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 became 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.