Writing Stuff: Stashing Your Work

My cooker blew up on Sunday. Well, it wasn’t a big explosion but it blew the fuse and all the lights went out. There were even actual flames. They may have been small enough for my husband (who is a hero) to blow out, but they were there. I realised today that something similar could have happened to my laptop. It may be plugged into a surge protector, but it could all have gone dreadfully wrong. I have no real system for saving all my stuff, and I could have lost a lot of work.

I can’t even remember all the bits of writing that are kicking around on my computer. The first draft of The Forgotten Village was written on a PC with a floppy disc drive. I’ve got ideas and outlines and notes and half finished bits as well as the final versions of stuff that I can never find when I want to refer back.

There are 115 icons on my desktop and that’s after I had a clear out last week. Some of those icons are for folders and I’m flinching of the thought at how many files there are in those.

I’ve never been very sure about how to file stuff. For example, the character Rev Darren King is in five books and loads of short stories. How do I sort through that? And what about all the different versions of a story? I’ve started saving new versions with the name of the story plus the date but I forget stuff. I was thinking about something yesterday and it triggered a memory of a story that I’d badly wanted to write but then had completely forgotten about. So I have two problems – how to save stuff and how to sort stuff.

I’m going to be honest, I’m writing what I’m planning to do. There is no guarantee that I’ll actually do it. I have a track record of poor follow through. But there’s a chance that this may be useful to someone out there, so I’ll take a risk and write it down. This week I’m writing about saving stuff.

When I talk about saving your work, it’s more than just pressing Ctrl + S. Every writer that I know has horror stories of losing thousands of words at a vital stage of the story. This is more about where to save your work away from your PC, Mac or laptop just in case things go bang. So where do you put all those writery bits of half finished stories, plot sketches and character outlines? You’ve pressed ‘save’ and then what?

The obvious method is to save to a usb stick and/or print it all out and store in binders or files. I’ve started a list and buying a decent usb stick is now on the top. I’m not going to print stuff out as I have reams and reams and reams of stuff that would take half a forest, but it’s an option.

Other ideas are emailing documents between different email accounts, or even keeping docs in a draft email. As long as you keep the account current and open, the documents will be safe there. If you want to be extra sure, send the documents to several email accounts.

Image from Unsplash, taken by Brett Jordan and still neater than my phone.https://unsplash.com/photos/blue-and-white-logo-guessing-game-LPZy4da9aRo

Another way is to bung it onto a blog. You can copy and paste documents into blog posts and keep them as drafts without publishing them. There are a multitude of blog sites out there, many of them are free and there are plenty of guides out there about how to use them. I use WordPress for this blog (and I fail at it and can’t work out how to use a newsletter) and I feel more comfortable with Blogger for my mum blog, but you may find others that work better for you.

By the way, Tales from the White Hart, More Tales from the White Hart and Further Tales from the White Hart were actually put in book form as a way of keeping the stories and clearing some clutter from my blog. The Whisper in the Shadows collection was a way of preserving short stories. I did my best to make them look presentable, but it was more about putting finished stuff in a safe place.

The final suggestion I have is to back up your work in the Cloud, on Google Drive, on Dropbox or wherever you can find online storage. There are quite a few places out there, and I am too technologically inept and feel completely inadequate to give any advice on which to choose. I feel able to advise that unless you are particularly clued up then you need have a rummage for reviews and advice. Mind you, there’s no reason why you can’t back up your work in all of them, especially if you pick the free options.

I’d love to hear any ideas about other places to stash works in progress so please share if you feel able. Now I’m off to try and organise my work, so please send thoughts and prayers. I’ll let you know how I get on next week.

Writing Prompt Number 9

Image from Unsplash, taken by Adrian Infernus

We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!

The Plot

Noah walked into the kitchen and then ducked as a plate sailed past his head and smashed into the wall behind him.

“I hate him!” Lady Freydis said.

Mrs Tuesday eyed her carefully. “Which one is it now?” she asked. “Hello, Noah. It’s curry and chips tonight.”

“That sounds amazing,” Noah said.

“He thinks he’s so smart!” Lady Freydis snapped. “I’ll show him.”

“Where’s Martin?” Mrs Tuesday asked. “Your husband is good at plots.”

“I’m good at plots as well!” Lady Freydis said. “And coffee. I’m good at coffee.”

“You’re excellent at coffee,” Noah said, sliding past her and heading to the cupboards. “Should I lay the table?”

Mrs Tuesday shook her head. “Not until she’s stopped smashing china. How’s it going?”

“Not bad,” Noah said. “I’ve got some ideas for a campaign to promote the candles.” He looked carefully at Lady Freydis. “And I need to ask about promoting coffee evenings.”

Lady Freydis looked thoughtful. “I’m extremely good at plots,” she said. “I’m almost as good at plots as I am at violence.”

Noah looked at her doubtfully. She looked toned in an understated way, but her blonde loveliness looked too elegantly classy. On the other hand, the floor was covered with smashed plates. “And research,” he said quickly. “The notes I found on the bus ticket were incredibly helpful and sent me in a new direction.”

“I want that book!” Lady Freydis announced.

“I’m working very hard on it,” Noah said carefully.

Lady Freydis waved an airy hand. “Well, the coffee book is nice but this is a different book, and old book. Lord Cerdig has it but I want it.”

Mrs Tuesday narrowed her eyes. “Martin threatened to rip out Lord Cerdig’s spine if he ever caught him with you,” she said. “And I think the last thing you said to Lord Cerdig after you broke his arm was that if he touched you again, you would disembowel him and eat his spleen.”

“Seriously?” Noah stared at them.

“I was practising being reasonable,” Lady Freydis said. “Though Martin is still angry. I should have broken both arms.” She paced up and down the kitchen. “But I want the book.”

“He’ll only trade it for kisses – or worse,” Mrs Tuesday said.

“I can’t use the computer thing,” Lady Freydis said. She turned to Noah. “You can use the computer thing.”

“Yes?” Noah said apprehensively.

“Lord Cerdig is an idiot,” Lady Freydis said. “He wishes to put on a great feast for the Spring Equinox, but fears to approach us for the supplies. He desires edible glitter, fears to buy elsewhere but is terrified of Martin and I.” She sighed in satisfaction. “We have edible glitter and gold sprinkles and spray cream and he has the book that I want. It should merely be an equitable trade. However, he is a slug.”

“That’s insulting slugs,” Mrs Tuesday said. She nodded to Noah. “You can set the table now.”

“Noah Pickering, you will contact an evil person called Ferdi on the computer thing. You will say that you have overheard conversations and are willing to provide such items as Lord Cerdig desires for a price. As you are risking your existence by sending such things to our enemy, the price is high.”

Noah blinked. “But I won’t really be risking my existence, will I?”

Mrs Tuesday patted him on the shoulder. “You’ll be fine. Probably.”

“The price you will ask is the book,” Lady Freydis continued. “As you are now known as a researcher, this will be seen as a rational request.” She paced faster in the small kitchen. “Why aren’t you serving curry with rice?” she asked Mrs Tuesday.

“Because I’ve always done it with chips,” Mrs Tuesday said.

Lady Freydis turned to Noah. “You must insist that the book isn’t delivered here because you will tell that loathesome toad Ferdi that you do not want it near me. I’ll provide a location where Ferdi can leave it. You can retrieve it.”

“Ferdi might follow him,” Mrs Tuesday pointed out.

“Not if I decide to give him a lesson in behaviour,” Lady Freydis said. “He’s been importuning the brownies again. I was going to set an example anyway. I’ll just ensure that it happens during the pick up time.” She smiled a little maliciously. “And if it’s seen that he’s in disgrace, that slug Lord Cerdig won’t suspect that I’m using him and neither will Ferdi.” The smile grew wider. “I could have so much fun with this – after I’ve got my book.” She turned to Noah. “I will extract the contact information from Steve today and you can immediately contact the toad Ferdi.”

“It can wait until after dinner,” Mrs Tuesday said. “And I’ve done sponge pudding and custard for after.”

Noah looked at the two women and shook his head. He ought to worry. He ought to wonder what craziness he had got caught up in. But all he could think of was how much fun it sounded. “I can’t wait.”

You can read this story from the beginning here and if you want to see how it all began, check out Tales from the White Hart, my novel on Amazon, here.

Book Review: Doomed Romances – Strange Tales of Uncanny Love from The British Library

I am finally showing a paperback that I own!

Normally I only read on either my laptop or my phone – I have the Kindle app downloaded on both. Not only that, but I have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited and over the last few months when I’ve been a little poorly I have been reading my bodyweight in ebooks. I know that ebooks are technically without weight and I’m a large lass, but I’ve really racked up the page count – and very much enjoyed it.

However I indulged myself with a subscription to the British Library’s Tales of the Weird series. It’s a collection of the sort of stuff that I should be fossicking out for myself – strange and gothic tales that may have been forgotten. It costs £9.99 per month and you get a great book with selected classics delivered without having to hunt down the good stuff by yourself. Not only that, it’s part of supporting an amazing institution. Doomed Romances Strange Tales of Uncanny Love is my first delivery and it came with two pics and a bookmark.

If the pics are a regular thing, I may set up a feature wall of them!

The book is a collection of short stories edited by Joanne Ella Parsons who has dug out some wonderful gems. It starts with the eerie tale The Invisible Girl written by Mary Shelley and published in 1833. I associated Mary Shelley with Frankenstein but this is a dark tale of forbidden love and the heartbreak of an innocent maiden cast out into the cold by a tyrannical father – thoroughly enjoyable. It ends with Dancehall Devil by V Castro, a current writer with some well deserved awards for horror. Dancehall Devil is one of those uncanny, sweltering, steamy horror stories with passion and violence and a shiver of harsh, deserved justice. There are plenty of goodies in between.

I read it during a normal evening, but I feel that it ought to be read in strange, out of the way places during thunderstorms while drinking dark wine. I may have been in my usual jeans and slippers, but I almost felt that I was wearing velvet and lace.

It’s available on Amazon, and it’s even on Kindle Unlimited (though I’m keeping my subscription to the British Library) and I thoroughly recommend it.

The Prince and the Paladin Chapter Three

They were quiet on the way back to Mr Perrigo’s house. Kayley lugged awkward boxes and felt Drake’s frustration wash over her in waves. “Okay, it’s scary, but I’m not giving up on you,” she said finally. “Let’s go back to who you are. You’re a vampire hunter, right? So where do you live?”

“In Roundhay, I think,” Drake said. “How about – I’ve inherited a house with an occult library from an uncle who was my last remaining relative.”

“It’s too cheesy,” Kayley said.

“It would only be cheesy if I wanted a mansion,” Drake shrugged. “I don’t think I should have a big family. It’s just that for one reason or another I have distant relatives, most of them abroad.”

“Not in Australia or New Zealand” Kayley said quickly. “My mother would want to meet them.”

“Good point.” Drake had his hands in his pockets and his shoulders. “I think they should be in Canada,” he said thoughtfully.

“And perhaps you bought a house in Roundhay because you had an opportunity for a fixer upper with a large garden and plenty of room for all the swords and silver bullets that you needed to fight against darkness.” Kayley nodded to herself.

“Fortunately, I am handy around the house and I’ve been doing a lot of the work myself,” Drake said smugly.

“I would help with the painting,” Kayley pointed out. “I like decorating.”

“That makes one of us,” Drake grumbled. “I would have been glad of your help.” He grinned wickedly at her. “And it’s convenient if you’re going to stay the night. You don’t have a long journey to work from my place so we can sleep in.”

Kayley found herself blushing. “I’m not sure that I’d stay overnight.”

“After a hard evening of staking vampires, you would be too tired to go home,” Drake said innocently. “Now that looks like a vampire hunter’s car. I have a car like that as well.”

“Enough of the vampires.” Kayley ran past the battered Range Rover which was now liberally spattered with mud and ducked into Mr Perrigo’s house. “I’ll take the food through to the dining room.”

Kayley set out the food on Mr Perrigo’s exquisite Victorian china, loaded them on to the hostess trolley and wheeled it down to the dining room.

“I can hear a lot of voices,” Drake said. “I wonder what’s going on.” Kayley could imagine him frowning. “I bet that the herbal teas are a front for drugs,” he said. “Or better – dark potions sold to vampires. It’s the vampire mafia meeting in the drawing room and I’m undercover to find out.”

“You’re outrageous!” Kayley thought at him. She arranged the food on platters at one end of a shining mahogany table. “But it must be serious. I wonder if he’s running out of money?”

“Are you kidding?” Drake said. “He’s raking it in with those herbal teas. I’ve seen the invoices and spreadsheets. Nope, it’s paranormal, I swear.”

“You’re going to be obsessed with this, aren’t you?” Kayley teased.

Drake grinned. “I’m having so much fun,” he said.

Kayley tapped on the drawing room door and went in. “I’ve put the food in the dining room, Mr Perrigo,” she said, trying not to stare. The collection of men sitting around in the prim drawing room was unexpected. Mr Perrigo bounded to his feet. “Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Miss Kayley Adams. Kayley, this is Lord Marius,” he gestured at the tall, slim, dark haired man who lounged like a cat in one of the overstuffed armchairs. “He’s an old friend of mine and very important to me.”

“You need to watch him,” Drake whispered. “He looks lethal.” Kayley agreed. There was an edge of darkness around the man.

“This is Rhys Davis,” Mr Perrigo said, indicating a tough, hard faced man standing near the window. “He’s an important man in the construction business.”

“I could take him,” Drake said. “As long as he wasn’t a vampire.” Kayley wasn’t so sure. Rhys looked strained but he looked strong and poised for action, out of place in the old-fashioned room.

“And this is Sir Dylan,” Mr Perrigo said. “He’s a very good man and happy to look after you.”

“That is not a sir,” Drake said, stunned. “What sort of ‘sir’ is called Dylan? And what sort of ‘sir’ has tattoos. And what does he mean – look after you? Hell, it’s human trafficking!”

“If it was that then I would have been trafficked ages ago,” Kayley said mentally as she smiled politely at Sir Dylan. He stood, looming over her.

“That guy is built like a bear, and not in a good way,” Drake hissed. “He looks like he could juggle washing machines. He has tattoos on his neck.”

“I’m very pleased to finally meet you,” Sir Dylan said, holding out a massive, meaty hand for Kayley to shake and giving Mr Perrigo a hard look. “Let me give you my number.”

Kayley limply shook his hand and took the business card. “Thank you,” she said.

“Is this some sort of dating thing?” Drake said. “Did Mr Perrigo set you up? He doesn’t seem the type but after reading The Lothario of Leeds I suppose anything could happen.”

“You may call me at any time,” Sir Dylan said, still looking hard at Mr Perrigo. “If anything bothers or concerns you in any way, don’t hesitate to call. It doesn’t matter how crazy or insignificant it feels.”

“It’s definitely a set up,” Drake said.

Kayley managed a non-committal smile before turning to Mr Perrigo. “Would you like me to set up tea and coffee?” she asked.

“No, not at all,” Mr Perrigo said. “It’s all in hand. Why don’t you take the rest of your lunchbreak and I’ll let you know when we need you to take notes.”

“And when you need to talk to the minister,” Sir Dylan added.

“It’s a cult,” Drake said. “It’s fake ministers who are going to take you away to a cult.”

“At least it’s not vampires,” Kayley thought back as she escaped from the drawing room and headed back towards the kitchen. “I need a cup of tea.” She opened the door into the kitchen and froze.

“There’s a naked man in the kitchen.” Drake sounded as shocked as Kayley felt.

“He’s wearing a towel,” Kayley answered. She couldn’t take her eyes off him as he pulled a bottle of water from the fridge.

“Those aren’t gym muscles,” Drake said quietly. “At least, those aren’t go to the gym to look good muscles. Those are go to the gym as part of practising to hurt people muscles.”

“He’s good looking,” Kayley murmured. “I mean, not like you, but perhaps it’s a careful workout.”

“You must be Kayley Adams.” The man looked impatiently past her. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen Sir Dylan?”

Kayley swallowed. “He’s in the drawing room with Mr Perrigo,” she said.

The man ran a quick hand through his dark, wet hair. “He was supposed to be bringing my case from the hotel. Do you know where he put it?”

Kayley slowly shook her head. “I can go and ask him,” she said.

The man shook his head. “I’ll go see him in a minute,” he said. “I need to dry off a little first. I was pushed in the canal.” He gestured casually at the sound of a washing machine working quietly in the utility room. “Mr Perrigo was good enough to let me get a quick shower here where there would be less questions and…” He looked around at the sound of the door. “That will be him. Excuse me.” Kayley stood well back as the most handsome man she had ever met strode past her and down the hall.

Kayley made herself a cup of tea and went back to the office. A small stack of manuscript and some letters were sitting next to her computer along with an elegant note telling her not to worry about refreshments for her meeting with Reverend King as he had taken care of it. She could feel the tension in Drake.

“Everything’s going crazy. Ten minutes ago I would have never believed there would be a naked man in Mr Perrigo’s kitchen,” he said

“At least he was wearing a towel. I wonder if he’s a friend of Sir Dylan.” Kayley said carefully. “Or whether he’s an accomplice.”

“He’s got to be something to do with drugs,” Drake said. “Did you see those scars? He can’t be legal.”

“Perhaps he’s ex-military,” Kayley suggested, half-heartedly shuffling through the letters. “He had short hair.”

“He wasn’t shy.” Drake ran a comb through his own damp hair and checked his reflection in the window. “Perhaps he’s used to being naked around women. You need to watch yourself around him. I wish I could actually be there to keep an eye out for you,” he said uneasily. “Those scars looked nasty.”

“I’m sure Mr Perrigo knew what he was doing.” Kayley tried to convince herself. “I mean, he wouldn’t allow someone dangerous to just wander around his house, would he?”

“How could he stop him?” Drake paced up and down. “Unless he really is a vampire. I mean, that was someone who was dangerous. Perhaps he’s forcing Mr Perrigo to make drugs.” Drake paused. “He’s probably going to be at the dinner party tonight. You need to make sure you’ve got your mobile phone on you at all times and keep it charged.” He threw up his hands in frustration. “I wish I could really be there. It doesn’t feel safe.”

Research and the Author: A Fail

I want to review books because it means that I read wider and I am appallingly narrow in my reading matter. I keep getting distracted by romantic novels which I am not reviewing mainly because I keep skipping the steamy bits so I couldn’t do the book justice. For a change, I thought that I’d be a smart alec and have a look at research type books. I thought I could show off a little. Instead I found myself wincing.

I found The History of Spices by The Papyrus Author sort of interesting. There’s a lot of information in there, it’s quite well laid out and logical, but it does read like a paper from a really good High School student. It’s an excellent paper, and would get an A+, and it covers a lot of information. Unfortunately, as it covers from ancient times to the modern day and takes a global perspective, it doesn’t go into much depth. Let’s take one paragraph:

Run Island and the Nutmeg Trade: One of the most notable episodes in the English pursuit of spices was their claim over Run Island in the Bandas. Though smaller and less known than its neighbours, Run Island was rich in nutmeg. This possession became a point of contention between the English and the Dutch.– The History of Spices by The Papyrus Author Chapter Six The Age of Exploration – Quest for the Spice Islands

For someone wanting an overview, this isn’t a bad start. For someone who wants to write books, this is awfully dry. I had a quick look at Wiki, and the battle for Run Island was an epic tale. The island is part of what is now Indonesia and the area was the main source of nutmegs until the nineteenth century. The natives feared the Dutch and so signed a contract with the English to take over instead. The Dutch were incensed and laid siege to Run Island but were held off by 40 Europeans and their native allies for just over four years. When the English leader fell, the English retreated and the Dutch moved in. They slaughtered, enslaved or exiled every man, woman and child on the island, destroyed all the nutmeg trees and allowed cattle to roam free. The Dutch even came back every year to make sure that no-one had tried to resettle the island when they weren’t looking.

That is an epic story! You have to ask – how did it feel to be one of those European defenders, so far from home? How did it feel to be one of the native islanders who tried to make a deal with the least bad invader? How did it feel to watch the Europeans sail away, presumably taking the guns and cannons with them, and knowing that vengeance was approaching? What would have happened if any of the natives had managed to survive that vengeance? How about a pirate base or a curse or lost magical items left behind after that dreadful punishment? That’s where research should lead. I’d recommend it as a resource as I hadn’t even heard of Run Island before this, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a main resource.

I wouldn’t recommend Emperor’s Kitchen: Wholesome Recipes from Ancient Rome by Ava Taylor much at all. I’m not ashamed to admit that the author knows more than me, but I found the whole thing confusing. It felt a little like it was translated from Latin to English by a Martian. There are recipes there that are interesting, but they assume a lot of background knowledge. The formatting is a little crazy as well. It’s a shame. The Feeding the Crew:A One Piece Cookbook by the same author is awesome. It’s based on a manga series called One Piece and there are some great recipes in there. I quite fancy trying some of them.

Perhaps one of the problems I’m facing is that when I’m looking to review a book, I’m looking for recent publications. I suspect that AI may be happening. I also had a quick peek at Fragrant Pages: The Story of Perfumery Through History by Oriental Publishing. Any High School student would be proud to hand it in to an expectant teacher. It suffers from the same defects as The History of Spices. It’s strangely written, not particularly well formatted and irritating. It’s not a bad place to flick through to get places to start research, especially if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited and don’t have to pay extra for it or give it shelf room. However it may be worth looking at works that date from before the AI explosion. If you’re looking for a background on perfume, Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume by Mandy Aftel seemed quite fun when I dipped in, and it’s also on Kindle Unlimited – and makes sense.

So looking at recent non-fiction books for research at random was a fail. On the bright side, while I was having a wander around Kindle Unlimited, I spotted a few books about coffee. I’m sure that I can make use of that in my fiction.

Writing Prompt Number 8

Quotation:

Use your enemy’s hand to catch a snake – Persian Proverb

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!

The Lake House

Noah sighed. He’d got the social media accounts up and running and scheduled a week’s worth of content. He’d made a list of blogs and listings pages that may be interested in running features on the White Hart. He’d coaxed a few of the White Hart staff to create their own pages and then had a difficult conversation with Mrs Tuesday to persuade her to only like and share family-friendly content. He couldn’t put it off any longer. He had to start on the coffee book.

He pulled a pizza delivery menu out of the box and read the flowery script inked along the edges. Coffee comes from the mystical lands of Arabia and Abyssinia, fabled home of the phoenix and source of the mystical frankincense (available at the White Hart starting at £5.99 for 50g plus post and packaging and the packaging is really nice).

Noah winced. Apart from anything else, you couldn’t put a price in a book that could be around for years. He tapped the content into his word document, carefully editing ‘£5.00’ to ‘competitively priced’. He could hear Lady Freydis outside the door.

“I don’t see the problem,” she said.

“You didn’t paint that picture,” a man’s voice growled. “You bought it from eBay. Callum is working very hard to be an artist.” He sounded like Jeanette’s husband.

“I want to be supportive,” Lady Freydis said.

Noah shook his head. The next quote was scrawled across the back of a supermarket receipt. Great fortunes were won and lost in shares traded in the coffee houses of London, although the South Sea Bubble was somewhat of a problem. Note to ghost – was the South Sea Bubble Tudor or Victorian? I can’t remember.

“He’s worked so hard on his art,” the man said. “You could hold an exhibition of his stuff instead of printing off a picture of a lake house.” Noah stood ready to dash out if needed. Lady Freydis was a major nuisance and definitely willing to be the grit in someone’s Vaseline but he didn’t want her intimidated. “You know what the lad went through.”

Noah heard the grim determination in the man’s voice and opened the door to lend support.

“He kept his fur flat and his tail high,” Ian said. “You know what he was like when we found him.” He caught sight of Noah and stuttered to a halt.

Lady Freydis opened and shut her mouth a few times. “We play at things,” she finally said airily. “It’s like roleplaying. I play a fairy princess and Ian plays a werewolf, like Callum and Jeanette.”

“Fairy princess?” Noah said limply. He glanced at Ian and flinched. The man looked like he’d killed too many people and was glaring at Lady Freydis like he wanted to add her to the total.

“I would be very grateful if you could consider Callum’s feelings in this, your highness,” Ian snapped before bowing, spinning on his heel and storming off.

Noah looked blankly at Lady Freydis. “Fairy Princess?” he repeated.

“Twinkle,” she said brightly.

You can read the story from the beginning here

The Prince and the Paladin Chapter Two

Image from Unsplash, taken by pietro de grandi

Kayley was glad to stretch her legs by the time her early lunch came around. “That novel is outrageous,” she told Drake as they walked briskly up to Roundhay Park. “Poor Sabitha! I wonder whether she’ll escape the sinister gang of navvies on Call Lane?”

“I’m sure that the handsome Lord Allerton will find her in time,” Drake grinned. “They’ll have a passionate kiss and then some dreadful accident will have her swept off to something dramatic – again!”

They found a bench and sat. “It’ll soon be too cold to eat lunch outdoors,” Kayley said. “Perhaps we can start having a brisk walk and eat at my desk.”

“I’m glad that I persuaded you to take exercise at lunchtime,” Drake said. “It’s put a spring in your step.”

Kayley smiled and pulled out her lunchbox. Mentally she handed over a second box to Drake. She always had extra rations for her imaginary friend. “It’s one of the perks of the job,” she said. “I get to walk in Roundhay Park every day.” She opened the box and took out a chicken wrap. “And I’m eating a little healthier.” She took a moment to enjoy the view across Waterloo Lake. “And it gives me more time to spend with you.”

“And to plot your imaginary love life,” Drake said. “Your mum is going to want an update next week.”

“I’m going to stall for a couple of weeks,” Kayley said. “Then I’ll come up with someone like the chicken factory worker. I can make him a philosophy graduate and watch her get conflicted.”

 She imagined Drake chuckling. Then he paused and Kayley could almost see him turning to look at her as if struck by inspiration.

“How about making me your boyfriend?” Drake asked. “Next time you speak to your mother, tell her about me. It would make perfect sense.”

Kayley thought for a moment. “My imaginary boyfriend but on another level.”

“There aren’t any pictures of me elsewhere to prove anything, are there?” Drake asked.

Internally Kayley shook her head as she finished up her wrap. “I used an AI programme,” she said. “But I saved all the details so I can create a variety of pictures of you.”

“And you already have a good idea about me,” Drake said. Kayley imagined him snapping the lid shut on his plain lunchbox and sliding it back to her. “You know my favourite foods, my favourite drinks, my favourite films and even my favourite aftershave.”

“Why did I choose something so expensive?” Kayley slid her own lunch box away, pulled out an apple and mentally handed another over to Drake. “But we never decided what you did for money.”

“I never felt comfortable with just being rich,” Drake said apologetically. “It seemed lacking in detail and would involve a lot of family that I don’t want to be bothered with.” He took a bite out of the apple.

“You have to be someone who is active,” Kayley thought as they stood to start their usual walk along the lake’s edge. “But I didn’t like police or soldier. You always felt too much of a free spirit.”

“I want to be someone with a little bit of culture,” Drake strolled next to Kayley. “But we decided against a professor. It wasn’t active enough.”

“I quite fancied you as an actor or rock star, but it seemed so hectic and you would always be away.” Kayley paused and nodded to the owner of Kif, her favourite large Alsatian mix, who was came up for a cuddle before wagging his tail at Drake and her and moving on.

“You ought to bring treats for Kif,” Drake observed.

“I’m not sure his owner would appreciate that. He might worry that I’m spoiling him or affecting his training,” Kayley said.

“What training?” Drake asked, reasonably, as they watched Kif suddenly race after a duck pursued by his hapless owner. “How about a writer? I could be an expert in nineteenth century Leeds. It’s how I met you. I was helping Mr Perrigo with research for his novels.” They turned up the path towards the main road, dodging the small kids and dogs as they headed for the gates.

“I thought we had tried writer but didn’t like it because it wasn’t active enough.” Kayley was distracted by a poster for a ghost hunting event. “Do you fancy going to that?”

Drake stopped suddenly and Kayley found herself almost stopping in reality. He grabbed her arm. “That’s it. I’m only pretending to be a writer. Obviously I specialise in nineteenth century Leeds, and I write some books, but I’m actually an occult investigator. I fight vampires and werewolves, protecting the ordinary people from the darkness that lurks around them.” Drake grinned. “I could have access to all sorts of books and have links across the country to other occult investigators. We could join against evil creatures of the night.”

Kayley tried not to giggle out loud, then thought for a moment. “Actually, that sounds interesting. I’d obviously keep that side of your character from mum, but it would explain your workouts at the gym.”

“And my martial arts training,” Drake added. “Did we decide what style of martial arts I would be doing?”

“I can’t tell the difference,” Kayley said honestly. She hesitated. “I’m not sure about werewolves and ghosts and that. It’s a step too far. An imaginary boyfriend is one thing, but at least boyfriends could be real. If I go insane and believe that you actually exist, that’s one thing, but I don’t want to be in a mental ward screaming about vampires. Or even worse – trying to stake someone.”

“Come on,” Drake coaxed. “It’s the best idea yet. It’s not as if you would be joining me.”

“As if I’m going to sit at home waiting for you to come back from secret labyrinths under the city?” Kayley crossed the road and headed towards the bakery. “Of course I would join you, or at least do the paperwork.”

“Do you live with me?” Drake said provocatively. “Would you be washing the blood stains out of my clothes as I recover from another night of fighting unholy terror.”

“I most certainly do not,” Kayley said primly. “We’ve not known each other that long and I’m not one to rush into that sort of commitment. Especially if you have money. It makes me look cheap.”

“I would have to have money.” Drake agreed. But we’ve been dating nearly eighteen months. I think the conversation ought to come up.”

“Okay,” Kayley thought as she pushed open the shop door. “Where do you live? And is there enough room?”

“I could live in one of the new flats in the city centre, with a startling view over the city,” Drake as they joined the lunch time queue.

“Would there be enough room for the occult books and anti-weird stuff?” Kayley whispered back sceptically. “I mean, you’d have to have silver bullets and fancy swords and, I don’t know, boxes of garlic and stuff. I think you’d need a big house.” She smiled at the assistant behind the counter. “I think Mr Perrigo left an order”

Surjit smiled. “I’ve got it ready,” she said. “There’s plenty of sandwiches, two quiches and an assortment of pasties. That Mr Perrigo. It’s all or nothing with him. And I’ve added some cakes as well.” She leaned forward, filled with curiosity. “It’s more than he usually orders. Is it a birthday or something?”

“I’ve no idea,” Kayley said. “But if there’s anything juicy then I’ll share.” She watched Surjit bustle into the back room to fetch the order. “Do you think I’d be spending a lot of nights with you?” she asked Drake, tentatively.

She could feel the spark in Drake’s eyes. “If I was your boyfriend in real life, I’d want to spend every minute with you, so I think that would be a yes. We would have got used to each other.” He tilted his head as he thought about it. “But there would be more of your stuff at my house than my stuff at your house because of my secret life. Those coconut jumbles look tasty.”

“I don’t like coconut much,” Kayley said. “I prefer chocolate or strawberry.”

“I like coconut, but I think I prefer it in a drink.” Drake leaned closer to the cabinet. Then he straightened and looked directly at Kayley. “I’m getting more independent. I don’t think that’s a good sign. I don’t think that’s a good sign at all.”

Writing Prompt Number 7

Quotation:

The trouble with lies was that once started, the fiction had to be continued, and it was hard always to be remembering details that you had made up on the spur of the momentElizabeth Aston

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!