Thursday 30 March 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 288

This week's picture prompt is another of my own photos, this time from a Holiday Inn Express in Sloterdijk on the outskirts of Amsterdam, when attending the F1 race weekend at Zandvoort last year. I though it was very thought provoking. 

As my mind is turning to the next Tricky novel, I am using some of the prompts as ideas. The last Tricky tale was Week 286

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.

Looking down a hotel corridor, with all doors cream and the frames royal blue, with a grey carpet with a blue outlined 3D box pattern on them. Taken in the Holiday Inn in Amsterdam by Miranda Boers


Tricky ran down the corridor, trying to ignore all the strange geometric shapes; that was the trouble with messing about with time, optical illusions could crop up and distract you. She didn’t like the look of that 3D pattern one little bit; it made her eyes go all twitchy and squiffy.

Which one was the right bloody door? All these others were just there for aesthetic value she was sure. She needed to find the right one so she could divert the bloated hippy from following her. She was running out of dimensions to move through.

She tried not to scoff at herself; running out of dimensions? As if! You couldn’t run out of something that was infinite, oh no. And they were, she knew that. But if she kept going, getting back would be tricky – and she didn’t like that. The only thing that could be tricky was her.

She heard a rendering crack behind her, and knew it was only a matter of seconds before he’d see her. Damn!

She rushed to a door on her left and opened it. Some kind of bedroom was on the other side, but she only gave it a cursory glance before shutting the door behind her and resting against it as she caught her breath. She kept her breathing as still as possible as she listened. An oaf like him couldn’t be that quiet, though she was sure he was trying.

Someone went by – in fact more than one someone. He was with a group. There were whispers but she couldn’t work out what they were saying; they moved past too quickly. She waited. She heard a couple of bangs and then another crack. He’d found the door she was looking for; good.

“Excuse me, can I help?”

A voice behind her made Tricky jump.

“Oh I’m so sorry deary, did I interrupt you?” She looked the gent up and down, standing as he was with a towel wrapped round his hips, and another over his shoulders. He wasn’t especially tall, or toned as she normally liked them, but fresh out of the shower was not to be sniffed at.

“Are you housekeeping?”

“Am I what? Oh no, I don’t think so deary, just catching my breath and then I’ll be out of your hair.”

“Is someone chasing you?”

Tricky wasn’t one for sharing with strangers, but it’s not like it would make any difference here.

“You could say that, but don’t worry I think he’s gone.”

“Do you want me to check for you?”

“That would be most kind.” Tricky didn’t pass up chivalry when it offered itself, even half-naked. He moved towards the door and she moved out of the way, but stayed close so she could inhale whatever scented ablutions he was using. They were rather nice.

He stepped out of the door, unphased in his undress, and looked both ways, then stepped back in and closed the door again.

“No one out there now. I couldn’t hear anyone either.”

“Thank you. I don’t know how I could repay you, I’m sure.” She gave him her best come-on smile. The buffoon had gone and taken his minions with him, so she had time to play.

But the gentleman tightened his waist towel and averted his eyes. A shy one.

“It’s no problem, but I need you to go now so I can get dressed,” he said, as he shuffled past her and back into the room.

“Oh sorry, of course deary, but thanks again.”

Tricky flashed a smile at him and returned to the corridor, closing the door gently behind her.

So there were people behind these doors. What was this place? How many other men were there in a state of undress? But she could ponder that another day, now she needed to get moving. It wouldn’t be long before her assailant would suss out she was still here. She went back down the way she had come and found the place he had created his fissure into this dimension. Tracing energy was her thing and it hung in the air as though it was something solid right at that particular spot.

She took her obsidian, with the germwort wrapped round it and found a grain of creasy in her other pocket. She thrust them at the energy, squashing them together, and another crack filled the air, while a split appeared. She peered through it. Yes, it was the same field she had crossed on the way here.

She climbed through, and snapped her fingers on the other side to close it. But rather than leave it at that as she normally would, Tricky took in several rapid breaths and then breathed at the place it had been. She felt the energy change, the air shifting as it fell back in place. He’d have trouble finding his way back now. Good.

And with that she scurried away, back across the field, this time heading for a tree she knew would lead her into a forest just one dimension away from the landmass.

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian GrayThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book because I am going to see a dance production based off it. I haven't ever read any of Oscar Wilde's books, but I now understand why he became such a notable writer.

It took me a while to get used to the style, but as Wilde was a friend of Conan Doyle, and having read some of Doyle's Sherlock novels, it didn't take me long to grasp the flow of the writing and the use of the terminology from that era.

There is so much in this book, far more than the story of Dorian Gray, which in itself is a complex diatribe on vanity, aging, youth, and exploring what it is to push moral boundaries. Wilde uses this book as a platform to speak on many topics about life, society and culture. I do understand why people of that era might feel that this book denoted homosexual influences, but by today's standards all I read were infactuations with people, their gender being irrelevant. Gentleman in rich society in those times spent a great deal of time socialising and hanging around in their clubs. At no point in this book was any detail honestly glimpsed as to anything that actually went on behind closed doors. In fact, even the immorality of Dorian Gray was suggested and described in such a way that just a sense of it was given and no actual details. But it seemed back then that just spending time in 'the wrong sorts of places, with the wrong sorts of people' was enough to get your branded as a bad person and shunned by their society.

And that is exactly Wilde's point I feel: The fragility of the rich society's ego, and the hypocrisy - and I feel that was probably why he was vilified; those people didn't like it being revealed.

Wilde's use of words through the characters, especially Lord Henry, is rich and descriptive and occasionally rambling - but even in the ramble there is value to his words and observations.

The book as a story about Dorian Gray, a young, extremely good looking rich gentleman, influenced by Lord Henry, whom he met while having a portrait painted by an artist who is infactuated by him, chose a path of excess to try and taste all that life offered and explore the darker side after finding the painting absorbed his sin and aging, is a horror story of sorts. Although the horror itself doesn't really take form until the middle of the book onwards as the character desends into angst, fear and paranoia about what is happening to him.

I thoroughly enjoyed the depth of both the story and the diatribe and observations on life by Wilde. There is a lot that is quotable. Definitely worth a read.

View all my reviews

Saturday 25 March 2023

Review: Strange Times by Victoria Pearson

Strange Times: Sinister Stories and Tangled TalesStrange Times: Sinister Stories and Tangled Tales by Victoria Pearson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a fan of Victoria Pearson's stories and collections, but this one is the best one so far. Some superb stories and tangled up fairy tales in this book.

Favourites are 'Blue and Green', which is a sci-fi dystopian tale about what might be our future if our planet dries up. ''Comfort and Protection' is another sci-fi where you really have to be careful what you pray for. 'It is Written' is a perfect new age, modern twist on Cinderella and what would happen if her fairy godmother was much younger. But the one that stood out the most for me was 'Terms and Conditions' which will make you wonder what you are really signing when you click through the accept button when buying something online. Really unique and dark - I especially liked the ticking of the clock - you have to read it to understand.

I could actually rave about them all individually, but those four were the stand out tales for me. And I also liked the micro poetry between stories.

There's so much to read and enjoy in this collection. I definitely recommend picking up a copy.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 22 March 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 287

This week's photo prompt is one of my own. This is a marble rolling pin that was my mother's. It's extremely good for pastry making, but very heavy. And using it one day it occurred to me that it would make a very good writing prompt, for several genres. although of course mine tends to go darker. 

Content warning on this one: domestic violence - but maybe not quite what you think. 

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 grey mottled marble rolling pin, with wooden handles, lying on a reed placemat on a wooden table in the sunshine. Photo take by Miranda Kate

Driven Nuts

She pushed the marble rolling pin back and forth faster and faster, the soft pastry spreading out further across the table. Lucy’s mind was no longer on what she was baking, but on the night before. She’d let him do it again. She couldn’t keep on tolerating this.

She didn’t need to touch her face or look in the mirror; she could feel the swollen, throbbing lip and the bruise round her right eye, which would be a lovely purple by now. She’d taken away several mirrors since she’d been in this marriage. She didn’t want to look at herself, and see the betrayal.

She thought she’d be stronger and be able to stand up for herself; she’d always promised herself she would after watching her mother go through it. But here she was preparing dinner, making everything from scratch because that was how he liked it, because that was what would keep him happy and placated so she didn’t risk another night like last night.

He wanted children but there was no way in the WORLD she was going to let that happen. She’d hidden her contraceptive pills under the floor in the spare room where they had decided to polish the floor boards rather than carpet. He still left for work every day, giving her the privacy to take them. He might call several times to make sure she was still there and doing the things he expected from her, but he couldn’t see her – unless he’d put secret cameras round the house.

She paused. Had he? He might have done it while she was out at the shops last week. But if that was the case he’d know a lot more and she wouldn’t be standing here now; she’d be in hospital instead … or dead, because he wouldn’t take her to hospital; people were there and they would see her and know. People weren’t stupid, not if they saw the state of her face.

But they didn’t see her face; he wasn’t stupid either. He wouldn’t be letting her out for the next few days. She was already locked in.

She continued rolling the pastry and then flipped it over the roller, lying it across the dish, carefully pushing it in. Then she placed the greaseproof paper over it and poured the dried peas in, ready to blind-bake the shell.

Lucy took out the ingredients for the filling, and checked the contents labels. It sparked an idea. Nuts. He was allergic. It was one of the reasons she had to make everything from scratch. But there were some in the house, they’d come in one of those ready-made-meal boxes. She’d shoved them at the back of the cupboard, thinking she might snack on them at some point.

She took them out. Cashews. If she ground them up finely they’d be inconspicuous in the quiche. Her mind was already thinking up responses if he noticed a different taste. Maybe a new spice she was trying. And if he was allergic, it would mean a hospital visit … or even … nope she wasn’t going to go there; she didn’t want to get her hopes up.

She took the pestle and mortar out and started grinding the nuts. It was methodical and helped reduce her anger. She glanced at the clock. He’d be home in an hour and a half.

Once the quiche was in the oven, she washed up, putting everything away, and buried the empty nut bag at the bottom of the kitchen bin so it wasn’t visible when opened.

Lucy heard the key in the lock and immediately felt sick, her whole body tensing in anticipation of the pretence that everything was normal. When he came into the kitchen and leaned in to kiss her, she responded as expected.

When they sat down to eat, he crooned over the quiche, excited to eat it. She mentioned she’d tried a new spice so it might taste a bit different, but he didn’t seem to care as he cut himself a huge piece.

Lucy took a mouthful and couldn’t taste any nuts. Good. She watched him wolf down several mouthfuls, but nothing happened. Maybe he’d lied.

Then he coughed, picking up his serviette to cover his mouth. Then coughed again and again, unable to stop, his eyes opening in alarm as he looked at her. His hand went to his throat and he tried to speak but couldn’t.

Lucy sat wide-eyed, watching him choke, feeling strangely numb.

He attempted to stand and even grab for her, but she pushed her chair back and he fell to the floor.

He got his phone out of his pocket and thrust it at her. He wanted her to call an ambulance. Lucy took the phone and did so.

By the time it arrived, he had been dead for at least ten minutes. They tried to resuscitate him, but it was too late. The paramedics looked at her face, but no one said anything, or questioned the cause of death, which was clearly a nut allergy.

Lucy feigned ignorance, claiming she didn’t know he was allergic. An easy mistake. Accidental death was written on the death certificate. She’d got away with it. She wished she’d thought it was before.

Wednesday 15 March 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 286

This week's picture prompt is all over the internet with no one credited for this specific image. I thought it had been altered, but it hasn't and might actually be a shot taken from the video on the creator's website. In 2006 artist Kimsooja, created an installation called To Breathe – A Mirror Woman at the Palacio de Cristal (The Glass Palace) in Parque del Retiro, Madrid. Originally built in the late 1880s, the greenhouse housed a collection of flora and fauna from the Philippines. Kimsooja transformed the Palacio de Cristal into a multisensory sound and light experience. A special translucent diffraction film was used to cover the windows to create an array of naturally occurring rainbows which in turn were reflected by a mirrored surface that covered the entire floor. Additionally, an audio recording of the artist breathing was played throughout the space to further enhance the experience. The exhibition is no longer running, but you can watch a video of it here

A perfect time to explore some of Tricky's future tales. The last Tricky tale was a couple of weeks back on Week 283

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 large empty victorian glass green house with sunlight shining through the windows creating rainbows all over the floor, due to a special translucent diffraction film which covered the windows to create an array of naturally occurring rainbows which were in turn were reflected by a mirrored surface that covered the entire floor. Created by artist Kimsoosje in 2006 for an exhibition at The Glass Palace in Parque del Retiro, Madrid

Palm Tree

“What the bloody hell is this?”

Tricky spoke out loud but knew he wasn’t here.

It looked like some kind of giant greenhouse, but she wasn’t convinced it was real. The strange wobbly rainbow light at the windows giving her a clue.

Where had he brought her to? The bloody overgrown pompous oaf!

She walked over to one of the glass walls, and put her hand on it. It was solid, but the light on the other side of it moved in an ethereal way that made her believe this contraption was suspended in some kind of energy pool.

Or was it? Was that foliage outside? Were there trees? What illusion was he trying to pull here? And they called her the tricky one!

She walked over to the middle of the … she hesitated to call it a room because it was so big – she even tapped the poles holding it up and they felt solid enough. She plonked herself down on the floor and crossed her legs.

She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath, imagining all that rainbow light filling her up. It felt powerful. Then she opened her arms and started to spin them in opposite directions, agitating the air, then when she felt it had reached a high enough pitch she brought her hands together fast and hard, the ensuing clap sounding like a whip crack and giving the desired effect; she heard glass shatter.

Tricky didn’t open her eyes, instead she repeated the motion, feeling her own bright yellow energy expand with the rainbow and when she brought her hands together the sound created a splash sending the energy out to all corners of the room. More glass broke and she felt it fall around her.

A breeze picked up and she opened her eyes to find one of the panels was completely gone and, as she had suspected, outside there was foliage, really dense and of plants that didn’t look familiar.

It was no longer about where she was, it was about when she was, because she’d never seen plants like this on the landmass.

Tricky climbed out and looked at the trunk of a tree that was smooth but yet divided into horizontal sections. When she looked up at the top of the tree it had a plume of large, long feather-like leaves. She’d never seen anything like it.

She laid her hands on it, and a warm bright yellowish green light rushed through her. She saw images of blue skies and colourful birds, and heat from the sun that she had never known. It felt marvellous. But there were no people in any of the images it sent her, and especially not her bloated hunter.

Now was the chance to get out of here. She thanked the strange tree for its help and energy and stepped away from the building into the undergrowth.

She pulled in as much of the energy around her as she could, simultaneously drawing in a breath and bringing up her own internal light, then she breathed out long and hard and started clapping her hands. She felt the air move around her. She reached into her pocket to her obsidian chips and picked a big one, then brought out a couple of grains of creasy. An image from a book she had read in her childhood popped into her mind, and she sprinkled the creasy onto the stone. A splitting sound revealed a large rip in the air in front of her, and a slither of moonlit bay appeared.

Not home yet, but it would do. She climbed through, clapping her hands hard on the other side to close it. Now let’s see if the puffed up git can follow me here, Tricky thought. She hoped to be safe for a little while.

Thursday 9 March 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 285

This week's picture prompt was taken by Alexa D Wilson over on twitter. It might seem like a strange choice, but to the horror writers mind it has a lot of intrigue. 

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 photo of red, worn and rusted spade handle with lots of brambles and foliage behind it. Taken by Alexa D Wilson.


The spade was still there after all these years. It was worn and rusted, but the red on the handle was still apparent. It wasn’t much good for digging anymore, but it didn’t need to be; it had done its job decades ago, and now just stood as a marker.

Daphne felt a prickle down her spine and wondered if he was here standing next to her. She often thought he might be: judging her, hating her, despising her. Like he did back then when he was alive. Now she was old and frail, she wouldn’t have been able to stand up to him like she had done that day. When she thought back, she was quite impressed with how calm she had been when dragging his body down to his beloved vegetable patch. It had taken most of the day to dig him in under the turnips, and it had done wonders for the quality of the produce. Even now she could still grow prize winning marrows in it.

Everyone had believed he’d run off, and she’d let them. The state he’d made of her face that day had helped the story as they thought he had disappeared in shame. Ha! Shame; she wished. The one thing he had never felt humility about was beating her. Some days she was sure he took pride in it.

She was just grateful none of their kids had been born. That’s not how most women should think, she knew that, but she couldn’t have subjected them to him. They’d been better off born into a more stable family.

She’d never bothered with men after that, or anyone really. She’d enjoyed just having the place to herself and her peace of mind back. It took a lifetime to recover from all that trauma, and some days she was sure her brain wasn’t quite right, her memories would get foggy and she had moments when she was sure he was going to walk through the door again at any minute.

That’s why she’d come down here to the bottom of the garden, to check the spade was still there, a headstone of sorts, and see that nothing had changed. He hadn’t risen from the dead. And she’d pull up a few carrots for her tea and return to the cottage.

Wednesday 1 March 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 284

This week's picture prompt is from Nancy Wallace. She created them and it's her own photo. I love them! Thought they were perfect for a prompt.  

A bit of fae life 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.

A selection of corks from bottles that have had their wire manipulated so they are turned into miniture chairs. Red, gold, white, black and crested tops make the seats look decorative. Created by Nancy Wallace.

Fairy Hour

“Bring that one over here, Frances will want that one.”

“What the gold, with the moon? I thought we were reserving that for Wendy. You know how much she loves the moon and spends hours star-gazing.”

“Oh yes, that’s right. She still thinks someone is going to come out of the cosmos and save her from her life.”

 “Her father is a nightmare though; I’d wish that too if I was her.”

“True. But Frances will want a regal chair. You know how she is, expecting to be entitled to the best.”

“What about the red one with the crest on? Can’t get more stately than that.”

“Oh yes, that’ll work, I’ll put it up here at the front. The black one is for Janet. It’ll match her goth look, and help her disappear, which she likes to do. I sometimes wonder why she comes if she isn’t going to be present.”

“I think despite being shy, she likes to be a part of things, like we all do. That yellow one with the arms is for Rachel. It gives her something to hold onto as she sits down, now she’s so frail.”

“Her ageing has progressed so quickly! I hadn’t expected that.”

“Yes, we’re all in for the same. No fae will escape it. It’s a firm reminder to seize the day and make your dreams a reality.”

“That’s not always easy to do though, being that we reside in the dream world of the others.”

“It doesn’t mean we can’t try; that’s what these meetings are about after all. The youngsters can sit on the corks. And the white ones are for us, the hosts. The rest can manage on what is left over.”

“Deirdre, are you sure? They might end up fighting over the gold ones. You know how the youth currently believe gold has some kind of special power.”

“Oh true. Maybe we should have them, then. I wish they did have some special power; we could use it to get out of this awful cellar and find a nice garden.”

“Indeed, we could! But as I said last time, when light breaks in from up yonder we need to go for it!”

“Yes, but it means the others are coming, so we have to hide. Such a conflict!”

“Do you really think they would notice us? They don’t believe we exist so why would they?”

“You say that but Bart got swiped by one of them when he tried. His loss was huge. He’d been one of the strongest leaders we’d had.”

“Prunella, if we don’t try soon we’re all going to lose our lives down here. The youth at least deserve a chance.”

“I know. Anyway, look they’re coming, it’s time for the meeting, so let’s see if we can come up with a plan this week.”