Postcard from a barren island
Dear friends/interweb acquaintances/people who've just stumbled across this blog for the first time and are wondering what the hell is going on:
So, recently Baby Smith decided that sleep was his Least Favourite Thing in the World Ever. This may be because there's been an unusual amount of sunshine for a British summer (i.e. some) and so the house keeps getting up to temperatures more commonly seen in the cooking instructions on a pack of sausages. It may be because I'm now back at work five days a week and he's decided that if he can't see me in the daytime, he's damn well going to see me at night. Or it may just be because he's a baby, and mixing things up to keep the parents on their toes is what babies do (after all, life would be no fun if it was predictable, right?).
Whatever the reason, the net result is the same: I've been spending my nights up and down like a deranged yo-yo, and my days trying to do a good job even though my eyeballs are covered in sand and the only recognisable thought in my head is a single giant yawn. Any other commitments have been left by the wayside in a jumbled heap marked 'to be picked up later'. Which is why, dear friends, I am writing to you from the shade of a palm tree* on one of my very own barren islands.
For the next couple of weeks, I'm going to be exiled here while my boring real-life alter ego gets on with things. I know it will be a terrible blow to you all not to have the twice-weekly joy of my presence (ha), but if it's any consolation, I'll be back in August. In the meantime, I leave you with this picture of the view from my palm tree. Bet you wish you were here ...
* OK, it's not technically barren. What's the point of being the Ultimate and Supreme Ruler of the Barren Islands if I can't bend the rules a little on my own behalf?
Me, on a quest
Cast of characters: Cigam, an enigmatic and bearded wizard. Edragne, a feisty warrior woman. Rieh, a farm boy with a crown-shaped birthmark on his left buttock.* And me.
The company is currently camping in an eerie forest with the sound of wolf howls in the not-so-distance. Cigam is looking enigmatic behind his beard. Edragne and Rieh are engaging in the kind of playfully insulting banter that's a prelude to them sleeping together. I'm hugging my knees and trying not to think about snakes.
Dammit. Now I'm thinking about snakes.
Cigam: We must reach E'calpecin ere break of dawn, else Redael will be slain and Drolkrad triumph.
Rieh: Do we have time for a brief stop by a moonlit pool that has a strangely arousing effect on all who behold it? Only Edragne and I -
Cigam: If you must.
Me: <startled yelp>
Edragne (drawing her sword): What is it? Do you sense the foul minions of Drolkrad approaching?
Me (sheepishly): Something brushed my cheek. I think it was a moth. Can we turn the fire down a bit?
Rieh: The bird-with-outlandish-name-that-happens-to-look-and-taste-a-lot-like-chicken is ready.
Cigam: Thank you, my friend.
(They both tuck enthusiastically into legs.)
Me: Um ... is there a vegetarian option?
(Blank stares all round.)
Me: Something that isn't made out of meat?
Edragne (doubtfully): You could try the bones.
Me: Never mind.
Rieh: You know, as well as my birthmark I also have this sword with sparkly bits that goes zing when I draw it. D'you think that means anything?
Edragne: It means you fight like a little girl, and also that I'll definitely sleep with you when we reach that magic pool.
Rieh: Mum said the sword was my father's. But come to think of it, that's weird, because he was a goat too. (He sees everyone staring.) What? I was raised by goats. That's perfectly normal, isn't it?
Cigam: All will be revealed in good time. Even the gazelle cannot outrun winter.
Me: <stifled scream>
Edragne (drawing her sword again): What is it? Have you foreseen our doom?
Me (shaking an arm frantically): Get it off me! Get it off me!
Edragne: Is it an omen of dire significance?
(I point wordlessly to the small spider clinging to my elbow.)
Edragne (brushing it off): That's nothing. There are spiders in here the size of your head.
Me (shuddering): Seriously? Then what the hell are we doing here?
Cigam: 'Tis the fastest way to E'calpecin. The coastal path, which is entirely danger-free and includes some beautiful vistas, would have taken half an hour longer.
Rieh: But we're still going to have time to visit that pool, right? Only Edragne and I -
Cigam: Yes, my friend. Even the platypus must sing when it rains.
Me: I'm sorry. Did you say platypus? What does that mean?
(Cigam rearranges his beard into a more enigmatic configuration and doesn't reply.)
Rieh: You know what I just noticed? Drolkrad is Dark Lord backwards.**
Cigam: Even a weed does not grow without order. (He looks pointedly at me.) In other words, there is no such thing as coincidence.
Me (in a mutter): Yeah, but there is such a thing as a lazy author ... (Another, bigger spider runs over my foot.) Oh, that's just mean.
To be continued ...
* So I'm told. I didn't peek, honest.
** Having written this scene, I'm now 95% sure that most of the fantasy names in existence were created using this method.
Welcome to Barren Island Books, an interview show in no way related to a popular music-based radio programme. Every Thursday, I will be exiling my latest guest to a remote island with only five books for company, selected from the categories I give them. It’s up to them to make sure they choose wisely, because they’re going to be stuck with these books for a long, long time …
My interviewee this week is Juliet Madison, author of
Second Chances (the first of the DI Frank Lyle Mysteries). When she's not being banished to a desert island, Juliet can be found at julietmadisoncrimeauthor.wordpress.com.