Following the recent cover reveal and draft blurb release for Cirque de la Nuit on the blog, I thought I’d share a little sneak peek of what I’ve been working on recently.
Currently, I’m ploughing my way through Chapter 6, listening to my playlist and hoping to keep up the work rate I’ve had recently! I posted the playlist on my new ‘working on it’ blog page, so you can check out the the music I’m working with, maybe it will give you a flavour for what I’ll be writing.
Below, you can see the opening for Chapter 2, as it stands today.
Sneak Peek – First Draft ‘Chapter 2’
We stepped off the tram onto the busy platform. Everywhere I looked there were people laughing, screeching, hugging as they came together and swarmed around each other… It was mayhem.
“Come on!” Kerry told me, grabbing my hand and dragging me away from the departing tram, towards the steps that led to the world above.
“I can’t believe how packed it is,” I said, squeezing between the handrail and a particularly amorous teenage couple.
“Just wait ‘til you see the circus itself. I’ve been following these guys all through Europe this summer and now they’re right here! I’m still surprised they’ve come to Manchester and not London though – you know how often things only go to the capital as though the rest of the country doesn’t really exist.”
“O-oh, northerner rant coming on?” I asked.
“No,” Kerry laughed. “I’m too excited for ranting tonight.”
“You know, I couldn’t tell. You’ve been so calm and nonchalant about coming here… You know, from when you kidnapped me from the library.”
“Most people would appreciate a friend who released them from a night of academic improvement, got them glammed up and took them out VIP-style for their birthday…”
“I do appreciate it. I’m just not sure I’ll be as happy when I’m writing my dissertation next week on NOTH-ING.”
“You’ll be fine – you’re a complete nerd so you’ll pull it together.”
With Kerry still yanking on my arm, we crossed the road with about fifty other people. No one bothered walking to the crossing or waiting for the green man – we just went for it: a giant group of bodies, rolling and moving between the cars that were sitting in rush hour traffic.
I chuckled to myself at some of the looks we got from the drivers. Apart from the strangeness of having marauding pedestrians all around them, our general appearance seemed to freak them out even more than the interruption to their daily commute.
“Bit of change to his local drive-time radio show, do you think?”
I giggled at Kerry and nodded in agreement.
Everyone heading towards the park – and the thumping music of the Cirque de la Nuit – was dressed to kill. My own outfit, that Kerry had loaned-slash-forced me into, looked pretty tame compared to those of our companions, but I had to hand it to her: as usual Kerry had been spot-on with the costume choices. Under any other circumstances, I would be quite dubious about the adult who had a dressing-up box in their must take to uni pile of possessions. However, after a few nights out with Kerry in freshers week – seventies night, toga pub-crawl, school disco and pirate party – I realised that for her, it worked. And she’d certainly helped me come out of my shell a little in those early days, dressing me up like a giant-size, novelty Barbie and dragging me out into the world.
Tonight we’d gothed up a Little Red Riding Hood costume Kerry had worn for World Book Day on her teacher-training placement. With the addition of underskirts and dark make-up it was more sultry than before, but no competition for what I could see here. Even Kerry, in her skimpy red and black leather witch costume, was not the raunchiest person around.
Dressed to kill…
Some of them certainly were, and the general theme seemed to be glamorous Halloween, with a twist of S&M. A steam-punk vampire girl sauntered past me. Her look was perfect, from the realistic fangs and light dribble of wine-coloured blood at the side of her mouth to the crazy red curls piled high on her head, held in position with some jauntily placed brass goggles.
Vampires seemed a popular choice tonight. A whole gang of them appeared around of us, looking like the cast of True Blood or a party scene from one of the Blade films. I searched but couldn’t see a Ryan Reynolds-alike in the group, disappointingly – his quick-talking sarcastic character and Jessica Biel’s costumes were the best things about the third film.
“Check out Frankenstein Bond over there.”
I looked in the direction Kerry was pointing and saw a guy, leaning against a lamppost. To be fair, he was more ‘dashing young man’, than guy. At first glance he looked mainly Bond, in full dinner jacket and bow tie; but the bolts peeking out above his shirt collar and artistic, lightning bolt scar down his forehead told the real story of his costume.
“He could be a grown-up Harry Potter with that scar,” I suggested.
“No way! I’m sticking with Frankenstein Bond and I would be very happy with him – dead or alive.”
“Sounds a bit sick when you put it like that.”
“That’s not creepy. I wasn’t making stiff jokes or anything.”
I shook my head. “And here I was, thinking I was the wordsmith with the golden tongue. But you, you’re virtually Shakespearian in the beauty and imagery of your language.”
“I know.” Kerry grinned, flicking her curly hair over her shoulder with a dramatic flourish.
We were in the park now, still moving with part of the crowd from the tram station. The pathways between the trees were quite narrow and all around us I could hear the voices of other groups, on other paths, moving towards the central open fields of the park where the circus would be. As we drew closer, the music was growing louder and now I could see bright lights through the darkness, pulsing in time with the bass beat that was making the air vibrate.
“This is pretty cool,” I said, to no one in particular.
There was excitement crackling above the crowds and we’d not even caught sight of the Cirque de la Nuit itself yet. It was contagious…insidious even. I felt like the excitement from everyone around me was blurring into a single blanket of energy, wrapping me up inside it. While we’d been getting ready, Kerry had shown me the pictures and videos from previous shows. Even on the laptop it had looked amazing, but actually being here and experiencing it…this was something else.
We rounded the end of the path and came out into the main centre of the park. All around us costumed people were streaming out of the darkness of the trees and flocking towards the lights ahead. About half a mile away, across the gently sloping grass, was the biggest circus tent I’d ever seen. It was almost too big to believe people could erect it – surely they would need cranes to get that up?
The circus tent dominated everything, looking as if it had always been there. It was beautiful. The roof of the tent curved from a high point at the top, into a rounded bulb at the bottom, reminding me of the domes on Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow that I’d seen in pictures. Instead of a golden pole at the top of the domed dark blue and white striped material, a large crescent moon glowed brightly. As I watched, the moon rotated, lights glittering on it like thousands of diamonds as it gradually grew into a full moon, before disappearing for a split-second then starting again as a thin sliver of light. It was mesmerising.
“Look at all the bars!”
Reluctantly, I took my eyes off the moon and found what Kerry was excited about. Surrounding the main circus tent was an assortment of smaller, similarly glamorous-looking marquees, in a range of jewel colours – many of them sparkling with their own decorative roof ornaments.
“Where do you want to hit first, birthday girl?”
I grinned at Kerry, having spotted the perfect place to start. “Birthdays should have bubbles, so I think that one should be our first stop.”
She laughed when she saw where I pointed. At the centre of the tents was a glittering gold and silver striped beauty, complete with crystal champagne glass twirling on the top, splashing fake, electric bubbles onto the roof.
We bounced down the path towards the golden tent I’d chosen, not caring that we were wearing ridiculous high heels in a park. I felt giddy, even though I’d not bothered having a drink while we were getting ready – it was like I was twelve all over again and my birthday was the most exciting day of the year!
“Here’s to a very successful twenty-fourth year and graduating with a first!”
“Cheers to that,” I agreed, clinking my glass against Kerry’s and enjoying satisfying tinkling noise.
I took a long slow drink. “Oh, that’s nice.” I breathed.
“You like the Vampire’s Kiss?”
“I sure do,” I replied, taking another quick splash from the tall flute.
“It looks cool with that red liquor just floating in the middle, like a blob of blackberry flavoured blood.”
“OK, quick nerd poll. Top three hottest vampires film, TV or book. Go!”
“Fact or fiction?” Kerry asked.
My nose wrinkled. “Fiction of course, unless by fact you mean one of the people wandering around here tonight with ketchup stained clothes and dodgy dentistry.”
Kerry didn’t even need time to think about it. “True Blood Eric, Spike and Blade.” She reeled off in quick succession.
“Unusual mix throwing Blade in there – surely he’d have an issue with the other two?”
“You didn’t say they’d all be there at the same time.” She grinned, “Blade is just cool, no matter whose butt he’s kicking. Anyway, who makes your top three?”
The first one was easy enough. “Eric…”
“You see – just like me!”
“Lestat – but mainly from the books and not the film.”
“Leaning towards the olde worlde guys then,” she observed.
“A little.” It was getting tough now, just one more space on the list. “I do love Spike in Buffy, but he’s not really my type to go out with.”
Kerry disagreed. “Sarcastic would definitely be your type! But, I don’t think you’d actually go out with Spike – you’d just go on a blood-filled, mockery-driven rampage… Ooh, what about Nina Dobrev from Vampire Diaries? You have a bit of a girl crush on her.”
“True, but if I put her in a top three of hottest vampires, that would make it an actual crush – not a girl crush.”
“OK, so you’re not that flexible then.”
“Not really, no.”
“Bit of Edward Cullen?” She suggested.
“I admit I like a man who plays the piano, but Edward always seems a bit pessimistic. I’d like someone with a bit more of a fun streak, as well as the classic gentleman side of things.”
Kerry’s eyebrows raised. “You give this a bit too much thought, you know that?”
“You’re probably right.” I agreed. “How about I leave the third spot open for now and I’ll give it some more thought?”
She shook her head at my being a nerd, before nodding agreement. “It’s a deal.” Looking around the room she added. “Who knows, you could meet a tasty vampire here tonight who makes your top three.”
“Doubtful.” I shook my head. “In general, I prefer my blokes to wear less make-up than me.” We both laughed. “How’s your Black Pearl?” I waved my hand at the cocktail in her hand.
“It tastes like rocket fuel,” Kerry laughed. “So, it’s great!”
Taking a sip from her glass I nearly choked. “That is rocket fuel.” I quickly drank from my own cocktail again to take the taste away.
“You obviously don’t have enough pirate in you to be able to handle it.”
I held my hands up. “Guilty as charged – although, I’d imagine you remember what happens when I get a bit too much of the pirate spirit in me.”
Kerry snorted. “You and rum? Yes, I remember the carnage of our first ever club night.”
“What can I say?” I shrugged. “It’s always the quiet ones.”
“Yeah, the quiet ones always end up on stage in front of hundreds of people.”
“The stage I don’t remember.”
“The stage you don’t remember,” Kerry agreed. “Where you won the best costume prize, but have no memory of it.”
She laughed. “Yeah well, I probably wouldn’t want to remember running around spanking the backsides of all the other contestants with my sword either.”
My head shook. “I don’t think that really happened.”
“It’s on You Tube.”
“That’s not evidence. You can’t see my face.”
“Jack Sparrow freaks out at freshers party had over five thousand views in one week.” Kerry pointed out.
“Yeah well, for my job hunting future, I’m glad there’s only you and I that recognise my voice from the video and no one else. It would not have been good if my name had been tagged to that clip.”
“Ha ha. I’d forgotten the shouting.” Kerry began giggling. “What was it you said when you took the microphone off the DJ and ran away with it?”
“Obviously, I don’t remember from the actual night.”
“Obviously,” she agreed.
“But, from what I saw on You Tube, I believe I was telling the other pirates to get off my ship… That they were land lubbers who did not deserve to wear the fake beards of a pirate prince like me.”
We both laughed.
“I’ll be honest – you put me in a costume and I take it very seriously.”
“So true. Do you remember people putting up wanted posters for you around uni?”
I shook my head. Of course I remembered the wanted posters. Even though the posters were a joke and everyone thought my antics had been hilarious, there was no way I actually wanted anyone to know it was me underneath the dreadlocks and fake facial hair.
“Thanks for keeping my secret.” I told Kerry, suddenly serious. She probably didn’t realise how much of friend she was to me; I certainly didn’t have a lot of them. That was one of the other perks of being a quiet one.
“You’re welcome,” she said, knocking my arm with a light fist bump. “What are friendships made of, if not protecting secrets and crazy, silly moments?”
“To friendship!” I offered, as a new toast.
“To friendship,” Kerry echoed and clinked my glass. “And to keeping you away from rum!” She added with a grin, before downing the last of her rocket fuel in a single gulp.
I finished my own drink in a last, long sip and put the glass down on the bar.
“Where do you want to try next?” I asked. “Witch’s choice.”
“There was a tent we passed coming in called The Cauldron, do you fancy that?”
We walked out into the balmy night air. Turning away from the big top in the distance, we headed towards the purple marquee with a smoking cauldron on the roof.
“Nice choice,” I said as we walked into a dark room, lit only by coloured apothecary bottles and an assortment of candles behind the bar.
“It looks like a witch’s alter,” Kerry breathed, sounding impressed.
“An alter to booze?”
“Let’s hope they serve more than just Special Brew,” I said, as we made our way to the bar.
I paid no attention to the brief but flirty conversation Kerry had with the bar tender, who was dressed as some kind of male serving wench, if such a costume were possible. Instead, I watched the other people coming and going around us.
It was smoky inside the tent: several of the apothecary bottles were oozing smoke, which cascaded to the floor and swirled around the legs of the various drinkers. There were plenty more costumes to check out here, including what appeared to be a whole hospital’s worth of zombie nurses, doctors and patients. One of the nurses smiled at me as she passed, her gray snake-eye contact lenses making her look pretty creepy.
“Nice costume,” I said, pointing at the particularly disgusting bloodied ribs that were poking through the front of her uniform. “Bad day at work?”
“Yeah, something like that,” she laughed. “I like yours. Red Riding Hood, right?”
“You look like you might be a real wolf in sheep’s clothing and kick some supernatural ass if a werewolf tried it on with you.”
“Only time will tell. I’ve not met any naughty wolves so far tonight.”
“Drinks up!” Kerry interrupted, turning away from the bar with a smoking goblet in each hand.
“What are those?” Zombie Nurse asked, looking impressed.
“A Dead Zombie – no offense – and a Witch’s Curse.” Kerry informed the pair of us.
“Ooh, they look good. Which is for me?”
“The Witch’s Curse,” she said, handing the drink over. “Ironically, the Dead Zombie would be a curse to you. It has three different types of rum in it.”
I pulled a face. “Is that why yours is on fire?”
“Exactly,” Kerry laughed. “More rocket fuel.”
“I’m going to try one of those.” Zombie Nurse declared, stepping towards the bar.
“Enjoy,” I said, as we wandered off with our new drinks.
“This is good,” I told Kerry, when we’d found a spot to perch and drink. The cocktail tasted fruity and fizzy – not too boozy at all.
“There’s popping candy all over the rim,” she pointed out. “Being the big kid you are, I thought you’d appreciate it.”
Yummy! “I do. Thanks.” I took another sip. “This place is really great. I can’t believe how big the whole thing is.”
Kerry nodded, whilst trying to blow out the flaming sugar cube in the top of her own drink. “What’s so cool about Cirque de la Nuit is that you never know how many shows they are going to do, or where they’re going to appear next. The first thing you know about them being somewhere is the announcement on their website. Then the next thing, they’re just…there!”
“Now that I’ve seen this, it doesn’t surprise me that they manage to sell out the shows – even if they just turn up randomly one day.”
“It was trending all over Twitter today, once the website announcement was picked up. They were in Romania four days ago – it’s so random to go from there to here.”
That didn’t surprise me. “The spontaneity probably adds to the mystery and attraction of it all.”
Kerry looked around the crowded tent. “I’ll bet there’s quite a few people called in sick to work today, just to get here for the show.”
“Probably.” I agreed. “That’s one of the best bits about being an arts student – only nine hours of taught classes a week for me this year – so at least I’m not wagging it, to be here.”
“I would have made you come, even if you had classes all through the night. We were not going to miss this for anything!”
I laughed. “Calm down. We’re here aren’t we?”
Kerry checked the clock on her phone (she wasn’t wearing a watch because it was not appropriate to her costume, she’d told me earlier). “We’ll have to get going soon. We need to collect our tickets from the box office.”
“No problem.” I finished my drink. “Let’s go!”