La racine des malapropismes de Miss Henderson – encore

menu“Unfair of what?”

Dear Reader

Well we have all hopefully enjoyed the prologue of the Paris Awakening and your appetites are suitably whetted for the forthcoming serialised novel. For this we shall return to our “two episodes a week” regimen, starting this Saturday hence. This will be followed by another episode next Tuesday and so on and so forth.

We may of course add a little light entertainment, book review, waspish comment or other ephemera on a more or less random basis during the coming weeks. Our aim is to have the novel serialised, completed and enjoyed by your good selves by the end of this year 2018. We would also like wish you a very pleasant New Year and hope this to be the very best of years for you.

Yours

Mr Michael and Miss Pichette

 

The Paris Awakening: Prologue Part 5

Their eyes locked over the gorgonzola piccante.

“Yes, it was an exciting time,” smiled Sir John. “As you say, the Societe were largely buffoons, and I was all but giving up on them when we met. Then we started all those experiments, trying to build devices that could detect paranormal activity.”

“And all that time, I wanted to tell you about me,” said Marie. “About the powers I had. But, it seemed a strange thing to say at first, and then it got harder and harder to speak. I hoped at first that you would be able to help me find out more about myself, but then I found myself wishing for something different.”

Sir John held out his hand next to the Camembert de Normandie, and Marie reached and held it.

“Me too,” he said. “I was so pleased when we became partners, not just in paranormal investigation, but in romance.”

“And by then, it was impossible to tell you,” said Marie.

There was a pause.

“I have one question, Marie,” said Sir John. “The early investigations, before I knew, how much was the devices and how much was … you.”

“I … helped a little,” said Marie, “at the haunting. But you found the body after all, and even the villain of the piece.”

“And in Manchester?” said Sir John. “It was me that stopped Clackprattle, wasn’t it.”

“Well, yes,” said Marie, “but there is more you must know. This is important. Clackprattle isn’t the mastermind, Pook is.”

“That little twerp?” said Sir John.

“Yes, that little twerp is a magical creature, a pookah,” said Marie. “A kind of trickster that plays with people’s lives. He manipulated Clackprattle in Manchester and I imagine again in London. He is wrapped up with these Draco Viridis cult people, and I’m worried about what he will do. You remember at the end, when Clackprattle seized the Summum Malorum? Something happened to him. Something that can only be bad.”

Sir John nodded gravely.

“Yes, I thought there was something strange happening there,” he said. “I noticed Pook shouting, but I didn’t make the connection. Not for the first time, obviously…”

Marie’s head dropped.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…” said Sir John. “I meant that, that I should have seen these things. I’m an investigator, and, and your husband, and you were in danger because I didn’t see what you were. Who you are.”

Mon cher, I hid this from you,” said Marie. “The fault is with me.”

“No, it’s not,” said Sir John. “Not at all.”

Both the couple looked at their plates. There was another pause which was interrupted by Miss Henderson struggling to bring in a large plate filled with chocolate covered balls.

Prophet-a-Holes,” she said. She looked at the couple who both smiled distantly at her, sadness in their eyes.

“Tomorrow I shall cook us a nice turkey roast,” she said, by way of compensation and left with the half-eaten cheese board.

profiteroles
“Prophet-a-Holes”

“You know what we need to do,” said Sir John. “What you wanted me to do from the start.”

“What is that, mon cher,” said Marie.

“In the New Year, straightaway we shall leave for Paris. We shall go back to where this all started and we shall find out where you came from, how you got these powers, and what they are for once and for all!”

Oui, mon cher!” said Marie beaming at him. In triumph Sir John speared a chocolate ball with a fork, and cream spurted out onto his face.

The Paris Awakening: Prologue Part 4

Miss Henderson arrived with the next course of food and noted with approval the smile on Marie’s face. She put the used plates onto a trolley she had brought and then laid two plates of meat in front of the Jennings.

“This is a gnu,” she said and promptly left. Sir John looked at the meat with suspicion and took a bite.

“Ah!” he said. “It’s lamb. So … you met a gargoyle?”

“I didn’t know at first,” explained Marie, “I was sitting crying, and this old man’s voice said ‘What is the matter mademoiselle?’ It was a rough voice, but you could hear the kindness underneath. I was distraught, hands over my face and said the first thing that came to mind: ‘I’m a monster.’

“‘Hmm,’ said the voice, ‘there are worse things to be.’

“I looked up in confusion and saw that I was talking to a gargoyle. I could see it moving clearly, in fact all of the gargoyles on the building were moving. No one else seemed to notice. ‘Who are you?’ I said.

albrect_PS_tx
“A Monster?”

“‘My name is Albrecht,’ said the gargoyle.

“‘Isn’t that a strange name for a gargoyle?’ I said.

“‘Do you know many gargoyles?’ he said.

“‘No,’ I admitted, ‘I think you are my first.’

“We talked for some time then. I’m sure the people around me thought I was crazy, talking to myself. But many people were crazy then. Albrecht said that he knew I was a witch, that he could tell straight away. Just like the man, the faun, by the river. I asked him what he knew about witches. He told me that of the few he had met, they were nice, friendly, well dressed, and very powerful. I asked him what he meant, and he said they could do powerful magic. When I asked him for more details he shrugged and said, ‘I’m just a gargoyle, Marie. I don’t get around too much.’

“After what he said, that there were more of my kind, that they were good people, I tried to find out all I could. Oh, I went to all sorts of strange things mon cher, to seances and magic shows, trying to find out more. I always went back to Albrecht to tell him what I had learned. It was such a mess of information, some false, some mad, and it was hard to make sense of. I thought I needed some order to this search, so I joined the Société d’Evénements Mystérieux looking for the truth. I heard they had a program of scientific investigation of mysterious events. I hoped they would help me make sense of the patchwork of information I had. Of course, I got little from them. They were charlatans and fools whose theories were fancies made grand by scientific language. The whole thing was a waste but for one thing of course…”

Sir John looked puzzled.

“I met you,” said Marie.

The couple looked warmly at each other as Miss Henderson entered.

“Chef has prepared an ass he et from Marge,” she said and placed some cheese on the table.

The Paris Awakening: Prologue Part 3

Miss Henderson came into the dining room with two covered plates. Sir John and Marie were both looking thoughtful.

“Was the soup satisfactory?” asked the maid warily as she put down the plates and gathered up the dishes.

“Yes, thank you,” said Sir John and managed a weak smile.

“Chef said this is poison,” said the maid and uncovered the plates to show two fish. She noticed that Marie’s eyes were a little red and pushed Sir John’s plate toward him with a glare then left.

“We don’t have to…” started Sir John.

“No, it’s fine, I want to tell you,” said Marie, “On the way to Paris my aunt told me sternly that I must never speak of the events in the village. I didn’t need telling. When we arrived in Paris  it was … encroyable. Never in my life had I dreamed of such a place. The buildings, even then, and the people, hordes and hordes of them. And best of all, none of them knew me or knew about me. I decided to forget about talking to animals, the strange man, and the frozen children, and I think I convinced myself it was a childhood dream.

“So I grew up in Paris, learning the fashions and tastes of the city. My aunt and uncle were … they were not unkind, but they were not warm like my mother had been. I tried so hard to forget that I forgot about her too. Even today I can barely recall her face. When I was sixteen they told me she had died some years before, that they had waited until I was old enough to tell me. That whole other life died on that day, too.

“I went from a being a village child to a Parisian young lady and thought myself very sophisticated at that. It was a nice time, really. And then the Prussians came and the siege. It was terrible. There was no food and we ate … we ate whatever could be found.”

Marie looked at her half-eaten fish. Suddenly she set upon it, tearing the meat from the bones and devouring it.

“I learnt it is good to eat well and to be alive,” she said.

Paris_1871_Prisma
“Paris, 1871”

“This is when your aunt and uncle…” started Sir John. Marie nodded.

“In the shelling, at the end, they perished,” she said. “Then we had the commune and more fighting. It was chaos, my beloved Paris was in ruins, riven by conflict. It seemed like humanity had gone crazy.

“And in the midst of this, I remembered who I was. When the government came back into Paris, they rounded up the Communards. Some of my friends were with them. We heard stories … that people were being killed. I shouted at the soldiers who took my friends and they chased after me. They thought I was a Communard too, I think. I ran through the streets with these men after me, terrified. Eventually, I ran into a dead end, with the soldiers at the other. Once again, like years before I shouted ARRETER. And these men stopped too.”

“I stood paused, thinking it was a trick, but they didn’t move. I ran past the stationary men and away from the street. I ran and ran, frightened of the soldiers but more frightened of what I had done. Everything I had tried to forget was coming back into my mind. After just running wild I found myself at the Notre Dame. I thought I should go inside and ask for forgiveness. But I was frightened that I wouldn’t be able to, that I was somehow tainted. I sat down and cried. Then I heard a voice, from above, and he spoke to me.”

Sir John looked puzzled.

“Do you mean God?” he said.

“No, mon cher,” said Marie smiling, “a gargoyle.”

 

Why I Stopped Reading Books

Oscar ReadingA Victorian Gentlemen Concerned About Catching Crabs

So we must immediately apologise for the misleading and attention grabbing title. We believe it is called “clickbait” in the modern parlance, which sounds to us like something one uses for catching crabs. We refer not to a refusal to read books of any kind. No, rather, to the the reasons why we may abandon any given book. You see, we have on our “electronic reader” a collection of books named Stopped. This little collection is like a dark corner of our literary world where we place books that we feel we cannot continue with right now on the assumption we may one day return. Of course, once placed in that virtual pile, they fester away, never touched again, with their electronic bookmarks wagging like the fingers of a chiding aunt.

As we are currently in the middle of writing a novel (stop laughing at the back) we thought it might be useful to visit this little literary backwater in the hope it might deliver us some insight on why these particular books have suffered such an ignominious fate. The aim, of course, is to prevent our own novel suffering the same misfortune. We present here the aforementioned knowledge. We shall mention no books in particular and offer the immense caveat that these ideas and judgements are most certainly subjective. One’s man’s meat is another man’s murder.

This Charming Man

After reviewing the list of books, one common aspect immediately made itself known to us. Namely, we don’t care about the the characters. We don’t mean they are unlikeable, although that may be a factor. Or even that they are uninteresting, although that too may influence such a judgement. We mean simply this: we don’t care two hoots whether the characters achieve their ambitions and dreams or end up in Cheapside taking in laundry for a living. We’re sure the reasons for this are as myriad as they are arbitrary, but once settled on such an opinion, it is hard for us to shift it. And conversely, the book is easy to shift into the Stopped section. Lesson number one, then, is make the characters likely to be of interest to the people who you hope will read the book.

That Joke’s Not Funny Anymore

At the Benthic Times we’re rather fond of comedy. We tend to prefer deadpan and surreal to, say, a piece of slapstick, but we’re not above making jokes about pineal glands. Our reading too reflects that, we heartily enjoy tales that a have a comedic element to the fore. However, there can be too much of a good thing. And, we have found, that books that are all gags and no substance tend to lose our interest. We call this the “pearl theory” of comedy. It’s pleasant to have something smooth, shiny and translucent to look at, but if there isn’t at least a little bit of grit at it’s heart, it’s going to seem rather fake and cheap.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

On a similar note, we like genre fiction. A lot. And whilst we like nothing more than a book that merrily (and hopefully, humorously) subverts genre tropes, we’ll groan and yawn when confronted with one that seems determined to tick all the cliche boxes without an ounce of irony. Not every genre book should be constantly genre busting, of course, otherwise there would be no such thing as genre. And yet, some fresh angle or approach is very welcome.

Well, that concludes our little reel around the fountain and through the cemetery gates of our electronic reader. We hope it was entertaining and enlightening. Next week we shall looking at more crab catching with a post entitled “Why I Stopped Watching Television”.

Paul Michael

An Interesting Modern Device to Assist the Writer

Hansen Writing BallNot this…

Good afternoon, Dear Readers. This afternoon I’m going to take the unusual step of pulling back the curtain to reveal some of the gears and levers that go into producing the literary content of the Benthic Times. Pay not attention to the man, I want to show you something else.

Following a marvellous tweet from the equally marvellous Gail Carriger, I started to utilise a most interesting thing called Trello. This works rather like a card index system and allows me to create one card per scene and hence organise the forthcoming Paris Awakening novel. One can also create boards that can function as different sections (for example, Act 1,2,3, or even chapters) and so the scenes can be put in the correct section. One can also re-arrange them at will and add labels (such as characters, locations and so on). My most favourite function of all though is that it allows me to use it via a so-called “app” on my portable telephonic device (the Queen has one, I believe). This rather wonderful thing allows me to carry out plotting at a bus stop. All the more remarkable given I never take the bus.

As I am neither a full on “pantser” nor a meticulous “planner” but some horrible chimeric writer (a “panner” I suspect) who starts writing to get the location, atmosphere and characters, then plots on bits of paper, this is a sheer joy for me. And as the actual financial outgoing is very reasonable (it’s free), I can recommend it to anyone with a reasonably sized writing project on the go.

Wishing you all a pleasant Sunday

Paul Michael

La racine des malapropismes de Miss Henderson

menu“Unfair of what?”

Dear Reader

Well we have all hopefully enjoyed the prologue of the Paris Awakening and our appetites are suitably whetted for the forthcoming novel. All being well it should be “available from all good bookshops” in Summertime as soon as Mr Michael has completed writing the words and Miss Pichette has put the commas in the rightful places. Mr Michael does so enjoy spreading them wily-nily across the page like salt on a under-seasoned soup.

As we have now completed the prologue, we shall return to our usual program of serialised stories. We are excited to reveal, as if on a silver salver, that our latest story, featuring canine capers, catastrophic coincidences and a cadence of caterwauling, will  be called The Cornish Cur*.

The observant of you will have noticed that this is a Tuesday and yet we are not publishing the first episode. And now, I’m afraid, we have to add a soupçon of disappointment to the melange of joy. For we have decided that to allow Mr Michael and Miss Pichette the full time to create great art and accurate punctuation, we shall return to our “one episode a week” regimen, starting this Saturday hence. We only hope that the crushing emotions this evokes will be tempered by the knowledge that the aforementioned novel will be all the sooner on your electronic reading device of choice.

We would also like to reaffirm our previous wishes, in that we hope this to be the very best of years for you.

Yours

Mr Michael and Miss Pichette

(*Since writing this post Mr Michael has changed the name to The Cornish Curse. He has also grown a beard. It’s the time of year for changes.)

The Paris Awakening: Prologue Part 5

Their eyes locked over the gorgonzola piccante.

“Yes, it was an exciting time,” smiled Sir John. “As you say, the Societe were largely buffoons, and I was all but giving up on them when we met. Then we started all those experiments, trying to build devices that could detect paranormal activity.”

“And all that time, I wanted to tell you about me,” said Marie. “About the powers I had. But, it seemed a strange thing to say at first, and then it got harder and harder to speak. I hoped at first that you would be able to help me find out more about myself, but then I found myself wishing for something different.”

Sir John held out his hand next to the Camembert de Normandie, and Marie reached and held it.

“Me too,” he said. “I was so pleased when we became partners, not just in paranormal investigation, but in romance.”

“And by then, it was impossible to tell you,” said Marie.

There was a pause.

“I have one question, Marie,” said Sir John. “The early investigations, before I knew, how much was the devices and how much was … you.”

“I … helped a little,” said Marie, “at the haunting. But you found the body after all, and even the villain of the piece.”

“And in Manchester?” said Sir John. “It was me that stopped Clackprattle, wasn’t it.”

“Well, yes,” said Marie, “but there is more you must know. This is important. Clackprattle isn’t the mastermind, Pook is.”

“That little twerp?” said Sir John.

“Yes, that little twerp is a magical creature, a pookah,” said Marie. “A kind of trickster that plays with people’s lives. He manipulated Clackprattle in Manchester and I imagine again in London. He is wrapped up with these Draco Viridis cult people, and I’m worried about what he will do. You remember at the end, when Clackprattle seized the Summum Malorum? Something happened to him. Something that can only be bad.”

Sir John nodded gravely.

“Yes, I thought there was something strange happening there,” he said. “I noticed Pook shouting, but I didn’t make the connection. Not for the first time, obviously…”

Marie’s head dropped.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…” said Sir John. “I meant that, that I should have seen these things. I’m an investigator, and, and your husband, and you were in danger because I didn’t see what you were. Who you are.”

Mon cher, I hid this from you,” said Marie. “The fault is with me.”

“No, it’s not,” said Sir John. “Not at all.”

Both the couple looked at their plates. There was another pause which was interrupted by Miss Henderson struggling to bring in a large plate filled with chocolate covered balls.

Prophet-a-Holes,” she said. She looked at the couple who both smiled distantly at her, sadness in their eyes.

“Tomorrow I shall cook us a nice turkey roast,” she said, by way of compensation and left with the half-eaten cheese board.

paprol5“Prophet-a-Holes”

“You know what we need to do,” said Sir John. “What you wanted me to do from the start.”

“What is that, mon cher,” said Marie.

“In the New Year, straightaway we shall leave for Paris. We shall go back to where this all started and we shall find out where you came from, how you got these powers, and what they are for once and for all!”

Oui, mon cher!” said Marie beaming at him. In triumph Sir John speared a chocolate ball with a fork, and cream spurted out onto his face.

The Paris Awakening: Prologue Part 4

Miss Henderson arrived with the next course of food and noted with approval the smile on Marie’s face. She put the used plates onto a trolley she had brought and then laid two plates of meat in front of the Jennings.

“This is a gnu,” she said and promptly left. Sir John looked at the meat with suspicion and took a bite.

“Ah!” he said. “It’s lamb. So … you met a gargoyle?”

“I didn’t know at first,” explained Marie, “I was sitting crying, and this old man’s voice said ‘What is the matter mademoiselle?’ It was a rough voice, but you could hear the kindness underneath. I was distraught, hands over my face and said the first thing that came to mind: ‘I’m a monster.’

“‘Hmm,’ said the voice, ‘there are worse things to be.’

“I looked up in confusion and saw that I was talking to a gargoyle. I could see it moving clearly, in fact all of the gargoyles on the building were moving. No one else seemed to notice. ‘Who are you?’ I said.

gargoyle_edited-1“A Monster?”

“‘My name is Albrecht,’ said the gargoyle.

“‘Isn’t that a strange name for a gargoyle?’ I said.

“‘Do you know many gargoyles?’ he said.

“‘No,’ I admitted, ‘I think you are my first.’

“We talked for some time then. I’m sure the people around me thought I was crazy, talking to myself. But many people were crazy then. Albrecht said that he knew I was a witch, that he could tell straight away. Just like the man, the faun, by the river. I asked him what he knew about witches. He told me that of the few he had met, they were nice, friendly, well dressed, and very powerful. I asked him what he meant, and he said they could do powerful magic. When I asked him for more details he shrugged and said, ‘I’m just a gargoyle, Marie. I don’t get around too much.’

“After what he said, that there were more of my kind, that they were good people, I tried to find out all I could. Oh, I went to all sorts of strange things mon cher, to seances and magic shows, trying to find out more. I always went back to Albrecht to tell him what I had learned. It was such a mess of information, some false, some mad, and it was hard to make sense of. I thought I needed some order to this search, so I joined the Société d’Evénements Mystérieux looking for the truth. I heard they had a program of scientific investigation of mysterious events. I hoped they would help me make sense of the patchwork of information I had. Of course, I got little from them. They were charlatans and fools whose theories were fancies made grand by scientific language. The whole thing was a waste but for one thing of course…”

Sir John looked puzzled.

“I met you,” said Marie.

The couple looked warmly at each other as Miss Henderson entered.

“Chef has prepared an ass he et from Marge,” she said and placed some cheese on the table.

The Paris Awakening: Prologue Part 3

Miss Henderson came into the dining room with two covered plates. Sir John and Marie were both looking thoughtful.

“Was the soup satisfactory?” asked the maid warily as she put down the plates and gathered up the dishes.

“Yes, thank you,” said Sir John and managed a weak smile.

“Chef said this is poison,” said the maid and uncovered the plates to show two fish. She noticed that Marie’s eyes were a little red and pushed Sir John’s plate toward him with a glare then left.

“We don’t have to…” started Sir John.

“No, it’s fine, I want to tell you,” said Marie, “On the way to Paris my aunt told me sternly that I must never speak of the events in the village. I didn’t need telling. When we arrived in Paris  it was … encroyable. Never in my life had I dreamed of such a place. The buildings, even then, and the people, hordes and hordes of them. And best of all, none of them knew me or knew about me. I decided to forget about talking to animals, the strange man, and the frozen children, and I think I convinced myself it was a childhood dream.

“So I grew up in Paris, learning the fashions and tastes of the city. My aunt and uncle were … they were not unkind, but they were not warm like my mother had been. I tried so hard to forget that I forgot about her too. Even today I can barely recall her face. When I was sixteen they told me she had died some years before, that they had waited until I was old enough to tell me. That whole other life died on that day, too.

“I went from a being a village child to a Parisian young lady and thought myself very sophisticated at that. It was a nice time, really. And then the Prussians came and the siege. It was terrible. There was no food and we ate … we ate whatever could be found.”

Marie looked at her half-eaten fish. Suddenly she set upon it, tearing the meat from the bones and devouring it.

“I learnt it is good to eat well and to be alive,” she said.

Paris_1871_Prisma
“Paris, 1871”

“This is when your aunt and uncle…” started Sir John. Marie nodded.

“In the shelling, at the end, they perished,” she said. “Then we had the commune and more fighting. It was chaos, my beloved Paris was in ruins, riven by conflict. It seemed like humanity had gone crazy.

“And in the midst of this, I remembered who I was. When the government came back into Paris, they rounded up the Communards. Some of my friends were with them. We heard stories … that people were being killed. I shouted at the soldiers who took my friends and they chased after me. They thought I was a Communard too, I think. I ran through the streets with these men after me, terrified. Eventually, I ran into a dead end, with the soldiers at the other. Once again, like years before I shouted ARRETER. And these men stopped too.”

“I stood paused, thinking it was a trick, but they didn’t move. I ran past the stationary men and away from the street. I ran and ran, frightened of the soldiers but more frightened of what I had done. Everything I had tried to forget was coming back into my mind. After just running wild I found myself at the Notre Dame. I thought I should go inside and ask for forgiveness. But I was frightened that I wouldn’t be able to, that I was somehow tainted. I sat down and cried. Then I heard a voice, from above, and he spoke to me.”

Sir John looked puzzled.

“Do you mean God?” he said.

“No, mon cher,” said Marie smiling, “a gargoyle.”