Felicio Chapter 23 – It’s Not That I Want to Die, Sometimes I’d Just Like a Different Life

Emma walked through the college, staying to the edges of the building, trying to avoid the crowds. It was peaceful in the early morning, with only the occasional passerby, but their thoughts often passed quickly, and they rarely noticed her. The office doors were shut, and it was the only time in the college where she felt truly content. She took a moment to catch her breath and enjoy the moment. It was a relief to not have a torrent of thoughts rushing through her head. It was as if she were standing on her own private island, and somewhere out there she knew the world was turning at usual, but on her own little slice of land she was alone, and it was calming. However, she saw Matthew walk towards her and as she read his thoughts she couldn’t help but stare, her eyes wide with fear at what she heard. He looked at her oddly, and for a moment they were locked together. She saw the tragedy in his eyes, the feeling of utter helplessness as he was travelling down a path that he didn’t particularly want, but he didn’t see any other option. ‘Wow, she’s really pretty’.

There was no nastiness or vile pervasion in his thoughts, there was no sense that he saw her as anything else but herself and in that moment she felt like she had met a kindred spirit. He smiled at her and her cheeks flushed crimson. Coyly, she looked away, but for some reason she was possessed by courage, perhaps it was the fact that nobody else was around, so she started to speak but he was gone and the moment was lost. The courage dissipated and she admonished herself for not chasing after him or not seizing the moment, and she walked on with her usual hunched shoulders and bowed head, wishing the sudden rush of emotion hadn’t occurred.

‘Don’t even go there Emma,’ she thought to herself, ‘no-one is ever going to understand. No-one is ever going to love you. Peter was the only one who could have…the only one who was similar but he found someone else. Someone normal. You’ll always be the one that’s left behind…’

 ***

Peter walked into class with a triumphant smile.

“I did it!” he said, sitting down next to Stephanie. She cocked an eyebrow.

“I talked to my parents last night.”

“Congratulations,” she said dryly.

“It was good, I didn’t, you know, I didn’t tell them about everything but yeah, it was, it was nice. We talked a little about uni too. I’m not sure if I’m going to go but I figure I may as well apply.”

“Any idea about what you want to study?2

“Maybe Philosophy, maybe Classics, I’m not sure really. I want to do something I’m interested in though.”

Her recent icy demeanour seemed to crack a little, and she visibly softened.

“I’m glad you talked to them. I’m sorry if I’ve seemed a little frustrated recently…it’s just that…I mean I get why your new thing (she didn’t mention Felicio by name in case anyone overheard) is so important to you, but sometimes it feels like I’m losing you and I’m worried that one day the Peter I know will be completely gone.”

“Would that be such a bad thing?” he said in a hollow, distant voice. She placed a hand on his arm.

“Of course it would, you’re my best friend. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

He didn’t seem entirely convinced by her words and began playing with his sleeves. It always amazed how there could be such a difference between Peter and Felicio.

“Look I know it’s not really your thing, but I have tickets for a gig next week, it’s pretty big I think a lot of people are going, it’s like a battle of the bands thing.”

“Oh, things are back on with the guitarist then?”

“Bassist, and no, I’ve moved on to a drummer now. Anyway, do you want to come? Bring Stacy too.”

“Yeah, yeah okay it sounds like fun.”

The lesson was about to get underway when suddenly the door snapped open and Emma was standing at the threshold. She winced as all the thoughts came to her, and looked at Peter with pleading eyes.

‘Stupid child, what is she doing interrupting my class’

‘What does she want?’

‘I’ve seen her around, probably got the wrong classroom. Retard.’

‘I wish I could kill myself.’

‘Why didn’t she text me back last night?’

‘Why didn’t he text me back last night?’

‘I wish I was Felicio, I’d love to have those claws and slice everyone in here up and tear this place to the ground.’

‘What am I going to do with my life?’

‘Why can’t he believe in himself?’

‘How can I break his heart?’

‘When is this class going to be over I need some Edukation.’

‘I can’t handle this anymore.’

‘In the end they’ll all pray but it won’t matter because there’s nobody there to hear them.’

For a few moments Emma stood there, then she ran and the door swung shut. Peter glanced at his teacher and then ran out of the room in pursuit of Emma. It wasn’t long before he caught her up. She was huddled on a windowsill, one hand pressed against the glass and her eyes looking longingly out to the misty sky.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Peter asked. She turned to him and he saw that her eyes were wet with tears. He sat down beside her.

“I…I passed someone and he…he had these thoughts these…these horrible thoughts. They were about us…the college. Someone is going to turn them all into monsters.” Her voice was shaking as she said this. Peter furrowed his brow and clenched his jaw. It was something to do with Edukation, he thought, it had to be.  

“Thanks Emma, I think I know what this is about. I’ll investigate. I meant though, I mean, are you okay?”

She looked at him, almost puzzled. She wanted to lie, she wanted so badly to lie and bury the pain so she could pretend it didn’t exist but it had been growing and tearing through the fabric of her soul for so long that she didn’t have the strength to suppress it any longer. She collapsed against Peter as a flood of tears streamed from her eyes. He was taken by surprise, but he quickly wrapped his arms around her and tried to comfort her. Her body jerked and shook while he held her, and for a while he didn’t know how long it would last, and given that he had never been in this situation before he didn’t know whether he was doing the right thing, but eventually the heavy breathing seemed to become gentler and the tears subsided. She lifted her head and looked at him, eyes red raw, the remains of the rivers of tears still glistening on her face. Yet somehow she looked so pure, so beautiful.

“I…I don’t know how much more I can take, how long I can go on for,” she said, her voice barely a whisper.

“Hey, don’t say that. You can’t…you’re my friend. You have something to offer,” he stayed silent while he tried to find the right words. They were a jumble in his head, but somehow when he said them they made sense, “You can’t just…give up. You’re different, and I know it’s hard, damn hard, but you’re not alone. You have Katrina, and me. And maybe it is really hard right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be this way. You just…you can’t give up, and I can’t let you.£

She felt soft in his arms, and so fragile. It was as if he was holding her together. Her long hair was plastered to her cheeks, and she didn’t even try to push it away. But her eyes seemed to sparkle, it was like they were alive with the spirit of the universe, and yet there was so much sadness in them. It almost made Peter want to weep.

“It’s not that I want to die,” she said in a small voice, “sometimes I just wish I had a different life.” Peter could say nothing in response to that, so he wrapped her up tightly again and tried to make her feel safe, all the while reflecting on the fact that while his abilities had given him a new vigour and a new love of life, Emma’s seemed to make living a tortuous experience, as if she had an exclusive, front row seat to the agonies of existence. Peter vowed that no matter what happened he would never let her forget that she mattered, and he would never let her become submerged in everything she was witness to. 

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The Wolverine Review

I saw this a few days ago but I haven’t had a chance to write about it until now. I probably enjoy the mouthful that is X-Men Origins: Wolverine more than most people, but it definitely missed the mark and had a lot of squandered potential. I had high hopes for The Wolverine. It seemed like it struck the right tone and they were exploring some deeper things and, for the most part, it achieved what it set out to do. 

It’s not a typical superhero film in that it’s more of a meditative character study. As such, the first two acts are quite slow but the third act ramps up the action and provides a satisfying conclusion. There were a couple of plot details that bothered me, I think they could have been explained a little better because thinking about them took me out of the film. The performances were really good. I’ve always enjoyed Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and his passion for the character shines through. The supporting cast were all good, although I thought a couple of the villains were a tad under-developed. The action sequences were great, if you’ve seen the trailers then you’ll know there’s a scene on top of the train and it’s awesome, I’d put it in the same league as the sky rescue in Iron Man 3. There were a few moments that completely took me by surprise and I’m still reeling from them a few days later. Overall I’d highly recommend it, it’s a completely different tone from X-MO:W and yet it still fits in with all the other X-Men films. I wouldn’t say that it’s a particularly ambitious film but I liked the fact that it was more of a quiet character piece rather than a blockbuster spectacle. 

Overall, I think some may be put off by the slow pace of the first two acts but stick it out because the ending makes up for it. It’s a really good film and a great study of the curse of the immortals. 

Read on for a spoiler-filled discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, first of I’ll talk about a couple of the problems I had with the film. Firstly, I don’t usually like stories where heroes lose their powers, but I thought it was appropriate for the theme here. However, I’m not sure they explained it properly, at first I thought his healing factor was completely gone, but then there was no mention of him being affected by adamantium poisoning. In the end I think it was weakened, but some of the dialogue seemed to imply that it had been completely suppressed. The film’s pace also quickened once he regained his healing factor and led into the exciting last part of the film. 

My other main complaint is with the villains. I thought Viper was okay, she could have done with a bit more development, my main problem is with Harada. At the end he captures Mariko, but then after a short chat where she stabs him he suddenly changes his mind. I thought that was too abrupt. 

As for the Silver Samurai, I didn’t see it coming until shortly before the reveal but I thought it dovetailed nicely. The fight was intense and when he broke off Wolverine’s claws I actually gasped. I was a little disappointed that Mariko and Yukio didn’t re-graft adamantium on them because bone claws aren’t as strong, but I don’t think Wolverine would actually want to put adamantium back onto his bones, so it’ll be interesting to see whether they stick with bone claws for the whole of Days of Future Past. 

Speaking of which, the end credits scene was great. Unfortunately I had been spoiled about Patrick Stewart’s appearance but I had no idea Ian McKellan was in it too. It was great to see them on screen together again, and I was actually a little surprised that Famke Janssen was in it as much as she was. 

I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of a fight in the ninja village. In the trailers there’s a shot of Wolverine blowing up a barrel, sadly that doesn’t appear in the final film. I did like how the poisoned arrow referenced the bear earlier in the film. 

That’s about all I can think of right now. If you’ve seen it let me know what you thought! 

Superman vs Batman – The Importance of Those Two Little Letters

This past weekend at Comic-Con there was a huge announcement about the next Superman film. I can’t say I was too surprised. I know a lot of people were thinking that a Justice League movie would be the next logical step, but while talking with friends and in online discussions I thought that a Batman/Superman team-up seemed natural, I mean this is a team-up of perhaps the two most iconic superheroes in history, there’s really no need to involve the rest of the Justice League yet. To see Batman & Superman teaming-up on screen is a huge event in itself, and I have to say when the news first broke I was tremendously excited. Then I read more about what had been said at Comic-Con and my excitement was tempered. 

For those of you who have read my Man of Steel review you’ll know that I was disappointed with the film. However, I was looking forward to a sequel to see if they would address some of my issues in the next film. And, to be fair, they still might, but it seems as though they’re not including Batman because they have a plan, but because they want a guaranteed box-office success. One of my concerns is that this won’t be a true team-up movie, and it’ll end up either being a Superman movie featuring Batman, or a Batman movie featuring Superman. I certainly don’t have the same confidence in Warner Bros. as I do with Marvel to balance their heroes, and it doesn’t seem that Warner Bros. has as much confidence in their heroes as Marvel does with theirs. 

But the thing that dampens my enthusiasm the most are the reports that they’re looking for inspiration from ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and the fact that it’s most likely going to be called Superman vs Batman. Now, I love ‘TDKR’, it’s a fantastic graphic novel and if you like comics at all then you should read it. But it’s really not the work on which to base a first meeting of Batman and Superman. TDKR provides an extreme dystopian vision of the characters that isn’t the prime example of what they represent. It also suggests to me that they want Batman to be superior. 

As for the ‘vs’, I’m in no way suggesting they shouldn’t fight. I love it in comics when two heroes meet up and due to either a misunderstanding or because of being manipulated by the villains, they have a fight. It’s a long tradition in comics and it worked really well in Avengers, but I don’t want the whole film to be the two of them fighting. I want to see them working together! Furthermore, a fight between Batman and Superman just isn’t that interesting to me, because they either have to give Batman some clear advantage or they have to severely weaken Superman. I’d much rather have it be ‘vs’ in the sense of their ideologies and methods clashing rather than their fists. 

I’ve been giving it a lot of thought the past few days, and the obvious thing to me is to have Bruce Wayne come to Metropolis to help with the re-building of the city, perhaps at the request of Lex Luthor, but also to see Superman up close because he doesn’t quite trust him after the events of Man of Steel. Then perhaps they both get wind of a scheme of Luthor’s both pursue their leads in their own way and eventually cross paths. 

If they pull it off it will be amazing, but it’s a big if. It’ll be interesting to follow production and see who they cast as Batman and who the main villain will be, but the initial indications they have given haven’t made me as excited as I thought I would be at the announcement of a World’s Finest movie. 

Book Promo Day: 25th July, 2013

Imagineer-ing

An exception to normal Book Promo Day entries:

Smashwords Sale from Sarah Baethge

Smashwords is having a sale!
If you want a cheap read, now is the time to check out Smashwords.

My short story, Right Now is free with the code SSW75 .

My novel, Panoptemitry is only $1.25 with that same code: SSW75 .

My other two short stories are always free, you can get to them from my Author Page.


Fraudulent Robert Spake Fraudulent by Robert D. Spake

It’s the late 19th Century. William Traven is returning home to England after four years of travelling. Along the way he feels as though he’s lost himself, so he comes home hoping to recapture his lost spirit. However, he’s worried that a sense of belonging will still elude him and if he can’t find it at home he fears that he’ll lose all hope. There’s also Eleanor, the girl who…

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Felicio Chapter 22 – A Taste of Fame

With hands dug deep in his pockets to defend himself against the bracing cold, Matthew walked to the rear side of the college where a figure was waiting for him in the shadows. He had to catch his breath as the foul stench from the hulking bins made him gag, but the high walls provided a break from the chilly wind, and for that he was grateful. The end of the other man’s cigarette glowed in the darkness and the wisps of smoke rose through the air.

                        “Did you distribute them all?” The shadowy figure asked.

“All but these,” Matthew replied, handing over a small bag containing a few red pills. The man took the bag and stuffed it in a pocket.

“That’s fine, I’ll see to these. How was their reaction?”

“Most of them were eager, a couple refused. I’ll try and work on them.”

“You’re a good kid Matthew, keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll go far. I’ll let you in on a little secret, this education business,” he gestured to the building, “is a load of bullshit. They say you need an education to get far in life, as if it’s the most important thing, but it’s not. Sure, it helps, but it’s all about making connections. You get in with the right crowd and you’ll be set for life. I remember when Lewis was a student of mine, he was always a bright boy but he never really applied himself in college and everyone wrote him off, but I saw something in him and look at him now.”

                        He finished off the cigarette and flicked it into the bin before handing Matthew a wad of cash and walking off. Matthew flicked through the thick bundle of notes but there was no joy on his face. He looked into the distance, towards the direction in which the other man had walked, turned his head away and slowly made his way back into college.  He rejoined his friends, but he barely acknowledged their conversation. Across the communal area his gaze wandered to Stephanie and Peter who were deep in discussion, and he wondered how they had managed to resist the allure of Edukation. He had never tried it himself of course, there was a strict rule preventing the suppliers from getting addicted. Never trust drugs with an addict, his supervisor said when he was initially recruited. Matthew found it hard to argue with that after seeing some of the things he’d seen.

                        He laughed when the others laughed, but his mind was elsewhere.

“I’ve decided I’m not going to uni,” Chris, a young man with flaming hair and pock-marked skin, said, “there’s no point. By the time I’m finished I’ll be in loads of debt, and at the same point I am now. So I might as well get a job and in three years time I won’t be worried about what to do with my life.”

“What about the experience, meeting all the new people?” Libby, a tall girl with flowing curls of hair, asked.

“Pah, what do I want with more people? More people equals more drama. Besides, spending all that time getting drunk, I can’t think of anything worse!”

“A real party animal aren’t you.”

“Maybe you think it’s lame but I’d much rather set myself up for a nice life rather than forget my name every other day. Matt, I don’t think I’ve heard what your plans are?”

                        Matthew was shaken from his rumination.

“Huh? Oh, I’m not sure really. I’m sure I’ll fall into something.”

“Oh yes, the golden boy always lands on his feet. Sadly us mere mortals are burdened with worries of the future,” Chris said with a mocking twinkle in his eye.

                        Matthew wanted to tell them that he had his own worries too, but he fingered the bulge of cash and kept his mouth shut, brushing off Chris’ comment with a quick smile.

 

***

Tim Moore grunted as he felt the sweet release and fell back onto the pillow. The cover below him shifted as Jenny slid up his body, licking his lips as she rested on his chest. She giggled, satisfied, and traced a finger along his chest.

“Well Mr. Moore, what grade would you give me for that?”

“They haven’t invented a grade that’s high enough yet.” He stroked her back and played with the long auburn strands of hair that fell over her soft, supple skin.

“Do you have a treat for me?” she asked.

“I do actually, and it’s something new.” Her eyes widened with excitement. He rose and leaned over the side of the bed, fumbling for his trousers. Eventually he found them and pulled out the bag which Matthew had handed him earlier. He took out one little red pill and placed it in Jenny’s open palm.

                        “Ooh red!” she squealed, “I love red!” she tossed it in her mouth and washed it down with water, grinning at Tim. She sighed as she sank back into his arms.

“Edukation and being with you are the only things that make me feel safe. I can’t imagine what I’d do with you.”

“You never have to worry about that,” he said, kissing her softly on the head, but his eyes were devoid of all warmth. Don’t get attached, he reminded himself, not with what’s going to happen to her. He watched her fall asleep in his arms and waited for the new version of Edukation to take effect.

 

***

Perhaps she’s right, Peter thought, maybe I have neglected them. But what can I say? ‘Hi Mum, Dad, you know that guy the police are looking for? Yeah, that’s actually me but don’t worry, I have it all under control’. He shook his head and wondered what he could say to them. He couldn’t talk about Felicio and he couldn’t talk about his plans for the future because he had none…there was Stacy, but he was afraid that if he told his parents it would surely jinx the relationship and he didn’t want to do anything to jeopardise the fine balance.  While he pondered he heard a cry, and knew that his parents would have to wait. In a flash he had vaulted up a few walls, discreetly peeled off his clothes and became Felicio. Focusing on the cries, he followed his senses until he reached an alleyway in between two streets. There, he found two groups of teenagers hurling abuse at one another. They could only have been, at most, 14, and Felicio shook his head. He leapt down and every head turned his way. All of a sudden the abuse stopped, and the teenagers stood, most of them in rapt attention.

                        “Isn’t that…”

“Felicio?”

                        They didn’t seem to be two warring factions anymore. Instead, they stood side by side. Most of them were in reverent silence, they looked at each other in disbelief. A few of the older kids tried to feign indifference, but they were unable to tear the eyes away from the imposing figure of Felicio. There had been pictures and videos, but they weren’t anything compared to the real thing. His dark suit blended into the evening sky, but the metallic blue stripes glistened under the glare of the street lights. They couldn’t discern any trace of emotion from his mask, and as the silence grew they suddenly became very afraid.

“Didn’t he murder someone?” one of them said in a hushed whisper. He gulped as Felicio’s head moved in his direction.

“Don’t you kids have anything better to do?” he asked. They squirmed, even the older ones. Felicio decided to have some fun; he abruptly lunged forward and swiped his claws through the air. Most of them screamed and ran away, but he was surprised to find a couple of them still standing, even after the rest of their friends had flown. He slowly marched towards them, intrigued.

“You’re either much braver than your friends, or far more stupid.”

                        He saw their throats move as they gulped and heard their hearts thud against their chests. Every muscle in their bodies were tensed, resisting the urge to flee. Their faces were paler than the moon, but eventually they managed to stammer out some words.

“C-can we h-have your autogr-graph?”

                        Their request shocked Felicio and he took a moment to answer.

“You want my autograph?”

                        They nodded. Felicio agreed. They pulled out some paper from their backpacks and handed the costumed crusader a pen. He started out by writing a ‘P’ but quickly changed it to an ‘F’ and signed the rest of his name with a flourish. The two boys seemed to be more at ease with him and as they left he warned them to be more careful, and to pass the message along to their friends. As he retrieved his clothes his head swelled with pride and he couldn’t wipe a wide grin from his face. Then he began to reflect on the encounter, ‘it’s funny, they’re only a few years younger than me. Yet I seem so much older…’ and he was suddenly filled with a deep melancholy that no matter how powerful he was he couldn’t slow down the march of time. It was relentless and it scared him and he couldn’t shake the impending sense of doom; the time was coming where he had to make serious decisions about his future and that terrified him more than anything.

The Film Formula

I was directed to this article yesterday and I thought my fellow writers and film fans would be quite interested. It’s about a book called Save the Cat, which is a guide to screenwriting. However, unlike other books that offer a few general guidelines and tips this book provides almost a step-by-step process of how to construct a blockbuster. So if you’ve noticed that a few films have had pretty similar structures it may go a bit deeper than “studios simply copy what’s successful”. This book actually details when and where different beats should happen, and the article I linked to gives a few specific examples. It’s a very interesting read and if you’re interested in writing or movies you should check it out. In the meantime, I’m off to order the block and write a blockbuster.

In other news I had a couple of interviews posted this week. One focuses mainly on my cover designs and was conducted by Workaday Reads and the other was about writing in general and can be found on Afternoon Bookery.

Hope everyone’s weekend has been pleasant. I’ll be back with the next chapter of Felicio on Tuesday and I’m quite certain that I’ll post my thoughts on yesterday’s announcement of a Batman/Superman movie at some point during the week. 

– Man of Yesterday

A Sneak Peek at a Prologue!

I started writing my new novel today, which is tentatively called “The Princess’ Patience”. It’s a project I’ve had gestating in my mind for a few years now so I’m eager to get it fully fleshed out and completed. Obviously this is fresh and I only wrote it this afternoon but I thought I would share the prologue with you all, so if you have any thoughts leave a comment!

Once upon a time, in a land long lost, stood the proud kingdom of Mysteria. It was a lively settlement that sat on the coast, so was host to all manner of traders and visitors from lands afar. The tall castle with its many towers rose high into the cerulean sky, the bright sun shone off the white stone reflecting the golden light onto the King’s subjects. Looking up from the ground, the spire threatened to pierce the heavens and it stood as a testament to man’s drive that such impressive structures could be built. Day by day the townsfolk gazed up in awe and no matter what problems weighed down on their souls they could always smile.

            The castle had been built after the last war as a symbol for peace and prosperity by King Seph Awcer almost a century ago. The war between the Kings and the Dark Ones had ravaged the land and drenched it in blood but ultimately good had triumphed over evil. However, due to the destruction the land had been rearranged and rebuilt and new kingdoms were formed. As the most formidable warrior and the leader of men Seph was given Mysteria and he cherished it like the most precious jewel, moulding it into the popular and thriving city it had become. From son to son it had passed down and now Bragi sat on the throne, his devoted wife Idura by his side. Bragi had inherited the usual traits of the Awcer men; broad shoulders, thick locks of auburn hair, kind eyes and a love of life. He was a good king and always had his subjects’ best interests at heart. Idura was an equally ideal queen. She had a gentle nature, which only magnified her beauty in the eyes of her subjects. Long red locks fell down past her shoulders like a river of fire and brushed against her porcelain skin. Many men who visited said they did so for a glimpse of the Queen, who, they claimed, was much more of an attraction than the castle.

            Idura was the daughter of King Ylops and his wife, Clea who ruled over Katmas. The coming together of their two families was a tradition started by Seph and his favourite companion Khe, and although Bragi and Ylops didn’t share the same affinity for each other as their ancestors had, they respected history too much to let the tradition die out. But also, those two kingdoms were the most powerful and a marriage between the two solidified the peace between them, and also served as a warning to anyone else, that if they attacked they would have to deal with the might of both kingdoms. The people were happy and prosperous but alas, it could not last forever… 

I also created a page on Facebook so I would appreciate it if you gave me a like, if you feel inclined.

https://www.facebook.com/robertdspake

 

Felicio Chapter 21 – An Invitation to Join the Deadliest Dance

Peter sauntered into college, riding the crest of the heady waves that came with romance. He couldn’t wipe the beaming smile from his face and his giddy happiness was plain for all to see. Usually he walked with his head bowed and his shoulders slightly hunched but now he was bolt upright, and shades of Felicio’s confidence were creeping into his character. He’d stopped by his house to get some fresh clothes after he’d left Stacy and the battle with Ash already seemed distant, and he preferred to think of Stacy and all the golden thoughts that came with her rather than succumb to the dark reflections that haunted him when he thought of Ash.

“Hey stranger,” Stephanie said as he sat down beside her in the cloisters. Her words were light-hearted but her tone was dismissive and bitter. Peter was too preoccupied with his own feelings to pick up on it.

“Hey! Isn’t life wonderful?” Stephanie raised her eyebrow .

“Sure. Where have you been?”

“Well there was a big thing in town that I had to take care of. Pretty serious actually,” his face darkened as he thought of Ash lying dead at his feet and the detective’s hollow look of disappointment, “but the last few days I’ve been with Stacy and it’s just been perfect,” the smile quickly returned.

“I’m glad you’ve had fun,” again her tone was sardonic and even he couldn’t fail to realise she was annoyed.

“What’s wrong?”

“Let’s see, you run off doing your superhero thing, you don’t show up for class, you don’t get in touch with me, you don’t even tell your parents so when they ask if I’ve heard from you I have to lie to them and say you’re staying with me for a few days. Now you just come back with that stupid smile on your face like you don’t even care.”

“Sorry for being happy…”

“It’s not that fact that you’re happy, it’s that you don’t give any thought to the rest of us. Do you not understand how worried I get every time you’re out there? And your parents…can you imagine how they’d feel if they knew?”

‘They can never know,’ Peter thought. He was about to reply to Stephanie’s rebuke when the overpowering smell of deodorant hit him like a wall. Matthew bent down beside them, as he crouched closer Peter could see how mottled his skin was and how the skin around his eyes was gaunt. He had the reputation of being a handsome, popular boy but there was no twinkle in his eyes and he looked hollow, as if his spirit was being sapped out of him. Quickly, Peter glanced around, and noticed that many of his peers had similar looks, as if the skin had been stretched over their bones and more colour had been drained from their already pale faces.

“I’ve got something better for you,” Matthew said in a low, hoarse voice. He opened his palm to reveal a bag of red pills. Stephanie and Peter glanced sideways at each other.

“Uhhh…actually we didn’t really like it, it’s not for us.” Peter said, worried at how Matthew would react. He knew how dangerous the men in Matthew’s organisation could be, and how unpredictable. Peter didn’t want to risk causing a scene, because he couldn’t allow Stephanie to get hurt, even at the expense of his secret. However, Matthew merely looked at them oddly and was gone as quickly as the wind.

 ***

‘She must be anorexic.’

‘I wish I had legs like hers.’

‘Why can’t I just talk to her?’

‘She’d never go out with me. Bitch.’

‘If only she noticed me.’

‘Do they know?’

‘I’m so lonely.’

‘I wish they would all die.’

‘Somebody save me.’

‘Look at her, the precious princess, bet she’s a slut.’

‘It’s not like anything matters anyway.’

‘I’m not ready for this.’

 The thoughts blurred into one and Emma wasn’t sure which thoughts were her own and which were other people’s. Her life seemed very fragile and it was as if the pressure of the world were bearing down on her, closing in to squeeze her and seal her doom. All she wanted was peace, a bit of relief from this curse but there was no respite and no cure. When she stepped out into the world she was overwhelmed with foreign thoughts, and when she was in solitude she was plagued by her own. Either way, her head felt like it was going to explode. It was as if a thousand hooks were reaching deep into her mind, ready to tear it asunder and rip her very soul apart. All she wanted to do was scream and yet she was trapped. She was a part of the world and yet separate from it, distant, and any control she managed to exert over her abilities was only temporary. The chaos always returned. The order was always shattered.

                        Across the corridor she saw Peter sitting with his friend Stephanie. She badly wanted to talk to him and feel the comfort of his presence again. There was something so reassuring about the way he looked at her. In her experience most people wore masks to hide their true feelings, but Peter was a rare one who had always been honest with her. But now it was different. Now when she focused on his thoughts that other girl was there, Stacy. Emma didn’t want to be jealous but she couldn’t help herself. Maybe if she had been normal something may have happened, maybe if things had been different…but they weren’t, she told herself as she scolded herself. Things weren’t different and they never would be. Nobody would ever love her. She would be burdened with the innermost secrets of everybody else’s souls but nobody would ever want to know hers. She could feel herself wanting to cry but she had cried so often and so hard that her body had become numb to it, almost as if she had run out of tears.

 ***

 The room was pitch black. Skan Idian bent his knees and unsheathed the sharp blade he called Shadow. It stretched out beyond him and felt balanced in his hand. He tilted his head in anticipation and poised himself. After a few moments there came a ‘whoosh’ and Skan whirled his sword about as graceful as the wind and as quick as lightning. The corners of his mouth turned upwards as he felt the satisfying slice of Shadow cutting the obstacles that were being hurled at him, but he didn’t have any time to dwell on that. Shadow was merely an extension of his arm and it flew through the air as he twisted his body, training for the deadliest dance known to man. The blade moved so fast that if the lights had been on it would have appeared as a blur. Sweat formed on his forehead but he remained stoic and kept his breathing steady. More of the objects were cut in half and fell to the floor, then he bent down on one knee and twirled the sword in an arc above his head, and there it remained as the lights came on. Dozens of tennis balls, all cut in half, were strewn across the floor surrounding Skan. The machines that pumped them out stood at the edge of the room at different levels and angles. Skan walked over to the side and picked up a towel to mop his brow. The room was a dance studio and one wall was a mirror. He admired his reflection, flexing the muscles that were only covered by a loose clothes. His tribal markings patterned his ebony skin and he snarled as he put Shadow back in its scabbard. Michael Rowell had called him a few days earlier and these were his final preparations before he joined the hunt for Felicio. 

‘The Song of Achilles’ Review

I’m a huge lover of Greek mythology so when some people on Goodreads organised a readalong I quickly agreed to join. I usually love seeing new spins on old ideas, and I was looking forward to seeing a new twist on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus that fit in with The Iliad. Unfortunately I found it lacking in many respects and I was ultimately left feeling disappointed, especially because it was an award-winner and came with lots of glowing praise.

First off I mostly liked the writing style. It wasn’t up to the standard of Homer but it flowed easily and a lot of the descriptions were quite poetic. I liked the scenes with the other Greek heroes, especially Odysseus, who was probably the best character in the whole thing.  I’m glad there was at last a little reference to the Homeric style with a single use of ‘dawn, fresh and rosy fingered’. I also loved the foreshadowing with Hector and the coldness of Thetis, that particular characterisation highlighted the difference between gods and men. 

But….some of the language and dialogue was too contemporary (the couple of instances of the word “fucking” took me out of the story completely. The dialogue was actually one of the weakest aspects of the story, Patroclus seemed to whimper a lot and seemed to repeat, “I don’t know,” frequently. 

There were some liberties taken with the events of The Iliad/ I can see why she changed them for the story she wanted to tell, but I think I would have found it more interested had she worked around the events of The Iliad rather than just changing them, it seems a bit like taking the easy way out. For example, Briseis is now treated as nothing more than a war prize, which makes Achilles seem rather stubborn and petulant for withdrawing from the war. Both Achilles and Patroclus largely stay the same throughout the book, which I think is surprising given that they’re such rich characters and it seems a waste that there was little development.

Patroclus was quite lovesick and swooned over Achilles for much of the book. It didn’t strike me as a deep, epic kind of love, and Achilles seemed quite distant and petulant a lot of the time. A lot of time passed in the novel, but it never felt like they really changed from their early adolescent selves. As such the epic love story felt quite shallow and I never really saw why the godlike Achilles would fall so easily and so exclusively in love with Patroclus. I would have liked Patroclus to appear braver, I think the story would have been served better if he had shown to be joining Achilles on the battlefield and fighting alongside him,.

I also felt that there were some 20th century attitudes creeping in. I don’t think homosexuality was as big a deal as the author makes out. As far as I understand relations between soldiers was fairly common, and the shame came more from the roles in the relationship (who was passive and who was the more dominant one) rather than the relationship itself, but it was never stated which one had which role (although it’s difficult to see Patroclus being the dominant one). I also don’t believe that monogamy was the be-all and end-all, and plenty of Kings had concubines. The attitudes presented in the novel seemed false.

As for the ending…well…

Walking off hand in hand is a nice image…but it really doesn’t make sense given what the Underworld represents, and how Achilles is portrayed in The Odyssey and it just makes the story seem rather hollow, and it doesn’t feel like it fits in with The Iliad at all. With stories like these I like to be rewarded by knowing the text it’s linked to, but here I think I would have enjoyed it more had I not been familiar with The Iliad.

It was a light read and as such the themes present in the work (love, war, the helplessness of men against their destiny) don’t linger.  When you write a book that directly links in with The Iliad you have to make sure it’s very impressive and it doesn’t quite reach the right levels for me.

– Man of Yesterday

Review Swaps

A lot of people think that writing a book is hard. That may be true, but often the hardest part of the writing process is what happens afterwards. It’s all well and good writing a book, but what good is it if nobody is reading it? A challenge that we all face is getting reviews for our stories. We love to hear what other people think, we crave it, and yet that feedback is often elusive. Since joining www.goodreads.com I’ve networked with some other writers, which has been helpful, and one thing that often comes up is the prospect of a review swap, so I thought I’d talk about them a little bit today.

 There are a lot of mixed feelings about review swaps. Many people feel that it’s more a case of “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” rather than providing an honest review. I have to admit, sometimes I’ve waited to see how other people feel about my book before I tell them how I feel about theirs if I haven’t liked it. I’ve heard a lot of bad stories about people receiving negative ratings because they’ve given a negative review, thankfully I haven’t been on the receiving end of such pettiness. Most of my experiences have been good and I’ve read a few good stories. When I decided to do them I vowed to only review books that I think I’d be interested in, as I thought it would be pointless to review something that I didn’t have any enthusiasm for.

 However, recently I reviewed a book that was…well I’m not going to use this blog to rant about it but it wasn’t very good. I decided to check on how the other author was doing with mine and they said they were enjoying it, but as soon as I mentioned their book didn’t grab me as I hoped it would they said they didn’t actually like mine. Now in my mind normally when you review a book it’s to give other readers an idea of whether they should spend their money on the book or whether they should avoid it. But, with author review swaps I think they’re mostly to benefit the author, so I think if it’s a good review go ahead and post it, but if you didn’t like it then share it privately as a critique. That gives the author the chance to see whether they want to take the feedback on board. Because reviews are so scarce a low-rating review can really be a deadly blow. Yet when I offered a mutual critique the author curtly declined, which I found a bit strange, else how can we improve?

 I think review swaps can be useful as long as the authors have an understanding going into the process, but I don’t think we should automatically assume people are there purely to stroke our egos. So writers, how do you feel about review swaps? Have you had good or bad experiences or do you avoid them?

– Man of Yesterday