Excerpt #3 – YA horror story – Clickety Click…

monster claw

Bernadette dragged Alice towards the Ferris wheel. Alice looked up and worried at being so high. She stopped and jarred her friends arm.

“Oh, come on Alice its fun. You can see the whole valley from up there.”

Reluctantly Alice began walking again and gripped Bernadette’s hand tightly.

“If I want to get off will they let me?”

“Once we are on it’s not easy to get off but I’m with you. It will be fine, honestly.”

The friends sat in the swing seat and let the operator clamp a metal bar into place. Alice looked up at him. He realized the fear in her eyes and patted her arm gently.

“There’s no need to worry, it’s perfectly safe. Just enjoy the view.”

Alice thanked the man but gripped Bernadette’s hand just in case. The large wheel moved forward then stopped making the seat swing slightly.

“Ouch, Alice steady. You’ll break my hand gripping it like that. Each time someone gets on, the wheel turns a little then stops. When all the seats are full the operator will set it on its turn. Loosen up.”

Alice breathed in sharply and made a conscious effort not to squeeze Bernadette’s hand so hard. Her other hand gripped the bar tightly.

“Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to Frank’s Ferris wheel. Enjoy your ride.”

At the operators announcement, Alice turned backwards to see him several feet below her. He gave her a wink and nodded. She returned with a watery smile then looked forward at the tops of the stalls and other rides. The wheel began ascending and Alice could see the tops of the trees and the mountains in the distance. She began to relax as the view amazed her. By the time they reached the highest point Alice was relaxed enough to let go of Bernadette’s hand but not the metal bar.

Alice was full of her experiences and her lips sticky with cotton candy by the time she returned to her aunt and uncle’s home. As she talked about the rides, they sat watching her smiling. She relayed her fear of the Ferris wheel to start with but how being up so high made her feel like a bird and she enjoyed it so much she persuaded Bernadette to go back on three more times.

“You obviously had a super time, my dear. Maybe you should run a bath and get unstuck before supper. But by the looks of your lips, you could be too full of cotton candy to need supper!”

“Oh, I am hungry, Auntie. I only ate one candy I promise.”

“Off you go then. I will make a light supper then we can go for a walk in the dell.”

Alice lay in the hot water playing with the scented bubbles reliving her fun day at the fair. Her eyes began to close with tiredness and the soothing water. Click, click, clickety, click. Alice sprung up so fast water sloshed over the bath’s rim onto the floor. She spun around and looked around the bathroom fearing the monster was behind her. She was alone but certainly didn’t feel alone. Her fear made her step out of the bath quickly. She grabbed a towel and rushed from the room, her wet footprints marking the wooden floor. As her head turned toward the bathroom, sure the monster would race after her, she bumped straight into Uncle Gregor. They both let out a cry in shock.

“Whatever…Alice what is going on?”

“I heard it again, Uncle that sound.”

“Sound what sound, where? What are you talking about?”

“That clicking sound, I heard it in my nightmare last night.”

“I don’t hear a clicking noise, Alice. Where is it?”

“It’s in the bathroom. Uncle, please can you go and look?”

Alice stood on the landing afraid to move while her Uncle entered the bathroom. She imagined a furious beast attacking him, her poor Uncle fighting it off but failing. His smiling face and gently shaking head did not match her imagined scenario.

“All I saw were lots of bubbles and water all over the floor but no monster, Alice. Come now get dried and come down for your supper.”

Not wanting to enter the bathroom again, Alice turned to her bedroom where she dried herself and dressed in her pajamas and gown before joining her uncle and aunt in the kitchen. The smell of steaks and baked potatoes filled the room, her stomach rumbled. The meat was thickly cut and tangy with an unfamiliar spice.

“This tastes great, Auntie, what kind of spice did you use?”

“It’s my own blend, my dear. It’s taken me years of experimenting to get it just right. I’m glad you like it, I thought it might be too spicy for you.”

Alice saw her uncle’s grin grow wider as a dribble of steak juice ran down his chin. She passed him a napkin but he inhaled deeply and the stream of juice returned to his mouth.

“Wow, that’s clever, Uncle Gregor, how do you do that?”

“Ummm…I’m not sure, I’ve always been able to do it.”

Alice noticed her aunt frown at him but assumed she was unhappy with his table manners. To confirm this auntie admonished him when he belched loudly.

“In some countries belching after a meal is seen as a compliment to the chef, Auntie.”

“Well it isn’t here, my dear. I find it so rude and disgusting. Your uncle should be a good role model to you not a bad one.”

Uncle Gregor placed a napkin over his mouth and burped into it glancing at his wife as he did so with raised bushy eyebrows.

“Well that is better, Gregor. Now if you have both finished I have an errand to run. Can you clean up please?”

Alice and Gregor nodded their agreement as Cattrine left the kitchen. They soon heard her boots on the tiled hallway floor and she called out a farewell before leaving and closing the front door behind her.

“Where is Auntie going at this time of night, Uncle?”

“She’s…ummm…visiting a friend. She won’t be long. Let’s get these plates washed then we can sit by the fire.”

With the chores complete and the kitchen clean and tidy, Alice followed her uncle into the living room. She watched him build up the fire, placing tinder among the ashes first then gradually laying larger logs on top.

“Why don’t you find that book we were reading the other night, Alice?”

She turned to the bookcase behind her to scan the shelves. Gregor’s fingers flexed, a flame sparked from their tips. With the fire lit, he stood and turned to find Alice wide eyed and motionless staring at him.

“How did you do that? There were flames on your fingers.”

He shuffled his feet and looked down. After coughing, he spoke.

“Flames on my fingers, whatever are you talking about I used a couple of matches, my girl. Come and sit down.”

“I couldn’t see any matches, Uncle. Is it a magic trick?”

“Really, Alice, it’s not a trick and I did use matches. Now stop this nonsense and sit down.”

Alice frowned and shrugged her shoulders. Maybe I was wrong but I don’t think so. By the time Cattrine arrived home, Alice was in bed and Gregor was pacing the kitchen floor admonishing himself. As soon as Cattrine entered the kitchen, he took her hand and dragged her to the pantry.

“Whatever…Gregor, stop tugging me. What’s happened?”

“She saw…me with the fire. What do we do? I told her she was mistaken but I don’t know if she believed me.”

“I leave you for a couple of hours and you’re in trouble. Oh, Gregor really what should I do with you? Tell me everything.”

Gregor relayed the evening’s event then stood shamefaced in front of his wife, clicking his claws.

“You have to be careful, Gregor, I told you that. If she suspects or sees too much before its time, it could have drastic consequences. Leave it to me; I will put her mind at ease that she was imagining things. Now come outside and help me carry all the supplies in from the cart.”

They trod quietly as they carried in several loads from the cart into the pantry and stacked everything in the large fridge before sliding the false wall into place.

“Do you think its time we told her, Cattrine?”

“No, Gregor it’s too early, besides she is eating the meat happily so the change is imminent. Best we wait for her to notice instead of forcing it on her.”

“Maybe you are right, my dear.”

Gregor’s next sentence was cut short as Alice’s scream echoed through the house. Cattrine and Gregor raced up the stairs and pushed open Alice’s bedroom door. She sat on the edge of her bed staring at her hands as they contorted grotesquely. Her eyes full of fear and incomprehension looked up pleading with her guardians to help.

“Its time, Cattrine, I’ll get the potions. Stay with Alice.”

“Alice, dear, don’t fight it, it will be easier that way. I’m sure you have a thousand questions but for now we can help make the transition easier.”

“What are you saying, Auntie, transition?”

Alice watched her skin bubble and long spikes protrude from her fingertips, as her knuckles grew knobbly.

“We are different from other people, my dear. We have two forms, one human and one…”

“One what, Auntie, what is happening to me?”

“When you come of age the hidden form shows itself. That’s why we took you in. Your parents left instructions you were to be under our care if something happened to them.”

“My parents were the same? This other thing, this other form?”

“Yes, exactly, Alice they were. You need not be frightened Uncle Gregor and I will help you and show you how to reform. For now, you should relax and let it happen. The first time is always difficult.”

Her aunt sat beside her soothing her head even as it changed shape. Elongating at the back and widening at the jaw. Alice moaned, screamed and pleaded for her aunt to stop it happening as the form grew within her forcing itself outward. Uncle Gregor gave her sips of an amber liquid as her aunt mopped her sweating brow ridge, as it grew outward. The pain began to subside and Alice kept her eyes tightly shut, afraid to see what she looked like.

“You need to see, Alice. Open your eyes.”

“I can’t Uncle Gregor, I’m too afraid.”

“Once you get used to it you will find your new form has its benefits. Do you want Auntie and me to change? Would that help you feel better?”

“Oh, Uncle I don’t know. Are you both as scary as that monster in my dream?”

“Oh yes, we should have told you…that was you in the dream. It is a precursor to the change. It gave us time to prepare for your form shift, like making the potion and other things to help.”

“That’s what I look like now? Oh, Auntie, I can’t look, it was so scary.”

“My dear, you are not scary to us and you will soon find out what fun you can have with your new form and its powers.”

“I have powers, what kind of powers?”

“Well until you accept yourself we have no idea. Each of us is different.”

“What powers do you have, Auntie?”

“It is easier to show you, Alice. Why not open your eyes and then we can show you bit by bit.”

Alice felt her aunt’s hands gently wrap hers and she cautiously opened her eyes. She was relieved to see they were still in human form.

Let’s just sit for a while, Alice and you can look at your new form slowly. Maybe you should look at your hands first? Alice slowly lowered her head to look at the new-clawed paws lying in her lap. Her skin was a soft mauve color and glistened. She raised one paw and turned it this way and that. The paw was leathery in texture with bulging knuckles and elongated spikes at the tip. Her pajamas were ripped open revealing large and muscular legs and clawed paws instead of feet.

“How do you feel, Alice? Are you up to seeing the rest of you in the mirror?”

“I’m wary of seeing my face, Uncle. Am I atrocious?”

Her Uncle and Aunt looked at each other and Alice realized how rude she had been.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it like that…this is new to me and difficult to understand. Can you hold my hand…ummm…paw, Auntie?”

“Of course I can, Alice. I only hope you can accept what you see. The new you and the forms your Uncle and I become. Shall we wait for you to say the word on our revealing ourselves?”

“Yes, maybe that’s best. I need to get used to the new me, first.”

Aunt Cattrine stood up with Alice and walked her towards the full-length mirror. Alice stumbled on her new paws. They felt different to normal feet but stronger more powerful. Keeping her head lowered until they stood in front of the mirror, Alice took a deep breath and raised her head. The image reflected was of a mauve beast with purple eyes, a long jaw and wide shoulders. There was no sign of the usual Alice.

“Catch her, Cattrine, she’s going to faint.”

Alice opened her eyes feeling her Uncle large hand holding hers. He was sitting on the edge of her bed with concern on his face. He called out when he saw her open her eyes.

“She’s awake, Cattrine.”

Alice heard her Aunt’s footfalls on the stairs. She was carrying a tray with a bowl on it and a small dark brown bottle.

“Thank goodness. You gave us quite a shock, Alice. How do you feel?”

“Dizzy but okay, I suppose. What happened?”

“You fainted, that’s what happened. Let me help you sit up but come up slowly.”

Her uncle’s strong arm raised her from the pillow then he fluffed up a couple more pillows before guiding Alice downward again. Her aunt spooned a warm broth into Alice’s mouth and as the liquid slid down her throat, Alice felt a cooling sensation.

“I’ve never eaten anything like this before, Auntie. What is it?”

“A herbed soup to help settle your muscles, the first change makes them ache. Now I want you to stick out your tongue, I am putting a couple of drops of potion on it. This will ease your bones.”

“Are you up to seeing yourself now, Alice? We don’t have a lot of time before you will change back. If you would rather not that’s perfectly fine too.”

“I think I should look, Uncle. Both of you know what this change is all about and the sooner I look the sooner I can begin to accept it.”

“That’s my girl. I’ll help you to the mirror.”

Alice’s uncle supported her arm as she hobbled over to see her reflection. Alice viewed her new form initially with shock but gradually became inquisitive, turning her body side to side to view the many new projections and forms her body had produced. Her aunt and uncle stood behind her waiting for the questions they knew would flood from Alice’s enquiring mind.

An hour later, Alice stood in front of her guardians in amazement. Their forms were similar to hers but different. Her uncle was even larger and had multiple ridges on top of his elongated head. His jaw was immense with long fangs and a forked tongue. His claws curved with razor sharp edges and his legs bent backwards enabling him to spring upward twenty or thirty feet in a single bound. Her aunt was smaller and had softer ridges on her head but her eyes were the focus of Alice’s interest. They were bright gold and three times as large as normal human eyes. Catterine explained that she could see in the dark as if it was daylight. Alice was curious to know what her power was and inspected her reflection hoping to see a clue to it.

“There will be time to explore your power, Alice but we should reform and go to bed now, it is late.”

“I suppose so, Auntie but how do I reform?”

“Just do as we do, Alice. Ready?”

Alice mimicked her uncle and aunt as they shrugged their shoulders, stretched their limbs and breathed deeply. She could feel her body change and soften, the mauve tinge to her skin diminished and the ridges on her forehead disappeared. Her pointed claws shrunk back into fingers and feet.

“How do you feel, Alice? Do you need more healing potion?”

Alice moved her arms and legs and moved her head side to side. Her whole body had a dull ache but not the pain she expected.

“I do ache a bit, Auntie but not as much as I thought I would. Is that good or bad?”

“Oh, that is good, Alice. Some Graffians experience a lot of pain the first few times they reform. Maybe take a few drops to settle you for the night?”

“What was that name, Uncle?”

“How silly of us we never mentioned it. We are called Graffians, a unique and magical being.”

“I’m magical?”

“You certainly are, Alice. Each of us develops a power and it is our quest to use it wisely.”

Uncle Gregor held up his hand as Alice opened her mouth to ask another question.

“You have enough to take in for tonight, Alice. Let’s wait until tomorrow for more answers. I for one am tired and would like to sleep.”

Alice nodded although her mind was bursting with questions. She couldn’t wait to tell Bernadette that she was magical. As she snuggled into bed her Aunt and Uncle smiled and turned to leave. Her Uncle turned suddenly.

“Alice, the one rule you must never break is, you can never tell anyone, and I mean anyone, what you are. Not even Bernadette, or your school friends or strangers. It may be difficult to keep this secret but to let humans know would mean certain death to us all. Do I have your solemn promise?”

Alice saw the concern and worry in her Uncle’s eyes as he spoke. She was in no doubt it was important to keep this promise above all others.

“I promise, Uncle Gregor. Would they really hurt us?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so. There have been events in our time, I’m sad to say. Now please sleep well and we will answer all your questions tomorrow.”

Just as her bedroom door was closing, Alice called out.

“Will I dream of the monster…ummm form…well me tonight as well?”

“No as you have changed the dream will not return, my dear.”

Her aunt’s sweet smile reassured Alice and she closed her eyes.

Strawberry Creek Writing Exercises – May 2015

Creek sign

Some of you may know I spent this long weekend at the stupendous Strawberry Creek Lodge with a bevy of inspiring, funny and wonderful writers. I took a prompt exercise for us to consider during our stay. The prompt asked for everyone to chose 3 letters of the alphabet. These corresponded to partial book titles and created ‘new’ titles to work from. I would like to share my two titles and the short stories they inspired me to write. I hope you like them.

slave child

Tender is the Fury and Prejudice

Sasha swirled around in her gingham dress, enjoying its flaring circle around her waist. The dress was the first new piece of clothing she ever wore.

“Now Missy, be careful with that there dress. There ain’t another one coming for a long time.”

“Yes, Mamma, I’ll be as careful as careful can be.”

Sasha smiled at her mother, who sat in the rocker breastfeeding the new baby. With a new brother, Sasha was not the baby anymore and would sleep in the big bed with her older brothers and sisters. The new baby made eight in the family and the cabin even more crowded. Sasha sat on a stool letting her dress hang down but mindful it did not touch the floor.

Stomping footsteps announced the return of her brothers and sisters from the cotton field. She ran to the bedroom and took off the dress. Once it was folded and put in the dresser, she returned to the main room.

Her mother stood at the stove lading out bowls of stew and handing each tired child a biscuit. Sasha waited until everyone else was seated before taking a bowl for herself. Her father entered the crowded room and exchanged a weary smile with her mother. Sasha saw him glance at the baby and frown.

“Is it feeding, Annie?”

“Yes, Samuel he is…”

Sasha could not tell what the look on her fathers face meant but she saw a tear run down her mother’s cheek as she turned away from him. With her bowl taken to the washing bowl, Sasha sat beside the bay’s crib and rocked it gently. Her siblings cleared the tables, washed the dishes and exited the cabin leaving their parents to spend time together.

As Sasha soothed her new brother her father whispered words confused her.

“Is it healthy, will it live?”

“There’s no way of knowing, Samuel, maybe he will.”

“Another mouth to feed, its too many, Annie. We need to decide on her future.”

“Oh, Samuel, please don’t – we will manage, we have in the past.”

“I know its a hard decision, Annie but the offer is there and the money would make all the difference.”

“But she’s so young and…”

Her mother’s sob cut her sentence short. Sasha watched her father embrace her mother, rocking her back and forth like her mother did to Sasha when she suffered a nightmare.

Unnoticed in the corner, Sasha tried to make sense of her parents conversation. What was happening to who? Why was her mother so upset?

A week later a fancy carriage pulled up outside the cabin driven by a black man but dressed in white man’s clothing. Sasha had never seen such a thing and fussed to be released from her mothers arms.

“Stand still for one more minute, Sasha.”

“Mamma, why’s that man dressed so fancy?”

“Its cause of his job as a driver for the boss. Now hold still, I’ve one more ribbon to put in.”

Sasha fidgeted until the ribbon was tied then ran to the carriage wide-eyed. She did not see her mother clasp her mouth and hold back pleading words. She turned to Samuel who nodded and opened the cabin door for her to enter.

“Stay inside, it will be easier for the girl to go. Look after the little one.”

Samuel closed the door after his wife and descended the steps to stand beside the carriage and grasp Sasha’s hand.

“Is this the girl you spoke of Samuel?”

“Yes, boss.”

“Bring her here so I can see her properly. Does she know how to behave? My wife will not tolerate ill manners.”

“She is a good girl, boss and will learn quickly.”

Samuel picked Sasha up and put her into the carriage. She looked at the beautiful cushions and the bright white suite the white man wore. She was surprised when he turned her around, she thought he liked her gingham sress as much as she did. When the man opened her mouth and inspected her teeth, Sasha looked at her father but stayed silent when his brows lowered and he put on finger to his lips.

“She’s a pretty little thing, I’m hopeful my wife will like her, Samuel.”

The man gave her father a small leather pouch and sat Sasha on the seat beside him.

“Thank you, boss. You be good for the boss, Sasha. Do as you are told and only speak when spoken to.”

Sasha grinned at her father and nodded enthusiastically. I’m going for a ride in this fancy carriage, I’m so lucky. Samuel watched the carriage drive away until it was out of sight. He swallowed deeply several times before entering the cabin.

“She’s gone then, my little Sasha?”

“Yes, Annie, she’s gone.”

“Did she cry?”

“No, she was so excited about the carriage she didn’t turn around. She will cry tonight no doubt when she realizes she is to spend her life at the house but she’ll come around, so don’t fret. It’s a better life for her than the cotton field.”

“I hope so, Samuel, I really do.”

Annie placed her baby boy in his crib and began the supper preparations. Her tears mixed with the vegetable water as she peeled potatoes. She would delay telling Samuel she might be pregnant again. Later as her family ate, she reached out for Sasha’s hand but felt emptiness. She knew the money would help the rest of the family until the oldest ones left home but thoughts of what her little girl might have to endure in the big house haunted her dreams for many months.

clockwork bird

To Kill The Windup Bird (Book 1)

The work bench was littered with cogs, springs and wires. Marcus surveyed the array of intricate tools laying in precise rows to one side of the bench. He unfolded a parchment to reveal detailed diagrams of the project he was enlisted to make.

After judicious study, Marcus began to gather the relevant parts he would need to assemble the clockwork bird. Adjusting his magnifying glasses and turning on a lighting device, he began assembling the internal mechanism that would facilitate movement for the wings, feet, and beak. Gradually over the next two weeks the bird formed into a recognizable shape. At each stage of its construction, Marcus tested the mechanisms to ensure the separate parts worked perfectly in isolation.

Once each section was to his satisfaction, Marcus planned the placement of joints and cogs in the bird’s body, to enable the wings and legs would move in unison. As Marcus was bending over the bird and attaching the left wing, he heard the workshop door open. Without looking, he knew immediately who his visitor was. He gently laid the mechanism down and turned around to face his employer.

“How is the clockwork bird progressing, Marcus?”

“I’m making good progress, Sir, the wings are almost attached, and I have the legs assembled.”

“Good work, Master Marcus, you certainly live up to your name. My other assemblers would not be at such an advanced stage. May I see it?”

“Of course, Commodore.”

Marcus turned to the bench and pushed a small box underneath a cloth. He then picked up the clockwork mechanism and presented to Theodore Gripe. The elderly man looked from side to side at the assembled figure through thick glasses and sniffed loudly. Marcus tensed unsure if his work was good enough. As the first consignment from Commodore Gripe, Marcus knew if he failed and the piece was not up to the exacting standards required he would be dismissed immediately. Theodore Gripe moved a wing up and down and a slight smile creased his dark skin revealing a row of perfectly white teeth apart from one gold one at the front.

“This is excellent work, Marcus. I look forward to seeing it completed. Please send a missive once it is ready.”

Marcus let out a sigh of relief and nodded his head in deference to his employer. Once Gripe exited the workshop, Marcus placed the bird on the bench again, uncovered the box, and opened it to reveal a silver ball within. Using two long pronged clamps, he inserted the ball into the belly of the bird mechanism. Once it was in place, he attached two small metal plates to encase the ball and tightened tiny screws to hold them fast.

Two days later, Marcus sent his missive to the Commodore advising him the bird was fully functional. Marcus carefully placed the bird into an ornate box with a glass front. A guard entered the workshop and  waited for the box to be handed over. Once Marcus relinquished his project, he sat back at the bench and waited for the key to turn in the lock behind the guards. Now he would wait.

Several hours later he heard the sound of numerous horse drawn carriages and several mechanical ones arrive at the mansion. His nerves were beginning to take hold as the grand ball’s guests were assembling. Marcus knew he had to wait until the King arrives before he could action his plan. He did not have to wait long before the sounds of heralding horns was heard. Marcus looked at his pocket watch and watched the minute hand tick slowly from two to eleven.

With a wish in his heart and hope in his mind, Marcus retrieved a small box from his jacket pocket. His hand shook and he nearly dropped the control. Admonishing himself, he sat on the floor cross-legged with the box in front of him. Taking a deep breath, he pushed a steel rod into the box and waited. The explosion rocked the walls around him and dust and debris fell from the ceiling. He heard the guards shouting outside the workshop and the sound of horses neighing and pounding hooves.

Marcus crept to the locked door and peered through the barred window. There were no guards, now was his chance. Grabbing a packet from a nearby shelf, he pressed a sticky putty substance into the lock, and then stood back. The creamy putty fizzed and emanated a bright light. the door juddered and popped open slightly. Marcus did not wait but rushed out of his prison with relief. After looking both ways along the long corridors to ensure there were no more guards, he took a shadowed corridor deeper into the mansion’s cellar. A grate low in the wall was his target and his method of escape. Once again, he used the explosive putty and pulled the grate out. Squeezing himself into the duct, he put the grate back and secured it with a couple of bolts. Sliding on his stomach, he pulled his body along the duct until he could small fresh air and saw the faint light of the moon.

The exit to the duct was shrouded with bushes, which suited Marcus just fine. He repeated his actions with the second grate then made his way through the woods to freedom. He did not linger to investigate the devastation behind him. He was certain his clockwork bomb had done its job as soon as the King had wound the key to make the bird flap its wings, strut on its iron legs, and chirp its final song.

Character Building – How Do You Do It..?

Character profile

Whether you spend time intricately plotting and creating your story line or let the story flow unbidden, one facet of all stories that must be created and created well are its characters. Your protagonist, antagonist and all the supporting characters have a ‘job’ to do. They must give our readers an insight into their personalities, their struggles, ambitions and fears. Characters build the ‘world’ you have set your characters within by showing it through their eyes, their thoughts and actions.

Every writer has his or her own methods, when it comes to the creation of a character. Some begin with a name, others physical attributes or personality traits. You can even begin with the setting and fit your characters around it. Such as an alien being trapped in a spacecraft, a monster hunting its prey or specific behavior traits for period pieces. In creating a character, we have to decide on their physical features. This primarily gives our readers an image but more importantly an idea of their personality. A thin, acne-faced teenager will not automatically give our readers the idea of a ‘superman’ kind of personality but a muscle bound, athletic type could. A name can be a good starting point for our creation, but it is also a minefield. Research into real persons, living or dead should be foremost, unless of course you are writing about that particular person.

There are numerous ‘character development work sheets’ available on the Internet and it can be useful to fill them in for your main characters, if you have no clear ‘picture’ of them to begin with. I tend to write the story and the characters develop as I go along but I know other writers find this method too difficult. The joy of creating a story is that your characters may change from your initial perception as the story unfolds. They may develop characteristics you had not considered or react quite differently to a situation from your preconceived idea.

We ‘live’ with our characters for a long time and they become ‘real’ to us. This enables us to write the story with ‘insider knowledge’ of our characters backstory, their emotional compass and their ultimate goal. This knowledge becomes paramount during the subsequent drafts and editing process, giving us a well-rounded character and a believable one for our readers.

How do you create your characters?



Guest Post with Andi O’Connor – Character Creation…

Andi invited me to participate in her blog series, I was happy to accept. https://www.andioconnor.net/blog

Book Tagging – Your Turn! 11May

Book Tag Fun

Book Tag

#1: Read only trilogies or stand-alones?

I read stand alone’s mostly and bizarrely that is what I write too.

#2: Read only female or male authors?

Gender is of no importance when it comes to a great story. World building, great characters and a good plot are my preferences regardless of genre.

#3: Shop at Bookstore or Amazon?

I changed this question slightly – I would rather spend time in a book store, actually connecting with the books physically than ordering a photograph of a book on the computer screen.

#4: All books become movies or t.v. shows?

I sincerely hope not. It is rare for a movie or TV adaptation to really encompass the story and characters of our imaginations.

#5: Read 5 pages per day or 5 books per week?

I would love to have the time to read 5 books a week but with full time work, a household to run, my freelance writing services to cater to and editing not one, but two manuscripts currently, I will have to say 5 pages a day.

#6: Be a professional reviewer or author?

I am a ‘professional author’ already with several books published.

#7: Only read your top 20 favorite books over and over or always read new ones that you haven’t read before?

I actually do both. Old favorites are read when I have no ‘new’ book on my pile, although most of the time there are more new than old waiting for me.

#8: Be a librarian or book seller?

I would love to own a book store with a cafe to one side and quiet spaces on the other for local authors to utilize for writing, research and networking. A reading and writing hub if you like. Wouldn’t that be perfect?

#9: Only read your favorite genre, or every genre except your favorite?

I read multiple genres, it gives me insights into structure, format and plotting methods within each genre. As a multi-genre author, I do not limit my reading.

#10: Only read physical books or eBooks?

Physical books are my passion. Texture, aroma, weight and wear and tear make the reading experience so much more. Backlit electronic devices hurt my eyes and energize my brain, rather than calm it.

ALL DONE! Now I tag these 5 people to do this tag:

MeriAnn Boxall at http://meriannboxall.com/

Bianca Rowena at https://biancarowena.wordpress.com/

Jackie Phillips at http://tobreatheistowrite.com/

Kathy Temean at https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/

Eric Price at http://authorericprice.com/

and everyone else who would like to join in.

Have fun everyone and don’t forget to leave your thoughts down below. Thanks for reading

Ockleberries to the Rescue- Guest Blog…

I am a guest of Writing Belle today – here is the link.


MOTHER’S DAY SPECIAL: Mandy Eve-Barnett and Kathy Lane

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. What better way to celebrate the ladies who raised us than with a salute to the books that they read to us when we were children? Today I’m featuring two children’s authors, Mandy Eve-Barnett and Kathy Lane. Check out their books below and connect with them online. And have a lovely Mother’s Day!

Mandy Eve-Barnett

Book cover

About Mandy’s Book:

Tansy and Crispin help all the forest animals, with their ailments or injuries, no matter how big or how small. The healing potions and practices they use were handed down generation to generation. Living in a home built within the roots of a magnificent oak tree, the two sprites and their animal helpers, remain hidden from human eyes.

Crispin wishes to find a long ago lost cave filled with ancient healing books and potion recipes. No matter where he travels in the forest he searches for it. Always hoping… Will he find it? What is the story behind the cave? When humans come into the forest – what happens?

Purchase it here:  http://www.dreamwritepublishing.ca/products/ockleberries-rescue

Q&A with Mandy 

Tell us about your book. 

 My parents encouraged a love of nature and when I became a parent, I passed on the wonder to my children. When my children were small, I made up several stories about magical sprites helping their animal friends. It was a ‘one-off’ event, as I did not write until decades later after immigrating to Canada. The characters have always stayed with me and so I was determined to make their adventures into a book. The two main characters are Crispin and Tansy, woodland sprites, who live inside the roots of a great oak tree concealed by a magical spell to protect them from human visitors to the forest. Their powers of healing were passed down generation to generation and with a couple of favorite animal aides, they travel the forest, riverbank and meadows to care for all the creatures that live there.

Each chapter tells the story of a particular animal and how the sprites help them but also tells the sprites story.

I don’t often feature children’s books, but I appreciate the art of storytelling that goes into creating one. What is your favorite part about writing? 

 My favorite part is creating the characters, their world and what happens to them. I have found that all my stories center on love in all its forms and I want to show young readers that love and kindness are important to everyone.

How long have you been writing – is this your first published work? 

I did not start writing until I was in my late forties, although I have always been creative in one form or another my whole life. My first published book was a picture book called Rumble’s First Scare. It follows a young monster on his first All Hallows Eve scaring trip.

Any upcoming projects? 

 Always! I am currently editing two manuscripts, one a western romance called Willow Tree Tears and the other a suspense/thriller, called The Giving Thief. I am also serializing a YA horror story on my blog called Clickety Click and have recently envisioned another children’s picture book about a bug. I also have two other manuscripts on the back burner awaiting editing. A speculative fiction called Life in Slake Patch and the other is a romance with a reincarnation twist called The Twesome Loop. So yes I always have upcoming projects to keep me busy.

Where can readers connect with you online? 

 My blog is www.mandyevebarnett.com.

I am on Twitter @mandyevebarnett

Facebook page mandyevebarnett.com

About Mandy 

Mandy currently lives in Alberta, Canada but is originally from England. Her background is diverse and gives her rich experience to utilize in her writing. She has traveled throughout Europe, parts of America and Canada and was born in Africa.

Mandy is passionate about writing to the point of obsession and she succeeded in becoming a published author in record time. She also holds the position of Secretary for her local writing group, Writers Foundation of Strathcona County.

Writing in various genres, Mandy has published several books, a well as co-wrote a workbook and had short stories published in anthologies. Mandy’s presence can be found on numerous web sites as well as on her own blog where she communicates her writing journey as author, supporter of other writers and freelancer.

Here Are Some People to Inspire You to Write


Inspiring and enlightening talks for authors.

Originally posted on Live to Write - Write to Live:

We’re nearing the end of National Novel Writing Month and entering the season of giving thanks, so I thought I’d share a few presentations by writers to inspire you.

These are TED Talks – short (~20 minutes) inspirational talks you can find on YouTube for just about any topic you’d like.

Writing books: Elizabeth Gilbert – your elusive creative genius (author of Eat, Pray, Love)

We’re all creative.


Storytelling: Andrew Stanton – clues to a great story (Filmmaker – Toy Story, WALL-E)

Greatest story commandment is “make me care.”


 Poetry: Billy Collins – Everyday moments, caught in time (former U.S. Poet Laureate)

Bugs Bunny is his muse. <smile>

From poem &quot;Budapest&quot; From poem “Budapest”

Storytelling (~4 minutes): Joe Sabia – the technology of storytelling

You’ll remember the name Lothar Meggendorfer after this video.


Enjoy the videos! I hope they inspire.

Have a great week!

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor…

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Rebecca Bradley – Return Interview…

Rebecca Bradley

What inspired you to write your first book? 

I’m one of those people who always wanted to write a novel and a crime novel at that, but I put it off for years as you do. The motivation, rather than inspiration for getting my butt in the chair was an impending birthday I wasn’t happy about. So rather than approach the birthday not having done the things I always wanted to do, I sat down and start typing and I never looked back.

How did you come up with the title? 

This is a funny one. I am absolutely dreadful with titles. Seriously. This novel had an awful title for most of its working life when out of nowhere Shallow Waters came to me. Now I couldn’t be happier with its title.

Shallow Waters

Is this your first book? How many books have you written (published or unpublished)?

Shallow Waters is my first book. I wish I had started when I was younger, when I first dreamed of writing. How many novels would I have under my belt now? But we can’t live with what ifs. This is what I have and I’m proud of it.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 

The theme is secrets and lies. So many people within the book are hiding something, not quite being honest or telling outright lies. It’s a destructive force as can be seen as the book progresses.

How much of the book is realistic? 

Unfortunately the topics covered within the book are far too realistic. It covers the dark, seedy, underbelly of life where the nasty want to stay hidden and it also shows that our children can be vulnerable no matter where they come from. It’s not always an easy read, but it never gets too close. It’s a police procedural and that is also hopefully realistic.

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life? 

It’s a book about murder and darkness, so no. Luckily, nothing is based on events in my own life. As for characters, the protagonist drinks a lot of tea as I do, but she has awful taste in tea because her preference is green tea!

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I think if you gave any author their book back and asked them the same question, you would get the same response. Absolutely yes! Are we ever satisfied? I don’t think so. There’s a quote by Leonardo da Vinci that Art is never finished, only abandoned.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I wrote this for you. I do hope that you enjoy it. Please feel free to get in touch with me.  I love to hear from you.

What is your favorite part/chapter of your book/project?

I think the characters. They have become the people I wanted them to be.

What is your favorite theme/genre to write? 

Definitely crime.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

I think my first book out has covered the taboo subject, so from here on in I’m pretty safe.

What book are you reading now? 

I’m reading the very short Broadchurch novella.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? 

So many in 2014! Mary Kubica who wrote The Good Girl and Emma Kavanagh who wrote Falling.

Do you see writing as a career? 

Absolutely. I don’t think you can go into this half-hearted. You can while you are still writing that first novel, you can take all the time in the world and do what you want, when you want, but once you publish, you need to know it’s what you want to do. You could have readers if you’re lucky and they might even want to read something else by you. So be prepared. It’s what I want. I am in it for the long term.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Still writing. Hopefully with lots of novels out and working on another. A strong readership. And enjoying it!

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? 

First Drafts! I hate first drafts. Once that’s down I’m ok, I have a scaffold to work around, but a first draft is scary.

Have you ever hated something you wrote? 


What book do you wish you had written?


Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer. It’s about an aspergers young adult who goes to anatomy classes and finds that his cadaver has actually been murdered. It’s brilliant.

What is your best marketing tip?

Be sociable. Active but sociable.

What genre is your next project? What is it about?

It’s crime again. This book is the first in a series, so the next book is the follow on. It follows the investigation team after the events of book one and there’s a whole new standalone investigation to jump into.


Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

There are events in Shallow Waters that the team have to deal with emotionally in book two, so we learn how they are dealing with that. The murders they come across in book two have a huge impact on the more local community than they did in book one and these are reactions that they are faced with managing as well. It all gets very complicated and messy for the team.

How do we find your books, blog and bio?

You can find me blogging Monday to Friday at rebeccabradleycrime.com and on Twitter at @RebeccaJBradley

Rebecca Bradley lives in Nottinghamshire with her family and her one-year-old Cockerpoo Alfie, who keeps her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and if she could, she would survive on a diet of tea and cake while committing murder on a regular basis, in her writing of course.

Once a month Rebecca hosts a crime book club on Google+ hangouts where you can live chat about a crime book everyone has read. It’s great fun. Members join in from the UK, the US, France and Australia on a regular basis. As it is online, there are no geographical boundaries and you can sit in your home to join in. You can find details of how this works on the blog rebeccabradleycrime.com

DI Hannah Robbins will return in 2015. Sign up to the newsletter to make sure you don’t miss the launch date to find out what happens next.

Her books can be bought on Amazon and Kobo in all countries.

My social media links are;

Twitter http://Twitter.com/RebeccaJBradley

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/RebeccaBradleyCrime

blog http://rebeccabradleycrime.com

Writing Conference 2nd May 2015…

Writers Foundation Strathcona County

My writing group, The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County, is holding their annual conference this Saturday. It is a celebration of 10 years of the group and so we have created an exceptional event. With keynotes, presenters covering numerous topics and a Q&A on publishing plus many vendors, a Silent Auction and a superb networking opportunity, we are excited to celebrate and welcome all writers – any age, any stage of their writing career.

This is the link to register  http://wfscsherwoodpark.com/event/2015-10-years-help-us-celebrate

We welcome walk-ins as well. Grab a goodie bag, decide on the sessions you wish to attend and meet fellow writers. Purchase from the vendors and bid on the great Silent Auction items.

Postcard front - promotion

Postcard back - promotionConference Bag

Andi O’Connor – Return Interview…

Andi O'Connor

What inspired you to write your first book?

I got the idea for The Lost Heir while in college. I’ve always been interested in the possibility of other worlds and beings similar to us existing and thought it would be neat to explore how someone from Earth would react in an alien environment. But the idea wasn’t enough to inspire me to start writing. I did it for my mom. She was an avid reader and is who instilled a love of reading in me.  Originally, I didn’t even think about having it published. I just wanted to give it to her as a gift for a birthday or Christmas. Sadly, she died before I was able to finish it, but it is dedicated to her.

How did you come up with the title?

Coming up with the title for The Lost Heir was actually quite easy. Darrak finds out quite early on in the book that his distant ancestors were actually from Dragonath. A war was raged against the palace for rule of Dragonath. Although the palace ended up winning the war, their victory was exceptionally slim. The remaining survivor with royal blood fled to Earth until it was safe for her or her descendants to return. Darrak is that descendant and the rightful heir to the throne. Hence the title.

Is this your first book? How many books have you written (published or unpublished)?

The Lost Heir was my first book. I currently have three series going simultaneously. So far, The Dragonath Chronicles includes The Lost Heir and Awakening, both of which are published. The Vaelinel Trilogy has Silevethiel, which is published, and I am currently working on the second book in the series tentatively titled Chosen. My third series, The Legacy of Ilvania, is a series of short stories. Currently, Redemption and Reclamation are published on Kindle. Retribution is finished and ready for publication. There will be three books in each of the first two series. As far as The Legacy of Ilvania? Don’t ask me, because I have absolutely no idea.


Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 

I’m going to answer this from all of my books, not just one. A running theme in all of my works is female equality and the empowerment of women. Sometimes it is subtle, while other times it’s extremely obvious. But it’s always there in one way or another. I’m a strong woman, more so now than I was before. I see and hear many instances in our society where women are afraid to stand up for their rights. We live in a society where women are bred and raised to believe they are inferior to men. That they shouldn’t stand up if they’re abused or raped. That their only worth in this world is to marry and have children. That they become property of their husbands and must obey them and look to them as the stronger and superior partner.

Whether or not my readers agree with this philosophy or not, I always raise the issue. I hopefully make them aware and make them think. But my message can and should extend further than female equality. It extends to all forms of equality. No one, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation should be afraid to be themselves. No one should be afraid to stand up for their basic rights as humans and beings of this world. And if I can empower even a handful of people to find the strength to stand against their abusers or fight for their right to be treated as equal human beings, I’ve succeeded. If I can motivate just a handful of people to perhaps treat others with a bit more respect, then I will be the happiest little fantasy writer in the universe.


How much of the book is realistic?

All of my writing, although fantasy, is quite realistic and relatable. Obviously not as far as magic is concerned (much to my chagrin). And while we don’t have dragons or sorcerers or lions we can communicate with telepathically, the storylines are extremely real. I include real situations and issues into all of my writing. The result makes my fantasy extremely real and relatable. I’ve written about rape, abortion, religion, abuse, and widespread epidemics, to name a few. Everything is written within the confines of the world and story I’ve created, but my readers can empathize with situations in their own lives or real world events.

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Some are loosely based on people I know and events I’ve experienced. Inspiration is everywhere. But everything is quite specific to the world and story in which I’m writing. My characters grow and evolve based on what they experience. So even if the original idea I have for them begins from something I see or someone I know, it doesn’t remain that way for long. The characters lead me through the story. It’s their life. Their experiences. Their emotions. Not mine or someone else’s.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Not a thing as far as content. Though if I had to do it again, I would have it printed in hardback instead of paperback. I had it printed in paperback to be consistent with The Lost Heir but I’m definitely partial to hardback.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? 

I have gone through a lot this past year regarding discovering myself. I’ve worked on a number of problems and fears that stemmed from not being able to properly understand and grieve my father’s death when I was a child. It was a difficult process. Because of my problems and my desperate need for help that I refused to get until five months ago, I made a great deal of mistakes. My husband and I went through some extremely tough times, but we persevered and are about to celebrate a wedding anniversary we never thought we’d reach.

I’m sharing this because I know how hard it is to admit we have faults. I know how hard it is to face fears and overcome them. But the person I am today is far greater, stronger, confident, and happier than the person I was before.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Don’t look to others for happiness. Love yourself. Be confident in who and what you are. Be proud of what you’ve achieved. Have the strength to stand up for yourself and don’t let people take advantage of your weaknesses. You will be so much happier and content with who you are. Once you find happiness with yourself, you will find happiness with others and your relationships will flourish.


What is your favorite part/chapter of your book/project?

Wow! Tough question! I think my favorite scene is the second scene from the third short story in The Legacy of Ilvania, titled Retribution. It’s when Juriel goes to stand against her father and brothers after they beat her with the intent of killing her in order to restore honour to their family. Because I’m awesome, I’ll give you a little teaser. Be forewarned…this is NOT for younger audiences.

Before Juriel had a chance to respond, her father closed the distance between them. He hit her so hard she fell backwards, landing hard on her bum. She tried to stand, but his muddy boot slammed onto her chest and pinned her to the ground. “Süryn! Norn! Kint! Léthan!” he bellowed, calling to her brothers. “Look who’s come to play!”

One by one their faces came into view. Each one wore a more sadistic expression than the one previous.

“What do you say boys?” her father continued. “How about we show our Juriel how a woman gets knocked up? Maybe she’ll learn a thing or two about how to fuck!”

Her brothers’ laughter grated on her soul. Syrn knelt before her and her stomach turned. “Look on the bright side,” her father said tearing the front of her skirt to expose her bare legs, “if you survive your lesson, you won’t be as much of a fucking disappointment to your next husband should anyone find a miserable little whore like you worth taking as a wife!”

Her fury rose even more at her brothers’ jeers. They closed in around her. Spreading her arms and legs, they pinned them to the ground. Her father slid his hand up her inner thigh and over her vagina before grasping the tie on her knickers.


Juriel’s magic exploded from her body. All five men were thrown aside as if they were nothing more than rag dolls. They lay sprawled on the ground, dazed and confused. Juriel was up on her feet before any of them had a moment to recover. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her mother move toward Léthan. Letting out a rush of magic, Juriel paralyzed Berla before the woman walked two steps.

What is your favorite theme/genre to write?

I only write fantasy and lately have been leaning towards more of the darker themes of the genre. What draws me to fantasy is that, when done well, although it’s entirely make believe, it’s real. The characters experience the same feelings/emotions/experiences as us. They love. They hate. They feel joy, loss, fear, and betrayal. They face hardships. And although solutions to their problems often times involve a crafty combination of magic and swords, we can relate to them. We can learn from them even though we might not realize it until long after we’ve finished their story and placed the book back on the shelf.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

No. I’ve already included subjects such as rape, abortion, abuse, and discrimination in my writing, to name a few. I will not shy away from anything else. If it fits with the characters, storyline, and situation, I will write about it. I am a firm believer in including powerful situations and issues in my writing that cause my readers to think. Whether or not they agree with the characters’ opinions or the actions they take is irrelevant. What’s important is that my readers are facing an issue and not ignoring it. Ignoring something doesn’t make it go away.

What book are you reading now?

I’m currently reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and Brush With Darkness by Jamie Maltman. Both are for book clubs. One at a local bookstore and one online called Rave Reviews Book Club.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? 

I’m becoming a fan of a few fellow indie fantasy authors. Kurt D. Springs, author of Price of Vengeance, Scott Marlowe author of The Five Elements and Jaxon Reed author of Redwood: Servant of the State. I am following all of them and looking forward to what they’ll release next. I think all of them have quite amazing potential.

Do you see writing as a career?

Yes, definitely. Writing is what I do full time. Between writing, daily promotion, and traveling for festivals/cons/signings, I don’t have much time for anything else!

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I see myself doing exactly what I’m doing now: writing, writing, and more writing! Just with more tattoos and probably not a strand of hair on my head that’s a natural color. Who knows how many series I’ll have by then. The way I’m currently trending, it’ll probably be somewhere in the vicinity of three million. And I’m perfectly fine with that.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Actually, there really isn’t anything I find challenging. The biggest thing I would say is keeping the three worlds separate in my brain. I don’t outline or plan ahead, so everything is just up there, locked away in my mind. It’s not as difficult as one would think, which means I’m either a genius or completely nuts. You choose.

Have you ever hated something you wrote?

I don’t know if this is normal or not, but no, I’ve never hating something I wrote. I’ve evolved over the years and my style is much different than when I began, but even with that, I don’t hate my early writing. That being said, I have hated a character I wrote. Not in the sense that I didn’t write him well, but rather that I wrote him too well. Garenth from The Dragonath Chronicles is EXTREMELY misogynistic and a right prat. I remember editing Awakening and reading a scene with him and hating him so much I wanted to disembowel him with a vegetable peeler. … Don’t judge.

What book do you wish you had written?

This is a question I’ve never been asked and one that I had to take a great deal of time thinking about. I would have to say I wish I wrote Bloodfire Quest by Terry Brooks. It’s the only book I’ve ever read where I cried. The emotion he was able to instil in me was stunning and terribly beautiful. I felt an immense sense of connection with the characters and events. The underlying messages were touching and heartbreaking, yet done so in a magnificently subtle way.

What is your best marketing tip?

I suppose this answer technically contains two tips, but I’m going to tell you both of them anyway. Variety and frequency. People need to see you and your books often and in different forms. Now, we have the opportunity to get really creative with our marketing, which is awesome. But if our potential readers don’t see us and learn about us in different ways (interviews, guest posts, Q&A’s, promos, etc.) and they don’t see us often, they’re not going to become our readers.

What genre is your next project? What is it about?

Fantasy of course! I’m currently working on the second book of The Vaelinel Trilogy, tentatively titled Chosen. It continues Irewen’s journey to discover the truth about her heritage and stand against her cousin Elthad, the leader of the Drulaack who is seeking not only her death but also rule of Vaelinel.

After that, I will continue with The Legacy of Ilvania and begin the fourth short story. Don’t ask me what will happen. I have no idea!

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I can’t tell you anything for certain. Since I don’t outline or plan ahead, I really don’t know what’s going to happen until I write the specific scene or chapter. That being said, I will say Chosen has some exciting and unexpected happening. The enemy is now hunting Irewen in both reality and the world of the dead. And while fighting the Drulaack, Laegon became inflicted with a form of illness that is turning him mad. Both of them will be challenged to continue to find who they are as individuals while fighting to save the world of Vaelinel from destruction.

How do we find your books, blog and bio?

My bio/books/blog are on my website www.andioconnor.net

While you’re on my website, take a minute to visit the store! There’s some exciting new swag as well as all my books! Signed copies are available!

You can also find me on Twitter @OConnorAndi and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/oconnor.andi

See Andi’s previous interview here: http://mandyevebarnett.com/2013/01/24/interview-with-andi-o-connor/