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I’m never sure of terminology, but I think “magic realism” is magic introduced into a real-world setting.

This is something I love. It resembles a flight of imagination that sees the possible amid the mundane. And I like that attitude. It brings something extra special to a novel to have these things happening. I suppose that’s why I brought in a talking mouse in the chapter book I am redrafting. Why limit things by being prosaic all the time??

This probably explains why I so enjoyed The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. And that’s also why I’m now reading her next book, The Bedlam Stacks.

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It was a little bizarre at first, though not magical. And then there appeared a statue that had moved. But, supposedly, no one had moved it. Then later it faces a direction from which to watch the narrator. I’m only 20% through, so I’m not sure how much more “magic” will happen. But guess what? It leaves the possibility open and makes me read on. The story will definitely not be boring!

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And then I came across Cassie Beasley’s Circus Mirandus. This is aimed at so-called middle grade. A good reader of 10 would love it.

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This is the intriguing first bit – how can anyone resist that last sentence??

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I leave you to decide if magic realism grabs you like it does me. But discovering new books is such fun anyway, so I thought I’d tell you about these two – three if you include The Watchmaker – I read that three times. Not something I normally have time to do!

 

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Not another haiku, I hear you say!

No, not at all. TWO haiku (haikus?).

We had a welcome visitor this week who has stayed around and I love him. It’s a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Difficult to capture on film without him seeing me and zooming back over the road to the forest. So this image is from Pixabay, which is free to use here.

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Isn’t he just beautiful?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then wrote haiku number one:

Tap tap tap tap tap –

something pecking on the wood

of my bird feeder!

(Pity this feeder is mesh!) I think he came because it got cold up here and started snowing. But I’m glad he’s stayed.

And because I didn’t go walking in the snow, I wrote haiku number two!

Grey-white snow, and mauve,

spread in crystals on my lawn,

lounging till the thaw.

Which is what I propose to do – lounge till the thaw. I go out when it’s deep and fun, like the snow my hens here are enjoying; not when it’s thin and icy and then slushy!

pic 2 for snow

 

I really am no good as a poet. Possibly because I haven’t put in my 10,000 hours of practice! But sometimes, just sometimes, words are needed to capture something without the result having to be prose.

I know you have to ponder and alter and think and discard as you write a poem. But I have had a go at this on four occasions and soon it won’t be autumn but Christmas, so I’d best get on an show you!

So – please don’t judge it as you would from a poet. Just imagine it captures, in a deliberate mix of senses, what it was like to go for my walk the other day. If you take something from it, great. If not, well, I assumed it was for me personally anyway!

November walk in the village

Burnishing the air an earthy warmth,

a rusted scent of needled pine.

Under my feet the sodden leaves.

Livid berries on the forest edge,

a copper beech like polished gold.

Feathers darting endlessly

through criss-crossed twigs on lichened boles –

touched by hint of diesel fumes?

A taste of bonfire fills my mind,

tuneful breezes lift my hair

infused with hints of Eastern spice

from cottage, crêperie and mill.

While overhead, and in full swing,

a corvid family gathering.

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Experimenting with all sorts of writing now!  A long time ago, I wrote a 2,000-word story that didn’t (and doesn’t) meet the required criteria for what it’s meant to be, which is a chapter book for a newly confident reader. So it needs altering – both in length and in content. (I drew an image to go with it and showed you the first paragraphs here.)

Someone told me at the time what I needed to do with it to make it right, but *shrugs* sometimes you lose heart or don’t agree or want to keep it as it is.

Now, however, having saved it under a different name, and with loads of time having passed, I feel more free to experiment with changing it. As they say, you have to be willing to murder your darlings – but the time has to be right too! See what you think. Any crit or comment would be welcome. This is just the beginning. Maybe a chapter or maybe two chapters or more. Not sure yet. Just ‘the beginning’ anyway 🙂

Jess hated her new school. She missed her old friends. She also hated her new house. The bedroom door moaned and groaned all night. She tried propping it open. She tried pressing it shut. She tried pushing her slippers against it. But:

Creak! Squeak!

Moan… groan…

Cold air brushed against her face.

A scuffle on the floor: mouse or ghost?

Jess shivered and pulled the covers over her head.

It was nearly morning before she fell asleep. She dreamt that tree roots were curling round her feet. When she woke, the quilt was twisted round her legs and the wind was whistling round her toes. She couldn’t think why anyone would want to live here.

She pulled her uniform on and ran down to the kitchen, where her mum was frying bacon.

‘I hate this house,’ she said. ‘And I hate my new school.’

‘You’ll soon like it,’ said her mum. ‘And it’s wonderful the school is only down the road – or you’d be late.’

School didn’t go well. Again. The other girls and boys were OK, Jess thought, trying to be fair. No one was actually horrible to her. But there didn’t seem to be room for her in their groups.

‘I hate it here without my friends,’ said Jess when she got home. She threw herself onto a beanbag. ‘I used to have loads and loads––’

‘––and loads,’ said Mum. ‘I know, Jess. That’s what happens when you move house. You have to start all over again.’

‘But there isn’t anyone. Hari’s got Ty. Sasha’s got Kate. Everyone’s got someone. I’ll never have anyone.’

‘You will, soon,’ said Mum, stirring the soup. Jess knew from the smell that it was her favourite. Mum was trying to make things OK. But without her dad, and now without her friends, how would things ever be right?

Mum looked up. ‘And when it happens, you’ll be able to invite your new friends for a sleepover.’

‘I can’t. There’s a ghost in my room.’

‘Don’t be silly! It’s an old house, and old houses creak. And remember, there’s always a silver lining to a dark cloud – Grandad lives with us now.’

Mum put three plates and mugs on the table and took the bread out of the bread bin. ‘Why don’t you go up and tell him tea’s ready?’

Grandad had stopped travelling the world and moved into the spare rooms in the attic. It was the only good thing about this new house.

Jess ran upstairs, then up again… right up the steep steps to the attic… and knocked on Grandad’s door.

‘Come in!’ Grandad called.

‘Tea’s ready. Mum said to come down.’

‘Okeydoke,’ said Grandad. ‘I’ll pop my shoes on.’

His face was brown and his hair wild. A tiny bit grey in places, but not much. Jess thought he looked like a wizard. The nicest wizard you could ever have living with you. She’d only known him for two weeks but she was already sure he was the world’s most interesting grandad.

She gazed round the room. Every wall and shelf was covered with Grandad’s special things.

Pictures of Indian snake charmers and rickshaws.

Brightly coloured pottery and robes from Africa.

A wolf skin from Canada.

Jess looked at the basket of stones. ‘Can I play with your stones?’

‘No, no and no,’ said Grandad. But he sounded kind. ‘Those stones are magic. Special. They’re not for playing with.’ He finished pulling on a shoe and stood up. ‘Found them on my travels, I did.’

Jess sighed. ‘Did you meet ghosts on your travels?’

‘No such thing as ghosts, Jess.’

‘Did you lose your friends when you went away?’

‘No such thing as losing friends, Jess. Friends are always somewhere.’

‘But––’

Grandad waved her out of the room. ‘Off we go, Jess. Tea calls.’

He banged the door behind them and started down the stairs.

Jess shut her mouth.

Grandad thought there were no such things as ghosts. Mum thought she could make new friends. They were both wrong.

But suddenly an idea jumped into her head.

After supper, Jess said goodnight to Mum and Grandad and climbed into bed.

She waited until she heard Grandad go into his bedroom to watch television as usual. Then she crept up the stairs to his sitting room. She gently pushed the door and stepped in.

Moonlight flooded through the roof window, painting silvery edges on everything.

Jess looked for the magic stones and spotted them on the table by Grandad’s chair.

Grey.

Rust red.

Yellow.

Chocolate coloured.

All that magic!

If only she could have just one…

Just for a day…

Just to help her make friends…

She’d hold it and whisper:

Stone be true

as blue is blue

I need your power

in this dark hour.

She reached out a finger and touched one that had fine red veins on its shiny black surface.

‘I knew you’d be back,’ said a voice.

Not as short as a haiku haha! This is set in a playroom situation, where, in all the stories, the lead character would be one of the various things in the playroom: toys, vehicles, puppets, stones etc. And in this one, the craft paper! Well you can’t say it’s not original 🙂 The idea is that at the end of any story the toys or whatever will go to sleep, or it becomes nighttime. They could well be used as bedtime stories. Lots of discussion points possible, of course, on what has been going on in the story.

See what you think. Here’s an image to go with it.

red paper

Red Paper’s tale

The piece of red paper lay on the table in the playroom with all the other sheets of paper – blue and orange, black and white, cream and pale brown.

Red Paper looked round at the others.

“I’m the brightest and best paper here,” she said. “Mark will choose me to draw on, and then he’ll hang me on the wall for everyone to look at.”

“Shut up!” said Black Paper. “You’re just a bit of paper like all the rest of us. Mark could draw fireworks and a bonfire on me. Black is perfect for that.”

“Yes,” said Blue Paper. “And Mark might let me be the sky when he draws his house.”

“Or I could be a sandy beach,” said Orange Paper.

At that moment, Mark raced into the playroom with his friend Jodi.

“What shall we draw?” Mark asked Jodi. “Houses? The seaside? Bonfire night?”

Red Paper held her breath and crossed her fingers. What would Jodi say?

“Actually,” Jodi said, “My dad’s been showing me how to fold paper to make tiny models. You don’t have to cut it. Shall I show you how?”

Make tiny models? Red Paper was furious. She got redder and redder as she thought about being folded and squashed and creased and bent. Paper was for drawing on! How dare they ruin her?

But before she could say “paper plane”, Mark and Jodi sat down at the table and Jodi picked her up. She flapped and flipped in Jody’s hand, trying to escape.

“Bother!” said Jodi. “This red paper is too bendy and floppy. Let’s try the black piece first.”

Red Paper sat and fumed. She didn’t want to be folded and creased – but she didn’t want to be left out either. She was the best, wasn’t she?

But she had to sit and watch as Jodi folded and creased Black Paper.

After a while, she grew so interested that she forgot to be cross. Jodi’s hands were very careful as she made each fold, and she kept waiting so that Mark could copy with his piece of orange paper.

When they had both finished, Red Paper couldn’t believe her eyes. There, in front of them, sat two little birds.

“Mine’s a blackbird,” said Jodi. “What’s yours, Mark?”

“An orange bird, of course,” he said, waving it around in the air.

Red Paper was sad now. So she flapped and flipped in the breeze that wafted through the window, and hoped that someone would let her join in.

Jodi noticed and picked her up.“Let’s try with this bendy bit now,” she said. “See if you can guess what I’m making.”

Mark watched as Red Paper let herself be folded this way and that, without arguing, until Jodi stood her on the table. She felt very important.

“Why, it’s a butterfly!” Mark exclaimed.

A butterfly? Red Paper flexed her wings up and down excitedly. And the breeze suddenly caught her and carried her over to the book shelf. She was flying! She was beautiful. “Come up here,” she called to the blackbird and the orange bird. “It’s fun to fly!”

“Good night, little butterfly,” Mark and Jodi called as they switched out the light in the playroom. “You can sleep up there tonight. See you in the morning!”

The time for delaying tactics is over. I need to write something. Anything. Especially anything longer than a haiku! Just to get back into the swing.

So here are nearly 500 words of a possible novel for middle grade. Nothing to write home about (excuse the pun) but until I see what I’ve written, I usually don’t know exactly what I wanted to write! And clearly this won’t be right for today’s middle grade children (at least if you want a publisher), but then again, I do know some kids who would lap up a mystery novel just fine. Which is what this beginning has in mind.

Anyway, I don’t do funny very well, I don’t do bottom humour, and I don’t do – oh, I don’t know, clever stuff. So into the bin with it. But do have a read first 🙂 All writing needs a reader!

For the zillionth time that afternoon, Oriel leaned out of the hotel’s attic window and stared down into Chatfield’s medieval cobbled square. Her eyes scanned the sunlit groups of shoppers from right to left, as if trying to find a hidden thimble. Then she stiffened and caught her breath sharply.

That’s him, I bet, she thought. Young and alone, with a leather suitcase, and foreign-looking. Definitely Josef Ahlenburg, our first guest… And in an awful hurry to reach us.

The boy in question looked about fourteen or fifteen, a few years older than Oriel, and he was sprinting – not like you sprint when you’re late for tea (which he nearly was) but as if training for his school football team. He was running a short way and then stopping, running and stopping again, as he came down the final stretch of road that led into the square. Every time he paused, he turned to glance warily over his shoulder at the lingering groups of Saturday shoppers. Then he darted past another group and looked round again. She wouldn’t have been surprised to see him dribbling a football, as if wondering who to pass it to.

Who was he trying to avoid?

She was slightly alarmed. Josef Ahlenburg couldn’t be trying to escape anyone. He wouldn’t know anyone yet, let alone have enemies. He was coming to England to take part in an international music course at the Grange.

Oriel stared, mesmerised, shading her eyes from the sun that streaked in from the south-west. It was still high above the beech trees flanking the park on one side of the square.

The boy paused again. Looked around, this time scanning the street higher up. Maybe he was searching for the Red Tree sign that hung from its black metal bracket outside the hotel windows two floors below Oriel.

Suddenly, he gazed straight up at her, as if he might have seen her. Oriel waved frantically to attract his attention.

She thought he nodded briefly before setting off again. But he still walked zig-zag around the cobbled pavements, as if his feet simply refused to go directly to the hotel.

Oriel frowned. She was sure this was Josef – the violin he carried was a dead giveaway, now that she noticed it. He wore a navy blue blazer, white shirt and grey trousers, which must be his school uniform. But he didn’t look at all like the posh boy she’d imagined, knowing his mother was a German countess. That must absolutely be the most awful thing to have to put up with – no eating in bed, no talking with your mouth full, no leaving the house without a bodyguard…

And then she remembered her father. Maybe being posh wasn’t the worst thing to have to survive.

In for a penny, in for a pound, as my dad used to say! So here is my unicorn image and here is a haiku. Another haiku, um, or three 🙂 Can’t choose between them this time. Maybe I should move on to some other poetry form! But I did say I would start writing again in September and maybe I’m easing myself in. That is, to fiction. I’ve never stopped writing factual stuff for journals.

Unicorn screenshot

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