Monday 23 December 2019

Christmas Sale!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - and decade!

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

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

Thursday 19 December 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 138

This week's photo was taken by Tien-Chien Chen, a landscape photographer from Taiwan. This photo was taken on the Jancing Historic Trail in  Taipingshan National Forest, which follows along an old logging railroad, and is at an elevation of 2000 meters, hence clouds form and linger. You can find it, and many other incredible landscapes over on Chen's flicker account

She's back! Tricky strikes again and each time giving me a little bit more. (previous tales can be found here.)

And this will be the last tale for a while, as Mid-Week Flash is taking a hiatus over Christmas and New year. I just don't have time to spin more tales. 

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.

Railroad Memories

She knew this railroad well; she remembered when it was built. Tricky had been around a long time, longer than even she could tell. Many things had happened on the railroad, many nasty things. Some she was responsible for, others not. That time of John the Thatcher she’d only played witness, but had managed to see the end of that nasty piece of work that had befallen the district of Clancy.

Randolf Carter was a man people didn’t like to mess with, even Tricky was wary. But she’d taken him on that dawn morning along this track. She’d been up here doing other business, Tricky business, business that was none of nobody’s no mind. She’d been gathering and drawing things to her the forest trees could provide, things she didn’t like to talk about lest others should learn her secrets – although that was but a tiny one.

She’d been in the dell, concentrating, when a scream had hit the air. She’d known who it was immediately but not who was responsible and crawled up the side of the embankment to find out.

There’d been three of them. They’d done a good job tying John to the sleepers, and were busy poking things into him. But what had caught Tricky’s eye was another, standing further away, the dawn mist covering their face. So she’d used the energy she’d collected to move the mist, and it had revealed the ugly mantel of that canny, perfidious, snake of a man. People might call her Tricky, but she was as squeaky as a pair of clean skivvies compared to crater-face Carter. His pox marked face confirmed he’d even managed to scare off the lurgy. No one messed with that man. Not till then.
Tricky’d had a soft spot for the Thatcher and not just because she’d seen what was in his pants, oh no, he was a man of purity and wholesomeness that rarely got the credit it deserved.

She’d listened to the ranting and intermittent questions old crater-face had plied John with, something about a woman and a debt he was owed. John had barely been allowed to speak, though screaming he’d done well. Tricky wasn’t squeamish by nature; she liked a good blood letting when it was warranted, but this hadn’t sat right with her.

She’d taken a breath, calling upon the woods for their help, and tapping John’s screams for energy. She’d drawn it all up, channelling it through the chakras to refine it, and the trees had responded, their movement clearing the air. As expected it unsettled the men even if they’d only thought it a storm. It had been enough to get them leaving John’s side. Then she’d whipped up the air between them and sent the three men flying in all directions, leaving her to treat the fourth to some extra special attention.

Tricky still snickered now remembering the look on his face as he’d been taken from the ground. The wide-eyed horror as the branches had swept him up and played ball with him, catching him on the ends of their branches, impaling him a little more each time. The blood had flown that morning. She still wondered where he had ended up. No one had ever found his remains, not that anyone had looked. That’s the trouble when you’re rotten to the core, people only care you’re gone, they weren’t interested in finding you.

She’d gone to John’s aid and healed him up proper, reminding him of the promise they’d shared for nigh on five years and to continue to keep it if he wanted to remain in good health. He’d been grateful but in a hurry to leave, and she remembered how she’d enjoyed watching his arse as he’d walked away between the tracks.

That was one of her better moments, when she’d done something for someone else. She shivered; it didn’t come natural though; it wasn’t how she’d survived this long.

She turned her mind back to the task at hand. The one good thing about the railroad falling out of use was that it was now covered in such delightful moss, one she needed to complete her current conjuring trick – a trick that would need to last several years if it was to be of any benefit. She set too scraping what she needed into a hessian pocket she’d brought with her.

A new type of Randolf Carter had befallen not just Clancy but the whole province. This one was much nastier and more insipid, but she’d been link to his game the second he’d arrived. She’d met him before, although he didn’t know that, and that was the tiny little pick in the jersey she was going to unravel. Oh yes. 

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 137

This week's picture prompt is of Barber's chair in the Eastern State Penitentiary, also known as ESP, a former American prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is now abandoned but was was operational from 1829 until 1971. Taken in 2004, by Wiki contributor Bruce Cooper known as CentPacRR

This one went dark, as I suspected it might! In some ways not as dark as it could have gone, but still. 

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.


He lay back in the chair as the barber pumped the foot, raising him up. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the feeling of someone touching his hair. It wasn’t often these days that he got to experience such luxury as the caress of another human. He missed the sensation of skin on skin, even if only finger tips on scalp. He enjoyed the warmth of the massage and the thrill of it. He squeezed his legs together hoping that thrill wouldn’t show. It seemed crazy for a grown man to react such a way, especially as it was a male barber, but still, it had been years, more than twenty now.

He thought about other things he missed to take his mind off it: walks in the park holding hands with someone, seeing others moving about in the sunshine, the movement of trees and how clouds would sail across the sky.

He imagined the air on his face and the smell of it. He took a deep breath, almost tasting it. He thought about all those bodies moving around in it, expending their energy. How he used to enjoy people-watching during the day – and at night, too. He’d walk along the street and catch glimpses of them in their living rooms. Occasionally he would stand on the other side of the street and look for longer. He’d envy them their cosy warmth, cuddled up with a loved one, or surrounded by family or friends, all so snugly, never really knowing what it was to be alone and rejected by society, by your peers, and especially by your family.

He shuffled in the seat, trying to shift the unpleasant feelings such remembrances brought. Instead he turned his mind to her – the one.

He’d loved her intensely. People said it wasn’t possible to love someone like that from afar, but he had done. He’d watched her and followed her, and kept her safe. She’d had no idea how many men he’d diverted and disposed of for her.

But eventually he’d wanted to be close to her – needed to be close to her. He’d wanted to have her to himself. And he’d known she’d wouldn’t come willingly, oh no, not to him.

That’s when everything had started to slide. He’d had to keep her locked up, because she would make so much noise and protest so much when he’d wanted to touch her. It hadn’t gone as well as he’d hoped or imagined. She hadn’t eventually given in and loved him back as he had believed. And then she’d managed to break free one day and the police had turned up.

His brain hadn’t retained much of the details, not after all this time or after all the things they had done to him in here; all the electric shock treatments and other delights for the criminally insane.

He shuffled in the chair again. His face was itching now the barber had shaved his face, but he couldn’t reach it. He’d have to wait until they took him back to his cell and took this straight jacket off. It was the worst part of the six-weekly visits to the prison barber.

Tuesday 10 December 2019

Review: Terror Threads by Mark Cassell

Terror Threads: a collection of horror storiesTerror Threads: a collection of horror stories by Mark Cassell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A brilliant, terrifying collection of horror stories. The last story, Sunset Companion has a nice little twist at the end to finish it off. My favourite has to be Diagonal Dead, but I also really enjoyed Dust Devils and Rebirth.

Mark Cassell continues his exploration of shadows and mist in this collection and a couple of stories were reminiscent of Hell Cat of the Holt (one of my favourites from the Shadow Fabric mythos). There are terrifying moments, and intrigue that just keep you turning the page and things you couldn't imagine even in your worst nightmares.

These stories aren't for the faint hearted or the squeamish, but for those that like their horror dark.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 136

This week's picture I could not find a credit for. It doesn't appear that much, but it is all pinterest and no one has said where it is or who owns it. I suspect it could be an infared photograph. But either way it caught my eye.

It took me a while to find an ending to this, but it turned out quite well.

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.


She opened her eyes and looked up. She knew what she was seeing couldn’t be real; it had to be an artificial simulation. She was light years from Earth so how could it be real? And where on Earth could blue skies still be seen, let alone trees in blossom. Everything there was poisoned.

But Melissa could feel air on her face and that didn’t happen in AS; the only senses engaged were sight and sound, never smell or touch. Her hand rubbed something soft yet prickly next to her. She looked down and saw green grass. She’d heard of it and seen it in pictures, but its scent sparked something deep in her soul, as though she was connected to it. She picked some blades out with her fingers and brought them to her nose and then her lips. It had a strange texture, stringy, but a refreshing taste.

She slowly sat up. More trees surrounded her. They had a white finish with brown nobbles in them. She touched them and felt the contrast: white silky versus brown rough. Bird sound reached her and high up in ... what were they? Pink flowers? ... she could see movement and hear fluttering.

Wow, the detail was incredible. She wondered who had created this. She tried to recall how she got here. She’d been on an interplanetary placement cruiser. There’d been a delay due to comet activity causing debris. They’d recommended stasis. She’d willingly gone in and now she was here. But where exactly was here?

She stood up and walked forward. If this was an AS she would either hit a wall or walk out of the projection. She put an arm out just in case. But the landscape moved downhill and then opened out into a clearing containing a large pool of water. She walked to its edge. She could hear and smell it. She crouched and put a hand in it, making a splash. The surprise caused her to laugh and the sound didn’t echo as it would in an AS room. It carried away on the air. She’d only experienced that once before, when they touched down on GSP4579. Its atmosphere had allowed them to go helmetless for a time, although the view had been barren and grey unlike this incredible depiction.

It had to be a depiction. Melissa’s brain couldn’t fathom any other explanation. Even if it was real, how did she get here? Although she knew she could be transported in a stasis pod. But where was the pod? She’d woken up on the ground, alone. Where were the others if she had been placed here?

She cupped her hand and brought some of the fluid to her lips. Sweet water. It was beyond delicious; her system hadn’t experienced anything like it – ever. Recyc was what she’d been raised and lived on all her life.

This was madness. Who was doing this?

She stood and looked around her. She seemed to be the sole occupant. She slowly turned, taking in the woods around her. There was no sign of movement anywhere – not from anything big enough to be human.

Then she heard a mechanical sound, an engine of some sort. She saw a craft overhead. It hovered over the area she was standing in as though noticing her. Was it from their ship? She hadn’t seen the pods they carried, but it looked possible. She waved her arms at it only in that moment realising that if she was actually here, and this wasn’t a simulation, she had no idea what she was meant to do.
The craft descended and hovered just a few feet off the ground, a door on the side opened and a familiar face appeared.

‘You okay, Melissa?’

‘Greg! So good to see you. This is real, then?’

‘Yes, it’s GSP6598 – some are calling it Second Earth. But you have your papers, right? With instructions?’

Melissa pulled a face. ‘Nope. No papers, no instructions. I’ve never heard of this place.’

Greg looked shocked. ‘Hold on.’

He disappeared inside the craft then came back to the door.

‘Shit! It looks like they got the names mixed up. It’s a different Melissa. I’m going to need to take you back.’ The craft landed on the ground.

‘That’s a shame, it’s beautiful here.’

‘It is. Maybe you can request it when we get back. But we need to sort this mess out first. Hop in.’

Melissa climbed up into the craft and sat down on one of the four seats available and strapped in. As they lifted off she watched the land fall away under them and hoped she would be returning. This was definitely the placement she wanted.