Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Fledglings - Part 1

Hey everyone! How are we all doing? I'm studying like crazy just now, hence the lack of posts. On another note, Friday was Halloween (my town is weird...don't look at me like that...) and so, I present unto you, my lovely followers, readers and random stalkers - my costume/my face.


I was tired, so I wasn't smiling, and I lost my moustache, but still - MARIO! Also, a quick reminder for new followers - if you want to read older stories, the Library tab had all the links, so just go there ^.^

Anyway, on with the story. I wrote this a week or so ago, and I love it to bits. However, the reviews on Figment haven't been that good. Please tell me what you think!

Fledglings - Part 1

Flick.

Simon crumpled his nose into the duvet and turned onto his stomach.

Flick.

Flick.

Rolling over, Simon opened his eyes. They blurred in and out of focus, but he caught a glimpse of Asa towering over him, his wings fluttering in front of his face.

Flick.

“Ugh, Asa, stop it.” Simon pulled himself into an upright position and stretched. His wings unfurled behind him, hitting the wall. “You could just ask me to get up, you know.”

Asa shrugged and moved away from the bed. “Yeah, but that’s not as much fun. What’s the point of having wings if you can’t annoy people with them?” He made to flick the tip into Simon’s nose again, but Simon caught the feather between his fingers and pushed it away.

“Will you put the kettle on?”

“Done already. It stopped whistling a few seconds before I first flicked you.”

Simon pulled the duvet away from his body, his eyes wandering around the dimly lit room. The dark wood walls were stained with mud, and the stove was covered with grease and slime. The duvet rolled onto the floor and covered the small, soft mat that was Asa’s bed. There wasn’t much else there – just a saucepan, two mugs, discarded packet of crisps and a small bird cage perched on top of a bucket. The room was a house, and the house was a shack. It had been built to hold wood from the nearby forest, but, seeing as Asa and Simon needed a house, they had decided to inhabit it. They had had a Dad - Asa said he could remember him - but he had vanished when they were eight. They had come here and made it their home. It wasn’t great, but they didn’t need much. When you’re an Angel, the sky is your playground. The ground is merely an inconvenience.

Simon stood up and stretched again. His crumpled day -old clothes hung off his frame and his hair was ruffled.

“Do you want to go for an early morning fly?”

Glancing at his brother, Simon nodded. He couldn’t be bothered having to stretch and exercise, not this early in the morning, but it was better just to agree with everything Asa said. They were identical twins, but Asa always seemed the older one, the more powerful one. He was confident and strong and wilful. It was better just to nod and say yes, instead of trying to argue with him.

“Right. Spells, yeah?”

Simon nodded, and with a flick of his wrist, cast his hand down his body. He felt a shimmer of heat and a flicker of light and then, nothing. He was invisible. They had discovered how to do it by accident, but it worked extremely well. They lived in the middle of nowhere, but there was a town ten minutes away and a dirt road passing by the hut. They couldn’t chance being seen...not by humans at least.

Reaching over, Simon unlocked the cage door, smiling at the sparrow that jumped onto his palm. It was tiny, its hooked feet smaller than a fingernail. It had been hurt a few months ago, and while Asa was all for cooking it, Simon persuaded him to rescue it instead. It got better in a matter of weeks, but it had refused to leave. Simon called it Glue after that, and it lived up to its name perfectly. Simon held his hand up and the sparrow jumped into the air, zooming around the room. Simon watched it for a moment, before snapping out of his daze and turning back to Asa.

“Are you ready, or are you just going to ogle the bird for the next five hundred years?” Asa had his hand on the door, and his eyebrows were raised to the ceiling.

“I’m ready.”

Asa nodded. “Good.” He opened the door and stepped out into the cool, crisp air. Simon followed and felt a pleasant shiver as the sun lighted upon his feathers. A sea of soft grass spilled out in front of him and with a smile, he bent his knees and jumped.

His wings flapped pathetically for a second, but then a sharp gust of wind carried him upwards into the crisp blue sky. Simon tilted his head back and let his wings float him upwards, further and further away from the patchwork of fields and roads and crops. He never grew tired of this - the exhilarating joy that coated every inch of him as he flew. The wind blurred his eyes and rouged his cheeks, but he didn’t care. Beside him, Glue circled the sun, singing and whistling a happy tune as he followed his master. Simon let him curve round his head, and then, with a grin and a whoop, he dived. He swooped and fell and tilted, angling his wings as he spiralled through the air, playing with the sparrow as it tweeted and skipped.  He grinned and after a few minutes of acrobatics, he stopped beside Asa, who was hovering above the house, a nonchalant whistle on his lips.

 “So...what are you doing today?”

Asa shrugged and tilted to avoid the passing sparrow. “I don’t know. I might go and see Elsie. “
Simon pulled a face. “Her? Again?”

“Well, yeah. She is my girlfriend. You generally have to see each other for the whole relationship to work.”

“I know, I know...I just don’t see what you see in her.”

Asa scoffed. “Just because you’re going to be alone for the rest of your life.”

“Ok, Asa. Whatever you say.”  A smile ghosted on Simon’s face. Asa’s immature comments always made him smile. They were so...insipid. “Hey, did you hear about-”
The sentence died in his throat and Simon froze. Goosebumps coated his skin as a peculiar feeling spread down to his toes and into the air. He turned to face Asa and swallowed. “Did you feel that?”

Asa’s face had gone white. “Yup. Do you think...” He let the sentence trail off and the feeling covered them again. It was a tidal wave, a tugging, a gentle prod in the side. It was a magnet spinning, a compass needle turning, a ragged breath and an uprush of dust. It was everything and nothing.

It was Death.  


Friday, 26 October 2012

My First Rejection!

A few months ago I sent my manuscript of Blue to Take A Break's Fiction Feast magazine. I waited for a reply, and then today, after getting in from school, I found it sitting amongst letters and discarded leaflets.

It said No.

Now, to most people  this would be horrible, terrible, breaking their heart, self-esteem and pride. But I'm sitting here writing this with a grin on my face. For most, a rejection would be a sign of their failure, but to me, its a sign of success.

Most of you are just looking at the screen just now and thinking 'What the hell is she on? Drugs? Tea? Vodka? Seriously, is she alright?' and that's to be expected. The truth is, the rejection letter shows that I tried, something very few writers ever do. I submitted to a magazine, and though I was turned down, someone still picked it up, read it, and deliberated  if only for a second.

Which, although small and insignificant, is a triumph for me.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Voltaire and Rousseau! *Day 5*

Hey! Day 4 has been missed out for the simple fact that it was mainly photos and the stupid camera won't transfer them onto the computer -.- So, I've skipped ahead to Day 5, the last day. Also, I'm actually writing a short story! WOOOOOO!

Voltaire and Rousseau - Day 5

In retrospect, this last entry will be messy and strange and weird, but I guess that can’t be helped. I have to vomit the words on the page, and it’s not my fault where they land.

It’s funny. After one week of working in Voltaire and Rousseau, stacking books and cleaning the wounded paperbacks from the floor, it no longer seems messy.

You probably think I’m crazy, but it’s true. The books are all in their proper places - two from the bottom of the stack on the right side of the war section or three from the top in the shelf where the ladder rests. I can close my eyes and take a virtual tour around the shop, and I know where everything is. I recognise the books that shine on my eyelids, and I know exactly where to step so the books don’t come tumbling down. I know where everything is.

Which is why, on the last day of my work experience, my awe vanished.

When I first arrived in the shop, everything was new. The titles were strange and interesting - The Romance of Lace, A Dictionary of Scottish Painters, 365 Reasons to be Cheerful etc. Everywhere you looked there was something new. There was another book, another fact, another story hidden in the mountains of paper and leather.

But now? Well, the magic’s gone. I know where everything is. I’ve catalogued the first layer of the shop (that being the stuff you can actually see) and there’s nothing left for me to notice. The next time I go it’ll be different, and I’ll be amazed again. I know I will.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to miss the shop and the people that work there. I’ll miss the students, the regulars and the cat. I’ll miss the pigeons outside and the pesky squirrels that scurry around the shop, trying to nibble on some Chaucher or Defoe. I’ll miss the lane and I’ll miss the smell. But I won’t miss the travelling or the mild boredom that settled over me that last day.

I loved working at the shop. Not because it taught me anything valuable about work, or because I learned facts I never would have known, but because I met interesting people, customers and workers.

I wish I could elaborate, but I can’t.

Sorry.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Voltaire and Rousseau! *Day 3*

Voltaire and Rousseau - Day 3

Another day gone, and what a day it was.

The morning went by like usual - me wandering around, nudging the books into position and occasionally reading one of two (or four) or them. Only a few people of interest caught my eye:

A man came in asking if he could get some books on Antarctica, which resulted in an avalanche of 
art books cascading onto the shop floor. It turns out he wanted the books because he had been part of the team that discovered Captain Scott’s ship buried in the ice and he wanted some more information on his life and his passion.

A girl came in asking for cooking books. She was a chef who knew Gordon Ramsay and was now preparing a dinner for a group of prestigious London bankers.

Someone who worked with River City (a Glaswegian ‘soap’) phoned, asking if we could provide them with some old Burns’ poetry books. As it turned out, there weren’t very many there as a man from Edinburgh bought most of them on his weekly visits to the shop. He ran a bookshop himself, and like most of the bibliophiles in Scotland, he sourced his books from Voltaire and Rousseau. However, we managed to get enough to keep the film crew happy.

The most interesting part of the day came after lunch. I had spent my break in Kelvingrove Park, reading a book and eating sandwiches, and when I came back to the shop, I was expecting another hour or so of calm and quiet.

I was wrong.

As soon as I got in Eddie asked me if I wanted to join Ian and Brian on a house call. I said yes, and soon I was bundled into the van and we were driving through the West End. Students were pouring out onto the streets, walking in pairs and trios and quintets, all laughing and smiling and talking. Brian and Ian pointed out buildings as we chugged along, and though I was paying attention, I couldn’t reply with much more than a ‘cool’ or a ‘yeah’. I was too awestruck to give a fuller answer.

Now, I understand completely why some people (eg. my dad) don’t like Glasgow, but I love it. It’s so busy and thriving, so full of knowledge. Whispers of conversations that wafted through the windows were always about something profound or engaging and the landscape was beautiful. Golden leaves spiralled down through the shafts of sunlight and the old sandstone buildings towered like kings over the bustling streets. The place simple sang with wisdom and excitement and learning. I loved it.

Finally, after ten minutes of creeping around the one way system we arrived at the house on 68 Great George Street. It was tall and slim and unassuming. Maybe that was the point. But as soon as Brian produced the key from his pocket and opened the door, my mouth flew open.

The carpet hadn’t been hoovered in about ten years. Letters and pamphlets lay like corpses on the floor, curling up at the edges. Discarded suitcases and binders were strewn along the side of the hallway. It looked as if no one had stepped foot in it in a century, but Brian and Ian had assured me someone lived there. I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t believe it. How could someone keep their house - such a beautiful, old house - in such a mess? How?

We stepped into the living room, and my concerns vanished. The shock disappeared and was replaced with respect and amazement.

Books.

Everywhere you looked there were books. More and more of them, stacked onto bookshelves, piled onto the floor, loaded onto a sagging couch. Old paperbacks, new hardbacks, old leather covers and ancient yellow pages. Winston Churchill biographies sat on top of German dictionaries, and old leaflets about Glasgow expenditures were crumpled under huge volumes of classic Polish literature.

What made it even more bizarre was the fact that the room was covered in comic book posters and Doctor Who paraphernalia.  A life size Dalek was stuck to the window, while a collectible Batman figurine stood, arms crossed, atop a book of poetry. There was a Cyberman stuck behind the TV, and a ‘How to Draw Comic Strips’ book hidden amidst piles and piles of Penguin paperback novels.

The house looked like it belonged to a student - someone who was studying to become a graphic designer, a video game creator - but that would have been impossible. No one could collect that amount of books in such a small amount of time. You would need a time lord’s lifespan to gather all those books, and an even longer one to stack them all.

It was amazing and ridiculous and strange and inspiring.

After the initial wave of wonder had gone, Brian, Ian and I got to work. Stacking the books in our arms, we staggered into the sunlight and piled them into the van before turning back and getting some more. We repeated the process over and over, until the van was full to bursting with books.

But in that time of stacking and sorting and waiting for Ian/Brian to finish unloading their bundle, something strange happened.

My heart swelled and joy flooded my heart and my mind. It was so...odd, but invigoration. Just standing outside a dusty house, books in my arms and a smile on my face made me want to sing. Leaves corkscrewed to the ground and the sunlight hit the pavement with a glimmer. Students smiled at me as they walked past, their eyes sliding involuntarily to the van full of books. They smiled at the books too. One or two even waved at me, a grin on their faces.

I have never felt so alive, so full of happiness and light.

Eventually, Ian and I got back into the van and drove back to Otago Lane. Hardbacks fell and crushed my neck, but it was worth it. I would go back to that house a million times, just to see those books again...just to see those leather bound covers merging with Green Lantern comic strips. The old and new.

And that was that.

Tomorrow there will be pictures. I promise.



Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Voltaire and Rousseau! *Day 2*

Hey! I'll just get on with it, I think!

Voltaire and Rousseau- Day 2

Another day at the shop.

Another day amongst Shakespeare and Doyle and Austen, amongst boulder sized Bibles and palm sized novels.

Another day of smiling, and another day of picking up the books that have fallen to the floor.

Like yesterday was punctuated by books, today was punctuated by people. So many people! Eccentrics, students, foreigners, people off the street, all flooding in to have a look at the marvellous place that is Voltaire and Rousseau. No one left without a purchase, and no one left without a smile on their faces. I could document every one of them, pointing out the details that stick in my mind - the woman with flyaway hair and wiry hands; the man with half moon spectacles and white gloves; the babble of students who knocked over most of the history section with one well aimed push to the side; the student who simply stared, open mouthed, before absentmindedly picking up a book and paying for it; the man who talked at length about how he traces illustrations from old books and sells them.  I could tell you about all of them, but instead I’ll narrow it down, starting with Brian.

Brian isn’t a customer. Yesterday, when I got a fleeting glance of him through the window I thought he was, but it turns out, he actually works in the shop. Not that he’s meant to. He was a painter that had been hired to re-decorate the lane, but he was quickly roped in to collecting books and putting them away. He’s nice, cheery. At first glance, he looks as though he’s in his late 50s - all wrinkles and crevasses  - but when he smiles, the years drop off his face. He smiles a lot. And laughs. He has a booming laugh that wakes the cat, causing it to mew and squeal before setting back down on an old copy of The History of Britain and falling asleep.

Brian and I had some good conversations. We talked about school, about music, about books (a subject that he apparently doesn’t care about, despite the fact he helps out in a bookshop). He laughed at my comments and I laughed at his. He told everyone who would listen that I was his new boss, and that if they needed anything, they were to go to me.

And they did.

The second person I want to tell you about was an older student. She came into the shop in the early afternoon, a pink scarf round her neck and fingerless gloves on her hands. She smiled at me and went straight to the theology section.

She was there for over half an hour until she talked to me. “Excuse me,” she asked, “do you work here?” I nodded and she beamed. “Could you get that book down for me?” She pointed to a bookshelf, and my heart jumped into my mouth.

I would be lying if I called it a book. It was a beast.

The book the woman was pointing at was a Bible the size of a small dog. Its leather covers where falling off and the page were frayed and ripped at the edges. It was perched on top of some folios, and its mighty spine was brushing the ceiling. I needed to use the ladder. In fact, I would need to use a jetpack.

I hurried off the find the ladder, bumping it off shins and lights as I moved it towards the Bible. The woman was watching me, the ghost of a smile on her face. I couldn’t tell whether she was amused or sympathetic, but either way, she wasn’t exactly helping. I climbed the ladder and curved my hand around the beast. I edged it out, inch by inch, until it was resting in my hand. It weighed a ton and handing it to the woman below I could almost hear my bones creaking, trying not to drop it on her head. She smiled and said thank you, and then wandered off, the Bible under the arm.

And guess what? An hour later, after she had left, I found the beast sitting among paperback novels, joined by its friends The Family Bible and The Analytical Bible, both of which were just as big and just as heavy. I had to climb the ladder and put the monsters back on their shelves, almost breaking my arms in the process.

Stupid woman.

The third/fourth people I want to tell you about arrived in the morning and, again, headed straight for the theology section. One was a boy, and one was a girl. Both were students and at first I paid no attention to them. It was only when I tuned into their conversation that I began to smile.

The girl was German, still learning English, but they were having a conversation about the effects of the Scottish Reformation on English culture.

I have never wanted to be a student so much in my life. So many interesting conversations! So many books, and words, and friends, and journeys (metaphorical and literal)! So much stimulus! I sounded like heaven, and as I listened I itched to join their conversation, but I couldn’t. So instead, I listened, and I listened well.

And finally, the authors.                                                                                                                                                       

Every so often, a thought would pop into my head. Every one of these books has an author. Every one of them. Who writes books on Romanian politics in the 1990s? WHO?
The thought vanished as soon as it arrived, though it did make frequent visits. I’ll ponder it more tomorrow.

For now though, so long, and thanks for all the fish.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Voltaire and Rousseau! *Day 1*

Hello, mes amigos! I'm so happy to see you! Why? Becuase my blogger has been down for a grand total of 7 days. Shocking, isn't it? I expected better of you internet. I really did.

Anyway, now that everything seems to be working, I can show you what I've been writing for the last few days - a journal of my work experience. I was on my work experience last week in an bookshop called Voltaire and Rousseau. It's stowed away in Glasgow's West End, and it is amazing. Like, super super super awesome cool amazing. I really can't explain how much I loved working there.

But I can explain what I did each day, thanks to my journally thing I kept. So, without further ado, here's day 1. I'll post the rest of them throughout the week!

Voltaire and Rousseau - Day 1

As I write this, the books look like corpses.

It’s a sad analogy, but it’s true.  In this small, second hand bookshop in the West End of Glasgow, the books are piled to the ceiling and stacked on the floor. Their covers are dusty and their pages are worn. The titles, once so beautifully embossed in gold leaf, have now faded, and the illustrations on their covers are scribbled and covered with remnants of their owners - chewing gum, hair, grease, sweat. They are all dying. Each and every one of them. Even the new ones are dying, choked by the books piled on top of them.

But even so, I love this place. Its name is Voltaire and Rousseau, and it is here that I’m doing my work experience. The work borders on boring, but I don’t mind. I like the smell of the books and the smiles that students flash at me as they pick their way through the jungle of paper and leather. I like the cat too, even though it ignores me. I like the owners and I like the ambiance of the place, the calm that seeps into the air and into your lungs. It’s hard to feel stressed when you’re in that shop. Which is good, because I’ve been going through a lot lately. I might go into more detail about my problems later, but for now, let’s concentrate on the beauty of dying books and their dying bookshop.

Voltaire and Rousseau opened over 30 years ago, and as much as I hate to admit it, you can tell. The books stacked precariously at the bottom of piles are covered in dust. They haven’t moved since they arrived, and the amount of books that are on top of them, they aren’t likely to move again. They are paralysed - just another victim, just another corpse.

The owners - a set of brothers - amble around the shop, occasionally shifting books or making tea in the back room. Like I said earlier, it’s hard to be stressed in here. Even so, you can see the worry in their faces. They still get customers, but the online book industry has hit them hard. Before, they were taking in boxes of books at a time, but now, they can’t take any more. The stock isn’t shifting, despite the insane amount of students that bustle in and out of the shop every day.

Me, I don’t do much. I sit and read, I shuffle books, restacking them so they don’t tip. I drink the tea that has been handed to me by Ian McGonnigle, one of the brothers. I place books on the top of shelves and I clear up the books that have, through a change in air current or the whisper of the cat’s tail, fallen to the ground and refused to stand up again. I move the wounded. I clean the dirty. I help the students who are looking for the poetry section (so well hidden it took me a moment to find it amongst the plays and novels). I let people walk past me as they saunter round the shop. It’s calming work.

Today, the first day of my work experience, only one incident made me stop in my tracks. It was nearing lunchtime and Ian had pulled a stool outside for me to sit on. I had been searching for inspiration around the long forgotten shelves and rare books, scribbling things down in my notebook when Ian had asked if I wanted to go out. I sat my notebook on a pile of books, and went to pick up my bag.

That was my first mistake.

Any writer knows the feeling of fear in their stomach when someone reads their notes. You’re being violated, probed, examined. Someone you don’t know is reading your innermost thoughts and feelings and characters and plots and ideas. Someone you don’t know is ripping you to shreds.

Which is why I was horrified to find that a group of students had picked up my notebook and were picking through it as I grabbed my jacket from the floor.

I didn’t think.

Perhaps I should have.

I ran over to the students (two girls, one boy) and grabbed the notebook from their hands. Confusion, like a blanket, settled over their faces first, but it was quickly replaced with something that looked like shock. And then realisation.

“Oh God,” the boy said, his brown eyes widening to the size of saucers. “Was that- Is that yours?”

I nodded, hugging the notebook to my chest.

A flurry of apologies whipped the air around me: “I didn’t realise...it was just sitting there...we thought it was a novel...there was a short story...I’m so sorry...”

After a moment of watching the trio blush I forced a smile. “It was my fault,” I said. “I shouldn’t have left it out.”

“No, no, it was us...I’m so sorry...we didn’t mean to...”

I shook my head, and after a few moments of silence, the trio, still red faced,  turned away.

Everyone always complains that I have messy handwriting. They say I should tidy it up, that I should teach myself to write properly.  But why would I want to? Why would I want my writing to be so easily accessible to the public? People called Da Vinci strange and weird for writing left to right, but can you really blame him?

That was my first day at work experience. I’m nervous for tomorrow. But I'll be fine. I know I will. 





Saturday, 6 October 2012

Adverbs

Louise walked quickly across the bumpy ground, breathing heavily. There were voices shouting loudly in the distance and she tried to walk as quietly as she could towards them. The air was eerily calm, not even the annoyingly loud crowing of a raven breaking the ridiculously peaceful air. Louise came to a clearing and carefully stepped over a tree root. There they were. The filthy cannibals, all screaming and chanting, already starting the fire. Louise took another step forward and accidentally snapped a twig, nearly falling into the fire. She glanced up hurriedly and stared into the glinting eyes of the ravenously hungry people around her. The chanting had stopped.

She had been captured by the Adverb Tribe.

Count the number of adverbs in the passage above. Most of you here will say 11, when in fact there are 14. The reason most of you will get this wrong is that, although we are told time and time again that adverbs show how something is done, the definition is wrong. Sorry, English teachers. But adverbs can range from carefully, nowhere, never and later. It's confusing, which is why today, I'm going to a) save you from the Adverb Tribe and b) teach you a bit about adverbs.

Adverbs, as I've already said, come in all shapes and sizes, with different definitions floating around for each type. But the broad description of an adverb is a word that modifies a part of speech. Despite what we are always told, it doesn't have to be a verb. 

Verb Adverbs
We'll start with the one most people now - the verb adverb. You know the type - seedy, hanging around in bars and grabbing onto an verb they can find with their greasy, slimy hands. I hate those adverbs. In my opinion, they make writing seem cheap. If you have to use an adverb to describe how a character acts, then you aren't very good at showing (For showing and telling, see my post HERE) However, there are some times when you can to use them. As a general rule, I use about 1 adverb per 1000 words. 

But anyway - examples:

Bob ran quickly. (Not needed - running implies quickness)
"I want out of here," Jill said angrily. (If you are good at showing, you should be able to suggest that Jill is angry in previous paragraphs. Or you could use dialogue tags)

Place Adverbs
These are the adverbs that describe where something happen - here, there, abroad, downstairs, somewhere. You know the type. They don't look like adverb, but they are. These can be given some slack, becuase if you don't use them, your writing will be more confusing. Most of these adverbs are also prepositions.

'Why' Adverbs
These describe why something happens (they're also called adverbs of purpose). Words like so, in order to, purposefully, incidentally, accidentally and because are all adverbs of purpose. These are harder to spot, and again, it's fine to use them. It's really just verb adverbs I detest.

Frequency Adverbs
Pretty straightforward - these describe how often something happened. So words like sometimes, never, every, seldom and sometimes are adverbs that fit under this incantatory.

And finally,

Time Adverbs
These show you when something took place - after, already, yesterday, soon, tomorrow etc. 

And that's that. Have a look over the passage above again, and you should see more adverbs than you did the last time. It's quite amazing how many times we use adverbs, and we don't even know we're doing it!
I hope you enjoyed this post, and it wasn't too confusing. I only learned this about two weeks ago, and it's taken me that long to wrap my head around it, but perhaps you'll do better.