Silent Sentinels – Armed Forces Day Poem

 

Like Atlas, who carried an incredible weight
Or Titans who battle with strength and valour
You protect us against violence and hate
Fighting those who would take our power
*
As fierce and mighty as an ancient tree
You form a barrier across the deepest divide
With roots that encompass land, air or sea
Standing against the ever-changing tide
*
Our steadfast sentinels, it is you we honour
For your burdens we would gladly share
We are united because you make us stronger
And these turbulent times are easier to bare
*
To those we have lost and those who still serve
May you always be given the respect you deserve

It’s Armed Forces Day here in the UK, so I wanted to write something in honour of all our service men and women. The photo below is of my brother, Andrew, getting some much needed respite in Canada with his squadron. He’s served in the Royal Engineers for seventeen years. I cannot begin to express how proud I am.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

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Cinderella Castle – Photo inspired short story

Cinderella Castle

I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks, but I finally managed to carve some time to write and visit my online friends. The following story is inspired by the above photograph. It was taken by a friend, Jarno Willemarck, in the French part of Belgium (he’s not allowed to give exact location). He titled it Cinderella Castle, so I’ve used that (you know how I struggle with them anyway!) I hope you enjoy.

Cinderella Castle

Garrett timed his movements to the haunting whistle and wail of the breeze through a barren landscape. The old house was a ghost of her former self, the old girl about ready to collapse and spill her secrets.

Let’s raise a toast to our freedom.

The voice, floating to him on the wings of times past was followed by the remembered echo of breaking glass. Pausing from the pursuit to gain freedom from his bindings, Garrett’s gaze fell on the table he had carried into the room at Fiona’s request almost fifteen years ago.

He took in the solitary glass, its twin littering the ground by the exit after Fee’s explosive declaration.

Here’s to a taste of freedom and the chance to blow this godawful joint.

The words echoed around the room, ghosts pulling at his memories until she appeared beside the table, her unruly gold curls bouncing as she moved, her graceful body bowing as she raised her glass and hurled it at the closest wall.

The wine they had been drinking had splashed back at her laughing frame, droplets of crimson soaking into the simple cream tunic she wore.

Garrett’s muscles bunched in response to the memory and he saw glimpses of his former self rushing to lift her from harm’s way. His Fee rarely wore anything on her feet, and he had been possessed by a need to protect her from further pain, a need made sharper by the sight of the growing patterns on her dress. Patterns that reminded him of the times the dark rich colour had been evidence of the beatings she had taken.

Let’s do what we should have done years ago and cremate the bitch.

His eyes closed as the soft, vulnerable note to her voice. It wasn’t real, but here, where memories were being drudged up with the filth in the room, past and present merged.

To centre himself, Garrett pulled on the wrist attached to the radiator, and the scrape of metal on metal screeched in a pitch that rivalled the wind.

Fiona had been talking about the house, though neither of them had truly blamed the ancient walls for the atrocities that took place here.

Still, they had tried to burn Gillingworth Manor to the ground. The scent of petrol and red-hot flame rose up to scorch his nose, trapping him with the sounds of burning timber. This room had been among the few that had survived their wrath, and it hadn’t gone unscathed.

When he glanced around, he saw the scorch marks on the ceiling and the debris scattered across the floor like pieces of his past. The rough bite of fabric scratched across his bare chest as the heavy curtains shivered in the breeze. They were darker than they had been. Garrett remembered them blooming as green as the walls, before water had soaked into the fabric and sealed in the house’s weary screams.

It had once been an opulent space, the furnishings a mask for what true horror took place behind the scenes.

Garrett raised his free hand to wipe the sweat from his face. He flinched in pain as the grime from his fingers caught in the open cut on his left cheek. The opposite eye was swollen shut, perhaps the reason his vision was so hazy and his mind flickering between the then and now montage to showcase his predicament.

The bruises across his torso added insult to injury because he swore if he took a snapshot the they would be an exact replica of his first foray into the room.

As though pressing a button to play a soundtrack to his misery, the punch of flesh against flesh echoed around him. He might have dismissed the thud of a body hitting the floor as a painful memory if it hadn’t been for the vibration that shook his bones.

“Fee.” His voice came out on a rasping breath, like the fire had been real again and he’d inhaled too much smoke.

Fiona stepped into the room carrying twin batons and a frown that could make a hardened criminal search out his weapons. She wasn’t bare foot now. The ghost of the girl she had been evaporated in the presence of the fierce woman she had become.

Dressed in black, from her boots to the cap she wore to tame the curs, Fiona looked like a fallen angel. He was afraid he was hallucinating until she spoke.

“What did I tell you about taking side gigs. You never go anywhere without backup.”

Despite feeling repentant for his stubborn actions, Garrett grinned at her. The cut on his lip seared fire across the skin and he knew the fresh flow of blood must have made for a macabre smile, but he didn’t care. They had been searching for Gillingowrth Junior for five years and he was certain his Fee had just made mincemeat out of the sick fuck.

She would never have been taken unaware, as he had been, but then she had always been smarter than him. He’d always followed her. Into the army, the security firm, he would follow her into hell itself.

It took her less than a minute to free him and then she was pulling him to his feet. He swayed until she caught him, and again when she pressed her lips to his.

“Ouch,” he whispered, making no move to step back.

“Stop being a baby. It’s just a scratch.”

He laughed at the words, ones she had spoken many times as a nod to their past. There was little that compared to the wounds inflicted by Rory Gillingworth.

“Can you walk?” she asked in a more serious tone, her pale brown eyes showing the first hint of concern.

“I’ll aim for a hobble and go from there.”

Her musical laughter bathed the room in a soft playful light, banishing every dark corner.

Using Fee for support as he’d been doing most of his life, he let her guide him from the room, confident he provided the same – the security of home.

The house would never be that, not for them, but someday perhaps it would be restored and filled with the kind of joy they had found in each other.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Waves of Life – A poem

water

Swaddled in a pool of gentle heat

Adrift within the sound of your heartbeat

Until the next wave pulls me under

*

Your touch, I value and curse in equal measure

My every cell drowning under the constant pressure

Yet part of me is gripped in a sense of wonder

*

 

Exertion burns through my weary limbs

As the power within me slowly dims

Until red hot pain is all I see

*

You grab me tight and hold me near

Now that the time is finally here

To welcome this part of you and me

*

 

A wondrous sound fills the room

Stealing every drop of gloom

As our eyes alight with pleasure

*

Water washes away our tears

Gentling every one of our fears

As we embrace our tiny treasure


 

I don’t usually torture you with my poetry, but I was moved enough interpreting a recent birth that the compulsion to try was too great. It was a wonderful, humbling experience, and as the miraculous sounds of new life echoed through the halls, I swear if someone had brought in a puppy, I would have OD’d on all the cute. Talk about a natural high! There was so much love in the room I’m surprised I made it out of there…I turned into a big puddle of ‘oh my god, you guys are amazing!’

And, as it was a water birth, I was also submerged in memories of my own experience with Gracie. Since she first emerged from the water, announcing herself to the world, she has brightened our lives. Equal parts terror and treasure, she keeps me on my toes and it’s hard to believe that in two weeks she will be attending her prom. How time flies!

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Introducing Born In A Treacherous Time by Jacqui Murray

I am delighted to help Jacqui celebrate the release of her latest novel Born in a Treacherous Time. I would highly recommend visiting Jacqui’s post, where she has provided a schedule for the blog hop (here). You will find a lovely interview here, and a review of the book here.

I have my copy, and will provide a review within the next couple of weeks. I can’t wait to join Lucy and her band on their adventure!

Find out more about the book, including an excerpt, below.

born in a treacherous timeBorn in the harsh world of East Africa 1.8 million years ago, where hunger, death, and predation are a normal part of daily life, Lucy and her band of early humans struggle to survive. It is a time in history when they are relentlessly annihilated by predators, nature, their own people, and the next iteration of man. To make it worse, Lucy’s band hates her. She is their leader’s new mate and they don’t understand her odd actions, don’t like her strange looks, and don’t trust her past. To survive, she cobbles together an unusual alliance with an orphaned child, a beleaguered protodog who’s lost his pack, and a man who was supposed to be dead.

Born in a Treacherous Time is prehistoric fiction written in the spirit of Jean Auel. Lucy is tenacious and inventive no matter the danger, unrelenting in her stubbornness to provide a future for her child, with a foresight you wouldn’t think existed in earliest man. You’ll close this book understanding why man not only survived our wild beginnings but thrived, ultimately to become who we are today.

This is a spin-off of To Hunt a Sub’s Lucy (the ancient female who mentored Kali Delamagente, the female protagonist).

Kirkus Review:

“Murray’s lean prose is steeped in the characters’ brutal worldview, which lends a delightful otherness to the narration …The book’s plot is similar in key ways to other works in the genre, particularly Jean M. Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear. However, Murray weaves a taut, compelling narrative, building her story on timeless human concerns of survival, acceptance, and fear of the unknown. Even if readers have a general sense of where the plot is going, they’ll still find the specific twists and revelations to be highly entertaining throughout.

A well-executed tale of early man.”

–Kirkus Reviews

Click here for the entire review

An early reader’s review

Born in a Treacherous Time sheds light on a period of time that gave birth to the human race, and allow us to bear witness to the harshness and tenacious spirit that is uniquely human—to survive and endure. Readers with a thirst for knowledge and who enjoy historical fiction, this is a must read. I am looking forward to reading book 2 when it is published.

“I devoured the book in 2 sittings.”

–Luciana Cavallaro, author of Servant of the Gods series and webmaster of Eternal Atlantis

series logo born in a treacherous time

Book information:

Title and author: Born in a Treacherous Time

Series: Book 1 in the Man vs. Nature series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Cover by: Damonza 

Available at: Kindle

Author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Wild seriesShe is also the author of over a hundred books on integrating technology into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Social Media contacts:

http://twitter.com/worddreams

http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

https://worddreams.wordpress.com

https://jacquimurray.net

 

Excerpt

Chapter One

Lucy Leaves Her Homeland

The scene replayed in Lucy’s mind, an endless loop haunting her days and nights. The clear sun-soaked field, the dying Mammoth, the hunters waiting hungrily for its last breath before scavenging the meat, tendons, internal organs, fat, and anything else consumable—food that would nourish the Group for a long time.

But something went horribly wrong. Krp blamed Lucy and soon, so too did Feq.

Why did Ghael stand up?  He had to know it would mean his death.

Lucy wanted to escape, go where no one knew what she’d done, but Feq would starve without her. He didn’t know how to hunt, couldn’t even tolerate the sight of blood. For him, she stayed, hunting, scavenging, and outwitting predators, exhausting herself in a hopeless effort to feed the remaining Group members. But one after another, they fell to Snarling-dog, Panther, Long-tooth Cat, Megantereon, and a litany of other predators. When the strangers arrived, Feq let them take her.

By this time, Lucy felt numb, as much from the death of her Group as the loss of Garv. Garv, her forever pairmate, was as much a part of her as the lush forests, Sun’s warmth, and Snarling-dog’s guidance. Now, with all the other deaths, she could leave his memory behind.

Forests gave way to bushlands. The prickly stalks scratched her skin right through the thick fur that layered her arms and legs. The glare of Sun, stark and white without the jungle to soften it, blinded her. One step forward became another and another, into a timeless void where nothing mattered but the swish of feet, the hot breeze on her face, and her own musty scent.

Neither male—not the one who called himself Raza nor the one called Baad—had spoken to her since leaving. They didn’t tell her their destination and she didn’t ask, not that she could decipher their intricate hand gestures and odd body movements. She studied them as they talked to each other, slowly piecing together what the twist of a hand and the twitch of a head meant. She would understand it all by the time they reached wherever they headed.

It was clear they expected her to follow. No one traveled this wild land alone but her reasons for joining them, submissively, had nothing to do with fear. Wherever the strangers took her would be better than where she’d been.

Lucy usually loved running through the mosaic of grass and forest that bled one into another. Today, instead of joy, she felt worry for her future and relief that her past was past. She effortlessly matched Raza’s tread, running in his steps at his pace. Baad did the same but not without a struggle. His sweat, an equal mix of old and stale from the long trip to find her and fresh from trying to keep up, blossomed into a ripe bouquet that wafted over her. She found comfort in knowing this strong, tough male traveled with her.

Vulture cawed overhead, eagerly anticipating a meal. From the size of his flock, the scavenge must be an adult Okapi or Giraffe. Even after the predator who claimed the kill—Lucy guessed it to be Megantereon or Snarling-dog—took what it needed, there would be plenty left. She often hunted with Vulture. It might find carrion first but she could drive it away by brandishing a branch and howling. While it circled overhead, awaiting a return to his meal, she grabbed what she wanted and escaped.

Feq must smell the blood but he had never been brave enough to chase Vulture away.  He would wait until the raptor finished, as well as Snarling-dog and whoever else showed up at the banquet, and then take what remained which wouldn’t be enough to live on.

Sun descended toward the horizon as they entered a dense thicket. They stuck to a narrow lightly-used animal trail bordered by heavy-trunked trees. Cousin Chimp scuffled as he brachiated through the understory, no doubt upset by the intruders. Only once, when a brightly-colored snake slithered across her path, did Lucy hesitate. The vibrant colors always meant deadly venom and she didn’t carry the right herbs to counter the poison. Baad grumbled when her thud reverberated out of sync with Raza’s, and Cousin Chimp cried a warning.

Finally, they broke free of the shadows and flew through waist-high grass, past trees laden with fruit, and around the termite mound where Cousin Chimp would gorge on white grubs—if Cheetah wasn’t sleeping on top of it.

I haven’t been back here since that day…

She flicked her eyes to the spot where her life had changed. Everything looked so calm, painted in vibrant colors scented with a heady mix of grass, water, and carrion. A family of Hipparion raised their heads but found nothing menacing so turned back to their banquet of new buds.

As though nothing happened…

Lucy sprinted. Her vision blurred and her head throbbed as she raced flat out, desperate to outdistance the memories. Her legs churned, arms pumped, and her feet sprang off the hard earth. Each step propelled her farther away. Her breathing heaved in rhythm with her steps. The sack around her neck smacked comfortingly against her body. Her sweat left a potent scent trail any predator could follow but Lucy didn’t care.

 


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Alphabet Spaghetti – A Word Game

The exercise is based on a version of the 7x7x7 writing game. This time, I tried to incorporate seven words beginning with E, each with seven letters, and selected using a random word generator. I failed to include one of the words this week, but I did keep to the 700 word count.

It is an ongoing fantasy based short story, and connected to one of my series – The Collective.

The incorporated words are; embrace, eyebrow, emotion, explode, escaped, extreme, and example.

Warrior’s Embrace (Part 4)

A crushing weight settled around Amber’s body, pulling her from a deep sleep with a panic born of prolonged captivity. She tried to take stock, tried to remember what the monsters in the dark had done to render her immobile.

If she wasn’t so scared, she would have likened the feeling to being swaddled in a deep comforting embrace. But she couldn’t convince herself of safety when she was scared out of her mind. Why couldn’t she move? And, god, but it was warm in the hellish place they were being held. They. Oh shit. Where was April?

She tried to cry out and came to the sinking realisation she was bound too tightly to make a sound. The pressure was everywhere, it covered her face, her mouth, her entire body, yet she could still breathe.

As her mind thrashed where her body could not, Amber tried to shift inside the hot, smothering restraints. She started with her toes, remembering what April had taught her about meditation, except it had the opposite effect. The journey across her body didn’t relax her, it made her heart thunder harder. She was swamped in emotion. Not only was she unable to move, her limbs felt separate – like they belonged to somebody else.

A spark of hope lit within her chest when she managed to raise her left eyebrow. That spark snuffed out when she couldn’t duplicate the movement. What the hell had they done to her? What kind of extreme torment was this?

April.

Her sister’s name ricocheted through her head as she tried to grasp their connection. Memories began to swamp her…April dragging her through darkened tunnels, a rough, bumpy ride as the bitter cold nipped at her skin. They had escaped. They weren’t alone anymore. April had made it to the safe zone.

More images flickered behind her eyes; a wolf with white fur, and a large bear of a man who liked to torment the doctor…Clayton, she remembered. The doctor’s name was Clayton, and he like to read to her, to them. April was in the bed beside her.

Oh god, why couldn’t she feel her sister? The thread that joined them together was so weak she struggled to hold onto it.

Keep it together. Keep it together.

She willed her mind to calm, releasing the memories so she could concentrate on her strange new environment.

The muffled sound of voices drifted towards her, so she concentrated on that. The wolf’s voice was the strongest, a deep rumbling sound that called to her. He rarely shifted to his human form, at least not during his visits.

“Why isn’t he waking up?”

April?

That was her sister’s voice. She was here, and she was – wait, he? Who was he?

“I may have miscalculated when I shot him up with the good stuff,” an unfamiliar voice drawled, clearly amused.

Amber had no clue what he was talking about, and it sent her pulse tripping.

“Of course, because all you did was give him an injection of angel juice. No big deal. Cody isn’t going to-”

The words blurred, buried beneath Amber’s sudden rage. She had never felt anger like it, a white-hot trail that seemed to explode beneath her skin. Had the monsters somehow found them? Had they hurt Cody?

The young soldier visited almost as often as Clayton. He was happiness and light, and soft teasing conversation. It didn’t matter that she never responded, Cody spoke to her as though she heard every word, which she did. He entertained her with stories of the safe zone, of his team, the big guy he called Bear, but was actually called Griffin.

Every memory of his voice, his scent, his appealing energy fed the flames of her rage until her body was vibrating with it. No, not her body, whatever was holding her down.

No more.

She would not be helpless anymore. She felt every ounce of fiery red anguish. The pain and fear gathered and exploded, the power running through her so overwhelming, it took a moment to realise she was finally free.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Alphabet Spaghetti – A Word Game

The exercise is based on a version of the 7x7x7 writing game. This time, I’ve incorporated seven words beginning with D, each with seven letters, and selected using a random word generator. I tried to keep to the 700 word count, but went over by 14.

This is the third instalment of an ongoing fantasy story. To recap, Cody (a soldier who is part of a joint task force) has been injured during a battle (it sucks to be human). On his way to the medical unit, he hears a cry for help and rushes to the aid of twins, Amber and April. He discovers something cocooning Amber’s body, and the others in the room frozen in place around her bed.

The incorporated words are; deprive, dribble, default, deserve, decline, despair, and diagram.

Warrior’s Embrace (Part 3)

Cody stayed vigilant, watching over the group as he waited for help to arrive. That’s what he told himself, at least. If the crazy mollusc thing covering Amber went full Alien on him and something burst forth from the shell, he had no idea how he would defend himself, let alone the others. He had no weapon, apart from a crutch, and his leg was throbbing so hard he felt it in his eyeballs. That had to be why the horror show on the bed was pulsating like a heartbeat.

He shivered because, damn but that thing was ugly, and he didn’t even want to think about what was happening to Amber, whether being inside would deprive her of oxygen or if, like a second skin, she could breathe through it.

A blur of colour flashed in his peripheral vision, too fast to track and trippy enough it meant only one thing. The cavalry had arrived in the form of a big assed cat with too much curiosity and a playful streak that rivalled Cody’s. Yep, Blade was in the house.

The changeling cheetah was one half of a deadly duo. Logan made the set and, as with anything involving his brother, Blade was front and centre when the wolf needed an assist.

Following on his heels, at a much slower pace, was Tamaya and her wing-man – as she referred to him – Joshua. Being that the warrior angel was rocking a kick ass pair of wings, he had to navigate the room with care.

“This is not good,” Joshua said, king of the understatement. But then, that was his default setting, the guy could be a tad morose.

“I take it from that encouraging statement, you know what we’re dealing with?” Tamaya shot back. She had Del in her hand, also known as Delphor, her weapon of choice.

Cody trusted her, he really did, but if she was going to hack away at the husk with an axe, magical or not, he would have to step in. Not literally, he wouldn’t be stepping anywhere for a while, but Amber didn’t deserve to be on Del’s radar.

“The human has been infected by erodion, a substance used by Sentinels to infect other species. She’s going through metamorphosis.”

No. No. No. That couldn’t be right.

Cody felt his pulse skyrocket. At this rate he would need a room of his own with nothing but soft surfaces. He could practically feel the dribble. “Back up a second. Why are we just learning about this? We should have been informed if they pose that much of the threat.”

Joshua shrugged, his silver eyes like heated metal orbs. “It never came up. The infection only works if the immune system is compromised, or if a person is exposed for a prolonged period of time.”

“Has the thing somehow infected my brother?” Blade demanded from Logan’s side. The wolf was still fighting the compulsion he was under, but he wasn’t free yet.

“It’s a by-product of the transformation process, a defence mechanism. Logan and the others will need to be decontaminated, and the sooner the better.” Joshua turned to study Cody. “Are you ready to take care of your little problem?”

Ha! His leg had broken in three places. Next, he’d be getting a lecture about how the angel flew home with only one wing, barely conscious. Arrogant prick. “I think I’ll respectfully decline,” he said, even though a quick fix was sounding better every second.

“Come on, Cody,” Blade piped up. “Let us help you.”

“Do I need to draw you a diagram? I said-”

The scream that started the whole mess switched back on again, drowning out his words. April and the others came unstuck at the same time, along with the tail end of a sister’s horror. “Amber!” she croaked, pitching towards the bed.

In a flash, Blade moved to catch her. It was a surprise to them all that Clayton got there before him, scooping her up and cradling her to his chest. The despair on his face was actually painful to witness. Cody couldn’t tear his eyes away, which was why the sneaky angel caught him unaware. The instant his hand made contact with the top of Cody’s head he was out like a light.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

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