Of Musings and Wonderings

night circusThe Night Circus starts off with a bet between two very unique men. In it, they agree that they will each put forward a protégé for a competition, testing which of their methods of teaching is the best. The protégés do not know of one another, and until the right time comes, they are unaware of the stage on which their competition will be set.

The Night Circus becomes that stage, a wonderful, magical place full of amazing displays and acts that leave the spectators spellbound. The circus is open from sunset to dawn. It arrives with no warning, and usually disappears just as fast. It attracts casual visitors and a group who follow it as much as they can.

And Cecile and Marco, the protégés, are the ones holding the circus together, their powers combining to make the circus what it is, though they do not know the power is held in the hand of the other. The game is played out like a game of chess, where the player cannot see the other make their moves but only the results. One creates a tent and the other responds with their own. And around them, the circus grows.

The one thing that struck me with this novel is how beautiful it is. Seriously. It’s mainly description, which is something I don’t usually like, but it’s description that is breath-taking and wonderful, drawing the reader in totally and completely. The circus itself, the scenery, even the weather, they all become characters in their own right, as Morgenstern lends them a weight rarely seen in other novels.

Of the two main characters, Cecile comes across the best. She feels stronger, more able, while Marco – due to circumstance – simply slips into the background and watches from the side-lines. As he does what he needs to do, Cecile keeps the circus going and faces up to her father, the man who set her out for the competition in the first place. Even when not quite there, he’s a constant presence in Cecile’s life, but one she is able to confront when she needs to.

Between the chapters of the story itself, there are sections dedicated to allowing the reader to almost explore the circus, as Morgenstern uses second person POV to walk us through parts of the circus, sometimes dragging us along to the next event that holds the key to what happens next in the plot itself. And the ending…well, it’s bittersweet and sad and joyful and manages to pump all these emotions out.

The Night Circus is, to put it simply, a wonderful, delightful and unique read. If you haven’t had the chance to read it yet, I’d strongly urge you to do so.


the reporter and the girlThe Reporter and the Girl (Minus The Super Man) is the story of Sabrien Collins and Jon Sudbury, two people who couldn’t be more different, who find each other through an online dating site, making sparks fly from the moment they talk.

It’s not a love story. There’s no fluffy, light-hearted romance here. Instead, it’s more like watching trains crash, one you can see from miles away that you have no power to stop. Just got to stand there and watch two trains come hurtling towards each other, unable to stop.

The writing is interesting in itself. A little bit difficult, at first, but easy enough to get into after a few pages. It’s a little jumpy, flicking between one scene and the next, but it works to add to the overall feel of this book, and in a way it makes it feel more realistic, as communication is mixed and misunderstood, as the characters try to come to terms with each other and understand where the other is coming from, while both remaining fixed in their own view of the world.

And these are not likable characters. Okay, you feel for them. You want to see them happy and yet there are many times where I, anyway, felt like banging their heads together. And it’s brilliant! It doesn’t feel like reading a fictional book. It feels like reading a very true story of two people who just don’t click. Right from the moment they meet, it feels like seeing a good friend get involved with someone so totally not right for them. You know it’s going to end badly, but they really don’t, and it spirals out of control until there’s absolutely nothing you or anyone can do for either party.

At times, Sabrien feels a little arrogant, a little too much above herself and like she thinks she’s better than others, especially Jon. And Jon is at times ignorant and selfish, unclear, unable to say what he really means. Actually, that last part works for both of them. Neither seems able to just say what they need to, and they feel like they hide behind masks of what they think the other will want, at least for a while.

And yet, like I said, you do feel for them. They’re not bad people, they’re just like the rest of us. There are moments when I cheered Sabrien on, times where I wanted to cry for her, and times when I just wanted to hug her. And their flaws just add to both characters. It works brilliantly.

Everyone who has persisted in a relationship despite all logic and reason will relate to this book. Actually, scrap that. Everyone who has been in a relationship that has failed – whether it was magical and wonderful or doomed to fail from the start – will relate. Romances in books can sometimes feel fake, or forced, without all the small parts that make up a relationship or its demise. But this isn’t like that. It builds up what these characters have, even if it happens fast, and lets us, as readers, see exactly why these characters are together and why they fail, why they clash so badly. What I’m trying to say is that Sabrien and Jon feel oh so real.



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Pre-order the e-book: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/369918

Release Date: November 26th

{June 29, 2013}   Play The Game – A WIP

So for a long while I’ve been working on my novella Play The Game. It was after a night out at University, when I found out about Kindle’s self-publishing. And found out that actually, it could be a really good idea. It was a drunken conversation with a very cute guy that clued me into it, and suddenly I thought “That’s what I should do.” I have a lot of projects on the go that I’d like to see published. A couple that I’ve submitted. But I knew, if I was going to self-publish anything, it should be Play The Game. Mainly because it wasn’t a full length novel, so I could work on it quickly. Or so I thought. To me, it was also something I wanted to get out there, as much as the others I’d tried to have traditionally published. And then I started looking into self-publishing, and following blogs of people who had done it, and tried to get it done and it’s taken almost a year to get to this stage where I’m not actually near doing it. But that’s okay. Because I’ve learnt a lot in the last year. It was never something I wanted to do half-arsed. I knew I needed a good cover, and I knew I wanted the novella to be as polished as possible.

In the last year, Play The Game has gone through many changes. A few weeks ago, a fellow blogger read over it for me and gave me some great feedback. Not only did it make me see some of the plot points that were wrong with the novel, but it made me sit back and really think about what I wanted in there. The main character needed more, the supporting characters needed a bit more back story to them. So, instead of just hinting about the reason Robyn’s father left, I used her grandmother – who only has one or two scenes in the original – to state Don’t underestimate the fear of what we might grow into” when she tells Robyn about her own past.

The novella had a sequel, which explores Robyn’s relationship with her ex as well as the main love interest in Play The Game, and I realised that I needed to show, in the first, more of the impact that Nate has on her. So I added in a completely new first chapter. I’ve added in extra scenes, drew on more what I wanted the novella to really say, and so far I’m not even halfway through the rewrite.

I haven’t talked about it much. Enough, even, seeing as the whole reason I started a blog was to try to promote the novella when I actually got it out there. So, after a few drinks, I’ve decided just to put up the first chapter of the current draft of the novella for you lovely readers to check out. Please, if you have any thoughts about it, leave a comment. I’d love to know what you think. Importantly, if this was available for you to buy, would you want to read on? Would you want to part with cash to find out what happens next?

And yes, the title is taken from the awesome Queen song of the same name. The sequel is currently titled Somebody To Love.

Play  The Game
Chapter One

The day slipped by, mostly unnoticed by Robyn. When she finally dragged herself out of bed, the weak November sunshine was trying hard to cling to the world. Her throat felt raw, dry, and her head was thumping. She could barely remember a thing about the night before, just the girls buying her drink after drink, dancing with them and stumbling quickly away from the couple of creeps who had tried to dance with her from behind.

She glanced at the planner on the wall. Classes highlighted in blue, shifts in yellow. At the end of the semester was a big red mark, and her chest tightened whenever she looked at it.

Robyn pulled open the curtains, covering the window beside her bookshelf. Snow was already starting, flakes drifting down slowly on the unremarkable street in the unremarkable area of London. There weren’t many cars outside. The street was dominated by students, a breed who could not afford to run a car even if they could afford to buy one. She was one of the lucky few. Since she was sixteen she had worked, part-time shifts in shops and bars once she was old enough, moving to working in a call centre once she came to University. Her savings had given her enough money for the second-hand red mini parked right outside the house.

Ducking away from the window, she began to get dressed, glancing at her bookshelf as she tried to judge if she had anything left to read before the end of the semester.

It had been two weeks since she had walked away from Nate’s, tears streaming down her face and her chest in so much pain she thought it would never heal. Once the tears had stopped, she had thrown herself into work and studying, making a huge dent in her to read pile. But even the worlds contained in the novels couldn’t alleviate all of the pain.

Robyn took a deep breath, glancing in the mirror as she brushed her hair and pulled it back, tying it with a thin black band. She frowned at her reflection, taking note of the dull green eyes and pale skin. Her dark brown hair, when let down, would fall straight to her shoulders, and sometimes she thought she would kill for Tina’s black curls.

She wasn’t going anywhere, so she grabbed her most comfortable clothes. When she left her room, it was in a pair of joggers and an old, baggy Green Day t-shirt.

The girls looked startled as she stepped into the living room/kitchen. The smell of spicy chicken filled her nostrils, and she inhaled deeply, smiling at Bobbie standing at the stove.

“Smells great.”
Bobbie smiled. “There’s enough for you, if you want some.”
“Great. Thanks.” Robyn nodded eagerly, stepping into the room and joining Tina and Lucy on the sofa. They had their eyes fixed on the television, watching some program about the Antarctic and Arctic. The documentary kept switching between the two. Robyn soon found herself transfixed on the giant expanses of white they were showing, drawn in by the idea of complete solitude contained in the two.

Lucy glanced at her. “How you feeling?”
“All right.” She shrugged. “A bit rough. You?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Lucy smiled at her, though it was hesitant and slightly strained. Concern danced in her hazel eyes, as she studied Robyn.

Finally, Robyn relented. “If you’re asking in general if I’m fine, I think I’m getting better.”
Tina leant forward. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. It still…hurts. And she hasn’t been in my classes for the last couple of weeks, and I keep dreading the day she comes back but…” She sighed. “I’m going to have to face it eventually, aren’t I?”
Lucy reached out, squeezing her hand.

They were the only people Robyn could open up to, could really talk to, but even they didn’t know anything. They knew some of the key facts, and they knew enough to know who ‘she’ was without Robyn having to mention the girl’s name.

“It’ll be okay,” Lucy said, smiling brightly. “And if you need us to find her house and kick the crap out of her…”

Robyn laughed. She was sure they had offered the same thing many times over the past two weeks. “No. It’s okay, really.” Because the girl wasn’t the root cause. “She’s not worth it.”

“Neither is he,” Tina chirped up. “Really. Once you get back from Christmas, we’re going to have an awesome semester, aren’t we?”

“Sure.” She nodded, perhaps a little too eagerly. “We should go to Thorpe Park when it opens, or something.”

“Oh, hell yeah!” Bobbie cried. “Good shout.”

“And you’re coming back for my birthday, right?” Lucy asked, sliding just slightly closer to Robyn.

Robyn nodded. “Of course I am. Nothing like spending New Year’s Eve in London, right?”

Lucy grinned, as Bobbie pulled the pan off the stove and called to them over her shoulder.

“Come on, girls, dinner’s ready.”

She had met Nate her very first day of University. He had been the tall, good-looking blond showing her to her new room. He had appeared a few nights later as she was walking home, and had, essentially, rescued her from a situation she never really thought would happen to her, even with the warnings thrown around campus.

But the way she met him was vastly different. Nate had been what the girls termed a ‘pretty boy’, even with his scars. The guy she met in Cardiff, on the other hand, was nothing like the constantly clean-shaven, slightly metro ex-boyfriend. He was tall like Nate, but with brown stubble and dark brown hair that constantly fell into his eyes. He looked like he took care of his appearance just as much as he had to, no more, no less.

He approached her when she’d darted out for a cigarette, the few girls she kept in touch with from school still inside. They had drifted apart, no longer shared secrets or talked for hours on end. But they were a good group, and she liked going out with them.

“Got a light?” he asked, holding up a long, thin, completely white cigarette.

Menthol. Robyn liked them sometimes, liked the way they made her mouth feel like she’d just brushed her teeth, but couldn’t smoke a whole pack.

“Sure.” She dug the silver Zippo out of her pocket, holding it out towards him. He brushed the hair from his eyes and smiled.

It was a nice smile, kind, showing just the right amount of teeth. “Thanks.” He lit up, handed the cigarette back and inhaled.

After the first drag, he began to cough. She laughed.

“Do you usually smoke?” she asked, watching him carefully. His eyes were a deep, dark blue, and Robyn didn’t mind staring into them.

His smile was sheepish. “Nah. I just…wanted an excuse to talk to you.”
They’d ended up talking for a while, swapping numbers and going their separate ways. Every time they passed each other, they smiled, and when the last song came in on her found her, grabbing her hand and leading her to the dance floor.

“Come back to mine?” he whispered, lips close to her ear, one hand on her waist. She’d agreed, glad for the chance of one night where she could push thoughts of Nate and her brother to the very back of her mind.

So, I got tagged by A.J Race to participate in this, for which I’m hugely thankful. See, I’m on the verge of finishing Play The Game, my current main work-in-progress, and have sort of been looking for an excuse to talk about it. As soon as it’s finished, I’m going to be looking out for people to read over it and give me some feedback. (If you like the sound of it, just drop me an e-mail at gracebunting@hotmail.co.uk) Anyway, rather than tag people, I’m just going to leave this as an open thing. Just drop me a comment, so I can at least check yours out. (And if you haven’t already, go check out A.J Race’s blog. It’s good.)

What is your working title of your book? Play The Game. Working title but I think at this point, it’s pretty much set in stone.

Where did the idea come from for the book? Heh…what a story. Okay, so first semester at University, I came home for a weekend, met this guy, really cute, and headed back to Uni. Nothing happened. (As a side-note, I was six hours away) A few weeks later, I met another guy. Very different. Again, nothing happened. Apart from a few texts with both of them. (And an interesting train journey home for a friend’s birthday. I’d planned to meet up with Guy #1 after not hearing from Guy #2, only to have Guy #2 text me when I was on the train to see what I was doing that night. Never saw either of them again after that.) My brain tends to take situations like that and go, yeah, but what if this happened…or if it happened to a girl, and she totally fell in love with the guy-at-University but then he hurt her and she goes home but she has to go back! It basically goes off on tangents. The actual story became so much more than that, but that’s where the idea came from.

What genre does your book fall under? Romance. But when it was on Fictionpress, I had a few people comment that it didn’t feel like a ‘typical’ romance. Which makes me very happy. It’s not chick-lit, or erotica, or anything like that. Okay, it’s only ‘romance’ because that’s the easiest thing to put it under. Could be ‘drama’, too, but to me it’s just the story of a girl.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I’m not good with actors/actresses, especially as the characters are in their early twenties, so no Jensen Ackles. And they’re British. Sooo no Americans. (Makes it more difficult as almost everything I watch is American. And, again, no Jensen. But one day, Jensen, you WILL be in a movie version of one of my books. Hopefully.) Err I’ll be back after Googling young British Actors. Hang on. Okay, Nicholas Hoult as Nate, even though he’s barely in Play The Game. And because I don’t want him to be typically drop dead gorgeous, Colin Morgan as Harrison. Mainly because I saw a picture of him with a beard and was like “Hell yeah!” Robyn is the most difficult. She should have a bit of an edge to her, and be pretty but not in the typical stunning actress way. Okay, have an unknown as Robyn. I prefer it that way.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Christmas holidays were supposed to be about having fun, but for Robyn it means trying to get over one guy, failing in not falling for another and trying to keep her family together.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Self-published, via Kindle, because I can’t currently afford to self-publish any other way and I want to get something out there. So, yeah, coming soon to Kindle!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I really have no idea. Not that long, I don’t think. It was only around 20,000 words at the time, maybe a lot less. But it’s taken me six months to finish this edit of it.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Another one that’s really hard to answer. Like I said above, it’s not a typical romance, and I don’t think I’ve read anything it could be compared to. (Not to say there isn’t books out there like it. I just haven’t come across them.)

Who or what inspired you to write this book? I will happily admit than whenever I write something vaguely romancy (or with a male protagonist), it’s been the men in my life who usually spark of ideas. My dad and brothers are polar opposites to the dad and big brother in the book, but there are some moments where aspects of them could shine through. And it means I could take what my dad and brothers are really, really not, and create two men who just don’t know how to be the people they should be. And yeah, there are aspects of different guys I met in my Gap Year in both Harrison and Nate, although not a lot from any one person. Plus, well, a lot of it is more the experience than anything else, no matter who was there during that experience.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Most female romance leads seem, to me, to be career women or teenagers. Robyn isn’t. She’s a young woman struggling to find her place in the world, coping with the difficultly of feeling like she’s leaving behind something important in going back to London. And it’s not just Harrison. She’s seen her family fall apart and she’s trying not to let that happen again. Basically…it’s not just fluffy boy-meets-girl. It’s more girl-meets-boy-while-family-shit-kicks-off.

So, there we go. What do you think?

Currently, my word count for this year stands at 50,266. This means that, with five days to spare, I’m actually 266 words over the word count. I’ve mentioned before that I thought I would struggle this year, working full-time, but it’s actually been my best year. Maybe because of the lack of essays and readings to do. I’ve been able to just get home from work and write, without worrying about anything else. Anyway, for anyone who would like to read it, the first seven chapters are on FictionPress, here. If you want a taster, here’s the prologue. As always, if you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

How’s NaNoWriMo going for you?

Outside Your Window
Prologue: Stalemate

The cross hung from the thin gold chain around her neck, and every time her mouth opened, her hand flickered up to the cross, fingers brushing over it. Her eyes remained locked on him, bent over the keyboard, back hunched over.

He knew the only reason she wore it was to piss him off.

She had had it since she was thirteen, her communion present from an aunt. Or, as he liked to call it, just another part of the indoctrination process.

His eyes flickered over the screen, finger tapping on the mouse whenever he saw a link that caught his eye. When her mouth opened, when her fingers brushed over that gold cross – a symbol of how far they had drawn her in – he glanced over his shoulder at her, muttering something in reply, though in reality he was barely listening.

He liked to think she didn’t realise.

But if he had listened, he would know that she was all too aware that her words were going in one ear and out the other. They were simply sounds to him, something that for a brief moment interrupted his constant search. The search for something, she liked to think, she had already found.

“My parents want us over for Sunday dinner,” she said, waiting for him to snap about how he wasn’t going to go to church, no matter how many times they were asked.

She could just about remember the flutter in her chest, every time she saw him. She could remember the blush heating her cheeks, the way her eyes would widen whenever he told her how wrong her parents were, how wrong the people were she spent her Sundays with. Without a doubt, she had been enthralled and fascinated to find someone who was so different to them, who, she believed, really did think for himself.

But he was just as foolish as the rest of them.

“Why do you wear that?” He threw the question over his shoulder, before his attention returned to the screen.

She had to catch herself, surprised she had crossed his mind for even a second.

“Because I…”

Because it’s a symbol of my faith.

Because it brings me hope.

Because it reminds me I am loved, by someone.

They had come to a stalemate.

It had crept up on them both from the beginning, really. It wasn’t supposed to last, not really. A fling, an experiment for her. She was still finding herself when he found her, still trying to realise who she was. She had only ever had one boyfriend, and he had cried the few times they had done the act that was supposed to bring people closer together.

Her parents had loved him.

They had not loved the boy – the man – in front of her.

Their determination that he was not going to be a part of their lives had pushed her into moving out, but when they started relenting, starting inviting them over for Sunday dinner or to family parties and meals, the attraction had waned.

Not that she would ever admit it to them.

She took a deep breath.

Neither of them were happy, and she wished he could see it. He crawled into bed at three, four in the morning, turned his back on her and fell asleep. She lay on her back, staring at the ceiling, her fingers brushing the cold cross, still searching, still looking.

I am loved.

By a man she couldn’t see? Couldn’t touch or feel or have a conversation with?

It wasn’t enough. Of course it wasn’t; she had tried so hard to convince herself it was, to tell herself that what she had with him was enough, but she would always have Him.

But as she stared at the slope of his neck, stared at the mark just under his ear and the ruffled, dark hair, she knew one of them would have to break it, for both their sake’s. She wanted excitement, and fun, and she wanted to be loved. More than anything, she wanted to say I love you and hear someone say it back, and not just as an automatic response.

Walking away would throw her into the unknown. As things were – not perfect, not right and nowhere near happy – it was easy. She had someone to come home to, had someone she could tell about her day even if he wasn’t listening.

And if she walked away, she would just be proving her parents right.

Her back stiffened, as he pushed away from the computer and spun around, a big smile on his face. His eyes were framed by lashes longer than hers, his eyes a beautiful shade of brown. She had loved him. The face that looked at her was the face of the man she had fallen for, hard.

The feelings were gone, but how was she supposed to turn her back on them completely? On him?

“Film’s finished downloading,” he announced, and she was struck by how different he seemed, now his face wasn’t reflecting the light of the screen. “Want me to hook it up to the Blu-Ray?”

The smile came easily, for the first time in God knew how long. He was safe. And despite everything, she liked safe.


Two Months Later

Everything crumpled around him. For a second, he thought the walls were actually falling, actually wrenching themselves apart. But when the image disappeared, the walls were still there. She wasn’t.

His heart thumped in his chest as he moved to the kitchen. The flat had seemed huge when they first brought it, with a spare room they had turned into a study and a giant living room. It had seemed to shrink over the last couple of years, but now it seemed too big. He yanked open the fridge, eyes roaming over the food there.

There was a take away box with soup in it. A post-it stuck on the top read more in the freezer. He looked in other appliance, hands shaking as he surveyed the boxes there.

How long had she been planning it?

Slowly, he drew in a breath. In through his mouth, out his nose. Once, twice, three…

He stumbled back, falling into a chair at the kitchen table. His hand went to his head, and as it moved he suddenly had the image of her hand, her delicate, long fingers brushing against her cross.

There was someone else.

There had to be!

He was shaking as he stared around, wondering what to do. His friends, the people he could spend hours talking to, lived too far away. The US, Australia, various places in Asia.

His fingers tingled as he brought his hand down, itching to move swiftly across his keyboard, to click his mouse. A game. Maybe that was what he needed; he needed to play a game, to log on, to lose himself.

Scrambling from the chair he lumbered through the hallway, before finding himself stumbling towards the chair. He wrenched it out from the desk, sinking into it before turning to the computer. Moments later, he was watching the bar load up as the game connected.

The moments ticked by.

I’m leaving, Brandon. I can’t do it anymore.

I don’t love you, and you don’t love me.

She had been wrong, he was sure of it. Love wasn’t something you could define easily, he knew that much. But surely what they had – the ease, the comfortableness – was love? What else was there supposed to be?

Maybe she just needed time, he thought. Maybe, after a few days with her parents and being made to traipse back and forth to that building where they spoke to their invisible man, she would realise how much she really needed him.

As they always did, his fingers moved quickly. They knew without his eyes looking where everything was, knew with the magic of muscle memory exactly what to do.

The chat box popped up.

Wondered where u were.

C’mon man! We need you!

His eyes flickered from the box to the middle of the screen, before he typed a response.

She’s left me.


My girlfriend.

Oh, that sucks. Got a new mission coming up if you fancy it.

He stared at the screen, his mouth feeling strangely dry.

Sometimes, just sometimes, he grew bored of the game. When that happened, he would watch a film with her, or talk to her, or they would just sit in their bed and read together.

When had they last done any of that, though?

He had downloaded the new game just a couple of weeks ago (or was it months?) and it had taken up all of his time. But she understood that, she always did. She had been there when every new game had come out, had got on with her own life while he lost himself in discovering a new world and new characters with old friends.

Friends whose response to his girlfriend leaving was just Got a new mission.

The next words that popped up surprised him and, what struck him even more, it was a private message.

For his eyes only.

How long were you two going out

He didn’t recognise the name, but responded any way, grasping at any chance to pour out his heart.

A few years. He struggled to remember the exact time. She had always been good at that. In his mind, he reached for something – a number – that would stand out to him, that would make him remember. But he couldn’t.

That sucks. Sorry. You not got any mates you could hang out with?

He glanced at the name. Messenger632. With a shrug, he replied.

Not here.

You away from home or something?

I guess. Home. That small town where his parents lived. No, the city he had moved to when he was eighteen. Scrap that – the flat he was in now?

Brandon frowned. Home.

Yeah, I’m away from home.

When did she go?

An hour ago. He thought. It could have been longer. He really had no idea. Closing his eyes, he leant back. The strong smell of her perfume filled the room, like it usually did when she walked in during a game. His eyes snapped open, but she wasn’t there.

Of course she wasn’t.

It seemed pretty final, he typed. He watched the words across the bottom; messenger632 is currently typing.

You really love her?

Yes. The answer required no thought; of course he did. He frowned at the screen. It seemed an odd question to ask, anyway. Coming from a stranger.

Plenty more fish in the sea. Chin up – maybe it’s for the best.

Messenger632 logged off, leaving Brandon staring at the screen. He shook his head, before focusing on the game at hand.

His friends were waiting for him; they needed him.

And they needed him to focus. He pushed thoughts of her out of his head, before plunging into the world at his fingertips.

et cetera