Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 279

This week's picture prompt is all over the web and on all the wallpaper websites, but despite hunting for several hours, I can not find a name credited to it on any of them, or find out where it is taken, which is a great shame. I still hope for the day that all pictures can be embedded with their creators name. 

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.


Two straight lines of waterlilies running parallel out across a stretch of clear still water, which reflects the sky and clouds. In the bottom right corner are dark black pebbles indicating a beach or shore of sorts.

Waterlogged

When Lauren broke the surface of the water she was surprised to find her path to shore lined with waterlilies. The resort in the distance had no doubt planted them as decoration.

She hadn’t been told anything about the assignment, which was the norm; she had a name and a picture and that was all Lauren needed to complete it. They’d dropped her off in the ocean and told her to swim to shore, so she had done.

As the water became shallower, she stripped off the wetsuit and tank leaving it on a rocky outcrop, out of view of the beach she would be coming in on. Underneath, her black swimsuit made her less visible among the brightly coloured bikini’s on the beach and no-one paid her any attention. She absorbed all the faces as she headed towards the resort.

Lauren walked up to the bar and ordered a drink. The barman treated her as every other guest and she paused, looking back at the open ocean she had just traversed, taking a well earned breather.

Her target was here; she’d already spotted them as she’d walked across the beach. This might be one of her easiest jobs yet, and the beauty of it was she had the rest of the day to enjoy the facilities.

No one questioned Lauren’s presence in the Wellness Spa in the resort, or on the beach, and the buffet restaurant made it easy for her to take a plate and sit away from the guests so no one tried to engage her in conversation, or question why she was here alone in a couples resort.

She sat and enjoyed the sunset on the beach as she prepared for the final step. She had tracked the movements of her quarry and planned when to strike. She planned on being out of here before the bar closed; if it was too quiet it would be more difficult to get back into the water without being noticed.

Lauren got up and dusted the sand off her legs. Wrapping a complementary towel round her waist, she went into the main building. She’d been sent the layout and done a recce so knew where to go; the master keycard she’d been sent with the photo in hand. Other guests would just think she was walking to her room.

The card gave the green light and she carefully opened the door, listening for the sound of the shower. The cascading water was running and it masked her entry as she had anticipated. This particular guest was a creature of habit, and despite being on holiday, liked to go to bed early and read, even though her partner was downstairs enjoying himself at the bar.

Lauren slipped into the bathroom, careful not to be seen in the mirror, and in one swift movement stepped in and twisted her neck. The woman hadn’t even registered Lauren’s presence making it easier. She dried the body off and took it out of the bathroom, dressed it in night attire, then rolled it under the bed.

Then she rummaged through the suitcase and found another night dress and took her place in the bed, making sure only the bedside light was on. She picked up the book from the nightstand and waited. It wasn’t quite to Lauren’s taste; she wasn’t a fan of romance, especially not historical, but she had to play the part.

She heard the partner fumble the lock to the bedroom door and moved down further under the covers, bringing the book up. But he stumbled in, reeking of alcohol, not once looking at Lauren as he undressed and used the bathroom. And when he slid under the covers towards her, reaching out, she took the opportunity to turn and jam the spine of the book into his throat, cutting off air and sound. While he flailed she raised herself up into a more powerful position and twisted his neck too. It was over in seconds. Mission complete.

Lauren didn’t waste any time, and pulled out the other body arranging them both in bed as though curled up together sleeping. She prepped the room, wiping everything she’d touched and then exited the same way she had come in, having removed the night gown and returned the towel to her waist.

Although things were quieter outside, they weren’t yet dead, and she took her time, having another drink before strolling along the beach, the moonless, starlit night having been part of the planning. She wandered off into the green foliage at the side, making her way across the rocks to her wetsuit and tank where she had left them.

Once re-suited, she slipped into the water and used the outline of the waterlilies to lead her back out to sea, and the bouy where she’d be picked up.

Friday, 20 January 2023

A Year Among the StarsA Year Among the Stars by M.T. Decker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book, but it's extremely hard to write a review for it, as it is so difficult to describe - especially without giving a lot away.

It's written in a diary format from one person's point of view. The main MC is a convict who has decided to sign up to a fleet for deep space exploration to find other liveable planets. It sounds pretty standard trope, but the events in this are completely different to anything else that I've read in the sci-fi arena.

I love concepts of other dimensions, universes and planes of existence, and this covers them all. The female convict, Kat James gets involved in mending, building and piloting space craft, and it all feels very standard for the first half, until the first landing party discovers the rusted-out hulk of one of their landing craft and even see the dead bodies of those are still living back on the ship, it all changes. We are introduced to aliens on other planes and in other times, and different civilastions of aliens, and a type of wormhole, which is also a timehole, Kat can eventually open up at will, called The Well. It descends into warring between nations until another large threat brings them together.

I really enjoyed this book, and if you like sci-fi from a different angle, this might be for you.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 278

This week's pricture prompt is by Cyril Rolando, a French digital artist over on Artstation, and they make some incredible art, the surreal but yet understandable art I love, worth a look. They call this one 'You Belong To Me'. 

I didn't want a standard fairytale, so I twisted this one slightly. 

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 knight in a field on a clear night with all the stars shining, on his knee, shield on back about to lift (or place) a glass bell jar over a pink flowering rose. All around him in the field are other flowering pink roses with bell jars over them. Digital Art created by Cyril Rolando.


Legend

‘Legend has it he lifted the lid on all those bell jars that night, killing the lot of them. He believed that if none of them belonged to him, he wouldn’t let anyone have them.’

‘But they were just roses, Gran, surely they needed the air to help them grow?’

‘Oh no, my dear Michael, you misunderstand, they were far more than just roses, and they needed the glass to protect them. They were fragile and precious and full of magic. Exposing them killed them.’

‘But they’d grow back, wouldn’t they? Like all roses on a bush, they die off and then they grow again the next year.’

‘But these roses weren’t ordinary flowers. They represented a different woman, one with knowledge beyond that of any mortal person, a woman with gifted powers.’

‘Witches, Gran?’

‘Hush boy! Don’t be using that word around me! I’ll not have it! Just because a woman is gifted with more power than a man could carry in his little finger, doesn’t make them bad – the opposite in fact. Men liked to use such names to belittle and demean women, making them out to be monsters, to incite the killing of them – which they did plenty of on their pyres later.’

Michael was surprised by his Gran’s reaction, but still smirked. She was getting quite carried away with her tale, one a simple picture he’d found in an art history book had inspired.

‘Like the Salem Witch Hunts?’

‘Oh that was the tail end of it, my dear, far worse had gone on centuries before all over the world, but especially in Europe. That last showdown in the Americas was the start of the awakening.’

Michael frowned not quite knowing what she meant and was about to ask when she tapped her long fingernail on the page.

 ‘Oh no, women holding their power and themselves in flower buds went all the way back to long before the crusades – maybe centuries before that, no one knows anymore; books were not a thing back then, only word of mouth. And him,’ she tapped the page again, ‘he was the one that began the downfall. Before him, women were in charge and things were balanced and harmonious.”

‘You talk like you met him, Gran.’ Michael wondered if she had drifted into the land of make believe which she did sometimes.

‘Oh I never got to meet him, no; he was way before my time. But I met many like him. They made the world a dark place for many a century they did.’

‘And it’s not dark anymore?’

‘Oh no, dear, it’s been on the rise for a good couple of centuries now.’ Michael gave her a disbelieving side look. ‘I know your generation might not think so, with all this uproar going on and all this corruption coming out into the light. I know it seems like they don’t care and have all the power, but that’s not true. We have to see it all, you see, to be able to do something about it.’

“But no one is doing anything about it, Gran.’

She tapped the side of her nose. “That’s what you think, but we are.’

‘Who’s “we”’?

‘The roses that have been in hiding and gathering; they’re on the up rise again now.’

‘How do you know that?’

‘Who do you think is keeping them safe?’

She winked at him and he stared at her, his mouth dropping open.

  


Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 277

This week's prompt photo is an unknown. I had saved it from twitter, but the account it came from is no longer there. Usually Google image search, or Tin Eye give me a lead, but this time there were zero matches. I could choose to use a different photo of the same thing, but something about the shadows and the blue light inspires me more than any others of the same location I've looked at, because this is a famous location. It's a stone colonnade in Park Güell, a stunning park in Barcelona that was designed by Antoni Gaudí. Should you see this and say, this is my photo - give me a shout and I will give it full credit. I look forward to the day that all digital pictures can carry the name of their creator. 

This week a clandestine conversation. 

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 view under and between ancient stone columns. The columns on the left are vertical, and the roof arches over tothose on the right that lean out at a 30 degree angle. Sunlight is coming through the stone columns on the right, the shadows falling across the ground in a striped fashion. The location is the  in Park Güell, a stunning park in Barcelona that was designed by Antoni Gaudí.

Disappear

“We can’t hide here forever.”

“What other option do we have?”

Daphne strolled with Darien through the ancient colonnades of the partially ruined castle on the Duke’s grounds. Her eyes were full of fear and her jaw tense, as he glanced at her striking profile.

“We have to get you away from here before Earl Harrowith returns.”

“But I am not sure I can desert this land and my people–”

“They are no longer your people, they have made that clear.”

“They’ve had their minds twisted by Lord Cannon. He provides endless false claims and manipulates others into deluded thinking for his own ends.”

“He wants our riches alright, but pretends to others that he is liberating them from us as though we have some special power over them – when the reverse is true. But we can not fight him, not here, not now.”

“Tell me where and how?”

Darien laughed. “That day has not yet come, my beloved, first we must depart and let the world die down. We need to find a safe location where you won’t be found or recognised and where we will live a very different life.”

“And is there such a place?”

“Yes, I believe I have found it.”

“Where?”

“I have entrusted no one with that information, and I don’t dare tell even you. I have made plans though, for each stage of our journey, so no single person can work it out.”

“But we will be followed, surely? We haven’t been able to take a single step out of here, since we were ousted from our home.”

Daphne stopped walking and stood wringing her hands as her eyes searched the gardens between the columns for the glint of sun on lens glass.

“That will change tonight. I have arranged disguises and papers for our trip.”

“Disguises? Do you think they will work?”

Darien was pleased to see a glimmer of hope spark in her eyes.

“Yes. I do.”

Later that evening, after the Duke of Redmaine hosted the annual dinner for over a hundred clerics and nuns from more than fifty parishes, no one noticed two additions leaving with the rest of the attendees. The car they left in was a slightly different model and not chauffeured, but no eyebrow was raised as the Queen and her consort drove out of their public lives into oblivion.


Tuesday, 3 January 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 276

This week's Picture prompt is by Jeannie Ann Numos aka i-am-JENius over on Deviant Art, and she calls this one Take Me Where Dreams Are. This is not the first picture of Jeannie's I have used,  I used another on Week 172, and also Week 159

A little bit dark, but that's normal for me, and a story written only in dialogue. It's good practise to describe the events of the story through dialogue only. 

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.



Two children with arms round each other and their backs to the audience, looking out of open french windows in a old run down house.  Created by Jeannie Numos (i-am-JENius) on Deviant Art

Angels

‘I’m going to look for mummy.’

‘No, you mustn’t!’

‘It’s okay, no one will see me.’

‘You can’t leave me alone!’

‘Then come with me.’

‘We mustn’t.’

‘No one will know.’

‘Daddy will know.’

‘How?’

‘He always knows.’

‘He isn’t here.’

‘You don’t know that; he might be watching us.’

‘He hasn’t been here for ages.’

‘Neither has mummy.’

‘Which is why we have to find her. Come on.’

‘Daddy got cross with her.’

‘I know.’

‘She usually goes to her bedroom.’

‘I know, but look she’s not in there.’

‘Where do you think she is, then?’

‘Maybe she’s in the garden. She likes to go there when Daddy gets cross.’

‘He gets cross a lot.’

‘I know, come on let’s take the back stairs.’

‘He’s been shouting lots more lately.’

‘I know.’

‘Where do you think he has gone?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘I’m scared.’

‘Don’t be. I heard a car. I think he’s gone away.’

‘I hope so.’

‘Look the doors are open, mummy must be out there.’

‘I can’t wait to see her and hug her.’

‘Me too.’

‘She needs a hug after how angry daddy got.’

‘She does.’

‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen him that angry.’

‘I told you to shut your eyes. You did, didn’t you?’

‘Yes, but the loud bangs made me jump.’

‘They made me jump too.’

‘There’s a big hole in our bedroom door.’

‘A really big hole, but let’s go find mummy. She’ll make it better.’

‘Yes, she always makes it better. The garden looks so pretty from up here.’

‘It does. Look there’s mummy! She’s waving at us.’

‘She looks so pretty up there on that cloud, like an angel.’

‘Because she is an angel, like us.’

‘Daddy’s not here.’

‘No, Daddy’s not allowed up here; he was so cross he turned us into angels, so he has to go to the other place.’

‘Poor Daddy.’

‘Not really. It’s better that way. Mummy will be happy now.’

‘She’s smiling.’

‘She is. Mummy!’

‘We’re so happy we found you!’

‘My darlings.’


Saturday, 31 December 2022

End of an Era

It's that time of year again, the end of an old one and the beginning of a new one. I tend not to 'celebrate' as such because really it's just another day, just another acknowledgement of time passing. Mostly I find myself wondering what I achieved that year, and feel like I've lost another year towards achieving my dreams - yes a little maudlin, a little bah humbug, which is why I tend to prefer to pretend it's not happening. I'll just be home, reassuring my cats - cuz the country I am living in likes to set off bombs - sorry fireworks - everywhere. Something I detest and taints this time of year too.

But this year's ending will have a bigger impact for me as I will be deactivating my twitter account. Yes I know, it's my second home, this is huge for me!

I will still keep my hand in on another account that will be for book promotion, but I intend to step away for the most part and on a daily basis. I can neither tolerate the new owner or the silence on there as more and more of my friends leave. I've spent all year debating this, since the awful news in April, but it was brought more into focus once the inevitable happened. It's created such a distraction for me this year I decided enough was enough.

I came to twitter in 2011, initially to follow a friend who was on there, and after a couple of months not really knowing why I was there, I discovered the Writing Community. At that time it was all about engagement and exchanging ideas and experiences, and full of people running Flash Fiction competitions. Every day there was a different one, and it was a heady, joyful time as I felt connected finally to people that I could relate to. It started me on the path of making my writing a priority. Something I hadn't really done, even though I'd been writing since the early 90s, and even sent a novel round publishers at the end of the 90s. I finally felt supported and got vital feedback I needed. 

It saw me deciding to self publish in 2016 - my now permanently free book Mostly Dark - as a sort of trial run, as I ramped up finally getting my novel, Sleep, ready for publication. A book I had started in 1991 and lived with for 27 years, before publishing in 2019. I have since gone on to publish 7 books - a mixture of short stories, novellas and novels, stretching across genres, from Horror, Psychological Thrillers, Sci-Fi Fantasy, to Dark Paranormal Fantasy - but everything with a dark touch, of course. 😉

But eventually the world politics started to dominate everyone's timelines, and the toxic events that have taken place since 2015 onwards. My circle of friends becane small and tighter and I tried hard to keep curating my timeline to stop the toxic trolls infilterating it - and for a while it worked until twitter got sold off. I have spent the year deciding and the last month preparing. 

This will be a difficult period as I cleanse myself of the addiction of logging in 16 hours a day! And should the new owner finally either crash it or sell it on and it gets resurrected, I will no doubt be back! But I already have two books I am working on and a couple of others vying for attention, so I hope this year to finally get my focus back and spend my time on more worthwhile pursuits rather than caring about what dreadful thing alt-right white men in power are planning next for our world. 

You can still find me in various locations online (you can find a list on the right hand column), but I plan to have my head in my books - writing and reading - far more often. 

 






Thursday, 22 December 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 275

This week's picture prompt was taken by, Italian photographer, Anna Ovatta. Sadly I have not been able to find a website for her. She used to be on 500px, but her page no longer exists. She has taken some stunning shots, I found this article showing some of them.  

A bright inspiring picture, but that gives me even more reason to go the opposite way: a 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.




A collection of small stones on a beach balanced perfectly upright in an arch with the sunsetting in the background. Photographed by Anna Ovatta

Building Blocks

Damien fought the urge to kick the arch of stones over, and instead slumped down on the beach next to it. He looked closer at its design and for a moment marvelled at how it maintained a perfect curve suspended in the air. He wondered how the builder had done it, and then realised that the art would now be lost – as would all design and building and a million other human skills.

There was only him now, alone out here on the beach. A part of his brain told him that he couldn’t be the only one, not when there were so many billion people in the world, but he knew he was, being as he’d been the only one with the antidote. And this wasn’t just some silly little infection like the stream of novel viruses that went round the world a decade ago, oh no, he’d engineered this one to be much stronger.

He’d been inspired when watching Contagion and decided to see if he could match it. It was one of the benefits of being a fully qualified chemist who had mastered in infectious diseases. He’d set up his own lab after that film and managed to get his hands on what had been considered innocuous viruses and bacteria, and combined them with different animal derivatives. It had been fun and interesting and definitely his thing.

But an antidote was imperative if he really wanted to see it through. If he didn’t survived how could he watch it unfold? It had been so much faster than the film version and the response in trying to halt it nowhere near as effective. There was no day that everyone got vaccinated and could go back to normal; as expected the infection had mutated and ramped up, wiping out huge swathes of people. Strangely the rich were the first to fall this time, rather than the poor. He’d had a chuckle about that as everyone knew money meant nothing if you weren’t healthy. It had been like watching one of those domino competitions on telly; who would fall the fastest?

Damien hadn’t been stupid, he’d prepared for it. He’d bought a self sustainable tract of land, and considered all eventualities and gone off grid before releasing it. He’d booked up his round the world trip and taken his time, enjoying it all, leaving little bombs ticking all over the globe, counting down to d-day. It had all gone smoothly.

He’d tried to make the infection so that it wouldn’t wipe out the wildlife, but some species had been affected, which was a shame but to be expected when it started to change and adapt. He’d made it his mission to travel round and release any caged wildlife he could find and inoculate it. He’d made a list of the key places and plotted a trip. He’d covered everything - or at least he thought he had.

It hadn’t occurred to Damien what being truly alone would be like. He might now have the world to himself – he could cover a lot of the landmass if he was careful and resourceful - and a completely empty world might be a nice idea, but being and living alone wasn’t quite like he had imagined. In fact, he’d had no concept of it at all. Not really. The entire point of the human race was community and connection. And even though he’d shunned that when everyone had still been here, there’d been people all around him who he had interacted with every day whether it related to working, shopping or using services. Plus there were friends who he’d kept in touch with, all be it in a limited fashion. He was beginning to wonder if he should have left at least one survivor for a bit of company. But it was too late now. It was just him, for the rest of his life.