Of Musings and Wonderings











I’ve made a decision. Every so often, on a Saturday or Sunday, I’m going to post an extract from something I’m working on. Sometimes, the rest will be on Fictionpress, in which case I will link directly to the story. In others, it may be that I’m working on editing it for other reasons. Either way, all feedback is welcome. If you have anything at all to say about anything I post, I’d love to hear it. I’ll also try to do a quick summary of the story to go along with the extract, too. So, Weekend Fiction #1 – Desperate Desires. Hope you enjoy.

As a note, unless stated otherwise a lot of this may be in first draft stages.

Desperate Desires – Four young girls struggle with growing up, as they try to cope with boys, girls and everything else life throws at them. Teen/Romance.

One: Jinx

 

Two Years Ago

 

Leaning against the wall at the top of the stairs, I let out a deep breath. Christ, having crutches had proven to be more of a struggle than I would have thought. I was supposed to be using the lift but it had been broken for the last few days, leaving the stairs as my only option. On top of that, I was also supposed to have someone to help me from class to class but, having only one friend in this whole shitty school meant that often, I had to go on my own.

Whatever.

I turned and carried on my way, thankful, at least, that I got to leave class ten minutes early to get to the next one. Otherwise, who knew what could happen if I was caught in the mad dash between lessons?

Hobbling towards the doors, I glanced up to see two Year Eleven guys coming towards me. The taller of the two held the door, and ducking my head, I muttered a weak thanks as I passed.

“No problem,” he replied, in a cheery voice that made me blush.

I hated how easily my skin flushed red.

Then again, I hated almost everything about me. All part of being a teenager.

Turning the corner I found myself in the History corridor and there, just ahead of me, was a sight I really did not want to see.

Clara Richards and her gaggle of girls half-turned as I appeared, eyes fixed on me like a hawks surveying their prey. You’d think fifteen would be too young to be an evil bitch, but Clara proved that wrong. A grin stretched across her face as she moved towards me, head held high with the girls following.

Swear words danced around my head as I found myself frozen, with no idea what I could do to get out of this situation.

Bugger, shit and fuck.

“Like the last present I gave you?” she hissed, before kicking one of the crutches away. I fell to my right, leaning against the wall as I fixed my eyes on her, trying not to show any weakness. I forced the tears back, forced my breath to remain regular. “How about an arm this time?” she drawled, face now inches from mine as she reached for my wrist.

“Leave her alone.”

I recognised the voice of Dawn Fox, another girl in my year. Clara flinched, though it was so small I was sure I’d been the only one to see it. She turned her head, eyes narrowed as she stared at Dawn. The girl stood next to Gwen Tate, both of them with their arms crossed and eyes fixed on Clara.

Around us, the bells let out an almighty buzz, and I wondered why none of them were in class. Still, I wasn’t about to question the arrival of Dawn. Clara looked scared as she stepped back from me, though the look in her face was soon by replaced by pure contempt.

“Fine. Whatever. The fatty and the dyke suit each other, anyway.”

Dawn bristled, stepping forward, and Gwen’s hand snapped out, holding her shoulder.

“I swear go God, Richards, you ever touch Jinx again, and I will make your life a living hell.”

“Whatever.” With a laugh, Clara turned to her gaggle and walked off. Pupils spilled out of the classrooms as Gwen and Dawn moved towards me, the three of us squeezed against the wall to avoid the worst of the crush.

“Are you okay?” Dawn asked, eyes full of concern. I barely knew her; she was in a couple of my classes, and usually acted as the class clown if she wasn’t keeping her head down. Gwen lived near me, and I’d sometimes walked to school with her but, apart from that, neither of them would be counted as friends. Not really.

“Yeah,” I muttered, shaking my head. “Yeah, I’m okay.”

“We’ve got Biology next, right?” Gwen piped up, eyes darting between the two of us. “You’re in our class, Jinx, aren’t you?”

Slowly, I nodded.

“Great!” Dawn said, grinning. “Come on, we’ll walk you.”

Present Day

 

“Jinx, Jinx!”

The shout comes from outside my door, stirring me from nightmares of a fat reflection and Clara bloody Richards laughing at me over my shoulder. Groggily, I turn over in my bed, blinking my eyes rapidly as the door opens and Mum steps in. Light from the hallway floods my room, causing me to groan and yank the blanket up over my face.

She turns the light on, and I force my eyes open, staring at her in her holiday clothes – a summer dress, with a flower pattern on it. She inches forward slowly, a large smile on her face.

“Jinx, honey, we’re off,” she whispers, coming to sit on my bed as I lift myself up. The blanket falls from around me, revealing a baggy Metallica t-shirt, a hand-me-down from my bedroom.

“Okay,” I mutter, ignoring how dry my mouth feels. “Okay, have a good time.” I try to muster as much cheer into my voice as I can but fail, as sleep tries to call me back.

Mum wraps her arms around me and I mimic the act, closing my eyes as I rest my head against her.

“Look after yourself,” she says. “Eat properly, yeah? And look after your brother, too. Your dad is going to leave you some money, in our room, you know the chest of drawers where…”
“Yeah,” I mutter, gently pulling away. “Yeah, I know, Mum. Go. Go, have a good time.” She laughs as I gently push her off the bed.

“We’ll phone when you get your results, yeah?”

“Okay!”
“I love you, Jinx.” She moves towards the door, eyes fixed on me as I slump back into my bed.

“Love you, too,” I reply, smiling softly at her.

“And be good!” Her voice urges me to listen carefully to the three simple words; to heed them and obey.

“I will!” I say, before she leaves the room and shuts the door tight.

Flopping down onto my bed, I close my eyes. After a few minutes, the realisation that I’m wide awake hits me, and I grab my phone, flicking it on to check the time. Almost ten. Not too early, but not my ideal holiday wake up time of twelve, either. Still, I know for a fact that I will not get to sleep now so, leaping up and out of the bed, I make my way downstairs to the first floor of the house, heading to the bathroom.

We don’t have a mansion or anything. Just a terraced house in the middle of a busy road. But lucky for me, we had a loft conversion done the summer before and, since then, I’d been sleeping in what was, essentially, the attic.

In the bathroom, I whip off my pyjama top, dumping it in the clothes basket before daring to glance in the mirror. Unable to help myself, I pinch a bit of the fat forming around my stomach.

God damn it.

It had taken me almost two years to lose that puppy fat. Now, it looked like it was slowly starting to pile up again. I had to stick to a regime; no more thinking that it’s okay to miss this or that day, for any reason.

I had to keep the weight off.

The words that had, for three years, been drummed into my head floated up now, dancing around my mind and ringing in my ears.

“You’re ugly. You’re fat. Ugly! Fat! Ugly! Fat!”

I’d been lucky. Since Dawn and Gwen had come to my defence in Year Ten, Clara and her cronies mostly left me alone. A friendship had formed under their protection, and the circle of friends that had once consisted of just me and Faith had expanded. Safety in numbers was an important factor in keeping Clara at bay.

There had been a few harsh words from her though, but mostly they were just jibes, just attempts at trying to provoke me into a reaction. I was just thankful that Clara didn’t know about my crush on Jake Brooks, the hottest guy in school and, coincidentally, Clara’s boyfriend.

Everyone in my year knew one thing he didn’t.

Rumours and gossip tended to stick to whatever year group it affected and, as a result, those in Year Thirteen were blissfully unaware of the lives Clara had almost ruined or the fact that she had slept with almost every guy in our year over the course of our two GCSE years.

Or maybe he did know, and was just a huge dickhead himself.

I scoffed, running a hand through my hair as I jumped into the shower. Yeah, right. Jake just didn’t seem like that type of guy.

Not that I knew him. At all.

Unfortunately.

Once I was squeaky clean, my stomach rumbled, announcing its all too human need for food. Breakfast. I had two choices, and the decision was the most important one I’d make of the day.

Skip breakfast and pay for it at lunchtime, or eat breakfast and pay for it at lunchtime.

Work-in-progress. http://www.fictionpress.com/s/2993098/1/Desperate_Desires



My family like to brag. Nevermind that I haven’t had anything published, they just like telling people I’ve written novels. And it doesn’t seem to matter to them, either, that most of these are unedited drafts, or been redrafted only once. To me, it’s not that big an achievement; not right now, anyway. Some things just come easily to me, but just because I’ve finished a few things doesn’t mean they’re at a great standard, and they’re far from the standard I would like for them, anyway.

But, inevitably, when my brother tells his new girlfriend “My sister’s written novels,” and if I am there, she will turn to me and go, “Cool, what sort of thing do you write?” This happened Friday evening, down the pub, and it got me thinking about how difficult that question really is for me to answer.

If you look at my Fictionpress page (found under Contact on here), you’ll see a number of novels and short stories spanning different genres. I just couldn’t stick to one genre. When it comes to writing, I love challenging myself, trying something new, turning my hand to anything that catches my eye. So how do I answer a question like that? If I do name a genre, usually someone says something like “Oh, like so-and-so?” It’s hard not to be compared.

One of the reasons I’m using Grace Bunting for this and Twitter is because it’s the name I decided to self-publish under. The novel I’m working on editing right now is a romance, technically. But if I say I’m currently writing romance, I know what people will think – fluffy clouds and sunshine and light chick-lit. Even though there are God knows how many ‘romance’ novels out that aren’t like that, I still feel that’s what would come to most people’s minds. I’ve spoken before about writing fantasy, but again it’s a genre not many people are totally aware of. They’ll most likely think I write something akin to Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.

Back to the Grace Bunting thing, I figured if I publish first under that, I can use my real name for writing in different genres. Or variations of it anyway.

It’s a very hard question to answer, especially as much like “How are you?”, people ask out of politeness. They want a short answer, something quick so they can smile and nod and say “that sounds cool.” Not a long-winded explanation that I write sort-of romance and fantasy that’s not epic fantasy which is more like this and that. So, what do I do when someone asks that question?

I smile, and just say “Everything.”



I have no idea how this book ended up on our bookshelf. All I know is, looking for something to read, I spotted this in the spare room of my parent’s house. Intrigued, I grabbed it and ended up reading it almost every night before bed until I had finished it. And the only reason I ever put it down was the need to actually sleep.

 

The Reapers Are The Angels tells the story of Temple, a fifteen year old girl who has only ever known postapocalyptic America. Temple has, in her own eyes, done some horrible things in her life – but then again, there are almost no characters in the book who haven’t. In Russell T. Davies’ words, the novel is set in an ‘epic wasteland’. Temple’s character is one the reader can immediately identify with. Her age shines through the book, and is captured perfectly in the way it is contrasted with the life she has led and the things she must do. Most zombie/apocalypse tales I’ve seen/read/heard are set immediately in the aftermath of whatever has caused the destruction of the world, usually dealing with a handful of survivors who may or may not be the last people on Earth.

This book does it differently. Temple is for the most part alone, but she is not the only survivor. She comes across a variety of communities, groups and individuals, trying to make it in this world. And there are, of course, the slugs, in the background of almost every scene but rarely providing a real threat. Temple only kills these zombies when she has to, and for the most part just accepts them as one of God’s creatures. Most of the threats she faces comes, instead, by humans, and early on her antagonist is presented as Moses Todd – a brilliant, well written character who understands Temple more than anyone else in the novel. But he is set against her, a character who tracks her because he has to kill her.

The characters are vivid and all too real; every so often, Temple will pass families heading in the opposite direction. Bell brilliantly brings them to life in just a few short lines, showing not just hunters and killers, but ordinary people simply looking for somewhere safe.

I fell in love with the style of the book. There are no speech marks around dialogue; instead, it blends in with the rest of the prose. Originally I thought this would end up confusing, but Bell’s dialogue stands out even more because of it. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen dialogue as well written – it’s rare when dialogue does exactly what it is supposed to, and I think it’s difficult to write dialogue that works so well to bring characters to life. But in this book, each spoken line serves to tell you more about the character speaking, and it’s consistent throughout, especially with Temple’s lack of education. She knows so little, yet is much more knowledgeable about this world than many others. And all of that is discovered through what she says and, more importantly, how she says it.

I’ve seen and heard comments about how apocalypse tales never deal with the aftermath, of what happens when the zombies are gone or under control, of a world where people are trying to rebuild or live. Well, The Reapers Are Angels does show that. It’s never made clear when the slugs arrived, but Temple can’t remember life before them. Many of the characters she encounters do remember life before, and tell her of jet planes and Niagara Falls. Another approach would have been to have Temple full of sadness that she could not see that world – but it’s made clear that this wasteland is Temple’s world, for better or worse. It’s what she has, and what she needs to deal with, and there’s no angst involved. Just a fifteen year old’s determination and grit to just get on with it.

It’s a great book, whether or not you’re a fan of postapocalyptic tales this book is worth reading simply for the characters involved and the style of Bell. One I would without a doubt recommend. What about you? Any good apocalyptic books you’d suggest checking out?



et cetera