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Excerpt #4 – YA horror Story – Clickety Click…

May 28, 2015
mandyevebarnett


monster claw

The following week, Alice asked hundreds of questions and tested out her claws and strong legs. Her eyes did not change to gold like her aunt’s but her night vision was clearer than a humans. She did not have super strength like her uncle although she could snap thick branches like twigs. After ten days, she began to wonder if she had a power.

“Don’t fret, Alice, your power will reveal itself soon enough. Get used to your new form and learn to control the transition back and forth.”

“I am Uncle, it is becoming easier each time but a power would be so exciting.”

Alice did not mention the temptation she felt when she was at school to change and scare the bullying boys that stood at the gates every morning. Their taunting of the younger children made her angry. She knew her family would be in jeopardy if she did change form; nevertheless, she wanted to scare the cruel boys and plotted to find a way.

Nearly fifteen days after her first transition, Alice found her power. She was helping her Uncle, haul tree trunks to the cottage for firewood. Super strength made the chore easy. As her Uncle cut through another tree, the thick trunk fell onto the pile of logs. Alice was sitting on one end flexing her claws and pulling the bark off. The log was pivoted in such a way that it catapulted Alice up into the air. She screamed in shock and heard her Uncle shout out. As she flailed her arms and legs twisting this way and that, she felt her skin extending. An instinct took over and Alice extended her arms outward. A thick membrane linked her arms and legs along the sides of her body. Alice looked down to see her Uncle far below waving at her. She was flying!

Alice soared into the clouds laughing delightedly at the one power she had thought she did not want. Her guardian’s advice of all the possible powers she might develop in the early days of her transition included flight. Alice thought back to her Ferris wheel ride and how terrified she was until high on the top of the wheel, viewing the mountains and forest, her amazement and wonder took over. She flapped her bat-like wings to gain more height and rose above the clouds. The air was crystal clear and fresher than she had ever breathed. It felt right to be high and free. A voice startled her. She turned quickly, instinctively drawing her arms inward. Her body plunged downward at an alarming rate. Alice screamed as she frantically tried to stretch out her wings again. Something gripped her arm and pulled her upward. She came face to face with a young mauve being with smiling eyes and impossibly larger shoulders.

“I have you. Calm down and breathe.”

“What…who are you?”

“All in good time, for now you need to spread those perfect wings and soar again.”

Alice opened her arms and the membrane caught the wind beneath them elevating her to the clouds again. She could not see the other Graffian through the cloud cover. She called out but there was no answer. Alice headed downward to find she did not recognize any landmarks below. How far have I come? Can I find my way back? Before panic took control of her, his voice sounded beside her.

“I will guide you back home. First time flying is it?”

“Well, yes it is. And thank you, I have no idea where I am.”

“Follow me.”

The Graffian soared in a perfect curve to the left and Alice turned to follow him although her flight was not as graceful. A million questions popped into her head but the Graffian was too far ahead for casual conversation. Ten minutes later, she spied the Ferris wheel and the colorful stalls of the fair. Feeling safer, Alice called to her rescuer.

“Thank you; I know how to get home now. Will you be coming back there too?”

“Alas no, I have somewhere else I need to be, but we will see each other again. My name is Totoran.”

“I’m Alice. Thank you again, Totoran.”

She watched him rise vertically with effortless ease and disappear into the clouds. Alice turned toward home wondering who this new Graffian was. She landed with a good thump on the graveled lane. I need to practice landing, that’s for sure! Alice transitioned into human form and walked back to her Aunt and Uncle’s cottage. They were both sitting by the fire drinking a dark liquid that smelt of herbs.

“You’ll never guess what happened, Auntie, Uncle?”

“Well there you are we were wondering why you were so long. What happened dear?”

“I met another one, like us. He was flying and caught me when I fell.”

“You fell? From where? Who was this being you met?”

“I was flying really high and then heard a voice. It startled me and I began to fall but he grabbed me and helped guide me home.”

“So who was this Graffian?”

“His name is Totoran. Do you know him?”

Alice was surprised at her guardian’s reaction at the name. They both bowed their heads and whispered words under their breath.

“What is it? What are you doing?”

“Come and sit here, Alice. We must tell you about the one you met.”

Alice sat between her Aunt and Uncle and listened fascinated at the story they relayed. That night in bed with sleep eluding her she thought of the Graffian named Totoran. He was the prince of the Graffian’s and special among them for having more than one power. Many believed he possessed all the powers making him a formidable Graffian and a future ruler of them all.

****

            Four weeks later, Alice was an adept flier and the transition from human to Graffian as easy as getting dressed. She kept her promise to her guardians and did not reveal their secret to anyone but she still planned to scare the bullies. She began standing in front of them as the younger children walked through the school gates. The three bullies taunted her and tried to push her but she stood her ground. Knowing her power and other form made her braver and more confident. Although she knew it was forbidden, one dark rainy night her opportunity presented itself.

The rain constantly poured all day and as the last bell sounded a rush of children shoved through the school doors in an effort to get to their parents vehicles before getting too wet. Alice did not mind the rain; after all, she could fly above it anytime she wanted. As she walked along the corridor and past the lockers, she heard voices shout out. She changed direction and peered through the gymnasium door to see the three bully’s pitching basketball loops. The coach was nowhere in sight. Biding her time, Alice sat quietly waiting for them to leave. Thirty minutes later the boys began walking toward the changing rooms and Alice ran to the rear door of the gymnasium. As she hoped, the boys exited through this door once they had dressed. The door led to a short cut used by many students during lunch breaks when they wanted to sneak out. The path went through a graveyard; it was perfect for her plan. With all three boys walking with their heads down under their hoodies, Alice transitioned and jumped out in front of them. They stopped at the sight of her larger clawed feet and gradually looked up together. They all let out a shrill scream and darted in all directions. Alice muffled her laughter. With a shake of her body and several shrugs of her shoulders, she reformed into her human form and ran home.

At supper, her aunt and uncle asked about her day and she answered with the usual mundane happenings of school life. She would have to keep her graveyard appearance a secret but it was only part of her plan. The next day the three boys were subdued and kept to themselves. Whispers began to circulate through the school canteen at lunch. Students were relaying a story of a monster in the graveyard that had attacked the three boys. They told their friends they had been lucky to escape. Alice smirked at the story and began her own story of the event. By late afternoon, the three boys were viewed as scary cats and afraid of their own shadows. From that day on the bullying stopped. Alice felt satisfied with herself and promised never to show herself again. But… never is a long time.

 ****

            Alice thought about Totoran from time to time over the following years but did not see him again. Her Uncle told her stories of the Graffian ruler and his son, who lived far away in the mountains. The legend grew with the telling.

With the passing years, Alice enhanced her flying, and became fully competent in diving, soaring and gliding. She made new friends in the town but her best friend was Bernadette. They shared their secret crushes, comforted each when a boy dumped them and to the outside world, Alice was normal. In the glen, she became her Griffian form, hunting on the wing, caring for the penned inhabitants and leaning her aunt’s secret recipes for the meat.

Her first encounter with the pens came one night when her uncle asked her to help him. It was the first time he allowed her to venture into the forest with him. Although Alice had tried to spy on the pens to see what they corralled a cloak of mist made it impossible. Her uncle instructed her to stay behind him and stay silent. As they walked, Alice could hear low grunting. Her uncle stopped and crouched down, putting his hand out and motioning her to stay low too. As Gregor changed form, Alice changed too. The grunting ceased and soft blowing sounds replaced them. Alice watched as her uncle crawled forward on all fours and blew through his nostrils. Sweeping a bush aside, Uncle Gregor revealed wooden pens in three rows. Alice shook her heads trying to make sense of the creatures inside the structures. They looked like a combination of pigs and ducks. Alice whispered to her uncle.

“Uncle Gregor, what are they?”

“These are called quiplets. Their meat is extraordinarily high in protein. For Griffians that is essential for transitioning.”

“Where do they come from? I’ve never seen anything like them before.”

“It is thought when Griffians came to earth…”

Alice grabbed her uncle’s arm and looked into his glinting eyes.

“We are aliens?”

“Well I suppose you could say we are but as we populated earth long before humans arrived I think we can lay claim to be being first. After all humans were dumped here thousands of years after we called it home.”

Alice shook her head trying to make sense of the words her uncle was saying. Humans were dumped here…by what? Griffians were here first and came from another planet?

             “Uncle Gregor can you please explain, I’m confused. We are taught humans are descended from apes not aliens.”

“Well that’s where the lines are blurred, Alice. Humans were left here, as an experiment but unfortunately, the race that brought them became extinct leaving the poor humans to fend for themselves. We tried to interact with them but because of our changing forms, they hunted and killed many of us. Legends of monsters were passed by word of mouth and the few Griffians left went into hiding. We have hidden ourselves ever since.”

“Uncle, that’s horrid. Griffians could have helped them.”

“Yes I suppose but that is not what happened. Now can you pick up those two buckets and bring them to the first pen?”

Alice carried the buckets following behind her uncle who carried two buckets in each paw. The quiplets began snorting and pushing each other in an effort to reach the bucket’s contents. It was a white granular mush with bright red globular balls within it. Gregor showed Alice how to tip the contents into rectangular trays set into the wooden fencing. The quiplets snorted, gobbled and shoved as they ate. As Alice watched, they grew quarter of a size.

“Uncle, are they suppose to grow like that?” It’s amazing.”

“Every time they eat they grow so once they have increased twelve times they are ready for processing.”

Alice looked from her uncle to the quiplets realizing she had eaten their meat for years. She admonished herself for being sentimental, after all, she hadn’t given beef or chicken a second thought when she ate at her friends houses. With the creatures fed Alice helped refresh their water and pitch new dried grass into the pens. With a healthy mauve glow to her leathery skin, she walked back to the cottage ready for supper. Before leaving the cover of the forest, uncle and niece transformed back into human form.

Her aunt was brushing butter over thick meaty slabs as they entered the kitchen.

“Supper will be in twenty minutes, time enough to wash up.”

Alice wanted to discuss the quiplets but her aunt’s headshake told her to wash up first. With clean pajamas on, Alice joined her aunt and uncle. After her first bite, she could not hold her excitement.

“Auntie, quiplets are amazing creatures. Why didn’t you let me see them sooner?”

“Well we thought it best to let you learn about your own transformed body first before adding others to the mix.”

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when they grew like that.”

Alice looked at her plate. Her aunt nodded at her silent question.

“All meat you eat in this house is quiplet meat, Alice. The protein is important for your body, to keep it strong and healthy.”

With supper eaten, the dishes washed and full stomachs, the three of them sat in the living room playing cards until eyes began to close. Biding each other good night sleep was quick to envelope the cottage inhabitants. Loud screaming and heavy crashes woke Alice in the middle of the night. She heard her aunt yell her name screaming for her to flee. Afraid and uncertain, Alice transitioned before leaping from her bedroom window and ascending as fast as she could. When she glanced down black shapes were swarming around the cottage and flashlight beams shone in all directions among the tree line. I should go back and help them. Alice hovered watching and hoping her uncle and aunt would manage to escape. She looked at the shapes hurrying about beneath her and realized they were police. When she looked at the road, she saw multiple vehicles with blue and red flashing lights blocking the lane’s entrance. As long as Aunt Cattrine and Uncle Gregor do not transition, they will be fine. Why would the police raid the cottage though? Alice flew in circles above the frantic scene below her. After a while, the police personnel walked back to their vehicles and drove away. She hadn’t seen any sign of her guardians and she feared they had been taken. Alice flew in ever decreasing circles making sure there were no police personnel near the cottage then landed lightly on her bedroom windowsill. Once transitioned, Alice tiptoed to the door and listened. The cottage was quiet. When she opened the bedroom door, her hand instinctively covered her mouth to stop her scream of horror. Mauve slime and red blood splattered the stairway. There were indentations in the walls where bodies must have slammed into them and the banister railings hung in mid air. Cautious to keep as quiet as possible, Alice crept down the stairs, willing her guardians to be secreted somewhere in the building.

The living room and kitchen were in disarray, furniture tossed in every direction and more slime evident. Tremors began to shake Alice’s body. Where are they? Are they okay? What do I do now? Alice’s heart, beat rapidly as she peered into likely hiding places to find them all empty. She whispered her guardian’s names but received no answer. She was alone. Sinking to her knees she cried until her throat was sore and her sleeves damp. Eventually, Alice stood up, locked the doors and closed the windows then retreated to her bedroom and hid under the bedclothes.

Daylight dancing on her eyelids woke her the next morning. She listened hoping for noises from the kitchen but the cottage was silent. After dressing, she went down to the kitchen and began tidying up. By noon, she had returned all the furniture to its rightful place, washed the walls and floors. Hunger made her stop. She made a meat sandwich and sat drinking a herbal tea wondering what to do. A crunching of the gravel outside halted her final bite of her snack. Alice rushed into the pantry and closed the door. Through a gap in the wooden door, she watched to see who the visitor might be. A young man entered the back door. He was vaguely familiar but Alice knew he was not someone she knew from school. Alice saw the visitor walk across the kitchen directly toward her. She crept backwards admonishing herself for hiding in the enclosed place. There was no way out.

“Alice are you in there? I will not hurt you, I promise.”

Before she realized she had confirmed her hiding place, Alice spoke.

“Who are you? What do you want?”

“You probably don’t remember me, I’m Totoran. We met several years ago – in flight if you remember.”

“Totoran! Why are you here? The police took my Aunt and Uncle. I don’t know what to do.”

“We received word they were taken but you escaped. I’ve come to collect you and take you somewhere safe. There is no guarantee they will not be back to find you. It is best we leave quickly.”

Alice opened the pantry door. Totoran smiled as she appeared.

“Do you need to collect anything from your room before we go? You may not be able to return for a long time.”

With a few belongings in a backpack, Alice returned to the kitchen where Totoran sat flicking his fingers and generating small flames.

“That’s a cool trick. My Uncle can do that when he’s transitioned but not as a human. How do you do it?”

“I just do…never thought about it until now. Are you ready, we should go before it gets too dark we have quite a trip ahead of us. We need to change form first.”

Dos and Don’ts on Writing a Book Blurb

May 25, 2015
mandyevebarnett


Great tips for reference on blurb writing. Thank you Nicolas

Nicholas C. Rossis

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books Image: Rightreading.com

The inspiration for this post came from a little gem I found on the Passive Guy’s Newsletter (if you aren’t already a subscriber, what are you waiting for? It’s free!). After some heavy editing, it ended up as this post.

The original post came from the Self Publishing Review, if you wish to see it in its entirety.

Writing a Book Blurb

By far, the weakest part of many self-published books is the synopsis*. Writing a decent blurb is an art form totally separate from writing a book.

Authors, myself included, often feel this is their least favorite part of the process. It can make you feel icky writing superlatives about your own book. At the same time, too many superlatives can literally be icky (“A work of genius” comes to mind). A good blurb needs to strike a balance between being informative, but not too informative, salesy, but not…

View original post 693 more words

Excerpt #3 – YA horror story – Clickety Click…

May 21, 2015
mandyevebarnett


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

May 18, 2015
mandyevebarnett


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 – this story has been removed as an extended version has been contracted to Steampunk Ink.

Character Building – How Do You Do It..?

May 14, 2015
mandyevebarnett


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?

Characters

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