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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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 part two

“I don’t like it.” Nicholas mumbled to no-one in particular. The darkness pushed down on him as he stepped into the unknown. Danger lurked in the shadows and this place was full of shadows. He reached inside his rucksack and pulled out a bag of peanuts. The sound of the shells cracking offered him some small comfort. Henry craned his neck reaching his beak in the bag, but the Orang-utan lifted it high out of reach without giving his companion a second glance. Henry wanted to honk his annoyance at being denied but could only flap his wings.

Hugo felt the air stirring and his back legs wobbled. “Hey, you guys, watch it. You almost knocked me over. This is hopeless I can’t see a thing. We need some light.”

“Did you bring one?” Nicholas wondered, pausing his chomping. “Yes. Of course I did.” Hugo sniggered. “Didn’t you?”

The cave remained in darkness. “No you didn’t.” Nicholas resumed his noisy chomping. The white goose was suddenly illuminated in the darkness. Henry flapped his wings and the lantern in his beak swayed back and forth. He held it up to Hugo who smiled and took it gratefully. “Thanks Goose. Who knew the goose was smarter than us Nicholas? Not me.” The Orang-utan munched on.

Now able to see their way the three companions ventured deeper into the cave. The air smelt damp like an over-moist towel hanging too long in a bathroom. They could hear drips echoing in the distance, but the path was dry as it wound down through the rock. They entered a large chamber which opened out before them. Beneath their feet was smooth and flat with a carpet of loose stones so fine it looked like freshly turned earth. Above them was endless darkness, the top of the cavern so high above it was lost from sight. In the middle of the chamber was a chest, a large wooden lock-box bound by steel. It was easily as big as the three of them together and looked as though it contained all the wishes in the world.

“Any ideas?” Hugo sniffed at the lock. There was no key and no obvious way to open the chest. The goose pushed the lid with his beak, but it didn’t budge. “That would have been too easy.” Hugo sniggered. “Still, it was worth a try.” Henry smiled at the rat. Maybe he wasn’t such a bad companion after all. “Let me have a look. My fingers are more dextrous.” Nicholas put his packet of peanuts in his pocket and nudged Hugo out of the way. “Hey!” Hugo staggered to the side, the lantern swinging alarmingly. “Watch what you’re doing you great big orange oaf!” “Sorry. I forgot about your tail.” “I wish I could.” Hugo sighed and steadied the lamp, pointing it as best he could at the chest.

Nicholas focussed and using his long thin fingers, he explored every millimetre of the lock. It was built into the chest, made of steel, was smooth to the touch and had a keyhole he could just fit his little finger into. His lips pressed together as he concentrated on his finger tip. A triple barrel lock and he could feel the notches they needed to turn, but his finger was too big to work all three simultaneously. “I could open it, but I’ll need something like a wire.” Hugo sniggered. “How about a claw?” He held up his fingers and on the end of each gleamed long claw tips.

Nicholas nodded and his whole face wobbled. He pulled his lips back in an effort to smile, but instead grossed his companions out with tooth encrusted peanut mush. He told Hugo what to do and how to move the barrels by the notches and then pulled out his packet of nuts while he watched the rat. It didn’t take long. Hugo must have been born to pick locks and with three quick clicks the lid of the chest sprang open. And that’s when everything went wrong.

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…

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 Journey’s End

Everything felt bone dry. The sand under my feet, the scorching air around me and, most especially, the skull watching me from the top of the dune. This was why I was here. It had taken too many arid days to locate. Now it was almost within my reach… yet still a world away. I was tired, so very tired, I wasn’t sure I had the strength, or the heart left to finish this.

The sun flamed on, red-hot, merciless. The sand became a sea of glass beneath my worn out shoes. My long years hung on my frame like shackles, each step harder, more painful. I felt ancient, every joint aching deep into my shrinking marrow.

I had always been a curious soul, questing from place to place. Thinking back, it was my curiosity which had caused me all this trouble. If I hadn’t wanted to cross the desert, I wouldn’t have had my world ripped apart.

They said no one crossed the desert, it couldn’t be done. No…worse, it shouldn’t be done. Folk like us, just don’t do that sort of thing. It’s too dangerous and our bones don’t travel well. I didn’t argue, just up and walked out one night, without telling a soul.

I had been fine under my hat, until the vulture. Its brim had shielded me from the worst of the sun during the festering days. But the scavenger had swooped and now it was gone. Without my hat I knew I’d turn to dust in this remorseless oven. Maybe they had been right, maybe I should never have crossed the desert.

Stumbling, I persisted. Finally reaching the beach. Now my curiosity came down to this one last thing. The answer to my ultimate question which I hoped would make me complete.

I paused, wiping my ribs. I had long since stopped sweating, there was no moisture left, not for years. It was as if I had shed most of my skin. My chest hair was brittle, like withered grass. A gentle zephyr crackled my hair. The tang of the sea taunting me. All that water out there and yet I knew I couldn’t drink a drop. My eternal thirst would never be quenched by seawater.

The skull’s eyes were deep shadows, impassive, without compassion. There was no emotion inside, only logic. Cool and calculating.

I stretched my fingers up, grasping the skull. It felt light and airy.

I raised it high above me.

With a sigh I lowered the skull.

A shudder rattled my bones as life raced through me again. With a laugh of delight I moved my head from side to the side testing my neck. It was a perfect fit. I was whole again.

Now all I had to do was find my hat …

And for next month’s piece we have

                Characters = Hairy and Fit,

                Traits = Kind and Greedy,

               Conflict = Love,

               Location = Ocean,

              Objects = Ruby and Vehicle,

I wonder what will come to me?           Anyone else want a shot?

Taking over

Well its another Monday morning and I find myself wondering where the last week went. Between life the universe and everything time just flies by. So where do i find the time to write? I must have at some juncture as I have over eighteen thousand new words on file for the next project.

To be honest the thoughts and characters I am living with don’t go away, they are there all the time. You know all those moments of daydreams when life’s pressures allow you the space? Well they are taken over now by the characters. Sometimes its Grumphspawn who can be a bit of a grumpybum and very demanding, or Rodger Meles (a talking  badger) who’s curiosity is hard to contain. But equally demanding are both the Twelve Toed Ugly Troll (he likes to go on the rampage) and Shehalogon the Grimlee (pulling strings and setting traps in the shadows of my mind).

All in all, I find that the stories and characters are taking over, filling the cracks and gaps in daily life and gate crashing my dreams.

So when people ask me where do I find the time to write, its an easy one to answer. I am living full time with my stories and sometimes I even get a chance to put some of it on  file.

Just as well I enjoy it all really.