#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 38: Question 32 & 33

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

32. What is your protagonist’s biggest weakness?

Melora’s biggest weakness is definitely her naïvety. She’s also incredibly spoiled, which goes hand in hand with her naïvety, because it means she has a rather idealised view of the world. Her inability to recognise when she’s being manipulated lands her in a lot of trouble in The Mayor, which is ironic really, because she’s pretty manipulative herself.

I feel like these traits are quite well-demonstrated in my answer to the question below.

33. Your favourite scene

OK, so I made a list of favourite scenes vying for my top spot, and all six of them are spoilerific. Thus, I’m actually answering the question, “What scene do you have a soft spot for that doesn’t give anything away?” as opposed to which is my favourite

Disclaimer: this passage is very much in the draft stages. Please forgive the horrible syntax and my chronic verbosity.

Melora was in a far lighter mood for having seen Mr Kale again. She even saw fit to compliment Jaspher later that afternoon on his shiny new cravat pin — a silver oval with a garnet embedded at his centre — which suited his appearance very well.

“Thank you, Miss Winship,” Jaspher blushed, his expression lighting up at the compliment.

“Ahem,” Craven cleared his throat. The two hastily resumed their work, but as an unfazed Melora hummed quietly to herself, Jaspher kept his head down, furiously scribbling with his quill, neck prickling as he felt Craven’s cool, penetrating gaze upon him.

He wore the pin again to work next day. Then the next day. And the next. Although Melora extended no further compliments, he couldn’t help but squirm each time Craven looked his way, subtly covering his throat as the man sized him up like a specimen pinned beneath glass.

*

In the weeks that followed, Melora saw Mr Kale only thrice more, and each time, much to her bitter disappointment, he completely ignored her.

The first time, he seemed to be in a hurry, walking in the opposite direction with little time for small talk. The second, he dropped by to speak with Jaspher, not deigning to acknowledge her at all before the two of them departed for the shipping yard.

The third was just before her father bumped into him in the corridor, dumping her unceremoniously in her office before dashing off with Mr Kale, who scarcely spared her a glance. She fought the urge to cry as she flounced into her chair, rubbing her eyes and sniffing with the effort it took to restrain her tears.

“Miss Winship?” Jaspher’s voice jarred enough to make her grit her teeth. “Are you quite alright?”

“I’m fine, Jaspher,” she snapped, mood instantly souring as he hastened to his feet. Swords, why did he have to be so saint’s damned attuned to her distress? Could he not just leave her the hell alone for once?

She glared at him as he approached, temper flaring as her eyes were drawn to the pin nestled at his throat.

“Have you no grasp on the concept of fashion, Jaspher? You’ve been wearing that self-same cravat pin every day for the last month.”

Immediately she felt a stab of self-reproach — Jaspher’s face fell faster than cannon shot. Recoiling, he shuffled his way back to his desk, and Melora bit back the overwhelming urge to apologise, guilt only serving to stoke her anger.

Why should she apologise? She’d only spoken the truth. Why could he not change his attire every day like Mr Kale? The man paid her more attention than anyone she had ever known. Why could he not take more pride in his appearance? Be a little more sure of himself? Be a bit more interesting? Why could he not–

Why could he not be more like Mr Kale?

Copyright © S.E. Berrow 2018

S.E. Berrow

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Phantoms, Dollhouses and Easter Wishes

Happy Easter, everyone! I hope you’re all having a lovely long weekend. For those of you who are working over the Easter Holidays, I will keep you in my thoughts! ♥

No writing challenge answers this week. Today’s blog post consists of Important Life Updates:

I’ve moved house!

Yes, it’s true. I’ve temporarily moved back in with my parents whilst I wait for the sale of my boyfriend’s flat to go through. I can’t say how long I’ll be here for, but I’ve been made to feel very welcome and today was the first day since Tuesday (the day I moved out) that I’ve actually begun to feel truly settled. Throughout the whole of March I’ve essentially been AN ENORMOUS BALL OF STRESS and I can only apologise to all who encountered me during that time and had to put up with me and my madness.Sarah Andersen

I’m glad it’s over now and can get stuck back into the thing I love to do most…

Writing

For those who’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m massively behind with the deadline for finishing my WIP, The Mayor. I originally intended to finish Draft One by the end of December, but had to push the deadline back until the end of February for the sake of my mental health (see here). That revised deadline went completely out the window when I started going through the process of selling my home, plus I began having serious self-doubt along with Anxiety-triggering frustration over my complete inability to finish my manuscript. Going on a really nice holiday for two weeks at the beginning of March helped me out a lot; I didn’t touch my manuscript once the whole time I was gone, and when I came back I felt refreshed and excited, ready to finish everything off. I had a really productive week in the middle of March playing around with my deliciously cruel penultimate chapter… only for reality to set back in that I needed to start packing, stat.

Basically, March was a complete write-off as far as writing was concerned, but April is a new month, a new start. I’m in a new place where I have fewer responsibilities to shoulder all by myself (house maintenance, cooking, cleaning etc.), plus I’m genuinely excited to get to grips with the last two chapters and very short epilogue. Wish me luck.

Once I’m finished (please, God, let it be soon), I’m going to take a break — maybe write a novella about my character Jonathan Carson — whilst K.F. Goodacre takes to my work with razor-sharp scalpel and hammers my words into some semblance of a manageable pile.

Dollies!

Speaking of K.F. Goodacre, it seems her talents know no bounds! As a belated birthday present, she very kindly made me my protagonist Melora in doll form… Behold! She is exquisite:

Melora joins another doll made for me by K.F. Goodacre — my character Jonathan Carson. Don’t they look great together? I’m so in love. Raise your hand if you think Kim needs to start her own Etsy account making dolls of other people’s characters for money? *Hand shoots up*. Thank you so much, Parabatai! ♥

Note: The John doll is a couple of years old now. The character’s ethnicity has changed since its creation and as such, his skin should actually be much darker than what’s shown here. Kim’s assured me she will, at some point, flay John’s skin off and replace it with something more fitting. He’s got to match his brother Jaspher, after all. Watch this space…

Lastly…

Kamelot‘s new album The Shadow Theory is out next week. OMG. I’m so, so, so EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!! Especially since they dropped their (brilliant) new single last Friday entitled ‘The Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)’, featuring Lauren Hart from melodic death metal band, Once Human. CHECK. IT. OWT:

 

Can’t wait. Simply can’t, can’t wait. Will explode from teh squee. Super excite! BRING ON LONDON IN OCTOBER ♥

That’s all for now. Ta-ta!

S.E. Berrow

#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 6: Question 6

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

6. An interview with your protagonist (See ‘Hot Seating’ for ideas or create your own)

This should be interesting. I will have to conduct this interview from the very beginning of The Mayor to avoid spoilage. My protagonist Melora Winship is spectacularly naïve at the start of her story, so bear this in mind when reading the below. I assure you her life takes an altogether more challenging turn when William Kale arrives…

Melora Winship

How old are you?
I’m 15 years old. I’ll be sixteen this coming winter.

Where were you born?
I was born at home in my mother’s birthing bed. My father arranged for the best doctor in New Hardway to attend to the birth, though even he was not able to save my mother the day my brother was stillborn. How I wish I’d known my mother… and my poor baby brother for that matter.

What’s your favourite food?
Oh, I simply love gingernut biscuits! Jaspher keeps a well-stocked jar for me in our office. It’s all I can do to keep myself from munching on them all day.

Are you allergic to anything?
What does it mean to be ‘allergic’ to something? I’m not familiar… No, I don’t think so. Eggs can sometimes make me feel a bit sick if they’re not cooked through, but I will eat them anyway because soft yolks are delicious.

Cats or dogs (preference)?
I have no preference at all.

Why?
I love all animals! I wish Papa would let me have a pet, but proximity to fur makes him sneeze.

What has been the best day of your life so far?
Uncle Jeremy’s Winter Solstice party last year was tremendous fun! I got drunk for the very first time, John ‘accidentally’ spilled red wine all over that harpy Maria Swan, and I had my very first kiss — with Jaspher — under the moon.

And the worst?
Probably the day after the party… Goodness, I was sick! And I do regret kissing Jaspher a little bit.

Do you have any habits you’re ashamed of?
I am constantly chewing my bottom lip. I tear little strips off it which makes it sore and dry and chapped. Sometimes I even make it bleed. I wish I knew how to stop. Miss Lillith is always encouraging me to rouge my lips to cover it up which in some ways is even more annoying than the discomfort.

What would make you kill someone?
Oh goodness, I can’t imagine that I would ever do such a thing! I wouldn’t hurt a fly. In fact, I open the windows to let them out the house if they become trapped inside.

Have you ever smoked/taken drugs?
John let me take a smoke of his tobacco pipe once. It was disgusting and caused me to cough. It filled up my lungs and made them feel tight and hot. I don’t know how he stands it.

What would you do if I poked you in the eye right now?
I would be extremely hurt! How could you? I’d likely cry.

Would you ever wear trainers without socks?
I’m not sure what trainers are, though I presume they are a form of footwear if one is supposed to wear them with socks. I imagine Miss Lillith would brain me if I were to go out without the proper footwear on.

Who is your best friend?
Jonathan Carson, of course. I’ve known him for as long as I can remember. His brother Jaspher is also very close to our family and I would count him as my friend, but he’s nowhere near as fun as John. Things have been strange between us since his father’s Solstice party, so I’ve been avoiding him as much as possible.

Where did you and your best friend meet?
I was about 8 months old. Papa said he and Mama put me down on the Carsons’ carpet and I crawled right over to him, babbling away. He babbled right back and we’ve been inseparable ever since.

Will you wear this pink dress?
Pink isn’t really my colour; it makes my skin look splotchy. Does it come in yellow? Or perhaps green instead?

Who is your favourite superhero?
What’s a superhero? John is my superhero. He’s always there for me and manages to brighten up my day. He understands me like no one else does and goes on so many adventures. I don’t know what I’d do without him.

What are you most afraid of?
I’m afraid I’ll be stuck at my father’s shipbuilding firm forever and ever and ever. It’s just so boring.

Are you romantic?
Oh yes, I’d like nothing more than a handsome stranger to come along and sweep me off my feet! Perhaps he’ll whisk me away from Winship and Carson to show me the world, or move me to Hilt to mingle at court. I fantasise about such an occurrence daily; anywhere would be better than here. I’d miss John terribly though. And Papa too, I suppose.

Do you bite Sellotape or cut it with scissors?
Such strange words you are using! What on earth is Sellotape? Jaspher, Papa and Miss Lillith would probably say it’s unladylike for me to bite it, so I’d bite it just to annoy them.

How often do you clean your teeth a day?
Miss Lillith makes me scrub them every morning and night with warm water and a sponge. And also after meals. What a bore.

Do you pick your nose?
*Blushes*. Um. No… [Narrator: pfft, she totally does]

If you could have one job, what would it be?
I’m sure Papa would love for me to say I’d be a Master Shipbuilder like him, but that’s not the case. I want to be a sailor, like John, but women aren’t permitted to sail. I wish I could join John on his adventures; I’d love to travel across the sea.

Would you swim with sharks?
Heavens, no! You must be mad!

Would you go into space?
Is such a thing even possible? How exciting that would be! Although I doubt I’d be given the opportunity to do so, since Papa will barely let me set foot on a sailship let alone a… spaceship, you say?

You sneeze into your hand in public and don’t have a tissue. What do you do?
Tissue? Oh! It’s like a paper handkerchief. How strange! Well, I would use my handkerchief in the absence of a tissue, of course, but if I did not have one on me, I would ask Miss Lillith if I could borrow hers.

Your mother/brother/sister falls over. What do you do?
I haven’t any of those to speak of, but I think if John fell over I’d just about die from laughing. If Papa fell over I’d be more concerned. He’s getting older, so finds it difficult to get back up again without some help.

Do you dunk biscuits in your tea?
Oh, yes! Gingernut biscuits dunked in lemon-infused tea is one of the very best things in the world.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
I don’t think so… but then I’ve never been in love before. Perhaps someone absolutely perfect will come along one day and change my mind!

Have you ever stolen anything?
Never directly, though John often swipes apples from the apple cart and gives them to me as a gift. I then eat them to hide the evidence — or save it for later to give to Jaspher — so I imagine this makes me complicit.

Copyright © S.E. Berrow 2018

S.E. Berrow

Meet The Characters

I have added a new section to The Mayor section of my website entitled ‘Meet The Characters’. Here you can see beautiful illustrations of each of my four main characters –Melora, Jaspher, Kale and John — drawn for me by my wonderful illustrator, Brettarts (read more about him in Affiliates).

By clicking a character image you can read more information about their story as well as discover some fun stuff like what dæmon I think they would have (Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials), what Hogwarts house they belong to (J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter) or what Tarot Card I most associate them with.

I may add to these character pages as time goes on so be sure to check back regularly for updates. In the meantime, click here to get acquainted.

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

La Pomme D’Or

I was asked by my writing partner K.F. Goodacre the other day if I knew of any old English or Irish female given names that meant ‘hero’. She asked me this question because she was looking to name a new character, whom I supposed she wished to embody heroic traits, but in actual fact was named for the Greek myth of Leander and Hero (see here). The husband of this new character’s full name is Oleander, which itself means ‘poisonous shrub’ and is rather befitting of his personality

Unlike parents naming their newborn child, writers have the advantage of knowing their characters inside out, thus can have a bit of fun when assigning names. It provides opportunities for clever foreshadowing, referencing other words or sharing an in-joke with those in the know.

Or, if you’re like me, you just pluck or steal names from all over the shop – friends, colleagues, other people’s characters, gravestones etc. – stick ’em on your character’s forehead like a post-it note and hope that nobody notices your crippling lack of imagination.

Such is the case with The Mayor. I struggled so much with naming these characters that I even had to ask K.F. Goodacre to name one for me (Jaspher, if you must know; there’s no way I could have come up with something that original on my own). When it came to naming my protagonist, Melora, I literally just named her after the woman who inspired her into existence: Melora Creager of Rasputina. Fortunately, when I spoke to Melora Creager about this, she was very excited by the prospect and didn’t mind that I’d essentially stolen her identity; the point is that there was no thought process when it came to giving Melora her name at all.

~ WARNING: Major spoilers for The Mayor to follow ~

John (Tuomas Holopainen)4 APPLE!The same was true of another one of my characters: Melora’s best friend and lover, Jonathan “Redcoat Jack” Carson. John was named after the pirate that inspired his storyline: Jonathan “Calico Jack” Rackham (are you seeing a pattern here? It’s actually quite embarrassing how little creativity I have). When I first started writing with John, I am not sure how or why, but it soon became apparent that he bloody loves apples, especially red apples. He steals them from fruit stalls, swipes them from the family fruit bowl and complains if he has to travel somewhere where he can’t get any.

I didn’t plan for it, it just happened, until it became an integral part of his character to the point that other characters also associate them with him. Whilst the love of the fruit was accidental, the colour I chose was not, as the red foreshadows the colour of the coat he becomes famous for wearing during his piratical exploits. Also, given John’s propensity for hedonism and the passion and love he and Melora share, I also deliberately take every opportunity I can to draw on the historic symbolism of apples and their association with seduction and temptation. After their first night together, for example, the last thing Melora remembers is Redcoat Jack scooping up an apple and taking a bite out of it as he leaves the room.

The point I am trying to make here is that, off the back of my conversation with K.F. Goodacre, I looked up the meaning of the name ‘Melora’. To my surprise and absolute delight, I discovered that it means…

‘Golden Apple’.

The Golden Apple Tree and the Nine Peaheans - Arthur Rackham 1916

Now there’s some accidental subconscious genius for you.

S.E. Berrow


 

The man with the red apple pictured is John’s ‘faceclaim’: a young Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish.

The painting is The Golden Tree & Nine Peahens (1916) by Arthur Rackham.