Strong Heroines

The Last Namsara

I consumed The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli in 2 days. It was like a warm blanket wrapping around my mind, welcoming me home. I am a YA Fantasy fanatic, it sucked me in and still refuses to let me go. Over the past year or so I’ve been trying to branch outside my comfort zone to encompass a few more genres that I’m less familiar with. And though I read some very interesting book, I never devoured them at a pace that left me craving more, not because they weren’t great authors, it’s just that the stories never sang to my heart. But reading The Last Namsara was like coming home after a long period, there was that sense of familiarity that holds such comfort. The Last Namsara is typical of the genre, an ostracized heroine, who is a skilled fighter and has a fiery personality, is challenged physically and mentally before overcoming obstacles which inevitably lead to her self acceptance, social tolerance and even love. It’s a classic YA Female Fantasy novel, with dragons, which just makes everything better. The story is well written, the characters are relatable, and I loved it.

So this week I have challenged myself to write a story intro with a strong heroine, that’s my only rule. I better get planning.

TTFN

-HB

Writing Challenge #9

What’s Original Anyway?

As I write this I am listening to Dua Lipa’s beautiful song “Homesick” on her amazing album that I am completely obsessed with. Weirdly I’ve always found that songs with good lyrics actually help me to write. Many people say they can’t write when listening to music because they can’t think of anything other than the words of that song, but as many creatives know all too well, there is nothing original in this world, we are all just reinventing and taking inspiration from those we look up to. This reflects a lot on today’s theme, the response poem normally uses a few words and the form of the poem it’s responding to. In a way, all creative work is just a response to the people it was inspired by, which to me is much more admirable than trying to make something “original”.

And so today I respond to one of my poetical idols, Emily Dickinson, a poet who wrote purely for the joy of it, not to sell but to live through. Though she led a pretty sheltered life her poems are so rich and beautifully written. I hope I do her justice.

Emily – a Response to “Hope”

“Hope” is the thing that clings to my teeth-
That perches on my tongue-
Singing wingless words from my gut-
No one hears a single one-

And Emily there’s a gale inside-
And my mind is frayed-
I can hardly taste sweet liquor-
That helped with the charade-

I’ve heard it in the softest voice-
And from the blackened sea-
But never in heartache-
Did it take the words from me.

Responding to a poem feels like writing to a close friend. There’s a certain comfort to the words that you’re echoing, as though the poet can hear them and understands. I hope you enjoyed my challenge.

TTFN

-HB

Hope

Things are looking up!

A heavy weight has been lifted from my shoulders, the ache that formed mid-spine is slowly stretching out and my head can once again tilt back to stare up a the stars. The stress of job-hunting was wearing me down, and though I never thought I was too concerned about having a traditional 9-5 job, and I thought I would be okay with doing freelance work from home, the relief of actually getting a regular job that doesn’t reside in these 4 walls is honestly the best feeling. I had officially hit the stir-crazy phase, I can’t wait to do a full day of work, and actually get paid! Which will be greatly appreciated, especially before Christmas!

This doesn’t deter from my ultimate goal of getting published. But right now, that needs to sit on the back burner, in order to save my sanity. Obviously I’m going to keep writing, as much as I can, but I’ll save it all up and set myself longer-term goals. I’m trying to save up for a house you see, and unfortunately money makes the world go round and to get a regular income you need a job with regular hours. Now don’t get me wrong, I am so excited to start work and mainly to get that feeling of purpose back again.

I guess I’d lost hope a bit, and got extremely frustrated with being unemployed. But everything is looking up now, that little bit brighter. Thinking of hope always reminds me of one of my favourite poems by Emily Dickinson.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
I’ve always loved that poem. It’s one of the few I can recite by heart. So I have challenged myself to write a response to this poem. If you’re not sure what I mean then you should check out this great response poem by Valerie Dohren here!
So with that I shall ponder what response I shall give to hope.
TTFN
-HB

Writing Challenge #8

Who am I?

Seeing as I’m delving into the whole identity crisis, I feel as though this question is relevant. Who am I? And when you ask yourself this question you might answer with the following information: name, age, job, where you live etc. And though these things describe you in some aspect, they don’t really answer the question. I refer to myself as a writer, despite the fact that I don’t get paid to write. I am a writer because it is the thing I love the most, I’m a writer because I can hardly go two hours without thinking of a line for a poem I haven’t written yet. Just because it isn’t my job title doesn’t mean it’s not who I am. Maybe it’s the question that’s not accurate, instead of “Who am I?” maybe the question should be “What do I love?” because a person’s passions reveal more about them than their name and age.

So instead of answering the question “Who am I?” I’m going to answer the question “What do I love?”

I love my family, my boyfriend, my friends. I love to write, to create, to make things. I love travelling the world, experiencing new cultures and trying the local food. I love curling up on the sofa with a good book or movie and a cup of tea.

So that’s me.

Now onto my challenge, I hope you enjoy:

Black Out

Birdsong floated into my dreary mind, I rolled over and wrapped the blanket tight around my shoulders. Crisp winter air seemed to have snuck in through cracks in the window. The musky scent of a man’s aftershave disrupted my thoughts. I slowly opened my sleep heavy eyes, the harsh morning light hurt my head, once they’d adjusted I could see a clean room, with white-washed oak furniture. What I had thought was birdsong was in reality the caw of seagulls, as they tunelessly sang to the shushing of the ocean. Why was I near the ocean? The longer I looked around the room the more unfamiliar it became. I stood slowly, taking care not to make the floorboards creak. I was wearing knickers and a large men’s t-shirt. My heart rate increased, what was I doing here? I needed to get out of here as soon as I could, but first I’d need clothes. I pulled draws open until I found a pair of jeans and a woolly jumper, I put them on in quick succession and was surprised at how well this woman’s clothes fitted me. Whoever she was, did I sleep with her husband? Was I roofied? Why could I not remember anything? Shoes were my next challenge, she didn’t seem to keep any in her room, I assumed she was a clean freak with the lack of colour and white everything. So shoes would be downstairs, I pressed my ear to the floorboards, I could hear someone rustling, humming as though they weren’t holding someone against their will upstairs!

“Honey, are you coming down? I’ve made breakfast! I hope pancakes are okay? I was going to make you a bacon sarnie but we’ve run out of bread.” a deep melodic voice called up. Oh God! I thought, Him and his wife are in this together, the sickos! I listened for longer but didn’t hear a reply.

“Honey? Emma? You awake?” he shouted again, this time with a touch of concern. A knot formed in my stomach, a loop playing in my head, repeating the name, Emma, Emma. Emma was my name. Surely it was just a coincidence, I pressed my ear forcefully into the wood, waiting, praying, to hear a woman’s reply. But it never came. What did follow was the soft thud on slippers on stairs. Instinct told me to run, I looked out the windows but there was no way I’d get down without breaking something. The wardrobe was my best bet, I opened the doors and thanked god this couple was not ones for clutter. I got in and swiftly closed the doors with as much stealth as I could. A couple of seconds later I heard the bedroom door open,

“Em?” his voice was louder now, he was so close I could hear his breathing. He walked out and checked other rooms shouting “Emma, where are you?” I could hear his footsteps traipsing back and forth. He came back into the room, his footsteps got louder and I could hear him directly on the other side of the door. My chest constricted and I held my breath so as not to give myself away. But it was too late, the doors opened and the darkness around me evaporated. I curled up in a ball and screamed, not knowing what else to do with myself.

“Emma, what’s wrong, shhh, shh, hey, what happened?” his voice was warm and soothing, I couldn’t hear any malice, it was as though he was genuinely concerned. He crouched down and wrapped his arms around me, his embrace was strong, reassuring but not overpowering. I could feel the muscles in his chest and could smell that same musky scent that woke me.

“Please,” I whimpered, “don’t hurt me” I started crying, because, despite imagining myself as invincible, in reality, I am a coward.

“Hurt you?” he chuckled slightly, “what are you going on about? I’d never hurt you.”

His embrace loosened and he stood up, taking me with him. I looked at him properly now, he had short brown hair, the sides shaved closer to his scalp than the top of his head which was slightly shaggy. His eyes shone like tempered chocolate, they weren’t the eyes of a creep who kept people hostage. He smiled when our eyes met, but then his smile disappeared and a cloud swept across his face. “Why do you look so afraid of me?” he asked. “Emma, what’s wrong?”

“How do you know my name?” I said, my voice croaky. I narrowed my eyes at him.

“What?” he replied.

“How do you know my name? I don’t know you, but you know my name, how?”

“What do you mean you don’t know me? Stop playing Em, this isn’t funny now!”

“HOW DO YOU KNOW MY NAME?” I pushed him away from me, his eyes widened in shock.
“You’re my wife.” he said, his voice softer this time and laced with sadness. “You’re my wife.”

My body slumped to the floor, for some reason I knew he was telling the truth, but I had no recollection of any of this. A photo frame caught my eye, in it was a happy couple with beaming smiles, they looked like they were somewhere in Italy. The woman had blonde hair, blue eyes and a slightly crooked nose from when she fell off the climbing frame at primary school. I ran my finger over the bridge of my nose to feel the scar. This man was telling the truth, he was my husband, but I didn’t even know his name.

“Why can’t I remember?” I asked, not expecting an answer.


Thank you, as always, for reading! I liked writing this piece, it was a tad rushed but fun to write. Let me know if you try any of my writing challenges!

TTFN

-HB

Writing Challenge #7

The Unfortunate Case of Eliza Fenning

I have been researching for hours trying to decide which historic crime would be my focal point for this challenge. And let me tell you, there are too many to count, but out of all the terrible things I read there was one story that stuck with me. In 1815 Eliza Fenning, a cook for the Turner family, was accused of attempted murder and was hanged for her crime. However there was very little supporting evidence, supposedly she had put arsenic in the dumplings she served the family for dinner, which she herself ate. Those who ate the dumplings were all horrendously ill, yet recovered. One of the family members tested the bowl the dumplings were made in, which showed positive for arsenic. Eliza had shown no contempt towards the Turner family in the previous weeks leading up to the incident and thus had no motive. There were many people who held the opinion that she was innocent and wrongly accused. If you would like to read the archived documents and letters then you can right here.

So following from that information here is my challenge, enjoy.

Her Unhappy Case

I am unfortunate young female,

Read the confessions,

See in my own hand-writing

Price: one shilling.

Decide your judgement

But I have already

Suffered the sentence of the law.

I swung for the crime

My fingers never partook

My mind never fathomed,

An ugly seed,

Flat, black, and heavy,

Spread poison

But never claimed

A soul – but mine.

Let me haunt,

Hear my plea:

“I am innocent,

Indeed I am.”

For I pay for the crime

Of another man.

That took quite a while to get all the facts, props to authors that base their books off of historic crimes, I did just a snippet of the research they have to do!

And with that I leave you,

TTFN

-HB

Reading Again

Book review, binge watching and more…

As I type this post my fingers are almost blue from being so painfully cold. Winter has well and truly arrived and I already wish it would go away! Despite embracing the usual winter habits of indulging in multiple cups of tea and snuggling near the fire, the cold still manages to bite and nibble at my fingers and toes. I prefer the in-between seasons, spring and autumn, the temperature is much more agreeable and doesn’t offend my extremities so drastically.

One good thing about winter is the feeling of not being expected to spend your days outside, and though warm spring days strolling through forests with the dappled sunlight scattering shapes across the shrubs, I also love reading and staying indoors. It  is the ever tormenting curse of the introvert, we wish to go out and experience all of these amazing adventures that we read about, and yet there is another part of us that wants to curl up on the sofa, with a blanket, a cup of tea and a great book to keep us company. Unfortunately for me, I feel as though it is always one or the other, I’m either so busy out doing things that it’s just a whirlwind of endless events, or I’m cooped inside reading for days on end (I’m a bit of a binge-reader). The latter is my current state.

It took me a while to get back into reading, I love to read, but sometimes feel like I have readers-block. I start a book but then can’t get into it, so I move on to another and another and I end up with a pile of partially read books. So I decided to get a book by one of my favourite authors, in hope that she would be able to break this painful cycle.
Hannah Kent did just that! I am currently half way through her book The Good People. I loved her debut novel Burial Rites which is set in Iceland and follows the tale of a convicted murderess, in ways it drew on similar themes as Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace (another fantastic read) which I will be talking about a bit later on. Anywho, The Good People is set in Ireland and plays off the idea of religion and folklore, which both held heavy influence over people. I won’t go into too much detail but I’ll let you know my full opinion once I’ve finished it. Kent’s writing style is fluid and atmospheric, an early scene in the book depicts a funeral and the detail of the tobacco smoke in the air and too many bodies crammed into the room makes you feel as though you’re experiencing it directly. If you haven’t encountered this incredible author yet then I implore you to buy one of her books, you won’t regret it.

Onto my next obsession (and netflix binge) Alias Grace. I read this a few years ago, along with The Handmaid’s Tale and The Stone Mattress, after getting majorly obsessed with Margaret Atwood’s work. I have yet to see the rendition of The Handmaid’s Tale but have heard good things. Alias Grace was incredible and scarily similar to the way I had imagined it the first time I read it. The roles are well cast, the locations reflect the book beautifully and of course it has been brilliantly adapted for the screen due to Atwood’s input. I couldn’t recommend it enough, although for anyone who likes a clean ending with everything being tied up in a neat bow then prepare to be disappointed because there are aspects that will leave you frustrated and slightly confused, but I won’t ruin it for you.

As you can probably gather there are specific genres that always seem to pull me back, both Burial Rites and Alias Grace were based off of true events. So this week I have given myself the challenge to write either an excerpt or poem based off of a historical crime… I’ve not quite decided which one yet though. I better get researching!

TTFN

-HB

 

Writing Challenge #6

Tea Time

Evening all, it is Friday once again, I swear it comes around faster each week. I’ve been a tad under the weather this week which has stopped me from my usual gym sessions and so I’ve been cooped up on the sofa, blanket wrapped and full of tea, working away on my laptop.

And though many would see this as favourable, I get a tad restless and have been going a bit stir crazy these past few days. Also, I somehow managed to forget about this blog post, so I apologise about it being a tad rushed.

Before we begin I recommend you put the kettle on, and make yourself a cuppa.

All Time Favourite

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the 4th annual Superior Beverage Ball, I want to thank you all for coming and please enjoy the night!” the Earl declared, he stood proud, his shoulders pulled back to push his chest out, like a mating bird. He’d been liberal with the bergamot tonight, it’s floral notes lingered around him in a 5 foot radius. He’d hoped the sweet scent would entice the Lady Grey, so probably applied more than was necessary.
The Earl scoped the room, it was abuzz, everyone had made an appearance for appearances sake, of course. Many of the guests detested each other, the blend, overall, was disgusting, and yet they still attended mainly so that they could be in for a chance of winning the title of All Time Favourite. The night bubbled on and chatter swirled the room on taffeta skirts and silk suits. All were dressed decadently to highlight their most attractive features, Gyokuro wore a floor length jade kimono that dipped at the back to reveal the pattern in white paint on her pale skin; Narcissus was decked out in a sooty grey suit which complemented the rich tones in his sun-kissed skin; and though there were many rare and beautiful candidates for the award there was one who was a shoe in: Camellia.
Camellia dressed the same each year, a knee length black dress, her black hair tied in a conservative bun, complementing her milky skin. She was beautiful in the conventional way, she was subtle, never overpowering and was liked by all. The Earl liked to label her as unoffensive, which was accurate in everyone’s opinion.
The clock struck 8, time for the big reveal. The Earl cleared his throat, “May I have your attention please,” the room settled and a simmer of excitement arose. “It is time for the main event, in this envelope I have the name of Britain’s All Time Favourite, though all of you were fantastic candidates the winner is…” The Earl paused for dramatic effect as he opened the envelope, “Camellia.” A slow clap flooded the room, Camellia gave a small smile to the crowd and shook The Earls hand. “Congratulations Camellia, again, four years in a row, that’s really something.” The Earl had hoped that this would be his year but somewhere inside him he had always known that the masses would choose Camellia over him any day, he took his defeat with a pinch of sugar and told himself that next year he would try again.

I’m all tea’d out now! I hope you like my unusual take on a tea themed tale. If any of you are wondering who Camellia is then let me tell you:  Camellia sinensis  is the shrub that black tea leaves grow on. So I named our unoffensive dame Camellia. I’m more of an Earl Grey girl myself but the masses tend to agree that black tea is best. Ah well.

Now then, at that I’m going to go to bed.

TTFN

-HB