Charley, In Short

Would you look at that! Not only does Miriam manage to regenerate the blog’s theme, earn us five more followers – hello lovely people! – but she also manages to do it with a magnificent pun in the title!

Well then. I suppose I’d better follow her illustrious example and reintroduce myself, for the benefit of you awesome people who might have forgotten exactly who this strange human is that’s been gabbling at you through the interwebs for the past two weeks.

So… who the blazes are you?

Image

Here I am in 2012! Looking relatively sane in a picture for once.

I’m Charley Robson; student, geek, sausage enthusiast, and author.

I’m the middle installment of the St Mallory’s arrangement, and currently halfway through my first year as an undergraduate of BA English at Exeter University. I’d make a joke about selling my soul to the government to pay off my student fees… but I’m pretty sure I never had one. A soul, that is. More on that later.

What are you doing here?

As the content of my previous posts has likely made obvious, I’m the member of this triumvirate who actually attended a boarding school. Like St Mallory’s, it was a small, single-sex establishment lurking in the idyllic English countryside, and absolutely chock-full of all the charmingly bizarre things you expect of such a place.

Little known fact: my history in education is more akin to Xuan’s than anyone else’s. The boarding school where I concluded my education was the last in a long succession of educational establishments – at least nine, at the last count – attended by myself as I tumbled in and out of cardboard boxes, following my father’s peripatetic job with the Forces.

Wait … go back to the bit about the soul? That’s to do with writing, isn’t it?

Oddly enough, it is. Though I can’t claim quite the same level of productivity as Miriam when it comes to my own work, what books I have managed to write, despite their wild variations in genre, theme and quality, have all been in unified in revealing that I have a marvellous predilection for cold-hearted murder. And wanton destruction. Sometimes at the same time.

I read pretty voraciously, both prose and poetry, and so my taste in authors is extremely varied; from J.R.R. Tolkien to Terry Pratchett, and Lord Byron and the Romantics to Shakespeare and back again, with a detour via Cicero and Scott Lynch if you fancy stopping for a coffee. I’m a great believer in reading, at least partially, as a form of escaping the dull and difficult fish bowl of reality for somewhere much more exciting and/or deadly. Preferably both.

As a result, I would call the majority of my non-St-Mallory’s projects ‘fantasy’, some of a more traditional sort than others. Mostly, though, I aim for interesting characters, engrossingly complex plots, shameless escapism, and making Miriam cry. Don’t feel sorry for her. She does exactly the same thing to me.

Okay … so what else do you do, when not writing?

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A more recent picture, from November last year. There are an alarming number of pictures of me with silly things on my head.

Unlike Miriam, I have the musical talent of a particularly dim pigeon – but that didn’t stop me taking to the stage, playing nought but villainous nasties and nasty villains since about the age of nine.

I did, admittedly, take singing lessons for a year, but despite having a top range that makes Alvin and the Chipmunks sound like deep-throated baritones, I’ve got nothing on Freddie Mercury.

Beyond that, I’m usually found indulging my not-so-inner voracious geek. You know you’re a proper geek when you’re on the committee for the Tolkien society, helping to arrange a trip to Rivendell (or the real-life inspiration for it, anyway). I’m also a fan of Doctor Who, Game of Thrones (yes, I’ve read the books. Yes, it gets worse.), Merlin, or just about anything that will present me with some nice historical weapons to drool over.

I have a thing for catapults. Don’t judge me.

Of course, when I’m not feeling up to braving the terrors of the wet and windy outside world, you will probably find me lurking about on…
– My Blog
– My Facebook Page
– My YouTube channel

That’s all from me this week! I’ll be back again in the near future – stay tuned!

~ Charley R

A Question Of Sport: Lacrosse

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day, on a slightly soggy August afternoon, that I crossed the threshold of the school shop. It was a bit like Harry Potter’s first time in Diagon Ally, full of weird and wonderful things that I’d heard of, but never quite believed in – kilts, skorts (more on them later), trunks, tuck boxes … and lacrosse sticks.

stick

Seriously – who thought THIS was any sort of sensible?

Lacrosse, to those who don’t know, is a sport that originated in North America – I do believe the Native American tribes used it as a substitute for war to settle inter-tribal disputes. It’s still fairly popular in the US, as far as I know, but over here in the UK it’s rather been relegated to a thing them posh types do when we’re not out drinking tea on the cricket lawn or mercilessly hunting down innocent foxes with packs of baying hounds.

It’s also a very weird sport. You only have to look at the sticks to realise that much.

Those of you who remember way back to when you first read St Mallory’s Forever! may recall a few of Abby’s ramblings on the sport. Abby, however, comes from a world where spending your Saturday morning chasing each other up and down a field after a flying rubber ball is a perfectly normal affair – she’s known the rules since she was about seven, and started having to play the game in P.E.   

It may surprise you to know that I, however, had no such knowledge of the game when I was first flung head-first onto the pitch to play against a worryingly competent contingent from the local state school – not even a rudimentary what’s-where, or any sort of assurance that I’d even know which way up the field to run.

It probably won’t surprise you to know that lacrosse very swiftly became one of my least favourite things in the entire world. Particularly, after a few games, extremely chilly practice sessions, and bruises un-numbered, when I began to realise just how scary it is.

In which the game is (apparently) played sensibly.

Lacrosse, as I said before, is a weird sport, and thus it has rather a lot of rules. The picture on the right here is of a boys’ team in America. Doubtless you’d be impressed at the care taken to ensure they all wear proper headgear and rudimentary padding – a neccessity, you would think, given that lacrosse is a (usually unintentionally) contact game featuring a 13-a-side team, theoretically boundless pitch, and focusses on a small, solid projectile flying through the air at speeds occasionally matched by the Red Arrows.

You’ll probably notice, too, that it’s sunny. Lacrosse is a fairly versatile sport – any muddy old field will do, so long as you’ve a couple of goal posts at the end of it – but summer, on the whole, is preferable for such excursions of sporting prowess.

shers lacrosse

I recognise the referee, too. Fun fact.

I now invite you to throw all these conceptions out of the window, and observe the picture on the left.

This is what lacrosse looks like to my memory – in fact, the player in green is, in fact, a girl I spotted once or twice passing down the corridor when I was in the Lower Sixth.

Padding? What padding? Nah, a mouthguard will do you just fine! And who cares if the pitch is a bit frozen – it’s November, of course it’s going to be a little chilly! What’s that? You’re cold? Suck it up! Your parents spent money on those wretchedly overcomplicated skorts, you might as well get some use out of them! Anyone caught in more than three pairs of thermal leggings will be made to run laps until the paramedics arrive!

Alright, alright, maybe I’m being a little overdramatic. Basically, what I’ve been trying to get at, is that anything – a sport, a word, a way of speaking – can mean any number of different things, depending on its treatment and execution in different environments. I never liked lacrosse, and retreated at the first opportunity to make a half-decent defensive player for the third-rank hockey team at the first chance. Perhaps this might have, just a little, coloured how the sport was portrayed in the book.

But, unless you played lacrosse yourself, you’d never have known that, would you? If you had your own experience, you’d have taken my death-mongering as the symptom of one who’d been smacked in the face one time too many, not as any sort of verifiable truth.

The moral of this little horror story, I suppose, is to say that experience, personal or cultural, can count for a lot in one’s understanding of something. A vague point, perhaps, but relevant. After all, it was only through the co-operative union of mine, Miriam’s and Mark’s experiences of life and publishing that St Mall’s came into existence at all.

However, for all I may rant and rail and waggle my fingers like some hyperactive Cassandra lookalike, I have to admit that my experience with lacrosse was valuable. It taught me about what sort of world I had come into in getting myself enrolled in this school, in this country, with these people, and the sort of values that lay behind the game – though I shall maintain until the day I die that “fair play” stepped aside to admit “homicidal inent” the instant the referee blew the starting whistle.

Sometimes, you never know how useful a seemingly pointless experience is until you’ve had it. Rather like this post, I suppose.

But seriously. Look at those sticks. Just look at them!

~ Charley R

Friday Posting, and A Top Five

And lo, the author cometh! Out of the freezing void, dripping wet, and wondering why the laundry machines not only have to be situated on the floor below, but also have to devour such awkward amounts of her spare change.

First things first: apologies. We’ve left this poor blog alone for far too long, we know. Very naughty of us. Ten points from Marylebone and all those good things.

The good news is, this is all going to change. Despite my self-appointed status as Queen of the Procrastinators (a job I’ll start doing tomorrow, honestly!), I’ve also appointed myself another job. That is, posting. My aim and goal is to post on this blog every Friday. Maybe this will devolve to every other Friday during times of high stress, such as holidays or exam periods, but this is my sticky bun and I, like Sticky the Stick Insect, am sticking to it.

And what manner of excitement shall herald my return from the great beyond? Trumpets? Celestial choirs? Exploding toasters made of cookie dough?

A list. But not just any list. This! Is!

Charley’s Top Five Proofs That You Went To Boarding School!

  • Latin. Although the subject is offered in a great many schools across the UK, and quite possibly a great many more across the globe, there’s nothing like a jolly old boarding experience to convince you it’s perfectly normal for modern English to co-exist with a language that’s not been spoken since our ancestors were running around painted blue. Bonus points if you can still remember your old school motto!
  • Matrons. You can tell a lot about a student by what they thought of their pastoral staff. But, whether she was a welcome friend and comfort during the tough times, or a fire-breathing gorgon come to turn you to stone as she steals your duvet to get you out of bed first thing on a far-too-early Monday Morning, there’s no greater example of the boarding experience than good ol’ matron.
  • House Pride. Sports day is terrifying enough anywhere, particularly if you’re like me and have the sporting prowess of a beansprout. Same goes for any competition, I suppose. But things get raised to a whole new level when each boarding house becomes its own little city state, dons its war paint, raises its banners and marches onto the field (quite literally!) to sing, scream and sprint itself hoarse for its members. Celebratory or comiserative pyjama parties in the snug and hiding the stains from the spilled celebratory lemonade are, of course, compulsory follow-ups.
  • Outdated Language. “We’d better hurry up to lessons, or it’ll be tardy slips all round. No, I will not lend you my history prep, the last time that happened you forgot to give it back and I got gated for a week! I’m not missing out on another night at the stick again for all the jelly beans in the world.” The exactitudes will vary from school to school, many taking root from something particular in the school’s history, but there’s nothing like the confused looks from all your new university friends to remind you what a strange educational plane you came from.
  • Tearful Goodbyes. I do so hate to end on a somber note, but it’s true. With only the occasional weekend set aside for homeward travel, the bonds you make in a boarding school are as close, I think, as those of a family. Years are spent with these people, misadventures are had, victories celebrated, defeats suffered, and sometimes you wonder how you’ll ever cope outside of your second home. When goodbye comes, it’s like leaving home for a second time. You never realise how far away your best friends are until you remember they live on the other side of the world – and this year, there’ll be no half-crazed travelling day to allow for a cramped reunion in the corridor.

There you have it! The first post of the New Year, and of the new St Mallory’s blog posting schedule! All questions, comments, and lampooning remarks are welcome!

See you next week,

~ Charley R.

To Have And To Hold

Yes, you guessed it — this is not a Valentine’s Day post, but a post to let you know that as of today, you can now actually buy a copy of St Mallory’s Forever! which is like, a physical book.

Exciting, right?

For me, personally, this is a pretty significant thing. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve dreamed of being an author, and that always meant physical books. E-books are awesome. I love e-books. Of course, back then I had no inkling that one day a lot of books would be available only in a digital form, so it was a very different vision I had inside my head.

Even so, I’m grinning like a weirdo at the idea of being able to pose next to a copy of a book that I wrote (because somehow, holding a Kindle up isn’t quite the same!).

It’s a little more expensive than the e-book, which is obviously to do with printing costs. As a print on demand book, we can’t do print runs of ten thousand and then sell them off cheap. But, I’m sure I speak for the others too when I say if you have a copy, and you ever see me (in the street or something), I’d be more than happy to sign it.

I’ve been practising and everything.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to work on my “posing next to books” smile.

— M

UK Paperback
(I’m sure there’ll be a US one soon, but there isn’t as of writing this post. Stay tuned!)

3, 2, 1… LIFT OFF!

What’s that excitable post title about? Why, it can only be that St Mallory’s has finally come out!

St. Mallory's Forever!

Yes. It has. In fact, St Mallory’s Forever was technically published on the 21st January, which means — get this — that I was still sixteen. By about five minutes, if Mark is correct about the timing. See, my birthday was the 22nd, and I was due to be turning seventeen. Still fairly young to be published, but who wouldn’t leap at the chance to be published at sixteen, instead?

“Miriam,” you’re saying, “if St Mallory’s was published on the 21st, why are you guys telling us to hang on and wait for news? Why haven’t we got it already?”  (Or you might not be saying. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not spying on all my readers through their webcams.)

Well, we did what’s called a ‘soft launch’. For a start, Amazon took a while to upload it, so it didn’t go live until the morning of the 23rd. And at the time of uploading, we hadn’t quite finished proofreading and formatting, and we weren’t sure there wouldn’t be  random glitches, like finding unexpected QQQs around italics.

Yesterday, therefore, Charley and I had downloaded it to our Kindles and were frantically reading through, keeping note of any typos or formatting errors (which I was doing on my phone, and I do not recommend it, but I was in school and had no choice), and Mark was updating it. In theory. As a matter of fact, he lost the internet for an entire day, because of his location, which made it even more stressful.

Oh, and then he wrote a foreword, and told me until I could see that foreword when I clicked “Click To Look Inside” on Amazon, I couldn’t tell you it was out.

Nevertheless, somebody clearly bought it because we managed to get into the Top 100 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Children’s Fiction > Literature > Humourous — a fairly narrow category, I imagine, but we stayed on that chart all night, which I figured was pretty impressive.

Today I got online and checked the ‘click to look inside’ … and there was a foreword. And the blurb had been uploaded. Okay, so it wasn’t quite linked to my Amazon Author page (but will be soon), but other than that, all seemed to be ship shape.

It was official. St Mallory’s Forever was published and available. Is published and available, I should say.

And I decided to rob Charley of the joy of telling you it’s been released, mainly because, well, I got there first.

St Mallory’s Forever! is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US. I don’t know for certain about other platforms yet, but I know Mark said they might take a little longer, so I will update this post with links asap!

Edited to add: BARNES & NOBLE

Thank you all for your support thus far. I hope you will stay with us for the rest of the series… and remember, if you like the book, Amazon reviews are always appreciated. 🙂

— Miriam Joy

The Promo Video Is Live!

Sorry for posting twice in one day — I just wanted to let you know that our promotional video is now live and you can watch it right here:

If you’re the sort of person who uses Tumblr and might be persuaded to reblog it, you can find it here. Otherwise, please share the video however you tend to share things, and spread the word about St Mallory’s!

— M

Typerventilating Imminent

Mark sent me an email this morning with the subject line “St. Mallory’s Forever! is imminent. Time to get serious.” Talk about not freaking out your co-writers when they wake up – I read it on my phone while still in bed and promptly killed predictive text trying to reply when the only thing I could manage to say was asdfalskdjf;wakjsdfalsdkf, affectionately known as keyboard smashing or ‘typerventilating’.

You see, St Mallory’s Forever! ought to be coming out this month. Although things often do not go according to plan, we were hoping for the 22nd as our official publication date, which just happens to be my seventeenth birthday. We’re working on the final draft, tweaking and proof reading and making minor alterations (and I am sitting here confused by Mark’s formatting gibberish given that to send things to Kindle, I usually just run them through Calibre and they come out as shiny, fully functional .mobi files with contents pages… but hey).

Mark sent me promo images to use and if you’re reading this in an email, you may want to click through to see the new design of the blog,  which utilises some of them.

And I’m freaking out.

Even though one of my New Year’s resolutions was not to chicken out of taking steps towards publication (which includes investigating the best course to take with my novel Watching), the idea of something I wrote being out there for everybody to read is terrifying. I’m sitting here going, “What if they hate it? What if they never buy anything I write ever again?”

Of course, it’s collaborative, which means not only do we all share the credit, but we all take the blame. Reading it through, it doesn’t sound like me, or Charley, and I haven’t read enough Saffina Desforges to know if it sounds much like them but I’m willing to bet it doesn’t. It’s not my usual genre or style. My characters are normally bitter, twisted and often non-human, a far cry from the excitable teenage girls of St Mallory’s.

Yet I see things that I know I wrote, even if they’re not my usual style.

Okay. So it’s mine. And it’s Charley’s and Mark’s and Saffi’s.

But soon it will be yours. It’ll be coming out as an e-book first, instantly to Kindle and Nook although Mark warns me it might take a little longer for it to filter through to other platforms. Then, in February, we’re hoping to have it available as print on demand. I had no idea the print book would be coming so soon, but apparently it is.

That’s also freaking me out.

Before, I was like, “Okay, people at my school might know about it and maybe read it, but I won’t know. Ha ha.” And now I’m like, “People at my school might read it and I WILL BE ABLE TO SEE.” And they will judge me on it, even if they don’t say so. They will think that is what all my writing is like even though it’s not. Yes, I’m proud of St Mallory’s, but the idea of putting my name to … well, anything right now, is terrifying.

*deep breaths*

I’m fine. I’m fine.

After a year in which I don’t think I really achieved a lot outside of finishing my GCSEs, suddenly things are happening very fast. St Mallory’s Forever! has gone from what still seemed slightly like a far-distant possibility to a very real thing. It’s happening. It’s happening soon.

asdfa;lskdfjas;dflkjsdfa;sdlkfjaeil;lksdjfa

— M