With Charm having finally run its course, I am going to concentrate on short stories for a while.
As a kick off, I am posting Oma Zoli’s Mirror on Patreon today. It’s a glimpse into the world of Mundus – magic and nightmare and madness – where angels and murderers wear the same faces.
If you’d like to read – click on the picture.
And if you’re moved to become a patron, remember you can support my work as a writer and artist from as little as $1 a month. I’ll be updating with short stories monthly or weekly depending on length, and looking into some more serialised novels.
Enjoy the read.
ETA: My friend Horace Hamster pointed out that not all people like to use Patreon or Facebook and I should set up a blogpost-only tipjar system for those who want to give but not via the other channels. This will take you directly to paypal. Thanks, Fran for the suggestion!
Donation fields under the cut
I never do go on to art college. Instead, I paint everything I remember from that time – even the parts that hurt me. Well, especially the parts that hurt me.
A year later and it’s my first exhibition and I’m trying to stand around looking nonchalant while strangers sift through my work, faces frowning. Dale is trying to be encouraging in his best idiot-brother way. “They don’t hate you, Irene, it’s still early. This is the fashionably late crowd we’re talking about.” He shoves a glass of red wine into my hands. “When have you ever known anyone in Joburg to come to anything when it opens?”
“There are two people here.” I swallow down the wine, it’s bitter and smoky and hits my jittery stomach with a fire cracker punch. “And they look like they’ve wandered in by mistake.”
“They’re here for the wine,” he says.
How We Burn
It takes a moment for the words to sink in. Caleb sold my brother out to Heinrich, did all this—manipulated me, manipulated Rain—so that he could get back his stolen magic. My brother could already be some drooling half-human monster, a slave for Heinrich until his death. I picture my brother’s face deformed by those long fangs, his back bowed under the useless wings. The golden art whispers in my blood, hungry and awake. It shudders in anticipation, feeding on my anger, throbbing and rising. The room goes cold. Then white hot.
“No, no, no, no.” Rain lashes out from under me. “Don’t listen to him, Irene. He’s fucking lying.”
We looked at world-building from both the real-world position of contemporary and historical YA, where you are not “building” a world as such, but realistically incorporating a recognisable setting into your narrative, and from the aspect of fantasy world building, that is: “from the ground up.” On many points we overlapped and agreed, despite our different approaches to genres.
I took some notes from the initial talky-talk section, so here’s my attempt at a write up.
Look at them with their fancy apple products and their expensive apps, look at them writing away, producing masterpieces as they sip their thirteenth latte of the day in that cute boutique coffee shop that only makes coffee from cat shit, or something. Expensive cat shit….you don’t know. It sounds gross but hey if it’s expensive it must be amazing, right?
If only you had [AMAZING NAME BRAND PRODUCT WITH AMAZING NAME BRAND PRICE TAG] you too would be producing effortless prose, nuanced story lines, witty and wonderful characters.
Upstairs, Caleb and Rain are already awake and dressed. Rain has his head down, his hands shoved in the pockets of his jersey. He’s very carefully not looking at anyone.
“I felt that,” Caleb says. “He’ll have too.”
“Of course.” Zelda rummages in a dresser drawer and pulls out a battered-looking Kit-Kat. “Here.” she shoves it toward my face. “Eat.” She nods when I unwrap the old chocolate and start nibbling, and crosses her arms over her chest. “Now. I hope you’re ready?”
The chocolate tastes dusty, the wafer rubbery instead of crunchy.
Caleb nods. Rain finally looks up. He’s whiter than normal, his eye sockets grey with bruises and his eyes puffy and red. I swallow the last of the stale chocolate and wafer. I swear, I’m going to kill Caleb.
It turns out Zelda doesn’t quite know where Heinrich is.
“I thought you said you’d be able to pin-point him?” Caleb says.
The meal has been cleared away, and a large map of Johannesburg spread over the table. It’s not very detailed, and Zelda’s got a map-book next to her for more accurate work. Which, it appears, we won’t be needing. She’s got a pin on a thread of black cotton and she’s holding it over the outspread map.
“Stop talking,” she says. “You’re breaking my concentration.”
The pin dangles as she slowly moves her hand over the map. Basically, it behaves exactly like a pin on a thread. Nothing magical.
While it’s still far from dark outside, the light is getting that heavy late afternoon feel, like it’s pressing down on my shoulders. I’m practically sticking to the car’s fake leather seats as I take the quickest route I can remember towards the art school. Every time I see a bunch of scruffy high school kids with their blazers stuffed in their school bags and their grey school trousers hanging off their arses, shirts untucked, ties hidden, I slow down. Not one of them is my brother.
“So,” I say, not looking in the mirror to get a glimpse of Caleb, instead steeling myself to stare ahead, to scan the streets and the pavements. “This golden art.”
“What about it,” Caleb drawls. “Finally admitting to yourself that this refusal to use it is a childish tantrum that could get your killed?”
I grit my teeth and breathe in sharply through my nose. Do not rise to the bait, Irene. “Actually, I have tried to use it.”
(this is mainly to cheer on the lovely Tallulah Habib, who is stuck in Synopsis Hell)
No one in the whole of publishing likes a synopsis. NO ONE.
Not the writers, not the agents who request them, not the editors who must force themselves to read them to see if you have a basic grasp of plot. They are awful, terrible things, and the first of you to raise your hand and say, “But Cat, I love-” is gonna get stomped so hard with a Stompy Boot of Doom you won’t be able to write another synopsis ever.
The door slams behind me, cutting off their low voices and dampening the smell of cabbage. I sit down on the corridor floor and lean back against the wall outside Zelda’s flat. The bricks are cool on my back, and that tight feeling that’s been building in my chest loosens a little as I light up a cig. Smoke curls around my fingers, and I can almost see tiny serpents weaving in the silvers and greys. Wild magic, changing the face of the world, and waiting for someone to harness it. I can almost understand why Heinrich wants it. If all this was mine…. I flex my fingers, rippling them through the smoke. Under the ground, the world shifts, half-dreaming. Immense with power.
But I’m not Heinrich, and I don’t want to rip a hole in the word so I can get more magic I can’t control. All I want is for the people I love to be safe. To stay alive. For that alone, I need to understand how to use my own power. I snort. Power I don’t even know how to access. God. I have no idea what I’m doing.