#writephoto: Black crow strikes

Cheating a bit here. This isn’t inspired by the WIP, it’s an excerpt. It’s the point I’ve reached in revision and this image, Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt, fits the story well.

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She wraps her brat tighter across her shoulders; the evening air is cool after a damp summer day. The river is a mass of moving shadows beneath the trees, but she knows the path. If Dónal has asked for a seeing, it is to know the answer to one question. Her belly convulses with fear, tightening her throat, breaking up her breath into short gasps.

There is no light from a fire now, but she knows the path up the valley side well enough. The silence is terrifying, unnatural. Not even an owl cries. She wants to call out but bites her tongue, afraid to draw attention to herself. Branches snag her clothes, tug at her hair. She trips and almost falls. The night is closing in—protecting or defying? She gasps as a tree root rises beneath her foot and she slips. Something skitters away into the bracken lower down. The rock looms, a darker mass against the sky, brushed by leafy boughs. She takes a deep breath and hurries the last few yards of the incline.

Slumped forward, his back against a tree trunk is a man, pale-haired, still. By his side a harp and the glowing embers of an almost dead fire.

“Énna,” she whispers. She hates herself, but before she moves to his side, she looks around, searching the shadows in fear that she is not alone. There is no sound, not even from her brother. She touches the handle of the knife at her belt and, reassured by its smooth familiarity, rushes over the rock, past the bullán stone and its dark pool and puts a hand on Énna’s shoulder. He whimpers. The sound is like the sadness of a child. “Énna,” she says, louder, trying to make him sit up.

There is little light, just the fire glow and the faint light of the stars, but she sees that the front of his léine is dark. She whimpers, echoing his distress. Slowly, he raises his head, leans it back against the tree trunk and Aoife sucks in her breath in horror.

Turning the page

Another excerpt to go with Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt.

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The night watch steps back and lets Aoife pass through the narrow door. Through the snow the figure of the messenger appears unreal, no more solid than cloud.

“You have a message for me from my brother?”

The blurred outline approaches, leading his horse.

“The message is from myself.”

The words, though muffled by the snow, fall on her ears like hail stones. A hand reaches and grabs her arm. She resists the temptation to call out. A single word and the night watch would sound the alarm.

“What is it this time, Art Ó Conor? What new promises?” She keeps her voice low but shakes his hand from her arm and takes a step backwards.

“No promises,” he says. “A reminder that you are mine, and I will have you. Come with me now and end this pretence of a marriage.”

He moves towards her, confidently. In his head he is already galloping away from the snow-shrouded caiseal. In his head he is back on his own lands, pulling her down from the horse, pulling her into his arms, clasping her hard, hard enough to leave bruises on her arms, making her understand how wrong she has been. In his head she is passive; her defiance is empty words not actions, and the sudden movement, the dull glint of steel in the dim light makes him start.

“No further, Art. I would not hurt you, but I will if you force me.”

He almost laughs, but the laughter sticks in his throat. It is rage that comes out on his tongue, that she should oppose him.

“I would whip you for this, Aoife Rua, but there is no time. Put that toy away and—”

Her arm jabs, slashes, and the blade rips through the thick wool of his inar.

“No further, I said.” Her voice is raised, high enough for the watch to hear. She sees the way Art’s eyes flick over her shoulder and his half-step backwards, grabbing at the horse’s reins. There is a clatter from the lios, raised voices, and Art is up on his horse’s back.

“Come with me.”

There is a pleading in his voice, but she hardens her heart. She knows him too well. What he cannot get by force he will try to get by cajolery. He bends over the horse’s withers, reaches out, his hand open, fingers ready to grip, sure of himself. She steps back and lets the night watch pass on either side, chasing a horseman already swallowed up by the swirling flakes. She wipes a hand across her face to brush them away and finds that her cheeks are wet with tears.

Abomination teaser

The world of the Abomination is a freezing, decaying jungle run by brutish young men with a completely unhinged leader. If you want a peep inside, here is a short excerpt from Abomination, a story within a story, of teenage boys behaving (very) badly. Just click on the image to read or download.

If you’re still on board when you’ve read it, the purchase links for the whole story are below.


Pete's Story

Buy Abomination here at the amazingly low price of 99c/p

Amazon US

Amazon UK


Combining a bit of promotion with the Daily Post prompt: Burn. An excerpt from Abomination.


“Abdelkader, leader of the Kusha, you will bring your men here. I have something to say to you.”

Abdelkader backed up, fighting against an obvious desire to run, and the Burnt Man addressed the main hall that was now filled with hundreds of unseen watchers.

“The rest of you, come out! Or I will have to flush you out like the cockroaches you are!”

Kat watched, her flesh creeping with a premonition of yet more horror as the group of hunched, disjointed-looking people—the Burnt Man’s followers—shambled through the hall, spreading out like the mold on a piece of fruit.

“Do you doubt that I can?” The voice filled the cavernous ruin. Like a viscous liquid, it seeped into every corner, into every head, seeming to come from everywhere and nowhere. An unnatural silence fell on the mall. Even the distant shouting of Abdelkader had died away. The Burnt Man cast his gaze about, once again raising it to the first level where Kat and her friends camped. Julie grabbed Philippe’s arm, and Kat thought how similar they looked, both worn thin and nervy, always on the brink of hysteria, scared-looking, like their children. With a shiver, she admitted to herself that their kind hadn’t a hope of making it.

The Burnt Man looked away, fixing his one-eyed gaze on a barricaded walkway on the ground level, and threw out his hand. Like a rocket, the ball of flame burst through a pile of rails and tumbled partition walls, blasting the lightweight debris into a hail of sharp, flaming shards. There was an animal shriek of agony, and an arm flew into the air with the shredded plasterboard and fragments of plate glass. The rest of the body staggered into the open, and fell, a carbonized non-person, to the horror of the watchers. Behind it, a canine torch, one of the security guard’s dogs, made a feeble attempt to outrun the flames that engulfed it, then staggered into a crackling heap.

“Did you hear that, cockroaches?”

Kat was mesmerized like the others. Philippe clutched his wife until his fingers left a white mark on her bony shoulder. Jérémy chewed his knuckles, casting the odd glance over his shoulder to where Mattieu, his little brother, was playing with a group of other children. Silently and earnestly, they were building a crazy-looking house out of plastic cups and polystyrene packaging. Kat was so absorbed that she jumped at the light touch of a hand on her arm. Jeff tugged at her sleeve, trying to pull her away, back into the relative safety of the store. His face, already drawn and pinched, was a mask of terror. Only the eyes, huge and pleading and full of something only he could see, were still the eyes of a six year old child. His brow was furrowed as if he was in pain. His voice was thin as if even the effort of speaking was too much for him.

“Hide me, Kat! Don’t let him find me, please.”

Like it? You can buy the book here



Promote Yourself: Lesleigh Nahay

My guest this weekend is author Lesleigh Nahay who would like to present her novel, Red Moonglow on Snow, that Lesleigh describes as “a fiction fantasy novel about the unyielding strength of a woman who thinks she’s broken.”

Here’s the synopsis

Lira is the daughter of Elaar, who is the daughter of dragons. Today, Lira’s long-ago love has brought her back to her parents’ birthplace and dropped her at the feet of Soldiers, knowing they’ll kill her for being her mother’s daughter. It is punishment for letting Others steal theirs. Isolated, alone, and shattered, she does not accept the arrangement. The unforeseen rescue isn’t appreciated, either. And He has a lot to answer for.

Red Moonglow on Snow is the beginning of my saga about mothers and daughters, righting wrongs, and granting yourself the right to be healed after everything went wrong. Weaving through its core, though, is a love story that defies everything, even the lies Lira holds onto regarding the night the moon turned red and made the snow under His and her bodies glow.

Soothe the man-hating unicorn and read the rest (he hates that part of the story). Red Moonglow on Snow is available as an ebook on Smashwords, iBooks, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble. It is also available as a paperback on Amazon.



Back-slam-forth, a jagged rocking that pauses when back passes through nothingness and slams into solid. Back-slam-forth. This physical pain I can cause myself soothes the deadness, numbs, for a brief respite, the burning in my shoulder, the horror in my soul.

“Did you feel that, Lira? Do you remember feeling that with Him? He crawled into your skin and produced your daughter. Remember that feeling, Lira. Draw upon it.

“I knew where you were going that night. I knew who you would find. I wished I could have given you the Preparation I’d been given. I didn’t want you to be afraid. But He was supposed to take you Home that night.

“You have four brothers, Lira. You almost had a sister.” I stop rocking. She keeps talking. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what to do with this body I even now feel so trapped in. It’s wrong. It’s all wrong. This isn’t who I am. It’s dangerous to be in this human, female body-

“Something kept driving me into willing arms and even at the last one I couldn’t understand how a human child grew and then came out of my body. The oldest two are twins. And then another boy, and another. Mihn was so furious with me through those years, but we were both still merely children. He wouldn’t speak to me for weeks each time I became obviously pregnant, nor for days after each one was born. But he always did as I asked and found someone from the fathers’ family to take the babies.

“And then-

“Mihn’s aunt was sick and I went to care for her. When it came time for me to leave, Mihn became nearly irate. I’d never seen him like that. I should have taken him up on his offer- I ran away instead, to prove him wrong, to ignore the other things he’d shouted at me. I knew I should’ve called for one of my siblings to carry me back home. I was due soon, but I was confused and I was angry. I was going to walk all the way to the mountains. But I ran into a unicorn who’d gotten lost in the woods, and when it charged I killed it. I turned and there was The Nightmare, the unicorn god. He just stared at me, sucking the life out of me and the baby. I ran until Mihn found me and carried me to Kholsari. And she was born, and she was dead.

“I’d never known grief until then. Regret. Fear. Cold. She was so small, so quiet, so still. I’d held the others after they were born, but I never felt like a mother. I never associated the act of making them, my growing body, or the pain of delivery to their irrevocable tie to me. They were human babies. Human babies who were going to go back to the human fathers who made them. I am not human. I could not be their mother.

“Holding her was different. She wasn’t warm, she didn’t move, didn’t search for me, didn’t make any sound. She’d come from my body. She’d moved inside me, shared every meal I ate. A human baby girl came from my body but she didn’t move. In that instant, I was aware of myself, that I was not born from nor would I ever become a dragon.

“Aril cleaned her and wrapped her in a blanket and tied it with this thin pink ribbon, but her lips were blue. She was so small, so beautiful. She had red hair like mine. I couldn’t accept that she was dead.

“The thought of cremating her in the dragons’ way horrified me. I begged and pleaded with Mihn not to let it happen. So he took she and I into his arms and carried us away. He buried her beneath a large old tree near his old village. He use to climb that tree as a child with his brothers. He assured me she’d be a star in the sky, surrounded and watched after by his family.

“She comes to me in dreams. She looks like me. I still talk to her. She sees you, watches you, knows you as her sister. I think of the boys a lot. Being here makes everything final. Knowing I’ll never see them has lodged into me with a menacing finality. If able to do things differently, would I have?

“I dream about the boys, too. I see them grown. I see them with families of their own. I wonder if they were ever told about me, that they came from my blood, that for a time we shared the same body. Would they know me if they ever saw me? Would they care about the woman who handed them away without any regret or any feeling? I hope the Soldiers never found them. I hope the Soldiers never found them. I hope the Soldiers never found them. I hope……”

I blink. Breathe.

“They were all born in my parents’ cave. Except for the girl. She was born in my room at Kholsari. That’s where Mihn brought the fathers’ representative, in the little ante-room with the crib set up in the middle. Mihn always stood stiffly in the shadows. So angry. So upset with me. I never asked why the fathers didn’t come themselves.

“Mihn, my Mihn, was there for her birth. He held me, cradled me against him. It was much later that I remembered how safe I had felt, how he’d molded himself around me. I never felt that before- so much comfort from a human body. I never acknowledged what I felt around him, and then when I did……

“It would have been like that with you, Lira. He’d have been with us through every moment. His would have been the first hands to touch you, to take hold of you and begin you in a life outside me. His would have been the first face you saw, the second heart you’d have heard beat, and his would have been the first kiss you received.”

Mihn smiles sadly from the corner, streaks of tears lining his cheeks. His was the first face I saw, the first kiss I received. Though he was killed before I was born, his was still the second heart I heard beat.

“I wish I could’ve given that to him……”

Then my father is kneeling before me, eyes intense, inches from mine. The vibrant feel of his hands on my knees stops my shivering, my rocking. The only other time I physically felt him was when he was trying to stop the bleeding. Mom is still talking— low and soft— but my eyes are held locked with my father’s as he signs to me:

Live. Fight. Don’t give in. Talyn is not dead, is not lost for good. Daughter, my other love, do you hear me? Come out of this. Come out of this. He was deaf when he was alive, and while death has given him the ability to walk through walls and vanish into the air, he regards speaking as useless.

I stare into his silvery eyes, swirling like a tornado, not blinking, not breathing, the trembling in my lip the only movement to betray me. I am lost. Do not find me. I can’t be saved without her. I don’t want to be.

He grabs hold of my face in his hands and holds me in the present for what feels like too long, and too short. He releases me to sign again: How can you be lost? I’m looking right at you.

I’m lost. I’m lost.

“I never told you that prophecy. I didn’t want you to think that your life was predetermined, because it’s not, no matter what words are spoken or however they seem to be true. Hearing it now, I want you to see that nothing has ended. Life has more to give you. Has good it owes you.”

My eyes shift back to the window, searching, waiting, and I feel the blow when my back slams once again into the wall, and I hear the wall splinter and crack.


Visit Lesleigh’s blog at Of Words and Writing!

You can also visit her publisher website, which offers more-detailed information about Red Moonglow on Snow (book trailer, blog, insights, and social media links).


And you can purchase Red Moonglow on snow here

Amazon.com: Red Moonglow on Snow (Ravery’s Daughters Book 1) eBook: L. Nahay: Kindle Store


Promote Yourself: Ch’kara Silverwolf

This is all I have to offer you today from my enigmatic guest.

This is the story of Montayna, a young woman born of both light and dark magik who never knew her parents. She earns her freedom with a bit of magik even she was hardly aware of, but her skill is growing and she needs to find answers. Who is she? Where did her powers come from?  To find those answers she sets out on a journey of discovery, both inward and outward, of dark mysteries as well as light. Will she master them, or they her?

Inexperienced and facing incredible dangers in the course of her quest to defeat the darkness that is spreading inexorably across her world, her journey takes her through a landscape of wizards, elves, faeries and wolves, as she throws herself headlong into the fray to challenge the malevolent designs of a powerful Dark Lord.

It is a journey that will eventually change Montayna as well as the world around her.

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Montayna was terrified; every word the woman spoke, dripped with evil. The fear she felt enveloped her. In that moment, she felt Sheerak. You can survive this. I cannot help you, and I will not be able to communicate with you after this, but you will survive. Find that strength within. I will be waiting.


As suddenly as she had appeared, she was gone. The woman had clearly known she had communicated with someone. This sent her into a rage.


“No magik is to be used here. You will do as I say and learn.”


“How can you say no magik may be used? You are dripping with evil magik.”


The woman laughed a hideous ugly sound. “It is you, who may not use magik if you want to pass this challenge. This will be oh so easy for me. You will never survive. It is almost beneath contempt that they have sent me such a pathetic girl.”


Montayna felt hatred being thrown at her. It was like a physical thing, and then she was pushed to the floor of the cavern. She was held by an invisible force, and could not move for a very long time. She fell in and out of sleep, and when she could finally move, her muscles were cramped, and she was dirty and hungry. Slowly she began to move her stiff and aching joints. She had no idea whether it was day or night, or even how long she had been there. Her eyes had now adjusted to the darkness. She looked around and saw a bucket on one wall. Standing up, she stretched, then looked inside the bucket. There was water, though it looked dirty, but she was so thirsty. If she was to survive this, she needed to keep up her strength. She could not understand why the Nunnehi had put her here. From what Gilcune had said of them, they were honourable. Why would they have agreed to this? She finally drank some of the water, and it was indeed filthy. She could taste the grit, but at least it quenched her thirst. She was determined she would survive, no matter what.

Inspecting the cavern, she followed the walls, feeling carefully with her hands. There didn’t seem to be any opening. How was she to get out? She sat down and thought of all that had happened. There was obviously a reason, but she could make no sense of why she was being challenged in this way. If the dark side was trying to entice her, then this surely was not the way. Sighing, she stood up, and began to feel her way around the cave once more. Her fingers felt a groove in the rock. She could feel a breeze and knew this was an outer wall. This must be an opening. The challenge was how to get it open. Feeling around with her foot, she stubbed her toe on a rock. Without moving too far away, she picked up the rock and began working at the groove. It was a slow process. She was tired, hungry, and thirsty, but was determined not to stop. Finally, a great chunk of rock fell and she felt fresh air on her face. A tear trickled down her face, but she brushed it aside and continued until she had made a hole big enough for her to crawl through.


Once through to the next chamber, she discovered it to be much the same as the one she left. With the exception that it had an entrance. She could hear the sound of running water, and headed in that direction. She came upon a rock face with water running down into a pool. She drank her fill, and then washed her face. She tried to see where the water came from, but could not. It was just there. Being faint from hunger, she thought this was why she could not think clearly. She walked to the entrance, taking care to check there were no traps before she stepped through.


She stepped into a passage that as far as she could tell went a very long way. Of course, this was intuition rather than anything else. There was nothing else for her to do but go forward. She had travelled some distance, when she saw a faint light. It was not directly ahead, more off to the right. She increased her pace and arrived at another cavern. This one was clearly lit, with a table and chair to one side. There was warm bread and cheese, and a jug of cool water. Without stopping to think about it, she sat and ate and drank. Later, she realized that may have been a mistake. What if the food was poisoned? It was too late to worry now. What was to be her next step? As she had this thought a parchment appeared on the table. She picked it up and read:


Chosen One

You have managed to come this far unscathed.

Your question now is.

Do you choose the passage on the right or the left?

One will take you to the next level, the other will not.

You must choose now.


She got up and stretched her aching muscles. The cavern had darkened except for an entrance opposite to where she had come in. She stood in the doorway trying to decide. She realized how much she had come to rely on her magikal ability. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and turned left.


The passage was dimly lit and though she travelled for some time, nothing happened. She was just beginning to think she had chosen wrongly, when she felt that same evil malevolence she had in the first cavern.


“Well girl, you have made it this far. Either you had help, or it was dumb luck. Either way, you should have taken the other path. Now you have to fight me, and I am more powerful. So prepare to die, Chosen One.” This last she almost spat at Montayna. The hatred coming from the woman was like a suffocating cloak.

Montayna could still not see her properly. Her face was hidden by magik. They fought with fists like street brawlers. The woman threw Montayna to the ground and got her hands around Montayna’s throat. The advantage Montayna had was from learning to fight as a child. She relaxed her body for just a moment, which took the woman off guard. This gave Montayna a split second to throw her off. As lithe as a cat, Montayna was up, swung around behind her, got her in a headlock and twisted. She heard the breaking of bone and the woman went limp. She let go and slumped down gasping for breath. She realized she had killed the woman, and though she knew it was kill or be killed, she felt sick to her stomach.


She saw the way ahead become lighter. She stood up, walked towards it, and entered another cavern. There was a table with a jug of water, another parchment, and a beautiful sword. She drank some water, then unrolled the parchment.


You have done well Chosen One.

The path you chose was harsh, but you are now that much stronger and perhaps a little wiser.

Accept these gifts as your right.


She looked puzzled as she read this, for there was only one gift. The sword. It was beautiful. Made from what looked like silver, carved with Elvish writing. The handle, made from a dark wood, was carved in the shape of a dragon, with a large dark blue sapphire embedded in its throat.


She picked it up and it fit perfectly in her hand. It began to hum, just as her dagger had when she received it. The cavern filled with brilliant light, so bright she had to shield her eyes. She felt herself being lifted into the air and gently began to spin. She could hear hundreds of voices raised up in song, it was almost deafening. As the sound began to fade, she became aware of her surroundings. She had stopped spinning and floated to the floor. She was now in a room. There were beautiful tapestries hanging on the walls. The floor had a soft covering, and she realized there were no windows. She must be still underground.


The door opened and ShaYung entered. She came and knelt before Montayna, placing her fist across her heart as she spoke. “We honour you, Chosen One. We are yours to command, if and when you have need of us.”


Montayna could not decide whether or not it was fatigue, but everything sounded and felt different. Her senses were heightened. It was as though she knew what ShaYung felt.


“I have prepared a room for you my lady. A bath and clean clothes, then you must sleep before your return to ‘above world’.”


“How long have I been gone?”


“Twenty five days my lady. They can wait one more day until you are rested.”


Montayna soaked her aching body in the wonderful steaming water. She tried to come to terms with the fact that it had been so long. How had she survived that long without food? ShaYung had sent some food to her room. She ate a little, then climbed into the bed, and just as she was drifting off to sleep, she heard the familiar purr of Sheerak.


‘Welcome back little one, all is well. Sleep now.’  


If you want to know more about Ch’kara Silverwolf, you can check out these links below.


Website: www.chkarasilverwolf.com

Blog: www.sheerak.wordpress.com


Twitter: www.twitter.com/ladychkara

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Daughter-Light-Dark-Prophecy-Nitesh-ebook/dp/B008DCOR2O/

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Daughter-Light-Dark-Prophecy-Nitesh-ebook/dp/B008DCOR2O/

Promote Yourself: Barbara Alfaro

Today’s guest, Barbara Alfaro is a poet. I’m always pleased to be able to give poets a bit of a plug as poetry is probably about the most difficult of all literary forms to sell. Here is Barbara’s short introduction.

Barbara Alfaro is a graduate of Goddard College and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She is the recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award for her play Dos Madres. Her poems and essays have appeared in various literary journals. The paperback edition of her poems called Singing Magic and the Kindle edition of her poetry called First Kiss are available on Amazon. Mirror Talk, her memoir about a Catholic girlhood and working in theatre won the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award for Best Memoir and is also available on Amazon. Barbara and her husband Victor live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

First Kiss JPG latest one

The following are two poems from the First Kiss anthology.


Teddy O’Connor, I dreamed of you last night.
You were the age you would be now
and still handsome in your quiet way.

Remember us, in our Easter Sunday best,
beside my father’s mint green Chevrolet,
holding torch-shaped ice cream cones.
Ten years later, I’m wearing a prom dress.
You are Cary Grant in a rented tux.
You broke my heart that night,
being too attentive to another.

Somewhere between the Carvels
and senior prom, probably
when we were twelve, we paused
in a Long Island woods and
sat beside each other on a fallen tree.
You surprised me with a kiss
and I fell silent as a log.

In the dream, you said you live in Delaware.
I wonder how you are now.
The fool part of me is tempted to see
how many Theodore O’Connors
live in Wilmington but if I found you,
what could I say?

Teddy O’Connor, I dreamed of you last night.


“Home before dark,” our mother’s voice
trails after my brother and me like a kite tail
as we scamper to stickball. Sundown
happens too soon so we run to the blue
house as if our lives depend on time.
After supper, in the hallway, I hear
“She’s got to stop following me around”
and imagine his pals poking fun at
a skinny kid sister tagging along.

Today, I can’t help it; I’m happy.
God knows why.
I’m holding on to heaven.
If I let go, what’s there? Nothing
but memory and pain.
I confess I’ve been unfaithful
to my dreams and my stories,
leaving them alone and unwritten
in the distant shimmering house,
the house they burst forward from,
rushing and true. I have to keep writing.
That’s how it is, before dark…

If Barbara’s poetry touches you, you can find First Kiss on Amazon here



and you can visit her website at : http://www.BarbaraAlfaro.net

Thank you Barbara for letting me post your poetry. It’s always a pleasure to showcase a good piece of writing.