Paper Starlings: a scene

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Paper Starlings is the first of six books in the not*the*same*river series.

The series features vampires, angels, demons, werewolves, vaewolves and other vae breeds. It’s set mainly in Oxfordshire, England.

This is part of a scene in chapter ten.

Context: After a childhood in care, Violet meets her dead mother’s sister who had been told that Violet was stillborn. Aunt Eden is driving them to her home in Oxfordshire for the first time.

***

When Eden pulled out of my street and onto the main road, it was already dark. Rows of houses flashed by, punctuated by lit windows displaying homely tableaus, like a gallery of yellow paintings. Trying to get out of London on a Friday night was slow. There were so many lights, it was painful to look at: dazzling white headlights like the ethereal glow in paintings of angels, and fiery red taillights like the eyes of demons retreating in the darkness. I closed my eyes and let the music wash over me.

“What is it?” I said, turning my head against the headrest.

Eden grinned. “I thought you’d dozed off.”

“Just listening,” I said.

“One of my students sent it to me.” The music was melodic and ploddy, with pretty highs, like life in the summer. “You like it?”

“Yeah, it’s … mellow. I don’t like tinny music. It irritates my ears. And I don’t like singers that whine or scream or bellow. Or sing in fake accents with fake feelings about inconsequential crap. Or when they sing all the notes just to prove they can. Or worse, when they warble a million notes to a one-syllabled word. There should be penalties for that.”

Eden smirked. “So what do you like?”

I shrugged. “I don’t really go out of my way to listen, you know? I mean, I hear it, I’m exposed to it, but it’s just background. Noisy wallpaper. I think maybe I skipped the music-loving gene when I was born … silent.”

“You were born unable to see too,” Eden said softly. “But that didn’t stop you breaking out the paints, did it?”

“That was years later.”

I’d never been able to describe the way my sight came to me without sounding like I was taking hallucinogenics. I was five when it happened, and my understanding of the visual world was limited. Everything I saw was too much, all of it imagined, rendered with the incomplete knowledge of how colour and form combined. Like a child’s drawing. Things just didn’t look that way anymore.

This is what happened: Colours exploded behind my closed eyelids, swirling like petrol in a puddle, polluting the dark-light reality inside my head. The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was worse colour. Formless and toxic. Its boldness frightened me, and I squeezed my eyes shut against it, hoping it would go away. It never did. Then came form, shapes and patterns. They moved. Some drifted, some sped, some spun. All made me nauseous. If I’d had access to a camera back then, I could’ve slowed down the world one frame at a time. Nothing stayed still long enough for me to catch it, to really see it. It took only moments to realise what my sight had cost me. The shadow girl. Amethyst.

“They said you painted though, even before you could see. That’s amazing.”

When my brain registered her comment, I said, “What? I didn’t.”

Her gaze flicked from the road to my face. “You don’t remember?” I shook my head. “The occupational therapist sent the paintings to a specialist. He said the only explanation was that the staff must’ve coached you after you got your hearing, but before you got your sight, because the pictures were too realistic. That’s professional speak for, I don’t have a clue how to deal with it because my brain is a wasteland consisting only of outdated information and tick boxes.”

I laughed. “Ouch! What do you have against so-called professionals?”

“Trust me, that is not a topic you want to get me started on.”

“So what were the paintings of? Do you know?”

“Birds,” she said. “Well, the same bird over and over.”

“A starling?” I said.

“Yes. You remember?”

“No. Not the paintings. Just the sound. The first sound I heard was a starling. I mean, I do remember painting and drawing starlings, but it was later. When I could see.”

I didn’t remember closing my eyes the second time, but when I opened them again, London was far behind us. The tightly packed houses had given way to tightly packed trees and hedgerows, and the car lights were sparse. The music had been turned down and Eden hummed gently to herself. Every so often, a break in the hedgerow gave us far-reaching views across darkened patchwork fields, where light trails in the distance showed another road carved into the landscape.

“Where are we?” I said, stretching out my back muscles.

“About twenty minutes from home, maybe less.”

“What’s that?” I asked, nodding at a huge cluster of lights ahead in the distance.

“Oxford. We’ll be turning off in a minute, so we won’t go through it, but I can take you in the week if you like.”

“Yeah, alright. I suppose it’s much nicer than where I live.”

“All places have their charms. Besides, being with the right people can make the dullest of places brighter.”

“Leia’s moving to Cornwall. School will suck without her.”

“Oh, Violet, I am sorry.”

“S’alright. We’ll still be able to talk. It won’t be the same but …”

I stared blindly out the side window, shortening my focus to track the droplets of rain that raced down the glass. I listened to the sound of the engine, soft and puttery, with a slurred rumble beneath it. It sounded like a bored fish lounging on the back of a sleep-drunk bear. The backs of my thighs had gone to sleep.

“Listen, we’re nearly home. If there’s anything you need to know, I’d ask now. Seth and Archer have taken the twins camping for the night to give you some breathing space. It’ll just be Dad, Magnus and Glenda, but even so, we might not get to chat later.”

“Who’s Glenda?”

“That depends who you ask.” She shook her head. “She’s my best friend. But if you asked her, she’d say she was the housekeeper.”

“So, she isn’t the housekeeper?”

“Oh, she is. It was the only way she’d agree to stay with us. She’s not happy unless she’s earning her keep.”

“Right. So, there is something I wanted to ask … about my mum.”

“Shoot.”

“Do you know why she ran away from home?”

“Yes, but it’s not a pretty story.”

“My life’s not a pretty story.”

“Alright. But tell me if I get a bit TMI. I’m a very blurt it all out sort of parent. I don’t believe in coddling when it comes to the truth.” I nodded, warming a little at her use of parent, and she continued. “As I said before, Dad didn’t know if Amy was his or not and my mother kept us away for a long time. The purple eyes are a genetic trait from Dad’s family, so the moment I met her, I knew she must be his child. Amy’s step-father, I only met a few times, but he seemed a nice man. He committed suicide when Amy was fifteen. My mother blamed Amy and she ran away.”

“Why did she blame Amy?”

“When I confronted my mother, she told me that her husband was in love with Amy, that he felt guilty about his feelings for her and killed himself. I don’t know how true it is, but I don’t think Amy did anything to encourage it. She was just a kind person, everything my mother wasn’t.”

“And you don’t know what happened after she left? You don’t know where she went?”

“There were rumours. I checked them out myself, but they never led to anything. I even hired someone to look for her, but every lead turned up cold.”

The roads were so quiet and dark now that only the dipped beam of the headlights lit the way. Up ahead, the glow of a fox’s eyes reflected back at us before it dashed out of our way. We turned left into a road full of little cottages, some with B&B signs outside. A post office, a butcher, a corner shop and, at the end of this rare cluster of life, a village pub stood, muffling the voices within its ancient walls.

“This is us,” said Eden, pushing the indicator stick up.

The car swung to the right into a barely noticeable gap between the trees. A statue stood on each side of the narrow road, partially covered by greenery and glowing eerily in the darkness. A long drive stretched out ahead but there were no lights, no house. We drove past several fields, and down an avenue of trees. The road was so bumpy there, that Eden and I bounced in our seats. Eventually we turned onto a small wooden bridge. I looked down into a stream that glittered in the moonlight. The car slowed again when Eden turned onto a gravel parking area surrounded by a high hedgerow on three sides.

A stone building towered above us on the fourth side. Most of it was covered by some kind of plant, but it was too dark to tell what it was. A downstairs window held a faint glow but there was otherwise no sign of life.

When I stepped onto the gravel, the chilly air wrapped around me, but instead of feeling cold, I felt comforted. The rain had sent the ancient pulse of the earth to the surface. I felt it beneath my feet. The air was tangy and charged with the scent of storms and well-fed trees. I felt them stretching towards me, to welcome me home.

***

The source image is from makamuki0 on Pixabay.

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Paper Starlings: the prologue

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Paper Starlings is the first of six books in the not*the*same*river series. They follow the life of Violet who, after a childhood in care, figures out that her birth family’s heritage is more complicated than she believed possible.

The series features vampires, angels, demons, werewolves, vaewolves and other vae breeds. It’s set mainly in Oxfordshire, England.

***

Her name is Violet. It was all I could give her.

That’s what it said in the note that severed me from my roots. The note that was carefully tucked beside me in the equally abandoned car seat when I was freshly born.

I had a paper-thin life. It began on a day that was heavier than all others. It began the day I was born. It began at zero. There were no parents to know. No heritage to learn. No clue who the I in the note was. My narrative existed nowhere but in my own head. Shameful and unsharable. Untruths and un-lies. There was nothing to know and it weighed a lot.

At first, there was nothing to see or hear either. I had no experience of sound to help me decipher the noiseless chaos of other people’s feelings, but I felt the frequency of them; I felt their pulse. The darkness that was my normal was made entirely of light and movement. Before I’d ever seen a human face, I was visited by eyes and noses and lips, all of them inside my head, detached and devouring.

Before I’d ever seen a bird, I knew a bird. Then I heard it: the first starling. It was the first real, outside-of-myself noise I ever heard, and its soundwave bent like it had passed through a thousand raindrops. Even starlings didn’t sound like that anymore. It flew away from me like everything else had, in the space of four wingbeats, like the wind had carried it away with my shadow. The shadow girl had been my substantial truth, but even she was stolen by the light. When the colours came, I still had a paper-thin life.
I wasn’t like the starlings I committed to paper. They had nests to build. They had purpose. They could fly. Golden wings, star-speckled bellies and worm-pink legs. They were an unlikely conduit for my envy. I was nestless and restless.

The unbearable truth of my beginning was a tide hitting a distant shore. It was the beat of a bird’s wing. It was a whisper along a wire. Its weight was with me, and its weight was elsewhere. My absence left a hole. That was the truth that would outplay the lies I told myself.

Because truth, as my great-grandfather would one day tell me, has feet. It doesn’t care whether we believe it or not. It can sing at the surface, begging to be heard. It can be patient as death. Sometimes it can be a language we don’t speak. It can give us wings or lock us tight as bones. It can weave itself into layers of possibility, waiting to be unpicked. It can be written into life, scratched into being or dreamed beneath the stars. Sometimes the truth can fall into the palm of our hand. Only lies care whether we believe them or not.

I waited for my truth. I waited for paper-thin to expand into belonging. I waited for the padding of my familial narrative. When it came, I learned all the ways I could know the truth. I could bury it. Speak it. Dream it. Paint it. Fight it. Twist it. Draw it. Carve it into my skin. Scream it. Subvert it. Deny it. Own it. Live it.

The truth of it was this: lies could be easier than truth, paper-thin could be easier than truth, empty narratives could be easier than truth.

If nobody had believed a lie, they might’ve looked for the truth sooner. They might’ve seen it when a woman killed two nurses, and was caught standing over my cot with a dripping knife in her hand.

But nobody looked. It was fifteen years before I began to know the truth, and even that was before all the other things wanted me dead.

***

The source image above is from JCLeroi on Pixabay

No Good Comes: a scene

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This is the first draft of what is currently scene 3.

Context: After he is murdered, Stephen King (no, not that one) is buried for forty nights, after which he will rise a bloodborn vampire with his soul intact. Until then, his soul comes out at night to feed, and he is bombarded with memories of his human life.

POV: first person, Stephen’s perspective.

***

Dreams flew at my face like a life flashing before my eyes. It was the same every night, the moment I escaped my grave. A shadowy, brutal part of me detached itself for feeding. Even as I tore into another squirrel—let’s call him Duncan the sparrow slayer—I felt my human side recoil, taking joy instead in the dreams that might’ve been my life.

I saw my grandad, camera swinging from his neck. I remembered the first time we traipsed into a field to take photos, avoiding divots and piles of horse shit.

Everything for miles was a sunlit beige. Hay bales, rough beneath my palms. An old twitchers’ shed with a crinkle-cut roof and drunken door. Logs with caramel burns and treacle cracks. Abandoned eggshells that had birthed things so tiny they couldn’t possibly have survived in this empty place. Mushrooms, wizened and deformed, like they’d crawled out of eggshells. Fuzzy grasses, soft as feathers, tiny pods popping off when I dragged my hand up past the stem. Little grains of it stuck to my sweaty palm. I remembered sniffing my hand, thinking it would smell like cereal, but it just smelled like dirt.

Grandad said we were on an island made up mostly of marshes, where bird watchers sat for hours. There was a horrible plant smell, the kind that made your cheeks bunch: acidic, sugary. And there was an industrial fog smell, like burnt rubber and dog biscuits, that came from the power station floating on the river.

Grandad photographed all the beige things, from afar, close up. Sometimes he moved the things around to create little collages of beige. Sometimes the collages looked like Dad’s cooking: rice, beans, mushrooms. Beige, beige, beige. Nuggets, chips, coleslaw. Beige, beige, beige.

We went to the island lots of times, sometimes to the woodland part, carpeted in bluebells, mushrooms climbing the trees, sometimes to the cherry orchard, where we’d discuss the ripeness of the cherries, then I’d stuff myself until I looked like I’d been gorging on blood, sticky juice smeared across my cheeks. Grandad said I looked like a little vampire.

I borrowed one of his cameras every time, sure its weight would turn me into Quasimodo before my next birthday. I photographed the beige things. I photographed the sky, which was white, grey, gold, blue, purple.

I remembered the day I found a bird skeleton, lying there on its side, picked clean, picked beige. I felt like I’d found dinosaur bones. I didn’t want to move it; something so delicate would break. Its beak was hollow, its ribs like the husk of a great spider, its legs were fuzzy twigs. I photographed every bit of it, paying attention to Grandad’s instructions. Sometimes, he said things that seemed both obvious and obscure, like he was talking about something else.

“Fill the frame with everything you want to see, so that when you look at it, in weeks and years to come, you remember how you felt at this moment. Listen to the nightingales, the cuckoos. Breathe in, Stephen. The smell will bring you back here too. Smell memories are the strongest of all.”

Sometimes he said things that were more useful.

“Think about the shapes things make, turn your camera around to capture different angles. Think about the shadows cast by other objects. See, here,” he said, drawing lines in the air with his fingers. “See how the tips of the grass glow, and how the bottom of it is almost black, the middle brown. Like a flag. Capture it like a flag, Stephen.”

When I’d captured the three stripes of the flag, I tilted the camera, so the bottom line of the golden tips ran from corner to corner, creating a triangle of light and a triangle of shadow.

Grandad had a dark room that I wasn’t allowed to go in. Chemicals are dangerous, he said. Film was expensive, he said. He couldn’t have me wandering in there when he was mired in the delicate process of exposing film.

He’d bring my photos round the next night, and Dad would cook him tea. Beige food. Then we’d discuss the photos. He said I was learning fast. He said I’d be a great photographer one of these days. Dad was always in a bad mood after he left. I don’t think he’d ever told Dad he was great at anything, and I didn’t think he ever would if Dad kept cooking. I liked his food, but Grandad liked meat with everything, and if there were green vegetables on his plate, they’d better be boiled to death. He smothered everything in salt and white pepper to make up for the dead nutrients.

The beige wasteland wasn’t the only place we went to take photos. There were old forts on the river, there was a dockyard, castles dotted all over Kent. I just remember the beige place most because one day, it was flooded red.

***

Source image from Momentmal on Pixabay.

DeMobbed: a scene

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This is a first draft of what is currently scene 22.

Context: the runaways have just spent their first night on the run in a motel room. They wake to find a man where there should be a dog.

Note: a springer is someone who can boost locks just by running their hands over them. The kiss alluded to sounds like Vlad kissed a dog. He didn’t. He was kissed by someone unexpected to distract him from river lust (the overwhelming urge to throw himself into a river – a vampire thing).

POV: third person, Jay’s perspective.

***

As soon as Jay Looper rolled onto his back, the kid scrambled away and jumped out of the bed, flinging the covers at him. A blonde girl he hadn’t seen before was peering over the dark-haired girl’s shoulder, a wary look on her wide-eyed face. The vampire was watching Sunny with amusement.

“Whoa! Who the fuck are you?” Sunny shouted. “What have you done to my dog?”

“Do I look like I’m in any position to do anything to anyone?”

“I dunno, man,” said the blonde girl, her voice husky with sleep. “You looked like you were in a position to bang Sunny good and hard.”

Jay grinned as he raised his arm above his head and stretched his body beneath the covers. “Get attached to the dog did you?”

“Where is he?” Sunny whistled. “Tripod?”

Jay groaned. “How can we be related?”

“Related what? Who are you?”

“Jay Looper,” said the blonde girl. “That’s right, isn’t it? The cherry guy.”

“The cherry guy?” said Jay, pushing himself upright against the headboard.

“I served you at Lucky D’s a couple of days ago,” she said.

“Nah, that was a guy,” said Jay. “Where’s my arm?”

Everyone seemed to notice Jay’s missing arm at once, a collective gasp rising, and all eyes momentarily on his shoulder before flicking to his face.

“That was me,” said the girl, turning into the blonde guy from the bar. His voice deepened. “And your arm is still in the van.”

“Can you get it for me, Sunny,” said Jay, looking up at the mussed-up kid still standing there, hands on hips. “And my clothes. They were behind the passenger seat.”

“How do you know my name?” said Sunny, pulling on his shorts.

“Even if he hadn’t already said your name just now,” said Jay, running his hand lazily down his chest, “I’ve heard it enough times in the last thirty-six hours. Besides, I came back to Vegas to find you. Or Jenna did. Fuck, I’m starving.” He threw the covers back and dropped his feet to the floor. “You got anything to eat in here?”

Jay had never been shy about his body, which was just as well, because everyone was looking at it while he paced around the room looking for food.

“You mind covering up your ass?” said Freya.

“You don’t like it?” he said, flexing his cheeks.

“It’s not as good as Indy’s,” said Freya.

Indy blushed, and Jay smirked. “Hurry up and get my clothes, kid. This lady is offended by my arse.”

“I’ll go,” said Indy, sliding out of the bed so he didn’t let any heat escape. He pulled on a pair of jeans from his suitcase, then looked up at the vampire. “What? I was too hot to keep the shirt on.”

“Vlad, right?” said Jay, a wicked grin on his face. Vlad nodded. “That was one hell of a kiss yesterday.”

Vlad scowled at Jay.

“Key?” said Indy, holding out his hand.

“You won’t need it,” said Jay. “Jenna trusts you by now.”

“Who the fuck is Jenna?”

“The van,” said Jay.

“Speaking of,” said Indy, “Astaroth said we need to change it. Any idea what that means?”

“When you get my stuff, tell her I said she needs a paint job.”

Indy put on a different face, and trotted outside barefoot in just his jeans. Freya snuggled further under the covers when the vampire looked at her. Jay wasn’t sure whether she was hiding from his body or hiding her own.

“I need food,” said Jay. “But not more than I need a piss.”

“Jesus, do you just say everything that comes into your mind?” said Freya.

“Usually,” said Jay, heading for the bathroom.

He slammed the door shut behind him, but he could still hear them talking. He stared at his reflection in the mirror above the toilet. Who the fuck puts a mirror above a toilet? Do normal people like to watch themselves pissing? He still looked like a dog. He needed a hairbrush and a shave. It didn’t look like he had any new scars, though there was a bruise on his ribs where the pain had hit. He had no idea what kind of curse would’ve turned him into a dog.

He flushed, washed his hands then threw water on his face. Someone banged on the door.

“What do you mean we’re related?” Sunny yelled.

Jay opened the cupboard beneath the sink, where there was a bundle of new toothbrushes. He chose a red one.

“Are you a fucking dog? Damn, that’s a bad trick to play on a guy. Were you my dog?”

“Of course he was your fucking dog, you moron,” Vlad mumbled.

Jay snorted a laugh, then brushed his teeth.

“Hey, are you listening to me?” Sunny banged on the door again. “I liked that dog. You suck.”

“What are you, four?” said Vlad.

“Shut up, Dracula. And how did you know I was in Vegas?”

Jay opened the door, and Sunny fell into him, straightening quickly.

“Don’t make any one-armed bandit jokes,” said Jay, narrowing his eyes as he looked down at Sunny. “I see how your mind works.”

Sunny scowled. “I wasn’t going to.”

“Good. Because even with one arm, I could knock the living shit out of you. I’d use my prosthesis as a club. How about that?”

“I’m sorry I called you Tripod,” said Sunny, looking contrite.

Jay thought he was adorable. “I’m just kidding.” He slapped Sunny’s shoulder. “Hey, lighten up. I was kidding.”

“He doesn’t like being touched,” said Vlad.

Sunny spun around to look at Vlad, then back at Jay.

“You’ve been snuggling up to me for thirty-six hours straight, dude,” said Jay.

“British guys shouldn’t say dude,” said Sunny, a sulky pout overtaking his mouth. “Y’all sound stupid saying dude.”

“One’s criticism is duly noted,” said Jay, in his best imitation of the Queen. In his normal voice, he said, “No comment on the snuggling?”

Sunny shrugged. “You were a cute dog. So … we’re related?”

Jay nodded. “Brothers,” he said, as Indy came back in with his arm and caught an eyeful of genitalia.

“Still naked?” said Indy, throwing the clothes on the bed, and handing Jay his arm. “You couldn’t wrap it in a towel or something?”

Jay sat on the bed. “What took you so long?”

“You didn’t tell me I’d have to coax the door open. I damn near had to seduce your van to get it to let me in.”

“Did you call her an it?” said Jay, turning away from everyone as he set about attaching his arm. “She doesn’t like being misgendered.”

“Man, that ain’t funny,” said Indy.

“And I ain’t laughing. She doesn’t like being called it. Vans can have feelings too, you know.”

“Shut up! Shut up!” Sunny’s hands were up in the air, and his head was down. He looked like a preach meme. “How can I be your brother?”

“Willow Wyatt is my mother,” said Jay.

“But you’re British.”

“English, yeah. So?”

“So how can we be brothers?”

“You’ve heard of travel, yes?” said Jay, raising an eyebrow. “I guess our mother got around. I don’t know. I never knew her.”

“You don’t look like her,” said Sunny.

“I look like my dad,” said Jay, a thunderous feeling starting to build in his head. He pulled on his jeans, then his t-shirt.

“I look like my mom.”

“I know. I’ve seen pictures of her. She’s very beautiful.”

“Are you saying I’m beautiful?” said Sunny.

“Dude, you’re my brother.”

“Dude, no dude.”

“I can’t help it. I had an Americanised childhood. It was traumatic and left me with linguistic throwbacks and cultural scars.”

For a moment, Jay thought Indy and Freya were shagging in the other bed, then he realised that Indy was sitting on the floor by Vlad, who was still huddled beneath the blankets on the tiny sofa.

“What are you doing?” said Jay. “You look like Houdini trying to get out of a sack.”

“I’m getting dressed,” Freya hissed.

Jay laughed. It earned him twin glares from her lover boys.

“So Indy? You can flip between the D and the V?”

“You’re a gross little man, you know that?” said Indy. “I liked you better when you were a dog. Speaking of, it’s a bit rich dragging me for flipping when you can turn into a dog.”

Vlad sat up, which tugged at the covers behind Indy. He leant forward and turned as the covers slipped off Vlad’s chest. He might’ve had more scars than Jay. He watched the two men look at each other, and a wave of shame washed over him.

“First,” said Jay, “I wasn’t dragging you because you can flip. I was, as you say, being a gross little man. I forget sometimes that other people are … people. I’m not fabulous at being around others, so sorry for being offensive. And second, I can’t turn into a dog. I don’t know how that happened. I was cursed or something, and it somehow wore off.”

“It didn’t somehow wear off,” said Indy. “Whoever cursed you is dead. That’s how this shit works.”

“He was fine when I left him,” said Jay. “Well, not fine exactly. Maybe he was eaten by wolves.”

“Some guys came into the casino looking for you,” said Indy. “The day after I served you at the bar.”

Jay had heard them discussing it in the van, but he really wasn’t ready to talk about any of that. “What guys?”

“Angels,” said Freya, emerging from her cocoon fully-dressed. “There’s a photo of one of them in your van.”

“I doubt it,” he said. “I don’t know any angels.”

“They know you,” said Freya. “The one in the photo has blue hair now though.”

Jay’s grin was so instant that he knew he’d given himself away. “I told you—”

Freya rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, you don’t know any angels.”

“She says I’m an angel,” said Sunny. “That my real father is an angel.”

“I know one angel,” Jay amended.

“So, it’s true?”

“Yeah. You’re a springer, so it’ll be Sandalphon. His whole line would make a fine organisation of burglars if they weren’t so angelic.” Jay snorted as he remembered the not-so-angelic branch of Sandalphon’s tree.

“The angels were from Cascade,” said Freya. “That makes you as wanted as we are. Isn’t that fun?”

***

The source image above is from Activedia on Pixabay.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018

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I did actually win NaNoWriMo last November, I’m just slack-fingered when it comes to telling you about it. I finished at 76,009 words, but it’s been pruned back since then because I got all organic and wrote a heap of trash. It’s about a bunch of Vegas runaways who steal a sentient campervan and a three-legged dog. There are vampires, angels, ethereal beings, seers, demons and lots of queerness. I’m going to be working on it for April Camp, along with two other projects.

The first of these is book four of the not*the*same*river series, which follows Violet, a young person of complicated heritage, as she negotiates her way out of the hands of a deranged demon bishop. A friend is fatally injured by the weapon that was handed over as ransom for Violet’s safe return, so Violet has to face her captor once again to get the triblade back and save her friend. She faces werewolves, vaewolves, an army of clones, the stinking, hypnotising Devi Kappa and the paralysing Kernyx.

The other project is a New Adult LGBT+ novel about a mentor who works at the social services branch of Cascade (an un/holy task force) which prepares new vampires for life beyond the grave, and her new client who likes breaking rules almost as much as she does. Ignoring protocol, they set out to solve each other’s murders.

My overall target is 30,000 words.

Good luck and happy writing to anyone else doing April Camp this year.

That which we call a rose

 

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When I started the not the same river project, there were no websites to help me find interesting names. There was no internet at all. It was the year Eastenders arrived on the telly. The year Roger Moore stopped pretending to be James Bond. The year the wreck of the Titanic was found. The year of Live Aid. The year we said hello to Keira Knightley, Lewis Hamilton and Wayne Rooney.

There were no websites at all.

There was no internet.

NO INTERNET!

If I wanted to play a computer game, I had to plug a cartridge into the back of the keyboard or use a tape recorder. If, as a writer, I wanted to find names for my characters, I watched the telly, listened to the radio, or read magazines. So as you’ve probably worked out by now, the year was 1985 (thanks Wikipedia).

My character sketches were simple and some of the names I came up with were pretty bonkers. Or at least they were back then. Having checked the Nameberry lists of popular names, I was surprised to find so many of my character names there (not just the bonkers ones). Even the car’s name is on there. Yes, cars can have names too.

So here’s where the names I chose rate in 2017 and where I got them from in 1985.

 

7. Silas – Silas Marner by George Eliot

18. My MC, Violet – named after one of my great aunts

20. Elizabeth – the childhood friend who inspired Violet

25. Caleb – from stories my grandad used to tell me in his Northern Irish accent (not from a book)

32. Elijah – a holy book

43. Soren – boy from infant school whose name I thought was Sorry for ages (I have never met another Soren, for which I am sorry)

51. Ezra – a holy book (nobody was called this in real life)

55. Archer – BBC Radio show, The Archers (nobody was called this in 1985)

57. Daniel – childhood friend’s brother

61. Adam – biblical first man

62. Luke – Star Wars

76. Magnus – Magnus Magnusson

78. Serafina – childhood friend’s cat

79. Wesley – boy from school

87. Gabriel – archangel

101. Harvey – childhood friend’s massive dog (think it was a Boxer)

125. Noah – guy with the ark

154. Amos – Seth’s sidekick on Emmerdale (nobody under the age of 70 was called this)

180. Eden – a holy book

186. Arlo – I was convinced I’d made this name up because everyone, EVERYONE, told me it wasn’t a real name in 1985, but I guess I must’ve heard it somewhere.

322. Albert – German royal family (only old men were called this)

325. Piper (female only) – my Piper is male – Pied Piper of Hamlin story (simply was not a name in the UK)

341. Mara – Irish folklore

388. Seth – ITV show, Emmerdale (or as it was known back then, Emmerdale Farm)

404. Benedict – an order of monks who made a herbal liquer (Cumberbatch was still in short trousers)

419. Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac song

461. Leia – Star Wars

760. Goldie – included because it’s the car’s name – a gold Ford Capri, named after Goldie Hawn

807. Jed – The Beverly Hillbillies (old man name)

 

Other character names not on Nameberry (some for good reason)…

Kite – type of bird from the Osiris myth (Egypt)

Jess – Postman Pat’s cat

Boxer – because he’s a pugilist

Old Bones – because he’s an augur

War – because he’s the son of the angel of peace – 32 year old irony at work

Cedar – tree

Maggie – Maggie Philbin (who had terrible hair for at least a decade)

 

It’s great that there are so many resources out there to help us find interesting or authentic names for our characters. It’s greater still when you discover later that the names you chose have greater significance for the characters and their arcs than you first realised. I love those discoveries.

Nameberry