Coffee Break Read – The Power of Speech

Mum and Dad have been taking in traumatised kids for as long as I can remember. When they couldn’t have any more children after me and my sister, they decided not to moan about it. Instead, they put their energies into helping the less fortunate. We got used to little ones who had been beaten, or starved, or treated worse than dogs. But when Billy came along it was hard not to cry because of what the poor little blighter had been through.
I remember asking Dad how anybody could treat a little kid like that. He looked at me soberly.
“Honestly? I don’t know. All I know is that we have to do our best to mend him.”
And so we did.
We all knew the drill well enough to ignore his peculiarities, and not push him or impose ourselves. At first, it seemed like each tiny step was agonisingly slow, and I sometimes caught a look of almost despair on Mum’s face. But then Billy seemed to start understanding that he really was safe. He began sleeping in his bed instead of crouched in the corner. He started to eat proper food instead of baby milk from a bottle. He even smiled every once in a while.
The one thing Billy didn’t do was talk. Come to think of it he hardly made a noise at all. He never cried or laughed, and if he sneezed or burped he looked so frightened that we soon learned to pretend not to hear.
It was Mum’s birthday, and she wanted to go to the aquarium. So we all went. It’s a funny place, full of soft blue light, and while most of the kids ran around from window to window Billy stood watching a tank full of jellyfish, touching the glass with gentle fingers. My sister went and stood behind him, and he actually leaned back against her.
“Look, Billy,” she said gently, “custard fish”.
Billy made a funny rusty little noise, and it came to me that he was laughing. Mum grabbed Dad’s hand and held on real tight. My sister put a gentle hand on Billy’s head.
“Whipped cream fish?”
He turned to look at her, and in a tiny, creaky, rusty little whisper, he explained where she was going wrong.
“Jellyfish.”
Then he hid his face in her sweatshirt while she stroked his hair.
And that’s how a Portuguese Man of War gave Billy back his voice.

©️ Jane Jago 2018

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred and Sixty-Four

Jim woke with a hangover and a bed full of groupies. He got up and went to apologise to Mollie. Again.

He couldn’t find her so he went back to bed. About a week later it occurred to him that his wife was gone. 

His secretary handed him a note.

‘Get sober or forget me.’ 

It took him two years to get clean and sober. 

They told him she was living in the modest semi that had been home before he got famous.

She came to the door with a laughing child on her hip.

A child with his eyes…

©jj 2019

Coffee Break Read – Suburban Wizard

Being a wizard in a world where magic wasn’t supposed to exist wasn’t easy. His studies took all his time and left little for earning the money he needed to support himself. So home for Brandon Grey was a rented bedsit on the second floor of a converted suburban house. He was very tired having been up since dawn to practice a new incantation and then an afternoon stint as an Uber driver had tested his goodwill to humanity to its limit.
“Mr. Grey?”
Brandon hesitated between steps and resisted the impulse to swear. Instead, as he turned, his face was already wallpapered with a polite smile.
“Mrs. Howard!” His tone made of the name an answer to her question.
Mrs. Howard was his landlady. She lived on the ground floor. A big-boned thirty-something divorcee with a pack of rude children and a permanent short temper. From the open door behind her he could hear sounds of youthful discontent.
“It’s mine!”
“Gerroff me!” Then an ear-piercing shriek of protest.
“Mum – Shane’s taken the controller again!”
Despite the title being given three distinct syllables of intonation, ‘Mum’ seemed not to hear.
“You put out your rubbish Mr. Grey? It’s bin day tomorrow.”
Brandon maintained the smile and broadened it.
“I’ll do that as soon as I have got myself in,” he assured her. 
“Great and can you wheel the bin ‘round the front when you’re done?”
His smile still fixed Brandon assented. But his thoughts were traitors to the smile. He was getting fed up of being used as an odd-job man for the Howards. Seemed not a day went by and he was asked to do one job or another. Another yell of protest from behind Mrs. Howard decided him.
“But you know, your Shane is a big lad now. He could do with that kind of responsibility. Why don’t you get him to do it?”
As he spoke he added a small push of willpower. But Mrs. Howard had seen off two husbands and the bailiffs. She stared back nonplussed.
“I don’t think so. It is a heavy job.”
Brandon held her gaze and tried harder. No words were spoken. For a moment the woman looked perplexed, then her expression cleared. She half turned her head towards the open door and called out.
“Shane, you stop playing that video game and go do the rubbish!”
“But mum you said you’d get the poxy old lodger to do it!”
It was a red rag to a bull and Brandon was forgotten as she stormed back into the lower apartment yelling loudly and apparently adding to the chaos rather than resolving it in any measure at all.
Allowing himself a moment of satisfaction, Brandon opened his front door, dropped his jacket on the couch and made a coffee.

E.M. Swift-Hook

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred and Sixty-Three

Alone in the bee-loud sanctuary of the orphanage garden, Gennifer stretched her lithe little body and began to dance her joy. The chief of her tormentors had a holiday and had gone to the seaside for a whole month.

Genny was pulled from playfulness by the sound of light applause. She looked around in panic. At first she could see nobody, but then her eye alighted on a winged figure sitting at his ease on a honeysuckle blossom heavy with nectar.

“Who are you?” she quavered.

“Changeling child. I am your brother.”

And Gennifer grew wings to fly away…

©jj 2019

Coffee Break Read – A New Way of Honour

Nothing was said as they were riding back until a short way from his house, Zarengor reined in sharply, bringing his pony in front of Ralik’s and forcing him to stop.
“Gods, I am sorry Ralik. You should not have had to do that.”
Ralik said nothing. It was true. He should not. Zarengor cursed and turned his pony back to the street. They rode on in silence for a while before the other man spoke again.
“I do not know what I am supposed to have done. These people seem to want to find me a monster.”
“You think it is nothing of your own making?” Ralik was unable to keep silent at that.
He found it unbelievable that Zarengor should think he owned no responsibility for the reactions he provoked in others.
“I know what I have done elsewhere. Well, what I am believed to have done elsewhere, but I have done nothing to harm so much as the fingernail of any Harkeran. I am here to fight their war with them and I will do so and win it for them too if we have even the most leisurely break of good fortune. You would think they might have some sense of that.”
Ralik moved to ride alongside him. It was strange to him to see this side of the man whose strength and self-confidence had once been more than an inspiration for him. It made him question again what he had been doing in Harkera.
“Why should they be grateful to you? They do not know you except by reputation. Perhaps when you have won their war they will be grateful.”
Zarengor looked into the gathering darkness and shook his head.
“Maybe. And maybe they will suddenly find me inconvenient, an embarrassment, something best put away as quickly and quietly as possible. Or am I getting too cynical?” He sighed slightly. “Tell me, Ralik, have you ever known happiness?”
Ralik’s thoughts instantly filled with a beautiful face whose storm-grey eyes held a depth of emotion he had never inspired in any one before.
“I think so. But what man can ever call himself truly happy? The gods may take all we have in a moment,” he spoke quietly, but with conviction.
“Then perhaps happiness is not the goal, just a fleeting side-effect of other events in life. Perhaps the goal is something altogether more straightforward.” Zarengor fell silent a moment and the sounds of the evening streets closed in: a shout of laughter, a woman shrieking, a child crying, two dogs fighting. “What really matters to you Ralik? What do you steer your life by? What principle or creed governs your direction?”
The questions took Ralik by surprise. They were not the kind of questions one fighting man asked of another and they were questions he suspected that the Vavasor in a sober state would never have asked of him. He was tempted to say nothing, to let the moment pass. But, for some reason, the questions had touched upon the disturbing thoughts and events in his own life in recent days and he found himself considering them almost without meaning to do so.
“Honour,” he said stoically. It was the answer he would have given in all honesty until a few moons ago. But now? Well, now he knew there was something he held higher than honour, although he was not sure he could admit it to anyone else and he would still never forsake honour lightly.
“Oh yes, honour,” Zarengor said and sounded weary of the word. “We were brought up with it as our wet-nurse’s milk, you and I. Honour for ourselves, our families, our lord, our clan, our city – a desolate field is honour. Can it put food in the mouths of the hungry? Can it heal the wounds of the injured? Can it make Castellans strong and merchants wealthy? We make whores of ourselves for honour.”
Ralik was shocked.
“Without honour, what is a man?” It was the creed he had been born to and Ralik could recite its catechism as well as any other nobleman from the north. Zarengor looked at him directly for the first time in the conversation.
“I am not sure, Ralik, but I am beginning to think that without honour a man becomes something more. That without honour, he is free to choose the best way to live.”
“Then perhaps that would be a new way of honour,” Ralik suggested.
“Or perhaps it would be a new way of living.”
Nothing more was said until they dismounted at Zarengor’s house, a small but well-appointed courtyard residence in the wealthiest quarter of the city, close beside the residence of Ralik’s own Castellan. He had taken this house after the attempt on his life for greater security. The Vavasor threw the reins to the hands of a stable lad and strode towards the house.
“I am not to be disturbed,” he informed the guard at the door, then paused and turned to say briefly: “Good-night Ralik, I will not keep you up on my account any longer tonight – and thank you.”

From Transgressor Trilogy 2: Times of Change a Fortune’s Fools book by E.M. Swift-Hook.

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred and Sixty-Two

Buddy was sulking. He sat in the garden with his back to the humans. They made encouraging noises and one of the small ones brought him sausage from the food burning machine. But he was still angry. They had to understand that being small didn’t mean he had no dignity.

In the end, the big one came and crouched beside him.

“How about if I promise not to let them put clothes on you ever again.”

Buddy sighed, and scrooched over until he was able to lean against the one who understood.

He smiled, and big scratched his ears consolingly.

©jj 2019

Author feature. Thrill Kings: Not so Bad by Rik Ty

Thrill Kings: Not so Bad by Rik Ty is a short, Interdimensional Sci-Fi.

Outdoors in the sunny springtime! Nonstop not only has to get used to a new bike, he has to get used to new rules with the girl he likes, and he has to somehow stop a wave of leaping, octopus-giants from stampeding through a small shoreline town. The creatures are too big to send home with a glancing shot of tap-beam, and too fast to catch in a sustained one. How much time for trial and error is there? Fast-paced action and intriguing interaction make this a quick, breezy read! 

As she looked for Nonstop, she lost sight of the landscape, and the next time she viewed it, she got a surprise.
“Nonstop! I see something! a few streets up, there’s a dust cloud coming.”
Nonstop looked at 8-ball’s display, like Rattletrap’s, on the visible side of the arms’ engine pod.
“I see the haze cluster coming. But not the dust. Oh wait…”
“Oh-MY- G – Nonstop, it’s like a giant octopus!”
“What?”
“I just saw it for a second. It jumped up, and then slipped below the tree line again.”
“Well, now its heading west. Did it see you?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. You think it’s running?”
“Yeah.”
And with that, the giant pink octo-monster breached the treeline again with a leap, and this time, Grace saw the back of its head. Big. Massive. With a surface that seemed to waver and flutter slightly from its own movement. For the instant she saw it, the creature’s head looked like a giant, partially-inflated-parade-balloon. Either that, or a giant, pink tonsil.
And then it was gone again.
“Yeah, he’s running.”
“Okay, we’re going to stay on his left and try to get in front of him,” Nonstop said. He gave the bike some juice and tripled its speed.
“When I catch up to it, I’m going to hit it with tap and try to send it home. You’re ready with your camera things, right?”
“Yeah. Don’t worry about the cameras. Just do your thing like I’m not here.”
Grace sped up as she answered, but fell behind. She sent two cameras ahead of her, but they couldn’t keep up with Nonstop either. Ten seconds behind him turned to two minutes behind him, and finally five before her cameras found him again. She could see some mayhem on her screens, and she could see some mayhem with her own eyes, just by looking up.
Far off, she saw the octo-monster leap onto a peaked roof, gallop over it with ropy, folded legs, straighten its legs to their full length and leap off the roof, gaining massive amounts of distance. Nonstop shot up the same roof, launched it like a ramp, arced over to a tree, swung the bike from a branch, over to another tree, swung from another branch, landed on a long flat roof, drove it at high speed, and had the motorcycle cartwheel over the edge and down to the street below, where Grace lost sight of him again. Rather than chase after Nonstop, Grace opted for height. She kept a general idea of where Nonstop was, but up high, she saw dust clouds all over town, most with leaping pink centers, The town looked like a giant griddle filled with weird fried eggs. What would it take to get one single creature isolated and what would they miss in the meantime?

A Bite of... Rik Ty
Q1: How much of you is in your hero/villain?

None and all – each of my characters has a little bit of me in it, but I don’t think that would surprise anyone. It’s easier to say that Nonstop is the opposite of me – I’m not young, I’m not a free ranging nomad, and I don’t know the first thing about driving motorcycles – here’s an interesting thing: there was a writing challenge I encountered in a facebook group last year. They suggested we write a few paragraphs of our characters doing our real world job. My job at the time was a frantic tangle where nothing was ever actually “finished”, and comically, I couldn’t put Nonstop in that position for even a second. He wouldn’t sit still for it. He escaped. I could actually envision myself looking up through the window and watching him drive away. That floored me – suddenly there seemed to be more wish-fulfillment therapy in Nonstop than I realized.

Q2: Is it important to include all shades of belief and sexual orientation in a book?

There are ZERO obligatories. You decide what your story needs. If it includes all shades of belief and sexual orientation, fantastic. If it includes none, fantastic. Obviously, a close cousin to this question is “is it important that all shades of belief and sexual orientation appear in literature?” and the answer to that is OF COURSE, and for all sorts of reasons – validation, inclusion, recognition, empathy, sympathy – you spend a little time with a character in a book who is different from the people you know in real-life, and it can’t help but promote understanding.  Everyone who invests in learning language should find themselves included somewhere in the world’s literature. It would be heartbreaking if that weren’t true.

Q3: Why do you write? Money is an acceptable answer.

I have a peculiar answer, but one that might make me an interesting oddity. The ONLY thing I write in prose is Thrill Kings – Novels, novellas, short stories, 100 word drabbles, and whatever else I can think of. I spent the earliest part of my career producing graphic novels and shopping them around. My works rarely got published, but often, the person across the desk would suggest that I help them with their project, or help a friend with the friend’s project. This was fun and exciting, but my own projects languished. The same thing happened when I shopped toy ideas around. I’ve had two demanding careers over the last 30+ years – creative freelancer (writer/illustrator/designer) and design manager. I did well at both, constantly solving creative problems for other people. Very nice, and very wonderful, but I wanted to get SOMETHING of my own out in the world before I died. I chose Thrill Kings because it seems a little like Sherlock Holmes, or Conan to me, a project that could keep growing the more that was put into it, and perhaps something that I could leave my kids. 
(I did produce one Thrill King comic. It took me a year to complete. I switched to prose – much harder – but at least for me, faster.)

Rik Ty in his own words

I was a cartoonist/toy designer/writer/illustrator in the 80s and 90s (Marvel, Matchbox, Scooby Doo, Cracked etc). Almost all my clients were in Manhattan. Around 2000, there were shake-ups at several, and 9-11 was the last straw. Most of my clients became understandably cautious, and as a result, I suffered a drastic slowdown. I was helping Toys R Us with their ET line at the time. They were expanding their product development department and I asked to be considered. 7 months later, I got the job of Senior Design Manager, and I held it for 15 years until the company closed in 2018. Now I am reinventing my freelance career and hoping to gain a toe-hold with Thrill Kings. I have been happily married since 1984, and my daughter is getting married this very weekend (!!!).

You can find out more on the Thrill Kings website.

 

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred and Sixty-One

One last fight. 

Fred’s opponent stomped into the cage, and the floor shook. Fred looked into a pair of flat, killer’s eyes and knew a frisson of genuine apprehension.The Juggernaut’s secret weapon. Terror. 

But Fred was made of stern stuff, and the purse for this fight would set him and Rosa up for life.

He fought.

In the end superior speed and better physical condition won out, although it was a close run thing. 

Fred stood outside the cage with his chest heaving, and Rosa threw herself into his arms.

“Never again,” she said fiercely.

“I promise…”

©jj 2019

Best of The Thinking Quill – 1

One greets the assembled disciples.

Should it be that you are a lost soul, who has recently slipped into the back of the class in the hope of improving your limited literary endeavours, allow me to introduce myself. I am Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV, fondly referred to as IVy by my chums. The acclaimed author of that prodigiously enchanting science fantasy work ‘Fatswhistle and Buchtooth’ which has been removed from the shelves on a temporary basis so it can return and be lauded as it truly deserves.

The end of summer is upon us and as harvests are gathered in I am once more returned to my writing room to reap the rich harvest of a summer gleaning inspiration from the very lap of the Muses in their homeland. Thus I was less than delighted to be disturbed whilst revisiting the profound passages of my previous literary highlights and admiring the lavish style, the graceful similes, the elegant turns of phrase and the superlative use of descriptive ornamentation.

It was, of course, my maternal parent who was well into her second admixture of Benedictine and Calvados. I knew that because the sickly smell of honeyed apples hung on her breath as she stuck her face into mine, muttering: “Why did I do it? What was I doing? How did I ever do something to deserve this?” Then, fuelled by alcohol and the disappointment she feels in her own sad little existence, she trailed off into a long-winded monologue in which I was unflatteringly compared to a chocolate teapot, a leadless pencil and other random objects.

Once I was again mercifully alone, the door bolted to avoid any further distractions, I realised Mumsie had unwittingly pointed out an area of English grammar that I have been remiss in bringing to the attention of my pupils. The ‘doing’ words.

How to Write Right  –  The Write Verb

Right class! Today we shall explore one of the backbones of any sentence. Indeed, that without which it is not a sentence at all.

Verbs are words which inform us of action. You all knew that of course, so I shall skip over asking for a show of hands and cut to the chase: how to choose the right verb for your sentence.

The important message I need you to take from today’s lesson is that any sentence can be instantly improved if you consider varying the verb. Truly. It can. Allow me to demonstrate briefly:

The stars shone.

Nothing wrong with that at all. It tells the reader the simple fact and they will absorb it and move on. But oh what a wasted opportunity! Instead of having the reader merely register the idea of the stars being there, doing what we all know stars do, you could have informed their imaginations with your creative genius (however small that might be) and awed them by your command of the depth of beauty in the language. Thus, thusly:

The stars blazed.
The stars lustred.
The stars scintillated.
The stars effervesced.
The stars coruscated.
You, by now, begin to assimilate the idea.

Thusly, my innocents, do not ‘walk’ but ‘promenade’. Never merely ‘jump’ when you can ‘frolic’. And remember, dear disciple mine, any noun can be enverbed to add to your treasure trove of possibilities:

The handsome young man entabled his firm buttocks, peachifying my day by his very beauty. (Voila mes crudités, deux pour le prix d’un)

And thus have we indeed ‘done’ the doing words.

Now go and try some out.

Until we next…

Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

You can find more of IVy’s profound thoughts in How To Start Writing A Book courtesy of E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago.

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