Thursday, 23 January 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 141

This week's photo prompt was taken by Kevin McElheran, in Sorrento, British Columbia, Canada. Unfortuately, his website doesn't seem to exist and he hasn't tweeted since 2014, so there isn't really anything to link it to, but by all reports he called it The Happening, and said this about it: "This abandoned 100 year old church is what's left from what was the rail town of Sorrento, British Columbia. I was driving through this area late one night when I noticed a train in the distance approaching which outlined this structure in it's glow."

The subject for the story was an obvious one for me. I had to cut it this piece back to make the word count though. 

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.




Justice


Some say it was an act of God dispelling evil; others said it was a fluke lightening strike. Either way the church had come to a pretty dramatic end.

I liked to think of it as a cleansing, even though I didn’t feel cleansed. It might have brought it all into the light – both literally and metaphorically – but who was going to take the next step and make them accountable for what they’d done?

Some even denied it; they couldn’t believe their precious church could be so depraved. They’d blamed the victims, even though some of them had been victims themselves. It was warped, but the sick underbelly in town had been exposed. If we didn’t clean it up, it would fester and continue to infect.

I had one ally: George, who was the state deputy in the region. He’d seen for himself what they had done, but he’d told me there were no plans to pursue the abusers because any evidence had been lost in the fire. He’d said the only place it could be found now was in the priest’s house, but they had no grounds to look. He’d said it to me with a glint in his eye.

So here I was standing on the flat roof of the priest’s garage extension, hoping I didn’t spark the automatic security lights that covered the front of this white weatherboard five-bedroom house. It was amazing how much money brainwashing people and abusing their children accrued.

I’d done my research; even swallowed down my feelings and gone round to give my commiserations, just to get invited in to get the layout of the place. There was a study and a private chapel out the back that I needed to look in.

The chapel had been empty, besides an Alter and a few pews, so here I was climbing up the house, hoping to gain access through an open bathroom window.

It was then I heard the car coming. I immediately dropped to my stomach and tried to make myself as flat as the roof. It was after midnight and a quiet road, hopefully it would pass. But it didn’t, it turned into the driveway. Shit! They weren’t all home and asleep!

But it wasn’t one of the residents. It was Justin Lanerky from the hardware store. He was drunk and angry. I could hear him stumble as he got out and started shouting.

“You good for-nuthin’ piece of shit! You fucked up my life!’

Lights came on. The front door opened.

‘Now now, Mr Lanerky, I don’t think coming round here shouting the odds is a good idea. You need to go home, cool off and sober up.’ The priest tried to placate him.

‘He’s in no fit state to drive, Davy, he’ll have to come into the house and get some coffee.’ His wife’s voice was as sweet as candy.

‘You’re right, Norma. Why don’t you come in Mr Lanerky.’

‘I ain’t going in there. I don’t know what you might do to me!’

‘Don’t be silly, Mr Lanerky, my wife’s just going to make some coffee and help you calm down.’

I heard scuffling and Mr Lanerky’s protests reduce as they brought him inside. I slid back down the roof, no longer worrying about the light now it was on, just wanting to get the hell out of there. Then I heard a scream and then another that ended in a gurgle. I crept up to the front window and peeked through the corner where the net curtain didn’t quite reach. I saw a body on the floor covered in blood, and the priest standing over it smiling while his wife wiped the blade of a knife. They’d killed him!

It was then I ran, as hard and fast as I could all the way back to my car, parked a couple of blocks away. Once inside I called George. At first I was so out of breath I could barely get my words out, but he was patient and waited. He told me to stay put while he rallied the troops.

The wait in the car seemed excruciating, but hearing those sirens was sweet relief. There was no way they could cover up the murder that quick. It made me wonder; others from the congregation had gone missing. Maybe I’d narrowly escaped going missing myself! 



Monday, 20 January 2020

Book Review: Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver

Nothing Important Happened TodayNothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to read this book very much. I had heard a lot about it - and not just because I inadvertently was at a London book launch for it (it was a double booklaunch, I was there for the other book - Violet, by SJI Holliday, go read it, it's brilliant!) but because people who's opinion I rated raved about it.

I am not a crime thriller reader on the whole. I like some books, depending on the author and the story. But I was surprised this was placed in this genre - and raved about by the very tight circle of crime thriller supporters that go to all the events within the crime genre. Yes, there is a detective that features in a bit of it, and yes, in the last 10% of the novel you find out that there was actually someone behind what is taking place in this novel, but other than that it was simply a diatribe the author wishes to make about Suicide, Society, Social Media and Cults - touching on subjects like therapy and hypnosis along with it. It was bleak and depressing, and not just because it is about mass suicides.

I almost DNF at around 30% but someone in a review had said it picks up after 50% so I carried on. But I didn't find that, I found the entire story was really in the last 10-20%. I don't think I've ever skim read any book so much in my life before!

There is nothing wrong with the writing itself, but it is narrated as though by an observer so that we the reader are also observing it all happening, with constant digressions into information about famous serial killers and their motivations as though they were relevant to the story. In a very vague way they were, but not until the end. If you are a crime thriller reader maybe this gave it a more interest but sadly it didn't help for me.

This POV is fine for setting up the story or the character, other authors like Stephen King do this, so the reader can get an overview of what is going on, but it just didn't stop. It meant it was not possible to engage with the characters or care about any of them particularly - which maybe was a reflective of the disconnect the characters were having in the story, leading them to the suicides, but I found myself waiting to find out what it was all about really and that didn't come until the last 10% and by then I wanted it over. I like to engage with characters and the story when I am reading, otherwise what is the point?

The author has his own theatre company and writes plays and screenplays and to me that was what this reflected - having a theatre background myself - someone giving stage directions and describing the setting of each scene, but continually to the end.

It was repetitive and went back and forth a lot and kept slipping into rants about the same topics, going over and over them. The author occasionally changed into what is called Collective First, where they use 'You' as a plural instead of 'I' - like you are talking about yourself to someone. It brought me slightly closer to the characters involved and enabled me to keep reading.

There was something compelling about it, and I was curious to what or who was behind it which is what kept me reading. I don't like to give up on books, particularly ones that are a sort of mystery. I just had to learn to skim read, which I hate doing.

This book did not work for me, and did not inspire me to read any more of this author's books. Clearly it worked for others and if you are reading this, it might work for you. The bleakness or bluntness of the suicides did not bother me at all, but it definitely would trigger others who have had suicide affect their life.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 140

I found this week's photo prompt on twitter, when an artist called Richard Wells shared a selection of pictures with the tweet: "That time I went through a phase of Photoshopping Victorians out of their cabinet photos...… "

I had expected the stories for this to flood into my mind, but I couldn't get anything to work or that didn't sound cliche, so I went with poetry this time. Always feel free to write poetry - short of long. Writing is writing after all!

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 girl with no face

They had loved her
Though they were told they wouldn't
They had kept her
Thought they were told they shouldn't
They had hidden her
Thought they were told they couldn't

They had taught her
Though they were told she'd be no student
And coddled her
Though they were told it wasn't prudent
And sheltered her when they called her a mutant

They had let her play
Sometimes all day
Refusing to send her away
Covering her little face
With a delicate piece of lace
Treating her with kindness and grace

Until the day she'd fled the house
Some say in fear of a mouse
Her little toddler legs pumping
Over the boundary wall jumping

They say you can still hear the sounds
Of her playing in the grounds
And of her singing in the underbrush
Though they say it in a kind of hush
'Cause the townspeople hadn't wanted her there

They'd treated her with cruelty and been unfair
Some say they'd even been the ones

To set the trap that made her run
So they could catch her and make her gone
Returning her to what they called her rightful place
All because they couldn't tolerate the girl with no face




Tuesday, 14 January 2020

#NYR2020 – New Year’s Revolution Flash Fiction Event.

I have recently joined the #FabFlashFive - a team of flash fiction writers who host flash fiction contests and challenges throughout the year and who come together at different times of the year to host joint events, like this one, where there is a prize in the offing!

This New Year’s Revolution Flash Fiction Event is hosted by Cara Michaels (host of the weekly #MenageMonday writing contest)

It's running for two weeks - starting Monday 13th of Jan to Friday 24th of Jan - Midnight to Midnight (EST).

My entry is below - but my entry, along with my co-hosts, will be ineligible for the prize.

We will be hosting other events throughout the year too so look out for them:

Love Bites - Katheryn Avila (Feb) - host weekly #SwiftFicFriday
Midsummer Madness - Miranda Kate (June) - host of weekly #MidWeekFlash
Monster Mash - Siobhan Muir (Oct) - host of weekly #ThursThreads
Tipsy Santa - Ever Addams (Dec) - supporter & prompter of all!

(NB: All links on names lead to twitter accounts where you can search the hashtag)

So click on the picture below and check out submission details and write something for us!


Picture of a crow in some dark clouds.

Be careful what you wish for

Hayden had been told they’d been doing this ritual for centuries. He was hopeful it would open new opportunities for him, enable him to could start the new year fresh with a clean slate, and also give him more freedom. He needed that freedom so he could get more creative.

The granite beneath him was cold and he could feel it seep through into his skin. It felt like part of the process and a kind of anaesthetic, so he would be numb for the next stage. There was something exciting about it. It reminded him of his last sin and how he hadn’t allowed them any relief; they’d had to feel everything. The thought titillated him as much now as it had then, and he shifted his hips trying to offset the pressure building in that area. But he was laid out on the slab, wrists and ankles restrained. There was no way he could hide what was growing.

The priest paused, glancing at it. It didn’t help Hayden’s predicament, only increased it. He saw the priest’s eyebrow raise and a smirk spread across his face. He made eye contact with Hayden. It seemed Hayden was not alone in his enjoyment. Hayden relaxed and released his shame, sighing deeply.

“Good,” the priest said. “Let yourself be in the moment. Embrace all while you still can.”

Hayden’s brow twitched in a frown. Did he hear that correctly?

He heard metal against stone in a swiping motion. The blades were being prepared. The sound moved closer as the two assistants brought them to the priest. The freshly sharpened long clip blade was passed to him. He wiped it off on a clean white cloth, turning it so the candle-light glinted off the steel.

Hayden braced himself.

The priest raised the blade slowly above his head, chanting words, while looking up at the blade. All the focus was on the knife in his hands. Hayden could see symbols engraved on the flat of the blade as well as the handle. He was mesmerised by its beauty, which was why, when a sharp sensation moved across his wrists, he cried out – as much in shock as in pain.

He turned his head left and right and saw that the assistants had opened up the arteries by his hands. They moved swiftly down to his feet as the priest continued with his diatribe, making slits behind his heels causing Hayden to take in another sharp breath.

Hayden could feel the heat of his body leaving him through his open extremities, and his mind swooned. He had understood they would be making the cuts, but he thought they would be small for a bloodletting; these were sacrificial.

The priest’s words were building, getting louder and louder until they abruptly stopped. All eyes fell on Hayden’s.

“Are you ready to receive absolution, my son?”

Although unsure if he truly was, Hayden replied, “Yes.”

“Then, I decree your soul absolved, released from this body.” The priest began the descent down with the blade.

“Wait? What?!” Hayden tried to sit up. His head swam at the movement, his vitality waning with the blood loss.

The priest paused. “You wish to be absolved of your sin, of your depraved ways in this world. The only way is for you to be removed from this world.”

“But you said, absolution would mean a clean slate!”

“On the other side, yes.” The priest’s arms were still raised.

“But ... I didn’t agree to that.”

“Did you answer in the affirmative when I asked?”

“Yes.”

“Then you did agree.”

The priest didn’t give time for further discussion. The blade came down swiftly, and Hayden remained conscious as it opened him from sternum to groin. He wished for his tolerance of pain to reduce so he could pass out, but it wasn’t until the removal of the third organ that he finally fell out of consciousness, never to return.

640 ineligible words



Thursday, 9 January 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 139

This week's prompt is from photographer/artist Warren Keelan. He's an seascape and ocean photographer, and I've admired his wave pictures for several years now - I even have a pinboard of waves where the majority are Warren's photographs. His photos are worth checking out. He calls this one: Sunrise Crest.

A delay this week as it took me a while to get the ending for this story. I could see the opening clearly enough, but now the ending. Some days it's just like that.

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.






Stealth

Tomlin tilted his head back as he broke the surface of the water, making it as soundless as possible, then he exhaled sharply hoping it sounded like a whale clearing its blowhole. There was barely a ripple on the surface, the gentle wave motion dispersing any there’d been.

The sun was now above the horizon allowing more visibility, but there was nothing to see. They hadn’t broken surface ... yet.

Tomlin moved his limbs in a languid motion in rhythm with the swell of the water. He didn’t want to swim; it would wear him out, which would force him back underwater where it would be easier for them to find him.

He held still a moment and watched the orange sun to see which way the ocean would take him. Maybe he could drift for a while, float on his back, like a piece of driftwood.

They’d spent a long time searching for him; they weren’t going to give up easily. It made it difficult; he might have to head for land. He’d get landsickness. It didn’t appeal, but it might be the only way to disappear.

Sonar was a problem. It meant they could track him if they had managed to pinpoint him. They were probably watching and tracking him right now.

The thought made him nervous and he stopped floating, moving his legs under him again. Should he head for land? He wasn’t far from the underwater caves that Alana had shown him. He would be safe there. But if they were tracking him, they might follow and that would put their entire nation at risk. What to do?

Land. It was the only option. He moved onto his front and pushed himself forward just under the surface, letting the force drive him forward. He heard bubbling behind him, and flipped onto his back. He saw something surfacing and then a small periscope pop up.

Shit! They were here.

He flipped back over and kicked out his legs hard, shaking his feet until they joined together, ducking his head under and blowing out hard to open the gills on his neck. They weren’t about to let an anomaly such as him go. Hybrids might be common among the merpeople but not humans.

His body shot forward just under the surface, leaving little wake. He could hear a whoosh behind him as they pursued. He knew once he hit shallow waters he would out run them, but would they have someone ready to meet him on land? It had happened to his cousin, who’d managed to do a turn around to an old network of caverns to escape.

That sparked an idea and Tomlin veered left, heading deeper. The submarine dived after him, but hadn’t caught up – he knew it couldn’t.

The kelp fields were ahead and that would be his chance. He wasn’t stupid enough to think they couldn’t find him in them, but they didn’t know what lay under them.

He moved into an almost vertical position in the water, heading for the bottom. He glimpsed the fissure on the surface through the constant motion of the kelp. It could have been a line of stones to the untrained eye, but his cousin Linton had showed him it was just an illusion. He put out his hand as he reached the ground, his eyes still believing the illusion until he touched it, revealing the gap – a gap big enough for him but not a submarine, thankfully.

He slid inside and continued swimming vertically until the light further below began to expand. He knew that once he reached it no sonar would be able to track him. It was one of the few safe havens merpeople had from humans.

It sparkled as he drew closer, the light reflecting off the gemstone walls. He wasn’t sure of the names of all of them, but their ability to refract light meant that the tiny source from above, which travelled down a funnel to this pocket in the earth, was enhanced a thousand fold, creating an oasis of life. It teemed with species, some unknown even by the merpeople. It was so special it was deemed sacred and too delicate to risk living within, hence its availability. Tomlin would rest here before moving through. He knew it led to another network of caverns that would take him home without having to resurface.

For now he had evaded capture.  




Monday, 6 January 2020

Review: Dark Visions, by Stephen King, George RR Martin & Dan Simmons

Dark VisionsDark Visions by Douglas E. Winter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've had this book sitting on my shelf for some time and decided it was time to read it as I am trying to get through my TBR pile.

I am one of Stephen King's Constant Readers, so I will always buy up and read any book that has a story from him in it. And this one was no exception with two stories, Sneakers and Dedication, both of them offering something a little supernatural and very engrossing.

I had not heard of Dan Simmons before and did not know his writing, and personally his style did not work for me. I didn't feel his writing flowed well, it seems a bit jerky in its sentence layout and the way he described things, they jarred with me and I felt better words could have been picked. Out of the three writers in this book, I felt Simmons was the mediocre one, who knocked that star off making it a 4 star read and not a 5 star. Others might like his style, but it felt amateur to me. I did read all of Metastasis and it was an okay story, no odder than some of the stories King writes, but it fell down with the delivery for me, so I went straight to GRR Martin's story, Skin Trade.

I have only read The Hedge Knight of GGR Martin's, and thoroughly enjoyed it. (It is in Legends, by Robert Silverberg, collection of short stories) And I was also an avid watcher of Game of Thrones (I have yet to embark on the novels - they are sitting in my TBR pile), so I was surprised to find a story from him that was not set in the world of Kingdoms and ruling families, but something more modern, although supernatural with its Werewolf twist. It was brilliant, and dark, and captivating, and I enjoyed every second of reading it.

For King and Martin lovers, this book is a must have.

View all my reviews

Monday, 23 December 2019

Christmas Sale!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - and decade!

And to celebrate all the kindle version of my books are on sale for £0.99 / $0.99!

So if there are any of my books you haven't yet got, now's the time to snatch them up!