The Train

On the way back from set a lady was sick on the train floor. Initially people fled, thinking of themselves. But then slowly, their humanity flooded back, and a few helped her out, put newspaper down, offered her a towel. 

Humanity is still here, even in our largest cities. People are just people, and most of us just want to be nice, and have others be nice to us. SH. 

Lunch With a Bird

Despite my previously shown discontent towards the feathered little fellows, I do in fact quite like birds. Just not when they are screaming at the top of their little lungs outside my bedroom window at 5am … 

With this, today saw me eating lunch with a robin red breast. Not sure how common they are, or even present, in all the parts of the world, but over here they are a symbol of winter. A robin red breast in snow is the most familiar form. Although today was pretty cold for a late April day, this little guy was no where near the freezing white stuff, but inside a cafeteria beside a film set. 

The silent (yes, I noted this most poignantly) little chap flew from seat to seat, paying us dinners not much mind. How on earth he’d made his way into the enclosed space I could not say, but he displayed exemplary table manners during the whole meal. And then when it was time for me to go, so did he, flying around a corner and out of sight. SH. 

The Creature Master

Ewan meets another of the Masters who instruct at Firedrake Lyceum … An excerpt from my fantasy novel EWAN PENDLE AND THE WHITE WRAITH.

“They were early. And as yet there were no fellow cadets milling about the entrance to the room where they had Creature sessions. This turned out to be a tall black painted door with a dull gold handle on it in the shape of a claw grasped around what appeared to be a shrivelled head. Ewan looked sideways at Mathilde. She nodded with genuine encouragement and Ewan knocked. A dull echo, as if the room behind the door were a cathedral, resonated around and then out of Ewan’s ears. There was no answer. Ewan thought to knock again but Mathilde threw her small hand on the handle and turned the door open.

Long blinds had been drawn right down so that the windows were completely blacked out. A row of thin candle flames flickered along the left and right walls of the room, the few rows of desks in the middle of the space cast in barely any light at all. Ewan stepped slowly into the room, Mathilde almost level at his side. Beyond the shallow pools of shimmering candlelight Ewan could see nothing else, not even the ceiling was visible as it appeared to have been swallowed up by a perpetual night sky. The whole place felt cold and hard, and seemed more like an ancient stone tomb than a room. Ewan couldn’t see anyone.

Your punctuality is commendable,’ crawled a voice from out of the darkness at the end of the chamber. ‘Please, take a seat while your fellows lumber with their time.’

Ewan couldn’t see who had spoken, and for a fleeting second he thought of a half man half bat being, hanging upside down from the ceiling, clasping onto the rafters with black metallic claws. His fears, however, were proved utterly baseless as forward from the deep pool of dark at the end of the chamber stepped the owner of the seemingly bodiless voice.

All Ewan could think about was that he looked like a dead person walking.

The Creature Master had a stony face with pale skin that clung to his skull so tightly it looked like it had been painted on, and thickly combed hair so wretchedly dark it could have easily been mistaken for a piece of the night sky on a moonless night. The man’s eyes, however, were a surprisingly warm blue, and pierced through the gloom with an almost unnerving ease. But they were eyes that reminded Ewan of an Anglerfish, and how the pleasant glowing light attached to the end of that underwater predator’s head was used to lure in unsuspecting victims towards its open jaws, the prey, dazzled by the light, unaware of their peril until it was too late.

Ewan took a seat at the very back of the chamber, Mathilde joining him at his side. Slowly the rest of the Grade One cadets began to filter into the session, equal silence meeting all of their lips as they entered, much as it had done and continued to hold residence over Ewan’s speech. When everyone had settled in their seats (which took a remarkably short time) the Creature Master began.

Although we have had a couple of sessions already, for those of you who may not have been paying attention, I will introduce myself again. My name is Master Vrykolaka. In these sessions you will learn who to call when you have a vomiting Piksi on your hands; what to look for when you are trying to determine the difference between a Woodland Dragon and a Highland Dragon; when a Nanka can enter your soul though your nostrils; where an Ollipheist can take down an ocean liner in less than three minutes; and why a Welsh Goblin is the last opponent you would want to challenge to a game of backgammon.’

One of the thin burning candles flickered a little as the Master paused to drink in the effect of his words. The room was deathly silent, and Ewan quite clearly heard someone gulp.” SH.

And Then The Rain

Rain is the single best writing weather you could have. It’s emotive, it’s calming and it’s raining outside, so it’s not as if you’re missing out on the day by sitting at your desk writing away.

Writing at night, while the rain falls on the soft ground out of an open window is best. Summer preferred, so you can actually have the window open without freezing, but the simple pattering on the roof with some heating purring away nearby can be just as good. 

Anyone else have a favourite writing situation? Alone is always better for me too, versus a busy cafe or populated park. 

Thinking time in different. That can be done anywhere – flying past a lake on a speeding train, waiting in line to buy some food at a supermarket or laying in bed at 2am in the morning. The ideas themselves, for me, come out of nowhere. They jump out of cupboards, fall from the sky and bubble up from the bottom of large cups of tea. And they won’t leave me alone until I agree to write them down. SH.

Mathilde’s Secret

A small bite from the beginning of Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith

Why did you come here?’ said Sara suddenly at Mathilde’s side.

Because you wanted to go in the shop, dude,’ replied Mathilde.

No,’ said Sara, smiling, ‘I mean to London – to Lady Agrimony’s?’

Mathilde took her eyes off of the colourful bracelet and thought about if she wanted to answer. In truth, she really didn’t. It wasn’t something she enjoyed explaining.

She turned her thoughtful eyes onto Sara, her young roommate genuine and innocent in her questioning, and a difficult battle took place in Mathilde’s mind. She could pretend, like she had done many times before, keep herself to herself, lie or just else not tell the truth. That was always an option. And as time had passed, it had been the best one. But then again, it was starting to wear at her, like some creature that she carried around on her back, the terrible and ugly thing eating up more excuses, more lies, and all the while getting fatter and fatter, heavier and heavier. SH.

Ewan Arrives At Firedrake

Another little taster from Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith

What are you doing here?’ It was Enola who had spoken, and for a second Ewan thought she was talking to him, a fine shimmer of cold echoing across his skin.

I followed your carriage,’ replied a man’s voice finally. It definitely wasn’t Gideon who had spoken, this newcomer’s tone filled with a power and prowess that the grimy carriage driver would be lucky to even know the meaning of, thought Ewan.

Ewan’s skin loosened a little and he sat back down.

I set Betony down in your path. If it had been I that had brought her to Firedrake there would have been too many unwelcome eyes watching and unwanted lips talking.’ Enola gave a response, but there was a sudden gust of wicked weather and it was spoken too low for Ewan to hear.

She failed in her mission,’ said the man.

I gathered as much,’ said Enola. ‘What happened?’

I don’t know,’ replied the man, a strained danger in his words. ‘I found her in the gardens by the house.’

Are you sure she failed in her mission?’

The alarm had been raised. That’s why I had left my position. I was moving closer to get a better look at the scene when I found her. Although, I doubt she let anyone see her, otherwise we would already know about it.’

Ewan had no idea what he was hearing, but whatever it was, he was pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to be hearing it.

Ah, Gideon,’ said Enola, her tone noticeably changed, ‘can you take the boy inside. I have to attend to other business.’

Yes, Master.’

The door suddenly swung open and it was Gideon again, the ruffled looking man holding a weathered brown coat in his claw-like hands. Ewan tried his best at surreptitious glances over the grubby man’s shoulder but he could not see hide nor hair of Enola and the mystery man.

Master Whitewood says you are to put this on and follow me,’ said Gideon in barely more than a growl, the rain splashing onto his hair to give it the appearance of oozing black slime. Ewan took the coat, put it on as asked and grabbed his battered suitcase, taking one more look back at the blood stained cabin of the diligence before stepping out into the wet and following Gideon. SH.