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

The Dragon’s Bride

I’m Writing for the Poisoned Well is going well! I’m getting closer and closer to the end and then the editing will begin in earnest. However, for now I thought that I would share this extract with you. I hope you like it! Remember to leave me a comment 🙂

The Poisoned Well – Extract

They made a fire on the beach beneath the stars. No clouds covered the sky or hid the stars as they stretched out, wary of the flying bugs. Lyris buried her feet in the sands as they started to cool. Timmit told them about his travels by foot from Ipito to Golden Fort. He’d trained in the capital city before venturing out to live somewhere a little quieter, and further away from his family. Kit shared a story from the caravan, how Rafa had fallen in love with Kelanin and defied his guild to follow the wagon’s, forsaking his license of medicine. Arnit had declined to share a story of his own, and instead, Timmit had started to speak again.  An ancient folk-tale about a dragon who fell in love with a girl.

The mighty Arian would watch the girl from the mountains above the castle where she lived. With all of his years of life upon the world, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever laid eyes upon. He was a guardian the pass between Veglen and Ipito and he watched over the girl and her family, and visited her in her dreams. Till one day, word reached his cave that the Princess of the land was due to marry. Jealous, he made a deal with the old gods, and traded his scales and impossible hide for breakable flesh of a man. Though he retained some of his mighty power, an ability to communicate with the beasts, the birds and the serpents of the sky.

‘I heard he kept his gold too,’ Kit interrupted and Arn, who had been sat listening to every word, punched the traveller in the arm.

‘Dragons are famous for their hordes of coin,’ Timmit conceded, ‘though it is believed that Arian sacrificed his wealth for this, a chance to wed his beloved before she could marry a Prince from a distant land.’

‘He probably couldn’t carry it down the mountain,’ Kit was stretched out, with his hands looped behind his head, and this time, Lyris prodded him in the belly. He yelped, gripped his side and rolled to his knees. ‘Alright, alright,’ he laughed and gestured for Timmit to continue.

Lyris must have heard the story a thousand times, but sat watching Arn over the firepit the myth meant more to her. The young woman wrapped her arms around her knees, and with a final glare at the repenting Kit, watched Timmit as the dark-haired man continued once more.

‘Arian came down from the mountain,’ the Smith paused, waiting for Kit’s additional commentary. The traveller grinned, but remained mute, ‘and he approached the castle with an aura of splendour. The guards knelt before his power and he was granted an audience with the King. Arian made his request, to take the hand of the King’s daughter. For he was certain that she loved him as truly and as deeply as he loved her. For they had spoken in dreams about their desires. The young woman wanted to travel the world and save it, too bring light to dark places and the hearts of men. She had no desire for wealth or nobility and Arian knew that there was no heart so pure as that of his love. The King, believing that Arian was the Prince sent from the distant lands, was eager to agree the match and the next day. Arian was bound to his bride. The ceremony complete, he turned to the girl beside him and lifted the veil from her face.’

It had been difficult, to see Arn all throughout the day, without any chance to speak to him alone and ask her questions. To reach out and touch him, or pull him into a dark corner and forget that the rest of the world existed. The young woman watched him now, fascinated by his expression as he listened to the story that he too, must have heard a thousand times.

‘Arien had trusted the king,’ Timmit continued and poked the embers of the fire with a stick. Sparks shot into the air and scattered in the wind, drifting like fireflies over the beach. Everything smelt like wood-smoke. Sand covered her feet and hands and the young woman shifted. It always looked so soft, until you sat on it for too long.

‘Arien was furious to find that his bride was not the princess. His love had hair the colour of smelted gold and eyes as dark as the night. He turned his wrath on the king, and demanded to know what trickery this was. The princess, his bride and now his wife, was a woman with dark hair like yours Lyris, and eyes as pale as the jealous moon. The King grew angry and demanded to know why Arien, a prince of distant land could treat him so poorly. Arien explained that this was not his love, the woman he had come to marry. The King was confused, this was his only daughter, and a whisper rose through the court. Finally, a young woman stepped forward, with her hair the colour of the setting sun and the darkest eyes the dragon had ever known. His love, a servant, daughter of servants and granddaughter of servants. She had watched the ceremony with tears in her eyes, and her lover marry the princess and bound with blood.’

‘What happened to them?’ Lyris had heard the story, but there had been different endings. Sometimes, the King annulled the marriage and the servant and the dragon lived happily ever after.

‘Arien was bound to his wife,’ Timmit finished the story, ‘for his foolish belief that beauty could only belong to the rich and the powerful. When in truth, beauty is something that is born within, and more often found in the humblest houses.’ He prodded a lump of coal and avoided the young woman’s gaze.

Kit snorted and stood, brushing the sand from his trousers, ‘or he regained his form as a dragon, melted the King on his throne and flew away with the servant on his back.’

Arn stirred, his own hair the colour of burnt copper in the firelight. He lifted a shoulder in a shrug, ‘they say that he grew to love the Princess, though when the Prince from a distant land arrived, the servant girl was offered to him in marriage. Part to punish Arien for his secret love of the maiden, and in part to hide the fact that the King’s daughter had been married to the wrong man.’

‘What do you believe?’ Lyris joined Kit on her feet. Together they doused the last flames and scattered sand on the embers.

‘I believe that it’s a story,’ Arn smiled, and staggered to his own feet with a groan. He watched her, across the pit but kept his distance.

‘Come on,’ Kit slung an arm around her shoulders and led the way back to the boat, ‘tomorrow we’ll be docking in Toscun, and you’re still never going to beat me at dice.’

‘Because you cheat,’ Lyris and Timmit responded in chorus.

‘Everyone cheats,’ Kit laughed, ‘you just have to be the better cheat.”

‘You’re full of brass

Novel Writing – Starting Somewhere

Writing a longer piece of fiction can feel like setting off on an unchartered ocean. I’ve hopefully compiled a few ideas to stop you feeling Adrift

So, you want to write a story? Not just any story, but the book you feel you’ve wanted to write for years? I would like to say I only have one piece of advice, but then this blog and series of posts with helpful hints and ideas would be arbitrary. So, this is perhaps the most important thing to piece of information. You can do it! What are you doing reading this blog, go write! – Wait, please don’t go! I have advice!

If you are writing an extended story, a novel, an epic ten-part series, or even a novella, you will probably recognise the push and pull of the paragraph above. If not, you’ll soon get used to it. From writing novels, or attempting to, I’ve found that I develop a love/hate relationship with the projects I’m undertaking. On the one hand, they’re just so darned exciting! On the other…when will it end?! Will all the effort even be worth it? What if no one likes it, what if no one except your mum ever reads it? What if you cannot be the next JK Rowling? Despair! Then fall back in love with the words, the story, your characters and the setting again and it’s the worst relationship ever.

This is going to be a series of blog posts about writing that book, or novel. It’s going to cover topics such as getting started, planning, characterisation, world building, editing and include writing prompts and a whole host of goodies. I hope you’ll join me for the ride and perhaps I can even provide something that will be helpful.

Now, I’ve written out a plan about planning – ironic. Yet, what I’m going to base this first post on, is Getting Started.

Now, before you open the cans labelled, ‘self-doubt’ and ‘crushing despair’ that I think writers tend to carry; as with any good relationship, it may be time to set some boundaries with your writing project.

Now, this isn’t, in any way, supposed to limit the scope of your project, and there will be a long discussion about ‘too much planning’ in my next post on this theme. However, I’ve learnt to set myself a few goals when it comes to approaching a new project. If you’re about to launch into yours, (or maybe you’ve already started?) are you able to answer the following questions?

  1. Who is your intended audience?

Child or Adult fiction? Young Adult or New Adult? Steam-punk lovers, or die hard sword and sorcery epic fantasy fans?

  1. What size project are you aiming for?

Is this going to be a gorgeous and concise piece of prose and a short story? What about a poem? Or does it need more space to breathe and could thrive as a novella (under 50,000 words -ish) or is it going to be a full- blown novel? If you’re thinking about publication, then as a rough guide for a debut novelist, you might want to aim for less than 90,000 words. Although, this doesn’t apply to all genres.

  1. If no one other than your mum reads it, is that okay?

Writing to complete a project takes a lot of investment. The most important thing that any of us has, is our time. If you’re going to invest several months of your time on this beautiful planet, hacking away at your keyboard, and wondering where the letter ‘N’ vanished off to (seriously, where has it gone?!) Then are you going to be alright if it isn’t a storming success?

There are a few lessons that I remember very clearly from creative writing courses and one of them is this. Write what you would love to read. This is probably going to dictate who your audience is as well. I love reading YA Fantasy, historical romance, sword and sorcery, old-fashioned crime fiction and children’s literature. What I end up writing is a strange mixture of those components.

At the end of the day, if I’m going to be living in the world I’m writing, it must be enticing – for me at least. Even if not for anyone else. There will be enough days when I don’t want to open the project document and get to work, so I aim to make the project as interesting as possible for myself. When you love something, it’s easier to be passionate about it and keep slugging away. It’s also easier for others to become excited about your enthusiasm and volunteer their own time to read your story.

If you’ve followed the rule of ‘write what you’d want to read’ and you’re pleased with the result; the chances are that you’ve created something where others can share your excitement.

  1. What is the question?

Stories need a question and they need it fast. Your reader will skim the first lines and decide if they’re going to follow you on this journey. To entice them down the rabbit hole, they need an initial question. Now, many stories will diverge brilliantly from the path I’ll set out now, but the way I approach a new project, is to work out the first question.

The first hurdle is the first paragraph. Why should they bother getting to the end? Therefore, it needs to be something intriguing enough to propel the reader into the first page. Then the first page pushes them into the first chapter… and we’ll get to chapter breakdowns in another post.

Now for some examples:

There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. – Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Isn’t that incredible?! This is the opening from Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which by the way, is a wonderful story. The first line! Now look at the questions we’re forced to ask. 1, what is a sad city? 2, what is the name of the city? 3, will the city find happiness? There are three immediate questions in 26 words and they’re enough to tempt me on…

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.  – Stephen King, The Gunslinger

Four questions in the opening twelve words. 1, who is the man in black? 2, who is the gunslinger? 3, will the gunslinger catch the man in black? 4, Do I want that to happen? Eeeek, I don’t know so I better keep reading!

  1. Don’t worry

Now I’ve raised all the talk about questions, I’m going to tell you step aside from any worry it’s created. The sudden surge of ‘am I asking a question in the first line? Is this a good enough question? What is a question?!’ Because this is just the beginning and the most important thing, is to just get writing. Make your start, aim for a question and forge ahead. After all, you’ve got forever to edit and to bring that opening sequence up to what you want it to be – but what you cannot do, is edit a blank screen.

I hope that this has been useful!  Let me know your favourite openings to novels, or even what you’re working on. I might even share the current opening of The Poisoned Well… I was so pleased that I managed to find a question that could carry the rest of the story along with it.

Happy Writing

Fibi

A prize for everyone!

A timely response to today’s prompt Champion

When you’ve been working on a project for so long, you can be accused of developing tunnel vision. Your project is a culmination of coffee, late nights, long hours staring at a blank page, longer hours editing the same words over and over, more coffee… you get the picture. You dream of releasing it out into the world and watching it fly…and then comes all the waiting.

So I decided that I needed to write something new, something fresh – and I’m so glad that I did.

I’ve returned to the wonderful lists of Christopher Fielden and I picked out a few competitions. I’m not much of a poet (and doesn’t everyone know it – ba dum tish) but I’ve had reasonable success with flash-fiction. Something short, something snappy I thought? I can do flash-fiction!

So I submitted a piece to Christopher’s Writing Challenges. The gratification of knowing I’d done something of a good deed – submitting fiction to raise money for charity, was only seconded by the happy glow of seeing my work published on someone’s website. Wheee!

So I submitted to Third-Word as well!

I won!

I am so excited you would not believe, I’m even using far too many explanation marks!!!

Alongside a nifty prize, I still get that lovely glow of  achievement and I’m delighted that again, the Eighty-One words will be put to a good cause. Third word are going to compile an anthology to help homelessness. Triple win!

It’s been an exciting few weeks and I’ve set Burning Embers decidedly to one side, for now. I’m even working on a new Novel – tentatively titled: Initiate

Oooo…I hear you say.

More details will be forthcoming in other posts.

Someday

Response to a Daily Prompt: Someday

Someday, all my Dragons will come true.

Eleia stood at the window, with her hands in the sink. Beyond the horizon purple clouds were touched with silver. The tang of fresh-brewed tea drifted with soap suds. Despite the autumn warmth, the fire roared and crackled behind and she wore layers of heavy wool. Sleeves pushed back to the elbow to keep them out of the washing. A sponge was held by limp fingers, and a plate in the other hand. A shape separated from the mountain tops, lifting with a flap of outstretched wings.

An aquiline neck and serpent body that coiled like smoke as it rose. The beast screamed fire into the falling night and was silhouetted for a breath, before it was swallowed by darkness and vanished against the night. The screech raced along her arms and lifted the fine hairs. It tingled down her rigid spine as she lent forward. Soapy fingers slipped on the catch as she reached for the window.  The metal lifted with ease and the window opened at a touch.

She could smell the acrid singe of Dragon-breath. One day, she promised herself. Someday soon, she would do it. She would throw away the dishcloth and humdrum life. One day she would learn how to fly.

To me!

Audience of One: Daily Prompt

Picture the one person in the world you really wish were reading your blog. Write her or him a letter.

Dear Fibi,

If you’re reading this then you’ve probably gone a bit mad – because you’ve only just written it. Seek medical assistance immediately.

But I want you to remember how you feel right now. That fizz of excitement from laying tracks in front of a moving train. The MS is moving forward, track by track, week by week. Every time you come back to it, you’re amazed that you can keep moving forward. Well I’m going to tell you something important, something that you tell other people all the time. Have a little faith in yourself.

Yes, you might feel like you’ve been running uphill for far too long. But at least you’re halfway up now. Not only that, but this is the easier part. The home stretch. Continue the journey and then wrap it up. The giddiness growing day by day as the word count keeps creeping up. Not only are the words going down on screen – but they’re pretty good too. One day soon, you’ll take that next step of sending it all out again. Maybe you’ll even print out a full hardcopy to share with your mum.

Remember that at all times that the ‘Spelling’ is not your friend. It will deceive you. The computer, also with occasionally shut down and magically lose your work. So back it up with an obsessiveness created by the fear of impending doom. Delete all inclusions of the phrase ‘a little’ or ‘for a moment’ because these are pointless.

Pay attention to dialogue. No one ever says what they’re really thinking, so the characters should either. And how many times do you call someone by their name in one conversation? There is never a good reason to have a flat, uninteresting chapter. Invite tension and wibbly wobbly plot lines and at the same time, cut out anything unessential that is doing less than two things to the story. Either developing the world, adding depth, providing information, momentum or joy. But nothing that is only one.

Most of all, you must never give up (even if you run out of coffee.)

Love me.

What would you want to tell yourself?

Third Rate Romance – Surprise!

Another response to a daily prompt.

I used to make pancakes on a Sunday, for me and my flatmate. Slice up the strawberries, whip up a batch – not too much or it’ll lose all the air – and make myself a decent cup of coffee and hang over from my student year abroad in the states. Good coffee is hard to find, but pancakes for breakfast? Easy when you know how.
I was slouched in my hoodie, enjoying each creamy sip of caffeinated delight. The sunshine was streaming through the window, making the dust in the kitchen dance in the air. I had my nose in my coffee cup so I could inhale the sweet sweet nectre when she snuck through the kitchen door, turned in her socks and shut it behind her. It was a tiny room, with a cooker, fridge, sink and a singular cabinet as a worktop. Then squished in the corner was a fold-down wooden table for two, and a chair. The second chair lived in the hallway to save space. But it was such a small room. That as I sat, she stood right in front of me.
“Eh?” I’m not one for words in the morning…
She planted her hands on her hips, and frowned at me.
“Everything…okay?”
“Mmm…”
I was starting to worry. I put my coffee cup down on our tiny table. “Can I get you some tea?” Tea could fix everything.
“You know Mike?”
Mike? “The boy that was a bit…the one who you went on a date with?”
“Yeah. Mike…”
“Yes?”
“I think he’s my boyfriend…” The frown on her face deepened. I stood up and ushered her to the now vacant chair. I filled the kettle, splashing my hoody front and sweatpants with water. I flicked the switch on it and turned back to her.
“…really?”
“I think so?”
“How did that happen?”
“He stayed over – nothing happened but- …well…”
“Yeah?” I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She wore a hoody like me, but green and pyjamas tucked into fluffy blue socks. I hopped backwards, onto the cabinet and perched. Reaching for a mug and tea-bag.
“Well I was asleep-”
“Yeah?”
“He woke me up, in the middle of the night-”
“Oooh –ouch.”
“And he, well he asked if he could be my boyfriend!”
“What did you say?” The kettle boiled. I filled the mug and stirred it.
“Who does that to a person in the middle of the night?”
“Mike apparently.”
“I was asleep! I just wanted to go back to sleep!”
“What did you say?”
“I think-…I think I said yes?” She was running her hands over her forehead in confusion “Maybe it was just a dream?”
“What are you going to do?”
“I can’t ask him if he asked.”
“Noo…nono…”
“Yeah.”
I handed her the tea. Swapping it for my coffee. I cradled it again.
“Well…I guess – congratulations on your new…boyfriend-ness…”
“Thanks.”