The Best of The Thinking Quill – V

Buenos Dias!

It is indeed I, Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV, writer, agony aunt and astrologer to the famously credulous.  The renowned author of the speculative fiction classic ‘Fatswhistle and Buchtooth’.

One had been racking one’s cranium for a topic for this week’s tutorial (yes, even I sometimes find inspiration needs to pursued vigorously), when a question from Claire prompted one to consider the vital importance of symbols and symbolism to those who would create literature.

Even that bastion of unthinking vulgarity, that outpost of alien mindset, that epitome of hard-handed hard-headedness, that creature one calls Mater has in the recesses of her underused and underdeveloped brain a vestigial understanding of the importance of symbols. Only last week, she was watching some interminably boring panel programme sur le téléviseur, upon which the current Archbishop of somewhere was being castigated about yet another cover-up of ecclesiastical child abuse. Mater looked across the room at me and smiled a twisted smile.

“Moons,” she said a thought sadly. “Moons. If that churchman was to have worn his episcopal regalia, instead of sitting there like a mouse in a poorly fitting lounge suit, I reckon most of them oiks would’ve been a lot more respectful. It’s the symbols of office doncha know.” Then she refilled her gin and Guinness and no more was said.

But that brief moment of lucidity is proof, if proof were needed that the power of symbols reaches deep into the psyche – even of those as sunk into alcoholism and depravity as one’s unlovely parent.

However. En avant.

How to Start Writing a Book – The Write Symbols

When one seeks to create literary magic one needs many tools at one’s disposal. Not the least of which is the noble quest. A device by which your hero may be dispatched wherever your imagination chooses in search of some artefact or some creature without which the story can progress no further. But what does that have to do with symbols, do I hear you cry? Yes, of course, I do as your tiny crania cannot hope to make the leaps of understanding that come to one’s mind as easily and gently as a bluebottle lands on a plate of rotting meat.

Of course, the noble quest is to do with symbolism. It is one of the most symbolic of all the storylines.

First. The quest itself is a metaphor (or symbol) for the struggles that beset all humans from cradle to grave.

Second. Your hero’s solid helpmeet – uplifted from the lower orders to become his right hand – is symbolic of the common clay’s need for a god to worship and of the need gods have for worshippers.

Third. Whatever or whoever is searched for, the vicissitudes of the search are the symbolic harbingers of events in human life which must be overcome with stoicism and bravery. Tempting though hysteria and Tia Maria may be.

And finally. That which is sought is the most powerful symbol of all. It symbolises human love and human endeavour. It shows us the beauty that may be found in the depths of the human soul as we try ever harder and climb ever higher in our quest for perfect beauty.

Some common symbols explained
The dragon. Strength, coldness, avarice, and sex.
The virgin. Unattainability, truth, and the desire for sex.  
Water to cross. The struggle to be loved, and the desire for sex.
A cup or grail. The thirst for knowledge, and the desire for sex.
A dove. Hope and sex.
A raven. Despair and sex.
A knife. Cutting the thread that binds a child to its mother, or sex.

One could continue almost infinitely, but I am sure you are following by now.

So, my bambinos, choose your symbols with care and write them with delicacy.

Until next. Do not have nightmares and ecrit bon.

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.

EM-Drabbles – One Hundred & Thirty-Two

Citizen surveillance was the best way forward.

After all, who could object to an elderly lady sitting, knitting, a cup of tea beside her and a cat on her knee, keeping an eye on the neighbourhood?

No one liked being watched by security services or a remote and uncaring AI.

It was the perfect solution, politically.

The same nosy neighbours who once peeped through net curtains with disproving, judgemental stares now did so through the anonymity of the internet, knowing if they reported poor behaviour the police would come.

It put a whole new meaning into the phrase ‘neighbourhood watch’.

E.M. Swift-Hook

Coffee Break Read – The Piranha

For the next few weeks I was about as busy as barely five feet of woman can be, and it culminated in me having to make a flying visit to Silicon Valley. And that was a real crock of shit. I arrived back in the proper world one Sunday lunchtime, to find Mum waiting at the station. She gave me a big hug and a worried look.
“What? Do I look as bloody as I feel?”
“No, it’s not that. You look okay.”
“What then?”
“The piranha is looking for you.”
I felt my smile turn feral. “I guess another relationship just broke down. Bar-steward.”
Mum looked so worried that I had to put my arms around her.
“Don’t you worry. I can handle him. And I don’t even have to worry about the Sight. He’s so shallow that there’s nothing to See. Also there are some things about him that are most enjoyable.”
She blushed and I gave her a little shake.
“Not just that, dirty girl. Although…”
And we wound up laughing. She drove me home and I fell into bed. I have seldom been as glad of anything as taking my foot off and getting horizontal.
Oh yeah. The foot. I don’t suppose we’ve covered that yet. I was born without a left foot. See. I told you you’d have to pay attention.
Anyway, I have a prosthesis, and very few people are even aware of my little problem. It isn’t a big deal, but after three consecutive flights and a train journey, I’d right about had enough.
I slept for getting on for a whole day and awoke refreshed but stinky. I opted for the whole whirlpool bath deal with bubbles and stuff and I’d just climbed out when I heard a key in the front door.
“Anybody home?”
It was Danny, my cleaner and a good friend.
“Yeah. I’m in the bathroom.”
“Okay. Will I make you some breakfast?”
“Please.”
And I heard him clumping up the stairs. By the time I reassembled myself I could smell bacon and coffee. Dan was in the kitchen, in a particularly fetching apron, just dishing up bacon and scrambled egg.
“Thanks mate. None for you?”
“No. I had waffles and bacon and maple syrup this morning already. When did you get home?”
I sat down and tucked in. “Yesterday” I said around a mouthful. “Scuse. I’m starved.”
He grinned and sat opposite me with a coffee. “Okay. You fuel up and I’ll talk.”
“Guess who’s back in the field?”
I quirked an eyebrow, although I actually had a very good idea.
“The delicious doctor. Seems his latest relationship went tits up.” I shrugged and Danny continued. “This time it wasn’t him by all accounts. Came home too early and found her taking private lessons with her personal trainer. Is alleged to have blacked PT’s eyes for him, then thrown her out bag and baggage on the spot. Suze says he rubbed it in by calling her a cab, and paying the man to take her home to her mother.”
I could feel myself grinning.
“The biter bit then.”
“Indeed. But what about you. Gonna take him back?”
“I expect so. But it is only sex you know.”
“You sure about that?”
“Am. He and I understand each other very well.”

From Jackdaw Court by Jane Jago.

Granny Tells It As It Is – Chewing Gum

Listen to Granny because Granny always knows best!

I have no philosophical objection to gum chewing. If you wish to masticate plastic then that is fine by me.
But.
Effing well dispose of it properly.
That means. 
Not. 
On the pavement. 
Under the edge of the pub table. 
Stuck to the wall next to wherever you are sitting.
Etcetera.
Remove the disgusting globule from your gob. Wrap it in a tissue. And put it in the bin!
The other thing is more about aesthetics. You may think that chewing gum makes you look like James Dean. It don’t. You look like a fucking llama.
A stupid fucking llama.

Mrs Jago’s Handy Guide to the Meaning Behind Typographical Errors Part XXXVI

… or ‘How To Speak Typo’ by Jane Jago

ashsole (noun) – bottom of a clog

attentin (adjective ) – when used to describe standing indicates a slipshod attempt at uprightness. As in: the guard’s attentin stance was clearly indicative of a wish to be elsewhere

barve (verb) – to vomit at high velocity 

befe (adjective) – muscular but not necessarily intelligent 

barzillion (adjective) – of pubic hair having the appearance of having been cut with a knife and fork 

chesee (adjective) – being possessed of large and obviously fake breasts

davish (adjective) – prone to laugh at one’s own jokes

galnd (noun) – hard bogey stuck in much-used handkerchief 

greese (noun) – goose fat

haircat (noun) – member of any one of an almost infinite number of tribute bands

huming (verb) – the noise made by a haircat trying to sound like Mick Jagger

jma (acronym) – juicy male athlete

prevert (noun) – the stage before sexual misconduct 

snoze (adjective) – asleep and snoring with one’s mouth ajar

wanj (noun) – a small, pale being who always has at least one hand in his pocket

weethe (verb) – to wriggle in what one vainly hopes is a sensuous manner

wonam (noun) – confused female

xcrap (adjective) – bad porn

zrbra (noun) – the largest size of brassiere 

EM-Drabbles – One Hundred & Thirty-One

There is a definite art to getting what you want from your boss, but shouting in her face that she doesn’t deserve to have you working for her, is probably not the best one.

But then it’s not every day you get a multi-million contract and when you break the good news in person, she says you are no longer going to work for her.

Of course, you feel a right twonk when she looks at you and says coldly that she meant she wanted you to be a partner in the business.

Wanted.

God I hate the past tense.

E.M. Swift-Hook

Coffee Break Read – What Is Hers

Then the flap of the pavilion was thrown back and Alexa stood there, her eyes blazing and her face almost ugly with anger.
“What do you think you are doing?” she demanded. The Zoukai fell silent like a group of guilty children. “How dare you show these things to the entire caravan before I have so much as set eyes on them? Dogs. This all belongs to me. It is not common property.”
She rounded on Caer her tone venomous. “I sent you to fetch what is mine, Captain, not to set up a stall for your Zoukai to maul over my goods. How dare you allow it. You have no right to even touch these things without my permission. You would not pull apart the bales in the wagons, and these things are as much mine as the contents of those bales. I do not expect to see you and your men pawing through them.”
Caer stood with his eyes downcast, tightening the grip on his own anger. It was beneath his pride to make any excuse or apology. Instead, he waited until she had finished, then turned and snapped at his men. “Bring the Caravansi what is hers.” They laid it all out before her as if making an offering to a goddess or bringing tribute to a queen, but Alexa remained utterly cold and aloof, as if nothing she was being shown was of any real value. Even when Caer manhandled the unconscious captive and added him to the display she seemed unmoved.
“Is this all there was?” Her tone was contemptuous.
“No, Honoured One. This is only a small part of what we found,” Caer told her, quickly. “There is much more.”
Alexa looked as though it was a matter of complete indifference to her.
“Very well, Captain, tomorrow you and your men will take some slaves up the mithan and bring away whatever you think we can carry that might have some small value.”
Caer struggled to know what he was supposed to say to her. He was utterly confused by her attitude. After all she had said before, it made no sense, he had expected she would be overjoyed. Then with a suddenly pounding heart, Caer realised that there was a reason she was being like this. He and he alone had been allowed to see the truth of her feelings – the naked excitement burning in her eyes when she had first talked of the discovery. If she gave no special value to these things then the rest of the caravan would not think them so precious and their cargo would be safer.
“Your will, Caravansi,” he murmured obediently.
Alexa turned on her heel and swept back into her pavilion, the girl holding the flap aside for her to pass. Letting his breath hiss out between his teeth, Caer swung himself back onto the pony and issued sharp orders for the salvaged items to be stored and guarded. The Zoukai moved to obey, faces grim, their mood subdued by their Caravansi’s chilly reaction. Then Caer remembered the unconscious man and pushed his pony over to where he lay.
“Take him to the herb woman,” he instructed Zarul, “and make sure she understands that if he dies I will hold her responsible.”
“Your will, my Captain,” the young Zoukai responded promptly.
Then Caer headed his pony to the picket. What he really needed now was food, strong wine and an obliging slave girl, followed by a good night’s rest. He wanted to have cleared the mithan by midday and be back on the road before dusk. Tomorrow was going to be a long, hard day.

From The Fated Sky the first part of Transgressor Trilogy, and the first book in Fortunes Fools by E.M. Swift-Hook.

Granny Tells It As It Is – Budgie Smugglers

Listen to Granny because Granny always knows best!

I’m as fond as the next woman of a honed, tanned and tattooed young male body (although the effort necessary to achieve it argues a worrying level of narcissism). What pisses on my strawberries big time is the unlovely sight of a fat, sweaty pensioner dressed in nothing but a snot rag and a cheese wire.
These guys are inevitably a weird shade of magenta and liberally endowed with white body hair. Their bellies precede them like sweat stained battering rams, and their pendulous breasts swing with each step of their bandy little legs.
If I could get a shotgun…

The Rabid Readers Review: The Cursed Titans by Ricardo Victoria

Adrenalin-Packed, Anime-Style, Science Fantasy

“The tricky thing about living in history is surviving it.”
Fionn should know as the legendary Greywolf and his Tempest Blade have lived through a fair chunk of history. Yes, Fionn, Gaby and Alex are back and there are new faces too like Kasumi and Joshua, trying to shape the world for the better despite history, monsters and supernatural incursions.
The heroes are preparing for the Triannual Chivalry Games held in the heart of the Kuni Empire – called ‘games’ but these are also an alternative way for nations to settle their differences without resorting to war and there is also a major diplomatic event going on in the background. But things happen at the games that have dramatic consequences and suddenly our heroes are back on track to have to save the world from the eponymous cursed titans.
This is science fantasy in the pure sense of the word – a high-tech futuristic setting combined with magical powers – such as the Gift – and magical, sentient weapons such as the Tempest Blades themselves. It is high adrenaline action, manga/anime style and yet it has deeper currents too. There is an exploration of depression as Alex suffers it terribly, showing how it can feel from the inside and how it impacts those around someone they care for suffering with it. It also shows how sometimes what others see as a disability can be an advantage as Kasumi’s profound deafness actually protects her when others fall.
I enjoyed this book a lot and thought the characters interesting and diverse, although I will admit I found the writing a little lumpy in places and the ‘cool’ dialogue (and monologues even) for me were sometimes just a little over-contrived rather than cool and witty. There were other aspects I struggled with too – people who are described who were clearly cartoon characters in appearance just shattered my reading immersion. But then this book is aimed at those who love Japanese comic book culture, where such is the norm and the expectation.
If you enjoyed Tempest Blades: The Withered King then you will love Tempest Blades: The Cursed Titans. If you love manga and anime and want to read books that encapsulate that in the written word, pick up either of the Tempest Blade books, but I’d suggest starting with The Withered King so you can begin your journey from the beginning…

E.M. Swift-Hook

First admission, I’m really not the target audience of this book at all, as neither manga nor anime really float my boat. But I’m always game to give anything a go and I did enjoy the first outing of this little gang of superheroes…
So. The Cursed Titans?
It’s not easy being a superhero, particularly when you are Alex who is both bored and plagued by depression. The chance to compete in a sort of superhero Olympic Games could be his saviour. Or his nemesis? You’ll need to read it to see.
Me? I found it mostly very readable, if occasionally a bit clunky grammar and vocabulary wise. The action comes fast and furious and there are plenty of baddies to boo.
Overall this is a brave attempt to look at real world issues through the medium of comic-book characters with amazing superpowers. And mostly it does precisely what it sets out to do, hide a message in a strong story.
If you love your manga and anime grab this book and dive in.
A solid four stars.

Jane Jago

EM-Drabbles – One Hundred & Thirty

It was raining, he could hear it hammering on the metal sheeting that roofed his prison. Skipper sighed and lay down on his hard bed. He’d no idea how long he’d been there. Weeks. Months. He wondered what he’d done to deserve this. Whatever it was he’d not do it again. Ever. 

If he was given a second chance. 

If…

The outer door opened. 

Voices.

“He was a lockdown puppy. They didn’t want him when they were back to normal.”

“He’s gorgeous. We’ll take him.”

Skipper looked up into a kind smiling face and wagged his tail.

A second chance.

E.M. Swift-Hook

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