Sunday, 23 February 2014

Psst....over here....

As of Thursday, this blog has a new home! Powered by Wordpress, the Cabinet of Curiosities can now be found at The full new theme, inspired by Victorian freak shows and dark carnivals, will be coming soon.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Liebster Award

I was granted the Liebster Award by bloggers and fellow writers Katherine Hajer and David Shrock. The basic principle is that you receive the award, answer the questions posed by whoever nominated you, then nominate your own chaps and ask questions of your own. I usually forget to actually write these posts after I get awards but I realise I haven't blogged in a while and figured it was as good an excuse as any. Plus I've got two sets of questions to answer, so here goes.

Questions from Katherine Hajer

Do you have one place you write in, several regular places, or are you a "writing nomad" (write where you can)?
I just write wherever; using Evernote on my phone on the train to work, at my desk on my lunchbreak, in the living room at home...pretty much anywhere. I don't have a fixed time that I write either - just whenever I can. I'm not really all that big on creative routines - I prefer to write when I want to so it doesn't become a chore, so that means I can't be too fussy about where I write.

What are your favourite writing tools (either physical or software)?
I do love the old notebook and pen, you can't really beat those (unless your pen runs out and the notebook gets wet) but other than those I tend to write in Word. I know, shocker, right? Though I do have to keep the Evernote love going - it's so useful for saving snippets of ideas, and bits of stories that I want to put into the main work when I get to an actual computer.

What is your biggest writing "win" from the last twelve months?
Placing The Necromancer's Apprentice with Dark Continents Publishing.

Author and genre comparisons can be tricky, but what are some signs that a reader will like your books (ie: if they liked X book or like work by Y author, they should check out your books)?
Oh I have no idea. I guess if you liked something like Flashman & The Redskins then hopefully you'll enjoy The Guns of Retribution. My editor Nerine Dorman even compared The Necromancer's Apprentice to Harry Potter so I'm not about to argue with her on that one.

The universe grants you power over all of writer-dom for one day. What's the one thing you make all writers stop (or start) doing?
Stop sending automated direct messages on Twitter. If I want to find you on Facebook, and 'like' your page, then I will. Don't command that I do so the second I follow you on Twitter - and don't thank me for following you, because you were the one who added me in the first place.

Recognising that everyone on my nomination list writes in the science fiction/fantasy/horror end of the spectrum — how much time to you spend on planning and envisioning your setting relative to character development?
You can't have one without the other. Everyone is affected by their environment, so to have a character that is wholly divorced from their setting seems implausible, and obviously you make the choices you do in the context you're in. I think I prefer world building, and that's probably more what I bear in mind, but I spend the same time on both of them.

Does your setting come first, your characters, or a combination of both?
Depends on the story. Sometimes the plot comes first and then I have to work out where and when it is, and who the main players are.

How much research do you do when working on a story?
Again, it depends on the story. The Guns of Retribution took a lot of research because even though it's considered 'pulp', I wanted it to be as historically accurate as I could make it, while The Necromancer's Apprentice was less rigid in that regard. I've got a Victorian murder novel in planning that's going to take a lot of research because I want to sit it within both historical fiction and horror. I guess I like getting the details right so that even if someone detests the story, they can't say I didn't check my facts.

What are your favourite sources for setting inspiration?
Cinema and non-fiction are great as secondary sources, particularly films made in a certain era if you want to set your story there. I wouldn't write 1940s Los Angeles without watching noir. But if you can, actually visiting places is fantastic. A lot of my stories seem to end up in London because I lived there, and it's the kind of place that gives you ideas just by walking around it. London is a very generous muse.

If you could spend time in one of your settings, which one would you pick and how long would you stay there?
I'd like to visit the Underground City from The Necromancer's Apprentice but I wouldn't want to stay long - it's not a very nice place. I'd prefer to visit the City Above because I don't feel I know it very well and I'd like to explore it. It seems like the light, airy and gleaming twin to the squalor of the Underground City but I'm betting it has a darker side too.

Questions from David Shrock

1. Who’s your hero?
I'm not entirely sure I have one. I have people whose work I enjoy, and who I like, but I wouldn't necessarily call them a 'hero'.

2. What gave the beginning of your writing experience?
I've been writing since I was at primary school so I can't remember the first things I wrote. I do remember writing a fake news report about the flood that washed away the original bridge in Newcastle in 1771, so I guess I've always had an inclination towards historical fiction.

3. How do you engage on a story? Do you outline or are you more of a discovery writer?
I tend to write really bare outlines just so I know the main 'cornerstones' of the plot, and then the rest of it I make up. It's like joining the dots, I suppose. I've tried sitting just making the whole thing up as I go along but I don't like not knowing where I'm heading, and likewise I don't like having too strict an outline or I tend to lose interest entirely. I need a mix of the two.

4. In what genre/s do you write and why?
I write in a few but primarily Gothic horror, Western, dark fantasy and historical. I suppose they're what I read and what I'm interested in. I don't read sci fi so I have little interest in writing it.

5. What’s the one line you’re really proud of?
I'm not really sure. I don't really keep track of things once I've written them.

6. You get to bring to life one character for 24 hours. Which one is that and why?
Hm. Probably Eufame Delsenza, the Necromancer General from The Necromancer's Apprentice, so Nerine can hang out with her.

7. Do you regret reading a book?
Sometimes, particularly if I've invested a lot of time in reading it and it's turned out to be crap. If I've spent weeks reading a book and the ending is flat, or whatever, then I sort of feel cheated, even if I enjoyed it up until that point, because I could have spent that time reading something else.

8. Pick a childhood favourite book.
I always liked Enid Blyton's Adventure series, particularly The Castle of Adventure.

9. How many books do you plan to read in 2014?
If I set myself a target I'll just fall short anyway, so I want to read as many as I have time to read.

10. You have been given a one-way rocket offering to any fictional destination. Which one would you choose?
Diagon Alley!

I can't think of any questions, so I will pose either David's set, or Katherine's. I nominate John Wiswell, who writes pithy and witty Friday flashes that I thoroughly enjoy, and Adam Byatt, my favourite Australian English teacher who plays the drums and writes Post-It poetry.

Friday, 14 February 2014

#FridayFlash - Payment Taken

I don't normally do multiple part stories, but this week's flash follows on from last week's story, The Shadow Cabinet. I'm not sure if everyone gets the reference, but in the UK, the party (or coalition) in power present a cabinet of ministers with different jobs who are theoretically responsible for those areas. The party in opposition presents a cabinet of ministers with those same job titles, but in a 'shadow' capacity as they aren't in power, hence 'Shadow Cabinet'. I just prefer my own Shadow Cabinet ;-)

* * *

Prime Minister Etherington sat at his desk, staring at the single sheet of paper in front of him. It was pale cream, edged in a sooty residue that now spotted the ink-stained blotter beneath it. A line of type sat in the centre of the page.

Problem solved. Payment taken.

He didn't need the page to tell him this. He'd been listening to the reports for the last five days. The mysterious plague that began affecting the citizens who'd long graced their Suspicion Lists, the same plague that wiped out the entire Ministry of Secrecy in neighbouring Retirany. The supposedly natural disasters that destroyed whole sections of Retirany's major cities, throwing the entire populace first into uproar, and then disarray. He didn't need to be told why it was happening.

Etherington knew that could be explained by the first half of the message. He slumped forward, his fingers curling into his hair as he cradled his head in his hand. The first half was bad enough, but nothing connected those events to his meeting with the Shadow Cabinet. Indeed, Parliament congratulated him on his decisive action, and the destruction of the threat to the nation. They'd figured out the connection between the two, and didn't seem to question the ethics of destroying the lives of innocent citizens to wipe out an invasion plot. During those first five days, he didn't even question it himself. However, what he did mind, what really bothered him, was the second half of the message.

For every Retiran citizen who perished, they lost one of their own population. Not through natural disasters, or mysterious plagues that could be noticed by one side or the other - they simply ceased to be, winked out of existence without warning or fanfare. Etherington didn't need to know why. He'd asked the Shadow Cabinet for help, and now he needed to reconcile himself to what they'd done. They'd tipped the scales first one way, and then the other. His only advantage was that no one else knew; the moment one of their own population disappeared, they took the memories of their existence with them. No one remembered or mourned them. The nation simply seemed quieter, and less crowded than usual.

Only Etherington knew they had once existed, and now because of him, they didn't. That was the price he'd had to pay.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Cover reveal!

I've been buzzing about my forthcoming novella, The Necromancer's Apprentice, for a while, and now I can finally reveal the cover! Only it's not here - it's over on Dark Continents Publishing's blog, along with my post in which I discuss my influences and the world building of the story. If you want to see the cover, and read my post, then click here. The cover is beautiful, and I'm so grateful to Daniƫl Hugo and Carmen Begley for their fantastic work on it.

If that's whetted your appetite, you can check out my visual influences on my Pinterest board, and read some of my Friday flashes set in the same universe.


Though Jyximus Faire lives in a crumbling tenement in the Underground City, he escapes the squalor daily to attend lessons in magic and sorcery at the prestigious Academy in the City Above.

But the pace isn’t fast enough for Jyx. He wants to learn everything—and he wants to learn it now. Then the dread necromancer general Eufame Delsenza sets her sights on Jyx; she needs a new apprentice, and Jyx fits the bill. When she tasks him with helping to prepare royal mummies for an all-important procession, he realises this might be a chance of a lifetime.

Will Jyx’s impatience lead to him taking his education into his own inexperienced hands, and can a necromancer’s apprentice really learn to raise the dead—and control them?

Friday, 7 February 2014

#FridayFlash - The Shadow Cabinet

Image by Krappweis. Edits by me.
Prime Minister Etherington sat at his desk, staring at the reports laid out before him. The words swam before his eyes, with particular phrases leering at him. “Possible conspiracy”…. “grave threat to the nation”…. “utmost importance”…. “imminent danger”… “I have no idea what to make of all of this. Can any of it be substantiated?” he asked.

“Of course, sir. We’ve triple checked all of it before we even brought it to you. Loughborough thought it was just rumour but sadly not,” replied the short man standing near the door. He held a bowler hat in one hand, and a battered briefcase in the other.

“So what do we do?” asked the Prime Minister.

“That was rather what we were hoping you might be able to answer, sir,” replied the short man.

“It’s been so long since we had to deal with conspiracies and whatnot. My great-uncle would have known what to do,” said the Prime Minister. He looked up at the portrait of Finnigan Etherington above the fireplace.

“I do not wish to sound trite but unfortunately he is no longer here. We need to know what to do about all of this. I’ve asked Dundridge to come up here to advise.”

“Dundridge? I don’t recognise the name.”

“He’s the Head of the Secret Service, sir. He keeps himself possibly too secret, but if it’s anyone’s job to sort this out, it’s his.” The short man deposited his briefcase on the floor.

A triple knock sounded at the door.

“Come in,” called the Prime Minister.

The door opened, and a tall, thin man entered. He wore a long black trenchcoat and a black fedora.

“Ah, Dundridge! I’ve been explaining the situation to the Prime Minister,” said the short man.

“Damned shame, sir, damned shame. I’ve had men on this for some time now and all they can give me is bad news,” said Dundridge. His voice barely rose above a whisper, and the Prime Minister could see why he’d work so well in the Secret Service.

“So what do I do? Mackleworth here tells me that you’re the man to give advice on this,” said the Prime Minister.

“I’ve got eyes and ears everywhere, sir, and this thing is bigger than we can perhaps realise. I think there’s only one thing you can do.”

“Which is?”

“Consult the Shadow Cabinet.”

The Prime Minister gulped at the mention of the name. As far as anyone knew, the Shadow Cabinet had existed long before Parliament – possibly long before the nation itself. No one would dare doubt their loyalty, but they might question their methods.

“I really don’t want to bother them, Dundridge.”

“You might have to, sir.”

“There are reasons we don’t involve the Shadow Cabinet in decisions. Their assistance always comes with a price. Remember what happened to Heartstone?"

The short man shuddered.

“But still, sir, this is bigger than any of us. None of us are equipped to put down a conspiracy of this size. The Shadow Cabinet are, sir,” said Dundridge.

The Prime Minister looked at the reports on his desk and nodded. He didn’t want to admit it, but Dundridge was right. Perhaps their price would be reasonable this time given the severity of the threat.

He left Dundridge and the short man in his office, and made his way through the House of Parliament to an old door at the far end of the building. This part of the House was at least two centuries older than his own wing, and it existed in a twilight of shadow and silence.

The Prime Minister knocked on the door. A few moments passed, and it swung inwards without a creak. He straightened his tie and entered.

He found himself in a large wood-panelled chamber, with ancient tapestries covering the walls, and straw strewn across the stone floor. Fires blazed in iron wall braziers, casting flickering shadows around the room.

“Prime Minister Etherington. I do not think we have seen you for at least a year.” A deep voice sounded from the far end of the room.

The Prime Minister inched into the chamber, until a long table became visible in the low light. Five shadowy figures sat at the table, and the Prime Minister gulped. The Shadow Cabinet was comprised of seven – where were the other two?

“I apologise for my absence, things have been rather hectic.”

“Indeed, and with the current state of affairs I imagine they will only get more hectic.”

“Well that is why I’m here.” The Prime Minister explained everything that he’d been told that morning, though he got the feeling he was telling the Shadow Cabinet things that they already knew.

“This is indeed a difficult situation, Prime Minister, but it is not without resolution in the favour of our great nation,” said the shadow with the deep voice.

“It’s not?”

“We can solve this problem with little trouble to ourselves.”

“And…er…your price?”

“We will name our price when we have solved the problem.”

The Prime Minister frowned. What a risk to take! Would the price be too high? He thought again of the reports on his desk and sighed. He couldn’t solve this himself – there was simply no other way.

“Very well.” He heard himself saying the words before he’d even realised he agreed to their terms.

“Excellent. Expect a resolution within 48 hours.”

The shadow held out its hand, a dark stain against the air around it. The Prime Minister held out his own, and the shake sealed the deal. He withdrew his hand as quickly as he could, eager to get some warmth back into his skin, and he hurried out of the stone room.

As he headed back to his office, he glanced down at his palm. Either some residue had been left by the Chairman of the Shadow Cabinet….or he had blood on his hands.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

NaNoReMo 2014

NaNoReMo is almost upon us again, with the aim being that throughout the month of February, you read a classic novel. Your definition of 'classic' may differ from mine, and people are choosing all sorts for their monthly read, but I think the spirit of the venture is such that as long as you're reading something, then that's the main point to be taken from it all.

Last year, I chose Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, which I largely hated for one reason or another, and while the temptation to read another Gothic classic was indeed a strong one (indeed I have yet to start Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho), this year I shall be reading Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. My only real familiarity with the novel is through its 2002 movie adaptation, starring Jim Cavieziel and Guy Pearce, and Stephen Fry's version, The Stars' Tennis Balls. My other half and I had been discussing it just after Christmas, and after discovering it free through Project Gutenberg, I decided it was high time I actually read the novel.

I'm aware that it's not the shortest book in Christendom, and that February has only 28 days, but I shall endeavour to read as much of it as I can. Wish me luck!

Friday, 24 January 2014

#FridayFlash - The Visitor

Soft white flakes float from the clear sky. They settle across cracked roofs, in blocked gutters, and between the cobblestones in the narrow lane. The door to the parish church stands ajar, and carols drift out into the cold night air. Only devoted worshippers venture abroad as most souls seek the refuge of the family hearth.

A solitary figure trudges down the lane, pulling the cloak of close-woven sadness tighter around her neck. Her feet drag along the slick cobbles. The gaslights flicker as she passes, and even the shadows weep, feeling a sudden wave of despair. She peers left and right at the lop-sided buildings that line the forgotten street. Frost glitters on naked beams and icicles hang from rotten eaves.

The figure stops at a cramped dwelling opposite the remains of a milliner’s shop. Light spills out of the window, painting the snow with a golden glow. The figure wipes the bottom pane of glass with her sleeve and peers inside. A family gather around a roaring fire, basking in the warmth of the crackling flames. The father sits in a rocking chair, a toddler on his knee. He leads the family in a raucous song that ends with the clinking of glasses and the exchange of well wishes. The figure sidles along the front of the house to the door, but the handle does not budge. She swears at the lock.

The figure turns away from the happy household. She flicks her cloak, sending ripples of melancholy down the lane. A scavenging alley cat howls in the shadows. The figure stops at the next house. As before, she wipes a sooty layer of frost from the window and peers inside. No fire blazes in the grate of this house. No carols are sung, and no bonhomie warms her face through the glass.

Instead, she spies a lonely figure, hunched over a writing desk. A single candle burns, casting flickering shadows across the cramped writing. The nib of the pen scratches across the paper. The writer looks up, gazing at the wall between herself and the happy family. Envy and misery chase each other across her pale face. The cloaked figure clasps her hands together, as something blossoms in the cavern where her heart should be. She feels a surge of kinship towards this writer.

The figure reaches for the handle, and finds the door unlocked. It opens easily at her touch. She casts off her cloak of sorrow and steps inside. The writer looks up, and smiles. She will welcome anyone on this lonely Christmas Day, even Melancholy herself.

* * *
I'm not well so this is a repost!

Friday, 17 January 2014

#FridayFlash - Wake Me

I see the man on the subway every morning, always slumped in the same seat, his chin resting on his chest as he snores. A cardboard sign hangs around his neck, the string entangled with his faded tie, with the words 'Wake me at the end of the line' written in a childish but legible hand. It's confusing because the Red Line is circular - unless you count 8th Street West where trains go in or out of service, there is no end of the line. I sometimes wonder if that's why I see him every morning - maybe he never gets off the train. Maybe he lives here.

He's the only reason most of us talk to each other. We exchange theories as to who he is, or what could be at the end of the line that he needs to wake up for. Weirdly, none of us are brave enough to wake him early, though everyone claims to know someone who tried. One of my fellow commuters, a marketing rep named Dan, suspects he's trying to become an urban legend. We nickname him The Snooze.

Months pass and he keeps sleeping on the train, dozing through the rattles and clatter of the morning commute. We keep theorising about him, and the morning commute begins something to savour; for some of us, it's the only kind word we'll have all day. Every evening I hitch a lift with Sally from sales, but I sometimes consider catching the train. Maybe he'll still be there.

Today it all changes. The Snooze still sleeps on the train, dressed in black instead of his usual threadbare tweed. He wears a smart trilby instead of his battered fedora. The sign is still cardboard, but instead of scrawl, elegant calligraphy spells out the words 'Wake me at the end of it all'. I can't stop staring at the sign, and I notice it earns more attention from my fellow passengers. We're all still staring at it when the ominous rumbling starts. It's the last thing we see when darkness swallows our carriage.

I reach out a trembling hand to wake him.

Original image by Keeper182. Edits by me.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

#BookReview - Cobweb Empire

Back in October I reviewed Vera Nazarian's Cobweb Bride, the first in a trilogy set in an imaginary pocket of Europe during the Renaissance. I absolutely loved book one, awarding it four blunt pencils, and managed to get my mitts on Cobweb Empire, its follow-up. I've had book two on my Kindle for some time, but I'll admit, the release of the final book, Cobweb Forest, gave me the kick up the bum that I needed to read it.

As with book one, Cobweb Empire tells the story of Percy Ayren, the ordinary village girl from northern Lethe, only now Percy isn't so ordinary. During book one, death stopped entirely while the Reaper searched for his Cobweb Bride, and the dead were forced to keep going in whatever state they were in at the point of 'death'. By book two, things are getting worse, and entire sections of the world are simply disappearing. After an audience with the Reaper, Percy's now been granted the ability to give the dead a final ending, reuniting their broken bodies with their souls. In a world where no one can die, such an ability is obviously highly prized, and many people see the value in having Percy in their custody. Trouble is, Percy needs to be elsewhere, still tasked with finding the Cobweb Bride, so off she goes, accompanied by handsome knight Sir Beltain Chidair, to find her.

While Percy's having adventures throughout both the Realm and the Domain, a host of other characters are also exploring the extensive world created by Nazarian, be they the terrifying Sovereign of the Domain, hell bent on conquering the Realm, or the dandyish duo, Lady Amaryllis and Lord Nathan, held captive in a northern dungeon. There is plenty going on to keep the narrative ticking along at a smart pace, and being book two, Cobweb Empire has the luxury of being able to hit the ground running. Having read the Kindle version, I think I read at least 20% of it in one go.

As ever, the characterisation is spot on (although I'm not sure that eyes need to be constantly described as being 'liquid'), and it's easy to root for Percy. Grial the witch makes more of an appearance in this book, and she's a wonderful character who reminds me a lot of Mrs Weasley from Harry Potter. I was pleased to get to know Lady Amaryllis more - she was a little stereotypical in book one but she shows real wit and ingenuity in book two, as does Nazarian herself. The world she has created is an extraordinary one, packed with inventive details. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

It won't make much sense if you haven't read book one, but I'd highly recommend that you buy both and read them back to back. It also baffles me why Hollywood keeps making remakes when it could be adapting something like this for the big screen. Hopefully HBO might take the hint!

Four blunt pencils!

You can buy Cobweb Empire from Amazon for both Kindle and paperback, or for other e-readers from Smashwords.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Post-Christmas Grind: Getting Back into Your Writing Routine

No matter how good your intentions, sticking to a well-honed writing routine over Christmas is virtually impossible. Putting aside all of the time commitments involved in buying and wrapping presents, visiting friends and family, and preparing all that food, even if you do manage to sneak in some writing time, you’ll no doubt be met with cries of “Oh you’re not writing, are you? But it’s Christmas.”

Writers are lucky in that their chosen line of work is not only fun, it also offers a high degree of escapism, but sadly, many non-writers still think we’re chained to our laptops. Of course, the problem you face after any interruption to a routine is finding a way back into it. Christmas offers a particularly large interruption due to the length of time it seems to last, and the fact that you’ll be trying to get back into other routines, not just those involving writing. Still, it must be done, so here are five suggestions of things you can do to get back into the swing of things!

Write ANYTHING for Ten Minutes

Yes, this one is fairly self-explanatory. Choose anything as a prompt, or just simply write about what you got for Christmas. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, just make sure it’s constant for ten minutes. Don’t worry about what you’re writing, just write without pauses. Use a timer, or a website like Write or Die to keep you on track. It’s amazing how much simply writing to get the words out will get you back into the habit of writing.

Use a Current Project As a Prompt

If you’re in the middle of a longer project, try writing a flash or short story about a character other than the protagonist. If you don’t have something on the go, write about a character from a story you’ve already finished.

Use Movies to Inspire You

Chances are, you may have watched some great movies over the Christmas period. Write a missing scene, prologue or ending from a movie of your choice. Prose is fine, though if you want to write it in screenplay format that could keep you on your toes! It’s always beneficial to try writing in a different form to the one you’re used to.

Revisit Old Ideas

If you keep a notebook (and you should), flick through and browse those ideas you’ve jotted down in the past years. If none of them strike you as being good fodder for a flash, short story or even a novel, then choose a sentence at random and those that as a prompt for a story, poem or even a blog post.

Let the World Inspire You

Re-read something you’ve actually finished. Remember why you wrote it, and how much you enjoyed finishing it. Go for a walk and let your brain absorb everything around you – you might even do this just before you go out to check out the sales. Get back to your writing area feeling refreshed and ready to write!

Make sure you make a concerted effort to get back into your writing routine, but don’t push yourself too hard or your brain will rebel against you. Try one (or all, if you’re feeling brave) of these suggestions and see how it goes. We're two weeks into 2014 and it would be a good way to establish a routine for the coming year if you got back into one now!

Friday, 10 January 2014

#FridayFlash - Footsteps

Image by HBrinkman
I'm reading in bed when I hear footsteps on the stairs. I freeze, book in hand, listening hard. I hope it's just the house settling, floorboards getting used to the night time air, but no, I hear them again. Footsteps, but I'm the only one home. I wriggle further under the covers, as though a duvet will somehow protect me.

The footsteps stop on the landing, and head for the bathroom. Whoever it is hasn't made any effort to be quiet. I can hear the tap running, and what sounds like someone scrubbing their teeth. What? What intruder brushes their teeth?

I throw back the covers and get out of bed. I reach the door just as the tap stops in the bathroom. I look onto the landing in time to see the intruder open the door.

I watch myself leave the bathroom dressed in the clothes I was wearing before I got changed for bed. The other me crosses the landing and walks straight through me, as if I'm not standing here. I feel nothing but a breeze but the other me shivers. I remember shivering before I went to bed, making a mental note to turn up the heating.

The other me, the me that was, gets changed and slips into bed. I watch her start reading, engrossed in her book until she hears what I hear - footsteps on the stairs.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

#Craftblogclub Icons

I've been a busy bee, creating blog buttons for the #craftblogclub community. I've got six options so far, and a poll underneath, but obviously if you want to make any suggestions, feel free to leave a comment!

Option One

Option Two

Option Three

Option Four

Option Five

Option Six

What do you think?

Which option do you prefer? free polls 

Friday, 3 January 2014

#FridayFlash - Allergy

By Jan van Grevenbroeck (1731-1807)
The clock in the square struck one. Karea cursed under her breath; she hated being late. She stood on her toes to peer above the heads of the crowd. They jostled and shoved outside the cathedral. Some brandished placards, while others waved banners in a righteous frenzy. “The dead have rights too” and “We’re sick, not criminals” were two of the more popular slogans.

She edged along the edge of the crowd, caught between protestors and onlookers. Many of those watching the demonstration held handkerchiefs to their mouths, or buried their faces in nosegays. Karea wondered why they didn’t just stay away, if they were so scared of the Contagion.

The crowd petered out on the far side of the square, and Karea slipped into a narrow alley between a bakery and a milliner’s. Looking back, she could see mounted militia surrounding the protestors. They sat astride huge chestnut stallions, all wearing black government-issue masks. The long ibis-like nose would be filled with strongly scented flowers. Karea wondered how many people would succumb to hay fever before the Contagion itself.

Karea burst out of the alley as a tram pulled up to the stop across the street. She hurled herself across the cobbled stones, narrowly avoiding a pony and trap driven by a young boy. She climbed on board, and squeezed herself between two elderly women clad in black. She nodded at each in turn, acknowledging their loss. A purple hat band indicated that the woman on her right had lost someone a lot earlier than the woman on the left. Probably when the Contagion first started.

Two government officials flanked the trembling conductor. Blue eyes burned bright behind the ibis masks. Karea shuddered. She wondered if the masks were intended to protect the officials, or to intimidate the populace.

Several passengers alighted at the next stop. Karea dropped her gaze from the window; she didn’t need to see them file into the cemetery. She also didn’t need to see the gravediggers and their pits, shovelling quicklime onto anonymous corpses, dumped in ignoble piles.

A tickle in her nose made Karea look up. A woman settled into the seat opposite, heaving a wicker basket onto her knee. A cat the colour of marmalade sat in the basket. It looked at her with brazen interest. Karea felt her stomach drop as the first sneeze struggled to escape. She left off a volley of rapid sneezes, each more violent than the last. The passengers scattered, clawing at each other in their attempts to get away from her.

The government officials swooped. Each clamped a gloved hand on her arms, hauling her to her feet. The tram lurched to a halt, and they pulled her down the stairs into the street. Karea’s protests went unheard as a crowd gathered to investigate the commotion. A cart waited by the gutter; the livery was that of the House of the Stricken. One of the officials fought to tie a cloth mask over her lower face.

“I’m not sick!” shouted Karea, her words lost in the thick fabric. “I’m just allergic to cats!”

* * *

I first posted this way back in 2010 and am re-posting because the whirl of Christmas and New Year have gotten in the way of writing anything, I was always rather proud of this one.