Microfiction 150 words: Running with fire

 

Fire-Carrier was old and slow. The people waited for her in the safe place, anxiety squirming like sickness in their bellies. If she dropped the fire-seed, how would they make more fire?

Squirrel knew. She struck flints clean and sharp, not like the fumblings of Fire-Carrier, made sparks quick and kept them alive. Squirrel knew more than any of the people. That was why Chief hated and feared her. She had hair the colour of squirrel fur, long legs that could run, like the new people, like her father. She knew Chief was afraid enough to kill her. She knew his thoughts before he knew them himself.

She had found her own safe place and would go there, before the night-fear drove Chief to smash her head with a stone. She had her own flints, shaped sharp, and a glitter-stone. She would survive. Until she found her father’s people.

Truth

 

The burden lifted long ago

the childish wondering how and why so much suffering

because faith belief God’s love etc.

Long ago (the piles of bodies

clambering for the last pocket of rank air

the faces smiling

as they dragged mothers and their children through horrors)

long ago (and tomorrow too

despite the candles and beatitudes

and the smug well, just believe and be saved)

long ago I opened eyes and saw the truth

incontrovertible, unassailable

unshakeable as mother-love.

Stars and meadows roll

and birds bring fledglings to flight

kits and cubs from blind to crafty world-wise

and we are what we are

ourselves alone

the hand that holds the knife the gun the whip the pen is sovereign.

No hiding in the celestial light

or praying for celestial rain to cleanse

this world is

this earth

this life

beating.

Bring your eyes from the clouds and that ever-receding pie

and count the dead and dying.

What matters is.

What is

is this bird

this child

this future.

#Three Line Tales: Second thoughts

For Sonya’s Three Line Tales writing prompt.

photo by Philippe Mignot via Unsplash

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Dawn on the quay; he’d seen it so many times before as he trudged, head bent to the cobbles, on his way to work, but this morning he seemed to see it for the first time.

They were already there, waiting up ahead for him, but he slowed his steps, watching the play of the first rays of light on the rippling water, making the damp stone glitter.

They were leaving, it was decided, so there was no going back, but suddenly he felt a catch in his throat, his vision blurred, and he wondered, if the others had been late, would he not have turned around and walked back home through the early morning splendour?

A better place

Strange image calls for strange story. This is D. Wallace Peach’s February speculative fiction prompt.

Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 22.22.55

 

How long she had stood in the falling cold, the baby couldn’t say, but her back wore a white blanket now, and her toes were covered in it. It was longer again before she realised she didn’t feel cold anymore, that her thoughts were unfreezing and she could remember. There had been so much sorrow, crying and death. Tears filled the baby’s eyes, but the image of the woman with fiery hair smiled at her, and the tears dried.

She remembered the fiery woman who had swept down from the hill where all the others were lying dead or dying, and how the woman screamed in anger and threw bolts of flame from her hands until the sadness became a forest of flames. The flames swirled and twisted and carried the baby in strong fiery arms and left her in this strange, quiet place where cold white fell from the sky.

She shook her head and found that her forehead was butted up against a tree, and in the tree was a tiny human house and on the roof of the tiny house was a family of mice, white as the falling cold. She pushed. The house lurched, and from inside came the shrill miniscule shrieks of humans. She pushed again and the tree cracked. The mice twittered and leapt to the ground. Instead of running away they watched, intrigued. The baby’s unfrozen thoughts grew clear as spring water, and suddenly she knew. The mouse family knew too. The fiery woman smiled inside the baby’s head from within the flames of her hair and the baby smiled back.

The baby nudged a third time and the tree trunk broke. The tiny house slipped and fell to the ground, splitting open like a coconut. The tiny people rushed out then back, in and out, in and out of the wreckage unable to resign themselves to leaving behind this or that piece of useless junk. Then one pointed. Their movements froze just for a second, before they screamed in unison and ran. The baby stretched out her trunk and trumpeted a baby war cry. The mice squeaked, the baby stomped on the matchwood human house, and the cold stopped falling. The fiery woman spoke inside the baby’s head.

No more. Never again.

No more, agreed the mice.

Never again, agreed the baby, and started off into the great forest where the white cold had never fallen, to look for others like herself.

NaNoWriMo update

Seventeen days into NaNoWriMo and I’m keeping up with a slight lead. I’ve written rather more than 30,000 words this month and had 19,000 words written before the beginning of November. I needed this challenge to keep me focused. The story is more or less mapped out since it’s historical fiction with just a bit of embroidering to make some connections that history doesn’t mention.

The challenge is not so much to know what to write, as why. I don’t suffer from writer’s block so much as writer’s doubt. Justifying so much time writing is difficult. Until I get a book past one of the committees that decides what gets published and what doesn’t, the doubt will persist that my time should really be spent doing something else.

Whether I could actually stop writing is another question. Meanwhile, back to the Norman Invasions. I have a wedding to prepare and the Battle of Waterford to fight.

#Three Line Tales: Space junk

This is for Sonya’s Three Line Tales photo prompt.

tltweek116

This was the kind of photo shoot the public loved, and Scott knew he owed it to them—they were paying billions for this program that allowed him to walk in space.

He pulled himself through the immensity, feeling the eyes of stars as well as millions of earthlings following his beetling movements, to where the foreign bodies were caught up in the heat shields.

The anxiety that had grown to blind terror abated, and in a fury of irritated relief, he cut away the damn bicycle panniers and let them drift away into space.

Microfiction #writephoto: Nightmare

On this election Sunday, I’m afraid there isn’t much chance of thinking about anything else. This is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt

shore

From the safety of the forest eaves they peered out into the morning, calm and misty blue after the night of storms. The strand stretched shiny-smooth to the distant breakers, their rise and fall the only movement in the stillness. Though they strained their ears, all they heard was the distant crash and hiss of the waves.

“Do you see a færing?” Una asked, shading her eyes to search among the dunes for a sign of a beached craft.

Fiachra shook his head. “Too late. We wouldn’t be safe on the ocean in any ship now. See that?” He pointed to the strange trench that curved sinuously across the strand to where it slid into the water to be engulfed by the flow of the tide. “Can’t you smell the stench of corruption?”

Una’s hand flew to her mouth and her eyes opened wide in horror. “I thought it was only a nightmare that we left behind with the informers and the outlaws.”

Fiachra gritted his teeth. “It is a nightmare, but it has followed us.”

“It can’t be!”

“It is though. What other loathsome creature would drag itself from the depths to crush the light of hope?”

“Marine,” Una whispered.

The Apocalypse starts here!!!

Big day today, for a couple of reasons, but the first one is, The Pathfinders promotion starts now! This minute!

 

TEG_JaneDougherty_AbominationOffer_Facebook_final

Not only is the first volume at the extraordinary giveaway price of 99p/c but the sequels are at a special promotional price too. Here’s the Abomination blurb to set the scene:

As the end of the world begins, Carla and Tully hurtle through a wormhole five years forward in time, only to find they haven’t missed the Apocalypse after all.

Carla and Tully are picnicking in the quad of their international high school in central Paris when the end of the world begins. They are sucked into a wormhole that spits them out five years later to find that the world is a freezing desolation but still hanging on, waiting for something even worse to finish it off. The something worse turns out to be the Burnt Man and his horsemen. Taken prisoner by the Flay Tribe to their lair in the ruins of a shopping mall, Tully is forced to become a warrior, while Carla joins the other girls as a kitchen slave and comfort woman.

Tully might like the idea of playing soldiers, but Carla knows what is waiting for the girls when the food runs out, and it isn’t pleasant. The supermarket holy man’s vision of the return of the Burnt Man and his demon friends drags Tully back to reality. When the four fiends are reunited, the Apocalypse will really begin. Carla and Tully don’t plan on being there when that happens.

But in this post-Abomination world where only the young and brutal have survived, where food and fuel are running out and the climate is plunging into another final ice age, there is nowhere to run—except down another wormhole, with no idea of what might be waiting for them at the other end.

 

And here’s a short excerpt to whet your appetite:

 

“On that pallet over there. A few big cans of beans left. Bring one.”

“Have you all forgotten how to speak, as well as how to wash?” Carla snapped.

“Mostly. Yes.”

Carla staggered over with the ten-kilo can of white navy beans to where Kat was opening a much smaller can of frankfurters. She opened the beans and together they tipped the contents into a stew pot of dubious cleanliness. The sausages followed.

“How many is this for?” Carla asked. She had seen at least a dozen men and boys and nearly twice as many women.

“All of us.”

“Then those sausages won’t go very far.”

“Just for the men.”

“I might have guessed,” Carla sighed. “I suppose we ought to be grateful to get a few beans.”

The girl heaved a world-weary sigh. “If they leave any.”

Carla was about to ask why they let themselves be pushed about by a bunch of macho brutes who thought they were living in the Middle Ages when she took a good look at the girl. Carla had taken her for a skinny kid, but a closer inspection revealed the bony shoulders, scrawny breasts and haggard look of a woman, but under-developed and emaciated. Like Tully, Carla was beginning to put together a picture of their new environment.

“There’s not much to eat, is there?”

Kat just looked around. The warehouse was three-quarters empty. “You see much?”

“Can’t you get food somewhere else? Find another supermarket, I mean.”

Kat sighed. “This is Flay territory. Other places like this are in some other tribe’s territory. Not enough warriors left to fight over food.”

“What about hunting?”

Kat forced a wry smile. “Hunt what? Rats? Crows? Drax?”

“Drax?”

“Big dogs.”

“Why not, if that’s all there is?”

“Rats and crows eat corpses, drink poisoned water. Drax eat rats and crows and corpses. They are all sick, rotten. If we eat them, we become like drax. Drax used to be dogs.”

This was the longest speech Carla had heard from Kat. It had been a real physical effort for her, as if she had to drag the words from her memory, as if they were so rarely used they had almost been forgotten. Carla asked one last question, though she dreaded the reply.

“So, what will happen when the food runs out?”

Kat’s expression was dull and hopeless and she did not reply. She didn’t need to.

Carla bit her lip, trying to hang onto the strange, obscene ideas that darted like cockroaches in and out of the shadowy places in her mind.

 

The promotion runs for a week, so make sure you get Abomination now, read it and order the sequels before the offer ends.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Aus

Amazon Ca

3 Books 02-1

Last publicity before the little white dot

On this last day of the year, as well as wishing you all the best for the next one, I’d like to thank everyone who has visited or followed this blog, and liked, commented on and encouraged the poetry and prose posts. Writing is a pleasure and I wouldn’t do anything else, but trying to convince others to invest their time and money in one’s writing is a loathsome exercise. Anything that makes a body feel more like a creep is hard to imagine.

Having said that, if we don’t advertise ourselves, we might have the self-righteous satisfaction of the pure and unsullied, but we won’t make it as an author. So, I’m going to squirm and wriggle and remind people that I have written quite a few books and if you like what you’ve read on this blog you might like the novels too.

Don’t waste your time this evening, go over to Wild Geese Books and see what’s on offer. There are even free stories to get you hooked.

 

Flying geese.

 

Fiction or fantasy?

I’ve written often, ad nauseam some will probably say, about young adult readers, who they are, and does it matter. For a change, I thought I’d dip into another questionable category that I have trouble with—fantasy. Fiction is opposed to fact. Logically, all made-up writing is fiction, stuff that didn’t happen and, in some cases, never could happen because the situations described are so ludicrous. Yet there exists a category known as fantasy in which things that didn’t happen and possibly never could happen are segregated from other unbelievable, unrealistic fictions.
So, what’s the difference between fiction and fantasy? The notion of acceptable and unacceptable reality has never existed in children’s literature. Not even in the days when there were just children and adults, and young adults hadn’t been invented. In children’s literature it has always been accepted that wardrobes might lead into magical worlds, you could have wrinkles in time, and visitors from parallel worlds are reasonably common. They are all just STORIES.
Probably most adults believe in the supernatural, and I include God and angels in this bracket. They believe in things they haven’t seen, that defy the laws of logic and physics. People gamble on lucky numbers, wear lucky charms, recite lucky incantations. We don’t believe in coincidence. Since forever, human beings have invented and woven, mysteries, legends, impossible stories around rocks, rivers, memorable people and events. That is how stories began.
Something has changed in our perception of reality. As far as literature is concerned, reality is not real unless it is so absolutely familiar as to be on the limit of boring. Literary fiction has to be so founded in what most of us have either experienced or can imagine experiencing in the ordinary run of events, as to be almost predictable. The ‘might have been’, the ‘could be’, the ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful if’ have no place in the new definition of literature. The pure, cold beauty of the language, the way phrases are constructed, replaces the wild flights of fancy of the old storytellers. Introversion and dreary interior monologues on interminable journeys to nowhere have replaced escapes from enemies with incredible superpowers, elopements and betrayals, curses, compromises, battles, wars and adventures in the shape of birds and animals. This ‘realistic’ school of fiction is the one that is equated with ‘literary’. Everything else is ‘genre’ and considerably lower down the food chain.
If you look at the Amazon classification of such flights of magical fantasy as The Earthsea Cycle, you will find that the words ‘literary fiction’ are far more in evidence than the word ‘fantasy’. Same for The Handmaid’s Tale. ‘Dystopian’ doesn’t even figure. They are classics, therefore they cannot be lumbered with the slightly pejorative epithet of ‘fantasy’. I don’t mind admitting that The Green Woman series and The Pathfinders are fantasy since most stories are pure fantasy. It would be nice, though, to think that this admission wasn’t tantamount to agreeing that I write second-rate literature.
What do you think? It ain’t what you write it’s the way that you write it?

This post wouldn’t be complete without a plug for my books, would it?
Why not try The Dark Citadel for starters. It’s only 99c/p and it might change your life 🙂

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

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