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.

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred and Sixty

White flowers sprinkled the grass in the clearing, looking Clea thought like spilled milk. In another time, or another place, she might have shared that thought but she didn’t think the grim-faced woman who had hold of the leash around her neck would appreciate whimsy so she just looked at her feet and kept plodding.

Her captor made a queer grunting noise and as Clea turned to look, she  collapsed with the vanes of a crossbow bolt protruding from between her shoulder blades.

Relief made Clea light-headed.

But the swathe of white flowers was now stained with blood.

©jj 2019

Folly’s Foil

How fares the one I chose to love now that the years have passed?
The face that I once looked upon each day will be much changed.
I wonder how I once believed your love for me would last
When even then I saw your heart from me was oft estranged.

But folly is as folly does and youth’s not folly’s foil,
Full hearts will empty wit and blind the eye from truth so plain.
When in the field of love just one doth plough and plant and toil
The harvest reaped at season’s end is only tears and pain.

I never gave my heart again into another’s keep
And lived my life in many ways that seldom brought me peace.
Yet still, in dreams, we walk the hills, steal kisses as I sleep
And know again the trust and strength I’d thought could never cease.

Tis forty winters, come and gone, since I did see you last
How fares the one I chose to love now that the years have passed?

E.M. Swift-Hook

Weekend Wind Down – Thief

England – 1642

“My lord, Colonel, Sir – we found this and Taf – I mean Trooper Andrews – thought it might be important.”
Something glinted in the morning sunlight, Nick held out his hand and the trooper carefully pressed what he held into the Lieutenant’s glove. It was a ring. Heavy gold, not a modern design. Nick knew it at once and held it up for his uncle to see.
“This was his ring. We did not entirely fail.”
The trooper stood by, still clutching his hat. Sir Bartholomew nodded a dismissal, saying nothing until the man had gone back to his task.
“I do not think we can count that as much success,” he said quietly. “Without the rest of the evidence, it brings us nothing. I was foolish to listen to your father – this would have been done with by now if we had followed my intentions and not some addle-pate idea to make things right with the world. Paxton and Green could have found some opportunity, they even told you as much, but no – that was not good enough. It had to be seen to be done.”
Stung by this attack, Nick bridled.
“My father has always acted for the best in this matter. He has lived for this for the past twenty years, all my life he has spoken of nothing else as being so important. He raised my brothers and myself to do the same. He has always said that it needed to be finished in public – so there could be no myths, no imposters. Just – an end.”
For a moment the young Lieutenant feared he had taken family loyalty too far. But his uncle only nodded and took the ring, sliding it into his belt purse for safekeeping. Then he placed a hand on his nephew’s shoulder.
“You have much of your father’s strength and I do not argue that in a Utopia we might hope to see things completed neatly as he suggests. But this – this is the real world. There are seldom tidy endings, it has to be enough simply to make an end.” His hand gripped the shoulder, leaving Tempest feeling as though he was willing his own belief to flow into his nephew. Nick thought of his father – the furtive meetings, the dangerous documents and now war. His uncle was right in one thing at least, they needed to finish this.
“Then let me be the one to do so.”
Sir Bartholomew looked taken aback.
“This is not a task for a -” he said, breaking off and shaking his head.
“For what, Uncle? A child? Or perhaps you mean for a Tempest? Perhaps it is Coupland’s brand you want placed on this deed.”
The older man’s grey eyes hardened into a steel gaze.
“Listen to me, Nick. Your branch of the family is as deeply involved in the Pact as any. It has as much to gain or lose as the rest and as much right to be involved. But this is no ordinary man and you are not yet so experienced as others.”
“Let me stay and search at the least – give me a dozen good men. Henry can take my place with the troop – he is old enough and, he sorely wants it.”
Sir Bartholomew was silent, his gaze fixed into space over Nick’s shoulder. Then suddenly he cursed loudly and released his grip.
“God’s Wounds! Will someone deal with that?”
Tempest turned. The vagrant soldier, who had been asleep under a nearby tree, was now staggering around muttering to himself, heading towards them with the clear intention of looking for more free drink. Nick grabbed at his arm, spinning him round so he was a better target for a gauntleted fist. The drunk seemed to collapse as he made the blow, falling forward, head lolling, into Sir Bartholomew. As he did so, his legs slid from under him and caught into Tempest’s knees so he had to take a staggering step to keep his own balance. For a moment, his face was almost on a level with the drunken vagrant and he had the impression of reeking breath and a weeping sore, before he thrust the man away in disgust.
Three of the troopers had run over, seeing the assault in progress, and they now pulled the drunk roughly away. He made no resistance and seemed to be muttering barely coherent apologies as he was dropped on the ground and given a few hard kicks. When he lay still the troopers added a couple more blows for good measure then left him lying unconscious in the mud as they went back to their work.
Sir Bartholomew sighed and shook his head.
“This is what England is come to. Unless we act quickly you will see a hundred such broken men wherever there is now one.”
Nick was at a loss to see the reasoning behind that, but he wisely held his tongue. His uncle turned away and drew the younger man with him, walking back towards the horses.
“I will leave you to finish up here. I shall be at Howe, find me there.” He stopped and stared hard into his nephew’s eyes, Nick bore it without flinching – he was a Tempest and would not be cowed. Sir Bartholomew seemed pleased by whatever he saw because he nodded and turned away, collecting the reins of his horse and letting a trooper assist him to mount.
“I will bring you the final account before sunset, Uncle,” Nick promised.
“Good lad. Then maybe we can talk some more about your staying here when we march with the Marquis.”
Nick felt his spirits rise, then frowned as he noticed something out of place.
“Uncle, your purse!”
Sir Bartholomew looked down and his hand went to where the purse should be.
“God’s Wounds! That damned…”
But Tempest was ahead of him, running back across the uneven ground, shouting to his men as he did so. They were already too late. The spot where the drunk had been left lying unconscious was empty and a thorough search of the surrounding area turned up no real clue as to his disappearance.

From 'The Cat's Head' by E.M. Swift-Hook.

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred and Fifty-Nine

Zarai had been Lord Ho’s favourite concubine for five seasons. Then Lady Ho died.

The lord spoke. “Do you look to be exalted?”

“No, to be sold.”

His sigh sounded almost genuine. 

“Sadly. I make political alliance with the horse tribes. But their headman demands your person to complete the deal.”

“As my master commands.”

Three suns later Lord Ho wedded a wild daughter of the tundra, and a slave left the palace.

The horse lord was young and kind. He gave her a pony and wove wildflowers into her hair. 

Some forms of servitude are less onerous than others…

©jj 2019

The Wind

We tried to catch the wind today
My fickle friend and me
But as the zephyr flew this way
My friend deserted me
We tried to catch a friend today
The winter wind and I
But as my friend came out to play
The breeze did wave goodbye
Oh you may have the wind he sighed
Should that be as you choose
Or you may have me at your side
You win one, one you lose
We tried to catch the wind today
A wind to sail us home
But fickle fate gangs aft agley
And now I cry alone

© jane jago 2017

Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV review ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee

One remembers a rather exciting games master at the old alma mater reading us random chunks of this, among other books, when it was too inclement for rugger practice.
For this reason, it will always be associated in one’s mind with the smell of lineament and teenage sweat and the burns on the back of one’s legs caused by sitting on the clanking, clunking radiators in the second form changing room.
Happening upon a dogeared paperback copy propping up the door of the summerhouse* one determined to visit the whole oeuvre. Quel disappointment.


A girl child called Scout lives somewhere. I think it is colonial. Possibly America. Persons seem truly uneducated and not one’s type at all.
Nothing much happens for a very large part of the book. Then a man is accused of a crime he seems not to have committed. But he is found guilty anyway.
And nothing much happens again. There is a rabid dog, and a nasty man who has evil designs on the heroine and her brother. There is a struggle. The bad man gets killed somehow, I’m not clear how.
End of story.
One star – for longevity.

*It’s a shed, you pompous little prat! ed. Jacintha Farquhar

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.

Jane Jago’s Daily Drabble – Two Hundred and Fifty-Eight


When one has waded through blood to achieve ambition, the best way to keep one’s enemies off-balance is to observe all the exigencies of proper dress. Ieyasu allowed himself a small closed-mouth smile as they dressed him for his first formal appearance.

When they were finished an underling brought a mirror.

“Great lord.”

“Yoi”, Ieyasu inclined his head. “It is well.”

His beautiful consort covered her mouth with one small hand to camouflage unseemly merriment. 

He smiled too, remembering how they had fought back to back and how she had saved his life.

Besides which, he loved her.

©jj 2019


Coffee Break Read – Fantasy

First he made her his secretary, then he made her his plaything, then he sent her to an exclusive clinic in Switzerland where they would make her his fantasy.

Today he was going to see that fantasy for the first time. He brushed past his bodyguards and put his palm to the plate on the playroom door. The door hissed open and he entered alone. At first he could see nobody, just the barren gameplay landscape where he lived out the early twentieth century sci-fi films that fuelled his imagination.

He heard a noise to his left, and turned his head to see her dressed from neck to ankle in skintight black leather and armed to the teeth. He could barely speak for excitement.
“Oh baby, you are even more than I imagined.”
She smiled.
“Now it’s time to make you into my fantasy man.”
He frowned. This wasn’t in the game play he had designed so carefully. But he was sure she had nothing but delight in store for him, so he made his voice excited.
“What’s your fantasy?”
She laughed a short, unamused bark.
“My fantasy? A helpless cripple.”

Then she shot him in the kneecaps.

© jane jago

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