Chasing Beauty In Italy – print / e-book

For anyone who loves Italy and Rome in particular, this book would make a wonderful gift.


via Chasing Beauty In Italy – print / e-book


#writephoto: Parricide

There is something funny going on with Sue Vincent’s photo prompts. I’m finding that each week, the photo illustrates a scene I’m in the process of writing. Maybe we’ll get kangaroos next week to prove me wrong.


Diarmait has ridden hard. By the time he is within sight of the walls of An Fearna, he knows his favourite horse is broken. He feels not even the slightest hint of regret. He is going to see Con again, the son they told him had been beheaded at Kincora by Aedh Mac Ruaidrí. He had looked out for Aedh during the fighting before the siege of Waterford but the devil’s melt was killed in a skirmish before he could get his hands around his throat. The message that Dónal sent would have made another, cooler-headed man pause. It seemed that there had been a mistake, a hoax. Three hostages only had been killed and their bodies burned. Ruaidrí had not had the nerve to kill them all; it was only Aedh’s bragging that he himself had taken the head of Conchobar Mac Diarmait that had started the rumour of their deaths.

Diarmait doesn’t ask himself why Ruaidrí didn’t deny the rumour. Perhaps he didn’t know the truth of it—not if Aedh was killed before he was able to explain himself. Nor does he ask himself why the hostages have been kept so long without any word from them and how Con got away. He doesn’t ask himself, because he wants to believe in his weasly son Dónal who never spoke a true word when a lie would serve him better.

His horse is foundering but he beats it on, across the ford of the Sláine and over the low rolling hills to the fort. The church tower is in sight, then the palisade. The gates of the caisleán are open, and just before the woods of the valley side hide it from view again, he sees a horseman ride out, dark-haired, bright green brat—Dónal. A watchman must have seen Diarmait on the road and passed on the word.

Another man might have thought it natural that Dónal would be eager to tell him the news face to face. But his father knows Dónal had never liked Con. Why would he be so keen to share the news that his brother was come back to them? So close to home, so close to discovering that the past months had been a nightmare and the dawn was coming, Diarmait begins to doubt. All the inconsistencies in the message nag at his intelligence. The trees oppress him, obscuring the sight of home. If Con had been at An Fearna he would surely be riding out to meet his father. Perhaps he is hurt, sick. Diarmait grinds his teeth at the idea that Ruaidrí Ó Conor had illtreated his hostages, welcoming the distraction from his more unsettling thoughts.

Coming up the last rise, his horse falters. If they had been on the downward slope Diarmait would have been thrown. The animal’s legs crumple beneath him and Diarmait slides from his back. The drumming of hoofbeats comes to him through the trees. He leaves the foundered horse and runs towards the sound. A flash of green, of chestnut, and Dónal is before him, reining in his horse.

“God be with you, Father,” he says, looking about him.

“God and Mary be with you, Dónal. Where is Con? Does Ruaidrí still have him?”

“Did you come alone?”

“As you asked. I told no one I was leaving. How is he? Is he at An Fearna?”

Dónal drops from his horse’s back. “I have a message from him.” He reaches for his belt. “He’s waiting for you”—Diarmait steps forward eagerly, his eyes on Dónal’s belt, holding out his hand to take the letter. Dónal’s hand thrusts. There is a flash, the sunlight through the trees strikes steel, makes it glitter—“in the otherworld.”

Cold slices under his ribs, reaching up, spreading. Diarmait staggers backwards. The knife thrusts again, higher this time, hitting a rib.

“Dónal,” he gasps, scarcely understanding what is happening. The face, dark, but with some of his own traits, his father’s too, dark eyes and the mouth that twists into a grin. His son. “Dónal.” He remembers when he was born, his first son, and that he had been proud. The man, his son, grown strong and twisted, grabs his shoulder, holds him steady and draws back his arm again. This is the last. The knife slips between the ribs and finds the heart. He still doesn’t understand.



#Three Line Tales: Butterfly-bees

For Sonya’s Three Line Tales photo prompt.

photo by Boris Smokrovic via Unsplash



They said, how lovely, when the genetically modified butterfly-bees emerged from their chrysalids, the pollinators that were going to take over from the extinct bee populations.

Thousands of acres of beans and potatoes, peppers, cabbage, melons, lemons, oranges, beans, peaches and strawberries waited for the new insects to keep them from extinction too.

An unfortunate quirk of the smart pollinators—their probosces seemed much better adapted to piercing human skin than to searching flower stamens and pistils, their preferred flavour not sweet nectar but warm blood.


99 word flash: Sky light


For months it was dark, the only sounds were the screaming of the wind and roaring of the ocean that used to be distant. Then the sky cleared and filled with a strange luminosity. Silhouettes appeared, stark angles and dead stumps against the light, holding out broken limbs still dripping. Water? Mud? Slime?

“It’s completely silent,” you said.

“No birds,” I replied softly. The broken limbs were empty and I recognised their gesture—imploring.

“And so dark.”

The sky had taken back the light, spread out its colours, safe and high, leaving us all that we deserved—the darkness.


#writephoto: Striguil

Another extract from my WIP. Thanks, Sue for the illustration.



When the first cold winds bit bringing the sting of rain, Evienne is not at their trysting place, and he knows he would not see her again until the year turns again. He broods through the winter months when snow drapes the hills and the sedge in the lake shallows is crisp with frost. He scours the lakeside, taking his hounds to find a sign of her dwelling place. He finds nothing. No track, no house, not even a cot.

He has in mind to hunt water birds if Evienne refuses to show her face, but the dogs draw no game. He cannot find it in his heart to beat them, though he sees mallards, coots, grebes and herons aplenty. The hounds sniff the wind and whine but refuse to enter the water, and refuse to follow the animal tracks through the thinning undergrowth beneath the trees. His arrows all fly astray, caught in winds he never feels on his face, and are lost among the reeds. It is Evienne’s doing, he thinks, though how and why, he cannot conceive.

Richard tried to exchange one longing for another. His marriage to Alice of Lisieux is set for the spring solstice. The abbot argues for choosing Lady Day on the 25th of the month, a much more appropriate and auspicious day, or the feast of Saint Joseph on the 19th, but Richard sticks to his own idea though he has no real reason other than that it irritates the abbot. He waits, watching the wild sky, the hares boxing in the meadows at the forest’s edge, watching for the waterfowl to return, life to begin again. His longing, he knows deep down is for Evienne and the awakening of the wild things, the rising of sap, greening of the trees and the grass, not for an unknown girl from across the sea.

Writing exercise: Waiting

Issa Dioume posted this writing exercise that I have had a go at. I’m procrastinating. Fibonacci Spirals are easier than working out this bit of the plot.

It’s all about the number of words in the sentence. They follow a sequence of first paragraph: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 words.

Second paragraph: 34, 21, 13, 8, 5, 3, 2, 1, 1 words.

This is what I got.

“Hello! Hello? “Silence replies. “Is anyone there?” The darkness creeps closer, clammy. Someone should be here by now, or called. The platform is empty; no train has stopped here in hours, none will. Not now that the indicator board has been turned off, the turnstiles locked, like the car park and the ticket office.

I was to wait and someone would come, after dark they said, but not exactly when—they never do—to keep us on our toes, keep our senses alert, make sure we stay afraid. The air shivers with sound­, sharp, a twig breaking, a leaf falling, or perhaps just a stray cat on the prowl. I peer across the track; a shadow shifts. Someone rises from a bench. I swallow hard. Throat’s dry. Keep. Still.

Three Line Tales: World of water

For Sonya’s Three Line Tales. I do like this photo!

photo by Lalo via Unsplash



The ocean is in turmoil, heaving and crashing with a deafening roar, waves whipped by ferocious currents and tempestuous winds.

Nothing but water moves from horizon to horizon except the screaming gulls, hundreds and hundred of gulls, struggling against the gale.

Even the gulls will tire though, need to settle on land, and when their strength gives out and they fall, crumpled feathers and weary wings, into the waves, there will be nothing left at all.