Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 108

This week's picture prompt was created by Russian Illustrator Anton Semenov - He calls this Auschwitz, in his 'City of Decay'  collection. He has some incredible work - very dark though, but I might have to revisit! Anton's personal website contains more creations.  

This week, not a story I wish to expand on! LOL But it's a while since I've had a nice dark tale. 

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.


I was sitting at my desk when I first noticed the sound. I wasn’t sure if it was a new sound, or whether it was something I had only just registered. But to register it now meant it had to have changed, right?

I tried to identify the location it was coming from. It was a pretty large loft, but with my desk under the skylight I tended to ignore the dark corners. They were full of dust and storage boxes only the cats ever bothered investigating, although coming to think of it, I hadn’t seen Minxy go that way for a while.

Was it getting louder? I couldn’t be sure. It could just be me tuning into it. It was more than a buzzing, it was a strange humming – not electrical; like a collective of people chanting in the distance, but a long way off.

I opened the skylight. Nope, definitely not coming from outside. When I shut it, it definitely seemed louder. Then a scratching sound joined it.

It had to be the cat. I got up to walk towards the corner it was coming from, but as I turned to face it, I heard the cat flap. I paused looking towards the stairs. Was it Minxy? A pitiful miaow could be heard. Yep, it was Minxy. My head flicked back to the strange clawing sound. I felt the hair lift on my arms, and my stomach clenched. I had to do this; I had to find out what it was.

My rational mind tried to de-escalate the rising panic: it’s just an old kids toy, maybe a battery left in there, giving off one last dying cry, or vibration.

But the irrational wasn’t working with it: you always take batteries out of everything before putting it away, you know that.

I took a few steps closer.

Maybe a bird’s caught.

Maybe it’s a giant rat that’s going to eat you.

I picked up an old hockey stick poking out of one of the boxes as I inched closer.

I’ll hit it with this.

What if there’s a horde of them?

I was almost there.

What’s the collective noun for rats?

I don’t know! You and your damn writer brain!

I raised the hockey stick above my head as I reached the box. The scratching was distinct now; something was definitely trying to burrow out.

‘ Mischief! It’s a Mischief of Rats!’ I shouted out loud as I kicked the box.

The lid flapped open and the sound stopped, the sight that greeted me making everything stop.

Faces: all their tiny little faces staring up at mine with their red-ringed, hollow eyes. I dropped the stick and opened my mouth to scream but it remained in an O, no breath moving in and out until the sound resumed: the humming. But I could see it wasn’t really humming, they were saying something, over and over, a mantra of some sort. Then their little hands came up and I saw them grip the open edge of the box. They were going to come out.

My paralysis broke and I turned to run, but I slipped on the hockey stick and fell hard on my back. I tried to scrabble backwards but it was too late, they were out, and flew at me, smothering me before I could move any further. Their voices rang in my head as I felt them trample and tear at my body, and then I was flying, out of my mind out of my body, watching myself be devoured as I floated up to the roof and through. Their words making sense now: ‘sustenance, sustenance, sustenance ...’   

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 107

This week's photo prompt was taken by Russian photographer Daniel Kordan - he has some incredible pictures, definitely worth checking out his site. 

Have you sussed what this is yet? It's not some strange photoshopped image, it's actually a photo of an ice cave being illuminated by a flare - an ice cave in Kamchatka in the Far East of Russia. He explored under the glacier near the Mutnovsky volcano. You can read about it here. 

Took a while for this one to form, now I am interested in where it might have gone had I written further.

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.

Trapping Hunters

“It could be worse, at least we’ve got water,” said Ranek

They both stared at the cascade of water cutting through the ice.

“I can’t believe they did this,” replied Teterin, looking up at the veil of ice they’d been trapped under. It had appeared in minutes. The Nebuli’s ability to manipulate ice was legendary.

“At least we can see the sky.” Ranek perched on a rock.

“Fat lot of good that does us now it’s getting dark. It’s gonna get cold.” Teterin already had his hands stuffed into his armpits.

Raneck sighed. “Do you think Makar will find us?”

“How? Through that veil?”

“If we can see out, they can see in.”

“What, out here? In this frozen pustosh?”

“Why not? He knew we were tracking them. He might even send Nikolay.”

“Why would he send anyone? He doesn’t know we’ve been caught, and he won’t care if he does. Two less to pay.”

“But we’re the best trackers of the Nebuli he has, and he wants them. He knows that without us he doesn’t stand a chance. We found their hideout. We know more than anyone. We’re more valuable to him than you think!” Ranek jabbed a finger towards Teterin’s face to make his point.

Teterin snorted. “You think his l’skivyy ways are because he likes you? Because he thinks you are of some value to him? Ha! Think again. As soon as we tell him where they are, we’ll be worthless!”

“You’re wrong; he will make us his second in commands.”

Teterin let out a bark of laughter. “Oh Ranek, you are so na├»ve. He’s not a man of honour. He’s plokhoy, nothing good in him. The only person he will elevate is himself. He will want the Federation to believe that he found them. There’ll be no hero’s return for us.”

“So what then, we sit here and die?”

“It looks like it. At least we will freeze to death before we starve.”

“Why would they want us dead? It makes no sense.”

“Who? Marek?”  Teterin squatted down beside Ranek.

“ No, the Nebuli. They knew we were here; they knew we were close to them. They let us into their den without attacking us, which is unheard of. I thought they were finally going to let us converse with them, not trap us like this. What is the point of this?”

“To kill us.”

“They could have done that already ten times over, you and I both know that. Look at what they did to Yakov and Stasik. I’d never seen a shredded body before, it almost made me stop hunting.”

“Me too.” Teterin move round and sat down on the rock next to Ranek. “Maybe this time they want to watch a human die slowly.”

Ranek sighed. “Maybe. But it makes no sense. It’s not their style at all.”

The light above them started to turn pink.

“At least we can watch the sunset.” Teterin leaned back, looking at the strange pattern the ice cover made.

Ranek frowned. “That’s no sunset. The sun has already gone down.”

They turned to the end of the tunnel where the light was brightest; it had a centre like a ball of fire, which is why Teterin had thought it was the sun. But it was moving, getting larger, coming closer.
Teterin and Ranek stood up. There was something carrying it. So far they had not laid eyes on the Nebuli. They’d heard whispers of these ancient creatures being related to dragons, but no one had lived to confirm it. Would they?

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Review of Educated by Tara Westover

EducatedEducated by Tara Westover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this for my bookclub, and was keenly interested in the entire topic; the book did not disappoint.

Tara Westover's writing is particularly literate for someone who came to formal learning late - or maybe because of it. Her use of words and description is powerful, mesmerising, and flows so well it is easy to visualise what she imparts - the people and the place.

For the first 100 pages I considered this just a novel about people living a different lifestyle. Having had a close friend who was a Mormon and believed in the Holistic way of life and had a distrust of medicines and doctors, and some of the conspiracy theories surrounding Big Pharma, it was not new to me. I wondered at the descriptions of abuse in the blurb and whether it had just been hype, but then I realised Tara was simply setting the scene; familiarising the reader with the characters (her family) and the culture, both religious and in terms of her father's mental disposition. Then the story started to develope as we were introduced to her brother Shawn and other elements of her life that were not quite as easy: the family accidents, the physical abuse, the gaslighting and trying to break out both physically and mentally.

There were strange paradoxes and plenty of inconsistency - even hypocrisy - in how she was raised and the people surrounding her. For someone who wasn't registered at birth, which is officially illegal (I thought), I was surprised at the lack of repercussions when they called to get her a birth certificate years on. There was no inquiry, or authorities querying it. And it seemed quite incredible how easy it was for her to apply and get into a local university just by passing a few tests after studying four basic subjects. It made me wonder why we can't all do this! But maybe the exact detail and difficulty were underplayed. However, when it came to getting into Cambridge, I could only imagine how unique her view point in what she wrote must have been; how differently she saw things, that it made such an impact. If anything it shows that those of us boxed and labelled by the system early on are also limited by it - although I wouldn't wish Tara's journey there on anyone.

As someone who has suffered domestic abuse as a child, quite a lot of this novel was quite difficult in that I felt the dread and the tension before reading certain scenes - any time she was due to see Shawn or he would be in the room I felt this. It made me connect much more closely and consider that Tara sharing her story was something extremely brave to do, especially considering the abusers are still alive. Some may think that was wrong of her to do, but I don't. I think that there has to come a time where you speak out, not just for yourself but for others who have been through the same, or are still stuck in it and unable to find a way out. Too many people make these topics taboo and find it uncomfortable to talk about, but what they don't realise is that this allows a lot of these sorts of abuse to continue. I applaud Tara for doing this and for doing it so effectively, and eloquently.

View all my reviews

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 106

This weeks photo prompt is of a bookstore/library in Yangzhou, eastern China, taken by photographer Shao Feng. It is actually a small shop, but the angle and the mirrored floor gives it a different perspective.

I wasn't sure where this would go but I liked it, and although I have said this many times, I think this might actually be a story I could expand on here, it's definitely got a future in it. 

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.

Academic Revolution

I ran my fingers over the rows and rows of book spines, marveling at what the fissure had uncovered. We could never have imagined there was such knowledge available to us; we thought it had died along with the earth.

‘Books,’ I sounded the word out; it was a new word, one of a collection that was expanding with this discovery. A few of us had grasped the process of reading fairly quickly, and were teaching the rest, but it was slow going.

People were used to visual living through the world of fantasy games, which only required vocalization or clicking on pictures. The art of reading had been lost along with all the books in the fires and storms that had been the ending of surface living. The computers, along with the remaining people, had moved underground and survived there.

The only reading now was done through coding and that was all numbers. The number literate were the bosses and lived as such.

But the latest round of earth shocks had revealed this untouched room, full of perfectly preserved books. (I reveled in the sound of the word; they were things of perfection).

Besides learning the words and their intended meaning, there was debate about the content: how factual was it?

It was difficult to imagine that what most of them held could have been real. Did people go on those kinds of killing sprees? It was difficult to imagine some of the murderous scenes, or the intelligence of criminals portrayed in some of them. Did lives really twist and turn like that? Had elves and dwarfs really existed? Maybe some of the creatures in the fantasy games were based off them. Had there really been intergalactic space travel? Were there other civilisations out there we didn’t know about? Could we contact them?

And then the wealth of relationship matter: did everyone write about their love lives? Was that the fashion? It was strange to imagine people could be such explicit with each other, so physical. It was no longer the way, everything was through computers now except for the odd occasion when it was necessary.

But were they all history books, or were they like the fantasy games? People making it up for entertainment? No one was sure. We were still decoding the categories they had been put in and their true meaning.

But in the meantime, I was the first to open many of them; I was becoming revered for my understanding. Soon I would be like the game coders and able to make an impact on our society.
The resistance might claim that there was nothing of value here, but I begged to differ, they just wanted to keep the number one spot. We were on the verge of a revolution – an academic revolution, one that would see the game coders toppled from their top ranking.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 105

Today's picture prompt was created by Norwegian artist Erlend Monk. He has a few of these, and many images I find intriguing. I might just have to return to use more.

I wanted to capture what I felt when I saw this image. I think I managed it with this tale. Yes, it's dark, be warned.

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.


I’d caught it!

As the picture developed in the liquid I could see the outline of an image. One of my hidden motion cameras had picked up something.

As it came into focus it looked like a person, but it was blurred, caught in the midst of what looked like running. It had to be moving pretty quick to be out of focus though; this particular camera was one of my fastest at 1/1600sec.

I took the image out of the fluid and used my photo magnifier to get a closer look. Yes, it was definitely human. What was it doing?

Since Susie had gone missing in the woods I’d been keeping watch, convinced she must have been taken. There were long standing rumours about something in the woods, and it was supported by the evidence of people disappearing. But until this point no one had actually done anything, which is why I’d set up the cameras.

There was no definition of features, so I started developing the next few photos in the reel. There were several more as it moved out of shot, and then it moving across the front of the camera again, this time closer. If I put them together I might have a sort of time-lapse film of their movements. That gave me an idea.

I took the reel of negatives over to a slide machine and fed them in. I’d been working with film so long it only took a matter of minutes. I prepped the room so the light from the machine wouldn’t disturb the rest developing and turned it to the wall, switching it on.

I used the remote clicker to move through the images, watching the blurred figure move one way and then the other across the screen. The image moved closer to the camera each time it crossed. The features were still out of focus but they became more apparent as the distance was shortened.

There was an outline of a face. It looked pale, which could have been the light in the wood, but the ears were strange: sharp tips poking out either side of a wide brimmed hat. Its nose seemed stunted somehow, just black nostrils like too holes above the mouth. But I couldn’t quite see the eyes, each time they seemed to blur across the side of the head.

I stepped closer to the screen, as though that would help, but just as it came so close I thought it might hit the camera, it vanished. 

 I clicked through; nothing, just the woods, no figure.

Then the images seemed to grow dark, which was odd seeing as they were created through mid to late morning. They faded at the edges, the darkness spreading across the lens.

I kept clicking forward. Black.

I clicked a few more times, running through possible scenarios in my head that would cause the camera to blackout. Then two dots appeared in one image and grew as I clicked on.

A sensation started at the back of my neck and ran down my spine, like someone had trickled water down my back. I could see the hairs on my arms raise in the light from the screen as each click exposed what I was seeing. It settled in my stomach as a mix of dread and excitement when I paused, knowing the next image would be the reveal.

I pressed the button down slowly and deliberately and there it was: a creature.

Its eyes were small orbs of white with tiny pin prinks of black in the centre. The face was grey, except the nostrils which were black oval holes. The ears, as I had suspected were long points on either side of the round head, but it was the lipless mouth that drew my eyes, with its row of sharp teeth.

My breath caught but my finger seemed to run on automatic continuing to depress the button.

The face pulled back slightly, the teeth spreading as it grinned. I could see bumps at the edge that indicated fingers. It had hold of the camera.

Then each image was a rushed blur, much like the movement of the creature earlier, until it refocused in some kind of underground room.

My stomach churned as debris on the floor came into view, my hand dropping from the clicker to my mouth as the final image gave a clear shot of the limbs and pieces of body.

I knew more than I wanted about what had happened to Susie.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

The A-Z Blog Challenge, Letter Z

Letter Z of My Favourite Books by Title
Two authors, to genres: YA and Horror

It's been a lot of fun taking part in the A to Z Challenge, and been great to revisit all these books. 
To finish off this journey through my favourite books, I have maybe cheated a little: One of the books has a Z in the title and one is about the topic that starts with a Z! The first is, Of Lies and Zombies, by Angela Lynn. 

Here's the blurb:

A story about grandmas, cookies, and zombies ... sort of.

Katie Bell has a plan: the ‘Epic Summer of Epicness Before Senior Year' plan. There will be late night parties with her best friend Trevor and Grandma Frankie’s Chunky Monkey Chocolate Chip Cookies for breakfast. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll run into her nameless savior from Feldman’s party. Things she will be avoiding: her estranged father and workaholic mother.

Katie has a golden rule: when life gets too real avoid it by lying. But on the last day of junior year, when the lies won't stick and reality closes in, she is forced to run as far and as fast as she can straight into oddly familiar Logan. When Logan asks Katie to help him film a zombie movie, Katie jumps at the chance.

Because Katie’s got a new plan: the ‘Avoid Reality at ALL Costs' plan.

Unfortunately, reality doesn’t play by Katie’s rule.

This is a book (and author) I'm a little bias toward being that I was the editor on it. I've worked with Angela Lynn on two of her books so far. The first being All The What Ifs, mentioned in Letter A, and it's quite apt that these books should bookend the beginning and end of this challenge for me. I love them both as much as each other. 

Angela has the ability to create characters that readers care about. They are real and emotional, and it's easy to connect with them. YA might not be my normal go-to genre, but I'm glad I didn't miss either of these books. 

With Of Lies and Zombies, I had strong emotions about the characters within the first few pages, which is always a good sign. And don't be misled by the title in thinking this book is about zombies, it's not, they only appear as a film project. This book is about love, both of the romantic kind and the family kind. I laughed out loud at some scenes in this book - even on the fourth run through - and cried too. 

Lynn doesn't shy away from keeping it real, and as with her first book she doesn't deliver the perfect happy ending that you might want for the characters, you get how it is, nothing more and nothing less. 

This is what makes them so real and engaging. These are books I love having on my book shelf. 


The second is Dead Sea Games, by J. Whitworth Hazzard. Here's the blurb: 

One year after the Emergency, the island of Manhattan has become a prison. The survivors of the Colony have carved out a living a few stories above the sea of millions of shambling corpses. With no escape and no hope for the future, the teenagers entertain themselves by participating in brutal gladiatorial games, betting the only thing they have left – their lives. Jeremy Walters is among the best of the best, but his adrenalin-addicted recklessness has done more than earn him the nickname Deathwish; it’s gotten him noticed. Now the race is on to recruit Deathwish as opposing forces maneuver to take advantage of his zombie-killing gifts. If he somehow manages to navigate the maze of bribery, threats, extortion, and intimidation, and not get himself killed, he’ll still have to face every teenager's greatest fear: an angry mother.
This book is about zombies - or trying to survive with their existence in the world. This is a sort of post-apocalyptic dystopian novel, with a lot of action and a lot of horror. It is written in first person from the perspective of a 15 year old, who is the main character. 

It is fast-paced and action-packed, it doesn't relent. James Hazzard had originally written it in separate novellas and then with the fourth episode decided to combine them into one novel.

I am not really someone who picks up a book on zombies, but having got to know James in my writing community, and read other short pieces of his, I was interested to read more. And after reading the first one in the series, I had to read the rest. They are brilliant. Nothing quite like them. Great characters who you get to know, with a backdrop of an intriguing storyline about how the world came to this. They are book that literally keep you on the edge of your seat!

Monday, 29 April 2019

The A-Z Blog Challenge, Letter Y

Letter Y of My Favourite Books by title
Two authors, same genre - Self-Help/Personal Development The first one is You Are The One, by Kute Blackson. Here's the blurb:

A charismatic visionary and transformational teacher offers a bold new look at spiritual awareness providing the tools needed to live a life truly inspired by love for a whole new generation. 

Kute Blackson comes from a long line of spiritual leaders and works with people from all walks of life, offering his own uniquely powerful process to transform lives from the inside out. His inspirational and life-changing YouTube videos, seminars, and conferences are known throughout the world, but it's his trademark transformation experiences that sets him apart. The intensive one-on-one and one-of-a-kind transformational mother of all trips is a 14-day, 24/7 journey into the heart of India where the client--armed with nothing but a backpack, a change of clothes, and a journal--works with Blackson until he discovers what he hasn't yet found. Whether it's about forgiveness, confronting inner demons, letting go of self-hatred or the scars of the past, those hard-earned, sweat-proof lessons Blackson instills in his clients are right here, in this book, You Are The One. No need to pack your bags or renew your passport. 

So what are you waiting for? 

For someone to save you? If so, you're not alone. But it's not going to happen. Your parents won't rescue you. Your friends won't carry you. No one's coming. Know why? Everything you are seeking is within you already. Because you're already here. You. Are. The. ONE. 

You Are The One is a reflection of Blackson's unique and distinctive thoughts, teachings, stories, and poetic inspirations to help you access your true power and live boldly and fully in the world--with no regrets.

I've read a LOT of self-help books and this, this is my No.1! I should say currently, because it could well change with the fact I have many more I plan on reading, but I don't imagine many would top this. As soon as I had read it, I wanted to read it all over again - and I am someone who rarely re-reads anything!

I have followed Kute Blackson for several years now, having discovered him when he was a guest on another blog I followed. I found him inspiration and his words resonated, so I was keen to buy his book, which for me hit the sweet-spot of many topics, in particular leaving me feel as though my life is limitless - that I am limitless, and that I can achieve whatever I want to if I set my mind to it. The opening page alone drew me in and that was that, hooked until the end. 

And this doesn't often happen. I have been keen to read the books of many people I follow in the self-help, personal development arena, and only a handful have left an imprint, so far Tony Robbins, Brene Brown & Gordana Biernat. 

Oh and Wayne Dyer - the second book for today's letter.

*** second is Your Erroneous Zones, by Dr Wayne Dyer. Here's the blurb:

If you're plagued by guilt or worry and find yourself unwittingly falling into the same old self-destructive patterns, then you have "erroneous zones" – whole facets of your approach to life that act as barriers to your success and happiness.

Perhaps you believe that you have no control over your feelings and reactions – Dyer shows how you can take charge of yourself and manage how much you will let difficult times and people affect you. Or maybe you spend more time worrying what others think than working on what you want and need – Dyer points the way to true self-reliance. From self-image problems to over-dependence on others, Dyer gives you the tools you need to break free from negative thinking and enjoy life to the fullest.

The picture on the cover of this book is old! Back from its release in 1976 I think. Sadly we lost Wayne Dyer in 2015 to cancer, by which time he had created a massive following. 
Wayne Dyer was a practicing psychologist before his books made it big and over the next few decades he developed into a speaker and became one of the main people in the personal development arena. And although he became more spiritual and less therapy based over the years, this book is very much a self-help book in that it offers tools for killing negative thinking and dealing with feelings of guilt and other paralysing emotions. 
It was my first self-help book and one that really got me hooked on reading in this area - even though few are as good as this book. It's also one I recommend to a lot of people, because Wayne Dyer's ability to put across the information is simple and succinct and not wrapped up in a lot of the language that a lot of self-help books are shrouded in these days. This is a proper book how to go about helping yourself with difficult areas of your life; you won't find terms or talk about the 'law of attraction', 'higher self' or 'positive affirmations' in it. 
To me there is a distinct difference between those selling the idea of helping yourself through spirituality, meditation or some vague magical way of thinking like the Law of Attraction, and those that give proper, sound psychological help, and although I enjoy elements of both, this book distinctly falls into the latter. This book contains proven counseling techniques, it is not just someone jumping on a band wagon trying to make a quick buck as so many are the moment. 

If Self-Help is not for you, please don't feel you have to tell me.
 I already know lot of people don't like it.
Yes, I experience that a LOT.

 But should you be interested in knowing what else I have read in this area, or be looking for recommendations you can find them here.