Alternative Fact #4 from ‘Blackwood’

Meachers Dog

“Just one question,” asked Mab. “Where will I be?”

“You will be looking after my horse,” replied Lady Christina, briskly. “Now, Silas, are you ready?”

She turned to the door.

“Wait,” Mab said, momentarily confused. “The horse is staying here. Are you telling me I must stay here too?”

“That is exactly what she’s saying,” Silas pointed out, happy that Mab would not be in danger.

“No, I am coming too,” Mab insisted.

Lady Christina smiled in a humouring sort of way.

“Wouldn’t it defeat the object if the aim is that I am mistaken for you?” she said.

“I’ll stay back. I’ll be hidden. I promise to be as quiet as Meacher’s dog.[1] Besides, you need me. If anything goes wrong, I can be your witness. And, more importantly, I can go for help.”

Lady Christina thought for a moment, ignoring Silas who was shaking his head as if he had some kind of affliction, and Mab who was hopping from one foot to the other as if the ground was suddenly on fire.

“Alright,” she reluctantly agreed. “But I don’t want to see or hear any sign of you in that wood.”

“I sincerely promise,” Mab said, crossing her heart to show how much she meant it.

[1] An old saying hailing from Blackwood concerning a dog called Bruce belonging to a Mrs Meacher. This dog, she claimed, held long conversations with her about philosophy and politics. But nobody else could get a word, or even a bark or growl, from Bruce. Consequently, everyone thought Mrs Meacher was mad, and this sparked another common Blackwood saying: ‘As mad as a Meacher’, which later becomes ‘As mad as a March-Hare’ throughout the British Isles.


From ‘The Blackwood Crusade’ – A Fairytale to End Them All – OUT SOON and chock-full of Alternative Facts

Find out more here.

Novel Formats!

tom gauld Book Formats

A glimpse of the future in a clever Tom Gauld cartoon. Love the ‘Recited by Mechanical Raven’ best! If only 🙂

Begging Letter #2: The Wrong Type of Mushroom

toadstool john anster fitzgerald

by Dr Melchior Williams (Co-Author of ‘The Blackwood Crusade’)

In the 15th Century, Blackwood is plagued by faeries, as everyone who lives there knows. Everyone except the Lord of Blackwood, that is, who refuses to believe there is such a thing.

Looking back through the archives, there are hundreds of petitions from the villagers to the Lord of Blackwood (via his Castellan), begging him do something to make their village a safer place. The gravity of the matters mentioned in the petitions varies and, indeed, some could be attributed to vivid imaginations at work. Other, like the tragic case of the Crumb family in 1413 are harder to dismiss.

I will be sharing some of the appeals with you here (edited for the modern reader). You can make up your own mind.

PETITION TWO:

Petition presented to Thomas the Castellan by Wynnfrith Wainwright:

            Mrs Wainwright went to the Black Wood to gather mushrooms last week, but forgot to pay the faerie toll to allow her safe passage. She awoke in her bed the next morning with no recollection of what happened after entering the woods, and without a sense of smell. She believes she was abducted by the faeries who subjected her to experimentation.

            (The Lord of Blackwood was informed of this petition, and concluded that Mrs Wainwright’s lapse of memory is most likely due to harvesting and consuming the wrong type of mushroom)

Painting by John Anster Fitzgerald


from ‘The Blackwood Crusade’ by Jo Danilo & Dr Melchior Williams: OUT SOON

Find out more here

Begging Letter #1

Alternative Fact #3 from ‘Blackwood’

Friend or Foe

THE NATURE OF TREES: FRIEND OR FOE?

It had been a long time since Christina neglected to pay her faerie toll when traveling through the woods so, for a moment, she dithered, unsure of how effective her new ring of invisibility was. Passing by the Toll Tree, she became a young girl with all her old fears, at the very birth of her quest. All the battles and triumphs between then and now seemed suddenly irrelevant, for this… this was the Black Wood, and home to Gallus, whose memory still turned Christina’s very core into an icicle.

The woods responded just as they had that first time. All friendly light faded, to be replaced by an inhospitable grey soup. The trees went from being welcoming towers of greenery to haggard, frosty sentries with a sudden wind howling through their branches.[1]

[1] Such actions by trees living in faerie woodland are often misunderstood by people. When a toll remains unpaid and they react with such hostility it is usually not meant as the evil threat it appears to be. More often than not, the trees are being helpful and trying to make the intruder aware that they may be in danger. Of course, this is not true of all trees, as each tree is an individual with its own opinions, just as we are. There are always troublemakers.


From ‘The Blackwood Crusade’ – The Fairytale to End Them AllOUT SOON and chock-full of Alternative Facts

Find out more here.

How long does a book take to cook?

The previous post – ‘First Day Nerves’ is connected to this one. Both come from the same story, which will probably be called APPLEHEART.

It will be a long time before I can call it a book, and, to be honest, it’s already been stewing for a good number of years. Checking back, I wrote the Appleheart excerpt in 2014, and First Day Nerves is from 2016. It’s now almost 2018 and I have the best part of four chapters. Four years to write four chapters!?

This is what I like to call a ‘slow-cook book’, and they’re often the best. I’ll keep adding to it, and all sorts of ideas will get mixed in along the way. It should make for lots of flavour, just like a long-simmered stew!

Appleheart

APPLEHEART

My mother said I would regret choosing art as a career. My father couldn’t care less what I chose. He was, however, worried about Ned and drama. If he’d ever seen any of Ned’s acting; if he’d bothered to go to the school plays or the drama group productions like I had, he wouldn’t have been so worried. My brother was a natural. We were still in nappies when he began to people his world with characters from his imagination. They occasionally took him over so that he became someone else entirely. Many times, over the years, his acting made me laugh so hard I was sick, or cry until I had a headache.

As kids, we would sit together in a tent pitched in the middle of the room we shared. It was like a wigwam, but one we’d made by haphazardly stitching old sheets together and stealing bamboo canes out of the garden. Only we two were allowed in. No family. No friends. Because, inside that tent, was our own little world. A stage for Ned, a studio for me. We would sit together for hours, forgetting empty tummies and full bladders and all the boring routines of life. I had my drawing pad and my coloured pencils on my knee. Ned told me all about the people in his world. I drew them for him.

“Draw an apple for Murphy. He loves apples more than anything.”

I drew an apple for Murphy and tilted the pad.

“No. He only likes red apples. Not green ones.”

I rubbed out the apple, picked up the red pencil, and started again. “What about Mia Emilia? What does she like best?”

“Mia Emilia doesn’t like anything anymore. She’s always sad. She has a face like this.” He pulled the saddest face I’d ever seen. “And she only ever talks in a whisper.” Continue reading

INSPIRATION: First Day Nerves

Okay, I haven’t done one of these for a while, but I’ve been thinking about new beginnings – first days. Starting a new school, a new college, university, a first job, or any new job. It doesn’t matter how old you are and how many ‘first days’ you’ve had, it never seems to get any less nerve-wracking.

This is from something new I’m writing, in which there will be a lot of really creepy things happening in an old Art College. Yay! Can’t wait to get stuck in 🙂


First Day Nerves

First day nerves. Little sleep. No breakfast. The wardrobe showed me nothing I wanted to wear. Over-cautious, I chose my black jeans then worried over the t-shirt. I wanted to appear interesting, but fun. I wanted to look creative and deep, but not in a self-obsessed way. Approachable, but not puppy-dog. It didn’t matter really – everything looked terrible. Only the stuff worn the day before, and consequently in the wash, looked good.

My twin, Ned, offered to walk me down the hill to the bus. He was starting a Drama course, but not for another week.  At the bus stop, he frowned at the dark clouds, which hadn’t been there when we set off, and asked if I had a raincoat.

“No. But I’ll be fine,” I told him.

“You will be.”

“Will I?”

“Yes.”

“This feels weird. We were at school together, then college. And now we’re moving apart.”

“We still live in the same house,” he said, hooking his arm around me to pull me close. “I’m not going anywhere.”

He smelt of toast and butter and the warm bed he’d just left. When the bus came, I found it hard to let him go. He was my life-raft. My walking Rescue Remedy.

The bus was full and I had to stand. We were having a late-summer stormy heatwave. The sweat was soon trickling down my spine. Did I remember deodorant? A sly sniff in my underarm area and I caught freesias and fresh grass. Phew. The man sitting beside me noticed my action, but his face was blank. I turned away and watched the grey town rush past me. Up Chapel Hill, down Queen Street and left into Baker Street, past the church. We gained more people with each stop, and the press of bodies awakened my latent claustrophobia.

There would be nobody I knew. None of my friends were going to be there. Not even an enemy.

We zoomed up towards the Art College. It was the next stop. I couldn’t wait to get off the bus, but at the same time, I didn’t want to get where I was going. Closed in near the back, I tried to find a button to press so that the bus would stop, but I couldn’t see one. It was an elbow job.

“Excuse me, this is my stop,” I said, tapping on backs and nudging past.

Everyone looked around, but nobody was smiling. They stared critically at my painstaking wardrobe choice. I saw a push-button just as we were about to sail past my stop. I reached for the button, but a huge woman stood in the way.

In a rising panic, I tapped at her frantically. “Press the button. This is my stop.”

It was at least half a mile to the next one, and I had a heavy rucksack full of art stuff. The women glared at me, but the bus started to pull in. Someone else had pressed the button.

A guy up front got off, and I forgot about nudging, and started to shove. Getting off the bus was more important than being liked. I stepped on a few toes and someone shoved me back so that I bashed my head against a metal pole. The driver put his foot on the gas pedal.

“Wait!”

He couldn’t hear me over the drone of the engine. Nobody seemed to understand why I really needed to swear. I was the most hated person on the bus, and I was going to be late on my first day.

As I finally made it off the bus and onto the pavement, the heavens split open and dumped an astonishing amount of water on me. I stood there for a moment, incredulous. There were things I could have done to avoid the situation. A raincoat, an earlier bus, a seat nearer to the door. The next day, things would be different.

The rain found a route that took it directly down my spine. My hair was already dripping like fern fronds stuck in a waterfall. I started to walk as fast as I could, but my canvas bag was so heavy and soaking up water. Everything inside would be ruined.

Just as my ladened shoulders were sending shooting pains up the back of my neck, the college appeared through the rain. I made for the arched door of the gothic building and threw myself through it. My bag hit the floor as hard as a sack of coal. For a minute, I shook my head like a wet dog. Only then did I notice the vast entrance hall was filled with people and silence.

“Woof, woof,” said a dry girl nearby with perfect hair. And just the right outfit.


Photo credit:   Manki Kim @ Unsplash

Begging Letter #1: A Spooked Horse

JOhn Anster Fitzgerald,_Fairies Attacking_a_Bat

by Dr Melchior Williams (Co-Author of ‘The Blackwood Crusade’)

In the 15th Century, Blackwood is plagued by faeries, as everyone who lives there knows. Everyone except the Lord of Blackwood, that is, who refuses to believe there is such a thing.

Looking back through the archives, there are hundreds of petitions from the villagers to the Lord of Blackwood (via his Castellan), begging him do something to make their village a safer place. The Castellan does not even pass many of them on. We can read from this that he knows very well what his master would say if he presented them. The gravity of the matters mentioned in the petitions varies and, indeed, some could be attributed to vivid imaginations at work. Other, like the tragic case of the Crumb family in 1413 are harder to dismiss.

I will be sharing some of the appeals with you here (edited for the modern reader). You can make up your own mind.

Petition presented to Thomas the Castellan by Farley Fletcher:

Mr Fletcher demands the lord do something about the faeries of the Black Wood who have spooked his horse so it refuses to go past the northern Toll Tree, preventing Mr Fletcher from taking his produce to market. Consequently, he is two weeks behind paying his taxes.

(The Lord of Blackwood was informed of this petition and Mr Fletcher was told to borrow his neighbour’s horse for the trip to market, and ordered to pay double taxes next month.)

Painting by John Anster Fitzgerald


from ‘The Blackwood Crusade’ by Jo Danilo: OUT SOON

Find out more here

Alternative Fact #2 from ‘Blackwood’

Luttrell Psalter carriage

Mab was so pleased to see Silas that she grabbed his hands and told him the story at great speed.

“Otto asked me to marry him when I told him I didn’t want him to die. Now I think he is dead because he hasn’t come back. The crows are everywhere this morning, and my hair is growing, but nothing matters anymore and I may as well just lie down in front of the Lord of Blackwood’s carriage [1].”

“Right,” said Silas. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

[1] A familiar saying in Blackwood. The Bayard’s (the noble line that has ruled Blackwood since the Conqueror) means of transport was designed to carry eight people in luxury and was pulled by no less than fourteen horses. Yet it was only used on two occasions – once when King Edward III visited and was taken on a tour of the estate, and another time for the funeral of the legendary ‘Pig-Boy’. Despite being used little, it still managed to run a man down and kill him. That man had been John Swift, aged 88, and the accident had also inspired the Blackwood saying: ‘about as fast as John Swift’, meaning not very fast at all.


From ‘The Blackwood Crusade’ – The Fairytale to End Them AllOUT SOON and chock-full of Alternative Facts

Find out more here.

Alternative Fact #1 from ‘Blackwood’

 

Guy Garderobe

Christina realised her chances of getting away unscathed were hideously low without some kind of brilliant intervention, but her mind was so busy being terrified it couldn’t think of anything brilliant. So, instead, she settled for the oldest trick in the book which, at that point of time, was not very old at all.[1]

She fixed her gaze beyond the creatures, feigned horror, and gasped as loudly and dramatically as she could: “What is that?!”

[1] Bad King John was the first to experience the ‘Look Behind You’ diversionary tactic. It was thought to have been invented by his jester, Guy Garderobe. However, it was to be the last thing Guy Garderobe ever invented because King John did not appreciate it very much. While Guy rotted away in a dingy dungeon, his diversionary tactic became popular throughout the land, and still is today.


From ‘The Blackwood Crusade’ – The Fairytale to End Them All OUT SOON and chock-full of Alternative Facts

Find out more here.

#2 ‘I didn’t write today because…’

20170114_215727_resized_1

… I had a scary visit from the Dark Lord and his mini-me!

He found out I wrote a book about him and wasn’t a happy bunny. Luckily my light sabre was on full charge and the force was with me 🙂


When you have limited spare time, the slightest thing can put you off your writing!