Sympathy for you,
is that for the devil.
Hidden beyond the river, in the mouth of a god.
a tireless melody
rehearsed without song.
Echo forth, in search,
it finds me.
Kneeled down, wounds concealed
in mud that clings
Magicians step, between natures gold,
tears of the forest,
soundless above the fall of the Earth.
In casted shade, broken shadow of dusk,
my senses tricked
forever tempted, by ancient dance.
secret of ageless alchemist,
antidote to deceivers curse,
flows over lovers palms, through marked destiny,
branded by sun, obeyed by moonlight,
before a silhouette.
I offer to you.
I finally motivated myself to take part in a word prompt, just uh, a little late (this is from Tuesday). The prompt “sympathy” is from the blog The Daily Post. Is this a blog? Or wordpress witchcraftery? Not sure! I’m following it either way.
I might write another post deconstructing the poem and talking about how each part is relevant. However, poetry is supposed to be whatever is made of it by the reader, and with that in mind, I might not. The only reason I guess I’d do it would be from a writer to writer perspective. The workings out like in maths, so to speak.
The cards in the picture are from the incredibly (and I mean incredibly) beautiful Shadowscapes Tarot Deck.
I hope you enjoyed this.
As always, thank you for reading!
I said that today I would talk about my book and start posting quotes from it (which feels weird, to be honest) so here I am, being all blog responsible, and doing just that!
Kidnapping Death’s Daughter is a young adult urban fantasy novel (that’s a fair few tags) that I wrote a couple of years ago. I wrote the entire damn thing in a month…and then I faffed with it for three years. It really is the editing that’s the stickler, isn’t it? Although, come to think of it, I also left it to sit all sad and alone wherever its feet were up, too…
I had it in mind that I wanted an agent, that partnership and friendship I’d seen other writers talk about. I’m a rubbish sales person and I can’t speak highly for my work, so I thought having someone who wanted to be in my corner would be neat. I sent out about 15 queries (when I really wasn’t ready) got back one encouraging one (though still a form rejection), and the rest were “No thanks, bai” It didn’t really discourage me, what did was the fact that I was actually undecided on whether or not I wanted an agent or to go it alone. I like me freedoms you see.
Fast forward to earlier this year, I decide I’ll give it another go. I sent out one query, got a rejection, read some stuff about indie authors, and decided that’s what I wanted to be. I tells ya, it has made things a lot easier and quieter in the ol’ noggin now that I know (haha – well, kind of) what I’m doing.
I have a real love for the characters in this book. If you’ve read my post The Importance of Character you’ll have seen one of them already. Gykruk is a swine, but he’s my swine. I also once made a blog post about actors I’d like to see play characters in my book. I’ll fish that out too – Actors I would stalk until they agreed to a role in my book turn film. See, I was wasting time on things like this when I should have been editing and improving the structure and story! Bad. Learn lesson.
Anyway, to the book! Here is the most recent query I sent. It’s bad. I can’t write queries, or synopses (I need to improve before I put out the full book – eeep), but it’s probably the best I have at the moment.
Ever since Robin’s brother died, every morning has risen with a new question, all of them echoing the grandest and most desperate: Why?
Until the day after Peter’s funeral, when a librarian with an odd sense of humour, and an even odder creature for a pet, reaches out to Robin and whispers an irresistible opportunity.
“Death has a daughter, steal her.”
The questions have changed. Could this be a bargaining tool against Death? What will he say when Peter is returned to him?
How do you kidnap Death’s daughter…
His cousin Caleb is intrigued and eager to join his adventure, and if the next morning rises with too many questions, now, at least, they have a clue to find the answers.
They leave for an ancient city by dusk.
In York, cathedral spires claw at the moon, gargoyles peer down on cobbled streets from wooden beams, and the creatures of Yr Oerfa feel their skin prickle as they sense the change war brings. Amongst them, hunted by beings more dangerous than two mortal boys, Death’s daughter is writing her own story, and it, too, begins with loss.
Kidnap her? First they need to find her.
I hope you like the little quotes I’ll be posting up weekly and that it doesn’t get too annoying. I’ll also be posting them on my brand spanking new Instagram account. Be my friend if you like. I don’t understand what I’m doing on there but I’ve seen a lot of ferrets. For the quotes I’m using an app I find to try and make them look a little more pretty. Please advise if you know of a better way. Oh! Hopefully I’ll be able to post some images, too, because I have a super talented lady friend drawing the characters and they look amazing!
Lastly on this post where I don’t know what I’m doing (see there’s a reason I laughed at myself up there) if you’re an indie author please share your experiences, or any other author for that matter, or if you were once an employee in a top secret agency, yeah, that would be cool too.
Hope you’re all well,
Will be lurking on your blogs soon!
In the beginning there was dust. It settled on each thought that dared consider itself something to be remembered. Each notion formed by a memory and written in an ink that lit up synapses as it scratched away at an hourglass that turned only to turn again and spill its sand as its words remained in the mind, and mind alone.
It coated a laugh that could silence a room, lips lifted, eyes forced to the ground. It dampened snippets of conversation, memories sleepy and unwilling to be roused.
In the beginning there was nothing, very much as we have always been told. With the first breath there was a moment, the electric storm that brought a monster to life. By the end there was a catalyst, a metamorphosis, the dust waded through and tossed up in to the air to spin back to the ground as false starlight.
It could no longer settle. The books that were once memories locked in the past, stored away in the mind as remembrance for another day, became life.
Creatures that had been denied their existence crawled forward, their legs weak yet persistent, their grunts echoes, but echoes that ricocheted until they were heard. Men that should have been hanged for their tales and the women that should have knotted the nooses knocked like thunder, and insisted they be allowed to strike through lightning. The voices of the past demanded a beginning.
In the beginning there was dust.
But we are born of dust.
And what are stars if not
a beginning such as us.
The essence of a story lives in its characters. The plot bleeds through them and the impact of its memory is scarred across their features. When I begin a story, it begins with a character. There are no exceptions to this rule. They appear much as a friend I once knew as a child but are now grown. There is something in them that I recognize, something that tells me I have seen them before, but also something new and unknown, something uncertain.
They appear in mid speech, or playing out a part in a scene as though it’s already begun to be written and I need to keep up. I must keep up because they will wrap the story around them in snapshots, whisper secrets when I try to sleep, and dance riddles across paper until I take back control by relinquishing control and giving them what they want: to be written.
Despite the ease of their arrival, writing them effectively is often difficult, but through writing them I have learned that they are the reason I continue to write. To bring into being and develop characters that will be created in such a way to find a permanent home within a reader’s mind. To do this, I intend always to write a character as it wishes to be written. To create characters that just as we do, develop and live on as morally ambiguous and imperfect, as surreal and ageless, and as unknown whether their creation was for adult or child because that is for the reader to decide.
Gykruk sat alone before the fire. Its flames cast shadows across the parchment that stretched out across his lap. He held the top of it down beneath his furred forearm, and clasped a quill between waxy claws.
“With Concerns to Character and Creature Creation” was all that had been scrawled across it. A feather rested between black lips as his mind worked to think back on what he had previously thought to write.
“1,” he noted down with carefully placed strokes. After combing down his pointed brows, he pushed the nib forward again.
With Concerns to Character and Creature Creation
- Let them come to you. If you have to force them, they ain’t ready, and if you have to beg ‘em, they ain’t there.
- Watch them. There ain’t no use in profiling ‘em because their socks don’t matter. If you want to know someone you throw ‘em to the fire and see ‘ow they handle the flames. (Tybuld if you’re reading this don’t go takin’ it literal with the imps again. I can’t be doin’ with the paperwork and the smell took weeks to get out yer tabard!)
- Ain’t no one alive who’s perfect, don’t insist they be either. They should be as imperfect and uncertain of their choices as you and me.
“Been looking for you everywhere!”
Tybuld balled into the room. Claws that held high were soon placed on hips and a look of concern replaced with frustration.
Jolted from his list, Gykruk sat upright in his chair and peered across the dimly lit room to the younger ghattan. He noticed the position of his hands and in response lifted one lengthy brow.
Tybuld, uncomfortably aware of his elder’s reaction, removed his hands and after a moment of shimmying them around pushed them to his sides.
“I didn’t realize you were takin’ inventory,” he said, his black eyes glancing at the paper across Gykruk’s lap.
“It ain’t inventory, it’s invent-ery” Gykruk replied, his triangular ears dipping as he turned back to his list. “It’s about story book characters.”
Tybuld crossed the room, his padded feet sticking to the wooden floor while his sharp curved toenails clipped against it. “What about them?”
“They’ve too much about them, that’s the problem!”
Gykruk stabbed the nib of the quill down at the parchment, hissing when he saw ink splatter out from it. “Curse you, Tybuld!”
He dabbed away at the splotches of black, while Tybuld plonked himself down on the rug in front of the fire and watched Gykruk. Once done with the neatening of his parchment, he began to draw the nib across the page again.
- Regardless of ‘ow the character might feel about it, they should be shoved in any number of situations. The reader will judge their actions because they are there to be judged and they’ll build upon their own personality through this.
Gykruk placed down his quill on to a thin-legged table beside him.
“You’re finished already?” Tybuld was leaning towards him, his angular face held in a chestnut furred claw. “I was ‘oping you’d read some to me. Or write some more, I like the scratchin’ sound the quill makes.”
“Probably reminds you of fleas,” Gykruk replied. “There ain’t no more to write. Characters belong in stories, not in ‘ow to lists.” He picked at something in his teeth, and with it still attached to his nail he pointed to Tybuld. “What did you need me for?”
“I don’t know,” Tybuld replied. His eyes locked on Gykruk, “Did you tell me to come ‘ere?”
Gykruk stood from his seat and tucked it under the table. “You let her use you again,” he said while rolling the parchment in to a scroll.
“Who?” Tybuld asked, looking over his shoulder, his back arching as he sunk his neck into it.
My intentions to allow characters a degree of their own creation stems from how I view their function in my stories, and what mark I want them to leave behind through my writing. The characters that have stayed with me from childhood to adulthood are the ones that helped shape who I am. That’s a characters true purpose, to live the hardships for you so you might gain a greater understanding of your own moral compass. This is what I wish to manifest through my stories, and through my voice, the ability to develop empathy and the confidence to be closer to understanding of self.
To do this, whether they are human, spider, or even sock, I hope for characters that make us question what it means to be human. We are made up of much more than biology and because of this our characters can cross all boundaries. Our imagination gives us the ability to anthropomorphize and if a character questions its existence, its place in the world, and is allowed to make mistakes as we often do then the form it takes ceases to matter.
The characters that should be written out are the ones that breathe as purely an extension to the author, a vessel to the author’s ego with no want for furthering the readers’ experience. These characters are often dull and they often wish to be perfect but in the process they bore. If a character is getting their every wish granted, then let their greed be shown. If they are beautiful, then scar them. If they are lustful, force them to be alone and show how quickly a starry-eyed romance can become desperation; that human necessity to find companionship written stark and screaming on the page. If a character fails to feel, then so will the reader.
I abhor the idea of characters being placed in a box. There are no new ideas, or thoughts, or desires, and there are no new characters, but this doesn’t mean that they should be written to a formula. I have rejected and let go of the rules when it comes to creating characters because it makes what should be organic rigid and false, and there is already enough of that in the world.
This means that I shouldn’t believe their creation to be as simple as writing down defining features. No, the physical appearance, unless it in some way shapes the character, should be the least of all concerns. What concerns the reader, and as such concerns me as the author, is the ability to use the characters to live out fantasies and to either strengthen or weaken their convictions.
If my stories can achieve anything, it is to be the home to characters such as these. It is to give a reader a playground with a cast of characters to see as enemies, to be betrayed, and to find true friendships behind the masks. It doesn’t matter that they are not tangible, they are real. The imagination is a powerful tool, one that is used to create but also one that is used to discover and accept the notion of “what if?”
When the final page is read, and each page before it turned over, I want the reader to have felt a change in their perception of the world and of their self. Adrenaline should course through them – for they have suffered and survived a dangerous situation alongside these characters; and a wish to remain should be held heavy in their heart. This is what I want to achieve through my writing, this is the mark I wish to leave on those that read my stories. It is the same sensation I felt throughout and at the end of every book from which a character that has stayed with me once dwelled, discovered and struggled to find a new part of them.
That is the development of character. No character should arrive complete, much as a stranger need not reveal all their secrets when they first shake your hand. Czekszantmihalyi wrote that “… if the artist were not tricked by the mystery, he or she might never venture into the unexplored territory.” and the same should be true of a reader. A character should lure them forward with the promise of possibility and this is precisely what I want my characters to do.
Through my writing, my words and worlds, I want them to act as guides. I want to provide a lantern that dims and brightens as words are offered up to a reader when their imagination meets mine, so that they might see through my eyes a place where the magical has firm roots in reality.
I believe that the lessons learned through the arts are invaluable, that they should never be sneered at and that the importance of the imagination and its creations should be revered as a powerful tool for human development.
I view my characters as elements to be used by the reader to discover their own truth. It allows them to live through situations they couldn’t otherwise experience, because what is reality and truth if not something to be questioned and explored.
As Neil Gaiman has said: “Truth is not in what happens but in what it tells us about who we are.”
His fingers tapped away the quiet hour, tap – tap tap – tap.
Running one hand through the streaks of white and grey of his beard, he raised the other to adjust the spectacles that sat on his nose. A dull brass frame, marked from the countless incidents of being left in back pockets and bent out of shape, surprisingly still held them in place. The glass of the lenses however, despite a slight crack which was noticeable here and there, still gleamed.
Slowly turning, shifting away the dust with every second that went by, the hands of time moved sleepily across them, He kept his personal time keeper where he could always see it, on the bridge of his nose. His glasses were his watch, and he watched them keenly.
They were silent, as the old man believed time should be.
The grandfather clock however had another idea entirely of how time should be.
Sounding loudly, the clock announced the arrival of the seventh hour. It boomed out the first three strikes, at the fourth it wavered a little, and from the fifth it croaked hoarsely.
“That’ll teach you,” chuckled the old man. He shifted to pick up a piece of paper that he had knocked to the floor. To his surprise he found it hovering by a few centimetres above the ground. A smile warmed to his lips as he gently lifted the paper and nodded his head to a small spider, which in turn, waved a leg before scuttling off again.
“Thank you, Wolf,” he called after it. Watching fondly, through blurred vision, as it headed back to the other spiders that crowded the room.
Scribbled on the paper were clock designs. The most intricate detailing was often in the patterning of the metal. He let his hand guide the pencil as it designed the filigree that encased the glass, his passion for time counted more than his now faltering eyesight.
On occasion there would also be a comic cartoon of an arachnid; his imagination was of little need for the pictures of the spiders he lovingly sketched onto paper, because the clocks weren’t alone in calling his study their home, the spiders he had so affectionately drawn made their webs amongst them.
They scurried restlessly about the room – their workstation. Dipping their feet into ink before scuttling off to their designated parchment on which they would dance away an occurrence of events. Black ink marking the moments that often steered the emotions of the living, and red ink marking the moment those living would be dead.
The spiders often recorded the comings and goings of more than one life, having a number of eyes and legs made this manageable. But nevertheless it was always sad to see a sider make the “until next time” walk with red ink and any other that crossed his path would lower his head in respect.
But it wasn’t too sad because there always was a next time. Once the red dot had been marked and the spider had said it’s farewells it usually wasn’t too long until another spider would be calling out, “Oi George, I’ve got your Beryl here!”
You see when we’re born the first breath we take is what will form our soul, and as we die, our final breath is released back into the universe, its true home. It’s only a matter of time then until a new life is given its first breath that a soul will be reborn.
Now the spiders may record this, and the old man may watch over it, but neither of them is supposed to control it. That is until a certain bespectacled somebody realised the universe had been doing the same universe like things for the past few centuries.
Unlike the spiders he may only have two eyes, but time is an important thing and so with that in mind we must open our minds to the possibility of one being able to observe all.
This doesn’t mean scanning the universe is a simple thing, but it’s something he did easily. However if something, or someone, drew his attention, it took extra work to look closer. But using the spectacles which balanced lightly on his nose, it was possible.
To draw in nearer he would simply have to match the ticking of the hand on his spectacles lenses to the same beat as the ticking of time following his desired subject.
Lately, it had been two people who caught his attention. It was little by chance that he came across them. As his wife, who had little interest in time but plenty of interest in fate, would say, everything happens for a reason (that reason usually being her knitting needles), but it was for an exceptional reason that he was inclined to look closer.
No one runs by the same clock. Everyone ticks or tocks to a different beat. But while watching these two he found the clocks on each lens of his glasses to be moving in an identical rhythm, something very rare, very rare indeed.
He had come to a conclusion. These two would meet. But not in this world, in another universe, a time gone by, and a place his beloved controller of fate and mad wielder of needles would have little interest in. With the images of the pair in his mind, and before him living their lives through his lenses, he took a blank piece of paper, jotted down their ages, their current position, and beats of time.
Satisfied, he smiled and turned to look down at the spiders that had congregated beneath his chair.
“Wolf?” he said, and waited for the little spider to separate itself from the group.
Wolf appeared sheepishly, black in body, blue of feet, creping forward from behind a wooden leg.
“It’s okay, Wolf, we all need a break sometimes. I need you to do something for me. Take this and show it around the keepers. Whoever records for these pair, ask them to make copies of their parchments and bring them to me.”
Reaching down the old man waited to feel the note tugged from his hand, he then pointed out a finger and felt a tiny leg touch the tip of it.
“Good lad, Wolf.”
It wasn’t long before Wolf was back with two nervous looking spiders in tow.
“Calm down the both of you. Did you bring the parchment copies?”
At this a group of a dozen spiders appeared carrying tiny scraps of paper, each with dots running down them. Taking them, he observed closely.
“Hmm,” he stroked his beard and tapped his finger on the arm of his chair. “Don’t do much these pair do they? Well, that will soon change! Good work the lot of you, carry on with recording on the originals as usual, I’ll be keeping the copies.”
The spiders, pleased with themselves, rushed off. Wolf however climbed up the man until he, too, was siting looking at the parchments that were causing so much interest.
“It won’t hurt, will it, Wolf?”
He waited as the spider ran up his shoulder, positioning himself on the old man’s head. The two of them, spider gripping onto hair and wrinkled fingers gripping onto parchments, headed over to the grandfather clock.
After a few moments of the clock looking at them, he and Wolf looking back at the clock, he nudged it lightly with his boot.
“Come on, open up.”
Grudgingly the clock swung open the cabinet door. Inside the pendulum swayed softly and the noise of cogs at work sounded. But behind the mechanisms, stars shone brightly against a black sky.
Other worlds were alight in the distance, encircled by spirals of colours that moved at different speeds around them. Some circled slowly, giving the planets a heavy, sleepy appearance. Whereas others spun, uncontrollably, as though at any minute the planet would shoot off in an unknown direction, much like the stars that darted through the sky, their tails flowing golden behind them.
The old man breathed in the wonder of his hidden universe.
He raised himself from the ground and wound back the hours on the face of the clock until he could no longer budge the hand. “Three days! That’s all I get? You’re a cruel one,” he snorted, disappointed with the clock’s defiance, knowing it on the other hand was feeling very smug indeed.
Wolf began to hammer his feet wildly on the old man’s head, dancing madly, desperately.
“You want to go too?” he asked the spider curiously.
The spider tapped twice on his head, “Yes.”
“Very well, I supposed a keeper like you couldn’t go amiss in times like these.”
Wolf jumped gleefully, then ran down the old man’s arm and folded himself carefully into one of the parchments.
“I’ll see you in three days, Wolf. I’ll be watching you, but stay safe.”
The old man moved into position. Crouched down, and holding his hand in a fist, parchments clasped tightly within, he kissed it quickly before he opened it again. He blew on the bits of paper, and watched them disappear into the night.