Saturday, 29 October 2016

Greave, Retva and the Poetic Dragon

[source] // @regnumsaturni
In an unprecedented turn of Staring Sparks events, I am posting an actual TCATT snippet! Well. Let me qualify that. I am posting an AU backstory on a couple of minor characters from Stay in the City. But still ... TCATT universe. 

Starting Sparks is a monthly prompt link-up run by Ashley @ [insert title here] and me @ right here. Head to the page at the top for more info; for the October link-up click here.
The October prompt.
I say AU because there are, sadly, no dragons in TCATT. So this an alternate reality where there are. A handy glossary for your perusal:

Adair: city in the east of Ivaria, ancestral seat of Lord Vane
Aherdmas: November
Ivaria: the country where the TCATT books are set
Jacinthe: the Queen of Ivaria
River Quill: a river in central Ivaria
Tellarik: a country to the far east of Ivaria, the home of magic. In “earth terms" its people are ethnically Middle Eastern.
Teyvanidan: Ivaria's capital city, situated on the western coast

One more thing: a “Teyvanidan accent" (AKA how Jem and Mel talk) is a Mancunian accent. If you don't know what that sounds like click here and be illuminated. (It's not a great video ... I do love you guys and all but I can't be said to have hunted high and low for the perfect vid. But I did try. A little.)


For two days Greave had eaten nothing but stale oatcakes.

A cake goes hard when it’s stale. A biscuit goes soft. These, coarse and grainy with a bitter aftertaste that gave Greave suspicions about the quality of the flour, could claim to be neither. When he stole them from the prison kitchen in Adair they were like stone. Now they were like leather. He took a bite and grimaced.

Three days since he escaped. Three days walking west in the cold. One day of oatcakes, wormy apples and some questionable cheese. Now just oatcakes.

He couldn’t stop thinking about his men.

When they realised they’d been betrayed they scattered. Greave had trained them well: how to break apart like a pane of glass and vanish like they’d never been there. How to knit together like a stone wall and crumble for nothing. When the fight in Adair turned against them he shouted run and they obeyed him, but Greave stayed, the building burning, to count his soldiers out. He couldn’t leave when someone might be trapped, even though he knew, sickened, that one of his own men had set the fire. A set-up. He stayed, counting frantically the figures rushing by, until it was too late. Lord Vane’s men were upon him, and he fought until his hands and face were covered in blood, but there were too many of them. Greave woke in a cell.

He escaped, of course. He escaped and he stole their hideous oatcakes. But had his men done the same? Had they managed to flee? As Greave walked Adair’s streets in the dawn he couldn’t help looking at the bodies in doorways, searching them for a sign they were his. They were beggars, he told himself, and if they were dead it was only from starvation and winter. But he couldn’t stop glancing.

He was glad to leave the city. The countryside was austerely beautiful at this time of year: Aherdmas, the leaves no longer golden, the first bare trees stencilling their shapes across pale skies. As Greave walked the still cold calmed him. The first snow would come within days.

On the horizon mist was rising, and as he neared the dim white clouds he could hear water. The River Quill. He allowed himself a brief frisson of relief. The river was the first major landmark between Adair and Teyvanidan, where he was bound.

Greave stopped to rest in a cluster of trees, folding his long limbs beneath their long boughs. He was tall, and beneath his hood his hair was violently red. Destined to stand out, perhaps; that was why he’d spent his whole life practising blending in. Now, half hidden amongst the trees, he looked more like a shadow than a man. It was one of the things that made him an excellent soldier.

From above came the beat of wings.

Greave looked up and almost dropped his oatcake.

A dragon was circling overhead, tucking its wings to land by the river.

It was dark brown, scaled and clawed like a picture from a book of myths. Greave blinked. He could count on one hand the dragons he’d seen in his life. This one was not a majestic beast of emerald or ruby – as it landed and skittered a few steps it struck him as ungainly – but it was a dragon nonetheless, predator king of the sky from a bygone age. Breeding dragons in Ivaria had been illegal for centuries, until the death of the last king. Now, under Queen Jacinthe, the import of eggs was allowed once more, but only by specially trained handlers. The populace at large could not cope with dragons roaming the land.

The dragon’s rider slid down. With a jolt of surprise Greave realised it was a woman.

She pulled off her hat, shaking out a mass of dark curls. Her skin was dark enough to be Tellariki. Tellarik, land of magic, where dragons romped and rivers sang. It made sense. 

She said, in the broadest of Teyvanidan accents, “Why do we have to stop here?”

Greave, surprise blooming through him, bit down a smile. Not Tellariki, then. The woman crossed her arms and glared at her dragon, which was gazing into the river. Greave frowned. Could dragons gaze? He never imagined them particularly wistful creatures, but this one, looking up at its rider, seemed plaintive.

She rolled her eyes. “Right, of course. The river reminds you of where you were born. You miss your homeland, the musical rivers, the rolling plains, how poetic …”

The dragon made a noise of complaint and butted her leg. “Don’t mind me!” she said, throwing her hands in the air, “I’ll just stand here, risking getting arrested for illegal dragon-keeping, while you fantasise about Tellarik!”

The dragon turned away from her as if to say, Good, let’s do that. The woman sighed and pulled something from her pocket. It was an oatcake.

She chewed contemplatively. Greave’s mind was working fast. The plan had been to start a fight in Adair, get the city rising, and leave some of his men in charge while he went straight back to Rubin in Teyvanidan. But it had taken him four days to work that bit of metal from the broken bar of his cell, a tool to pick the lock. And now, an escaped prisoner, he couldn’t take coaches from town to town, couldn’t even walk without fear. He was going to be very late for Rubin.

If he had a dragon, things would be different.

Greave didn’t know how to fly a dragon, but he had faith in himself.

He watched the woman eating her oatcake. She hadn’t even looked in his direction. She was sort of pretty, if you liked very short and faintly belligerent.

He remembered, in another life, the stories his mother told him of knights and fair ladies. Hunnerdridge Greave, carrot-haired seven-year-old, knew that stealing from ladies was unacceptable. But Greave had dropped that wide-eyed innocence along with his hated first name. What would his mother say if she knew her son was going to lead the Ivarian revolution? She’d probably faint on the spot. As it was, he didn’t think chivalry really came into things.

They’d taken his sword in the prison. This was a problem. The woman had a sword. Greave looked her up and down. Could he take her, unarmed as he was? All he had was the bit of metal he’d used to pick the lock. He was more than a foot taller than her, but she was broad-shouldered, and he knew that underestimating an opponent was a dangerous mistake.

Still, he reasoned, nothing ventured …

He made the decision, unfolded himself like quicksilver and sprang at her. 

He locked an arm around her, pinning her beating arms to her sides, and tried to get the sword with the other. She writhed in his grip but Greave held on, hand finding the hilt, this was easier than he’d expected, until she stamped on his instep and he gasped in pain. She twisted away from him, drawing the sword, and Greave span from her, into the dragon. It grunted and he tensed, for a second afraid it would attack, but it lumbered away. The woman was coming at him with her sword and Greave grabbed his bit of metal. Her nostrils flared and she barked a laugh. “Really?”

He danced away from her, out of the short sword’s reach, careful of the riverbank behind him. He didn’t bother to respond to her taunt. 

She lunged at him and he skipped behind her. She turned but he dived, the opposite way to the blade, and chopped her wrist. She yelped in pain but didn’t drop her sword, and Greave had to jump from the blade’s path. He was aware of the dragon behind him. The woman was lunging again and Greave dived away from her and onto the dragon’s back. It let out a moan as he kicked its side; it flapped its wings, and Greave’s stomach dropped as they left the ground. He lent forward, latching onto its neck, and the dragon groaned. It beat its wings once, twice, and landed a few yards beyond where it took off. Inwardly Greave cursed, already rolling off its back, but he stumbled on the wet grass and fell, one leg trailing into the water. As he struggled to get up he felt the cold, familiar steel at his throat.

Slowly Greave removed his leg from the river.

The woman looked down at him and smiled. “You don’t know how to fly a dragon, do you?”

Greave had landed on his wrist and slivers of pain were chasing through it. “No,” he said.

“I might as well kill you now.”

“Why would you do that?”

“You tried to steal my dragon!”

“For a good cause.”

“Oh really? And what was that?”

“Couldn’t possibly say.”

She ran the tip of the sword along the skin of his throat and he stiffened. “Let me guess, then,” she said, voice low and more than a little menacing. “My guess is that you’re a vagabond wanting a quick ride somewhere. My guess is that you’ve been living rough for a while and you’d stoop to anything to get yourself out.”

“How do you know I’ve been living rough?”

She raised her eyebrows. “No offence, sir, but you don’t look like you’ve seen a bath for some time.”

Greave started to roll from under the blade but she jerked it. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“Well, we can’t stay like this forever, can we? Lovely as the sky is from this angle …” The wet of the grass had entirely seeped through his clothes. He bit down a shiver.

“I’ve not decided not to kill you.”

“What can I say to make you change your mind?”

“That you’ll give me all your money?”

Greave smiled faintly. “Money. It would be nice if I had some.”

“Turn out your pockets.”

He sighed but did so, showing her his bit of metal, his oatcakes and a dirty piece of string. As he sat up his hood fell back from his flame-red hair and she raised her eyebrows. “Bet people see you coming.”

“You didn’t.”

Her mouth twitched and she pushed him back against the ground. “Yes, but I’m the one with a sword against your throat, so who’s the real winner?”

Greave let out a breath. “Why do you have an illegal dragon?”

“It’s none of your business.”

He shifted beneath the sword. “I think you should let me go now. We can go our separate ways.”

“First you can apologise.”

He smiled, a mocking twist of the lips. “What’s your name, my lady, that I can do so with the utmost courtesy?”

She thought for a moment and smiled thinly. “Jacinthe.”

“Is that so?”

She looked at him and said nothing.

“Well, Jacinthe, you have my humblest apologies. I wish you a pleasant onward journey.”

“Thank you.” She took a step back and slowly removed her sword. Greave continued to lie on the bank. The woman stepped towards her dragon and Greave rolled, grabbed her legs and pulled her to the ground. He forced the sword from her fingers and jumped to his feet, pressing it to her neck.

“How does it feel?” he said, breathing heavily.

Her face twisted in loathing. “Yes, that was clever, wasn’t it? But if you kill me what will you get? A dragon you don’t know how to fly, which might attack you when he sees you’ve murdered me, and my death on your conscience.”

“Is conscience really an issue for you?” Greave spat.

“You don’t know anything about me!”

“I know you’re taking me to Teyvanidan.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “No chance.”

“Then I’ll kill you.”

“And get killed by my dragon?”

Greave snorted and jerked his head at the dragon, not taking his eyes off her. “You think it would avenge you? It’s enjoying the picturesque landscape!”

“I don’t have any money!”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“I was going to let you go!”

“Are you pleading?”

“No!” She glared up at him, breathing hard. “Let me go,” she said through gritted teeth.

“I let you go, you’re taking me to Teyvanidan with you.”

“How do you know I’m even going to Teyvanidan?”

Greave snorted. “Everyone’s going to Teyvanidan. Besides, even if you weren’t, you are now.”

“And if I refuse?”

He pressed the blade harder against her skin. “What do you think?”

Her face was contorted with hatred. Greave could see the battle clashing in her eyes. He waited. Eventually she spat, “Fine!”

“Good.” Greave kept a tight grip on the sword. He was taking no chances. He removed it from her throat and she got up, glaring at him. “I’m soaking now.”

“Join the party.” The dragon was ambling towards them, its eyes full of soulful longing for the lost rivers of its youth. “Let’s have an oatcake,” Greave said, “and be on our way.”


AHAHAHAHA I SHIP IT SO HARD. By the time we meet them in Stay in the City they are not quite a couple but lol see you at the end of Book 3!

[source] // Twin Size Mattress
Hate-to-love romance is one of my favourites, and I only wish these two got more page time. I also really wish this story could be real, but as there are no dragons I'll have to think of something else for Greave to try and steal ...

Her name, if you're interested, is Retva Weargill. (And she is half Tellariki. Greave was not wholly wrong.) 

As always, thank you awfully much for reading, you are the literal best! In my life news, I finished a job yesterday and am starting a new one tomorrow, both in retail. I also have an exam on Wednesday. So you see, it's all fun and games ...

[source] // My new favourite picture. Goodbye for now, my friends ...

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Glasgow // Anywhere

Image result for glasgow
[source] // Ingeram Street, Glasgow

The Glasgow Necropolis in Scotland is a Victorian cemetery, founded 1832, on a prominent hill east of Glasgow Cathedral (aka St. Mungo’s Cathedral) Fifty thousand individuals have been buried in this informal parkland. FIFTY THOUSAND.:
[source] // Glasgow Necropolis
NB: Aberdeen is a city in the north-east of Scotland. The Clyde is a river that runs through Glasgow.


“I’m from Aberdeen,” he said.

“Really?” I smiled. “I’ve only been once, years ago. I didn’t see much of the city.”

His lip curled with delicate disdain. “You’re not missing out.”

This exchange took place in a car on the south side of Glasgow, and I’ve thought about it more since than I’d care to tell this Aberdonian friend. It sort of broke my heart.

How often have I had these conversations about home cities and hometowns? The rolling of the eyes, the sarcasm lacing the voice as they speak of this place they’ve come from, this place they only grudgingly call home. I have no affection for Aberdeen – I have only been once, as I said, cold, faraway city – but the urge to defend it came upon me in a sudden hot rush. Because if he does not love his city, where does that leave him?

I work in a cheap shop in Glasgow. Days pass in laughter, dialect, a lingering smell of cigarettes. As I tidy I read brand names idly: Anesia Paris. La Bottine Souriante, Made in Italy. Brightly coloured purses bear the cheap gold letters of a simple LONDON. 

How many of these women have been to Paris, to Italy? I’ve never visited either, and I’d bet most of my customers are the same. What is London? It is hours and hours on the train from Glasgow. It is a beautiful, bright, bewildering maze of tourist attractions and glittering lights, the subway a baffling tangle of colourful threads. It is a place to go for the weekend, a place to love with an outsider’s eyes, a place that ends when we step on the train at Paddington or Euston and return, hours north, to Glasgow Central. I would love to live in London one day, to know it not as tourist destination but as home, but for now it is only a brief exciting trip, or six gold letters on a wallet. Why would I want it, a city I don’t know and that doesn’t know me, emblazoned on my purse? Why would I want PARIS, when I’ve never even been, curling across my bag, my shoes? We should not want the transferred, hollow glamour of cities not our own, and yet we do, hence the stacks of foreign place names in my Glasgow shop

I think back to Aberdeen: “You’re not missing out.” Is it this – a lack of love for our homes – that drives us to the false arms of London and Paris?

I was not born in Glasgow, rather moving from England at the age of six to the countryside south of the city. But Scotland has adopted me, generous, both the city before me and the trees among which I live. My home is surrounded by fields and lakes, mountains blue in the distance on a clear day, the greens so bright they seem to sing, the lake where I go swimming sparkling and laughing or grey and pensive by turn. As the evenings draw in, summer days long with golden light or winter pressing early dusk into the windows, I can watch each sunset, every day, and see God here. As it is written, the trees of the field clap their hands for him, and so does the city, Glasgow, steep-streeted joy spreading over the silver Clyde. The buildings are a fresh prize each morning as I walk to work, thousands of hours’ labour and art in stonework and statues, and the people seethe with life, the city a living heart turning over and over as it is born again each day. To the west cathedral and necropolis rise, centuries of beauty and history looking out over Glasgow. My feet are planted here as growing things. I cannot imagine not having this sense of place, of home.

So it is I want to cry for my friend who doesn’t love Aberdeen, for the women who desperately butythe words London and Paris. Your home wants to love you, wants you to love it. Why resist it? When somebody asks where you’re from, that dot on the map to which you point is important. It has shaped you, breathed you out through its stones or trees or ocean. You are part of an inheritance of that place, a heart that beats among millions of hearts, souls of people living and people dead, all wound together by the home you share. It is yours, and this, identity, is a precious gift. Love it.


Displaying FullSizeRender.jpg
Hope Street, Glasgow // my walk to/from work
Image result for glasgow
[source] // Glasgow University overlooking the River Kelvin

Friday, 7 October 2016

General SS Failures // LesMisBook

[source] // Patricia Grullon
Remember that time I failed to participate in my own link-up? This is September's Starting Sparks, albeit slightly late.

Honestly, my September could be retitled The Saga Of Starting Sparks Failure, because not only did I miss the link-up, I also wrote from the wrong prompt. The real prompt was this, but I had it in my head that it was this:

Writing Prompt:

... So here, have a story that is neither in the link-up nor based on the prompt, and pretend it is Starting Sparks. You're welcome.

NB: I really do recommend going to the I Write page and reading previous LesMisBook stories, for context. 


Things were different after the Nutella sandwich day.

He seemed different to me. I’d sat in his kitchen, had his hyperactive dog on my knee, eaten dinner made by his mother. I had seen the shoes by their front door, the family pictures tracking years of growth: Jonathan as a baby, Jonathan on a beach with ice cream on his face, Jonathan smiling hugely in school photographs from younger, simpler days. I’d felt his father’s absence. I had been in his room, seen his guitar and his books and, most amazingly, the plants spilling over the windowsills. When I looked at him now I could see him gesturing with bright eyes and saying, “Spotted orchid.” He seemed more vulnerable, and more known.

I wondered if he felt the same.

Did he know me? Furious with myself but unable to stop I analysed his looks and his words and his touches. This was not flirting. There was a spiralling wheel of girls ready for him and he basked in their attention: Cara, Katie, Nicola, Nadiya, Livs. I tried not to watch them, to break their behaviours apart like a nature documentary, but they giggled and fluttered and touched his arms, his shoulders, and he continued as he always had, like for like. Except only some of them liked him – some whose eyes couldn’t stop following him, one or two with what could genuinely be called crushes. The rest weren’t really interested; they flirted with other boys in the same breath, not caring as long as someone with a Y chromosome was making them feel validated. Jonathan bloody Holcroft, poster boy and Prince Charming, was an excellent choice. But there were others too and who cared? Disposable, he to them and they to him.

He wasn’t disposable to me and he knew it. We were friends, indubitably, and whilst the others flapped and flitted he seemed to see me as a constant. More often than not we sat together, with Tracey and Ibrahim, and when it came to the other girls we both knew exactly what he was doing. He didn’t care, and he looked at me with a secret, under-the-skin smile to tell me that he knew I understood him. That we were both laughing at these shiny-lipped, fake girls. I told myself it was better to be me, his friend, co-conspirator, and what I told myself was right. They who flirted and twittered, they were ridiculous, and I hoped fervently never to be like them. But sometimes he’d joke with them, his eyes running across them, and some rogue stab of envy would travel through me. Jonathan bloody Holcroft was not subtle, and he did not play the long game. He flirted with girls at school and kissed them at parties, and I was his mate. He respected me, perhaps as much as – more than – he respected anyone, and I reminded myself to want nothing else.

One Thursday I was eating lunch and he was chatting to Cara.

Liam Mitchell was at our table. Liam Mitchell is a sort of cartoon maths nerd, Simpsons-ready with the nasal monotone and the glasses and the poor, pasty skin. Ibrahim, stuffed as he was with the milk of human kindness, put up with Liam Mitchell for hours on end, nodding through his stories and his theories about wormholes.

Endearingly – remarkably – Jonathan bloody Holcroft was excellent too. Liam craved their attention, reaching for it like a snail straining its feelers. Today Jonathan was busy with Cara, and Liam was explaining a model of space probe to Ibrahim and me.

Maybe he sensed my attention waning. Whatever: I found myself sitting in silence as Liam, turned away from me, showed something to Ibrahim on his phone. On my other side Jonathan’s back was to me, Cara laughing at something he said. My view was of dirty schoolbags piled on the floor, lumpy potatoes piled on plates, guffawing Year Nine boys piling onto each other. I checked my phone. No texts. Feeling intellectually superior I ignored Instagram and opened the BBC News app.

The Prime Minister grinned at me with frightening lipstick. You could cut yourself on her hair or her blazer lapel. I scrolled past her.

“Damn,” I said out loud.

Jonathan said, “All right?”

I put a hand through my hair. “Nineteen people have been killed in a terrorist attack in Istanbul. A ninety-four-year-old priest is among the dead.”

“Sick,” Cara said.

Ibrahim sighed, a long weary noise. Beside him Liam Mitchell said, “That’s unfortunate.”

“Right.” I scanned the rest of the article. “They slit their throats.”

“Gross,” said Cara. Jonathan wasn’t looking at her. After a strung second she slid off the table, said, “See you,” and walked away.

“They probably didn’t do it right,” Liam said.


“The throats. They probably didn’t slit them right.”

I turned to him, shock blooming.

“Mate,” Ibrahim said, “I don’t think that’s really—” 

“What the hell?”

“What?” Liam blinked at me.

“Are you bloody serious? They didn’t slit them right?”

He pushed his glasses up his nose. “Most people don’t know that if you want to kill someone quickly, you have to slit diagonally—”

“Stop!” I threw my hands up, chair screeching back, anything to get away from him. “People are dead, Liam, they were murdered, it’s not about the bloody way their throats were split! I cannot believe you.” I stood, swooping up my bag with perhaps more dramatic effect than necessary. “You are disgusting,” I said, and I strode from the lunchroom, and it was only when I’d locked myself in the toilet beside the Music classrooms that I admitted there were tears in my eyes.

I had a free period, which was a blessing because the thought of spending one more minute in the company of this school’s inhabitants made my fingers itch to claw something. I stowed myself between a pile of bags and a rack of cellos and tried to think about my problems in an academic way.

a) i) I lived in a broken and bleeding world and

    ii) I didn’t know what to do about it.

b) i) I couldn’t care fully about important things because

    ii) I couldn’t stop thinking about Jonathan bloody Holcroft which

    iii) was a massive problem in many ways.

c) i) My ex-best friend had said something to me that probably got termed as racial abuse which meant that

    ii) I was really far lonelier than I liked to admit but also

   iii) I didn’t know if I was dealing with it well at all, because I’m not Maya bloody Angelou and I really don’t have much of a clue about my identity, even if I pretend I do, because

d) I’m far more a faker than I can ever own up to.

I spend so much time attacking people like Liam Mitchell, in my head and in my reality, and yet I don’t know how to deal with myself. And maybe I was crying slightly when I heard footsteps, and studiously didn’t look up, and heard an aggravatingly nice voice say, “Éponine?”

“You should be in class,” I said.

“They’ll cope.”

I was looking at my knees in their crumpled school skirt, which I now noticed had a pasta stain on it from last night’s dinner. I really didn’t want to look up.

“Hey,” he said.

I slowly lifted my chin, not wiping my eyes, because to do so would be a sign of weakness.

He sighed, bent down, moved the bags, and sat beside me. My heart spasmed. The smell of aftershave. Our legs touching. My pulse was in my neck, hot.

After a moment he said, “You shouldn’t cry over Liam Mitchell.”

“I’m not,” I said carefully.

“Then what?”

“I just—” For a dangerous moment I was on the verge of sobbing, telling him everything, but the warning klaxons sounded and I returned to Default Nina Mode: acerbic and self-righteous. “I just think that was an awful thing to say and I really hate being around people who don’t care at all what’s going on in the world.”

Jonathan was silent. He was about to agree with me, surely, but then he said, “You can’t expect everyone to be like you.”

“Like me? You mean, with a fraction of care for human beings?”

“Liam does care about human beings. But he wasn’t really thinking about what he was saying. He’s got Asperger’s, doesn’t he? You’re not being fair to him, Nina.”

I spluttered, the injustice of this stinging me. There was no risk of tears now, just anger. “I’m not being fair? He’s the one going on about the right bloody way to slit a throat—”

“And you’re the authority on all morality?”

“Are you saying what he said was OK?”

“No, but I don’t think you helped by attacking him. You’ve got to make allowances for some people, Nina.”

“Don’t talk to me like I’m a child,” I snapped. “Now you’re the one playing the moral authority—”

“Why do you have to fight everyone all the time?”

This stopped me. I didn’t reply.

“Fighting him, fighting me. I’m trying to help you.”

“By patronising me.”

“No!” Jonathan bloody Holcroft sighed. “You’re purposefully not getting me. You want to be annoyed with me, as usual.”

I wanted to say something scathing, but for once nothing came to mind.

Quietly he said, “Don’t let Liam Mitchell get you down, OK? There are enough problems without listening to what he says.”

A pause. “I hate letting things slide.”

“I know you do. And it’s one of the best things about you. But you don’t need to exhaust yourself.”

I sighed. “Maybe you’re right.”

“I’m always right.”

“Yes, I forgot. Silly me.”

He got up, grinning, and offered me his hand. I took it, ignoring the surge in my stomach, and stood. There we were, him still holding my hand, face to face. He smiled. “I feel like I should bow now.” He did so. “My lady.”

I rolled my eyes to camouflage my foolishly racing heart. “Don’t you have to be stupid somewhere else?”

“Not until next period …”

We went to buy chocolate, talking about the show and Mrs Mosely’s state of rising panic, and I wished he hadn’t just proved he knew me better than almost anyone, but he had.


[source] // I am so in love with this image
I think that is going to be all for a while on the LesMisBook front. There are only so many exploratory snippets I can write before I need actually to write the novel. Which I am ridiculously excited about. A recent fun discovery is that it is set in Staffordshire. Who knew? Still, Nina's family might make an appearance at some point. Or maybe Verity Locke, who the book was meant to be about, thanks for nothing JBH. As ever, a thousand thanks for reading.

Until Then If Not Before  #neon:
[source] // Jonathan Monk

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Mad September // Adult-ing // Starting Sparks Turns One

Shall quips and sentences, and these paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his humour?"
~ William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

September has been rather mad. I barely had time to turn around and BOOM the month was over!

[source] // I hope you guys all like neon art as much as I do or I fear this blog isn't much fun for you
In Life

I have a Proper Job like a Proper Adult! (Ha, as if I'm a proper adult.) I work three days a week selling diamante trainers and other delights. At times I'm so bored and disillusioned I just want to put myself through a blender, but my colleagues are lovely and we have some great customers. Some of them are very rude -- but then again, I'm only a shop assistant so why treat me like a human being?! -- but some are lovely. Honestly, there is no one to whom I'd rather sell sparkly shoes than the old ladies of Glasgow.

I also, in the name of making more mula, had an interview with a reputable department store ... It kind of made me want to throw myself/others out of a window, though, as the lady in her trouser suit gave a little speech about how she's worked with said reputable department store for nineteen years blah blah blah ... I think I'm allergic to trouser suits. (Like, really.) I'm sorry if that sounds bratty; I know I'm really lucky to have a job, and that having big dreams is a luxury. And sometimes I feel like a fool for being so very “I don't care if it looks good on my CV, I just want to run through the forest and write books!" ... But then there is the very real trouser suit allergy ... It's a quandary, friends, and no mistake. 

On the plus side, my flight to Kenya was booked yesterday! This is really happening!

Thought this gif was appropriate because it shows a Scottish girl off on an adventure.
I'm currently going through the uni application process again. Remember how last year I applied but then withdrew my application? Well LOL* we're back! I have unexpectedly had to navigate people telling me a) not to apply to the uni I want to go to and b) even more bafflingly, not to apply for English Lit ...
*an ironic lol. Very little actual lol'ing has been done in the course of this process.

my exact face
But, Emily, studying English means studying books and thinking about books and writing about books and criticising books and you've not been taught it in school the way it will be at uni! AND YOU'LL STOP LOVING BOOKS!"

I'm not trying to be an annoying 17y/o who disregards adults' advice and generally yells “YOU DON'T KNOW MY LIFE, MOM*" ... but equally, don't patronise me and tell me that what I think I want is not actually what I want?! In fact, I know what I want. And I'm not expecting uni to be the same as school, obviously, and even if I do get there and hate studying English I can always drop out and still like reading, it's not as if I'll be like “SHAKESPEARE IS A LIE AND GATSBY NEVER HAPPENED!" 
*To clarify, it's not my actual mom" who has said these things. She's a great lady. 

So yeah. 

Sorry, that became far more of an angsty rant than I intended ... *ahem* Look again at the quotation with which I started this post. Shakespeare, like, totally gets me ...

Artist unfortunately unknown:

Pinterest: Nuggwifee☽ ☼☾:

September has been the month of listening to almost nothing but Hamilton and marvelling at it every day.

If you don't listen to Hamilton, let me assure you here and now it will change your life. You may not realise yet your great need for a hip-hop musical about America's founding fathers, but take it from me, it's a gaping hole in your life.

#hamilton #tumblr:
The music is the best thing ever and the whole thing is just a seamless, beautiful marriage of fascinating history and personal narrative: the story of one man and the story of a nation.

Broadway Backgrounds // Hamilton:
[source] // aaaand it's all about writing. If I don't want to write I remind myself, Hamilton wrote day and night like he needed it to survive". It's very motivational.
In Books
A graphic illustrating how my star ratings are totally arbitrary and should never be trusted. Because if you asked me my September fave I'd probably say Much Ado About Nothing, and yet ... 

The stars lie.

Anna Karenina was kind of heartbreaking and also massive but definitely worth it. The themes of family, love and adultery are very interesting.

[source] // As I read I was thinking about this quotation. It was impossible to tell where Tolstoy stood, which for me as a writer was fascinating.
Much Ado About Nothing was properly hilarious. Its central couple is my OTP forever -- they just insult each other all the time!

BENEDICK: What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?
BEATRICE: Is it possible disdain should die while she hath
such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?

sarcasm is a body's natural defence against stupid - haha love it!:
[source] // Beatrice at all points, basically. Also you may be interested to know Beatrice from A Room Alone is named after this one. Their characters are very dissimilar, though!
I very much enjoyed Americanah, which was about race and racism in Nigeria and America. It was an eye-opening read. In preparation for my trip to Kenya I intend to read more African fiction, which I'm sure I'll post about sooner or later.

Lagos: intimidatingly massive, but I really should go to West Africa & Nigeria in particular.:
[source] // Lagos
Hughes' translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses was beautiful.

From Pentheus and Bacchus, one of my favourite of the poems.
Then we come to We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which was a stunning American fairytale.

“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead.” 

That's the opening -- tell me you don't want to read on!

In Writing
I continue to first-draft a novel. It is going fairly well ... ish. I have lost the plot a couple of times and worry that I'm going to do so in a serious way very soon. But on the plus side there's lots (and lots and lots) of hilarious (at least I think it's hilarious ...) banter and also a fair bit of romantic angst. Oh and also war and stuff. But who cares about politics when all the characters are falling in love.

[source] // me @ the characters. This is Enjolras ... every day's a Les Mis day.
Other writing news: for the first time ever, I failed to join my own link-up! I have written my story for SS September, but I did not get a chance to edit it because of my aforementioned crazy September life. I will post it, very soon ... 

Starting Sparks: October

It's Starting Sparks' birthday! This monthly prompt link-up, hosted by Ashley and me, has now been running for a year! I'd be lying if I said it has been wildly successful -- our record of linkers was seven, but normally we have, like, two -- but I for one have enjoyed being stimulated by a range of prompts to write in different genres, characters and perspectives. And if there'd been no Starting Sparks there would be no LesMisBook and no Kit and Abel, and A Room Alone would still be in a embryonic stage. So there you go.

The October prompt. How exciting is this?! Dragons. 

That was a monstrous post (in length -- hopefully not in content!). Please do tell me all about your September! Are you back at school/uni or are you braving the world of Adult-ing as I am? What was the best book you read? And do you listen to Hamilton?!