aliisaacstoryteller

Friday Fantastic Flash

Headstone in cemetery with flowers for concept of death and loss

Flash Fiction Friday is a new feature on aliisaacstoryteller, which will run in conjunction with The Friday Fiction. I am inviting all you authors, bloggers and readers to join me and have a go. You can submit here, I will feature only one story each week. Entries can be on any subject, so long as they are under 500 words, but please remember that I write YA, so there may be young people on this site… please keep it family friendly. I really hope you will join me and take part in the craic!

So here is my entry to kick it all off.


Birth Mother

“You’re not my real mother!”

She recoils, as if I have stabbed her with a real knife, not just the sharp edges of my words. Her pale lips tremble, the voice they issue so frail I can barely make it out.

“I nurtured you, reared you, devoted the best part of my life to you. What does that make me, if not your real mother?”

But my feet have already jumped the precipice; there is no going back. “She gave me life. There is no greater gift a mother can give a child.”

“That’s not true.”

“You just don’t want me to find my real parents. You want me all for yourself. You’re selfish, and afraid.”

An uncharacteristic hardness settles into the line of her jaw. “Alright, then. I set you free.”

It is not the reaction I expect, and I flounder, speechless for once.

“Get your coat. I’ll show you.”

I have no choice but to scrape up my courage and follow her out the door.

*

I eye the gravestone, the bare plot, untended and unloved, and wipe the tears savagely from my face.

Sometimes, the stories we make up for ourselves are preferable to the truth. Sometimes, the most twisted imagination can’t compete with reality.

She died young, my birth mother, her life stolen by the drugs she craved so badly for most of it. I had been taken from her as a baby when she was caught trying to sell me in a pub, a desperate attempt to raise funds to fuel her addiction.

Five hundred euros was all I was worth.

I turn away, burying myself in my real mother’s arms. She holds me tightly, stroking my hair, and murmurs softly.

“It was the best five hundred euros I ever spent.”


 

Don’t forget to submit your flash fiction piece here. Thanks for reading and taking part!


The Friday Fiction featuring Alexes Razevich

Khe_alexes


Extract from KHE by Alexes Rasevich

I pulled my cloak tight, as though that could keep me safe if she awoke from her trance and grabbed for me. On my knees, moving slowly, I began to gather my few things. If the snow had stopped, I’d try to make it to the kler. Even that fearsome place seemed better than staying here with her. All I had to do was get past her to the cave opening.

The babbler sighed deeply. I swung my head around to look at her. My hands were clenched into fists. Her eyes were open and clear. She stared as if waiting for me to do something she both dreaded and expected.

“The storm is full-fledge,” she said calmly. “It won’t stop for three days. You head out into it now, you will freeze to death.”

“I see mud on your foot casings. The snow probably turned to rain awhile ago.” I cocked my head and listened, but heard no telltale drip of water. “Has the rain stopped, too?”

The babbler picked at the mud on her casings. “I was hungry. The stream plants are delicious, but you get dirty fetching them out. I found that sled and those goods while I was out.” She tilted her head back and stared at the rocky ceiling. “You do remember that I was a weather-prophet. Long, long ago. Before—” Her emotion spots erupted brown-black with anger.

As quickly as it had come, the color vanished from her neck. When she spoke again, her voice had the flat cadence of weather-prophets on the vision stage. “The storm will rage three days, then lessen. On the fifth day, it will rain slightly. On the sixth day, the sun will warm the land and cloaks will not be needed.”

The fire had nearly died out. I fed it more branches and sat back. I stared at the babbler, trying to judge how much of what she said was true, how much was madness speaking—and how frightened of her I should be. Had she really been a weather-prophet? Could she still do it?

“The storm will be at its height tomorrow at mid-day.” She waggled a long, pointed finger at me. “I wasn’t just a prophet, you know. I was First. I could always taste the weather before anyone else—better than anyone else.”

The emotion spots on her neck flared bright green, the color of pride. If she hadn’t really been a prophet, she certainly believed she had been.

Her mouth crinkled, spreading her lips over her teeth. “I’ll tell you a secret. Coming snow doesn’t taste cold at all.”

Best to let her talk and stay on her good side. If she were right about the storm, I’d be stuck in our shared shelter for several days.

“What does snow taste like?” I asked.

“Like blood—what did you think?” She laughed and hugged herself.

“I see by your clothes that you’re a country doumana,” the babbler said. “No doubt you stare up at the sky and watch the clouds, judge how the wind is blowing, see what colors circle the moon, and guess your weather that way. Then you consult the vision stage and let a weather-prophet tell you how close to right you’ve come. But if you’ve got the knowledge, you just open your mouth and taste. Rain is like sour fruit, makes my mouth pucker. Heat taste like dirt.” She patted my leg with her filthy hand. “There now, isn’t that a good gift I’ve given?”

She’d given me nothing, but I said, “Yes. Thank you.”

“Oh, the doumana thanks a babbler. That’s a pretty bunch of manners they taught you at Lunge commune.”

Before I could say more, her eyes rolled back in her head and she went rigid again. I couldn’t know how long this fit would last. I crept past her out the large chamber we shared, to the smaller front cave. Snow was falling hard and fast. I wasn’t going anywhere for a while.

The babbler’s voice came from behind me.

“What did you say your name was?”

I made my way back into the large chamber.

“Khe,” I said, and suddenly very much wanted for her to have a name. When babblers were cast out from their communities, they left everything, even their names. Babblers didn’t mind, so they said. Insanity robbed them of the will to care. They said babblers didn’t even care about their own lives and died quickly once they’d departed. But the state of this babbler’s clothes and body made me think she’d been away from her kler a long time.

“When did you leave your community?” I asked.

The babbler’s full lips curled back from her teeth. “Long ago. Two years? I’ve forgotten.” Her eyes lit with a sudden thought. “I was fourteen then. How old am I now?”

She licked her fingers to wet them, turned her left arm so the inside faced up, and smeared away the dirt covering her wrist. I leaned close to her arm, to see. We both stared at the cluster of small blue dots on her skin, two rows of seven and a third row with four.

“Eighteen.” She seemed delighted with the discovery.

I blew out a breath. She’d survived four years on her own. Maybe I could survive the Barren Season and into First Warmth.

“How old are you?” she asked.

My emotion spots flamed. I didn’t know how to answer her. I turned over my arm so she could see the dots on my wrists, four rows of seven and a fifth row of six.

“Thirty-four,” the babbler said and wiped her hands against her mud-splattered hip wrap. “One more year and you’ll return to the creator.” She stared at my neck. “Not too happy about that, are you?”

My heart clenched like a fist. To return to the creator was a joy, but not when almost two-thirds of my life had been stolen away, my span unnaturally shortened not by accident or illness, but by greed. Lifetime I wanted back.

I glanced away and took a deep breath, drawing the stale air of the cave into my lungs and holding it, then letting it out slowly, the way Tav had taught us to calm ourselves, back when we were hatchlings. Long before my defect was discovered. Before my abilities set Simanca’s eyes aglow.

“Put some wood on the fire,” the babbler said. “It’s almost out again.” She hugged her arms around her thin chest. “I haven’t had a fire for…who knows how long? No firestarter. Lucky for me to have found this sled with so many useful things packed on it. I’ve been cold.”

“It’s my sled,” I said. “I built it. Those are my things.”

“Hmm,” the babbler said. “Put some wood on the fire anyway.”

I fed small sticks to the embers, glad for the warmth. When they caught and flared, I added a few broken branches. We’d have to conserve, though, if the storm was really going to last as long as the babbler predicted.

“You can stay,” she said. “It never gets wet in here. And the wind doesn’t blow through.”

I rubbed my neck, comforted by the familiar touch of my own skin. “Thank you.”

The babbler bit the tips of her dirty fingers. “Are you going to stay?”

“Until the storm stops.”

“Are you going to pay?”

“What?” I asked.

“There’s a cost for hospitality.”

My stomach tightened and my neck itched.

The babbler hummed under her breath, a long low sound: arrumm, arrumm.

“I don’t have food to offer.” I said. “I only have what’s on the sled.”

Arrumm. Arrumm.”

“I could maybe spare one of the knives.”

The babbler stopped humming and pointed one dirty finger at me. “All this time, I’ve been alone, without the sound of another’s voice.” She leaned close. “You must tell me your history as it happened, completely and in detail. Then you must listen to mine. Conversation and companionship is the price I ask.”


 

 

 


About Alexes

 

Alexes Razevich was born in New York and grew up in Orange County, California. She attended California State University San Francisco where she earned a degree in Creative Writing. After a successful career on the fringe of the electronics industry, including stints as Director of Marketing for a major trade show management company and as an editor for Electronic Engineering Times, she returned to her first love–fiction. She lives in California with her husband. When she isn’t writing, she’s probably playing hockey or on a trip somewhere she hasn’t been before.


Find Alexes here

Khe

US: http://www.amazon.com/Khe-ebook/dp/B00987OLVU
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/tags-on-product/B00987OLVU

Ashes and Rain

US: http://www.amazon.com/Ashes-Rain-Sequel-Ahsenthe-Cycle-ebook/dp/B00WDQSL3W
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ashes-Rain-Sequel-Ahsenthe-Cycle-ebook/dp/B00WDQSL3W

Shadowline Drift

US: http://www.amazon.com/Shadowline-Drift-A-Metaphysical-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00JEP2GBI
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadowline-Drift-A-Metaphysical-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00JEP2GBI/

Website

http://www.alexesrazevich.com/

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/AlexesRazevichAuthor

New Releases Mailing List

http://eepurl.com/08229

The Friday Fiction | Squid McFinnigan

squids book

Excerpt from Honeysuckle Lane

Frank’s palms slipped on the steering wheel. He was in a full panic attack now. Was the car following or not? His eyes flicked constantly to the rear view mirror. Hunched up over the wheel, his body hummed with tension.

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” he said giving voice to his worry. He had to hit the brakes hard when a red Micra pulled out of nowhere. He had been so absorbed in the mirror, he failed to notice it coming from the slip road. The car behind him blasted its horn angrily, surely that was good. If they were tailing him, why would they draw attention to themselves? Frank’s exit was coming up, then he would know for sure. Leaving it to the last minute, he swerved into the turn off, not even indicating. When he looked in the mirror it was still there, taunting him, its grill smiling. It kept well back, but always there. The windows were tinted, a man’s car, an angry man’s car, a violent car. Whoever it was, they were following him for sure, and Frank had a damn good idea who was behind the wheel. He had no choice now. He had to get home and quick.

Before long, Frank was weaving through the rabbit warren of houses, which made up the cities commuter belt. The grid pattern of seventies estate design had been replaced with graceful swirls and twists. Each, revealing a small cluster of houses, while cleverly hiding the massive number of identical clusters, the miracle of modern living. Down along ‘Ivey Terrace’, the black car stayed behind him, around ‘Elder Close’, the car was still there. Turning on to ‘Elm Road’. Wait, it didn’t turn. The car was gone. Frank waited for the car to re-appear, but it never did. Five minutes later, Frank pulled into ‘Honeysuckle Lane,’ and his own driveway. Frank sat there, breathing hard, willing his heart to slow a little. He looked behind him and the road was deserted, he must have been letting his imagination run away with him. He had to get a grip on things.

Nine, identical detached, houses stood in a crescent, facing a small tree planted green. Front gardens with no dividing walls, window boxes and hanging baskets abounded. Not a person to be seen. People didn’t work or socialise here, they merely sleep, that’s commuter living. All kinds of people housed in identical boxes, those that couldn’t afford city prices, but still lived the city life. Frank stepped out of his car, taking his bag from the back seat. He walked towards his door and behind him, his car beeped, knowing the key was leaving, the car automatically locked up. When he first got it, he’d thought it was cute, like the car was saying good bye. Now it just depressed him. Locking the car, yet another task modern technology wouldn’t trust to a stupid human. Were we becoming obsolete, only useful for consuming and breaking things?

Frank strode quickly up the drive to the house, the feeling of being followed lingered like a bitter after taste in his mind. Once inside he locked the door behind him. At last he felt safe, in his own place. He rested his head against the timber, taking long calming breaths. Sweat stuck the shirt to his back, upstairs a floorboard creaked and Frank held his breath.


Hi Squid, welcome back to aliisaacstoryteller! It’s been a while since you were last here, and I can see that you’ve been very busy indeed during that time! Can you please tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book, Honeysuckle Lane? What inspired you to write it?

Sometimes, things happen during the most mundane of tasks, which make me prick up my ears and pay attention. The idea for Brendan, the main character in ‘Honeysuckle Lane’, came to me in Tesco’s, of all places. I was wandering around the dairy area, when I noticed a tall man pick up a pot of natural yogurt. He looked at the pot for a few moments, then slipped it back on the shelf.

Perhaps my brain works differently to other people’s, because the first thing I thought wasn’t “Some yogurt would be nice right now” but “Imagine how easy it would be to slip a poisoned pot of yogurt on the shelf, letting fate decide who might pick it up.”

That idea that gave birth to Brendan. Over the coming days, I imagined what a man, who would place poisoned yogurt, on a supermarket shelf, might be like. I fleshed out his bones in my mind and wondered what other weird stuff he might indulge in.

The canal scene in ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ formed when out walking the dogs one evening I came up behind a lady walking alone. As I got closer, I could see her tense up. In my case I gave a cheery greeting and hurried past. Brendan, on the other hand, would have gotten right up behind her and stayed there, matching her pace, knowing that every step was making the woman lose her mind.

After Brendan’s personality began to solidify in my head, I wondered what it would be like to live alongside such a person. Then again, you could be living right next door and who would be any the wiser, until it was too late of course. That was the spark, which kicked off the other stories, and the idea that they should all take place in the same row of houses and run concurrently.

The story outline quickly came together, and I wrote each chapter as it would happen in real time. I had a vague idea where ‘Honeysuckle’ would go, but I had to let the story take its own road to get there. Lots of things happened that I hadn’t planned, or even thought of, until the words appeared on the screen in front of me. I often wondered if I would be able to hold the whole thing together for the duration of 100K words, but I did, and the proof of the pudding is there for all to see.

Hmmm… sounds intriguing! So tell me, what was the deciding factor which made you go down Kindle Scout route?

This is my first go at a novel, and to the publishing world, I am an unknown entity. It’s very difficult to get an agent or publisher to take a punt on a wet-behind-the-ears prospect. It would have to be one hell of a book to come out of the blocks and straight into a publishing deal. I always felt if I got ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ finished, it would have to be self-published.

By the time ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ was eventually finished, I had spent hundreds of hours writing, changing, rewriting, and editing, the thing. I had fallen in love with it, and the thought of just casting it into the vast ocean of books, that is Amazon, filled me with dread.

I sent submissions to a few agents, but the length of time they take to even read something is daunting. That was when Kathleen Rothenberger, the lady who edited the book, told me about Kindle Scout. What appealed to me about this platform, is vetting of manuscripts before they are accepted. I think the volume of books appearing every day in the self-published arena is killing everyone’s prospects of success.

I like the fact that the public have a vote in what they like and what they don’t, on Kindle Scout. I like that it is a secret ballot, and the voting is not influencing potential readers. I don’t know who has voted for ‘Honeysuckle Lane’, and neither does anyone else. I truly believe this is a good thing for E books and could well be the way to go in the future. As they say, a rising tide floats all boats. I hope that ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ will make the grade but only the public and the good people at Kindle Scout can decide that.

Well, best of luck with that, Squid! Writing one’s first novel is a huge learning curve for any author. What is your top tip for aspiring authors just starting out on their writing journey?

I think that the most important thing for any writer, is to enjoy what they do. If you get into this game for fame, or fortune, you are going to be very disappointed. I would also say that new writers should not fear criticism. No work is universally liked, none.

Reading is vital, if you love to write, you should LOVE to read. If you don’t, I think you should take up a different hobby.

Lastly, I would ask them to decide if they would still write, if they knew the works they penned were going to sit in a dusty box, for the rest of time. If they still say yes, then they are born to be writers. It is a human trait to want to share our thoughts and experiences with others. I get such a buzz when someone takes the time to read one of my stories, and to be honest, I can’t get enough of the feeling. I think that’s factor which is driving me to get ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ published.

Yes, that sure is a great feeling! So how do we go about reading and voting for ‘Honeysuckle Lane’?

Oh, that’s very easy indeed. Just go to https://kindlescout.amazon.comYou have to log in. Some existing accounts cannot access this, or are told ‘USA only’. If that happens, any account opened with a new E-mail will allow access. (I am not sure why this works, but it does.)

Find the cover of ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ and click on it. This will open up the first 5000 words for you to read. Then at the bottom, you get to nominate the book by pressing the big blue button, if you liked what you saw.

You are allowed three nominations at any one time. When the books you have picked run out of time, they are either selected for publication, or not. If the book is selected, then all who voted for it get a free advance copy. You can see how Kindle Scout reviewers could quickly build up a nice little library.

squidAnd now, a little about you. Do you have a day job when you’re not writing?

Normally you can find me standing behind the bar, polishing a few glasses or pulling a pint or two. My job was something I had to give a lot of consideration to when I started writing. In my life, I hear more than a few personal details, and some of the people who have confided in me would be upset if they felt I was using them in my writing. That was why I decided to mask the exact location of my little establishment, to protect the guilty in a manner of speaking. Some of the customers know that I write and even follow along on my blog but I tend to keep it under the radar when I can. Eventually it will all come out I am sure but that is a bridge to cross on another day.

Ok, so tell us a little something about your background that no one else will know…

I have shared a fair bit about myself in my stories and on my blog, so picking something big that is unknown is difficult.

It might seem strange, but I love storms, big ones. My favourite place to go when a storm is raging through the night, is the local pier. I love to hear the wind howling, the feeling of the spray stinging my face as it is driven on hurricane force winds, and watching the waves explode high into the air. I walk out as far as I can and stand there, feeling the force of nature drench me to the skin. It makes me remember just how small I am.

Interesting! I like watching storms too, but from the nice dry interior of my home preferably, lol! So, what is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? How do you start your day?

Ha! Mornings and I don’t get on so well. Most days, the sun is coming up about the same time, I am going down. But the first thing I do every day when I get up, is open the curtains, feed my gold fish and I always say “Morning Fish.” I have a shower while my two hounds sit on the landing and wait for me. After that, we all go down to the kitchen for breakfast. Once that is done, no two days are the same.

I’m definitely not a morning person, either! But nor am I a night owl! Do you have any other interests that you manage to slot in between your day job and writing?

Oh yes. I play squash, golf, and surf. I like to gather my own firewood. A man who cuts his own firewood, heats himself twice. I go fishing now and again, snorkelling in the summer when there are no waves for surfing, and of course, walking the dogs.

What is your next writing project?

I have a short story to finish called ‘Shovel Head’ about a mother who feels taken for granted by her family. However, when she gets a flat tyre on the way to the shops her life takes an unexpected turn towards fulfilment.

I was asked to write that story by a friend of mine on G+ and it’s about half done. I have an idea for another longer story, possible novel, but that will have to wait until ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ is over the line.

Something I’d personally like to know; you have written some great stories on your blog based on your personal experience as a barman. Will you ever publish these in a book?

That is a more difficult question to answer than you might imagine. Yes in a way, and no in another.
I wouldn’t like to publish them, not just for the possibility of making a few Euro, even though a few Euro would be very nice indeed.

Over the last two years I have gotten something from my writing that money could never buy. In the beginning, it allowed me to get some things off my chest that I felt unable to do in my day to day life. Writing my worries and memories down cast out more than a few ghosts. Then a strange thing happened, people began to see themselves in my words and were affected by them. They cried and shared and became my friends. They helped me and in a way, I hope I helped them.

So you see, the stories grew to be more than a few words on a screen, they became a connection, stretching across the globe. If I thought that by publishing them they would bring something to someone else out there, then I would do it without a second thought. I know you might thank that is a load of sentimental codswallop, and it might be, but it’s how I think of them.


On a final note, I would like to extend my thanks to you, Ali. From day one, you have been such a fantastic friend and mentor. Your help and encouragement has been beyond amazing and it’s thanks to people like you, that I ever finished ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ at all. I never believed that this day would come, but you never seemed to have a doubt.

Before starting my blog, I often thought singers were being insincere when they thanked their audience so fervently. Now I know that they mean it to their very core. It is the people who take the time to say ‘Hi’, to comment on a story, to give a post a plus, or give a book a vote, which make my days so wonderful.

Every time I make a new friend through my writing, I know it’s because we have glimpsed the world through shared eyes. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone that has ever read a story, visited my blog, voted on ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ or said hello on twitter, Facebook or G+. I am the luckiest man alive to have friends such as you.


If you would like to find out more about Squid, and read many fine samples of his writing, please visit his blog ‘Where it Began’ . You can also follow him on Twitter, or on Google+. You can read one of his short stories on The Friday Fiction.

And finally, most importantly, you can vote for his book, ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ on Kindle ScoutLast day for voting 20th June 2015. Best of luck, Squid, and thanks so much for joining me on my blog once again.

The Friday Fiction featuring R.J.Madigan


Extract from The Sword of Air.

Sword of Air

The moon was like a cold sun and the stars stopped their navigating. Twilight fell through stained glass, casting the great hall in pale reds. The sword of air shone like an ancient candle. I opened the glass case and ran two fingers along the precious steel. I lingered over the point, then pushed down hard. Blood trickled from my fingers like spilt wine. I felt nothing. The sound of boots clicking against the stone floor echoed along the corridor. I snapped the cabinet shut and massaged the blood into my skin. The metal door clanged open and Lorcan entered. I drew a deep breath through my nose and sat on the emerald throne.

‘Your majesty.’ He growled, bowing before me. His reptilian eyes narrowed and cast a shadow across his blunt nose and mouth. The thick scales of his skin were scared from a lifetime of war. It was as if a half man, half dragon stood before me.

‘I hope you bring me news of the child.’

‘No my lady.’

‘No!’ I said standing.  A sensation of increased strength flowed through my body.  The terror in his face was reflected in the polished floor as he bowed again.  This time his head almost touched the step in front of him.

‘Stand.’  He rose, his skin a pallid green.

‘My lady, we have searched the forest from Tara to the south coast, burning every settlement in our way and…’

‘Enough of your excuses,’ I said cutting across him.  An overpowering silence rang in my ears.

 Lorcan’s tendons stood out in his neck, his pulse visible.  ‘Please madam, but how do you know if this child even exists?’

‘You dare to question me?’ I said stepping down from the plinth so that I was level with him.  He stepped backwards and I could smell the sweat on his skin.  Rotting fish and driftwood.  The foul smelling sea, that gave birth to the Formor’s.

 I walked forward and caressed the side of his face.  His skin was rough like leather.  His pupils dilated swallowing the yellow of his eyes.

‘Lorcan, do you love me?’

‘Yes my lady.’

‘Why?’ I whispered still holding his head in my hand.

‘You freed my people.’

‘Yes, and what do I ask of you in return?’

‘To find the child.’

‘And is disappointment anyway to repay me,’ I said, my grip so tight my knuckles were now white.

‘No my lady.’

 I dropped my hand, turned and make my way back to the throne.  I stared at Lorcan, and blew out a long breath that rattled my lips.

‘I will see that you and your men enjoy yourself this evening.  There will be enough food and drink to make yourselves sick, and you will have your pick of the Fomor women.  Then tomorrow you will continue your search for the child.’

‘Yes my lady,’

‘Do not let me down Lorcan.  I will hold you personally responsible if this child is not found.’

‘Yes my lady,’ he said blinking rapidly.

‘You may go now.’ He turned and walked stiffly out of the great hall.

I watched the flames in the central hearth.  They twisted and flicked in a way that reminded me of my sister’s golden hair.  Everyone had loved her, especially our father.  He would never have sold Shania the way he sold me to settle a political grievance.  I ground my teeth together and heat flushed through my body.  He indulged her, turned her into the kind of child who thought she was Queen of the universe.  The kind of child who thought she could command the stars and sea.  When my sister closed her eyes at night she imagined the rest of the world stopped too. What she wanted she thought she should get and what she wished for she deserved.  It was his fault she became involved with a mortal.

I rose from my throne and stepped down onto the floor.  There was a chill in the air and I wrapped my robe across the front of my body.  I left the great hall and walked silently to my chamber.

The door creaked open.  Flames cast shadows that waved and dipped on the red walls.  The candles in the chandelier were bent like witches fingers.  Ona lifted her head and yawned, her pink tongue lolling between fanged teeth.  I make a clicking sound with the back of my throat.  She moved her head but her golden eyes remained fixed like an owl.  A purring sound filled the room. I sat next to her on the four-poster bed that I never slept in.  Her ears moved forward and her whiskers relaxed as I massaged her fur.  I held my arm out and she left a trail of sandpaper kisses on my skin.  I had the greatest respect for animals.  We shared a point of view that most people tended to forget: life was about survival.  I leaned my head down to her and we bumped noses.  Her fur smelled of summer grass.

I heard a low rustling sound.  The window had been blown open by the breathing of the stars. My cloak hanging over the chair of my dressing table flapped in the breeze.  When I was sixteen and my sister had just turned ten, our father gave us two cloaks made entirely of feathers.  ‘Faery wings’ the Danann people called them.  My sister’s cloak was made of eagle feathers.  Like her golden hair, its brightness delighted and charmed anyone who saw it.  The sight of it made my chest burn and my stomach harden.  The cloak he gave me was the colour of midnight and made of raven feathers.

‘Cloaks from the magical isles’ he said.  I remembered the sensation when my father first laid the cloak across my shoulders.  It was as though I was being squeezed from within.  I suddenly felt weightless, and before I knew it I was floating.  I looked down and watched him lay my sisters cloak over her shoulders.  He pulled her close and kissed her forehead before letting go.  Suddenly she was in the air too.  With her gold hair floating around her she was as beautiful as the sun.  I looked down at my father staring up at her, his dark eyes pools of adoration.  My breath became coarser and faster and there were spots in my vision.  I knew my father expected me to look after Shania on our first flight, but instead of taking her hand I turned my gaze and flew towards the horizon.  The wind rushed through my hair and around my ears, and for the first time in my life I felt free.

When I returned that evening I learned it would take more than a pair of wings to release me from the shackles of patriarchy.  I remembered my father’s eyes, cold and hard like flint.  His chest heaved and his nostrils flared.

‘You will be married before the waning moon is full’, he said and they were the last words he ever spoke to me.

I distracted myself by getting up and walking over to my dressing table.  I stared into the mirror.  I did not look a day over thirty, but I was as old as the earth.  My eyes burned like green fire against my porcelain skin and my raven hair fell in glossy curls about my shoulders.  My coral lips were full of life, not thin like an old woman’s.

The night air smelled of burnt leaves.  Mmm, I said to myself.  I snatched my feathered cloak and in the next moment I was airborne.  My skin and blood ripped into bone and feather.  I slipped out of the arched window and unfolded my wings.

As I hovered over Tara, only the silence breathed.  I dived downwards, my feathers taking on a blue-purple iridescence.  Pine needles scraped my skin as I entered the forest and headed towards the Grogoch’s house.

I caught the smell of copper on the wind.  My eyes scanned the forest floor for prey.  I spotted a dead deer and swooped down.  I perched on its antlers.  The bloody contents of the animal’s twisted insides were laid out beside it.  Wolves I thought smiling to myself.  I hopped along the deer’s warm, limp body.  Spotting a deep incision in the animal’s fur, I stretched out my wings and stabbed my beak into its flesh.  Don’t believe anyone who tells you that Ravens go for the eyes of a fallen creature first.  The flesh cut like steak when raw, but was even richer in taste.  Strength flowed through my wings and body.  My feathers were wet with blood.

I flew inches from the forest floor and slipped through the smallest of gaps.  Split second timing, always a breath away from collision with a tree.  Wings in, twist right, twist left, long tail taking over for fine control.  A full three hundred and sixty degrees for recovery.  A lightening strike of branches loomed overhead.  I soared high into the night sky.  I wheeled back on myself, then dived down, every branch a near miss and landed at the foot of the Grogoch’s tree.

I shook my feathers until I was nothing but a black blur. The blackness bleeds apart and forms the shape of a woman.  I placed my hand on the thick bark, closed my eyes and allowed my mind to become silent.  A cracking sound filled the air and the trunk splintered in half revealing a staircase.  In three great leaps I was at the top.

I listened for the Grogoch’s heartbeat.   Unbroken silence wrapped itself around me.  I looked around the dark room taking a mental note of the blankets strewn on the floor and the unwashed breakfast dishes in the sink.  I walked over and picked up the blankets.  One at a time I tossed them aside until I found what I was looking for.  I smiled to myself pulling a single strand of golden hair from one of them.  It was like the wind had swept through and left me proof of the girl’s existence.  I held the blanket to my face and breathed in the child’s scent.  She smelled of jasmine and elderberry just like Shania.

There were three unwashed breakfast dishes so the girl had at least two companions with her.  Damn the Grogoch, I should have known he was too weak to ever hand the girl over.  The hardened grease, shining in the moonlight on their plates, also told me they were a whole day ahead.  My chest tightened and my limbs tingled.  Could they have made it to the stone circle by now?  I threw my cloak over my shoulders and was a raven again.  I flew down the staircase and into the night air.  My wings beat slow and purposeful.  The feathers flexed and extended like fingers with every motion.  I had no time for acrobatics now.  I wanted to get to the stone circle as fast as I could.  The stars overlapped each other in the sky like tree trunks in the middle of a thick forest.  Their light made the evergreens appear like stalks of wheat.  I flew past rivers and mountains that looked like long silver snakes and castles children had built in the sand.  I tasted salt on my tongue.  I lowered my head and saw the restless sea.  As I descended I heard the waves speak the oceans language.  Water crashed against the rocks and the spray stung my feathers.  The stone circle rose from the sea.


The Raven Queen

R.J. Madigan is a London born writer who has taken a slightly different route to other authors by publishing her first YA Fantasy novel ‘The Sword of Air,’ as a multi-touch iBook.  Inspired by the Pharrel Williams quote ‘Kids today need visual,’ she has used iBooks author to include stunning photography, cinematic soundtrack, HD video and 3D modelling to colour the world of The Sword of Air to give her readers a much more visceral experience. Decades ago writers like Issac Asimov and Neil Stephenson envisaged a world where books were more than just print, they came alive and talked to you, reacted and interacted with you.  That world is now with the iPad bringing science fiction into reality.  No one has really taken advantage of this new technology so R.J. Madigan has decided to shake up the publishing world by using it for her storytelling.

You can view The Sword of Air book trailer on Youtube, and download the first three chapters for free from the iBooks store to experience R.J Madigan’d magical storytelling and the incredible multi-touch features for yourself.  When you have read The Sword of Air, R.J Madigan would love to hear what you think of the story, the technology and how you think this will all develop in the future.

You can follow R.J Madigan and The Sword of Air at www.swordofair.net, on Facebook, and on Pinterest.


The Friday Fiction featuring Michael Fedison

eye_dancers_lowres


The Eye-Dancers

Excerpt

Peering out his bedroom window, his eyes flattened into squinting slits, Mitchell Brant saw her.

“No,” he said.  “It can’t be her.  It can’t be.”

But it was.  She had come again.

He looked away, at the night-shadows on the floor, at the sheets jumbled and strewn on his bed.  Maybe she wasn’t really out there.  Maybe it was just an illusion, some odd distortion of the light.

He looked out the window.

She was still there.

He felt the fine hairs at the nape of his neck stand up.  Gooseflesh, cold against the stifling humidity filtering in through the open window, speckled his forearms.

The girl was standing under the streetlamp, looking straight in at him—the same way she had last night and the night before.  She was just a child, probably no more than seven years old—his sister’s age.  What was she doing out in the street, alone, well past midnight?  Was she a runaway?  And why had she come three nights in a row?

He tried to look away again, but he couldn’t.  It was as though the girl had cast a spell over him.  “What’s with you?” he said to himself.  “Just go back to sleep.”  Instead, he stood up.  She had raised her right arm above her head, waving at him frantically.

“Help me.”  The voice filtered in through the window.  “Why don’t you . . .?”  The girl’s voice.  And yet, there was something different about it, something off.  It sounded hollow, as if it had originated from a dark place, a secret place, cold like the grave.

The grave.  Maybe that was the answer.  Maybe that’s where she had come from.

“No.”  Her voice rose, more insistent now.  “Don’t be so silly.”

He reached for the window.  He wasn’t going to let her fool him.  He’d just finished the sixth grade last week, and he wanted the chance to live long enough to begin seventh grade in the fall.  Communicating with ghosts was great when kept within the safe confines of horror stories or movies.  But not here.  Not on his quiet small-town street.  Not in real life.

He grabbed the window sash, pushed down.  Instantly, he was transported to his front lawn!  How had that happened? The girl, still standing in the light, gestured even more vigorously now that Mitchell was outside with her.  He knew she had worked some sort of magician’s trick on him.

“Who are you?”  He looked down at his feet and saw they were moving—in the direction of the street, the light, the girl.  He tried to stop them, but it was as if they had a will of their own.

As he neared her, he was able to get a better look at the girl.  She had the bluest, deepest eyes he had ever seen.  They were mesmerizing.

She also had an airy quality to her.  The light from the streetlamp filtered through her, as though she were only partly there, only a small portion of her flesh and blood.

I was right, he thought.  She is a ghost.

“Stop it!” she said.  “Stop calling me that.”

He reached the sidewalk, nearly face-to-face with her.  He closed his eyes, but they stung, so he opened them and looked up, at the streetlamp.  A small gathering of luna moths aimlessly fluttered about, landing on the bulb, then jumping off, occasionally flying into each other, as if drunk from the light and the oppressive humidity.

“Help me!”  The girl’s voice, so near yet so ethereal, caused Mitchell to lose his balance.  He fell, landed on the pavement, scraping his knee.  A trickle of blood snaked down his shin.  “Come with me,” the girl said, and offered a hand. But he knew better.  Once she grabbed him, she would never let him go.  She would lead him through the darkened streets, past the statue of the white, marble lion that marked the center of town, and on to the Bedford Cemetery, where she’d force him to serve her for all eternity in the form of some tortured, wandering spirit.

The girl’s hand brushed against his, a faint whisper against his skin, and then the sensation was gone.

“Come with me,” she said again.  “Please.”  He told himself not to look into her eyes, but he did.  He couldn’t resist. It was like looking into two blue pools of sky-water.  Somehow, he was sure that if he looked into those eyes long enough, hard enough, he would see where the universe ended, and began.

He stood up, wanting desperately to turn around and flee back into the house.  But he wasn’t able to.  Her eyes wouldn’t let him.  The night air, muggy, close, felt like a dull weight intent on forcing him back down to his knees.

The girl said, “Yes, that’s the way.  Keep looking into my eyes!  That’s the way I can take you with me.”

He tried to look away, but couldn’t.  He just continued to stare at her blue, blue eyes.  He stared until her eyes seemed to expand, the shape of them lengthening, widening.  He stared until the blue in her irises dilated and spun, slowly at first, but gradually picking up speed, spinning round and round, faster, faster.

He screamed then—the loudest, longest scream of his life.  He would wake up his parents, his sister, the neighbors. Maybe they could reach him in time to save him.  Maybe they could—

Suddenly, he was back in his bed, thrashing and kicking and yelling, “Let me go, let me go!”  It took a moment for him to gather his wits.

It had been a dream, a nightmare.  That was all.

He sat up.  Was that all?  What would he see if he dared to look out his window?  Would the ghost girl still be there? Not wanting to, but needing to know the truth, Mitchell glanced outside.

No one.  Only the mosquitoes and the spiders and the night birds, creatures that he couldn’t see but knew were out there.  But at least they were a part of the natural world.  They belonged.  The ghost girl didn’t.

He hopped out of bed, too wired to lie still.  But as soon as his feet touched the floor, he grimaced.  There was a stinging pain in his left knee.  Groping his way through the dark room, he reached for the lamp atop his dresser and flicked it on.

His knee was bleeding.  A small strip of skin had been scraped off, and the blood, though drying, was still trickling down his shin.  How could he have scraped his knee in bed?

Then he remembered.  He had done it in his dream.  He’d fallen in the street when the ghost girl had reached for him. But if it had only been a dream, why was his knee bleeding now?

He limped to the bathroom, where he washed the wound and then bandaged it.  He reminded himself not to wear shorts in the morning.  On top of everything else, he didn’t need Mom asking questions.

He had no answers, anyway.  He had no idea what happened.  Had he dreamed of the girl in the street—tonight, and last night, and the night before that?  Or had she really been there?  He tried to think it through.  It had seemed like a dream. But since when did people scrape their knees in a dream?  Had he been sleepwalking?  He’d never known himself to sleepwalk, but how could he know, if he was sleeping while he did it?

“C’mon,” he said, staring at his reflection in the bathroom mirror.  It was a tired-looking reflection, with the last hints of fright still manifest in the eyes.  “Don’t be stupid.  It was just a nightmare, that’s all.”

But as he walked into the kitchen, turned on the tap, and slurped the water as it streamed out, he knew that the truth was very likely more complex, and more troubling.

He turned off the faucet, wondering why water always tasted so much better straight out of the tap.  He tried to think about that, ponder it, anything to get his mind off the ghost girl.  But it didn’t work.  How could he forget her?

“Cut it out, Mitchell,” he said.  “Just quit it.”

He needed to get back to sleep.  When he was little, if he’d had a bad day, his mom used to tell him that everything looked better, and happier, in the morning.  He hoped she was right.

But when he returned to his room, sleep still seemed a long way off.  His bed, with the disheveled sheets and sweat-drenched pillows, didn’t look very restful.  He needed something to calm him.  He opened the lower drawer of his dresser. Piles of old comic books, bagged in protective Mylar sleeves, greeted him like devoted friends.  He picked up the top comic, a worn copy of Fantastic Four no. 99, and sniffed it through the sleeve.  He loved the smell of old comic books.  It was musty, but in a special way, like the smell of his grandfather’s attic littered with knickknacks and family mementoes.  A treasure-house smell.  He had asked his sister to sniff some of his comics once, but she thought they reeked.  Well, what did she know?  She was just a little kid.

He took the comic out of its sleeve and read it, even though he knew the issue by heart.  But it did the trick.  He got lost in the story, savoring the artwork, the dialogue, the sheer fantasy of the plot.  When he put the comic book away thirty minutes later, he felt ready for bed.

He climbed in, wondering if he should glance out the window again, to see if the girl was out there.

“She isn’t,” he said, but he didn’t look.

He lay there, his mind racing, and it seemed to him that he wouldn’t get to sleep.  He did, eventually, but it was a restless sleep, as he thrashed throughout the night.  When he woke up, a few short hours later, he was quite sure he had dreamed again, though about what he couldn’t remember.


eye_dancers_lowres

You can find ‘The Eye-Dancers’ on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. If you fancy a paperback, you can get one from Amazon or Createspace.


michaelfedisonMichael S. Fedison was born in Rochester, New York, and now lives with his wife, Sarah, and regal cat, Luke, in the green hills of central Vermont. Michael has been writing creatively for as long as he can remember, and has had short fiction published in several literary magazines, including Iconoclast and The Written Word. He works as a full-time technical writer and also is a freelance proofreader and copy editor.

Michael has been a lover of imaginative stories his entire life. He enjoys any story that takes you by the hand, lifts you up, and transports you to another place, a new and creative way of looking at the world around us.

Connect with Michael at his blog; on Twitter; at The Eye-Dancers Facebook Page; and at Goodreads.


Thank you Michael for joining me on the Friday Fiction today, it has been a pleasure to meet you! Your book is already on my To Read list, as you can see on the sidebar of my blog, and I’m looking forward to reading it. Best of luck with it!

The Friday Fiction featuring Sue Vincent

Yorkshiresuevincent

Sue Vincent has a lasting love-affair with the landscape of Albion; that hidden country of the heart that is the backdrop for many of her books.


The Garden of Ogmios

Extract from Sword of Destiny

swordsuevincent

When Rhea opened her eyes it was to a silent blackness filled with pain. Her breath came in ragged gasps and she could see nothing. The pain was almost welcome. She did not think death would hurt this much. The lack of sight frightened her. She moved experimentally and groaned as a shaft of pain lanced her ankle.

“Ah, you are back, my dear. Wait a moment.” Merlin’s voice in the blackness was the most wonderful sound she had ever heard. There was a soft whoosh and a pale golden light bloomed in the mage’s hands, illuminating his face, the peat brown eyes full of concern. “My dear child, can you ever forgive me? You seem to be taking the worst of this fight once again…” As he spoke he set the dancing flame on the ground beside her and began to examine her injuries with infinite care.

“There is nothing to forgive, Merlin. I’m just glad you saved me.” The old man’s familiar chuckle did much to steady her.

“I didn’t. You will have to save your thanks for a friend of mine. This mountain is the home of one of the Elder Race, Ogmios. He opened a door for us and let us in. Nothing moves on this mountain without his knowledge.”

“He is allowed to intervene?”

“He is as old as the mountain itself. Indeed, you could say he is the mountain in a way. There are few left to command him. We are now in his domain and safe until you are able to move again.” His probing hands found the damaged ankle and he worked his healing magic, coaxing the swelling to manageable proportions and soothing the worst of the bruising. While he worked, Rhea looked around her. The soft light showed that she was lying at the bottom of a long slope covered with a thick carpet of bracken and heather which had served to break her fall. Yet they seemed to be in a cavern with no other entrance, than a dark, winding tunnel stretching away to their right.

“There, how does that feel?”  Merlin sat back on his haunches as Rhea flexed her ankle cautiously

“Much better!” she replied with relief. “I should be able to walk on it now. Shall we go? The others must be worried about us.” She held out her hand and the old man helped her to stand. The ankle ached abominably when she put her weight on it, but it felt no worse than sprained and Rhea could only be thankful she had escaped so lightly.

The tunnel stretched away in shadow, Merlin’s light serving only to illuminate a few feet before them. Rhea felt her way along the walls, surprisingly smooth to the touch, as if polished by countless centuries of passage. The stone of the floor was worn into a deep furrow and sloped gently upwards, and, thought Rhea, into the heart of the mountain. After perhaps ten minutes the wall beneath her hands disappeared and the passage opened out into a vast and beautiful cavern. Merlin’s light danced on the glistening pillars and arches of the lofty hall, too faint to reach the roof, so that Rhea had no real idea of the dimensions of the space. She felt that it was immense and the echo of their footsteps seemed to come from a hundred directions at once.

“Welcome to the garden of Ogmios,” said Merlin, his words whispered by ghostly voices till they faded into silence. “Here, outside of time, he tends the roots of the mountain and grows his home from living rock. Look well, Heart of Earth, for you will not see its like again.” Rhea was spellbound by the beauty of the place and could well believe that this spectacular hall had been wrought by art and not mere chance. All the colours of a pigeon’s breast glowed on the graceful curves of the rock, catching and reflecting the golden witch-light.

Rhea had seen the show caves of Cheddar and the deep, silent caverns at Chislehurst, neither of which possessed the vibrancy and vigour of this place. Cheddar’s wedding cake loveliness was as nothing compared to the living filigree of stone through which she now walked.

In the centre of the cave, a large central space held a great slab of millstone grit, shaped like a couch with a raised pillar at one end. It reminded Rhea of the altar on the moor which she had touched that first day, save only that this was much larger and had not suffered the erosion of wind and rain.

“Ogmios’ couch,” Merlin explained. “Here he spends the centuries dreaming the shape of his garden and growing his crystals from seed.” He indicated that she should look to her right and she saw a small field of crystal and semi-precious stones laid out in a spiral pattern on the floor. There were huge clusters of amethyst and quartz, glittering pyrites and all the varied hues of agate. One large stone, polished by the dripping moisture from the stalactites above, looked like black glass, frozen around a snowstorm. Rhea was bewitched by its soft sheen and reached out a hand to touch the surface.

“What is this, Merlin? I’ve never seen it before.”

“The world calls it snowflake obsidian. You can see why.”

“It is lovely.”

“Ogmios would be pleased by your appreciation. He grew this as a memento of the first time he saw snow falling. It was at night, beneath a full moon at the dawn of life as we know it today. He thought it too beautiful to allow it to melt away forgotten so he caught the flakes in a stone the colour of midnight and preserved it for eternity.

“Geologists don’t have all the answers,” he chuckled. “They may understand the physical conditions required to produce these crystals, but they will never understand that they were first dreamed to encapsulate a moment of beauty which touched the soul of a grotesque giant whose very existence they would deny. Rose quartz was the light of the first dawn, amethyst the clouds of a summer sunset. Agates are all the colours of the autumn earth.”

“And diamond?” asked Rhea, holding out the ancient ring on her finger, which seemed to have woken to life in this place.

“Starlight in frost,” he smiled. Rhea nodded her understanding, humbled and grateful for the deeper understanding of the forces of the world that guided her. She had begun to see the life innate in her surroundings and with that privilege had come a renewal of wonder and respect. “Come, child, the others will be worried although Ogmios may have told them that you are safe.” His face lit with unholy glee,” In fact, if they have met my friend, they will probably be more concerned that they were before! This way!”

Merlin led Rhea through the scintillating garden of living rock towards a shadowy opening at the end of an avenue of slender columns ablaze with mica. Rhea turned before entering the tunnel to take one last look.

“I could never have imagined that so much beauty lay hidden in the earth beneath my feet. It feels right, though, somehow. I can feel the life in the stone. If I knew how to listen, I think I could hear them whispering all the secrets of the underworld.” She turned away. Another unforgettable memory adding one more reason for reverence of the earth upon which she walked.

A steep stairway grown from the rock to fit the stride of Ogmios wound upwards and inwards. Rhea found the going difficult, her ankle ached and the weight of the mountain above her was oppressive. They had been climbing steadily for perhaps two hundred feet when they hit a dead end.

“Sit down a moment, Rhea, and hold steady.” said the mage. “Ogmios!” There was a terrific crash above their heads and the roof split asunder, showering them with earth and debris. Rhea looked up into a cloudless sky and the eyes of a giant.



suevincentSue Vincent is a Yorkshire born writer, painter and award winning poet. She is also known as an esoteric teacher and is one of the Directors of The Silent Eye. Sue now lives in Buckinghamshire, having been stranded there due to an unfortunate incident with a pin, a map and a blindfold; a temporary glitch of twenty years duration. She has a lasting love-affair with the landscape of Albion; that hidden country of the heart that is the backdrop for many of her books, particularly those co-authored with Stuart France.  She is currently owned by a small dog who also blogs.


You can connect with Sue, and buy her books, in the following places…

Blog: http://scvincent.com/

Twitter

Facebook

Silent Eye Website

Website (books)

Silent Eye Authors FB

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Amazon France

Amazon Canada

Amazon Australia

Goodreads

The Spirit Guides Column

Linkedin

Pinterest

Tumblr

Blogspot


I’d just like to add that, as well as being an accomplished novelist and esoteric teacher, Sue writes wonderful poetry, some thoughtful and heartfelt, others light-hearted and humorous, accompanied by stunning photography which she snaps herself. She also has the ability to take the most mundane of daily events, and transform them into amusing and entertaining blog posts. Is there no end to this lady’s talents? I urge you to visit her blog, if you do not already follow her, and find out for yourself.

Thank you Sue, for joining me on The Friday Fiction today, I am delighted to showcase your wonderful writing here, and think I have just found a new addition to my (looooong) To Read List!

 

The Friday Fiction featuring Anthea Carson

Game of Kings - Front Cover Anthea carson


 Chapter One

Darla Martin was a rare thing: a chess-playing female.

As a child of four, she had lain on the living room carpet, watching her brothers play chess.  Daniel usually won, mostly because he was the eldest, but Oliver didn’t do badly.  Chip played the loser.  Afterwards, the three of them would congratulate and heckle one another, laughing and slapping backs and making bets.

Darla would watch them over her coloring book.  She recognized one of the pieces as a horse, and originally thought her brothers were playing out the Disney films her mother put on for her.  By the time she was six, she had begun to comprehend the game: horses were knights and moved in L-shapes (L came between K and M in the alphabet; she could sing up to it if she forgot), and the king was a lazy fellow who let everyone from his foot soldiers to his wife do all the work.

One day, when Daniel and Oliver had played and then Oliver had beaten Chip, Darla plopped herself down in front of the chessboard and began setting up pieces.

 “What are you doing?” Daniel asked in amazement.

 “It’s my turn,” Darla said.  “Chip lost, so I get to play him.”

Oliver laughed contemptuously.  He had turned fourteen the previous week, and was confident in his own superiority, especially over little sisters.  “Shut it, Darla.  You don’t even know how the pieces move.”

 “I do too!”

 “No, you don’t.  You’re a stupid girl.”

 “Don’t pick on her,” Daniel warned.  “If she wants to play, let her.  It doesn’t hurt to pretend.”

“I don’t want to play against her,” Chip protested.  “It won’t be real chess.”

 “Then we’ll get out Candyland,” Daniel said, “or Snakes and Ladders.  She can manage those.”

 “I want to play chess,” Darla insisted.  “See?  I’ve made it ready.”

 “Set it up,” Oliver corrected, sneering.  “And no, you haven’t.  You’ve got the king and queen backwards.”

 This was easily remedied.  Chip again refused to play his baby sister, so Daniel sat down.  He put aside both his bishops as a handicap and played black, but still won in ten minutes.

 “You see?” Oliver said.  “Girls are useless.”

 “But she did know how the pieces move,” Daniel pointed out.  “Good job, Darla.”

 Darla beamed at him, taking the compliment rather than the condescension.

 Daniel was somewhat less nice about it the second time Darla decided to play, and plain-out sarcastic the third time.  But she kept insisting until, finally, her brothers became used to the fact that one of them would have to thrash her at chess every time they played.

 Darla didn’t care about her brothers’ scorn; she only cared about the game.  And although she didn’t win against her brothers until she was in her twenties, she kept her confidence up by beating her father about a quarter of the time.  When she found out that he was throwing their games, she insisted he give her a handicap instead, and she won that way.

 By that time, Darla had beaten all the other kids on the block and at school.  Soon after, her father started taking her to the chess club at the public library, and she beat people there, too.  In high school, she joined the chess club and played against everyone from freshmen to seniors.  Some of the boys were better than she was, some were worse, but she never met a girl she couldn’t beat in a dozen moves.

 Nowadays, Darla played at the Denver Chess Club’s weekly tournaments, and had been for several months—ever since she had moved to live with her aunt and cousin in Colorado.  The chess club was a fun environment with plenty of banter (both kind and cruel, but none of it worse than the things her brothers had said; they had prepared her well), and she liked most of the people she met there.

 But that’s not why she went.  She went for the chess.

 Chapter 2      

 Much as she loved her cousin and aunt, it had long puzzled Darla that they viewed sightseeing and tourism as more attractive pastimes than chess.  After all, she reasoned, one could visit geysers and mountains any time, but four-day tournaments in Cheyenne were rare.

 “That’s very nice, Darla,” Aunt Lily said, “but we’re going to Yellowstone.  We’ll only miss the first day of the tournament; they’ll be plenty of time to watch you trounce everyone.”

 “I’m not that good,” Darla said, blushing with pleasure despite herself.  “I’m only rated sixteen hundred.”

 “Which means you can beat absolutely everyone who doesn’t constantly play chess,” Marcia put in.  “Don’t be so modest, Darla; you know how proud we are of you.”

 “And we’ll show it,” Aunt Lily promised.  “After Yellowstone.”

 Darla rolled her eyes, not truly annoyed, and booked two motel rooms.

The tournament was taking place in August, when the sun was hot and the land arid.  Golden fields of wheat and barley endlessly decorated the plains, the only things to look at as far as the eye could see, except for the curiously pinkish Interstate-25 that connected Denver to Cheyenne.

 Darla drove the first leg, partly because she wouldn’t have to drive the extra seven hours between Cheyenne and Yellowstone, but mostly because the driver got to choose the radio station.

 It was well before lunch when they arrived in Cheyenne and Darla waved her aunt and cousin off.  Nothing was scheduled until later, so Darla spent a pleasant day alternatively wandering Cheyenne and catching up on her reading before returning to her motel to register for the blitz tournament that evening.

 The chess tournament was taking place in the Thistlewood Suites Inn.  It was an ordinary motel, with clean rooms, robin’s egg blue bedspreads, and a love of pine-scented cleaning products.  Best of all was its ballroom.

 The ballroom was by design an elegant room, all polished wooden floors, gleaming chandeliers, and curtains in the motel’s signature blue.  For the tournament, banquet tables had been stretched lengthwise, four of them, each neatly covered in a white tablecloth.  Other than an abandoned water bottle or two, the tables were empty.  There were no chess sets, no clocks.  Players were expected to bring their own, although there were always plenty who came empty-handed and had to beg and borrow.

 Darla had not had to beg or borrow for years; she had received a chess set from Daniel for her twenty-first birthday, two weeks after the first time she had beaten him.

 “You deserve it,” he had told her.

“And here’s a bag to keep it in,” Oliver had said, not to be outdone.  He handed her a soft padded case, colored the most vibrant scarlet.

 “After all,” Chip had added, giving her a clock to complete the collection, “you’ll have to practice hard if you want to beat any of us again.”

 Darla joined the short line just inside the ballroom’s entrance.  She was not surprised to find that she was the only woman present, and one of the only females (the other being a pigtailed little girl who was giving her father firm directions).  Possibly one or two more would arrive by the tournament’s official beginning tomorrow morning, but likely as not the only other women to arrive, if any, would be mothers or wives who understood about as much about chess as Darla had at the age of six.

 Darla hiked her red bag over her shoulder and stared absentmindedly at the bald pate of the man in front of her.

 “Apparently he’s come from California, although he’s Russian originally, of course.  Name’s something unpronounceable.”

 “Damned Russians coming to take our winnings,” said the man next to him, a wide specimen whose sides drooped over his jeans.

 “He’s a grandmaster.  What else did you expect he came for?”

 “Damned grandmasters.”

 “There’ll be the blind simul, though.  That’ll be worth watching—or even entering.  Wonder how many people he’ll take on at once?”

 “Probably all of us,” the drooping man said sadly.  Then, with a certain amount of pride, he added, “Mad as damned hatters, the lot of them.”

 Darla paid her fee and wandered off to the board, to check her number and pairing.  She spent some time gazing at the board in what probably looked like confusion, but was really her way of settling her board number, opponent’s name, and color in her mind.  She had never understood the people who could glance at the board once and instantly remember everything.  How could they do it?  Oh, it was easy enough to remember the people you knew, but strangers (and not only the Russian ones) often had long and difficult names without enough vowels.

 It sometimes made her wonder if she was smart enough for chess tournaments.  She happened to know her pairing for this game: Walt Scarlet, the president of the Denver Chess Club.  He, she remembered clearly, didn’t have to stare at the board like an idiot.  He could look at something once and commit it to memory.  He didn’t need to recalculate variations over and over to figure out the best move; he could get it at once.

 That’s why he’ll win, she thought, irritated, although she hadn’t played him yet.  Photographic memory.  He’s not a creative genius; he’s a computer.

 A thought that had, admittedly, made it far more satisfying the few times she had beaten him.

 Although Walt might not have been one of them, Darla had played a multitude of creative geniuses over the years.  One that always particularly came to mind was Sean Hugg, a child prodigy who came to the board in an oversized cowboy hat and great big glasses he didn’t need.  That in itself was pretty creative.  More creative still was his chess playing.  Whenever she watched in wonder and horror as he pulled off a win in a dead lost position, she said to herself, Oh well: I never was there ever a cat so clever as magical Mr. Mistoffelees, which made her feel better, even though it didn’t help her win.

 She had tried to tell Sean’s mother one time how great a chess player he was.  Sean’s mother had said, “Well, at least he’s not skateboarding.”

  “I guess you can’t appreciate it,” Darla had acknowledged thoughtfully, and without her usual tact.  “It’s like music you can’t hear.”

 The mother had nodded and accepted this without either protest or comprehension.

 A chess player would have understood.  Playing chess was playing music nobody but other chess players—good chess players—could hear.  It wasn’t enough to know how the pieces moved; you had to be able to dance to the symphony.

 Darla hummed as she plunked down across from Walt.  He too had brought his own chessboard, and had set it up while she had been waiting in line.  He also had a clock set, a score sheet out, and a pen in his hand.

 Walt wore his usual cocktail of amused curiosity and slight contempt.  He raised his eyebrows as Darla sat, and shook her hand, but offered no further greeting.  Chess players usually didn’t, especially to known opponents.  Occasionally, they might say “Good luck” to each other (in the mutual understanding that neither meant it), or double-checked name spelling, but that was all.

 It had been a long time since Walt and Darla had spoken over a chessboard.  For them, there was only the silent acknowledgement that Walt would almost certainly win.

 Darla was white.  Walt hit the clock.  Darla cupped her hands over her eyes to shut the world out.

 The orchestra struck a chord.

 Chapter 3      

 Grandmaster Mikhail Rabinovich Preobrazhensky arrived at the Cheyenne chess tournament the next morning to flurries of admiration, jealousy, curiosity, and attempts to find out how one should pronounce his surname, and if it was acceptable to avoid saying it altogether.  It was a great relief to everyone to discover that he answered to his patronymic, which was generally more manageable for the English-speaking tongue.

 Darla, no less curious than the rest, had the opportunity to observe him at length as he stood with the man who had accompanied him.

 Her first observation was that Mikhail Rabinovich looked intensely Russian, especially next to his all-American golden-haired friend.  He had a straight, narrow nose, pale complexion, brown eyes under intense brows, and dark brown hair neatly combed.  Her second observation was that these features were altogether flawlessly placed and gave him exactly the penetrating look that chess players ought to have, even though few of them did.  Following this were several other linked observations, such as the fact that his semi-casual grey suit fit him beautifully, that he had an excellent physique, and that he was almost certainly too rich and intelligent for her—which was just as well because, in the words of the unknown man in line, he was almost certainly mad as a hatter.


 

 


 

Anthea carsonAnthea Carson is the co-author of the best-selling chess book, “Tactics Time,” co-author of “How to Play Chess Like an Animal,” a children’s chess book based on chess openings with animal names, as well as a children’s tactics puzzle book, and several novels and novellas including “The Dark Lake,” a psychological suspense as complex and twisted as any chess game.

She is a tournament chess player, a chess coach, and the Game 60 Female US Chess champion of 2004. Anthea obtained her bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, with an emphasis in literature and mathematics.

Her fiction writings include a trilogy, several novellas and short stories, some of which, unsurprisingly, are about female chess players in the male dominated world of tournament chess. She currently resides in Colorado Springs with her husband and two children.


Thank you for dropping by aliisaacstoryteller today, Anthea! You can find out more about Anthea’s books on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. You can connect with Anthea via Twitter, on Goodreads, and you can join her on her most excellent blog.

That’s it for this year, peeps! The Friday Fiction is taking a break for Crimbo but will be back in the New Year, but I’ll still be posting on other topics over the holidays.

If you would like to see your writing featured here, or have a guest post in mind which would suit this blog, please get in touch.

The Friday Fiction featuring Charlton Daines

Charlton1


A Christmas with the Dodger, Charlton’s latest novel, is OUT NOW on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk and Smashwords, priced at only 99c/ 77p. It would make a great Christmas read, or gift for someone you know.

Front300Charlton


The overcast sky could not dampen the natural cheer that constituted the habitual mood of Reg Dawkins. As a young gentleman of dubious status, Reg often enjoyed a little amusement by presenting himself in the city dressed in more costly attire than would be considered normal for a common craftsman, and certainly for an apprentice of journeyman standing.

Lily’s good influence had dictated that most of Reg’s wardrobe had been acquired through honest means, with a little help from the haberdashery skills that Jack had learned as a young Australian exile of even more dubious position. Some of these skills had been taught to his young adopted progeny as a matter of expedience and Reg had eagerly developed his natural nimbleness in the art of turning an ordinary pre-made article of clothing into a perfectly tailored garment that gave the impression that the wearer had paid dearly for bespoke items on Savile Row.

Despite the value of dexterity with a needle and thread, Reg occasionally supplemented his wardrobe with the odd garment that might have been left lying unattended in the wrong place at the wrong time. With winter growing colder in the last days before Christmas, Reg had it in mind that he should acquire a good, warm overcoat by one method or another and decided to keep his eyes open when he entered the Old Bell Pub in Holborn, where he was reasonably sure that he would find Jack sitting back with his boots on the table, regaling his usual associates with stories of mischievous exploits in a young life that he had never actually known. While the true stories of Jack’s youth might have been far more interesting, the erstwhile pickpocket preferred to fictionalise a lesser criminal past that might be less likely to end with his neck in a noose.

The old pub had been attached to a hotel until the year before when the greater part of the building had been demolished, but the tavern carried on under the friendly ownership of a certain Mister Treadaway. Walter, as his friends knew him, played host to many of the area’s business owners who found time in their busy schedules to hobnob with others of their perceived class of an afternoon at the Bell. Having learned the art of bookkeeping over a year’s employment with a certain Mister Brownlow and having a natural affinity for transferring ownership of goods, Jack Dawkins had developed an enterprise whereby foreign articles, most often silks and tobacco, were received as occasional deliveries to a rented warehouse and subsequently sold at a substantially higher price to local merchants during Jack’s daily afternoon walk about town.

Jack and Reg shared an understanding of Jack’s time ‘at the office’. It had taken some considerable influence from the woman he loved for Jack to go straight at all, but as a man accustomed to answering to himself alone and spending his time as he saw fit, he had fallen into a pattern of leaving the house during what would be considered as normal office hours, including half day Saturday, and after attending to whatever small amount of actual activity that was required to keep the business running, Jack spent whatever time remained at his own leisure.

Reg entered the main room of the Bell without drawing undue attention, but to his surprise, Jack was not to be found at the back table, though some of his local business associates populated the usual bench. Reg stepped quietly back onto the street and aimed his steps towards the warehouse where Jack kept his acquisitions. He speculated that Jack might have been required to receive a delivery, or to collect some merchandise or other for despatch to one of his regular connections. The distance was not far, but Reg walked at full speed in an effort to reduce the time he would have to spend in looking for his adopted guardian. He was acutely aware that Lily was waiting.

Reg maintained a key to the warehouse in case Jack should require the younger man’s assistance with transporting goods. This Reg produced when he arrived at the designated property and he let himself inside just before a light rain began to fall. The scent of spices and tobacco immediately assaulted his nostrils, as well as a distinctive sweet aroma that Reg recognised all too well. He looked over the crates of goods, neatly stacked against the walls and in rows, and wondered which of them contained a new shipment of opium.

It wasn’t that Reg had any objection to the intoxicant, so long as Jack didn’t make too much of a habit of skimming his wares, but the acquisition of it was invariably at the expense of the infamous East India Company, from part of a shipment gone astray for a slightly higher profit, and was far too easily identified as stolen goods. Whether it was the loss of the goods or the import taxes that might have been collected was neither here nor there. The East India Company was notorious for its methods of eliminating competition and interference in permanent and sometimes messy ways.

‘Jack!’ Reg called out to the slight echo of the room. There was no reply and no sign of any other occupant. Reg searched through all the rows of stacked boxes briefly, then went to the office space that was attached to the larger warehouse room. Still no Jack was to be found. Reg took a moment to think. Nothing had been disturbed. The papers on Jack’s desk were in neat piles, a habit Jack had developed during his employment with Oliver Brownlow’s company.

There was no sign of a struggle or anything amiss and the dubious merchandise was still in its place, therefore, Reg surmised, there had been no visit from the East India Company as they surely would have reclaimed the opium at least, and probably some of the other wares that fell within their remit. Jack was simply not where he was expected to be, but had gone out somewhere in the city of London for his own purposes.

Reg stopped to admire some particularly attractive silk in an open crate of fabric bales. The dark, plum colour suited his taste and the tiny stitches of red, green and gold embroidery somehow worked with the dark background in a very attractive design. Reg made a mental note to ask Jack if he might pinch a bit of the silk for a waistcoat, then went outside and locked the warehouse up securely. The light shower had abated and the air smelled a little fresher for it, though the afternoon fog still carried the stink of the city.

Jack often brought home the roast for Sunday dinner on a Saturday afternoon, so Reg walked down High Holborn towards Smithfield Market in Farringdon and Long Lane. A busy market place had always been good hunting grounds for a boy pickpocket. Reg smiled at the thought of Jack doing the weekend shopping like any honest citizen, now that he had a bob or two to his name and could afford to keep his family in Sunday roasts.

Reg glanced around as he passed the fish and poultry markets, just for the sake of being thorough. Jack was still small of stature and could easily move unobserved through a crowd, but Reg could usually recognise him by his movement, unless he was leaning somewhere and keeping still while observing the multitudes for himself. Reg had been known to find Jack in such repose, looking for all the world as if he might be assessing the best marks within the distracted throngs. Some habits never died.

The sound of a cleaver chopping through a thick bit of meat drew Reg’s attention, and there behind the butcher he saw him. Jack was still as a statue, his eyes on the menacing sharp implement that had just dismembered the leg of a large animal with a single powerful stroke. The look of cool assessment in Jack’s eyes was very familiar to Reg. There was no mistaking it, Jack was on the game.

Reg considered Lily’s prospective reaction briefly, then decided that there was no point in wasting a properly misspent youth. The butcher would make for a dangerous opponent if Jack should be caught, even without the threat of the razor edge on the tool of his trade. Those powerful arms, should they get hold of a man, especially a small man like Jack, could easily squeeze the life out of him before the brute even realised that he was applying too much strength in his attempt to prevent a thief from escaping before the constabulary could be summoned.

What Jack needed was a distraction; something that would command the butcher’s full attention for a moment or two without drawing the additional awareness of the other vendors. Reg sauntered up to a row of suckling pig carcasses hanging from metal hooks just inside the man’s market stall.

‘I say,’ Reg began in his most genteel put-on accent. ‘I dare say the flies have had their way with these today. Can you offer a discount for late afternoon trade?’

The butcher turned to Reg with an expression of suppressed irritation, but the words he spoke sounded as pleasant as the man’s lower class accent could produce.

‘They be two shillings, same as they was this mornin’.’

‘But the sign says one and six!’ Reg declared with shock, indicating a plainly displayed sign with 1S 6d, or one shilling and six pennies, clearly indicated.

‘That be for the lit’ler ones, all gone now.’

The butcher was beginning to show his impatience with the prissy would-be customer. That he had deliberately raised the price when he saw the cut of Reg’s fine, silk waistcoat was not lost on the observant young man. A sarcastic retort and an accusation that the man was trying to cheat him rose to Reg’s lips, but the gleam of mottled light that fell on the edge of the cleaver gave him pause. There was no sign of Jack or of the fine cut of pork roast that had previously occupied the chopping block, so Reg decided it was time to make a discreet exit.

‘Well, perhaps tomorrow then. When you have more of the smaller piglets in the morning.’

With that, Reg tipped his hat and walked swiftly in the direction away from the chopping block, so that by the time the butcher had turned and found himself bereft of a choice pork loin, Reg had disappeared round the corner. After dodging down a few small streets to cool his trail, just out of habit, Reg guessed that Jack would be boldly taking the most direct route home, confident that there was no pursuit and that only Reg would know which direction he had gone.

His guess proved correct. Reg spotted Jack walking leisurely up Farringdon Road as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

‘Took your time, mate,’ Jack said in his old vernacular. He winked as Reg trotted up beside him, eyeing the neat parcel under Jack’s arm, wrapped in butcher’s paper as if it had been bought in the traditional manner. ” ‘Ad to slow me steps to let you catch up.’

‘I thought it might be prudent to keep his attention for a while,’ Reg returned. ‘Is this where our roasts have been coming from all along?’

There was no judgement in Reg’s query, only curiosity.

‘I’ve been known to drop the odd coin in the market,’ Jack explained. ‘If only to make the vendors recognise me as a paying customer. But a man ‘as to keep ‘is ‘and in.’ Jack winked again. ‘Needless to say, we don’t mention a thing to Lily.’

The last sentence was delivered in the cultivated accent that Jack had practiced since his return to London nearly fifteen years ago, when he had spent a considerable amount of time and effort to make himself fit in among a class of people who were as wealthy as his old friend, Brownlow. Teaching Reg the value of such an affectation as the young orphan had grown up was one of the accomplishments of his life in which Jack felt the most pride.

‘Not a word,’ Reg promised, returning the conspiratorial wink. With that accord agreed between erstwhile miscreants, Jack and Reg soon arrived home, their heads held high and the Sunday roast presented as if they had bought the fare in the way of any respectable citizens.

Reg, however, secretly smiled to himself, feeling vilified of his occasional excursions into the practices of his reprobate childhood.



Charlton Daines is an academic and an afficionado of fine Literature. As such, he has sought to add to the collective of world Literature with the occasional selection that might appeal to those with a love of Classics and Historical Fiction.

The occasional spot of Humour or flights of fancy are likely to slip into this all too serious catalogue of self-indulgent scribblings.

Charlton Daines was born in London, but currently lives in the middle of England with his family, which includes an odd selection of common and pedigree cats.


Thanks, Charlton, for stopping by my blog today! I really enjoyed this excerpt from your book, Jack Dawkins. You can connect with Charlton on his blog, on Facebook, and you can tweet to him on Twitter. You can also find him on Pinterest, and on GoodReads. Most importantly of all, if you want to get your hands on his book (and it would make a fab gift for Crimbo!), you can buy it on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.


If YOU have a story or a book you’d like to see featured on The Friday Fiction, don’t be shy, tell me about it! I’d love to hear from you!

The Friday Fiction featuring Jason Parent

775854 Jason


Something Alien

Home. The word evoked peace. Its manifestation conjured more. In a rigid landscape, frozen yet alive, home meant salvation.

The modest clay walls of her adobe were arms held aloft in the promise of a welcoming embrace, baked strong by a hot sun now moons away. Snow cloaked her residence like a cowl, heaping in knee-high drifts on each side of her doorstep.

And there, it stopped. Not an errant flake dared enter. Each withered and died on her threshold along with the burdens of her world. Rayle would permit no sickness to sully her home, no disease of the heart or of the mind to enter her walls.

But today was different. Her mind could not find its balance. The sight of her children, sleeping without care or worry, blood-red reeds piled high and thick to keep them warm—an image tranquil like the lapping tongues and crackling embers of a warm fire pit—made her tremble.

Fear punishes those who cultivate it, she knew, but Rayle couldn’t help being afraid. They were coming tomorrow, they who would recondition her world, leaving only scraps of the old, vanquishing all that she was.

Would her children know her then? The world in which they’d mature would never again be the world in which they were born. Hers were the children of dying ways, too young to understand tradition, too pure to realize deceit. New marvels, shiny and magnetic, garnered more appeal than a natural history they’d barely known. Would they comprehend what made Rayle hope and sing, dance and laugh? Could they feel what made her love?

She listened to the soft breezes slipping in intervals through their pursed lips, a soothing cadence. After tomorrow, would their sleep come so easy? Rayle’s eyes blurred. Would excitement blind them to caution?

 Rayle slid free the beast that was strapped to her back and dropped it near the fire. Her day had been spent hunting game across the sky-soaked tundra, toiling hard for her reward, for their survival. She eyed her kill with pride.

She sat at her clay table and pulled her hide boots from her weary feet. Soon her children would smell the fresh meat. They would need food, but she was unable to eat. Her appetite had been slain by the worry of what lay ahead.

Change comes when strength falters, Rayle thought. I must be strong.

She shook her head, wondering what was really at stake. Preservation of a way of life? Survival in its purest sense? The questions were beyond her ability to answer. She knew that today was good and yesterday was grand and all the days before that were as they should have been. She had everything she needed. Her babies never lacked a thing.

She pounded her fist against the table. Little Kaya stirred. Rayle froze. Her daughter’s eyes drifted slowly open, then closed, another moment of decency spared.

Let them have this. Tomorrow comes too soon.

Barefoot, she tip-toed out of the hut. The snow and mud felt alive beneath her feet, seeking shelter in the curves of her nails. Stars lit up the sky, looking innocent, hiding the masters of time. Hiding them.

She looked at the red grass she had reaped and baled, sprung from land she had cultivated: her land. She admired the fishery she’d made along the stream that ran down from the mountains. Her imagination, her volition, had allowed her to be. It had always been enough.

The stream’s silvery water darted through crags and fissures. Along the shore, among rocks of gold, the night worms were wriggling. The rocks were valueless; the worms were sustenance.

Rayle approached the stream, listening to its racing waters and the calls of the many creatures that called it home. She had taken from it only what she needed—nothing more. She choked back her contempt for what would be a parasitic trespass, intruders who wanted everything, who had no understanding of harmony and balance.

Cupping her hand for a drink, one of her three fingers slid into the snow, leaving an indentation. She stared at the marking, no more than a divot in the snow. Was this all the mark she would make on her world? Was this all that would be left to remember her by? Soon, this land would belong to another, a stranger to her ways. And when the snow melted and the suns returned, how long would it be before she’d be forgotten?

Rayle sighed. Futility, she thought, the notion bringing something short of acceptance. She dug her fingers deep into the mud and laughed. Three trenches to mark my passage. The dirt will know that I once tamed it. And tomorrow, they come to tame me.

She tried to picture it, the dark and light fleshy things and their declarations of goodwill. She saw them landing in their vessels, spreading their dogmas like parents to children, to her children. Coming to craft another’s world in their image, she thought, snorting. To them it was Planet X, a world not unlike only they knew how many others. To Rayle, it was home.

“Civilization” they had called it when they made first contact. “A better way of life” they professed as they told her people how to live. They raped her society of its individuality. They destroyed what made them free.

Rayle cried for tomorrow. Behind smiling masks and false promises, the humans brought extermination.

She glanced down at the carved earth. A smile crept across her face as she thought of her children, their big green eyes always looking to her for nurturing and guidance. Her mark had been made. There, she’d be remembered.



In his head, Jason Parent lives many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso. In a prior life, Jason spent most of his time in front of a judge… as a civil litigator. He has since swapped legal pads for notepads with no regrets.


Jason has a brand new book called People of the Sun which you can VOTE for on KINDLE SCOUT. Basically, the most popular books as voted for by readers will be published by Amazon Kindle, and you, the reader, will receive a free copy of the book as a thank you for voting, so why not hop over there right now, and support Jason’s book? You can buy Jason’s books on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. You can also visit his website, or connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you Jason for appearing on The Friday Fiction this week, I am delighted to feature you on my blog, and good luck with People of the Sun!


If you are an independent author, you too can have your work featured here on The Friday Fiction. Don’t be shy, just drop me a line about you and your books.

The Friday Fiction featuring Jaq D. Hawkins

TrilogyFront300jaq

The Goblin Trilogy will be $2.99 from 5th-10th November. It’s normally $9.99; the sale price is less than the normal cost of just the first book.



Excerpt from The Goblin Trilogy

‘You admit that you are mortal, yet you come to my grotto, knowing that you will surely die for the trespass.’

Anton felt himself gaining the upper hand.

‘The creatures of the forest live in harmony with us. Your own people who live in the water refuse to eat us.’

At this Kahjak blanched. The fact that the Kol’ksu had not eaten the arrogant human when he threw him down the pit to them had disturbed the warrior goblin greatly at the time. Anton continued quickly.

‘The forgers of fire gave me this sword and even now the air is full of dragons helping to defend this land from hostile invaders.’

Kahjak’s mouth actually dropped open at the news of the dragons. Anton felt a secret elation that the goblin hadn’t already known about them and pressed the advantage, speaking vehemently.  Read More

The Friday Fiction featuring Dax Christopher


Justice in Winter
(The Goddess of Wind and Rain)

Deep in the woods off a long, winding road, and finding no reasons for where she now lay

Was a broken young woman half buried in snow, just married, half clothed in torn rags and the gray

Of the season that later would prey on her heart and remain there until she had seen her last day.

Dismayed eyes spoke of betrayal and hurt and had frozen, uncertain of why she was slain

In a portrait of ice and without any warning, but morning would yield all the answers she’d need.

If only she’d known of the meeting of late she might not have died there under the tree.

But as is often the case, we see everything clearer in the mirror when everything’s done and behind us.

When life gets too warm and cozy it goes without notice until something tragic reminds us.

All the world around her now had bound her down to watch her shake,

Dying with the light of day but trying hard to stay awake.

Silent stillness made her numb and deaf and dumb to everything

Except the burn of frost on skin and Lady Winter’s icy sting.

No one there to even care or listen to her awful story,

Winter claimed her rigid frame and stole her breath in all its glory.

On the floor of nature’s house, a mouse without a chance in Hell,

Our heroine’s dying wish was for the world to know her story well. Read More

The Friday Fiction featuring K.A. Krisko

Cornerstone- Raising Rook [cover]


Cornerstone: Raising Rook

 PROLOGUE

For his thirteenth birthday, his father gave him a rock.

Lorcas got up earlier than he wanted to, because it was bright and sunny and he couldn’t sleep. He staggered downstairs to breakfast in his pajamas. He slid into a chair across from his father, who was sitting primly behind a neat plate, his napkin and silverware precisely aligned with the edge of the table and his glass forming an equilateral triangle with the plate and the tip of his spoon.

“Well!” his father said brightly. “It’s the birthday boy!” He tilted his head from side to side, happily observing the meal before him.

“Mmmph,” Lorcas grumped. His mother set a bowl down in front of him, followed by a box of cereal and a spoon. Lorcas grabbed the milk from the middle of the table.

“Thirteen!” his father continued, still looking at his breakfast. He picked up his fork and knife. “A special birthday! And of course I have a special present for you!”  Read More