Monday 27 February 2023

Review: If it Bleeds, Stephen King

If It BleedsIf It Bleeds by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There was a time I'd give everything Stephen King wrote a 5 star, but recent years have felt a bit hit and miss. It's the same with this collection.

I sometimes get the feeling he's emptying his draws of shorts he's written years ago & used as inspiration for novels. I felt this with Mr Harrigan's Phone, as though I'd read it somewhere else; similar characters maybe or story setting. I enjoyed it but it felt like a ghost of another.

If It Bleeds is a spin off of the Mr Mercedes Series, following what happened to Holly Gibney after The Outsider. It was again good as in some ways it explained The Outsider, which for me wasn't one of his best books. It was also a character I didn't really engage with, although this time I felt we got to know her better.

The Life of Chuck was the most bizarre of all of them. A three part sort of drama that kind of interlinked but not completely for my liking. I like bizarre but it didn't work for me. It reminded me of Hearts In Atlantis with 3 stories that almost interlink.

And the last, Rat, was a typical writer focused tale from Stephen, enjoyable but not new. Maybe when you've written a much as he has it's hard to create new.

I am still a Constant Reader & I still love his writing & the way he developes characters & gets me hooked. I hope the next one will be a rave.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 283

This week's picture prompt was created by French digital artist Cyril Rolando. They call this one Nine Lives. They have made some incredible pieces and some have been seen on Mid-Week Flash before a couple of times: recently on Week 278 and Week85.

This week, I delved into Tricky's world after weeks of starving myself from her world. It was a delight! But I don't feel this will add anything to the current storyline, but it throws up ideas for another story line and maybe series in her world. Last time I wrote about Tricky was Week 273

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 drawing of a black cat curled up on a bed with a string tied to its tail that is attached to various clocks: a pocketwatch, a wrist watch, a sun dial, a digital clock with cable & plug, a digital stopwatch and an egg timer. Created by Cyril Rolando

A cat in time

‘But they’re attached to his tail?’

‘Yes, I have to do that otherwise he’ll get lost and never find his way back to our time.’

‘But he can’t tell time; he’s a cat!’

Tricky eyed this young upstart who clearly thought he knew more than she did.

‘You really don’t know much about cats, do you?’

‘Well, I assume—’

‘Never assume anything,’ Tricky interrupted, ‘about anyone or anything. First rule is get informed, talk to those that know – get yourself a cat and find out exactly how intelligent they really are, and how helpful they can be to you.’

‘Yes, but they’re a feline; they don’t have the mental capacity of us humans.’

Tricky burst out laughing, shocking the poor boy into silence and wiping the smugness off his face.

‘Oh that’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all week. You’d like to believe that, wouldn’t you? Not done much studying about what happened before The Shift, have you? I suggest you go and do that, and then maybe get yourself a cat, or spend some time with Nathan, and find out exactly just how far down the evolutionary scale of “intelligence” we really are.’ Tricky was still giggling to herself. ‘Oh my, you youngsters may have talent but it seems to deprive you of the reality that you are not superior to anything, that in fact everything is symbiotic. You need to learn to work together WITH everything, that it complements you and your abilities, that it’s not there for you to use how it suits you.’

Her young student looked duly chastised. She wondered if she’d been overly harsh.

‘You have exceptional abilities in time manipulation. To be honest, I’ve not met another who can do what you can, besides myself—’

‘There’s Gandalf,’ the naïve one butted in.

‘His name is Douglas Bottle.’ Tricky was pleased to see that raised a smirk. ‘And yes, he can do what we can do. But beware, do not engage him in any way, should you come across him. He is out for his own gains and to take from others.’

‘So he’s still out there.’

‘I assume so.’ The boy opened his mouth to speak. ‘Yes, I know, I just told you not to assume, but in this instance I can’t glean any information from anywhere that can tell me otherwise.’

‘He’s not here in this time, then?’

Tricky pulled a face. ‘I can’t be sure. I don’t think so, but I haven’t spent a lot of time focused on finding him – not without reason. The rest of his cohorts are gone, so he’d be foolish to return.’

‘But there’s a chance we could come across him in another time.’

Tricky didn’t want to consider that, but it had to be faced. ‘Yes, we could. So again, I advise caution in everything you do.’

She felt he’d understood the seriousness of the situation and resumed the lesson.

‘Okay, so as you can see various clocks run in different ways due to the time dilation when he follows me through portals, hence the selection. They give Rasputin the opportunity to track where, and more importantly, when he is for his return. But as you know there are no guarantees, and although clocks can be useful, the best way to judge is looking at landscape. The trees will always know too. How you getting on with engaging them?’

‘I don’t have your knack yet, Tricky. One of the oaks gave me a bit of a shake down the other day. I’m not sure what I did wrong.’

Tricky suspected he wasn’t polite or grateful enough. Many of his generation seemed to be missing that particular gene, and unlike humans, trees didn’t change their attitudes or culture, they remained fast and true.

‘I’ll go through it again with you later. First I wanted to see how far you got with your assignment, did you manage to create a portal?’ She knew he had, because he hadn’t sealed it off properly, but she wanted him to tell her in his own words.



Wednesday 15 February 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 282

This week's picture prompt is from Richard of Hollins over on twitter - although he is more often found on Mastodon now. He takes some great pictures on his dog walk, worth a follow if you are on either place. 

It took me a while to find the ending for this one, but I think it works. 

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 woodland floor covered in decaying twigs and leaves, among it a naked plastic doll lying on its back with its arms up and an empty ornate wooden drawer from a chest of drawers. Taken by Richard of Hollins, @meer_salt


She tucked it in tight making sure the blankets weren’t lumpy underneath. The drawer was the perfect size to keep it in, and she pushed it closed, hoping that it would be okay in there. It had to be; she didn’t want to lose it too. It was hers, and nothing was going to take it from her.

She quickly cleaned up the small space she had created for herself in the den. There wasn’t much in here, just the little camping bed and the set of drawers she’d found. It had taken her all day to drag them here from the edge of the woods.

She would have to go and forage for some food soon, and top up her water; the little stream she’d found was perfect, but she had to be more careful this time. It was deep and fast.

She heard some twigs break outside and froze. They were looking for her. They didn’t think she could look after herself properly, but she could. She might be young, but she could fend for herself. She didn’t need that much, just shelter and some food.

There was another crunching sound. Oh god, they were out there, how was she going to get food now?

“Brady? You need to come out, honey.” Her mama.

 “No, I won’t. You aren’t having it!”

“Sweetie, you need to come home, your mama is worried sick.” Her dad.

Oh no, they were both here. Brady backed up into the den.

Their faces appeared in the opening.

“Brady, you can’t live here.” Her dad was looking around at her belongings.

“I can and I will.”

“But it won’t be good for you and the baby.” Her mum had her arms out. Brady resisted their warmth.

“You just want to take it away.”

“No, honey, we don’t. We want to help you and support you.” Her mum crept closer. She reached out a hand to Brady’s shoulder.

“Where is the baby, Brady?” Her dad was trying to be gentle but she could hear fear in his voice.

“It’s safe, where you can’t get it.”

Her parents glanced at each other. She knew that look; they weren’t happy. She backed up further feeling the edge of the bed against her calves.

“Just tell us where it is, sweetie. Then we can all go home.”

Brady could feel tears prick her eyes. She didn’t want to go home. Home meant they’d be angry and shout at her.

Her dad edged closer to the chest of drawers, she rushed over and stood in front of it.

“Brady, let me take a look.” His tone wasn’t so sweet now.

“I don’t want you to.”

“We have to, honey.” Her mum’s voice was so soft, she just wanted to run into her mum’s arms but she wouldn’t.

She couldn’t help the tears now; they were streaming down her face. “We don’t need you. We’re fine. Please go away!”

“Brady, we can’t do that. We need to look after you both.” Her dad put his arm round her. She tried to remain strong, but she couldn’t. It was too much. She cried into his shoulder.

Her mum joined him and he moved her into her mother’s arms. As soon as she was in them, he pulled all the drawers out. In the bottom one he found it.

“This is your Jemima doll. Where’s the baby, Brady?” The fear in his voice was palpable.

Brady couldn’t speak. She couldn’t say the words. They were going to be so mad.

Her mum lifted her chin up off her shoulder. “Honey, you need to tell us, so that we can all go home.”

“You are going to be so mad at me!”

“No, sweetie, we want to take care of you.” Her dad joined her mum and put his arm round her. “But we can’t do that until we have the baby too. Tell us where to look.”

“It didn’t fit in the drawer, so I put it in a basket. But when I was at the stream the basket fell into the water and it floated away. I couldn’t catch it.”

Her parents gave each other that look again. She knew they were going to start shouting any minute.

“How long ago was this, Brady?”

“It was last night, mama.”

They stared at each other. They looked scared, but they didn’t shout, not at her or each other.

“Come on honey, let’s go home.”

“Do you think it’s okay, mama? Do you think someone has found it, like they found baby moses?”

Her mum stared at her dad. “I don’t know, Brady, maybe.”

“Let’s get home, then we can make some phone calls and find out.” Her dad pushed through the trees ahead in a hurry.

Brady was just glad they weren’t shouting at her.

Tuesday 14 February 2023

Dead Lake is FREE this week! Grab it now!

Happy Valentine's Day!

A treat for my readers: Dead Lake, the first in Tricky's Tales series, is #Free until midnight Thursday.

Download it now!
(click on the picture below)

Sometimes it pays to be tricky

Damn and blast! That rancid piece of excrement, Carter, has had her ransacked out of Clancy!

Tricky returns to her cottage to find it turned upside down. An action that means she’s got three days to leave the district or face punishment. Randolf Carter, head of the district, is spreading lies and suspicion about her kind, making life difficult. But it wasn’t just an ordinary ransacking – they were searching for something.

Using her gifts, Tricky traces the energy left by the men and spies another creature’s energy among it: a jackdaw. Swift and wily, it’s pinched her precious gemstone, a piece of black obsidian. But at whose bidding? Communicating with birds is a rare ability and she knows all who possess it.

Tricky wants her stone back, but coming up against people like Carter won’t be easy, especially when he’s got one of her kind in his employ. But she’ll handle it, oh yes she will. She'll just have to be careful and a little bit tricky. Good thing she is then, isn’t it?

Adept at working with energy and time as well as communicating with trees, Tricky is lured into something bigger than ownership of a gemstone, and finds out that sometimes it pays to be a little bit tricky.

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.

Thursday 9 February 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 281

This week's photo prompt is from Steve Hutch aka CdLCreative, an English photographer who shared it for the #SundayPixBlue them on Twitter. He said, "Blue Door and rusty bolt, Dreamland, Margate." a place on the coast of England. 

I've ran way over with this one, but the story couldn't be reduced any further. it came out 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.

Part of a worn, chipped and scratched up wooden blue door with a gold handle at the bottom and a completely rusted up bolt above it. Slightly above that is a tiny opening from where there was another lock at some point. Taken by Steve  Hutch from CdL Creative


Erica climbed the stone stairs up to the apartment. She’d never known a working elevator in the building even though she’d been raised here, and years away hadn’t improved things. She approached the old apartment. The paint on the front door was the same, just more chipped and worn. She banged on it – there’d never been a bell or a knocker.

She heard the heavy footsteps of her mother and it opened a crack.

“Hi, Mum.”

“Oh Erica, you came. Good.”

Her mother gave her a half hug. No matter how much time had passed she hadn’t grown any warmer. She looked baggier in the face and scrawnier, but those hard dark eyes hadn’t softened.

When Erica stepped inside it was like going back in time; nothing had changed. It even smelled the same, although now there was an underlying tone of decay.

“Where is he?”

“You know where.”

The sick knot of dread that had been in her stomach since her mother had called, twisted a little bit tighter.

She walked in through the lounge, (pristine, but worn) and through the kitchen to the blue door.  It looked no different from when she used to be pushed through it. Maybe some more scratches had appeared and the bolt was more rusted. It reminded her why she’d fled this place, but she wouldn’t let it intimidate her anymore.

She yanked the rusted bolt and, despite its decrepit state, it let out a resistant screech. She opened the door and peered into the dark pantry, instinctively reaching for the frayed light string. A bare, weak bulb attempted to illuminate the space. It was enough for Erica to see her father sitting there in his underwear.

“Dad, I sent you that phone so you could get out of here, not let her take it off you and keep abusing you.”

He blinked, and smiled at her. “But where was I going to go, love?”

“To me!”


In that moment Erica realised the decades of abuse from her mother had reduced him to a child-like state.

“Dad, you’re to come with me now!”

“Don’t be silly, she won’t let me.”

“I’m not giving you a choice. Go and get dressed and I’ll deal with her.”

Her dad stood up and she ushered him into her parent’s bedroom beyond the kitchen. She went back out to the living room and found her mother watching daytime television with a cup of tea.

“I’m taking Dad with me. You can’t keep doing this to him!”

“What? No! You can’t do that! You were meant to come and talk to him, stop these stupid thoughts of his!”

She stood up and stepped into Erica’s personal space in a threatening way, but Erica had been away from her long enough not to be cowed by her anymore – in fact she stepped forward causing her mother to take a step back.

“They’re not stupid thoughts; he’s a full grown man that can make his own decisions. He’s my dad and I’m sick of you abusing him, like you did with us when we were kids. You drove my brother into the grave; you’re not taking my father!”

Her mother flinched at Erica’s words, but it didn’t deter her.

“You always were a nasty, evil child. I knew that the second you were born. You deserved to be shut away, just like him.”

Her vicious words no longer had an impact on Erica.

“You’re messed up in the head. I’m happy I got away when I did, and now I’m here to take my father.”

Her dad hovered in the hallway, having snuck through. Her mother rushed to him, grabbing and pushing him back into the living room.

“You’re not having him! He’s not going anywhere!”

Erica looked on in horrified amusement. She knew her mother would put up a fight, but she wasn’t about to play tug of war with her dad.

“I think Dad can make up his own mind. Dad, do you want to come with me or not? Now’s your chance.”

“I … I erm … I …”

“See? He doesn’t,” her mother said in a smug tone.

“I do,” he said.

Her mother froze for a second, stunned, and he quickly stepped away towards Erica, who was closer to the hallway.

“You can’t go! You can’t leave me!” she screamed at him.

“I can and I will!”

Erica had never heard her father stand up to her mother before, it made her heart soar.

He rushed towards Erica. Her mother’s scream escalating as she ran towards him, her fists raised, planning to bring them down on his back. Erica took a swift step forward and grabbed her mother’s wrists, startling her and catching her off balance. Erica pushed, sending her mother flying backwards into the room and onto the sofa, where she sprawled inelegantly. Erica took the opportunity.

“Come on, Dad, let’s go.” Erica walked quickly into the hallway and opened the front door,

Her father glanced at her mother for a second, indecisive, then turned and rushed after her, slamming the door behind him.

They hurried down the stairs, fearful of being chased, but there was no sound of the door opening or screams following them. When they got into her car, they sat for a few seconds, out of breath, stunned they had made it, but Erica didn’t waste time and started the engine, pulling away from the kerb to the new life they would forge together.

Friday 3 February 2023

Review: Wardings by Kev Harrison

WardingWarding by Kev Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this short story from Kev Harrison. It's a supernatural tale relating to witchcraft and the occult, throwing in demon possession and witch hunters too, with nice ties to rituals and folklore. It's packs a scary punch too. I read it over three nights, worried that it would give me nightmares, but fortunately I slept like the dead - although in this book that might not be so restful. It gives beating hearts a whole new perspective, especially if black.

Grab it if you dare.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 280

This week's picture comes from Andy Poplar, who makes these incredible bottles, at Vinegar & Brown Paper - do have a look, there are loads of others, also household bottles. Brilliant idea. I can't find this pic on his site, but I suspect it used to be there as it dates back to 2017 (when it was first shared), and the page people link to is not found on his company site. I wonder if he sold this as a print as he does some of them. I love the colour contrast and the reflection in this one. 

This one went dark - like the bottle. 

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 brown glass apothecary bottle with a white etched on label that says Regret, (corrosive). There is a reflection of a bright glass conservatory roof which gives it a lightness. It is on a shelf with a blue wall behind. Take by Andy Poplar who makes them for his company Vinegar & Brown Paper.


Debbie popped the cork on the funny shaped bottle of port and poured another large one into the glass. Her buzz was beginning to fade and she needed to refresh it. She gulped down half the glass and poured more in.

She was sick of being the one that made all the compromises. She did all the things he wanted to do, but he never did the things she wanted to do.

‘I’m not interested in the things you’re into,’ he would reply. ‘I don’t care about the things you care about.’ 

So why the fuck am I with you? she would think to herself. And indeed, she did wonder why she kept on tolerating it. Was it hope that one day he would turn into the lover she’d thought he was going to be? Was it the safety he’d provided? A roof over her head, a warm bed, and no expectations – emotional or physical. But the longer it went on the more resentful she felt, and the more angry she’d become.

Debbie hadn’t been angry when she’d met him. She’d been carefree and living her own life, enjoying her independence. But he’d been fun and sociable, and she felt comfortable with him, which had drawn her on. And she’d hoped that maybe this would be the one.

And he sort of had been for a while.

Then he’d started to do more and more of his own thing, and caring less and less if she joined him. Eventually they were living separate lives and just sharing a house. And the longer it had gone on, the more frustrated she’d become. And the more she’d tried to talk to him about it, the more he had stonewalled her.

She’d fly into rages and he’d shut down and fuck off out the front door, saying, ‘I’ll be back later when you’ve sorted yourself out.’

She’d been so furious she’d sometimes fucked off herself, making sure she wasn’t back until after he was – but he didn’t care; he’d be in bed snoring his head off like any other night and pretend the next day like nothing had happened.

And recently he’d been particularly belligerent and offhand, treating her with disrespect and distain, contempt in every eye roll and sigh. She’d ranted a few times at him already this week.

Debbie downed the last of her drink, drowning the spark of rage that tried to ignite, dowsing it with regret. It felt like heartburn – quelling one fire and creating another. She sat up and pushed her fingers against her diaphragm as though that might cure the unpleasant sensation.

She should have left years ago. It hadn’t been good staying, not for her or for him. They’d both tolerated more than they should. She wasn’t quite sure why. Hope maybe, or having already put so much time in – neither of them were quitters.

But they should have been, oh how they should have been.

She glanced over at him still sitting at the dining table. His eyes had glazed over, but the lids hadn’t shut. His head turned slightly as though watching telly, but he wasn’t. His mouth had dropped open too, as though amazed at something on the screen. It had opened when he’d gasped in reaction to the fork being shoved into his throat.

He’d uttered those dreadful words in such a condescending tone, she’d just lost it.

‘You are so fucking irritating; you turn everything into an argument, so tiresome. I just wish for once I could eat my fucking dinner in peace!’

A dinner she had cooked; a dinner she’d bought the ingredients for; a dinner she would clean up after, as though he was the only one working in this household.

It had been the final straw – or in this case, fork.

She popped the little cork on the bottle and poured another large glassful – not that she needed it. What she needed was a plan. What was she going to do? Disappear or call the police? She’d be on the run for the rest of her life. If she confessed how long would she be in prison for? Is there any way she could make them believe it was an accident? She was drunk and hadn’t called for an ambulance straight away … she could say it was shock.

Fuck. She took another swig of port and glanced at him.

‘Yeah, you get the last laugh, too.’