Sunday, 6 July 2014

Measuring Up

Light and Shade's latest Challenge inspired me with this.

Image courtesy of freeimages.co.uk

'So how long is it?'
'It's 183cm, hold the tape still, mummy.'
'And how high is it?'
'It's 74cm.  Mummy, please hold the tape still.  Miss said you need to hold tapes still for an accurate measurement.'
'Is this okay?'
'You're not holding it straight, mummy, and that affects the measurement.  Miss said you have to hold tapes straight to get an accurate measurement.'
'How about that?'
'Thank you, mummy.  Please measure 91.5cm to the centre and 15cm out from that point on each side.'

I sighed and carried on with the most accurately constructed cardboard box den ever.  

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

I Kept My Word

Here is my response to this Monday's Light and Shade Challenge.  I had the advantage of finding the quotation, but I didn't expect it to come out this way.  The quotation is:

"Tell them I came, and no one answered,

That I kept my word," he said.
- Walter de la Mare, The Listeners

'Tell them I kept my word,' he said
As the storm clouds gathered overhead
With the setting sun tainting them red

'Tell them I came, as was my right
But the locked Great Hall was shuttered tight
And the echoes mocked in the fading light

He rested his head on the deep grained wood
The sunset glowed on his travel stained hood
'Tell them I came as I said I would.'

'Tell them I travelled over the seas
Across the great rivers and under the trees
But I kept my word and I held the keys'

A raven cawed in a twiggy nest
The wind was rising in the west
'Tell them, say that I did my best.'

'I saw strange stars and stranger skies.'
But he listened in vain for the listeners sighs
'I kept my word, all else is lies.'

At the edge of the sky the thunder growled
And the rising wind wept soft then howled
At the dead Great Hall the traveller prowled

'I kept my oath and now am free
I no longer approach on bended knee.'
He opened his hand and dropped the key

It seemed like no stroke of luck or chance
That the heavens threw down their fiery lance
As he rode away with no backward glance.

He felt the heat hard on his back
The Great Hall flamed from the lightning's crack
But he still rode on down the weedy track.

I seriously recommend the original, and you can read it here

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Party Stains

Light and Shade Challenge 

Sian looked ruefully at the love of her life.  Wine was spilt on the precious cream carpet.  One of the curtains had pulled loose from a hook.  The fruit bowl had been scattered over the couch and make up had been ground into the wall paper.  Anyone could see it had been a heck of a party. 

"What are we going to tell the kids?"

Gerard Manly Hopkins

I am struggling with writing at the moment so I have taken this Friday's challenge from Light and Shade and made it a gym session.  I love Gerard Manly Hopkins, I feel like I am being smothered in fragrant marshmallow reading his work.  I've made my stab at the prompt trying to touch the richness of his description.  The quote is:  

When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush 
   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
And my take on it is:

In the dim ferny forest under the conifer stand I found the tiny curled nest with the unbelievable, child-paint-box-blue eggs solemn and still.  Untouched they lay amid the unfurling ferns and I untouching stole away.  Let the shadows hold their secret safe and soft as the birdsong echoed in the pine scented wood.  

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Prove It!

I know I could have done a lot more with this prompt from Light and Shade Challenge, but I couldn't help hearing the rhythm of this, so here it is, the response to the quotation, 'Prove It'.

A warning bell rings in my ears
You do your best to soothe it
You tell me that you'd die for me
I turn and tell you, 'Prove it'.

Impish

Another prompt from Light and Shade Challenge

Picture courtesy of Thomas Marlowe

"Don't worry about a thing." Trevor smiled with deep reassurance at the nervous store owner.  "The restoration will be completely sympathetic and we will be using authentic materials and techniques throughout.  It will look just like it was first built all those centuries ago."
"I was warned about the little imp figure." Mr Oliver had only recently bought the shop and was beginning to get unnerved by some of the unexplained happenings.  "Apparently if he isn't painted red bad things happen."
"Red is the authentic colour for a figure of that type." Trevor mentally added another £100 to the eventual bill.  "And we will, of course, be using the type of paint authentic to the period.  You would not believe some of the shoddy attempts we've seen.  People think it's find to go slapping modern gloss paint over medieval plasterwork.  It's a shame really."
"I'm not really bothered about the paint type."  Mr Oliver said faintly.  "As long as it looks a bit better.  Of course as it's in a conservation area I have to be a bit careful."
Internally Trevor sighed and took £100 back off the bill.  "We are craftsmen, aren't we Ryan?  We like to live up to the skills of the old masters who painstakingly put together these amazing works of art.  We think it's important to keep the old traditions going.  It would be tragic if the old skills were lost."
"Tragic." Ryan agreed from up the ladder next to the imp.  "I mean, who puts an early twentieth century piece of chain on a medieval carved figure?  It would make you cry.  I'd say this chain was about 1932."
Trevor made a mental note to warn Ryan about overdoing it and all three followed the chain with their eyes as Ryan threw it down on the floor.  As one they froze as a wicked chuckle came from out of nowhere.  Then they all slowly looked up at the red imp.  It wasn't there.  Trevor swallowed.  "Of course I do know someone who does a very good rate in absolutely authentic carved wooden figures."

Mr Oliver sighed a little with relief.  Looking into the shop it already seemed a bit emptier.  "I think that's a splendid idea."

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Bless You

Another brilliant prompt from Write on Edge

Image courtesy of Unsplash

"How can you be allergic to flowers?"  Lord Marius looked blankly at Steve.
Steve sneezed again.  He resisted the urge to rub his eyes and glared at the elfen lord in front of him.  "It's called 'Hayfever'.  People - normal people - sometimes get a reaction to pollen.  Some people have a particularly bad reaction to grass pollen which is why it is called 'Hayfever'.  If you had warned me that I was going to be taking a car load of flowers across to Hull I might have realised that it was a good idea to get some antihistamines.  You know, the stuff people take when they have a bad reaction to pollen." Steve rubbed his eyes and swore.
 "How can anyone react badly to flowers." Lord Marius looked utterly bewildered.  "They are merely a collection of petals."
"They are not merely a collection of petals." Steve sneezed again and fumbled in his pockets, shedding tissues.  "They are a collection of petals and pollen.  What type of plants are these, anyway?  I've never been this bad, not even when I spent a week in a flower shop on work experience."
Lord Marius ignored the werewolf grinning behind him.  "They are a particular type of plant, normally grown only in certain faerie realms.  Try and stop sneezing, you will feel better if you stop sneezing."
"Bless you." Carl said, handing over a fresh box of tissues.
"Thank you," Steve said with real gratitude.  "So I get magical flowers..."
"They are not magical, they are faerie." Lord Marius interrupted.  "Your eyes are very red.  Are you becoming vampiric?"
"I am not getting vampiric." Steve glared at the faerie lord.  "I am getting an allergic reaction to non magical faerie flowers that I have just transported two hundred miles in a closed environment." He sneezed again before he could build on that theme.  "For the past one hundred and fifty miles I am not sure I was safe to drive."
"Bless you." Carl said again.  The werewolf was trying not to laugh.  "Perhaps I can take it from here."
"The lord at Kingston upon Hull has a great desire to meet Steve Adderson, known merchant to the faerie." Lord Marius said tentatively.
"I think a meeting today would not give Lord Wulfric the right impression." Steve said in as cool a tone as he could manage.  "However if Carl would be kind enough to take these pollen shedding petals to Lord Wulfric I will certainly give a note to the effect that I will call in next week out of courtesy.  I will try not to sneeze on the ..." Steve sneezed again.
"Bless you." Carl picked up the large crate of flowers.  "I think I'll manage without the note.  Good luck getting the pollen out of the car."
Steve opened his mouth to say something witty and then sagged as his sinuses started to close down.  "Thank you."

"Are you sure you are not becoming vampiric?" Lord Marius asked carefully.  

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Slot A

I love the quote from Friday's Light and Shade Challenge, as it seems to apply to so much of life.  I have had far too many battles with things that looked blindingly obvious at first


That is one of those instructions that are so much easier to write than to carry out. 'Just pop the pill down the cat's throat' is another one.
The Housewife's Handbook, 
Rachel Simhon

"Insert Tab A into Slot B."
"Where's Slot B?"
"Is that it?"
"That's the housing for fixing G."
"How about that?"
"That's where you put in the backing, I think."
"What's this?"
"I think it's Panel D."
"What do we need Panel D for?"
"I think it's to rest Housing M on."
"I think we have too many screws."
"I think you've counted them wrong.  See, this size is Screw R and this size is Screw S."
"Why do we need different sized screws?"

"Because this was designed in Hell.  Next time we need furniture we are getting ready assembled."


Remembering Trifecta

This Monday's Light and Shade Challenge included an amazing photo from Aesop Clark who is one of the contributors.  I was thinking about how the challenge is going, how blessed the challenge is with such lovely contributors and how much I missed Trifecta, so I came up with this - 33 words from an amazing photo.

Brilliant photo by Aesop Clark

I did what I had to do to protect my family.  Then I walked into the waterfall, washing the staining blood from me.  I wish I could wash the screams away as easily.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Legally Speaking

This piece is inspired by the picture from the Light and Shade Challenge and also by a short story I read in an old copy of The Strand Magazine, vintage around the time of the Great War, I think around 1917, though I gave it a different twist.  As I am scraping in at the last minute the word count is utterly shot but I hope you will forgive me.  


Image courtesy of hisks on rgbstock.om

"Your late wife sat in this office and sobbed when I explained that under English law that she could not get divorced until she had been married a year.  On the exact date of her first anniversary I believe she was on her way to see me when she was pushed under a train."
"I was in Liverpool at the time."
"Unless disposed of by will your late wife's extensive trust fund goes automatically to her sister, just as her pension and life insurance did.  I believe she changed the nominated heir after her first meeting with me."
"We made a will on the way to the church."

"I understand that immediately after the ceremony you were too busy having carnal relations with the chief bridesmaid to take legal advice.  Unfortunately, under English Law, a will is made null and void after a marriage.  It no longer applies.  You would have had to made the will after the wedding.  The trust fund goes to your late wife's sister.  And can I ask where I can send the invoice for this consultation?"

As a footnote, I am not legally trained but years ago I worked in a court (very minor position) and I think it is actually scary how little most people know about the small details that can make a difference.  It's okay if you are dealing with good people but there can be so many pitfalls.  It really is worthwhile keeping wills, insurances etc up to date and making sure you have a handle on what it all actually means.  Another footnote, normally I use 'British' rather than English, but Scottish law is different from the law in England and Wales.  One of those strange anachronisms that earn lawyers a fortune.  

Reliable

As I have been on holiday I have been going frantic to get my responses to the challenges this morning, and my lovely seven year old son has helped by giving me a full and very detailed description of minecraft as I have been writing.  So here is my response to Light and Shade Challenge using the picture.

Image courtesy of wax115 on rgbstock.com

Jeff polished his boot with care, just as his dad had shown him.  'Keep your head down, do your job and be reliable.'  His dad had told him.  'You've got a nice little job here, no heavy lifting, no stress.  Look after it.'

Jeff had looked after it for nearly fifty years.  He had been the first in every morning, with his boots polished and his uniform pressed.  He had always filled in on his day off for those that didn't show and who weren't looking after their jobs.  He had always come in to cover holidays and sick days.  He had worked 48 hours straight more than once, because some of the lads were not reliable and he always was. 

Hetty had never understood that he needed to be reliable for his job.  She had divorced him 1978, saying that she couldn't compete with a security guard's job.  Julie had divorced him in 1994.  Jeff had never understood that.  She had said in the dating advert that she was looking for a reliable man.  He was reliable.  His bosses had relied on him for fifty years and he had never let them down.  The kids were the same.  He had always been there for them.  When they were young he had always paid for holidays even though he didn't go with them, just in case.  He had paid for his girls' weddings and he had paid for the suits when the lads got married.  He'd helped with the girl's house deposits and he had bought the lads their first car.   He hardly saw them these days.

Jeff picked up the second boot and started laying on the polish, brushing it off.  One of the lads had turned up in trainers last week.  How were they going to manage. He knew everything about the firm, all its history, all the gossip.  He remembered the boss's grandfather doing the rounds, just like young Mr Delaney did now.  They had always been able to rely on him, and he had been able to rely on them.  It was the current boss's grandfather who had found him somewhere to sleep when Hetty threw him out.  It was the current boss's father who had put him on to the little garage where he had got the reliable first cars for his lads.  They had always been there for him and the firm were putting on a slap up dinner tonight, everything paid for. 


Jeff glanced up at the clock.  He had not been late in fifty years and he was not going to be late on his last day.  He carefully put the boot down on the newspaper on the table.  His uniform was pressed and brushed, just the same as always and he had his lunch packed ready.  Now all he had to do was not think about who he was going to be reliable for tomorrow.  

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Spiced Honey

Here is my response to another wonderful prompt from Write on Edge.  I used the picture prompt, as I thought it would be fun.  

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Steve had not expected to be invited to the celebration at Lord Lothar's court.   He was still not sure it was a good idea.  Elfen are not safe creatures.  They may give a convincing performance of humanity, but they are not human.  It was also incredibly dangerous to accept food and drink from them, but Lord Lothar had waved aside Steve's carefully worded concerns.  The local paladin and exorcist were both here, which was reassuring.  Steve didn't know them well but both Mike Doyle and Darren King had good reputations.  Besides, it wasn't just elfen.  The faerie court had plenty of werewolves and boggarts around with a couple of vampires politely sipping red liquid in the corner. 

In the main part of the hall the elfen were getting drunk.  As Steve sipped his plain red wine with caution, the elfen were pouring honey into heated wine and adding suspicious spices.  One fae was already sitting in a corner giggling and pointing at nothing.  Steve had not needed Mike's warning to stay off the honeyed wine.

More honey was being poured over fruit at the side and being brought around.  Once again Mike gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head and Steve excused himself.  Chopped strawberries and apples were handed round in bowls, shrouded in thick layers of the molten honey and sprinkled with more of the strange spice.  Four of the elfen stood up and started to dance.  Steve watched entranced.  They wore human shapes but they had never looked less human as they whirled and spun around the hall.  Steve blinked and checked his wine.  The dancers' bodies seemed to flow from shape to shape as they traced their patterns around the room.  Steve felt his eyes lose focus.  There seemed to be trails of coloured light following their movements and hanging in the air to form intricate and elaborate geometry in the air.  He glanced nervously around.  The elfen seemed entirely at ease and he could hear a couple having noisy sex in the corner behind him but the others, the werewolves and the boggarts, were equally uneasy and the vampires had stood and were looking stern.

"Enough!" Lord Lothar's voice thundered suddenly and for a heartbeat the coloured light froze and dropped splintering to the ground.  "I will not have enchantments danced when it is more than elfen present.  It is an insult to my guests and an insult that I will not tolerate."  There was an icy still in the hall before Lord Lothar waved a lordly hand.  "But make merry.  Today we celebrate the coming of a new paladin - we must enjoy."


As Mike made his way purposefully towards Lord Lothar, Steve found himself beckoned closer.  Lord Lothar casually dipped a whole strawberry into the seasoned honey and looked at Steve.  "You are surprised at me asking you to stay after your very welcome delivery of fifty barrels of honey.  But have much to discuss.  I need to speak to you about Lord Marius."

For anyone interested, this is the continuation of the Steve Adderson story, and you can read previous installments here.  The Steve Adderson novel is coming along nicely, but I didn't expect it to take the twist that this image has inspired.  I hope I am not being too pushy, but Lord Lothar, Mike Doyle and Darren King are all in my first novel, The Forgotten Village which is on Smashwords and at Amazon.  

Sun Through the Door

I have finally managed to get a response for the Light and Shade Challenge.  I always used to find Trifecta a tough challenge, and it is proving just as tough at Light and Shade - and that is a good thing.  For me it is the writing equivalent of the gym.  


photo by sulaco229 at rgbstock.com


I stay very quiet in my cool and shady safe place
I never want to step outside into a hot and dusty place
I ask for no disturbance as I hide inside my shadow place
But sun and life and warmth keep knocking at my enclosed place

Green and growing living things are creeping in the shuttered door
The sun is inching further in as it pushes against the wooden door
I hear the noise of birds that I have kept outside my painted door
But life and love and living are pushing past the broken door. 


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Washing the Cups

Here is my response to the Light and Shade Challenge based on the picture below.

Picture by Ayla87 on rgbstock.com

"Did you see her, the one with the dress?" Angie asked as she splashed the dirty cups through the water at speed.
"Her with the dress and the handbag?" asked Betty.  She switched to a dry cloth for the next batch of cups.  They had been washing up together after the meetings for thirty four years this June and they had perfected the routine.
"No, the one with the dress and the handbag is Zoe.  She reckons that the handbag is designer and cost a fortune.  But you can't tell me that handbag is designer, I saw one just like it on the market." Angie sniffed.
"Well she said that he was doing alright and had got a bonus at Christmas.  I told her that everyone gets a bonus at Christmas but she wouldn't have it." Betty rattled the teacups into a stack and slotted them neatly into a cupboard.
"My Den said that he was doing well, but they aren't spending that much.  You should see the state of her sofa.  I'd be ashamed."
"You do like your furniture nice." Betty nodded.  "Of course, he could be spending some money on her at the corner, you know, just past Mrs Henderson.  She always has nice things."
"Her at the corner, she's the one with the dress.  She said that it was a charity shop find, but you can't fool me.  That dress cost a fortune, and her with her car in the garage."
"She spends her money on something.  There must be some money going into that house with them both working and I know they ask the lad to tip up now he's started at the call centre, but they still have that old car."
Angie nodded.  "My Jim said that it was a scandal that car, they've had it for four years now.  But I saw her in the supermarket and she had a bottle of wine in her basket." 
Betty nodded knowingly as she switched drying cloths again.  "Mind you, I heard that her aunt was the same, you know, the one who married the plumber and moved to Brighton."
"Is it her aunt that married the plumber?  Well that explains it."  There was a pause as Angie changed the washing up water.
"I see Mary's got new curtains." Betty rattled some more cups into the cupboard. "I would have thought she would have done something with her kitchen first.  I don't know how she cooks."
"Mary told me that she got them second hand.  You can't tell me that they are second hand, not with those seams.  And as for cooking, she buys frozen veg.  I pity her husband."
"Of course he makes up for it with the darts team.  They were out again last night.  Ted from two doors down came in at midnight."
"By the way, what was the talk today?" Angie rinsed out the washing up bowl.

"The dangers of gossip." Betty gathered her cloths for the wash.  "See you next week."

I have never, ever known a function where the washing up wasn't a chance for a full exchange of views.  I did 'hear' it in the local accent, but I am confident that the sentiments expressed are universal.  

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Strange Meeting Place

Another wonderful prompt from Write on Edge.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Steve worked hard to keep his face.  All of the older faerie had the ability to create their own pocket worlds, their own domains.  So why this particular lord was using an abandoned multi-storey car park was a mystery.  Moss and weeds tumbled over the dark courtyards and the claustrophobic atmosphere was affecting more than him.  Armani had taken one look at the place and climbed into Steve's inside pocket. 

Steve walked warily past the stained pillars and knots of people around the scattered braziers.  Lord Gwill Mawr waited on a large makeshift throne at the far end of the central floor of the building.  While the rest of the building huddled in gloom, Lord Gwill Mawr had arc lamps rigged around him and growing lamps focused on ferns draping luxuriantly over the wall behind.  It was very well staged. 

"You sent for me, Lord Gwill Mawr," Steve said respectfully.
Lord Gwill Mawr inclined his head regally.  He was wearing the glamour of a street beggar with a tattered hoodie.  "I thought it best to meet here, Steve Adderson, merchant.  You are becoming quietly adept at elfen magic but here in your normal world you are slightly less dextrous.  I thought this would make a good meeting place for trade and counsel."
Steve glanced around at the miserable courtiers.  "I have never thought to understand the complex depths of the elfen lord." He said tactfully.
A smile flickered across the eyes of Lord Gwill Mawr.  "I will be having my accustomed feast on the last day of October, and I would have great things.  A few brief months ago there was no knowledge of such wonders as edible glitter and popping candy or the wonders of the colours that you have brought to so many courts.  That Lord Ragnar has a candyfloss machine is a source of stories.  But such things come at a cost, even with your know acumen and fair dealing."
"I have to make enough to eat and pay my dues." Steve said carefully.  "I am sure no elfen would deny me the fruits of my hard work."
Lord Gwill Mawr shrugged slightly, baffled as all elfen by the concept of working.  "I can offer you little coin.  However I can offer something that while not currency may be of value."
"I am willing to trade fairly, but Halloween is only a month away and negotiations take time." Steve felt Armani digging deeper into his pocket.
"I can offer you the long, faithful love of Elaine, guaranteed for her mortal lifetime, to be ever true to you." Lord Gwill Mawer studied his broken nails.
"A bought love is worthless."  Steve kept a lid on his emotions.  He may be inwardly reeling but he couldn't risk letting his guard down.
Lord Gwill Mawr sat back confidently "I can offer you something that you desire more, something that you have already touched on, something that drives your study of magic.  I can offer you the name of your father."

If you are interested, the Steve Adderson story is on the side bar here.  I am still chipping away at making it into a novel, and as I write the novel all sorts of other things are coming out.  I thought I would hint at it here.  I hope you like it.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Faerie Wall

Here is another response to the Light and Shade Challenge.  The Queen Anne's Lace in the picture always makes me think of faeries.


Keep away from the wall, my child,
It keeps us from the faeries wild.
It keeps us from their faerie fear.
Keep away, my child, come here.

They blight the cows and cost us money
They steal the bees and take the honey
They spoil the butter in the churn
They cause the cakes and bread to burn

They steal our children, blight our wheat,
Ruin pigs and taint the meat.
Keep away from the wall, my dear,

Keep away, my child, come here.  

I have a very old fashioned view of faeries.   My grandmother was incredibly superstitious and, for example, would get genuinely very upset if she caught me putting my left shoe on first or stirring cake mixture the 'wrong' way.  This is very much her view of Faery, which was old fashioned even for her generation, but lots of fun as a story from a safe distance.   

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Castle

Another prompt from the Light and Shade Challenge and this time I was really stuck.  It is really good, though, to move out of the comfort zone, so I have gone for it.  

image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There is a castle on the hill
A king sat there in days of old
His knights were brave, his ladies fair
A pinnacle of brave and bold

Minstrels there were, and jesters sharp
Ministers with wisdom deep
Priests and monks in cloistered nooks
All knowledge gathered in his keep

There was a knight, a lady fair
A false man and a desperate fight
A riven kingdom, empty hope
A funeral byre and fading light

The story's old and patched with songs
On threads that wore out long ago
Who knows the truth of treasure there
Before the final overthrow

Young lads go there to try their hand
Digging the vaults and dusty hall
The tombs are empty, nothing's there
A bird's nest in a broken wall.

Some nights, when Venus sails the sky
And Mars is courting near the moon
They say that ghostly dancers whirl
To echoes of an ancient tune

Splendour and crowns have tumbled down
The painted walls have faded pale
And while we bustle round our lives
Dust slowly settles on the tale. 

I admit it, I used a rhyming dictionary, but I did have fun.  Thank you for reading.  

Saturday, 10 May 2014

A Test

Another wonderful prompt from Write on Edge.  I couldn't wait to write this. 


Image courtesy of Unsplash

Steve looked at the foul imp digging its claws into his expensive suit jacket.  "Are you sure it is this way?"
Armani belched, spat and scratched the dirty, tiny t-shirt covering his stomach.  "That's the way.  Lord Darcy is through there."
Steve stared at the wooden planks across his path.  Why the hell had an elfen decided to call himself 'Lord Darcy'.  Where had he picked up the stupid name?  The elfen lord would be wearing a velvet jacket and a lace up shirt.  Steve leaned closer to the planks.  The trouble with these older faerie lords is that they were insanely powerful.  They were insane, they were powerful and this one actually wanted Steve to do something for him.
Steve considered turning back.  A large trunk of guaranteed genuine medieval prayer books would fetch a very good price - but he had to strike the deal first.  Was the money going to be worth the risk?
"It isn't real, boss." Armani looked bored.  "Just walk straight ahead."
Steve tentatively touched the wood.  The grain of the planks ran from left to right, he could feel the tiny ridges and valleys and smell the pungent creosote.
"Seriously, boss, not real." Armani chuckled coarsely as Steve pressed his fingers against the unyielding wood.  Stretching out his wings, Amani hovered in Steve's eye line.  "Watch this." Armani flapped forward and passed through the barrier as if it was mist. 
Steve pressed his palm against the cool, grooved wall.  It was still solid.  Armani flapped back into view.  He tugged nonchantly at one of his tattered ears.
"Actually, boss, there's a forty foot pit with iron spikes on the other side of this.  I think we need to find another way."
"A pit with spikes?" Steve said levelly.  "I was asked here, I don't need to do this trade.  Why are we getting these tricks?"
Armani shrugged.  "Powerplay, ego trip, practical joke, fear that if he looks weak you'll rip him off, placating an awkward courtier, worried about werewolves, forgot he put it here, someone else put it here to screw the deal, proving that you were up to making a deal with an elfen lord - take your pick.  You're the one that makes the deals with elfen."
"How would it look if I just turned back?" Steve stepped back and looked at the barrier.  Armani shrugged again.
Steve took a deep breath.  He hated the elfen playing mind games, but this was a test.  He strode confidently forward and through the planks as if they were just a dream.  For a heartbeat his foot seemed to hover above the steep sided pit and the iron spikes and then was placed confidently onto the solid stone floor.  He glanced at Armani.  "Since when did ancient elfen tolerate iron.  The older the faerie the less they can bear it.  However I don't like being tested." Steve was well aware he was being overheard.  "My commission has just gone up."

Previous stories about Steve Adderson can be found in the sidebar here, if you are interested.  I have started knocking them into a novel, which is a lot of fun.  

Legacy

Here is my 100 word take on Friday's Light and Shade Challenge prompt.  It was great fun, but I really, really regret setting 100 word challenges.

"Is that the post?" Estelle called.  "I thought it had already been."
Phil shrugged and picked up the envelope.  "It's from the solicitors."
Estelle jumped up.  Her rich, spiteful uncle had promised he would leave Estelle £1000 in his will.  She had been waiting for months. 
'Your legacy valued at £1000 is with this letter, according to the exact instructions of our late client.' The letter read.  Estelle turned the page over and over.  There was nothing. 
"He always was a skinflint." She said bitterly.

Unheeded in the wastepaper bin the perfect Penny Black sat smugly on the envelope.


Monday, 5 May 2014

Child in a Sweet Shop

Here is my take on the third Light and Shade Challenge.  I went at a happy tangent with the picture and I had so much fun.  Here is the picture that sparked the idea.  

Picture by ciscopa on rgbstock.com

He looked carefully at his outfit.  He had to get the look exactly right, it could make all the difference between success and failure.  There was an all night screening of the Twilight films and he could not miss this opportunity.
 He was naturally pale but his blond hair was a problem.  The old fashioned top hat that he had picked up on the internet should cover it and give the right feel.  He had considered a cane but he hoped there would be times in the evening when he wanted both hands free.  There were likely to be a lot of young ladies at the screening.
The suit had been a problem.  He had found one eventually in a second hand shop.  The black suit jacket had velvet lapels and the waistcoat was nicely cut.  He had been meticulous to get rid of any faint trace of the iridescent dusting powder.  With the slightly flared trousers it said very clearly that this was a man who had not quite got the decade right. 
He had wondered about the shirt.  He may have wanted to look as if he couldn't keep up with fashion after all this time, but there was no way he was wearing 1970s drip dry polyester with a frill.  He had settled for a deep crimson silk shirt.  It was brand new, but silk was an old fashioned material and he could always say that he had ripped his favourite brushed nylon shirt in a fight with a werewolf.  With well polished shoes and a heavy, plain signet ring he should look the part.
He checked he had his ticket and plenty of cash.  He didn't want to break the look with a credit card and if he got lucky with a persuadable lady he didn't want to give too much information about himself, just in case.  The taxi outside sounded the horn.  
"Going to the screening?  You look just like a vampire, mate.  It makes a better night if you put a bit of effort in to look the part." The taxi driver sighed.  "I used to have a suit like that forty years ago.  Of course, I was a lot thinner then.  Well, you won't be lonely tonight, I bet you've got a hotel room booked."
He smiled enigmatically and gave the driver a generous tip.  Looking at the crowd there were others who had aimed for his intended look but he prided himself that he had hit closest to the mark.  He was already getting interested glances and he thought it would not take much to entice the pretty brunette near the popcorn stand to a secluded corner to 'talk'.

Carefully keeping his expression immobile, inside he was laughing wildly.  He may be seven hundred and thirty two years old and a vampire but looking at all those pliable, gullible necks made him feel like a child in a sweet shop.  

I've never really got into the Twilight series, but I can't help feel that vampires are not very nice.  This is my take on a baddie.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Sea and Selling

Another wonderful prompt from Write on Edge.  I've been looking forward to this as I have missed Steve Adderson.  You can see more of his story here.  I've taken my inspiration from the picture, credited to Unsplash.  





Steve gazed over the cliffs and drank in the view. 
"Be careful here, the path is steep." The young elfen taking Steve to the meeting had introduced herself as Tegan.  She looked small and fragile with big dark eyes and a shy smile.  Steve knew better than to trust appearances with the faerie, though, and he was being very respectful.
"It's a beautiful place." Steve said politely.
"The storms are magnificent with the waves hurling themselves at the land.  The kelpies ride and chase the unwary sailors and the walkers on the beach." Tegan looked sideways at Steve.  "In these times of course we only chase.  We are well behaved."
 Steve nodded noncommittally and followed what the track down among the pinks and the tufts of grass.  "The storms must be dramatic.  It's hard to imagine on a still day like today."
"Have you heard from your fair lady who was lost?" Tegan enquired politely.
"Who?" Steve racked his brains to think who that could be.
"Elaine.  Have you heard from Elaine?"
"No, I haven't heard from my ex-girlfriend." Steve clenched his fists.  The elfen loved their games and gossip.  "I think it is inappropriate to discuss her in this beautiful place.  I have come here with commerce and business and trade and it would be wrong to sully the thought's of my lost one with such matter." Steve hoped that would get Tegan to shut the hell up.
Tegan's soft eyes filled with tears.  Steve did not believe them.  Tegan wiped away a tear with delicate artistry.  "It is sad but good for my lord that you drown your sorrows not in sweet wine but in the hard salt work of merchants."  She paused.  "You haven't brought anything salt, have you?  We get all our salt from the kelpies."
"I wouldn't like to slight the kelpies.  I don't want a repeat of Chichester." Steve paused and took a lungful of sea air.  He didn't want to upset murderous sea creatures with long memories.
"What happened in Chichester?"
"I didn't realise that I was underselling some werewolves." Steve shuddered.  "A house blew up and I made a loss."  He tried to look suitably stricken.  It was helpful for the faerie to just think of him as someone who sold useful things and not someone to play with. 
"And you have brought us brass nails, rose petals and strawberry jam."
"I have bought best quality brass nails, exclusive strawberry jam and sun dried rose petals from the gardens in Hertfordshire." Steve smiled.  "They are all in the van."
"All in return for some stone bones." Tegan shrugged.  "I have heard that normals like these things but we like rose petals more."
"It is a very fair deal." Steve said carefully.  "I shall not cheat you." And 30% of an ichthyosaur fossil would easily cover his expenses.  He would concentrate on getting a good price for that.  He would not think of Elaine. 

White Lies

Here is my response to the Light and Shade Challenge of 2nd May 2014.  It is a bit embarrassing that it comes so long after the responses from people who didn't actually help to set the challenge.  I took the inspiration from the quote:

'She tells enough white lies to ice a wedding cake'.  Margot Asquith

"Honestly, you look lovely in that, Claudia.  It really suits you, the colour is ideal.  You will look fine.  And the neckline is perfect, not too low."
Claudia looked doubtful.  "I don't want to show too much..."
"You will be fine!" Jenny smiled frantically and avoided the sympathetic glances of the bridal shop assistants.
"There's not too much beading?" Claudia smoothed down the expensive silk.

"It's perfect.  You will be stunning, honest." As her mother-in-law-to-be headed back to the changing rooms Jenny checked her watch.  She had twenty minutes left to choose her wedding dress.  

If you enjoy writing challenges please jump in and join us at Light and Shade Challenge.  We love to see people posting!  

Monday, 28 April 2014

DreamTime

My first attempt at a prompt from Light and Shade Challenge.  I took the prompt from the quote, 'A dream can poison sleep,' from Mutability by Percy Blyshe Shelly.  It was harder than I thought it would be.  

Cassie tried to get back to sleep.  The dream was haunting her again.  She focused on her breathing.  She mustn't wake Jim next to her.  She mentally snuggled back in to the dream.
"Cassie, are you awake?"
Cassie rolled over to see her husband.  "Go back to sleep, Jim." She said softly.
"It's that dream again, isn't it?  I can always tell."
Cassie stretched to see the bedside clock.  It said 2.17am.  "It's late Jim, go back to sleep.  You have a heavy day in front of you."
"So do you." Jim sat up and rubbed a hand over his weary face.  "Listen, I know you have trouble getting back to sleep after that dream.  Why don't we go down into the kitchen for some hot milk."
Cassie trailed after him.  The kitchen was cold and hard after the soft bed.  "You don't need to do this, Jim.  Honestly, I'll be fine."
Jim put two mugs of milk in the microwave.  "Should I add a little nutmeg?"
Cassie shook her head.  "I still don't like nutmeg." She smiled.  "But thank you anyway."
"This dream, it's almost every night." Jim was watching the microwave but suddenly turned around to look hard at Cassie, standing dreamy eyed.  "We should go to the doctor.  I could come in with you and help you explain.  I know you have trouble talking to doctors."
Cassie shook her head firmly.  If she took sleeping pills she could lose her dream.  "Why don't I stay down here?  I can read for a bit and get ready for sleep.  You can rest in bed."
"You know I can't sleep if you aren't next to me." The microwave pinged and Jim pulled out the hot milk, giving it a quick stir.  "Are you sure that you won't have some nutmeg?  I'll add some anyway."
"If you add it I won't drink it."  Cassie wondered why it was so hard to have milk without nutmeg.
"It would just be better for you." Jim grumbled.  The nutmeg hovered over the milk for a moment, then he took it away.  "I could go with you to a dream analyst.  Some of them are really good.  I know a few people who have used them."
"I don't think so." Cassie said, sipping her milk. 
"We can drink the milk together in bed." Jim suggested.  He led the way back to the bedroom.  As they slid into the cooling sheets he frowned. "We have to get this dream sorted out.  I can't keep waking like this."

Cassie lay still beside him, listening to his breathing almost instantly slip into the slow, regular sighs of sleep.  Jim could never stay awake for more than a minute.  Then she stared into the dark and slid back to her dream.  She was walking again in the golden sunlight with blossom in the trees and the birds singing.  She lay down on the soft, warm river bank and listened to the river chuckling.  And she was all alone.   

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Wrong Portal


Steve froze.  The door closely heavily behind him.  Armani the Imp crouched low on his shoulder.
"This is bad boss." The imp had faint wisps of steam oozing from his wing tips.  Very bad.
Steve nodded.  Ahead of him stretched an avenue of green and mist caressed trees leading to an idealised farmhouse.  If he had come into the correct faerie domain he should be looking at a stern stone corridor with an iron bound door leading to the court of Lord Ragnar.  "I think we've been diverted.  This feels like a magical domain, just the wrong one."
"We went through the right portal." Armani shifted nervously from foot to foot.  "It stinks of leech here.  I'll have a look."
As Armani silently flapped ahead, Steve started cautiously moving forward.  All the vampires he knew were more than capable of creating a magical domain for a few hours, just long enough to trap an unwary traveller through a portal.  Steve swallowed as he felt fear crawling down his back.  Vampires were fast, strong and very, very ruthless.   He pulled his stake out from his pocket and held it for an overhand thrust.  Nothing behind the first two trees facing each other across the deceptively rustic pathway.  Steve breathed deeply.  He glanced quickly behind him.  There was no way out there, the door had vanished and gentle fields of corn rolled into the distance.
Armani was using the trees' canopy for cover as he hopped from tree to tree.  Apart from the soft cooing of woodpigeons, the faint rustle of his progress was the only sound. 
Steve took another few steps, stake ready.  Why did it have to be a vampire?  If it had been a boggart or a werewolf they would have just tried to rip his head off in a straightforward way.  Vampires played games.  The next two trees were clear as well.  Steve checked his pocket with his free hand.  He still had the package for Lord Ragnar.  That was probably what this was all about.  He wished he knew what was inside but he wasn't risking looking.  The ground felt soft and springing under his feet.  The next two trees were clear.
"Over here, boss."
Steve strode over to where the imp was pointing.  At the far side of a tree was a vampire bound with wire.  He was cut almost to ribbons trying to get out and his eyes were wild.  His lips dripped with froth.  "He's on dragon's blood.  It looks like it has rotted most of his brain.  There's no point in asking questions."

As Armani finished the vampire off with the stake tucked thoughtfully in the wire at the side, Steve looked around for any further clues.  There was nothing.  The trees wavered and dissolved and then Steve and Armani were standing in the reassuringly spartan stone corridor looking at the iron bound door of Lord Ragnar.  "I owe someone a favour." Steve said thoughtfully, before knocking with the great iron knocker. 

Written during v chaotic time here, sorry for any typos.   

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Ambush

Another brilliant prompt from Write on Edge.  I've used the picture again, though the words were very tempting.  


  


Why couldn't they meet somewhere civilised, instead of in the middle of nowhere.  Even his imp had gone to sleep.  Armani snorted and gurgled inside Steve's pocket.  He woke with a splutter.
"Trouble's coming, boss."  There was an edge of panic in his voice as he struggled out.
Ambush, thought Steve.  He was supposed to hand over the rare book to a member of Lord Lothar's court.  He felt very exposed as he glanced up and down the moorland track. 
"Hello, meat." Out of nowhere a tall, rangy figure appeared, scruffy and unshaven with ragged jogging bottoms and a thin t-shirt.  "You have a book for me."
Steve felt in his pocket.  "You don't look like the messenger of an elfen lord."
"Werewolf." Armani hissed in his ear and flew off.
"I'm offended." The thin man bared his teeth in a fake smile.  "I'm what you would call freelance.  I can get a good price for that book.  Hand it over."
"I don't think so."  Steve found what he was looking for in his pocket.
"Brave words for a lonely place." The werewolf smirked.
The werewolf was enjoying this too much, thought Steve.  He extended his hand in his pocket.  "Just a minute." Then he punched the werewolf hard on the jaw.
Steve had come prepared and the silver knuckle dusters fitted easily on his hand.    He wasn't prepared however for the hiss and the stench of burned flesh as the silver bit into the werewolf.  It staggered back, clutching at its blackened face.  Steve followed up with a hard punch to the side of the head and another, then a kick to the sternum as there werewolf fell onto its knees clutching at its damaged head.
The kick didn't do enough damage.  Steve's training and gym work were useless without the reinforcing silver and the werewolf rolled away still clutching its head.  To Steve's horror the werewolf flowed and suddenly there was a large wolf like creature in front of him, its fur matted, its ribs showing and its head burnt and blackened. 
Steve swore as the creature swung round at him.  Desperately he punched at the great head snapping at him.  I must not let him bite me, Steve thought frantically, I have to stay away from the teeth.  Armani was hanging onto the werewolf's back, his dirty claws sunk deep into the creature's flanks.  A part of Steve was impressed by the sparks the imp was shedding as Steve managed a lucky punch to the throat. 
Then Armani flew up and a second werewolf landed on the skinny attacker and bit hard down on the back of the neck.  Steve watched in horror as the skinny, dog-like shape flowed back into a dead, skinny, battered man.  The attacker also flowed back into human form.
"Steve Adderson, do you remember me?"

"Yes," Steve worked the knuckle duster from his sore hand.  "It's Carl Armstrong, isn't it?  I recognise you even without your clothes."

I'm using these prompts as a kind of gym for writing, and I loathe writing action scenes, so I thought I would have a go.  An action scene in 500 words was really, really hard, so worth doing.   Carl Armstrong is a minor character in my novel 'The Forgotten Village' which is free from Smashwords if you are interested (though I used Carl here as a werewolf character I had used in previous Steve Adderson stories - and the Steve Adderson story so far is here if you are interested).  I hope you don't mind me mentioning it, and I hope you enjoy the story.  

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Skimming Stones

Once again there is a wonderful prompt from Write on Edge, and this time I am using their picture


This is another in the Steve Adderson Story and you can read the challenges so far here .  I have enjoyed writing this so much, but it is getting harder and harder to keep them self contained.  I am challenging myself to finish the novel before I need to choose another thread of stories (I've got some ideas for that as well).  Thank you for the encouraging comments so far, they have really made a positive difference to me and I hope you enjoy this.  

The imp belched in Steve's ear.  "Someone's coming, boss."
Steve didn't look around.  He skimmed another stone across the lake.
"I see that the imp has its uses." Lord Marius said coolly.
"His name is Armani." Steve said, still gazing across the lake.  He picked up another stone.
"On account of my style, yer highness." Armani leered at Lord Marius.
Lord Marius took in the scruffy and torn miniature t-shirt, the filthy jeans and stained boots.  "I can see that only a normal could call you that."  The imp chuckled coarsely and spat onto the rocky shore.
Lord Marius walked closer to Steve.  "There is no door to a magical kingdom here." He said.
"I know." Steve selected another stone.
"You are not meeting anyone?" Lord Marius was fairly sure he knew the answer, but asked anyway.
"No." The stone skimmed for four bounces across the still water.  Steve bent to carefully select the next stone.
"But you are here." Lord Marius persisted.
"I wanted a bit of peace and quiet." Steve glanced a little bitterly first at Armani and then at Lord Marius.  "And Armani is quiet enough."
Lord Marius watched Armani roll one of his foul cigarettes.  "Elaine is in Iberia."
"Spain." Steve skimmed another stone.  It was only three bounces this time, but he seemed satisfied enough.  "She's gone to Spain with a friend."
Lord Marius shrugged.  "Spain used to be part of Iberia.  No matter.  Is she coming back?"
"To England, yes.  She's got a flat in Manchester and a good job offer."
"Is she coming back to you?" Lord Marius asked.
Armani took a long drag of his roll up and gave Lord Marius a disbelieving look.   As the imp oozed smoke Steve took his time selecting his next stone.  Eventually he glanced up at Lord Marius.  "No, she's not coming back to me." He said finally and skimmed the stone.  It shot five bounces across the water sending ripples across the stillness. 
"I am in contact with an elfen marriage guidance expert who..."
"Don't you dare!"Steve whirled around and glared at Lord Marius.  "Don't you even dare.  You think you know people, but you don't.  You don't understand emotions or love or caring and you don't understand me.  Elaine's gone!  That's it.  I can't force her back.  She couldn't cope with the magic, the elfen, the weirdness.  And even if I wanted to I can't walk away from that because of Armani.  And I don't.  This is who I am.  This is what I am.  And Elaine doesn't want it."  Steve sagged.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to take it out on you."
"I understand." Lord Marius said quietly.  "And I also am sorry, sorry that your love affair failed."  He picked up a stone.  "We don't understand, really.  We try, but the elfen never quite understand the marvel that you are.  We do love, in our own way, but not in yours." And he skimmed his own stone across the cool water. 


I am a bit nervous mentioning this, but if you like Lord Marius he is a minor character in my novel 'The Forgotten Village' which is available free from Smashwords here.  It is compatible with practically every form of e-reader, and I hope you will feel able to dip in and enjoy.  Thank you for reading my take on Write on Edge's prompt.