Writing Challenge 31st August 2020

The reason I’m posting this prompt because I like writing a little flash fiction. It’s something I treat as going to the gym for my writing muscles. If you want to join in, that’s brilliant, but there’s no pressure. If you want to leave a comment with a link, that’s great, but if you don’t feel ready to share yet, that’s also great. Or you could decide that you had a good session at the ‘gym’ and want to submit it somewhere, or use it as the basis for other work, which would be amazing. It’s up to you how you use this prompt. The only thing I would like to insist on is that you enjoy yourself.

Here is a picture and a quotation. The challenge is to write something that is sparked off by one or both of them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to either, just the story you hear when you see them. It’s limited to 500 words (or less, lots less if you need to, or a little more, and I don’t check), and you should try and finish it by next week. It can be prose, poetry, fact or fiction – just have fun.

green plants inside greenhouse during daytime
Image from Unsplash, taken by Corinne Kutz

Without a dream to light your way, the world is a very dark place

Marrion Zimmer Bradley

If you wish, leave a link in the comments and I will drop in, read and comment, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’ll also be sharing stuff on Facebook and wherever else I can think of. There are no prizes and no end goal, unless it is to have fun writing. I hope I get to see some awesome stuff sparked by this. Good luck!

Book Review: The Crow Journal by Finn Cullen

The Crow Journal by Finn Cullen is a wonderfully evocative, meticulously researched, intricately woven tale that slots in impeccable references to mid Victorian London and joins them seamlessly to a chilling tale of faerie, enchantment, adventure and treachery.

The story is told in a style that would have been familiar to Dickens or Conan Doyle. Here’s an excerpt to give some flavour:

The carriage ride was not a long one, and my companion was not inclined to conversation. I was thoughtful myself after my encounter in the court of Green Jack. I had not gained the answers I sought, but I had taken a first step into the realm of Faerie. More importantly I hadn’t lost my life in the taking of that step. There in the safety of the cab’s compartment it began to dawn on me how perilous that encounter had been. Thorn’s ruthlessness had been clear, the memory of those cold killer’s eyes would not soon leave me, and the sense of power that came when I recalled the vast landscape face of Green Jack himself was daunting.

Barnaby Silver, having finished the first part of his magical training with his kindly mentor, Doctor Moran, journeys from a remote village in Yorkshire to London. He is searching for news of his father, who he never knew. His mother, a magus or magician, had fled London when he was a baby. Now he needed to find out about his father.

His quest takes him through the darkest streets of mid Victorian London and the dangerous lands of faerie. Interlaced with the search for his father is the intrigue and scheming of the magi, the magicians that are now based in London after moving from Glastonbury.

The story has plenty of great action scenes and lots of plot twists, although only a hint of romance. As a story, it stands alone but there are a few strands left that suggest further great stories may come.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Window

brown brick wall with green plants
Image from Unsplash, taken by Random Sky

“It’s easier to show you,” Kate said.

“We wouldn’t have believed it if we hadn’t seen it,” Kes chipped in.

Kane looked nervously at the couple. “I’ve never dealt with a haunted window before,” he said. “They’ve always been haunted by someone.”

Kes shrugged his broad shoulders. “We didn’t know where to turn until you were recommended.”

Kane sighed. “Show me the problem, please.”

Kate led them into the small back room in the tiny terrace. “We sunk a lot of money into this. We always came in the evenings, though, and when we look back, the old owner always rushed us out of this room.”

“We thought of suing the surveyor,” Kes said. “But how do you explain this in court?”

Kate went over to the far wall where thick curtains hung and pulled them back. Kane stared as Kes switched on the light. The window was completely bricked up. Kate saw his confusion. “We thought we could have it knocked through, but, well…”

Kane watched in disbelief as Kate’s hand passed through the apparently solid brick and rapped smartly on what sounded like a glass pane. “I think I see.”

“It looks normal from the outside,” Kes said. “You can even see the furniture in the room and everything.”

Kate nodded. “We asked the previous owner.” She sighed. “He had inherited the house from his aunt. Apparently the old lady had seen her fiancé kissing another woman through this window, and so she had it bricked up.”

“She never married, or even dated, as far as the nephew knew,” Kes said. “It’s a very sad story.”

“I’ve never done a window before,” Kane said carefully. “I’ve only done people.” He thought for a moment. “And dogs.” He walked slowly up to the window and pressed his fingers against what looked like dark brick. They passed through and rested against cool glass. “Could you give me a moment?”

Kane waited until the door had shut quietly behind him and then looked carefully around. It took a moment, but he saw her, a bent old lady huddled in the corner. “Hello, Miss. I’m Kane. Are you okay?”

“I’m so ashamed,” the frail figure said. “I’ve never forgave myself.”

“I knew it wasn’t just a window,” Kane said. “There is always someone there.”

“I found out later that it was his sister,” the shade of the old lady said. “It had just been a peck on the cheek anyway, but I was so jealous.” The ghost of a withered hand wiped away a translucent tear. “And afterwards, well, I just couldn’t look him in the face. I had said such dreadful things.”

“I’m sure he knew that you didn’t mean them.” Kane said sympathetically.

The old lady’s ghost shook her head. “I couldn’t live with myself. I wouldn’t see him. I couldn’t even bare to read his letters.” She gestured to the ghost of the brickwork. “I had to do this.”

Kane stared at the ghost of the brickwork and then back at the old lady. “Who took it down?”

“My nephew, Arthur, took it down.” The old lady slowly approached the window and stood next to Kane. “I should have done that years ago, and I was glad that he had.” Tears slid down the wrinkled cheeks. “I should have gone to him years ago, and now it’s too late.”

Kane thought for a moment. “But it isn’t really too late,” he said. “You could find him now.”

The old lady was suddenly still. “You mean, apologise? It’s too late for that. And I could never find him now.”

Kane shrugged. “People seem to manage once they’ve passed over. And perhaps you could just talk to him. You can explain.”

The old lady slowly shook her head. “I need to apologise. I need to go and find him.” She slowly faded into the dim light in the corner of the room. As her presence left, light flooded in as the ghosts of the bricks on the window followed her.

Kane sighed as he turned to call in Kate and Kes, his heart breaking a little for her sadness. He had dealt with enough ghosts to be unsurprised by her stubbornness.

Writing Challenge 24th August 2020

The reason I’m posting this prompt because I like writing a little flash fiction. It’s something I treat as going to the gym for my writing muscles. If you want to join in, that’s brilliant, but there’s no pressure. If you want to leave a comment with a link, that’s great, but if you don’t feel ready to share yet, that’s also great. Or you could decide that you had a good session at the ‘gym’ and want to submit it somewhere, or use it as the basis for other work, which would be amazing. It’s up to you how you use this prompt. The only thing I would like to insist on is that you enjoy yourself.

Here is a picture and a quotation. The challenge is to write something that is sparked off by one or both of them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to either, just the story you hear when you see them. It’s limited to 500 words (or less, lots less if you need to, or a little more, and I don’t check), and you should try and finish it by next week. It can be prose, poetry, fact or fiction – just have fun.

brown brick wall with green plants
Image from Unsplash, taken by Random Sky

Ever Tried? Ever Failed? No matter, try again, fail again, Fail better.

Samuel Beckett

If you wish, leave a link in the comments and I will drop in, read and comment, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’ll also be sharing stuff on Facebook and wherever else I can think of. There are no prizes and no end goal, unless it is to have fun writing. I hope I get to see some awesome stuff sparked by this. Good luck!

And Another Book

books on brown wooden shelf
Image from Unsplash, taken by Alfred

I was exhausted. I’d spent all day unpacking in my new flat and I was just about done. I had hefted the last wedge of packing paper down to the recycling and now there was just one thing left to put away – my moving in gifts.

Dad had grinned as he had handed over the box, his gift of a small tool kit on the top. “I tried to tell them, but they didn’t listen.” The tools were neatly stowed in the bottom kitchen drawer, but now I had to find a place for the rest.

I sighed. I had thanked everyone and smiled and looked grateful. I didn’t feel grateful. Even though I had been cooking for my parents for years, they seemed to think I needed a little help. I started slotting the books on the shelf.

This cookbook was from Mum; she was worried about healthy eating. This cookbook was from Auntie Joan; she loved Spanish food and thought I should try it more. This cookbook was from my sister, Clare; she could burn a pan of water and had given me a beginner’s book. This cookbook was from Marge next door; she had always loved handing out her homemade cakes, so she gave book about baking. This cookbook was from Uncle Steve; he didn’t approve of all this ‘modern rubbish’ and had given me a reprint of a Victorian cooking manual. Even my boss had given me a cookbook for meals in minutes.

I smiled. The recipes may never be used, but they are a wonderful reminder of their donors. A set of mugs or some tea towels may have been more practical but would never make me smile and think of the giver. I slotted the last book into the shelf and rang for a pizza.

Writing Challenge 17th August 2020

The reason I’m posting this prompt because I like writing a little flash fiction. It’s something I treat as going to the gym for my writing muscles. If you want to join in, that’s brilliant, but there’s no pressure. If you want to leave a comment with a link, that’s great, but if you don’t feel ready to share yet, that’s also great. Or you could decide that you had a good session at the ‘gym’ and want to submit it somewhere, or use it as the basis for other work, which would be amazing. It’s up to you how you use this prompt. The only thing I would like to insist on is that you enjoy yourself.

Here is a picture and a quotation. The challenge is to write something that is sparked off by one or both of them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to either, just the story you hear when you see them. It’s limited to 500 words (or less, lots less if you need to, or a little more, and I don’t check), and you should try and finish it by next week. It can be prose, poetry, fact or fiction – just have fun.

books on brown wooden shelf
Image from Unsplash, taken by Alfred

Have no fear of perfection – you will never reach it.

Salvador Dali

If you wish, leave a link in the comments and I will drop in, read and comment, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’ll also be sharing stuff on Facebook and wherever else I can think of. There are no prizes and no end goal, unless it is to have fun writing. I hope I get to see some awesome stuff sparked by this. Good luck!

Closing the White Hart

Don’t forget to read the IMPORTANT BIT below.

I have a few blogs which are spread across the internet. I have my personal blog, Sybil Witters On, my writing blog, this one, Always Another Chapter, and a series of stories on a blog set in a former pub in York called At the Sign of the White Hart.

I started the blog ‘At the Sign of the White Hart’ as an experiment to see if it would be possible to write a story on a blog, with each chapter being a separate blog post. Over time it grew and sprawled over a host of stories and characters. There are 71 separate posts and I don’t know how many people of various shapes and flavours. I became incredibly fond of all of them.

I came to the conclusion, in the end, that the blog format doesn’t really work unless you are reading it from the start. It’s always tricky to go back and read through in order. It was also distracting me from other projects. I hate to mention money, but I was writing the White Hart stories and making them freely available but those stories were taking time and attention away from writing which could pay. I had to say goodbye.

And speaking of money again, it’s a site that costs me some money to use and I can’t work out how to get adverts on it, and now that I’m no longer posting on there, it isn’t getting any traffic. It isn’t a huge amount of money, but I could do with not spending it. It’s coming up for renewal and I have decided to close the blog.

IMPORTANT BIT I have been supported and encouraged by some amazing people – seriously awesome, lovely people – and it’s important to me that those people who have been so wonderfully kind should still have free access to the stories that they helped me write. I am therefore going to be spending the next few days cutting, pasting, swearing, editing and trying to work out Canva and creating free books on Amazon. I’m using Amazon because I’ve finally worked out how to make a book free on there and you can download an app for PC, laptop and phone (and probably mac) for free to read things on there.

I’ve done some preliminary cut and paste work and we are looking at a tome that is four times the size of Out of the London Mist and that is before I add all the additional stories that have cropped up as flash fiction. It will be mighty and may be tricky to download on a phone. I will therefore probably (I’m still working this out) do one mighty collection and then a few different ones that are the collection but split for ease of reading, all free if I can manage it.

It may take a few days (or more) as I am also armpit deep in the sequel to Out of the London Mist and the editor has a cattle prod, but I am not going to let down those who have been so generous with their kind support.

I will keep you all informed. Thank you all again.

Writing about Writing

I got my first review for Out of the London Mist, and it was a good one. I felt so hugged, and so giddy and proud.

I feel I ought to print it out and frame it.

Writing Out of the London Mist was really the easy part. I then went through editing and the Three Furies, especially Rebekah, Julia and Emily, were so kind and supportive, even when I had made a complete mess of things. Once that was done, it’s time to work on publicity.

I’ve been steadily trying to contact book bloggers to ask for honest reviews over the last couple of weeks, along with working on the sequel. I’ve only asked for honest opinions and gone with people who are straightforward. I haven’t paid for any reviews. Anyone who has been contacted are willing to write bad reviews or not review and not just give good reports (which makes the good review above so sweet).

As I’ve gone through, I’ve found some lovely blogs with some lovely people. I’m starting to think less about the whole publicity stuff and more about the community. I feel like I need to raise my game after seeing all the awesome blogs out there.

I wrote Out of the London Mist as my first full steampunk novel and I grew as I learned about steampunk. I learned so much about English grammar and structure – and a lot about punctuation (thank you so much Julia and Emily) during editing. Now I’m learning a new appreciation about books and approaching them as I look around book blogs. Writing this book has been an absolute blessing.

I will certainly be following Lizanne Lost in a Good Book.

A Sad Memory

brown woven basket on brown concrete wall
Image from Unsplash, taken by Emma Dau

Lady Freydis sighed. Being an ageless elfen who had lived for millennia had its benefits but memories became clouded. You could remember things, but couldn’t hang them on a date. She could never remember whether it was the Battle of Trafalgar or the Battle of Waterloo that had happened first and it had caused quite a bit of bother in pub quizzes. Whole chunks of time seemed to slip out of her mind, unremembered. Other times, other happenings, slid to the back and fell behind the clutter of everyday and now. Lady Freydis would drift happily along, oblivious to any gaps until she was reminded by a picture or a place and the old memories would slide back into view.

She walked down Stonegate. York depended heavily on tourists and today it was nearly deserted. So many were wearing masks. So many looked strained or fearful. A few looked ill, to Lady Freydis’ experienced eye, but whether it was the latest sickness or something else, she didn’t know.

She remembered many plagues. They were always time of fear and pain. Elfen fed on the emotions of the people around them, and the fear, horror and despair of plagues were rich pickings. The one she remembered best was the Pestilence that struck York. The Minster was still being rebuilt and King Edward was on the throne, the third one, and people fell in the streets. And the good priests had died.

There had been a priest attached to St Mary’s, or perhaps St Olaves, called William. Lady Freydis thought it was William. The name was blurred by time but the feel him, the way his smile shone and his heart showed in his eyes remained vivid. He had known what she was but had still been kind as she sobbed on his shoulder over another of Lord Ragnar’s infidelities. He had been so scared as the sickness reached York. Lady Freydis had felt it rolling off him like waves. He may have been called Wilbur, or Wilfrid, but she remembered the tone of that fear and his courage as he pushed on to minister to the people of York. So many had died, Lady Freydis remembered. She had stepped over the bodies in the street. And Father Alwin – yes, that was his name – Father Alwin had caught the pestilence himself as he had not turned away from those who had needed him.

The bad priests fled, the good priests died. Father Alwin had never allowed Lady Freydis to nurse him properly but continued, in the few days he had left, hearing confessions from the wretches dying next to him. He heard the confessions of others on his own deathbed, confessing at last to Lady Fredis, as dispensation allowed, and had passed.

There were plague pits outside the walls, but Lady Freydis would not let the remains of Father Alwin go there. He had been a safe place for her when her heart was breaking. She would not let him be in a nameless grave jostled by many. Instead she took his remains through faerie paths and dug a grave deep in a churchyard in Stamford, unnoticed in the corner, and laid him to rest, saying the old prayers as she said goodbye.

There had been many plagues over the centuries, but none had taken someone she missed more. And every time, Lady Freydis took flowers to the dim corner of the graveyard and tormented a bad priest.

Writing Challenge 10th August 2020

The reason I’m posting this prompt because I like writing a little flash fiction. It’s something I treat as going to the gym for my writing muscles. If you want to join in, that’s brilliant, but there’s no pressure. If you want to leave a comment with a link, that’s great, but if you don’t feel ready to share yet, that’s also great. Or you could decide that you had a good session at the ‘gym’ and want to submit it somewhere, or use it as the basis for other work, which would be amazing. It’s up to you how you use this prompt. The only thing I would like to insist on is that you enjoy yourself.

Here is a picture and a quotation. The challenge is to write something that is sparked off by one or both of them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to either, just the story you hear when you see them. It’s limited to 500 words (or less, lots less if you need to, or a little more, and I don’t check), and you should try and finish it by next week. It can be prose, poetry, fact or fiction – just have fun.

brown woven basket on brown concrete wall
Image from Unsplash, taken by Emma Dau

Sometimes it takes courage to give in to temptation.

Oscar Wilde

If you wish, leave a link in the comments and I will drop in, read and comment, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’ll also be sharing stuff on Facebook and wherever else I can think of. There are no prizes and no end goal, unless it is to have fun writing. I hope I get to see some awesome stuff sparked by this. Good luck!