As most of you know, I love writing prompt’s and some of my novels have started as, or incorporated prompts in one way or another. As host of the writing group’s monthly sharing meeting, I assign ‘homework’ for attendees. This month’s prompt was to incorporate a potion of some sort, after all it is Halloween month. This was my response, I hope you like it.
Thin clouds drifted across the twilight sky, obscuring, then revealing the full moon’s light on the small hut and earthen track leading up to it. A lone wolf’s howl echoed in the forest, startling large black crows into flight from their roost, their noisy cawing disturbing the earlier still night air. A rickety cart crunched the dry earth as its inhabitant and the old horse pulling it, neared the hut. Wrapped in threadbare cloth and barefooted, the rider pulled at the reins and let out a sigh. To any observer the rider was an old crone, bent almost double, a large hump on her back, only her face, feet and hands uncovered, which were veined and wrinkled. She picked up a wicker basket covered by a velvet cloth and descended from the cart. Patting the horse as she passed, it changed shape, diminished in size and became a fox before scurrying away.
With shuffling steps, the crone opened the wooden door and entered the ramshackled hut. Candles flickered into life at the passing of her hand, and a fire blazed into being. After placing the basket on a wooden table worn to a shine and scarred with use, she discarded the old cloth to reveal an ebony velvet cloak. Slippers of the same colour appeared on her feet and her hair tumbled down her back in dark locks. Anyone seeing her now, as a young woman, would never think she was the old crone peddling in the walled city streets. She guarded her secret well.
One again, she had accumulated the ingredients for her secret potion. The first step was to soak the gathered fungi, and night lily root in lamb’s blood overnight. This was the basis of the elixir; one she had perfected over the last century or more. Her age was a mystery even to her now. So many renewals, so many moves to walled cities across the land, once again she would move to avoid any inquisitive questioning. She pulled a brass covered wooden box from a shelf and unlocked it. The vial inside shone with iridescence, there was just enough for the next potion. Her renewal would give her time to travel to the cavern deep within a cliff beside the ocean on the western most edge of the kingdom of Udizan. There she would refill the vial from the source, her most guarded secret. A pool of shining liquid, it’s origin unknown, but it’s effects powerful, when combined with the other ingredients. She placed the vial back in the box, turned the key and returned the treasured possession back on its shelf. As she turned, she cast a spell to protect the hut from any intruder and went to bed. In the morning, she would begin the ritual, adding all the items of the recipe, then drinking the elixir before leaving this hovel to find another place, another city, another ‘life’ among mortal beings.
She lay down as images of her multiple past existences came to mind – cities blended into one, faces merged and became indistinct, memories too many to define. She let out a sigh of despair – did she really want to live yet another life? The secret would die with her unless she could find someone worthy. Was that so impossible? How would she begin? Her troubled thoughts plagued her once again. Was it really such a great thing to live forever?
Do you have a favorite Halloween story? Care to share?
August 1st is a holiday here in Alberta, so it was nice to have an extra long weekend. I’m please to day my ‘stalled’ situation in the completion of book two of The Delphic Murders – The Tainted Search – was overcome and I managed to finish the manuscript. It is now in the hands of a few beta-readers. It was such a relief to finally overcome the hurdle. I will let it ‘rest’ for a month and then go back to it for the next round of editing and revision. In the meantime, I have other dormant manuscripts I can return to, but as with all things it may not go to plan. I had a new idea for a contemporary novel and also have the idea for a prequel to the Rython saga. Never a dull moment in a writer’s mind!
As you know I enjoy sharing my responses to writing prompts, this is my latest:
Characters in a Crunch Write a scene or story that includes a character eating cereal. What does a character’s favourite cereal say about their personality?
Rosemary sat at the small round breakfast table, set for one with a place mat, napkin, silver cutlery and a pot of tea with a china cup and saucer to match. She set it every night before going to bed. Everything in its place and orderly. As she looked through the window at the garden, enjoying the fruits of her many hours of labour over several decades, she spooned mouthfuls of cereal into her mouth. As a child she always loved her grandmother’s English cottage garden. Hollyhocks, honeysuckle, roses, and all the colours of the rainbow all in perfect rows. Now, her garden was a joy to her grandchildren, she had come full circle.
With deliberate care she spooned around the bowl to make sure she had a good mixture of ingredients. She didn’t like overly sweet or one type cereal, she found it boring and the sugary treats stuck to her dentures. Over time she had created the perfect start to her day. Bran, fresh berries, oatmeal and a little honey. Her breakfast kept her regular, gave her a portion of fruit and filled her up. When she stayed with family, she took her ingredients with her, just to ensure she didn’t have to suffer store bought cereal.
Rosemary enjoyed short stays with family but had to resist tidying and organizing when she did. People lived in such chaos! Her home was picture perfect and that is the way she liked it. Orderly contents in cupboards and closets and a check list for everything. With the last scoop of her cereal she patted her lips with the napkin, then took the crockery to the sink, washed and dried everything and put them away.
We were set a prompt at our writer’s meeting, and I thought you may enjoy the story I created from it.
This was the prompt: What’s in a Name? Build a character’s traits based on the meaning of their first or last name. Look up name meanings. Write a scene or story starring your new character.
First name, female: Keara – dark one
The first time the baby opened her eyes, her mother, Krystal, knew she was different. Not just special as all babies are, but unusual and rare. Her daughter’s eyes appeared black, but when she looked up in fear, worrying there was something wrong, the doctor assured her they were actually very, very dark brown, caused by an abundance of melanin. The baby’s eyes were mesmerizing, and many visitors were both troubled and fascinated in equal measure. For days Krystal pondered what she should call her daughter. The names she thought of before the birth now seemed common and usual, not fitting for this remarkable babe.
It wasn’t until four days after the birth that Krystal’s grandmother came to visit. A woman of Irish descent and somewhat of a believer in ancient wisdom. She picked up the baby and stared into her eyes for a long time. The baby held still and silent, even though Krystal knew she was due a feed. It seemed grandmother and granddaughter accessed each other, became known to the other and an understanding reached. When her grandmother lowered the baby into Krystal’s arms, she spoke in a whisper.
“You will call her, Keare, the dark one. She is of another time in her soul.”
Krystal instinctively embraced her baby a little tighter. “Gran, what do you mean, what are you saying?”
“Her previous incarnation was a powerful warrior, leader of men and fearless in battle. She will remember nothing in a few months’ time, but for now she is struggling with her new body, time and place. Be respectful and do not talk down to her. You are so fortunate to have brought her into this world.”
“How is that possible, Gran?”
“Such powerful and forceful soul’s do return, some because of unfinished business, others to continue a task. I cannot determine which one is Keare’s path. Time will tell. As I said she will lose her past life memories soon, however her mission will come forth and be revealed as she grows.”
“What am I to do, Gran? How do I ensure Kaere finds this path?”
“Her nature will come through, her likes and dislikes, her passions. Guide her and make note of what appeals and interests her. You are her guardian in more ways than one my dear.”
“I don’t know if I am up to the task, Gran. Can you help me?”
“Of course, I will help you and the child. Her future may be unknown as yet, but it will become evident as she ages. Do not stress, for now, she is a baby and only requires your love and care.”
Two decades later, Kaere, has grown into a dark haired, dark eyed beauty with a forceful personality, who never suffers fools gladly. Free from the conventions and expectations of her childhood, she finds her true core value. She showed little interest in the usual girly pursuits of childhood, such as dolls and pretty dresses, favoring walks in the forest, comfortable and practical attire and the company of boys. Now, she has a company of young men, who blindly follow her lead, unsure of what propels them to do so, but unable to resist. Not a lovesick infatuation but a certainty she is a leader, someone who takes charge. Her male university colleagues, professors and lecturers are all under her spell, making the female population both jealous and wary of her.
Kaere finds her purpose in her twenty first year. A chance encounter and forceful discussion with a political science lecturer propels her into a meteoric advancement into politics. She is seen as not only strong but fearless in her ambitions with the backing of numerous powerful and rich men following her without question. She is focused, determined and above all completely believes in her path – a path foreseen by her grandmother. She will make a difference in this world as she did in the last.
:et me know what you thought of this story. I always love hearing back from my followers.
1. My inspiration for “Sounds Fishy” just came from jostling ideas around in my head. I tend to come up with some odd, humorous ideas with relative ease, so this concept was pretty tame by most standards. However, when I thought about a space crew flying around, it only seemed natural to make them fish!
2. My initial idea for characters was somewhat foggy and ambiguous at first; but when I thought about how they were going to be astronauts, it made sense to me that I should name them after actual astronauts and cosmonauts. Cally Wide for Sally Ride, Fuzzy Baldwin for Buzz Aldrin, and Journey Grey Area for Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human to journey into outer space. I enjoyed the play on words that their names have become.
3. In the book, the three crew mates face off against the galactic shark mafia. Once victorious, they scoot off and make the statement that you never leave a friend behind. I’d like kids to think about that concept of loyalty and dedication, and to consider how they would look after one another if presented with a dangerous situation.
4. Why sci-fi? I love sci-fi. I think this is the genre that allows for the most creativity and the greatest allowance of the imagination. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun when a bit of whimsy is added.
5. Being that this is my first book, I learned about the whole process of constructing a story and illustrating it. I also learned what it’s like working with a publisher and the methods of advertising. There’s definitely more to it than I thought!
6. This is the first in what I’m planning on making as a three-part series. I am currently working on the sequel, “Smells Fishy Too”. It’s already written, and I am working on the illustrations at this time. I hope to have it out soon.
7. I need a quiet place to write, but the world is a noisy place, so I typically put on my music and block it all out. Plus, music helps me get my first ideas to the forefront of my mind.
8. Well, I love Steinbeck and Dean Koontz. I was never much into comic books, but one of my favorite illustrators is Todd McFarlane. He has a very Hogarth-inspired look to his work.
9. I don’t belong to a writers group, but that is something I may become part of. As a new author, this is still all new to me, so I’m sort of taking it a day at a time.
Lucas Salmon is an independent artist with over 35 years of experience in drawing and painting. These days he’s focused mainly on painting with watercolors. His style can be called “Realistic”, or “Photo-realistic”, depending on the subject matter.
In his early 40s, Lucas lives near the east coast where he continues to hone his skills as an artist, always seeking to improve his craft. Inspired by science and nature, he continues to experiment with different styles and subjects.
Lucas has found writing to also be rewarding. He has written, illustrated, and published his first book, ” Sounds Fishy”. He is now putting the finishing touches on his second book, “Smells Fishy Too”, the sequel. Both books were inspired by his great love for science fiction and remembered ideas from his childhood as he would create imaginative characters and worlds in his mind, just to keep busy!
This past weekend, I enjoyed a special four day weekend away in Pincher Creek and visited for the first time, Waterton. Although, the devastating fire of two years ago has left the forest slopes covered in blacken and bone white perished trees, there is an abundance of lush green undergrowth springing up everywhere. Nature restores herself and brings about beauty only she can achieve. Experiencing such magnificence does inspire not only my soul, but a deeper need to be in nature. Growing up, my parents encouraged us to explore, learn about and cherish the natural world. I grew up with Sir David Attenborough’s dulcet tones enthusing over a multitude of wildlife. My children’s book, Ockleberries to the Rescue is my small homage to the natural world – with a magical twist, of course, you know me! – Of magical sprites caring for the animals within. Maybe, deep down, I hope for magical beings to save the world’s wildlife, although in reality there are many individuals and organizations that try.
We were so lucky to encounter two brown bears and two black bears on this trip!
My creativity is born of a multitude of inspirations, some from the familiar, but others from unexpected sources. One draft manuscript, lying in wait, has the seasons as the ‘four’ chapters of a relationship. Another is the result of several news reports, culminating in a story, where I meshed them together. Unrelated or applicable, each inspiration source has the ability to evolve into a story. Some remain as short stories, poems, or even a paragraph or two, but all have enabled me to create. I have kept all these inklings in an electronic folder for many years and from time to time click on one or two. Sometimes, I remember the initial idea source, but many are a mystery now. I read them as if they are written by someone else, enjoying their ‘newness’. A couple have become ‘inserts’ in a subsequent manuscript, in one way or another – a character description, a scene or something a character experiences.
This short story written a long time prior to The Twesome Loop might have been a precursor to it! Perceptions of future or past events.
The Coin by Mandy Eve-Barnett
Sunday is my favorite day of the week. After working hard all week and completing chores and shopping on Saturday this is my time to relax. With the sunshine warming through the patio door, I curl up on my oversized armchair with a glass of wine within easy reach. Now I can start my new novel without interruption, pure bliss.
My absorption in the make believe world is rudely interrupted when a drop of water splashes onto the page. Where could that have come from? I look up to see a glassy sheen on the ceiling and another drop hits my cheek. Oh no, it must be a leaking pipe or something overflowing. I fetch a bowl from the kitchen and place it beneath the circular patch. Another drip makes a pinging sound as it hits the glass. What shall I do first, phone the landlord or go upstairs and check with my neighbor? The latter wins the day and I climb the stairs to apartment eight. With a couple of gentle knocks I stand back and wait for an answer. I hear shuffling sounds and then an elderly voice asks.
“Hello, my name is Annie and I live downstairs. There is water coming through my ceiling.”
“Water in the ceiling? Oh my, that may be my fault.”
The owner of the voice opens her door and I am faced with an old lady wrapped in several jumpers.
“Do come in. I think I may have caused the leak. Come and see, maybe you can switch it off. My hands are so frail I can’t seem to fix the damn thing.”
I follow her and realize her apartment is a mirror image of mine. She stands to one side as I walk into the bathroom to find an overflowing toilet cistern.
“Let’s see what’s happening. The ball cock has stuck, it’s an easy fix.”
With a few twists and by levering the float’s rod up and down I free up the mechanism.
“That should do the trick for now but you should call the landlord and ask him to replace it.”
“I don’t think he will do that, he’s not very capable with this sort of thing. I can call a plumber.”
“Plumber’s are very expensive and really it is a simple fix. I could do it for you if you like?”
“That’s very kind, Annie, I’d pay for the parts of course. Would you like a cup of tea?”
“Thank you that would be nice. Sorry I didn’t catch your name.”
“How rude of me. My name is Annie just like yours.”
“What a coincidence.”
We walk back to the kitchen and I realize how cold her apartment is, I have goose bumps. I rub my arms and wish I’d brought a jumper it had been lovely and warm in my armchair. As Annie organizes pretty little china cups, sugar bowl and milk jug on a tray I notice she has the same cookie jar as me.
“Another coincidence, Annie, I have a cookie jar just like that one.”
“Do you, dear? Would you like a cookie with your tea?”
“No thank you but I have to say you need to put your heating up a bit, it’s cold in here. You will catch your death.”
“I’m used to it I just put on another jumper. You can borrow one if you would like.”
I begin to decline her offer but it is so cold I acquiesce. She turns and hands me a jumper that had been hanging on the chair. It is wonderfully soft and warm.
“Could you carry the tray into the living room for me?”
“Of course I can, Annie. “
It seems strange using my name for another person. I follow her into the main room and stop short when I see my cozy armchair – well an older version of it anyway. There are several objects on the coffee table that are similar and I place the tray down with shaking hands.
“Sorry Annie, I think I’m having a déjà vu moment. You have so many things just like mine.”
“They are yours, Annie, you are at a crossroads and you have to choose the right path. I chose the wrong one so came back to warn you.”
“I’m sorry? What are you talking about?”
“Take this coin and you will see.”
Annie hands me a brass coloured coin tied with a red velvet ribbon and the apartment spins. When it stops I am watching myself weeping and calling out to someone called Carl.
“Please stay, Carl, I’m so sorry. I was scared and acted on impulse.”
I swing around as a male voice speaks and I’m confronted with Carl from my office.
“Annie, I trusted you. How could you betray me?”
My mind is whirling, what did I do? When did I start going out with Carl? When did this happen? My other self replies,
“It was going too fast for me, I wasn’t sure about us. It’s only been five months.”
“You could have told me to cool it off a bit, Annie, I would have understood.”
I feel a tug on my hand and the illusion disappears. I’m back in old Annie’s apartment. My knees give way so I sit with a thump on the armchair.
“Don’t be afraid to let go of your emotions, Annie, trust them. He won’t come back and you’ll be alone like me- forever regretting that one night stand.”
“How did you do that? How are you here with me? I feel sick.”
“Take a few deep breaths you will be alright. I came from another reality to warn you. Keep this talisman as a reminder.”
A thud wakes me my book has fallen from my lap. I look up to see a perfect ceiling, no dripping water, no glass bowl catching the drips. What a dream it was so vivid. As I sit up I smooth the cashmere jumper and grasp something in the pocket. A coin wrapped in red velvet ribbon.