From Amongst the Bones

She dwelt down in the catacombs as the dead were kinder than the living. Above ground, all was cruel and wicked. Exploit or be exploited. And she couldn’t live like that. She refused to hurt people the way she’d been hurt.

Here amongst their deathly silence she found peace. And when they woke, which they did on occasion, they offered her the secrets of the forgotten. Spells with which she could change the world.

For the better.

Written for: Weekend Writing Prompt #253 – Catacomb | Word count: 77

Excavating the Archives: A Fairy Price To Pay

The following piece of flash was extended and included in One Turn of the Wheel, my first collection of tiny tales, published by Three Drops Press in 2018.One Turn of The Wheel

I wandered a year and a day in the wildlands, never meeting another living soul on my travels.

Through the wastelands I journeyed; an unforgiving land that told me those who ventured to be there were closer to the world of Spirit, for I could not see any other merit in it. I saw evidence of their existence, these strange people, but never once did I see them.

After that I came to the land of water. Streams, rivers, ditches, ponds, lakes, meres…all manner of watercourses bisected the land. It was treacherous, travelling through these parts, for it was never completely steady beneath your feet.

When the boggy ground became more firm, I reached the open land between the water and the forest. It took many days to reach the woodlands edge, but when I did so, what I found disturbed me more than anything I had yet encountered and its discovery would have lasting consequences.

I had been walking beneath the tree canopy, day having started its slow descent into night many hours before, when up ahead I saw the twinkling of lights through the branches. I was eager to see people, to talk, to have human company, if only for a matter of minutes, so I proceeded recklessly. My isolation had made me drop my guard.

Brazenly, without caution or fear, I pushed my way through the undergrowth and that’s when I saw them, dancing in circles, laughing and singing as they spun round and round. I don’t know how long had passed with my just standing there, mouth agape. I knew what was before me. A company of the Fair-Folk, making merry in the woods in the moonlight.

I should have moved on, crept away while there was still a chance, but I stood there, motionless, transfixed.

As one they noticed an outsider in their midst. I knew the penalty of intruding upon the secret rites of the Fair Folk. I knew what they did to those not invited, who lay their eyes upon their Fairy Rings.

The music stopped. The lights went out. An ominous, unnatural silence sprung up in the forest. I was seized before I could even turn around to run.

In those brief moments, thoughts of my family, my home, my village, filled my mind whilst an ache beyond anything I thought I could bare ripped through my heart. I knew I would never see any of them again; I would never be allowed to return. I was going to spend the rest of my days, however many they may be, in the land of the Fey…in a land of magic.

This was originally posted on this site in October 2014. You can find that post here.

Interview with Crispina Kemp, author of Learning to Fly

I am really excited to be able to share this fabulous interview with my talented blogging friend and author, Crispina Kemp. Her next book, Learning to Fly, is being released 1st April 2021. I was lucky enough to beta read this story, and I loved it as much as the five book series, The Spinner’s Game, which she released last year. Read on to learn more about her latest book…

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1: How does Learning to Fly fit into the world you created with the five-book series The Spinner’s Game, which you released in its entirety last year? And do you need to read The Spinner’s Game to be able to follow Learning to Fly?

To answer the second part of that question first, despite characters appear in this book who were met in The Spinner’s Game, you don’t need to read that series first. For those earlier characters this is a continuation and conclusion of the “Game” – which answers the rest of that question. Learning to Fly moves their story into a contemporary setting. The original characters in The Spinner’s Game have descendants, unto the seventh generation. The main thrust of the story follows one such descendant. Neve.

2: Learning to Fly follows the story of Neve.  How did her character come to you and what inspired her personality and background?

It was necessary to the plot to have a loner as the MC, someone not streetwise, an “innocent” in today’s world. But what woman in C21st Britain can be described as that? Perhaps someone who has spent the years since leaving school nursing her grandma, in a rural Norfolk village. But now with her grandma’s death, she’s released from that. Now she can find the mother who deserted her as a child.

Her personality is Piscean. I refer to astrology sun-types for all my main characters. It’s an excellent shorthand. Say Piscean and I know at once what she’s like. I know how she’ll react, what she’ll tolerate and what she won’t.

3: A question of favourites next.  Who’s your favourite character from Learning to Fly, which is your favourite location, and what is your favourite quote from this book?

My favourite character is Rat (Razimer), a former Viking, now a biker. He has such a charming personality, is an “air-drummer”, a frustrated Rockstar, and into all the same music as Neve. Who could not love him?

My favourite location? Some might think that would be Regin-jarl’s mead hall, so often do we visit there. But no. My favourite location is split between the offshore island of Yalesham Sands, aka Haggleland where Neve’s mastery of her nature is put to the test, and Ceza’s Well where she learns the truth. Ceza’s Well is a real location, scene of my adolescent idling dreams.

As to quote:

Neve yawned, her head mussy, her eyelids heavy. The old church was airless, thick with the smell of decay. She yawned again… and startled awake when Halftroll leapt onto the altar, straining to reach through the bars, exhibiting his lethal nails. Ten little razors upon his two little hands.

4: Who’s your least favourite character and why?

My least favourite character is Skrauti, traitorous, self-serving, obnoxious jerk with not a thought for other people.

About Learning to Fly: Medievalist Neve is delighted to find herself surrounded by swirling colours and foot-stomping music in Regin-jarl’s mead hall… even if her presence is dependent on the memories of a banished angel. Prompted by the angel to find the truth of her grandfather, locked in a cage to be food for vampiric grimmen, trapped beneath a dragon… life isn’t fun for Neve… though she does like the music!

5: Who was the hardest character to write and why?

Huat was the hardest to write. One of the characters from The Spinner’s Game, he has a small but vital part to play. As one expects, over the intervening millennia he has matured, and to show him as the same character despite those changes… that was difficult.

6: Music plays an important role in this book.  Was that intentional or did it come about by itself? Is music important to you and does it play a significant role in your life or in your writing process?

I would love to be able to include a music track to this book. It is crucial as in it provides much of the initial conflict between Raesan and Neve. More than that is the subtext included in those tracks. They are not chosen at random.
As an early teen I would create stories from the records in our collection; mostly love stories, because pop music is mostly about love. But music can say more than words ever can. It sets emotional tone and cultural background. It also provides rhythm, pace, colour, flavour, all things important in my writing. And yes, it does play a significant role in my life which has often involved musicians and the music scene.

7: Another important theme of the book is that of textiles. We are given lavish descriptions of clothing, wall-hangings and embroidery as we join Neve on her journey of discovery. What is it about textiles that you find interesting?

Attention to fabrics has become a hallmark of my writing, but what is it that I find interesting? First, and the way I use it in writing, is that clothing provides clues to social and cultural status. Yet I tend to go into more depth than the average person and so have given this as an interest to both Kerrid and Neve, the one being a spinner and weaver, the other an embroideress. This calls on my own interests: a dressmaker/designer in my 20s, an embroideress until my wrist refused me more, I love playing with colours and textures, and the finer details provided by needlework and jewellery. There is a sensuousness about the feel of fabric. Mmm, music and fabrics, my life is complete!

8: What do you think is the most important theme in the story? Why? What do you hope readers will take away from the book when they’ve finished reading it?

In the opening image Neve is alone, isolated and, although confident to deal with the world, she doesn’t trust people; she’s been let down in the past, suffered racial abuse at school, and now prefers to be the hermit. Her lesson is to trust… in herself, in others, and in the unknown. Weaving through this is the theme that we do need other people in our lives, that we’re not better off alone. Even if alone is easier.

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About Crispina Kemp

Failing to find a place on the space programme – to boldly go – I turned my vision inwards to a study of psychology and exploration of spirituality. This encouraged an outward journey to explore this wonderful world, its peoples, its beliefs, but mostly its pasts. From the exploration I returned with the core of my writing.

But, for the more mundane-minded: For a shy child with a speech problem, the written word came as a release, enabling me to express myself without being asked, ‘Eh? What did you say? Say again?’ I wrote my first ‘proper’ story when I was nine. A gothic offering to scare my friends. Since then, there’s been scarcely a day when I haven’t been busy writing. Novels. The short story form doesn’t appeal to me, although over recent months I have posted micro-
fiction on my blog.

In my early teens, I visited Grimes Graves, the Neolithic flint mines in Norfolk. The following summer, I visited Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Thence began a lifelong interest in the archaeology of prehistory. The study of myths and legends seemed a natural progression, and from there to linguistics (despite my inability to pronounce the words).

Resident in Norfolk (UK) where my roots dig deep, my regular rambles into the surrounding countryside provide balance to the cerebral… and ample subjects for my camera.

Twitter: @crispinakemp1 and @ineebrown51

Excavating the Archives: The Legacy Of A Missed Opportunity

This is the first instalment of a three-part drabble serial…

She knew she had done the wrong thing, said the wrong words, but it was too late now.  Such an opportunity would never come her way again.  It was gone.  She had missed her chance.

Her mistake lingered, tormenting her, driving her to return to the woods day after day.  In the dark of the forest, she screamed at the top of her voice.

‘I’m sorry!  Please forgive me!’

She wanted to explain but there was no one there to listen or care.

She was alone now.  The Spirits of the Forest were silent.  The Fae had departed.

You can read part two here.

This was originally posted on this site in September 2015. You can find that post here.

Excavating the Archives: A Spring Enchantment

Fera had been looking forward to the Spring Fair since the end of the Winter Market.  Beneath clear blue skies, the sun shone bright and strong, making it feel unseasonably warm for this time of year, but who was going to complain that the weather was better than it should have been?

As Fera moved in and around the crowd, she couldn’t help but smile; she was mesmerised by the noise and bustle of activity wherever she looked.  Then, above the calls of traders and the chattering of gossips, she heard it, soft and distant at first, but as she pushed her way through the throng, it became louder and louder until suddenly she found herself at the front of semi circle of people.  Before her a man a few years older than herself was strumming on a harp.

It was as if the world had stopped.  There was nothing except the music, nothing except the musician’s fingers strumming the harp strings.  Time faded away, lost all importance.

Was this magic? she wondered, before the very thought disappeared, chased away by the enchanting melody.

When the music finally stopped, she realised she was the only one still there with the musician.  The market traders had packed away and gone, the crowd too, though they would no doubt return for the evening entertain.  But just as that thought crossed her mind, she noticed that it was dark, day having given way to night many hours before.

Naturally, the young woman began to feel self-conscious.  Why should she remain when others had not?  Instead, all she could ask was, ‘Why did you stop playing?’

The musician smiled.  ‘Because the spell is at an end.  The charm is cast.  There is no more music left to play.’

This post was first shared on this site in March 2018. You can find the original post here.

Playing with Murder – Publication News

Back in September, my short story, Playing with Murder was published in Unveiled Secrets, a Fantasia Divinity anthology, and I forgot to share the news…

Here’s the summary for Playing with Murder:

When Theo Reed returns to his room in Drake’s Lodging House after a short work trip out of town, it’s to a nasty surprise: a dead body lying on the floor.  He doesn’t know the victim, but the police believe they know the murderer.  Him.  That’s problem number one.

Problem number two: Theo Reed is no angel.  He’s no murderer either, but he’s going to have convince a lot of people of that.  What ensues is a chase across the city, the outcome of which has deadly consequences for him, should he fail.

Playing with Murder is an urban low fantasy mystery, set in another world not that dissimilar to Victorian England.

Here’s the summary from the anthology as a whole from Amazon:

Detective stories are popular the world over, fueling people’s desires to know “whodunit.” Combine that with the magic and myths of fantasy and you’ve entered a whole new world of mystery and intrigue! Join us on this adventure filled with 11 detective fantasy stories that will strike your imagination!

With stories by J.W. Grace, Gerry Griffiths, Sandy Underman, Sammi Cox, DM Burdett, Deeanna West, Zoey Xolton, Danielle Davis, Lionel Ray Green, Charlotte Platt, and Rebecca Buchanan

My thanks to Fantasia Divinity for selecting it for the anthology, and to M.E. Rodman for editing.

Find it on Amazon and Goodreads

A Samhain Summoning – Publication News

One of my stories, A Samhain Summoning, was published in an anthology on Halloween…very fitting for a collection of stories inspired by witches and magic.

The anthology is “Hexed”, from Iron Faerie Publishing.  My thanks to the Stacey Jaine McIntosh for including my story. Here’s the book description:

Magic, mayhem and mystery.

Cloaked in magic and surrounded by darkness witches have captured our imagination for millennia and fascinate us more than ever today.

From the wise old crone, witches can be healers and protectors, keepers of the old ways or possessed with supernatural abilities, used for good or evil.

Enter the world of witches – whatever the guise – and enjoy these wicked and wonderful short tales sure to delight!

You can find out more about the anthology, or get yourself a copy, by heading over to Amazon.

Excavating the Archives: The Frozen City

I had never seen anything like it.  A city made of crystal, that shimmered in the light of the sun, moon and stars. So different and bizarre to my eyes was it, that I could have been on another planet.  Perhaps I was.  Or perhaps it was the same planet, but a different time; a different reality.  I could not say.  I was puzzled by many things, the chief of which was how I came to be here, a mystery I had yet to find the answer to.

To look at it from a distance – and I did, for I was so taken by its beauty – you would see a collection of upside down icicles.  Some ended in sharp points.  Others appeared as if they had been broken, their tops snapped off, leaving either strange jagged protrusions or else being weathered smooth by the passage of time.

It looked cold, a city of winter in the heart of a forest that stretched for thousands of miles in every direction.  But looks can be deceiving.  There was warmth there and much jollity to be found.  The people were quick to laugh and slow to anger.

It was a pleasant place to stay, but I wasn’t from there.  I wasn’t one of them and this wasn’t my home.  I was stuck here, unable to return, no different from being stranded on another planet…but I could imagine worse places…

This was originally posted in September 2017. You can find the original post here.

Visiting the Iron Age

First…a quick apology to anyone who saw a Silent Sunday post in their feed this morning.  I know it’s not a Sunday.  Let me explain…After my first attempt at using the new editor on Monday seemed to go ok, I thought I would try scheduling a post today for later this month…Everything appeared to be going well, until I hit the “schedule” button and a strange comment popped up which amounted to a “you can’t do this for some reason” (my interpretation) and so it was published instead.  Don’t really know what I did wrong, and don’t really have the time to look into, so I’m back to the classic editor.  Sigh.

Anyway, here’s today’s post…Enjoy!

Visiting the Iron Age…both in real life and in fiction

A few weeks ago we spent a few days away in north west Shropshire, and one of those – or at least, one afternoon – was spent exploring Old Oswestry Hillfort.  Dating back to the Iron Age, it is one of the best preserved hillforts in Britain…

I find the Iron Age to be one of the most interesting periods of history and so I loved every moment of walking around the site. I took loads of photos, and I thought it would be fun to share a few of them here.

My novel “Oathbreaker”, is set during the Iron Age (spot the seamless transition there 😉 ). Did you know you can read it for free on Wattpad?  It was first drafted in summer / autumn 2018, and at the time the chapters were only given numbers.  However, whilst I’d been giving the story a (very) light edit a few weeks ago, which was inspired by the trip to the hillfort, I added in chapter titles and chapter header images too.  The photos are all my own, and hopefully reflect one of the themes running through the story: the power and magic of nature, of which there was plenty of both at Old Oswestry.

Hillforts like the one at Old Oswestry would not have been an unfamiliar sight to Eleri and Celyn, the two main characters in Oathbreaker, though they probably would have found the size and scale of the multiple ramparts to be quite impressive.

You can read more about the history of Old Oswestry Hillfort, on this page on the English Heritage website.

The view in the photo above shows the main path up to the top of the hillfort, whilst the one below looks out across the not-very-flat plateau…

The site sprawls across the local area.  On the next, very steep hill over, was a lovely woodland which we also took the opportunity to walk around:

Although some people might argue there isn’t much to see today at a site like this, compared to a castle or even a stone circle, (not everyone finds lumps and bumps in the ground as exciting as me 😉 ), the atmosphere was imbued with history.  Looking out across the hills, it’s easy to appreciate why the site was chosen: the tribe living there would have had a commanding view of their territory, and should they needed to have defended it from attackers, those multiple steep ramparts would have given them a sense of safety and protection.  I can only imagine how fit and strong an invading force would’ve had to have been to run up that hill, carrying weapons and perhaps a shield, whilst the defenders rained down missiles from above, and still be in a condition to fight when they reached the top!

If you enjoy reading historical fantasy with a dash of romance, and inspired by the myth, magic and landscape of the Iron Age, please do check out Oathbreaker. Here’s the story summary:

‘Be my wife.’ The words were so quiet, Eleri wondered if she had really heard them. ‘Please, Eleri. Be my wife,’ he said again, louder and with even more intensity.

Eleri, priestess of the Green Lady, has waited for so long to marry her tribe’s champion, Celyn. Finally, the date is set for Midsummer’s Eve, when the tribes have gathered in the valley to celebrate the longest day at the stone circle perched up on the hill. But nothing is as it seems…

A glimpse of a bird circling over the stones foretells of doom…and maybe even death.

An oath is made. An oath is broken. And Eleri’s life changes forever…

“Oathbreaker” is a story inspired by ancient history, mythology, and the landscape. Set in the Iron Age, where there is no distinction between history and mythology, and where magic is as real as the ground beneath your feet, Oathbreaker charts the journey of Eleri, Priestess of the Green Lady and the unusual quest she finds herself forced to make…

If you enjoy historical fiction, myths and legends, fantasy, adventure and romance, you might enjoy this too…

You can find Oathbreaker here.

Excavating the Archives: Waiting for Wings

She stood at the very edge of the escarpment, at that point where her heels were still on the top of the hill but her toes were dangling off the edge, hovering in the air.

It was a long way down.  

She closed her eyes and stretched out her arms, imagining that they were covered in feathers, and with one leap could catch an updraft and fly off to…well, anywhere she wanted to go.  Just like in the story where the chieftain’s son had grown wings so he could fly to the sun and save his sister from the god who wanted to marry her.

With a desperate sigh, she took a few steps back.  One day she knew that dream would see her falling off the edge and tumbling into nothingness.

But it wasn’t today.  She hadn’t learned to fly yet.

You can find the original post here: Waiting for Wings – 18 May 2017