Teardrop: The Magdalenian Conspiracy (Part II)

In the last post ( https://racheliliffe.wordpress.com/2015/12/08/teardrop-the-magdalenian-conspiracy-part-i/ ) I missed the perfect opportunity to make a reference to that periodic table-blaspheming YA dystopian novel, ‘Delirium‘–what with the heroine of that book’s name being ‘Magdalena’.

And now, the thrilling conclusion…

Chapter Sixteen

Our hero goes on a school trip to the local Science Museum with her friend Luke. Who’s Luke, you might ask? I have no idea. I’m almost certain he’s never been mentioned before, and I’m pretty sure he’s not at all important.

They’re looking at a bunch of crap that’s been dug up from a shipwreck that’s four thousand years old. The crap, I mean—presumably not the ship. Some guy heckles the tour guide as if he’s making some deep political statement by interrupting a lecture, and oh. What a surprise, it’s Ander. He’s such a rebel; he makes my heart throb. For realz.

No, wait—I’m just having another heart attack. Damn you, Disney Princess-mandated medical experiments!

Chapter Seventeen

Ander’s explanation of what the fuck is going on is delayed by pages of description of their surroundings, of course. Then:

“She did this.”

“Who?”

“No one.”

Great conversation! They meander off into the wilderness so Ander can, eventually, tell her that she’s in danger from Brooks. Because the wave that mildly injured him in Chapter 10 was magical and has turned him into… uh…

Anyway it’s the halfway mark. Yay!

Chapter Eighteen

Well, that explained everything, thanks Ander!

Somehow though, Eureka is less than impressed with the ‘explanation’ and reports Ander being a stalker to the police. No, wait—Cat has to practically force her to do it; not because she’s afraid for her, of course, but because she’s crushing on a guy who works at the station.

And he says Ander sounds like a swell guy and he hopes they don’t catch him. So they’re all idiots.

On Eureka’s way home she gets attacked by glowy-eyed people and saved by Ander. They shout cryptic bullshit at each other, and then we transition without warning into the next section of Madame Fraud’s translation.

In this section, Princess Author was almost forced to marry Prince Jock but randomly fell in love with Prince Mysterious for no reason. That’s about it.

Chapter Nineteen

The next day at school Eureka seems to not care at all about the attack of the glowy-eyed people and instead has a long boring conversation with Brooks in which he is creepy.

Chapter Twenty

It’s High School Party Time! Yay! Bring out the drugs!

Or in this case bring out the pointless padding, I guess—same thing really.

Also, Brooks is creepy again.

Chapter Twenty-One

Eureka has a dream flashing back to the accident in which Ander saved her, but is woken up by Madame Fraud’s stupid bird. Apparently, he’s a magic bird that leads her to a secret meeting with Her Kookiness, so she can say that she’s made a world-changing discovery in the book and it’s too dangerous to send translations via e-mail anymore.

It seems Generic Princess and Prince Dumbass had an obstacle to their twu wuv besides Prince Jock—Delphine, a character cursed with being much more interesting than anyone else in the book by way of her magic powers. She’s obsessed with the Prince although he’s in love with the Princess thanks to having seen her one time when he and Delphine were making out.

Delphine puts a curse on them that will destroy the world if Princess Author ever cries. As you do.

Or it will destroy Atlantis at least, because that’s where this book is from, and Madame Fraud says she’s too scared of what will happen to keep up her dumb translation—probably because she’s run out of shit to make up.

But Eureka says she wants more bullshit, so Madame Fraud tells her to go boating with Brooks next week—because that will turn out so well, I’m sure.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Ander shows up to be mysterious while Eureka’s on a run. He tells her to try getting the thunderstone wet, which kind of sounds like a euphemism to me…

Chapter Twenty-Three

Evil Stepmother is pointlessly petty and ridiculous at dinner that night, and Eureka hears ‘Hold on‘ in ‘the code of the rain‘.

Whatever that means.

After endless padding, she decides to test the ‘thunderstone can’t get wet’ hypothesis and finds that, not only can it not get wet, it also gives its holder magic water repelling powers.

Yay?

Chapter Twenty-Four

Madame Fraud’s bird shows up again.

“What’s that, birdie? Madame Fraud’s stuck down a well?!”

No, she’s not stuck down a well, but her lair has been ransacked and she’s MIA—likely arrested by the police after years of swindling unsuspecting YA heroines.

Well, she was MIA until Eureka found her bloodied corpse in the next room, at least. There was so much padding I suppose I just assumed she must have searched the whole house in that time. Eureka fails to call the police, of course, because…

Because she has too much internal monologue-ing to do!

Chapter Twenty-Five

For some reason Eureka is determined not to get involved with the police, so when they somehow fail to investigate a crime they know nothing about, Eureka fills in an anonymous report; and is then shocked when the police connect her to Madame Fraud.

Still, the police apparently decide investigating a murder isn’t that important, so Eureka doesn’t talk to them just yet. Instead she follows Madame Fraud’s advice to spend the day sailing with Brooks, and seeing as anyone with half a brain would realise that he’s become dangerous, she brings her younger half-siblings with her.

What a great sister!

Brooks has cleverly decided to name his boat ‘Ariel’ after that of the poet Shelley, seeing as he’d had such a great time on it, (in 1822 it sank in a storm and he drowned). Sure enough, there’s a storm and the twins are swept overboard, so Brooks and Eureka dive in to save them.

With the Power of the Thunderstone, Eureka finds the brats, but Brooks disappears, leaving only the words ‘BROOKS WAS HERE’ carved onto the Ariel.

No, not really, that was just a Shawshank joke I’d been waiting all book to make. Anyway, the survivors manage to swim to an island, and I think we can pretty much declare Madame Fraud a fraud. The clue was in the name.

Chapter Twenty-Six

Dad comes to pick up the kids and drive them back home, where Evil Stepmother is surprisingly not evil and Eureka wangsts until she decides to talk to Ander.

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Fortunately Ander has decided to come to her—by sneaking in through the window without warning like a rapist. He also has the Macguffin Book, which I guess puts him at the top of the list of suspects for Madame Fraud’s murder—oh wait, Eureka doesn’t even consider it.

Anywho, the book speaks of a bullshit ‘chosen one’ prophecy that—wait for it, wait for it—happens to describe Eureka exactly. What a twist!

Also if she cries she’ll open up a fissure in reality or something. Who knew?

So this causes her and Ander to have twu wuv’s first kiss, which in turn causes Eureka to remember that he was the one who saved her from the opening-kill prologue. He also says more cryptic bullshit about Brooks that’s immediately forgotten as soon as he says he can open Plot Device #3, the necklace.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

As if we were reading the novelisation of ‘Young Frankenstein’, thunder claps in the distance as soon as Ander makes his announcement. Pathetic Fallacy FTW!

So there’s a bit of paper in the locket that says ‘Marais’, and Ander doesn’t know shit about it. He does confirm that the guys who attacked them a few chapters ago were the ones to do away with Madame Fraud; and that explanation is good enough for Eureka, so they go back to wuvvy duvvy-ness. Aww.

Unfortunately the wuvvy duvvy-ness is interrupted when Eureka feels the gills along Ander’s neck. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Eureka isn’t alarmed by this until he tells her that Brooks now has gills too—because that’s just weird. Ander explains how he’s descended from Atlanteans, and was raised by his aunts and uncles, one of the latter of whom supposedly murdered Madame Fraud. They descend from the Prince in the book, and Eureka’s descended from the Princess; who apparently got shipwrecked and never stopped looking for each other—although evidently they did stop to pork some other people during the search.

I’m now convinced Ander is the murderer, because we all know Madame Fraud made that shit up. He must have tortured it out of her before he struck the final blow!

Oh, and Brooks has been possessed by an Atlantean. Not a ‘Seedbearer’ like Ander; one who was still living in Atlantis when it sunk. Or something. The only way to save Eureka is to go to Turkey to meet the guy who was proto-Ander the last time this book happened and proto-Eureka (Dead-Mum’s great-aunt Byblis) was killed by plot-device.

Possibly after starting World War II. Somehow.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

After affirming their wuv the next morning, Ander and Eureka discuss Brooks again. Ander says ‘fuck him’, basically, (in the ‘then let him die!’ sense. Not the… other sense), since he’s been possessed by the King of Atlantis, but Eureka wants to save her bff. The argument lasts all of one page, before Ander convinces her to leave him to his horrible fate by saying—

‘Scary stuff is totes happening and I have no time to explain it!’

Even though he had all night to explain it. What a wanker.

They go downstairs to see Eureka’s dad, who at first is going to call the police on Ander, then immediately accepts him for no reason. Then Cat drops by to say her family is evacuating because of the massive storm that’s conveniently arrived.

While our heroes drink coffee, Dad takes Eureka into another room to say that Dead Mum used to spout crazy gibberish about seeing ‘the boy who would break Eureka’s heart’ hanging around. I guess that means Dead Mum knew Ander was stalking her daughter all her life… somehow. Is he supposed to be ageless? Or did his family just reject child labour laws?.

Anyway, one time Dead Mum drew a picture of the stalker and it looked like Ander (Dad knows because he… kept the picture in his closet for all these years. Uh………..) . It’s a good thing Mum never told Eureka jack shit about any of this, or this book wouldn’t have had a lick of suspense!

Oh wait, it was so predictable it already didn’t.

Also, Seedbearers kidnap the twins. Oh noes!

Chapter Thirty

Well, the bad guys apparently had the twins in their grasp for so long that they were able to chain them up in a complicated trap outside, and their Parents of the Year didn’t notice.

Ander tells Eureka that it’s way more important that she survives than anyone else because… uh, she’s the main character, and therefore she should let the twins and anyone else die to save her own life.

What a guy!

He then reveals that the Seedbearers actually have names, and supposedly characters to go along with them—since the author forgot to give them any development until now, I guess.

They exchange clichéd dialogue at each other until their leader, Albion, decides to engage in some child abuse in case we forgot he was the villain, and punches the twins. Evil Stepmother runs to save them and is immediately blown up and killed. Aww, she was my favourite character!

Ander then pulls out a  deus ex machina gun with magic Seedbearer-killing bullets that will kill all the Seedbearers if even one of them dies.

Where the fuck did that come from!?

Chapter Thirty-One

Eureka manages to get hold of the gun, but the Seedbearers are confident she won’t kill them because of her love for Ander, which is really powerful for… some reason. Seriously their love has no development. At all. They’re just in love ’cause destiny or something.

Instead Eureka uses her Princess Peach crying powers to flood the world, or possibly just her back yard. All the good guys take refuge in her stone-powered anti-water bubble, the entire bayou is practically underwater, and pointless conversation ensues, rounded off with Ander telling Eureka she must face Brooks in a Final Battle.

So… how many people did Eureka just sentence to a watery grave? I’ve got to admit, I can kind of see where the Seedbearers were coming from with the ‘kill Eureka’ plan…

Epilogue

Brooks falls about the place wangsting over being possessed and over how much he loves Eureka and she’s just the most special thing to ever exist in the whole world ever.

Bleugh.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Well, since the Seedbearers failed to save the world by killing Eureka, I guess I’d better do it myself.

Dawn: No need, freak! As you already guessed while reading the book, Eu-freak-a is in fact Princess Peach; a heretic and traitor to the Disney Princess holocaust! Me and Elsa are going to take care of her later this afternoon.

Hmm, many a true word spoken in jest. Wait a minute, Princess Peach isn’t a Disney princess; she belongs to Nintendo or something, doesn’t she?

Dawn: Oh, we liberated all the major princess-supported franchises during our coup d’état. Which reminds me—you’re going back to the lab for another session with Mad-Scientist Princess Barbie!

NOOOOOO! Why do you do this to me, Dawn!? Haven’t I suffered enough for giving ‘Angelfall‘ two stars!? Must I be tormented forever more!?

Dawn: Not my call, freak—these are the orders of Princess Isabella.

Isabella? Who’s Princess Isabella?

Dawn: From your stupid book about elves and monsters, that’s who. Blame yourself for creating her to be such a bitch!

… I suppose I did bring that one on myself. Until next time, dear readers!

Dawn: Whatever. I’m off to meet with Madame Blavatsky—she’s got this great opportunity for funding the Disney Princess holocaust with the help of a Nigerian prince…

 

Teardrop: The Magdalenian Conspiracy (Part I)

In my last review my fictional self was placed into medical experiments by Disney Princesses for giving a book more than one star on Goodreads, thanks to the (sudden and yet inevitable) treachery of my imaginary cohort Dawn Talbot. Fortunately for me, the wonder that is ‘Teardrop‘ is, shall we say, unlikely to entrap me into making the same mistake twice.

The blurb doesn’t make it clear exactly, but I’m betting mermaids, which would be new. Well, new for me. Mermaids or angels, because they follow me around everywhere and I’ll never escape! Never!

The condensed review on Goodreads is here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1064662197

*~*~*

Prologue

The subtitle tells us we are in ‘prehistory’, which must be why three sentence fragments later we’re in a prehistoric car heading to an airport.

A boy, ‘Ander’, part of a group called ‘Seedbearers’ (if you know what I mean, *wink, wink*) is waiting for some terrible disaster that he apparently knows is going to happen. They must have told him he was going to be in a YA paranormal romance novel…

The disaster is going to happen to a car containing his one twu wuv and her archaeologist mother; and needs to happen or the world will be destroyed. Of course. Ander and his buddies are going to use the power of ‘Zephyr’ (the west wind?) to craft a wave to…

Do something boring enough for the explanation to be interrupted by Ander’s reminiscing on how he’d been ordered to stalk this random girl and learn all the mindless minutiae of her life that no one cares about. Also, the wave is going to kill her and her mother, because they’re dangerous, and they know how to fix cars!

Ander’s aunt Chora is also mentioned—the closest thing to a mother Ander has, he loves but does not like her, and it’s important we get all this down here since there’s no other opportunity for it, seeing as she pretty much doesn’t appear in the novel.

Much more is revealed, through this wave (geddit? 😉 of exposition; for such horrors as ‘suspense’ and ‘mystery’ are not right for the glory that is Teardrop.  And even better than that—poorly structured exposition that reveals so much I’m not even going to type it all down here; that way at least this commentary will have some suspense!

Anyway the wave hits the car and Ander loses his nerve and saves the girl. What a guy. He’s my hero.

Chapter One

Our heroine with the stupid name of Eureka is off to great start in YA life, her mother murdered by a stalker twu wuv who also tried to kill her. Turns out she’d already seen a million therapists for the horrific trauma of her dad remarrying, and now that something’s happened that actually requires therapy, she has decided to become a Stoic.

Yep, I’m sure that’ll work out.

She had also decided to commit suicide, which doesn’t seem very stoic.

Anyway, exposition about Eureka’s life that I’m pretty sure will have no bearing on the plot follows, including the time her track Coach didn’t believe she wanted to give up track after her suicide attempt—giving us this gem.

‘Coach’s sad smile suggested that after a suicide attempt, a girl’s decisions weighed less, like bodies on the moon.’

I think that one’s almost as good as ‘sacrifice to gravity’.

Then there’s more exposition about Eureka’s character, so we don’t actually have to be shown her having a personality later, and also her hair, which is hair. She flashes back to waking up with her dad and half-siblings who ‘smelled liked they always did, of ivory soap and starry nights’.

*head-desk*

Anyway, the therapy session drones on as easy exposition for Eureka’s life. Ah, exposition. How Patch and I missed thee.

Chapter Two

Wangst, wangst, wangst, wangst… wangst, wangst, wangst, wangst.

Shit, I could spork every line of this prose bit by bit, but we’d be here all year. Eureka drives away until she gets into a car accident with Ander. And we have insta-hate! Ladies and gentlemen, take your bets on how long it takes before the insta-hate turns to love!

(Me, I’m going to be out £20 if it takes less than three or more than five conversations).

Unfortunately, neither her stepmother nor her father are picking up their phone, so she starts crying. Ander wipes her tears away like a creeper. Aww.

Chapter Three

Eureka flashes back to a long time ago when her parents were arguing during a hurricane and her mother started smashing her dad’s stuff up and slapped her, telling her to Never Cry Again. What a terrible loss to the world dear Mummy must have been!

(I’m betting the tears have some kind of magic world-destroying power, but we’ll see how it goes)

Chapter Four

The sky goes dark, ‘maybe some kind of eclipse’, suggests Ander. Because those random eclipses happen all the time, don’t ya know? Anyway, magic tear powers; called it.

After a long passage about Eureka’s name, the local pervert rides up to see what’s happening, followed by a guy called Big Jean, who tows the car. Eureka decides to get a ride with Ander, rather than Local Pervert. I’m honestly not sure which would have been the dumber option.

They ride along, Ander brakes to avoid hitting a squirrel and acts like a weirdo, but they reach their destination intact until Ander reveals he’s on a rival track team! It’s Romeo and Juliet all over again!

Chapter Five

We meet Cat, Eureka’s Black Best Friend with Curves in All the Right Places. (okay, it says ‘curves in places Eureka didn’t [have them]’ but still). She’s a sassy matchmaker character, so… black Vee Sky then? They have a Boring Conversation until a girl called Maya Cayce shows up; a girl who hates Eureka—a Dawn character? Ooh, I shouldn’t get my hopes up!

She’s in love with Eureka’s guy-friend Brooks, and used to be friends with Eureka when they were small. I’m sure she’ll have a huge effect on the plot.

Then a random storm starts up, helping Eureka get out of having a photograph taken of her. Yay?

And she sees Ander across the field, notes that he’s apparently impervious to water, and then he reaches out to catch her… tear…

Wait, what?

Chapter Six

Eureka goes home to exposit useless shit about her dad and siblings until her buddy Brooks drops by to borrow a cup of exposition about his character. In summation, he’s an absurdly perfect friend, and has hypoglycaemia.

Then there’s a knock at the door.

It was………………………………………………….

Chapter Seven

Ander!

She asks him how he knows where she lives, and he replies by… insta-hating Brooks? He’s going to be one of those awful clingy jealous types, isn’t he.

Ugh. Teardrop, I was willing to accept him stalking Eureka, crashing his car into her and being part of the conspiracy to kill her and her mother, but now you’re starting to make him distasteful!

Anyway, he’s come to return her wallet (which I’m guessing he probably stole), but not before he starts screaming insanely at Brooks, asking ‘how long have you been with her’? Shouldn’t he already know about Brooks’ existence? What kind of a stalker is he?!

Eureka meanwhile angsts that he might have seen her embarrassing student ID photos, delves off into an inner-monologue about a neighbour, and then berates Brooks for not being nicer to Ander.

Yes, really.

After that Eureka’s evil stepmother comes home to make sure Eureka didn’t ’embarrass’ her at the therapist’s office.

Yes, really.

Chapter Eight

In this chapter we read Dead Mum’s will, in which it was specified that flashbacks to her and her own mother’s funeral would contain at least two pages of exposition. Also Eureka’s aunt is there, whom Eureka describes as a ‘cruel parody’ of her mother, because she commits the ultimate sin of being Not Hot, and wearing low-cut tops! The monster!

Also there’s an uncle. Soon the lawyer starts bequeathing stuff; Dead Mum leaves all the money in her account to the uncle (I’m assuming there’s a trust for Eureka, otherwise wtf?) and a mysterious letter. To Aunt Ho, she leaves some jewellery, the car that’s now under the ocean, and a mysterious letter.

Eureka gets a bag of Macguffins; a Very Important necklace, (maybe it means she has a soul mate?), a Very Important book (that ‘didn’t even register on the scale’ of carbon dating, so I suppose it’s billions of years old) and a ‘thunderstone’ (so she can turn her Eevee into a Voltreon, no doubt). Also a mysterious letter.

Which isn’t that mysterious really, just useless and sappy.

Chapter Nine

25% done already, what a breath of fresh air!

Well, the only way to respond to such a touching letter is with flashbacks, exposition and boring conversations. Eureka then notices a postscript to the letter with a mysterious instruction to not open the thunderstone until Christmas. Or ‘the right time’, at any rate.

Uncle character tells Eureka that the ancient language the book is written in is not indecipherable, as he saw Dead Mum taking notes on it one time. Cat suggests they go to her convenient polyglot boyfriend for more help, but first they try to find Ander, only to be told that, like all Paranormal Love Interests, he doesn’t really exist.

This probably could have taken about five pages, if not for Cat’s constant annoying blabber about nothing.

Chapter Ten

Eureka, Brooks and the twins go to the beach, where Eureka observes how Ander is probably a crazed sociopath, but for some reason she’s falling in love with him anyway. Guess those two meetings they’ve had, one in which he crashed into her car, the other in which he acted like a psycho, really turned her on.

Then another tidal wave strikes the beach and Brooks is mildly injured. Oh noes!

(I’m betting Ander was behind it somehow)

Chapter Eleven

Eureka has a boring conversation with Brooks, interspersed as so many things are in this book with excruciating details about her room, Brooks, her feelings, her stepmother’s favourite meteorologist, everything I’ve come to expect from Teardrop really.

They take a look at Plot Device #2, which has some illustrations that look vaguely like Brooks, and he acts strangely enough that it becomes immediately obvious he’s connected to the whole… whatever is going on. Oh my. I am so shocked.

Then somehow they have twu wuv’s kiss? And Eureka has now always liked him in that way even though she’d made a point of saying she didn’t before?

And then suddenly they start arguing and Brooks gives her a Reason You Suck speech; and there are a lot of reasons, sure, but not the ones he gives—such as the not taking the Macguffins seriously enough!

Then he flounces.

Good riddance.

Chapter Twelve

In this chapter, Eureka fails to understand metaphor and analogy, saying she doesn’t need to find her way out of a foxhole because foxes can live in foxholes, and they do alright for themselves!

She calls Cat up so Cat can remind her about her Plot Device boyfriend Rodney. They go to see him, during which time Eureka spends more time flashback-ing, describing the furniture and wangsting than she does listening to Rodney.

Though that probably isn’t too bad—after failing to recognise the writing the book is written in, he tells them about an expert in dead languages he knows.

Instead of, you know—a cryptographer. I mean, I somehow doubt this book is the Voynich Manuscript or anything. And if you don’t know what that is, look it up, because it’s much more interesting than Teardrop.

Chapter Thirteen

The master of linguistics in question calls herself ‘Madame Blavatsky’—either she’s a kooky pseudo-academic fortune-teller, or this book is about to get very interesting!

(Spoilers: This book does not get interesting.)

Madame B fawns over her pet exotic birds, smokes, and says things like ‘There is no death, no life either. Only congregation and dispersal’. She then takes out her crazy-wise-old-person-character checklist to make sure she hasn’t missed anything.

Anyway, because she’s psychic, she’s able to immediately know exposition about the Plot Device; like how it wasn’t bought at a flea market and had actually been in Eureka’s family forever. You know, I think we may have just found out the eventual fate of Ever from Evermore

Old Ever proclaims the language to be a cousin of ‘Magdalenian’, the people of ancient southern Europe who a minute’s search on Wikipedia reveals did not have a written language, nor even any language we can reliably reconstruct. Now, Wikipedia isn’t exactly the world’s bastion of accuracy, but in this case and combined with my own learnings, I think we can safely call bull-shite.

So Madame Fraud charges them $7.50 a page for her ‘translation’ of what we now ‘know’ is called ‘The Book of Love’ (issued by the Ministry of Love?). Incidentally, she also tells Eureka that Ander’s been stalking her for ages. I guess Eureka can trust her on that one—not because she’s psychic, but because she’s a character in YA paranormal romance, and by this time they probably just accept that that kind of thing is happening.

Then with no kind of lead in we are suddenly treated to Madame Fraud’s translation of the first bit of the book, written by a woman almost as boring as Eureka about her love for a prince or some such crap.

Chapter Fourteen

In this chapter, Evil Stepmother says, ‘As long as you live in my house, you follow my rules’. Eureka calls the line ‘soul-chilling’, which hardly makes her the epitome of Stoicism, to put it mildly.

She goes back to the Therapist, who manages not to be the worst therapist in YA (despite being mostly useless) by pointing out that Eureka is close to developing narcissism. However, as that’s practically a pre-requisite for YA heroines, Eureka responds by whining that no one understands her.

Then he pretty much tells her she’s going to die in a gutter, which is absurd for a therapist but pretty funny to me, so Eureka flounces, wishing Madame Fraud could be her therapist instead.

Chapter Fifteen

Eureka and Cat have a boring conversation, until Brooks shows up so they can have a boring reconciliation.

Then Maya drops by to give Brooks an ‘X-rated hug’.

What does that mean? Did she jump on his dick in the middle of the school hallway?

Well, on that exciting note we leave things until tomorrow, where Part Two of the ‘Teardrop‘ commentary continues.

Evil Plans

My friends, this weekend was taken up with planning for NaNoWriMo (the research needed for next month is over 9000; so great that it has forced me to reference lame, outdated internet memes), so I have only a single image to share with you; as a tantalising clue to what this year’s project will be about. Until next time!

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/14/Psalter_of_Bonne_de_Luxembourg.jpg/280px-Psalter_of_Bonne_de_Luxembourg.jpg

CAPTION:

Skeleton One: Seriously, Chase, I’m going to go in for those breast implants after all; I look like a fucking rail here!

Skeleton Two: Oh, Barbara! Must you feel the need to conform to the beauty standards of the life-supremacist human-normative feudal-capitalist-patriarchy when your true beauty is on the inside!?

Skeleton Three: Ha ha, you two kill me, you sad, sad assholes…

(Credit to Jean le Noir for the image; wouldn’t want him coming back as a progressive skeleton and DMCA-ing me!)

The Same Old Story

In the old days of two years ago, I posted the prologue to my NaNoWriMo 2013 novel, ‘The Ritual of DUELS’. You can find that post here: https://racheliliffe.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/a-nano-sample-of-nano/

Today I thought I’d entertain you by showing you what that prologue looks like now, after two years of going back and editing it every time I read it again to remind myself what happened in it, having just read someone post about the dos and don’ts of prologues, because according to the dos and don’ts of Rachelloon, you don’t take other people’s advice for writing prologues, because you inevitably disagree with them.

All thoughts on the words are welcome. If you can be bothered to read the November 2013 version and compare it, those thoughts are welcome too; the main difference between them (apart from the revised one being somewhat longer) is that the new version explains more about the premise of the story since I’d been told the following chapters were difficult to follow by someone who read them.

*~*~*

The Rings were spinning again.

Each of the seven brass coils spun in a different direction; floating in the air—all seven adorned like a massive charm bracelet with seven of the crests of the Custodians each, spinning on more than one axis with a speed that challenged the Custodian Heads to follow with their eyes.

Tension was thick in the dark recesses of the windowless, amphitheatre; rivals giving one another sidelong glares and allies worried glances as they lost track of their crests in the golden blur the rings had become. Only two of them had lived long enough to have seen the Ritual of DUELS before, and neither had been Head of their families at the time.

This once-in-a-lifetime experience was putting even the most confident in the group on edge.

“You see the outcome with your powers yet, Chamoiseau?” muttered one man.

“My magic eight-ball told me to ask again later, Alkadhi” replied another, sarcastically.

The lights from the rings grew brighter every moment, shivering against the high stone walls. Some rings scraped against each other as they turned and made sparks, while the sound of spinning became ever more high-pitched and the long moments passed. Not even the most stalwart Head could stand to look as the spinning reached its crescendo.

Then it was as if there was a flash of lightning, the brightness and the sound of it was so similar, some Heads even flinched back as the point of choosing was reached, and then the Rings slowed down, and one by one they hung horizontally in the air.

Those who recognised their crests in the hanging rings were a mixed bag; many of them displeased to say the least, some unconcerned—they’d known no family members were eligible this time, perhaps—but some were probably even more relieved not to have the responsibility thrust upon a daughter of their family.

One Ring still spun upright, like a wheel of fate. But in time it too slowed to a stop.

The de Alvear crest glowed apple green at the top of the Ring.

“Isabella,” whispered the shadows.

Each Head turned to Elena de Alvear; even those who tried not to look, as if the others would decide they were too confident to care and respect them more for it. Elena’s trembling hands slowly clasped together in front of her chest, her eyes wide, her lips just stretching into a wide grin etched with giddiness. Fernando Páez hissed a ‘T’ noise in disgust, but Elena hardly noticed.

It was even more awkward than the usual meetings of this group, and that was saying something.

“Well, congratulations,” said Ray Bartlett—breaking the ice so to speak. He made the valiant effort to hide stark disappointment; they all knew his great-niece Amanda had been a favourite to be chosen as the Princess, but it wasn’t like Isabella de Alvear had been a wildcard. One by one, each of the closest representatives copied him with faux-sincere congratulations.

Isabella de Alvear; seventeen years old, had been chosen as the Princess of Two Worlds for the next eighty-one years. With almost complete certainty, it would fall to her to control the Shifting Shadows that lead from the Human World to the realm of the Shaedai, and to preside over any matters that could not be resolved by the local Custodian courts.

It was a power unparalleled. Many of the forty-nine had coveted it.

But it was more than disappointment or jealousy in that respect that was bothering Ray and most of the others. There were still ten more choices to make.

Nine boys to be Suitors for the Princess’ hand; the main players in this old and dangerous ritual.

One other girl to be the Challenger, and test Isabella’s worthiness of the title. To ‘keep the Princess Human’ as the Shaedai put it. Hers was the unluckiest fate, and every girl the forty-nine Custodian Heads might have hoped to be the chosen Princess was now in danger of being selected for the other role.

Elena said a prayer of thanks to God, and the Rings started spinning again.

They did so much sooner than the gathered Heads had expected, making the selections of the Suitors much faster than they had the Princess.

The Roesdahl-Kessle crest was first, accompanied with a whisper of “Arne,” and Sven Roesdahl-Kessle let out a bark of laughter in response. It was difficult for the others to guess why he did so, because few of them had heard of an ‘Arne Roesdahl-Kessle’.

Still, to a man they scrambled for pen and paper to record the names—most being too old-fashioned for tablets. However, Giles Rhys-Revailler, Lord Constanton, surprised his colleagues by being one of the few despite having only a few years to go before his centenary.

“Look at what my granddaughter gave me, Noni,” he was saying to Noni Okino, solemnly. “They call it an ‘i-pad’, and you touch the keys here just on the screen, and look! The words are right there. Genius, isn’t it?—the things they come up with these days.”

Noni tried not to laugh.

Lang was the second Suitor chosen, but it was the crest of the old former Hopi line rather than the main branch that shone; the Ameri-Langs as they were often known.

“Xiangfei.”

Jiaoqi Lang nodded to himself grimly. Shifan clicked his tongue when the exiled branch of his family was chosen, but that selection had also caused a more general murmur throughout the room; Xiang was heir to his House, after all.

The Mwangi crest came next, and Njau Mwangi was chosen to compete in DUELS, to the great pleasure of his father’s cousin; while when the Páez crest glowed on the turn after that, Fernando seemed still too bitter about his hated rival’s daughter becoming Princess to be pleased his nephew Lorenzo now had a chance to become Prince.

When the Himori crest lit up cherry-blossom pink on the next turn, Juichiro Himori looked happy at first. Then the gathering heard the whispered name of “Yuusuke,” and his face fell.

“Yuusuke?” murmured Vladimir Milescu. “Isn’t it ‘Takanata’ they thought might be picked?”

“They’re both his great-nephews,” said Marie Ahanda. “But one’s considered a bit more… princely.”

“Ah.”

If Juichiro had heard that he made no mention of it, and had his features schooled back to serenity by the time the Henderson-Sembene crest was glowing in the chosen position, with James Henderson-Sembene being selected much to his father’s delight. In recognition of their traditional enmity, Clarence Henderson-Sembene looked particularly to Noni Okino for her reaction, but was disappointed to find she didn’t seem all that bothered.

The next colour that bathed the room was a dark blue. Ultramarine, the family called it, and that family was Rhys-Revailler Constanton.

“What?” Phyllis McKinley blurted out. “You don’t have—”

“Tarquin,” said the shadows.

“Tarquin?” Phyllis repeated. Giles himself looked just as confused.

Is there someone in my family called Tarquin?” he asked, looking around the room.

“Your cousin’s great-grandson,” Ravi Khamavant supplied, and rather than looking annoyed with Giles inability to remember his own family members, he looked pleased. “The younger of my sister’s son’s boys.”

Phyllis rolled her eyes. Obviously Ravi would be pleased someone of his blood had been chosen for DUELS, even if they weren’t of his House.

“He’s a quarter McKinley too,” Ravi told her gently.

“Not from the Irish side, I bet,” Phyllis replied, and Ravi left it there so she was probably right.

Delmonte was the eighth House to have a suitor chosen, Juan Delmonte the Suitor in question. His grandfather’s expression didn’t change at all at news of the selection, and a few of the Heads weren’t entirely sure the man hadn’t fallen asleep. He had been known to do so at Court in the past.

The final House to be given the opportunity to put forward a contestant in DUELS was Nkosi-Elzevir, and seeing his family’s crest light up at the top of its Ring made Jeremiah Nkosi-Elzevir jump up and down like an unruly teenager. Jeremiah’s young cousin Matthew was chosen for DUELS, the ninth for this round, and a collective breath was exhaled in defeat from most of the remaining Heads.

But the Spinning was not over.

A scant few moments passed before the Rings spun again, and this time much slower than before, as if the Shaedai enjoyed drawing out their Custodians’ agony. The thirty-nine Houses that had not been chosen were mostly disappointed, but when those Rings moved they all remembered there was a worse fate than not being chosen to participate in DUELS.

A much worse fate.

For although times had changed, and no one expected that the Challenger would be executed as a matter of course this year… historically, the fates of even those who had survived their Challenge had been grim. Save for the one time the Challenger had prevailed; and no one wanted that either.

Spinning as slowly as they had when first the gathering had arrived, the Rings soon accelerated again, while the Heads watched in various stages of anxiety. Even those who had no daughters eligible looked nervous, even those who had already been chosen and were therefore safe. All except Elena de Alvear, whose joy could apparently be dampened for nothing, even the rings which at that very moment spun for no other reason than to choose a girl who would be given one, unrefuseable mission.

To kill the Princess.

At one point Pablo de la Vega, whose daughter’s fate was one of those on the line, dropped the notebook he was holding and startled Ray Bartlett, who looked about ready to slap him in turn, but ended up being too distracted by the spinning. Pablo thought he saw him mouthing ‘not Amanda, not Amanda, not Amanda’ to himself as he watched.

Round and round and round the brass Rings went. Brighter they glowed, until a second flash of lightning that sounded like a thousand crashing cymbals filled the room and made the Heads’ eyes close again. The Rings fell into position one by one, the proverbial wheel of fate made its choice and the last crest of this generations’ DUELS fell into place with a click.

Okino.

“Elodie” said the shadows.

As they had when Isabella had been chosen, each Head turned to look at Noni Okino in a ripple of swivelling necks. Even Elena de Alvear spared her a glance, though her glance was wary. But for the others, jealousy was replaced with sympathy—sympathy even from disagreeable sorts like Fernando and Shifan, even from Clarence Henderson-Sembene, whose family hated the Okinos.

Noni ignored all this and kept her eyes fixed on her family’s crest, spreading shadows over the room in the black that was the family colour; right up until she threw her cane on the ground and folded her arms with clenched fists.

“Well, damn it,” she said.

Purple Vampire Sheep

I suck at blogging, (and everything else) during the summer, so here’s a drawing of a purple vampire sheep I did with my five-year-old cousin’s coloured crayons at my grandmother’s 80th birthday party earlier today–to tide you all over until I come up with something intelligent again.

Not that this is that much less intelligent than my usual fare, but still…

Purple Vampire Sheep

There you have it. Total. Masterpiece. 😉

The Camp NaNoWriMo Makeover

Ah, makeover–the word every girl loves to hear, even me. (if ironically).

This month, I’ve decided to add what will hopefully be 40K to the novel ‘Ah-Seti-Ten The Dread‘; an epic high-fantasy drama that’s pretty dark, all things considered. I mean, it starts with the main character being sold into slavery; even Game of Thrones waited until Book 5 for that!

Hopefully this will bring the novel’s wordcount up to a total of… 40K, because while I’ve already written five thousand words of ‘Dread’, I’m afraid I’ve just looked over those words… and most of them have to go. Yes, the beginning of ‘Dread’ is getting a makeover, so for comparison, here is the original first page of the story:

*~*~*

“Lot thirteen—seventeen-year-old female, Nietszentine!”

Well, that was me.

I took one last desperate look at the carriages behind me to see if I could see Orinetph; if he’d poked his head out of whichever cart he was stuck in when he heard my description, but I didn’t see a thing before one of the auctioneer staff grabbed my shoulder and pushed me towards the stage. He wasn’t exactly rough about it, but he could hardly be called gentle either.

It was a cloudy day. I saw many umbrellas among the crowd, and now I was outside I could tell it had been raining earlier. The man who I think had been the one to buy me from the Keian army—it was either him or someone he worked for—stood at the front of the crowd, facing them rather than the stage. He glanced up at me and rubbed the bristles of his moustache with a frown.

The crowd themselves were a colourful bunch. I recognised the Keians easily enough, and Farsuchites; the natives of the city we were just outside of, they made up the most of the gathering. There were even some of my own people, most of whom scrunched their faces up, in some cases turning their backs on me entirely. I saw two women from Gestyen (judging by their jewellery) notice this and laugh.

If the customs of the Nietszentines amuse you, buy me, I thought. I’d rather them then have one of my countrymen decide to increase their standing with T’hiea by buying one of her fallen servants and restoring their honour. I preferred my head on my shoulders, as it turned out.

“A priestess of the temple of Tee-yah,” said the auctioneer, “trained to work with textiles and suitable for most domestic labour. Forty jeahl!”

Forty. He did say forty. It had been only three months since my enslavement, so I’d yet to fully grasp the Farsuchite language, but I was pretty good with numbers. Jeahl was the currency, I’d known that much for years, and I was pretty sure he’d said ‘textiles’ and ‘domestic labour’ so from that I could quite clearly tell what he’d meant.

I suppose what I could do could be described as working with textiles to an outsider. I could do other things too, of course. It was a little annoying that that was the extent of his sales pitch.

“I have forty,” said the auctioneer.

I’d seen the five who went before me brought onto the stage, so I knew what to do by now without being manhandled by the staff. After the first bid, you turned around slowly, arms outstretched. I did so.

“Ah, she learns fast! She learns fast!”

Those words were easy to recognise, the overseer had said them to me several times when we were being taught to speak Farsuchite.

“Forty-five!” called someone.

“Fifty!”

The crowd was too big for me to see who was calling, I could only hope for the best.

*~*~*

And here is the revised introduction to this universe, wherein I do things like… try to make the writing good. Or at least good-ish. I don’t know, leave your opinions below if you like.

(1st comment: “I liked the first one better!”)

Or just go and celebrate Canada day. Stupid Canadians–bet it’s not thirty-five degrees where they are. Stupid hottest day of the year–you can see it’s influenced the makeover!

*~*~*

The stage was set for my performance—banal and empty as it would be; a raised platform still seemingly sturdy after its timbers had started to turn grey with age and at the corner nearest to me where the thick posts rose above the platform the little round head of the nails that had joined each length to their supports had rusted dry-blood red, like the stain on the wood next to it that had soaked in who knew how many years ago?

Despite everything I couldn’t help but feel a kind of thrill when they called for me to take up my new role and be judged.

“Lot thirteen; Nietzentine female, fifteen years old!”

I hesitated. I’d been seventeen since the last autumn and for a moment it made me wonder if that meant the auctioneer had been referring to the girl next to me, but the attendant at the foot of the rickety-looking steps took my upper arm in hand and dragged me forward.

“Stupid girl,” I heard him mutter. His fingers grazed my kalsehschin marks and sent a shudder across my shoulders, as if it was still sacrilege for them to be touched after everything that had lead to this moment.

Well, if it hadn’t been me they’d meant then it was their own fault. I was not foolish enough to want to give them any reason to add my blood to their stage.

The dust that clung to by feet scraped slightly on the steps as I forced myself to climb them; I found myself trying to brush them off as much as I could even though my legs shook whenever one of them carried my entire weight. The sun disappeared into a sea of ash-like cloud as soon as I reached the top. I was thankful for that. My nose was already sunburnt today.

“Quickly, quickly!” ordered the auctioneer, though by the sound of his voice the only hurry he was in was to be doing something more interesting than this. He was a stooped and elderly man, thin, his hands a somewhat yellowish colour with their fingers wrapped around a small leather crop.

I was a slave now, so I supposed I’d have to do as he said until someone else bought me. I watched the wood beneath my feet for holes or splinters as my shaking legs carried me front and centre where I’d seen the girl before me stand. The cotton shift felt heavy on my shoulders, damp with sweat; the collar shifted uncomfortably against my neck as I raised my head to take my first look at the crowd.

Before that moment, I’d only been able to see part of the front row, and then only after I’d come to the front of the queue closest to the stage as my fellow chattel and I were hidden from our potential masters behind linen screens. I’d been able to hear their chatter, but perhaps I wasn’t used enough to the sound of large numbers of people after the isolation of temple life to have accurately guessed their number.

There were far more of them than I’d thought there to be. A hundred and fifty at least, maybe two hundred; mostly men with some professional-looking women in their number, mostly native Farsuchites with some lighter, northern faces dappling the crowd; Keians, Barasi, Noryens, Soloese, and a few darker to make it calico. Their clothes were more varied in their style and value than I could properly comprehend at a glance, and all along the edges there were carriers of various sizes and colours, sparkling with the wealth of their owners encrusted along their edges—telling you what you needed to know about them since they hadn’t deigned to show their faces. They probably watched me through a slot in the front of the contraption—my father’s wives had owned such equipment.

*~*~*

That’s the post for today, everyone–I blog less in hot weather. Happy camping, comrades!

Catastrophic Cartography!

Hey there, bones and ghouls, about two years ago you may remember I posted my drawings of these ( https://racheliliffe.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/the-maps-to-nowhere/ ) maps to give you some indication of… uh… maps.

Well, I was just inspired to revisit one of my shelved projects, ‘Ah-Seti-Ten The Dread‘, and start doing some worldbuilding for it after I watched an anime that had a similar plot-line; that of the dispossessed prince whose home has been overthrown by invaders. If you’re watching this season’s anime, you’ll know I mean ‘Arslan Senki‘, though my book is thankfully different enough for me not to have to bang my head against the wall shouting ‘SIMPSONS ALREADY DID THAT!’ and gnashing my teeth.

This was the map I posted two years ago–drawn hastily because the first chapter of the book (which I’ve just looked over and have found to be most poorly written… curse me for always forgetting to put a setting into my scenes…) had a lot of geography in it. It shows the political boundaries of various nations and the colour surrounding them denotes the majority religious affiliation of that country.

Map of Orinetpholand

So, when coming back to this world after so long, the first thing I wanted to do was to fill in all the blank nations with names. I mostly come up with names like these off the top of my head–chances are they mean something in some other language, but if I could be mature about reading a book in which the main character’s name was ‘Wang’, then I can go forth with these silly names as well!

I also added the equator, and some time zones, for time purposes.

Map of Orinetpholand2

Some of the spaces were too small to write the names of countries in, so I gave them numbers instead and made a key–which isn’t really important enough to post, so yeah…

Of course, there were many more things I needed a map for, two in particular that I wanted to share today, in fact. For this, I decided it would be easiest to go back to a blank version of the map.

So, after an hour’s searching finally lead me to the sketchbook I’d drawn this map in, I traced over the lines (easier said than done seeing as the felt-tip had obscured the definition of some of the borders, and the shadow of my hand kept getting in the way when I tried to trace from right to left. You might think going from left to right would be natural anyway, but I’ve unlearned that method to some extent because, being left-handed, it keeps smudging the page) and was left with my lovely blank map of the ‘Malarendarian Continent’, borders intact because I need to know what’s going on where when I start marking out important stuff:

Blank Map of Malarendrian Continent

This gave me the opportunity to do many things; but the two I was most eager to get to were–

1. A layout of the physical features of the landscape:

Malarendrian Topographical Map

(Not a very good one, I’ll grant you, but what can I say?–I was using Microsoft Paint.)

And somewhat more importantly for when I get back to the book in proper:

2. A map showing the language families that exist within this world. Keep in mind; ‘families’, not the languages themselves; working this out takes a long time and as you can see I haven’t finished yet–for now I’ve been concentrating on places that are actually going to appear or be significant in the book.

Malarendrian Continental Language Family Map

For your enjoyment, the home town of the heroine of the book is marked with a little yellow star; while that of the palace most of the book takes place in has a little red star. What fun.

So, that’s me for the week–how have you all been wasting your time? 😉