Posts By mbarkersimpson

I will always be grateful for you


I hope you can forgive me for this one, because I broke the rules of the Ballade it was supposed to be! It took on a life of its own, so I went with it. Still, it was supposed to be an exercise in improving my poetry skills so for you poets reading this…be patient with me!

When shadows fall and claim the light

Like marauders who don’t belong

You sweep right in, my own dark knight

Yielding a calm to lean upon

Like lines of my favourite song

your words, they both soothe and renew

A melody that will hold strong

I’ll always be grateful for you

***

When the space between us feels too great

And the hands of time trickle by

You find ways to communicate

In ways words can’t always define

A soft touch, a look in the eye

It’s there in everything you do

So even if things go awry

I’ll always be grateful for you

***

When my mind is blissfully still

And body in a state of repose

You touch me with consummate skill

Stoking the fire until it grows

Creating a desire to expose

Every sight, every sound, every cue

A dedication that clearly shows

I’ll always be grateful for you

***

But these gifts of ours work both ways

And this fact fills my heart anew

Especially when I hear the phrase

I’ll always be grateful for you

_____________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

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Reality Check – A short story

I ignored the persistent sound of my doorbell and buried further into my pit of despair, complete with a dozen pillows, my favourite throw and a large enough duvet to drown my sorrows. A comfortable pit that allowed me to feed my misery and keep it alive; an incubator for the sad and lonely.
The buzzing progressed to a pounding, which was much harder to ignore. To begin with my neighbour was an ogre (not a real one but he made a pretty good impersonation when his sleep was interrupted) and more importantly, I felt the resonating sound like a hammer to my skull.

Dragging myself from bed, I shuffled to the door. Since I’d spent the past two days wallowing I didn’t have the energy to pick up the pace, so the boom, boom, boom echoed through my feet and provided a percussion to the beat in my head.

I paused momentarily when I caught sight of the creature in the hallway mirror. It kind of resembled me, if you looked past the matted hair, wrinkled t-shirt and the bags that could have carried the shopping I had yet to do.

“If you don’t open this door right now, I’m going to break it down!” The booming voice was followed by an irate punctuation of knuckles against wood.

Luckily, I’d reached the door so flipped the lock and yanked it open before it was pulverized by my bear of a brother and his trusty sidekick. They were like two peas in a pod, if the peas had been left in the fertiliser too long.

Both were glaring at me with identical expressions, which had its usual effect. I was torn between slamming the door and telling them to butt out and embracing the comfort they so readily offered.

Adam took the choice away when he pushed past my brother and stepped into the flat. He stopped when we were toe to toe, his big body way to deep into my personal space. “We’ve been trying to reach you for days. Would it kill you to pick up your phone?”

Stepping back, I turned to look over my shoulder and spied the debris where I’d left it on the floor. “Be my guest, but I don’t think it works anymore.”

It would take a miracle. My phone was in pieces against the skirting board. With some distance I could be impressed by my show of strength. Clearly, I’d had more energy at the time.

“Jesus Christ, Sammy, look at the mess.”

I frowned, about to tell my brother it wasn’t that bad, until I realised he was talking about the room. I’d done a number of that, too.

“Whatever. I’m alive, you have proof, now kindly leave me in peace.” I met Ky’s worried brown eyes and my irritation vanished. “I’m okay.”

“When was the last time you ate?” He shot back, ignoring me. Something he excelled at.

“I eat plenty,” I said, thinking of the empty bag of Doritos and the remnants of fiery hot flavouring which was probably staining my sheets.

“Crisps don’t count.” He shook his head and turned to head to the kitchen. “Buddy. It’s over to you.”

“Wha-?”

Adam clamped a big hand around my wrist and began to pull me in the direction of the bathroom.

“Get your hands off me, you big oaf,” I shouted, twisting to try and catch my brother’s attention. “Call off your guard dog, Ky or I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

The sound that came from Adam was somewhere between a curse and a growl. He picked me up and threw me over his shoulder. I was so shocked I couldn’t speak again until he was dumping me on my feet in the bathroom and moving to turn on the shower.

“You did not just do that.” Not very original, but I still hadn’t recovered from Adam’s caveman routine.

“I did, and I’d do it again.” He slid the shower door shut and turned back to me. “You can’t spend any more time wallowing over that piece of shit, Sam. I gave you time after news of the engagement, but I’m through doing that. I’m through with a lot of things. He was never good enough.”

My mind blanked at his words. I couldn’t find my anger, couldn’t drum up any fiery indignation at being treated like a child, because it hit me just how much he’d been hiding. That and the fact he hadn’t included Ky, like it was personal.

When my brain kicked back into gear I felt my body sag and the rest of my energy wane. “It hurts,” I whispered, not even trying to stop the tears.

The next thing I knew I was pressed against Adam’s chest and one of his arms hooked me in tight. The other began to make soothing motions down my back. A dozen thoughts vied for supremacy; the fact I was in nothing more than a long shirt and my underwear, that I hadn’t bathed in days and Adam smelled so good, and that, for the first time in weeks, I felt something other than empty.

But the thoughts that won out were actually a kaleidoscope of memories from the past couple of months. The times Adam had called to ask about my day, or dropped by to check in, and each time he’d been alone. I’d gotten so used to thinking of him and my brother as a double act, I didn’t stop to consider what it meant that he was offering me a piece of himself.

“I’d take away the hurt if I could,” he whispered, bringing me back to the present.

You do. “I know.” I didn’t share that he’d been doing that all along and I was too blind to see it. Instead, I leaned back so I could look at him. “You’d better rescue Ky before he burns down my kitchen. I’ll shower and be out in a few minutes.”

He leaned in to press a kiss against my temple and then let me go. “That was a ruse to give us a moment. We both know there’s nothing in your cupboards to cook.”

I thought I’d understood what I’d missed by being foolish, but I had no idea. Since I also had no clue what to do with all that, I shut down the flurry of emotion and rolled my eyes to cover the onslaught. “Well then, you’d better let me get to it.”

He grinned and walked to the door but stopped just in the entryway to look back. “Do you understand what I meant about being through?”

Nodding, I cleared my throat. “Yes.”

“Good. Because there’s no going back. I’m not your brother’s best friend, not to you.”

Oh yes, he’d been hiding a lot. “I’m beginning to see that.”

At my words something flashed across his face, something good. “Finally.”

He left before I could respond, and it took me quite a while to remember that the shower was still running, and I had a job to do.

Fifteen minutes later when I entered the living room showered and dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, my long hair combed through and hanging free, I was greeted by a dose of all the goodness yet to come.

It wasn’t the fact that Adam and Ky had tidied up my living space and the room looked good as new. No. It was the look on Adam’s face. He was no longer holding anything back. What he felt was right there for me to see and I discovered I liked it very much.

“Now tell me how glad you are that we dragged your sorry ass out of that pity pit there’s no way I’m touching,” Ky said, and I heard the smile in his voice.

I didn’t take my attention away from Adam. “Totally worth confronting an ogre and the price of a new door.”

Adam grinned. “What does it mean that I completely understood that?”

“It means I’ve been an idiot.”

“I could have told you that!”

This time I did turn to my brother, and then, giant or not, I set about making him eat his words.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Chatterbox

Dear Dad

It’s your birthday today, so I hope you’re celebrating in style. I can imagine it so easily. You would bake your chocolate cake (even if it is your day) because, even in heaven, it’s hard to believe it wouldn’t be in high demand! You would sit back for a while and people watch, content to be part of the fun. Then, when you were tipsy enough you would maybe sing for the crowd in that deep voice of yours.

Me? I’ll just have to imagine. I’ve missed your every day this last fourteen years, but it seems particularly hard this year. We usually all get together and go to the coast so we can spend a day remembering, and celebrating your life and everything we shared. This year we couldn’t plan anything due to schedules, so I’m having a private party!

I’ve had an interesting couple of months. I even have a little romance in my life (yes the kind that’s not in my head!) I took my head out of the clouds long enough to look around and realise the girls are grown and I really should do something about my social life!

Everyone else is well. I got the chance to see Andrew recently. As we’re both night owls, like you, we stayed up after everyone had gone to bed for some brother and sister time. We were also watching movies like you used to do, you know…flicking through the channels and watching old classics even if they were halfway through. Andrew is so much like you! He has your voice. Sometimes when I hear him on the phone it makes my heart ache and at those times I close my eyes and somehow feel closer to you. You’d be so proud of your boy.

You’d be proud of all of us, grandkids included. Lissy has a good job and Grace did really well in her exams. She also went to a festival and nearly gave me heart failure! You think I’m being dramatic but they had a huge drugs bust this year! Josh, Keira and Zack are all good, too. I’m sure you know this as you watch over us.

Anyway, I should probably leave it there because you know I can chat for hours. Do you remember when you used to say I could chat the hind legs off a donkey? Of course you do! I’m still that little girl who you took fishing and then sent home for being a chatterbox and scaring the fish!

So many memories and I’m going to share them with the girls and celebrate in my own way.

I try not to be sad, but I miss you so much.

Until next time.

Love you

Liss

Thanks for indulging me this post. I’m really feeling the loss this year and a letter felt like the right thing to do.

Mel

Raising the Stakes – A short story

As I perused the fresh meat section of my local supermarket, my phone trilled in my pocket, dragging my attention from an excellent cut of ribeye beef. Instead of building an entire meal around the tasty morsel in my head, I tore my eyes away to check the message.

Jon-boy: Hey Kaz. Don’t forget I’m out tonight, so won’t be home for dinner. Don’t wait up! Xx

I rolled my eyes at the message. My son lived to get on my nerves. I was rarely mom any more. At the moment I was Karen, or Kaz, which would have been mildly acceptable had that been my name, but no, I had been christened Kaz because of the designer name on my glasses. I would never understand my kid’s humour (or I pretended not to, he was actually kind of funny).

Tapping out a reply, I grinned at my phone.

Jonathan David Henderson you are pushing your luck, mister. I want proof of life photos before midnight. Stay safe. Love Kaz xxx

Okay, so I went there. What can I say, I love my boy, even if he is seventeen and makes a sport out of pushing me past the point of sanity.

I was just putting the phone away when it chirped in my hand. Glancing at the screen, I saw the notification from my daughter.

Jen: Just letting you know I’m staying at Stu’s again tonight. I’ll be back tomorrow because I’m running out of clean clothes!! Love ya x

This message shouldn’t have surprised me. My eldest was rarely home anymore. Both my babies had all but flown the nest, and I was trying to ignore the emptiness left behind. It wasn’t their fault I put my personal life on hold. Truth be told I barely survived losing their father, and for years all my focus had been on raising the two of them (as well as my other babies, those being my first-year students). I ignored the loneliness because the part of me that craved intimacy had been dormant for so long I wasn’t sure she would ever thaw out.

You know, there is this amazing invention called a washing machine. You open a door, throw your clothes in and they come out clean on the other side. Magic! We’ll take the adventure together. See you tomorrow. Love, the cleaning lady xxx

Yes, my son wasn’t the only snarky member of the household. His father, god rest his soul, had given him his exotic looks. I’d given him the gift of sarcasm.

My eyes returned to the steak, my mind already pairing it with a superior glass of wine. It appeared that I would be again cooking for one, so I should at least indulge a little.

I could practically hear the sizzle of meaty goodness as I reached for it, which was of course when my damn phone interrupted again, this time with a call.

Since the tune was blaring out ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ I didn’t have to guess at the caller. It was my best friend’s anthem.

“You certainly pick your times, I have my eye on a delicious hunk of meat.” Yes, that was how I answered.

The snort down the phone line was so Andrea I grinned. “If it was anyone but you, I’d cringe at that derogatory comment. But alas, I suspect your libido has not decided to join the land of the living, so what we’re really talking about is your version of a happy meal.”

“You’re no fun anymore.”

“Hey, stop stealing my lines!” Andrea’s musical laughter warmed me, which, considering where I was standing, between a cold barricade of fridges, this was no easy task. “Now, step away from the prime beef and get your butt over to my place. We’re going out tonight.”

“I told you. No can do. I have to prepare for the end of term musical, so I’ll have to take a rain check.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. I did have costumes to sew. But the main reason I used my work as a shield was the prospect of squashing my behind into an overpacked club and feeling like a frumpy old housewife trying to recapture her youth.

“Come on Dee. You need to dust the cobwebs from your-”

“Don’t even finish that sentence, Miss Halliday. We’ve been over this. Save your lecture for girl’s night tomorrow.”

Andrea sighed. “Fine, I give up. And, just saying, I might as well get started on securing your cat collection so expect a furry gift.”

“Hilarious. Stop annoying me and give me a break. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I hung up, mainly to get one over on her. It was my fifth call from her today, and each had ended with a dead tone.

Shaking my head, I again zoned in on my prize and made a grab for it. Unfortunately, instead of wrapping my fingers around packaging, they settled on someone’s wrist.

Dragging my hand back, albeit reluctantly, I mumbled a ‘Sorry,’ and glanced at the meagre offerings left on the shelf.

“Not a problem.”

The voice was a deep rumble, and momentarily distracted me from my disappointment.

“It’s a novel experience to fight for my dinner.”

That was kind of funny, so I looked up and to the side, my curiosity getting the better of me.

My gaze was snagged by a deep, intense blue, and I swallowed against a sudden dry throat. “It’s a piece worth fighting for.”

His sudden burst of laughter had me stepping back so I could enjoy the show. Of course, the moment I took in the beauty of twinkling eyes and even white teeth, it hit me how attractive he was, and my rational brain shut down.

I’d been painting with my students earlier, so my hair was a nest around my face and I hadn’t looked, but I probably had rainbow splotches that were not a fashion statement, but a testament to the fun I’d had.

My clothes were wrinkled, and all I could hear was my grandmother’s voice in my head. She had lectured me many times about not leaving the house without looking my best. I’d always joked about the chances of bumping into royalty, but not once did I consider looking like a scarecrow in front of an attractive stranger. At this rate I would get hit by a car on my way home so the paramedics would discover I was wearing my ugliest underwear. Why did I never listen to my grandmother?

“It’s Mrs Henderson, right?”

I blinked, then scanned his face more closely. A second later recognition hit. “Mr Carter?” He was a much older version of one of my favourite students.

“Michael.”

I smiled, forgetting my earlier discomfort. Right then I was remembering how the entire staff team had been in a flap about Daniel’s uncle and his generosity during the school fete. I’d missed the event, but the kids hadn’t stopped talking about the animals Michael had brought from his vet’s practice. Maybe it was worth getting a cat after all.

“You were the talk of the school last month.”

He dipped his head to the side. “I was hoping to see you there.” When I said nothing, because what could I say to that? He continued. “And I have a confession to make.”

“Oh?”

“I didn’t really need the beef.” His grin was slightly crooked, just like his nephew’s. “I just used the opportunity to strike up a conversation.”

“Does that mean I get the ribeye?”

He laughed again, and god but it was a beautiful sight. Then his face softened, and he gave me a look I didn’t understand before reaching over to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. “I tell you what. I’ve been waiting so long for you to notice me, I’m prepared to buy the steak and cook it for you.”

Dear god. What did I say to that? What did it even mean?

“Or you could take it home while you think about throwing me a bone.” His grin came again. “And accept an invitation to dinner.”

A thousand excuses flitted through my mind as I stood frozen in his intense stare. But not one of them came out of my mouth. No, apparently, I’d taken leave of my senses because what I said was, “I’m free tomorrow night.” I mean, screw girl’s night, right? Andrea would probably be over the moon.

The next thing I knew, Michael was thrusting the tray into my hand and I no longer cared about steak or wine or the empty house I was trying to avoid. Suddenly I wanted to do more to earn one of his crooked smiles, and find out if my libido really had left the building.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Review – Born in a Treacherous Time

Born 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.

 

The world building in this novel is incredible, and the descriptions are spot on. It was like taking a virtual tour, where the surroundings, creatures and characters all build so vividly in your head, your senses go into overdrive and you can hear, smell, taste, and (almost) touch. I swear, if I’d looked up from the page long enough, I’d have seen a mammoth at one point!

It’s a total immersion in prehistoric times and you get what it says on the cover, because those times were treacherous indeed! The pace is fitting the time period because, let’s face it, there were dangers at every turn, so your only choice is to hold on tight for the ride. I love this kind of adventure, where you get so caught up, you find yourself holding your breath as the characters do. I was right there beside Lucy as she laid upon the hard, unforgiving ground and ignored the creatures trying to use her for a snack as she waited out the chance to claim her own food.

I loved Lucy as soon as she was introduced. She’s strong, loyal and heroic; a true role model. She is also a healer, and her natural empathy reflected in the way she dealt with others (even those I would have been tempted to offer up to a Saber-tooth as a tasty snack). Her ability to adapt, a necessity within an unpredictable terrain and facing constant peril, was inspiring.

I was also enthralled by the methods of communication Lucy and her group used. It probably won’t surprise you, given my love of sign language, but this area in particular was a fascinating aspect of the tale. In such primitive times, as communication methods developed and evolved, group members relied on facial expressions and body movements to convey a message. They were so attuned to one another, a slight twitch could speak a dozen words. Jacqui expressed this incredibly well, highlighting the fact that we should look beyond words in order to gain the bigger picture.

There is something in the novel for everyone. Jacqui has clearly done a great deal of research in order to bring the world to life, so it was an education. Born in a Treacherous time is a journey into the past that highlights a number of human traits; our need for connection, the primal instinct to mate and survive, the bonds we form and the sacrifices we make for the good of the group.

The characters are diverse and relatable, and engage the reader every step of the way. I was sad when the journey came to an end, and am eagerly anticipating the next adventure.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

 

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

bro

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

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