Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Another short snippet of my story!

I have finished writing a book. It is quite a long book at about 80 pages and over 42,500 words long. It is for kids, tweens I suppose, or precocious readers of all sexes. I need a new title though. Got any ideas? Right now it is The Last Unicorn of Lindyline, but I think boys might run from that title. It is as much a boys book as a girls book. Anyway, here is an excerpt. This is copyrighted (C) 2015, so do not copy it in any way or form, because that would be illegal! Enjoy and send me comments:
simon at diamondscree dot com. You know it!

Chapter 21
A surprise helper
“What’s that noise?” said Mickelmas.
“It sounds like a chicken,” said Tommy Stanhope.
“Chickens in the forest?” said Mickelmas. “Preposterous!” (Some might say, ‘plain silly!’) They were riding slowly as the forest was growing dark, and the horses stepped with care.
There was a thud, and before them in the poor light they could make out a chicken.
“Chickens in the forest!” said Mickelmas again. “And flying at dusk.”
The chicken ruffled its feathers, dusting itself in a small patch of snow and then flapped its wings. The two men watched it fly up and up through the branches of the trees after it had looked around.
“I’ve never seen a chicken fly that high before,” said Tommy. “At least, not that I can remember.”
“This might sound very odd,” said Mickelmas as he studied (some might say, ‘looked hard at’) the young man. “But did you recognize that bird?”
“Well.  Yes and no,” said Tommy.
“Yes, that’s what I thought. You recognized it, but you didn’t at the same time?”
“Yes, that describes it. Don’t know why I’d recognize it though. We don’t have hens like that at home or at the barracks,” said Stanhope.
They both looked up.  They could hear the chicken but it sounded like it was getting further and further away. The sound blended with another. It seemed at first it was thunder, but it wasn’t.
“A horse?” said Tommy.
“Agreed,” said Mickelmas.  He turned his mount to face the direction the sound was coming from and reached behind himself. Mickelmas felt for his wooden staff and pulled it from the saddle roll. He muttered something under his breath and the head of his blackthorn stick, sputtered and shone brightly in the darkness in front of him, as if it were a focused lantern. The cloaked and hooded rider came upon them and was startled by the bright light.  They raised an arm to protect their eyes and pulled up their mount. Stanhope rode to the rider with his sword drawn.
When the rider lowered their arm they immediately drew their own sword. The rider’s reaction was so fast that Stanhope, already armed with his sword, found the rider’s blade at his throat.
Mickelmas smiled. “Your Highness, Princess Riley,” said the old man as his bowed on his horse and lowering his staff the light from it dimmed. “I see your parents presented you your sword.”
Princess Riley blinked and as her eyes adjusted, she said: “Mickelmas.  I was hoping to catch up with you.  I’m going to help you rescue my sister.” Riley’s breath was short.
“You’re assuming, Your Highness,” said Mickelmas, “she needs rescuing.”
Map of Lindyline by Simon Brooks (I love maps!)
Stanhope was flustered. He had just put the sharp edge of a sword up in a threatening manner to the Princess. “Your Highness I am so sorry,” he said sheathing (some say, ‘putting away’) his sword. “I thought you were the enemy.”
“If I were the enemy,” said Princess Riley, “We would not be talking at this point.”
“Quite right, Your Highness,” said Mickelmas.
“And please, stop calling me Your Highness,” said the Princess.
“Good idea,” said Mickelmas. “We don’t know if there are spies out here in the woods, and we don’t want word getting to the enemy you are out relatively unprotected, with just Private Stanhope and myself.”
“I have you, Mickelmas, and Stanhope here. And besides, I can look after myself,” said Princess Riley.
“I see,” said Mickelmas. “Do your mother and father know you are here?”
“I left a message with Glenda, mummy’s top advisor, my maid Leia, and I wrote a note which I left in my parents’ chambers.”
“I see,” said Mickelmas. “Well, let’s move.”
Tommy Stanhope was opening and closing his mouth. The young man looked first at the Princess and then back at Mickelmas. “But, but er, shouldn’t we take Her High. I mean the Prince. Er, what should I call you?” he stuttered.
“Riley. Plain and simple.”
Stanhope looked at Mickelmas and back at the Princess and at Mickelmas again. “Shouldn’t we er, take Riley,” Stanhope bowed to the Princess. “Back to the Castle, to The City?”
“Why bother?” said Mickelmas. “We’ll be wasting our time. Riley will come back to find us as soon as she can. Am I right, Miss Riley?”
“Yes, you are Mickelmas,” she said.
“Come along Tommy. We need to find a place to camp soon. It’s getting too dark to travel.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Two very different books and a poem

Last night I finished reading A Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson Burnett (1905). It was a first time read, although I remember seeing either a British tv mini series, or a movie of the book and quite despising the stuck up little girl at the time. Reading the book now, in my mature years, shall we say, I see her character very differently. In my youth I also disliked Little Lord Fauntleroy for the same reasons, although I doubt I will read that any time soon! I think this time round the thing I liked about Sara, the main character, was her absolute resilience. Even when the worst was happening to her, she tried to be stoic. Sara stood up against her oppressors both adults and peers. She did not care that people thought her odd. She believed that this 'oddity' made her different, and this gave her strength. Two thirds of the way through the book Sara thinks she can not go on from the hunger she feels and the cold, but when she found a fourpence in the mud and bought some buns, she still gave all but one to a girl she knew to be worse off than herself. Sara was able to do this by using her imagination. She imagined she was a princess and kept asking herself, 'what would a princess do in this situation?'
From "Bulletin", Issue 17 (1902) by United States. Bureau of Biological Survey.

Sara helped other students who were drawn to her. She became a mother figure to a young girl and a close friend to another student at the seminary who others saw as stupid. And the maid, Becky was in awe of Sara, and became her fellow prisoner in the attic which they renamed the 'Bastille'. But when the underplayed and undervalued Ram Daas comes up with a plan, he transforms the garret room into a palace. At this point the tale turns and the loss which she suffered on the death of her father turned around and she became, in all but name, a princess. And then she transformed, from thinking of her own worries into being able to help others.

This was a good read for me, but I discovered a book I have fallen in love with. It is rare for me to read a book and want to re-read it immediately. Beowulf was once of these books, and To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) is my most recent. I have had this book since I first left Worcester, England in the 1980's. I never read it. The copy came with me to the States in the 1990's. But I never read it.

I came across an article about the character of Atticus Finch and liked what I read about him, so pulled the book off the shelf and dove in. I was caught by the end of the first page. What a book, what a story, what writing. I loved the characters in this book too. So rich, so powerfully described with so little work. Characters built on gestures, words, actions and manners. Manners play a big part in the story. I am not talking about folks saying 'please' and thank you', but the way we carry ourselves and behave generally. 'Manners' in this book are so much larger than our normal, everyday idea of manners. They carry over into everything.

Scout is another powerful young woman, but so very different from Sara in A Little Princess. Where Sara is prim and proper, Scout is all about fighting for what is right in any manner possible. She punches a cousin to defend her father's name. She will fight with anyone for what is right, to defend honour. Her father Atticus does not like fighting. He does not brag. He is quiet about himself and his skills and he gently imbue his knowledge and beliefs in his children. He knows what is right and will fight against what he believes is wrong even when he knows he could very well lose. Lee is able to show the children coming of age in their own ways, Scout learns to control her temper and with the help of Atticus' words she and her brother learn to imagine what it is like to be another person, to see things from another point of view. The difference between Scout and Sara are huge and yet there are similarities. Both know what is right and wrong. Where Sara uses her imagination, Scout uses her physical strength and the common sense which Atticus has encouraged in her. Scout shows her strength of character and courage when her father is being threatened by a mob. By addressing one of the members of the mob Scout is able to disperse the crowd. The morals and way of life of the early 1900's in England are so different from 1930's Southern America. I loved the voice with which Harper Lee wrote. Even though the topic, the situations, and dilemmas were serious and tough in Mockingbird, she wrote in such a way that made the horrors almost bearable.

And here is a poem I wrote last night.

A Nine Year Old Girl
From when her eyes open
They are bright with life
She finds wonder and joy
In every moment possible
Except when it’s the
Worst Day Ever!
Dancing in circles
Until gleefully giddy
And, giggling, falls down
Only to jump up singing
Hair flinging
To do it all again.
Making herself laugh
She falls back with tears
Rolling down her cheeks
Air filling her belly
Ready to laugh out loud,
Until it’s too hard to stand.
Sitting on the heater duct
Hot air blowing up her back,
Book in hand reading
Until the hot air stops.
Then up onto the couch
To hold the heat.
Pure unadulterated
Joy and happiness.
Unless it is the Worst Day Ever.
Then to bed and those eyes of joy
Slowly close.
Sweet dreams sweet heart.

Simon Brooks, 18th February, 2015
Copyright 2015 (C)