Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 79

This week's prompt picture is again all over the net and various pinterest accounts globally. A lot comes up in Arabic so it could be from someone in the Middle East, but sadly can't be tracked.

In an attempt for originality I tried to encompass different ideas of what a castaway situation might be caused by. I liked where it ended up. 

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.



Portent

She crawled out onto the beach, having spotted something from the safety of her dark hole. She winced a little in the glare of the rising sun, the first she had seen for a long time – maybe even a year - thanks to the monsoon. At least that’s what she called it. She’d wondered if the constant storms and torrential rain would ever stop or whether that would be it, now until the end of time. She’d survived on the scrapings she’d found in the hole, of left over dead things and insects, plus the leaves from a bush at the entrance; it had remained green throughout the onslaught of weather.

The colour of the item had been enough to bring her out, to pull her emaciated frame over the pebbles down to the shoreline. It was there, resting on a flat stone, bright and friendly, and very pink: a flower head. She wondered how the petals would taste. But when she touched it, she found they were material. It was a fake flower. It explained how it had survived the storms.

She picked it up and fondled it, enjoying the view of something different; a remnant from a time past that had travelled on the waves to reach her remote location. She wondered that there weren’t more objects. What had happened to all the things that people once had? All the objects they coveted and kept around them to feel some sense of ... what? Belonging? Completeness? Existence? Didn’t they all end up in the sea? Isn’t that were all humanities rubbish ended up?

She supposed that maybe they had been swallowed up by all the eruptions and fissures in the earth. Burnt up rather than washed away; incineration cleansing the earth more deeply than mere washing.

Some would say she’d been lucky to survive, but she wasn’t so sure. Her luck had only been in her decision to take a trip in a one man boat, to brave the seas of the southern oceans. Her motives were less than pure with the hope of attention and sponsorship and an income that would provide her with a lifestyle she wanted. But even before she climbed into her little sail boat she had known that the world was undertaking a rapid change, one where the human race risked extinction. It had been the reason she had brought her departure date forward, and stocked her little boat more heavily with supplies.

She hoped for survival and she had been granted that, all be it as a shipwreck victim, or a castaway. But there would be no chance of rescue for her. She didn’t plan any escape. She knew there was nothing left to go back to. She’d heard the end of it all on her little radio before the storms had capsized her. The only hope she had now was that with the return of the sun she could continue her survival, and she chose to believe that the arrival of the flower was an indicator of that – a portent.




Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Review - The Lingering by SJI Holliday

The LingeringThe Lingering by S.J.I. Holliday
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had high expectations for this book. Being a fan of Susi's work, particularly her darker writing, maybe I put too much pressure on this one. As always Susi's writing is exceptional, her use of words, her ability to create suspense and a darkness that draws you in, spinning webs of intrigue and always leaving you wanting - needing - to know more, which drives you on. Coupled with short chapters, told through different points of view, it makes for a fast read, with a story which sets out as a slow burner and then heats right up, running at full speed and you just don't want it to stop until you know everything.

The story follows a couple who join a commune to make a fresh start, although we soon realise there is something they are also trying to get away from, or cover up. There are many suggestions and many threads of plot to follow, and the story is told through two main characters, Ali and Angela.

But the telling for me is where I had trouble. I couldn't decide in the beginning if I didn't like Angela as a character, or whether it was the 1st person aspect coupled with her being a narrator. She told the reader everything, all the time, and I felt this detracted from the book. It stopped me being able to 'see' what was going on. It stopped me being able to experience it, or engage with the characters properly and feel an emotion about them. I was being told by this character who they were, and who the others were all the time. It also overshadowed the more spooky aspects of the novel (and there are plenty), which I felt should have had more reaction from the characters - particularly the ones experiencing them.

There was also a sense of chaos in this book, yet I couldn't decide if it was intentional, because the lead character Ali is in a state of chaos in her head. But the narration of this chaos sort of made it more messy - although maybe that was the intent. I felt the entire novel could have been slowed down and more time taken over it, more of a slow dripping effect - even written as a series.

All the threads were tied, but they were tied exposing everything, nothing was left hanging. In some respects not enough was left 'lingering'.

I enjoyed this book very much, there is a lot here to embrace and soak up, some chilling scenes, expertly written. Maybe I am being too critical, as I am an editor and writer myself, but my favourite of Susi's still remains Willow Walk.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 78

These beautiful objects were made by Lia Griffiths. Not only are they a perfect picture prompt, but a great idea to make. There are instruction on her site.

I changed my mind with what I had planned to write for this prompt. My initial idea had been light. I feel I've moved away from my dark side over this past year, having written more science fiction or dystopian stories, and am going to try and find paths back to it. The struggle is, as always, to find something unique. I like how this one turned out.

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.




Precious Trophy


He picked up one of the fragile paper feathers and caressed its edge. It was almost as soft as her skin had been. He brought it to his nose and inhaled deeply. He could still catch her scent off it. She had made these with such care: cutting them out, shaping them, and then decorating them with the gold spray she’d found in the corner of her room.

He’d forgotten the spray was there. If he’d remembered she might still be with him. He might still be able to touch her and smell her fragrance – a light, citrus fragrance, with an acrid edge. Fear always gave everything an acrid edge. It was a shame.

Few had been as gratifying as her, and now his ability to find others was severely handicapped. Living with one eye made everything difficult, especially hunting for prey. He couldn’t be as swift when snatching them off the street, or able to defend himself when they tried to fight back; it made it easier for them to blindside him. He’d only attempted it once since his injury, and the resultant failure had put him off.

It was a shame she had attempted to escape. He’d planned on keeping her a long time, and although some would stay he still had her, necrophilia was not his thing. He knew others who enjoyed it, but he wasn’t about to share her with anyone – not even in death.   

So besides the grave, all he had left were these little trophies reflecting her beauty and delicate nature. And despite the loss of his eye, leading to the loss of her, he secretly liked that she had left such a physical mark on him. He liked that she’d had spirit.




Monday, 22 October 2018

Copyblogger - the free marketing and content site I'd forgotten about

 https://www.copyblogger.com/

I am a self-published author, and this last year I have been trying to get my head round the whole business of marketing and promoting. I have a novel I am getting ready for publication, and I really want to do more than just create a ripple that fades in a day or two, so I've been trying to do the groundwork and build some kind of foundation to launch it from. But for an author with zero budget (and I mean zero) and no 'back catalogue' of books, short of a couple of collections and stories in anthologies, it's an extremely difficult journey.

It's time consuming too. I have had to devote a lot of time to reading on these topics. It has led me to many valuable resources. I have bought books by David Gaughran, Libby Hawker and Tammi Labreque. All of them focus on different aspects. But some of the books use such specific jargon it’s been a struggle. I’ve gone to the trouble of learning some of it, but I've let other stuff go right over my head. A terminology legend would have been helpful in a couple of them.

Overall, it's been a large learning curve and a journey in itself, and all those listed above have provided a great deal that I still refer to and use. It has also helped me gain clarity on the things I do want to do as a self-published author and the things I don't. But a couple of weeks ago I came to a halt. I still didn't feel I had the tools I was looking for, yet I couldn't be sure exactly what information I was seeking, and I didn't want to waste more time or money on books that might not provide it. (There are others I have read that I haven't listed here.)

Then I received one of the regular weekly emails from a site I subscribed to many years ago, called Copyblogger.  I'd been directed there by a fellow writer friend who was much further ahead of me in the self-publishing game, and although I saw the value in what they had to offer, I hadn't, at that stage, had a need for it. I opened up their site and reviewed all the PDF books they had on offer for free and realised it was what I had been looking for. It was the next stage of the tools I wanted to develop. It would help me learn how to create catchy content to draw people to my websites and my books, as well as how to market myself and trial what is effective and what isn't. Right there at my fingertips was the information I had been seeking without realising it - for free.

I am both grateful to Copyblogger for existing and to my friend all those years ago sending me there. I feel I want to pay that forward. So if you might be looking for more information to help hone your writing skills and develop your marketing tools, take a look. And most importantly for those of us unable to pay to get established, it's free






Monster Mash 2018 Entry - The Summoner


My entry to the Monster Mash 2018 Blog Hop.  


 The Summoner

Jack remembered how she’d said it repeatedly in an attempt to placate him. It’d always worked. ‘I love you.’ He wished he’d recorded it and kept it for himself. But it was too late now. 

Only the basement was left, where he’d kept her, with the trappings of each step of the planned transformation. She’d resisted at first, as most of the women he abducted off the streets did, but with persistence she’d relinquished and performed better than any other. 

Each night and at each stage she’d become more wordless. In the end it was only those three words that she’d been able to say. It had been part of the process. 

And now it was time to speak another incantation, because now it was time to complete the conversion. He’d undertaken each step as the book had said: he’d waited the required three years, returning to the place of burial on significant dates and performing the ritual. Now it was time for the final rite. 

He arrived early in the graveyard. He wanted to make sure he didn’t miss the strike of midnight. He found the tree he’d buried her under easily in the dark, he’d been so many times. He set out all the objects and the cloth and prepared the candles. Then he sat cross-legged for a moment, eyes closed, clearing his mind, summoning his energy. 

When he opened them, one minute was left before the first clock strike. He could see the tower from this side of the municipal graveyard. It was why he’d picked the spot. Others might’ve used their own gardens for privacy, but Jack found it easier to find privacy in public. People were less suspicious when you were out in the open, especially at night in a graveyard on Halloween. 

This thought caused him to glance round. Was he alone? He had to make sure; he didn’t want anything to go wrong. This had to be performed correctly or it could have disastrous consequences – not just for him, but for the townsfolk too. 

But he could see and hear no movement besides the breeze rippling the leaves in the tree above him, and rustling the tops of the grass, bushes and shrubs. He turned back to his buried treasure, hoping to hear those words again.

With the first strike of the clock he began to recite the words. He knew them off by heart. With each clock strike, the energy built. By the fifth the ground had started to lift, and by the tenth she was free of the ground and rising to meet him. When the twelfth struck it was as though someone had brought her out of hypnosis and she blinked, speaking the words he’d been longing to hear: ‘I love you’, but in chorus with a hundred other voices. 

He turned to find she wasn’t the only one risen: all around the graveyard other bodies had risen too.
But they hadn’t been prepared like she had: their limbs were in various states of decay, remnants of clothing hanging from their bones, putrefied and shambling. And more importantly they hadn’t received the intermittent invocations and anointments he’d brought over the last three years. What had risen couldn’t be tamed; it possessed demons Jack couldn’t control. He’d opened the entire graveyard to the dark realm unprotected. What had he done?

He scurried to pick up his ritual tools, his love stepping forward ready to be taken, but there was no time for that now; the fantasy of midnight love-making in a graveyard gone. 

The bodies were moving toward their summoner. He needed to get out of here. He grabbed his lover’s hand intending to take her to the safety of his car, but there were so many of them, their silent shuffling portending a fate he’d only imagined for his enemies. 

Jack was not a physically strong man, it’s one of the reasons he’d turned to the dark arts. He might be able to best a petite female and bundle her into his boot, but to fight a horde of undead infused with demonic power, not a chance. 

He tried to skirt them but they came from every direction, grasping onto his catatonic lover and dragging her down. He watched them take her, still trying to break free, but before he knew it his life force was being drained, his body abused, his life blood taken. His only consolation knowing that humanity would shortly be meeting the same end. 


Thursday, 18 October 2018

#MonsterMash #MM2018 Blog Hop

One of my favourite flash competitions has been resurrected:

The Halloween #MonsterMash Blog hop! 


Laura James is hosting, along with long time friends Cara Michaels and Ruth Long. 

You can write your piece and post in on your blog, then add it to the Linky Link over on Laura's site: Get Wordy

If you want to write for it, but don't have a blog, you can ask me, or any of the organisers if they will host it for you. 

Go on, bring out your Monsters!


Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 77

This week's image can not be accredited as it is everywhere on the net, and on sites to download as wallpaper for your computer, so whoever did take it can no longer be found. I do hate that. I really do think photographers and artists should be credited for their images, even when it is sold on.

This one I heard the minute I saw the picture. It's a different and a little seasonal.

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.


Tricky 

I ran down the road trying not to trip over my own feet. I looked over my shoulder making sure they weren’t following me. It was misty, there was no telling; they could come over the rise of the road at any moment.

I clutched my bag to my chest, knowing that dropping it would be bad. The contents could not, under any circumstances see the light of day, if they did, I’d be in trouble – more trouble than those chasing me could ever pose.

I wasn’t sure how long I could keep up this pace. It had been a while since I’d gotten myself into such a predicament. Despite this I couldn’t stifle a smile. There was nothing quite like getting up to mischief, they didn’t call me Tricky for nothing.

I couldn’t resist a loud guffaw as I continued to run. It seemed to spike my adrenaline and gave me a boost. And I’d need it - the sound of horse’s hooves was coming up behind me – more than one set. I needed to get creative on the run.

I could just put my hand in the bag, but that was cheating. I had my own abilities to draw on. I pictured what I wanted in my head. It was simple, it was clean and no one would get harmed, although they wouldn’t think so. Another guffaw escaped my lips, oh I was so wicked sometimes; it was perfect.

I muttered a few words as I ran, shouting the last over my shoulder. I heard yells and profanity along with a whooshing noise. The neighing got pretty loud as I glanced overhead, watching them clinging on for dear life as the horses stretched their new wings. They had no way of reining them in, so the horses were finally free – long overdue in my mind. Nothing worse than a human who breaks another animal’s spirit and uses them as slaves.

Humans. There I go again, separating myself from them as though I weren’t one of them. But then they didn’t consider me one of them, so why should I?

Now I’d dealt with them, I could slow down. The sun was rising and burning through the mist. I had to decide whether it was wise to remain on this path or whether I should seek refuge: find a dwelling, somewhere dark and bunker down, a chance to explore the contents of my bag. I could decide whether it was worth the risk holding on to it or whether it would benefit me to return it to its owner.

His ire toward those who had taken it had not yet been appeased. I could let him continue terrorising them, but eventually it would lead him to me. And there was no doubt in my mind that he could easily find me – someone who could create such an object had no trouble tracking anyone.

It also begged the question of whether he knew it was in my possession. He might already know I have it. His henchmen might already be on their way to me!

I stumbled on the uneven ground as I picked up pace across the fields, heading to the great forest that covered this part of the country.

I think I was decided. Befriending someone of his ilk far outweighed the tricks I could pull with this object. I had to get it to him. I had to make it look like that had been my intention all along.

I stayed on course, a plan formulating in my mind. Benefit me, yes, definitely. That was the way to go. We could be great friends he and I. 



Saturday, 13 October 2018

Review of Wizard and Glass, Book 4 of Stephen King's Dark Tower Series

Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower, #4)Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Despite having read this before, it felt like I was reading it for the first time; I had only a vague recollection of what had happened and the characters, and I had no recollection of the end! Although it left a smile on my face, because I love how Stephen King ties up so many of his books into The Dark Tower - although he explains why in the afterword.

Wizard & Glass is such an immersive tale. For days I felt like I was living in Hambry and surrounded by the world of Meijis; Stephen King creates such a sense of the place with his perfectly worded descriptions, and not only sight, but smell and feel too. I became completely emotionally invested, feeling both the heights of the passion Roland and Susan felt as well the lows - I even cried.

And coming back out of the world, when we rejoin the Ka-tet of Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy, it was difficult although everything was tied up nicely and related well. I love how Stephen King mixes in real life cultural (all be it, white western cultural) referencing to carry the story - the Wizard of Oz tie-in was genius.

I look forward to reading on.

And if you haven't ever endeavoured into the world of The Dark Tower, I urge you to do so, for the ultimate in an all encompassing experience.

And as a side note: I don't know who picked the illustrators for these hardbacks, but so far I have been unimpressed. In this one I didn't like them at all. They didn't reflect the story well at all. They were quite peculiar. 

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 76

This week's picture is from Melbourne painter Jeremy Geddes. He has some incredible art - some of the pieces just make me go 'wow'. You can check out some of his work on his site, although sadly this piece is not on there, although another site did feature it, and it is part of his Cosmonaut series.

I'm interested in what others might make of this, I struggled to find something unique, although a recent episode of Ancient Aliens sparked this one.

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.




Earthnaut

He knew it would come in handy when he’d bought it, even though his girlfriend at the time thought he was foolish. He’d made sure it was fully working too. He even paid half a year’s salary to test it out in zero gravity – man that was fun! It was big and clumpy to move about in, but in zero gravity it felt light and spacious. He’d been worried about claustrophobia but it was like being in his own capsule.

He still remembered how his ex had laughed at him when he’d first put it on – who was laughing now? Not her that’s for sure.

He’d had an inkling how things were going to go. He’d had his ear to the underground wave of information – all the conspiracy theories. People scoffed and outright laughed, but not him. There were a few that kept popping up time and again with a little bit more information, and a little bit more plausibility.

Things had ramped up: politics going to extremes, weather going to extremes, and people speaking out in the extreme. Few knew who to believe about anything. Fake news abound – and that’s when truth gets easily paraded and dismissed.

But Rod had watched it all, read it all and researched it all. He’d even contacted a few of the sources and been shown some things and taken to a few places. That’s when he’d started to prepare – especially when the whole Russian, North Korean and American thing kicked off. People thought it was about what was going on here, on Earth, but they had been wrong, oh so wrong. It was the skies they should have been looking at.

They’d been up there for years, you see – decades. And what was going on down here was actually a reflection of what was going up there – on the moon. People didn’t realise the noise in the media was a mask covering the truth behind the meetings between the three nations, or pick up on the hidden messages in the announcements.

But Rod had heard the meaning and prepared himself. His girlfriend had decided he was clearly a nutter and packed her bags. He didn’t care. It was all about survival of the fittest after all.

So when the explosions on the moon had started, and panic had gripped the world, Rod had calmly put on his suit and got ready. He’d filled his backpack with food and liquids that were created for space travel, and waited.

He had the news on, and they kept talking about ‘peace’ as though some alien nation was up there. But they weren’t aliens, they were humans. They were from a huge colony that had started back in the 60s.

Rod felt the air shift outside his suit and his oxygen tank kick in. His feet lifted up as did all the objects in the room. As anticipated, gravity was shifting as the explosions changed the moon’s axis and orbit. It would be a while before Earth found its new normal. Although right now it was the broken pieces of moon coming down that concerned Rod the most, the light from the meteors streaking across the sky and reflecting in his visor.