros, Essos, and Sothoryos – not to mention ever popular RPG – World of Warcraft. We’re able to explore fantasy in completely immersive ways, and I think with this, older stories and older lore are returning to the surface as well.

My favourite albums of the last few years have been Monsters and Men: My head is an animal

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMogyzvc_OR333NwjsPy6CfNVTlCoEB1m

Mumford and Sons: Babel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWza_On7ajs

These albums, it could be argued have had a dramatic impact on popular culture. They performed well in the charts and they’re far more ‘Folksy’ than what I would have previously thought as ‘Popular’.

What I’m trying to say – and doing quite badly. Is that I feel that rise of Fantasy is resulting in a rise in ‘Folk’. An encouraged, more narrative lyric in music. Something more reminiscencent of Beowulf. If you watch King Arthur – and you totally should, it marries the two beautifully. The music is excitement and reflects the grit within the film, but it also has its roots in historical sounds. The feeling of a modern folk tale.

There seems to be more of an appetite for those folk-tales though, a rise in interest in dark-ages history. I know that some people have always been fascinated, but it seems more popular, it feels more acceptable.  Fantasy in some ways, feels an extension of folk tale and music. Good fantasy, seems to carry a resonance that is traced back to something primal within us all.

Perhaps that’s why I like King Arthur so much, it seems the culmination of a decade of change. Until the recent years and surging popularity of Game of Thrones, it felt as though the world was trying to cover up the past. Too look forward at Sci-fi, Comic-book heroes and futuristic worlds – but with a determined attempt to ignore the past. It feels as though this is changing, or is has changed like the landscape of a landslide. The past will not be buried, and ancient tales will always surface.

This may warrant further blog-posts…

Now, I may have made a hash of this explanation, but I’d love to know what you think!

To plan the words – or to let them dictate?

This weekend started with an impossible goal. Intending to get everything finished for The Poisoned Well, I decided, yesterday, that I was going to write 20,000 words in two days. No big deal. Then reality dropped by and this obviously has not happened. I’ll Detonate that target now and gladly; ka-boom! Although I have made a respectable amount of progress and I’m pleased with the development of the story. I just about hit my target for today, when a writing friend from across the globe in New Zealand explained they were planning to write 15,000 words. Naturally, a challenge was set and the race is on. My brain is already a little tired today, so there was no way I was going to reach 15,000 words! However, Hollie has managed an amazing 4,000 and I’m 1000 words up on my target and ready for the week ahead.

Now, onto the serious blogging.

I’ve started to do a series of posts about writing a novel, so here is part two: Planning

To plan, or not to plan?

Now, having attempted novel writing myself, and finishing the first manuscript: Burning Embers, I feel I have a good idea of how to get this ball rolling. I’ve also be reading up on other writers and their techniques to what can feel like a long slog. The conclusion, is that like anything, there are several different ways to plan a novel.

1: Using a program to write. I’ve never done this, but I know a lot of people swear by it. There are a lot of free programs, and paid ones out there. They seem like a useful place to store information, write character sheets and keep motivating. Such as at: Bibisco

One thing that strikes me about this kind of software, is how easy it is to plan to an exacting detail. You can set how many chapters, what will happen in each one, their intended word count and then map the arc of your book in a diagram.

Pro: You’re able to set clear targets and goals. You’ll also be super organised!

Cons: Does it allow the same flexibility? If you’re going to go over your word count for that chapter, will it feel like a bonus, or a negative thing? Knowing myself, I think I’d have too much fun setting up the minutia and then not get as much writing done. It’s hard enough with facebook, and reading daily prompts, and twitter to get a clear head and just get the words down.

Then there is perhaps the opposite to using a program to plan out the individual steps.

2. No planning. When the LOTR extended box-sets were released, I was addicted. I probably know the words of every single interview, better than I know the films. Viggo…if we tip over…save yourself…

One thing that always remained clear in my memory though, was the discussion about how Tolkien approached the LOTR. After the success of the Hobbit, he set out to write the sequel. Now, there’s a lot of complaints about G.R.R.Martin finishing a Song of Ice and Fire, yet it took Tolkien 12, (17 according to some sources) years to write the Lord of the Rings! 12 YEARS! Now, the image that stuck with me, was the way they described Tolkien’s approach. He sat down and he started to write.  He didn’t know where the story was going, and eventually he got stuck, scrapped it all and started again – from the beginning. This time, he got a little further, until he reached a point where he couldn’t continue – scrapped it all, and started again.

This is in the day before the computer! It was described as the waves rushing up the beach, every time they got a little further until we had the Lord of the Rings that we know and love. It sounds exhausting.

I like to have flexibility when I write, I like to be able to let my characters breathe and develop their own voices and ideas. This is possibly because I am rubbish at Character sheets. In the role play community people ask me – so how much planning did you put into this character and their arc and I get all embarrassed and mumble…I wrote the bare minimum so you would let me write on your site… however, I think it’s a good idea to have some vague concepts in mind and at least a direction.

Now, I was always going to advocate for option three – the middle ground. Option 1 is a planned hike with your day sketched out to the minute. You have everything in your bag, that you might possibly ever need. A strict schedule to keep you moving, and gps on your phone so you don’t stray from the path. Option 2 seems like setting out on a journey, with just your boots on your feet and wondering where you’ll end up. There’s a certain amount of mystery and allure to this, I must admit. However, Option 3 – you’re prepared for a hike. You have essential supplies to get you through and regular way points to tick off at each chapter.

3. Middle-Ground Planning

When I start off on a journey, ready to write a longer piece of fiction. I like to have a clear idea of a few things. They’re listed in Getting Started as well.

  1. Approximate word count. How big of a beast is this going to be?
  2. Audience? Adult, Children, YA? (Inevitably the answer for me is YA)
  3. What do I plan to do with the project when it’s done? My current intention to publish The Poisoned Well on Wattpad has meant that I’m aiming for chapters with around 2000 words in each.
  4. What is the destination – roughly? I love to have a good start, but then I like to now where I’m aiming for. As a few chapters get ticked off, then a plan starts to form, of how I’m going to get there. I can draw a few lines on the map at least. Then a few more chapters down, and I work out how I’m going to mess with the straight lines, and make a more interesting narrative.

I like to think of this as a middle-ground plan, a rough guide. It’s not without its downside. I could probably do with being more focused at the beginning of a project and do some world-building first. It’s hard to build a map around a narrative, and feels less realistic. Then you realise that you characters have been walking in the wrong direction, and it’s edit the map, or edit the text…I could probably take a bit more from planning the tiny details, but then I could probably loosen up a little more as well.

Let me know how it goes, or if you use a different programme for writing. I’d be interested to give one a go on another project.

Happy Writing

Fibi

Your First Impression

I’ve been able to tie these in together, which is always lovely. Today’s daily prompt was: Impression

Over the last few months I’ve been considering how my blog looks and I decided it was time to make it more user friendly and easier to navigate and that most important – first impression of anyone brave enough to wander into my corner of the internet…
So you may have noticed a few little changes popping up on this site. I’ve been scouring the available wordpress formats for a while, for something a bit more user friendly. To have all of my blog posts in identifiable sections for ease of navigation, so you wouldn’t have to scroll through loads and loads of text to find the posts you’re interested in.

Here they are – Writing Advice & Stories

I think, with the addition of some pages that this has now been achieved! There will be more pages to follow  focused on writing competitions and the results from some of those and compiling all of my research into publishing options.

I’ve also updated my page on ‘Reading’ and hope to add a few more books to the list of recommendations.

Finally, I’ve create a snazzy new facebook page, please come and join me! at Fibi Jeeves!

Happy Reading!

You have to jump to fly

I was recently lucky enough to visit New Zealand for a month. My goodness, there are probably a thousand stories that I could tell about the beautiful islands that make it up, and it is certainly influencing my current writing. In response to today’s daily prompt: Zip

Please find a short piece below 🙂

It started off in the rain, and thunder in the distance. Peering out of the hotel room, doubtful. Was it a good idea to zipline – with metal, in a lightning storm? A quick confirmation came through, the thunder had passed and the lines were safe…even if they were a bit damp. It was the tour guides who apologised for the rain, and we laughed. We’re English, rain we can handle. Downpour experts.

The van bounced along to the centre and we were given the thickest, most rain proof trousers and jacket I’ve ever seen. Weighed down a helmet and harness were added and we bundled back into the van.

A trek beneath drippy trees and damp-wood walkways, listening out for the sound of native birdlife. The birds were perhaps more sensible than we; hiding, watching from their nests beneath the ferns. Laughing, probably.

Not afraid of heights, I said. Totally ‘OK’ with climbing up a ladder to a platform. We huddle between the chest high railings and listen with over-eager ears to the demonstration, and the rules; do not, under any circumstances unclip your safety line! Also don’t try jumping from great height to the ground, it’s terrible for your health.

Because I was totally okay and not at all afraid of heights, you others go first and you wait, lingering at the back with the rain dripping. Cosy in your own cocoon of waterproof clothes. They tell you how high you are, and you instantly want to forget. You step up to the launch pad. Gear checked. Hat secured. Lines clipped. Now all you have to do, is walk down two steps and learn how to fly.

Totally okay with heights. You grin through gritted teeth and cling to the railing. Totally okay. First step, second.

Just here? You want me to just…drop off this platform a mere twenty metres from the ground and just…just zip….right.

Better get it over with. You perch, lift your legs and then you soar. Flying. Whizzing through the trees with the hiss of metal on wet line. Leaves rustle and a pigeon startles from the ferns beneath, hooting as it flees.

You land, heart pounding in your throat on the second platform and join the conga shuffle around the giant Rimu. Tallest tree in the forest? Highest starting point for the zip-line? Awsome…

This is who we traveled with: Canopy Tours– they were lovely people. I found the activity in the Rough Guide and myself and Mr Lovely were so excited to join in the fun. An amazing morning!

 

An Alternate Reality

I love it when an plan comes together. I’ve always been very fortunate to have a loving family and generous friends. Minus a few scary hours, in Montreal, I’ve always had a safe place to sleep. Even if it was in a tent…with bears in the nearby woods.

Recently however, I entered a flash-fiction contest  at Third Word and won. I was delighted, because the project intends to help homelessness. So here it is, a shock to the system. A Jolt of today’s daily prompt.

I asked the lovely Helena, who is running the competition, and what had prompted it’s creation, and this is the response I received:

I, the founder of The Third Word Press, had the idea late one night.  It was the culmination and drawing together of various passions – to run my own project, to support the homeless and a love of literature and writing.  I had designed and submitted my first project for funding whilst in Sri Lanka, in the aftermath of the conflict; it was a peace building project through dialogue based around photography.  I did not get the funding, and left the country a short while later but the idea of running a project remained.  Upon returning to the UK, I started work at a photography CIC, a relatively new organisation running projects with disadvantaged individuals, where I observed the workings, struggles and strategies of setting up and running projects based upon a passion for the arts with charitable bent.  I’m not sure when I started to want to work with homeless people, but it quickly became the group for whom I wanted to provide relief, and designed a project to lead craft making sessions with them, another passion of mine, to make sellable items.  Having set up the organisation, and in the process of applying for funding, I came across a selection of short stories I had written some years ago (I had more recently moved to writing screenplays) and I discovered that I wanted to do something with them, to get them published would have been the ideal, so I wrote to a number of publishers.  Unintentionally, one of the publishers I wrote to was a self-publishing outfit, and they, quite predictably, showed support for my work, but I was not inclined to proceed with them.  Frustrated, I was convinced that I was by no stretch alone in wanting to see my work in some medium that went beyond my Word documents, and I thought of drawing together like-minded individuals to publish works collectively.  Publishing these works in mini books appealed to my love of all things dinky, and such a medium would be novel, suit shorter works, and, in a flash, I saw would also be something that homeless people could market without being overly burdened (physically), something that could engage them, share glimmers of imagination and other worlds.  I went to sleep very happy that night.
So far, we’ve received up to 17 stories a day, from all over the world, it has been incredibly exciting to wake up and discover new literary gems every morning.  We’ve got enough high quality stories to proceed with the first edition, but are following up a number of contacts and applying for funding (which takes 10 weeks to be processed) before we compile the first edition.  We have our fingers tightly crossed for the funding, but with strong support from our authors, we can irrespectively proceed with a smaller edition.  Our winners to date have shown huge support and willingness to help us market the books across their networks once they are available to buy online and this is hugely stimulating.  We should have the first edition available by the end of the summer, and look forward to it!
It’s been difficult to select winners, we’ve been amused, tugged, surprised by the works, we feel that our initiative nurtures the belief that everyone has a story.
It’s my intention to enter the competition again and I would encourage everyone else to join me. It’s only 80 words! Imagine how much fun you can have with an 80 word story!
Thank you to Helena for answering my questions with such enthusiasm.
Sometimes it takes a jolt, to help us see beyond the realms of our own worlds.