Wednesday 17 June 2020

#WEPff JUNE challenge. My #flashfiction - #GROUNDZERO. Dark take on URBAN NIGHTMARE

Hey all! It's time for the June challenge at WEP. URBAN NIGHTMARE is the prompt. We've been asked to go as deep and dark as we want. I took this opportunity to write from a third-person omniscient point of view, not one I usually choose, but it worked for my flash fiction.

Of course I'm influenced by the COVID-19 outbreak and the shenanigans of those in 'control' of populations who have often been sadly let down by expediency. I liken the current outbreak to outbreaks in the past, where the people suffer and those in control seem to get off lightly.

Here is my story ... 


The silent apocalypse began on June 17, 2050, at 3.24 in the morning.

As the sun rose on Ground Zero, the extent of the disaster revealed itself.

Death and deformity would be its legacy for thousands of years.

The town. Once a tourist mecca. Now reduced to a postcard no one would send their loved ones.

Obliterated. The earth. A smoking volcano. Alive. Lethal. A smoking sarcophagus.

Not a light brightened the darkness. No sign of life except for a red fox taking advantage of the absence of man as it loped across the desolate landscape. Silence reigned except for the chirping of birds echoing down once luxuriant avenues. Ghostly voices shouted from empty streets, auditory mirages heard only by God Himself.

Abandoned vehicles piled beside roads, in the carparks, underneath apartment buildings. The aircraft hangar contained helicopters and small planes left behind after the hasty evacuation that began at midnight when the night workers raised the alarm.

The story was told inside the apartment buildings. Abandoned meals. Unfinished board games. Clothes over heaters. Unmade beds. Photo albums. Shelves of books. Each room, an empty stage set at the end of a play. Waiting for the next act. The raised curtain.

But the curtain would never rise again.

The radioactivity.

It had changed the color of the trees. People who lived hundreds of kilometres away in the closest town to the disaster dubbed it the Crimson Forest because of the foliage and the blood-red tape which looped from tree to tree, its nuclear symbol flapping in the gentle breeze. ‘Keep out! Danger!’

Dawn. Site inspection. Scientists in hazmat suits. Geiger counters emitting rhythmical electrical sounds like a coded message from another dimension.

But the people didn’t need to know.

Radiation crept further toward them with every gust of wind.

Best to keep the secret.

For now.

Assured via their digital devices that it was business as usual, the people of Pérougé continued their life outside the exclusion zone, oblivious to Death already seeping through their bones, their cells, their blood. They enjoyed the amenities their town offered – restaurants, cinemas, theatres, sports centres, amusement parks. They were proud of their shiny new hospitals, little knowing they’d soon be overflowing with those presenting with suppurating sores, weakness, unexplained bleeding.

The authorities downplayed the accident. Of course. That was the way things were done in 2050. Had always been done, really. Keep the people in blissful ignorance. Imagine if they heard of the Geiger counter readings. The scientists themselves were confused enough. Maybe that latest batch of counters was faulty.

There were nuclear reactors popping up all over the world. If word spread of this disaster, a whole industry would be brought to its knees. The government wouldn’t allow that to happen. Even now “volunteers” were searching inside the reactor to ascertain the cause of the explosion.

The health of the population was way down on their list of concerns. The people had demanded nuclear power when renewables failed them. No one wanted to shiver through darkness when the sun refused to shine or the wind refused to blow. Fossil fuels were yesterday's news. It was the people’s fault. They’d unknowingly set off an unstoppable chain of destruction.

Under strict orders to silence the chattering masses, Mayor Blaise called a Town Hall meeting to allay the people’s escalating fears.

The mayor puffed out his chest and addressed the townspeople gathered in the spacious hall. ‘People of Pérougé, this is not another Chernobyl. Our knowledge of nuclear plants has grown exponentially since the 1980s.’

A woman hugging a tiny baby to her chest stood, interrupting his prepared speech. Her voice wavered when she asked, ‘How bad is it?’ Her baby began to cry. The mother began to cry.

‘Only one reactor has been compromised, Madame. Stay outside the exclusion zone and no harm will come to you.’ The mayor wiped his forehead on a large handkerchief kept expressly for the purpose of wiping away his sins.

A grey-haired man pushed himself from his chair and stood unsteadily, using two walking sticks for balance. ‘What about Chernobyl? I heard—’

‘Chernobyl! Chernobyl!’ The crowd surged to their feet like an angry sea, fists pumped the air, faces suffused with anger. ‘How long did the authorities hush that up? Thousands of people were infected, died. They were sacrificed on the altar of political malfeasance.’

The mayor held his hands in the air until the crackle died down. ‘Don’t put credence in urban myths – Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima... Nuclear disasters of a past time. They were indeed nightmares. But Pérougé is safe as is every town, city and country outside the exclusion zone. Your apartments are safe. Stay inside. Shut your windows until the radioactivity at Ground Zero recedes. We assure you, the radioactivity is contained.’

‘Bullshit!’ A man with fiery red hair called from the back of the hall, fighting off two burly security guards who tried to drag him outside.

Mayor Blaise lost it. He ripped his prepared speech in half and threw it onto the floor. ‘Sir, sit down. Listen. Did you see a nuclear cloud? No! Proof that modern technology is working to keep you safe.’

The red-headed man refused to sit. He tugged and pulled and resisted all efforts to shut him up. ‘Do you think I’d trust you and your fancy committee in your fancy suits feeding us a barrel load of lies? You're in and out, a whistle stop tour. You don't live here! I have my own Geiger counter. It’s old, but reliable. It's been in my family since Chernobyl. Depending on the wind, it surges to well above an acceptably safe level. You’re using us as guinea pigs. Safe, be damned.’

Truer words were never spoken.

Wolves howled.

Darkness besieged the gates of the town.

Soon it would be a grim black and white postcard.

With no one alive to post it.



To read more URBAN NIGHTMARE stories, go to the link in my side bar, or click HERE.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday 3 June 2020

#IWSG post - Lynda Young gives us the goss on WRITING SERIES and PROMOTION based on her super-successful 'Wielder's...' series.

Hi all! Welcome to June's IWSG! Here we support and encourage each other. Share our experiences. This month I've asked 'real-life' blogger buddy, Lynda Young, to spell out some of her secrets to writing series. This fits in well with the June question: What are one or two of your secrets, something readers would never know from your work. 

I hope you're encouraged by her words, especially if you write series. I asked her for this post as it's something I want to learn more about before I unleash my series onto the unsuspecting public.

Alex's awesome co-hosts for the June 3 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia, J.Q. Rose, and Natalie Aguirre! Be sure to visit!

Take it away, Lynda!

Guest: Elle Cardy on Writing a Series

Thanks for having me, Denise.
Denise asked me to share what I’ve learned about writing, publishing and promoting, particularly a series. So here goes!

Writing the series:
When I wrote book 1, Wielder’s Prize, I didn’t plan a series. I wrote a standalone with the potential for a series. This was when I wanted to get an agent and publish traditionally. I didn’t think it was worth the time to write a full series if I couldn’t sell the first book to an agent.

When I took control of my writing career, I realized indie publishing suited me better. I liked having the power to choose my own titles, to design and create my own covers, to be responsible for every aspect of the book, with my own timing.

Why a series?
I needed a full series to get the most out of indie publishing. If a reader loved book 1 then I wanted them to buy the next one and the next. And I didn’t want them to wait too long either. That meant writing Wielder’s Curse and Wielder’s Fire before hitting ‘publish’ on book one. But, of course, I didn’t wait until they were completely finished. I have a terrible habit of misjudging the time it takes to edit and market. And then there was that wretched learning curve that needed straightening.

Pro Tip:
Amazon loves new books. For ninety days, Amazon will help you promote your new book. Once you slip out of that window, unless you’ve got a strong following or a large backlist, that book is set aside for the next shiny new book. This is another good reason to write a series. Each new book in the series promotes all other books in the series.

Because of the pandemic distractions, I let my final book slip outside my 90 day period between books. Wow, did I notice a difference in sales for books 1 and 2. Now that book 3 is out, sales have picked up again for the whole series. Phew!

So, important advice before you publish for the first time: WAIT!
When just starting out, make sure all your ducks are in that proverbial row before you send them out, quacking into the world. When everything is new, give yourself time to breathe, because it can quickly get overwhelming. Remember to enjoy yourself. Remember to celebrate. And remember that ninety day window.

How to create a series:
There are so many schools of thought on how best to write a book and create a series. First person, third? Three acts or Four? How long? How many books? Plot it or just write by the seat of your pants?

To answer these questions, research your chosen genre and listen to your story.

Fantasies are often serials, also known as dynamic series. Think Harry Potter, Game of Thrones. Lots of character development. Each book with a distinct story or theme of its own but with a larger storyline running across the series. This is my Wielder’s Storm trilogy.

Crimes tend to be episodic series, also known as static. Think Sherlock Holmes. Same main characters, different adventures. Not a lot of character development.

And then you have anthology series where the books are bound by an element other than a set of the same characters eg. a world, a location, a theme. Many romances are like this.

Did I plan the rest of the series?
Nope. I love stories with twists, and I get the best twists when I don’t plan. I had a vague inkling how book 2 would end and an even vaguer inkling how book 3 would end. After an ah-ha moment, I finished the first draft of 3 before I finished the first draft of 2. I don’t recommend that, but book 3 insisted.

Helpful tip for writing a series:
Write a document with your character names, character descriptions, place names and other little details you may need to reference throughout the series. That way you keep everything consistent.

What’s more important: The writing or the story?
The story. Every time.

If you have interesting characters in an engaging story with a good pace, then you probably have a winner. It’s that simple.

Yes, you need to learn the craft of writing. You need to read widely within your genre and outside it too. You need to understand your market. And then you need to let your baby go so others can enjoy it too.

What would I do differently?
·       I would’ve gone independent sooner. It’s truly awesome and empowering.
·       I probably would’ve waited before releasing my series. Just for the sanity and breathing space to concentrate more on the marketing. But then again, there is no faster way to learn than to get on with it.
·       I would’ve built up my newsletter earlier.
·       After getting my first fan letter, I would’ve made Wielder’s Storm a longer series. I still can, actually. Hmmm…. ;)

Biggest advice:
·       Know your market.
·       Finish your story.
·       Get it professionally edited.
·       Don’t skimp on the cover. And make sure it fits your genre and your series.
·       Get your book description right. It’s so very important. And it’s different to a synopsis.
·       Reviews are super important and not so easy to get. You’ll need to send out more advanced copies than you’d think.
·       Don’t keep tweaking multiple details of your published book at the same time. If you change anything, make it only one thing, then wait for the data to come in.
·       Remember this is a long game. Don’t expect overnight success.
·       Keep reading and keep writing.

What do you love about reading a series? If you’ve written a series, what other tips would you add?

Wielder’s Fire is the thrilling conclusion to the sweeping Wielder’s Storm trilogy.
Marooned on an island, stripped of her magic, Jasmine must find a way to mend her heart and defeat the oncoming storm.

Her secrets have been laid bare. The one who was supposed to love her, stripped her of her magic. Now she’s shipwrecked on a forsaken island with nothing but her anger and determination to keep her warm at night. Alone and defenseless against a powerful enemy, she must find a way to survive.
She will get her magic back.
She will escape the island.
She will face the enemy and defeat it once and for all.
But how can she when her heart is blistered to a crisp? One fierce step at a time.
For fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo, who love exciting tales with dark secrets and unexpected twists.

Lose yourself in this epic fantasy adventure set on the high seas by clicking here: Wielder’s Fire. Or start with Wielder’s Prize, then Wielder’s Curse. They are also free to read via Kindle Unlimited.
Where to find Elle Cardy:


Join @LyndaRYoung @ElleCardy #WRITING SERIES #SERIES #BOOKPROMOTION #PROMOTION #fantasy #GuestPost #amwriting @DeniseCCovey

Today we post our WEP June 1 - put-your-thinking-caps on post for the challenge, URBAN NIGHTMARE. Go HERE to get ideas on how to approach this prompt. Or just go with your gut.

Thanks for coming by today. I hope you enjoyed Lynda's guest post. 
I hope you'll consider writing for WEP - either again, or for the first time.