This article gave me a little prod of encouragement when it comes to marketing. I’m clearly not putting enough energy into my efforts and I need to re-double this for my forthcoming novel ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.
Teresa, The Haunted Wordsmith – nominated me to participate in the Tell The Story Challenge a week or so ago (this one slipped down the back of my desk temporarily).
This is the photo for the challenge.
Write a story about the picture you’re given.
Select 3 nominees.
Give them a new picture.
Georgie is a trusting kind of kid; obedient too. Each Saturday morning he dutifully departs to his piano practice with elderly eccentric Zephaniah Zimmerman, even though the open maw of the grand piano, with its great grinning gnashers, smirks at his inability to transverse their scales.
He’s always very smartly turned out, although his mother’s sartorial choices are not to everybody’s taste. Including Georgie’s. But even at the tender age of six, he rises above the taunts and sniggers.
That’s because Georgie has a secret. He leads a double life. Georgie disappears into other worlds.
You see, Georgie reads books.
Despite the rules to nominate three people, I think this time I’ll just throw it open and see what comes back.
What’s the story behind this old photo? I could tell you…
Write a story about the picture you’re given.
Select 3 nominees.
Give them a new picture.
Uncle Foss’s Library
Catherine loved books which was just as well as she had very few friends other than the characters in the stories she read. Fortunately she wasn’t short of these, as there were so very many books in her uncle’s library. Uncle Foss had been her guardian ever since she could remember. He had engaged various tutors over the years, as had been stipulated in her wardship agreement, but none had lasted long. Catherine had therefore educated herself, partly under her uncle’s guidance, through the perusal of the wealth of knowledge which was contained between the covers of his extensive library.
No books in Uncle Foss’s library were forbidden or out of bounds, although there were certain high shelves that he’d steered her away from, saying she’d enjoy those books better when she was older. But now, a few days away from her fifteenth birthday, while her uncle had been occupied in Town, she’d climbed the library ladder and removed three interesting-looking volumes which she’d been considering for some weeks now. At almost fifteen she was certain she was ready for the high shelves.
Back in her room after supper and a game of backgammon with her uncle, she chose the smallest book. It was old, bound in finely tooled black leather with silver embossed letters on the front which read: ‘Faerie Folk and Mischievous Creatures – A Guide’. Catherine had loved magic and fantasy stories since she was a little girl. She started to read.
“They are as old as the oldest hills and their presence is clings on even in the most rational minds, deep within our collective memory. Ancient and modern, of both sexes, and neither good nor ill, they live long, long lives, then disappear as ash on the wind.” Catherine started as the window behind her rattled. She looked round, but it was just the oak trees branches brushing against the glass. Storm clouds were gathering, covering the bright face of the new moon.
“Although of the earth, they are otherworldly, living between our world and theirs. Rarely noticed, they appear at the periphery of our vision, hidden in plain sight…”
Out of the corner of her eye, Catherine suddenly noticed a movement behind the nightstand next to her bed; a mouse? But no, it hadn’t moved like a mouse, and she was sure she’d seen a flash of scarlet.
There was a knock at the door. Her uncle entered, smiling. He crossed the room and gently took the little book from her hands. “It’s time, Catherine,” he said. His face lit up with excitement, “time to introduce you to the other members of our household.”
So, my nominees are:
Amartya, Jumbled Letters
Dr Tanya, Salted Caramel
One Life, Tap My Toes
A story, a verse, a vision? See where this takes you.
We’d heard rumours of strange reptilian creatures stalking the lands beyond our borders. We’d not paid much attention. Similarly, we’d dismissed the reports which were sent back from the Palace Guard’s intelligence team who patrolled the perimeter of our kingdom. Men, far away from home are prone to flights of fancy and over-exaggeration. However, when the creatures did appear they were quite beyond imagination.
One spring morning they came, floating down from the fluffy white clouds under little canopies of sky-blue silk. We watched from our roof tops and our high city walls as they landed, then marched upon us, fanning out around the entire circumference of the city. We’d closed the heavy outer gates, pulled up the drawbridge and manned the battlements. But it was not enough. They were too large, too strong, too determined. And there were so many of them.
Our archers fired on them, but the arrows bounced off their patterned breast plates and scaly bodies. Within the hour they had peeled back our gates and smashed down our ramparts with their huge taloned paws. Our swords and spears were no match for them either. Once they had entered the city, they unslung their weapons and fired beams of sound and light which turned men to dust.
People scattered before them. Those who were too old or too slow were scooped up in their great scaly arms and flung aside with a force that snapped necks and broke bones. One of the creatures pulled a bleating goat from its tether and bit the poor animal’s head off. Then it split the body in two and tossed each half to its comrades who marched on either side.
What was left of the Palace Guard formed a ring around the entrance to the Sanctum where our queen and her council were gathered. The creatures filled the main square; row upon row of them. They stood in their ranks, facing our guards. Silence fell, punctuated only by the groans of the injured and the laments of the bereaved.
Then one of the creatures stepped forward; the symbols on its breastplate finer and more intricate than the rest. It advanced up the steps to face the Commander of the Palace Guard. Bringing a huge, scaly paw down on the Commander’s left shoulder it leant forward, forked tongue flickering.
At that moment, there was a strange roaring noise and suddenly, out of thin air a mysterious object appeared. A huge, great storage vessel, rather like the ones we use to store oil or wine, but much larger and made of a dull, grey metal. A door in the side of the object slid open and a tall, willowy figure dressed in a flowing silver gown appeared. The creatures in the square turned towards her, low whistling sounds emanating from their nostrils. They cowed their heads. She raised a shiny black staff and pointed it at their leader. She spoke and although her words were incomprehensible to us, we knew they were full of power. The lizard leader muttered something. She said a single, potent word and it vanished in a puff of smoke. Then she turned her shiny black staff on the massed ranks of creatures. Pop, pop, pop. They all disappeared. Then without a word, she returned to the vessel and the door closed behind her. The roaring noise sounded and the vessel was gone.
The old man finished his story and stared into the distance. Someone asked him a question.
“True? You ask me if my story’s true? Evidence?” He paused. “Well, if you look carefully there are some scorch marks near the entrance to the Sanctum.” The old man held up his finger. “And, I believe, fine sky-blue silk underwear is still worn here by women of a certain age.”
I’m delighted to say that Sadje, of Keep it Alive, has nominated me for the
Sunshine Bloggers Award!
Thank you, Sadje for the nomination, it’s an honour!
Okay, here are my answers to Sadje’s questions:
What made you start blogging?
I set up Luna’s on line about 6 years ago purely as somewhere to store my short stories. I was also experimenting with WordPress as I had started my ‘ghost blogging’ career.
It wasn’t until early this year when I started working from home full-time that I got up and running with it and started interacting with other writers and bloggers. I am so glad I did; the support and encouragement is amazing.
Do your friends and family support you in this?
I have a lot of encouragement for my writing. Maybe they actually believe I’ll be a best selling author one day so want to be nice to me! And a special mention for Cliff, my husband who’s really supportive unless it’s suppertime (a bit like Luna, my cat).
Which is your favorite time of the day?
I write best in the late afternoon, so it’s then.
What would be your dream vacation?
Visiting the gorillas in Rwanda. I’d need to have some strong-armed bearers to carry me and to bring the G+Ts.
What genre of movies you like best?
It depends on my mood. I have very eclectic taste (although I don’t like rom-coms or splatter movies much).
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
I’ll own up to a couple which work both ways: I get too involved with my characters. I talk to them, often out loud. Also, I’m a dreadful grammar pendant.
Are you an emotional person?
Don’t you have to be if you write fiction?
What motivates you in life and writing?
Imagination and an enquiring mind.
What sort of friend are you to your pals?
I’m there in mind and spirit, always.
Have you written poetry as well?
Some, but it’s not really my forte.
Now imagine: I’m standing at the podium in full evening dress – gold lame, glitzy earrings, killer heels – (I did say imagine) and I am holding the 11 envelopes.
Here’s the speech…
These are some of the most inspirational, inventive and supportive writers I’ve met in ‘blog–land’ so far. This is my thank you to them! Check them out. I’ve put in some links to their sites and to their work.
- Kent Wayne, the Dirty Sci-Fi Budda for being the first person to like my first post – check out his Echo series: I really enjoyed Vol.1 and I have Vol.2 is ready to read. Thanks for all the re-tweets!
- JI (Jenn) Rogers, a great inspiration – all those Six Word Challenges, wow, she’s right, they are addictive! Check out her book The Korpes File, vol 1 – a cracking read – vol 2 will be out soon; can’t wait to find out what happens next.
- Jean Lee’s World – such lovely writing and great support. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed several of her ‘Tales of the River Vine’ and I now have ‘Fallen Princeborn: Stolen’ to read on my Kindle.
- Teresa Grabbs, The Haunted Wordsmith, for all the inspiration and support, I’m reading her short story collection, ‘Tales from the Haunted Wordsmith’ now, and her new novel ‘Reflected Echo’ is lined up ready to read on my Kindle too.
- Ellie Scott for being awesome and witty and from Yorkshire (where I grew up). Ellie writes lot of lovely little engaging pieces not only on her website, but on Twitter and on Instagram (clever!). She’s on Medium too – head over and give her a clap.
I’ve started reading her ‘Merry Bloody Christmas: A Short Story Collection’ – one story a day in the run up to Christmas, although it’s tempting to pig out on a whole week’s-worth in one go!
- Debra of Nana’s Whimsical World for her ever-so-wittily described crafty projects, her wonderful stories about Foster and Panda (you have to read these!) and general awesomeness – this woman installed her own toilet!
- Adam West, The Writer of Age with whom I’ve probably had the longest email exchange ever when trying to download his free offer on Amazon (they like to make it tricky for you if you live in deepest, darkest Africa). However, ‘The Vague Ship: A Tale of Ambiguity’ was well worth the effort!
- Freja Travels – a travel blog by Mickey & Yunni, so beautifully illustrated with photos. I followed them every step of the way through Madagascar. And Yunni is reading my work-in-progress novel from this blog (so I’d better hurry up and finish it).
- Muted Mouthful – Tiara has truly found her feet in her blog! Awesome stuff. I really don’t know why she doubts herself. And she lives in New York, which I find very cool!
- Jason H Abbott, The Aetheral Engineer – wonderful witty flash fiction. He’s on Twitter and Instagram too – thanks for being there.
- Keith Sandvidge -– dark and witty tales. Great support over in ‘twitterland’. Don’t tell anyone, but I think he’s reading my first novel…I wonder how it’s going.
He also writes on Medium – pop over and give him a clap.
…and there are others, newer to my circle – and since Sadje also very kindly nominated me for the Liebster Award as well, I’ll give them their shout out there – stay tuned!
And I’m not going to ask anyone any questions, I merely offer the invitation to grab the ‘Sunshine Blogger’ banner, tell us more about yourself and pay it forward if you’d like.
From my Flash Fiction collection
The HQ of Deeply Underground Subversive Comics was under attack. Bullets sprayed across the hillside from a jet fighter. Moments later a nearby explosion rocked the desk where Mick was working.
“Dammit, we’re going to have to move out!” He yelled at Simone, who was steadying her laptop with one hand while furiously typing lines of complex coding with the other.
“Can you reconfigure the IP address before we go?” she yelled back.
“Sure, I’m on it.” Mick flung himself down at the adjacent desk and pulled the keyboard onto his lap. “What were you working on anyway?”
“Just some research for ‘Jasmine’s Day’.”
“Not on Google?”
“It was only innocent stuff,” replied Simone, emptying her desk drawer into a large canvas satchel.
“Huh, like last time.” Mick’s fingers danced over the keyboard. “Why can’t you just stay in the Deep Web?”
The flames outside were dying down. Suddenly the viewing screen was filled with what looked like giant flying insects. “Drones incoming!” Simone shouted as she crouched behind the main console and started to rummage about in a cupboard.
“Deploy ‘Flame Kitten’,” Mick turned to give the order to Jonesy.
“No can do boss, she’s busy in Syria.”
“Who else we got?” Mick finished typing and slung the keyboard back on the desk.
“‘Silver Sparrow’s in South Sudan and ‘Galactic Gecko’s in…”
“Dammit! What’s the point in us creating these superheroes if they’re not here for us when we need them?” Mick hammered his fist on the arm of his chair.
“Prime directive boss,” Jonesy shut down his screen with a click and tucked the tablet into his overalls.
There was another explosion and an ominous crack appeared in the ceiling. Simone looked up. “C’mon guys, we’ve got to get out! To the escape corridor!” She slung the satchel over her shoulder and pulled out her cell-phone. “There’s nothing for it,” she tapped the screen rapidly; “I’m messaging ‘Grand Trope Central’.”
“You’re doing what?!” Mick grabbed his rucksack from under the desk.
“We’re going to need something good if we’re going to get out of this.”
Mick, Simone and Jonesy reached the corridor just as the ceiling collapsed and the roof caved in. Flames shot across the room.
“Sealing hatch!” Simone announced as she hit a large red button mounted on the wall. A metal shutter slid into place closing off the corridor. “C’mon, run! It won’t hold for long.”
As they jogged along, their progress was hampered by a series of thick cords which crisscrossed the brightly lit passage. Mick grunted as he clambered through the knotted strands. “What the hell are these, anyway?”
“Twisted plotlines,” replied Simone. “Try to bend them rather than break them; they might be important.”
Simone’s cell-phone beeped, signalling an incoming message. At the same moment the corridor lights failed, plunging them into darkness. The only illumination was from the phone; the message read: ‘look ahead’. Simone looked up from her phone; a large wooden door had appeared from nowhere right in front of them, seemingly hanging in limbo. Golden light leaked around the edges of the door. A red neon sign flashed. ‘Enter,’ it commanded. Simone glanced at her two companions.
“What the f…” Mick took a step towards the door, as the excruciating sound of shearing metal echoed down the passage. They heard a drone whirring towards them.
“C’mon,” Simone tugged at the sleeve of Jonesy’s overalls, “we’ve no alternative.”
Mick touched the door which swung inwards, bathing them in the bright golden light. Blindly they rushed through; the door slammed shut behind them. Slowly their eyes adjusted. They looked around, confused. They were back in the room from where they’d just made their escape, but it was undamaged. Good as new.
The viewing screen over the main console flickered on to reveal a figure, features obscured by the bright back lighting.
“Sit down,” commanded the voice from the screen. Obediently Simone, Mick and Jonesy seated themselves at their workstations. “You have done well,” the voice continued, “but now you must move to the next level.” The walls around them began to shimmer. “Write yourselves out of this!” The screen dissolved. There was a loud pop and a flash of light.
“Whoa, what’s happening?” Mick‘s words were barely audible above the sound of rushing wind. Suddenly the noise stopped. They looked up at the viewing screen. Outside the view was as green and tranquil as before the recent attack.
Mick shrugged. “No immediate threat then?”
“Maybe not.” As Simone took out her laptop the sky darkened. On the viewing screen they saw a huge metal disc hovering over the mountain. It didn’t look friendly.
“Here we go again!” Mick said, snatching his keyboard from the desk.
©2018 Chris Hall
From my Flash Fiction collection
I was sent to the Valley in my fourteenth year. I was given a little attic room and assigned as apprentice to the Herbalist beyond the Green.
She set me to work in the Storeroom, where I organised the shelves, made labels and lists. She was impressed with my lettering. Gradually I started to learn Herb-Craft: where to gather the freshest ingredients, what to plant and when to harvest, recipes for teas and tinctures, poultices and potions.
A year later, following the midsummer feast, she put me to work on the Book. I copied out new recipes, made illustrations, noted where and when certain plants could be found. I began to assist in the Dispensing Room. She was pleased with me and with my work.
I learned that certain things displeased her. If she found me chatting too long whilst I was dispensing remedies, she would stand at the door, arms folded, tapping her foot. My friends soon took the hint. Or if she saw me spending time at a particular market stall, she would take me firmly by the elbow telling me to ‘come, leave that now’.
I worked with my pen and brush in the Storeroom at a little desk among the wooden shelves on which the flasks and jars were kept neatly in rows. Even on the hottest of days the Storeroom doors remained shut. No prying eyes were tolerated; the work was secret. I was sworn to keep those secrets.
One afternoon, I’d made myself a cup of herbal tea using leftovers from a poultice. She came in and sniffed my teacup. “What is this?” she asked. I explained. “Is it in the Book?” “No, it but was only a handful of leaves.” Her eyes flashed, “There must be no omissions from the Book.” She stabbed at the cover with fingers clenched and walked out.
Two years passed. My knowledge grew. I followed her rules; made sure she had no cause to admonish me. She taught me a little rudimentary Spell-Craft and the Storeroom prospered as never before.
One morning in late summer, when the dew was still fresh on the ground, I took my basket up to the head of the Valley to the source of a little stream I knew. There I found newly growing belladonna and wolfsbane. I picked a sprig of each and hurried to back to the Storeroom.
Later that afternoon, I settled down at the little desk with my brush and pen and my new specimens. I opened the Book and turned to the poison plants section. But it was missing. I checked again, carefully, page by page, but it was as if the pages had never existed.
I hurried over to her little house and called her. She followed me slowly and sat down at the desk. I showed her where the missing pages should have been; how they seemed to have disappeared into thin air. I thought she’d be cross and give me that look, so I prepared myself. But she looked up at me and said “Never mind now.” She laid her wrinkled hand on my arm: “Go home; I’ll see you in the morning.”
The Storeroom was unusually busy the next day and my morning was spent making up and dispensing remedies. It was only in the afternoon that I took the Book down. The moment I opened it, I could see something was wrong. Strange symbols had been written in the margins and there were untidy blots and crossings out. I didn’t understand.
I heard the Storeroom door open. She appeared in the doorway and came over to the desk. “Something’s happened to the Book,”’ I said, showing her.
“Only you use the Book. No one else has touched it.” She brought her face close to mine and I saw pure hatred on her face. “Why have you done this?”
“I haven’t done anything.” I felt myself starting to shake. I knew I hadn’t done anything. I stared up at her. “It wasn’t like this yesterday.” My stomach churned under her gaze. “We looked at it together, remember? The missing pages?”
“I know you did it.” Her voice was like gravel.
I stood up, facing her across the little desk. I held her stare; not this time, I thought. There was a burning smell. I looked down. Smoke was rising from the edges of the Book. The paper began to curl and suddenly the pages ignited. She slammed the Book shut.
“Go!” She pointed to the door. “Just go!”
I grabbed my basket and cloak and fled towards the Green. I looked back just once. There she stood, framed by the doorway. She glared back at me for a moment; then she slammed the Storeroom door shut.
I never went back. I avoided that part of the village and only went to the market during dispensing hours when I knew she’d be occupied. I could never rid myself of the memory of the expression of loathing on her face, or the power I’d felt that moment when the Book had ignited. I had been changed forever.
©2018 Chris Hall
Sanchez rises early. He dons his trench-coat, pulls on his hat.
Sliding stealthily through the silent streets, a dark, fast-moving, shadow. Hat pulled down, collar turned up, he passes through the checkpoint unchallenged. Now he’s in the ‘other’ city.
He’s closer now. He slows down and looks around. His eyes flick left, flick right. Careful, as he watches comings and goings of the grey-clad people. He times his move, then scurries across the square. He waits hunched in a doorway. A clock strikes.
He hears the click-clicking of heels on the flagstones; getting closer. He glances at the reflection in the window opposite. He tenses, wired for action. The woman draws level with him.
He springs out, reaches into his raincoat, pulls out a single red rose. He hands it to her. She smiles.
Then he’s gone. Mission accomplished.
©2018 Chris Hall
Another Adventure in Botswana
Lake Ngami, discovered by Oswell, Murray & Livingstone – from David Livingstone: Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, Including a Sketch of Sixteen Years’ Residence in the Interior of Africa, and a Journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the West Coast, Thence Across the Continent, Down the River Zambesi, to the Eastern Ocean. London: John Murray, 1857.
Where David Livingstone had success, unfortunately we did not… a little bit of travelogue:
We had been searching for Lake Ngami the whole morning and were beginning to conclude that it had ceased to exist, despite it being an ‘Internationally Important Wetland,’ according to the sign which we’d found facing belly up at the roadside. It was, after all, the dry season.
We had driven across the eastern side of what, we assumed, had been the lake. The landscape was dry and desolate, populated only by a scattering of dead trees and the occasional hopeful-looking bird. We’d retraced our route.
Regaining the original road, we decided to go for one last try down the uneven track where we’d concluded the important-looking sign had pointed. After sometime driving on the worsening roadway, we passed several rondavels. I waved to a group of Herero women in their traditional costumes with their iconic cow horn-shaped headwear. We saw goats and chickens roaming around contentedly, and a bunch of small children who waved cheerily at us. We waved back. There was a lot of waving to be done.
But there was no sign of the lake.
We pressed on through the village; everyone looked puzzled but friendly, grinning at us with white-toothed smiles. I peered at the map; this couldn’t be right.
Defeated, we decided to turn around. The vehicle slid uncomfortably in the soft sand. The wheels turned, but we were going nowhere. The engine stalled. We started up again, but the rear wheels dug further into the sand. We stalled again.
My husband got out and circled the vehicle; I watched him in the side mirror staring at the back wheels, hands on hips. He disappeared from view and returned with a handful of twigs which he started to stuff under the wheels.
Another try and again the wheels failed to grip. The group of children which we waved at earlier appeared, attracted by the sound. An older youth with them approached and informed us in excellent English, that a spade would be fetched. We needed to ‘dig deep’. A smaller child disappeared in the direction of the nearest rondavel. Moments later he returned, armed with a small spade with a broken handle.
With great enthusiasm the little team of helpers gathered round my husband, all intent on assisting with the digging. Small boys burrowed under the vehicle and renewed attempts were made to drive out. But the wheels continued to sink into the sand. ‘We need to dig deeper’, came the cry.
An older man wandered over, an un-lit cigarette clamped between his lips. After a short conference with the helpers, two of them disappeared, reappearing with two large roof tiles. The tiles were positioned under the rear wheels; my husband gripped the steering wheel and started the car. There were crunching noises and an ominous burning smell. The afternoon shadows lengthened.
More digging, another attempt, the front of the car rose higher. From this an unusual angle a red and white-painted mast in the distance caught my eye.
I fished in my bag for my cell-phone and scrabbled for the receipt on which I’d written Carlton’s cell number. Just in case, I had said back in his little office, when we’d picked up the vehicle.
My cell-phone rang out. ‘Carlton?’ ‘Yes?’ I explained the problem. ‘Have you engaged the 4-wheel drive?’ I summoned my husband and relayed instructions relating to a small knob under the steering wheel. He complied, started the engine and pressed the accelerator. The car moved off. There was a cheer; they’d done it! Rewards were dispensed to our gallant team. We didn’t mention my phone call as we waved goodbye.
©2018 Chris Hall
Only last week I asked the question: “Do writers really go on holiday?”
Well, just one week away ‘in the bush’ (well, not quite), and my head is spinning with ideas. Nothing concrete just yet, although I have a host of notes in my little black notebook.
I’ve been wonderfully distracted on my return today by all the stories which my writer friends have been posting while I’ve been away: you are so prolific! And, of course, I just had to stop to read some of these awesome posts. Oh, and do some paid work for my website and social media clients.
Normal service should be resumed next week…plus I mustn’t neglect the work-in-progress novel.