Friday 3 January 2014

#FridayFlash - Allergy

By Jan van Grevenbroeck (1731-1807)
The clock in the square struck one. Karea cursed under her breath; she hated being late. She stood on her toes to peer above the heads of the crowd. They jostled and shoved outside the cathedral. Some brandished placards, while others waved banners in a righteous frenzy. “The dead have rights too” and “We’re sick, not criminals” were two of the more popular slogans.

She edged along the edge of the crowd, caught between protestors and onlookers. Many of those watching the demonstration held handkerchiefs to their mouths, or buried their faces in nosegays. Karea wondered why they didn’t just stay away, if they were so scared of the Contagion.

The crowd petered out on the far side of the square, and Karea slipped into a narrow alley between a bakery and a milliner’s. Looking back, she could see mounted militia surrounding the protestors. They sat astride huge chestnut stallions, all wearing black government-issue masks. The long ibis-like nose would be filled with strongly scented flowers. Karea wondered how many people would succumb to hay fever before the Contagion itself.

Karea burst out of the alley as a tram pulled up to the stop across the street. She hurled herself across the cobbled stones, narrowly avoiding a pony and trap driven by a young boy. She climbed on board, and squeezed herself between two elderly women clad in black. She nodded at each in turn, acknowledging their loss. A purple hat band indicated that the woman on her right had lost someone a lot earlier than the woman on the left. Probably when the Contagion first started.

Two government officials flanked the trembling conductor. Blue eyes burned bright behind the ibis masks. Karea shuddered. She wondered if the masks were intended to protect the officials, or to intimidate the populace.

Several passengers alighted at the next stop. Karea dropped her gaze from the window; she didn’t need to see them file into the cemetery. She also didn’t need to see the gravediggers and their pits, shovelling quicklime onto anonymous corpses, dumped in ignoble piles.

A tickle in her nose made Karea look up. A woman settled into the seat opposite, heaving a wicker basket onto her knee. A cat the colour of marmalade sat in the basket. It looked at her with brazen interest. Karea felt her stomach drop as the first sneeze struggled to escape. She left off a volley of rapid sneezes, each more violent than the last. The passengers scattered, clawing at each other in their attempts to get away from her.

The government officials swooped. Each clamped a gloved hand on her arms, hauling her to her feet. The tram lurched to a halt, and they pulled her down the stairs into the street. Karea’s protests went unheard as a crowd gathered to investigate the commotion. A cart waited by the gutter; the livery was that of the House of the Stricken. One of the officials fought to tie a cloth mask over her lower face.

“I’m not sick!” shouted Karea, her words lost in the thick fabric. “I’m just allergic to cats!”

* * *

I first posted this way back in 2010 and am re-posting because the whirl of Christmas and New Year have gotten in the way of writing anything, I was always rather proud of this one.

Tuesday 31 December 2013

2013: The Year That Was

Normally the end of the year would see an inevitable review of the preceding twelve months, full of lists and photos eagerly depicted fun or beautiful moments. 2013 has been a funny year for me, full of ups and downs, although understandably I don't exactly want to detail the downs here. Don't worry, it's nothing major, more annoyances.

Academically, I completed the second chapter of my PhD and presented my first conference paper. The former was both a labour of love and a millstone around my neck, while the latter was equal parts of exciting and terrifying. Luckily my teaching experience made it easy to stand up in front of fellow academics to discuss The Frighteners and The Tattooist.

In terms of writing, The Guns of Retribution was re-published by Beat to a Pulp in May, while my short story, Protection, was published in Bloody Parchment's The Root Cellar and Other Stories. I finished writing The Necromancer's Apprentice, with help from my beta readers Tony Noland and Rob Diaz, while the ever-awesome Nerine Dorman edited it.

As well as knitting up a storm and learning to crochet, which was both harder and easier than I thought it might be, I took up jewellery making, and even opened my own shop on etsy. IcyHandmade has even had a few sales! I've been focussing on jewellery that is affordable but quirky, and I've tried a variety of techniques so far. I really need to start treating it like a proper business but at the moment I've just been collecting materials and charms to make items like this leaf and watchface charm bracelet. On top of that, I got involved with the #craftblogclub Twitter chat, run by Emma Berry. I've met some lovely crafters and bloggers through it, and it's been a real inspiration for doing and learning more crafts.

I visited Germany on holiday, visiting Cologne and Bonn among other places, and I took up archery and target shooting - I passed a beginner's course in archery, meaning I'm now a member of my local club, and I'm not exactly Oliver Queen yet but I'm working on that. I also worked on my photography skills through my Image A Day experiment on Instagram (see the results on Pinterest or Flickr) and I learned how to develop film myself at a pinhole camera workshop (which ended up being more about 35mm photography). The latter part has been a particular eye opener, and it's reignited my love for black and white photography.

But now we're on the cusp of 2014 and I feel it's best to look forwards, not back. So what do I plan for the coming year?

I'll be continuing to work on my PhD, with a minimum of one chapter and my introduction planned, and I'll be presenting another paper at a conference in June. I've also got other bits and pieces to work on, but I've thankfully been able to recover my focus for my thesis, so I've got my academic mojo back. With any luck, 2014 will see a definite boost to my word count.

The Necromancer's Apprentice will be coming out in 2014 through Dark Continents Publishing's Tales of Darkness and Dismay line, but I've got the sequel to The Guns of Retribution to finish, as well as edits to complete on my long awaited Fowlis Westerby novel before I decide what to do with it. Expect more short stories and more flash fiction.

I'll be working on more jewellery creations for my etsy shop but I also want to focus on creating handmade knits to sell in my shop. I'm not taking commissions just yet but if you're desperate for something, drop me an email at icy (at) icysedgwick (dot) com and we can discuss it! However, I have also vowed not to buy any more yarn to knit things for myself until I've finished all my outstanding projects so I'll have to keep buying for projects for sale!

How about you? What plans have you got for 2014?