#Three Line Tales: First timer

For Sonya’s Three Line Talesprompt. A topical one this week.

photo by Josh Hild via Unsplash


He had been walking all night, set off from his village at sunset and hit the outskirts of the city just after midnight.

The rain had been falling steadily for hours as he walked like a zombie along silent streets where only foxes were about, going through the bins, and by daybreak, he was dropping with weariness.

He found the signpost, slumped in a tired heap outside the door—just had to wait now for the polling station to open.


A 144 word story for the dverse prompt.


A cow is screaming across the arroyo.

I read the paper again, wondering, before I toss it into the fire, what in the name of all that’s holy that’s supposed to mean. These code messages are getting weirder and weirder. Last week when the Villefranche road had needed disrupting it had been some garbage about wounded guinea fowl in the rhubarb patch.

I sling the duffel bag over my shoulder and leave the house. The lads will be waiting by the bridge, Jackie, Manu and the others. I’m the explosives boy, stick it where the bastards won’t notice it then scarper, doing my bit.

The bridge looms ahead through the darkness. Nothing moves. They should be at the rendez-vous. I listen, first to the silence, then a mournful bellow puts the heart across me. A cowshed door creaks open, someone swears. Fecking cow!

#Three line tales: Shoot

For Sonya’s Three Line Tales photo prompt.

photo by Egor Vikhrev via Unsplash


She had always dreamed of fame, being featured in magazines, seeing her face on the front covers, and wherever she went she behaved as though she was surrounded by press photographers.

She never just bought a sandwich or waited for a train, she posed, hoping that someone would notice, which is what she was dreaming of—a photo shoot for Rankin—while she stretched out her long legs over the platform edge.

She did make the front page in the end, but not in the way she intended, when the High Barnet train shot out of the tunnel and swept her away.

#writephoto: Cyningsmere

An extract from the first draft of a WIP. For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto. Sue obviously knows this world well.

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It was evening when the little river narrowed as it approached its source, its course rapid, leaping exuberantly between rocks, singing to itself between the climbing valley sides. They were climbing too, hills cloaked in the slender trunks of birch and rowan. Halli hurried. It was as though she sensed the sunset and was afraid she might miss it. Trees ran along the ridge of the valley, but the forest had thinned and the trees were low and twisted.

When they reached the top, the sky was revealed and even Jon drew in his breath with admiration. Deep pink light covered the sky in a glowing veil. There were no clouds, but he knew there would never be any stars that the eye could see. Halli gave a tiny cry of wonder and turned about on herself, head flung back, taking in the great circle of the horizon. Jon pointed to a mirror-like expanse between the hills, as pink as the sky and as bright.


The slopes around the lake were bare of trees and to the south and west, Jon could just about make out the irregular hillocks of hayricks and the pale stripes of harvested land. Here and there, the stripes were dark—peas, beans and vetch, he guessed, still to be picked. Halli was right, it was a sizeable settlement and perhaps they would need labourers. Halli sighed.

“How can the folk here be so mawkish when there’s skies like this to look on?”

“They probably think it’s full of those ghost birds and whales waiting to drop on them and rip their livers out.” He grinned but Halli frowned.

“They’re mebbe right. Have you ever been to the Tidelands then, Jónsi Edvardsson? You’d know what the tide brings in?”

Jon was on the point of spluttering with indignant laughter, but Jónsi stopped him. “You’re right, I haven’t seen the Tidelands, but I have seen the Mistlands, and I know that the race of giant warriors is just a bunch of terrified kids.”

Halli was silent. Jon felt her fear that instead of the Heartlands, all that lay beyond the Tidelands might be just another despotic regime with its own brand of illusions created to keep a boundary of mirrors in place. Hrolf chimed in with his dog wisdom.

All mens fearing be. All mens clouds in eyes having.

Jon reached for Halli’s hand. “The problem’s the darkness, all these mists. I don’t know how you can get rid of them, but these bogey men they’re supposed to be full of, they’re just a bit too convenient. It’s where the fear grows.”

Halli thought about it. “Aye, happen you’re right. It’s easy to frighten folk with terrors they can’t see. There’s enough real ones it doesn’t take much to imagine summat worse. Harder to believe in summat better that nobody’s ever seen. Do you think it’s there, Jónsi?”

“The Heartlands? I don’t know. The people are as shifty as the light here. Some of them must have a lot to hide. Maybe there is something they don’t want us to know about. Something better.”

Halli gazed across the evening to the pink glow that was Cyningsmere. “Let’s go then. Your father’s down there in the cyning’s great house. That’s where your path leads.”

“What about you?”

She didn’t turn, didn’t let him see her face. “I’ll keep on until I find where I’m going.”

Jon had let the question out that he had been keeping to himself. It had become a burden and he wanted to share it. Halli always knew the answers. He couldn’t believe she wouldn’t know how he was to take his father home, find his own way home and not leave her. His journey was a circle, he knew that, but Halli, he had somehow thought would be sharing it.

“I don’t want you to…I want to go with you.” It sounded lame and pathetic and he knew what she would say.

“Who ever gets what he wants?”

Seasonal thoughts


Advent is the season of the coming, and for many of us what is coming is a massive spend fest culminating in a bout of binge eating and drinking and an almighty hang over and indigestion. The festive season also means a spike in the number of drunk driving offences and domestic dramas, when tolerance levels will be pushed to the limit and beyond, when we will drown in a sea of plastic and polystyrene packaging and unwanted gifts that will either flood the ebay-style sites in the new year or end up as landfill. As the build-up begins, it might be salutary to remind ourselves what this festival is all about—light’s victory over darkness.

We all complain about the lack of daylight. Some of us elevate it to a medical condition that needs treatment. Caribbean cruises are beneficial I’m told. The nights are long and cold and the days are short and cold, full of cloud, threatening snow when it’s not actually raining. We all feel the need for a burst of brilliance and for someone to tell us it isn’t always going to be like this—eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow… well, maybe just eat, drink and be merry.

The fear of the dark is year-round, not just in the winter. The countryside is littered with the houses of people who claim to want the peace and quiet but are terrified of the dark and light up house and grounds like concentration camps. The light pollution is appalling, disturbs the biorhythms of wild birds and animals so they can’t rest after a day of being hounded by men of one idea with guns. The ‘dark, sacred night’ is a thing of the past.

Some choose to create their winter burst of brilliance with the land of the midnight sun effects of artificial illuminations, streets festooned with blinking light, shop fronts bleeping and gushing all night, public buildings draped in the colours of the northern lights. The final push will remain either as a memory of expensive fun or as a blur of over-indulgence, family rows and sulks and an almighty mess to clear up.

For others, a birth will be their symbol of regeneration, hush and candlelight, carols and being pleasant to complete strangers. As a symbol it’s very new, a mere 2000 years old. The sun has been fulfilling its promise of regeneration for I don’t know how many billions of years. Either way, it’s all about chasing away the dark and creating a light that will tide us over until the spring.

You don’t have to subscribe to either trend, neither God nor Mammon. The great and very witty Clive James described religion as “an advertising agency for a product that does not exist.” Perhaps, one day, we will be able to get our burst of winter brilliance without either the advertising or religious stunts, and be content with that lifting of the spirits when the sun begins its ascent, promising spring and renewal—a promise that so far, has always been kept.

End of the beginning

On a tangent from the WIP for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto challenge. I know, the stars aren’t out yet, I’m anticipating.

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The hills were white with a dusting of snow and the air was crisp and clear. Overhead, the sky was full of stars.

“You’d never see a sight like that in London,” Jon said.

Holly didn’t need to look up; she had the shape of the stars printed on the back of her eyes.

“Why d’you think I came back?”

The muscles of Jon’s jaw twitched as he mastered the deep feeling of hurt. “I thought maybe, it might have been, you know, like because…”

Holly smiled and the tip of her nose turned up, inviting him to kiss it. “Because o’ you? Is that what you’re trying to spit out?”

He forced himself to look at her, into the eyes he knew would be full of gentle mockery. She had never been taken in by his self-importance, always cut him down to size. He wished…he wished…

Holly took his face in her hands and drew him close, so close he could feel the hot whisper of her breath. “O’ course it was, you daft mullock.”

Then she kissed him, and apart from the two of them, in all the universe, there were only stars.

WIP finished!!!

And another one hits the ‘finished’ pile. I wrote the last line of my YA coming-of-age fantasy yesterday morning and read it through again to see what it sounded like. There were 60k words on the clock on November 1 so I set myself the NaNoWriMo task of finishing it. I reckoned another 25k should do it. It’s at 84K so I wasn’t far out. Perhaps the second draft will add some more; it usually does.

I feel drained now and pleased I got that first scene to run and run until I got a book out of it. If anyone clued up about Anglo-Saxon England and Yorkshire folk would like to give it a once over for clangers, just let me know.

Back to Victorian Gothic horror now…