Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 235

This week's picture prompt is by artist Dan Luvisi over on Deviant Art. He made this for his science fiction book, Last Man Standing: Killbook of a Bounty Hunter - this is the character Hex. I initially only found a picture of the head of this saved, and it is all over the internet as wallpaper with all the colours enhanced, but when I found the entire original, I much preferred it as it offers so much more. Plus, crediting is SO necessary, so that the artist gets recognised and in this case, a fellow writer gets referenced. Sadly it looks like the book is out of print otherwise I would have bought a copy. 

More an opening than a complete piece, and maybe one I will revisit. Not easy to fit so much worldbuilding into a short piece and keep the story moving. 

General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

An image of a futurist person or robot with a mirrored helmet head that reflects colours, dressed in a black suit, with a tie with lit up symbols on and holding a see through box with three dimensional plants and galaxies in.  Created by Dan Luvisi


Parker loved the anonymity of the new helmet, its one way mirrored effect and oil swirl design. It gave him a second level of security; it not only protected him from the viruses, it kept him safe from those he didn’t want seeing him. He particularly liked it as evening wear.

Partying had become a political affair during the stream of pandemics that had quite literally plagued the early 2020s. The extreme measure in the 2040s to finally bring an end to viruses by banning all social activity had changed the landscape of entertainment. Some had likened it to the prohibition days in America more than a century before, but the enforcement of the new laws had taken it to another level.

Buildings that had housed pubs, cafes and restaurants had been bulldozed or repurposed to provide small, self-contained units for people on low or no income to keep them off the streets and curtail the spread of disease through homelessness. Shopping in person had been banned; everything had to be done online. Shopping centres and shopping malls were turned over to distribution and postal outlets. While sports, music and theatres had taken the hardest hit of all with redevelopment of theatres, stadiums and arenas, repurposing them into housing, distribution depots and call-centres, as well as film studios to provide for the ever growing streaming industry that was now the key form of entertainment for the populace – and the only place where a gathering of people was permitted.

Parker had been born at the tail end of that period in the early 2050s, when they were just beginning to realise that socialising was a necessary evil if the human race was to survive. It had followed a bleak period when death by suicide had been higher than that of the Coronas.

His parents had been part of the entertainment industry which had allowed him an easy entry into a great career option. Acting had come naturally to Parker, and he’d grown up surrounded by famous peers all able to engage in a physical sense unlike the general public. It had given them elite status but had been resented by the people.

And now into the late 2070s, it had also sparked the debate about the return of social venues, being that a few had popped up under the ownership of Parker and his work colleagues. The governing bodies had tolerated them while keeping check on infection numbers, and so now there was talk of more being set up.

Parker thought it was only fair, but it meant going out among the public, something he’d not experienced before, and scared him, especially when there were people who begrudged his existence.

So this new design in headgear was exactly what he needed, and it went perfectly with the special gift he’d bought Finola. He really hoped she would like it. The new found interest in space since the landings on Mars had provided a wide variety of these pretty little 3D gadgets. The projection of swirling planets inside was mesmerising – or so he hoped she would think when he gave it to her.

He was nervous. He’d never given a girl a gift before; he’d never had a relationship get this far. They might share a unit and live their lives together, as those working in virus free bubbles had to do, but this was taking it a step further; this was buying her something personal. It meant he wanted them to become something more.

He straightened the LEDs on his tie and admired the ensemble. Tonight was the night. He could feel it. He hoped she would too.

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

The Lost ApothecaryThe Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this for my bookclub and found it a compelling read. Written between the present day and the 1700s, this book tells the tale of a female apothecary who helps women resolve problems in their life by using natural ingredients as poisons.

This is a different and unique kind of crime thriller in terms of its storyline, but is written in what is becoming the standard format for all crime novelists at the current time: switching chapters between characters written in first person. It creates a fast pace and keeps the reader reading forward as they are left on cliff hangers.

This story follows an American woman who comes to London on what should have been an anniversary trip with her husband, but after discovering his infidelity she travels alone and rediscovers herself. As her life is unravelling, she unravels the story of a female apothecary back in the 1700s after discovering an object on the banks of the Thames.

Having not been able to go to my hometown, London, for the last two years due to the pandemic, it was nice to revisit some of the area, which was near when I used to work, and see it in my mind's eye again. I enjoyed the character development as it flicked back and forth and eventually crossing over as each step was told in the past and discovered in the present day. I loved the idea that there could still be derelict and hidden buildings in London that contained secrets to be revealed.

For a fast paced read that will pique your curiousity and keep you reading, I definitely recommend it.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 234

This week's picture prompt is another picture from Florence Caplain. She takes really interesting pictures. She calls this one 'caught'. 

I wanted to write something much darker than I have, cuz this picture deserves it, but what came out was more subtle. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

An image showing a close up of a fence post with a piece of barbed wire going through it, lit from behind by a sunset and almost in silhouette. Taken by Florence Caplain

Fenced in

She liked the view at sunset, the way the light fell across the land and coloured the underside of the clouds. She felt free when she looked at it, wide open, as though she could do anything and go anywhere. But she couldn’t.

Carly had come here believing she was starting a new life; joining a community; being part of something special. She’d visited so many times and everyone had been warm and welcoming, chatting to her and making her feel significant to them and their group. And then she’d arrived and that had all changed.

The silence had begun; ignoring her at social gatherings, only talking amongst themselves. They were civil to her, would pass the time of day, but nothing more. They would never drop by or invite her round, except to events where she was expected – oh and she was expected, in fact they were obligatory. If she didn’t show up they were insulted. It was always what suited them. Nothing was hers anymore – not even her own husband.

He would drop everything for anyone in the community, but when she needed his help or support he would dismiss her or tell her she was being dramatic. Like when their baby son was sick and she needed to work. Yes, she worked from home and could be there for him, but she still had a deadline and wasn’t able to keep getting up to tend to him every time he cried. But her husband had an event at one of the many community clubs he was involved in, and went out, telling her to call if she needed him.

And she did, but he didn’t respond to any of her calls or texts. When he did eventually respond, it was three hours later and only a quick message asking if she really needed him to come because it hadn’t finished yet. Again, when she tried to reply, by text or calling, he’d turned his phone off. He turned up just before midnight and she had to work until three in the morning to meet her deadline. He didn’t care. They came first.

There had been rows; there had been unpleasantness, and he’d made it clear she would never leave with their children if she chose to go. It didn’t help that there was nowhere to go to and no money to go with, so Carly had stayed and made the best of it.

She stood in the field at the back of their home, and looked at the fence that ran round it: the barbed wire, the wooden stakes it threaded through. This wasn’t just a fence to keep unwanted animals out, it was a fence keeping her in. She felt like a prisoner in her own life.

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 233

This week's photo was originally taken by Nucu on DeviantArt, a photographer in Romania. But since their original picture it has been altered and filtered, and spread far and wide on the internet. This is apparently on a beach in Greece - although personally it could be anywhere - including where I am in Holland. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

An image of sunset over the ocean with beams of light reflecting up into the clouds, taken from the top of a sand dune with the beach sweeping down to the ocean.

Dusk Dreams

Mandy sat shivering in the dusk light looking down at the beach and the sunset from the top of a sand dune. The last rays of sunlight displayed their magnificent beams as the sun sank into the ocean, getting lower every second.

Mandy had intended to sink lower too. She’d gone in and waded out past the break of the waves, until she was in over her head. Then she’d let herself fall to the bottom. It hadn’t been easy, she’d let the air out bit by bit to get her down onto the seabed. She’d used her arms to hold her there and waited until the last bubble was gone. The pressure had built up, and her arms had gone from rhythmic steadying to panic fluttering, but she hadn’t been able to open her mouth. She just couldn’t talk her body into doing it. She’d rushed back up to the surface and taken in lungfuls of life giving air.  

She’d swum back to shore and flopped down onto the empty beach. And it was so very empty as all beaches were now.

She wondered how many others there were like her; alone and alive. There had to be others scattered about, unable to bring their lives to an end despite there being nothing left to live for – quite literally: no work, no people, no food, no nothing. It had all stopped. With nobody to run anything it would of course. They were all gone. Mandy didn’t know where. One day everyone was there and everything was normal, the next she’d woken to deserted streets. There was only static on the radio and on the television. She had no idea what had happened

She’d driven out of the city and found the same in every town she’d passed through. At first it was a delight, the world her oyster, everything she ever wanted at her fingertips. But now, months on, it was a nightmare, a place of rotting food and starving pets. The beaches were the only place free from it.

And so here she was recovering from another failed attempt to end her existence, maybe the last person to witness a sunset, unsure what to do next.

Thursday, 30 December 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 232

This week's photo is another by Florence Caplain, a french photographer. She says about it: 'I would be a princess and I would sail on the emerald on a prodigious throne.'

My depiction is a little bit darker ...

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

The Chair

They shoved her along the jetty. Up to this point she thought it was some kind of sick joke, an empty threat the elders used, but there it was in the river waiting for her: the chair.

It had become legend; something people talked about. Someone always knew of someone who had been put in it, but no one Frances knew and no one who still lived in their community. Were they dead? No one knew. Was it survivable? No one knew. Where did it go? No one seemed to know that either. She’d thought it had been fake right up until they’d come for her and dragged her through the town bound and gagged.

And why her? She wasn’t even sure about that either. Yet all the people seemed to know as they came to their doors and watched her taken, standing mute, no surprise registering on their faces.

She didn’t know the men pushing her forward to the strange metal boat the chair was fixed in. Where had they come from? They weren’t natives. Had they brought in outsiders especially to dispose of her? She supposed so.

‘Get in!’ One of them demanded as they came to the end of the landing.

She carefully lowered herself down, finding it hard with her arms tied behind her back, unable to balance easily. She almost fell at one point, but they at least stopped her from suffering that indignity as they grabbed her and swung her back towards the chair. She slumped down into it, straightening herself as best she could. Her hands grasping one of the rungs on the back of the seat to keep herself steady.

They untied them mooring rope and kicked the metal boat off from the jetty, not saying a word. The onlookers crowded along the shoreline but didn’t venture onto the walkway. The boat swayed a bit and drifted further out into the green water until it was caught by the current and started moving forward.

Frances began chewing down on the gag, tearing bits of the material with her teeth, twisting it round her tongue to pull at it and rip it apart. It took a long time, but she had plenty of that while she sailed along at walking pace. She rubbed a piece of the rope that bound her hands against the metal bars on the back of the chair, too, hoping it would at wear enough to break. But by the time she felt it loosen she was into unknown territory and the light of the day was dimming.

She shook her hands out, relieved to be free. Finally she had means to steer – although there were no oars. In fact the boat was devoid of anything.

She scooped some handfuls of water out of the river. It tasted different to the well water she was used to but was still refreshing, the gag having absorbed most of the moisture in her mouth.

At the tip of the boat were the mooring ropes, and she snatched them up hoping she might use them to guide the boat. If she could direct it to shore maybe she could get off and find shelter. But the ends were frayed and the length stopped where they met the water. Had something eaten them away?

The boat jostled and Frances lost balance, falling back into a sitting position in the bottom of the boat. Whatever was causing the movement escalated and she gripped the sides hoping the boat wouldn’t capsize.

It started moving forward faster and faster until she was sure she must be headed to a waterfall but instead it ran aground, hitting the shore so hard she was thrown up and out, landing on a tiny sand beach surrounded by dense forest.

Frances hadn’t seen sand before. She rubbed it between her fingers as she lay there, experiencing its strange gritty feel. Then she heard breathing behind her. It was ragged and gulping. She turned and couldn’t quite believe what she saw; a large dark green scaly creature, with a long tooth-filled jaw, crouched low to the ground.

Frances didn’t dare move, but there was rustling from the trees at the perimeter, and a man appeared.

‘Ah, Gorgan, they’ve finally sent us a new one. Excellent. Just when I was beginning to wonder if we were going to have to go and fetch one ourselves.’

He walked up to Frances’ head and smiled down at her. She smiled back, but a sweep of his foot wiped it away, along with her consciousness.  

Sunday, 26 December 2021

Happy Publication Day!

Dead Lake is released today!

Tricky is finally here! 😀

I'm so excited to be sharing Tricky's Tales with you all at last - although those of you that read my Mid-Week Flash pieces will already be familiar with this character. Her world is new to me, as is writing a series, but it's been a very enjoyable journey. 

There will be two more coming, hopefully in 3 month intervals, so get ready.

And for the next 48 hours the price of this first novel is discounted to $1.99/£1.99 

So grab it will you can. 

Sometimes it pays to be tricky

Damn and blast! That rancid piece of excrement, Carter, has had her ransacked out of Clancy!

Tricky returns to her cottage to find it turned upside down. An action that means she’s got three days to leave the district or face punishment. Randolf Carter, head of the district, is spreading lies and suspicion about her kind, making life difficult. But it wasn’t just an ordinary ransacking – they were searching for something.

Using her gifts, Tricky traces the energy left by the men and spies another creature’s energy among it: a jackdaw. Swift and wily, it’s pinched her precious gemstone, a piece of black obsidian. But at whose bidding? Communicating with birds is a rare ability and she knows all who possess it.

Tricky wants her stone back, but coming up against people like Carter won’t be easy, especially when he’s got one of her kind in his employ. But she’ll handle it, oh yes she will. She'll just have to be careful and a little bit tricky. Good thing she is then, isn’t it?

Adept at working with energy and time as well as communicating with trees, Tricky is lured into something bigger than ownership of a gemstone, and finds out that sometimes it pays to be a little bit tricky.

Dead Lake, dark paranormal fantasy, is set a few hundred years from now in a post-apocalyptic world, after a massive shift of the tectonic plates has decimated the population and the land, life on the remaining landmass has returned to simple living, with money, rulers and religion no longer tolerated. 

This is the first in the series of Tricky's Tales. 

Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 231

This week's picture prompt was taken by French photographer Florence Caplain. She calls it, High Tech. 

It's a Tricky snippet this week exploring a scene I've had on my mind. I did write more of it, but it gives too much away so I've cut it short. Last Tricky tale was Week 230.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

An image of a grey and white dial telephone from the 1970s. Taken by Florence Caplain

Bringing News

Tricky had seen one before, but never a working one. It was odd, almost unnatural seeing people talk into a piece of plastic and hear a voice back.

She wondered how they had got it working, and there was some technical explanation, but she didn’t have the brain for all that nonsense; trees, energy and time were her thing, this telephone was not in any of those realms.

The weird dial was funny; you hand to turn it and it turned back itself, bit like a clock in some ways but its numbers didn’t make sense – not to Tricky. She sniffed. They were well shot of such things she reckoned. It had only led to distraction and then.

Why Tumelo wanted to be messing with them again she had no idea, and it wasn’t her business, but it felt strange sitting here listening to him speaking to someone on the other side of the city.

The city of Chestwick bustled in a way that made Tricky feel uncomfortable. They were all rushing about doing things and being somewhere and no one took the time to speak to one another. It was odd. It got busy in Clancy and also in Ballford when she lived there, but they all knew each other. Here there was at least triple the population, so they didn’t.

It wasn’t her first time here. She’d been a few times – even once with her father before he’d tried that stupid trick with the heat-ball that had backfired, quite literally. She’d last been here after her mother’s death to speak to Tumelo about what she had witnessed that night. It had been an emotional visit and she hadn’t really taken in much of her surroundings, just wanting their meeting to be over.

And she was here again, wanting the same. The news she carried was risky. Tricky could do risky if it was just herself, but it wasn’t, it was all of them. She hadn’t even begun to tell Tumelo yet. He’d only called her in moments before that old fangled telephone had made a strange noise, like the tinkling of bells, and he’d picked up the top part and started talking into it.

She was trying to hold her nerve, but Tricky wasn’t one for patience. If he didn’t hurry up she’d take the damn thing off him and slam it down. She really needed to get this news out, like a meal that had turned sour in your stomach and pushing to get out at the other end.

Tricky shuffled in her chair for the fourth time and coughed slightly. This time it worked; he glanced up while he was speaking and looked at her with those soft deep eyes of his, a question in them. She held his gaze. It wasn’t hard; it was so inviting and warm you just wanted to fall into it. What was it about him and his family and their ability to beguile you with a look alone? Even his wife could do it; Tricky had been utterly enraptured by her when she’d greeted Tricky in the hall and brought her through to The Baron’s office. Their entire family was gorgeous. Tricky could fancy them all.

Returning Tumelo’s look seemed to work. He wrapped up his conversation and put the earpiece back in its cradle, turning his full attention to her.

‘Sorry Tricky, I get a bit carried away on that thing, it has made life so much easier.’

‘I’m sure they said that about lots of things before the shift.’

Tumelo nodded his acknowledgement of her meaning. ‘No doubt they did. So what news? I assume it’s something important for you to come all this way, rather than communicate via other means.’

‘Yes, it’s very important, and you’re not going to like it.’