Aside

Return of the Queen published on Crimson Streets

Ambrien is a warrior serving the God-Queen. With her city besieged by a relentless foe, Ambrien’s unique abilities take her away from the battle to challenge everything she believes in order to bring an end to the war.

 

You can read, and I hope enjoy, Return of the Queen as a simple fantasy story on Crimson Streets – head over there to take a look.

 

Of course, there is a bit more to it. If you’re interested…

 

Getting it right

I wrote the first draft of Return of the Queen in a bit of a rush around March 2018. The deadline for a submission call loomed and I had left things a little late. One form rejection and one personal rejection (“it’s a bit slow to develop”) later and I decided to let my beloved beta locusts loose on it. I don’t do that with all my stories; their time is precious but this one seemed worth the candle.

 

It came back littered with comments. Structure, pacing and grammar were all thoroughly examined and thoughtful suggestions given on what to improve, what to cut, what to keep. We had a debate about whether the sacred knives in the story (kindjal, from khanjar) should be an invariant noun, I decided the plural should be kindjali to help the reader while accepting the technical point on invariance. And then the fighting details – style, weaponry, armour – getting these physically plausible and to a point of consistency with the setting.

 

My beta locusts are awesome. They did all that for the pleasure of doing it and I love them. Of course, I’m still seeing things in this story that I am itching to edit.

 

The next rejection showed the benefits of all that hard work: “terrific epic fantasy feel, with terrific magic and worldbuilding” just not quite right for that anthology.

 

Finding the right home

It gathered dust for almost a year, I tinkered every now and then, but the right opportunity didn’t come up, until I came across Crimson Streets. You can see the outcome of that and the interpretation of the brilliant artist Chlo’e Camonayan on their site.

 

The bigger themes

For me, Return of the Queen is more than a bit of fantasy escapism (nothing wrong with that!). We were deep into #metoo in 2018, I was curious to know if I had a legitimate voice to add, and what my contribution might be. That culminated in “Me and Me Too. Even You” late in the year. Return of the Queen precedes the poem but is part of the same thought process. The setting is a matriarchal society, a female deity, and no backhanded Steve Trevor’s to save the day. In this case I had two questions: is it power or masculinity that corrupts? and is there a path to redemption?

 

Guilt, forgiveness and redemption are themes I orbit around, and occasionally crash into, so this will come as no surprise to regular readers.

 

Now you know what I was trying to do go and add a comment on Crimson Streets and let me know if I got close to it (or here, talk to me people). If that dimension of the story doesn’t float your boat, I hope you appreciate the design of the battle skirt, the use of short spears instead of swords, the work that went into the detail, and Chlo’e’s awesome picture.

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Hilt detail from the “Splendours of the Subcontinent” exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery in Aug 2018

End

Find out more about my writing here.

There is a Ruswa Fatehpuri chapbook out there too

Publication – Lifting the Weight

tbm-horror-experts-deaths-head-press-dig-two-graves

My story “Lifting the Weight” is included in this anthology from Death’s Head Press. A bit earthier and more violent than my usual fare, so be warned!

The narrator is a demon with a lust for wealth. Bad luck leaves him cursed by a necromancer, carrying a Weight that he can only relieve by righting wrongs. Following a tip off on a criminal gang he finds himself with a choice between his lust and his freedom.

Check it out on Amazon in the UK and US

Find out more about my writing here.

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The Clouds Roll In

The Clouds Roll In

It starts at the very edge of the senses. Beyond the warmth and brightness of a summer’s day, away to west, something changes. The air moves slightly differently over my skin, the hairs on my arms pick up an impending change of pressure.

In the distance the darkness gathers, low along the line of the horizon, growing from a shade, and a haze into something thick and tangible. The sky above is oblivious. The sun continues to shine, the birds are still singing, warmth holds the air in an unflinching embrace.

As the sun dips the clouds spread, calling time on the moments of clarity and comfort. I feel paralysed. I should run, but to the east there is night and to the west would only invite the darkness sooner. The sea bounds the south, desolation the north.

And of course there is a certain appalling, seductive beauty to it. This is no slow encroachment of something vegetative. It is quick and chemical. Ink spilled in water. It roils and curves and has shades and depth all of its own.

The wind is stronger now. The air itself flees ahead, tugging at my flesh and urging me to seek shelter. There is a moment of transition in which I would love to live. To stand naked with half the sky darkened and the sun falling into the cloud bank, lighting it up, as if heaven and hell were at war over the uncertainty of my salvation. The point at which I mean something.

Inevitably the sun loses and the darkness is complete. There are no stars that can pierce the ceiling of water droplets. There is a glow that might be the moon, a highlight that might be the setting reminder of the sun. I am alone, unclothed and unprotected standing in the consequence of my inability to run or hold back the clouds. Prisoner to the spellbinding attraction of the change from light to dark, the desire for sensation and the addiction to risk.

The rain comes. It is no blessing of redemption and cleanliness. It is an assault. Drops fat as pebbles, the depleted and dense remains of something decaying and malevolent. I raise my arms to the sky because every impact, every bruise, every indignity is proof that I live, that I feel.

I wake alone on the hillside, dew drenching my skin. The sun has risen, it is a new day.

END

Tangentially in response to DP: A Brand New You

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