Thursday, 30 August 2012

Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!

Hey! This post (and poem) are dedicated to my friend Ermentrude who turned 15 today. That's not her real name, but it was either that, or Brian. Anyway, for her birthday, I composed a poem for her, using names she gave me. Some of the names included Quack Quarrintile, Xenophilius Xylophone, I-mop Iguana and Norman Nott, so I'm quite proud of myself for fitting all of them!

Well, I say all of them, but there's one letter missing. Tell me what one, and you'll get a prize!

Anyway, happy birthday Ermentrude! Have a wonderful day :D

P.S. If you like Sherlock, I've written two fanfictions that you can read by clicking here and here :) If you do read them, enjoy!

Alphabet Town

There was a village, known everywhere,
For its inhabitants, who had but a care,
The reason? They all had hilarious names!
Let’s get started and stroll through the Alphabet’s lanes

Alice Anderson was the mayor’s daughter,
Who was best friends with Olivia Otter,
Her cousin had an unfortunate name,
Zamana Zelstingston had his parents to blame.

The mayor himself was called Jeffery Jefferson,
And he was married to Effie Efferson,
They had two daughters, one already noted,
The other was Venus on which they both doted

Venus scared other children, her eyes were pitch black,
They all ran away, but not Xeno and Quack,
Quack was a duck, purple and fat,
While Xeno was a boy, blind as a bat

Xeno’s big brother, one Marcus Macey,
Went to the dance with a girl called Stacy,
It was found, long after she’d gone,
That ‘she’ was a boy called Wolf Willingtong

He had a girlfriend called Francis Frogle
Who loved herself, for hours he’d ogle
At herself in the mirror, at school, round the back,
Where she was spied on by Yamuc, first name, Yak

Yak was related by marriage to,
The youngest in the town, little Lulu,
She was a baby, with barely a notion,
Of Mummy’s profession - she brewed magic potions

They called her a witch, but Ursula thought,
She was a nice kind of person, friends with I-mop and Nott,
They thought her good, they thought her happy,
Until she met Rudolfton Rappy

Rudolfton was evil, he just kept sinking down,
Down with his henchmen, stupid Bobby Brown,
Bobby was frightful, eyes deep as a lake,
Brother of Severus, Severus Snake

Snake was scarily fast, he was scarily quick,
Just as slick as his cousin  Sir Kalvin Kick,
Who murdered both Charlie, his wife and son
And who shot Gary dead with a gun

Gary was mourned by his sister-in-law
Henrietta Hannah, sister of Travis McTaw,
Who was the second cousin of Penny Pancake,
Who was the niece of Severus Snake

And that is that, finished and done
Everyone in the town, counted one after one
One’s person’s missing, can you guess who it is?
If not, I’m sorry - it’s just my little quiz.





Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Seasons of An Apple Tree

Hi! I'm sorry not posting yesterday, but I was very sick. Very sick as in I had a cold. But it was a bad cold! A horrible cold in fact. So, that's my excu- I mean, reason for not posting. I'm back now though, with news.

The news being that a few months ago, I wrote a flash fiction story for a competition and then a few weeks ago, I found out I had won! Wooooooo! I got £30 worth of book vouchers (the best present ever) and I'm getting the winning story published in a diary :D It was only a small charity competiton, but still....yey! I thought I'd better give you the proper story, now that the comp is over. So here it is and enjoy ^.^

P.S The word limit was a measly 400, which is why it might seem quite rushed! The theme was Seasons, and it was judged by Fern Britton.



Spring

Audrey drew the curtains and a smile flitted across her face. It was raining, but in the corner of the garden, her apple tree was flowering. The grey-speckled blossoms were framed by a dark, murderous sky, and bullets of rain bounced off the knotted bark.

Audrey turned around and faced her husband. He was raking through the drawer in the bedside table. For once, his eyes weren’t blurred and he wasn’t swaying. For once, he was sober.

She plastered a smile on her face. “The apple tree’s in bloom, dear.”

Rob glanced up, frowning. “What? What do you want now?” His words slurred together and Audrey’s heart sank.

“Oh, nothing.” She turned back to the tree. “Nothing at all.”

Summer

Audrey relaxed.  The branches of the apple tree swayed above her, the festering brown fruit bobbing. She 
loved summer; it left her full of light.

“Audrey?”

Audrey glanced up and saw Rob striding towards her. He pointed at her tree, the golden ring on his finger glinting.  “The apple tree - I’m chopping it down.”

Audrey felt her face flush red, a lump forming in her throat. “What?”

“It’s sick.” His voice wobbled and she could smell beer on his breath.

 “No! It’s fine!”

“No. It needs to go.”

Audrey stood up, panic jumpstarting her heart.  “You can’t do that!”

“I can,” he said, his voice rising over the muttering breeze. “It. Is. Going.” He turned around and marched back into the house.

Audrey felt her heart contract. He couldn’t take the apple tree.

He couldn’t.

Autumn

Audrey walked into the dark garden, a plastic bag bouncing on her shoulders. She stopped by the apple tree and lowered her load. Crouching, her hands skimmed the newly turned earth and she a chunk of meat from the bag. It was slick with juice. She chucked it into the hole and covered it with dirt. With this new fertilizer, her apple tree would get better.

A moment later, Audrey stood up, lifting the bag. She smiled and strolled to the house. She was happy with Rob gone. The brute had ‘vanished’, and now, her life was finally perfect.

The apple tree groaned as she stepped inside the house. Its branches shuddered in the breeze, and a black leaf spiralled to the ground, landing on something that jutted out of the ground.

A finger, with a glowing gold ring.




Thursday, 23 August 2012

Read Between the Lines - Part 4

Boring week again, so straight onto the story I guess :D

Read Between the Lines - Part 4

Nikki’s mouth went dry. “Dead?” she squeaked, her focus becoming unnaturally clear. “He-he’s dead?”

“Yes, ma’m. Heart attack - he died in his sleep. He had officially been struck as a suspect.” There was a sigh, and Hopkins continued, “There’s not much else we can do for you, other than trace the manuscript back to the sender. Do you still have the manuscript?”

 “No. I burned it. I didn’t want to see it anymore.” Nikki cursed inside her head, swearing and shouting as despair flooded her body. Artie was dead.

“Ah. Well, there’s nothing else we can do. I’m sorry. Just keep your security tight and if anything else happens - any men hanging around outside your house, or bricks through windows - come down to the office. I’m sorry.”

Nikki took a wavering breath and said, “No. It’s ok. Thank you. Goodbye.” She pressed the butt to hang up and set the phone back down on the table.  She was on her own. She had the sudden urge to run in Noah’s room and scoop his tiny frame into her arms, and to hug him until he woke and looked up at her with his glowing brown eyes, full of love and innocence. She was alone. She was blooming alone.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

Nikki blinked and looked at the phone. The police. Maybe they were calling back, telling her there had been a mistake. Her heart leapt, and she grabbed the phone.

“Hello?”

“Nicola? Are you there?” The voice was rasping, tired sounding, and Nikki’s heart dropped like a stone.

“What do you want?” she said flatly.

“The same thing I always want.”

“Well, you’re not getting it. Goodbye, dad. Leave me alone.”

“No! Don’t go, Nicola. Please. I just want to talk to my daughter. That’s all.” Her dad coughed. “Please don’t go.”

“Are you going to talk to me, or guilt trip me, dad? You always say the former, but the latter comes about fairly quickly.”

“Talk, that’s all I want. A nice chat with my child. H-how are you? You sound a bit tense.”

Nikki paused, a frown on her face. She threw a glance at the wine on the table and fought the urge to go drink the rest of the bottle. “I’m fine. I just can’t be bothered with your shit, that’s all.”

There was a sigh, and another cough. “Look, I’m sorry, Nicola. I’m sorry for what I did, and I’m trying so hard to just make the peace with you, to make everything better.”

 Nikki took a breath and bit her tongue. She felt like she was spitting fire, words burning her tongue as they came shooting out of her mouth. They were lined with poison and acid, and she hoped her father could feel them sting as he listened. “Well, you’re too late, dad. You’re dead to me. I hate you and if it were my choice I’d block this number. But I can’t, cause guess what dad, I tried, and they told me it wasn’t allowed. I didn’t mean to pick up the phone. I didn’t mean to talk to you.  Now, hang up, or I will.”  
“Nicola, be reasonable. I know you’re going through a tough time. I know everything’s hard for you, what with the little boy and-”

“His name’s Noah.”

“Fine, Noah then. I know you’re stressed, but please just listen to me.”

“What would I want to do that, Dad? Why on earth would I want to hear you beg, and plead and grovel, when we both know it’s all in vain? I don’t want to listen, Dad. Now, go away. Never phone me again. Leave me alone!”

There was a pause and another sigh. “This happens every time I call, Nicola. Why can’t we act like adults for once?”

“Because we’re not adults. If you were an adult, you wouldn’t have got yourself in the mess you’re in, and if I were an adult, I wouldn’t be talking to you. So, would you rather we acted like adults? I’ll hang up first.” Nikki could feel the anger quaking through her, running up and down her spine and through her mouth in rushes, torrents. “I never want to talk to you again. Leave me alone!”

“Nicola. Please. I love you. Just forgive me. I’m so full of guilt all the time, I’m so sorry for what I did, please forgive me...please...”

Nikki scoffed and shook her head. “Save the crap for later. You’re not sorry. You never were sorry.  Look, dad, I’ve got to much rubbish going on in my life just now to pay attention to you and your stupid games of guilt and love and forgiveness. I really can’t be bothered dealing with you. So, pee off.”

“I-I know you-you‘re going through a bad time, darling, what with the boy and your work and the manuscript and everything. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Nikki narrowed her eyes and her heart stopped hammering as loudly. The anger had ceased to flow - it was now solid ice in her veins. “What did you just say?” she menaced, her voice cracking as she spoke. “What ‘manuscript’?”

There was a pause. “I-I didn’t say anything about a manuscript, darling.” Her father’s voice shook, and the anger started flowing once more.

“Yes, you did. Who told you? How do you know about that? Did one of your little friends send it? Eh? One of your prison buddies?” She cackled and breathed out through a gap in her teeth. “You’re scum. Telling one of your wee buddies about my life, just so you can have someone to comfort when the phone stops ringing. Who was it? WHO?”

“I-it was no one, Nicola. I didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t say anything about a manuscript...”  The voice trailed off, getting weaker and weaker.

“You’re lying. You told someone, I know you did. Who? I can have them arrested you know. I can have you arrested for helping them. I’ve been terrified, and what for? For you to comfort? You’re not getting me back, and if this is your idea of a sick joke, then stuff you. I hate you. You aren’t my dad. I don’t blooming know you.”

“Nicola, wait...I can explain...”
Nikki felt the anger swell in her chest. “My name is NIKKI! NIKKI! Nicola was what I called when I knew you. Now, hang up. HANG UP!”

“NO!”

The sound exploded through the phone, ricocheting off the crevices in Nikki’s ear. It echoed and stung - the resounding sound of defiance. Nikki held the phone away from her ear. She had never heard her father so angry before, so full of bottled rage.  “NO! I will not hang up. You ungrateful brat of a child. I have been trying for so long to get you to listen, to se reason, and you know what, I’m going to give up. I phone you every day - why? All I get is abuse, stinging, painful abuse from the hands of my only daughter.  I phone you, because you’re the only thing I have to live for.  We’ve always pulled through, you and me, and after one mistake I made trying to get you a better life, you disown me. I phone you, and guess what, Sherlock, I wrote the bloody manuscript. Read between the lines. We always pull through. We always love each other. I was washing my car when you broke your finger and almost broke your spine. I was sitting on the beach as you surfed the angry waves off the coast of Scotland. Remember. I was always there for you...and you were never there for me.” The voice started sobbing, hiccupping in time to Nikki’s thudding heart.

“I love you. I loved both you and Rodney so much. Rodney won’t speak to me. He hasn’t even answered any of my calls since this whole thing started. Without your mother, I was so lonely, and you two were always there to make me feel better. Now, neither of you are. I was trying to get you back, sweetheart. I was trying to show you how much I love you. So I wrote your biography and sent it to your office. I thought you would recognize the speech, the way I worded the sentences. I thought you would know. You obviously didn’t. I’m so sorry, darling. I never meant to hurt you. I-I love you.”

Nikki swallowed. “Goodbye.”

There was a beep and then, silence.






Thursday, 16 August 2012

Read Between the Lines - Part 3

Hi. No exclamation point today becuase I'm feeling pretty rubbish. Why?

School goes back tomorrow.

And my depression isn't what you think. I'm actually kinda looking forward to going back to school. I love learning new things and I get to see the friends that I haven't seen over the holidays.  I can go back to laughing and chatting and getting menacing glares from teachers because I finished first and they have nothing else to give me....again. I've missed all the hilarity. What's getting me down is the end of the summer, and realising how little I've down.

Sure, I've down a reasonable amount - edited half my novel, written at least 15,000 words of a new novella I'm working on, learned some ancient Greek, gone swimming, saw my friends etc etc - but it isn't half of what I wanted to do. I don't feel as if I've accomplished anything. I feel as though I've wasted 6 weeks that could have been spent doing things. And for someone who tries to make the most out of every day, that thought makes me quite sad.

Does anyone else feel as though their summer hasn't been as good as it should have been? I know that the weather in Scotland was probably a contributing factor (we got about 4 days of sun), so maybe it's just me.

Rant over.

Read Between the Lines - Part 3

Nikki looked up, her eyes glazed. Ok. Ok. She couldn’t panic; she couldn’t move, other than the steady rising and falling of her chest. Her head was an ocean of serene calm, of acceptance.  She had a stalker. Of that, she was certain. It was someone whom she had known most of her childhood, someone she didn’t pay much attention to, but who had a crush on her none the less. Her mind moved slowly through the fog that had clouded her memory. She couldn’t think of anyone. She had been an adventurous girl, but she wouldn’t say she was mean. She didn’t go out of her way to spite people.  That just wasn’t in her nature. So who could the author be? Maybe she didn’t even know him. Maybe he was just some guy, watching her from a distance. Maybe he had hidden in those bushes she remembered from her house, or blended in with the throngs of people at the beach. Nikki’s heart started fluttering. Maybe it was someone her mum knew. Or maybe it was one of her dad’s friends.

Artie.

The name jumped into her head, a bolt of lightning on a cloudy night. He had been a geeky boy with long brown hair and freckles in school.  He had been sweaty and overweight, with breath that smelled like old dishwater. The girls used to call him weird as they walked past him in the playground, giggling under their breath at his lopsided grin and his heavy shuffle. He had had a thing for her - she knew that much. He had tried to ask her out once, stuttering and perspiring as he did so. She turned him down, and that was motive enough, wasn’t it? It could be him. But really? Artie?

Nikki swallowed a globule of bile and wrapped her hands round the edge of the bed. The calm was fading, and panic was rising in her, sweeping her backwards with the force of its rhythmic waves. She had to call the police. She had to. What if he came round to her house...oh god, Noah! What could she say to Noah if he suddenly arrived and demanded to see her? What could she tell him? What if he hurt him? If she had learned one thing from CSI, it was that stalkers were irrational, violent and strange. Maybe he wanted to get to her, so he could get to Noah. A shiver rippled down her spine and she could feel a scream pressing on her lips. Her heart was thumping, faster and faster in her chest, her knuckles turning whiter with every erratic beat. She needed to call the police. Now.

The phone was on the other side of the room, and it was a few minutes before Nikki could move again. Her fingers had frozen to the edge of the bed and the manuscript lying on her stomach had held her down like some sort of mystic weight. By the time she had gotten up, the light had eased from behind the curtains, and the only light in the room was the still glowing lamp. Lifting the manuscript from her stomach, she had pulled the duvet back and placed her feet on the floor. She began to walk forward, sweat beading on her forehead. Every step seemed to take an age, and she had the vague thought that she was overreacting, that she should stop, get back into bed and sleep. But her feet kept moving, and then she was by the phone, her hand curved round the receiver and her fingers pressing the buttons that would save her.

999.

She held the phone to her ear and waited. There were four beeps and a woman’s voice came on.

“Emergency, what service do you require?”

“Police.” Her voice was nothing more than a squeak, a tiny voice echoing down the endless connections that took it to the operator. Her mind reeled slightly at the thought.

There was another beep, and then a man’s voice shot into her ear. “What is your emergency?”

Nikki swallowed. She had to get this right. She had to be precise. She breathed in, and breathed out.
Calm. “I have a stalker.” There, that was better. Her voice was stronger, firmer this time. She felt the panic subside a little, and her face flushed back to its normal colour. “I have a stalker,” she repeated, feeling a bit more confident.

There was silence on the other end for a few moments. “What is your name and address?”

“Nikki Debine. 86 Hawthorne Street, Glasgow.”

“Ok. Thank you ma’m. Two officers are on their way to you. Just keep calm. Everything will be alright.”

“Ok. Thank you. Goodbye.”

Nikki’s fingers skimmed the buttons and she killed the phone call. There was a final beep, and then, silence. She sat the phone back down in its holder and ambled towards the bed. Her face was still lined with sweat and her heart still thudding and thumping in her chest, but she wasn’t as scared any more. The police would take care of things. They always took care of things. Bad things. Like her father.

Nikki pushed the sour thought out of her mind and suddenly realised that she was in her nightie. The police couldn’t see her in her nightie! With a burst of energy, Nikki jumped upwards and ran towards her chest of drawers. She pulled out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and then walked to the bathroom to get changed. The police would take care of everything. She would be fine. The manuscript could be burned. Her mind would be at peace. Relief flooded her body and Nikki slumped as she closed the bathroom door. She would be safe. Noah would be safe. And she could go back to doing what she loved.

And Artie would be dealt with.
*

The next few days passed in a blur. The police came, took details and went; she had returned to her job the next day with minimal stares and references to what had happened from Joan. There had been a few forced smiles, a couple ‘Are you ok?’s and one hug, and that was that. Everyone went back to reading and writing and jotting. The office went silent once more.

Nikki herself just went through the days in a strange daze, going through the motions of each action with a painful grin on her face and the odious manuscript at the back of her mind. It nagged her, begging for attention like a stray dog or an annoying sibling. It was always there, hovering, staring, smirking. It was worse just before she went to bed. She had burned the manuscript after the police had decided it was useless, but when she closed her eyes, the white paper was burned into her skull. Every second that passed the anxiety got worse, and her fear grew and swelled like a tumour. She had ignored the last two phone calls from her dad. She couldn’t deal with him just now. There was too much going on.

On the third day after she had read the manuscript, Nikki sat down on the couch and swilled her glass of wine. Her back hurt from slouching all day, and her eyes felt as though slivers of glass had been pressed into them. Noah had gone to bed about fifteen minutes ago, but it wouldn’t be long until he started shouting again, complaining about something or another. Nikki sighed and took a gulp of her wine. Cheap. Barely palatable. Oh well. She couldn’t be fussy all the time. She took another swig and relaxed further into the chair. This was the life. The wine had cast a warm fog over her thoughts, and she was pleased to find that the manuscript and Artie had vanished from the background for the first time since it happened. A smile flitted across her face and Nikki closed her eyes. The couch sank away, leaving her on a beach in Hawaii, sipping pineapple juice from a coconut and reading the latest book she had published, safe in the knowledge that she had done her job well. Her father wouldn’t be able to reach her, and Noah, his little blonde hair tousled around his face, would be playing in the sand, laughing as crabs nibbled at his toes.  His dad would suddenly arrive and wrap his arms around her - just a hug nothing more - and everything would be perfect.  Noah would look up and run towards him, his eyes wide and his cheeks rosy. His fists would curve round his father’s knees and he would-

Ring. Ring. Ring.
Nikki’s eyes snapped open and she glowered. The phone was ringing. Just her luck. Noah would be awake in a couple of seconds and her fantasy would be gone forever, lost in the rolling ocean that was her worry. Sighing, she sat her wine down on the table and pushed herself up from the couch.

“Hello?”

“Miss Debine? It’s Inspector Hopkins. We have some news about your case.”

Nikki leaned forward, her spare hand resting on the coffee table. Her vocal chords shrunk and a snake started writhing in her stomach. “Yes? Have you got him? Artie?”

There was silence for a moment and Nikki could just make out the sound of someone coughing in the background. “Miss, I’m afraid your suspicions were unfounded. Arthur Lauder has been dead for two years.”


Monday, 13 August 2012

Read Between the Lines - Part 2

Hello! Nothing to say, so on with the show!

Read Between the Lines - Part 2


“What do you mean, chook? What do you mean, it’s about you?”

“I mean...” Nikki looked up and straightened her back, avoiding her face in the mirror. She turned round to look at Joan and took a deep breath. “You know that story I told you about my finger?
About why it’s a tad lumpy and misshapen?”

Joan paused and nodded. “I remember that. A few weeks ago. You said you fell from your bedroom window when you were six.”

Nikki pushed back some more tears. “Yes. Well that manuscript you gave me...just...detailed the whole thing. Every single part of it.” She hiccupped again, and a laugh burst through her stilted sobs.
“Oh God, I’m a mess. I’ve got a blooming stalker. Great. Fantastic.”

Joan wrapped her arms around her as Nikki burst out crying again. “It’s ok, honey. It’s ok...”
The minutes passed slowly, but eventually Nikki stopped crying. She leaned backwards out of Joan’s arms and wiped her puffy eyes. “W-What now?”

Joan tilted her head. “Can I...see the manuscript?”

Nikki nodded and swallowed another hiccup. “You just go ahead and have a look. I can’t go out looking like this. Come b-back when you’ve read it. I’ll be right here, o-ok?”
Joan smiled and walked to the door. “I won’t be long, love. What do want me to tell the others if they ask?”

“Just that I felt sick or something. They don’t need to know about this.”
Joan nodded sympathetically and stepped out of the room. “I’ll be two seconds,” she said, her voice dripping with worry, and then she was gone.

Nikki took a deep breath and turned back round to face the sink. Her eyes were red and puffy; her nose blotchy with red patches. Her brown hair frizzed around her face, a golden halo. Nikki sniffed and splashed her face with cold water. God, she looked like a mess. There probably wasn’t any reason to be upset. It might just be a coincidence. She didn’t have a stalker. Why would anyone want to stalk her?

She spent the next few minutes staring at herself in the mirror, examining her face. She could see her dad’s features in her nose and eyebrows, and she hated it.  He had always told her she had been her mother’s daughter, but she could never quite believe it. She didn’t look like Mum, not really. Dad had shown her photos, and the likeness between them was nonexistent. And yet, her father was compelled to force her image onto Nikki’s face. She puzzled over this for a second, and then pushed it aside. It didn’t matter. She had a two year old son, a father who wouldn’t take no for an answer and a stalker. Her mum didn’t matter. She was long gone anyway.

The door suddenly swung open and Nikki whipped around. Joan was standing in the doorway, her face calm and restrained. “Ok,” she said. “Ok, so the story is quite like the one you told me. I accept that. But the little girl’s called Nicola. So maybe...” She trailed off and looked at Nikki hopefully.

Nikki just sighed. “My name is Nikki. My full name though is Nicola Jane Debine.”

Joan’s hopeful face collapsed in on itself and she slumped where she stood. “Oh.” She looked up.“Should we call the police?”

Nikki swallowed. Should they? She remembered the night her father had been arrested, and the sudden anger she had felt towards the sergeant who told her. It was tide of flames that had rolled through her body, and then it had been suddenly doused by the realisation that she hated her father, not the police. The sight of policemen made her nervous - a side effect of that slap in the face. They made her angry, simply by power of association.  Besides, it was probably a coincidence. Nothing the police needed to be involved in.

“No. I don’t think so.” The words rolled around on Nikki’s tongue, slaloming between her teeth like ice-skaters. Her speech was slow and precise. “No,” she repeated. “I’ll just leave it. It was probably a coincidence, that was all.”

“Are you sure? I mean, I could-”

“No, Joan. It’s fine. I’ll go back to my desk and work a bit more, ok?” Nikki forced a smile and started walking to the door. Joan blocked her path, her frail arms like twigs as the dangled in the air.

“No way are you going back to work. I give you the rest of the day off. Get your stuff and go.”

Nikki frowned and crossed her arms. “Fine. Just let me out of this bathroom.”

Joan nodded and stepped aside. “On you go. Get some rest. Try to forget about it.” She blinked as Nikki opened the door, and then in a loud voice added, “I hope you feel better later, Nikki. Chicken soup and a warm bath!”

Nikki stepped out the door and smiled. As annoying as Joan could be, she was pretty funny sometimes. Glancing up off the floor, Nikki weaved her way through the desks back to her corner of the office. Everyone was working again, the quiet turning of pages breaking the silence.  It was nice, especially after the symphony of worry that had sang in her ear for the last ten minutes.

White pages were littered around the floor of her desk in heaps. It looked as though someone had tried to tidy them up, but hadn’t done a very good job.  Nikki picked up the sheets from the floor and sat them on the desk. Her hand was clutched round a wad of paper, her nails burrowing into the paper’s white flesh. Sitting it on the desk, she paused. It was a new chapter of the book, a large 6 dominating the page. Nikki leaned over it and ran her finger across the surface. She wanted to know what it read. It would be so easy to slip the few pages into her handbag and walk out of here, free as a bird, with no-one being wiser. It wasn’t strictly company policy, but then again, nothing was today.

With a flourish, Nikki lifted the paper and dumped it in her handbag. Curiosity killed the cat....but satisfaction brought it back, that was what her dad always said. She would read it tonight when Noah was asleep. Nikki let another smile flit across her face and she threw her handbag over her shoulder. Turning around, she picked up the pot of pens that had fallen, and with a nod, walked out the office. Good riddance.
*
The lamp cast a misty yellow glow over the bed, the golden rays illuminating the dancing dust specks as they waltzed through the air. Nikki yawned and slid under the duvet, her head resting on the pillow. Finally. She had gotten home at three, answered her emails, picked Noah up from nursery, played with him, fed him, bathed him, put him to bed, ignored the inevitable phone call from the prison and paid all her taxes. The day had stretched like elastic, every hour seeming so much longer than 6o minutes. But now, she was in her bed. She could sleep. She could rest. She could read the
manuscript.

Nikki leaned over and pulled the wad of paper from her handbag. She had been fighting the urge to read it all day. Her eyes strayed to her bag almost constantly, as though some hungry force drew them nearer and nearer, whispering sweet nothings in their ear, teasing them and baiting them until they looked and then SNAP! they would be gone, and there would be no turning back.

But she hadn’t looked, and her curiosity had grown famished. She flipped the paper in her hands, and ran her finger over the tiny lumps where the words where. With a deep breath, she began to read:

The teenage years had a bit of a gale force wind to them. One minute Nicola would grace us with the calm before the storm, her easy smile a genuine expression of her lively soul. Then the next minute, things would go awry. Every sneer punctured my heart, every scoff weakened my resolve. The pain was always fresh in my heart, but my affection never wavered.
        Every summer the family would go on a holiday as a way to escape the familiar bouts of summer boredom. Of course she’d venture to the beach, only because she loved the opportunity to get about fifty shades darker and the rest of the family couldn’t resist the mysteries of what the ocean holds. Oh, and the sand. Can’t forget the sand…the sand castles, the open canvas, and the chance to get down and dirty.
        Nicola was in one of her moods, slouched in her chair with a scowl hidden beneath her sunglasses. “Family bonding,” I heard her say to her little brother, Rodney, “isn’t too high up on my priority list these days.”
        But the moment Rodney uncovered the boogie board from beneath the rubble-better known as the family’s stash of beach supplies-that sliver of spunk turned up the corners of her pout. Nicola loved boogie boarding, unless she went under, then she’d curse the sand that coated her hair and the salt that clogged her throat and blinded her enough to make her eyes water.
        What really hit home, though, was the fact that the boogie board the family had decided to bring was the same one she used as a child, the board with the psychedelic peace signs that decorated its front, topped off with her initials, N. D. The letters got a little frayed over the years and the mass of colours faded, but the board could still ride the waves, as Nicola so giddily demonstrated not long after Rodney pulled the board out for her. He’d steady the board, his little ten year old arms straining to stop the waves. She’d smile back at him and ask if she could go yet. He always said no and tightened his grip, until finally he caved. When he nudged her on the wave, her squeals of excitement patched up the holes that the past left behind.
        Even though boogie boarding was a small act at the time, it made a big impact on the relationship I had with Nicola. Those teen years were hitting her hard, tearing us further and further apart. Yet that small act of familiarity, that tiny fragment from the past tied us together again, even if Nicola never seemed to acknowledge my existence outside someone to shout at. I remember watching as the adventurous, spunky girl I loved mellowed out into a more calm, self-aware teenager, but I also remember the realization that stuck with me many years after that liberating day on the beach: no matter where life took Nicola, we’d always find ways to pull together again. Even if she didn’t care about me.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Read Between the Lines - Part 1

Hey! How is everyone? Me, I'm good. The weather is finally beginning to look up...and with only a week to go until school starts (sigh) Just my luck. Oh well. Better late than never!

The story today was actually co-written by Megan Butler, who wrote the manuscript. You'll understand when you read it. I have a link to her blog, but I'm not sure whether she wants me to share it, so I'll just leave it. Anyway, enjoy!

Read Between the Lines - Part 1

“I’ve got another manuscript for you, Nikki. You up for it?”

Nikki glanced up from her desk and groaned. The wad of paper Joan carried was horse-sized, its pearly white mane marred with black dots, and its ebony hooves diseased with white spaces. Her eyes swam with the size of it. She glanced up at Joan. “Do I have to?”

Joan grinned and placed the papers gently on Nikki’s desk. “I’m afraid so. It’s a biography - that’s your section.”

Nikki groaned again and slammed her head on the desk. She couldn’t be bothered reading about some fisherman’s life story. She couldn’t care less about one mother’s harrowing tale of child abuse, at the hands of her younger brother, who wasn’t nappy-trained. Nor could she force herself to read yet another story based on TRUE EVENTS - a euphemism for a writer creating a story, finding it had already played out in real life and deciding to get it published anyway. She didn’t care whether or not Carly Rae Jepsen was the world’s most amazing person who deserved every award on the planet. All she cared about was bed. Sleeping. Peace. The very thought put her mind in throes of euphoria. Imagine - not having to wake up to Noah’s cries, not having to read another terrible novel, not having to torture herself with thoughts about her father. That would be heaven.

“Nikki? Hello?”

Nikki peeled her head from the table and looked at Joan again. She was grinning, happy as always, her long, thin fingers playing with a thread on her brown and purple striped skirt. Nikki swallowed. It was enough to make Gok Wan weep. Her brown hair was tied back in a bun, and her thin legs poked out from underneath the tartan skirt, which was elegantly paired with a lurid orange t-shirt. Nikki forced back a shiver. She may be overweight, but at least she didn’t dress herself blindfolded.

“Look, I’ll give you the day off tomorrow if you do this one manuscript. You’ve been working like a slave for the past few days,” Joan smiled, her teeth glinting in the office fluorescents. “I’ll put a call in to Mr. Green and see what I can do.” She smiled again and walked off, her empty arms swinging by her side.

Nikki looked at the manuscript she had been handed and winced. The person hadn’t even bothered to put a name on the query sheet. Scratch that. The author hadn’t even bothered with a query sheet. Nikki sighed and pulled her chair closer to her cluttered desk, knocking over a small tub of pens. They landed on the floor with an alarming crash and Nikki froze. No one looked up. Everyone’s eyes were still glued to their chosen manuscripts, their eyes sweeping over the words. Nikki relaxed and straightened up. She would get the pens later. First, reading the manuscript. Then the pens. Then, hopefully, home.

Home. It filled Nikki with equal excitement and dread. Excitement because it was a warm bed and food and her little boy in a single place. Dread because at seven o’clock, as always, her thoughts would be shattered by the ringing phone. She would answer and hear her father’s pleading voice as it slithered its way from the prison. It would be asking her to take him back, to love him again. She would slam the phone down and feel the guilt rise in her chest like vomit. She said no to him every day. But he would keep calling. Again, and again and again, a relentless onslaught of fear and guilt and remorse and love all rolled into one ball of rubbish. It was horrible. Sometimes she just wished that she could say yes. But she couldn’t.  She never could.

He committed fraud and embezzlement for over twenty years, fuelling the arms races and wars in the Middle East. He was sentenced two years ago, and she had disowned him then. She had said no for the first time then, and well, she had never stopped since.

Nikki sighed and ran her hand over the smooth paper of the manuscript. There was a perfect ratio of words to space. The paragraphs were varied, the sentences smooth. The words were formed perfectly, with just the right amount of technicality to make it interesting and challenging for the reader. Despite the lack of query sheet, this wasn’t looking too bad. Nikki smiled and sat the paper on her lap, running her fingers up and down the edges. To everyone else in the world, the paper would look dirty, tainted by the black scribbles that ran across its surface. As a publisher, Nikki thought the plain white of blank paper was hideous, naked, tainted by its purity. With the words, it was complete.

Nikki pulled the elastic band off the paper and began to read;
       
 Nicola always had a knack for odd talents. Whether she would humour us with her vivacious bird calls or teach us how to dig for worms like a pro, that girl had the kind of spunk most people envied. The kind that always lit up her eyes and planted a big, toothy grin on her face. Of course, spunk like that’s bound to put a girl in trouble if she’s not too careful with how she handles it.
        And Nicola, well, she thought she was invincible at the time.
        She liked to take risks in ways that would put stunt doubles to shame. I remember once, someone had told her that standing near an open window on the second floor was dangerous, after some story on the news caught Nic’s eye. When someone told little hot-head she can’t do something, she took it as a challenge. Always. She found a way to trump the challenge, defy it with more pride than a whole crowd of people could possibly muster. So that girl promised she wouldn’t stand by the window.
        Rather, she promised herself she’d stand on it.

Nicola paused and narrowed her eyes. She had heard this story before. She closed her eyes and tried to bring back the ending, the author, the person in question, something to help her. Nothing. Her mind drew a blank. Opening her eyes, Nikki looked back down at the manuscript. It was probably just coincidence. She continued:

 A few days later, Nicola discoed on the windowsill of her two story bedroom. She danced like there was no tomorrow, her little hands bouncing up and down, and her toes shimmying along the ‘sill. Right as her hand jabbed upward to complete her celebration dance, her face twisted in pain once in response to the tip of her finger jamming into the upper part of the window. All it took was that one split second, that one moment for her to squeeze her little eyes shut and involuntarily sneak a step forward.
        The ear-splitting screech came first, then her totter forward. She fell, down, down, down, as though she would never stop. I almost moved to catch her, to stop her fall, but thankfully, the bushes cradled her as she landed. For a moment she lay still, perfectly still, and then with a juddering gasp, she screamed. My heart relaxed and I smiled. I knew she was safe. I knew I still had something to live for.

The manuscript spiralled through the air, pages crumpling as they hit the ground. Nikki stood up, her face lined with sweat and her hand grasped around one of her fingers. Everyone in the office was staring now. Nikki didn’t care, not really. Her heart fluttered in her chest, a bird trying to escape its cage, and her brain thudded and thumped, trying to make sense of what had just happened. She had been reading the manuscript, and then...and then....

“Nikki, are you alright?”

Joan’s voice echoed through her ear and Nikki blinked. She whipped her head round and saw the eyes of her twelve co-workers watching her, examining her.  Bile rose in her throat and she grasped Joan by the arm. “Bathroom. Now.”

“Wait, wha-”

Nikki didn’t listen to what Joan said behind her. She could feel the sweat trickling down her spine, soaking into the rim of her dress. Her heart slowed down, just a bit, and her brain thudded less loudly, quieting to little more than a whisper. She opened the door to the bathroom and pulled Joan inside after her. She went over to the sink and looking in the mirror, burst into tears.

“Nikki! What’s wrong?” Nikki felt Joan’s hand touch her shoulder. “What happened? What’s the matter?”

Nikki gulped back a sob. “The manuscript,” she choked, her throat clogged with rising hiccups, “it’s...it’s...”

“What is it? What’s wrong?” Joan’s face paled slightly. “It’s not about murder or R.A.P.E is it?”

Nikki hiccupped and shook her head. “No. It’s about...me.”

That set off her tears again. They spilled from her cheeks in torrents, spilling into the sink below like raindrops. Nikki squeezed her eyes shut and caressed her finger. “The story was about me.”



Tuesday, 7 August 2012

How I Write - Plots

Hello! I decided to do a How I Write today, seeing as I haven't done one in a while, but first, I would like to give you all a book recommendation -  Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

Now, it is not very often I read a book in less than three days, but I swear - that book is genius. It's funny, it's smart, it's got amazing characters and the very concept is brimming with awesomeness. I suggest you go out and buy it. Now.

Ok, now that that's over and done with, here's the actual blog post. And, roll the tape...



Plot. We all know what it is, but I'll put the definition here anyway -  :the plan, scheme, or main story of literary or dramatic work, such as a play, novel, or short story.

A plot is essential to all stories, novels, plays, and anything else that could be classified, in one way or another as a story. The plot is a backbone, the spine of the story. Without the spine, the arms and legs don't work and the story goes nowhere. It just flops on the ground, dead. So, to make a story work, you need a plot. I won't insult your intelligence any more on this point - I'm pretty sure most of you know that already.

In an Englsih teachers mind, a plot should look like an arc, with a beginning, middle and end. If you want to elaborate it should have a beginning (introducing characters, themes, etc), and middle (raising of tension), a climax, and then a resolution. So, a story in graph form should look like this:



So an example (I like examples) - Cinderella. 
Exposition = Boring life, treated badly by sisters.
Rising action = Meets random fairy person, gets transformed into a super model, goes to ball, meets Prince, loses slipper, goes back to awful life.
Climax = Prince finds her and makes her try on slipper.
Falling action = It fits and the Prince proposes. (+one chorus of 'Awwwwwwww')
Resolution = They get married and leave the ugly sisters to stew.

Tada, easy peasy, right?

Wrong.

I said at the start that this is an English teachers plot diagram. This is the extremely simple, 5 year old plot diagram. If you want to be a writer, make things more complicated. The plot may be a spine, but its very flexible. Use that! Change it up a bit. Leave out the tension building, go straight to the climax! Ignore the resolution - use a cliffhanger! 

In my story The Sad, Sad, Case of Jeremy Moore, there was a plot - but no real climax. However, Over and Out followed the plot graph to a tee. So, just make it up. Plots don't have to be straightforward. You have secondary plots, little plots inside big plots, cliffhangers, double climaxes...

So while English teacher's think a story should look like a triangle, it actually ends up looking like this:

A plot graph for a film, which is another form of story.

So, that's plots. I could into so much more detail about this, but I won't. All you need to know is that plots are spines, and that so long as you have one that can be laid out on a graph (who cares if it's messy), it's fine, and your story won't die. If it doesn't...well, you'd better call in the surgeons. 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Fire is an Oxymoron - Part 2...and the Olympics!

Good morning (or good night to those of you in the America's) Well, I don't know how many of you are keeping up with the Olympics, but it's been a busy few days in London. Bradley Wiggins winning Tour de France and an Olympic gold in one month. Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time. That Romanian girl face-planting in the gymnastics. And of course, the thing that started it all - the opening ceremony.

I watched the whole thing, and I found it breath-taking. I loved the way Danny Boyle showed Britain changing, and how he managed to work literature into it. Voldemort made a guest appearance, coupled with his creator, J.K Rowling. It was amazing. Some people I've spoken to didn't understand it, but I don't think you were meant to. It showed what Britain is and was. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you go onto Youtube and watch it. Right now. On you go. I won't get angry, I promise.

Anyway, with that over, here's Part 2 of Fire is an Oxymoron. Enjoy (and tell me what you thought of the Olympics in the comments!)

Fire is a Oxymoron - Part 2

The cobbled street stretched on for yards twisting this way and that through the labyrinth of Erlion. Lara started to feel a butterfly flutter in her chest. Had she taken a wrong turn? She must have. She stopped and looked at the buildings around her. They were dark and filthy, with broken tattered windows and puddles of urine gathered around their doors. The cobbles were slick with oil. Lara felt a lump rise in her throat. She had taken a wrong turn. When? She had no idea. The city was constantly changing, evolving; the streets were moving and readjusting themselves with every year that passed. There was no way to know where she was. Not unless she asked someone, and she couldn’t do that.

Lara gulped and started walking again. Her hand moved to her pocket and she fumbled the box. It was small and papery, but inside it was the gift of life. The one thing that she had to keep hidden. The gift of fire.

“Hello, missy.” A voice suddenly sounded in the alley and Lara froze, her hand tight around the box.

“Hello.”  A figure stepped out from the darkness and Lara took a step forward. A hand pressed into her back, and shivers erupted up her spine. The hand was calloused and squat.

The figure in front of her stepped forward and Lara saw a man, clad in rags. He was smiling a tombstone grin, black gaps between his yellow teeth. A gold ring glinted in the moonlight. Lara gulped. The gold ring was a sign of the snatchers. She was a young girl, unprotected, and now, she was their victim.

“L-Leave me alone,” she squeaked. It was pathetic and the man in front of her smiled.

“Come on, sweetheart. Let’s see that pretty face.” He took a step forward and reached out his hand. “Come on. Off with the scarf.”

“No.”

The man raised his eyebrows. “No? Jim you heard her. She said no.” His voice was dripping with sarcasm.  

His smile dropped from his face and he cocked his head. “Jim. Hold her.”

Lara felt the hand on her back move and close around her wrist, quick as a hummingbird’s heart beat. His nails dug into her skin, ripping the knuckles on her hand, and Lara gasped as pain shot through her wrist. She could feel the bones crunching together, and each time she moved the grip got tighter. The realization was a trickle, a stream of slow moving consciousness. She was trapped. And there was nothing she could do.
The first man moved closer until she could feel his breath on her ear. It was sour and dirty, a sewer of waste and dirt. A crow cawed and the man grinned. “I’m going to take off your pretty scarf now.”

“No. NO.” Lara’s eyes widened and she could feel her heart thumping to an erratic beat in her chest. “NO!”
The man chuckled and his pinkie traced the outline if the fabric. It blew up around Lara’s face and she gulped. The man moved all of his fingers under the scarf and he smiled. “Yes.” With a flick of his wrist, the scarf fell to the floor, and the man fell to his knees.

His face was white with shock and his eyes were wide with fear. His pupils reflected her face. It was mangled and ripped, a chunk gone from her cheek. The skin was lumpy and pitted, scars coating her lopsided mouth and her nose was pushed out of place. She was hideous.

 Lara felt the hands move off her wrist and footsteps vanished into the distance. Lara looked at the man in front of her. He was quivering and his knees were banging together as they scraped at the rough ground. 

“You-you-you...” the man gulped. “Mira?”

“No.” Lara jerked backwards and picked her headscarf off from the floor. Her face was contorted with fury and rage burned through her veins. “No. I’m Lara.”

“But...it’s you. Princess Mira. You’re King Missat’s daughter. You are. I know you are...” the man trailed 
off, his eyes roaming Lara’s face. “You are her.”

Lara began wrapping the scarf around her head again. “No. I’m Lara.”

“NO, you’re not.” The man stood up and creased his wrinkled brow. “I could see your face from a mile away,” he said. He snarled and his face turned normal again, regaining its shiny red glaze. “You know that you’re the reason we can’t have fire? You know it’s your fault that I have to wear this thing every day?” He jabbed at his ring. “I used to be a cook in the kitchen. And then the disaster happened and I was sacked and left on the street. Your father’s still in mourning. You are the reason this place is going to the dogs. You’re the reason I haven’t had hot food in weeks. You’re the reason your father won’t leave his room. You’re Mira.”

Lara looked the man in the eye. “I was, but then I died. I am dead, ok. I’m not alive. I died in that fire - it’s better if everyone just believed that.” She turned away and started walking down the street, her hand settled back in her pocket. She could feel her pulse in her wrist, thumping and sizzling. Keep walking, keep walking, she was fine...

The man grabbed her wrist. “I know you’re alive. I can tell people.”

“Yeah, great idea. Have everyone think you’re insane. How clever,” Lara said, still walking.

“Not if I can bring you to the king. Then you can’t lie.”

Lara’s heart clenched and she turned around, her face turned downwards in a snarl. “Do you know who you are talking to?”

The man smiled. “You are the Princess Mira, daughter of King Missat and brother of Co-”

Lara moved forward and clamped a hand over the man’s mouth. “Do not say his name. I am not Mira. I am Lara - a gypsy, a child, a traveller. I come here every winter for shelter and then I leave. My parents are dead, and I have no brothers.” Lara let her hand go from the man’s mouth. “Now, let me go in peace.” She whipped around and started walking again.

“Stop it. NOW. You can save your father, you can save this kingdom. Come on, Mira! You are the princess, the heir, the saviour. Please. I want my old job back. I don’t like this way of life. I want to be clean and well fed again. Please! Help me! Help your people.”

Lara was getting tired of all of this. She couldn’t be bothered with his whining, his moaning. She wasn’t coming back. She was never coming back. Her dad would murder her, the peasants and the people would hate her. She was disfigured - she couldn’t be Queen. And besides, Cojo was the heir. Was the heir.

Lara heard the man open his mouth to speak again and, reaching into her pocket, she said, “Stop. I’m not coming back. I can’t.  I don’t want to help you - you tired to kidnap me and force me into your silly little games. I’m ugly, I’m sick and I’m tired of caring. No one cared for me before the fire. My own father wanted me to die. He said it himself. The fire was an escape route, a way out. And trust me, I don’t want to return to this place again. Not when I finally have some freedom.” Lara pulled out the box turned round to face the man. She held the box up towards the moonlight. “Do you know what this is?”
T
he man nodded. “How did you get that? They were all burned after the fire,” he said. His voice was slow and soft, and realisation was dawning in his eyes.

Lara opened the box and pulled out a thin, sleek match. “I’ve had it for years. It’s mine. I have the gift of fire. I’ve used it before - five years ago. I used it to save myself, to give myself an escape route. And guess what?” Lara struck the match and held it above her head. The flame flickered and the man’s face was illuminated by the twinkling fire. His eyes were wide and orange with the glow and Lara fl ether mouth turn upwards in a smile. “I’m going to use it again.”  And with a showman’s flourish, the match tumbled onto the ground.

The oil on the ground sparked and flames erupted from the dirty cobbles. The fire rippled outwards in great burning tides and a piercing scream filled the air as the man was engulfed in its waves, and stolen beneath the shore of red. Lara turned away and walked. She could feel the heat on her back, and she could feel flames lick her cheek, but she the scar tissue left her nerves dead. She could burn and never feel it.

Lara strolled away from the flames, keeping her head pressed against her chest as the shouts and the screams started across the city. Children were running, men, women and grandparents were yelling and grabbing buckets and everyone was sprinting towards the fire, towards that tiny alleyway. No one noticed her walking through the mob, pushing in the opposite direction. No one saw the gypsy, and no one saw the princess. She kept her eyes down and her hands in her pockets, tickling the box of matches. Her hands were shaking and her heart danced in her chest, spasming and writhing. The last time she had done that was five years ago, when she had lit the fire and caused the disaster. She could remember it too clearly - the matches, smooth under her fingertips, the heat of the fire pressing against her face, the searing pain as it licked her pale lips, and the sound of Cojo screaming and bawling as he went down, down, down, swallowed by the red and orange tide.

Lara pushed her way through the crowds of people and arrived back at the gate. The guards were standing still and straight as ever, but fear played on their faces. Lara contorted her face into a stricken expression. “I want my dog. I need to leave this place.”

The guard looked at her and nodded. “Yes,” he said. He turned round and walked through a small wooden gate to his left. Lara could hear the yells getting louder and through the slits in her headscarf she could see the orange getting higher and higher, burning the sky with its fiery jaws.

The guard came back a moment later with a dog - a Saluki with short black hair and a white chest. The tips of its ears were a vivid brown and it had four brown socks. Lara let it sniff her hand and then she placed a finger on its rump. The dog came to her side obediently, and Lara nodded at the guard. “Thank you.”

The guard nodded back and said, “Goodbye. And take care.”

Lara smiled and tapped the new dog on the rump. In her mind it was already Cojo, in memory of her little brother. He was only five when he died. Helpless. Vulnerable. Tiny, in memory and death.  It made her feel sick. Lara gulped down bile and marched back into the forest. The dog was shivering and Lara felt for the matches in her pocket. The gift of fire.

It is light, and it is darkness. It begets life, and then, it destroys it.