Wednesday 18 August 2021


 Hello everyone! Thanks for coming by to read more WEP entries for #YearoftheArt!

I'll start with the awesome news that we've added Jemi Fraser to the WEP team. Jemi has been such an enthusiastic member since she discovered us. Her magic pen has placed in many challenges. I'm sure her enthusiasm will translate to a positive working relationship with the WEP team and the many enthusiastic writers who turn up every two months and share golden gems.

The WEP August challenge, FREEDOM OF SPEECH. 

Some people have let me know they are afraid of this subject. Maybe it is a little much following FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Nevertheless, I hope you will craft an entry which allows you to say what you want without being too worried about offending anyone. 

My story is one I posted a year ago, but the second half I've re-written to reflect this challenge. I tried to come up with something different, but my mind kept flashing to this story which was inspired by the series, 'Chernobyl'. Of course there are many parallels with the pandemic. During every disaster, there is a tug-of-war between the powerful and the powerless. At the moment, the innocents in Afghanistan are front of mind.

Without further ado here is my offering for FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

The Silent Apocalypse

The silent apocalypse began on June 17, 2050, at 3.24 in the morning. As the sun rose on Ground Zero on Day One, the disaster revealed itself.

 The town. A tourist mecca. Obliterated. Reduced to a blackened postcard.

A smoking sarcophagus 

No sign of life except for a red fox loping across the desolate landscape. Silence reigned except for ghostly voices shouted from empty streets, auditory mirages heard only by God Himself.

 Abandoned vehicles piled beside roads like discarded toys, in carparks, underneath apartment buildings. The aircraft hangar was empty of helicopters and small planes used in the hasty evacuation that began at midnight when the night workers raised the alarm.

 The story was inside the apartment buildings. Clothes draped over heaters. Unmade beds. Abandoned books on nightstands. 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.


 It had changed the color of the trees. Those who walked around the perimeter of the exclusion zone on Day Two 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!’

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

 Radiation leaked out of the exclusion zone with every gust of wind, a silent killer.

 The people did not need to know.

 Best to keep the secret.

 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. In this world you were either the powerful or the powerless. People must be kept in blissful ignorance. Imagine if they knew the Geiger counter readings. The scientists were confused enough. Maybe that latest batch of counters was faulty.

 Nuclear reactors were being built in every powerful nation. If word spread of this disaster, a whole industry would be brought to its knees. The government would not allow that to happen. Even now “volunteers” were searching inside the reactor to ascertain the cause of the explosion. “Volunteers” were expendable.

 It was the people’s fault. They 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.

 Under strict orders from the government to silence the chattering masses, Mayor Blaise called a Town Hall meeting. He needed to put out the fires begun by people showing symptoms of nuclear radiation.

 The mayor puffed out his chest and addressed the townspeople. ‘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, coughing, interrupting his prepared speech. Her voice wavered when she asked, ‘My name is Madame Buci. How bad is it, Monsieur Mayor?’ Her baby began to cry. The mother began to cry. Coupled with her coughing, it was a terrible sound.

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

 A grey-haired man with a patchy red face 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?’ A young man with a deathly white face screamed. ‘Don’t you think we study history! Thousands were infected, died, 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. Pérougé is safe as is every town, city and country outside the exclusion zone. Your new 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. Even from a distance, anyone could see the red welts on his face and arms.

 Mayor Blaise ripped his prepared speech in half. ‘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 down. ‘My name is Benoit Gabriel. I go on record as a proponent of free speech.' His gaze took in the crowd. 'This town will have its say. Every citizen deserves to be heard.’

 The crowd chanted: ‘Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!’

 ‘Do you hear that, Mister Mayor?’ Benoit asked. ‘We demand our right to be heard.’

 Mayor Blaise puffed out his chest. ‘There are occasions when freedom of speech is dangerous. This is such a time. I am the mayor. My committee is behind me! Sit, Sir. You have had your say!’

 Benoit pumped his fist into the air. ‘Hear me out. We, the people, do not 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.  What do you care? I have my own Geiger counter. It’s old, but reliable. It's been in my family since Chernobyl. The readings have surged to astronomical levels. We’re guinea pigs. Safe, be damned.’

 Truer words were never spoken.

 Wolves howled.

 Darkness besieged the gates of the town as the silent killer spread its poison.

Soon the landscape would be a grim black postcard.



WORDS: 1045


Thank you for reading my entry. If you like the idea of writing to a picture prompt, please join us for our October challenge where some let horror rip, while others manage to write without delving into their dark side. So what is your take on Edvard Munch's The Scream? We love to meet new writers! Our challenges are open to all!

Wednesday 4 August 2021

#IWSG August - Question: My favorite #writingcraft book?

 Hi everyone!

This month at the #IWSG, we're discussing #writingcraftbooks.

Here is the complete August 4 question - What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique. And why?

The awesome co-hosts for the August 4 posting of the IWSG are PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox!

My contention is that writing books that are inspirational are the ones that speak to where you are in your writing journey at the time. Which is why a recommendation often falls flat as you're just not ready for that advice or you've moved well past it. Like I never understood From First Draft to Finished Novel when I bought it years ago. Perhaps now I will. 

Sometimes craft books just wait too long to get to the point. But also reading craft books causes a brain freeze for me. I'm just glad one of my critique partners missed her calling as a writing coach. Boy does she know her way around plot and structure and Story Genius (more later).

The first writing book I found useful was David Maas's Writing the Breakout Novel and its accompanying exercises. Well, we're all going to write that breakout novel, aren't we? Has eluded me so far gotta say! The most useful thing about Maas's book was his writing exercises. He'd give you a starting point/topic, and away you'd go. I think this is probably where I developed my love of #flashfiction. I bought his Writing 21st Century Fiction but don't remember much about it except that he'd gathered all these experts who all had different ideas. 

Nevertheless, they look nice on the shelves, don't they? If only I could spare more room!

I've read/partially read the books I just know will turn up this month. No authors. They'll be a cinch to find on Google:

Save the Cat

Take off your pants

On Writing

James Scott Bell 

Goal, Motivation, Conflict etc etc.

But these 14 or so years since I decided to teach myself to write properly, my go-to books are:

Manuscript Makeover

Secrets of a Best-Selling Writer...and...

Story Genius (ever since a big publisher advised me to know everything about my characters from the time the Tooth Fairy first visited. Ha, I jest, but just about. So now I 'story genius' my characters so they are more intriguing in their motivations. I hope so, anyway.


Speaking of #flashfiction, WEP's August challenge is up on the site -

Please join us!

And how do you like my little group of lovelies? I've been pretty busy putting all those writing craft books to good use!


And I just created my first FB ad on Book Brush! Yeah, it needs work, but here we go...