Wednesday 11 December 2019

#WEPff December challenge - FOOTPRINTS - my #ff, On Top of the Mountain

It's the final WEP for 2019. It's been a great year and we've seen some great writing. Hoping there's some time in your hectic holiday or work schedule to do the rounds and read some pleasurable writing. Thanks to the team - Nilanjana Bose, Olga Godim and L.G. Keltner who've helped provide strength and purpose.

Here's my fun contribution to the December challenge.

On Top of the Mountain

On top of the mountain was where Ciara longed to be—leaving behind all her insecurities, her unhappiness, her confusion over the breakup with Tod. That was why in her backpack she’d tucked her special passport to tackle the road from France to Spain. The Camino de Santiago. She was following in the footprints of 2.5 million pilgrims who every year attempted to walk the 800 kilometre (497 miles). Each morning, she flew out of bed like a bird. Then for hours on end - trudge, trudge, trudge.

Whoever thought there’d be so many mountains, hills and valleys, especially at the beginning of the walk when most people were flabbily unfit? Her group all prodded their walking poles into the muddy ground, following the footprints of those in the lead. They took every opportunity to leave a token on every statue and shrine they passed, carefully placed rocks they’d brought from home and dropped them at the feet of saints like they were dropping their burdens. Of course they had to snap photograph after photograph on their smart phones, before whining and flopping beside the road, fanning themselves, pouring bottled water over their faces, until the guide finally called them out.

‘If you keep lagging, we’ll be camping beside the road in the rain instead of enjoying a drink, a nice hot bath and a comfy bed at the inn.’

That did the trick. Even Ciara smartened up her act.

The climb up this latest mountain had been hard in the drizzle, but Ciara had to admit, the view, or what she could see of it between the clouds, was Paradise.

She twirled round and round like the ballerina she was, fantasizing she was lead ballerina in Swan Lake, which she wasn't, then fell into a dizzy heap, like she was the frumpy ugly duckling everyone shunned.

‘Woops!’ She giggled, brushing off twigs and leaves, lying on her back, bathed in grey-blue sky. ‘Look on the bright side, girl!’

She was first.

She never got to be first.

She wasn’t even first with Tod. He’d chosen her because she looked like his first girlfriend. Ugh. That sure made her feel like the ugly duckling.

But today, despite Tod, was an important milestone in her life.

Her confusion was lifting like clouds on the mountain. Yes! She thumped the ground with her two fists. She came on this journey of self-discovery and she was self-discovering. Awesome. At thirty-four that wasn’t bad. Feeling smug, she sat up and leaned against the one and only scrappy tree and guzzled from her water bottle.

Now that her fitness had improved, she’d hurried ahead even though it was not the done thing. Truthfully, she was sick of the groups’ collective whining. Sure, the climb today had tested their fitness, but what did they expect? They were crossing the Pyrenees. All the way from St Jean Pied de Port in France to this splendid mountain range in Spain and then some. What a pilgrimage. What a way to start over. And it’d all be over in a month.

It was Roderick who riled her. There was always one. A pain from the beginning, whining about everything—the food, the weather, the lack of bottled water. He even complained when at one of the villages a kindly wine merchant provided red wine through one of the water taps, his contribution to the pilgrim walk. It’d helped them feel no pain through the rest of the day.

Still umpteen kilometres to go til they reached Santiago de Compostela. Could she put up with him that long? 

She was surprised their guide, Rafe, hadn’t sent him packing. Ah Rafe. She pictured his built body, muscled by years of climbing, and his piercing blue eyes, always focused on the beautiful landscape, never on her even though she did her best to attract him with her tight tops and lycra pants. She and Andrea, the other Brit, tried to outdo each other, rising earlier than everyone to hog the bathroom to apply their makeup. But Rafe was immune. She felt like stabbing him with her eyeliner when she caught him looking lovesick every time he glanced at Matthew, the royal marine from the U.S. Hot damn.

She dropped her water bottle beside the dozens of others abandoned by naughty walkers who’d never heard of climate change or that bottling water released 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually and took 17 million barrels of oil to produce a year’s supply. She sighed and looked into the haloes of whispy clouds and thought about how she was saving the planet by walking 800 kilometres instead of driving a car. 

She breathed in slowly, savouring the moment. Ah, first at last! Would Rafe be impressed? Even though she wasn’t a whiner, she was a lagger, and he was forever turning back to make sure she was still trudging onward. The look in his eyes accused her of lagging on purpose. She wouldn’t do that, would she?

Sniggering, she lost herself in murderous thoughts of Tod, but she wasn’t so lost she missed the grunting behind the scraggly bush where she’d propped herself.  

She carefully moved leaves aside and peered closer, afraid it was some weird Spanish animal of the four-footed species. Why think the worst? She was drawn to valleys made dark by black shadows. Why did she always see the dark side? ‘What the—?’ She suspended her deep psychological musings. Lying spreadeagled, a head wound gushing blood, was that whiner, Roderick.

‘Hey, Ciara what have you found?’ Rafe had arrived, the group behind him, a motley crew gasping, whining, mopping foreheads with kerchiefs.

She shook her head.

Life was a sick joke.

She never got to be first.

But look on the bright side, she thought. Roderick could have been some dangerous animal.



NCCO - Comments only. This was written specifically for WEP just for fun. Enjoy!


Please click on names at the end of my post and read more stories and encourage our faithful writers who turned up for the Christmas challenge!

Look what we have in store for 2020. Those of you who are lurking behind the scenes I hope you can find a challenge that floats your boat!
The next WEP challenge will be in February. I hope you'll join us for:

Looks delicious!

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Wednesday 4 December 2019

#IWSG post for December 2019 - Goals, sort of...for 2020.

Hi all! Welcome to the final IWSG post for 2019. I'm sure we're all shaking our heads, wondering where the year went.

Alex's awesome co-hosts for the December 4 posting of the IWSG are Tonja Drecker, Beverly Stowe McClure, Nicki Elson, Fundy Blue, and Tyrean Martinson!

Visit if you can!

  And be sure to visit the
Insecure Writer’s Support Group Website!!!


My topic for this month -

Did you reach your goals for 2019? 

I don't make New Year's resolutions, but nevertheless I would have liked to have begun publishing in 2019 but life got in the way. You know. The traveling life. But I wasn't turning down trips to Italy and France where I got to walk in the footsteps of some of my characters. Wow. Early 2020 works fine for me. 

When I was a rookie blogger, I hosted what I called a Publication Party. Can you believe I hosted Alex when Cassa Star was just getting off the ground? If you'd like to travel back in time, here is the link.

What's all that about? 

When I hosted new authors, all blogger friends at the time, (a pity I've lost contact with most), I think every one was published by a small press. If history repeated itself and I hosted about-to-become-authors today, even though small presses are still popular, many would be planning to self-publish.

Okay, I know some of you just stopped reading because you have a thing against self-publishing, but if you're still here ... 

I'm addicted to reading comparisons between traditional and self-publishing. There are pros and cons for both sides, but most of us accept that traditional publishers take on very few new authors and even if you're one of the chosen, it can take years to actually see your book on the shelves. 

Which is a good reason to embrace the do-it-yourself publishing route or just write for fun with no expectations of being published. 

Even though I do have a novel languishing with a traditional publisher, I'm planning the self-pub route for everything else -- rapid releasing my short novel Renaissance vampire series, my collections of short stories and flash fiction etc. 

Which is why I'm behind all those authors I hosted way back when.

Another reason publishing has taken me so long is that I totally suck at plotting. I'm at heart a pantser, which has left me smashing into metaphorical brick walls in about 5 NaNo novels. It wasn't until I gained two face-to-face critique partners who've nailed plotting, that my stories have been shaken into some semblance of order.

Have you, oh clever much-published authors, mastered plotting? 

This is your opportunity to name drop. Which plotting master/mistress is your go-to for narrative arcs? I admit I read too many and get confused and my brain fuses into a big blob of outline rejection and I need my critters to drag me out of the mire.

Then I had to go and read a post on Writer Unboxed -- the post title -- The Fun of Pantsing. But pantsing which includes a lot of outlining...

Anyway, here's to a successful finish to 2019 and an awesomely successful 2020.

Happy writing!


The breathtaking Medici chapel which I think challenges the Sistine Chapel in Rome

Part of the courtyard entrance that features in Book One of my vampire series - you can imagine my excitement walking in the footsteps of my Renaissance man

The private Medici chapel of the Magi - they say it's much the same as in the time of the Medici - nicely golden with original artwork

And if you'd like to join us, WEP is about to run our final challenge for the year. The prompt is from Tyrean Martinsen from the IWSG. If you haven't closed down your blog for the year, please come by and read some great entries. The prize this month is a 3-chapter critique from author/editor J.L. Campbell. Hmm. Pity I'm not in the running...

Wednesday 6 November 2019

#IWSG post November 2019. Lynda R Young (Elle Cardy) writes on the topic - HOW WRITERS EVOLVE.

Welcome to the IWSG for the month of November. 

Top Site for Writers

Alex's awesome co-hosts for the November 6 posting are Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie!

I'm reaching the end of my 2019 Italian and French odyssey where I've been researching locations for my novels. I've many stories to tell at a later stage.

For today's IWSG I've handed over my blog to my buddy, Lynda R Young, pen name Elle Cardy. Knowing first hand some of Lynda's writing journey I asked her to enlighten us more today. I, for one, am always intrigued by the writing process and how writers reach publication. It's a long and winding road for most of us mere mortals, and instant success for others. 

Follow Lynda along her long and winding road. 

The Ways Writers Evolve, by Elle Cardy

Writers evolve over time. I started writing in my early teens with rose-coloured dreams of making a living by clicking away at one of those old fashioned typewriters—you know the ones that destroy your nails? Honestly, how can anyone write a book on those contraptions? Yay for computers.

As a teen I was hopeful and immortal. Fears? Doubts? What were they? I wrote close to half a million words of epic stories. I polished the first book as best I knew how. Then I sent the massive tome off to publishers and agents and waited for success to come knocking...

Crushed dreams. Been there anyone?

I didn't give up. I got to improving my chances. I learned how the industry worked -

  • I read how-to books, 
  • attended workshops, 
  • connected with other writers, 
  • got feedback on my work. 

With all this outside input, I started to see where I’d been going oh so wrong. This was when the fears and doubts really kicked in. To counter them, I stuck to the rules as if they were law, and I changed my work to suit every opinion that came my way.

I sucked the life out of my writing.

It wasn’t until I gained the confidence to write what I wanted, the way I wanted, that I started to breathe life back into my writing. By this time, I was armed with knowledge of the markets, the rules I could break, and what it was I truly wanted.

And so...

Wielder’s Prize was completed and sent out with joy and confidence that this is a great read full of adventure and high stakes and everything I love in a book. (If I do say so myself).

As writers, we are an insecure bunch. Not only do we need to hone our craft, find our support network, get feedback, we need to also learn confidence—the courage to ride our story vision to the end, the bravery to get those pieces of ourselves out there to be judged, the grit to write what the story needs.

How have you built up your confidence? What’s your writing evolution been like? Anything like  mine? 

If you’re looking for an action-packed fantasy adventure to read, try Wielder’s Prize by Elle Cardy, the end product of my years of evolving as a writer.

Wielder’s Prize is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon (ad links) and Goodreads.

Here's the blurb:   Jasmine’s whole life is a lie. It isn’t until she’s snatched and forced to work on another ship that she learns how much of a lie it has been. Not only can she wield, but she’s a danger to everyone if she can’t control her magic. And worse: there’s another out-of-control wielder out there who wants her dead.

Elle Cardy is the pen name for Lynda R Young. She is an author, editor, game developer, 3D artist, graphic designer, photographer, gamer and so much more. Wielder’s Prize is her debut young adult fantasy adventure. Having lived in Sydney most of her life, she is now a relative newcomer to sunny Brisbane where she lives with her sweetheart of a husband. Twitter, Instagram, Website and Blog.

Thanks for coming by and reading about Lynda's writing journey. Share your journey in the comments.

Go HERE for more IWSG posts.

Wednesday 16 October 2019

#WEP/IWSG October challenge - #FlashFiction - Meet my Renaissance hero, Duke Vipunin de Castellina.

Hello friends!

It's time for the October Write...Edit...Publish challenge. This is always our most exciting month where we delve deep into horror ... or we don't. 

Part of the blurb for this challenge is:

Write a ghost story, or a mainstream one. Most of our members go with horror or speculative for October. But that's not written in stone. Nothing rigid about us - we are a culturally diverse mix and we welcome all interpretations of writing prompts.

This is the perfect month to introduce my Renaissance-era vampire, Duke Vipunin de Castellina. I've written a 'reader magnet' to gift people when they sign up for my email list on my new website (not yet operational). From this short story, I harvested 2,000 words, then painstakingly edited it down to 1,087 words.

I don't yet have my pen name website up and running, but here is a sneak peek:

 What do you think? It takes a village and all that, so grateful thanks to my buddy Lynda Young for her fancy work on my pen name, 'Silver Tree'. and Wallpaper Access for the medieval battle image. Thanks to my husband Geo for his dab hand at Photoshop to pull it all together.

And more excitement! When this post goes live today, I'll be in Castellina, Tuscany, spending the day checking out the ruins of the castle and the subterranean tunnels which run underneath and feature in Book One. 

So ... ta da ... Meet the Renaissance hero of my Paranormal Romance, Duke Vipunin de Castellina. 

For this WEP challenge, I’ve reworked the end of Book One of my  four-book (so far) soon-to-be-published vampire series. 

It’s Duke Vipunin’s 30th birthday. He’s left behind his life in Florence as an advisor to Cosimo 11 de’ Medici to take up his inheritance at Castello de Castellina, the family home in Tuscany.

Tonight’s the celebration of the grape harvest on his lands, but tonight more than grapes will be harvested. A vampire queen, Alliyra, has lied her way through his gates and into his parlor.

For those who shudder at vampire stories, or violence, I hope you’ll read as much as you can. In this scene, Vipunin fights for his human life.

Harvesting His Soul

Castello de Castellina, Chianti, Tuscany, 1610.

ALLIYRA placed her hands upon Vipunin’s head. Looking into his eyes, she snapped her fingers, breaking the spell that had held him in thrall. Come, Duke, drink in the night.’ She walked toward the window, gesturing for him to follow.

He felt powerless to do anything but obey.

Her eyes glinted. ‘Duke Vipunin de Castellina.’ She pointed outside. ‘See the darkness beyond your walled garden – the burial ground, the forest, the all-knowing moon? That is where you belong. A night creature.’ 

He jumped backward to avoid the power of her gaze and stood, legs apart, hand on sword. How dare you. Beyond the wall was sacrosanct; the cemetery where his parents and grandparents lay. All who’d lived and died at Castello de Castellina were eternally bound with the rich soil. One day he would join them.

Not today.

Ripping his sword from its scabbard, he was comforted by its ting-shink-ting-shink. ‘I belong here.’ He clutched his weapon in both hands, rotating the hilt.  

She locked the windows, jerked the curtains closed and turned to him. ‘I will have you,’ she rumbled. ‘Tonight you celebrate your grape harvest. I celebrate harvesting you. Put away your sword.’   

He stepped backward and tightened his grip. ‘I’m no creature of the night.’ Gesu’, give me strength to kill this creature.  

She tisked. ‘Kill me? Your knightly arts are useless against my powers.’ With a movement that tricked his eye, she kicked his sword. It arced across the room and speared the door where it shuddered, hilt and pommel trembling.   

‘No!’ He spun to retrieve his weapon. Once again, his feet stuck to the floor. Gesu', she’s mesmerized me again.

She clicked her fingers to release the spell. ‘Come. I will show you something.’  

He reached her side in time to see her hold out an emerald necklet, his face visible in the facets. What trickery is this?

As the stone began to vibrate, Alliyra nodded, replaced the emerald down the front of her gown. ‘The spell was cast many years hence. I chose you as my new companion the night your brother Abelli brought you to me as tribute when you were a boy. I refused you then, but I take possession … tonight.’

‘No!’ He shoved her away, fighting the spell. Slipping his dagger from his boot, he stood, legs apart, body forward. ‘I remember you drank from me that night.’ He panted, tightening his grip on the knife. With his other hand, he felt the two raised marks on his neck. ‘You branded me.’

‘I did. You tasted divine.’

‘Help me, Celso!’ His manservant should be outside the parlor door by now. He slashed at Alliyra with his dagger. Abelli couldn’t inherit while Vipunin lived, so he’d arranged his death. If Vipunin died, everything would belong to his half brother. 

‘Ah, Duke.’ Alliyra’s voice poured over him like sickly sweet wine. ‘Celso has been called away to attend some crisis at your gate. Perhaps a dead gatekeeper.’ She tutted. Maneuvering with lightning speed, she grabbed both his arms in an iron grip. ‘Isn’t this cozy?’ She squeezed his hand until the dagger fell from his nerveless fingers.

As a knight, without weapons, what did he have? She’d killed Beppe, his faithful Captain of the Guard and the de' Medici knights who guarded his gate. ‘Witch! Leave me!’  

‘I’m not one of your subjects. You … obey … me. Her eyes blazed red. Silver specks swirled around the edges.  

His heart rammed against his ribs. The evil he’d read about in his grandfather’s library had been given life. ‘Filth.’ He balled his fists, punched at her face, but she stood unmoved, smiling when he yelled, ‘Revenant. Demon. Vampire.’

Alliyra cackled. ‘You’re dead.’ Her clawed hands rose into the air, hovering near his face.

He took jerky steps backward across the room. He could make the door … grab his sword … run her through.

A blur. She had him. 'Uhuhuheh,' she growled.

He squirmed in her grasp. ‘Holy Gesu’, protect your servant.’

She clawed his face and warm blood oozed down his face. ‘There … is … no … god … to … protect … you ….’ She licked him. Rivulets of blood dripped down her chin, bathing her white neck. ‘We are a pretty pair, are we not, Duke?’   

He kicked, he writhed, revolted by the transformation of beauty into hideous specter. ‘Get out of my life.’  

‘But your brother wants your life, dear-ling. He wants your titles. He wants your castle. He wants your land. But most of all, he wants you dead.’

Driven by jealousy, Abelli had tried everything over the years to kill Vipunin. He must not succeed. The title was his.

‘You will no longer care for titles, dear-ling. Your worldly life will be cast aside – your betrothed Ciassia will wed your brother and his progeny will inherit. Soon you will care for nothing, nothing but the sharp claws of blood hunger tearing at your insides. And you will care most of all for me, your maker.’   

‘God is my Maker!’ The door is so close. Salvation is so close. Hot blood seethed through his veins at the specter of his brother taking his beloved Ciassia from him.

Alliyra's beautiful, inhuman face with its mad, night-dark eyes loomed over him. ‘I am your maker. I choose whether you live or die. Forever and ever. Amen.’  

‘Never!’ Reaching behind, he felt the heft of his sword. A little farther and he would grab it, behead her.  

She slammed him against the wall. ‘Huhhuhsss,’ she hissed.

His sword was but a hair’s breadth from his face.

She held him upright with one arm and wrapped the other behind his back, pulling him close. Merveilleux,’ she gasped. ‘You are mine.’ With her free hand, she tore at his cloak, ripped his doublet, his shirt, then licked his neck with her dagger-like tongue.

He kicked at her knees with every shred of strength, but she pressed her body against his, imprisoning him. ‘Get away,’ he groaned, his voice hoarse with the terror that pulsed through him. 

Her fangs scratched his skin. Her claw-hand vibrated at the back of his head with some dreadful, alien power. ‘Together, Duke de Castellina. You and I. For eternity.’ She plunged into his flesh, the pain as excruciating as when she branded him those many years ago.

Loud crashing outside his door. His name called over and over. 'Vipunin ....'

Too late Celso.

I'm a dead man.

WORDS: 1084 - I tried so hard to get it below this ... :-(


Thanks for reading. I'd love constructive criticism. Depending on where my travels take me, I may be a little slow in replying, but reply I will.

Go HERE to read more entries.

The WEP/IWSG challenge prompt for December was dreamed up by Tyrean Martenson: 

And here is the challenge list for 2020. Start thinking.

Wednesday 2 October 2019

#IWSG post - Should writers read - duh - here's what I think...

Hiya friends!

Another month is here! October is a special month for me. It's my birthday (I share it with John Lennon - just Imagine that!) And mid October I set off on another overseas jaunt - Italy and France again. Just can't get enough. But of course it's a working holiday - I'm checking locations for several books.

Now let's get into the October IWSG post. Alex J Cavanaugh would have trouble reading your posts except each month he gathers a great team of helpers around him.  Please visit these wonderful people if time permits.

This month:

Alex's awesome co-hosts are Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Mary Aalgaard, Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

So, the October 2 question - 

It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. 

On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

The October 2 question is something I feel strongly about. When an author boasts that they never read, I hate it. I've seen some elite blogger/authors stating this like it's a badge of honour. My first thought is, well, if everyone felt like you, who'd buy your books?

Even big time authors like Stephen King advise writers to - read, read, read.

I'm a lifetime reader. When I attend writing retreats I'm told I have a natural feel for cadence - rhythm in my sentences. That must be because I read, read, read.

So a writer who doesn't read has ideas that are new and original? Well how do they know? It's said that there are only 7 stories in the world. If you never read ... ??? look I just get too upset thinking about the misplaced egos behind this whole idea of not reading.

My advice - buy and read other hard-working authors' works. Learn from them. Applaud their efforts. It's probably taken a year or more from their life, but they won't complain. To most of us, writing is a joy, but so is selling the fruit of our labour.

Good luck with your reading and writing.

Here's an original photo I took on a trip to Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. Now this is a book I loved reading. What spunk that young girl had. I would have been poorer for not having read her diary. And that's the case with reading most books. We always learn something.

I thank Alex for the opportunity to guest post at the IWSG site this month. If you like the idea of writing to prompts and haven't come by, here's the link. I'd love to keep the discussion going.

If you have never written to prompts and want to try as some commenters at the IWSG post have said, how about trying the October WEP challenge? It's our horror month, but you don't have to write horror. Go HERE for ideas. October 1st is the opening post for the month where you'll learn about the mystery prize. Submissions begin on October 16 for 3 days. Don't miss out.

Thanks for coming by and reading my post. Go HERE to read more IWSG posts.