Wednesday 23 February 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 240

This week's picture prompt is from Serbian artist Vladislav Pantic. He calls this one The Wood Spirit. He also has a lot of Harry Potter fan art, on his website. Worth checking out. 

My entry this week brings a potential scenario for a Tricky story. You can tell I'm immersed in her tales at the moment. Just an endless stream for MWF entries. Last one was Week 238

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 forest at night in dark inky blue with tall trees, and a glowing figure amongst the bases with a star shining down. Created by Vladislav Pantic.

Sneaky Spook

Tricky hadn’t spent a night in the forest for a couple of years, and especially not this part. She knew her home terrain well, but although she’d visited and passed through this area many times, it wasn’t as familiar to her. There were trees here that were new to her and some variant species. They weren’t the new purple and blue trees, but they were loftier and wider in trunk and had a hardened energy she’d not come across before. They towered over the other trees, their bark giving off a red tint.

From her place up in the canopy of a sprawling oak that had been a young sapling at the time of the shift, she took in these giants. She knew they had existed before the shift and clearly some of these had survived it; you didn’t grow that big in just two hundred years – well not if you were a tree. Although maybe they had accelerated growth, Tricky didn’t know. She pondered the possibilities from her nook in the branches, distracting her mind from the reason she was up here in the first place.

A light caught her eye. She thought it was a firefly. They were making a comeback in these parts. They liked the warmer climes up here in Ferriston; not that it got very cold anywhere really, but a couple of degrees affected these species. But she realised she was wrong as she watched the light grow and a figure appear.

It wasn’t a tree sprite – at least not one she’d ever experienced. It had no defined features, just an outline: a human outline, with head and arms and an impression of legs. It seemed to be moving through the trees as though looking for something.

Tricky took a breath and reached out her own energy to it, to try and decipher who or what it was. She felt a tingling at the base of her spine that ran up to her neck. It left her feeling cold. Whatever this was, it wasn’t good.

She shifted her position, so she could keep it in view. It stopped around the base of the tree opposite, one of the giant reds as Tricky liked to think of them. It stayed hovering there. She couldn’t work out what it was doing. Was it waiting for someone or something? There was no indication in its ethereal state.

She leaned over the bough she was resting on, and tried to get a closer look. A few leaves and a bit of bark loosened, falling to the ground.

The second they landed the figure swept up into the air towards Tricky. She pulled herself back sharply but the sudden movement caught her off guard and she fell, landing heavily on the ground below.

The wind was knocked out of her and she struggled to take a breath, the bright light of the figure appearing in front of her, causing her eyes to water. She blinked rapidly and within the head of the energetic body that floated in front of her a face emerged. It was him; Dimitry Stanislav. He’d found her.

She scrabbled to her feet, but it was too late. She felt his dark energy wrap around her, pulling tight, binding her, and she was lifted off the ground before she could engage any protection. She’d be returned to that hell-hole below for another round of beatings and there was nothing she could do about it. 

Sunday 20 February 2022

Interview with New In Books

Here's an interview about Dead Lake and how the main character, Tricky, entered my life, and why I love writing her so much. Also find out more about what I read and my quirky writing habits. 

(click on the picture to go to the article)

Wednesday 16 February 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 239

This week's picture prompt is from a twitter writer friend. JLGentry, although at the current time he is taking a break from the platform. This is of his decking at his home in Connecticut, and he shared it for a themed picture-sharing day on twitter called #SundayPixLiminal. (click here for the meaning of Liminal)

Okay, so this went dark, and I liked it. It also went WAY long - 1,200+ words after editing - but I like it as it is, so I am breaking my old rules on this one. This might even get developed one day I like it so much! 

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.

The image shows reddish brown wooden planks as part of a deck, with some dry autumn leaves scattered on it. Taken by JLGentry


The rustling was the first thing I registered, then the wind on my face. Something batted across my cheek and I cracked an eye open a fraction. The light was searing, seeming to run right into the centre of my brain, like a lightning strike, awakening me to the throbbing that was my head.

I moved my arm, resting my palm on the surface. It was wood, but it didn’t smell like wood. It smelt like dried blood, or was that from my nose?

I could see a brownish red out of the slit of my eye. I dared to open it a touch more, I could see a pattern. It was the grain of the red-stained wood decking.

The jumble of memories didn’t want to form into anything cohesive, but there had definitely been some kind of party: a lot of people, in a house.

I felt something on my face and caught it with my hand. It crumbled against my fingers: an autumn leaf. It was then that I started to register the temperature. It was cold. I wasn’t conscious enough to shiver.

I attempted to move onto my side. It took too tries, but I managed it. I didn’t dare lift my head up. But I opened my other eye and saw the railings that ran round the wooden veranda and an expanse of land beyond. It was mostly lawn, with a few scattered trees. I remembered the house: people laughing, glasses clinking, and music.

I moved my tongue round my mouth. Something was sore. I brought my palm up to my cheek. My jaw was swollen and my cheekbone hurt. I’d been hit. But by who?

I tried to recall, but my mind seemed foggy. I could only get a few snatches, nothing consistent: the odd face, some kind of fumbling body on top of me. It’s then I realised it wasn’t just my face that was sore. I glanced down at myself. I had clothes on, but they were dishevelled, and my skirt was the wrong way round. I ran a hand along my hip and leg. My underpants were still on – or had been put back on. I couldn’t be sure. I had to get up to figure out where I was and what had happened.

I knew trying to get upright would be difficult. For a second all thoughts stopped as bile rose into my mouth and I lurched onto my feet and hung over the railing, ready to let it all go. But nothing came. I just coughed a little, my head banging. But as I was up on my feet, so I took advantage of the new perspective.

The house was quiet and shuttered. I staggered to the French windows that led out onto the decking, but they were locked, blinds drawn. I frowned and made my way down the steps off the veranda, walking round the property. Everything was closed up, all blinds drawn and some external shutters. It was a large place and when I arrived at the front, the driveway was empty and the front door locked.

Had I been dumped here? Was this where the party had been? My mind still wouldn’t give up any answers, but either way I was stranded.

I walked to the road. It was rural, I could only see woods and forest. The road disappeared up over a hill in either direction. Left or right? I didn’t know. Maybe I would be better off staying, try and find a way into the house. Maybe there was a phone and I could call someone.

I tried the front door again, but it was just as locked as it had been a few seconds ago. I took my time circling the house again. One at the back didn’t look straight. I checked and realised it was one of those window that could tilt as well as open. It was tilted back a crack. I pushed it at the top and it opened some more. It was one of a pair. I could just get my hand in to its neighbour. I turned the handle so it swung inward. I pulled myself up and inside. It was a bedroom and it was empty of personal belongings. Was this an empty house?

I went out into the corridor and walked into what I thought must be the living room. Everything was dark due to all the blinds being drawn. There was a strange smell, a familiar smell. I had smelt it outside on the decking when I’d come too: dried blood.

I followed the wall over to one of the windows and pull one of the blinds at the bottom. It flipped up, rolling into itself.

And then I turned and saw the carnage; bodies everywhere; naked male bodies, bloody and beaten.

I froze and listened; nothing. I moved over to one of them on the sofa. Their eyes were shut; they could be sleeping. I put my finger to their neck. The flesh was cold. I couldn’t find a pulse.

I looked more closely at their face. Did I know them? I couldn’t recall having seen them before, and when I walked round the others, taking my time, I didn’t recognise them either – all eight of them.

This time I really did need to throw up. I rushed out of the room, hand over my mouth and tried several doors before finding the bathroom. I managed to get the toilet seat up in time to expel whatever it was I had consumed the night before.

I went to the sink to wash my face. There was a mirror above it. And when I saw my face, I knew.

It had been me; the fight had been over me. I had only known one of them – the one I had come with – but they weren’t among the bodies. They were gone. They must have been the one that had shuttered and locked up everything. But why had they left me here? Did they think I was dead too?

I also knew where I was. I had to get out of here too, before the owners came back. They could arrive at any time.

I went back into the living room and pulled the blind back down, leaving it the way it had been found. I climbed back out the window and closed it behind me. I ran out to the road and turned right, up the hill as quickly as I could, using the trees that came up to the edge of the road as camouflage. There would be a strip of shops soon. I would use a pay phone there. He’d come and fetch me. He had to if he wanted me to keep my mouth shut.

Monday 14 February 2022

Wednesday 9 February 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 238

This week's picture prompt is from author Lisa Shambrook, taken of an old mirror in her father's barn. 

This had to be another Tricky tale, I knew it as soon as I saw it. Exploring some characters & themes for the third book in the series. The last Tricky exploration was Week 237

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 part of a mirror set into a wooden lintel lying on the ground. Taken by Lisa Shambrook.

Man of Mirrors

When Annie had called him the Man of Mirrors Tricky had thought it referred to his vanity, and the way he liked to ponce about in his vintage top hat and tails. She didn’t doubt that he had a mirror or two to primp and poke at himself, but the problem was nasty people could try all they might to be good looking – and maybe on the face of it (pun intended) they were – but if you were ugly on the inside it always showed through. Stanislav was no exception.

But it turned out the mirrors didn’t allude to his penchant for self gratification in his reflection, it related to how bloody adept he was at using them to open time bubbles and portals to other places.

It hadn’t been something Tricky had expected. She was only just beginning to understand how he had managed to learn such skill. She had no idea that people of her ilk taught the ungifted, but it didn’t surprise her that it would be someone like Gandalf; he taught anyone anything, bugger the consequences. That’s how such craft got into the wrong hands, that and choosing to walk the darker path.

It didn’t half irk her though. Stanislav was a conniving bastard at the best of times, but with this kind of gift, it made him downright dangerous. And it meant she had to up her game too. She’d never had it tested like this before; no one other than her mother could match her – not even Gandalf , or Douglas Bottle as he was properly named. So how the hell had Stanislav managed to run rings round her? Or was he not alone? Was there someone else helping him? Then it dawned on her who that might be. It made sense. He had gifts beyond all of them.

For the first time in all of this, Tricky felt truly frightened. She’d had moments, like down there underground, when she hadn’t been quite sure she’d see daylight again, but this was something else. If they combined their efforts they could do more than just take over the landmass, they could control everyone and everything in it. In effect the people would become their prisoners. And having seen what they did to their prisoners, Tricky didn’t like that at all – oh no, not one little bit.

Tricky stood up in the barn she’d found to sleep in and brushed the hay off her clothes. She’d seen an old mirror near the entrance and had an idea. It was still set into the wood lintel that had once sat on a dresser. It didn’t give much reflection in the nightlight, but she wasn’t here to look at herself.

She shuffled about in her underskirts and pulled out the items she desired. The germwort and creasy had been easy to replace, they were abundant everywhere, but it had taken her a while to find the obsidian again. She was just glad she’d dropped it like Dufray had done, otherwise all of this would be pointless, including his sacrifice.

She placed them in her palm and gently squeezed. She heard the mirror crack, even though there was no mark, and the surface rippled like a lake. She squatted down and tested it with her hand. Yes, it had opened. She put her face into the surface. It was like putting your face into a bowl of water, except you could breathe on the other side.

She blinked her eyes and looked around. Yes, this was what she was looking for. She pushed the rest of her body through, until she clambered out the other side. It was like a white room with no doors.

She shuffled around in her skirts again, this time higher up. She didn’t think they’d found it when they’d taken her; she was sure it was still there. Then she felt the hard edge and pulled it out: A small palm-sized mirror. She was grateful to Nathan for giving it to her. He knew more about the things she needed that she had expected; enchanted glass always came in handy.

She held it up, facing it over her shoulder, and looked side on into it. She could just about see it; a faint colour round the edges. Then she moved it a fraction and the picture filled the mirror. There he was in Ferriston woods. He’d made his way back. You couldn’t miss that dumb hat of his. Stanislav might think he was able to outwit Tricky, but there was one crucial thing he seemed to miss, her affinity with trees. Not only could she place exactly where he was, she knew the trees he had just passed personally. Tricky smiled. 

Thursday 3 February 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 237

This week's picture prompt was created by Softyrider62, a Swedish digital artist on DeviantArt. He has some incredible art, very science fiction influenced. He calls this Cocoon Worlds. 

I've gone a bit over this week, but I can't edit it anymore without it losing its essense. It's another Tricky short, exploring some ideas. It's been a few weeks since she's featured. The last time was back in Week 231.

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 surreal image of two giant oval shapes with what look like worlds inside them - clouds, birds, sky. Sitting in a desert landscape with the tiny figure of a person looking at them. Created by Softrider62 on DeviantArt

Spying on a spy

Tricky didn’t often entertain the notion of existence, it seemed a bit poncey and philosophical, something Nathan would do, but not Tricky, oh no. She was too busy being IN existence, rather than fussing about the way and what of it. But this was here in front of her and gave her pause for thought.

She wasn’t quite sure how she’d got here. She’d followed that Stanislav through into what she thought was another time. She was still baffled how someone like him even knew such things existed. She’d yet to work that out, although she was gathering her suspicions. He was one of those that liked to be all mysterious – or pretend to be. He thought of himself as Russian, being as that was his ancestry. Russia had been a particularly large area of land they called a country back before the shift had dissolved them all. Apparently people from there were all dark and dazzling and reckoned themselves. At least Stanislav did.

Him and his stupid old world costumes; he thought he could stun her and mess with her, but he didn’t fool her, she knew what he was – an arse. And unfortunately she’d met plenty of those.

But did she dare admit that he might have managed to catch her off guard? Tricky wasn’t one to admit anyone getting the better of her, but this place – if it was a place – was something she had yet to understand.

They were definitely other times, but they were encased in egg shaped bubbles. But she always thought times ran parallel or linked into other times, not separate units.

They were also transparent.

Tricky peered into one, and could clearly see the world inside: sky, bird life, clouds, landscape. Yep, they were other times. But it was like looking through one of her crystal spyglasses. Was that it? Was that what these were? Were these Stanislav’s? Had Tricky tripped into one of his stashes?

But these were huge, bigger than life size. How was that possible?

She stepped up to one and touched it. Yes, it was solid. She rested her palm on it and brought the nasty piece of work to mind; his ridiculous top hat and his pompous tails, let alone that horrible walking stick. He didn’t use it for walking, oh no, he’d found another use for that as she’d found out when they had held her in those tunnels. Ugh, how she hated him!

The egg responded and the world inside swirled, tinting everything red to reflect her anger. And there he was bigger than life with that grubby little attempt at a beard on his chin, the tuft of it sticking out like a twat.

He was laughing, but she couldn’t see at what. It was hard to see him properly, being that he was blown up to about ten times his normal size. How did he use these things? If they were his things.

Then she heard the laughter and spun round. There he was just a few feet away. She glanced back at the egg shaped crystal glass, which had returned to its original image. Had it just been some kind of reflection? She didn’t know.

‘Clever lady, you worked it out.’ His patronising tones irked her.

‘Doesn’t take much to get the better of you.’ She grinned a fake smile at him.

‘But what do you plan to do now we are here?’

‘That’s for me to know and you to find out.’

‘Is it now? I think not.’ He laughed again, spun and vanished.

Shit! How the hell did he do that so fast?

Tricky took a breath and blew out hard, snapping her fingers. She caught a trace of his energy before it passed through. She reached out her own to coil round it, gathering it in. She took another breath and hummed. It was enough to enlarge it. She shivered as it covered her; its turquoise colouring giving her a chill.

Then she took out a piece of obsidian, germwort and creasy, and placed them one by one in her palm. She closed her fingers over them. They crackled, and the air moved around her. She gently blew across her fist and the sound increased until she saw a split in the air. She moved her body sideways against it and blew on her knuckles again, feeling it give, letting her through into bright sunlight.

She saw a road in front of her. It was familiar. She’d run down it not long ago. Then it had been to get away from him, now she needed to catch him.

But if she knew where she was, it wouldn’t take much to know where he was.

It was time to get stealthy – and tricky. Oh yes, she’d show him a whole new meaning to her name.