Thursday, 25 December 2014

Holiday wishes

Happy holidays to all my readers, re-bloggers, and followers of all types!
I hope you all have a wonderful break and that you survive what is often a stressful time for people. Especially if you work in retail. Gah! People lose their minds over Christmas shopping, even in the supermarket.
I plan to have a quiet holiday, with lots of time to read, write, mainline a few dvds and get some work done. I am kid free for a couple of weeks.
May you have wifi wherever you are if you need it (to read fanfiction of course), and to disconnect if you want that, too. I will be watching the Christmas movie today - which is of course, Die Hard.
Hugs to you all.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Writing advice

Having just finished doing Nanowrimo, I read a lot of writing advice in the daily/weekly posts from people that are meant to inspire us. One thing I see all the time is ‘just get the words down - it doesn’t matter if your first draft is messy’. Or to put it another way - ‘do not edit as you go’.
I fail at this.
I CANNOT leave a misspelled word, or a badly written sentence. I just don’t have it in me. Those little red squiggles under the word make my skin itch and I have to fix them.
Some days my word count almost went backwards in Nano because I deleted whole paragraphs, but I get why it’s a good idea not to edit when hitting that monthly target is the main aim.
I have often thought that what I really need is a speed typing course. Sometimes when I get writing quickly, my letters get out of order. ‘The’ becomes ‘hte’ for example. But most programs have the ability to learn my usual typos and autocorrect them, so it isn’t a huge issue. Typing faster would be nice I suppose… *adds typing to endless list of things to do*
In my experience of writing short stories, or one shots as they are called in fanfiction, my first draft is often the best.
So I was quite gratified to read a blog post from Dean Wesley Smith where he basically denied the rough first draft rule.
He swears that “I have never heard one successful writer talk about a “rough first draft.”
Well, I agree with him. I just don’t see the logic in doing something so badly the first time that you waste hours more fixing it later, but like a lot of writing advice, you should do what works for you.

Saturday, 13 December 2014


A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!

The psychologist cleared her throat. “I think... you have something called... Spectrophobia.”
“Excuse me?” The girl frowned at her. “What does that mean?”
Rather than explain, she just read a definition out to her. “Spectrophobia: An abnormal and persistent fear of ghosts. Sufferers of spectrophobia experience undue anxiety even though they realize their fear is irrational.”
She didn’t believe her. Hours spent pouring out her experiences and her fears and they had been labelled as irrational.
Somehow she made it out of the office. The final insult was having to pay for the advice that had upset her so badly. Her hand shook as she handed over her medical insurance card and her credit card. Lucky she didn’t have to sign; it would have been illegible.
She didn’t make another appointment. She decided never to return.
Her apartment was very old and kind of run down, but it was all she could afford.
She saw her on the stairs, floating above the bannister. In the classic cartoon style she was wearing a cover over her body that looked like a sheer tablecloth rather than a white sheet.
“You’re not real,” she told the spectre. “The psych said so.”
She walked past it and unlocked her door.
The spectre passed through the wall and hovered benignly in her bedroom as she threw down her bag on her bed. “Do NOT follow me to the bathroom,” she told it.
“Oh, crap. I interacted with you. I’m not supposed to do that.” She stomped off to use the toilet. While she was in there, she did some heavy thinking.
When she came out, it was hovering near the stove. She sighed and put the kettle on. She held up teabags from her herbal tea assortment until it nodded its head.
“Peppermint, huh?”
Putting it in a large mug, she poured boiling water on it when the kettle whistled.
“So, your immune system needs boosting?” She chuckled to herself.
She placed the mug in the centre of the table and stood back to let the apparition hover over it.
“I am told you’re not real,” she repeated.
The spectre turned its blank face towards her.
“But I know...” She stopped talking. Watching the spirit, she knew if it was a figment of her imagination, that she had got so used to it that she would prefer to live with it. “Never mind.”
It turned back to inhaling the steam or whatever it was doing. When it floated away, she could drink her tea.
She sat, leaning her head on one arm as she took small sips and they studied each other.
“All right,” she said. “You exist.”
Another sip.
“And you want or need some things from me.” She lifted the mug.
“So... what do you want from me? Why me?”
No response.
“I guess I can see you, eh?”
She waited.
“Can many people do that?”
A head shake.
“Cool. So we can do yes and no questions.”
A nod.
“I like the sheer sheet thing.” She waved a hand. “That’s pretty stylish.”
That made her think.
“Maybe it’s not me; maybe it’s you. You seem to be a bit different. At least to the run-of-the-mill ghost. And plus, I can’t see any others.”
She sipped her tea.
“Spectrophobia.” She snorted derisively. “I’m not frightened of you.”
© AM Gray 2014

Thursday, 11 December 2014

More fun with covermaker

I am still loading stuff onto #Wattpad. This week I did ‘Cleanse my Soul’; one of my darker one shots. Well, technically I suppose it's angsty not dark. It starts with the death of Jared and a desperate Sam knocks on Bella Swan’s door. It was a photo prompt and the guy just looked like Sam to me and then I had to imagine why he needed a bath with all that bubble stuff.
My new cover looks like this and the story is here:

It has less than five reads so far, but I also popped the cover onto my tumblr page, with a link to Ao3 and got some kudos there, too. It all counts.
I did write some notes on extending this one shot, too. Now where did I put those...
Josh is doing very well on Wattpad with 1,600 views and 118 stars (the voting system there for stories), and on FFn it is keeping pace with Closer to God. Who would have thought it?

Thursday, 4 December 2014

My other half

I wrote a super creepy short horror story some years ago. It was from a picture prompt. I sent it out to a few places and entered it in a competition, but nothing really happened with it.
I always liked it. So this week I messed around with Derek’s #covermaker and posted it on #Wattpad. And it looks awesome.
The link is here:
And yes, I know, it could be extended… imagine… skin-walker assassins. Oh, now…

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Rensho Kraft

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!

Picture Source:

“Oh, my,” she said as she peered down at the prisoner. “You wrapped my present for me.”
“Just the woman I came here to see,” he growled back at her.
“Hello, Vadima.” A pause. “I don’t rate a ‘hello’?”
“No, you do not.”
“Wife, you disappoint me.”
The guards twitched.
“I seem fated to do that.”
“Come down here and say that.”
She laughed, but she did take the stairs down to stand closer to him.
He watched her every step of the way. He didn’t even glance at the others with her.
“You have some new scars, my love.” She stood right in front of him. Her fingers brushed over his epaulettes; he had some new rank, too.
“I value the scars you gave me the most.”
“I would never mark that face.” Her finger traced the welts that radiated in three distinct lines across his right eye. “Is the eye damaged?”
“No. I can still see how beautiful you are.”
“Who did this?” Her lips pressed against the scar that marred the top of his left lip and stretched up towards the base of his cheek.
He chased her face when she pulled away, until the wrist cuffs held him. “It doesn’t matter; I killed him.”
“Because otherwise you would do it for me?”
“He damaged what is mine.”
“Wife, you do not share well.” He gave her an enigmatic smile.
“I do not.”
He had a small pouch on his belt. He saw her glance down at it, but with his arms held, he could not stop her opening it. “Do you still have it?” she asked.
“I do.”
She pulled a ring from the pouch. It was hung on a chain.
“He is your husband?” the guard with her asked.
“Yes, he is. I do not lie.” To him, she asked, “Why the chain?”
“So it stays with me when I am out of uniform. I cannot wear it for obvious reasons.”
Leaning in, she pulled the collars of shirt apart enough to plant a kiss on the skin of his lower neck. “I would see you out of uniform,” she whispered, and she hung it around his neck.
“Release me,” he said.
“You are our prisoner,” the guard objected.
“No, lady. I am a husband who has missed many conjugal leave visits.” His eyes gleamed.
Vadima’s laugh was a delight.
Rensho raised one eyebrow. “Or... we could just do it here.”
“Do I have your word you will not harm anyone?” she asked.
“Captain, no!” a junior officer objected before Rensho could answer.
Vadima rounded on them. “Do you dare to question my authority?”
“No, ma’am.”
“Did he hurt anyone when he was apprehended?”
“No, ma’am.” They risked a glance at the prisoner. The capture seemed too easy now given how dangerous he looked.
“You do know who this is?”
“No, ma’am.” They sounded more doubtful, now.
“This-” she waved a hand at him, “-is Rensho Kraft; designer of the Kraft method and leader of the interrogation squad for the imperial forces. If he wanted you dead, you’d be dead.”
The officer paled. They had all heard of the Kraft method. He got inside people’s heads, it was said, but that was not possible. They suddenly realized what he had done; he had got inside theirs and had cleverly manipulated them and they hadn’t even noticed. “He said he wanted to see you and we brought him right to you. I am so sorry, ma’am.”
“Indeed. Lucky he is not here to kill me, just to-” She stopped.
He smiled at her. He finished the rest of her sentence with that smile.
“Give me your word, Rensho.”
“I give you my word that I will not... kill anyone on your ship.”
She tilted her head. He had left a loophole; injury was allowed. “I accept. Release him.”
She spun on her heel and marched away, knowing her orders would be followed.
Freed, he jogged to catch her up. He didn’t try to touch her, but followed a step behind her; not directly on her heels. They made a striking couple. He taller by a head and so pale with his grey hair. She was darker skinned with glossy black hair. They both radiated authority.
At the door of her quarters, he followed her in, watched as she locked it with a command code he automatically memorised, and then he was kissing her.
They didn’t speak. They lived their lives assuming others were watching or listening to them. As their bodies joined, so did their minds. It had always been that way with them. An ability he had used and expanded, and she had kept a close secret. It had bound them together far more effectively than a ring, and as a result, neither ever trifled with another.
When everything they had was interlaced, he showed her the information obtained during an interrogation. A conspiracy so vast and deep that they were all betrayed. He had left everything behind to come to her and warn her. He had come to her to try to save her.
Now, it was up to her to save them both.
© AM Gray 2014

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

An excerpt from my nano2014 novel

The adventures of a boy called Edwin and a wizard called Conon.
Conon started off bisexual and has become omnisexual. He’s basically become Captain Jack Harkness and will have sex with anything.
What did Conon have sex with?
A dragon?
Omg… writes furiously...
“Wait…WHAT?” Edwin almost shouted. “You had sex with a dragon?”
Dead silence.
“A dragon!” Edwin repeated. He fumbled around in his clothing and pulled out the medallion of the dragon, looked at Conon, looked at the medallion and then looked back at him, and shook his head. “I know you said you had seen one close up… but… really? Like that close!”
Conon lips were held firmly together. He was so intent on not talking to Edwin about this.
Perversely, that made Edwin keep talking.
“How big are dragons anyway? Linnae said they were large enough for people to ride. Well, not ride in the sense you are talking about here… ride like a horse kind of ride. Did it change size or something? Did you turn into a dragon? No wait… oh, now… did you change size? You’re scary enough the size you are now, I can’t imagine how threatening you would look if you were larger.” Silence for a beat. “Or did just certain parts of you get larger?”
“That’s a point… did you tell Linnae about this?”
“No.” Grunted.
“Why not?”
“It was forbidden.”
“Well it would be; people might get hurt, or trampled or burned to death.”
“Or frozen.”
“Ha.” Edwin pointed at him. “It was an ice dragon.”
Conon grabbed the front of Edwin’s shirt and hauled him bodily towards his face. “Shut up.”
Edwin blinked. “Why was it forbidden?”
Conon dropped Edwin, smacked one hand across his eyes and sighed heavily.
Edwin bounced on his feet. He thought Conon might eventually tell him, so he bit his lip to stop himself from speaking.
After another heavy sigh, Conon spoke, “It’s forbidden for just the reasons you said and because it might change the balance of things.”
“Linnae said the dragons had all the power.”
“So if one got a crush on a human, it could be bad. So to speak.”
“Why did you do it?”
“I wasn’t much older than you and I thought it would be … fun.”
Edwin raised his eyebrows. “Fun?”
“Yeah… it wasn’t fun; it was utterly terrifying. And irresponsible and stupid.” Conon attempted to dissuade Edwin from stupid activities.
And failed.
Edwin sounded awestruck, “You could have died!”
“And I might have if I wasn’t a wizard.”
“What did she want out of it? Given she had the power.”
“It’s hard to say ‘no’ to a dragon.”
“I don’t know what she wanted. Maybe it was an experience for her, too? She was young… for a dragon.”
“So you speak dragon?” Edwin guessed. “You’d have to to flirt with one.”
“A bit.”
“You can say ‘oooh baby… that’s it… right there’ in dragon?”
“I will hit you.”
Silence for a beat.
“Oh, wow… maybe you have little dragon babies out there somewhere?”
“Oh, for…” Conon strode off swearing loudly.
“You could have,” Edwin argued as he followed him. “And they wouldn't be little by now. That was years ago.”
“That is not how it works!”
“How do you know? If there was magic involved in this… coupling, anything could have happened,” he tried.
“Well, I don’t know what to call it. It was the only word I could think of.”
“Dragons are magic, too, right? They could be magically mixed ice dragon babies.”
“We are not talking about this any more.”
They argued about it for days.

Monday, 1 December 2014

nanowrimo 2014

I won #Nanowrimo2014

I got three different word counts in Word, Scrivener and Drive. I can’t tell how they are different (and it’s quite a lot) so I have over written to cover it.
My daily average was 2,026 words. I set my usual daily target at 2k anyway. But I did write a few other things this month; about another 20k. So it is a monthly total of over 80k.
I changed the name of the story to ‘Fate, Chance and a Wizard’ but I am not entirely sure about that, either.  Thinking of titles is fiendishly difficult without making something that is terminally boring or too much like someone else’s title.
‘The Adventures of Edwin Ash and Conon’ - no
‘Edwin Ash and the journey from crossroads to capital’ - no - it sounds like a travel diary
‘Wizards, magic and boys, oh, my’ - NO - and there are girls as well.
‘Paths that lead to home’ - no
‘Have wizard; will travel’ - NO
‘The affairs of Wizards’ - a snatch from Tolkien “Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.” NO
You get the issue…
There is an African proverb, ‘if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ To cut it down the title might be, ‘To go far, go together’ I don’t mind that one and they do, indeed go far. In fact, all the way… hehe.
‘To go far, go together’
‘Fate, Chance and a Wizard’
I am not sure that either title is easy to remember; the last thing you want is someone forgetting the name when they try to order it.
Ah well, I will probably change it again, anyway.
A large chunk of the story is written but there is still a lot of detail needed to be added. Rather than get bogged down in descriptions (I do prefer to write dialogue) I just pop two %% where I need to research or add more. It is very easy to search for that symbol later.
There is still a lot more story to tell and I really like my characters, Edwin Ash the inquisitive boy, and Conon the wizard who has travelled alone for too long. Edwin drags him into adventures by asking questions, touching things he shouldn't and demanding that they help people who are in trouble. And he makes Conon nuts.
“Somebody should do something and we are somebody,” says Edwin.
He’s so sweet. And eventually my surly wizard falls in love with him. Just like me.
And then, it all changes when… but you will just have to read it.
When it’s finished, of course!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Don’t leave me behind

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a #story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld  in your block!

The hiking trail was not a long one but it was enough for her to tick off exercise on her weekly to-do list. And the threatening fog didn’t worry her. Peering through the trees she saw a body through the mist; it was a man and he was lying on his back. Approaching carefully, she started off wondering what he was doing and then moved to concerned that he might be injured... or dead. She groused at herself out loud. “If he is dead, then he can’t hurt you.”
But he wasn’t. She could see his chest rise and fall. His naked chest. He must be freezing. “Hey?” she said.
A pause for an answer that didn’t come.
“You okay?”
No answer.
It was too cold to be in the forest with just jeans on. “Where are the rest of your clothes?” she asked him. But he didn’t respond.
He did seem to hear her. A smile crept onto his face. Slowly.
Too slowly. He looked drugged or drunk. Ugh. He was just off his face.
She started to walk away when he mumbled something. It kind of sounded like ‘don’t leave me behind.’
She turned back and leaned down over his face to sniff. No scent of alcohol, so he wasn’t drunk. She scanned down his body. Not a mark on him. No needle marks up his arms. Wait... he had a bruise around his upper arm and his wrist. On both sides. It had to be recent because it was just starting to show and it was an odd place to have a bruise, as if he had been tied up or restrained. And if he had, was he dangerous? Should she even be standing near him? She cursed herself for being a Good Samaritan.
He groaned. It sounded painful.
She made a decision. “What can I do?” she asked. He looked too heavy for her to lift alone.
“Help... me,” he whispered.
She took a deep breath. “I’ll try.”
Grabbing his hand, she tried to pull him up to sitting. He let out a noise of pain and she let go. “Sorry.”
He lay on his back and gasped for breath, “Tt-ry again.”
Ignoring his groans, she put his arm over her shoulder and tried to lift him. They both fell. He ended up on his hands and knees.
“This isn’t going to work.” She glanced around, looking for something to help them.
A nearby fallen branch served as a tall staff for him to lean on. He climbed up the stick and leaned on her back until he stood up right.
“I have a car.”
He staggered, but she and the stick kept him upright. He felt too warm, but he was shivering. “And you have a fever,” she told him. “Guess you already know that.”
A few stumbling steps.
“And why can’t I shut up?”
He made a noise that might have been an attempt to laugh, followed by a groan.
“Sore ribs, huh?”
He nodded without speaking. She started to wonder about what had happened to him.
They staggered back to her car. It took much longer than she expected, his feet were bare and he was stumbling as he walked. It was starting to get dark by the time they reached the parking place.
She kept taking surreptitious looks at him. He was very handsome with tousled blond hair. He didn’t even need a shave so whatever had happened to him, he hadn’t been held more than a day or so. Now his skin felt clammy and cold.
“Should we go to the hospital?”
He shook his head.
“The police?”
Another shake, more vehement than the first.
She was starting to think this was a very bad idea, but she was in it now. Up to her neck; the neck around which he had his arm.
When they got to her car, she helped him into the passenger side.
“Not ... hurt,” he said as if he knew what she was thinking.
She was fairly certain that he couldn’t physically hurt her, he was too weak, but she couldn’t really be sure. Taking the chance to grab an old picnic rug from the trunk, she wrapped it around him. As they drove off, she glanced up to the mirror; not sure why, she had a sense that someone might follow them and she needed to check. Nothing behind them; not that she could see.
“Where should I take you, then?”
No answer. He was asleep or passed out.
“My place, then?”
They repeated the stumbling, painful walk at her place. She left him unconscious on the sofa before wandering back and forth wondering if she was doing the right thing. She had nothing worth stealing; other than her car. In a way it was easier to deal with him when he was out, but if he woke up and left her house that would be good, too.
She hadn’t been coerced; there was no point calling the police now. And what could she tell them?
It wasn’t so much that she made a decision to help him, as she couldn’t make a decision to do anything different. She heated up some soup, filled a thermos and placed it on the coffee table where he would see it when he woke up. She got a water bottle as well and some packets of painkillers in various strengths.
And then she went and locked herself in her bedroom with the few valuables she had.
Sleep seemed impossible but came eventually; she was so emotionally drained. And she worried that the thin internal door would not stop anyone if they really wanted to get in.
It was the shower that woke her up. It made an odd clunking noise when you turned the water off. She was instantly awake, threw the covers off and rushed to the door. Then she stopped, uncertain of what she intended to do. Luckily, she was still dressed.
“You awake?” he whispered through the door.
A pause.
Another pause.
“My name’s Ciaron.”
“Okay.” Should she tell him her name? “Mine’s Nikki.”
“Thanks, again, Nikki.”
Opening the door was too much for her and he didn’t seem to expect her to. She sank down and sat on the carpet and listened to him close the door behind him. She counted to a thousand, very, very slowly before she opened the door.
She didn’t breathe until she checked he was really gone. She had fully expected things to be stolen, but nothing appeared to have been touched or missing.
Then she washed everything up and tried to get on with her life.
Small gifts appeared for her after that. She never saw him. First it was a container of herbs. She put them on the balcony where they could get sunlight. Then a new picnic blanket and finally a new thermos.
She chuckled. “Cheeky bastard.”
© AM Gray 2014

Monday, 24 November 2014

Free cover maker - Derek Murphy

I have a problem with doing photo manipulations or trying to make my own covers. I tried Gimp and failed spectacularly. I felt as if I needed another gimp-centric degree to use it. Using the available photo edit programs in photobucket or whatever account you store them in… yeah… they just look lame. And the one for making covers built into Wattpad is very limited.
So I had posted a couple of things, and then stopped because I didn’t like the covers and I didn’t have time to make my own. I also felt that asking someone to make one for a giveaway thing was unfair. I have real trouble asking people for help.
And then I watched a Joanna Penn video interview with her book cover maker, Derek Murphy. They had an issue with video, but it is worth listening to. 
Derek is clearly one of those people who has a hundred ideas and actually does something about implementing them. He talked about a cover maker program he had designed and set up, and how easy it was to use.
Hey, I’ve got nothing to lose, I thought.
He called it free cover maker because it is. He’s giving it away. It works in flash; which means that you just load stuff into the webpage and you can save in three different formats if you are worried about making mistakes. I learned the hard way that you can’t edit a completed and saved project - say, remove or edit a text box, unless you have saved a version pre-adding the text. Note to self.
It is super easy and he is still building features into it. You can add stickers, or borders and it layers images so that you can merge and do what are basically professional image manipulations. It took me a while to get that I had to put text on the page before I could edit the options, as well. Call me slow… He also has a dozen help videos loaded and spaces for more - presumably when he gets the time.
I would highly recommend it. Thanks, Derek.
Be sure to check out his website, he has lots of idea for budding author-preneurs (a term Joanna uses to describe writers who are trying to do everything themselves).
And just look at what I made! They look much better than my previous attempts.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

You can’t expect me to just abandon him

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!
AN: this one got lost in my writing folder and never got posted.
The others made ready to leave. They all avoided looking at the prone figure on the bed. He was almost hidden away in the corner. Out of sight and so on.
The female of the group dithered. She kept glancing at the bed, opening and closing her mouth as if to say something and then thinking better of it.
The clear leader ushered the others towards the door.
She balked, stopped and then with a fierce determination, she put her backpack down.
“What?” the leader asked her.
“You can’t expect me to just abandon him!”
“He’s dying.”
“All the more reason to stay with him.”
“Why? If he’s dying.” He waved a hand at the unconscious man. “He wouldn’t even know you were here.”
She set her jaw. “Nevertheless, I am staying.”
He looked disappointed for a beat and then he shrugged. “It’s your choice, but you will just be burying him.”
“If I have to; I’ll do that, too.”
“Don’t break a nail,” one man muttered.
“He saved my life.”
“Yeah. Idiot,” muttered another.
The leader cuffed him.
“Go!” he ordered them.
He gave the woman a final look.
She just shook her head.
He slammed the door after him.
He didn’t die.
But he might have, if she hadn’t been with him.
She spent days sitting with him, changing the wound dressing on his body until she no longer had any clean cloths left. She boiled water for laundry, sponged him down to reduce his fever and dripped drinking water down his throat when she could. The bruises on his throat looked really bad.
There was only one bed in the cabin so she slept sitting up in the chair.
Day three his eyes cleared. He could look around and he seemed to recognise her, but couldn’t speak.
Day four he clutched her arm. It took her some time to understand that he wanted to piss. They managed it with minimal embarrassment.
He took in more water after that but it took some effort. It became obvious that the throat damage was going to have long term consequences. He could swallow some broth but it pained him to do it.
The other wounds healed over time. She had to hunt soon, they were running out of supplies.
Because he could no longer speak, he used his eyes. He watched her constantly. She would look up to see him staring at her. Once he could move his hands, he spoke with those, too. Gestured and waved and banged on things to get her attention.
She gravitated between chatting inanely and saying nothing at all, like him.
The next day she announced she was going scavenging.
He glared at her and frowned.
“I’ll be fine.”
He waved at his leg.
“I know. It’ll be days before you’ll be up.”
A hand signal. Stop or wait?
She guessed wait. “I have to go now.” She picked up her bag and bow. “I’ll be back soon.”
He held his hand out to her.
And waved impatiently when she didn’t take it.
She grabbed his hand in hers. He squeezed.
She wasn’t sure what that meant, but she squeezed back.
Maybe she was rushing things because she was worried about him, maybe she wasn’t careful enough because she hadn’t hunted alone in years, but in any case, after she’d snared one small rabbit she came across two men. A woman, alone meant only one thing to them. Sport.
She couldn’t fight two.
She ran.
They hooted and catcalled and ran after her.
She headed for the cabin, thinking she could barricade it and they’d give it up as too hard.
As she came pelting towards it, he appeared in the doorway. He must have heard them coming still shouting at her. She ducked behind him and loaded her bow.
The men stopped.
“She yours?” one called out.
He nodded.
They just stood there, eyeing each other off. He reached over and pulled her knife out of the back of her belt. He tossed it in one hand. She could see beads of sweat on his neck, from the effort of standing. She prayed that the men didn’t notice. She prayed he didn’t drop the knife.
The standoff, such as it was, ended when they decided that even numbers was not their game.
They made a few empty threats, that he didn’t respond to and then they left; bravado intact.
She caught him before he hit the floor and dragged him back to the cot. She latched the door, pulling the cord handle through so it couldn’t be opened from the outside.
He had torn the leg wound open.
She groused at him as she repaired the damage and bound it up again.
Then she dressed and prepared the rabbit, and stewed it in a pot with a handful of root vegetables she had dug up. He was awake by then. She fed him the stew even though he probably could have fed himself and he let her do it, staring at her with serious eyes.
When she went to settle in the chair he waved at her.
She approached him and he tugged at her arm.
She got the message. She lay down next to him and he put his arm around her. It was good to stretch out and lie down for a change. It was also warmer with him.
“Thank you,” she said just before she fell asleep.
A tentative hug was her answer.
She guessed that meant ‘you’re welcome’.
© AM Gray 2013

Friday, 21 November 2014

The dog sniffled at it a bit

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

The dog sniffled at it a bit, but soon backed away with its tail between its legs.
“Bad aftershave?” she joked.
“Huh?” he said. He still seemed to be watching the dog as if it would get brave and come back for his jacket.
“Your aftershave scares dogs away,” she explained.
“Not wearing any.” He bent down and snagged the jacket from the park bench with a finger.
“It was meant to be a joke,” she over explained.
“I know. It just wasn’t very funny.”
She huffed out a breath. This was the worst first date ever. This guy was so stiff and wooden that she had spent the whole night talking too much to try and cover the silences. He seemed uncomfortable and distracted in the restaurant so, in desperation, she had suggested coming up to the lookout, but that had been a really bad idea as well. They had actually got out of the car to look at the view. Who did that?
“This isn’t working, Daniel,” she said. She sounded as disappointed as she felt. He was everything she liked in a man: available and he owned a car. It was even a nice car.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s not y-”
“You say ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ and I swear to god I will kick you.”
He stood there, with his mouth hanging open and then shut it again.
She tried to get into the car but it was locked. After waiting for a beat she asked, “So?” and waved at the car.
“Oh, right.” He dug around in the pocket of his jacket and then looked up at her with a horrified face. “The keys...”
“Oh, crap. Did you drop them?”
“I don’t know.” He was looking in the direction that the dog had run.
“You are not suggesting that the dog stole them?”
“No.” He started to stare at the ground, scanning his eyes back and forth.
“It’s pitch black! You’ll never find them.”
“I have to look; we can’t stay here all night.”
“How would staying here even help?”
“I might be able to see them when the sun comes up,” he said desperately.
Her bag was locked inside the car and she had noticed that his phone was on the car charger. They had nothing and no way to call for roadside assistance, or even phone a friend. There was no way she was staying here all night... with him.
She made an annoyed sound and just started walking down the access road.
“You can’t walk all the way home,” he said.
She ignored him and kept walking.
“Paula,” he shouted after her. “You can’t walk alone.”
“So, you had better come with me,” she said to herself, but in seconds she heard his feet as he ran after her.
He walked in silence next to her for a few minutes before asking, “Whose house is closer?” They compared addresses.
“Mine is,” she said. “I can break in. My keys are locked inside your car.”
“No spare key under the welcome mat?”
Now he gets chatty, she thought. “No.”
The road was very steep and she had the wrong shoes on; she wore date shoes, not trainers and the last thing they were designed for was walking down steep hills but if she took them off she would ruin her stockings.
She was starting to get a blister as well. That made up her mind for her.
After limping along for a bit, she said, “Hold up. I need to take these off.”
He stood and watched her take her shoes off.
They were almost at the bottom of the lookout road. It was clearly badly sealed because she could feel sharp gravel sticking into her feet, but at least it had a streetlight. “Turn around,” she begged.
“I need to take my stockings off.”
“O-okay.” He turned his back.
“Can you step back towards me? I need to hang onto something.”
Silently, he backed another step towards her. She hoisted her skirt up around her waist, then reached up with one hand, holding his shoulder with the other, she balanced on one leg and pulled her stocking down. From the side of the road she could see the street light reflect in an animal’s eyes. “Hey, that dog is back.”
He glanced over his shoulder in the exact direction that the animal was. She thought that was kind of odd; he couldn’t see where she was looking.
“That’s not a dog,” he said, his voice low and quiet.
She was finally done with her stockings and hauled her skirt back down. He shuffled around and stood between her and the animal. He was staring intently at it; his whole body tense.
“Daniel?” she checked.
His arms reached back to stop her moving. “Stand very still.”
“It’s a mountain lion.”
“I don’t think it will attack us,” he added.
“Why not?” A woman had been attacked by one weeks ago as she walked down to her mailbox.
She felt his hand fumble for hers. Holding his hand and pressed up against his back was the closest they had been all night and she felt better for it. Then she realised that he hadn’t answered her question. “Why won’t it attack us?” she asked again.
“I scare away dogs, remember?”
She frowned. The dog had been scared but the mountain lion wasn’t. It actually paced carefully on giant paws out of the shadows and closer towards them.
She let go of his hand and gripped the top of his arms; peering around his body. He stepped sideways and she shuffled across with him. She was starting to be alarmed.
“I didn’t want to do this,” he said. “Paula, don’t panic. It will be alright.”
“What?” she sounded vaguely hysterical to herself.
“Hang on.”
She felt his body tense and then he growled at the mountain lion.
Actually growled. She could feel it vibrate through his body and it sounded totally like a wild animal.
She emitted a startled squeak.
The mountain lion decided that they were too much trouble, and it reared back and bounded away.
Paula darted around and stared up into Daniel’s face. His eyes were very yellow when they had been blue, and his mouth barely closed over his teeth. He blinked at her, and as she watched, his face seemed to fade back to normal. How did all those teeth fit back in?
“What was that?” she asked. She was impressed that her voice only shook a little bit.
“I’m a... werewolf.”
He hadn’t actually tried to hide it from her.
“Right. So the dog-?”
“Happens all the time. They get my scent-”
“A werewolf?”
He shrugged. “You were very brave.”
“Are you changing the subject?”
“I felt something in your back pocket,” she said.
He frowned.
“Your keys,” she said.
He patted his own butt and then he snorted, and that turned into a full bodied laugh. In a moment she was laughing with him. Maybe it was stress relief, maybe it was so ridiculous that they were half way between the car and her house and the keys were literally the last thing they needed right now, but they both laughed until they cried. And then, she kissed him.
He kissed her back and it was really good.
And then he held her hand, and she carried her shoes in the other hand. They chatted and they walked on the concrete pavement until her feet hurt. Then he carried her the rest of the way home. She fell asleep; her face pressed in against his neck.
He woke her up with a kiss to ask how she was going to break in.
“Stay. My house is closer to the lookout.”
“You’re sure?”
She nodded.
“I can jog back to get the car in the morning.”
“This is the best first date, ever,” she mumbled at him.
© AM Gray 2014

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Looking for answers

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

Source: Fushimi-inari, Kyoto
“This is an inari shrine, right?” she asked.
“Oh, yes. Says here on the brochure, that it is one of the oldest in the world. Dates back to 711.”
“Seven eleven?”
“The year, not the store.”
“Oh.” She snorted.
“What’s so special about Inari shrines?”
“Their messengers are usually kitsune. Didn’t you notice the statue of that one at the gate holding a key in its mouth?” 
Kitsune were magic fox spirits. Once they reached an age of more than one hundred years, they grew an extra tail - anything up to nine - and they acquired the ability to take on a human form. They were smart, loyal and the older they were, the more skills they had.
She frowned at her friend. “A kitsune.”
“Yeah... what a coincidence,” she tried to sound breezy.
“It is no coincidence at all.”
“I do not know what you mean-”
“You do! Is that why you suggested we come here?”
She tried to look astonished and failed. Her face fell. “I... miss him.”
“How? You were together for one night and it was months ago.”
“Gah!” She waved her hands in the air. “I know... and it was utterly amazing!”
“You are hopeless.” Her friend sighed. “So tell me why we are really here.”
“I did some research after he told me what he was.”
“Uh, huh.”
“The oldest kitsune are white or gold and they can see or hear anything anywhere in the world.”
“Right. And assuming we actually manage to find one, you want to ask them what?”
She bit her lip.
“Oh, heck, honey. You have got it bad. You want to ask them where he is!”
She waved her hands in a dismissive gesture. “Male kitsune are very rare; they must have heard of him.”
“Utterly freaking hopeless. I mean, really... was he that good?”
Her friend blushed. “He was-” She gave a whole body shiver. “He was that good! And I wanted to ask about something-”
“Tell me you used protection!”
“Of course we did.”
“So what is this extra thing?”
“He... ah... how can I say it... he scratched me.”
“I do not need to know your kinks-”
“It hasn’t really healed.”
“Jesus. We should be at the hospital; not the temple.”
Over her friend’s shoulder, she noticed a very old Japanese woman watching them. She was shamelessly listening in to their conversation. Her skin was wrinkled and her hair was stark white.
Without saying a word, she grabbed her friend’s shoulders and just spun her around. “Check that hair.”
She heard her suck in a breath. “White.”
She took the opportunity to peer inside the neck of her friend’s shirt while she was distracted. “Crap! Look at that. He really marked you up.”
The old woman started to shuffle towards them. She was in traditional Japanese dress of a kimono and she was wearing wooden zori; the thonged sandals. It took her a long time to reach them. They were both so unsure of what to do that they just stood there and waited for her to approach them.
The old woman took the hand of her friend and tugged her along the path. “Come,” she said.
They went; it never occurred to them not to.
The old woman folded the young woman’s hand over so that her palm lay on top of her arm. She patted the top of it with her other hand. “You came,” she said.
She was a little confused. “You knew I was coming?”
Her English was perfect. “I see all.”
The girl walking with the old woman glanced back over her shoulder. The girls exchanged a glance pregnant with meaning. See she mouthed at her.
Her friend looked down at the old woman’s legs. Under the kimono she was sure she could see something moving. A tail? Maybe nine of them? This was a crazy scheme but she knew her friend and she knew she had genuinely made a connection with the guy she had spent a whole night with. But the scratches worried her and the only way to understand why they hadn’t healed was here.
And there was no way she was leaving her here; not alone. She muttered some swear words under her breath and then hurried after them.
Into the foxes’ den.
© AM Gray 2014