It was a bitterly cold night in mid-December, and the underfloor heating in the Library groaned and belched as the hot water ran through the ancient channels. Most of the books were asleep, their dry papery snores filling the air with a somnolent refrain.
However, not everybody slept. Some books were out of their shelves on great, heavy, wheeled trolleys awaiting return to the places where they could rest. One such trolley was currently making its way towards the Dark Majicks stack, but it wasn’t running too well. It was almost as as if one of its wheels was locked – so that the ancient rubber of the tyre was making a toothache-inducing squeal as it dragged across the chequered marble of the Library floor. The squeal grew even louder as the trolley neared the shelves that held unchained grimoires.
“Who is making the trolley scream?” a firm voice demanded. “Whoever it is can just stop it now, or there will be consequences.”
There was a fair bit of subliminal mumbling and grumbling as the trolley rounded the final corner to the home of the grimoires, but the squeaking wheel fell silent. A dumpy young woman, with sandy hair and a lot of freckles, began shelving the books with brisk efficiency. She looked carefully at each volume before placing it in its accustomed position, examining covers and tutting gently when she found and smoothed pages that had been dogeared or crumpled.
One book felt suspiciously lumpy and she opened it to find a pressed mandrake root being used as a bookmark, or somewhat else. She removed the offending fetish and placed it in one of the sagging pockets of her tweedy cardigan. It immediately started screaming. The Night Librarian sighed.
“Be quiet. Or I will fetch the Holy Water.”
The root fell silent although it still squirmed like a landed eel.
Whilst it thought her attention elsewhere, the grimoire in her hands grew suspiciously warm. She slapped it firmly.
“No spells allowed in the Library.”
It snapped its covers at her before subsiding sulkily, but the mandrake continued to act like a frustrated toddler. The Librarian pulled what looked like a very knobbly twig from one of her other pockets and used it to tap the place where the mandrake wriggled and whined.
“Be still now.”
It obeyed, although she could feel its reluctance and anger.
The rest of the shelving of books of majick, dark lore and arcane philosophy went reasonably smoothly, although one grimoire had a tear in a page, where it looked as if somebody had been stupid enough to think they could cut out a spell, and the Librarian was furious to find a rasher of crisply fried bacon slipped between the covers of a priceless bestiary.
Once the trolley was emptied, the Librarian detoured to the imposing front desk where she opened a locked drawer and pushed the protesting mandrake into a lead-lined prison to be dealt with in daylight. If anybody bothered.
She shelved two more trolleyfuls with only minor disagreement from titles that were grumpy at being put next to volumes they disliked, and the usual scramble as travel resorted itself into proper geographic order.
Eventually all was returned to good order and it was time to begin inputting all those details of fines and damages the daytime staff were far to busy to enter into the computer.
A Bite of… Jane Jago
Do you see writing as an escape from the sorrows of existence, an exercise in futility, or an excuse to tell lies and get paid for it? Or is there another option…?
Writing is just the most fun thing you can do with your clothes on – except maybe getting exceedingly drunk and indulging in fisticuffs in the gutter on a Saturday night.
Is it important to include all shades of belief and sexual orientation in a book?
Probably not. What is important is to include the understanding that beliefs and sexual orientation are nobody’s business but one’s own. Unless of course these facets of your character induce you to behave unacceptably. As in (a) knocking on my door and endeavouring to browbeat me into accepting your definition of religion, (b) using money, force or social standing to make a reluctant person submit to your sexual desires, (c) generally being a pain in the ass about the rightness of your beliefs…. I could continue but I’m sure you get my drift.
Do you have any marketing tips for fellow writers? (Go on. Say do some!)
I have to answer this by saying I am absolutely the last person whose advice anybody should be following on any given topic. But particularly not the black art of marketing of which I wot not a single thing. My works generally bite their way out of their cages and become feral fiction – roaming the Amazon Jungle and howling derision at other books. When they have become sufficiently scruffy and malodorous they seem to acquire a certain sort of mad-eyed confidence, which encourages them to waylay unsuspecting passers-by and drag them into the mire of my imagination kicking and screaming…
Ex-cage fighter Jane Jago lives on a volcanic island in the middle of the Sea of Tranquility with her pet dog Dog, a hippogryff called Nando, a grumpy rhinoceros who doesn’t answer to any name, and a swarm of worker nanobots. When she is not creating purple prose her hobbies include sword dancing and lard sculpture. You can stalk her on Twitter or Facebook if you are so inclined…
Cover by Ian Bristow of Bristow Design.