Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Review: The Seren Stone, by Lisa Shambrook

I waited a long time for The Seren Stone to be released, and then a touch longer to receive the paperback, but it was worth the wait; what lovely interior which only adds to what is already a mystical and intriguing adventure story. 

My review is below, but this is definitely worth having in your book collection. I can't wait for the next instalment. 

   



The Seren StoneThe Seren Stone by Lisa Shambrook
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was so excited when this book was finally published. I read it in its early stages and loved the concepts it covers. I have always had a great love for anything that time jumps, and then when you add in magical gemstones and dragons, well you can't go wrong.

Lisa Shambrook has a very descriptive style of writing that draws on all the senses and paints a vibrant picture, and The Seren Stone benefits from that detail. It is full of rich scenery and world building. The main character, Loren, is thrown into another world with her two siblings and due to a dragon fight going on overhead, they have to quickly try and orientate themselves - which isn't easy when nothing looks familiar.

There are elements of Narnia and Lord of Rings but with Dragons and magical gemstones. It's the first book in a great adventure, and at the same time the characters deal with human themes like sibling rivalry, and mental health (anxiety).

I see from other reviews that many readers feel this is more of a children's adventure book rather than a young adult book (and have marked it down because of this), but I feel it contains themes for all ages. It is about three children struggling to make sense of a world they find themselves in, and about the relationships they develop with each other and the people (or dragons) that come into their lives. It doesn't take away from the book.

I recommend it to all those people that enjoy a good adventure book with magic and dragons.

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Thursday, 12 May 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 249

This week's picture prompt was taken by American photographer Walter Arnold. He took it in an old abandoned house on Sapelo Island, Georgia, USA. He calls it 'Choices'. He has appeared on MidWeekFlash before, on Week 177. He has some inspiring pictures. Worth checking out. 

This took more time than planned because I stopped and restarted a few times with different ideas - much like the character. 

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 two identical doorless door frames on either side of landing, looking into two rooms which both have windows, and the right one has a reflection of the sun through another window. Taken by Walter Arnold.

Untrainable

There should have been only one door, but I could see two. I stepped through the right one, I knew their game, and as I suspected the image changed.

I found myself again confronted with the doors, but they looked a bit more worn; dirtier round the door frame, and needing a fresh coat of paint. I stepped through the right one again.

By the fifth time, the paint was peeling and through the left hand door I could see part of the ceiling falling in.

This caused me to pause. It wasn’t replicated on the right. Why not? And the light was different. There was a sunshine pattern on the floor; sunlight was coming through the side window.

I frowned.

I stepped into the left room, breaking my pattern. The image didn’t change, the room remained. I went over to the window and looked out onto a lush garden below: An expanse of vibrant green lawn, surrounded by dense foliage. It was the thing of dreams. And they knew it.

I climbed out of the window and jumped down into the garden. The image flickered and I was back at the two doors again. They looked freshly painted.

I sighed. This loop wasn’t getting me anywhere. I stepped into the left one. I remained in the room. I looked out of the window at that inviting garden, but knew it wasn’t where I was meant to go. So where was I meant to go?

The other window offered the view of more gardens and a field beyond. But if I climbed out into it, I’d come out at the doors again. Or would I?

I opened the window, which screeched its age and climbed out. Within seconds I was standing in front of the two doors again.

I decided to keep going right and see how decayed things would get. By the tenth time the floor I was standing on felt spongy and precarious.

I carefully stepped into the room on the right again.

The image flickered and I found myself in a huge entrance hall. Okay, something new.

The front door was in front of me, and behind me there was a staircase, which split off left and right at the top.

Stairs or door?

I went to the door. It was locked. I went up the stairs. There was a locked door at each end of corridor both left and right.

I stood at the top of the stairs. There were no other doors leading out and nothing open. I wondered what to do. There had to be a way out. There was always a way out. How could I get a door open? Was there a key?

I realised this was like one of those escape room challenges, except that really I was a mouse in a maze trying to find their way out. I didn’t want to be their mouse. I didn’t want to do this anymore.

I sat down on the top step. How long would they let me sit like this?

I pondered this as I picked at my nails, and let my mind wander to other places, to other times when I had a life and they weren’t running it.

It felt like forever ago, but it was only a matter of weeks. It had all been so sudden. And this was one of the training systems they put me in to make me compliant. It didn’t work on me, which is why I spent so much time in them and had learnt patterns and knew what to expect. They didn’t know what to do about that, which is why I was sitting here at the top of the stairs, and waiting. I could be stuck for hours in real time.

I got up and tried the doors again. Nothing. I had hoped they might unlock one to give me something to go through.

The only other item was a mirror on the left wall as you came through the front door. I went and looked at myself in it. My reflection looked worn, nothing new there. I touched the glass and the image flickered and I was back at the doors again.

I took a deep breath. Okay, so they had reset it. What was I going to do? Play their game or play mine? I could just sit by the windows and look out at the garden for a while. Why not?

I went into the room on the left and leaned against the wall, looking out at the untouchable beauty of nature they had created. It was better than the cell I would wake up in, in a few hours, when they decided to give me a break.


Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 248

This week's picture prompt was taken by British photographer, Paul Hart, for his series, Drained. The title being in relation to the area in Lincolnshire in the UK that has been drained of the sea - reclaimed land (much like where I live in Holland). I don't often go for Black and White photos as I am not a big fan of them on the whole, but this one really struck me.  

This picture called for a touch of sci-fi this week.

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.


A black and white image of a four way crossroads in the middle of nowhere, with a Give Way sign on the left and one on the right facing another direction, and overhead power and telephone wires, in foggy weather. Taken by Paul Hart

Experiment

Cranthian stood at the corner, waiting. He knew he was in the right place even though it was foggy, although he couldn’t be a hundred percent sure which direction he was facing, but he did remember the Give Way sign. In fact, a smirk crept across his face when he saw it. He couldn’t help it.

It hadn’t been funny for Sandra, or for the poor guy she’d pulled through with her. Hitting metal at that speed could be fatal, but fortunately their combined speed and weight had down it before it could do too much damage.

He sauntered over to it and shook the pole. They probably thought it had been from wind damage. Flat, reclaimed lands were always windy; nothing to break it across the fields. It was why this was the perfect location. It was remote. You couldn’t have people stickybeaking as you came in and out, it would be dangerous, for you and for them. No, when Panthos had chosen this place, he’d done his research. Between the symmetry of the crossroads and the emptiness of the surroundings, it was perfect. No one would be seen or heard.

Cranthian walked back to the reflector post and sat on it. Not many cars came through this junction. It didn’t lead to any big towns and it wasn’t well lit, but he believed it was also because they sensed the anomaly.

Humans in this dimension had been taught that to feel things was bad. You had to try and pretend all was well and all times and block any emotion or intuition that came forward. It was their downfall and made them generally uncaring of one another, and that, along with the creation of a monetary system, made them difficult to interact with. It was another reason Cranthian was thankful this place was remote. He only passed through here because it was a key portal to other dimensions.

His thoughts were interrupted by a familiar fizzing sound. He stood up. There was a shout of ‘Oh crap!’ as Sandra flung herself to the side, narrowly missing the Give Way sign again. He stifled a giggle.

‘Yeah, I know you think it’s funny, but there has to be something off with the Gallos portal to keep sending me in like this.’

‘You spend a lot of time there, don’t you?’

‘I like them there, they’re friendly.’

‘Too friendly, you mean. They’re all over you as soon as you arrive.’

Sandra grinned. ‘Some of us enjoy the touchy feely. You should give it a go sometime, Cran.’

‘Nope, not my scene.’

‘No, that’s right, you like the dark abyss of Hellion instead.’

‘At least it’s honest.’

Sandra let out a guffaw. ‘I’m not sure I’d call the baiting they do over there honest.’

‘It’s not baiting, it’s expressing.’

‘Yeah, right. Triggering each other until you are screaming at the top of your lungs? Seems like madness to me.’

‘Nothing wrong with a bit of heated debate.’

‘But it’s all pointless, nothing comes of it,’

‘Expressing and knowing where you stand is what comes of it.’

Sandra shrugged. ‘If you say so. Okay, so why am I here? What do you need?’

‘I want to make a run to Raggus. I need to collect some vials for an experiment in Hellion.’

Sandra’s eyes opened wide. ‘Experiment? Why would you do that?’

‘There’s a debate that’s been running for a while that we need to resolve.’

‘But Raggus is more dangerous than here. You infect another dimension it could have an impact on all of them.’

‘It won’t go that far.’

‘You can’t be sure.’

‘Yes, I can. We’ve put a whole list of protocols in place, which is why the debate’s been going on for so long.’

‘You’ll owe me big if I do this with you.’

‘Oh that’s right, you always want something in return.’

Sandra smiled and gave him a wink. ‘When it’s you, Cran, always. How else can I get you to do the things I want?’

Cran laughed and grinned back at her. ‘What’ll it cost me?’

‘You have to come to Gallos with me.’ Her eyes flashed.

He groaned and laughed at the same time. ‘You’re always trying to convert me.’

‘It’s not conversion; it’s coercion.’ She put her finger to her mouth and bit it, giving him puppy eyes.

Cran laughed again. Okay, it’s a deal.’

Sandra put out her hand. Cran took it and pulled her towards him as he took a step to the left. The air fizzed for a second, then the crossroads returned to its deserted state.  

 


Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 247

This week's picture prompt I believe was created by Lucas Zoltowski, and used to be up on his DeviantArt page, but it has since been deactivated. You can see his work on Behance, but this image is not there. It is however all over the web and used as wallpaper, but TinEye photo search tells me that it was posted back in 2009 and the name of the file was Broken Hearts by Lucas Zoltowski. By the style I'm confident it is his image.

Difficult to come up with something different, but I think I managed it. A bit of science fiction this week. 

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.


A digitally created image of a shattered glass heart with the red fluid inside leaking out, on a red background. Created by Lucas Zoltowski

Kindness

Evelyn saw the heart was shattered and oozing red liquid. She didn’t know what to do.

‘What happens if I take it out? Can you survive without it?’

The hybrid’s eyes rolled towards her. It whispered, ‘I don’t know. I don’t think so.’

‘But I can’t see anything attached to it,’ she said as she removed it carefully, the liquid from inside dripping through her fingers.

‘I think it’s what emanates from it rather than what is attached. It has special thermic pathways as well as radiographic.’

Its eyes started to flutter. She didn’t think she could save it; she didn’t know enough about the systems it had been build on.

Evelyn took the broken heart over to the counter in the pharmacy where the hybrid had been attacked. She wondered if there was a way to glue the external surface and re-implant it. As far as she understood the fluid would regenerate.

‘What glues do you have? Do you have any skin glue?’ she asked the cowering shop keeper.

He’d been squatting behind the counter since the incident, even though the thugs had since run out of the premises. His wide, startled eyes blinked up at her.

‘I don’t know. It should be along the aisle where the plasters are.’

‘Well do you think you can go and get it for me? I think my hands are pretty full at the moment.’

Her eyes looked down at the oozing mess barely retaining its shape as the pieces kept moving out of place. She glanced back at the hybrid whose eyes were now closed. She didn’t know if her efforts would be pointless, but she had to try.

The shopkeeper leapt up and rushed round, running down one of the aisles. Evelyn hoped he was coming back.

Eventually, after a silent pause, she heard his footsteps again as he came back with a couple of tubes in his hands. He went to put them on the counter. 

‘You’re going to have to help me. I can’t do this on my own. You’ll need to run the glue along the cracks while I try and keep the material in place.’ She hesitated to call it glass; it looked like it, but it didn’t feel like it. It was some kind of polymer, too soft to be glass, yet strangely static in its flexibility.

The man opened up a tube and, with a surprisingly steady hand, ran the contents along the cracks. Evelyn could feel it bonding. ‘I think it’s working.’

It took two tubes to seal it, or at least to stop the fluid leaking.

‘Okay, now for the proof in the pudding.’

‘What?’ The shopkeeper frowned at the expression.

‘Let’s see if it will hold.’

Evelyn carefully carried it back to the hybrid, which hadn’t moved at all since she’d taken it out. She wasn’t confident, but she gently replaced it back into the holder inside the chest cavity and mopped up the rest of the fluid as best she could, before pushing the edges of the torso back round it, and making sure they met. She beckoned to the shopkeeper to bring more glue and he quickly squeezed another line along the crack.

They both stood next to it and waited. There was nothing for a few seconds, which felt like an eternity, then the eyes gave a long slow blink and the mouth opened. There was the sound of rushing air as it took a breath. The eyes rolled round to Evelyn and focused on her.

‘Thank you. You saved my heart.’

‘I did my best, I’m not sure it will hold. I suggest you go back to the lab to get it examined.’

It slowly sat up, and then brought itself to standing. ‘I think I will go home and rest first. Give it time to regenerate.’

It took a step closer to Evelyn, moving into her personal space. It leaned forward slightly, and she wondered if it was attempting to kiss her. She’d never heard one show emotion before. But it brought its hand up and a finger brushed her cheek.

‘I’ve heard of the human concept of kindness, but I’ve never seen, heard or experienced it until now. It has a gentle touch. It gives me hope that your species might yet survive.’

It smiled at her and walked out of the shop without looking back.

Evelyn watched it go and then turned to the shopkeeper.

‘If we don’t, they won’t either.’

  


Saturday, 16 April 2022

Nocturnal Nibbles, FREE over Easter weekend

Not everyone likes chocolate. I know, that's a shocking statement and I don't get it either, but it's true. So with that in mind, this Easter I've decided to give away the Kindle version of one of my books, my horror collection, Nocturnal Nibbles


Nocturnal Nibbles is a collection of thirty bite-sized pieces of flash fiction for you to devour. Containing short sharp tales of murder, revenge, penance, sacrifice, supernatural scares, monsters and spooks, it offers an array of horror to delight.

It a collection of stories that have been published previously in various online magazines and anthologies, alongside a couple of new stories that have never appeared anywhere - not even on my blog

It's free for four days: 
Friday 15th of April - Monday 18th of April
so download it now by clicking on the picture below.

But remember, it's not for the fainthearted!




Thursday, 14 April 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 246

This week's picture prompt was taken by German photographer, Gordon Adler. it was taken in Chestnut avenue, Briest, Germany, and he calls it Misty Path.

A picture that is perfect for a little bit of Tricky's tale. The last time I wrote about here was Week 241.

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.


A photograph of a double-track path through a woods. Ahead are shafts of sunlight coming through the trees and creating a haze in the air. Taken by Gordon Adler in Briest, Germany

Path of Discovery

She stepped carefully out onto the path. She was deep into their territory now and caution was warranted. Even though there were defined parallel tracks Tricky wouldn’t call it a road, but it spoke of the passing of some form of vehicles; something had been pushed or pulled through here regularly enough to create them.

The clouds shifted, causing shafts of sunlight to cut through the canopy and light the way. But the way wasn’t clear, there was a mist and Tricky wasn’t sure if it was manmade or natural. If natural she would expect something like The Rabble to appear at any moment. It had a fae feel to it and it unsettled her. But manmade threw up more questions, although it could be smoke or steam coming up from their underground bunkers.

She took a deep breath and touched a piece of birch leaf to the peridot, feeling relief as the veil enclosed her, cutting her off from prying eyes. Then she tapped into the root energy of the trees and reached for the quartz in her other pocket, her feet lifting up as soon as she touched it. It was the only safe way to travel in these parts. She might be invisible but footsteps still made sound. And with the network clearly having harnessed the abilities of the gifted folk, she couldn’t take any chances.

She moved in and around the trees and watched from her airborne view. Nothing moved, which was in itself unnatural in a forest. She wasn’t the only one holding her breath. She moved into the mist and it thickened. It was a shield of some sort, she was sure of it, although in her invisible state she couldn’t use her senses to test it.

She moved higher up and settled on a branch of a large pine. She released the peridot and birch leaf and felt her visibility return. She sniffed the air but there was only the normal forest scent. She reached out her energy to track its source. It was definitely ground based, but it was further along the path. She cloaked herself again and continued on.

The mist grew into a fog and Tricky moved back among the trees to use them as a compass to find the origin point. They helped show the way through her mind’s eye until eventually the square in the ground it was emitting from was revealed. She wondered if they were doing this deliberately to obscure it from view. But why would they do that unless they knew someone was seeking it?

Tricky chuckled. Oh yes, her; they knew she was coming. She’d overheard Stanislav getting stressed about it. But really, this was a trick? She was way beyond this, and everyone knew it.

Something prickled at her conscience, and her gut responded with a hard dropping sensation. That’s because it was deliberate; it was a trap!

She pushed her finger down hard onto the quartz and shot up into the tree canopy. Her sudden movement broke the cloud of fog and it swirled. Men appeared out of the ground a few feet away and rushed to where she’d just been. They stood bewildered looking round, and then they separated, going into the woods on either side, clearly searching for her. She’d narrowly avoided capture.

Tricky chided herself for her naivety. She wasn’t the only player in this game. She wasn’t the only one with lots of tricks up her sleeve. They had lots too, and they were much sneakier than her – in fact they were trained in sneaky; they lived and breathed it every day in their secret underground bunkers. She had to lose her cocky attitude of thinking she was better than them. In fact she had to assume they were better than her; that they had the same knowledge as her. It was hard. She liked being queen of her particular castle. She would relent to other gifted folk, but not these double-dealing, murderous shysters who were extracting other people’s gifts to gain power. They weren’t worthy of living on the underside of her shoe!

But whether she liked it or not they’d just bested her. She had to be more than cautious, she had to be vigilant from here on out. Her life depended on it.


Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 245

This week's picture prompt is by US artist Jeffrey Smith. He calls this one 'Surrender'. He has some incredible artwork, so I really do encourage you to take a look. 

This week is just an expression of emotion rather than a full story - or a glimpse into someone's life. 

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 artist drawn image of an empty wooden rowing boat in the middle of the ocean as storm clouds part and an orange sunset shines through the middle behind the boat, reflecting in the water. Created by Jeffrey Smith

Emotion

She pulled back hard on the oars, channelling all her rage into them. It lifted the nose of the boat high up over the next wave as the storm thrashed around her, manifesting the anger she felt into something tangible.

She’d had enough. She was so tired of repeating herself and not being heard by anyone in her life. She was a side line in someone’s peripheral view; they glimpsed her when it suited them.

She’d been pushing her rage down for years and now it had exploded; she’d walked out of her life. She’d imagined this moment for many years and hoped it to be so much more, but as she pushed down on the oars and dragged this tiny boat through treacherous waters, it wasn’t as magical as she had hoped.

The tears on her face mixed with the rain and the salt water spray as the wind driven waves slapped the sides of the boat. She’d cried all the way out here into the middle of the ocean, but finally the heaves of her chest started to reduce along with the storm.

She felt the anger begin to ebb and the energy in her arms slow. She pulled the oars into the boat and let it drift on the waves. She could see a break in the clouds, and the sun poke its way through. The churning waves began to still, and the sunlight threw cascades of glitter across their surface.

She sat motionless watching the beauty unfold around her, her mind empty, the rage spent.

The now gentle motion lulled her as she released the last sighs of frustration from her body. She drank in the scene of the sun setting, the orange glow lighting the water as though it was full of fire, reflecting how she’d felt just moments ago.

But as the edge of the sun touched the water it occurred to her that she had to return, she had no other choice; she couldn’t stay floating out here indefinitely – not in the dark.

She took the oars once again, this time with calm purpose, and turned the boat around. When she got back, she would no longer tolerate the disrespect and disregard; she would create the life she wanted, and surround herself with people that cared. She would be the person she knew she was inside. The rhythm of the rowing helped reiterate this mantra so that by the time she saw the darkened shore, she was ready to take on the world.