Thursday, 25 May 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 296

This week's picture prompt was created by Gatto Mezzioviaggio. I don't know much about them as they only have an Instagram account with no links. But it says in their bio: 'AI Post-photographies / synthography of Mezzoviaggio cat. "Mezzoviaggio" is the (spurious) Italian translation of Midjourney.' 

A darkish tale of demons. 

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 altered black and white photo of 9 identical black cats in a row on a street, looking like they are coming towards you. Created by Mezzoviaggo


She jerked awake, her body covered in sweat. It was them; they were coming. The recurrence of the dreams had escalated and it wouldn’t be long now.

Tabitha jumped out of bed and ran to the window of her little cottage. The grey muted light of pre-dawn pressed up against the windows. There was a low fog on the ground which wasn’t unusual as the village was low-lying where three river’s met.

Despite its abundance in fertile land, this place had an energy that repelled a lot of folk. But it didn’t repel Tabitha; it was why she was here.

She hoped her plan would be enough against these demons. They were dark and intent, and they wanted her gone.

She moved round the house, casting her wards with utterances and arm waves. She hoped they would help to keep them out.

There were two pots on the stove that were on a constant simmer. She lifted the lid on one and sniffed. They were almost ready.

She returned to her bedroom and dressed swiftly, choosing grey rather than black – easier to disappear in the gloom. She peered out of the window again. Nothing looked different, but she could feel them coming.

Back in the kitchen, she quickly tipped a bit of the liquid into a cup from the left pot, the one that was now ‘cooked’, and sipped on it. She took it with her as she moved round the house repeating the wards while she lit a fire in the hearth in the lounge.

Then she went back into the kitchen and poured a little out of the right pot into a saucer and placed it on the floor. Everything was set.

She went to the front door and wrapped her grey shawl round her shoulders and left the house.

Tabitha walked through the sleeping village out into the woods beyond and then up a hill, where at the top a huge upright stone stood. It hadn’t been crafted, she’d brought it here when she first arrived. It was taller than her but she had ways of moving things which didn’t exert her.

She placed a hand on it and felt the lines crossing, pushing back at her. She also felt their presence; they were moving in, slowly, and heading straight for her cottage. She slid down the stone and slumped onto her knees as the tincture began to take effect. It made her twitch and tremble for a few minutes. She closed her eyes and let it take hold.

Once it had, she got up and ran with all the speed she could muster back to the cottage, but rather than go in she waited on the front porch.

Dawn was approaching but all it did was make the fog glow and swirl. The birds were not yet awake, so the only sounds that reached her came from the demons as they travelled ever faster over the land towards her. The hissing growing louder the closer they came. They were moments from her door now.

She stood up and walked tentatively to her garden wall, listening, then jumped up and perched on it.

She could see them, in the distance bobbing along, their heads just above the mist. Their yellow eyes glistened in the half light. She resisted the urge to jump down and greet them.

There were nine of them and she was only one.

Their arrival was like a swarm and they covered the grounds of the house sniffing and licking and looking. Then they climbed, jumping up onto the roof and doing the same there. The fire in the hearth blocking their exit in via the chimney.

There was no way in, Tabitha knew that. She waited on the wall. They hadn’t notice or sensed her. She was pleased her plan had worked. She’d thought they were more astute, but a demon with a focused purpose missed the obvious. They were expecting to find her as herself, not as one of them – a black cat.

They sat around the cottage for some time. She basked on the wall watching the sun rise keeping her eye on them. She wondered how long they would stay.

Then one ear pricked up and then another turned its head and as one they were on the move again, back the way they came.

She watched from her place up on the wall as they disappeared down the road. She saw them turn, going up the hill. She jumped down and followed, keeping her distance.

She tracked them up to her stone where she found them circling it like some kind of collective madness had possessed them – and maybe it had.

They moved faster and faster until they looked like a black rotating circle. Tabitha had to look away, it made her eyes hurt to try to watch.

Then a lightning bolt shot up out of the top of the stone and they vanished.

Tabitha waited a few minutes, but all was quiet. She walked to the stone and sniffed round it. Nothing. They had gone. The stone had taken them. Her work was done.

She padded home and jumped up at the handle of the front door – something they hadn’t thought to do thanks to her wards – and let herself in. And once she had consumed some of the fluid in the saucer her human form returned.

She stoked the fire and sat down by it. Diverting demons wasn’t an easy job but someone had to protect this place.

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 295

This week's picture is by photographer Swen Stroop. He calls this one Full Circle. It is of the Callanish Stones in Scotland. He has some amazing shots from various places in the world, definitely worth having a look. 

Another Tricky tale as I ramp up to writing book 3 in June. Testing out some ideas and seeing how they feel. The last Tricky tale was on Week 293

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 stone circle with the setting behind it and it shining through the central stone. The ground around is green grass. It is of the Callanish Stone in Scotland, taken by Swen Stroop.

Nexus Point

Tricky reached the peak of the hill and looked across the craggy land, all dishevelled and broken. The trees were moving in at the edges, but hadn’t yet covered it. There weren’t any dwellers here; the ground was mostly volcanic rock and granite. A couple of hundred years hadn’t broken it down enough to be workable. But the trees would find a way and one day it would flourish.

And then she saw it. Her mother had said it was here: the stone circle.

It was astounding what had survived the shift, but Tricky knew that this had been laid in such a way it wasn’t going to be easily moved. Strong power lines lay across the Earth and despite the disruption of the shift, they didn’t move. Plus they knew how to erect things back then – not in the time just before the shift, but a few thousand years before that when this had been built.

Humans before the shift thought this was some kind of religious effigy – which seemed to be what they thought about anything they didn’t understand. But it was just the bones of a house; a large house for its time, probably a meeting house, maybe where they traded, but just a house. Religion didn’t take hold until the dark years a couple of thousand years later, when humans became so populated that greed took over and wars were raged. Religion became a useful tool to manipulate folk, take over their land and putting them into servitude, while milking them at the same time: ‘give us your treasures and it’ll buy you a ticket to absolution after you die’. What a great con! And Tricky thought she was tricky!

The shift had occurred at the peak period of such behaviour and brought it all crashing down around their ears. It’s what happens; nature finds a way to cleanse much better than any imaginary god.

Still this circle was a sight to behold, and the energy shone all around it, making it glow. As she moved closer, the golden energy it emitted encompassed her, and she breathed it in. But it didn’t fill her up like other energies, instead it washed her own, polishing it until it glowed in the same way. Tricky felt renewed.

She moved into the circle and stood in its centre. The point where it came together was the strongest and it was here she was going to try an experiment.

If she had it right, this would be where she could open a line to multiple pockets of times, sort of a nexus point. But she wasn’t sure.

She brought out her obsidian with a piece of germwort wrapped round it, and opened her tin of creasy. She took in a deep breath, feeling the golden air going into her lungs and blew across the stone. It sparkled. Then she sprinkled a pinch of creasy over it.

She was thrown back by the loud crack that displaced the air, and a gap appeared in front of her running way up above the stone circle. It had layers. She was looking at multiple places on top of each other, like a bookshelf. She could pick and choose where she wanted to go. Or in this case, where she planned to leave him.

Most of these pockets weren’t accessible anywhere else on the landmass, because there was no where else this powerful. And being able to return was unlikely unless you could find a point over there as powerful; it could take years. Tricky was grateful to the ancient civilisation who’d built this, but she doubted they had known. They were probably just drawn to it and been oblivious like most people.

It didn’t mean he wouldn’t know about this place though, he might, but did he know what it could do? She doubted it. Even her own mother hadn’t known. And until this moment it had been just an inkling in Tricky’s suspicious mind, which only developed after extensive research now she had her books back.

Tricky preened herself a little. Oh yes, she was the true master of time. She knew that. He liked to distract himself with too many things to honestly understand the purity of it. He fiddled about in the now, using it for his personal gain. He pretended to be a great mentor, but none of his underlings came close to their full potential and he liked it that way.

If Tricky achieved this she was doing them a service – and the rest of the landmass. Without Gandalf, aka Douglas Bottle, lending the network his gifts, they would no longer be able to manipulate and con others into doing their bidding. You needed power for that, and he was their link to it.

Oh yes, if she could pull this off they might be able to settle down to living and build their society in a healthy way. Ridding herself of her would-be assassin was just an added benefit. Oh yes it was.

So now she knew, what next? She’d spotted a particular dark little place about half way up. Yes, that would do nicely, but now to work out how to lead him there. Tricky set her tricky mind to work on it as she closed up the opening, safe in the knowledge she might have a solution.  

Monday, 15 May 2023

Happy Publication Day to Kill The Goblins! 🥳

Todays sees the release of my first foray into non-fiction, and in a genre many people shy away from and scoff at, but for me such books have been a life saver: self-help.
My new book is called Kill The Goblins! How to get the negative voices in your head to shut up. It provides in-the-moment strategies to quiet a noisy mind.
It will be available across all platforms in ebook and paperback format.
If you are wondering how a writer of dark horror/fantasy/scif-fi stuff ends up writing self help, I wrote an article about it over on Ginger Nuts of Horror as part of their mental health series.

Wednesday, 10 May 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 294

This week's picture prompt is a painting by artist Tomasz Alen Kopera. This particular painting doesn't appear on his site though, but instead on another gallery that hosts his work, Artèclat. I've seen pieces of his art before, but don't think I've used one yet. 

I've cheated a little with this week's image. It reminded me of a story I wrote a long time ago for a weekly contest called Mid-Week Blues Busters, and I also put this story in my collection, called Mostly Dark, published back in 2016 and is now a permanent free book. (if you look on Amazon, if it isn't free, then let me know). But it works so perfectly for this image and upon reading it again, I thought I'd share it here. 

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 painting of two naked stone people side on to each other, facing in different directions as though passing each other, with the side of their bodies closest to each other and their faces glowing orange as though burning with some kind of connection. Painting by Tomasz Alen Kopera

Soul Search

Lucille stopped in front of the subtly lit signage, knowing it was the place she had seen in her dream. The pull within her was strong; the excitement in her core peaking.

She entered the club and no one at the door batted an eyelid. When shown the card at the cloakrooms she knew she was in the right place; the image on the other side burned in her mind. Her response was met with a quick nod and smile.

When she walked inside, the music made her feel like she had walked into a time warp; its singular note filling the room. The people stood around as though waiting for something, and for a moment she wondered if it was her. Then the beat started and the dancing resumed.

When she approached the bar, she was handed a drink. She sipped it and delighted in its accuracy. Speech was rendered useless here, allowing the music to permeate.

Her mind was flooded with images and thoughts. The eye contact she made drew her in, engaging her in dialogue, tapping a previously untouched depth within her. She had finally arrived. She was among kindred souls.

Lucille looked round for him, he had to be here; he’d been the main player in the dream, going by the name of Rohan. And then, as if on cue, the people in front of her parted and there he was, on the other side of the dance-floor, standing with a group of people.

He looked round as though someone had called his name – and she realised that she just had. The smile that spread across his face when he saw her made her soul yearn. He wasted no time crossing the room to reach her and embraced her like a long lost lover.

When their lips touched, her mind reeled in a white light that filled her entire being. When they broke apart she held his face and looked deep into his eyes. Moments from their past lives flowed like an exchange of ideas as they caught up to the present. They had found each other again. 

Tuesday, 2 May 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 293

This week's prompt is a photograph taken in the “Livraria Lello & Irmão”, better known as Livraria Lello (Lello Bookstore), located in a beautiful neo-gothic building in the historic center of Porto, Portugal. Opened in 1906, it is one of the oldest Portuguese bookstores and has an invaluable historical and artistic value. 1995, the bookstore was restored and modernized, also creating an art gallery space. In 2013, it became a National Heritage Site, classified as a Monument of Public Interest.

This particular photo is apparently by Reinhard Görner, a German photographer. Prints are being sold for upwards of 6K which is a bit of a shock, seeing as you could visit this place and take your own picture - granted there might be people in it, but still, to me this is an indication of something wrong with a society that will pay that much for a single photo.  

As I prepare for the next Tricky Tales book, the third in this trilogy, but not the only series of Tricky books I think as more ideas manifest. The last time I visited Tricky was Week 289

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 photo of inside Lello Bookstore in Portugal, depicting a sweeping red painted staircase up to a wooden detailed blue and gold ceiling and the back of a double staircase leading up. either side of the red stairs are rows and rows of book going all the way back into the shop. Taken by Richard Gorner


Tricky was familiar with Chestwick; she’d spent time here off and on over the years. On the whole she wasn’t a city lover, but when she walked into the book emporium she realised the value of having access to such a place. If she could come here every day and browse she’d love it.

This place was new to her; they had taken years to refurbish the old building that housed it. Both craftsmen and parts were in short supply so it was indeed a wonder to behold as you walked through the doors and came face-to-face with such an amazing staircase and ceiling. The grandeur and elegance was breath taking.

She took a moment to take in the beauty and admire the detailed workmanship. It showed trained skills were returning to the world, and that was something to be excited about. And then the books; there were rows and rows of them.

Tricky had been lucky enough to grow up with an extensive library at her fingertips; her parents had gathered many books, some literally when finding old ruined properties and combing through the remains. It had paid off and given her knowledge about a lot of things. Both her parents had been avid writers too, making sure everything was recorded.

Tricky might not have access to those books anymore, or have them in her possession, but she had an idea where they’d ended up and planned on gathering them again. She had at least salvaged the hand written tombs her parents had written. She had them neatly tucked away in one of her many time pockets. They were safer there than in any building.

This building was protected by the city and the laws that had been created by The Baron and his community to serve the people. And these books were for all to enjoy. But if things went dark again who knew what might happen to them.

Tricky ran her fingers over the covers, using her energy to pick up their contents as she searched through. Were there other books that had belonged to her family here? She hoped so. She hoped that when her parents house had been scattered among the cockroaches that brought about its downfall some of them might have travelled here. Afterall, they had managed to rid themselves of a few of those people now, and the network was getting smaller.

One book made her stall, and she paused to look at its spine. Yes, yes, it was the very book her father had used to teach her about her own energy. It had been based off Tesla’s findings and a rarity even before the shift.

She pulled it out and browsed through it, flicking through to the back. And there it was, the faint marks she had been hoping to find: her father’s coding in pencil. She snapped the book shut and tucked it under her arm. If this was here, then the other must be! The looters had no idea of the value of what they had stolen from her family if they then returned it so easily for public consumption.

She continued her search, this time with more enthusiasm and just as she was about to give up hope, she found it. Oh yes, the book that could be the undoing of her assailant, the big fat oaf! If this was here, then he didn’t have that knowledge. Had he known of its existence? Tricky didn’t think so. Her father was one to keep his findings to himself, or only sharing them with those he trusted, and Douglas Bottle was not among them. He had known Bottle, she was sure of that, so maybe there’d been a reason; maybe he had known Bottle was corrupt.

Either way, herein would lie the answer to her being able to run rings round the bloated hippy. She would dim the garishly bright clothing he saw fit to swathe his over grown body in; she would bring an end to him, if not actually, this book provided her with the know-how of doing it metaphysically. Oh yes, his time in this world would now be shortened.

But first she had to find a way to keep hold of these books. You were allowed to come and read and even to borrow, but to take permanently was more Tricky. But Tricky she was and would always be. No one would even know she’d been here – or the books either.  

Friday, 28 April 2023

Review: The Very Secrety Society of Irregular Witches, by Sangu Mandanna

The Very Secret Society of Irregular WitchesThe Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a read for my bookclub, and I thought it might be a bit too 'soft' for my taste, being that all the reviews and marketing call it a 'cosy romance', but it has swearing in it, and a detailed sex scene towards the end which I didn't think was standard for anything 'cosy' books.

The writing itself flowed really well and I was drawn into the story within the first few paragraphs. The only other witchy books I have read are from Terry Pratchett's discworld, and I will say I found them compariable in some places, as it was light and engaging, especially with the opening scene as we observe a witch gathering from the main character's point of view.

There is a romance in this book, (obviously as there is a sex scene) but it wasn't the main focus. The main focus was the story of tutoring three witches and joining a family and the main character finally finding somewhere she belonged. It was an easy to engage with all the characters and care about them. I look forward to discussing it at my book club.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 27 April 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 292

This week's picture prompt is by Colbriere A., Hong Kong, Thailand based photographer. This picture is taken at Lake Baikal, Russia back in 2015. They take amazing photos, and especially on their Facebook page which is more up-to-date with pictures. Loads of inspiration. 

A bit of a climate dystopian tale 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.

Looking through a gap between chunks of broken ice and icicles from above, at an ocean with the sun setting over up, and the light giving the ice an orange glow. Picture taken on Lake Baikal in Russia, by Colbriere A.


I cracked an eye open once I registered the sound I was hearing. It was water … moving water; sloshing, splashing, moving around. It had been a long time since I’d heard that sound outside of a pan over a fire.

Bright sunlight glowed through the ice and I shuffled myself closer to the opening of the cave to get a better view. A lake. I could see, a lake.

I pulled a hand out of my sleeping bag to move hair out of my eyes. I had to be seeing things. But no, it was still there, a huge expanse of water – wet, running water. But how?

And then I felt it, on my skin, the sun and the heat of it. I hadn’t felt heat from the sun in over a decade. No one had.

Could it be true? Was it over?

Then I heard other sounds, people sounds, they were waking up all along the shore. There was laughter and high fiving. I fought my way out of my sleeping bag to join them.

“What the fuck?! I thought I was seeing things,” I called over to Jesse.

“I know, mate, it’s unbelievable. No more melting ice over a fire. And soon we should see some greenage.”

“Yeah but it won’t be green.”

“It won’t take long,” Maddie reassured me. “Not with these temps, this is incredible.”

“The ice age is over!” The very words seemed incredible as I said them.

“You might be being a bit hasty there mate,” Marcus didn’t want me to get carried away. “Melting the surface of the water doesn’t mean it will stay this way for long. It is mid-July by the old calendars, the peak of summer, and we aren’t seeing that kind of melt on anything else.” He pointed towards the shoreline, and my eyes followed the arc as I looked at the solid ice still up there. There wasn’t any dripping or rivulets of water.

“Don’t dampen his enthusiasm, Markus.” Maddie defended my excitement. “This is huge! Even if it is only brief, it’s a beginning.”

“Yeah, but are we high up shore enough? Will the water rise? Otherwise we’ll need to find somewhere else to settle.” Marcus wasn’t going to be persuaded not to worry.

“Not just the water rising. If the caves melt we will need to find new homes. These were only caused by the development of the glacier when we were plunged into this. If there is indeed a melt going on, we are going to need to find higher ground.” Brady had always been the pragmatic one.

“Can we all just take a breath, and enjoy this historical moment for a second?” Halle called over the noise.

We all quieted. She was our leader. She kept us all on an even keel, and that wasn’t easy. We were all scientists with different specialities and liked to express our opinions about everything. We’d been thrown together as it seemed only those that knew how to survive an ice age actually could survive one.

“The lake has begun to thaw, as we can all see. This could well mark the beginning of the end of this stage of the ice age, or at least a shift in temperatures. But this is not just a result of the air temperature shifting a couple of degrees – it hasn’t risen enough to do more than create a thin layer of water on top, at most, which would quickly freeze again at sunset. I believe a warm current has come in from somewhere, and being that this is a land-locked lake, it concerns me what that might be. Plus the speed of the thaw; the ice was solid all day yesterday, no significant change. This lake is over 300 miles long, what could thaw it so quickly, and overnight too?”

We all paused, our minds racing as we looked at each other.

“I can only imagine there’s a vent of some sort causing a warm or even hot current,” Jordan offered.

I baulked. “You mean, seismic activity? We didn’t feel anything.”

“It might not be in this lake. It could have happened elsewhere and the warm or even hot water began flowing in and out from tributary rivers.”

“We need to science the shit out of this,” Parker stated. He liked the hustle of the team working together – in fact we all did, which is why we had come together. And he was right. We needed to get moving and start running tests. Days were short when you had a lot to do.

I rushed back to my cave to get my equipment. It felt good to finally have a purpose again, one that ended with hope.