The Friday Fiction featuring K.A. Krisko

Kathy aka K.A. Krisko… did you see what I did there? 😁… is my lovely author-friend who I met on GoodReads years ago. I loved her Stolen series, but then I read Cornerstone: Raising Rook, and it quite blew me away! This is grown up contemporary fantasy, in the way that Stephen Donaldson writes grown up contemporary fantasy (only not at all depressing, lol!). In fact, its probably more magical realism. I waited and waited for the sequel, and then she snuck it onto Amazon without so much as a  glittery fanfare or a three minute warning! Needless to say, I devoured it, but she still left me hungry for more… in a lovely, satisfied, just-room-left-for-desert kind of a way. 😍 And don’t forget to Give the gift of a book this Christmas! Have a happy one!



chapter one

Jack Bright lowered his binoculars and glanced over his shoulder. The quick look provided him with a view of Kyle’s backside. His cousin’s son was draped over the aft port rail, retching into the Pacific.

Jack turned away quickly. He knew he shouldn’t have brought Kyle, but the young man had begged him, partly to show his girlfriend a good time and partly, he claimed, because he wanted to see where his brother had died.

The Boston Whaler Conquest rolled in a figure eight pattern in the swells that reverberated off the rocky cliffs. The girlfriend, Terry, sat on the forward deck, her back against the front of the pilothouse. Her expression was inscrutable beneath over-sized sunglasses. She didn’t seem to share Kyle’s nausea.

Jack braced himself against the pilothouse on the starboard deck and raised the binoculars again. He followed the cliff face to the top, where the steeple of the castle’s chapel poked into the sky: dark, Gothic and malevolent.

The castle. That damned castle.

“The end of Earth as we know it,” Jack muttered under his breath.

Kyle staggered over, face pale, and gripped the grab rail. “You think he’s still up there?” he gasped, nodding briefly at the castle. “Maybe just held captive?”

Jack shook his head. “It’s been too long, Kyle. Korrin’s gone. We have to accept that. And this is the closest we’re going to get to that thing at this point.”

The hairs prickled along the back of Jack’s neck, and he looked up at the sky. There was a big black bird up there, flying lazy circles, gradually working its way down closer to the boat. Jack wasn’t fooled by the shape; that was no natural bird, but undoubtedly the castle’s Lorecaster, its wizard, flying his shadow-form in the shape of a raven. After what Jack had done, or attempted to do, to the castle, the young Lorecaster was a sworn enemy.

Jack strode over to the pilothouse, ducked through the door, and started the boat’s motors. He swung it around and headed further out to sea, partly to relieve Kyle’s nausea. But he slowed again just a quarter-mile south of where the castle loomed on the cliff. There, a huge slump littered the base of the cliff with debris, including the remains of five houses and some of their occupants. All of them had been Jack’s friends, co-workers and employees of the environmental lobbying group Earth Natural, of which he was president.

Jack felt a twinge of guilt as the boat slipped quietly by the slump. After all, he had, at least indirectly, caused the slump when he’d tried to blow up that cursed castle on the hill. His only consolation was that all of the people who’d died had known what they were risking.

“Hey, there’s a trail over there,” Kyle said plaintively, pointing to the cliff near the slump. “Maybe we can take a little hike.”

“That trail goes right up to the castle,” Jack replied. But Kyle’s pale face garnered some sympathy. Poor kid was still seasick.

“I can put the boat in around that outcropping past the slump,” he acquiesced. “I’ve done it before. You can scramble up to the top of the rocks there, and it’s far enough away from the castle to be safe.”

“Maybe we can wait there, and you can drive back and pick us up after you bring the boat home,” Kyle suggested miserably.

“The only road to this area runs past the castle and the Lorecaster’s house,” Jack said. “Sorry. You have to go home on the boat.”

They puttered past the outcropping and Jack swung the boat around behind it, bringing the bow up close to a big rock in a sheltered cove. Terry threw the bumpers over and scrambled onto the rock holding the bow line. Jack cut the motors and followed Kyle out of the pilothouse. There were several trees rooted in the cracks of the rock, and he tied the boat off to one of them with a quick-release knot.

Terry scrambled easily over the rock and jumped down to a bit of sand behind it. Kyle, a little heavy around the middle, followed more slowly. Jack waited impatiently. He might be twice Kyle’s age, but he was fit and agile.

Once off the rock, Jack led Terry and Kyle to the cliff and picked his way up through the boulders. He had visited this cove a number of times before. It was a way to get close to the castle, to observe what was going on there, without driving up to the isolated little neighborhood where it sat. He knew he could hike around the outcropping to the slump at low tide, but he’d also figured out how to scramble up to the top of the cliff.

Stunted firs clung to crevices here and there. Animal trails wound off through the deepening forest as they gained the top. The surge of the Pacific Ocean faded and the summer heat settled over them. A few insects landed on Jack’s arms and neck.

They turned north at the top of the cliff. After a quarter-mile walk, Jack motioned Kyle and Terry to stop and he crept forward alone. A small neighborhood lay beyond, a few summerhouses in little clusters. Jack could see the raw edge of the residential road’s pavement where the slump had taken the five houses closest to the cliff down to the sea below.

Kyle and Terry came up behind him and stood staring. The lower neighborhood, at whose southern edge they stood, was tucked in amongst the firs, drowsing in the mid-afternoon heat. The houses of the upper neighborhood were more exposed, and behind them the land rose steeply. On top of that rise stood the castle, sentient and malevolent.

Jack felt his pulse quicken. This was the closest he’d been to it in a long time, and he almost imagined it knew he was there. Involuntarily he stepped a little further behind the trunk of a tree.

“I can’t believe Korrin walked into that thing,” Kyle whispered. “He had a lot of guts.”

Or he was an idiot, Jack thought, but aloud he said, “Remember it wasn’t as complete then as it is now. The bigger it gets, the more powerful it becomes. I’m sure Korrin wouldn’t have gone in there if he didn’t believe he had the advantage.”

“He took the sword,” Kyle said, his tone reverent.

“Yes. I wish we could get it back,” Jack muttered. “One of the most valuable tools we had, and now it’s in their hands.”

Terry stood with her hands on her hips, a slight smile on her lips. She was not, after all, one of the Knights of Earth Natural, like Jack and Kyle. Kyle had told her about the castle, but Jack didn’t know if she believed it.

“You want me to walk up there and get your sword?” she asked. She grinned as she said it. “I’m not one of you, your castle won’t bother me. Right?”

“I’m not sure about that,” Jack warned. “Besides, we have no idea where the sword is. Somebody would see you if you went wandering around up there and would want to know what you were doing. Most likely the Lorecaster.”

“I’ve seen him before,” Terry said. “Kyle pointed him out once in Seaside Heights. He’s not so scary. Just a skinny guy with a unibrow and a ponytail.”

“Don’t underestimate him,” Jack growled. “He’s young and he doesn’t know his power yet. But it’s there, and he most likely knows you’re connected to us, too. He was flying his raven-shadow around earlier.”

Kyle and Terry both looked up at the sky, but the raven was not to be seen.

“You feeling better now?” Jack asked Kyle. “We should get back to the boat. This is risky. I don’t know how far the castle’s influence has spread, but we’re probably at the edge of it.”

“I guess,” Kyle sighed. “Just get us back to the marina as quick as possible, okay? I feel better when you’re going faster.”

Jack led them back through the woods to where the trail dropped off towards the ocean. He paused a moment, his eye caught by motion above them. The raven was there again, circling lazily high over the boat.

He let his eyes rest on the vessel a hundred feet below them. He’d taken the 27-foot ocean sport-fishing boat as partial settlement of a suit against a developer who’d failed to follow state environmental mitigation requirements. He’d named it the Natural Seize, a play on the name of his organization, Earth Natural. He smiled a little in satisfaction.

With a jolt of adrenalin, Jack realized that the Natural Seize floated free. It was no longer tied to the tree. The bow line floated in front of it, and it backed slowly away from the shore, bobbing and rolling.

“Hey!” Jack yelled, as though the boat might respond. He scrambled down the cliff as fast as he could, slipping and sliding on the loose dirt. Several times he went down on his butt. His hands scraped against rough rock. Small prickly plants clinging to the barren cliff side stabbed him. Finally he staggered onto the narrow gravelly beach at the bottom. He edged around the big rock on slippery stones. Waves washed back and forth, wetting his shoes. The boat floated just beyond his grasp.

Jack waded further into the ocean, the seawater shockingly cold. He felt his jeans grow heavy. He thought for a moment that if he was going to swim, he should take them and his shoes off, but he didn’t have time. The boat was picking up speed as it floated further out of the cove. He needed to get to it fast.

He sucked in a lungful of air, braced himself, and dived forward into the surf. He felt his knees hit underwater rocks and was glad he’d kept his jeans on. He made some forward progress into deeper water with a breaststroke and then switched to a front crawl.

He was a strong swimmer, but open ocean wasn’t his preference. Swells splashed him in the face and he tasted salt. The cold sapped his strength quickly, and his heavy clothes and shoes dragged at him. He flipped over onto his back for a few seconds to rest. Kyle stood on the shore, Terry on top of the big boulder, watching him. The raven circled overhead.

He flipped back over and started swimming again. The rocking of the boat became more pronounced as it reached the edge of the protected water of the cove and began to encounter the larger waves of the open ocean. It was drifting southward, too. There was another outcropping that way. Another couple of minutes and the boat would slam up against the cliff. If the motors were damaged too badly he wouldn’t be able to start it and turn it into the waves, and it would eventually founder and break up against the rocks. The consequences would be dire. He was pretty sure he couldn’t make it back to shore at this point. His only chance was to get to the boat and get aboard.

He poured the last of his strength into his efforts. Another two minutes and he reached the starboard side of the boat. The outcropping loomed, each wave washing them nearer. Jack grabbed one of the bumpers and hung on to rest for a moment. Then he let go and dropped back into the water. The ladder was around the back; he worked his way aft.

The dual motors stuck out at a steep angle as he’d lifted them to avoid any rocks on his way in. The burred edges of the propeller blades caught at his arms as he went around them. For a moment he had a nightmare vision of the motors coming on by themselves, but he didn’t think the Lorecaster could do that. He was in more danger from the cliff, now just feet away.

Finally he grabbed the ladder and heaved himself up. He staggered forward and yanked open the pilothouse door. The boat shuddered as the starboard outboard struck the rocky cliff. A moment later the port motor roared to life and Jack spun the wheel to bring the lolling Conquest around into the incoming waves.

Jack steered the boat out into the ocean and swung around to make the correct approach to the cove. Bringing it alongside the rock was a little trickier with only one motor, but he didn’t want to start the starboard one until he’d had a chance to take a look at the propeller.

Terry grabbed the rail and held the boat in long enough for Kyle to step aboard, then jumped on herself.

“You want me to drive?” she asked through the pilothouse window as Jack brought them out away from the cliffs. “You need to warm up.”

Jack glanced at her. “You know how?”

“I’ll be okay out here,” she replied. “You’ll just have to take over when we get to the marina.”

He relinquished the wheel to her and stepped out into the sun on the back deck. He kept an eye on the castle retreating on the horizon as he stripped off his wet shirt and shoes. Kyle handed him a towel, and he roughed it through his hair and over his chest.

Drier and warmer, he stepped back into the pilothouse, away from the wind. Terry didn’t seem to be having a problem piloting the boat. Jack leaned against the window to her right and allowed himself to consider how close a call that had been. He realized he was shaking, from the exertion as much as from the chill.

“You think that was a coincidence?” Terry said after a few minutes.

“Hell, no.”

“You think the castle’s trying to kill you?”

“Me and everyone else it doesn’t like.” Jack glanced through the back window of the pilothouse, but they were too far away now to see the steeple. “Can’t say I blame it; I tried to blow it up once.”

A long moment went by. “So you believe the castle’s alive, then,” Terry finally said.

Jack ran a hand through his wet hair. “Not exactly. It’s inhabited by some sort of entity that lives in its stones. And it’s evil.”

Terry shrugged, but she kept her eyes on the ocean in front of the boat. “What’s evil, after all?”

“Well, I’d say some alien intelligence that wants to change the Earth as we know it is evil,” Jack said. “The castle’s growing, and the more it grows, the more rocks it inhabits and the more powerful it gets.”

“Me, I’d say that evil is something that can only be done to people by other people,” Terry replied. “Maybe you should back off and quit pissing it off. Seems like it’s got all the power in this relationship.”

Jack sat down on the forward berth and rested his elbows on his knees as the Natural Seize cut the water smoothly up on plane. Backing off was one thing he couldn’t do. There was Korrin to avenge, and all his friends who’d been lost in the slump he’d created himself. That was the most important, because he had to prove to himself that their deaths were both unavoidable and meaningful. He couldn’t agree with Terry; evil had to be an external thing. And he knew where it lay: inside that castle on the cliff, not inside his own mind.


see all kathy’s books here

 

Author KA Krisko
Author KA Krisko

K.A. Krisko currently lives in northern Colorado with her two Australian Cattle Dogs. She grew up in the Mojave Desert and Sierra Nevadas in California, went to college in Colorado and Arizona, and received an MS in Forestry. Since then she’s lived in states from Texas to Montana. She enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, walking the dogs, mountain biking, skiing, and snowshoeing, and indoor activities like DIY, reading and writing, as well as dog training and trialing in K9 Nosework.

She has published a number of fiction and non-fiction literary shorts, a number of fantasy-fiction novels: The Stolen Trilogy (“Stolen”, “Crypt of Souls”, “Hyphanden’s Box”) and “Cornerstone: Raising Rook,” and one mystery.

find out more about kathy and her books on her website

Read an excerpt from Cornerstone: Raising Rook here

Read my REVIEW of Cornerstone: Raising Rook here

The Friday Fiction with Hugh Roberts

 

 

Wahaaay! Author friend and blogger, Hugh Roberts has just released GLIMPSES, his first book! I’m well-jell of that gorgeous cover! Hugh is a fellow member of the Bloggers Bash committee, and I can honestly say you couldn’t meet a more lovely guy. Not only that, but he’s seriously talented when it comes to penning the quirky and the strange, and he’s a master of the compelling trademark sting-in-the-tail, didn’t-see-it-coming conclusion. Meet your new favourite author, and Give the Gift of a BOOK this Christmas!



The Truth App
London, 28th November, 2030

Melanie Carter had saved for months and was about to change the course of her life.
She left the Everything People’s Electric Gadgets store with a brand new purchase in her possession. She’d fallen in love with the ‘iPad 13’ as soon as she had read about it. The review written by Joan Withers, in a national magazine, had persuaded Melanie to buy one.
On going through the front door, the voice of her father called out to her.
“Is that you, Melanie?”
She wondered why he always asked this question given as they were the only two people now living in the house. Her mother, who had been an expert in computer technology, had died just before Melanie had reached her eighth birthday, and some mystery had surrounded her death. A man had been arrested and charged with the murder, but he had always claimed he was innocent. He had written to Melanie many times, but her father had intercepted all bar one of the letters. However, the one letter she had read had frightened her and she immediately destroyed it. She would never know that he had sent many more letters before and after the one she had read.
“Yes, it’s me, Dad. Have you eaten?”
Without answering, her father nodded his head and continued to watch television. He did little these days but watch television and occasionally surf the web to complete the family tree he had started to put together just before retiring from his job.
Melanie climbed the stairs to her room and closed the door gently, almost as if it was the middle of the night and she did not want to wake her father. She was eager to get her new purchase out of its box. It took her less than a minute to set up. The shop assistant, Greta, had offered to, but she was eager to get home and politely turned the offer down.
She immediately went to the App Store and scrolled through all the wonderful applications that were on offer. Many were free, but some would require payment. Nonetheless, she wanted to start downloading and to use some of them that evening.
Ten minutes later, Melanie had downloaded three free games and a couple of applications that promised to organise her busy lifestyle. These had cost her a few pounds each, but the reviews were very good and she thought it money well spent. Then, out of the corner of her eye and towards the bottom of the screen, something caught her attention.
It was the name of the app that intrigued her. ‘The Truth App.’ It was a strange looking app containing the face of a woman who was smiling. When she placed her finger over the app, Melanie was convinced that the woman was smiling at her, but when she moved her finger, the smile faded away and the woman began to look unhappy. She’d never seen anything like this before and thought it must be something new that only came with the new device.
“Download me,” whispered a woman’s voice. Melanie paused and looked around the room. The sound must have come from the television downstairs as only she and her father were in the house. Her finger once again hovered above the app and, this time, she pressed it.
The download took a few seconds. Melanie pressed the ‘open’ button and immediately looked for information on what the app did; nothing but a blank screen appeared. Even the review section was blank. Scrolling, she flicked her finger gently up the screen of the device. Nothing. She scrolled again, faster this time, but still nothing. When the scrolling finally came to a halt, a tiny door appeared on the screen. There was nothing else on view other than the tiny door and it got Melanie’s heart racing. Her finger hovered above it for a while before finally pressing it. Immediately, a fuzzy video clip started.
What Melanie saw took her breath away. There, in front of her eyes, she recognised her father arguing with a woman. The woman’s face seemed familiar and it wasn’t long before it struck Melanie that it was the same face of that of the woman on the app. They were arguing about money and then about not having anything in for dinner. The woman threw a plate at her father. It missed him by inches, smashing against a wall.
“I know exactly what you have done,” shouted her father on the videoclip. “When you married me you said you would be faithful to me and only me.”
The woman started to cry and held her hands to her face. Then it clicked. This was her mother and father she was watching.
“I’m so sorry, but I love him,” said her mother, as she dropped her hands away from her face. “You and I were never meant to be together, you know that!”
Melanie heard the sound of glass smashing. It was coming from the video clip, elsewhere in the house. She watched as her mother turned around to witness who had entered the house. To Melanie’s amazement her father picked up a knife and ran towards his wife. The screen then went blank.
“NO!”
She tapped the screen, but nothing appeared. She picked the iPad up and shook it, but still nothing. Then she remembered something she had heard many times before when this kind of thing happened with electrical items. She turned the iPad off and back on again.
For some reason the device in her hands felt strange. She fumbled for the on off switch, shaking the device hard.
“Hurry up and start again, please, I don’t have much time!” What must have been a matter of a few seconds seemed like hours, and tears rolled from her eyes as the screen of the device lit up again. She immediately looked for the apps which had been downloaded. Five of the apps were still there, but the one she didn’t ever want to see again was gone. She pressed the App Store icon and searched for the missing app by name, but it was nowhere to be found.

***

Downstairs, Frederick Carter had gone to the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea. He opened the cutlery draw and took out a teaspoon just as a noise from upstairs disturbed his thoughts of what he was going to watch next on television. He walked to the bottom of the stairs and started to climb them. He was sure it was Melanie he had just heard shouting yet her voice seemed different. Now, as he climbed the stairs, it was crying he could hear.
“Are you alright, Melanie?” he gently asked as he got to the door of Melanie’s bedroom. The crying suddenly stopped. He hesitated before putting his hand on the door knob. Turning it slowly, he paused noticing the house was now in complete silence. Even the television seemed to have gone silent. Fredrick pushed open the door. “Melanie?”
To his amazement it was not his daughter he saw sat on the bed but the strange ghostlike figure of his wife. Speechless, his body froze on the spot.
The figure moved off the bed and glided towards him. There was no struggle or noise until his body fell down the stairs.

***

As her father’s body hit the floor at the bottom of the stairs, the noise it made startled Melanie and she woke from the shallow sleep that had engulfed her.
“Dad? Is that you? Dad, are you alright?”
The door to her room was open. She was sure she had closed it when she had come into her bedroom. Melanie got off her bed and walked out of her bedroom to the top of the staircase. The sound of the television coming back on was met by a terrifying scream.

***

Over a hundred miles away, at exactly the same time Melanie Carter screamed, Joan Withers decided to take a look at the App Store on her new iPad. She was delighted with the review she had written and had been paid well for it. Something caught her eye on the screen of the device. She pressed the app, which seemed to have the image of her father on it. He had been sent to prison for a murder she was convinced he had not committed. She’d never seen anything like this on the iPad before.
Pressing the image of a tiny door which was the only thing that now appeared on the screen, a fuzzy video clip started.


kindle button




About Author Hugh Roberts
About Author Hugh Roberts

Hello, my name is Hugh, and I live in both the town of Abergavenny and the city of Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom.

I have always enjoyed writing and the fact I suffer from a mild form of dyslexia has not stopped me. Yes, I get things wrong with my reading and writing but I always find those mistakes humorous and always laugh about it. I no longer allow dyslexia get in my way. Now in my fifties, I thought it about time I let my writing become public and becoming a blogger seemed to be the perfect way for me to do this.

I share my life with my civil-partner, John and our Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Toby, who I both cherish with all my heart. I have a very positive outlook on life.

I started writing short stories at school but was never really encouraged to continue writing them. Then, many years later, I discovered blogging and wrote and published several short stories on my blog. They soon became hits and I was encouraged to publish some of the stories in a book. Now, finally, my dream of becoming a published author has come true with the publication of ‘Glimpses’ the first volume of 28 of my short stories. If like me, you enjoy shows such as The Twilight Zone, Tales Of The Unexpected, The Outer Limits and Tales From The Dark Side, then my short stories will hopefully take you on twists and turns to unexpected endings.

If you decide to buy and read my book then I’d be delighted if you would consider leaving a review on Amazon. Reviews help all authors and feedback is vital to improving my writing

I’ve always considered myself as a peoples’ person and I love to hear from anyone. Please do feel free to contact me.


where in the world is hugh?

The Friday Fiction Featuring Helen Jones

My dear author-friend and fellow blogger, Helen Jones, has just released her fab new book, A Thousand Rooms, and I was honoured to be able to offer my beta-reading services… all part of my cunning plan to read a great new book by one of my fave authors before anyone else, lol! Helen is already well known for her delightful fantasy series, the Ambeth Chronicles, but A Thousand Rooms takes her writing to a whole new level… this is very much a grown up story, and in its own unique way, sits perfectly with the season. Read on to find out why…


get your copy of A Thousand Rooms

Katie is thirty-two, single, and used to work in advertising. She’s also dead. Killed suddenly, hit by a car while crossing the road. But then… nothing happens. No angels, no loved ones arrive to help her. Instead, she’s left to wander the streets of Sydney alone, a lost soul in a big city. In this excerpt, she’s just attended her own funeral, and is now wondering what to do next. Then a light in the window of a nursing home catches her eye…

Another glow catches my eye. It’s in a window on the third floor, like a light coming on then gradually fading to off again. It’s golden and sparkling and intriguing and something in me is drawn to it, shaking me out of my fugue state. I wonder what it is, feeling a little tug under my breastbone. And, just like that, I’m inside.

I am in someone’s bedroom. I rub at the ache in my chest as I look around. The pale pink walls can’t completely disguise the fact that this is a sickroom, the ceiling hoists and metal trolley hinting at infirmity, the wheelchair folded and leaning against the wall proof of it. Yet there are touches of home. An old cushioned rocking chair next to a low table holding photographs that span decades, laughing babies grown to tall adults, young lovers to wrinkled companions. Two small paintings of ocean scenes hang on the walls, a quilted dressing gown draped across the chair. Despite the medical apparatus, it is a peaceful place. And I am not alone.

A frail old woman with soft silver hair is lying on the bed, wearing a dark pink dress and lighter pink knitted wool jacket. Her legs are bone slender in tan stockings that wrinkle around her ankles, her hands crossed on her stomach. A small group of people are gathered around the bed. Two men and a woman, all of them teary, while a teenager leans against the wall, wiping her eyes, black mascara smeared. A nurse is pulling a blanket up over the old woman, her voice gentle as she speaks to the bereaved family. The energy in the room is one of sorrow but also love and acceptance, joy of a long life lived, of life given to others. As the blanket covers the old lady the woman turns to one of the men and he holds her close, his hand on her hair as she sobs on his shoulder, his own eyes red rimmed. The other man also wipes at his eyes, his shoulders hunching. There is so much love here you can feel it, as though the air is thick and golden and warm with it, weaving soft tendrils around the little group. My own eyes tear up in response and I feel an easing inside me, as though the tense knot of wires is starting to relax, coils loosening.

But where is the old woman’s spirit? You know, the bit of her that’s like me? I can’t see her anywhere, but there seems to be a sort of glow near the door, like a faint trail of sparkles that dissipates as I watch. I stare at it for a moment and an idea hits me.

I need to be there when someone dies.

God, that sounds awful and macabre but hey, I’m already dead. I’m not some snuff film fan, someone who gets their kicks from watching others leave this world. I just want to see what happens to everyone else. To see if perhaps I can meet someone who can help me, or at least not be alone anymore. After all, it shouldn’t be too hard to find – this is a big city, people being born and dying every day. Pushing aside the idea that I’m in some sort of Purgatory to be judged, I figure this could, just maybe, work. I start to feel excited, considering the possibilities. Perhaps I could even tag along with them, if they know where they’re going, like some sort of buddy system to get you to Heaven. I giggle a bit at this, thinking of the ad campaign you could run. Something in nursing homes, you know – ‘Heaven – it’s harder to get to than you think.’ ‘Don’t die alone, take a friend.’ I imagine Darryl in the boardroom showing mock-ups to clients and I laugh even more then clap my hand over my mouth, shocked at myself. But seriously, I need to try this. I need to do something. I can’t be like this forever.

Decision made, I walk out of the room. I know, I can drift and go through walls and all that, but sometimes I just want to feel normal, you know? And walking through open doorways is a normal thing to do. I find myself in a long hallway carpeted in tasteful dark grey, the walls a restful shade of pale green. It’s deserted, thank goodness. There are doors along both sides of the hall, each with a number on them except for the occasional sign saying ‘Nurse’ or ‘Staff Only – Private.’ Paintings hang at intervals in between, peaceful scenes of landscapes and mountains and leaves.  I start to wander along, knowing what I’m looking for but not sure how to find it, wondering what the odds are of two people dying on the same night in the same place. But I can’t think too much about that so I keep going, turning a corner into another hallway, the same as the one I just left. Rubbing at my chest where I felt the little tug before, I wonder if that’s what I need to follow. Concentrating, I look at each door when I pass, but there’s nothing.

When I reach the end of the hall there’s a set of swinging doors that open onto a stairwell. I go down one level, emerging through a similar set of doors into a large dining room, a small vase of flowers on each table. One end of the room is set up with rows of chairs, many of which are filled with elderly people who are all watching a film, projected onto the large screen set into the wall. I stop for a moment to watch the flickering black and white images, a love story, by all the kissing that’s going on. The ancient faces watching range in expression from teary to dreamy to unaware, eyes in wrinkled sockets gleaming like marbles in the reflected glow from the screen on the wall.

Then I feel something, a sort of tingle in the centre of my chest and my head turns. Something is happening, nearby. Following the feeling, I’m led out of the dining room into another grey-carpeted hallway, once again lined with doors. But I know exactly which one I need. I can see the glow, golden and unmistakeable as it comes around the edge of the closed door. I think myself inside, and then I am.

Another peaceful room, pale lemon walls and another padded armchair. There are paintings on the walls here too, but these ones are religious in tone, Jesus with his heart exposed, a sad faced Madonna clutching a plump baby. A small statue of the Virgin Mary is on a small table in the corner, a lit candle in front of it. There is a pool of melted wax around the base, colourful flowers scattered on the table, their bright petals mingling with the wax.

And the glow is all around us, as though the air is full of gold sparkles, floating gently like dust motes. An old man with wisps of grey hair is lying in the bed, looking small and wizened, his eyes closed, his skin slack. His covers are pulled up to his chest, his head supported by several soft pillows. A young woman sits in a chair next to him, holding his hand, tears gleaming soft on her cheeks. A young man stands behind her, his hands on her shoulders as if to support her. She is speaking softly, almost under her breath. I can only just hear her.

‘I am here, Tio, dear Tio, we are here. And if you need to go, you go, just know that we love you, so much, we will see you again one day, we know it.’ Her voice is softly accented and it gives the words a beautiful cadence, like a prayer, as she keeps talking and rubbing the old man’s hand so very gently, as though he is unutterably fragile and precious.

Then he dies.

Just like that, his last breath going in and then no more. No exhale. It’s so peaceful, especially when compared to the crash bang of my own demise. It’s as though everything stops moving for a moment, even the gold sparkles hanging still in the air. They glow brightly and disappear, winking out like fireflies at dusk. Then, and this is really weird and kind of creepy, the old man sits up. Except it’s not his body. That’s still lying there, his hand still being held by the young woman who is sobbing now, her head bent. The dead man’s spirit turns to look at her, sorrow on his face. He reaches out as if to touch her cheek and I swear she feels it, lifting her head to look around and then up at the man behind her. Once again there’s a feeling of love, pure energy throughout the room.

A young woman comes in through the door and she is gorgeous. Caramel skin and dark eyes, curling dark hair pinned up with colourful flowers like the ones on her dress. She is smiling as she goes straight over to the dead man whose face lights up when he sees her.

‘Maria!’ he cries, taking her outstretched hands and it’s as though she pulls him completely from his body and away from the bed. He pulls her into a hug, kissing her smooth skin, burying his face in her hair. And, again, this is weird but he is starting to look younger – his back straighter, hair going from grey to black again, wrinkles smoothing away from his face until he looks the same age as the young woman.

I make a face. This has not happened to me, I’m sure. If I could find a mirror that reflected me I’m sure I would have the same crow’s feet and dark circles as always. I’d been thinking about having them ‘done,’ you know, some sort of injections but couldn’t stand the thought of filling my face with stuff. Still, doesn’t matter now. Whoops! Looks like they are getting ready to go, holding hands as they move towards the door, smiling lovingly at each other. The air is starting to glow again, but just around them. As it gets brighter I lunge forward, managing to step into the glow with them just in time. We start to ascend, surrounded by whirling lights and colours, painted Mexican sugar skulls interspersed with the Virgin Mary, fairy lights twinkling and it all spins around confusingly in a mad mix of imagery, lifting us as though we’re in the centre of a tornado but it’s not frightening at all. In fact, it’s amazing. Whee! I’m finally on my way to Heaven! I guess the fact that I know I’m dead helps – after all, what else can happen to me? We land, and I look around in wonder.


Buy Helen’s Books

Author Helen Jones
Author Helen Jones

Helen Jones was born in the UK, but then spent many years living in Canada and Australia before returning to England several years ago. She has worked as a freelance writer for the past ten years, runs her own blog and has contributed guest posts to others, including the Bloomsbury Writers & Artists site. When she’s not writing, she likes to walk, paint and study karate (when housework and family life permit!) She’s now working on several other novels, enjoying the chance to explore new fantasy worlds. She lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and daughter and spends her days writing, thinking, cleaning and counting cats on the way to school.


Where does Helen hang out?

Blog: http://www.journeytoambeth.com
Facebook: Author Helen Jones
Twitter: @AuthorHelenJ
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/helenjones
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/helenejones33/

The Glade #writephoto

The Glade Sue Vincent's #writephoto Prompt www.aliisaacstoryteller.com
The Glade Sue Vincent’s #writephoto Prompt
http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

I haven’t taken part in many writing challenges recently. Quite honestly, its all been a bit of a struggle for a while, writing and researching for the blog, keeping up with all your lovely blogs and comments, writing books and all my motherly duties as well. Sometimes everything seems to conspire to suck the inspiration out of you, and it’s a downward spiral from there. But Sue’s picture really spoke to me; it reminded me of all the old places of Ireland I love with my heart and soul and bones. I need to pay some visits. In the meantime, I wrote this, and added a poem I started when I was about 17, but only finished last year. It seems to fit the prompt. At least to me.


the glade

Beards of moss drape old stones with velvet softness. Stark-raw and already ancient, these great stone-bones once teased and tortured from the earth into grey new skeletons, wherein men danced and dreamed and viewed the stars, survive in hunched fragments of former glory.

Now tumbled and crumbled, they lie discarded, forgotten, memories of magic dormant yet still alive throbbing within them. You can feel it if you touch them, feel the vibration in the air on your skin. Be still.

The earth remembers. Time is meaningless here; there is no rush. She feels her way, creeping slowly over recumbent remains, claiming lost treasure torn from her flesh. She heals the hurt without reproach while no one notices.


ancient places
What cities lie buried beneath each hill?

Monuments born of ancient times,

Forgotten and lost but standing still,

Neglected, disconnected, these are our crimes.

*

What histories are etched into ancient stones?

Tales decayed with the fall of walls,

The sag of dynasty, the crumble of bones,

The march of ghosts through tumbled halls.

*

If we could learn to unlock the past

What shrouds would unfurl from our eyes?

Would realisation be ours at last?

Understanding the what, when, who and why's.

*

The power was strong, up on Shee Mor,

I felt at great peace, content.

At Moytura, where warriors fought their war

no harm for me was meant.

*

At Uisneach, by the lough where Lugh was drowned

I grieved for Eire's loss, watched Beltaine fires leap.

Then to Tara, where High Kings were crowned,

the Sacred Stone sadly lost in eternal slumber deep.

*

These places, their magic floods my soul,

washes me clean of the now.

Their stories surge through me, re-make me whole,

ancient voices tell of the how.

*

Ancestors sing and call me home.

I would go if I knew the way.

Under my feet, beneath the loam

stirs blood, beats heart of a by-gone day.

Head on over to Sue Vincent’s blog to take a look at the other entries, and if you fancy giving it a go yourself, here is what you have to do;

Use the image to create a post on your own blog… poetry, prose, humour… by Wednesday 25th May and link back to Sue’s post, not this one, with a pingback. Please make sure that the pingback works and if not, copy and paste your link into the comments section of  Sue’s post.

Don’t forget to use the new and shiny #writephoto hashtag in your title:)

Due to the volume of entries, only the first few posts will feature on Sue’s blog during the week and all posts will be included in a round up on Thursday 26th May.

Feel free to use #writephoto logo or include the prompt photo in your post if you wish or you can replace it with one of your own to illustrate your work. Have fun!


Get more mythology straight to your inbox. Sign up to my mailing list.

Or try one of these…

The Friday Fiction featuring Ronovan Hester and P.S. Bartlett

Ronovan1

Today on the Friday Fiction, I am lucky enough to have not one but TWO authors to present to you, PS Bartlett and Ronovan Hester, who have co-authored their first book together, Amber Wake Gabriel Falling. Here are the excerpts they have chosen from their book… enjoy!


PS Bartlett’s Excerpt Selection

A walk home seemed appropriate for the day, free from all confinements of carriage or any other barriers between myself and the fresh air of freedom. The day was not so awful for autumn in London, and a walk along Whitehall Street was a welcome task of spontaneity that I rarely gave in to. For a change, there was no rain or fierce winds. One might have even mistaken the season for spring, had the trees been in bloom instead of barren. I gazed at the ruins of the palace and wondered if perhaps its burning had been a sign of things to come for the ruling powers of the land and sea of the empire.

As I passed people in the street, I received varied looks without my wig, but no matter. I cared not about the indignant gawking of pious men, nor what might be considered the inquisitive gazes of the women. No longer was I under the hypocritical rule of men such as Admiral Chambers.

Plans had been made. Throughout the trial, my time away from my ship had not been spent simply awaiting my fate. I had been trained to prepare for anything and no loss of title or station changed who I was. The month had provided ample time to discover a great many things about those who’d been plotting against me and my family for far too long. It was time to utilize the knowledge I possessed and set my plans in motion.

Once reaching home, I sat in my mother’s favorite chair beside the garden window to contemplate the only task I had left before me. I retrieved my pistol from the side table drawer and rested it in my lap. What little trust I had left in the world wasn’t enough to allow me to relax in comfort without it. I knew my days in London had come to an end, but I also knew the angry eyes that had burned with revenge had pistols too. I’d set my course and had no choice but to follow it, and there would not be much I would miss other than my family home. However, those few things that I would have to leave behind brought an ache to my chest that drained the strength from my body and filled me with an ill feeling. However, at times there were things one needed to put before those aches.

Not everyone performing duties to the crown need wear powdered fluff. A month ago…an age ago…I received those two messages: one notifying me of my planned court-martial, and the other one of most importance, from my father’s old friend.

The day spent at Hampton Court, learning of possible threats to the throne came rushing back to mind. A month of intrigue and questions followed, too many to think of now, with all pointing to one answer; I must do my duty to my country. The throne needed me in this most dire time, and I would not be found wanting; even if I must fight the Royal Navy itself to complete my mission.

The kindly housemaid, Mildred, brought my afternoon tea, and I watched the few remaining birds as they rested on the branches outside my window.

“Will there be anything else, Captain Wallace?” Mildred asked.

“No, thank you. Has Adam yet returned from his lessons?”

“Not as of yet, sir. I’m sure he’ll be along soon,” she answered.

“Thank you, Mildred. That will be all.”

“Captain Wallace, might I be excused this evening? A friend has inquired as to my joining her for a bit this evening. She is feeling under the weather, ye see. Dinner is prepared and…”

“Yes, yes, yes, please, Mildred. See to your friend. Adam and I are more than capable of warming a meal.”

She bowed to me and made her goodbyes.

At rest for the first time in as long as I could remember and spent of all mental abilities, I succumbed to fatigue and drifted to sleep.

The room was shrouded by nightfall when I abruptly awoke. I jerked and clasped the arms of the chair in confusion, wondering how long I’d slept and having no idea of the hour.

“No need to be alarmed as of yet, Captain.” I turned to the voice.

The young and dashing figure of Maddox Carbonale stood with his arms folded, leaning against the heavy oak desk once belonging to my father. I pulled my pistol and rubbed at my eyes to insure I was indeed awake, as he was the last person I’d expect to find in my home at any hour. “I’d have believed you were wiser, Maddox, and had taken your leave of London by now…or at least I’d hoped you had.”


Ronovan Hester’s Excerpt Selection

“Islands? I abhor the heat. However, I’m always up for an adventure. I just may do that—if I can find a swimming horse.” With one last handshake, the young man set his hat upon his dark curls and began his walk south along the shoreline, until he eventually disappeared into the darkness.

“Will he make it?” Miles asked as we climbed into the boat with our crewmen to begin our trek back to the ship.

I paused for a moment and stared into the night one last time. “Yes. He’s too stubborn not to.”

“You know, he told me you might’ve killed Jonathan.”

I looked across the water at the lantern lights of Majesty’s Venture without acknowledging Miles’s remark.

“Miles, I’ve been thinking she needs a new name. How about—”

The sound of cannon fire shook us with such force we nearly fell out of the boat. “Captain!” Miles bellowed, pointing down the beach.

“What the bloody hell!” I shouted when I realized it was the Venture who’d fired her guns. We shielded our heads as the sand exploded about twenty yards away when the rounds struck. When I raised my head, I turned my eyes back to the beach and saw Carbonale running for his life towards us out of the darkness. He was being pursued by what appeared to be a dozen men on horseback. However, when the round of shot struck the beach, the horses reared up and retreated in fear, bolting from the blasts of flying sand.

The five-man crew hopped to their stations in the longboat as we rowed her back to shore. “Hurry, man!” Miles shouted as he caught Carbonale’s duffle and tossed it into the boat. Maddox quickly followed it with a leap, head first, and rolled to a stop.

“Didn’t I tell you to stay away from the women?” I asked, pulling him by the sleeve to a seat.

“Now you decide to share your sense of humor? I might have been killed, you know.” I couldn’t help but smirk at his question, as well as his gasps for breath as his arms flailed in exasperation.

Again we ducked for cover as another round was fired from the ship, striking the land with a thump and woosh of wet sand. Miles rose and raised his musket, firing on the group of remaining men who’d boldly refused to end their pursuit and had ridden their horses into the surf.


ps-bartlettPS Bartlett

Award winning author, P.S. Bartlett, was born on Valentine’s Day many moons ago in South Baltimore, Maryland, less than a mile from Fort McHenry and Federal Hill.

Her first novel, Fireflies, was published with GMTA Publishing in 2013 and the prequel to Fireflies, entitled, Hope From the Ocean, was published in March of 2014, followed by the flagship book in her new series The Blue Diamond – The Razor’s Edge, in October of 2014.

She loves history and historical fiction. She gets her history fix via movies, television and of course, books although she enjoys reading almost every genre. Her motto is: “I’m taking a fantastic voyage. Won’t you join me?”

Website: http://psbartlett.me/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PSBartlett

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PSBartlett

Goodreads: 

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7012732.P_S_Bartlett

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/peggystankiewicz/

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/psbartlett214/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/P.S.-Bartlett/e/B00CP4PF4U/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1


ronovan-hesterRonovan Hester

Ronovan Hester is a writer living near Athens, GA, home of his alma mater, The University of Georgia, where he received a B.S.Ed. in History Education. Ronovan puts his love of history and his over 20 years of writing experience to use in his debut Historical Adventure set in 1705 England, American Colonies, and Caribbean co-authored with P.S. Bartlett.

Ronovan’s devotion to history and writing sometimes competes with his love of tacos and fresh fruit. At times, all his favorite things work hand in hand in mouth during long binge writing sessions that have been known to last nonstop for over 24 hours. Rather than see a sleep disorder as a hindrance, he uses the time for creative purposes or watching old TV shows on online.

Ronovan enjoys putting elements of history, if only as nods to the past, in all of his book projects. He currently instills that love of history and learning in his son daily as he helps him through his college prep courses, meaning hours of homework every night, even while not yet a teenager—his son, not Ronovan. Now if he could find a very good mute for that trumpet his son just began learning.

Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling on Amazon.com

Amber Wake; Gabriel Falling on Amazon.UK

Amber Wake; Gabriel Falling on Amazon.CA

Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling on Amazon.IN

You may connect with Ronovan through:

Amazon Author Page: Ronovan Hester

Amazon UK Author Page: Ronovan Hester

Personal Blog: RonovanWrites.WordPress.com

Author Site: RonovanHester.com

Book Review Site: LitWorldInterviews.com

Twitter: @RonovanWrites

Goodreads: Ronovan Hester

Facebook: Ronovan Writes

Google+: Ronovan Writes

LinkedIn: Ronovan Hester

About.me: Ronovan

Pinterest: RonovanWrites

Swanskin Update No3 I DID IT!

Swanskin | Update No3 http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

I did it! The first draft of Swanskin is complete! I wrote a mighty (for me!) 7033 words, and on Wednesday, the job was done. Swanskin is just a little book, my first novella. I anticipated around 30K words, and it came in at just under, but that could change. There are a few areas I need to rewrite. And of course, the whole thing needs a bit of spit and polish. The story came to me in such a rush, that I was in a hurry to get it all down and catch up with myself.

Strangely, once I got going, I became very emotionally invested in this story. I didn’t expect that. It was inspired by the lovely tale from Irish mythology called The Dream of Óengus, which I retold for my compilation, Conor Kelly’s Legends of Ireland. This story is one of the few Irish myth stories which ends on a happy note. Swanskin, I have to tell you, does not, but follows in the true vein of romantic tragedies.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter Ten, in which Cethlenn is considering whether to tell her bestie, Sophie, about Ruadhán…

“Where the hell have you been? You missed registration,” hissed Sophie.

“Well I’m here now, aren’t I?” I banged the door of my locker shut and turned to face her.

She gasped. “What happened to you?”

“Nothing.” I picked up my bag and shouldered past her.

“Doesn’t look like nothing.”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Try me.”

I stopped and stared at her, weighing up what I could trust her with. She was my best friend, and we had shared everything since we first met at primary school. We were more like sisters than friends.

“Really, it’s nothing.” I carried on walking.

She shrugged. “Ok, but you’re going the wrong way. First exam is in Room 12.”

“I know that,” I snapped.

She fell in beside me. “You sure you’re in a fit state to do this exam? Maybe you should tell old Poker-face you’re not well.”

I took a deep breath. “I’m fine.”

“Ok. Well, I covered for you. I told her you were so nervous you were puking your guts up in the bogs,  and that’s why you missed registration. I reckon you’ll get away with it.”

I grinned. “Thanks, Sophie. You’re the best.”

Here’s another little excerpt. Ruadhán had gone missing, and this is what happened on his return…

I opened my eyes, but blackness still pressed against them. I blinked just to be sure. Yes, pitch black. No moon. I reached for my phone; 2am. Great.

My eyes were swollen and tender from crying. I’d had a huge row with Mam. I squeezed them tightly shut again. I just wanted to sleep, so I didn’t have to remember, so I didn’t have to think, so I could just slip into oblivion and not have to feel so shit.

There it was again; the noise which had awoken me. Someone was throwing stones up at my window. But who? Sophie? No way, we hadn’t spoken in weeks. Besides, not much would drag her from her bed before lunch-time. Cian? Had he forgotten his keys again? I’d bloody kill him.

I yanked the quilt aside furiously, and went to the window. Although it was a dark night, there was no mistaking the long coppery hair which glinted under the starlight.

Ruadhán!

I flew down the stairs, heart hammering like a pneumatic drill. I wanted to scream at him, thump him, beat him black and blue for dumping me, but most of all, I wanted to lose myself in his kiss. Then I would kill him.

I fumbled with the key in the lock. Somehow, my fingers didn’t seem to know what to do, ten stubby fat sausages struggling to manipulate a key so tiny it must have been made for Barbie’s gaudy apartment. My whole body was shaking. But I managed it, and then I was in his arms, clinging to him like ivy to a tree.

So there you have it. Next week, I will begin  editing, and contacting beta readers soon after. Thank you to my lovely volunteers!

SWAN FACT No3: A swan can fly at speeds of up to  sixty miles per hour.

other news. 

I wrote a quatern poem for Jane Dougherty‘s prompt called The Bridge. Please pop along to her blog to read it, if you are interested. I love poetry, but it doesn’t come easy to me.

I also submitted a micro-fiction piece to Sacha Black‘s Writespiration, inspired by the prompt; ‘Write about a rusty thing’. So I did, but it’s probably not what you might think. Why not drop by her blog and check out all the other fab entries while you’re there.

Last but by no means least, I would like to thank lovely ladies Marje of Kyrosmagica, and Sally of Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life, who both nominated me for the #Girllove Blog Challenge. I am deeply touched and honoured, and hope to complete this challenge in the not too distant future.

#Girllove challenge was launched by Lilly Singh, a.k.a. Superwoman, on her  YouTube Channel. Lilly Singh is a Canadian vlogger, actress, comedian, and rapper, age 27. She is tired of ‘girl-on-girl hate’ in schools, workplaces, and social media, so she decided to reverse trends by promoting #GirlLove.  In her empowering video  young women speak out  about their respect and gratitude for other women in their lives. Proceeds from video views will go to the Malala Fund to help educate girls around the world. The goal of the fund is to “enable girls to complete 12 years of safe, quality education so that they can achieve their potential and be positive change-makers in their families and communities”.

 

Who Did You Inspire Today? You Might Be Surprised!

(c) Seamus McArdle
(c) Seamus McArdle

A few days ago, I received the following sketch in a message, with the words, “Thanks for the inspiration for this.”

(c) Seamus McArdle

Seamus McArdle is an Irish author and artist who has featured on this blog before. You can read about him in my post, The Friday Fiction with Artist and Author Seamus McArdle. I have always loved the intricate detail, the colours, the symbolism, and the style of Seamus’s artwork, so to receive a sketch and message like this was intriguing and exciting, to say the least.

It turns out that Seamus had been inspired by a story I had included in one of my blog posts about a giant serpent-like creature which had swallowed a drunken harper, who had continued to play his harp from inside the beast, not realising where he was. Here is how I told it…

“One such creature, named Oillipéist (oll meaning ‘great’, péist meaningworm/ reptile/ beast’) is credited with having carved out the route of the River Shannon. Apparently, he swallowed a drunken piper by the name of Ó Ruirc, who, much to his chagrin, continued playing, unaware of his fate. Infuriated by the din, Oillipéist consequently coughed him up and spat him out in disgust.”

Now I can’t take any credit for the story, it already exists in Irish folklore, but you can read more in my post,  Lake Dwellers of Ancient Ireland. Little did I know when I wrote it that it would inspire someone to create a painting!

Writing isn’t just about number of blog views, or book sales. It’s about connecting with people, and I am so happy that in this case, a few words I wrote down one evening connected with someone to such an extent, that he was inspired to create a work of art. What a compliment that is.

A few days after sending me the initial sketch, Seamus messaged me with the final completed picture. Thanks, Seamus, you really made my day! I love it! I love the colour, I love the detail particularly of the hands, face and hair. I love the fish skeletons, and the molluscs. I love the eternal, circular aspect of it. It’s so full of colour and life and movement. You can see the finished painting in its glorious detail at the top of the post.

You can view more of Seamus’s art on his website, www.seamusmcardle.ie, and you can buy his enchanting book on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.