Category Archives: Writing

Writing: Wizards & Work

I seem to have a thing for being inspired by workplaces…Madcap Library came out of a previous library (although without the Sloth, sadly) and I’ve spent the last few days being inspired by my current one – or, more accurately, by the people in it.

The original inspiration came from thinking about books as spells, and working the words into an intricate illusion to delight the reader…and then I started thinking about the people, and putting them into a fantasy setting. While I still want to write something using the book-illusion idea, the people one spiralled on me! I’ve taken an aspect of some of my colleagues, and built a fantasy character around it. That said, for anyone reading who might recognise themselves, it’s definitely not intended to be true to life! The core might be one aspect, but I’ve then bounced off in a completely different direction – and I hope you find them entertaining.

 

The journeyman had walked miles in his previous life, speaking to every spirit, rock, mountain, plant. Some joker had put a spell on his tea-mug to make it walk when it was empty, and so he spent many hours wandering around the office in search of it. “Why did you leave?” I asked him, meeting him in the potions cupboard on one of his frequent excursions.

“They hate us,” he confided. He smiled often, but it rarely reached his eyes. “We’ve put so much pain and mess into them, and they have nothing but dislike. I keep trying, but it’s hard.”

 

He was a wizard of some fearful power; and yet he was a far cry from those power-hungry and rapacious seers I had known before. He filled the office with snatches of song to speed our work, and charm-spoke anyone who came by, making them smile and bow to him with the most willing of hearts. He was a word-weaver of considerable talent, yet one who spent his days helping others with their own spells. He spoke frequently of the world outside, and with the wisdom and foresight that spoke of long hours of study in a previous life – and yet he would often be the source of the frequent laughter rising into the ceiling-panels, ringing out into the still air and making the space above our tables shimmer and shine.

 

She was a weaver of spells and illusions, and of more practical things – she could turn the most chaotic of tresses into beauty as easily as she could fix a broken spellwork, turn raw ingredients into delicacies as simply as she brought order to a vision. But those around knew to tread carefully: the spells that turned so casually to beauty could also be turned to chaos, and one did not step within her reach if the air was dark.

 

An illusionist, he spun the most elegant of clothing, the most dreaming of landscapes, the most terrifying of monsters. He could pick your face out of a blank pad and capture your spirit in nine brush-strokes. He was a creature of sunshine and air, moving with a grace and surety that made the breezes dance around him, bringing light and life to the room anytime he smiled.

“Why here?” I asked him, gesturing to the sterile box around us, filled with bent workers and the hum of magical suppressants.

He shrugged. “Where else should I have gone?”

 

The photographer was one of the first people we met on entering the company; and yet he was unassuming, hiding behind the camera, counting on his diffident air to grant him anonymity. Despite his care, I heard the rumours; he could kill a person in four different ways before their potion had finished brewing; could play any instrument handed to him, charming the creatures out of the trees with it; and could disappear from notice at will, even in an empty room.

His true role was always given as a simple “community support”. If he travelled for occasional periods of time, and at similar times the most vocal disapprovers of our work unexpectedly changed their tone or took refuge in silence, what of it?

 

The fortress has only come under attack once, and it is now the stuff of legend – half truth, half myth, both woven together into a morass of glorious grandeur and terrible feats, raw courage and horrific slaughter.

But those who were there, who remember, carry the scars. And they do not speak of it.

He never changes place, despite eloquent speeches and logical plans; first in from the door, and facing anyone who enters. A necromancer, they say, or an enchanter: sly and cunning with his strategies, ruthless when provoked, and rarely speaking of anything beyond his current work. But take one look at his desk, and one may find a hint of what lies behind the calculating strategist: his walls are lined with tiny figures in rows, frozen into stillness, their weapons at the ready.

 

[I am having fun writing more – and they’re definitely a work in progress! Suggestions always welcome.]

A snippet: The Gardener

The start of something, or possibly just a snippet…I’m not sure yet!

It started with a doorway; and with a man, kneeling in the small garden, hands cupped around the fragile leaves of a tree just rising through the damp soil.

He glanced up, briefly, at the blocked doorway no-one could have come through, and the person standing there; and then rose to his feet, knees of his trousers damp from the grass and fingers mud-stained from the soil.

“I was expecting someone,” he said with gentle politeness, and gave a short nod.

Her eyes widened; whatever she had expected here, it was not the winter garden around, sleeping trees and evergreen bushes tangling with the too-long grass and unraked leaves. It was not the dilapidated wall and peeling door, the scarred wall and bricked-in doorway behind her. It was not this stocky man with his careful movements, reserved manner, sympathetic gaze.

But she hesitated, one hand on the brickwork, as if waiting to see what this world held before she pushed open the door to another.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” he added.

And she smiled. “I’d like that very much.”

~~~

The inside of the house was as shabby and run-down as the outside, and almost empty; a bed, a table and two mismatched chairs, some scattered kitchen utensils, and a desk with a closed laptop on it. The walls were faded white, and the floor clean but aged. She sat down on one of the chairs and looked at the man, in his jeans and old buttoned shirt, hair pulled back into a knot.

“Progress hasn’t been good, I’m afraid,” he said, carefully filling the kettle.

“Oh?”

“This site is slower than I’d like.” She was silent, as if waiting, and he weighed how to explain his failure. He didn’t want to turn and see what judgement was in her eyes. “It’s been hard to encourage anything.”

“Look, I – wait, I don’t know your name.” Whatever she’d been going to say, it was derailed with a smile and an easy laugh.

“I go by Fydor, here.”

“Ok. Well. I’m…apparently not what you think I am.” He carefully set down the mugs and tilted his head a little, waiting on her next words. “I don’t really understand what you mean by the site, or encourage. Do you normally have regular visitors?”

“They haven’t been for a few years, but yes. I had assumed that you were another, here to check on my progress.”

“And they’re…they come through the same door?” She suddenly relaxed. “That’s why you didn’t freak out. You’re used to it.”

“You arrived by distinctly unusual means, as they do.” His smile twitched the corner of his mouth and creased the corners of his eyes. “What were you expecting, then?”

“I didn’t really know,” she admitted, smiling again. “That’s…it was a bit of an…unusual doorway.”

She was looking at him, studying. He let the silence hang, filling both mugs and then finding a spoon to stir them.

“I followed the light,” she said eventually. “It opens to where I need to be, even if…I’m not sure why.”

“I understand that.”

“What do you mean?”

“I move a lot.” He looked down to the mugs, and then picked them both up to bring over to the table. “I…get drawn to places. That I need to help, to heal. So I’m never in one place very long. A year, two at the most.”

She was still watching him as he set one mug down in front of her. “But you said here hadn’t been making as much progress with the site. What do you do?”

And suddenly, the smile lit his face. It was like watching an unfolding leaf, a growing bud; it was a blossoming. “I make things grow.”

Dream-paths and Fairways

I walked back across the track a couple of nights ago with the same friend who made the original journey with me, Otter*; we decided to go on an adventure despite the darkness, and I’m so glad we did! It was one of those surreal, half-imagined, half-real experiences that I’m so glad I shared with someone, because then you can at least look at someone else and say; “I did experience that, didn’t I…”

It was a clouded night, low and rolling, but the city lights were reflected; they made the air half-shadowed, lit in whites and greys, light enough to see each other’s faces but dark enough to be a dusky shadow. The ceiling of clouds was broken by slashes, and I ended up walking with my face turned to the sky, watching as the stars spun behind the white and grey, rents of black that sent the field stumbling. And the road; it went on forever, the fields stretching either side of it, following the rows of pylons into the dusk – if we’d half-closed our eyes, succumbed to a dreaming drowsiness, we could have missed the cross-path and walked on forever into the dusky lands…

As an aside: Otter and I were talking about the early Greek idea of afterlife, the endless nothingness, Achilles and “Don’t try to sell me on death, Odysseus / I’d rather be a hired hand back up on earth / Slaving away for some poor dirt farmer / Than lord it over all these withered dead”; and talking about mirrors being portals to another world, a shadowed reflections of our own, and how you’d get back if you stepped through. I promptly pulled China Mieville’s Looking For Jake off the shelf when I got home!

The railway was another world again, reached through a tunnel of tangled branches and upright trunks; an orange sodium capsule of light with bright tracks, the gleam of the rails forming another barrier, another path, industrial and warm and still in the midst of the dark landscape – and as unreachable as the mirror-world in the lakes from our perch above, walking across the footbridge that looked down over the strange landscape.

And then the lakes; we sat peacefully on the steps for a while, looking out over the narrow bridge as it stretched between the reflections: the lakes on either side so still that they were just stars and cloud, no ripples, no wind, nothing moving. We watched as people walked past the portal, lit in white and moving on with their world – while ours was still, held, waiting for something. We had the hum of the road overlaying the stillness, the stars wheeling overhead through the slashes of sky, talking about nothing: and the real world beckoning for us to choose the walk across the long path and the step through the portal ahead.

And then, looking back from the portal across the stillness of the lakes:

via GIPHY

I have no idea what or how this is going to come out in my writing, but I’m going to be very interested to see how it does!

 

*They picked the nickname, and it’s now a running joke that I’m trying to get a whole woodland collection!

Writing: Snippets and Snatches

A mix of odd bits of writing from the last few months, including a draft of Home and some of the scribbles I’ve been doing for Badger

“You are making that face,” the Knight said with a hint of weariness to the visitor stood in front of his chair. “Why have you brought that face to my Court?”

The visitor in front did not fit the room at all. Tight trousers clung to his calves and thighs; a flowing shirt was open to reveal a loose vest underneath, and his hands were covered in spiralling green tattoos. His light eyes and wide lips were outlined in more lines, which spiralled across his cheeks and forehead and up into his intricately-knotted hair. He had his hands on his hips, displaying the multitude of bangles on his wrists; and he was pouting.

“I am not making any face. You are not doing your duty.” The younger man waved one hand, punctuating the sentence with jangles. “Anyway, I am an envoy. You can’t insult my face.” It was thrown out as an afterthought.

The Knight waved his hand with a sigh that said he didn’t want to get into the argument about what he could and could not insult in his own Court. “Which duty are you accusing me of neglecting?”

“You know what you are doing!” The young man actually stamped his foot. “They’ve been fighting for months. Why are you doing this?”


It was definitely an Evil Castle. There was a black stonework, with cobwebs dripping.  Guttering green torches. Gloomy shadows. Spiders.

“This is going to sound very strange,” a voice said, sounding somewhere between embarrassed, apologetic and annoyed. “But I need your help.”


My reaction obviously isn’t the sympathetic one that is wanted. I listen to the rant until he’s used the same swear words that I usually do and has descended into repeating bluster, and then interrupt. “Yeah, you’re going to find him and give him a piece of your mind, I get it. It’s not going to work. He’s someplace in Winter, and even then, he won’t give a damn.”

He grumpily turns on me. “Oh? You sleep with him enough to know-”

I laugh. “Yeah, actually. I’m his other half.”

His eyes widen. “He cheated on-”

“No.” I drop the word in with a steady, amused tone. “I’m literally his other half. He’s Winter. I’m Summer. Polar opposites.” And then I grin. “Believe me, if you want to punch him, then there’s a very long line…and I’m right at the front.”


Leave a fragment of yourself in every place you make a bed, and pick one up every place you stop for a breath; every heart a patchwork of shards that all say ‘home’.


“Oh, by the way, are you seeing Miss Goody-Two-Shoes ‘Saviour Of The World’ soon?”

“What’s it to you?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Can you deliver something to her?” He snapped his fingers, and a servant hurried over with a basket.

I looked at it. “A kitten? Aren’t you supposed to be Mister Evil?”

He grinned at me. “It’s been taught to pounce on big red buttons.”


Three scars on her arm. Had they known she was left-handed, or was it always on the left? She couldn’t see any scars on the man’s red jumper, although there were three neatly-stitched lines on his shoulder.

But he was moving again now, stepping closer to her; and she wondered if this was it. If the red-tipped knife in his hand would score across her throat, and she’d die in the golden forests, left amongst the splendour of the smooth trunks, sightless eyes staring up at the ever-falling leaves.

But he instead met her eyes, his expression unchanging; did it ever change, she wondered? Was there ever a flicker of amusement in the nut-brown, leaf-brown eyes?


And, finally, a teaser from the start of the new No Man’s Land

The really satisfying days start with a punch to the face.

Not usually my face – although there have been exceptions – but there is something very satisfying about kicking someone else’s butt. Sometimes literally.

Nat twirls with an easy grace and hurls a knife, then follows it up with a swift butt-kick that turns the monster attacking us head-over-heels into the nearest tree-trunk. It’s quick, effectively, and she looks exceptionally hot while doing it. I have to take a moment to admire her in her practical work trousers and t-shirt riding up at the hip; I’m ridiculously lucky. We’re two gorgeous girls who unfortunately prefer each other, as Luk said sourly when he found out we were dating. He’s always had a soft spot for Nat, ever since she pinned him to a wall with a knife at his throat.

And of course I’m his soft spot, or more likely his weak point, much as he likes to pretend otherwise.

But I can’t spend too much time admiring my girlfriend or thinking about my ex. I’ve got faces to punch.

Writing: Home

This was from a prompt I was given for Amsterdam – my fingers are twitching to amend it, so it may change a little…but I think it’s ok for a draft.

Home is turning a city over and over in your heart, jigsawing the pieces, wondering if you turn it the right way maybe it will somehow fit-

-and home is wondering what one piece you’re missing, what shape you’re meant to be, because nowhere feels quite right.

Home is a fragment of every place I’ve loved, swapped with a shard of memory, and welded with broken longing for something that won’t ever exist again, not like that, not like it was.

Maybe home should be a place where I look across rooftops and know every spire, every shortcut; have a heartache for every corner, a laugh for every golden hour, a secret for every drink.

Maybe home should be the way the wind ripples the water, the sunlight on tarmac and paving, the step around the crowd on a corner. The one cracked tile in the grand facade, the tiny alley leading to the best pub, the glare of orange lights as I turn into my street.

Maybe home should be the warmth shared over a meal; the one loaned book on a shelf of loved pages; the music that fills a silent room.

Maybe home should be the way you smile at me.