Using a foreign language in children’s novels

In the book I’ve just finished – Marauders of the Missing Mummies – I have a section that takes place in a bazaar located somewhere in Egypt. Now, in order to add some credibility and interest to the dialogue, I decided that one of the stall holders, pertinent to the plot, would converse in French as it seems it is the language spoken by many Egyptians today. I’m not fluent in French. In fact, the last time I was in France and conversed in the lingo, I just about managed to make myself understood by the locals. That was nearly twenty years ago. So you can imagine how rusty my grasp of French grammar is.  I have posted the section here to ask those of you who do speak French, if what I have written makes sense. So, please, if anyone out there reads this, could you set me straight and let me know how I can improve. Thanks! new cover for marauders Here is the extract:

“Don’t go over to her. Wait, no. Erica,” Hannah said and ran after Van Clutch as she marched to where the old woman sat. “You can’t even speak Egyptian.” She tugged on Van Clutch’s sleeve. Erica pulled her arm away and gave Hannah a raised eyebrow look.

“No, but I do speak French. And I suspect, that she does to. It is by far the most commonly used language in these parts.” Erica flared her nostrils and turned to the seated woman. “Bonjour, Madam. Je m’appelle Erica Van Clutch.”

The gnarled-faced female licked her yellow chipped front teeth and spat something green onto the floor beside Erica’s feet. “Je m’appelle Ramia.”

“Prophetess. How fitting,” Van Clutch said and Ramia grinned. “I’m going to question her about the Dalby child. Dites-moi ce que vous savez de la petite fille.”

“Je ne te dirai rien. Sorcière.”

“What did she say?”

“What I expected. She won’t spill. Oh and she thinks I am a witch. Do not snicker. See, now you’ve loosened your sinuses again. Wipe your nose before the mucus forms another bubble.”

Kush ran the back of her hand across her face and sniffed. Erica spoke to Ramia. She stared into the brown eyes of the old woman and said, “Si vous ne me dites pas au sujet de la fille, je jetterai un charme sur vous.”

“What?”

“Sshhhh, Kush I’m trying to intimidate her by utilising her fear of me. I’m suggesting that I will cast a spell on her if she doesn’t reveal all. Now hush and let me do my thing.” Van Clutch closed her eyes, pressed her hands together in a prayer-like pose and tilted her head to the heavens. She partly opened her lips and began to whisper meaningless words in a growly whisper. “Unmanondium. Cliventinium. Postargrindum. Dractilvarus. Plantricula. Verbotivis.’ She snapped open her eyes and glared at Ramia.

“Wow, Erica, I didn’t know you knew Latin. What have you done? What terrible spell have you cast upon that poor old lady?”

“Dammit, Kush, keep quiet. I’m trying to intimidate with made up Latin words. Now I’ve lost the flow and can’t think of any more. And cease using my first name. I need to maintain credibility here.”

“Oh, right, sorry.”

“Shhhh!” Van Clutch gasped and thrust her clenched fingers to the sky. “Revoltinum. Bletherinus. Mumbojumbis!” She clapped seven times, lowered her arms and pointed at Ramia. “Je vous maudis avec des ébullitions et le mal de tête.”

“She doesn’t look very scared. What spell did you cast?”

“I cursed her with boils and headaches.”

“Oh, poor thing. That’s terrible.”

“You do realise that I can’t actually put a spell on her. I am not a witch.”

“That’s what Sadika calls you behind your back.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Oh, nothing. Look, Van Clutch, the old woman, she’s getting up. She looks really angry.”

“Les dieux vous dévoreront,” Ramia said and stood. She waved her hands in front of Erica’s face. “Les dieux vous dévoreront.”

A strong breeze skipped and swirled through the dusty street. Cigarette butts, bits of paper and half eaten sandwiches danced and fluttered around Erica’s knees and thighs. She brushed the debris away and titled her head towards the sky. Black clouds rumbled overhead and the sun escaped behind them causing darkness to fall. The busy thoroughfare hushed and people stood still. Ramia snarled and lifted her arms high. A flash of lightning and an ear-splitting bang of thunder echoed around the wide avenue. Erica stood tall and unflinching when raindrops as big as fists splashed down causing shoppers and trades folk to scuttle for shelter. Kush put her fingers in her ears and hid behind Van Clutch. Ramia glared at Erica and said in a husky growl, “Les dieux vous dévoreront.” A savage wind whipped against the shins of Kush and Van Clutch. “Les dieux vous dévoreront.”

“Oh do stop saying that the gods will eat me, Ramia. They will not.”

“Les dieux vous dévoreront.”

“Les dieux ne me dévoreront pas. Oh this is just ridiculous. Kush, do you have any money?” she said to a trembling Hanna. “Kush!” Erica turned and took hold of Hanna’s forearms. She pulled them down from where they were pressed against her face and said, “Pull yourself together. Good. Now, do you have any money?”

Kush blinked and swallowed. “A bit.”

“How much?”

“Thirty quid.”

“Hand it over. I’ve had enough of Ramia and her rants.” Erica held out her hand and Kush rummaged around in her trouser pocket. She pulled out a bundle of notes and handed them to Van Clutch. Another thunderclap and flash of lightening burst above their heads and Erica shook hers as she watched Kush crouch on the ground and tremble with fear. She tutted, turned to Ramia, who was standing with her arms open to the heavens and said, “Ce qui vous savent la fille?” Then she waved the money in front of the woman’s wild eyes. “Ah, now I have your attention. The girl, what do you know?”

Ramia snatched the money and thrust it down the front of her blouse. The clouds rumbled away and the wind dropped. Erica folded her arms. “Ce qui vous savent?”

Ramia snorted and picked up a small woollen ibis. She turned it over and revealed a zip that ran from the toy’s bottom right up to its neck. She nodded an all-knowing nod, adding a wink and pushed it against Erica’s chest. “A l’intérieur,” she said and mimed looking into an invisible bag.

“Oh, it’s inside this. Excellent,” Erica said, took the bird and opened the zip. She pulled out a rolled up piece of paper and unravelled it. “Mentioned by name too. Well, well, it says here that the Dalby girl is the host. Marvelous.” She threw the knitted animal over her shoulder and stood over Kush. “Get up, you whimpering fool. Time to go.”

Kush rose slowly and wiped her nose on her sleeve. “Are we safe?”

“We are, Kush my dear. However, the young Dalby is not.” Erica grinned, screwed up the paper, shoved it into her mouth and swallowed. “There now, all done.”

“Why did you do that?”

“That raving old woman called upon the gods to devour me, well, I have eaten them instead. This missive scrawled in the words of the gods and written in blood, gave away a secret about the Dalby brat. These words are powerful. They could have destroyed me if I had read on, but I did not. I have turned the tables. Now I possess their power,” Van Clutch said and raised her head to the cloudless sky.

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Working on a new book – Marauders of the Missing Mummies

I have been toying with writing this book about ancient Egyptian myths and religion, for years. It started life as a play written specifically for children to perform. And indeed quite a few 8-12 year olds have acted out this play and sang the song – oh yes, there is a song!  I quite liked Marauders of the Missing Mummies and the evil Erica Van Clutch.

So, last year I decided to turn my stage story into a novel. 2012-09-18 at 10-05-17 The problem is that I know what’s going to happen. For some reason this has made my progress writing it as prose very slow. Sometimes I just stare at the dialogue and can’t move on. I find it difficult to write the story because I know too much.

So, I have put the play version away, kept most of the characters and started to write it from scratch. It’s still a little slow, but now I am free to go on the journey with my characters and not really know where we are going or how we will get there. It’s far more exciting this way.

I have posted the first 400 words or so as a taster. If anyone would like to comment, I would appreciate it very much.

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Chapter 1: We Are Not Alone

Darkness pushed against Cleo’s arms and legs as she struggled to make her way through the narrow chamber. Hands outstretched before her, Cleo Dalby slid her feet forward as if she were skiing. She strained to hear something, anything, but every sound, even the skid-slap of her sandals on the stone floor, became lost in the gloom. On Cleo walked slow and tentative. Deeper into the world of corpses.

A sigh, long and weary-filled drifted towards her. A sound so sad that Cleo had to cover her ears with her hands. But it was no use. The moans became louder. A musty scent of decomposing wood made breathing difficult. Cleo inhaled deeply and heard low whispers float around her. Cleo stopped and took her hands away from her ears. Intrigued by the muffled chatter, she held her breath and listened. Different voices swirled inside her head and scuttled around her brain like trapped mice looking for a way out. Cleo let them speak.

“We, the dead, abide here. Quietly resting, hands on chest, faces tilted up to catch a ray of sunlight.”

“A futile gesture. For this far below the ground, there is only blackness and the weight of stone.”

“We, the dead, lie still, poised in readiness for our resurrection.”

“ Ah, what a wait we’ve had; so many years spent lying in a state of half remembered promises and expectations, grown dull with the passing of each century.”

“We, the dead, no longer know who we are. Memories of our past life have faded and melted into our hollow skulls.”

“We, the dead, sometimes whisper to each other.”

“ Messages from dried up lips that linger against the cold walls in trembling anticipation.”

Cleo touched the limestone with her fingertips, and thought she heard a murmuring of souls.

“We, the dead, can feel a presence.”

A breath of ancient brushed past Cleo’s cheek. She shivered and rubbed her naked arms. The chill stuck to her legs and spread upwards leaving pimples of stiff-hair unease on her sunburnt flesh. She gulped and said into the blackness, “Hello? Is anyone there? My name is Cleo.”

“Found out!”

“Not Yet.”

“No.”

The voices ceased.

Cleo called again, but no answer came. The smell of rot disappeared and Cleo felt as if a dead weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She stood tall and shrugged. “The dark is just an absence of light,” Cleo said and shook the torch she gripped in her hand. “Stupid, froggin’ thing. Work.” She patted it against her palm. “Work.” Something touched her shoulder and Cleo jumped.

2012-09-18 at 10-05-20


The images I have used are from my collection of ‘sun photos’. To see more of my experimental photography, you can go to my website:  http://www.tracerlight.co.uk

 

For more information on my other books visit:  http://www.thesongofforgetfulness.com/ Image echoes cover for email              SilenceHeard_CVR_LRG