Witch! Witch! Witch!

Photo by Adonyi Gu00e1bor on Pexels.com

A night of terror. Of voices in the dark, asking questions she cannot answer, demanding truth instead of lies in the face of accusation.

Dawn finds her tethered to a post. Bound and blindfolded, her heart races with fear, anger, frustrated by small minds and superstitions.

She isn’t dangerous, only different.

By the time they realise, it will be too late.

She smells smoke, hears crackling, knows the fire has taken hold. The heat intensifies.

It won’t be long now…


Written for: Weekend Writing Prompt #216 – Tether | Word count: 80 words

Excavating the Archives: Unearthing Secrets

I had never built a brick wall before so was unsure how far down the foundations needed to go. Was it as deep as the wall was to be tall? Or was I confusing that with a tree and its roots?

I paused, momentarily muddled, before resuming digging. Better to have more foundations than not enough.

When the trench was two foot deep, the spade struck something with a sickening sound. White bone gleamed from out of the soil. That’s when I realised I would have been happy with a fence.


This was originally posted on this site in January 2019. You can find it 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…

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

https://www.amazon.com/author/crispinakemponamazon

https://crispinakemp.com

Twitter: @crispinakemp1 and @ineebrown51

Excavating the Archives: The Storm

The letterbox clatters, a gong sounding in the early morning hush.  Now broken.

Rain falls, pulsating in waves, dancing along the street to its own mixed tempo rhythm.

Fences rattle and sway, daring the wind to try harder.

Tree limbs thrash and snap, an angry whip cracking, tapping and tickling windows, bending one way then another, under the influence of this swirling mass of Mother Nature’s energy.

The air carries a song; its timbre is quiet one moment, building to an apocalyptic crescendo the next.

Verses come and go, and in the silence between, we wait…


This was originally posted on this site in March 2016. 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.

Fight and Flight

 

Image credit; Simona Sergi @ Unsplash

Animosity and accusation hung in the air between them.

‘What will you do?’ he asked, staring at the envelope on the table. It had been hanging from the ceiling when she’d arrived home, she’d said. He hadn’t read the letter, but then he hadn’t needed to.  To know it was here, that it had arrived…to see the look on her face was enough. The jagged top edge where she had torn the paper, ripping at it in panic no doubt, captured his attention. He couldn’t look away. It was better than having to see her red-rimmed eyes again.  He was a coward and he knew it.

‘What can I do?’ she said quietly. Her voice was forlorn.

He could tell her eyes were filling with tears again but still he could not look at her.

‘Say something,’ she prompted.

‘What? What can I say?’

Anything,’ she spat at him.

Her pain and shock had turned to anger.  He couldn’t blame her for that, yet it still sent a jolt of revulsion through him.  He could just about tolerate her neediness, but there was something ugly about the creature she had turned into. And it was all because of that blasted letter.

He had caused this.  He knew that. But he wasn’t going to take all the blame.  He hadn’t made her do anything.

‘Grow up!’ he barked. ‘You think a few tears are going to fix this?’

This only served to bring on the next set of sobbing, which vexed him further.  He needed to think and he couldn’t do that if she was acting like a baby.

‘You knew what you were getting into from the beginning.  Don’t pretend you didn’t.’

‘But-‘

‘No.’  He cut her off.  ‘You did.  You’re just as responsible for this mess as I am.’

‘That’s not-‘

He snatched up the letter and shoved it into his pocket. ‘I need some air,’ he hissed before storming out.  What he actually meant was that he needed to get away from here.  From her.

The door slammed behind him.  He stood on the porch, closed his eyes and took in a few deep, slow breaths. One glance to the left and he saw the edge of the woods where he liked to walk.  A glance to the right and he saw his car.  He patted the pockets and found the keys.

Had she known he was planning on leaving when he stormed out? Had he?

But she knew him better than he knew himself.  And that was a dangerous thing, he admitted, as he crossed the driveway. Why did he have to let her get so close? He was vulnerable now. She had made him weak. And that made them both targets.

She was standing at the window now.  He could feel her eyes on him as he unlocked his car and got in. But he didn’t once look up, never gave her the slightest sign that he had seen her. That he cared.  Instead, he slammed his hands across the steering wheel a few times, his own frustration boiling over into anger at the way things had turned out.

Then, with no idea of where he was going, and no idea of what he was going to do next, he started the car and sped away, his tyres skidding across the road as he took the turns far sharper than he should of.

He was only a minute from the house when his phone started to ring. Her name flashed across the screen.

‘Can’t you give me five minutes of peace?!’ he roared at the phone without answering it. With one eye on the road and the other on his phone, he turned it off and then threw it behind him. He didn’t care where it landed as long as he didn’t have to see it.  He didn’t want to be reminded of the mistake he had made.

It was too late to fix things. She was on her own now.  They both were. But he doubted very much that would save them.


Written for: What Do You See? #65 hosted by Sadje at Keep It Alive – Thanks Sadje for the inspiration!

This is the first time I’ve joined in with this prompt, and as soon as I saw the photo, the story was suddenly there waiting for me to write.  I love it when that happens.  However, the rules do ask that the responses are family-friendly and there is a lot of anger in my characters and in this scene, so I’m not sure if I broke the rules here…apologies, if I did…

Excavating the Archives: Maintaining the Mask

A random photo…

I couldn’t keep the puzzlement from my face.  I had always tried to keep up with the mental trampolining of my best friend, but sometimes, like now, it was no good.  I was lost mid jump.

I could have just said, ‘What are you going on about?’ But that had never been our way.

It would have revealed that I was perhaps not as smart as I liked to think I was, or as clever as I liked to pretend. No, the ruse needed to be maintained. Let the mask slip and who knew what the consequences would be. It could change the nature of our friendship forever.

‘Elucidate,’ I prompted, sounding far calmer than I felt.  In for a penny and all that…


This was first shared on this site in July 2020.  You can find the original post here.

Excavating the Archives: Murder, You Say?

‘Murder, you say?  Are you sure?’

Hannah Jameson gave a sideways glance out of the corner of her eye at her partner. Dan Davids wasn’t known for being smart, but even he should have realised how obvious this was.  Instead of answering him, she decided to continue to process the scene.

I think it was suicide,’ Davids called out.

I think you’re an idiot.’

‘But-‘

‘There’s no but.  The body is hanging from the ceiling, his wrists bound, his ankles bound.  There is what…four feet between his toes and the floor, but nothing for him to climb up.  He didn’t float up there, did he?  No.  He was winched up there by someone else in this room.  May be even two somebodies given the size of him…’

Davids scratched his head, processing all Hannah had said.  He didn’t look convinced, but although he was a good guy, he was a lazy cop and just wanted to go home.  He had three weeks of holiday starting tomorrow and this murder was more than a little inconvenient for him.

‘Just go, Davids.  I can handle this.’

His eyebrows shot up.  ‘You sure?’

‘Yes.  Go.’  He was more a hindrance than a help, anyway.  When he left, the noise of the other on-scene teams floated through the open door, before being abruptly cut off as it closed.

‘Who are you?’ she whispered, looking at the dead man.  He looked so plain and unremarkable, just an average guy you would see walking down the street.  He didn’t stand out.  He didn’t scream for attention.  But he had got someone’s attention, clearly.  And that hadn’t ended so well.

The pathologist hadn’t arrived yet but Hannah knew he would be there soon and then the body would be beyond her reach.  She needed to find as many clues as she could in the room before she left, before anyone else started interfering in her case and telling her what was what.  They were not as easy to dismiss as Dan Davids.

She stepped closer but not close enough to contaminate any evidence.  After a few minutes of intense scrutiny.  She found it.  A small mark above the right heel.

A mark she had seen before.

This was no murder mystery, after all.  This was a sacrifice.


This was originally posted in September 2016. You can find the original post here.

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.

Checking in…a quick update

It’s been a while since I last shared an update. Here goes…

Blogging Break

a random photo…

For a little while I’ve been planning a bit of a blogging break.  Trying to keep up with blogging (on three websites), with writing and editing my WIPs (of which, I accept, I have far too many), submitting work to various places and searching out venues to send it, social media and wattpad, as well as everything life has to throw at us…well, it’s just too much, and in some instances I am failing completely (I’m looking at you Wattpad…).  Hence the need for a blogging break, to give this brain of mine a bit of a rest because it needs it.  It will also give me the time to think about which projects would benefit most from my energy.  A little bit of focus and clarity can go a long way…

This means things will be a little quiet around here for the next few weeks.  I will however, schedule the next few Weekend Writing Prompts…

The Winter Ghost

Last week I made this announcement on Wattpad / Facebook:

This is just a quick update to say that yesterday I put the finishing touches to the final edit of The Winter Ghost. Woohoo!
This little story has come a long way since I wrote the first draft as part of 2019’s ONC. The finished manuscript doesn’t look much like the version that’s posted here – it’s been restructured, extended, there are maps…With the help of some fabulous beta readers I’ve really tried to make this story the best it can be.
Since it can be hard to find a traditional publisher that accepts fantasy novellas, I’m probably going to publish it myself, and with that in mind, I’m going to unpublish the first draft posted here, but not before 13th September 2020. That should give anyone reading it the chance to finish it – or those who have yet to read it, the chance to read it from beginning to end, should they wish.

So if you want to read the original draft, you’ve only a couple of weeks to do so.  You can find the story here:

With this story now completely completed, as I mentioned in the announcement, the next logical step would be to release it out into the world.  This will be one of my main priorities for the next little while.  If I can find a traditional publisher who accepts fantasy novellas I will consider submitting it to them, but it’s highly unlikely, and so I will probably publish it myself.  There is going to be a lot of hard work in my future, but it will be exciting also, I’m sure.

Submissions

I’ve had a few pieces of work accepted recently. A couple of poems and some short fiction.  It always feels good to keep my list of publications ticking over, albeit slowly, even if it’s just for confirmation that someone somewhere thinks my work is ok and maybe…hopefully…enjoys it.  I’ll share more on these closer to the time they become available to read.

WIPs

As I’ve already said, I have more WIPs than I think any sane person should admit to…My goal at the moment is to make enough progress on some of these projects to at least give them a complete rough draft, just to see what’s looking promising and what needs a lot more work.  With others, I’m trying to be sensible and mark at least some of them as “On Hold”.  The problem I have is, as soon as I put a WIP on that list, I’m struck by a level of inspiration that I can’t ignore…Sigh…

Current projects I’m actively working on are:

  • an as yet, not ready to be revealed, historical romance
  • The Dreamer – An Andromache Jones Mystery novella
  • Oathbreaker and other books in the series / world
  • The follow-on to The Winter Ghost

I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe.  What projects are you working on at the moment?  What plans do you have for the near / distant future?