Tag Archives: Clickety Click

Upcoming Writing Events- Add Yours for your Location…



My weekend was certainly not writing related but a reptile bonanza. I accompanied my daughter to the Edmonton Reptile and Amphibian Society’s spring show. She took her own reptiles to show and educate visitors, something she has done for a good number of years.


There were many incredible and fascinating reptiles to discover and hold, which I enjoyed a lot. However, as a writer the ‘people watching’ gave me a wealth of inspiration. Reptile owners and hobbyists come from all walks of life and are passionate about their particular interest. I discovered a type of gecko I had not known existed – Rhacodactylus leachianus = large geckos! They are fabulous and you certainly know you are holding one as they are quite heavy. For comparison those are my hands! Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhacodactylus_leachianus

I did take my ‘animal’ related books with me just in case – Clickety Click’s front cover got a few looks and Ockleberries was browsed.

This week I have my writer’s group Board meeting which will include a review of our conference and the start of planning for our annual Words in the Park event which will be held on 30th September as part of Alberta Culture Days.


My second Board meeting will be for the Arts & Culture Council on Wednesday, where we are reviewing the Heritage Day plans. This event will be held on 11th June and has a multitude of artisans and cultural associations attending.

heritage day

Obviously I am on countdown for the writing retreat, which starts on 18th May through to 22nd May. I have decided on completing the revisions to The Twesome Loop and will have a final read through for Life in Slake Patch. Then I feel confident they can go to the publisher. I may have time to write more for my newest children’s book set on another planet.

The lodge is set in acres of woodland with a creek running through it so there is plenty of outdoor space to clear the head, refresh the body and be inspired. To be immersed completely in writing for days on end and have three delicious meals cooked for you is blissful. I never want to leave. (A lottery win would mean I wouldn’t have to of course!)

So what are you up to this week?

Care to share your writing goals, plans or events?

Other events:

book pub

May 11, 2017: U of A Press reception in honour of Linda Cameron

The U of A Press is holding a reception for it’s departing director, Linda Cameron, on May 11 in the Saskatchewan room of the Faculty Club (Saskatchewan Drive and 116 Street) from 3-6 with a program at 4:30. Ms Cameron has been with the U of A Press since 2001, and is retiring on August

abaThe Atlantic Books Festival runs May 11–May 18 with events in all four maritime provinces. http://atlanticbookawards.ca/


The Ontario Library Association’s Festival of Trees takes place throughout May, with events in Toronto, London, and Sault Ste. Marie. http://forestfestivaloftrees.ca/

Upcoming Writing Events- Add Yours for your Location…


I just have to share a few photos of the Authors for Indies event I attended on Saturday at the Sherwood Park Bookworm. We had a great time sharing our books, sharing experiences of the writing life with a new writer and talking everything books. Fellow authors Eva Blaskovic, Beth Rowe and Marty Chan joined me for the day. I even got to read from Ockleberries to the Rescue, which was fun!

AFI 2017





On Monday I have an evening hosted by our local library, Books, Bites & Bubbly.  Looking forward to it.

books bites bubbly

Tuesday will be my writers group, the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County’s monthly sharing meeting. We share our current work for constructive critique, discussions and writing exercises and fellowship.

Writers Foundation Strathcona County

What are you up to this week?

Other locations:

The 1000 Islands Writers Festival runs May 5–7 in Gananoque, ON, featuring Cathy-Marie Buchanan, Iain Reid, Lindy Mechefske, Marni Jackson, and others.

reading by the river

The next-best thing to a new lit fest is a new lit fest that’s coming back for its second year. After an incredible debut in 2016, The Festival of Literary Diversity returns to Brampton, ON, running May 4–7 with another stellar lineup.


Vancouver Island’s Children’s Book Festival is scheduled for May 6 in Nanaimo, BC, featuring (as usual) some of Canada’s best children’s authors.


My TV interview on Arts Talk…

Talking about my newest YA book, Clickety Click but also my other books too.

So now I’ve actually watched myself on this TV interview (cringe but I don’t think I was too awful!!!) I can share it – go to 11.04 on the time line. I wanted to thank my gracious hosts for inviting me onto the show. It was a lot of fun.


Words in the Park 2016 – An Author Event…


Once again I attended this fantastic event. Part of Alberta Culture days, organized by my writing group, Writers Foundation of Strathcona County and with co-hosts, Arts and Culture Council of Strathcona County. With over thirty authors and a dozen artisans filling the venue as well as an aboriginal fancy dancer, hoop workshop, memoir presentation, African drumming tutorial, live music, children’s activities and author readings, the event offered fun activities for all the family.

I planned my table to display my children’s books at the front with Rumble’s First Scare and soft toy Rumble of course, with hats, T-shirts, bookmarks and pins. Ockleberries to the Rescue had the animal ornaments and the ‘door’ display. Then there was Clickety Click – the day of the launch! I made the exploding planet to attract readers and had special scaly toques made in two shades of purple. The purple table covering also focused the eye as did my purple inspired outfit. To the side I displayed The Rython Kingdom, my fantasy romance, as it is an adult book, with its glowing orb and handmade bookmarks.

This year I created an activity table, which you can see behind me in the photo, with ‘monster’ and Rumble pictures and also animal quizzes. A couple of kids won prizes for their entries, unfortunately I only got a photo of one! She loved her monster slippers.


It was a successful day and I sold many books and a few toques too. See this lad with his Rumble toque.


I find the themed displays and merchandise attracts the children’s attention and then I have a chance to explain the books to the children and their parents. I was fortunate to have one Clickety Click book bought by our Mayor who will donate it to a local school.

Another lady purchased two copies of Ockleberries solely on the review she had read in our local paper. She even cut it out and brought it with her.


I enjoyed participating in the author readings and shared part of Ockleberries to the Rescue – Stump the Woodpecker to be exact.


To be part of such an event, sharing my words with readers and forging new friendships with other authors further confirms my love for the written word and this select membership that is ‘writer’.

How do you attract people to your author table?


My Interview at Joseph D Drumheller – The Five Steps to Create a Children’s’ Book…

Link here: https://josephdrumheller.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/five-steps-to-create-a-childrens-book/

The Five Steps to Create a Children’s’ Book  

Rumble's First Scare

  1. The Idea

This may seem like the easiest part of creating a children’s book – right? Not as easy as first appears as it turns out. Your idea has to convert onto the page in a language that your target audience can understand word usage is vital so take note.

  1. What age group are you writing for?
  2. Will you target pre-schoolers or an older age group?
  3. Will the story contain a moral or lesson?

My children’s picture book, Rumble’s First Scare began life as a prompt for Halloween. I did not want to write the usual monster narrative but something more unusual and fun. So I wrote the story from the young monster’s point of view. Younger children love Rumble and monsters are not so scary.

  1. Finding a Publisher

There are numerous avenues to research when it comes to finding a publisher.

  1. You can follow children’s book agents.
  2. Submit your story to contests with a book contract attached.
  3. Attend conferences and find an interested agent/publisher.
  4. Research local or regional publishing houses and submit your story.

I was fortunate to find a publisher locally and this made my publishing experience a more personally tailored one. Dream Write Publishing did an amazing job and I was part of the process all the way through.

  1. Illustrations

The amount of illustrations is dependent on the age of your target group, the younger the age group the more pictures are required and less text.

  1. If you are a talented artist you can illustrate yourself.
  2. Do you know an artist that will collaborate with you on the project?
  3. Does your publisher offer this service?
  4. There are many artists on social media you can approach.

My Rumble character was the culmination of my imagination and crude drawings and a wonderful artist friend, Matthew McClatchie, who made my idea of what Rumble would look like into reality.

  1. Text

Again the amount of text needs to be balanced for the target age group. For example, if the books are for very young children the text needs to be simple and sparse with great pictures, but for independent readers, illustrations can be on the chapter headers only.

  1. Do you want the story in rhyme form?
  2. Choose simple pronounceable names for your characters.
  3. Wrap the text around the pictures or along the bottom of the page.
  4. Keep exposition to a minimum
  1. Extra Pages
  2. The publisher will require your author bio and a photo
  3. You will create a ‘blurb’ – a brief description of the story – for the back of the book.
  4. If you wish you can have a dedication page.
  5. The publisher will allocate an ISBN and the legal disclaimers and permissions for duplication.

Sharing my little book with friends and family was stupendous. The moment any author is handed their first book is overwhelming emotional. It is the closest an adult comes to childish delight. The reality that your words are now published, that many people will read it and your words will outlive you delighting generations to come is a heady feeling.

After your book is published your work is not done. Promotion becomes your master. Be creative and say ‘Yes’ to any and all opportunities that come your way. The more your book is noticed the more sales.

Mandy and Rumble at SC Summerwood

To promote Rumble I created a soft toy of Rumble, which was so much fun. Once I showed my writing group they all announced I should make miniatures for each book, I declined!  Rumble accompanies me to readings and events and is always popular. As I had a good deal of promotion to manage without sewing into the wee hours, I did commissioned Rumble hats, and ordered T-shirts, which are a lot easier to handle.



Always creative, I came to writing later in life. A chance visit to a writing group, Writers Foundation of Strathcona County, propelled me into the written word in a way I could never have imagined. I delve into all genres expanding my writing muscles and with several books published; I am certainly making up for ‘lost’ time. As a free flow writer, my stories lead me rather than the other way round, delighting me with plot twists and turns. Writing is my passion, the source of new found fellowship and most of all fun.



I can be reached through my blog at www.mandyevebarnett.com, on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Mandyevebarnettcom/ and through Twitter @mandyevebarnett

Annual Colouring Contest:

I arrange an annual colouring competition prior to Halloween for Rumble fans. The picture is in .pdf format and downloaded from my publisher’s website – http://www.dreamwritepublishing.ca. Once all entries are in I choose the winners. Prizes include Rumble hats, T-shirts, monster orientated toys and games.

My newest book will be launched this fall – Clickety Click   is a YA monster story. Why do I have a propensity for monsters, I have no idea!

Click crop cover


Clickety Click Excerpt #10 – The End…

monster claw

Alice’s excitement kept her awake until the early hours but she was still wide eyed in anticipation of her new role. The elders welcomed her into their cavern and huddled around her as she explained the cloth storybook. It took many months of carefully note taking to ensure the whole Griffian history was compiled. Another several months were taken to make sure it was in chronological order and then the sewing begun. During this time, Alice’s task became the talk of the underground world. Many Griffian’s would nod to her as she walked the many corridors. Alice increasingly felt at home in the rock caverns and corridors and became accustomed to her new form.

Alice and Totoran would escape into the night sky when the moon was hidden by clouds or was just a sliver of light. She flew over her Aunt and Uncle’s old home on occasion but it was just a forgotten place now. After their rescue her guardians settled into the under ground world in the mountain range and were always pleased when she visited them. The story of her parentage was no longer a secret and Alice knew she was where she belonged for the time being – a Griffian new world would be found eventually and a new chapter written in their history.

I hope you enjoyed my ‘short’ story! It just grew and grew.

With several larger projects requiring my time, I thought it best to end this story.

thank you

Clickety Click – Excerpt #8

monster claw

Too hesitant to ask what the King meant by his remark, Alice nodded and smiled. Totoran took Alice’s hand and led her away, calling back to his parents that they would join them later for supper. Escorting Alice along another passageway he turned into a splendid chamber decorated with several battleaxes, a large cloth covering depicting a battle scene and a long low bench. Alice was amazed at the intricate details in the fabric although the scene was rather gory.

“What is this, Totoran?”

“This tapestry was made by my great, great, great grandmother. It is the final battle on our planet before we escaped. It is a reminder of our home and the courageous Griffian’s who tried to defend it. The weapons you see are the only remaining pieces from that battle. We fashion new weapons in their likeness although we use earthly materials, such as iron and steel.”

“So this room is a war room?”

Totoran smiled and shook his head.

“Not exactly – it is a place of reflection and a reminder of our history.”

“I’m not sure I could be peaceful and reflect with these images, Totoran. The scenes are violent and graphic.”

“Well, yes I can understand that. You are young in your transformation and the collective memoirs have not invaded your mind yet.”

Alice turned from inspecting the tapestry with wide-eyed shock.

“Collective memoirs? What are you saying, Totoran? Will I see this battle somehow?”

“Alice I did not mean to alarm you. I’m so sorry. The images will come gradually just like dreams. You will not be assaulted all at once with the history of our kind. It is a way of passing down our world and accomplishments, generation to generation.”

“Will the dreams be so graphic, horrid? I’m not sure I would call them dreams more like nightmares.”

Totoran rubbed at his chin, deep in thought. When he looked up again, he was smiling.

“I think I know a way of making this history less frightening for you, Alice. Come with me.”

Puzzled at his words but thankful she would have less horrific images to deal with; Alice followed the prince along a corridor which steeply dipped into the mountain. Totoran took her hand as they descended for what felt like a long time, guiding her and ensuring she did not slip on the wet rock surface. Alice guessed after some time that an archway encircled with torches ahead of them was their destination.

“We are now as deep as it is possible to dig, Alice. Here we keep our most precious treasures.”

“Treasurers? How will treasurers help me learn your history with being scared?”

“You will soon see. Come this way.”

Totoran turned to one side and brushed away a heavy cloth from a hidden wooden door. It’s surface was framed and crisscrossed with heavy metal bars.

“Not much could get through this door!”

“That is why it was made, Alice.”

Totoran took a large key from his belt and turned it in the lock. The heavy mechanism’s clanking echoed along the corridor behind them. As Totoran pushed the door, Alice could see it was over a foot thick and the hinges creaked loudly. She had to blink several times for her eyes to get used to the bright light within the chamber ahead. As her eyes focused she saw several hunched figures sitting around a table lit with dozens of candles and there were even more torches hung on the rock face around them.

“May I introduce you to our most precious treasurers, Alice. These are the elders. They are writing their life stories in intricate detail for future generations.”

Alice was stunned into silence. The Griffians before her were hunched, pale and withered. She whispered.

“How old are they?”

“Well in human terms several hundred years but Griffian’s live a lot longer than humans. Why don’t you sit, Alice? We shall talk a while.”

Alice followed Totoran’s lead and bowed to the elders one after the other, then sat on a nearby bench beside him.

“We ask your help, great elders. Alice is fearful of the history transfer and its images. Can you relate the past for her?”

The elders turned as one to face the two young Griffians, nodding slowly. One Griffian with steel grey tufts along his back spoke in a low gruff voice. It sounded like pebbles rolling down a wall to Alice.

“Young ones, we have many, many stories of our planet before the destruction. Generations of Griffians enjoyed happy times and abundance on our home world. The battle was but a second in time and not to be dwelled upon for long. We must learn from our mistakes and ensure our kind continue far into the future. What did you wish to know?”

Totoran nodded his encouragement to Alice. Her mind froze. What should she ask first? Gripping her hand gently, Totoran spoke.

“Our young guest has recently transformed and is trying to make sense of her new form. Please forgive her.”

The elders smiled and nodded in unison. The grey tufted one, held his claw out towards Alice.

“We have many stories to tell, my young one. We only want to help. Do not be afraid we are old and harmless.”

“I didn’t mean you to think I was afraid of you, I just have no idea what questions to ask. The tapestry so horrified me and when the prince told me I would have dreams of the battle, I was scared.”

“It is understandable, Alice. Why not ask about something other than the battle?”

Alice’s shoulders dropped showing her relief at the elders offer. After a moment she began to talk. Three hours later, with their stomachs grumbling for food, Totoran and Alice left the elder’s chamber, happy and filled with momentous stories to recite at the supper table.

Clickety Click Excerpt #7…

monster claw

Alice walked in Totoran’s shadow feeling nervous and picking at a loose scale on her claw. She wished she had been left with the other Griffians, the deference they’d shown when Totoran mentioned his father increased her unease. How fearful is the King? Will he crush me underfoot? Dismiss me as a nothing? Her increasing panic slowed her pace until Totoran glanced backwards to find her lagging several feet behind him.

“Alice, please keep up. My father despises tardiness.”

Oh no another thing he doesn’t like. Can I do this right? Alice scuttled to walk close to Totoran’s back taking advantage of his bulk and it’s shadow to hide her. The undulating corridor floor became smooth and torches ahead illuminated a large rock face. Alice frowned as the dead-end of the corridor but then remembered their previous entrance. Totoran will push the rock to open it in a moment. What will the inner sanctuary look like, I wonder?

            “Alice, stand beside me and as soon as we are through the entrance lower your head. Do not look up unless you are asked to. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Totoran.”

The grating sound of rock against rock echoed along the corridor, as the Prince pushed the solid rock face open. A gust of fresh air flowed past them and bright flickering light bathed the companions. Alice moved forward and slightly to the right of Totoran keeping her head bowed to the floor but curious to look around she glanced quickly left and right. The cavern’s walls were smooth and glistening with crystals. Fabric hung from steel rods showing emblems of rich burgundy and emerald green. She was trying to make out the shapes on the wall hangings when Totoran’s whisper made her jump.

“Keep your head down, Alice. I will show you around the sanctuary once my father has gone. Remember to bow your head and only speak if spoken to.”

Alice nodded her head and concentrated on her clawed feet.

“My son, come to me. It is a great relief to see you unharmed.”

The voice was deep and gruff but the words were kind. Alice was exposed as Totoran left her side to greet his father. Unable to move for fear of doing something wrong she stood perfectly still resisting the urge to look up and see the King.

“Father, we have managed to block the upper corridors and the great cavern but the humans are blasting explosives. It may be some time before we can regain our home.”

“You have done well, Totoran in keeping our subjects safe. Your escape plan worked flawlessly. We own you a debt for that.”

“Thank you, Father but without the assistance of a great number of brave Griffian’s it would not have been so successful. If we work together we are stronger.”

“Exactly why I know you will be an exceptional leader when your time comes, my son. Now shall we feast?”

“Before we do, may I present someone to you, Father?”

Alice’s heart leapt in her chest. Oh no don’t make this any more uncomfortable for me, please Totoran. Let me disappear into the shadows.

“You have found your one, Totoran?”

“I truly believe so, Father but as tradition states you have the final say in her suitability.”

Alice felt the blood drain from her upper body. What are you saying Totoran? Her vision began to shimmer she could feel her body sway and adjusted her position to prevent herself falling.

“Alice please come forward and meet my father.”

Placing her clawed feet slowly one after the other she approached father and son, trepidation coursed through her body. If I mess this up what will he do to me? Can Totoran save me?

Once she was level with Totoran, Alice lower her head even further and remained quiet.

“Father, this is Alice. She has shown me she is brave and loyal in the time I have known her. Her guardians were taken and she has no one to protect her. I have found she is fearless in her flying and is willing to fight for her new family.”

“Well that is quite the recommendation, young Griffian. Alice you may look upon me.”

Alice raised her head slowly. Her eyes flowed upward revealing the towering bulk of the largest Griffian she had ever seen. Totoran was large but beside this Griffian he seemed small in comparison. The King leaned forward slightly to greet her face to face. His green eyes shone and his nostrils flared. Determined not to show fear, Alice matched his gaze even though inside her stomach rolled over and over.

“You are a strong character, Alice. Many young Griffians have fled from my sight in fear. Welcome to my sanctuary.”

“Thank you, Majesty. It is an honor to meet you.”

“Well, I can see why my son has chosen you. Shall we feast and get to know each other?”

Alice nodded and bowed her head again. The King turned and walked toward a corridor to the left of the cavern. Totoran clasped a claw around her arm to steady her as Alice stood up.

“You faced him, Alice, that was awe inspiring. Many have indeed run once my Father peers down upon them. I will let you into a secret he is not as fierce as he makes out.”

“I certainly hope not. At one point I thought I was going to pass out! We best hurry if he detests tardiness.”

Totoran led Alice down the same corridor his father had taken. Torches lit their way to a smaller but luxurious cavern, festooned with more fabric hangings and ebony furniture elaborately carved with Griffian images. Alice could now make out the images on the wall decorations. They were life size representations of magnificent Griffians, all holding specters of various designs.

“You are admiring my family heritage, Alice. These are my forefathers.”

Alice turned to face the King and immediately bowed her head.

“Majesty, every one of them is splendid. Do you have one?”

“Not as yet, I’m glad to say. The seamstresses make them during the ‘death month’ to honor the passing of their King. It is laid over the body for the last ritual and then hung on the wall.”

Alice covered her mouth in shock and hoped the King would not find her disrespectful.

“Apologies, Majesty, I did not know. Forgive me.”

“Of course, Alice. You have much to learn and I am sure Totoran will teach you well. Come and sit beside me, we shall talk.”

Alice glanced at Totoran who smiled and led her to the long ebony table in the center of the room. Once she was seated he sat on her left and squeezed her claw gently. His whispered comment eased her mind.

“My father is obviously taken with you. It is a privilege to be seated beside him.”

Alice watched as multiple plates of food were laid on the table in front of them. This is far too much for three of us. She was startled when both the King and Totoran suddenly stood up and bowed. She followed suit as fast as she could wondering what had happened. There had been no noise or shouting prior to their sudden action. As Alice raised her head she saw a beautiful slender woman walk into the cavern. She curtsied and approached the King. He held out his claw and kissed her hand, which looked tiny within his large claw.

“Do you wish us to transform, my love?”

The woman smiled at the King and Totoran and gave Alice a slight nod.

“Only if it pleases you, my dear, I would prefer it remain in this form but will of course change if you wish. I thought it would be more comfortable for the young one.”

“You are right as usual, Serina. Let us transform and eat in a more civilized manner for our guest.”

I’m a guest? Totoran never said. I hope I can change as quickly as them. I would hate them to see me struggle. Alice took a deep breath and tensed her muscles as her body began to contort she could see the King and Totoran do the same. The woman sat patiently on the seat beside the King until they were in human form.

“I believe we should be introduced now, Totoran.”

Totoran stood and guided Alice to her feet.

“Mother, this is Alice. She was the ward of guardians, who unfortunately were captured. A rescue mission is under way. As we speak. I brought her to safety.”

Alice could not stop her surprised comment.

“You are rescuing my aunt and uncle?”

“Yes, Alice but it is something we can discuss later. Please acknowledge my mother.”

Alice felt her cheeks grow red. Trying to remain calm, she bowed her head and smiled at the lady beside the King. The queen, she is so beautiful.

“Your Majesty, my sincere apologies, I was unaware of the mission, Totoran is speaking of. I was shocked. Please forgive me. It is an honour to meet you.”

“Well, I am sure I would have reacted the same way, Alice. I hear you fly exceptionally well for a young Griffian. Totoran has spoken of you fondly.”

Alice’s cheeks flared red again at the compliment and the implication’s of it. Could Totoran be interested in me as more than a friend? She glanced at the young man beside her and saw his smile.

“Let us eat, Serina, let the poor girl adjust to all this new information. I am famished and wish to discuss the concealment and rescue plans with Totoran once we have finished.”

The King placed a hand on his queen’s hand and then began selecting items of food from the copious spread before them. Once Alice saw the queen pick up several items, she chose some pieces for herself. Alice was relieved there was ‘human’ as well as ‘griffian’ food on the table. Her palate was getting used to the new tastes but hunger made her chose recognizable items. For several moments the table guests were quiet as they ate. It was Totoran who broke the silence.

“I must apologize, Alice for not mentioning our rescue mission to you before. Believe me, when I say I did mean to let you know but the invasion attempts took my focus elsewhere. We have several Griffians infiltrated into the police force near your old home. They will bring your aunt and uncle here as soon as they are able.”

“I completely understand, Totoran. The safety of the majority comes first but I’m glad there is a rescue plan. Uncle Gregor and Aunt Catterine are special to me and my only family as far as I know.”

Alice missed the knowing glance between the king and queen as she picked out several pieces of fruit to eat.

“So, Alice had your aunt and uncle looked after you for a long time?”

“Yes, your Majesty, since my parents died in a car accident when I was three years old. I was unaware of my other form until several months ago.”

The queen smiled and nodded before saying.

“Was it the clickety click that heralded the change?”

Alice was surprised but delighted the queen knew of the clickety click noise she had experienced.

“Why yes it was that sound…how did you know?”

“It is the known sign of every Griffian’s transition time. We all experienced the click sound prior to changing, my dear. Be assured we shall do our utmost to bring your guardians to safety as quickly as possible.”

“Thank you, Majesty. I am more than happy to take part in the search.”

“That will not be necessary, Alice we have many experienced soldiers within the search party. Come we shall walk a while together.”

The queen stood and gestured for Alice to follow her down a corridor. Alice smiled at Totoran, who nodded as she left the large cavern. Alice could not mimic the queen’s elegant stride so walked as upright as she could, pushing her shoulders back and her chin upward. The corridor was lined with flaming torches and revealed large gouge marks on the rock face.

“I think you will enjoy my surprise, Alice. It is my favorite place in the mountain range.”

As they turned a corner, Alice’s mouth gaped as she was confronted with a vast cavern full of sunlight, trees, flowers and birdsong. As she looked upward she made out a fissure in the rocks above, where sunlight poured in bathing the cavern with light.

“How is it possible, your Majesty?”

“It is not of our making, Alice. A natural break in the mountain’s formation allows the light to come in. However, the garden you see before you began with my great-great grandmother’s wish to have a flower garden. Over the decades it has grown…”

“It is magnificent. My apologies I should not interrupt.”

“I find it delightful that you obviously love my garden as much as I do, Alice. Shall we walk through?”

“Oh, yes please.”

As they walked down the winding paths, Alice asked for the names of flowers and shrubs and expressed how much she loved the scent of the many blooms. It was not until the light dimmed that they realized how much time had passed.

“We must get back to the throne cavern, Alice. There will be reports of the rescue and invasion, I am sure. It is so easy to forget when surround by such beauty.”

“Of course, Majesty, but am I allowed back? I would enjoy working in your garden. I’m a quick learner and follow instructions well.”

“I would enjoy that too, Alice.”

With a last look at the magnificent garden, Alice and the queen returned into the dimness and hard surfaces of the corridors. When they returned to the luxurious cavern, Tortoran and the King were huddled with a dozen large Griffians. Queen Serina took Alice’s hand and guided her to the far side of the cavern and sat beside her on a long stone bench.

“We will wait until their business is finished. Do you require any refreshments?”

“If I may have some water, please. Thank you.”

The queen raised her hand and a servant was at her side instantaneously and bowed deeply.

“Sweet spring water for us both please, Mari.”

Mari disappeared into an alcove then returned with a tray holding two large goblets. Alice sipped the water; which was crystal clear, cold and sweet. So unlike the tap water she was used to.

“This is the best water I have ever drunk.”

“It comes from a mountain spring higher up the range, Alice.”

With their goblets almost empty, they saw the sturdy Griffian soldiers rise from the table, bow before the King and leave the cavern. Totoran stood and walked toward his mother.

“Good news, Mother. The invasive army has retreated and did not expose any entrances with their explosives. The guards will remain vigilent for another few days to ensure there are no hidden exposives or spying devices before we can assure normal life again.”

“This is good news, Totoran.”

“I also have news for you, Alice. Your uncle and aunt’s location has been found and their escape is imminent. With a good trip they should be with us in a day.”

“Thank you, Totoran. It is such a relief to know they are going to be safe soon.”

“Where did you both go while we talked, Mother?”

“I showed Alice my garden and she is keen to help maintain it.”

“The garden is wonderful, Totoran, I could live there all the time.”

“That’s exactly what my mother says.”

Their combined laughter caught the attention of the King, who was pondering over large maps on the table. He strode over to join them.

“What is so funny?”

“Alice wants to live in the garden just like mother.”

“Well that’s another similarity we have discovered…”

Alice frowned at the look her companions shared. Is there something they are not telling me? What could it be?

Excerpt # 5 Clickety Click…

monster claw

Before Alice could ask their destination, Totoran began transitioning, she follow suit, shrugging and stretching into her Griffian form. Leaping from the bedroom window both winged forms soared into the early evening sky. Alice flew to one side of Totoran making note of their route over the forest and towards the mountains. The air began to cool the closer they got to the snowcapped peaks. Totoran turned to face her regularly encouraging her with a smile but she could see his concern. Flight was a nighttime activity normally to prevent discovery by low flying aircraft or hikers with binoculars. Alice viewed the terrain below as the trees gave way to rocky outcrops. She looked up just in time to see Totoran deftly change direction and dive sharply to the right. In her haste, Alice swiveled too quickly and plunged a few hundred feet before regaining her flight. Totoran was far ahead of her and she called out.

“Totoran, please, wait for me!”

With expert ease, he swung around and hovered in place, smiling at her plea. Alice caught up to him and thanked him for waiting.

“We have another thirty minutes flight, are you okay? Do you need to rest?”

“No let’s keep flying, I’m all right.”

Alice was tired and her wings ached deep into her shoulders but she knew if she stopped now it would be harder to start flying again. She flapped hard then glided to ease the pain as it continued to radiate through her back. She wondered if she should ask to stop but Totoran signaled and pointed to a massive rock formation projecting from the side of a grey, mist covered mountain. Alice followed Totoran’s movements exactly as he twisted and turned through overhangs and narrow fissures in the rocks.

“We need to hover and descend slowly, Alice. You have done well mimicking my movements until now. Stay focused and copy me.”

Alice spread her wings fully and hovered to one side of her guide. Gradually, a formation of carved rock faces came into view. Alice saw balconies, windows and doorways. Cloaked figures walked narrow paths carved into the rock faces. Totoran landed on a ledge and waited for Alice. She landed beside him.

“We are home, our ancestral home and the place you and all of our kind are safe.”

Totoran turned and walked toward a large entranceway. Alice noticed passing Griffian’s bowed their heads at him but dismissed her without a second glance. The doors at the entrance opened slowly as they approached by two menacing Griffians holding long jagged edged swords. Alice quickened her pace to walk in Totoran’s shadow and kept her head low. The interior was a vast cavern with thousands of tool marks on the stone from the floor to ceiling. There were tables fashioned from solid blocks of rock and ornate chairs carved from quartz. With no natural light the cavern’s gloom was illuminated with hundreds of candles. Wax dripped into containers set below them. They must reuse it, Alice thought. She turned to Totoran to ask how long he had lived in the cavern but while she’d inspected the rock room, he’d walked out of sight.

Unsure what to do and afraid to approach the large guards at the door, she stood still hoping Totoran returned quickly.

“May I help you?”

A small voice made Alice jump. An old woman with black eyes and teeth grinned at Alice. Alice kept her manners and did not grimace at the rotting teeth but answered as sweetly as she could.

“I seem to have lost my guide. His name is Totoran. Have you seen him? Do you know which way he went?”

“You mean the Prince?”

“Oh no, not a prince. I mean Totoran. He guided me here.”

“My young one, you are quite innocent. Totoran is the Prince of the Griffians and one day he will become King. He probably went into the Staterooms to speak with his father. Best you sit here for a while. I can bring you refreshments.”

“Totoran is really the prince? Oh my, how stupid of me. I will stay here and wait for him. I am quite thirsty and hungry, if I may have something. Thank you.”

The old woman shuffled away. When she was out of sight, Alice wondered what she would bring back. She didn’t have to wait long. With her arrival heralded by soft scuffing on the stone floor, the withered faced woman brought back a wooden dish full of thinly sliced raw meat.

“This will satisfy your hunger.”

When Alice’s nose creased and her mouth grimaced, the woman chuckled softly.

“Not fully developed then, are we? No matter I have something you will find more palatable.”

Alice sighed in relief as the dish was discarded on the table. The replacement dish was indeed more to Alice’s liking, cooked meat paddy and a large juicy tomato.

“Thank you. I’m sorry I didn’t get your name. I’m Alice.”

“I am called Wrightsen, if you need anything else just call. I have duties to see to.”

“Will I be allowed to stay here?”

“Of course but do not wander along the corridors unless escorted. Parts of the caverns are not for novices.”

Alice watched fascinated by the many Griffians walking through the grand hall. She could tell the ages of the ones in human form, but the others in full transition were less obvious in their age. She gradually realized she was a curiosity in the community as an increasing number of visitors either walked from one side of the hall to the other or merely peered at her from numerous vantage points. Alice began to feel self-conscious but had no option but to sit and wait.

“Alice, come we will find you quarters.”

Totoran’s voice was a welcome one. Alice let out a sigh and turned to face him but could not help let out a gasp at his magnificent robes.

“Please do not let my appearance intimidate you, Alice. My father expects me to dress properly when at home.”

Totoran leaned towards her and whispered.

“I’d rather be out flying and free of these heavy robes to be honest. Come I will show you to your room. Then we can explore.”

“Alice stayed close to Totoran as they walked along several corridors. Eyes glanced at her from the many bowed heads as they passed Griffians going about their daily tasks. She was amazed at the scale of the palace.

“How long did it take to dig all of this out of the mountain, Totoran? We seem to have walked for a long time.”

“The first visitors manipulated an original cave in the mountain but it has taken a thousand generations to carve out the palace and surrounding dwellings to today’s magnificent state. We still carve out new areas every year to accommodate newcomers, repair damaged areas or clear rock falls.”

“You must have some powerful machinery to do all this.”

Alice was surprised at Totoran’s laughter. What did I say that was funny?

             “I apologize, Alice the thought of any machinery being capable of this kind of endeavor is funny.”

“Well, I know they use explosives and massive rock crushing machines to drive through railway tunnels. I thought you would have something similar.”

“Well, yes that is true but the human’s methods are crude and more destructive than need be. Their explosions cause stress to the integrity of the rock and cracks inevitably result leaving unstable areas. We do not endanger lives with such methods.”

“So what do you use then?”

“We have miners who did the rock.”

“Well I gathered that but what tools do they use?”

Totoran turned to her as if to speak but instead took hold of her arm and guided her into a less imposing corridor. The light was dim and Alice was glad of Totoran’s hand. As they turned a corner the previous dull sound of pounding became deafening. Alice covered her ears. Totoran pointed ahead and downward. Alice followed the direction of his finger. Before her in a large cavern were huge beasts with large crab-like claws digging into the rock as though it was butter. Huge wooden carts on tracks stood behind them gradually filling up as the mining creatures threw boulders over their shoulders into them. Alice stood wide-eyed until Totoran tapped her on the shoulder and motioned for them to leave the way they had come. Once they were far enough away Alice uncovered her ears and spoke to Totoran in awe.

“They made slicing the rock look so easy. That is incredible. Are they Griffian’s like us?”

“Not exactly. They are a mutation of a creature from our own planet especially bred for mining.

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.