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.

IMG_6728-7

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

Aside

Spiders

v3-3559

Spiders

 

I forget the day that I first saw the spiders. Scuttling, half imagined, peripheral. I dismissed them as a figment, the product of lingering illness or exhaustion. They were persistent. Distant then, but always moving, driven by strange vectors that I could not plot, frustrating but not threatening.

And then I saw that some were still. Evolved from movement to observation, and yet bristling with the potential to burst into action. First light, first sight, in the corner above the cupboard. Waiting. A faint single cobweb, hanging from the porch lamp that brushed across my face on my way home, or snagged the hairs on my bare arms,  intangible, impossible to touch but felt for frantic minutes, fingers scrubbing: get out, be damned. The single spot of guilt borne blood.

They became bolder. Not just floating at the edge of vision but running in crabwise eight-leg procession, unfeasibly fast, unbearably alien. First light, first sight, in the corner above the bed, watching waiting.

It was weeks before they showed their true aggression. The smallest, almost imperceptible, and hanging just below my eye line on gossamer that caught the light like an illusion. An invitation to engage, “see I am here, acknowledge I am in your life, I am in your head.”

Probing forays, the sensation of their drumming feet across my back, waking from half asleep to leap in shock. They grew the confidence to crawl across my slumber skin, fearless for all the tossing, turning peril until insomnia borne from accreted terror had me stabbing at the slightest shift of cotton sheets. Sobbing blanket swathed, please keep away, please keep away, please keep away.

Body craving rest, the drowsy nest, my body tented on the bed. Failed sentry. First light, first sight, corner above the bed and dropping.

END

Links to my books are available from my Amazon author page, they are also sold by other reputable bookstores. Please read, rate and review.

Aside

DP: Haiku

Daily Prompt on Haiku, one for each of five days:

 

mon

alarm ringing change

dawn, the sabbatical ends

for sleep leaden eyes

 

tues

rise coffee phoenix!

drowsy afternoon ashes

reincarnation

 

weds

packed trains, laden minds

blank faced in contemplation

filing our regrets

 

thurs

work hard, get married

buy a house, and buy a car

have kids, have kids. die

 

fri

i tie my own chains

freedom embraced in farewell

a wage slave again

 

END

 

If you are interested in more of my writing please check out my book: Image and Other Stories