Happy April 23rd

It was a cold, wet and miserable night, the sort that chills you to the bone and soaks you through. Fred bitterly regretted his decision to try and get ahead of his work as his battered car was wheezing up the hills and the engine temperature was nudging upwards. His phone was out of charge, he was tired and hungry and he was pretty sure that he was lost.

There was a brief glimmer of hope as he spotted a pub and he pulled up outside with a sigh of relief. The only lights light up the sign of the George and Dragon and the doors were shut up, but at least it was somewhere to stop. The rain chilled him to the bone as he banged hard on the door. Above him, a window opened and a woman stuck her head out. “We’re closed!”

“Can you make an exception, love,” he called up. “I’m happy to pay – I’m on expenses. I won’t be any bother and it’s a brutal night out here.”

“No exceptions!” The woman shouted down. “I know your sort! You’ll nick nuts from behind the bar and leave the taps running. Go away!”

“Please, missus, it’s freezing out here. My car needs a break and I’ve no charge on my phone. I promise I won’t be a bother.”

“Go away!” The woman said and slammed the window shut.

Fred stepped back for a minute, exhaustion sweeping through him. He looked up at the pub sign. St George didn’t seem to be bothered by the cold rain as he perpetually spitted the twisting dragon. He thought for a moment, then turned back to the pub and banged again on the door. The window flew open again.

“I told you, go away!” The woman yelled.

Fred shook his head. “This place is the George and Dragon, right? Well I’ve spoken to the dragon, and now I want to speak to George.”

Writing Prompt Number 21

Quotation:

The best way out is always through – Robert Frost

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!

A Different Problem

You can read the story from the beginning here. While there are references to characters that have appeared in previous stories. You don’t need to know about those characters to enjoy this instalment.

“So how are you coping with this?” Noah asked as he escorted Mina through the arched tunnel that was the new short cut between the library and the café annexe.

Mina wrinkled her nose. “Working with the candles is chaotic. Sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming but sometimes it’s fun.” She grinned happily up at him. “But I’m getting caught up in the arguments between Kadogan and Miss Marianne and while that’s entertaining, I’m not getting much done.”

“Didn’t she throw a steel wax melting jug at him?” Noah asked.

Mia nodded. “He ducked so it got dented and then she burst into tears and flounced off. I think that they’re flirting.”

“Seriously?” Noah shifted the box of books in his arms. Lady Freydis had been very clear that he needed books for the chaotic research. “Whatever happened to just going for a drink?”

“Elfen have their own ways,” Mina said. “And with them both being obsessed with candles, it gives them something to bond over. And at least it takes the attention away from Martin.”

Noah nodded and then stopped at the arch between the annexe and the main shop. Mrs Tuesday was furious.

“You march in here, throwing accusations around, giving out orders like lord of creation, when you’re nothing but a snotty nosed, jumped up, piece of…”

“I can take it from here,” Fiona said, walking past Mrs Tuesday and glaring at the stranger.

Noah assessed the scene. A stranger was ignoring Mrs Tuesday’s glare and looking around. It was still an hour before opening and while he knew in theory that Lady Freydis and Mrs Tuesday weren’t the helpless ladies that they appeared to be, Fiona was definitely vulnerable. He pushed himself between Fiona and the stranger. He didn’t want this man to think that the ladies were an easy target. “What’s going on?”

“This is Sir Craig,” Mrs Tuesday spat. “A Knight Templar and scum of the earth.”

“This man is being difficult,” Lady Freydis said. “And he says that he’s from the government this time.”

“We’ve been through this before,” Fiona said. “We have all the permits for the new candle business…”

“And possibly soap,” Lady Freydis added.

“Everything will be done in accordance with the rules and regulations,” Fiona added.

“There is concern about you running these establishments while being understaffed,” Sir Craig said. “I’ve come across a few complaints from people about your attitude to shoplifters.” He gazed straight at Noah. “And if there aren’t enough bodies in the shop then shoplifting is more likely to happen.” He looked at Lady Freydis. “And more chance of someone accidentally wandering into the Fairy realm without anyone realising. I’ve had a few words with Dave and I’m not happy about how you added this extra room.”

“You leave Dave alone!” Mrs Tuesday snarled. “He’s a good lad that can do without your interference.”

“I know that you’re running short staffed, especially now that Jasmine has moved to Leeds,” Sir Craig said. “And I know that even with your new colleague, Mina, the brownies have their hands full working for Kadogan and Miss Marianne. You usually call on Adele, but she’s got caught up in her family business and Elaine is rushed off her feet keeping up with Dave. Half of the werewolf pack that would help out got drafted to help out that ongoing issue in Otley and the brownies are always booked up.” He sighed. “I want to help. I’m not here to cause trouble.”

Mrs Tuesday snorted. “That makes a change.”

Sir Craig cast a wary glance at her. “As you know, sometimes the Knights Templar get fixated on one type of non-normal. It can lead to complications.” He looked around, unafraid but guarded. “If we could have a regular placement here for our Squires who are training, it could help give them a more rounded look.”

Mrs Tuesday narrowed her eyes. “Are you trying to stop another incident like Jason.”

Sir Craig looks straight at Mrs Tuesday. “Sir Jason was my comrade and like a brother to me. We got things wrong. You may not believe me, but I’m glad that he’s getting his best life.”

“I’ll have to discuss this with Steve and Kadogan,” Fiona said. “I’m not sure that some of our clients would appreciate having Knights Templar on the premises.”

“I’m not sure if some of your knights will be happy washing up and stocking shelves,” Mrs Tuesday said.

“You’re short of staff and have a limited number of people who could work here.” Sir Craig said. “Who else is going to apply?”

The bell on the door rang and everyone instinctively turned towards the sound. “I’ll apply,” Umbran said.

This post was written in response to Writing Prompt Number 17

Outside

You can read the story from the beginning here – Back at the White Hart

“The thing is,” Lord Cerdig said as he paced in front of the illusory fire. “The thing is, she’s never given me a chance.”

Umbran watched him impassively. “I fail to see what I can do,” he said. “She’s elfen, old, powerful, unpredictable and skilled. She also has a devoted husband and loyal allies.”

“That White Hart thing has brought so much power and influence to York,” Lord Cerdig grumbled. “Ragnar was weak and ready to fall, but now…” He looked around him. “I need you to help me.”

“And what can you offer me in return?” Umbran asked.

“Dammit, I don’t like talking about this sort of thing,” Lord Cerdig said. “But when it all comes down…” He paced around Umbran’s study. “You’ve stayed buried under Warrington for over a century. You stay in your three rooms and worry. I know that you get all the books and papers, and I know that you have the internet. But it’s not much of a life.” Lord Cerdig poked an angry finger at him. “I’m supposed to be your prince, the one who looks after his people. The loyalty is supposed to go both ways. I’m supposed to look after you.”

“I’m happy here,” Umbran said.

“No you’re not,” Lord Cerdig contradicted. “You feel safe, away from all the scary things that you imagine up there.” He frowned. “Don’t make me talk like this. It isn’t natural. Just go and speak to Lady Freydis. It won’t kill you.”

Umbran looked up at the dim ceiling. He wasn’t an elfen, not exactly, but he had more than enough power to carve out this tiny domain, safe away from the worry of what the normals would do next. “I may not be happy, but I am not unhappy.”

“Don’t tell anyone that I’m this sentimental, but try and imagine being happy instead,” Lord Cerdig snapped. “As your prince, I’m ordering you to go and speak to Lady Freydis. And yes, I know that I can’t force you but I’m saying it anyway.” He grimaced. “And this planner is supposed to help with anxiety. Try using it.” He pulled a flowery notebook from his pocket and slapped it into Umbran’s unresisting hand. “I swear I’m going soft. But dammit, just go outside.” He spun on his heel and left Umbran to his imagination.

This chapter is inspired by Writing Prompt Number 16

Writing Prompt Number 20

Image from Unsplash, taken by Thom Holmes

Quotation:

Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind – William Shakespeare

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!

Not Doing Research

My articles on Research and the Author are intended to help writers to avoid the mistakes I’ve already made and give ideas about finding out information for their stories. Research is catnip for me. It lures me in to strange places and bewitches and befuddles me until I’m blissed out in interesting and largely useless facts.

Back when I first started writing about the eclectic and eccentric characters at the White Hart in Tales from the White Hart, Kadogan was already fascinated by candles. He watched them, counted them, arranged them and complained about them endlessly. In the latest instalments in Back at the White Hart, Kadogan has decided to invest in candle making equipment, which makes sense to him but no-one else. What could go wrong? Anyone who knows Kadogan thinks that plenty could go wrong and the potential for unexpected fires, runaway fragrances and cursed wicks are endless.

Writing classes always advise new authors to write what they know. I know nothing about candles but can’t resist the fun that I can have mixing Kadogan with candle making. I considered doing real life research and making a few candles so I looked around for an easy and inexpensive candle making kit to get an idea of how it could go. Sometimes it’s all about the details. I’d love to be able to add a touch like the smell of melting wax or the feel of the wicks. I had a look on eBay, which is my normal starting point.

On the surface, this seemed like a good idea. I love candles. There’s one burning as I type this. It’s nicely fragrant, slightly crackly and bought from the supermarket. I ask for candles for birthdays, Christmas and Mother’s Day. My son knows to candle me up on all gift giving occasions. Making candles seems like a logical next step. However all the adult kits that are the most like the experience of proper candle are extremely comprehensive. There are bundles that are quite reasonably priced that include melters and hot plates and thermometers along with ample supplies. For less than £50 at the time of typing I could find a kit that includes 200 wicks, although perhaps enough wax for ten candles or so.

But I can see the slippery slope. If I’ve got all this kit along with the spare wicks, it couldn’t hurt to pick up a little wax and fragrance and dye to make a few more. Surely it would be more cost effective, even if I priced it against supermarket candles. I could spend perhaps an evening or two and churn out a dozen candles. There are two good reasons why I shouldn’t consider it.

The first very good reason is that I am accident prone. I drop things. I spill things. I scald myself in improbable situations. My family never trusted me with jam making as I couldn’t be trusted with boiling fruit and sugar. I once set fire to a chip pan full of fat and far too many of my family are surprised that I only did that once. There is no way I can be trusted with melted wax – it’s a fire hazard and scald hazard combined.

The second excellent reason is that I have a shopping habit that gets out of control when it comes to hobbies. Knitting is a good example. I enjoy knitting but I love shopping for knitting. My yarn stash can be measured in heaps and I have random bags with needles, tape measures, patterns, bodkins and stitch markers all around the house. The amount of yarn I’ve accumulated due to seeing a really good deal when my impulse control was looking the other way is ridiculously large. I’ve a surprising amount of sewing kit as well, considering that I’m scared of my sewing machine. If candle making joined all my other hobbies, it wouldn’t stay in a small corner. I’d see a deal on wax or wicks and, before I knew it, candle making gear would be spilling out of the cupboards along with all the rest of my hobbies.

I thought very carefully about all of this. There are a multitude of videos on YouTube about candle making and I can watch them without risking burning myself or overdoing the shopping. Not only that, I can knit while watching those videos and decrease the yarn stash at the same time.

I’m skipping the real life research. I hope my reasoning helps other writers make informed conditions about when research on YouTube is good enough.

Writing Prompt Number 19

Quotation:

Ninety percent of all mental errors are in your head – Yogi Berra

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!

Business Talk

You can read the story from the beginning here. This chapter was inspired by Writing Prompt Number 15

“I thought that door was locked to prevent the desperate from entering,” Lady Freydis said, glaring. “The shop is not open to the public for another thirty minutes and it’s never open for riff raff.”

Miss Marianne shrugged. “Locks are unimportant,” she said, striding across the shop and up to the counter. “Love is important.” She dumped a large basket of flowers onto the counter. “Where is Martin?”

Kadogan stalked in. “I am going to make candles,” he announced.

Fiona looked up from where she was re-stocking the greetings cards. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“We expend money on purchasing candles,” Kadogan said. “It would be economically sensible to produce those candles.”

“No-one has a love for Martin like I,” Miss Marianne said.

Noah wandered in from the back room. “What’s going on?” he asked Mrs Tuesday.

She grinned. “Sit back and enjoy,” she said.

“Making candles is complicated,” Fiona said. “You need wax and things, and more space than we have. It’s complicated.”

“I know Martin better than anyone. I’m his soul mate. I’m his twin flame,” Miss Marianne wailed.

Noah winced. “Is this about the candle making business that Kadogan got me to buy?” he asked.

Fiona snapped her head around to stare at him. “What business?” she asked.

Kadogan waved a hand airily. “Just the equipment and supplies,” he said. “They were remarkably inexpensive.”

“Probably because the person selling failed to make any money with it,” Fiona said. She turned back to Noah. “What do you mean, you bought the business? And didn’t you think to check?”

“I’ve brought flowers with me,” Miss Marianne cried. “Where is my true love?”

Noah took a step back. “There’s loads of those sort of businesses online,” he said. “And it was just small scale stuff.” He looked hesitantly at Kadogan. “A lot of influencers have a candle making business but they make most of their money from their blogs and merch.”

“What is merch?” Lady Freydis said, keeping her eyes on Miss Marianne.

“You know, merchandise like t-shirts or mugs or candle making supplies,” Noah said. “They usually write a book or two…” He stuttered to a stop as he realised his mistake.

“Excellent,” Lady Freydis. “You may write this book. And the enfluencer thing – you can organise that, yes?”

Noah shrugged. “I’m not sure. I can come up with some ideas but I can’t promise anything.”

“You will be perfect,” Lady Freydis said. “And you will instruct Mina as well.”

“Nobody is listening to me!” Miss Marianne wailed.

“Do you like candles?” Kadogan asked.

“Only if they are well ordered,” Miss Marianne said. “And the new soy wax blends are a significant improvement on the tallow dips.”

Kadogan’s eyes narrowed. “You should supervise the brownies that I have employed,” he said.

“We have more employees?” Fiona whispered.

“I shall escort you to the premises that I have secured for the candle making,” Kadogan said, courteously taking Miss Marianne’s arm.

“We have more premises?” Fiona whimpered.

Miss Marianne turned her head to glare at Lady Freydis. “Give Martin the flowers, trollop, and don’t tell him about the flowers.”

Lady Freydis ran a cloth over the coffee machine as she watched Kadogan and Miss Marianne leave. “This is going to be so much fun,” she said.

With Apologies

I fail at February and March. I always have. It’s the time of year when things like funerals and loss of ability to function happen for me. I am also easily distracted by, well, practically anything and I’m more susceptible around now.

I apologise for missing out on the posts. This happens every year yet still somehow takes me by surprise and I let people down. I’m sorry. Normal service (whatever normal service is) will be resumed on Monday.

I’ve been thinking a lot about reviews. Something is niggling at me and prodding me to keep going, but I feel uncomfortable reviewing authors who are in the same sort of genre as me. It feels like I’m poking at them and I really don’t want to do that. I want to be encouraging.

Over the last couple of months, when things have been less than straightforward in my private life, I’ve been reading my bodyweight in romantic eBooks. I know that eBooks technically have no easily measurable weight (can you tell that I have an extremely STEM son) and that I’m very much a larger lady, but it’s the best way to describe my reading. I’ve even read Hockey romances, and I’ve never seen a hockey game. I’m not even sure about the rules.

I’ve decided to work with this. The Friday review slot will be either my subscription from the British Library or a absolutely-non-paranormal-or-fantasy-or-anything-supernatural romance. I can’t seem to write anything without breaking out in vampires, so I’m safe from treading on the toes of an author who writes in the same genres. Also, I get to legitimately indulge in a romance at least once per week.

Another point is that I had a load of writing prompts cued up to post so they have kept going. I haven’t seen many people taking advantage of them, but I’ve enjoyed having them steer the story of Back at the White Hart so they are likely to continue. Please feel free to use them if they also work for you.

I plan to eventually put Invitation Accepted into a book form. I’ve noticed that people return to this regularly, so let me know if you want me to push that to the head of my extremely long writing to-do list. I’m always incredibly flattered that anyone reads my work, so if there any requests or questions, I’d like to hear them. I may not have shown it over the last few months, but I want to be respectful to anyone kind enough to read my stories.

Now I’m getting back to completely re-writing Across a Misty Bridge which is far too much fun to be legal and a good reminder of where things started.

Writing Prompt Number 18

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!