Nano update #1

The first week is over – already! All is going well (so far). Words are flowing, characters are cooperating, and lo, I’ve even done a little bit of ‘panster planning’.

I’m embarking on the sequel to my soon-to-be-released novel and it’s certainly easier working with a core cast of fully-formed characters. New ones too, are appearing from the wings and it’s exciting getting to know them.

Here’s the mind map I’ve been scribbling, which is supplementing the jottings of my developing thoughts in a notebook. Don’t try to read my terrible handwriting. I blame it on years of note taking.

So, in summary, how am I doing?
Five chapters (almost) completed
7169 words written (all of them good ones)

Verdict: Just a handful of words shy of my target. I’m happy with that!

By the Babbling Brook

The Hound broke into a run; Moonsprite followed. The day was dawning as they sped off across the Garden. The air grew warm and the trees and flowers sprung into life once again.

On and on they travelled, while the sun climbed beyond its zenith. Finally, the Hound slowed to a trot, Moonsprite matched his pace and Sinead caught a glimpse of a fawn with her mother and a the bright red brush of a fox’s tail disappearing into the undergrowth.

They arrived at a sunlit glade, where birdsong filled the air. A bubbling brook threaded through the grass. The Hound padded over and drank deeply. Sinead and Moonlight followed suit, the sweet water more refreshing than any they’d tasted. The Hound lay down. Moonsprite rested too. Both had expended much of their energy in their flight from the Gates.

Sinead lay down between them and surrendered herself to sleep.


Image credit: Jon Savage on Deviant Art

Previous episodes of Sinead’s Final Quest an epic tale, unfolding in tiny 150 word increments.

Curiosity

– steady now

                        but there’s so much to explore!

– take your time

                        but everything’s a toy, a joy!
                        so many things to see and smell
                        and feel and taste… oh, eew!!

– yes, but…

                        look at me!
                        oopsie!

– be careful, or you’ll fall

                        the world’s so big

– and you’re so small

                        but now’s my time, I want it all!

– one day, little one, when you’re grown.
  

Everything comes to she who waits.
Hold on! Shine bright!
Never lose that spark, that drive
the curiosity of a child.


Written in response to Sadjes What Do You See #54 photo prompt.
Image credit: Billow 926 – Unsplash

(The image shows a baby panda standing in a Moses basket. Next to it us a wicker basket, which it is leaning in to)

To NaNo or not to NaNo?

Shall I? Shan’t I? This is what I’ve been asking myself over the past few weeks. I think I vowed not to do this again at the end of last November. I’d made hard work of it, although I didn’t need to; not that I signed up for the ‘real deal’, just a modest target of 30,000 words. However, in the end, I did get half a novel almost completed within the month.

So it was worth it!

That novel is now complete. Song of the Sea Goddess is due for release early next year and, in the meantime, I shall be offering advance reader copies to any of you who’d like to read it and review it. More about this soon.

So, NaNo again?

You bet! But on my own informal personal terms like last year and the year before:

– Target 30,000 words.

– Write at least 5 chapters each week.

– Enjoy it!

That won’t be a whole novel. It will be a good start.

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and Sinead and Moonsprite’s saga will continue too!

My Monday warm up with Sadje’s What Do You See will continue

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Good luck to all NaNoWriMo participants!
Especially those who have committed to doing it properly.

Location, Location, Location #6

Today’s stop on our literary journey through my novels takes us to a specific part of Liverpool. From the pages of You’ll Never Walk Alone,we visit one of best-known and best-loved traditional hostelries in the city, The Philharmonic Dining Rooms, commonly known as ‘The Phil’.

Built at the beginning of the 20th century, the building is an architectural gem. The interior is ornately decorated using musical themes that relate to the concert hall across the road. Two of the smaller side rooms are appropriately named, ‘Brahms’ and ‘Liszt’ and, although I don’t mention them by name, it is in one of these rooms that Ruth and Connor settle themselves in the excerpt below. Also of note in this splendid location are the gentlemen’s urinals, which are made from rose-coloured marble (ladies are allowed to take a peek when it’s not busy, and yes, of course I’ve been for a look).

This grand public house is popular with folk from all walks of life, but especially ‘arty’ types like writers and musicians, and students. Close to the campus of the University of Liverpool, where I studied back in the early 1980s when he novel is set, it was always a popular stop on the way into town of an evening. Connor would be in his element here, and indeed in any bar!

Connor and Ruth arrive at ‘The Phil’ by way of St. Luke’s Gardens, where they first meet up. Better known as the ‘Bombed Out Church’, St. Luke’s another well-known Liverpool landmark, popular for assignations of various kinds. The church was badly bombed during the WWII and only the shell remains, but the gardens, even then, were nicely kept and were open to the public during the day.

One final note: there is an art supplies shop in Slater Street, called Jackson’s. One of those ‘proper’ old shops, which has been there since the late 1890s. Past customers include famous Liverpool artists, Augustus John and Stuart Sutcliffe. I had a friend who worked there. I suppose that Ruth might have been very, very loosely based on her. Don’t let the unprepossessing photo put you off. It’s changed a bit since the photo below was taken, although this is more how I remember it.

Excerpt from You’ll Never Walk Alone

Ruth checked that the back door was locked and bolted, snatched up her keys and handbag, and picked up a package from the counter. She fastened her coat and pulled the hood over her short blonde hair before stepping out into the early evening drizzle. She quickly double-locked the front door and padlocked the wrought iron gates over the shop front of Windsor’s Art Supplies, the family shop which her great, great-grandfather had opened in 1879.

She glanced up and down Slater Street, then crossed the road into the narrow street opposite. The heels of her shoes struck the pavement determinedly. A few minutes later she was hurrying across the busy road towards the gardens of the bombed-out church of St Luke’s. The cathedral clock further up the hill was just striking five o’clock as Ruth entered the church gardens. Her eyes followed the pathway as she searched for the man she was meeting. The gardens were all but deserted, the wooden benches set at intervals around the pathway empty apart from one.

As Ruth approached the man stood up and raised his hat to her. “Good evening to you,” he said. “Thank you for coming.” He smiled and held out his hand. “They call me ‘The Poet’,” he said, gazing intently into her eyes.

Ruth introduced herself and shook his hand firmly.

“Please join me on my solitary pew, Miss Windsor,” he continued, indicating the damp bench with a sweeping gesture. Ruth detected an Irish accent. She noticed his striking blue-green eyes which lit up his craggy face. For an older man, she found him really rather attractive.

Ruth tucked her coat under her as she sat down. The rain had stopped, but water continued to drip from the trees and bushes.

She was puzzled though. “The Poet?  I was expecting someone else. The order was placed by…”

“My associate, Pierre Bezukhov.”  Connor said triumphantly. “You do have the painting for me then?”

All along she’d thought it was strange that her client had wanted to meet her away from the shop, and now he’d sent someone else to pick up the painting. Still, a commission was a commission. Shrugging her shoulders, Ruth handed him the package.

Taking it from her he fingered the packaging: “Shall we take a little look?” It had started to rain again. Connor looked skyward. “But not here.  Let’s get out of the weather.” Turning to Ruth he said: “Miss Windsor, would you care to accompany me to a nearby hostelry, to seal the deal with a little drink as it were..?”

Ruth hesitated. “Well…”

“Dear Miss Windsor, I would really like to have a look at it while you’re with me.” Connor looked at her intently.

Ruth stared back at him. “All right, fine.”

“The Phil?”

“Okay, let’s go before we get any wetter.”

They left the gardens and hurried up the road to The Philharmonic Dining Rooms, the grand Victorian pub known for its rich tiling, stained glass and chandeliers, and of course, its wide selection of alcoholic beverages.

There were only a handful of people standing around the bar area when they arrived. They selected an empty corner in one of the small side rooms and Connor went to fetch their drinks. Ruth took off her coat and smoothed down her skirt. She eyed the package which The Poet had left on the table between them.

Connor returned empty-handed. “So sorry Miss Windsor, I appear to have forgotten my wallet.”

Ruth fished in her handbag and retrieved a scrunched up five pound note from its depths. She held it out to him. “Please, do call me Ruth, especially if I’m buying.”

Connor took the note with a slight bow and hurried back to the bar. He returned with a pint of Guinness and a gin and tonic. He piled up the change on the table in front of her. She scooped up the notes and coins and dropped them into an inner recess of her bag.

Connor lifted his glass and took a generous mouthful. Putting the drink down, he picked up the painting, then having untied the wrapper carefully he peeked inside.

Ruth leant towards him over the table and whispered: “The Turner, as ordered.” She took a sip of her drink.

Connor looked up, his eyebrows raised over those striking blue-green eyes. “An original?”

Ruth frowned. “No, of course not. You don’t know?” she paused. Something was wrong. “This is exactly as the client requested,” she whispered across the table.

“Yes. Yes of course. Just picking it up for a friend don’t you know?” The Poet sounded doubtful. He re-tied the wrapper and took a large pull on his pint. Cradling the painting in his lap, he looked earnestly at Ruth: “He did pay for it, I trust?”

“Well,” said Ruth slowly, “he gave me a bank deposit slip for the payment. Otherwise I wouldn’t have completed the commission for him.”

“Sure he did. Of course.” Connor nodded thoughtfully. There was something fishy going on. A forgery? No, surely just a copy. Ruth didn’t strike him as someone who’d be mixed up in something underhand. If he did take the painting from her, and she seemed quite prepared to let him have it, what was the worst that could happen?

“Listen, Miss Windsor… Ruth… here’s the receipt I got from… er, Mr Bezukhov,” Connor held out the crumpled piece of paper. Is there something you need me to sign?

Ruth rummaged in her bag and pulled out a well-used receipt book and a pen. She leaved through the pages. “Here we are,” she said, placing the book in front of him and pointing. “Just sign here.”

Connor quickly scribbled an indecipherable squiggle and passed the book back to her. “Thank you Ruth, it’s been a pleasure meeting you.” He drained his glass and tucking the painting under his arm, stood up. “Maybe our paths may cross again.” He smiled, blue-green eyes twinkling, as he raised his hat to her.


You’ll Never Walk Alone is available in paperback and ebook

Image credits: Rodhullandemu, Bryan Ledgard, theguideliverpool.com and Vici MacDonald

The Return of the Hound

Sinead’s fear turned to relief then joy when, as the gloom lifted, she recognized the creature standing before them. It was the Hound of Hellidore. He who had saved her from the Minotaur back in the Maze of Mandoran. But hadn’t he been slain? She rushed to embrace him, but his resolute bearing restrained her and instead she bent down to pick up the Orb.

As she did so, it rolled beyond her reach. Sinead scuttled after it, scooping it up as it came to rest. Sinead straightened up, finding herself standing before a face, etched in stone, its expression contorted in agony. She stepped back in horror. It was the face of the Gatekeeper.

Sinead whirled around and found the Hound’s golden eyes staring back at her. He lowered his head and gave one sharp bark. Moonsprite pawed the ground. We must go!

Sinead flung herself onto Moonsprite’s back.


Image credit: wallpaperswide.com

Previous episodes of Sinead’s Final Quest an epic tale, unfolding in tiny 150 word increments.

The Good Fight

The image shows back of a man who is standing in a dark medieval entrance holding a flaming torch in his hand

Be brave, good knight,
and raise aloft your light
to shine on every corner of
this godforsaken kingdom.

Where people cower
beneath the all-powerful might
that dictates who should receive
the lion’s share of wealth.

Afraid, good knight,
that those in power
will snatch away your sword?

Yet you are on the side of right
your fight is just and true.

Fear not, good knight,
and lift your standard high!
Behold, we raise our heads above the parapet
throwing down the challenge of our begging bowls.

Together we will fight for what is right
for the future good of all.


Written in response to Sadjes What Do You See #53 photo prompt.
Image credit: Linus Sandvide – Unsplash

Location, Location, Location #5

Location No. 5 – Daresbury, Cheshire

The latest stop on our literary journey through my novels takes us to Daresbury, one of the numerous villages located in the rolling Cheshire plain, which was the inspiration for the village near Bluebell House, home to Bryony, Bethany and their tutor, Mr Eyre in Following the Green Rabbit.

Daresbury is not so physically close to Alderley Edge as the fictional village in the novel, but the overall impression of this pretty little village, with its narrow lanes and Victorian cottages, was the perfect backdrop for the action that was to play out in the story.

I first stumbled on this quaint little village (I’m hoping it still is) during a narrow boat holiday back in the 1980s. Searching for lunchtime refreshment, we set out from the canal, and struck out towards the nearest village, which actually turned out to be quite a tidy step! Even now, I remember the hedgerows that lined the narrow lanes, where we picked blackberries for a not-very-successful dessert that evening. We passed the church, and a little further along, we found the all-important ‘Ring’o’Bells’ public house.

Not at all relevant to my story, but of interest, is the fact that Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) was born at the vicarage in Daresbury. All Saint’s church has some wonderful stained-glass windows depicting scenes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Lewis Carroll inspired window in All Saint’s Church, Daresbury

There’s a print of this lovely depiction hanging in my bathroom. Was it from this connection that I unconsciously introduced a strange green rabbit into the story? We don’t actually visit the interior of the church in the book. If we had, it might have sent Mr Eyre down a whole new rabbit hole. But I digress.

The village green is a key location in Following the Green Rabbit, but as far as I recall, there isn’t much of one in Daresbury, and I found myself remembering the one in the village in which I grew up, in Upper Poppleton, near York, way across the Pennines in Yorkshire. I have the impression that there were stocks on the corner of the Green at one time, but I think that’s just my imagination!

The Village Green in Upper Poppleton

Excerpt from ‘Following the Green Rabbit’

The village was a pleasant fifteen minute walk from Bluebell Wood House. The narrow lane was lined with leafy hedgerows where insects buzzed. “We collected blackberries and elderberries for jam along here last year, Mr Eyre.” Bryony pointed out a row of tall bramble bushes. “Look Bethany, there are so many again, and they’ll be ripe soon.”

“And did you eat as many as you picked?” Mr Eyre said, laughing as he rummaged about in the bushes, examining the fruit. “I know I did as a boy.”

“Do they have blackberries in London?” asked Bethany.

“Well, not in the city itself, apart from in some of the parks. But I grew up in Kent. I only went to London later on.”

They walked a little further. “So tell me, ladies of the flowering vine and house of figs, what other useful plants can we find here in the hedgerows?” He rubbed his chin. “You know we really should’ve brought a flora.”

“A flora?”

“Yes, you know, Miss Bryony, a book for identifying flowering plants. No doubt your Papa has such a volume in his collection?”

“Oh yes, I’m sure he has.”

Mr Eyre plucked a couple of likely samples from the hedge and tossed them into Bethany’s basket. He crouched before her, eyes wide with enthusiasm. “Maybe you could try drawing some of them?”

Bethany nodded happily.

“And I could label them,” added Bryony.

“Splendid idea,” Mr Eyre exclaimed, rising swiftly to his feet and waving his forefinger in the air. “Using the original Latin names, of course.” He spun around and pointed down the lane. “Now let us press on into the village.”

The lane broadened out at the crossroads at the edge of the village which boasted a line of neat brick-built houses arrayed around the village green. There were couple of stone water troughs for passing horses and, much to Mr Eyre’s delight, the old village stocks, which fortunately were padlocked shut, or otherwise, no doubt, he would have felt himself obliged to demonstrate.

The post office and general store was on the far side of the green. Mr Eyre lengthened his stride on seeing his objective and the girls almost had to run to keep up.

The little bell above the door tinkled as Mr Eyre opened it. Rosy-cheeked Mrs. Gilbert was standing behind the post office counter. She greeted the two girls warmly and asked when they were next expecting a letter from their parents. “So exciting dealing with post from so far away!” she exclaimed. Bryony answered politely and swiftly introduced Mr Eyre, who she noticed was twitching with impatience.

He rubbed his hands together. “Mrs. Gilbert, delighted to make your acquaintance. Tell me, have you a package for me? I am expecting one.”

“Likewise I’m sure, Mr Eyre, I’ll have a look in the back.” Mrs. Gilbert bustled through into the storeroom. A few moments later she returned with a parcel almost the size of a shoe box neatly-wrapped in brown paper. She looked at it inquisitively, peering up at Mr Eyre from behind her half-moon glasses.

“May I?” Mr Eyre put his hand out.

“A mystery parcel from my newest customer. What can it be?” she said curiously.

“Aha, you will have to wait and see, Mrs. G.” Mr Eyre replied, touching the side of his nose. He turned to the girls. “Miss Bryony, Miss Bethany, will you accompany me further?”

“Well I never did. Not a word of an answer,” said Mrs. Gilbert to herself as they left the shop.


Following the Green Rabbit is available in paperback and ebook.

Image Credits: GoogleMaps, haltonheritage.co.uk

The Beast in the Night

a fearsome dark beast with blood dripping from its mouth

Sinead shook the gates harder. No lock was visible, but they would not yield. They must be secured by an enchantment. Too slippery to climb, too high for even Moonsprite to jump, they were trapped in the bitterly-cold darkness. The Crystal’s light was fading and the night closing in.

The beast howled again. It was coming closer.

Sinead thrust the Crystal into Moonsprite’s saddle bag and pulled out the fabled Blue Orb, the most powerful weapon they possessed. The Orb had destroyed the last of the Oppressors, it would surely demolish the gates.

Sinead clasped the Orb in front of her and prepared to utter the sacred words.

Just as she was about to speak, a dark shape appeared out of the gloom and bounded towards the gates. Touched by the hot breath from its snapping jaws, the gates swung open.

The fabled Blue Orb rolled from Sinead’s startled hands.


Image credit: deviantart.com/anatofinnstark

Previous episodes of Sinead’s Final Quest an epic tale, unfolding in tiny 150 word increments.

On a life well lived

For the visually challenged reader, the image shows an old woman whose face is deeply lined. There is a faint smile on her face.
Mirth plays around your mouth miming multi-coloured mischief of an occasionally ill-judged youth. Fun feathers your forehead framing joyous recollections of halcyon days soaked in summer sunshine.

Written in response to SadjeWhat Do You See #52 photo prompt.
Image credit: Pisauikan – Pixabay