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.

Wednesday, 14 December 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 274

This week's picture prompt seems to trace only to Alamy stock photos, along with Zuma press, not particular individual named as the photographer. However, the picture does appear on websites about abandoned things and this place is called Ponyhenge and is in Massachusetts in the US. As its name suggests, Ponyhenge is a collection of plastic ponies and rocking horses sitting in a field about 14 miles west of Boston. The first ponies started appearing sometime around 2010; over the years, the collection has grown exponentially and will frequently rearrange into circles and rows. How did the first pony appear? Who adds and organizes the collection? Do the ponies come alive when we're asleep? No one seems knows. It’s Ponyhenge nightmare!

Thus a dark tale is required. 

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 circle of different coloured rocking horses in a green grass field all facing inwards.

Haunted Horses

‘I’ll take you there.’

‘No, I’ll take you there.’

‘No, I will.’

‘Pick me, I’m faster.’

The young boy spun inside the circle of rocking horses as each called out to him wanting him to pick them to take him on a ride. He couldn’t make out the destination though, it sounded like Bambi. He’d seen what they had done to Bambi and didn’t want to go there at all. But they kept on calling out to him.

‘I’m the smoothest, you’ll love me.’

‘No, I’m much smoother, my joints don’t squeak.’

‘I’m the youngest here; you’ll find me the best yet.’

Then they started rocking to prove their point, each of them pushing forward and back, harder and harder, until they started rocking in unison, the momentum making them shuffle along the ground, sliding on the wet grass, getting closer and closer to the boy.

He was frozen in terror as he watched their wooden nostrils flare and their chanting words echo round the circle:

‘Ride me! Ride me! Ride me!’

He didn’t want to ride any of them; he just wanted to go home where he would be safe with his mum and dad. Why had they encouraged him to come here? Why did they want him to be scared? Why did they want him to be trampled by rocking horses? What had he done wrong?

He started to cry hysterically, calling for his mum. He knew she wouldn’t come – she couldn’t hear him from their home which was more than a mile down the road. He’d come here alone after his dad had told him about this place, and suggested he check it out.

The horses stopped chanting when his tears had started, but they continued to rock. Then the boy noticed that this had slowed too, some had even stopped. And once he fell silent he could hear shuffling as they moved back to their original positions.

He took the opportunity and ran for his life, sprinting back to his bicycle which he’d left on the ground by the gate, and ran with it, jumping on while it was moving, not daring to look back, just wanting to get the hell out of there.

That night he didn’t tell his parents about his visit; he didn’t think they’d believe him, instead he lay awake in his bed trying to block out the sounds of their whispered chants coming through his bedroom window trying to entice him back.


Wednesday, 7 December 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 273

Hello, I'm back after a nice long break, after a busy two months, which included a holiday, procrastinating about writing a book, and trips here and there. I start afresh with a Tricky tale, as I brainstorm the third and final (for this storyline) book. I haven't written one since Week 269.

This week's picture prompt is a photo taken by Shanghai Hannah. She posted it on twitter for a #SundayPix theme called Liminal (the spaces between). She said: 'One of the no longer used entrances to the ancient Chinese water Town Xitang'. That is in Jiashan CountyZhejiang, China.  

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 metal-studded  black double door in the middle of a white wall with greenish water in front of it, with a board above in Chinese letters, covered by the swooping roofs of oriental design. It's an old entrance to the ancient Chinese water Town in Xitang, Jiashan County, Zhejiang, China.

Blood River

Tricky hadn’t used this entrance into the city before; it was old and disused thus perfect for her clandestine plans. She had no doubt that there were spies all around having a good nose at what she was doing. The alarm had been raised; they knew she was missing, even if they hadn’t managed to find her yet. The trees and the birds were very effective at creating diversions and distractions. She might have thought she was better off without the company of furry or feathered companions, but she was wondering if she should reconsider.

The water sloshed as the boat approached the metal-studded doors. They creaked in their old age when they opened and pushed back the water. They were remnants from a city that had been in the far east of the world before the shift, along with the rest of Chestwick. But there’d been no survivors from that city due to the landmass being so close to the epicentre of the event. The entire piece of land had been submerged by the sea and then risen again, as was evident from all the rivers and waterways in and around it. This had made it a prime location for trade as the washed out buildings were accessible by water.

She turned the oar in its lock to steer it through the doorway, and glanced into the water on either side of her, resisting the images the name conjured: Blood River.

It had been how they’d known there were no survivors; it had been chock full of dead bodies. But the red colour hadn’t been blood as many believed, but instead a bacteria that had thrived on the high salt content in the water, after the receding seas had left it there. And although the bacteria had died off over the last century as the salt content had reduced, the name had stuck. People still liked to spread rumours of it being blood; those that hadn’t been given the opportunities Tricky had. They hadn’t learnt about water and chemistry. She’d come from a privileged background, although most wouldn’t know it – which was just how she liked it.

As Tricky guided the boat into the tunnel behind the doors she tried to recall the image of the map Nathan had sent her during one of their medie sessions. She knew some of the layout of Chestwick, having visited a couple of times in the past, but this time she was taking a more discreet route to get to The Baron. Annie had told her he was expecting her. She only hoped he would come alone. She really didn’t look forward to the conversation ahead of her, but she especially didn’t want an audience when she did.

Tricky tried again to come up with an opening sentence but couldn’t, short of hello. Giving a father bad news about his son wasn’t something you could prepare for; you just had to hope that they didn’t punish the messenger. Would he believe her? Would he support her? She was now on the run and nowhere was safe. She had no idea what she was going to do after this. There would be no returning to her cabin, not with Nathan there; she needed to keep him as her secret ally. She couldn’t stay anywhere that was familiar. She had to disappear, and maybe that was exactly what she’d do, vanish into another time until Tumelo had resolved this – if he could resolve it.

But something niggled at her, and Tricky knew what it was: while Douglas Bottle was alive even another time wasn’t safe, no matter where it took her – or when. Could he track her? She knew there were ways of doing it but did he possess them? She didn’t know, but with what he had shown her so far, it was quite possible. And she had to think in those terms now; underestimating him had almost cost her, her life. She wasn’t going to do that again, oh no, not Tricky. She was going to live up to her name this time.


Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Review: Johanna & Sebaster's Big Day Out, by Michael Wombat

Johanna & Sebaster's Big Day OutJohanna & Sebaster's Big Day Out by Michael Wombat
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another collection from Michael Wombat that includes short stories across a range of genres, some humourous some dark, with some poetry thrown in. I also love his little footnote at the end of each one - with the occasional apology which made me smile!

There are definitely laugh-out-loud moments in this book, but there are some sad and dark ones too, so be ready for a roller coaster ride of well written tales.

I recommend this really enjoyable read.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 8 November 2022

Review: The Institute by Stephen King

The InstituteThe Institute by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's been a long time since I have read a Stephen King book that I felt was really up to his old standard, but finally here it was, and as always it's like returning home with the familiar engaging writing style, and well developed characters. For a moment I thought we were revisiting elements of Firestarter, but it took a different path, although it was just as compelling.

The story follows a terrifying idea of what could be going on behind government walls, and how they could be persecuting and exploiting children who have some minor telekinetic or telepathic ability. It's dark and it's gruesome in places and as a parent I didn't always find it easy to read, but Stephen King had already set up the would-be hero at the beginning, so I knew there had to be a resolution of sorts, although I had no idea how that was going to go.

It was tense and gripping and it made me look forward to going to bed so I could keep on reading. And it consumed a 3½ hour flight from holiday. King also manages to interject comments about the present day state of the world and recent politics, really grounding the reader and keeping them connecting.

A brilliant addition to your Stephen King collection, if like me you are a Constant Reader.

View all my reviews

Monday, 31 October 2022

Mid-Week flash on hiatus

As I was on holiday last week and have a new book out today and then from tomorrow National November Writing Month starts, I have decided to put #MidWeekFlash on hiatus probably until mid-december. I just need some extra space in my head at the moment.

This is only the third time in the five years that I've done this, but DO feel free to write for ANY of the previous posts (including this picture). There are no time limits on these challenges and you can browse all the all the previous either here on this blog, or join the facebook group and find them in the photo album (now called Media in the new interface), including a link to the post on the blog.



Happy Halloween - and Happy Publication day to Unsailable Sea! 🥳

Happy Halloween! It's here! It's finally here! 🥳

It's publication day for Tricky's second book, Unsailable Sea, book two of Tricky's Tales. It follows directly on from Dead Lake, Book one of Tricky's Tales. There will also be a third book, some time next year. This particular storyline is a trilogy, but I am confident Tricky will come up with another story to tell. 




The blurb:

Tricky by name, Tricky by nature

Buggeration! Without knowing it she’d been recruited into unearthing Carter’s bloody network, just as The Baron wanted!

When Lucien Dufray’s cat and flock of birds turn up at Tricky’s cabin, she knows something’s wrong. But when her crystal ball shows her one thing and Adric tells her another, Tricky becomes suspicious – which might be her natural state, but there was nothing natural about Dufray’s disappearance. Adric wants her to find him, but had Dufray been kidnapped or had he turned traitor?

Between her mother’s jade calling to her in the forest of Ferriston, The Rabble, an untrustworthy fae collective directing her to the Unsailable Sea, and her spy glass showing her Dimitry Stanislav, one of her mother’s murderers, Tricky is confused.

The only witnesses to Dufray’s exodus were his menagerie, so Tricky’s best friend Annie sends for an old friend, Nathan Rothschild, who can communicate with cats, and her ex-girlfriend, Safa Odeh, who can communicate with birds. Together they try and piece together what happened that night.

What they uncover is a plot deeper than the network’s underground bunkers, with more twists than Tricky’s sexual desires. Will she find Dufray, or will she risk capture? Either way she needs to keep her wits about her and remember she’s the tricky one.

Dead Lake is a dark paranormal fantasy novel set a few hundred years from now in a post-apocalyptic world. After a massive shift of the tectonic plates decimated the world and its population, life on the remaining landmass has returned to simple living, with money, rulers and religion no longer tolerated.



Wednesday, 19 October 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 272

This week's picture prompt was created by Lisa Shambrook - fellow author and friend, and incredible artist too. Visit her Instagram and have a look - she even has a shop on etsy, called Amaranth Alchemy, from which I have bought several Crystal Grid prints because I love them. She makes some amazing things. She is also a huge dragon lover, and writes about them, especially in her brilliant series, The Seren Stone Chronicles - the second one is coming soon (I hope). 

I'm not sure I can channel dragons as well as Lisa, but I've given it a shot. I quite enjoyed it too.  

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 silhouette of two dragons depicted against moonlight which has just broken through a cloudy sky. Created by Lisa Shambrook.


Wave of Fire

“They’re up there.”

“I know.”

“So what are we going to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“They’re waiting.”

“I can see that!”

Petunia was fed up with being pressured by everyone all the time. She’d make the decision soon enough, but it wasn’t an easy one. Sacrifice was never easy – not if you had an honest heart. That’s what her dad had taught her. They might be another species and look different, but life was life. They had consciousness too.

But they had gained in numbers and were spreading out, and that might mean more food for the dragons, but it had also caused fatalities. They were gaining knowledge and ground, and their fire sticks were lethal.

Jacoby was getting impatient. He tapped his tail end on the stone floor.

“Why are you dallying? It’s perfect out there! We have good cloud cover, with partial moon light; we can easily catch them unawares. They’ll be all huddled in those funny domes they’ve built.”

“Out of grass no less.”

“Exactly. Easy pickings.”

“And food.”

“Yes! Come on Petunia, give the signal, let’s get this show on the road.”

She was bolstered by Jacoby’s certainty and confidence. They could do this; there were enough of them and if they did this properly, they could actually clear an area and claim back the lower grounds, rather than having to live up here in the cliffs.

Yes, it was time.

“Okay.” She stepped forward and took a deep breath, feeling the heat stir in her belly. Then she blew it out, sending a stream of flame in an arc, making it clear to all those already in the sky and those on the cliff-face terraces that it was happening. They were going to do it.

Jacoby took off and Petunia joined him as the air filled with the sound of beating wings. The warm air had lifted off the ground now that night had fallen and it was balmy sailing on the current, as they gathered in their numbers and moved into formation with Petunia leading the way.

They’d voted her as leader after she’d taken out a small settlement to the east. She’d had no choice; they’d taken down three of their finest. She might have been able to deal with that better if she hadn’t watched them over the ensuing days, cut the bodies up and use them as a food source. That had incensed her and also scared her. What if they started to hunt dragons on a regular basis? Or worse, enslave them and breed them as they had done with other smaller ground dwelling species.

No, they weren’t having that. They were the dominant species and needed to remind them of that. Tonight they would redress the balance and take out their largest settlement.

The air was thick with tension as they spaced out and slowed their wing beats to reduce sound as they approached. There were some small fires burning both inside their little domes as well as outside. But they didn’t see any of them running around on their funny double protrusions. Good. It meant they weren’t as likely to scatter and alert any of the outer lying settlements and gather a resistance – at least not tonight. Petunia suspected they would have to continue their campaign over many nights until they had decimated enough of their numbers to be controlled.

She dropped down and the others followed. There was a collective inhale and they all breathed out, their flames sweeping the ground in parallel lines, creating wave after wave of fire as they were at least twenty dragons deep. None of this species would be able to live through it.

When they lifted up on the other side, Petunia circled and watched the ground closely, but saw no movement. Dragon’s had keen eyes, even in the half dark and would easily spot escapees. There were none.

But to be on the safe side, Petunia nodded to her flanking companions to go in opposite directions, and they breathed a ring of fire around the entire place just to be certain.

Once they had all reassembled, they flew over the blaze and headed back to the mountains to regroup and decide which settlement to pick for the following night. Although Petunia would also be keeping a keen eye on the aftermath tomorrow and be ready for any potential retaliation. It occurred to her that they had just declared war. It was the first time it was against another species. It felt cathartic to heal clan division through a joint venture. 


Wednesday, 12 October 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 271

This week's photo is one of the rare ones that I can no longer trace. It's all over pinterest linking to a site called Derelict Metropolis, which has a huge catalogue of pictures of abandoned and derelict, all linked to their owners, but the links don't work anymore - and  the filter for the type of picture is also defunct, so it took me hours of scrolling to find this one. It is linked to a Flicker account that no longer exists. I don't have the name of the photographer, just a title/handle: 'The Last Word (by Day Of The Dead - Chernobyl in 1 Week). From which I can only ascertain that it was a picture from Chernobyl.

Just enough to pique your curiousity 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.



An image of a manual typewriter on a sideboard at the bottom of a staircase in a derelict house. There is a black and white photo of a man in a frame just behind the typewriter which still has a piece of paper in it. Dust covers everything in this abandoned home.

Dear John

If you are reading this, then I am sorry we aren’t here. It means you did at least manage to make it back, which I’m thankful for, but I fear you will be putting yourself at risk.

Elliott and Charlotte are with me, of course. They are currently feeling well, but I fear that will change if I don’t leave soonest. I can only hope you have found the house intact, because I know there’s a chance it won’t survive either. If bricks and mortar can’t survive this thing, I’m not sure any of us have hope.

The news on the radio keeps reading out symptoms of the airborne stuff, but that’s never been my concern, it’s the stuff seeping through the skirting boards. I haven’t dared touch it or let the kids near it, but no one’s talking about it on the radio. Both the neighbours have gone – or at least aren’t answering their doors – so I’m not sure if it’s part of it. All phone and internet signals went down last week so we are completely cut off.

I’ll head for my mother’s so you can look for us there. I have no idea how far this thing has reached, and how long it will go on for. It’s put the world into such turmoil. Men and their silly games, playing with things they shouldn’t. And we thought nuclear war or generators would bring about the end of the world – how foolish we were!

Stay safe my beloved. I hope to see you again, if not in this life then the next.

My love always

Madeline xx


Wednesday, 5 October 2022

Review: The King's Peace, by Kevin Hammond

The King's PeaceThe King's Peace by Kevin Hammond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An opening novel to an epic paranormal fantasy. If you love Raymond Feist, you will love this series too.

We follow Nathaniel, a thief, who, after the King is killed in his bed and an enemy is seen in blackships off the coast, is recruited into an army garrison and joins a company of soldiers trying to reach the southern garrison before all hell breaks loose. The background of the storyline is based on the idea of gods using humans and demonic creatures as pawns for their games, and it is played out in the Kingdom of Erenon through various dark and supernatural characters.

It's intriguing, dark, and more gruesome than anything Feist offers, but to those of us that enjoy a little horror mixed in with our dark, suspense-filled paranormal epic fantasies, it hits the right spot.

I look forward to reading the next one and seeing where this story ends up.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 270

This week's picture prompt is an art piece from Jade Cheong from the US. (You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.Jade has confirmed to me that she has changed her Deviant Art page since creating this picture (hence a different website on the picture). She calls it Kelpie. She says about the topic of this piece of incredible artwork - which is actually in acrylic painted on canvas : 

"This is a darker take on the kelpie of Scottish mythology. My research on the stories turned up two varieties. The mischievous white horse that likes to dunk people in their river and the darker one reputed to drown people for dinner. Some variations said they were all otherwise normal looking horses, some said they were black with serpents in their forever dripping manes."

I could hear him in my head, but it turned dark, and I like how it ended. 

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 a dark kelpie, from Scottish folklore, which looks like a horse, but in this image is painted in dark blue and torquite with yellow demonic eyes and serpents in its mane. A full moon can be seen behind it. Art by Jade Cheong

Sacrifice

I stood at the waterside a little stunned at what had just appeared. Some might call it a horse, but it looked more like a demon – an attractive one, dark and sleek, its powerful chest muscles defined in the moonlight, with a mane I would have died for; the serpents were a nice touch.

‘Why do you disturb my slumber?’

Its deep booming voice gave me chills. I restrained a nervous giggle; I didn’t think it would like me smirking.

‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. I didn’t know these waters were occupied.’

‘I am the fifteenth Kelpie King of these waters and I will know your business.’

‘It was such a brilliant moon tonight, I wanted to come down to the water’s edge and look at it as it casts its gleam.’

He glanced over his shoulder at the moon and when he turned back the light of it remained in his eyes – the eyes of the serpents in his mane also lighting up. It was mesmerising and hypnotic at the same time.

‘This night is sacred to us. This night we call for a sacrifice.’

I waited for him to explain what he meant by sacrifice, but he didn’t. I didn’t want to ask. When a few moments had lapsed he spoke again.

‘We must temper the push and pull of the emotions, and give of our heart and soul.’

I wondered if he meant literally or metaphorically. I gazed up at the moon, feeling its light wash over me. I stretched my arms up into the air and wiggled my fingers, delighting in the feel of it. The king stamped his hooves in the shallow water and snorted.

I ran my fingers down the sides of my body, enjoying the feel of the tips on my naked skin. It elicited another snort. He shook his mane. The movement slowed as the image of him reformed, until he was shaking a head of thick long matted black hair, which fell on ebony skin and shined with a white edge under the moon’s glow. His eyes were still bright and intense.

I stepped forward into the shallows and dared to touch his new skin. He breathed what would have been a snort.

‘Is it to your liking?’ His voice rumbled like distant thunder.

‘Yes,’ I said simply.

He pulled me into him, his mouth finding my neck and I smiled as he nuzzled enjoying the embrace. Sacrifice indeed.

I responded, my hands running across his back, as I pushed him back into the water, going deeper and deeper. He let me, as he continued to ravage my body and I knew I had him.

As the water covered us, the moonlight dancing across our entwined bodies, I began to shake, my skin transforming. I felt him pull back, but it was too late, we were too far out.

I wrapped my scaled limbs around him, holding him tight and drawing him under. He thrashed and fought, his body attempting to reform into his Kelpie state, but it was not to be. He was to be mine; my offering for the luna festivities.


Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 269

This weeks prompt photo was created by Hermin Abramovitch, an artist from Israel - known as ahermin over on their page on Deviant Art. He calls this I am God. He does what I call Perspective Art, and Surreal art - seemingly mostly based off rubbish found on a beach. I've actually used a couple of his pieces, one of them a really early one on Week 19  and Week 146

This week we return to Tricky's tales as I brainstorm book 3 for some inspiration. The last time I wrote about Tricky for MidweekFlash was back in July, for Week 257

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 picture of the back of a spotlight bulb lying on a wet sand beach. The sun is setting and the horizon shows lots of clouds against a blue sky, which are reflected in the surface of the sand. A beam of light is coming out of the lightbulb towards the setting sun. Created by Hermin Abramovitch

Shocking

Tricky crouched down and peered into the discarded light bulb on the beach. He really thought he was invisible in there, didn’t he? She chuckled to herself. Oh dear. What an oaf. But he could see her, she had no doubt about that. Why else would he be in there? But not for long. She grinned into the reflective surface of the electrical unit, hoping he could see it.

Tricky didn’t know a lot about electricity, it wasn’t something they had brought back fully; they couldn’t generate it like they had before the shift. And people no longer knew how to make these funny delicate objects. The problem with it having been mostly rich people and their servants who had survived the shift, they were lacking people with specific skills and scientific minds. You couldn’t make electricity or lightbulbs if all you knew about was playing with your money and cheating others out of theirs, or sitting about spending it on worthless toys. And those that served them only knew how to be a lackey. Oh no, Tricky didn’t have any truck with lording over or licking under – well not in a cleaning capacity. There was no time for sitting about and being a useless lump, you had to find a way to earn a living otherwise you starved!

But even though Tricky had no scientific mind, she knew electricity was something that could be generated by humans. Not in enough quantities to light up a city, but a single bulb could well be a possibility. She was adept at using energy in all forms, so why not this one. She had a suspicion how she could do it too.

She took a couple of breaths and sucked up energy from the air around her. The sun shone brightly on this beach and the sea was at a safe distance, latent energy lay everywhere – Safa had taught her that. And it grew within, sparking her own energy, while she increased her breaths to a pant. She began to clap her hands too and felt it accelerate. Then she began to hop from foot to foot. The sand was squelchy and splashy, but Tricky didn’t care. She was enjoying herself. He’d get the shock of his life – quite literally!

She stifled a laugh; the energy it would take to let it out would be a waste; she needed every bit she could get for this to work.

She continued on for a few more minutes, feeling the hair on her body start to rise. Yes, that’s what she needed! And then in one swift movement she bent down and touched the tip of the metal part.

The bulb jerked a fraction at her touch, but light beamed out of the glass end, lighting up the dusk sky.

She heard a muffled scream and knew she’d achieved her aim: Gandalf was no longer in the little time bubble he’d created inside the object. She’d just pushed him out into who knew where. He might well manage to track her again, but she had more tricks up her skirt. She’d beat him at this game, oh yes she would. He wouldn’t be getting his fat fumbling fingers on her or her gemstones. And with any bit of luck, if her suspicions were correct, she might just be able to stop him ever finding them, or the landmass, ever again.   


Thursday, 22 September 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 268

This weeks picture prompt is by Igor Zenin a Moldovian photographer. This one is simply called Winter Landscape. This is actually the fourth time I have used one of his pictures for Mid-Week Flash, the other were on Week 175  Week 10 & Week 97 He has some great art pieces.

I had to do a rewrite to get this to come out as planned. It's a dark one, but I think it works. I've gone over the word count, but I'm not sure anyone cares.  

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 picture of a snow covered boat and valley with a town in the distance, with tracks in the snow leading over a small bridge toward the town. The sky a pink/orange sunset colour. Created by Igor Zenin.

Evacuated

Fagan crept up to a tree and peered round it. All was quiet in the valley, the snow making it soundless. He saw tracks leading from the boat into the town.

He stepped out from the cover of the trees, risking exposure as he scurried up to inspect them. There were four sets of boot prints. He followed the trail over the bridge into town.

He kept close to the wall at house on the corner so as not to be spotted. What were they doing here? The town had been evacuated weeks ago. Maybe they didn’t know.

Fagan skulked further in, following their tracks. They’d gone straight to the town hall. They hadn’t bothered checking any of the other buildings. They knew the people were gone, so why were they here?

He ran down the side of the building rather than follow them in. It had been left unlocked as had all the buildings. He reached the side entrance and carefully opened it, sliding in as soon as the opening was wide enough.

He took the back stairs up to the main floor as silently as he could, listening out for them. When he reached the door into the main foyer, he stood with his back against the wall next to it, listening.

‘They’re not here; they’ve taken them with them.’

‘He said they didn’t. He said they’d be here waiting for us.’

‘Well there’s nothing here. So what do we do?’

‘We can’t go back without them, he’ll kill us.’

‘If we stay we’ll be killed too!’

‘Don’t be silly, they were just being hysterical. There’s no one here. It’s completely quiet.’

‘Too quiet if you ask me. It doesn’t feel right.’

‘Come on, there’s another level to this place.’

Fagan heard them stomp up the stairs to the attic where the town memorabilia was kept. He couldn’t work out what they wanted; there was nothing of value here. After a few minutes of scuffling sounds overhead, he heard them coming back down.

‘They could be in the church. He said the centre of the community; maybe we’ve got the wrong place.’

‘Bit sacrilegious to ransack a church, isn’t it?’

‘What you getting all religious on us now?’

‘No, it’s just it wouldn’t be right.’

‘And you think stealing from here would be?’

‘Well no, but at least HIS eyes won’t be on us.’

Fagan heard laughter.

‘You’re a funny sod, no one’s eyes are on us, the town’s dead. Can’t you see that? They’ve been evacuated.’

 ‘Yeah, and why exactly is that, Clancy?’

‘It’s all a load of guff, there’s no psychopath on the loose. I think it’s something he arranged to get them out so we could come in and retrieve the stones.’

 Fagan grinned. Their naivety would benefit him.

‘Why couldn’t he have come himself? He knows where they are and what they look like.’

‘How do we know he’s not sending us to our death?’

There was silence for a moment.

‘Don’t be so bloody stupid, why would he do that?’

‘Maybe because he’s the psychopath!’

There was a smack, and an ‘Ow!’

‘Don’t talk about him like that. He’s served us well. Come on, let’s go to the church.’

Fagan silently backtracked out of the building, while they went out the front, heading to the church. Fagan took another route round the back, using the side vestibule entrance. The pastor hadn’t wanted to leave but there hadn’t been much choice in the matter. Too many had died.

Fagan climbed up the stairs to the bell tower. He reached up inside the bell and found the little sack hanging from the bell clapper. This was what they had been sent to fetch. They were pretty gemstones and would fetch a good price, but Fagan had no interest in riches.

He quietly made his way down to the gallery. He could hear them below, their inane chatter bouncing off the walls as they looked around for the stones. Fagan moved down to ground level and past the door, carefully locking it as he went by. He crept up the aisle on the left, towards the altar, keeping out of sight.

‘What was that?’

‘What was what?’

‘Thought I heard something?’

‘You’re paranoid.’

Fagan found himself grinning again. He loved how people dismissed their instincts when they were in danger. This time when he moved he deliberately scuffed his feet. All four of the men froze, eyeing each other in terror. He wanted to laugh but would hold off a bit longer. Instead he chucked the little bag of gemstones onto the alter table.

They all drew their weapons as they scanned the church, still unable to spot him. While their backs were turned, he rushed across to the altar and crouched behind it.

‘There’s someone here. Oi, mate! There’s no point hiding. Show yourself & we can talk.’

Fagan had no plans to talk, only plans to sacrifice.

He rushed them, killing two before they turned; stabbing one through the back into his heart, and another with a swift swipe across the neck. His blade had never been sharper. The other two tried to swing at him, but they were clumsy and he dispatched them without even breaking a sweat.

All four lay on the church altar. Perfect. He’d say his prayers then prepare them for the spit. He’d have a feast and pay thanks tonight.


Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Review: Substitute, by Susi Holliday

SubstituteSubstitute by Susi Holliday
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's difficult to rate this one, as I feel it is more in the 3½ realm, but as there is nothing specifically wrong with the writing it is also not a 3 star.

I have read all of Susi Holliday's books, and I can't decide if it is because she is writing to market now but the quality in the last couple of books is lacking. The premise starts out well and there is enough to lead the reader in, but then it gets bland. The characters aren't particularly likeable - Chrissie is an agitated character who isn't really happy and you don't ever fully understand why, or what the history has been with her husband. A lot is eluded to but never explained. Then Holliday weaves all the threads of the tale together through different perspectives and in this case different time lines.

I noticed more in this book that it is written in present tense, rather than third, and found it more jarring than usual. I think skipping back and forth between time periods rather than finding another way to write the backstory, is not beneficial for the reader because they have to keep checking the chapter titles, which do become irritating. I also felt this style of writing was repetitive and a little tired. I felt the story could have been told in a whole other way with much more tension and suspense.

The storyline in Substitute might have a unique premise, but it became predictable as it wasn't fully fleshed out and wasn't given a chance to run fully before it was all wrapped up neatly. No cliffhangers, all without question, and basic characters who all end up happily ever after. It's a shame a developmental editor didn't help Susi find a better way to draw out the darker side to this story, and it would be great to have a fully fleshed character the reader actually cared about rather than indifferent to. But then this could just be standard for crime thrillers, which are not my preferred genre.

I get the feeling Susi Holliday would do better to write what she really wants, which is dark, scary stories, that aren't necessarily tied to crime or to a market. I still feel that Blackwood and Violet are her best books to date.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 267

This week's picture, according to all the sources I can find, say this was created by Adam Gaia, who I have found on an art website, but this image doesn't appear. The Instagram account the art website gives also doesn't exist anymore. Shame. Hope it is theirs - but can't find it associated with anyone else. 

Went a bit esoterical 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.



An image of a path winding through grasslands on either side and up round overhead too, in a kind of tunnel with a bright light at the end, which glows over the landscape. The silhouette of a person standing at the end of the path in front of the light. Image created by Adam Gaia

The Light

Tim was terrified. He had no way of knowing if he was going the right way. The path might be clear, but should he be on it? It wound through the grasslands which surrounded him in all directions. There was no other path or direction. This was it – which in fact it was … or at least he thought it had been. He’d died, he was sure he had, yet this felt real, tangible. He could feel a breeze, hear wind through the grass, smell the grass. He bent down; touch the grass. So if he wasn’t dead, where was he?

He refused to entertain the idea of heaven. He’d never believed in that concept, spurned it all his life. He had pondered the afterlife, but this wasn’t life, this was a path. But to where? Would St Peter and some gates come into view shortly? He chuckled to himself. But yet he wondered if he should. What if that was where he was headed? At this point he couldn’t rule out anything.

The way ahead seemed to narrow, or at least it felt like it did. Tim couldn’t trust his eyes anymore – or any part of his body, because it wasn’t really there. It was residual; in his mind’s eye only.

He began to feel like the path was leading him through a tunnel, the grasslands wrapping round him to the left and right and overhead. There was a light ahead. Oh good grief, was this THE light? The one you were meant to go through to ‘go over to the other side’? Surely that was just humans and their hopeful bullshit. There was no other side, or light. But that was exactly what was ahead of him.

The light glowed, and basked the grasslands in a golden light. It was magical. Tim mentally scoffed at the word, but it was the only way to describe it. It shone like light he’d never seen before, and it enveloped him. He looked down at what was once his body. It hadn’t been his body before his death, it was his body from his youth; how he always remembered himself. Even though the clothing was dark, it glowed and sparkled. He could only smile.

He felt elated. He had no reason to be elated – he’d just died, but there was an excitement in the light that was infectious. He felt his stride quicken and he rushed forward. The light seemed like a destination. The path seemed to disappear out of sight. Tim wondered if there was an edge, and if he might fall or jump or step through into something. He wanted to know what. He felt eager, like a child before an exciting event, restless: curious and a little nervous.

Was he going to see family? People he’d known who had passed? His mind raced at the thought of who he might see, and he considered the past relationships he’d had, some of whom had already passed. Would any of them show up? Would he want them to? Or was it all a fallacy that you met your loved ones? Maybe there were no people.

The light filled his entire vision as he approached it and he knew that at any moment he would cross over into it, but the path kept on going and he kept on walking, and it remained there in front of him. His excitement didn’t fade, it matured into a keen knowing that he was about to witness something that would explain it all, the very existence of life; that he was on the verge of knowing everything.

There was a flash, and the light was all around him and in him and he was a part of it, and it was a part of him.

Thought was gone.