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Angel of the Sands: Part 5

You stop walking and turn to look at him, trying to make it obvious that you have something to say.

“What is wrong, Angel?” he asks before you can open your mouth and speak. You frown and try to think of the best way to tell him that you’re not who he thinks you are.

“I don’t think I’m an Angel,” you say eventually. Instantly he smiles and a moment later he laughs.

“You are definitely an Angel. We found you in the desert just like all the Angels who came before.”

“I understand, but I’m human, just like you.” Your stomach tenses as he lifts his hand to yours and leads you back to the seating area.

“Angel, I don’t think you do understand.” He reaches up and strokes the hair from the side of your face. “It is possible you are not an Angel, but you should not create doubt of this. It is better for you to allow the attention and the… protection I can offer.”

You gulp but don’t interrupt.

“The Angels before have all come from another land, a distant one none of us have ever seen and they have all appeared suddenly, with no warning to them and little to us. Another is mentioned, one who unites all our Khaads under one banner. Your beauty could well do this for us.”

You shake your head.

“I cannot pretend to be an Angel, if I am not one. I don’t know how to lead people.”

He frowns again but doesn’t speak, instead studying your face.

“You are from elsewhere, are you not?”

“Yes, a place called London in England.”

“And you came here suddenly, with no idea why?” You nod, seeing where he is going. “You are pale, like all Angels before, and you are of good character. We are talking of this because of your desire to be honest. This is all my people know of the Angels. No one lives who has ever met one.”

“You think I’m an Angel despite my fears?”

“Yes. If you are not one, you are so alike, you should be. And when we see our Khaadain I will present you as an angel, promising its truth to all present.” He lifts your hands and presses the backs to his lips, one after the other.

“You have a lot of faith in me.” At this he laughs again.

“In your beauty, yes. And now in your honesty, but this must never be spoken of again. You are an Angel, and for your sake, I ask you not to declare otherwise.” He lowers his gaze and shivers. “The thought of what might happen to you if the tribes decide you’re not… I would not be able to protect you, Angel. Many men would fight over possessing your beauty and you would be consumed by the victor. I cannot bear the…”

He doesn’t finish his sentence but trails off again. After a few seconds he regains his composure and looks up into your eyes.

“Thank you,” you say and smile. Although you still don’t feel sure you’re what his people think an Angel is, he has made you feel less deceptive. If he is convinced that you’re as much an Angel as the people who came before you then it bodes well that others will think the same thing.

“I have been neglectful of you. I should not have left you earlier without explaining our culture and beliefs to you, at least in part. I offer you my apology and ask your forgiveness, sweet Angel.”

“You’re forgiven,” you utter, not even pausing to think about it.

“Good.” He pulls you to your feet. “Tomorrow I will sit with you and explain many things, but the night is passing and I am missing the time for trelair and sleep.”

“Trelair?” you ask.

“There is no direct word in your language. It is the time men have with their wives and female slaves, when they give way to desire and passion.”

“Ah,” you say and find your cheeks flushing. “I am sorry for keeping you from your wife.”

“You are not keeping me from a wife.” He grins. “I have many slaves from my conquered enemies but no wife. I can choose one of them if I wish to satisfy trelair when we are done.”

“Then do not let me keep you here longer.” His calmness while talking of such a subject makes you feel even less comfortable and you almost hate yourself for being so British, and so bright red.

“Would you like to choose one of my slaves for trelair? I have many men and would be honoured to gift one to you. Or women, if you would prefer…”

“Uh, no, I’m fine. Thank you, but no. I couldn’t. Not a slave.” You shut your mouth, realising that if you leave it open, you will babble until he interrupts.

A second later a smirk crosses his face and he surprises you by moving forward to press a swift kiss on your lips as his arms wrap around your waist. He pulls his face back to look into your eyes but doesn’t let go of you. It occurs to you that he may have taken your objection to having a slave as a suggestion that you wanted something else.

What do you do?

Kiss him again and find out what trelair means.

Pull out of his arms and explain that you’re not that sort of woman.

Slap him.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is just under 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.

Angel of the Sands: Part 3

After a moment to consider your response, you place your hand into his and allow him to lead you through the crowds to a large deep red tent. It’s one of only a few already set up and around it you see many more armed and topless men facing outwards like silent sentinels.

As you draw closer, two of the otherwise unmoving men part and pull open a flap. Your rescuer leads you inside and a small swishing noise lets you know the gap has been closed after you.

Inside feels warmer than outside. A small fire burns merrily in the middle, the thin wisps of smoke drifting up to a small hole in the very centre of the canvas. Spread around this in a circle are many cushioned areas and further back again a large bed with netted curtains drawn around it, and several low tables with cushions for kneeling in front of. Each table has food, cosmetics or jewellery laid out on it, similar to the gifts you have already.

“All this is yours, Angel,” he says, disturbing you from your inspection of it all. “Come, sit, and let us eat.”

Never letting go of your hand he moves with you to the centre and motions for you to sit on a collection of large blue cushions. As soon as you are comfortable he settles down beside you, his skin almost touching yours. Given that there are so many other places to sit you, this seems strange but until you know more you cannot say if it is normal behaviour or not.

Within seconds of sitting, the tent flaps open again and the same female servants as before come rushing in, each carrying platters of food. The smell of roasted meat and other foods you don’t recognise fills the tent as they come towards you. Once the food is placed within reaching distance around you, everyone but one girl leaves. She stands off to one side, a bowl in her hands.

“Try this,” Temullgei says as he lifts the nearest platter and presents it to you. An almost blackened meat sits in a thick mush of something that smells sweet. You hesitate a moment unsure about using your fingers before you take the plunge and lift a small piece to your lips.

The taste of apple and chargrilled pork fills your mouth. While you chew he gazes at you, his eyes searching your face for a reaction. You smile, not sure what else to do while you’re eating. He takes your gesture in the affirmative and takes a handful of the meat as well. His hunger is evident as he barely chews before he swallows, but he doesn’t take any more until you do.

The same ritual of him following your lead is passed through several more times as he offers you the other dishes. You try everything at least once, although some of the fruit dishes are too tart for your likes. Most of the platters are meats, but one tastes a lot like a sort of sweet potato. At no point were you given utensils so by the time you have filled your stomach you have sticky fingers and aren’t sure where to place them.

“Done?” he asks when you shake your head at the next platter he offers you.

“Yes, thank you.”

Leaning back a little he says something to the girl at the side. She gets up and brings the bowl she’s been holding the entire time over to you. As she kneels he says another few curt words you don’t understand. In response she hands him the bowl and gets back up.

With the bowl of what looks like water between you, he takes your hands and washes them for you. His hands feel rough to yours but every motion is gentle and deliberate. The water is cool, but not too cold.

Once he’s done, he quickly scrubs his own. Just as he finishes the girl hands him a cloth and he dries your hands as gently as he washed them, caressing each finger with the soft material. When both of you are clean and dry the girl comes forward again and takes the bowl and cloth. With a small bow she hurries from the tent, leaving you alone with the clan leader.

“Drink?” he asks as he gets up from beside you.

“Yes, please,” you reply. Not sure what you’ll be given but aware of how little you’ve drunk the last few days. You watch him as he pours two chalices of a liquid you can’t see from a pitcher standing on one of the small tables nearby.

He hands you your drink as he comes back and retakes his position at your side. While staring at you he waits. It occurs to you that he might be waiting for you to drink first, just as he’d eaten after you had, so you lift the chalice to your lips and taste the red liquid. You’re pleased to find it’s a wine that tastes sweet and refreshing.

As you suspected he now drinks and almost downs his entire chalice. Silence falls between you and you fidget awkwardly. After a little longer your mind picks up on something you can say.

“Thank you for finding me,” you say and notice he’s still staring at you.

“Do not thank me. I came as soon as I knew.” He smiles again. “An Angel such as yourself is important to our people. My tribe will take you back to our home city. There you will be safe, at least for some time.”

You nod, not sure what to reply to this statement. Although he is being kind and courteous so far, you know so little about him and his people that you worry about saying something wrong.

“I must say, I am honoured to have found you. And relieved. If one of the other Khaads had got to you,” he looks away and shakes his head, before continuing. “I offer you my protection, Angel. My tribe and I will keep you from harm, at the sake of our own lives if it comes to it.”

“Thank you,” you reply.

He lifts his hand and strokes a stray strand of your hair away from your face, before pulling back and frowning.

“Forgive me. I… I shouldn’t have touched you.” He gets up and bows. “I will let you rest now, Angel. I hope I can receive the honour of your company again soon.”

Without waiting for you to reply, he hurries from the tent. You watch him go and frown once you’re alone. A minute later the same girl who gave you food and clothes when you were found comes in and bows. Behind her several more servants come and take away all the left over food while she opens the curtains on your bed and pulls back the blankets. Afterwards she bows again and hurries after the retreating servants.

You’re alone again and you suspect the maid was hinting you should go to bed, but you’re not sure what you want to do. You feel tired but you’ve learnt very little about the people you’re with and even less about how you got here and why you’re thought of as an Angel.

What do you do?

Go to bed.

Leave the tent and try to find Temullgei to ask a few questions

Leave the tent and take a look around.

Stay in the tent and investigate its contents.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is over 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.

Angel of the Sands: Part 2

Not wasting time on trying to request a spoon or fork you pull your body into a semi-upright position and lift the wooden bowl to your chest. The oaty substance cools the burning skin as you scoop it up to your mouth. The first few mouthfuls barely register with your senses as you chew and swallow them as swiftly as you can, unable to slow even if you wished to.

By the time the bowl is half empty your stomach loosens its control of your pace and you give your mouth time to taste the substance. It has a similar texture to porridge, but more creamy, with a subtle after taste much like goat’s milk.

When you finally feel full you notice you’ve wiped the bowl clean, and you spend the next minute making sure you have every last morsel off your fingers. Satisfied, you sigh and lie back. It makes you feel a little better that you’re enclosed and no one saw the ungraceful eating, but you’re not sure you’d have cared even if someone had been able to see. One taste of the food had overridden everything but your survival instincts anyway.

The tent like structure domes above you and helps keep the worst of the sun off but you still feel hotter than you’re used to or comfortable with, but you can’t be bothered to move and try and remedy the situation. Now that your hunger is satisfied and you’re no longer in immediate danger your body lets you know it wants to rest by making it difficult to keep your eyes open. Combined with the gentle rocking that only lulls your senses further, you lose the battle and slip into a peaceful sleep.

***

Several hours later you wake to find the same brown woman sitting beside you. Your little tent is darker than it was and significantly cooler. It’s also stopped rocking back and forth, but you can still hear the sounds of people moving and talking outside. Your companion smiles at you and takes your arm to help you sit up.

As soon as you’re half-vertical she scoots around you and you feel her brushing your blonde hair. A moment later she braids it in one length down your back.

“Thank you,” you say when she finishes and comes back to your side. She just smiles and holds out what looks like folded clothing. Not knowing what else to do you take it. Before you can try and ask her anything she leaves again, pulling the flap shut behind you. You’re fairly sure you’ve been given the clothes to change into so you unfold them and find a single gown-like piece of clothing from a very light, almost see through material as well as a contrasting sash.

Hastily you pull off your top, trying not to irritate your burnt skin and wrap the gown around you, realising it only goes over one shoulder while the other is held in place with hooks attaching it to the top flap just underneath your armpit. The deep blue material would have looked good on you had the burning of your otherwise pale skin not been made more obvious by this change in clothing. You sigh as you remove your shoes, socks and jeans, and smooth down the skirt so you’re decent once again.

Not sure if the woman is going to come back, you move towards the flap and lift it to see out. Instantly she notices you and comes rushing over to help you out. Once you’re standing she takes the sash and wraps it around your waist, tying it in an elaborate bow at the back. While she fusses over your appearance you gaze at your surroundings.

Many men and women are scurrying here and there, erecting large tent structures that look a little like yurts. In pens here and there are many horses, far more than you’ve ever seen before. The sun is setting in the sky, casting an orange glow over everything and making the brown and grey canvases look alive with colour.

Everyone who notices you stares until you look in their direction, and then they glance away, seeming embarrassed and hurry about whatever activity you’d distracted them from. As soon as the woman is finished she pushes you back to sit in the opening of the litter. As you sit the dress lifts enough to reveal your feet. Within seconds she kneels in front of you and places a bowl of cool water at your feet. One by one she uses cloth to clean your feet and then another to dry them off before slipping them into matching shoes.

When she’s done she helps you stand again. You glance up to see the man who’d rescued you stride through the crowds. His eyes never leave you. Judging by the stern look on his face and the way everyone else scurries to get out of his way, he is the leader of these people. Behind him are several more men, but they hang back and allow him to dictate their path. All of them are topless, and tanned deep bronze colours and have the front and sides of their hair short with long braids down their backs, not too dissimilar from your own.

As the men get closer you notice women scurrying after as well, each of them carrying a package of some kind. When your rescuer reaches you he sinks down to one knee and bows before you, everyone else follows his example You gasp. The stern look on his face vanishes as he gets up and allows his eyes to look over you. For a moment no one says anything and an awkward silence develops.

“Forgive us, Angel. We came as fast as our horses could,” he says in his strange accent, his eyes still never leaving your face or body. You open and close your mouth, having no idea what to say in response. One by one the girls come forward and offer you the packages, opening up the plain cloths to reveal more clothing, clay jars that look like perfumes, jewellery and furs. No one else speaks until the gifts have all been laid at your feet.

“I hope they are to your liking, Angel. You’re the first… woman to ever arrive. We weren’t prepared.”

“They’re fine,” you reply, still overwhelmed.

“I am Temullgei Khaad, and these are my people.” he motions to the girls and men waiting with him, taking his eyes off you for a brief second. “My Gerd is being made available for you to use, another gift, Angel. If you are not too tired I wish to have your company during my night meal.”

He smiles and offers you his hand.

What do you do?

Decline his invitation and ask to rest for the night so you can find out more about these people before you interact with them socially.

Accept but be guarded with what you say and do.

Accept and ask lots of questions about where you are and why he keeps calling you Angel.

Accept and tell him everything you know in the hope he can help you get back home.

If you want to re-read part 1 it’s here.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is over 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.

Knowing When to Use Each Tense and Perspective

When starting a story it can be difficult to decide what tense and persepective to use, and as a reader it can be very confusing if you pick up a book and find it’s not in the sort of style you expected, so I thought I’d talk a bit more about what to use, when and what all the different terms actually mean.

Tense

Books are usually written in two tenses. Predominantly past tense (there will often be a smattering of present tense parts of sentences, usually attached to a past tense action with a comma somewhere in the middle) or present tense. Future tense is something I’ve never seen used as a predominant style and I’m actually not sure if that would work anyway so we’ll ignore that as an option.

Past tense is my favourite and probably the easiest. Here’s an example sentence:

She pulled back the organza sleeves that covered her wrists and most of her hands and showed him the black rose tattoo on the soft inside.

Everything is described as if it happened and isn’t happening any longer. This is pretty much how most standard novels are written. It’s comfortable and not too driven, but it has a few limitations. Here’s the same sentence again in present tense:

She pulls back the organza sleeves covering her wrists and most of her hands and shows him the black rose tattoo on the soft inside.

As you can see it’s not entirely natural sounding, but it can lend a sort of immediacy to a book and drive it forward. As far as I am aware, the example just given of present tense isn’t one commonly used because it’s also in the third person perspective.

Perspective

There are three perspectives to choose from, third person (where events are narrated by someone outside even if limited to a single characters perspective), second person, and first person.

Third person is the most common perspective to use, along with past tense. The first example sentence is both of these and it’s the style I usually write. It’s what most of us are used to reading and I find it the easiest to write. On top of that there are some readers who refuse to read anything not in this style.

Second person is probably the least common, and I’ve only seen it used in the pick your own adventure type stories, with the subject being you. Here’s a present tense example:

You pull back the organza sleeves covering your wrists and most of your hands and show him the black rose tattoo on the soft inside.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen second person in past tense, mostly because it’s useful to give the sense of urgency to make a decision at the end of each chunk of narrative.

Finally there’s first person, which combined with present tense as well, makes a popular choice of style for a lot of young adult novels. The Hunger Games is written in first person, as is Fifty Shades (also present tense) so they seem to be getting much more popular in the main stream as well. In this style the main character is talking about himself or herself in a sort of diary like way. Here’s an example (again present tense):

I pull back the organza sleeves covering my wrists and most of my hands and show him the black rose tattoo on the soft inside.

Occasionally first person might use past tense but it’s less common. Just so it’s a complete picture of all the types you could use, here’s the example.

I pulled back the organza sleeves that covered my wrists and most of my hands and showed him the black rose tattoo on the soft inside.

In terms of which style I’d recommend people use, it entirely depends on what you want to write. As I mentioned earlier the pick your own adventure type story uses second person present the entire time (I’ve got one blogged here), and I’d recommend anyone who tries to write that format of book to use that style as well. For those who write for the young adult or new adult audiences (especially paranormal stories) it’s very common to use first person present, but it can also work very well for those punchy stories from strange perspectives where you really want the reader to engage in the mindset of the main character and get into their head. If you’re a relatively new author and you read a lot of first person present you will probably find this format easiest as well, although it’s not easy to get right. For everything else, mostly because that’s what those genres expect and because it’s easiest to get right, use third person past.

There are some writers who mix. Having chapters from one character in first person with other characters in third person, and also having the book mainly in present so flashbacks can be in the past. These are all good reasons to switch things up a bit, just be careful not to switch in the wrong places and confuse your readers.

Personally my favourite is third person past, probably because I grew up with it, but I also quite like second person present. I don’t enjoy first person, but I can see why people do. What’s your favourite to read and write? And what style puts you off books?

This blog is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be, but as you might have gathered from the website around this, I make my living from writing fiction. This post is just under 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed it or found it helpful and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider tossing a few coins into the tip jar (via paypal). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who also might benefit from it or by dropping me a message here or through my email address.

Angel of the Sands: Part 1

So this is my usual sharing blog and that’s when I normally give you lovely readers an excerpt from one of my books soon to be released or something like that, but for a while a couple of years ago I ran through an entire novel with you all and it seemed to go down well (you guys like free stuff right?) so I thought I’d do that again, except I also really like those create your own adventure things where every page has an option at the end of it and the reader gets to decide what happens next, so, on that note, I thought that’s exactly what I’d do.

Yup, you read that right. I’m going to write a blog with story in it, in the usual second person narrative style, and then give you the options of what happens next. Readers can comment and vote for the option they want and then I will write the most voted for option two weeks later. So, here goes.

The first thought in your head is how pink the backs of your eyelids are in the bright sunlight, the next is how every inch of your exposed skin feels like someone has set it alight. You wince as you try and open your eyes but they’re crusted shut with gunk, you must have been sleeping a long time. As the sounds of horses snorting reaches your ears you try to move. Hot sand greets the feel of your fingers and you try once more to open your eyes. This time you open them just enough to see a bright blue sky before the pain of the grit forces you to close them again.

Barely seconds later you hear the sound of feet in the sand and a shadow moves over you. You try to pull away from it, not sure if the caster means you harm or not, but your body refuses to work properly, resulting in a feeble scuffle where your hands sink into the burning hot sand either side of you. Instead you try to sit but your head spins and nausea grips at your stomach, deterring you from trying again.

A man’s voice says something in a language you don’t understand as he kneels beside you.

“You’re safe,” he says in a thick accent, struggling with the s and f sounds. With that, he pushes his arms through the sand underneath you and lifts your body to his bare torso. Knowing your female body would be no match for the effortless strength in him, you don’t struggle. The movement makes your head pound so you lean into him and rest against his shoulder. As you inhale the scent of horse and fresh sweat mingles with spices and coconut. It ought to be unpleasant but you find it strangely comforting.

You feel the sands shift underneath him as he turns and carries you towards the sound of more horses and people. Discussions in hurried whispers follow you, but most are too quiet to make out and the few that are loud enough are spoken with words entirely foreign. After what feels like forever he stops and places you upon soft cushions and fabrics that feel cool to your skin.

“Rest,” he says and withdraws, pulling something over you to shade you from the sun at the same time. Whatever you’re resting on sways gently as someone climbs up beside you. The sweet smell of coconut milk fills the small enclosure. You try once more to open your eyes and see a young woman, tanned a deep brown sitting beside you before your body forces them closed against the pain again.

Moments later you feel her lean forward, making the bed rock gently again, and wipe a damp cloth over your eyes, removing some of the grime and cooling the sun-scorched skin. You sigh with relief as she continues this treatment until you can see again. She then moves on to the rest of your face, neck and bare arms, washing your skin with the blend of water and coconut milk from a bowl cradled in her lap.

While you’re being pampered your thoughts are allowed to wander and you soon feel the memories of the previous two days returning to you. One moment you were in London, walking in the botanical gardens and the next you were in a small oasis in the middle of a desert. Ever since then you had been losing a battle to live. If these people hadn’t come along you’d probably have died, still not knowing how you got here or why.

When she’s finished cleaning you try and sit up to thank her but your head and stomach remind you that they don’t want to. Even if they hadn’t she shakes her head and gently places her hand on your torso to push you backwards. For a moment she stares at you and you stare back, until you give in to her and lie down again. Instantly your head feels better.

From your comfortable position surrounded by silk cushions you watch as she moved to a small opening in the canvas shade and calls out to the rest of the people. After a minute or two she’s handed a bowl with some mashed oat like food within and a wooden cup. She places the bowl near you and comes close to help you lift your head to drink. The water is warm but fresh and soothes the ache in your throat.

It takes you several minutes to drink the liquid at the pace she’ll allow you to have it, but she doesn’t seem to mind the effort. Once you are done she strokes your blonde hair with her fingers to neaten it, an almost envious look in her eyes. Her hair is so dark brown it might as well be black and cut short to frame her face but not get in the way of any tasks.

With her tasks seemingly over she gives you a brief smile, bows in an awkward manner given that she already knelt to fit beside you and backs out of the opening. You get a glimpse of the many horses and people outside before her hands close the gap entirely, leaving you alone with the bowl of food and no utensils to eat it with.

Only a few seconds later the bed you are in sways and wobbles before settling into a gentle rhythmic motion that matches the sounds of movement outside. Whoever they are they’re taking you with them.

What do you do?

Eat the food with your fingers and rest to regain your strength.

Get up and try to make them understand you want some utensils before you will eat.

Get out of the litter and try to get away from the people who’ve taken you.

Comment with the option you want and any questions you might have, although I reserve the right not to answer some things if it spoils potential plot.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is over 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.

Character Spotlight: Mycroft Holmes

This is the first time I’ve tried to use a character created by someone else in something I want to publish. I’ve played around with other characters a bit, like a brief appearance of loki in some Marvel fan fiction I started (And really need to finish), but this is the first time I’ve taken another character and used it as not only a major character in my work but written from their point of view.

I feel a little limited in what I can say, because the first story isn’t out yet and I definitely don’t want to plot spoil, but I’ve added a few twists and taken one or two liberties with the characters, so they aren’t quite exactly how they are in the orginal stories.

Mycroft still works for the government, and pretty much is the government, but I’ve set my story in modern times, despite setting it in the exact same world Conan Doyle did and having it over a hundred years after. Evidently that means I’ve got some explaining to do regarding the characters living that long.

In the original works there isn’t much that’s said about Mycroft, which does give me some scope to elaborate on him. All we really know is that he’s similar to Sherlock, but even smarter. Although he’s also slightly lazy, prefering to get his brother to do most of his leg work for him, if he can. He’s also even less social, but nothing is ever mentioned of any potential relationships. It’s fairly safe to assume he’s never entered into a relationship (Sherlock never did) but as Sherlock likes Irene Adler, there may have once been someone for Mycroft to like and he may well be opposed to liking someone in the future. In the original stories he certainly doesn’t seem to object too much to Watson, implying that he can be won over in time.

This is pretty much where I have begun my story with Mycroft. I’ve assumed he works for the government in whatever capacity the government needs to run and has a finger in everything. He lives alone, but has staff/servants, as well as plenty of money. He dresses well and looks down on those intellectually inferior (pretty much everyone), but can be amused by them and come to see certain people as useful in his life, a bit like his brother. He’s incredibly loyal to his country, partially because he was born when people were very loyal and partly because they country has been shaped by him.

What would Mycroft be like if he fell in love? Well if you want to know that you’ll have to wait for a bit. He’s not going to fall in love easily, that’s for sure.

Character Spotlight: Ishtar

This lovely elf features in For Such a Time as This, one of my not so short fantasy shorts. It’s the third tale of Ethanar and although she seems like a very inconsequential elf, she’s actually a very important person in a line of elves and monarchs who shape the entire world through the ages. My favourite book in the Bible, Esther, inspired her and some of her tale.

Ishtar doesn’t think too much of herself. She starts off as a slave and is mostly just getting on with her life and trying to do a good job. She’s not unhappy but you wouldn’t really call her happy either. Most importantly she’s obedient and worked out at an early age that if she does as she’s asked, doesn’t complain to much and is polite to those around her she can get through life without too much fuss and attention being brought to her. Of course this is made easier by her owner being someone easy to work for but she still gives him no reason to be unsatisfied.

Her story is pretty much about life and the way it occassionally decides it’s had enough of things the way they are and throws a curve ball to see how you respond. That’s exactly what life does to her. It plants an idea in her owners head and events continue to transpire and attentions continue to be drawn her way until her obedience and aquisence leads her to the King and her new life.

Sometimes life just puts you in the right place at the right time, and coupled with the right attitude, magic happens.

Studying Other Artistic Works

Probably the biggest advice given to other artists is study the art form you want to replicate. Want to write books? Then read. Want to make movies? Watch movies. Simple, well sorta. Watching, reading, going to galleries on its own isn’t really enough. You’ve got to have your brain engaged to figure out why the movie, book, painting is awesome.

Even as a book writer I like studying movies and tv shows. A friend of mine recently said that he’d love it if tv script writers wrote books because they’re great at characters and their dialogue, something generally lacking in the book world, so a favourite past time of mine is a character study. I sit down with a book or tv series and I focus on one character and their dialogue. If it’s film I also focus on their body language, eye contact and all sorts of things like that and if book I focus on the repeated expressions, what makes them angry.

I talk to other friends too about why they might like or dislike a character and then I often try to write some fan fiction, where I take everything I’ve learnt about that character and they way they talk and try to apply it. While this can sometimes result in work I can’t sell it can also result in some amazing pieces where I learn what sorts of things makes a character a character.

On top of that I find reading description heavy authors like George R. R. Martin great for my own descriptions. It helps me figure out what sort of details should be woven in amongst the rest. Some people like getting lots of description and place setting, but the true greats describe everything without you feeling bogged down in paragraphs of boring information. Studying their tricks and the way the build their scenes can be a great help.

Finally every writer, actor, and director has their own style and while this shouldn’t be copied out right as it’s way better to develop your own style it can be a great way to learn what sorts of things people like. You’d also be surprised what people do and get away with and what rules are deliberately broken and when. Sometimes a style can be particularly known for breaking a rule, like Stephen King tends to have long sentences and many authors will play around with the exact useage of commas and occasionally words. If there’s a good enough reason for something there really are no rules.

Mycroft and Sherlock: Chapter 1

So I’ve been writing something I totally didn’t plan to write lately. I got bitten by the Sherlock bug but in a new way, so here’s a chapter from some fan fiction, written from Mycroft’s POV.

The rain pattered on the windows as Mycroft was driven through the dreary streets of London. He frowned at the typical English weather. He’d been in his house, working, for ten straight days and it annoyed him to find it raining the minute he needed to leave and see his brother. On top of splotching his tailored suit it made the traffic worse.

As the car pulled up outside Sherlock’s flat he turned his nose up at the familiar sight. The number on the door was loose and it was almost never straight. No matter how many times he neatened it by his next visit it was crooked again. Today was no different.

His driver rushed around to the side of the door with a large black umbrella and Mycroft stepped out into the cold, narrowly missing the puddle at the side of the road. An almost identical umbrella with a silver plated handle dangled from Mycroft’s left hand and he realised he’d never used it to keep the rain off himself. After raising and lowering his eyebrow he strode through the flat door, knowing it wouldn’t be locked. He paused for the briefest second to shuffle his feet on the doormat while his chauffeur shut the door behind him and went back to the shining black vehicle to wait.

Sherlock’s housekeeper and landlady, the widowed Mrs Wintern, peered around the edge of the living room door. When she noticed it was him she retreated back inside. Knowing she’d be scurrying off to make tea, whether he would be there long enough to drink it or not, he climbed the wooden steps up to the familiar flat. None of them creaked but he’d had plenty of years practice at putting his feet in the right places to ensure his arrival was unnoticed.

Three steps from the top Mycroft paused. Mixed in with the usual scent of dust, damp and body odour was the faint traces of perfume. He knew it could only mean Sherlock had a visitor, probably a client. It only took a few seconds for Mycroft to weigh up his options in light of this discovery. He needed Sherlock to begin investigating at once and couldn’t let a client stop him. As he took the last few steps he searched his memory for the name his brother used now. By the time he rapped his knuckles on the door, Sebastian was floating across the back of his mind. Whoever was with his brother would know him as Sebastian Holmes.

Without waiting for an answer he twisted the door knob and strode into the room. Both occupants turned to face him and he scanned the extra person for information. She wore a black corset, styled to look like a waistcoat from the front but laced down the back, over the top of a deep red blouse. The red skirt almost touched the floor but a slit up one side revealed size seven black boots with a small chain running behind the two inch heels. The corset took her waist in from what would have been twenty five inches to twenty three and her mid-brown hair was up in a netted bun on the back of her head. As she turned he also noticed she deftly held a fountain pen in her right hand. Both hands had fingerless gloves that were made of the same material as a jacket over the arm of a nearby chair.

She smiled and the corners of her eyes wrinkled to match the upturn of her lips. Whoever she was she spent a lot of time writing; there were no ink marks on her despite the style of pen, and she was comfortable and relaxed in the odd mix of old fashioned and modern clothing.

“Myron! To what do I owe this pleasure?” Sherlock said in his usual sarcastic manner, although he knew the woman wouldn’t have picked up on the disdain laced in every word. It took him a fraction of a second longer to respond as he took in the pictures of people and places on the board beside them. She had to be a client with all the information presented, although not directly involved, an observer with a vested interest.

“Let me introduce my guest, Amelia Jones.” Sherlock motioned to her. “She’s a writer. Amelia, this is my brother, Myron Holmes.”

She swapped the pen over to her other hand and took a few steps towards him, her right outstretched to shake his. He glanced at her offering but kept his right hand in his trouser pocket and his left gripping the umbrella. Whoever she was, Sherlock had used her first name, something he’d not done since his days with John Watson. Mycroft frowned and the woman returned to her position by the board, giving no indication that she was bothered by the snub.

“I need to talk to you, brother of mine,” Mycroft said when he realised the case on the board still held both their attention.

“In a moment, you’ll be interested in this. This man is an undercover agent, working a case to find a stolen diamond.” Sherlock pointed to the man’s picture and then to the woman’s, “She’s unmarried, no kids, parents are dead and no one else in her life and we’re trying to figure out how she was blackmailed and how he finds out before he has her arrested.”

Mycroft rolled his eyes but took a look at the information anyway. He wanted to know how this Mrs Jones was involved. If the diamond had been hers it wasn’t something she was attached to, perhaps a family heirloom she didn’t care for.

“How was the diamond taken?” he asked.

“I don’t know, I’ve not written that part yet,” she said, fixing her blue eyes on him. “I was thinking she might seduce the security guard or get him drunk. She’s an amateur under pressure so it can’t be too difficult.”

Mycroft raised his eyebrows before he noticed Sherlock grinning at him. He sneered in response. When Mrs Jones went to continue talking he put his hand up, cutting her off.

“This is a fictional scenario?” he asked, his voice dripping with disdain at the very concept.

“Yes. It’s what I do for a living. Sebastian helps me get all the facts straight.”

“He does, does he?”

She nodded and waited for him to continue but he had no desire to make her feel more comfortable. She glanced at his brother.

“So… Why are you here, brother. You don’t visit unless you need something,” Sherlock said, taking the focus back off his guest.

“I think we ought to discuss that in private.” Mycroft looked pointedly at Sherlock’s client, hoping she’d get the hint and hurry from the building but she didn’t move.

“Nonsense, if it’s a case, Amelia can help. She’s been proving most useful in my own work, and besides, she helped with the last case you gave me.”

“She did?” Mycroft’s annoyance grew. Somehow he’d missed Mrs Jones being a regular in Sherlock’s life and he shouldn’t have done.

“I did?” She raised an eyebrow and her own surprise made him feel a little better. Sherlock laughed and nodded.

“Come on, out with it brother. What do we need to investigate?” While Sherlock spoke Mrs Jones lifted the board from the two hooks it hung on, revealing a second blank white board underneath. Mycroft coughed and then pulled the printout of the intercepted email from his inside jacket pocket.

“I received this coded message from a suspected terrorist account.” Before Mycroft could begin reading it Sherlock took the paper out of his hands and wandered off with it, leaving both him and Mrs Jones standing and waiting as Sherlock read it.

“It’s not a skip code…”

“It’s nothing logical, I assure you,” Mycroft said before Sherlock could list everything he already knew it wasn’t.

“Read it aloud.” Mrs Jones said. Mycroft frowned as Sherlock did just that. He would have done one anyway but now he was sure a background check on her would be needed.

Hiya,

Totally failed today – My ringtone went off at the funeral – I’ve got it set to Staying Alive. :AwkwardFace: I suppose I’d already made it hard on myself, the deceased had bought me one of those ugly Christmas jumpers and I wore it to the funeral. My mother told me to take it off and I don’t think she was very impressed when I told her I’d rather cry in a BMW. Then to top my day off I got rick rolled.

Thankfully my kids were cute when I got home – when I asked the eldest what she wanted for dinner she said, ‘I can has cheeseburger?’ and grinned. Later when I was playing a board game with the twins and I lost they came out with, ‘All your counters are belong to us’, their English is getting better each day. When I was a kid my dad used to swear and say ‘pardon my French – I still remember when my school teacher asked if anyone spoke a foreign language and I put my hand up. :SmileyFace:

It might be a while before I communicate again, I’m staying with relatives and they don’t know their own wi-fi password. FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUU. The kids are excited, they said they can get their pink unicorn back, I didn’t even know they had one.

Geoff

By the time Sherlock had finished, Mrs Jones was curled up on the chair, clutching her sides and crying as she tried to stop her almost silent laughter.

What’s so amusing?” Mycroft demanded when she didn’t stop as soon as the letter was over. She wiped her eyes and sat up straight again.

It’s internet memes. For example, all your counters are belong to us, is a miss-quote of all your base are belong to us from a badly translated game. I can has cheeseburger is a phrase on a lolcat, and I think there was a confession kid in there, as well as the mention of being rick rolled.” She picked up the pen and wrote out the entire letter. Once she’d finished she circled phrases in the text and linked them to the names of the internet memes. Mycroft watched and waited, wanting to see where she was going with it. If it solved the email he could get back to his house and away from her.

She stood back and put both her hands on her hips, staring at the letter now in her neat but ornamented hand-writing.

The punctuation is strange, and not right in the slightest,” she said a moment later, when no one else did anything.

Each full stop marks the end of a coded section, that much is easy to work out,” Mycroft said. His brother nodded and stole the pen from Mrs Jones, their fingers brushing past each other as he did. Mycroft sneered again, although both had their backs to him and wouldn’t have noticed. He almost wished they had.

Sherlock put a line in where each sentence ended to break the message up and then she pulled the pen from his hand and wrote in another meme at the end of the letter. After a minute of browsing something on her phone she wrote in two more, completing the final paragraph with:

First World Problems
Rage comic
Invisible Pink Unicorn

Mycroft saw the message and smiled. It pleasantly surprised him that she was on the right track.

The first letters from the first part of Friday,” he said, knowing his brother wasn’t paying attention and should be. He stepped closer so the whole thing was easier for him to read.

It looks like each paragraph is a word,” she said and smiled at him. He ignored her. She was right but that didn’t mean he had to like her or praise her for it.

The second word has an A and C in the middle and has four letters,” Sherlock said.

Four?” She turned to him, a puzzled look on her face.

Yes, there’s a fourth sentence.” Mycroft pointed to the smiley face reference in between two colons. She shrugged.

That’s an emoticon gone wrong, but I suppose it might be part of the message.” She put the word in brackets in the list in the two places the references appeared and then turned to his brother. “Search for I’d rather cry in a BMW online and see what comes up.”

Immediately Sherlock obeyed and grabbed his laptop. Mycroft found himself sneering again. This woman was telling them what to do when she was evidently of inferior intelligence and even worse, his brother wasn’t even slightly put out. He’d thought Sherlock over this sort of sentimentality after losing Watson, but it appeared he was even softer than ever.

Twenty minutes later they had one more letter and Mycroft continued to stand and do nothing but stare at the letter. The entire time he’d been running through five letter words that fit with the E and N they’d already had for the first word. With the I Mrs Jones now wrote in he knew what it said. BEGIN LACE FRI was the full message, but he wasn’t about to say so and be pressed to explain further. Even if Mrs Jones expressed no further interest, his brother would and with his deductive reasoning might work out more than Mycroft wanted either of them to know.

As he was trying to think of some way to get rid of Mrs Jones she pulled a pocket watch out, checked the time and gasped.

I’ve got to go. I’m meant to be signing books in less than half an hour.” She grabbed her jacket and shrugged into it. “Sorry to run before we’re done, but I hate being late for anything.”

I’m sure we can solve this without you,” Mycroft said and gave her a smile which didn’t reach his eyes.

See you tomorrow, Sebastian, and it was a pleasure to meet you, Mr holmes.” She gave him a half smile, meaning it far more than he would have and hurried from the room. As the sound of her rapid footsteps receded down the stairs Mycroft relaxed.

So, you’ve found a new John Watson.” He looked intently at his brother but Sherlock remained impassive.

She’s brighter than John ever was, but she won’t be around for long. She will go write her next book in a few days. Mostly she’s a recluse, like you, especially when in the middle of a book.”

You’re trying to intrigue me by making me think she’s similar to me, but it won’t work. She’s not as intelligent as you even so I have no interest in her.” Mycroft walked towards the door, now wanting to continue this conversation.

She would have been as clever as me had she grown up with you as an elder brother. She’s keen to learn from us and pleasant enough.”

Mrs Jones won’t live long enough to ever get close.”

Miss Jones,” Sherlock said, looking smug. Mycroft shook his head at what his younger brother had overlooked.

There was a wedding ring.”

Yes, but she’s not married, not anymore anyway.”

Widow,” Mycroft nodded. He should have seen it in her manner with Sherlock. No woman in a relationship would spend time coming to London for book signings and spend so much time alone with another man. He walked out, and called back, “Don’t get involved, brother of mine.”

I’ll let you know when I’ve solved this,” Sherlock yelled after him.

No need!” Mycroft pulled the door shut. Miss Jones perfume lingered in the stairwell even stronger than before and Mycroft found himself thinking that as far as perfumes went it could have been a lot worse. At the least it smelt better than Sherlock’s flat usually did.

As he walked back to his car he messaged his assistant.

Project lace will begin on friday. Deploy operation clean-up. Also find all information on the author Amelia Jones.

As soon as the message was delivered he put his phone back in the inside pocket of his jacket and stepped outside. The rain had stopped and Mycroft smiled as he was driven back to his home, his mind already focused on other matters.

Why My Books Are My Babies

I know thinking of books as babies is a rather odd concept but bear with me while I explain.

To start with, the ideas come to me in a small form, often only snippets of what they are going to grow to be and it can take a while for them to fully form. Some take a few weeks but some, like Chains of Freedom, take many many years before I’m ready to think about writing a first draft.

The first draft is sort of the easy bit. It has its struggles but it’s a process of getting to know my characters and putting shape to what has been in my head somewhere for a while. Then there’s the drafts that follow, full of the tough stuff, where I try to get things formed just right so it’s going to be understood better by the rest of the world and not offend people or seem rude and uncouth.

And then finally, I get to the point where I have to let it go. Where the story and characters have to go out into the world, and although I can help them a little with some basic marketing, they have to find their own way, make their own friends who talk about them and share them with other friends, and I can only really sit back and watch and hope they do good and people like them, but I can’t do anything about the people who inevitably won’t like them. My work is done and as much as I might want to take them back in and try to perfect them a little more, or correct mistakes I made, I have to trust I did my best and let go.

On top of that, there’s everything I’ve learnt about being a parent, especially where my characters are concerned. I’m fairly used to getting weird looks from people who don’t write fiction when I talk about my characters. Mostly because I talk about them as if they are real people and for the most part they do feel rather real. I have conversations with them, they have family, past events, likes and dislikes, they feel pain and joy and all the myriad of emotions we feel too.

Also, during the stories, when they are hurt and cry, I almost always cry too, and when they grieve for dead characters I grieve too. When they make mistakes I feel sorry for them, and I get excited when they get something right and make a good decision. I cry happy tears when they fall in love and have their dreams come true.

My characters and my books are my children, and I’m sure I’ll feel all these things even more when I have children of my own, but for now, I’ll keep birthing characters and their stories.