Remember writing doesn't love you. It doesn't care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on. A. L. Kennedy

Saturday, 13 April 2019

#WEP/IWSG post -- my #flashfiction, SORRY. SORRY. SORRY.

It's time for the WEP/IWSG April challenge. I've been missing Yolanda Renee's grisly stories, so I thought I'd go grisly myself with a little ghost thrown in. I know. I know. It's April, not October, but sometimes the story won't be denied. I wanted to retell the Aladdin story. It was the first thing that came to mind when I saw Jewel Box and the wonderful image our image guru, Olga Godim found. But Aladdin wouldn't be retold, so I plunged in another direction.

DISCLAIMER; Don't read this late at night...

Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.

Ghost on the tulip staircase, Greenwich

Since the murder, I could hear a mouse wearing bootees tiptoe through my house. Otherwise, I would not have heard the faint footsteps creaking up the stairs. Sitting up so fast I cracked my head on the poster, I screamed, ‘Who’s there?’

The bedroom door handle turned slowly.

I squeaked like a frightened mouse, my voice scarcely audible over the thump of my heart. ‘Who’s there?’

Someone. In my room. I strained my eyes in the darkness. A small shadowy sinister shape stood on the threshold.

‘Sorry, Sheila. It’s me.’

OMG! My arm hairs prickled. A shiver sprinted down my spine.

It was him...

But … I’d buried him a week ago. I’d tossed the black rose onto his coffin. I’d watched the gravediggers set about their grisly task. He’d risen from the dead? Tread quietly into my house like he’d been working night shift and didn’t want to wake me.

‘It really is me.’

I’ve never seen a ghost. But like they say in the old cliché, there’s a first time for everything. I’d heard there are two types of ghosts – benevolent and malicious. If this was Drew’s ghost, it’d be malicious. After what I’d done.

‘Sheila.’ He mouthed my name again, his voice wavering like he spoke underwater.

Far from oblivious to the threatening tone, I grabbed my throat. ‘Drew? How … why … whaaat?’

‘I had no time to give you your birthday gift. Sorry. Death came to me … so suddenly.’

Did he know I hired the assassin? Did he know about Leopold? Had he come home early one night and caught us? Maybe in that place where he’s gone, he’d figured out his sudden demise.

He stepped out of the shadows.

I gasped. Clutched the bedclothes to my throat. He looked the same but different. Was I expecting blood dripping from his slit throat?

He smiled his kind Drew smile. ‘I came back to give you something for your birthday. I don’t want you to go to your grave thinking I don’t care.’

Grave? A strange turn of phrase? I shuddered. Did he have foreknowledge? Did he know the time and hour of my death? Was I dreaming this whole creepy episode? I just wanted him gone. ‘Please don’t worry yourself. Go back where you came from. I, er, know you care. Or did. Once.’

And he did care. He was the best husband a woman could want, but not the one I wanted. I wanted glitz and glamour. Nights on the town. Not nights sleeping alone waiting for my husband to finish night shift.

Leopold gave me the glitz and glamour I craved, but he stressed I had to deal with Drew.

I rubbed my fingers over the gold necklace I never take off. So much better than those cheapo chains Drew gave me. Did he make the onerous journey back from the grave to give me another cheapo chain? I chewed the sheet so I wouldn’t laugh out loud.

Closer and closer he came. His shape grew bigger and bigger. His black presence filled the room. Or had a black moon stumbled through my bedroom window? 

I flicked my eyes around the room. There was no escaping this looming presence standing between me and the door.

He opened the curtain that hid the safe, exposing the shiny steel. Flicking the dial, he said, ‘Someone’s changed the code.’

I didn’t miss the flash of anger in his voice.

Drew had been locking the safe when the assassin broke through the window and slit his throat.

I’ve since torn up the carpet. Repapered the walls. Hung new curtains. But like Lady Macbeth, I can’t get the blood off my hands. The smell of Drew’s death lingers.

By some magic, he wrenched the safe open. Apparently where he came from, you don’t need a code.

His shape turned to me, holding another, more concrete, shape in its hands.

‘Sheila. Your belated gift. I hid it in the secret compartment no one knows about, not even you.’

Walking to the side of the bed, he threw aside the filmy curtain I liked to sleep behind. Gave me a sense of mystery. Tonight, seeing his shapeless face, I’d had more mystery than I wanted for a lifetime.

‘Take it.’ In his cloth-covered hands he held out a small, sparkly box.

There was something vaguely Aladdin-ish about the scene. If I obeyed his wishes, maybe he’d disappear into the miasma from which he’d appeared. If he didn’t hurry and get this over with, Leopold would return. I crossed my fingers. I touched one the wooden posters of my four-poster bed.

Ghosts killed.

The box was smooth, satin to the touch. Jewels studded the lid and sides. They looked like precious jewels, but, no, Drew never gave me precious jewels.

‘Open it.’ His shape leaned closer, but stepped back when I gasped in fright. He wandered aimlessly around the room seeking distraction while I examined his gift. When he picked up our photograph where I’d slashed him out of the picture and added Leopold, I nearly vomited.

The phone rang. I lay the box aside. If it was Leopold, I’d warn him to stay away. "Hello," I said, "Hello." No one there. I hung up at the same time the lights went out ...

Beside me, I heard faint music. What the? I picked up the box and lifted the lid. Loud music crashed around the room like out-of-tune violins played by a cat.

Then it stopped. Like my heart was about to. 

‘Ghosts don't exist!’ I screamed as the horrific visage gurgled, approaching my bed.

Drew’s hand reached into the box and chose a shining emerald necklace. ‘Your birthday gift, Sheila. I came back to put it around your throat.’

I struggled. I screamed. I twisted. But he was a ghost. A malicious ghost. He ripped off Leopold’s necklace and replaced it with his. His ice-cold hands bunched it behind my neck. He pulled … and pulled ... tight … tighter. I gurgled loud ... louder... I was vaguely aware of the door opening and Leopold’s chilling scream.



Thanks for reading my entry. If you like it, please leave a comment and press my buttons.

WORDS: 1024

If you'd like to join us for JEWEL BOX, please sign up HERE or in my sidebar. We'll be around to read. Go HERE for ideas for JEWEL BOX. CLICK on entries in the list in my sidebar with DL (Direct Link) after their name and read more entries.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

#IWSG April post -- Story Genius

Here we are gathered around the IWSG campfire again, swapping war stories! And it's April! Time for the A -Z Challenge for those of you who participate. For the WEP/IWSG, it's time for the April Challenge. (See end of post for details).

Alex's awesome co-hosts for the April 3 posting of the IWSG are J.H. Moncrieff, Natalie Aguirre, Patsy Collins, and Chemist Ken!
Visit these awesome peeps when you can!

April 3 question: If you could use a wish to help you write just ONE scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be? (examples: fight scene / first kiss scene / death scene / chase scene / first chapter / middle chapter / end chapter, etc.)

That's easy. The opening scene of my Paris novel where so much has to happen to set up the story. I've been going through the Story Genius with a friend. This how-to book isn't for the faint hearted. It takes two, baby... 

Most of you are way ahead of me in the published author game, but that doesn't mean I haven't created an arsenal of stories and novels in various stages of dress or undress that will be published soon. I know what stories I like to read. It can be hard to write those stories. Just read a quote by Lisa Cron in her earlier book, Wired for Story - '...most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.'

Image result for story geniusStory Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) 

Image result for clip art image of praying handsAfter writing another 12 pages of notes fleshing out my MC's life before page one, I feel like I'm getting somewhere. After plotting and writing this story for about three years, LOL. Perhaps I'll be much quicker when I apply the principles to my other novels setting myself up for a quick launch. Right now I'm back to a Chapter One rewrite. The rest of the novel should fall into place now...

Here's the blurb for Story Genius in case you're interested:

It’s every novelist’s greatest fear: pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into writing hundreds of pages only to realize that their story has no sense of urgency, no internal logic, and so is a page one rewrite. 

The prevailing wisdom in the writing community is that there are just two ways around this problem: pantsing (winging it) and plotting (focusing on the external plot). Story coach Lisa Cron has spent her career discovering why these methods don’t work and coming up with a powerful alternative, based on the science behind what our brains are wired to crave in every story we read (and it’s not what you think). 

In Story Genius Cron takes you, step-by-step, through the creation of a novel from the first glimmer of an idea, to a complete multilayered blueprint—including fully realized scenes—that evolves into a first draft with the authority, richness, and command of a riveting sixth or seventh draft.

Here's to writing with authority, richness and command.

Speaking of which, sign ups started for the WEP/IWSG April challenge, Jewel Box, on April 1. Rub your Aladdin's lamp, and come up with a flash fiction, non fiction or poem that fits the challenge -- or fits your letter of the day if you're in the A - Z Challenge.

Have a great month! Hope to see you signed up at the WEP website! Even if your writing is not yet at genius level, we'd love to read it!

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

#IWSG post. Those critical critique partners.

Hey all, another month rolls around and here we have the IWSG post again. I confess I'd forgotten it, so swamped am i with writing projects, but someone just reminded me. So this is a quick in and out.

Click HERE to find the list of participants

Thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh and his team of awesomeness for the opportunity to talk about our insecurities or offer help to others who're going through something we've already mastered.

Alex's awesome co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard! Visit if you can!

I'm ignoring the question for the month and posing a quick question of my own - I'm sure most of you have faced this and come to your own conclusions.

How much store do you place in suggestions from critique partners? 

I confess I tend to believe everyone knows better than I do, but I'm learning the hard way to trust myself more.

An example. I shopped a manuscript to two big publishers and received positive feedback, nearly making it with one of them, but after several editorial meetings, they decided to pass. Why? I was told that it needed a first chapter to set up the heroine's ORDINARY WORLD and then the rest would have flowed more. I had this first chapter written, but removed it on advice from two trusted critique partners. So now I'm rewriting it with this original first chapter included and improved. But the what if? nags...

This is happening a lot lately. It happened with the vampire series I'm writing where my critters wanted me to jump right into the story with action, action, action. I know where they're coming from with this, but it meant so much relied on backstory. A big no no. 

I'm starting to believe in myself and my decisions more. For me, that's a big thing. Critique partners are awesome, and I hate to think of life without them, but in the end, it's our story and we need to be comfortable with what we write.

What do you think?

Please share your thoughts. I'd appreciate it.

The combined WEP/IWSG enjoyed a successful challenge for the prompt, 28 Days. Please consider challenging yourself with our next prompt, Jewel Box, which happens in April during the A-Z Challenge.

Monday, 18 February 2019

#WEP/IWSG Challenge - 28 Days. My #flash fiction, Steps to Freedom.

Welcome to my blog! Today I'm posting a little early for the February WEP (Write...Edit...Publish) challenge, 28 Days.

I struggled to come up with an idea for this prompt. 

Finally, it hit me and I began to write faster than I've ever written before. 

I began to imagine this refugee trudging through Africa heading for an imagined freedom. I come from a country where the boats are turned back, not a good look. Nor my belief. My argument is - what did I do to be lucky enough to be born in Australia? Nothing. 

Image result for australia turn back the boats images

I want to share the fictional Abioye's story. But I'm not sure how fictional it is...

Image result for refugees walking from sudan to ocean

Steps to Freedom

He took another step.

Abioye looked down. He saw red dirt, swollen, ripped feet, and his lengthening shadow. Miles behind him was his village, burned and looted, everyone he loved, dead. Ahead of him lay freedom.

He took another step. 

As he walked, he kept his eyes on the roadside. Already he'd been lucky enough to find a rolled-up mattress, a cringing dog, a goatskin of water to add to his swag. He'd been getting his swag together for weeks - a few tins of supplies the warlords dropped when they swooped into his village and drove off into the hills, automatic rifles over their shoulders. They stole the UN dried milk tins from the mothers’ tents, taking from the babies' mouths. They stole all the rice, showing not a whit of conscience for the starving villagers.

Then they took more than supplies.

When there was nothing left to steal, one day they returned and took the lives of everyone - all the old men, all the women, all the children. The only survivors were the young men like him, young men who roamed the sparse land, looking for edible herbs and grasses in the desert-like landscape. He'd returned at nightfall to the devastation. He ran. If they found him, he'd be forced to become a boy soldier like so many others who'd disappeared.

He took another step. 

Abioye felt the sob in his throat. But he was a man. He refused to cry despite what he'd lost.

He took another step. Then another. And another.

It was the only way forward to the north. To the boats. To the sea. To freedom.

He'd heard stories of boats that left from Tangier in Morocco. Boats to take him across the water to another land. A free land. A land with food. A land with jobs. He'd work in Tangier until he saved enough to board the boat. He'd heard stories of a man who hired young men to escort tourists through the medinas*. He'd heard it took 28 days of working 7 days a week to save enough for his trip to the new land. To Utopia.

He took another step. His feet pained so much he was surprised when they moved. One step. Then another agonizing step. 

The sun beat down mercilessly. He sipped from his meager water supply. He must make it last. He might walk for months and find no village, no water, no food. 

The dog cried. What could Abioye do? He carefully poured a mouthful of water into his palm and the dog lapped, not wasting a drop. It licked his leg in gratitude. Abioye reached down and patted the mutt’s head.

He took another step. 

Every few steps he had to adjust his belt. He'd lost so much weight in the past few days, the belt kept slipping down over his hips. Once he'd forgotten and the next thing he knew his trousers were flapping around his ankles. He laughed at the ridiculous situation, then stopped, afraid he was hysterical from the horror he’d seen. But it didn't matter if he laughed, cried or screamed. There was no one to hear him. He was crossing the Sahara Desert. Alone.

The road became rocky. He stumbled. Landed on his knees. He was sobbing now. He couldn’t help it even though he was wasting moisture. The sun. The rough road. The hunger. The thirst. The vision of his parents' burned bodies. His young sisters. His beloved -- How could he go on?

The dog licked his face. Abioye dragged himself to his feet. He had to go on. In memory of his father, his mother, his two sweet sisters, his Candis who’d been promised to him when they were both three years old. They were all alive in his head.

Abioye took another step.

He felt like he was falling, not walking. Falling, falling, falling, but never hitting the ground. 

How long had he been on the road? Was it 28 days already? Surely, soon, he must pass by the green plants that leaked water. Then he and the dog could drink their fill. He felt the moisture on the tip of his tongue as he dreamed of it.

I'm so tired. I need to sleep. On my mattress. Just for a little while. 

He took another step.

Toward the edge of the road.

He mustn't stop. To stop was death. Then there'd be no one to remember his family. No one to remember his Candis. He saw her in his mind – her wide smile, her red lips, her teeth pearly white, dazzling him, her short black hair cropped close to her scalp, her graceful long limbs, her colourful dresses that brushed the ground when she walked.

I will never forget you, my eternal love.

He took another step.

Whether it took 28 days or a year, he would press on. He would make a new life. Away from his cursed land. The land that God forgot. Maybe God had turned his back on Africa but still lived in that new land where the boat would take him. Maybe God would welcome him to its shores and surround him with love and plenty. Instead of sobbing, he smiled.

He'd seen mirages in the desert many times. A mirage was coming toward him. A big green tank shimmering through the waves. Surely it was full of water.

He took another step.

The mirage came closer. No! It was a jeep. Soldiers in the back. Soldiers in the front. Guns pointed. At him.

He spun around and took another step. Away. Away from the killers. Away from bondage. Away from death.

He heard the dog yelp. His throat closed over. Turning, he saw its head a bloody mess and its eyes stared sightless into the searing sky. 

'Stop or you're next!' One of the soldiers waved his gun, then shot a round into the air. Crack! Crack! Crack! 

'Don't take another step, boy. Or you're dead.'


* Medina - the old walled part of a North African town.


Thank you for reading. Please join us if you have an entry that would fit 28 Days. If not, please consider joining us for April's WEP challenge - JEWEL BOX.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

#IWSG February post - Wake me when I'm famous - self-publishing.

Welcome to my blog for 2019. Hope your holidays were awesome if you had some and that you're all fired up for the new year. Well, one month gone already!

I couldn't find the question for the month when I sat down to write this, or the co-hosts. Now I'll have to do my own thing. I'm off traveling to Vietnam from next week into February, so I've no time to lose.

Thank you to Alex and his team  for the opportunity to post about my insecurities. I'm sure I'm talking about something every writer feels insecure about at least once. You're probably way ahead of me here.

I've been busy writing, editing, getting critiques, edits, re-writing, putting together a nice little pile of titles so when I start publishing I have a backlist in my paranormal series, my Paris novel, some yet-to-be-collated flash fiction...

Image result for self publishing vs traditional publishing 2018 images

I haven't even considered traditional publishing (except for my Paris novel which still languishes with Avon). I've been completely sucked into the self-publishing groups with their positive spin on writing as a business such as Joanna Penn et al. I'm really into research and I'm no longer convinced traditional publishing is the way to go. Or maybe I just can't handle rejection. Feel free to disabuse me if you don't agree. I've read so many pros and cons articles my eyes feel crossed.

But of course, with self-publishing, we sink or swim by our own efforts. Which is where the doubt comes in. What if my story isn't good enough? What if my cover isn't good enough? What if I don't have the puff for constant promotion? What if? What if?

Ah, well, that is the writer's life.

  • How about you? Self-publishing or Traditional? Tell me your opinion/story...

The first WEP challenge for 2019 went live on Feb 1st. Go HERE to sign up for posting around Feb 20th. Flash fiction, non-fiction, photo essays, poetry...to 1,000 words.

Thanks for coming by...