Sunday, 29 June 2014

Ruined chapel

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:

Sanctuary is an ancient concept. Guest rights. Share your bread and salt with someone and you owe them a debt. You have to protect them if you are attacked. You cannot harm them while they are in your care. If you do, you suffer for it. Karma. Bad luck. Whatever you want to call it.
Maybe it didn’t apply anymore and maybe you don’t care. You feel safer in the ruined church. More so than anywhere else. It barely had an unbroken window and certainly didn’t have a lockable door, but it doesn’t matter to you.
It was still a place of sanctuary. It was familiar.
You are old. So very old. You can remember when this church was not a ruin. When it had been full of people, lit by candles and was a place of worship. Then it had been a place of light and faith. Faith seemed to be a thing of the past, like you. Although you are definitely a thing of the past.
You stand for a while until you feel fatigued and then you sit on the floor with your back against the wall.
You stare at the altar. It is broken and graffitied, but still recognisable.
You remember nights when you stood vigil for important personages as their bodies rested in state before their burial. And further back, when you were a squire. After a cleansing bath, fasting for a day, making your confession and dressing in a white robe covered in a red surcoat (to indicate your willingness to bleed), you went to the chapel to pray all night. You would be knighted in the morning. At some point during the night, light headed and exhausted, you asked God to make you an eternal fighter for faith. God granted your wish but it took you some time to realise it.
You always needed less sleep than the others. You took more watches as a result to help out your brothers in arms.
But then your friends started to die... and you never did. You were an excellent and experienced knight but your skill could not explain everything. There were other signs; your wounds healed too fast. Your hair did not grey.
Blessed by god, they called you, and you agreed, until it didn’t stop. You tried. You were at the front of every charge, you killed countless destriers; leaving their bleeding sides under you as you attacked over and over, stopping only when you were fighting alone.
You could not die.
When the enemy understood what you were, they threw down their arms without a fight. You railed at them, screaming at them to pick up their swords and fight you. Your code prohibited you from attacking them empty handed. Mutely they shook their heads. You swore them to damnation with the creeping understanding that you were already there.
You could not die.
A paladin with no hope of entering heaven.
You couldn’t hate God but you were angry with him for a while.
Now, you were an anachronism. A knight for faith in a world where it barely existed.
Now, you waited. God meant you for some purpose and you were still waiting to see what it was.
© AM Gray 2014

Friday, 27 June 2014

The shade of seventh and tells

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:
Light bound him to this plane. Light and energy matrices stapled to his frame kept him corporeal. His master had done it both to trap him here and to release the shade from draining his master’s life force to exist. But he still needed energy to live, if this caged existence could be called living.
In some skeletal remnant or echo of his life, he remained around the intersection of Seventh and Tells. He could hide. Power down and lurk in the shadows. He didn’t rest, he didn’t twitch, he didn’t need to move at all. Unless his master called him.
He waited...
Waited for a harried robotic servant to pass within his grasp. Spider like, he moved silently to capture them. And he was just as deadly. Nothing escaped him.
He drained them of their energy. Tore them apart to get every last trickle. Thrust the tendrils of his dark energy into every gap in their form.
He had no concept of pity or appreciation of beauty. He took what he needed.
And as an extra, he also accessed whatever information they carried; be it schematics of homes, offices and neighbourhoods, information about the people they worked for, and any secrets they had been told or witnessed. People tended to forget that their automatons saw and heard everything. Even though they took more space in his memory banks he stored a few images - mostly of families with blond hair. He didn’t know why he did it.
He drained them of everything and left them shattered husks.
Rumours started of a robotic shade. They called him the Reaper.
© AM Gray 2014

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

She peered down at the half-smudged numbers on her hand

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!
She peered down at the half-smudged numbers on her hand. She blinked. When did those get there? They were on the back of her right hand and she was right handed, so she didn’t write them. She was not ambidextrous. Her left hand usually accomplished not a lot in the writing department.
Logic hurt her brain. She fell back on the bed and groaned. Way too much red wine with friends last night before she had tumbled herself into a cab. Her eyes closed and she went back to sleep.
When she woke up again, she wished she had taken the time to drink a few glasses of water. Her head really hurt.
Staggering out to the kitchen she rectified the water issue. Leaning against the sink she studied the number. It was a little more smudged but still legible.
Not enough for a phone number; landline or mobile. Only four digits, not eight or ten.
What the heck was it? A PIN number? A postcode? House numbers didn’t normally go up that high where she lived. And in any case, she had no street name or suburb.
She wrote them on the fridge whiteboard and left it at that.
And then she scrubbed it off in the shower.
The next day there were four more.
She had not gone out. There was no one else in the house, her flatmate was away.
It was weird.
She wrote those down, too.
By the morning of the third day, she had 1231 3401 2832.
She stared at them ... a lot.
When Craig, her flatmate got home, the first thing he did was grab a beer from the fridge. “Have you taken up gambling?” he asked as he took a swig.
“No. Why?”
He pointed the beer bottle at the board. “Aren’t these your lotto numbers?”
“Yeah. You pick six numbers.”
“That isn’t-” And then she understood what he meant. It could be 12 31 34 01 28 32. Six numbers, not three groups of four. “Huh,” she said.
Craig waited for her answer but it didn’t come so he wandered off muttering about having laundry to do.
After staring at the digits for a minute or so, she grabbed a pen and wrote them out. Then she grabbed her bag and ran for the local newsagent. She made it with five minutes before closing.
“Ha! I was right,” he said when she insisted on watching the number draw.
They got more excited as each number came up until she had ticked them all off.
“You won,” he said in a shocked voice.
There were five prize winners so the total was split, but $850,000 was enough for her to live on for the rest of her life.
© AM Gray 2014

Monday, 23 June 2014

Be popular enough to attract more crap!

I was emailing a friend recently about life in general and my seemingly eternal struggle with self-doubt and my writing and I said this:
Why do I worry about possible bad reviews for work I haven't even finished yet, when I get shitty comments every week from a comment I made on a YouTube video (about feminism in Australian politics)??!
Today I got yet another shitty comment from a man - they are always from men on that particular post - and I asked myself that question again. I mean, they have to go into a video that they clearly disagree with, search through the comments and then (rather than just press an up or down thumb) type out an angry/disparaging/ugly comment. It takes concerted effort on their part. And because I know they will be ugly comments, I think in future I will try not to read them. I think that ‘do not read YouTube comments’ is a good rule for life. Every time I think humanity has a chance, I will read something that makes me want to kill it with fire. Unfortunately Google sends them all straight into my inbox.
I was also listening to Mur Lafferty’s podcast called ‘I should be writing’
She echoes the confidence issues I have and interviews other writers who admit to the same issue; ‘real’ writers with many published books under their belt. In fact, some said that it is worse when they have already got published works because then they worry about losing their contract or having a flop after a success. What a revelation for me! But she said recently that if you see fans of your work as falling under the standard bell curve, then every shitty comment you get is proof that you have more fans. It was oddly inspiring.
Be popular enough to attract more crap!
Yeah, maybe that motto needs more work.

Friday, 20 June 2014

The phone turned itself off.

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 phone turned itself off.
She stared at it in abject horror.
How could it betray her like this now?
She had finally… after what seemed like and probably was hours of turning it on, checking the number and turning it off again. She had finally built up the courage to call him, had managed to blurt out her name before ostensibly hanging up in his ear as the battery went dead.
The universe hated her; it really did.
And he couldn’t even call her back.
Calvin Stanford was the best looking man she had ever seen. He wasn’t classically beautiful; his face was a bit too… it was hard to describe. He was handsome, not beautiful, if that made sense. It didn’t really make sense to her. But she had watched him. An unkind person might suggest it was stalking. That she had definitely done but only on Facebook. Ugh. She hated herself as she did it. But it wasn’t real stalking; everybody did it.
She knew that did not make it okay but desperation to find out what he was interested in drove her to it. How could she actually talk to him if she didn’t know what he was interested in? She might make a fatal mistake, like assume he preferred star trek to star wars or something. Or what if he had never heard of either? She struck pay dirt when she found his phone number on Facebook as well. That justified everything.
She had given up on a guy ever asking her out on a date; she preferred to just ask them herself. If they couldn’t cope with that, that was bad point number one. It kept some small measure of power in her trembling hands. They trembled because no matter how often she did it, it still utterly terrified her. Her mouth went dry and she got something larger than butterflies in her stomach. But if she lost it, she could just run away and she had done that once or twice in the past. And never spoke to them ever again, of course.
Talking to strangers was nerve-wracking. Trying to impress someone so much that they would actually risk spending their time to find out more about you or go on a date? That was terrifying.
And Calvin always looked so distracted and kind of angry; especially lately. And she had just monumentally wasted his time.
She sighed.
That was it. She could never speak to him again. She had messed it up so badly.
He didn’t call her back anyway, so the decision was vindicated.
Eternal shame.
It was a week or so later when she waiting for her coffee and she glanced up and recognised his ass. She’d know that ass anywhere.
She was about to make a run for it when the server shouted out, “Latte for Melanie!”
Shit! She couldn’t run, now.
Calvin spun on his heel and glared down at her. “You,” he said.
A weak smile. She slunk over and fetched her coffee, put her head down and prepared to run for it. He grabbed her arm.
She let out a startled squeak noise.
“Wait,” he commanded.
Her hand was shaking, so she put her coffee down on one of the benches at the side made for standing. He noticed her tremor.
Besides wishing the earth would open up and swallow her, she waited dutifully until he got his coffee - long black, no sugar - for future reference.
He took a sip. “What did you call me for?”
“How do you know it was me?”
He gave her a look. “You’ve taken a lot of notice of me lately.”
Crap. He totally knew she stalked him. “Oh.” It seemed to be all she could say.
“And I don’t know any other Melanies. If I dial the number will your phone ring?”
“Probably.” Betraying her again. Stupid phone.
An amused look over the brim of his cup. “So?”
“So… what?”
“What did you want?”
“Oh.” A long pause. Too long. “I w-wanted-” the ginormous butterflies started stomping in her stomach “-to ask you out.” It came out in a rush and she couldn’t look at him as she said it.
“Me?” he sounded surprised.
“For… coffee… or something.”
Another interminable pause.
She added, “My phone died and you never called me back.”
“No.” He took a breath. “I hate phones and some fool put my number on Facebook and I have got a heap of calls lately.”
Oh, crap. That was why he looked so annoyed. “Right.”
“And I get nervous,” he added.
“You do?” She looked up at his face.
“Doesn’t everyone?”
“And we are having coffee-”
He waved at the cups, “-so it kind of worked.”
“Can you say anything other than yes?”
He laughed. He had a nice laugh.
They made a date for Friday night.
© AM Gray 2014

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Every time I close my eyes

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!
“Every time I close my eyes, I see it all over again.” She whispered it as if it was a forbidden confession.
Sitting with his back against the wall, he hugged her close. “That’s understandable.”
“But...” she hesitated. “I should be over it by now.”
“It’s been long enough.”
He shook his head and tried to hold her even closer. “Everyone does this at different rates. What might take one person days to get over could take another months or years.”
She made a small noise that sounded like surprise. “When did you get so smart?”
“When I started hanging out with you.”
A chuckle. “I do keep telling you that.”
“See? I do listen.”
She shuffled down against him and made herself more comfortable.
He felt her take a deeper breath and some of the tension in her body abated.
“C-can... we just stay here... for a bit?” she asked carefully.
“Sure.” His heart almost leapt.
“You don’t mind?”
“I don’t mind.”
“You won’t hurt your neck? You’re at a weird angle.”
“I’m fine and I heal faster than you do.”
“Yeah. I noticed that.” She was speaking slowly with long pauses between the words.
“There you go.” He risked a gentle pat of her hair. “Go to sleep,” he ordered.
“You ... can’t tell me... wha-”
She was asleep. Her nightmares had exhausted her. He inhaled and decided that with her scent so close, he’d sleep better, too. He closed his eyes.
© AM Gray 2014

Monday, 9 June 2014

Seelie wood

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: 
Seelie wood
The figure on the path wore a long dark top with a hood that covered his head. In the dim light he couldn’t tell if it was black or a dark navy. As he got closer to the unmoving figure he thought it might actually be a cloak. An old fashioned kind of one that looked as if he had picked it up at some vintage clothing store.
A few more steps and the guy heard him approach and peered out the side of the hood at him. He saw a ginger beard, pale skin and piercing blue eyes. The eyes flicked down to his feet and back up and then he could have sworn that the cloak went out of focus and then changed into a more modern looking anorak.
He almost missed a step; his walk faltered a little. He must be imagining things. More tired than he thought he was.
“You okay?” the stranger asked.
“Ah... yeah.” He paused. “Did your cloak just change?”
“No. How would it do that?”
“I don’t know. It’s your cloak.”
“It’s not a cloak.”
“Not now... but it was before. I saw it.” It used to drag on the ground, he was sure of it.
The guy just stared at him.
“Well,” he said. “I should get going.” He wasn’t sure why he bothered to tell him that; a stranger in the woods.
He started walking. After a few steps, he realised the man was following him.
As a largish physically fit man he had never been concerned about someone following him before. His female friends talked about it all the time. How they were so worried about where a guy was on the street when they were walking. They would cross sides; walk on the other pavement, stop and go back if they had to, to make sure that a man was not tracking them. But he was in the middle of the forest, on a snowy track used as a cut through. He couldn’t cross the road.
He kept walking. Now very mindful of the other keeping pace with him.
They went for some distance before it got too much for him. He spun on his heel and faced the man. “STOP following me!”
The man just laughed at him.
“Stop it!”
“Am I frightening you?”
A wave of tiredness washed over him. He had had a rough couple of weeks. He put up his hand to wipe at his eyes and when he looked again, the guy was closer. He hadn’t seen him move. “How did you...?”
“I didn’t do anything.” His voice seemed strangely comforting. Hypnotic.
“Y-you... moved.”
He moved again; in a fast blur. Now he was right in front of him. He tried to step back, he really did, but he could only look at those very very blue eyes.
The man was tall; as tall as he was and he was pushing six foot five. With a head tilt, the guy gave him the once over. He felt like a specimen being studied. A hand lifted and squeezed his bicep and then the trespasser made a pleased humming noise.
“I n-need to go,” he managed to say.
“Go where?”
“Me, too.” Another head tilt. “Would you like to come with me.”
“I d-don’t do guys. N-no offense.”
A moue of disappointment. “Are you sure?”
Another chuckle. “You don’t sound sure.”
“I ...” he stopped talking. Those eyes got to him again. He clutched harder at his backpack strap.
The redhead flipped his hood back, leaned in and kissed him.
He tasted divine. Sweet and fragrant and he found himself leaning into the kiss. But he had never kissed a man before and the facial hair brushing against his skin felt odd.
“Do you have anyone at home?” the man asked him as he brushed down the side of his face with his fingers.
He just shook his head. Life for him was single, living alone and his family were all gone or out of his life. He got a smile for that and another press of his arm.
He wanted to kiss him again. He leaned in and got another taste. And another smile.
A hand lifted and took the bag from his shoulder. He slung it across his own and reached down to grab his hand; gripping it firmly. They started to walk. As they did, the redhead lifted their joined hands to his mouth and kissed his knuckles.
“What are you?” he asked him because he knew he wasn’t human.
“Fae. The good kind,” he added.
He nodded. “The seelie wood.” That was the old name for the forest he walked through. And Seelie was another name for the good fae, he vaguely remembered. Unseelie were the kind you hoped not to meet.
“So it was a cloak?”
“Yes... and you could see me. Most people cannot.”
“Huh.” A pause. “So I’m-” He stopped. He didn’t know what he was. A lot of what he thought about himself had been altered in the last few minutes.
“You are special. You have the Sight.”
“I’ve been having bad dreams,” he confessed.
“You do look tired.”
They had left the path. The trees in front of them seemed to shift to allow them through. They walked a path he had not noticed before because he would swear it hadn’t been there before.
“You need to rest. But when you do, you must tell me any dreams you have.”
“Okay. Do I sleep with you?”
“If you’d like.”
They stopped in front of a snow covered mound that seemed to glow from within.
“Hold tight, now,” he was instructed. A spoken word in a lilting speech and an open doorway shimmered into existence in the side of the mound. He shut his eyes against the sudden brightness.
A tug on his hand and he stepped forward.
© AM Gray 2014

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Baby dragon

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!
Almost asleep; his feet towards the fire and his travel cloak wrapped around his body, he heard a noise. He didn’t react, just listened. Trying to ascertain where the noise was coming from.
A rock in the fire wobbled, shifted and fell over. It was one of the ones he had built a ring out of to keep the fire contained and to support his cooking implements.
He blinked.
A rock?
In the fire?
It wobbled; it definitely moved.
There was no noise from anywhere else.
He leaned over, picked up the stick that he had been stirring the embers with and scooted the rock out of the fire. When it hit the colder air, it cracked.
He thought perhaps the rock was hollow and the heat had affected it, but then he heard another noise; a small grunting sound - very much like that of the baby crocodiles in the swamplands. The rock jerked and the crack widened.
He wrapped his cloak around his hand and scooped the rock up. It was probably a bad idea, but the worst it could do - he thought - was explode and hit him with some shrapnel.
It was about the size of one of his fists and well rounded. The noise was louder now.
He nearly dropped it when a tiny snout poked out of the crack. It had a sharp ‘tooth’ at the end of the nose that the creature was using to break open the container.
It was an egg.
An egg that hatched in fire.
Heck, no. It had to be a dragon’s egg.
The egg broke into two halves and the baby fell onto his hand. He shifted it to the other palm and studied the egg shards. Keeping the shell could be valuable; if only as proof.
The baby was resting, its small sides panting with the exertion of its escape.
“Hey, little fellow,” he said to it. It looked around and emitted another grunting sound. “Assuming you are a fellow.”
It squawked.
“Hungry, huh?”
He placed it carefully in his lap and started to use his knife to cut some meat from the carcass of the rabbit he had trapped for his own meal. It unfurled tiny wings with a claw on the end of each supporting rib. Its shiny black eye noticed the meat and it made another high pitched squeak and tried to walk on its clawed feet.
“Wait,” he chided. He kept his movements slow and unhurried. The small dragon grabbed the meat and tossed its head up to throw it down its throat. Cooked meat seemed acceptable to it. He fed it small pieces until its stomach was rounded and the agitated noises had decreased to a rumbling noise he thought might be a kind of purr. It sounded happy and content. He tried to identify the sex while it was being cooperative but he had no idea what he was looking at.
It felt hot to him but he knew it to be a heat of its own and not the remnants of the fire. He tucked it securely inside his jerkin; making sure the wings were folded and the small animal lay close to his body where it could hear his heartbeat. It warmed him through.
He checked the other rocks in the fire but could not see another one of the same colour or shape. It might be worth spending some time here investigating. Perhaps the egg had rolled down out of a buried nest; exposed by rainwater or an animal. He settled himself and he felt the creature relax, too. They would find out in the morning.
Although hopefully, he wouldn't find the mother alive. That might be an experience he would not survive, baby or no baby.
© AM Gray 2014

Thursday, 5 June 2014

It must be nice to have parents who are around and, you know, not evil

Writer’s Block

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!
“It must be nice to have parents who are around and, you know, not evil.”
She glanced at him. He was holding a framed photo of her family.
She took it out of his hand and put it back in its correct place. Her mother would know if it had moved a centimetre.
“Your parents aren’t evil,” she said.
He gave her a sceptical look.
“Okay,” she conceded, “They are not often around and sometimes your father does some freaky things.”
“There was that experiment with the-” She stopped. “I don’t even know what to call it.”
“Chimera,” he added. He picked up another shot of her family. “The fire breathing was painful.”
She chuckled. “Sure was. Lucky it wasn’t very large.” Asking what had happened to it might be more painful, too.
“Who is this?” he asked.
“My great-grandparents.”
“Seriously? They look like Egyptologists.”
“Yes, they were. Archaeologists, technically.”
“Were they trained?”
“Not really. People were self taught in those days and archaeology in the 1920’s mostly consisted of drinking a lot and blowing stuff up.”
“Like that movie?”
“Yep - pretty close.” She studied the figures in the old style photo; the female standing as decorum required just behind his chair, but that was about their only concession to it. The clothes they wore were frankly outlandish. “They adored each other and she just refused to stay at home. It was her money so he argued that she had to come, but the truth was he would never have left her behind.”
“Great-grandparents?” he checked.
“You trying to do the math?”
He shrugged.
“No, you’re right. My grandfather was a very late and unexpected baby.”
“Lucky. Otherwise the estate would not have had an heir.”
“And their adventures came to an end?”
She snorted. “Not those two.”
“They sound fascinating.”
“What about your grandparents?” she asked him.
“How long do we have?”
“Really? They were... different, too?”
“Of course! Where do you think the chimera recipe came from?”
“There's a recipe?” She looked astonished.
“You know what I mean.” He grinned at her.
“What other recipes do you have?”
He slung his arm around her shoulders. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“I would; I really would.”
“How healthy is your family bank account?”
“All those ancient artefacts were priceless, you know.”
“Excellent. The ingredients are often very expensive”
© AM Gray 2014

Sunday, 1 June 2014

This is your fault, Mary Stewart.

Today, I was dropping kid 3 at a friend’s house and I saw a banner for a book sale. Oooh… maybe they will have those missing volumes of Mary Stewart I was looking for, I thought.
I took kid 1 with me and thirty-one books later we staggered out the door again. They were priced at one dollar each and the money went to Lifeline, an Aussie charity. At one stage a nice lady handed me a large cardboard box to put them all in.
One thing that was interesting was to see how often the same volumes had been donated: lots of new Bourne by van Lustbader (I admit to marking that one ‘did not finish’ myself), Patricia Cornwell, Paullina Simons and Tom Clancy.
I was very surprised to see Rosemary Rogers in the romance section. I used to read her bodice rippers in junior high school. Most notably, out loud to all my friends in a ‘hey get a load of this’ way. It was a recent one, too. I came home and Googled her to find that she is eighty-one and still writing. That’s something we can all aspire to.
But now, my Goodreads to-read list is 150 books.