Thursday, 2 December 2021

Almendra: A Fairy-Tale - Chapter Two

 CHAPTER TWO

~ A High Lady and a Grey Wolf ~

Angry and defiant, the young black-haired and black-attired girl strode briskly down a long winding road. The road was as long as her long black hair that slid down her back and slithered across the ground like a giant snake – as furious as its owner.

Finally, reaching her favourite spot, the girl sat down on a worn-out edge of a high cliff and watched raging wild dark abyss beneath; its turbulent waters were the picture of her very soul.

This young woman with fierce black eyes and long black hair, all attired in black, with bare shoulders and furious temper was Almendra, the High Lady of The Upper Kingdom – or what was left of it — the mistress of forsaken land, abandoned by her father and cursed by her mother for an eternal life of unhappiness, loneliness and gloom. She had been raised by a devoted Nanna, who was currently crying on the cold stone floor of the castle, and befriended by a stranded creature that was at this very moment nudging her bare shoulder with his leathery nose.

Almendra turned around.

‘Well? Have you hidden the book?’

A huge grey wolf with big amber eyes nodded and lay down, putting his snout in Almendra’s lap.

Almendra snorted.

‘I’m glad to know that this sudden streak of disobedience is not contagious,’ she said grimly. 

The wolf looked up.

Their eyes met.

Almendra shook her head.

‘I don’t think so, Woo. I believe that this time she went entirely too far! Just think about the pain I feel each time she reminds me of this blasted fate line and everything that I don’t have. But to actually chant it out loud – right into my face – is beyond my forgiveness! If I didn’t owe her that much, believe me, I would have gladly chopped off her head the moment the line left her stupid old mouth.’

The girl stared at the wolf, her black eyes boring into his.

‘Oh no, Woo, don’t. Don’t tell me that you are on her side. You are a good friend of mine, but if you defy me, I’m afraid I will have to tell you to leave.’

Woo growled deep in his throat and shook his head.

‘That’s better, isn’t it? Good that we understand each other so perfectly well.’

They sat in silence, interrupted by the perpetual swishing of the wind; Woo joined Almendra in watching the abyss of dark blue waters beneath.

Suddenly, Almendra broke the silence with a growl that would have made Woo green with envy – if he were the envious type.

‘But, honestly, I don’t understand why she persists in bringing up this old, useless line every chance she gets when it does nothing but hurt! Why should I follow it? Why? Why should I go no one knows where, looking for no one knows who, in the land of what’s-their-name anyway?’ she asked, defiant and angry.

It was quite unfortunate that Woo had no answer to give.

‘Forget it, Woo,’ snapped Almendra with a toss of her head. ‘It’s not like I’m going anywhere. I’m not undertaking some stupid quest just to prove Nan wrong! I’m not seeking and begging and – what’s more – believing that the fate line might actually work. Not after all these years of useless waiting. Oh no, I’m not going to be fooled by false hope!’

She looked down at Woo. All through her speech she held her head high and proud, addressing the ever-grey heavens above, as if daring them to retort or to find fault with her logic. Now she found Woo suspiciously quiet.

With her eyes narrowed, Almendra continued, ‘If you think to blame me for how I treated Nan then I advise you to stop it this instant. She deserved what she got. But if you don’t share my sentiments, then by all means! Go! Go and leave me alone! Isn’t it what everyone in The Upper Kingdom is so good at after all?’

Almendra turned away, her back rigid with anger. Woo was left to make his sad way back towards the castle. At that moment it looked and felt less cold and forbidding than his mistress.

Almendra looked up at the sky, her cruel eyes glittering with unshed tears, her throat constricted with unleashed yells.

She hissed furiously, ‘They don’t want me? Fine! I don’t want them either. None of them! I am the High Lady of The Upper Kingdom. I am immortal! I am the High Lady of the Land of the Almighty Nermina and I DON’T NEED ANYONE!’

And though her eyes blazed with triumph and her words held such conviction that even her heart was ready to believe them, Almendra knew the truth only too well. As well as she knew the fate line that started the trouble today. Because wasn’t she herself chanting it every night before falling into unhappy lonesome sleep? And hasn’t she spent all her life waiting for someone to come and to release her from her doom?

But time passed and no one came, and her voice grew hoarse, and her hope faded, and her heart became cold, and the line became her poison, and still no one came, and now she no longer believed.


Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Almendra: A Fairy-Tale - Chapter One

 CHAPTER ONE

~ A Banished Book ~

Dark green curtains were drawn back, showing narrow ominous windows in grim iron frames and a huge dark room lit by feeble rays of an unenthusiastic sun, coming from the high grey sky. Now that the room was illuminated, two figures could be seen inside. One was sitting in an old, black, deep armchair, rocking back and forth, an ancient book held tightly in her hands. Another was standing by the window, her arms folded on her heaving chest and her naturally full lips pursed into a thin cross line. One was old, another was young. One was in a good mood, another was out of humour. One was unwise enough to break the gloomy silence of the house by chanting an old, long-forgotten line:

‘Once Love Is Settled On This Earth And Vow Is Sealed By Kiss The Queen Will Be Again A Rose Her Country Will Find Peace.’

One fell with a thud on the floor. A rather short and rather plump elderly woman in a white apron, too many skirts, and funnily shaped glasses that slid down her nose. Towering over her was a very angry-looking young woman with long black hair and smoldering black eyes.

The plump woman on the floor was frantically trying to untangle herself from the abundance of her skirts that seized her movements, while the young woman was furiously yelling at her cowering form.

‘WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING BY SAYING THIS OLD STUPID LINE? HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU THAT UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES YOU ARE ALLOWED TO CHANT IT? GIVE ME THIS STUPID OLD BOOK!’ she roared in a voice that clearly bore no further arguments.

But the woman that was still on the floor was rather brave, judging by the way she started shaking her head in protest, gripping the book tightly to her chest, her knuckles getting white.

‘NOW!’ barked an angry figure from above and, waiting neither for an answer nor for a fulfillment of her command, she grabbed the book from her trembling hands and shoved it in the direction of someone who had appeared out of nowhere at her side, standing on all fours.

‘Take it away and hide it so that no one ever finds it!’ ordered the young woman, still glaring at the terrified woman on the floor.

Someone on all fours took the offensive object in between its sharp teeth and took off at a trot with a low growl.

‘Almendra…’ started a tremulous voice from the floor, only to be cut off the next moment.

‘SAY NO MORE! I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANOTHER WORD LEAVING YOUR MOUTH EVER AGAIN! I ASKED YOU TIME AND TIME AGAIN TO STOP, BUT WITH NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER! BUT NOW YOU’D BETTER LISTEN AND YOU’D BETTER LISTEN WELL, BECAUSE I ORDER YOU TO GET OUT OF MY SIGHT! HIDE YOURSELF SOMEWHERE AND SEAL YOUR MOUTH SHUT, SO THAT I DON’T SEE NOR HEAR YOU BY THE TIME I COME BACK!’

With a last furious glare, the tall young woman, all clad in black, strode off, leaving a sobbing figure trembling on the cold stone floor.


Get ready for "Almendra: A Fairy-Tale" this December ;)

Now that the golden age of blogging is well and truly over, I barely attend to my poor blog. That being said, in order to enliven it a little bit, I've decided to post the original story behind "Highland Court Chronicles: Almendra's Quest" here, starting today. I guess I'm feeling kinda nostalgic as another year comes to an end.... So let's have some fun, shall we? 

Friday, 13 August 2021

Depression writing style

There was a time when I read and wrote voraciously. There was a time when I had dreams about getting my books published. There was a time… I started out on this writing journey more than ten years ago: young, hopeful, enthusiastic and determined. But mostly stupidly naïve, believing that anyone would be interested in anything I have to say. Nowadays my writing is like a series of tides that ebb away as quickly as they come. I don’t have a plan anymore. I don’t believe that my dream of having a writing career will ever come true. I have no faith in my own books or abilities. Don’t get me wrong: I love my stories and my characters and my worlds but hardly anyone else does and at some point another rejection becomes one too many to handle. I haven’t written anything new in almost two years and my editing process usually takes so long I eventually lose any determination or desire to publish the book I’m working on. My latest attempt was a complete fiasco. It was quite unfortunate that after several years of editing the first Regency-set novel I’ve ever written in order to re-publish it, it was bought and reviewed by someone who must have expected a Julia Quinn kind of romp and, having found it to be a very different kind of novel, gave it a one-star rating along with a review that pretty much destroyed its chances. No one bought another copy ever since. Unsurprisingly enough. For me it was like that final nail in the coffin that put me off writing just as I was gearing myself up for what I knew would be a challenging writing journey to begin with. So here I am drowning my writing-related depression by obsessively watching the same shows and movies over and over again, reading fanfics and drifting further and further away from my own characters and stories and not really caring anymore. Maybe I’ll get back on that writing horse again. Maybe not. I’ve had long writing slumps and many setbacks before and I always found my way back. But at this point in time I just don’t feel like it and that’s that.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

MARGARET'S REMATCH: a look behind the scenes

MARGARET'S REMATCH - my Regency Romance - is going to be published this week and here is a behind-the-scene interview about the book and my writing process that I did some months ago at Historical Reader Fiction blog, which I'm reposting here.

Welcome to Historical Fiction Reader Farida. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us a bit about Margaret's Rematch.

Thank you very much! It’s a real pleasure to be here! Margaret’s Rematch is a slow-paced novel set against the backdrop of Regency England. Here is what it is about: After the loss of her sister, Margaret Fairfax leaves London and settles at Northbrook Hall - the country estate of her brother-in-law, Mr Westfield, whose dislike of her is legendary. There she faces a major challenge of reconciling their many differences and proving to him that despite the rumours of schemes and scandals that followed her all the way from London, she is worthy of his regard. With time and many an exertion, Margaret succeeds in gaining his approbation and affection. In fact, she is on the verge of triumph when her deceitful friend arrives determined to ruin it all. 


Where did the idea for this story originate?

The thing about story ideas is that with the passage of time I never quite know or never actually remember where they came from or how they originated. They usually ambush me and demand to be written down and haunt me until I give in. On the other hand, the idea to write what is generally known as “regency romance” was influenced by my passion for Jane Austen’s books. I thought of it as my homage to her and initially wanted to call my novel “Imitation”. I was actually quite scared to write something like that. It was more than twelve years ago and I didn’t feel myself equal to it. However, on a lark I showed a piece of what I’d already written to a friend – another Jane Austen fan – and she loved it so much that she encouraged me to proceed.


What historical resources helped you bring Margaret’s world to life on the page?

I meticulously studied Jane Austen’s books and spent a lot of time researching everything I could online, collecting tons of material along the way. Google Books proved to be an invaluable source of material about that period of time. I read diaries, letters, memoirs, advice columns written by people of that time, as well as different manuals on all possible subjects I could possibly need; newspapers, magazines, novels. Basically anything I could get my hands on! Nowadays I always keep a volume of Belle Assemblée and The Gentleman’s Magazine on hand. It really helps me to get into the heads of people of that time, understand their mindset and nurture and attune my language in order to make it sound more authentic.


Which character in Margaret's Rematch do you feel you have the most in common with?

Funny you should ask that! Just the other day one of my students, who read the book, looked at me apologetically and confessed that she preferred Anne Westfield (the sister of the main character) to Margaret Fairfax. She was afraid that I would be upset, but I just laughed and told her that I knew exactly what she meant and that I felt exactly the same. I’m afraid I did it on purpose. Anne is a lot more relatable than Margaret in many ways, but, mainly, I think it is because she isn’t quite as perfect as the latter. Additionally, I made her an excellent artist, which has always been a dream of mine and I thought that she might as well make it come true. Just now I’ve been editing a piece where Anne is talking and talking and talking about her love for cakes, reminding me all over again why she is so relatable and why I like her so much!


Which character do you feel you have the least in common with?

Margaret Fairfax is definitely very different from me. I don’t think that we have anything in common at all. She is young, beautiful, rich, very popular with the opposite sex, and is quite opposed to reading. We have literally nothing in common! So I had lots of fun telling her story. I don’t want to give you the wrong impression about Margaret, though! While she is very beautiful and is well aware of it, she is not at all arrogant or conceited. In fact, she is very kind and sweet, but she does have a bit of a temper and her brother-in-law knows that better than anyone else! Her temper was actually the reason why they became bitter enemies in the first place and then continued to nurture their animosity towards each other for years.


Did any scene in Margaret's Rematch challenge you as a writer?

Oh, pretty much everything challenged me as a writer when working on this novel! I was basically just starting out and I was still learning and sometimes it was really hard to put into words what I wanted to say. I remember that it took me roughly a month to write each chapter and for some unfathomable reason I favoured really long chapters back then!


Authors are often forced to make sacrifices when composing their stories and I always wonder what ended up on the cutting room floor. Is there a character, scene, or concept you wish you could have spent more time on while writing Margaret's Rematch?

I hate doing that and it usually takes me a long while to come to terms with the necessity of cutting out anything, even when I know perfectly well that it has got to go. The only thing that helps in my case is the passage of time. For example, having returned to Margaret’s Rematch many years later, I had a lot less qualms about cutting out whole passages. I became quite ruthless about it. Though, I must say that I replaced them with new pieces right away! In fact, ever since I started editing the manuscript, my word count increased by 10K. In my defence, I believe I cut out irrelevant pieces and substituted them with important ones. Speaking about a specific scene… I wrote a cute little scene where Margaret was telling her nephew about how his mother and father met at a ball. I liked it very much but there was no place to fit it in and so it never ended up in a book.


If you could pick a fantasy cast - anyone at all, living or dead, at any point in their careers - to play your characters in a big-screen adaptation of Margaret's Rematch, who would you cast?

I feel kind of silly mentioning it, but when I was writing it twelve years ago (or was it more?), I was a big fan of Smallville and my dream cast was the cast of Smallville at the time. I even saved their photos on my old computer and called them with the names of my characters. Nowadays, I’m a fan of Supernatural and at least as far as Mr James Westfield (the main hero) and Mr Clifford Stockley (Margaret’s close friend and the brother of the main villainess) are concerned, I have no trouble imagining them being played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles respectively. I’d love to see them in period drama costumes, talking with a British accent!


What do you hope readers take from their experience of Margaret's Rematch?

I just want them to enjoy it and to spend a lovely time on its pages, away from the troubles and problems of the world we live in.


What’s next for you? Any new writing projects in the wings?

Quite so many! I have two more Regencies lined up to be published as soon as I’m done editing them and then there’s a fantasy novel set in Regency England that I’m planning on self-publishing after that (unless my dream comes true and I find a literary agent before that), and then there’s the continuation of my YA fantasy novel that I’ve recently self-published and, hopefully, many more projects!

Monday, 24 May 2021

7th and 8th REVIEW for ALMENDRA'S QUEST

rated it it was amazing
Highly imaginative; charming and energetic narrative voice; all-female cast with a believably flawed lead. Inverse damsel-in-distress in which the prince needs to be rescued. Has a slow start, but an engrossing mid-section. A perfect read for anyone who enjoys fanciful, magical escapism with a very, very tidy and optimistic ending.

rated it it was amazing
Magic returns!

Almendra sets out to save a prince. in this highly enjoyable book by Farida Mestek we get to see a princess save the prince for a change. I found this to be such a fun book. I would highly recommend it!!

Monday, 10 May 2021

MARGARET'S REMATCH - Regency Romance - EXCERPT

Mr James Westfield was not an idle man and was never known to neglect his duty, unless, of course, it concerned his sister-in-law, in which case, like any man facing an unpleasant task at hand, he was in no hurry to fulfill it.
    It was no secret within their small family circle that James Westfield disliked Margaret Fairfax with a passion that completely defied his common sense; and the fact that he allowed his emotions to affect him to such a degree so as to render his actions non-existent was rather shocking for a man who always prided himself on doing his duty and who had never been known to avoid responsibility before.
    No one, who had any notion of his steady character and exemplary conduct, would ever believe upon hearing that it had taken James Westfield almost four years to act upon a solemn promise, concerning his sister-in-law, given to his late wife under the most grievous of circumstances.
    On this particular afternoon, Mr Westfield was seated within the solitary comfort of his study with a cup of tea, a frown rapidly taking hold of his face, and a newspaper reluctantly put aside for later perusal, as he was once again pondering the unfortunate matter of his sister-in-law and her impending return to Northbrook Hall.
    He had been prompted into this unpleasant contemplation by a report of the most alarming nature that he had received early in the morning: it concerned her latest display of shocking indiscretion and impropriety, made his tea taste bitter, the aforementioned lady’s arrival as unwelcome as ever, and the longing to read the newspaper greater still.
    It so happened that while Margaret’s elder sister, Isabella, held such a special place in his heart, she herself occupied a singularly inferior position in his esteem; and as far as his heart was concerned, it had been quite hardened against her. It appeared that he had made up his mind to dislike her and nothing short of a miracle would ever change that.
    The roots of his dislike went back to their very first meeting during which Miss Margaret – no more than ten years of age at the time – spoke with great outrage on the subject of Mr Westfield’s intentions of marrying her sister; she had been quite against the whole thing and told him as much without a hint of compunction then or thereafter.
    Mr Westfield had been shocked and offended by her impertinent address, not having been accustomed to such preposterous and unjustified (in his opinion) displays of sisterly affection. The scene had created an inevitable rupture between the young lady and her prospective brother-in-law, which both parties eagerly maintained to this day.
    However, looking back at the letter, which contained the unfortunate report, Mr Westfield knew that, unless he wished to see Miss Margaret’s reputation and name ruined forever, he had to put his personal sentiments aside and fulfill the task entrusted to him by his dearest Isabella without any further delay.

COMING SOON!