"So Fragile A Casing"

"That's the drawback to the human body: so full of sensation, yet so fragile a casing!"
gingerune

Rachel put together a little tag for her mystery series which she is currently hosting.  Since I am going to write a mystery myself several novels down the road, I thought I would pick up this tag and indulge myself.  It was rather fun, since I have been quietly story-boarding for the mystery in between scribbling for Talldogs.

I'm afraid I don't really fall into the quaint English village mystery ideal, much as I watched "Midsomer Murders" in its earlier seasons.  To me, murder is easy: it's getting away with it that is hard.  Detecting it is even harder, because you start off pitying the corpse and then you start unearthing facts about it and you begin to realize that the person was really a blackguard and he probably deserved very nearly what he got, and then you have to find the murderer, with whom you have begun to sympathize, and you have to turn them over to the law, and you have to watch them hanged.  And then you realize that it isn't all happy hunting for clues.  People got hurt.  People keep getting hurt.  Everything is simply wretched, and if it weren't for your infernal desire to ferret out the truth you would have had done with the whole nasty business long ago.

the questions from the tag, which are a little less serious-serious

1. You are writing a mystery novel and decide to base the detective off of one of your writing friends: whom do you choose?
To be an effective detective he or she would have to be based on Abigail, because she is so eminently logical and also because, being a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, she has “read the right sorts of books.”

2. If you and the best of your writing-blog friends were living out a mystery, which of you would be most likely to end up as the victim?
That depends on who the murderer was, what was the provocation, and the means presented for the crime. Lots of different people would like to kill lots of different people for lots of different reasons. Knowing myself better than I know anyone else, I can readily imagine someone wanting to murder me, and if the plan went off without a hitch and I did not end up committing a violent act of self-defence (yeah, that’s funny), I would probably be killed so that someone could steal my “muse of fire,” and then I would have to come back as a ghost and team up with Abigail to get my muse back.
“My first girlfriend turned into the moon.”
“That’s tough, buddy.”
3. If you decided to write a mystery (or if, on the other hand, you do write mysteries) would your style fall under thriller, terror, literary, historical or cosy?
I actually do plan on writing a murder mystery, and have had it pending for some time. “Cosy” and “literary” probably do not apply. “Historical” may apply in a rough sense; I think it will cut a line through thriller, terror, and horror. Not one to do things by halves.

4. Who is your favourite mystery author?
I haven’t read much beyond Dorothy Sayers (one Agatha Christie and two Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries), and I have to confess, I’m not really a mystery reader. In a faintly interested sort of way I want to know who the body is and who killed the cat and why, and naturally I prefer to see justice done; but in general I am captivated by the detective. Someone bowled my heart at Lord Peter Wimsey and he cracked it out of the field. I love reading his exploits, and I love the way Dorothy Sayers knows what life is like and grabs the bull by the horns. I rather suspect her character Harriet Vane is a picture of herself in some respects. She knows people; she knows sin and depravity and grace and redemption and she isn’t afraid to strip the romantic pall off murder. She doesn’t do things by halves, and I really appreciate that.
“Do I look like a killer to you?”
“Everyone looks like a killer to me.”
5. What is the best mystery you've ever read?
I don’t feel qualified to define the best mystery, so I will say that the mysteries I most enjoyed were The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Man Who Was Thursday, and Gaudy Night.

6. If you were going to be in charge of solving a mystery, where would you want it to be set and what would the circumstances be?
First of all, this responsibility would have to be thrust upon me out of sheer desperation and by complete fools because surely there must be someone of a more methodical turn of mind who could take the job. Unless, of course, that person had the appalling lack of foresight to become the deceased. From an artistic standpoint I would want the setting to be sleepy and safe, because that amplifies the sense of invasion (assuming this is a murder mystery). But not a little English village, because then we can all assume the vicar did it (blah), or a sleepy New England town, because then we can just blame it on Cthulhu and have done.

7. You walk into a library and find a body on the floor. Your first reaction?
That rather depends on the state of the body. If it were lying innocently on its front I would start and gasp and swallow my heart a few times before going round the body to be sure it was actually dead. If it were “Silence of the Lambs” I would swear and vomit and contaminate the crime scene.

8. Your second reaction:
Don’t touch the body. Call the police.

9. What do you say when the policeman tells you that you are the prime suspect in the murder?
“What.” I would say. “What.”

10. How does your answer affect the powers that be?
God knows.

11. Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle walk into one of those Solve the Murder Dinner Theatres and sit down and start to spoil the fun by solving all the mysteries before anyone else and shouting the answers to the crowd: do you retaliate, and if so, how?
I don’t know either of them by sight (again, not real into mysteries here), so I would probably go away despising them to the uttermost depths of my soul. I do not retaliate. We are English. We carry on.

12. Post a quote from your favourite mystery//mystery author:
This is an interchange between the main characters of the TV show “Castle.” 
 Best-selling crime novelist Richard Castle gets roped into a case 
when someone starts copy-catting some of his murders in real life.

Richard Castle: I'm here for the story.
Kate Beckett: The story?
Richard Castle: Why those people? Why those murders?
Kate Beckett: Sometimes, there is no story. Sometimes, the guy is just a psychopath.
Richard Castle: There's always a story, always a chain of events that makes everything make sense. Take you for example. Under normal circumstances, you should not be here. Most smart, good-looking women become lawyers, not cops. And yet here you are. Why?
Kate Beckett: I don't know, Rick. You're the novelist. You tell me.
Richard Castle: Well, you're not bridge-and-tunnel. No trace of the boroughs when you talk. So that means Manhattan. That means money. You went to college, probably a pretty good one. You had options. Yeah, you had a lot of options, more socially acceptable options. But you still chose this. That tells me—something happened. Not to you. No, you're wounded, but you're not that wounded. No, it was someone you care about, it was someone you loved. And you probably could have lived with that but the person responsible was never caught.
[silence]
Richard Castle: And that, Detective Beckett, is why you are here.
Kate Beckett: Cute trick. But don't think you know me.
Richard Castle: The point is there's always a story.
You just have to find it.

NaNo & Hayao Miyazaki

Some of you (particularly those who follow my Pinterest boards) are probably aware that on occasion I watch anime.  I particularly enjoy Studio Ghibli / Hayao Miyazaki's productions because of their beautiful story-lines, their characters, and their sense of life and dimension which is largely lacking in Disney.  And just the other evening, in need of a Miyazaki fix, my husband and I routed "Whisper of the Heart" off the internet and watched it.  We loved it - for three reasons.

1.  It's Hayao Miyazaki, people.  I've seen "Ponyo," "Princess Mononoke," "Porco Rosso," "Howl's Moving Castle," "Castle in the Sky," "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind," "The Secret World of Arrietty," "Tales From Earthsea," "From Up On Poppy Hill," "Kiki's Delivery Service," "My Neighbour Totoro," "Whisper of the Heart," "The Cat Returns," and "Spirited Away."  They are chock full of fascinating characters and, while often bizarre, conscious of the rhythm of life - not the hurry-scurry of Disney's action-driven films, which have their place, but are not usually realistic.

2.  The relationship between Shizuku and Seiji.  These two young people face daunting odds.  Seiji is bound and determined to become a first-class, world-famous violin-maker.  He is driven.  He is full of purpose.  He has been fighting for this for years.  Shizuku, on the other hand, does little besides read voraciously.  Her grades are not good.  She doesn't have a lot of drive and she has no idea what she wants to do with her life.  But when the two realize their mutual passion for each other, Shizuku kicks it into gear and Seiji is determined that not even a two-month trial-run with a violin-maker in Italy, and the possible ten-year apprenticeship after that will break his love for Shizuku.  They fight for their relationship.  Seiji will support and protect Shizuku in any way he can, and Shizuku will encourage and help Seiji all along the way.  Dang and blast it, that is a relationship right there.  That is how it is done.

3.  The passion and fear in both Seiji and Shizuku.  Seiji is a young man who knows what he wants to do with his life and does not look back.  By God's providence and my own headlong determination, I am like this.  Very few other things call to me.  I am not particularly interested in drawing, in music, crafts, etc.  I am a writer and I write.  That is what I want to do and I am going to do it.  But I also appreciated Miyazaki's portrayal of the artist's shyness, self-doubt, and fear in Shizuku when she pours her energy into her very first novel and then stands trembling as she hands it to a friend to read.  She is too terrified to stand and watch, but she cannot bear to not have it read immediately.  After being told gently that the book is good, but is yet a gem in the rough and will now need many hours of tender polishing, she bursts into tears.  She knew that it would need polishing; she was terrified that it would be complete rubbish.  She suffered a combined relief and terror and disappointment that the first draft was not perfect which I can readily understand.  I've felt it before myself; and I was truly grateful to Miyakazi for capturing the agony and the ecstasy of the artist and depicting it so poignantly.
that said...
Is Jenny doing NaNo this year?  Eh, kind of.  Perhaps it would be better to explain that, if I were a man, I would be Howl.  I tell myself very convincingly that I am not going to do something so as to save myself from freaking out while I do it.  I will probably push myself to some NaNoing exercise this year, but my November will be wonderfully truncated at the end by the arrival in Glasgow of my father, mother, and sister.  Naturally I will have absolutely no desire to do any such NaNoing then.  So in the between-time of November I will do some NaNoing, for the sheer sake of keeping myself at a plug-away state on Talldogs.  I think I have always quietly cheated at NaNo.  I probably always will...

Talldogs continues to grow at a gentle, steady rate.  At a mere 18,900 words it is such a baby thing: I've barely set the stage at this point!  My husband and I commiserate over the fate of my protagonist and for the time being Raymond St. Jermaine has become a third member of the household.  I feel rather sorry for my husband: people are always coming and going in his house, it isn't always easy to keep them straight; and he is forever greeting and saying adieu to and making tea for and listening to the exploits of people with whom he has only a passing acquaintance.  It is just as well that he is such a people-person: he copes very well with the crowd that I bring home. 

Cottish Sundrysides

...which is what I said.

This past Saturday, Tim and I took the train up to Pitlochry and Loch Faskally.  
It was a positively Scottish day, very rainy - though not all that cold, thankfully.  


When we got in it was lunchtime, and since we had packed our lunches we sat down to eat them under the porch of a local theatre, where we were summarily goggled at (inexplicably) by people going in and out.  Very Brigadoon




Remember that scene in "Prince Caspian" in which the children are being chased by Telmarine archers through a wood, and they hide under the rhododendrons?  Rhododendrons.  Rhododendrons everywhere.




After seeing some man-made constructions in Edinburgh and Stirling, it was wonderful to break out and see some damp, forbidding Scottish landscape.  It was breath-taking, and every ten minutes I kept asking myself what ill humour it was that possessed the sun-in-splendour southerners to try to conquer the "big damn foggy island."












This little guy was growing in the crook of a tree.  Very "Princess Mononoke."


While wet, the weather was very atmospheric.  This is a shot off the dam at the base of Loch Faskally.  Those clouds!  They sunk down into the valleys and you could literally watch entire clouds float by.











While it was not that cold, after poorly dodging puddles in the muddy paths, my sneakers had taken a beating and my socks were wet.  Apart from cleaning out my frogs once I trotted home, I was beginning to wonder if a mustard foot-bath wouldn't do me some good...










Irons In My Fire

this may actually be the cover of a book; anyway, pinterest
I am coming increasingly more and more aware of the fractured nature of my readers' understanding of what the deuce I am up to.  That's okay, it is fractured to me as well, so it's not really your fault at all!  Perhaps I will be able to alleviate some of this confusion.

After some discussion with a few members of my family, I am coming to grips with the probable fact that I will not be able to tackle Gingerune again until I get back home.  Something remarkable may turn up between now and December, but I think I will not be able to handle the crushing weight of the thing until I am back in my familiar hunting grounds.  I have more or less come to grips with that.  So for now, I'm editing Ethandune, opening up my next novel in the increasingly lengthening train of novels, and poking into a few of the others to see where they might go.
ethandune
Main character: Simon! 
Eh, the plot?  What begins as a case of civil unrest which must be quietly hushed up turns personal for Goddgofang in this fast-paced opening piece of a series.

He laughed in that old way of his, with a slight husky catch and the whiteness still about his mouth, and flung an arm round my shoulders, turning me to the horses. “I can’t lose you, Simon! I have a handful of men to call upon whom I can trust, and you are for sure the foremost among them. I can always depend upon you to have my back.”
talldogs
Who's the guy? Raymond St. Jermaine.
Why do you care?  In the midst of a dysfunctional family, Raymond bears the responsibility of the family estate and keeping the name of the St. Jermaine family from falling into disgrace - but his family is not grateful.

"Don't push me, Geoffrey. I will happily stand for manslaughter."
lamblight
Court du jour: Goddgofang and Bruin.
What is going on?  The sins of the fathers are not always remembered, and when they come back around to bite, Goddgofang and his brother have to determine what is happening to them - or go insane.

“If she died… If he died, she would still not come. Softly!—softly! …But if she died…” His lips spread in an expression of intense satisfaction and horror.
maresgate
Members of the Equestrian families: Simon, Goddgofang, Raymond, etc...
And they are doing...? With his parents yanked off at the start of the shore season to attend an emergency political meeting, Goddgofang is left in charge of the youth of the family.  At loggerheads with his cousins over a potential beau, the summer season grows increasingly less enjoyable as the weeks go by.

He turned exasperatedly from the fireplace. “That you should have chosen now to go out of your head,” he said, 
“when your father is not here to help you, borders on the perverse—even for you!”
drakeshelm
Orderlies: Filigree, Alwin Herro
Marching orders: Upon coming back off the frontier, ambassador Filigree Drakeshelm stops off at the Hunlaw-gang garrison for the night.  When the garrison is attacked by Steppe-Wolf tribesman and the commanding officer is crippled in the action, Filigree decides to stay on to assume command until other arrangements can be made.  The long winter is ahead, the garrison is cut off, the soldiers are restless and tribesmen close in...

His good hand clenched until the blunt nails forced apart the creases in his palm. Glory—dead. His own leg shattered so that he could not even do Rounds with the help of a crutch. This fair-haired, dragonhelm’d wench to assume command—! It was too much. The insult was too high. He wanted to give her a left hook to the jaw with such a ferocity that his drug-crazed mind half believed he had done it. He wanted to hit her. He wanted to hurl her back through the doorway. He wanted to do a lot of things to her, and from the look on her face he saw she perceived many of these things herself.
The side of her lips kicked upward sardonically. “Good-night, Commander. I will be back through in the morning.”

Talldogs is the next book I'm working on; I started at Page One this morning.  Beginnings can be a roughish business, but I think I have a decent start for a first draft.  Meanwhile, the editing of Ethandune goes on.

Some Like It Hot

Rachel recently introduced a new blog feature called "Chatterbox" - and then she deliberately left the internet to go camping.  Thanks for that bombshell.  I confess that at first I was not intending to participate, partly because I had no ideas, partly because I was busy wrapping up Ethandune at the time.  But of course an idea did come to me, just because I said one wouldn't, and next thing I knew I was hunched over the laptop favouring an innocent sheet of Word document fresh out into society with the rakish advances of Times New Roman lettering.
chatterbox
Chatterbox, Rachel had the gall to say, is simple.  Oh, sure, it's lots of fun, but simple - !  In short, she grabs a topic and hurls it at you, and you spend as long as you like sketching a scene with any characters you like featuring that topic as a means of getting to know the characters better.  It is a kind of love-child of Snippets and Beautiful People.  
coffee
The topic this month is coffee.  Coffee has a long and glorious history, a tradition among many societies, and I chose not to touch upon any of that.  I have embarked upon an endeavour to ferret out the personalities of a handful of my characters, and that is what I am going to give you.  I warn you, it is quite lengthy.  You know me.  I never do anything by halves.  If you get to the end, I hope you will have enjoyed it.  
coffee talk

Legion let rip a wolf-whistle that tore through the room.  “Damn and thunder!” he cried, rounding on the others.  “Did you see that!”  He sought the table and fixed upon Buttercup as a likely victim.  “You—sneaking knave!  You did not breathe a word of it—you let him hurl it in our faces and left us to look like complete fools in front of that—that thing!
Buttercup, one ankle crossed over the other, and both tucked under his chair, sifted a thimbleful of soft brown sugar granules into his palm, looking like pieces of a smashed topaz, and shook them into his steaming cup.  “It was not permitted me to tell, and so, naturally, I did not say anything,” he replied coolly.
“Oh! is that not just like him!”
Rips, glancing aside long enough to draw his spoon into view, reached for it and began stirring the brown cream with which Buttercup had recently favoured him into his own drink.  “Calm down, Legion.  It is not as if it were not of a piece with every other prank Adonis has pulled.”  His mouth twisted slightly.  “Let the man vaunt a little.  The creature is worth it.”
“Hmph!”  Legion resumed his seat, from which he had thrown himself in the wake of Adonis and the little golden warrior who had walked beside him.  “Art one to speak.  Nothing stirs your blood, Rips.”
With a swift, quelling look the Rose silenced Legion.  The young man coloured a little, but Rips, nothing daunted, continued to stir his coffee twice more, tapped off the spoon, and laid it on the side of the saucer, all the while painstakingly scanning lines in the Land-Owner’s Codex which he held propped open in his right hand. 
The Rose attempted to kick up a little more liveliness in the conversation.  “Well, Hurley,” he demanded of the stolid young buck across the table from him, “what is the creature like?  Surely you should know by now.”
“She plays a wicked set of marteaux des chevaux,” replied Hurley rather exultantly; “I know she looks willowy, but once she gets astride that bay mare of hers and you put a weapon in her fist, she is a positive Amazon.  And she can dress you down prettily with that blade she has got behind her teeth,” he added, rueful.
Legion flung his head horse-like at him.  “I saw the look she gave you!  How long did it take her to put you in your place?”
“Not long,” said Buttercup.
“Light of the sun! what a monster!  An’ sure I’ve watched Adonis turn heads—he can’t really help that—but I have never yet seen a chit to match him.  He does not take easy to the rein and I’ll be damned if he was of a mind to submit to a girl beneath his abilities.  From the look of her, I would not want to attempt saddling her, but imagine trying to bridle him!  She must be a fire-eater of the first class!  What must that be like!” he added, incredulous and quizzical at once.
“Not unlike making love to a thunderbolt, I imagine,” mused Rips without raising his eye.
Horsefeathers, who had not spoken a word through the whole interchange save when he had risen to extend his greeting to the Amazon, took up the carafe to refill his cup and said, turning his head a little into the sunlight so that the myriad of freckles on his face sharpened in the glow, “Why, what kind of chit answers to your taste, Legion?”
“There’s a pregnant question,” quipped the Rose.
Legion catapulted his chair back onto its hind legs.  “Give me a moment,” he demanded, nursing his coffee between his palms.  His head backflung revealed a little puckered scar at the base of his jaw, pinkish and warm, where a chin-strap rubbed.  His eye sought among the lime-washed rafters of the coffee-house for the image he wanted.
“Amazons are all well and good,” he admitted at length.  His heel slipped—his chair shunted forward and came down with a bang.  “Personally, I think I would rather take a more temperate girl.  It must be exhausting keeping pace with such a fiend.  No, I’m far too pleasant-humoured for that.  I’ll take a pretty, good-tempered skirt-train.”
The patch lifted briefly from the book, the eye narrowing.  “Not unintelligent, I presume.”
“An’ sure!  I cannot abide stupid women.  There are hordes enough of them to fight through at galas and parties.  They flock.  Bitterly regretful I find myself to discover I can no longer throw Adonis into the mêlée just to get the biddies off my elbows.”
Hurley’s hard, uncompromising face folded into the fulgurant smile which was peculiar to his family.  The dancing, dangerous light jinked from eye to eye.  “It is a trial hard to bear that one is so unutterably handsome.”
“Do not mock it.  I know where I fall in the studbook—and so do the biddies!”
 “All right,” said the Rose, “assuming you can keep your head above water, what sort of skirt-train would you fancy, Hurley?”
The buck laughed harshly.  With his heavy hand cupping the rim of his mug—Buttercup looked on, apprehensive, waiting for the china to shatter—his eye scanned the tabletop, brows clenching, looking for a picture even as Legion had searched the ceiling.  “Forswear,” he murmured, “cans’t see around my mother’s face!”
“Are not like to find her type!”
“No…  Oh,” the wrestler’s shoulders lifted, dismissive, “a buxom girl, sturdy and good-tempered.”
“You would not take a fire-eater?” asked Horsefeathers, quietly surprised.
Hurley turned to him.  “Oh, I imagine I would, if I fell for a girl who was a fire-eater.  She needn’t change for me.  I come from such a pack of fire-eaters, what difference is one more?  But since you are asking me now, she is not a bad portrait of my ideal.”
The young men slewed round to view the destrier-creature which was serving a table at the other end of the room.  She had a carafe of steaming coffee on one hip and a wooden tray of brown cream bottles against the other.  Pleasant-faced and deep-chested, like a spice-ship under full sail on the sea, she cut a soft, solid, rustic figure against the light-washed stone walls.
“I can see that,” mused Legion.
“Yes, but you do not see a lot of girls her like among the Upper Ten Thousand,” put in Buttercup; “and that is more to the point.”
“Tush!  There are bound to be some.  Don’t tread on a fellow’s hopes and dreams.”
Rips had the misfortune of discovering their carafe was empty at that moment.  He lifted it and caught the eye of a passing serving girl, who took the message and whisked off for a fresh jug.  But as the gentleman put the carafe back down and readjusted his chair, the chape of his scabbard clawing on the stone flags underfoot, he drew his fellows’ attention, and was borne down on by Legion. 
“Do we have to take the Codex away from you, or are you going to come willingly?”
The eye came up, brow a little perplexed; Rips gazed around on the others’ faces canted back at him.  “I’m sorry—was I going to the altar now?”
“No, but who would you have stand by while you were?”
He looked back down into his book.  “I have not yet met her.”
“Naturally,” conceded Hurley, jerking his head at him.  “But what sort of girl would she be?”
Rips sighed and turned his book face-down on the tabletop.  With his large hands flung down over his knees he leaned back, jawline set.  “I have no patience with children, and I have almost no patience with women.  I have yet to determine which is the stupider.”
The Rose looked at his hands clasped before him on the table top—glancing his way, Buttercup saw him begin to circle his thumbs: quiet apprehension bloomed in his breast.
“Perhaps,” Rips went on bluntly, “by some grace of God, there is a woman out there agreeable to my nature.  I should almost pity her, for I am not sociable by temperament, nor, to be honest, am I a very agreeable bedfellow.  I am not in the habit of saying what I may think, and when I do, women do not generally take it well.  In passing acquaintance they may think me by-the-book, if they take the time to spare me a thought, and all the better for them.  I will always do my best to present an admirable visage to any woman with whom I must stand up, but I am not deceived into thinking many of them would appreciate an extended acquaintance with me—nor do I suppose any woman would appreciate my offer.”
The others stared at him, listening to the bruising of the beaten silence.  The serving girl brought the coffee, set it on the table, and went away perplexed, the heated atmosphere lifting the hair on the back of her neck as she retreated.
Buttercup bit his lip a moment, released it, and then said, without looking at Rips, “Did something happen?”
With the sense of a turtle snapping back into its shell, Rips took up his book again.  “No.  Nothing which has not been happening for the past twenty years.”
“That!” exploded Hurley.  “I had not expected you to put any stock in that, sir.  It is not like you.”
“Forgive me if it turns out that it…impacts…certain aspects of my future.”
Buttercup lifted his head like a stallion catching the first scent of battle.  Though he was six years the other’s junior, he said levelly, “Forswear!  We are none of us of a morbid disposition.  When once you have got through the chaff, sir, you will find a girl worth your while.  It is in my mind that you are not meant for a fire-eater or a buxom maid, but a lady through and through.  You have much to recommend you, and much which a lady desires.  You know this as well as the rest of us.  So cease at once to be dark and pitying!”
“Even Buttercup,” said Horsefeathers with a little rueful smile, “has a mouthful of fangs.”
Hurley struck Buttercup between the shoulder-blades.  “A’come, cub!  Let him have it.  No more nonsense, Rips.  Depend upon it, we will find you a bonny set of braids.”
“Mercy,” replied Rips in wry monotone.  But his temper was a little better set, and the Rose left off twiddling his thumbs with a heave of relief.   
Buttercup relented a fraction.  “I do not take it lightly.  ‘Twould be a fool if I did.  But if you have not the knack of being alone—which I do not believe many men do—then you had better strip off your braces and roll up your sleeves, and get down to the business.  You are not one to be afraid of it.”
The Rose said, “He is not afraid of it—pardon me for speaking,” he interrupted himself, turning to Rips.
Rips shook his head and held out his hand.
The Rose turned back to Buttercup.  “He is not afraid of it, but women can be such a nuisance until you have sifted through the chaff.”
The lad smiled cannily.  “I was not seeking confirmation when I said Rips is not afraid.  Rips—God help him—is not afraid of anything, nor waits for anyone’s affirmation.  He is man alone.  But not all alone, I think.  Only I think that a like man and a like woman would be a fair thing to see among the gilt and glitter of the Upper Ten Thousand, and I do say I look forward to that occasion.”
Thrown into this light, Rips himself nodded, temper all but completely restored.
Choosing to capitalize on this victory, the Rose lifted his fresh cup of coffee to his lips, the steam gently glossing over his upper lip, and said, looking down into its whirling depths, “I have my eye on someone.”
They rounded on him.  “Oh?  Who?  Do we know this ill-fated lass?”
“As a matter of fact,” he said after he had lightly scorched his tongue, “you do not.  She is from home, and has never set foot within these hallowed city walls.  Sooth, she is not yet out, but she comes of age around Christmas and is going to be presented at Easter.  You may meet her then, if you behave.”
“A young filly!  Does she like the taste of a gilt bit?”
The Rose laughed shortly.  “How should I know?  She has never said.  She comes with gilt stirrups as is.  But we get on pleasantly, and I imagine we will do very well together.”
Buttercup asked, “She is fond of you?”
“I know it is some stretch of your imaginations to believe it, but she is.”
“No, I am quite pleased to hear it.”
The Rose trained a little wry smile on Buttercup.  “You are pleased to hear fair news about any of us.”
“You are all of close interest to me,” the young gentleman replied frankly.  “I would see you all happily settled.”
“Well?  And what about yourself?”
But Buttercup, with a knack he had got from his father, let the question slide from him like pebbles from a tipped palm.  “Horsefeathers first.  You have had some dealing with women.  What is your opinion of your sort of girl—seeing as,” he added with a sudden glint of slyness, “you have begun the whole affair.”
Horsefeathers settled his chin into his palm, long face drooping softly into a thoughtful expression.  “Not a fire-eater, certainly,” he said presently, decisively.  “God ha’ mercy, not that.  I have been kicked too many times in the gut by that sort.  I will take a pleasant-tempered girl with a ready wit, brunette, with hazel eyes and a touch of padding.  Nothing too skinny.”
“That is specific,” remarked the Rose, brows rampant.
Hurley growled, “He is gammoning you.  Really, Horsefeathers!—to heel!”
But Horsefeathers took his hand out from under his chin and held both palms up beseechingly.  “But that is the picture I have in my head.  No dashing it.  As soon as I find her, I will tell you.”
“And now,” said Rips without looking up from the Codex, “Master Buttercup will set his neck to the block and answer the question.”
The young man spread his hands on the tabletop before himself, his smoking black cup of coffee between his thumbs, and watched the symmetry of it with a tiny smile at play upon his lips.  “I will set my neck to the block and I will answer the question.  I will take…a silly girl.”
If he had asked for a fire-eater they could not have been more surprised.  Even Rips came out of his book, patch throwing light off its velvet curve, brows collecting shadow.
“Verily!” cried Hurley, flinging his elbows on the edge of the table and folding his arms.  He canted round to get a look at Buttercup’s quenched, amused face.  “This is news.  You—silly?  Why, there is no one less silly in my acquaintance!  What would make you do it?”
“Vanity, probably,” Buttercup admitted.  “But while I am perhaps not generally amusing—you will have to tell me—I have a great appreciation for humour, and with a little, silly bird of a wife I should be quite happy.  I should like to look after her, and she should like to be looked after, and together we would gambol along quite happily, I think, in great defiance of the majesty of the Upper Ten Thousand.”
There was a brief, thoughtful silence.
“Damn and thunder,” said Legion warmly, presently.  “I suppose I can see that, after all.”
 The pale clairvoyant eye lifted from the hands.  “Can you?  That is good.  Like Adonis, I, too, like to think my choice of wife is acceptable to my fellows.  Hurley—” he added, swinging round—
—And at that moment the great bell of Songmartin Tower went off, crashing through the autumnal stillness of the shaded lane and quiet, shaded coffee-house.  The high tolls and stalling hollows echoed in the crisp air, shaking it like summer thunder. 
Hurley swore and leapt to his feet, disentangling his sword as he came.  “Scorpio!  History!  I’ll be late if I don’t show my heels.”  He drained his coffee, nearly choking on the heat, and slammed the china to the wood.  “I will see you after fencing.”
“Boxing today, Hurley?” Legion called after him as he plunged toward the door.
“Five o’clock!” came the bull-throated answer.
The door crashed in the wind.

"When We Get To the End, We Shall Know More Than We Do Now"

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On Tuesday (10/8/13), I finished the first draft of Ethandune, having been working on it for roughly over two months, but only really seriously beginning to write it around the middle of August and wrapping up now here at the beginning of October.  It is roughly 87,000 words in length as a first draft - not a bad size for a novel!  I have accomplished my goal in not writing a monster.  Many delightful hours were spent with my Rarity headphones on, OC Supertones playing on the iPhone, and my fingers fairly vomiting words onto the document.
much tea was consumed in the making of this novel.
I have a full-on edit session to go before the manuscript is ready to be turned over to my beta-readers.  I have to say right now that I am not giving the document out to anyone outside my immediate family due to extreme spoiler aspects.  I am sorry to let you guys down, but I'm doing it for you own good! 

Well, I am back around to writing a hot, summery atmosphere in a chilling, wintery environment.  I am reading through Gingerune to get back into the novel, and soon I will be picking the pen back up on that.  Meanwhile, I'm pretty certain we have seen the last of the balmy days of Glasgow.  The unusual seventies and high sixties are gone: low to mid fifties are our highs now. 
words-putting-into-sentence doing.
Since I am reading back up on Gingerune I am not doing quite so much writing at this moment.  I have a few odds and ends to get out of my head for my ten billion other novels, which keeps the wheel greased, as it were.  Otherwise I am reading Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer and Attila the Hun by Christopher Kelly.  Both of which, believe it or not, are pertinent to my interests.

a bit of scrawl

My foot made contact with the glass. Light flew in a crash of sound—I hurtled through the casement, head down, eyes shut tight: I felt glass shred my jawline. 
ethandune

Jennalaide stood staring down at the jewel for some time, fighting something that was trying to show in her face. But in the end, it seemed, she got the mastery of it, and something like a veil came over her countenance. 
ethandune

Light of the sun,” said Fairfax with frank surprise.
ethandune

She whirled, her eyes feverish with vengeance. “Let his house be made desolate, and his place given to another! He has done much to destroy the good name of the House of the Fabii. They have left only a woman to defend them, but she will serve them well.”
ethandune

The bee skep is well and truly kicked over now.
ethandune

I swayed, watched [the world] go tipping first one way and then the next, and finally found the stone which had knocked me unconscious as a means of support. I stood staring for a minute or two at a patch of bloody grass near my feet, my body shaking visibly with the effort of my breathing. God—oh, God—how much my body hurt! If I could only stop hurting for a moment, I could remember something. Something toweringly important…
ethandune

Sir,” I said long-sufferingly, “it is a boy.”
“Is it?” he asked, vicious mockery not a whit abated. He began circling the boy, eyeing him up and down—and all the while the boy was trying desperately to keep watch on Goddgofang, in complete assurance that the man was going to do him permanent harm. “Yes,” Goddgofang admitted at length, coming back around to join me in perusing the St. Jermaine’s face. “I suppose it is. One does not notice that, at first.” 
-

Geoffrey shook his head over the paper—he folded back a sheet and tipped the Register toward the light. He seemed acutely interested in its columns. “He is a man much talked-of. Most of what I hear is—” he lifted his head and looked into the middle distance, searching for a word “—unorthodox.”
talldogs

Raymond began to wonder what kind of fight Geoffrey wanted, and it amused him somewhere very deep inside that he should be proving such a stick in the mud with Geoffrey’s plans. “I am not interested in bringing you around to my way of thinking,” he remarked. “I never have been. Also, your description of [Goddgofang] is perfectly true in so far as your words extend. I saw no reason to engage them.”
talldogs

"I have been accused of being many things, Avery. Sullen isn't one of them."
talldogs

To the end of his days Raymond was not sure if it was a prayer or a blasphemy which he spoke, it broke out so sudden and impulsively.
talldogs

"If I stop breathing, wake me up."
talldogs

Our Changeful Northern Skies

Saturday morning, at dark thirty, Tim and I crashed out of the flat and took the bus to Queen Street Station.  Some shuffling with train tickets later, we boarded the train and settled in for a long ride up to Aberdeen.

Due to a diversion, the train took us across Scotland through Linlithgow, Perth, Dundee, Abroath ("Our next stop is Auh-bth"), Montrose, Stonehaven, and a host of other little stops.  By the time we reached Dundee, with the Firth of Tay on our right hand and the climbing hill country on our left, I was yanking my head back and forth so much I wished I were a chameleon. 


We saw the sea under an early morning sky, yellow and pale blue; we saw the lush green pastoral country and the forbidding hills.  We ran through tiny stations and pine woods, and took the steep shore track over sudden rocky drops into the ocean.  When we were not rubber-neckin' at the scenery, we were thrashing each other over rounds of Rummy on the train table between us.




Why buy a boyfriend sweater when I can borrow my husband's?









William Wallace, the Guardian of Scotland.



I don't know what this lion sees, but something is prodigiously disturbing it.


The impressive front of Marischal College.  The Marischal position (keepers of the Honours of Scotland) had been held by a member of the de Keith house since the twelfth century to the Jacobean Revolt, and they have quite a beautiful college to their name!




"Not for oneself, but for all."


King's College, University of Aberdeen.












William Elphinstone, born and educated in Glasgow, Bishop of Aberdeen, founder of the University of Aberdeen.








We went back home under a sea-cloud sky (all the clouds are sea-clouds here: long, sideways-driven things barring the landscape with shadow and light like a peregrine's wings).  So far in the north, the sun never got very high, but it was strong and beautiful after the stormy western coast.  I have always imagined the sentiments Kipling spoke of in "The Roman Centurion's Song."  Now I understand them.


for me this land, that sea, these airs, those folk and fields suffice.
what purple southern pomp can match our changeful northern skies,
black with December snows unshed or pearled with August haze -
the clanging arch of steel-grey March or June's long-lighted days?