Faithful Friend – Thursday Photo Prompt #writephoto

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving everyone. We might not celebrate in the UK, but we can still be thankful for the gifts we’ve been given. I’m thankful for my two beautiful daughters, my supportive family, and my friends.

It was thinking of my internet friends, and realising I’ve been absent for so long, that prompted me to take part in Sue’s photo challenge this week. That, and the fact Sue’s prompts are awesome, so thanks for the inspiration, Sue.

faithful-friend

Rosalie pulled her hat further forward, until it covered half of her face. She still had a problem with light, and yet every part of her skin – the parts uncovered at least – craved the warmth of the sun. The breeze against her bare arms was a soothing touch, as soothing as the presence by her side.

Taking a deep breath, she began to cross the sprawling grounds of the Davison estate. They knew she was there, had given permission for her excursion. It bothered them, Rosalie knew, but she couldn’t let that deter her. They all had ghosts to put to rest, and the Davison family owed her a lot more than access to their land.

Still, when she stepped onto the path that would lead her back into the past, she felt her heart accelerate. When she reached the end, her skin felt raw and sensitive. The breeze no longer soothed, it irritated, and yet she didn’t turn back.

The low whine from her companion had her glancing down. She bent to tangle her fingers in his shaggy mane. “It’s okay, boy. I just need a minute.”

Ben whined again, and Rosalie saw something close to a reprimand in his deep brown eyes. He didn’t want her to be here either, or perhaps he was as terrified as she was; caught up in his own memories of what transpired.

“It’s important,” she whispered, as though she needed to defend herself. “I have to do this.”

He barked once, unsettling the quiet air around them and sending a few creatures scurrying into the underbrush.

If he had a voice she imagined, he would have told her to get moving.

Ruffling the fur along his neck one more time, Rosalie continued. This time she didn’t hesitate, not even when she came to the steps she had once viewed as a mountain too hazardous to climb.

At the bottom, she paused. It hurt her eyes, but she pushed her hat back so she could face what lay in front of her. It was easier after a little time and distance. She almost managed to see what others probably saw – a hidden treasure within the hillside. Almost. All the time in the world wouldn’t change the reality of what it had once been.

Her eyes drifted to the narrow opening. At one time a makeshift door had hung on rudimentary hinges. She hadn’t known how flimsy it was at the time, but she could still remember the sound when those hinges tore free and the door fell. Or perhaps that was only in her head – the sweet, sweet sound of freedom. After all, the door was covered with so much foliage she was surprised when it didn’t swing right back into place.

“It’s time,” she whispered, whether to Ben or to prompt herself, she wasn’t sure.

Rosalie’s breathing was laboured by the time she made it inside. It was cold, dark and damp, just as she remembered, but she had no intention of venturing any further than the entranceway.

Removing her hat, she placed it on the floor along with her bag. Then, with slow steady breaths, she removed the blanket and spread it out.

Her eyes were burning with unshed tears, her muscles aching from the tension, but she managed to sit with her back straight and her eyes on the mound of earth she knew was there, but couldn’t see.

“I’m sorry it’s been so long,” she whispered, finally allowing the tears to fall.

Ben padded over to sit beside her. He dropped to his stomach and laid his head on her knees.

“I wanted to come sooner, but I…” her words trailed off. In truth, she hadn’t been well enough to make the trip.

Ben whimpered, the sound vibrating against her leg and shaking a memory loose.

She had been terrified the first time she saw him, but not that day. That day he had taken more punishment than she had. Her master, the one she now knew was Warren Davison, had kicked Ben so hard he hit the wall.

At first, when he didn’t get back up, she thought he was dead. Then Warren had moved over to him, cursed him to hell and back, and stormed from her prison without looking back.

Rosalie had dragged herself to the wounded animal and cradled his head in her lap. The familiar weight had past and present bleeding together until she swore she could fee every bruise, every scar on her soul.

“You saved me, you know,” she whispered, running her hand through Ben’s fur.

She’d done the same that day. Soothed him without words until he had lifted his head and butted it against her hand. How long they sat in the dark she had no way to tell. She only knew that when Ben finally moved, what he did next changed the course of her life.

He had crawled across the floor, his short, sharp breaths searching until he stopped to paw furiously at the hard ground.

Rosalie had followed the sound, terrified that Ben would discover her secret – the weakened section of flooring that she had spent an eternity uncovering. At the time, she hadn’t known that Warren had been the one to weaken the earth. She liked the idea that he had unwittingly provided her with the tools to aid her escape. If he hadn’t dug up the earth in the first place, she might have died in the hell he created.

Ben had found her secret that day, and though she tried to stop him, he had pawed the ground until she sat back and let him do his worst. As time ticked by, she began to fantasise that he would dig them to freedom. She could almost see the light, a light she hadn’t seen in so long her very cells craved it.

And then he had barked, startling her out of the fantasy and pulling her straight into a nightmare. She had crawled over to him, feeling inside the soft earth until her hand hit something cold and hard. The scream building in her lungs broke free when she realised what it was – a body.

Rosalie covered her mouth to hold in the sob. That day she had cried into Ben’s fur until her throat was raw.

“I wanted to thank you,” she whispered, dropping her hand to her chest. She missed the heavy weight of the necklace against her skin, a necklace she had found that day. Simone Beatty, the girl Warren had murdered, had been clutching the chain in her hand.

How Rosalie found it, how she knew how to use it, she might never know. But as she began carefully laying the earth back into place, Simone’s hand had opened as though she were offering Rosalie a talisman.

It had taken a long time, but Rosalie had used the heavy, silver crucifix to further weaken the hinges that shuddered and creaked whenever Warren closed her in.

After her escape, she had put the necklace around her neck and refused to take it off. Not even the nurses managed to convince her. It gave her the strength she needed to get through the weeks that followed; the endless questions, the unearthing of Simone’s body, and the start of her long recovery.

“Thank you for the gift,” she said, louder this time. “Thank you for lending me your strength and support.”

She bent to kiss the top of Ben’s head. Her faithful friend, a friend who hadn’t left her side since Warren’s parents had released him. A friend who had once tried to protect Simone, and who had never given up his goal of saving her. She was no longer trapped beneath the cold ground, she was free, and so was Rosalie.

“I’ll take good care of Ben for you,” she said, rising to her feet. “And I want you to know he takes really good care of me.”

As she moved towards the doorway, a breeze ruffled her hair and as it lifted from her shoulders, so did the weight she had been carrying in her heart for months. The room felt truly empty now, as though Simone had been waiting to say goodbye.

photoprompt

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

Writers Quote Wednesday Writing Challenge – Waiting Game

This week for the Writers Quote Wednesday Writing Challenge (#WQWWC) the theme is Autumn.

The quote I chose is by George Eliot:

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. George Eliot.

There is something truly magnificent about autumn, and though we Brits don’t celebrate the holiday, it is a time for thanksgiving. For the glorious colours that explode to life, even in death. For the rich and pleasant smells, the wind on your cheeks, the fire in the hearth, and the warm drinks shared with friends.

I found myself inspired by the theme, so I created a few images to (hopefully) entertain you.

autumn-collage

autumn-pic

My inspiration for the piece of flash fiction has its roots in my current project. Eventually I will get back to my other works but, as you probably know, I have lived and breathed the Collective for the last six months. I went in a different direction, and used a goddess (of autumn), a completely new character who is surprisingly vocal considering she’s only been in my head for a day!

I’m considering a new series for the blog, and have been itching to find an opportunity to break the fourth wall – this might be it!

Waiting Game

There was a time when committing an act of hubris meant great suffering, and death. Not anymore. In Nearyon, arrogance and pride are applauded, and coercion will probably earn you a pat on the back.

Given the sorry state of affairs, I should not have been surprised that a bunch of upstarts who call themselves mercenaries for hire took me from my home. The kind who, if gathering brain cells was as easy as reaping a harvest, they should be filling their boots. And the worst part – aside from the fact they’re idiots – they take cues from a damn playbook. I mean, seriously, they should get it over with and set up their own club – HubrisRUs.

Okay, so maybe I’m a tad bitter because I haven’t figured out a way to escape, but still, my jailers don’t even have powers to speak of. No. What they have is powerful friends with the ability to dampen a god’s power. I should be flattered that they took extra precautions with me (I’m Thera by the way – in case you were wondering), and put me in a cell that is guarded against earth magic. Which kind of sucks, since my power links to the elements.

Still, I’m not completely defenceless. It took me three days to recover from the dampening spell, but it was worth the hours I spent plotting my revenge. The instant I came back online, I discovered a weakness (did I mention my jailers are idiots?) and, though I couldn’t pinpoint my location, I did manage to escape for a short time using astral projection.

I’m not going to lie, it didn’t exactly go according to plan. My sisters have the same ability, and give that they had been searching for me, the moment our connection snapped back into place they projected too. We sort of passed on the astral plane like ships in the night. It’s one way to find entertainment, I suppose. When you’re stuck inside a box it’s hard to find things to laugh at.

So, now it’s a waiting game. I can’t get out, but my sisters will find a way to get in, and together we will wreak havoc. As an added bonus, I will free all the other prisoners and we might even create our own playbook – 101 Ways to Exact Revenge. Not particularly inventive, but let’s just say I have a one track mind.


 

It didn’t really go anywhere, except as an introduction of sorts. It’s my first attempt at finding the right tone for the story and I wanted to keep it under 500 words. It’s a work in progress shall we say 😉

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Thanks also to Colleen and Ronovan for inspiring us each week.

autumn

 

Sleeping Giant #writephoto

Written in response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt. Thanks for the inspiration, Sue 🙂

Reflection

“What does it mean?”

Tamaya stared at the water, which had gathered in the frozen eye socket of Medea, the sleeping giant of Nearyon. She studied Aaron’s reflection as it fluttered across the surface in the beginnings of a watery dance. “I think it means she’s being summoned.”

A shadow flashed across the water, the merest glimpse of Esha flying in to land. The siren tucked her wings tight to her back and peered over Aaron’s shoulder. “She doesn’t appear to be weeping anymore. Is that good or bad?”

“I have no idea.” Tamaya turned in a circle, taking in the bodies littered across the stone – the mountain Medea had become almost a thousand years ago. The absence of blood could only mean one thing – the process had begun. Tamaya recognised the signs for what they were, and based on the clean surface around the slain villagers’, she knew their blood had not trickled down the mountain like Medea’s tears. No. The stone had absorbed it – a sacrifice to coax the great beast.

Tamaya’s gaze moved to her teammates, and for the first time since they arrived in Nearyon, she wondered if they were right for the job. “I think we need to bring in Orion. If she does rise, we don’t have the power to control her.”

“That’s not entirely true. You could reverse the process and force her back into slumber.” Aaron frowned as they felt the stone vibrate beneath them. “And I know you can channel Orion’s power. We all can.”

He had a point. As members of the Collective they were bound to one another; a familial network of thirteen. The others had their own assignments, but they would lend their power if needed.

“There’s a reason that even the gods are afraid of her,” she said, pulling the bandanna from her head to wipe the perspiration from her neck. “And she is going to be royally pissed that she was awoken without permission.”

“We don’t know for sure she didn’t plan this,” Esha said. “Shit, for all we know the villagers’ sacrificed themselves.” Her wings came unfurled, the red tips glinting in the sun.

Tamaya dropped to her knees and leaned over so her face was close to the water, so close her breath sent tiny ripples across the surface. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” she said, without bothering to look up.

Gathering her power, she felt the pull of the elements as she searched for a connection. It snapped into place a second before the water changed, and she was looking into the eye of Medea. A deep bronze that seemed to burn with the power of the sun.

‘Why do you wish to prevent me from rising, little one?’

The voice in her mind was heavy and rich. There was enough strength to crush her beneath the weight of it. Tamaya wasn’t afraid. Not yet. She could also feel Aaron and Esha’s telepathic presence. ‘With respect, we are simply alarmed by the timing. It is unexpected.’

The pressure in her head eased a little. ‘I did not ask to be disturbed from my slumber unless such a time arose that my people were in danger.’

‘And yet your people were the ones sacrificed here today.’ Tamaya felt Aaron’s soft rebuke in her mind, but ignored it. ‘Are we to understand there is a threat to Nearyon?’

Instead of responding with words, Medea sent images filtering into Tamaya’s mind. She saw Medea’s loyal followers, those who understood that when the time came, only she would have the power to save them. This conviction, passed down through generations, was a kind of knowing that culminated in Medea’s awakening. The villagers had sensed great danger, a danger Tamaya and her team had not seen.

‘Gather your forces, little one. For a war is coming.’ Medea said, before severing the connection.

A moment later, Tamaya and her teammates were tossed from the mountain as Medea shed her sleeping form. Esha caught them instinctively, though there was no need. Medea assured them a soft landing by easing their descent with a swish of her long, elegant tail.

“Holy shit,” Tamaya breathed, looking up at the great beast. She had heard the stories, had listened avidly as her grandmother regaled her with tales of Medea and her journey into sleep. But she was not prepared for the beauty of a legend come to life. She found herself looking into eyes of power and grace. Eyes that until a few minutes ago had been hollow sockets in the mountain.

Those eyes, fanned with incredible lashes, blinked once and then Medea shot forward and took to the sky. She flashed across the clearing like a searing flame, no longer the sleeping giant, but a magnificent, fiery dragon.

“Well,” Aaron said, grinning up at the sky. “I hate to say I told you so, but she looked pretty calm to me.”

Tamaya went to punch his shoulder, but he was too quick. He dodged her easily. “I still don’t like it. We’ve seen no evidence of violence in the realm, except for the villagers here today.”

“That doesn’t mean anything and you know it. Trouble is always brewing.” Aaron swung an arm around her neck, and this time he wasn’t fast enough to dodge her when she elbowed him in the ribs. He laughed, but didn’t release her. “Let’s rendezvous with the others and decide if we want to join this particular fight.”

She ducked out from under his arm. First, she wanted to repair the damage to the land caused by Medea’s transformation. But she should have known better. Instead of an empty crater, the earth had righted itself and melded seamlessly with the rolling valley.

“Okay. Fine. Let’s head out,” she said, hiding her grin as Esha and Aaron’s laughter followed her out of the clearing.


Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

5 Tips for Improving Dialogue

I recently had a discussion with a fellow writer about dialogue, and decided to share the processes I use to improve authenticity within my work.

quote

TIPS FOR IMPROVING DIALOGUE

  1. Give your imaginary friends a voice: I’ve talked about this before, but I often allow my characters free rein to have a discussion out of context, which basically means I let them loose to talk about whatever the hell they want. Those conversations, or pages of dialogue (almost like a script) rarely see the light of day. It’s the same as practising our skills by writing a scene or short story that is dialogue only. You can ignore all the normal rules; you don’t need any kind of structure. It’s like gathering a group of imaginary friends and allowing them the freedom to play. It can be fun, and is an excellent way to get to know your characters better.
  2. Follow the beat: There is always a flow to dialogue, especially if characters have a rapport. The to and fro of conversation can be extremely entertaining for the reader. In order to maintain that flow and avoid intruding on the process, I try to keep speech (or dialogue) tags to a minimum. I do this in a number of ways. Sometimes it’s by using silence, because a lack of words can have a powerful impact. Other times I rely on descriptive beats. I like them because they actively show us a character’s personality, and quickly demonstrate emotion or action. An example would what be – He bit down on the inside of his lip. “I’m perfectly serious.” Of course there must be balance in all things. There is a danger of becoming repetitive or distracting from the dialogue itself.
  3. Sound it out: Most writers read their work aloud because it helps them to pick up on errors they might otherwise miss; an interruption of the flow, going off point, an ambiguous or telling section of narrative, etc. Reading aloud dialogue is one of the best ways to determine if the dialogue is authentic. It’s like listening to a conversation. You can detect which parts sound unnatural or forced, and you’ll definitely identify whether the words used are a true reflection of your characters. It goes back to  point 1. If you have been practising, reading the section aloud can give you an insight into what a character is thinking or feeling
  4. Feel the scene: Although I practice with long chunks of dialogue, I try to avoid senseless discussion in an actual scene. It’s important to ground the conversation, to create seamless transitions. When we’re having a discussion with friends, it’s natural for our minds to wonder, to consider the topic, and relate it to our lives. It’s also natural to allow distractions to interfere, such as being in a busy coffee shop. How a character responds lets us know what kind of person they are.
  5. Sharing the spotlight: Like any strong personality, some characters like to hog all the limelight and take over the scene. Unless you’re doing this for a reason, be it for humour or to show a character trait/flaw, try to avoid giving one character the floor for too long.

What about you? How do you work on your dialogue?

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

Seussination

I love this. I adored Dr Seuss books growing up, and I haven’t thought about the power of Seuss for a while – how powerful the written word can be and how healing in body and mind 🙂

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Thinking to help my son heal his speech right
I had sent out a call on the Freecycle site…
Every day for a week I was checking to see
If anyone local might have some books free.

Remembering childhood and tongue-twisting ditties
I set the request to go out to three cities
Quite soon, sure enough, an address I could look up,
And dive across town to be picking a book up.

It didn’t take long till we had a collection
Addressing lacunae in diction’s defection.
Each morning we’d read and he’d make his lips wriggle
And both, unsuccessfully, try not to giggle.

We read about Sleeping and yawns under noses
And Foxes with Soxes to cover their toes-es,
We read about Green Eggs and Ham and the Cat
Who had juggled the goldfish and then doffed his Hat.

We wrangled with words and with pronunciation
Till it was apparent…

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Advent Calendar Day 22: Moments in Time by Melissa Barker-Simpson

If you get the chance you should definitely check out Solveig’s collection of posts this month – it’s a calendar of delights! Today she invited me to join the fun and share a festive story 😀

Solveig Werner

22nd day of Christmas

Moments in Time by Melissa Barker-Simpson

The lights twinkled prettily on the tree, catching Wendy’s attention. She loved to hang the decorations, but more she loved to spend time with her daddy, and this was their time. A time when he told her stories that were full of Christmas magic.

 “What about this one, daddy. Tell me about this one.”

 He had shared the story many times, and his little girl never tired of hearing it. Still, when Dominic’s eyes hit the ornament, he remembered the day he received it so clearly, it became a looking glass to the past.

Dominic watched from beneath his shelter, as Indigo climbed from the old, silver Volvo. She had parked so close to the curb he’d heard the squeak of rubber against cement. He didn’t know her, had never spoken to her. She was Indigo because of her eyes; a blue…

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Hugh’s Photo Challeng: Week 8 – Charity Christmas Tree Topper Challenge

I could not resist taking part in this awesome Christmas Tree Topper Photography Challenge run by the lovely Hugh, from Hugh’s Views & News. This year he is donating to The Dogs Trust.

Here is my tree topper…

hugh photo challenge

I bought this star in January 2000 from Tenerife, and it has shone from the top of my tree every year since. It was the year of my grandfather’s 70th birthday and the whole family went on a cruise to the Caribbean. At the time I was saving to get married, so I bowed out and took a trip to visit my Aunt instead (I didn’t miss the party. He was a Christmas baby, so we celebrated in style!)

In Tenerife, celebrations generally start on the 24th of December and continue until January the 6th. As I flew out on the 27th of December, I timed the festivities perfectly and had an absolute blast! I tasted local cuisine with my Aunt’s friends, and didn’t come back down to earth (there was a lot of drinking), until a few days after I arrived.

The atmosphere was wonderful, and it’s always enjoyable to experience another culture. I learned so much on the trip. I also bought some great decorations, starting with my star.

Thanks for stopping by.

Merry Christmas or, sticking with a Spanish theme – Feliz Navidad.

Mel

 

Bookish Christmas Tag.png

I was tagged by one of my writing friend’s, Callum McLaughlin, to take part in an original book tag he created for the festive season. It’s great fun, and you should definitely check it out.

Father Christmas: Name a book you received as a child that you treasure to this day.

As with many families, we have a tradition which involves a gift on Christmas Eve. It’s evolved slightly, and this year it includes a whole box of goodies, but originally it meant opening a book.

One year I received ‘What-a-Mess’ by Frank Muir, and I still have it. It’s a little dog-eared (pun intended), but I treasure it. I’m not sure, specifically, what it is about the book I enjoyed as a child. Perhaps it’s that we had Afghan hounds growing up and I loved to imagine what mischief they were planning. Regardless, I have fond memories of reading it with my parents.

The ghost of Christmas past: Is there a book or series you like to revisit each year at Christmas time?

I have to admit, there are a number of books I reread on a yearly basis. If I fall for a character, I want to spend time with them as often as I can. At this time of year, it depends what I have on the go. This year, I’ve fallen so behind on my reading list that, for the first time in a long time, I don’t have an old favourite on the go.

Christmas tree: Name a series that reaches new heights with every entry.

I’m a sucker for Nalini Singh, and her Guild Hunter series gets better with every instalment. But then, I always find a good series will continue to grow as the characters evolve and the author develops with them. At least in my experience.

Friends and family: Name a book with fantastic characters.

Just one? Sheesh, Callum, that’s a tough call! Oh, the pressure…I’ll have to fall back on an old favourite and say Lord of the Rings.

Decorations: Name a book with a gorgeous cover you would proudly display on your shelves.

The Gargoyle

I especially like that the edges of the pages are black, so it makes the book look dark and sinister!

Christmas cards: Name a book that carries a great message.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I’ve always loved the book. It’s one I’ve read many times, though I haven’t read it in a number of years. I think I just found my answer to question two!

Ice and snow: Name a book that you were hoping to love but which ultimately left you feeling cold.

This is going to sound strange, because I used the book in my answer to the decoration question, but I haven’t yet finished The Gargoyle. It’s one of my regrets, mainly because the writing is excellent and I wanted to enjoy it, but I had no motivation to continue. I should probably start from the beginning, and let the story work its magic!

Christmas lunch: Name a book that was big and intimidating but oh so worth it in the end.

The Stand by Stephen King. I first read the novel in my late teens and I could barely lift the thing! Seriously, though, it was an intimidating novel to get through, but totally worth it in the end.

Mince pies: Name a book you found sweet and satisfying.

Just about anything Nora Roberts has ever written! I love her work, and she’s a dab hand with the sweet 🙂

Presents: What book do you wish you could give everyone to read?

Probably The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I keep trying to persuade my daughter to read it – to read anything – but I just can’t pin her down! I think everyone should read the book, and then reread the book. Every time I do, I learn something new. Yes, that’s definitely what I’ll be reading this Christmas!

Spreading the festive cheer:

I don’t have anyone specific to tag, because I know how busy things get at this time of year. But I’d love to see the tag continue, so if you would like to take part – please do. I’d love to learn more about your festive reading habits.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

 

Christmas Trees Around the World

My friend, Colleen, from Silver Threading, recently created a Christmas Trees Around the World challenge, which you can read about here.

It’s easy to take part. Basically, all you need to do is post a photograph of your tree and link back to Colleen’s post. On the 22nd of December she will create a wrap-up post displaying trees from around the world. Sounds like fun, right?

Here is my Christmas tree.

Christmas tree

I’ve collected a plethora of tree ornaments over the years, and get a new one every year. I have baubles from around the world, including Paris, Spain, Rome, Australia, America and Singapore.

Here are some of my favourites:

PicMonkey Collage.jpg

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel