Author at Work

Greetings visitor (and possibly friend),

I am currently in the throes of writing the first Trilogy. Exciting times.

WIP1 is out on submission. Wish it luck, please. WIP2 is under construction and about half written (30,000+ words for the first draft). WIP3 is lurking at the back of my mind but is most eager to leap onto the pages.

Otherwise I am discussing the marketing side with those that know to engage in this better.

Thanks for all your patience. I will resume posting soon…

What’s coming?

A series of articles on Left Brain : Right Brain thinking which links in with my earlier articles on where do ideas come from.

More short stories to entertain.

 

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Where have I been?

Well physically I have remained on Terra Firma, more or less, I do get around. Mentally I’ve been on a journey sparked by my question on ideas and where they came from. As they said when I was a little younger, “Far Out Man”. The ideas question will be a subject I will come back to, but for now I just want to bring you up to date with what’s happening with me.

Currently my latest first draft is residing in the capable hands and mind of my talented editor. We shall see the results later this year …

I have also started work on a completely new piece, straight from the Chaotic Cosmos of my subconscious, a piece for adults. Its refreshing to just write for the sake of writing and my aim with this project is to loosen up and enjoy the process of creation.

I have also entered a competition in the SCBWI for a short story and below is my contribution. I hope you like it.

What’s in my Closet?

The twelfth chime resonated from the antique grandfather clock, its sound greatly diminished by the long journey to the attic. Nicholas bolted upright staring into the darkness. As the silence reasserted itself Nicholas cringed. Fear flooded all his senses as the noises came. Creeping and creaking, rustling and shuffling. Nicholas shrank deeper into the darkness. It happened every night. Something gulped. A quiet sound, but there was no doubting it. Why was he plagued by such a cruel creature? The monster was right here! Nicholas threw the closet door open and ran. Ghosts don’t like nasty boys.

Enjoy life and dream well.

Grumphspawn.

Where do ideas come from?

It’s a question that has had me wondering for years. As an author I know ideas are what lies behind the Art. They are the core of my stories. When one of my characters does something it’s because of the cause and effect of ideas. It’s interesting in itself, but more than that, as I continue to search and improve myself in my art, this question becomes more important. If I can figure out the secret to where ideas comes from I will open a treasure chest of possibilities which will provide me with unlimited resources. Can you image that? It’s a tempting idea in itself. Exciting even.

So where do ideas come from and what are they? To start with I want to consider what I know.

We all have ideas and we all act on them, even if we end up taking no active action except to think or to ignore them. As human beings one of the differences between us and other animals is our ability to, not only have these innovative ideas, but also the passion to act on them. For example who was it that first thought about the possibilities of fire, or of the wheel? Did the first person actually take any action or just ponder the possibilities? Maybe they even communicated those ideas to another before they became a means for humanity to warm themselves, to cook, to build and to travel. Notice all the verbs? Our actions are born from ideas. They are important to understand. Ok that sounds about right, but still doesn’t address the issue – where do our ideas come from?

What else do I know? Some ideas are stronger than others. What determines whether an idea is motivational? What makes an idea take root and grow? The call to action depends on the depths to which our ideas inspire us. Inspiration is born from need, whether it’s a want to cure cancer because it personal, or whether it’s how can I help my team win its next game in sport? It’s subjective, it’s inspirational and it’s down to circumstance, the environment in which we live. That’s something helpful. There are external forces involved, it’s not all about inside us. Or should I say the perception of our external world set’s the environment for how fertile the ground on which the seeds of our ideas fall will be. If the first person to think about fire was warm, well fed and without fear what would they have made of its potential?

Intriguing. Hmmm. Ideas are subjective it seems. Limited by our perceptions, circumstance and abilities to see. Maybe you’ve heard of Aristotle’s cave. When one man leaves his world behind (the cave) explores new boundaries and when he returns no one can understand him as they have no frame of reference for his new insights, they have not travelled those paths and cannot see beyond their cave. Hmmm. It may be intriguing but I’m not sure I’m getting to the heart of this. I’ve only been able to say how ideas affect us, there’s still no clue about where they come from.

Let’s consider the mind, it’s taken that our thoughts come from our brains. So do these ideas come solely from inside ourselves? Are our ideas just random electrical impulses in our brains that form into something we can then see? What about divine inspiration or eureka moments? Are they just instances when certain things fall in the right slots inside our minds that we see particular circumstances in a different light? Is it all just us making sense out of the chaos of existence? That sounds like what I’ve always been told about creativity, but is it the full story? Is there more? There must be.

The mind works in two halves, apparently, the one side dealing with conscious thought and the other the subconscious. The subconscious works considerably faster than the conscious and each side influences the other in ways that are complex and are not always predictable. Is there a clue in this link between the conscious and the subconscious? Or are they just two methods of looking at the same thing? I’m not sure anyone knows enough about that to give the needed insights about ideas and where they come from.

So what else is there to know? As a species we can exchange ideas between ourselves by a whole number of different methods of communication, but what if an idea comes from beyond our own species thoughts? Is that even possible? Personally I believe anything is possible if we can only imagine how. So where does that leave me?

Stumped. I don’t know any answers.  But this idea has now taken a hold of me and I cannot let it go. So what’s next? Action. I am doing some research to find out if anyone else has discovered anything which will shed light on the question. And next month I will explore beyond my own cave and see what I can discover… At least it’s an idea for understanding what I need to know and more importantly – this is fun.

Once Upon a Page Three

Henry was in a fog. He couldn’t see a thing. That wasn’t quite true, he could see misty vapours all around him but nothing else. It reminded him of flying through a cloud, but he was standing still. He remembered the chest and Hugo picking the lock. Then a blinding flash and now he was fogged up.

He tried to honk, but nothing came out. Not a single sound and he frowned so hard the feathers on his face wrinkled awkwardly together. He buffeted the air with his wings and the fog swirled. Was that something just ahead of him? He buffeted some more, putting his whole strength into the effort and the mists cleared.

Where had the cave gone? He was on a tall wooden post. Below him was the fog swirling around three feet below his webbed toes. He couldn’t tell what was underneath that dense cloud.

To Henry’s right was the Orang-Utan, Nicholas. In one of his hands was the inevitable bag of peanuts. But he wasn’t eating, his eyes were shut and his lips quivered as if he was in a deep sleep. On the left Hugo the Rat wobbled on the still post and his eyes looked manically at the fog beneath. He was gripping the sides of his post so tightly his claws had embedded themselves in the wood. Of course his balance was gone without his tail and he would be sacred of falling. Hugo noticed henry watching him and made a conscious effort to stiffen his resolve, he looked more at ease but his claws gouged deeper into the wood.

Then the posts started to sway, gently back and forward. Henry tried to honk and flapped his wings. Maybe he should take to the air, but he found he couldn’t. Something invisible was keeping him attached to the post. Angrily he flapped harder, stray feathers flying from his wings, but still he couldn’t take off. Now the post was moving more rapidly and had started a swirling motion. How was this part of a wish? Henry swore he would return to that sage in the village and give her what-for. This was a trick! It was nothing to do with finding his honk. His fury building Henry felt a force building up inside him until, with a blast, he opened his beak and honked what felt like the biggest honk he had ever done. It felt magnificent! Only there was no sound.

Something inside him snapped. An inner tension he didn’t know had been there and he relaxed. The post was still moving and increasing the orbit of its swing, but now he felt able to go with the flow and just used his wings to balance with the minimum of effort.

He looked over to the others to see how they were coping.

Nicholas was hanging on with one hand his body was off the post and was rotating out from the wooden structure until he was almost horizontal. His other hand still clutched his precious bag of peanuts with as much strength and determination as he gripped the post. To Henry it didn’t look good. Any second the Orang-Utan would be flung out into the fog and who knew what fate would have in store for him then. He would be better holding on with two hands, but his greed for the peanuts wouldn’t let him.

Hugo the Rat was in no better condition. Without his tail his balance was poor anyway and with the whirling post it looked desperate for the rodent. He had his eyes closed tight as if resisting the urge to cry with all his will.

Why was this happening to them? What had this to do with wisdom and helping them find their wishes? It didn’t seem right, not obviously at least, but a niggling thought had started to run around in Henry’s head, released when his inner tension had snapped. Maybe this wasn’t about being given their wishes, but finding their own answers.

When he considered Hugo and what he knew of his new friend it was obvious that his biggest flaw was his pride. He was a preening rat who thought too much of himself. The loss of his tail had been such a blow to him but he couldn’t see past that to enjoy the rest of what he had in life. Although these thoughts seemed right, Henry couldn’t see how he could help his friend in their current situation.

Nicholas was different. His problem was his greedy need for the peanuts. It was so big a greed he wouldn’t share and now he was in grave danger because he couldn’t and wouldn’t let go of the bag to hang on properly to the swirling post. If only Henry could tell him, maybe he could save his friend, but he couldn’t honk and he couldn’t talk.

Then it came to him. His own fault. He had always been angry when he lost his honk, telling himself it was because he couldn’t help others, but it had been in own inner pride in his beautiful honking that had been the real issue. He couldn’t bear to have lost that. Now that didn’t matter. The anger had gone with the snap. He would try and try to help his friends starting with Nicholas.

Gathering every ounce of will power Henry pooled all his heart and soul into talking. The motion of the post was actually comforting as he built his resolve to its peak.

“Nicholas!” He shouted in as clear a honk as he had ever made, “You have to let go of your peanuts and hold on with two hands. We’ll find you some more once we are free.”

Nicholas looked startled to hear the goose talking and his grin spread across his face like dripping waves of honey as only an Orang-Utan’s could. His eyes cleared and mirth shone out. With a laugh that echoed, Nicholas let go of the bag and swung both hands around the post. Turning the twirling into a game rather than a peril.

“Thanks Goose!” He called.

“It’s Henry, Nicholas. Now we have to help Hugo.”

“I’ll do that.” The Orang-Utan promised and laughed again, just for the joy of it.

The rat was staring at them both. His black fur was turning white with fear as his post swung more and more erratically. In fact his and Nicholas’s posts were swinging so far out they were only a few feet apart when their orbits aligned.

“Hugo. You’ll have to trust me.” Nicholas called to his friend. “Next time we swing close you must let go. I’ll catch you with my feet and keep you safe.”

“No. I can’t! Without my tail I can’t control myself!”

“You can. Just trust yourself. You can do this.” The Orang-Utan encouraged him.

“Yes. It’s your pride blinding you that holds you back. You are more than just a tail.” Henry honked. “Do this and you’ll feel better, you’ll see!”

Hugo didn’t look convinced and now the posts were gathering more speed.

“If you don’t, it’ll be too late!”

The rat was wailing now and Nicholas was talking softly encouraging him. As the swinging posts came closer Nicholas opened his toes out clearly getting ready to catch Hugo. The rat’s eyes looked wild as he nodded and just as their orbits coincided he let go of his post and flew through the air.

Nicholas’s laughter boomed out as he stretched his toes and nimbly caught his friend.

“Hurray!” Honked Henry and he flapped his wings fast together, not in anger, but applauding his friends. And all of a sudden he was flying, released from his post.

The fog underneath them cleared and they saw the ground was only inches below. With a whoop of joy Nicholas cartwheeled up and flipped Hugo into his arms, landing with such elegance his rippling skin looked perfectly in tune with life.

“Thank you! Thank you!” Hugo breathed out, his eyes clear and joyful. “I was really scared there. I wouldn’t have survived without you both.”

Henry looked at his rat friend and then at Nicholas. He motioned with his eyes and the Orang-Utan gaze followed the prompt. They realised the sage had been right after all.

Nicholas laughed. “And the end of this tale is … I have found my laughter, Henry his honk and you Hugo, my friend, you have your tail back too!”

Once Upon a Page

Firstly I would like to apologise for missing my deadline last month. I would like to say it was because I was away on a much needed family holiday, or that my right arm has been out of commission due to repetitive strain from writing too much in awkward positions, or that writing my latest story for the Everlasting Fantastical Adventures took most of my time and inspiration up, but no excuse is ample or totally correct. Let’s just say I had a sabbatical and am now back.
This month’s piece has turned into the start of a bigger story with part one below …
ONCE UPON A PAGE there were three animals who went on an urgent quest into a deep dark cave. Each one determined to find something they had lost that was very dear to them.

First was Henry, a snow white goose who had had his honk stolen during a flight through a winter storm by a mischievous wind spirit. He had chased the spirit but lost it in the thickest part of the blizzard. A goose without a honk is a sad thing, every time he tried to warn his flock when a stranger approached he looked silly and ended up in a flap. Since then the other geese laughed at him and, what was worse, he couldn’t honk back.

The second was Nicholas, a jovial orang-utan who had misplaced his laugh when eating his way through a field of peanuts. He had searched and searched, opening as many shells as he could, but his laughter was gone. Now when he told a joke all he could raise was a smile and he felt his world was dull without his belly laugh that could shake the trees.

Last was Hugo, a big black-haired rat who went to sleep on New Year’s Eve and woke up the next morning incomplete. It had been dark in the sewer that night and there had been a troop of young rats from the local University prowling around. It was true Hugo had eaten a stash of overripe plums he had found which made him woozy, but he had felt nothing else that night. He had woken up without his tail, a limb no self-respecting rat could do without. His balance, coordination and his dignity were beyond repair.

The three had met in a market place in the town of Everhope on the outskirts of Wishful County. The market was the home of a famous Sage. Each had come to ask about their dilemmas. The Sage had listened to all three animals. She had told them they must go to the mountain of Faith nestled on the edge of the world to find their answers and that all three must undertake this journey together.

Half way up the mountain was a cave. A deep and lonely place in which was hidden a magical chest. If they could unlock the chest then their wishes would be granted. Without any arguments they decided to follow the Sage’s instructions and set out that same afternoon. Three days and three nights they toiled through torturous weather across the wilds. Each finding out something about the others during the hard journey. Now they had arrived and were standing on the brink.

“So this is the place.” Hugo peered into the gloom. “Looks spooky to me …” he said doubtfully, “and I like damp dark places.”

“-”, honked Henry, or rather didn’t. He buffeted his wings and shook his neck from side to side.

“Hugo, I think the goose wants to tell us something.” Nicholas scratched his chin. They hadn’t found out Henry’s name as his honk was gone and he couldn’t write.

“No doubt.” Hugo shrugged. “ What is it, Goose?”

“-”. Henry said silently. His white face and beak beginning to turn red with anger. The Orang-utan and the Rat exchanged blank looks.

“Maybe we should play charades?” Nicholas suggested.

“We tried that already, remember?” Hugo shook his head too quickly and almost fell over. He really missed his tail.

“When we were crossing that stream and the goose tried to tell us something. It didn’t work, so he lost his temper and took off in a flap. Landed on the other side without a care. He was so upset he wouldn’t help either of us across. We got all wet and cold just because I laughed at his antics.”

“Well, you shouldn’t have.” Nicholas grimaced, his eyes flat and his wrinkly face looked all lopsided and wrong. “I’m sure he was only trying to help us.”

“We’ll never know.” Hugo sniggered, “unless we find that Chest of Wishes.” He liked to snigger. It was a very ratty thing to do and he found himself sniggering a lot more now than he did before he lost his tail. With a quick glance at the other two to make sure they would follow, Hugo stepped into the cave.

“Come on, Goose. You know Hugo doesn’t mean any harm. He’s just like any other rat.” Nicholas held one long arm out to the bird.

“No I’m not!” Hugo snapped over his shoulder, but he didn’t stop to argue. He did not dare to turn in case he fell over. Henry flapped once and then gentle pressed his wingtip into the offered hand of Nicholas. Together they followed the rat into the gloom.
To be continued…

What’s with me?

Whatever is happening?

In our turbulent world it’s hard to know for sure, but with the books, I have finished the initial drafts of the first four adventures. Sweet, such a wonderful sensation to enjoy. That magical time of creation is now to be followed by a lot of hard work to hone and polish, hone and polish… There’s long way to go. However, launch in 2017 is still in sight. We shall see.

In the first adventure Elannah and Sam discover the Land of Dreams. They meet Rodger the talking Badger for the first time and can’t help but notice an ugly creature skulking in the shadows spying on them. To get away from the menace, Rodger invites the children to a fireworks display by the Great Wizard Grumphspawn and the night is filled with enchantment. Until the shadow reveals itself and steals the show.

The second story happens at Christmas and it’s the Twelve Toed Ugly Troll’s first. Elannah and Sam are determined to make it the best party possible and brave all sorts of dangers as they put the party together. From crashing snow and thieving goblins the children’s festive adventure just keeps growing more difficult. And with all of the excitement comes the troll’s quickening. Will they throw the party in time or will the troll revert to his nasty life?

The third tale takes the children to the Seven Sleeping Seas and Fips is searching for something he has lost. Life without an itch is no fun for a Salty Seadog. The adventures soon become deeper as the balance in the Land of Dreams is lost. Storms and pirates must be overcome to set things right and its strange to find there’s more to an itch than just a sensation.

The fourth quest happens at Halloween and the Great Wizard’s home is full of trouble, including an Uppity Mister Pumpkin Head and a game of Stinkel Stonkel Pickle Plum that is full of tricks and treats. There are two rather rude pigs running around as the children try to solve the Halloween Secret. And when a Grimlee takes a hand then chaos will ensue.

What else am I up to?

Now my mind is also simmering with an adult book series. An epic science fantasy adventure. The background is clear, complete with astronomical events and causations, the theme is also set in my mind and now I am getting to know my characters. They are many and varied, and I feel we should become acquainted with each other fully before I commit to paper. I believe that characters are the hearts of any story, so discovering just who and what makes them tick will make all the difference.

I am also involved with the SCBWI BI conference again this year. Winchester University in November. A place where children’s books writers and illustrators come together to talk, learn and have fun.

So what about the short stories? I will return to them next month, taking it a turnabout with news of what is happening with me.

Spring in the Air

The sun gleamed bright as a diamond. The light spears reflecting all the colours of spring from the water droplets around my wrist. I was warm at last, after months of frozen isolation I was bubbling with joy. I stretched out further and touched a stick. It had fallen from a nearby tree, a silver birch and its bark was like a wrapping of the precious metal, smooth and glistening. I held it firmly in my grasp, feeling its strength. It would make a good staff for me to use.
I looked deeper into my too familiar glade searching for something different, something new. But my world was one which had not changed for more time than I cared to think about. Bathed in spring sunlight the trees and bushes glowed with awakening life. Buds of fresh green leaves bursting slowly from their winter sleep. Insects were busying themselves in the search for food. The same scenes replayed every year and my heart trembled with my need for something … more. I wanted adventure.
I remembered my life before when I had soared through the skies and raced other girls of my kind over high mountains and vast forests. Those days had seemed like they would never end and yet, here I was in this tiny corner of the woods which had become my world, except for those memories, or were they dreams? It was so hard to tell any more. I felt trapped and unsure. I needed to get out of here.
The bushes rustled and my attention focussed back to the present. A young male dear stepped nervously into the sunlight. The white spots on his back announcing his tender years. I wondered where his mother was. This youngster was too new to the world to be without his parents.
“Don’t be afraid. Take a drink. You’ll feel better and I will watch out for you.” I assured him and tentatively he stepped nearer and lowered his head to drink.
I laughed. A tinkling sound which caused his ears to start up, but he kept on drinking.
“See, that’s much better, isn’t it?” I murmured soothingly and his ears relaxed their guard. “Where’s your parents?” I wondered aloud.
“I don’t know.” His hide shivered. A rippling spasm of uncertainly and fear. “Thanks for the water.”
“You are welcome.” I gripped the stick and stood up tall.
The young dear startled, jumping clear of the pool’s edge and landed quivering several feet from me. His milky eyes bulging and unsure.
“Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you.”
The fawn didn’t move and I reached out my hand towards him. I felt his breath rush in and out quickly as he took my scent. I tickled the end of his nose and it gleamed wetly.
“See … I mean you no harm.” I laughed. A thought pushed its way into my mind. Maybe this young dear could help me and I could help him. “Would you like me to help you find your parents?”
“Yes, I’d like that,” The fawn licked his wet nose and smiled, “but how could you?”
“What do you mean?” I asked. The fawn’s question seemed ridiculous.
“Well, you are made of water so how could you leave this spring?”

This month I have added another column to the list and included a theme category.

Die Rolls Characters Traits Conflict Location Object  Theme
1 Maiden Prone Conquest Hills Weapon Comedy
2 Animal Forceful Illness Cavern Treasure Love
3 Spirit Hyper Dark Agent Ocean Bed Mystery
4 Fantastical Talkative New World Waterfall Stick Fantasy
5 Girl Athletic Self-doubt Spring Bread History
6 Boy Adventurer Disability Plains Chicken Tragedy


For March’s efforts we will have …

                Character = Animal

                Trait = Talkative

               Conflict = Disability

               Location = Cavern

              Object = Treasure

Theme = Comedy

What will emerge?

Breaking the Beat (PG Warning)

They had her by the throat. Her eyes glared fury as they flared at her captors, but she was helpless, trapped in their grasp and at their mercy. My heart sang for her. She looked like I felt inside, as if the world had played a deceitful trick on us and all we could do was wait till it swallowed us whole. I couldn’t stand to watch and do nothing. I wanted to yell out, scream all my rage at them. Make them let her go, give me release, but that’s my burden; I couldn’t make a sound. Not with my mouth. I was dumb, without speech, unable to communicate.

“Let’s finish this witch!” One of the scumbags wheezed. Yanking on her long blonde hair and twisting her neck cruelly. The crowd in the alleyway entrance watched. Fascinated, but unwilling to intervene. The other two scumbags, leered and gripped tighter as the girl wrestled against her captures.

I had had enough. I was far taller than them all and I used my height to lean into the alley. I raised my hands to my face, pulling my horn up to my mouth. I couldn’t talk, or shout but I could sound a tune unlike any other. I squeezed my eyes tight until they bled tears, the angst building to breaking point, then I let it all out through my horn. A note so strident everyone fell to their knees, holding their ears. Even the girl was affected. Though she recovered first and kicked one of the scumbags hard in the belly as she staggered away. I stopped sounding the note when she was clear. She never looked back, didn’t even raise a hand in thanks, she just raced away down the strip and into the murkiness of the night.

I knew I shouldn’t be surprised. I didn’t expect to be treated any differently than before. I was an outcast, no one would deal with me, not even here in the Strip of Shadows. This was the city’s underbelly where crime and rebellion cavorted hand in hand. It was so dangerous, the Judge, the most feared woman in the City, had never been seen here.  This was my home and I had never been out of its grasp, but even here I was beyond hope. My appearance was so tall, I was too easily noticed to be useful to anyone. Because of my lack of voice, I couldn’t talk, couldn’t write and couldn’t communicate with anyone expect by pointing, no one even knew my name. But that wasn’t the worst of it, the one thing which really put me beneath the lowest of the low was my sound. I could make the most disturbing and terrible tunes on my trumpet when I let all my despair out from my heart.

However, to play my dreadful music carried the death sentence or so the police had informed me. To encourage me to play would mean anyone caught doing so was liable to exile, and though the city was a terrible grime-riddled cesspit to live in, it was better than the world outside. And in that lay my entrapment. I had no skills, no ability to scrape a living together, no money, and no job. I was desperate and starving. Hunger was my only friend.

Sometimes I got a cleaning job, mucking out the bars and clubs along the Strip after a night’s debauchery had gasped its last foul breath. Folks expected the debris, the puke and the blood to be washed away each morning before it all began again. It was the city’s worst job and even then I hardly ever had a chance. It had been a week since my last meal. My stomach felt like a hollow cavern, full of hurt.  I was lucky it had been raining this week,  at least I had been able to drink, even if it was filthy gutter water.

I was roused from my thoughts as the others in the alley came round. Most of the watchers left as quickly as they could go, looking back with fearful eyes. The three scumbags were the last to rise. They had been the ones I had directed my blast at. Trickles of blood oozed from their ears and their eyes were lost as they helped each other to their feet.

I don’t know why I stayed. I should have run too. Maybe they hadn’t realised it was me who had caused them the pain and let their victim escape, but that hope was a legless pony, with no chance of running. No one else in this city could have done what I had done and with my reputation I was a sure thing, an object for them to take revenge on. Better to deal with it now. I’d rather die by their hand than live any longer in my hopelessness.

As they pulled their wicked knives and stepped closer, I smiled, which caused them pause. It wasn’t that I was unafraid, I was petrified, but the thought that the blonde girl had escaped was my one happy thought in a lifetime of misery. I call her a girl, but truly she had been a woman. Probably early twenties, with neat curves and a spark of life to her that had blazed out even when trapped by the scumbags. That’s probably why I had helped her, more than anything else, that spark of life. I wish I had that power.

“You are a weirdo, bugle boy,” Scumbag one sneered. His eyes were cast and his musty hair slick with grease. “I’m gonna-”

But I never found out what he was gonna do to me. All three scumbags turned, fading like ghosts into the alleyways murk, their eyes had flickered behind me as they evaporated from view.

“Alright, Dude.” It was the City Guard. “That is your ultimate warning. Next time I hear a peep from your horn, it’ll be time to go see the Judge and she don’t like you. Remember, she told us if you were ever caught playing havoc with your horn again it would mean your life.”

I turned and hung my head. I wasn’t sure if I was disappointed, happy, or angry. All I knew was this wasn’t my end. I would have to struggle on. Maybe I should raise my horn and play some more, make them give me peace. But I couldn’t. It would be suicide and that I couldn’t do. I was a coward that way.

The filth and noise enveloped me again as I shambled away from the guards. I had three more bars to visit, three more chances to earn a crust of stale bread. Maybe my luck had changed and maybe I would find someone who’d give me a break.

I should have known better. Not only did they not want me in the first two bars, but they threw me out into the garbage heap from both. Now I stank of rotten fish guts. I must have looked like a nightmare as I stumbled towards the Last Chance Inn.

Had my sense of irony left this one till the end? Or was it that this was the worst, the blackest, foulest, most dangerous part of the perilous Strip of Shadows that my sense of self-preservation had kept me from it until there was no other choice. I had never been inside before.

The bouncers leered as I stepped forward. They were almost as tall as me, which meant they towered over everyone else. But whereas I am slight of build, undernourished and underfed, these two specimens of brutality were bulging with muscles and menace. They had the worst reputation on the Strip. No one crossed them, even the guards wouldn’t touch them. Strangely they ignored me as I approached. Normally I couldn’t get within ten feet of the front door before a knife would be flashed in warning, but tonight nothing, not even a glance in my direction. Had I turned invisible? I doubted that.

I took a deep breath and edged closer. Still no recognition. Then I was all the way next to them and they just stepped aside and let me in.

I stopped and looked at them both, but I could have been merely a spirit for all they acknowledged me.

I shuffled forward and pushed through the door. It slammed shut behind me at the same time at the bouncers slammed their shoulders together, blocking of any chance of retreat. I felt trapped, free to move, but caught inside a cage that would define the rest of my life. I had felt nothing much when the three scumbags had been about to kill me. Now I felt that the world had changed and I didn’t know what would happen next. I had never been inside this bar before.

I looked around. The place was quiet, but I saw this was because of me, not its normal state. The place was full, crowded with the meanest and nastiest looking souls I had ever seen on the Strip and they were all looking at me. I almost ran out to face the bouncers again.

“How come you got in?” Someone called from the shadows and smoke.

“Yeah, turn round and go back to the dung heap you crawled from!” Someone else added with a malicious laugh.

I looked to the bar. That’s where the manager always purveyed his empire, in all the other bars in the city. I could see a bald headed guy with five scars interlacing his face into a patchwork of cold hearted disdain. He didn’t talk just nodded at me to approach.

I stepped forward. Unsure for the first few steps, nervous as everyone’s eyes followed my every move, then with more confidence. I wouldn’t be thrown out, there was some work here after all. I might even earn that stale crust I desired. I smiled but it only evoked a scowl on the bald guy’s features. The skin around his scars reddening. My smile froze, but I couldn’t shift it from my face. It felt like a rictus grin. I stopped just in front of the counter and stretched out my hand. The manager didn’t even look at it.

“Seems like it’s your lucky day,” he wheezed. His voice a hoarse whisper. “I hear you need a job. What can you do?”

My smile warmed up, but still I met a glacial response. I mimed sweeping and polishing.

“We got a cleaner. What else.”

My smile shrivelled. Cleaning was all I ever did. With my disabilities I couldn’t do anything else. I shook my head, my eyes pleading.

“If there’s nothing else you can do for me, then maybe there’s nothing I can do for you.” The manager looked relieved as if he hadn’t wanted to offer me a job. What was happening? Was this all just another setup to humiliate me?

“Maybe we should use him as a bog brush!” Someone shouted, “With his height and thin bones he could even clean the pipes around the bend!” The room erupted in scorn and I quivered.

A phone jangled behind the bar and the manager sprang to answer it. Whoever was calling must be important. I watched him listening and nodding, ignoring the rest of the bar who were all trying to outdo each other in belittling me with their sarcastic nasty humour.

The manager’s eyes flitted to me again and there was something different in them now. More than the disdain, almost a respect. I must be imagining it. He turned to me, cradling the phone still and asked, “Do you still have your horn?”

Now I knew I was in real trouble. Nobody asked me about my trumpet. The Judge had issued her decree and everyone knew about it. My horn was bad news.

“Do you still have it?” The baldy asked again.

I nodded and tapped my jacket where the trumpet was tucked out of sight.

“Right. I can offer you a chance to play here. You get three tunes and if they like you …“, he gestured to the audience. “I can give you a nightly gig.”

I stood rooted. Struck dumb like I’d never been before. Only my eyes were moving, I wasn’t even breathing. The raucous noise in the bar had stopped and everyone was looking at each other. There were no more bawdy comments. No one had expected this.

Why? I wanted to scream. Why? Don’t you know we would all die! The Judge has spoken.

Finally I was able to move again and I slowly shook my head. I hadn’t played anything but despair and hurt for so long, I wasn’t sure if I could recall any music.

“Well, it’s your funeral.” Bald guy murmured. He turned away from me and spoke into the phone. Then he put it down and faced me again. Arms folded eyes hard. The doors swung open and the two bouncers entered and stopped. Barring the exit and fixing their eyes onto me. They didn’t look menacing, just determined. I knew I was going nowhere. My life was no longer my own. Not that it had been for such a long time.

Then a bead curtain behind the bar swished open and there stood the girl. Blonde hair swept back from her face and her eyes smiling at me.

“It’s alright, Dude. You can play, if you want.”

I shook my head violently. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to this girl.

“Don’t worry about me. I own this joint and it’s my way of saying thanks. You saved my life.” Her words carried weight and I could see the bouncers’ and the manager’s eyes following her lead.

I tried again and shook my head, drawing a line across my throat as if with a knife, trying to tell her about the decree. Maybe I could play some, but not if it meant hurting this girl.

She came right up to me and whispered so no one else could hear, “And don’t worry about what the Judge said.” She smiled, her eyes laughing, “I am the Judge.”

Well that’s it for this month, I hope you enjoyed this piece which is a little different.

For 2015 first quarter I have changed the story box

Die Rolls Characters(Once) Traits(once) Conflict(once) Location(once) Object(once)
1 Maiden Prone Conquest Hills Weapon
2 Animal Forceful Illness Cavern Treasure
3 Spirit Hyper Dark Agent Ocean Bed
4 Fantastical Talkative New World Waterfall Stick
5 Girl Athletic Self-doubt Spring Bread
6 Boy Adventurer Disability Plains Chicken

Now the next short piece (around 500 words) will be using these hints.

Girl, Adventurer, New World, Spring, Stick

Have a good one. Till next time.

Cheers

A Supernatural Short Story

This month’s short story prompts were …

Character – Short, Supernatural,

Traits – Arrogant, Curious,

Conflict – Weather

Location – Forest

 Objects – Message and Vehicle

 I hope you enjoy this tale.

Trouble at halloween …

The rain pelted past the trees, thudding on my skin like I was a drum.

“BLARRR! Enough, foul weather!”

I move under an oak tree, pressing myself up against its trunk. Just as well my skin‘s so tough the rough bark was just a small annoyance, much less than the thudding rain. Here I was, trapped in the forest. Trying to get back to my garden in time for the midnight feast. But time and the weather were conspiring against me.The incessant drumming was hurting my head so much I couldn’t even rhyme.

It was the squirrels fault of course. If he hadn’t stolen all the chocolates I wouldn’t have had to chase him into the depths of the woods. The squirrel had scampered for his drey thinking he would be safe to scoff all the treats, but he hadn’t factored in me. I suppose he didn’t get to see me most of the year; I only come out on Halloween.

When I fired my stream of seeds and pulp at the wee thing he had jumped out of his skin. His tail standing out like a pine tree, stiff and smelly. He didn’t moved a muscle as I collected up the treats, hiding them away and his eyes had popped when I blew  a last noisy rasping raspberry. That had been fun!

With the treats in my  possession I set out to return to the garden. But on my way back the storm hit hard. Buffeting winds, thudding rain, extraordinarily nasty weather. Things would have been fine if it had been blustering in the opposite direction, but no, that would have been too easy. All of that horrible wet windiness was set to blow right up my nostrils as I flew home. It was almost blew my lights out.

What was that? I thought I heard something; a message on the wind.

There it is again! I can hear someone calling. It must be the children. They want to see me! Etching my features in a grimace, I prepare to face the pelting raindrops. I am needed and nothing but death can stop me. As I launch myself out from the trees, a few choice words pop into my head.

The rain is fierce with hasty schemes,

               It batters my mind with nasty dreams,

               But weather won’t cause me inner shame,

               Long will burn my internal flame.

I race through the air, skirting around branches and over logs. Lightning strikes stab me and thunder rages. The rhymes inside have inflamed my spirit and I feel invincible. Around me sizzling rain flashes past in streaks of orange as my fires roar higher and higher.

I hear the children again. Their shouts growing larger, “Uppity Mister Pumpkin Head! Uppity Mister Pumpkin Head!”

With a final push I scream out of the storm. Silver lightning carves the sky in two behind me as a great rolling thunderous echo erupts from the clouds. I have defeated them and they are annoyed.

But what’s this? The children’s faces are full of terror! Silence grips them as they stare at me. My light spills out, filling their eyes. My inner flames blaze with the strikes of the midnight clock. It’s Halloween and the supernatural stalks the night.

With a laughing rush I soar over their heads, making them duck and dive. As I pass just above them I pour out my treats; chocolates and candies galore. All the flavours of Halloween and the children cheer for more!

 

 

For next month’s tale, here is the prompts… (only one of each category – I will set up a new box to use from January onwards)

Character – Tall
Traits – Quiet
Conflict – Money
Location – City
Objects – Horn

 

I hope you all have a wonderful and rewarding Festive Season. May Health Wealth and Happiness surrounding you all like the treats from Uppity Mister Pumpkin Head in the coming year.

 

Cheers,

Grumphspawn!

 

“Uppity Mister Pumpkin Head”- is a character from the “Everlasting Fantastical Adventures” and is protected by Copyright. Please ensure you have the author’s permission before any replication of this blog post.

A Creature of Fantasy

Was that seaweed on her head?

It wasn’t like any plant I knew. It was out of the water for starters and yet it flowed like it was being caressed by the tides. When seaweed dried and died, its flavours turned foul. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t like the shoreline, too many rotting tastes. The deep waters were  better; crisp, clean with the tang of salt. The ocean was my home.

Yet here I was, bobbing in the swell and watching a creature of fantasy walking in the world above the waves.

The object she moved on wasn’t an island, there was no rotten taste to the waters and it had no rocky roots down to the seabed. It was more like one of those trees that floated by after a storm. Only it looked … made. Put together by people. Who would do such a thing and why? The ancients had built cities in the still of the depths, but no one had needed to add anything for generations. Why should they, we had all we needed?

Then there was the girl. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. She looked lithe, her curves like gentle waves, and her skin glowed amber in the sunlight. She was so strange and yet so startlingly beautiful. Unlike the girls under the sea, she moved calmly in the air, back and forth, as if searching for something she couldn’t. I can’t help but wonder what it is? Maybe I should help her.

Neither my younger sisters, nor their friends, would ever come near the surface. They didn’t like the wildness of the world above. All that wind, thrashing and thundering, and during the day the sunlight was blinding. Their eyes were not used to such bizarre intensity. But I had swum this way so often mine had acclimatised to the sun’s rays and I loved the way my skin warmed up, if I lay on the edge of my world, floating between. I could understand why my sisters loved the cool depths. The world of our senses was so comforting. There was no danger and even the sharks didn’t touch us. We were held sacred by those denizens.

But I felt there had to be more and I couldn’t stop myself exploring, even if I wanted to. It was an irresistible force, a greed my father, the Old Man of the Sea, had warned me. Others had swum those currents and all of them vanished. They had died, he cautioned me, consumed by their insatiable hunger. That had frightened me. I’d stayed down in the depths for two weeks after that conversation. But inside my heart I knew I would return to the surface, and here I was.

All I had wanted was to feel the sun on my skin again, but as I neared the surface I saw the floating structure and when my eyes had held the girl, my heart had swirled like a hurricane. I watched the girl with the light coloured wispy seaweed on her head. Her eyes were blue like the waters near a beach. Inviting and warm. I wished she would jump into the sea so I could say hello. I wanted to touch her skin and hold her close, even though she looked so dry. The hunger built up inside me, the swirling grew and, before I knew it, I was swimming up to the floating object.

But how would I survive in the world above and how would I pull myself out of the water? The sides of the floating object were too tall for me to grasp, and as I swam closer I lost sight of the girl. My heart didn’t ease, if anything it grew more desperate. I needed this girl.

There was a contraption hanging between our worlds from the blunt end. Was this a path? A means of crossing over? My heart raced. I stretched my fingers out. Grasping the rung, I pulled myself up. As I cleared the sea, water cascaded from my body. Sunlight heated my skin as a light wind cooled me. It felt so strange and yet so wonderful.

I hadn’t thought how I would breath. I had lived all my life in the water. The air was just too abnormal. I felt panic fighting my hunger, but the thought of the girl was too powerful and I pulled myself up next to her. I didn’t care, even if it meant I would die.

Her eyes burned bright and I could see the whiteness surrounding them. In the centre of the blue, her dark irises pulled at my soul and I knew I was lost forever.

“Hello?” I said, surprised the noise carried, even out of the water.

She smiled. That beautiful strange creature who had captured my heart, smiled at me. My chest rose and fell, with wonder I realised I could breathe the air. It was a miracle.

“Hello. I knew I would find you out here.” Her words sounded so rich, so full of life, my hunger vanished and my heart settled. “I am called Ruby, and we are soul mates, you and I.” Her eyes brimmed with love.

And I knew I would never leave her…

 

I hope you like this month’s offering. I had fun writing it.

So for next month the words will be…

 Character – Short, Supernatural,
Traits – Arrogant, Curious,
Conflict – Weather
Location – Forest
Objects – Message and Vehicle

 Wish me luck…