Happy to be Back!

It’s been far too long since I wrote a post and I’ve really missed doing so. Unfortunately, sometimes life gets in the way, and/or other things must take precedence. Last year was not a good year for my family. We had so many illnesses to deal with, some of them worryingly serious. All in all, I got little writing done at all, either on my books or my blog. So this year has been a mad rush to get Book 3 of my Sons of Kings series finished, edited and formatted and published on Amazon. And, at last, this is it:

It was uploaded onto Amazon a couple of weeks ago, so I can now start to relax a little and get back to writing a few blog posts. Well, that’s the plan… On the other hand, Book 3 didn’t finish either of my protagonists’ stories, so I am now writing Book 4. My trilogy has become a series (or perhaps a quadrilogy).

All three of my Sons of Kings books will be 99p/$0.99 until July 31st. After that, Book 1 (Shadow of the Raven)  will be 99p for a little longer, Book 2 (Pit of Vipers) will be $1.99 and Book 3 (Wyvern of Wessex) will be $2.99, the usual price for each of the three books.

My book of short stories and flash fiction pieces will be still at its usual price of £1.49/$1.97. Amazon won’t allow it to be any lower because of the number of coloured images I’ve included. I had intended this book to be permanently 99p!

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Time to Leave – FFfAW

Time to Leave

Amber sensed his presence before she opened the door. The air had that familiar chill and she sighed, knowing it was time to leave. The old man had come to replace her and change people’s lives for a while. They’d basked in her warmth and colour for long enough.

He entered the hut with an icy blast and she donned her russet cloak. ‘I am ready to go, Old Man,’ she said, tossing her auburn curls. ‘I’ll return when folks weary of the next summer’s heat and long for mellowing days.’

The old man smiled, tiny cracks patterning his glacial face, and swept through the room, turning all to white with his icy breath. Amber smiled in return, knowing he would delight folks with his tricks. Who else but he could order the snowflakes to fall, creating a paradise of white? Who else could style playgrounds of ice over lakes and ponds?

Old Man Winter raised icicle fingers and bowed his silvery head. ‘Your task was done well, kind Autumnus. Rest now, until next year.’

Word Count: 175

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This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by Ioniangraphics.

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To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:

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The Game of Life – FFFAW

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The Game of Life

Max stared at the iron bars, cursing the day he’d met Sophie. He’d been happy before then, his future stretched out like an unplayed game.

To Sophie he’d been little more than a prize bull, a trophy to display to her friends. One twist of the nose ring kept him compliant throughout each humiliating display. With her shapely body close to his, he’d gaze at her beautiful face and melt all over again.

But when Sophie demanded a diamond as proof of his love, Max panicked. At nineteen, that kind of money was not to hand and robbery had been his only option…

Alarms screamed before he’d left the shop, the old jeweller’s blood dripping from his knife. No hope of evading arrest; surveillance cameras didn’t lie.

He’d stared at those bars for two years now and dreaded the next twenty-three. Early release was unlikely for taking a life…

He refocused on his lonely game of Solitaire and reached for the pills concealed in his shoe. His game of life would be ending here.

Word Count: 174

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This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by MajesticGoldenRose.

Apologies for the morbid nature of my story this week. I really am feeling very down at the moment and happy thoughts seem to evade me. Perhaps I need some sunshine…or some fairy dust from Tinkerbelle. 🙂

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Happier Times for Mum – FFFAW

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Happier Times for Mum

It had to be here, somewhere…! It was in his pocket a minute ago, then he’d taken it out to look at – and must have put it back in the wrong pocket. The one with the hole in it! He had to find it. Mum deserved something pretty on her birthday.

Jamie knew she’d been lonely since Dad had left, but didn’t know how to help. Dad had a new family now and forgotten all about him and Mum.

‘This what you’re looking for, son?’

Jamie spun round to see a nice-looking man holding out the shiny brooch. ‘Thanks mister! I thought I’d lost it, good and proper!’

The man grinned. ‘It was in a puddle back there, just waiting to be found. You Julie Henderson’s lad?’

‘You know my mum?’

‘Known each other for years – same school, same office… I’m on my way to invite you both out for a birthday dinner tonight.’

‘She’d love that … and so would  I,’ Jamie said, hoping this was the start of happier times for Mum.

Word Count: 174

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This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by Jessica Haines. Thank you, Jessica!

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To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:

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Country Boy – FFFAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a piece of fiction from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in with the challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

Here’s this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Singledust. Thank you, Gina.

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And this is my story – very late this week:

 Country Boy

Suyin scurried past the Red Dragon, the festive lanterns belying the sordidness inside. She prayed Jianyu wouldn’t see her amidst the crowds: with luck he’d be fawning over the drug lords, whose money had made him rich. His second restaurant would open next month.

‘Not bad for a country boy,’ he’d boasted, so many times.

They’d saved for years to make Jianyu’s dream come true. How happy they’d been running the restaurant … until those men had walked in. Drug dealing had changed the man Suyin had once loved; the bruises he dealt were increasingly hard to hide.

Suyin hurried on to catch her train. By tomorrow she’d be miles away, where Jianyu would never find her. Her backpack contained clothes and other essentials – as well as a bag filled with her wages from the part-time job she’d held for the last three years. She had no particular destination in mind, other than somewhere out west, deep in the country…

Far away from the country boy in the city.

Word Count: 170

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A Fairy Story

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Fairy Ring

‘Where did these come from, Mam?’ Six-year-old Tommy squatted down, pointing at the cluster of little white-capped plants growing along the fence at the back of their garden.

Rose smiled at her son’s puzzled face. ‘They’re toadstools, Tommy, and we find them in lots of places – like fields and woods, and even on people’s lawns.’ She gazed over the fence into the dense forest beyond, wondering yet again whether moving to the Highlands of Scotland had been such a good idea. Tommy already missed his friends in Edinburgh. But her husband’s job in the Forestry Commission had given them no choice.

‘I bet there are plenty of toadstools in there,’ Rose continued, hoisting the child up so he could see over the fence. ‘Lots of fairies and elves, too.’

‘Do fairies like toadstools?’

They love them,’ Rose said, lowering him to the ground. ‘Sometimes they dance amongst them and make them into circles called fairy rings. Doesn’t that sound fun?’

Tommy shrugged. ‘I’ve never seen a fairy ring, so I don’t know.’

‘Well, fairy rings are magical places for the little folk, but if humans step inside them, they could become trapped by fairy magic, and might never get out again.’

‘That’s silly, Mam. Fairies only help people.’

‘And how do you know that?’

‘Because the fairy who visits me when I’m in bed says she’ll take me to a magic place to find new friends, if I want. She knew I was sad about leaving my old ones in Edinburgh without me even telling her!’

Rose stared at her precious son. ‘Tommy, this fairy … what does she look like?’

‘Her name’s Elvira, and I’ve seen her this many times.’ Tommy held out his small hand, fingers splayed. ‘And she looks like you, Mam, except she’s tiny and has wings. They’re really cool!’

Rose’s stomach lurched. That her twin should wheedle her way into Tommy’s affections just to get to her was unbelievable. ‘Tommy, promise me that if Elvira asks you to go with her, you won’t go.’

‘But I’ve promised I’d go tonight… Just for a bit.’

Rose’s mind whirled. ‘Did Elvira say where this magical place was?’

‘I don’t think it’s far because she said we’d be back very soon.’

‘Well, that’s alright, then,’ Rose assured him, her mind working fast.

‘Thanks, Mam!’ Tommy yelled. ‘I can’t wait for tonight.’

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The grandfather clock in the hall struck midnight, its chimes rousing Tommy from his sleep. Elvira hovered before him in a halo of fairy light.

‘Ready for an adventure?’ she asked. ‘The fairy folk are gathering.’

Tommy nodded, his excitement mounting.

‘Then close your eyes and don’t open them again until I say so.’

Watching from atop the wardrobe, Rose was on their trail as soon as Elvira waved her wand. Within moments they’d reached a glade in the forest where the fairies were gathering, all dancing around a fairy ring. Perched on a leafy branch, she watched as Tommy joined in. He looked so happy when Elvira led him into the ring and danced with him awhile. But then she darted out, leaving him alone and confused. He tried to follow, but the ring confined him as effectively as prison bars.

Looking pleased with herself, Elvira joined her companions.

Rose fumed, knowing that confrontation was now inevitable. But first, Tommy must be freed. Unseen by the frolicking fairies, she flew into the ring from the opposite side to where they were gathered around Elvira.

‘Why’ve you locked me in here?’ Tommy wailed, mistaking his mother for her twin. ‘I don’t like being on my own.’

No time for explanations, Rose waved her wand and within moments, Tommy was sleeping soundly in his bed.

Rose descended into the middle of the gathering and the crowds shrank back. It was some moments before Elvira realised that silence had fallen. She turned, her expression one of guilt-laden surprise at what she saw. In a panic, she glanced at the fairy ring.

‘Tommy’s in his bed, where he’s supposed to be, Elvira. How you thought you could get away with this is beyond me. And I know what it’s all about – so don’t bother to explain. Mother’s expecting me tomorrow. I contacted her earlier and explained my position.’

Fury blackened Elvira’s face and she shot a bolt of magic at her twin. Rose reeled from the blast, but recovered quickly to return a blast of her own.

As the elder of the twins, Rose was the more powerful: Elvira’s magic could never compete. ‘For your information, Elvira, I don’t want the throne.’ The onlookers gasped. No princess had ever refused the fairy throne. ‘I’ll tell Queen Isadora that myself, tomorrow. You see, sister, my new family is here. If I returned to the Fairy Kingdom without them, I would slowly die. You are very capable of becoming the next queen, Elvira. Our people love you very much…

‘Besides,’ she whispered, ‘when I wave my wand, no one here will remember tonight’s events. They’ll continue to dance around the ring, just as they’ve always done.’

Elvira nodded and smiled sincerely. ‘Thank you, Rose. It seems I acted hastily. I had assumed that after ignoring us for years, you’d just fly back in and claim the throne. I’ve worked hard for our kingdom, and know I can rule wisely as queen.’

‘Then let’s dance to that,’ Rose said, holding out her hands. ‘I haven’t danced round a fairy ring in a long time.’

Rose flew back home, content that all would be well. Assuming her human form, she checked Tommy before climbing into her own bed. Robert was still in a trance-like sleep and she clicked her fingers to break the spell. In a couple of hours, Rob would awaken normally. And tomorrow, they would continue to come to terms with their new home in the Scottish Highlands … after she’d made her case to her illustrious mother.

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Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to write a flash fiction for FFfAW this week, so I’m posting this story instead – which is from my book A Dash of Flash. At 988 words, it’s much longer that the usual 175 word maximum for the challenge, but still within the limit for flash fiction (i.e. 1000 words). I enjoyed writing it, too, because I love fairy stories.

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Conflicting Interests – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writer is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a piece of fiction from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in with the challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

Here’s this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Louise at The Storyteller’s Abode.

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And this is my story . . .

Conflicting Interests

‘I’ll go ahead of you,’ Alf insisted as they waited to board the pleasure-cruiser, ‘so I can help you across the gangplank. Don’t want you overboard, especially in December.’

Edna scowled and stepped in front of him as the queue moved aboard. ‘I might be getting on, but I’m not incapable,’ she retorted, eyeing the roped-off steps to the open-air upper deck. ‘I wanted to sit up there … better views.’

‘Too cold,’ Alf replied, pushing her inside towards two vacant seats. ‘Get in first, next to the window, Edna. Views’ll be good and we’ll be nice and warm – not like them idiots Christmas shopping out in the city.’

‘Which is where I’d be if you hadn’t booked this cruise!’

Edna grumbled on until they disembarked, when her face lit up. ‘Now let’s get to the more enjoyable job of shopping.’

Alf sighed. Edna had made it impossible for him to see the sights, and now he’d be dragged round the crowded shops, loaded up with bulging bags…

His grumbling continued until they got home.

Word Count: 175

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An Inappropriate Reply – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a piece of fiction from the given photo prompt in around 75-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with the challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Louise. Thank you, Lou!

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And this is my story:

An Inappropriate Reply

Quentin stormed into the morning room and thrust the letter into his wife’s hands. Amelia shifted in her chair, avoiding his outraged glare. The note-paper was all too familiar.

‘Where did you find it?’ Such a mundane question, yet she could think of nothing appropriate to say.

‘That’s irrelevant!’ Quentin snapped, pacing the floor. ‘After twenty-three years of marriage, you owe me a plausible explanation. I was bound to realise soon enough.’

Amelia stared at the letter, grasping for explanations. She’d never kept secrets from Quentin before. ‘James made me promise not to tell you until –’

‘Until it was too late for me to stop him…!’

‘At twenty-one, James has every right to enlist in Kitchener’s army, Quentin. Our son knows what he’s doing.’ Unshed tears suddenly welled. ‘But I can’t bear the thought of him in Normandy. He could be killed, or wounded and–’

Quentin knelt to comfort her. ‘We’ll need to be extremely brave for just a few months, my love. They say this war will be over by Christmas…’

Word Count: 174

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A Note about WW1 and Lord Kitchener’s Recruitment Campaigns:

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Kitchener World War 1 Recruitment poster. Date:1914 Author: Arthur Leete (1882-1933). Public Domain.

When war broke out in August 1914, it became clear that the British Army needed far more men than the numbers already recruited in the regular army. The war minister at the time, Lord Kitchener, began a campaign to urge men aged between 19 and 30 to (voluntarily} join up. Three weeks later, the upper age limit was raised to 35. By mid-September, over 500,000 men had volunteered – and over a million by January 1915.

Many officials in both the military and the government initially believed that the war with Germany would be ‘over by Christmas’. But Lord Kitchener was unconvinced. Needless to say, as war dragged on, eventually to last four long years, concerns over the provision of manpower led to again altering the recruitment ages, this time for men between 18 and 50. During this time, many young men (250, 000 of them in Britain) found little difficulty in falsifying their age. There are stories of boys as young as 15 – a few even younger – joining up, until eventual conscription in March 1916 made it more difficult for them to do so.

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It’s Just a Game – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a piece of fiction from the given photo prompt in around 75-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with the challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Iain Kelly:

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And this is my story:

It’s Just a Game

Twelve-year-old Aelric made his first move and glared across the hnefatafl board at his burly opponent: the brute whose marauding band had seized his father’s village.

A yellow-toothed grin creased Halvar’s face. “Don’t look so glum, boy. It’s just a game.’

Aelric stayed mute, contemplating how best to move his knights to capture his cocksure opponent’s white king and claim the victory. For Halvar had vowed to Aelric’s father: ‘We’ll leave your village, Wulfgar, when one of your people can beat me at hnefatafl.’

Many games had been played and lost, and now all hope rested with Aelric…

‘It’s just a game, Halvar,’ he said as he finally took the white king. Halvar’s outraged face turned puce, but he kept his word and his thieving band left the village that day.

Wulfgar hoisted Aelric onto a table and raised his ale mug. ‘To the hnefatafl champion of Wessex!’ he yelled and grinned at his son. ‘Good thing we didn’t tell Halvar you haven’t been beaten by anyone in the kingdom since you were eight.’

Word Count: 175

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A Word about Hnefatafl…

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Hnefatafl. Author Andreas Zautner. Public Domain

Hnefatafl – also known as ‘King’s Table’ – was a common board game for two people played by the Vikings. It soon spread to all the lands where the Vikings travelled, however, including Britain, Ireland and Lapland. In Old Norse, the word tafl means ‘table’ or ‘board’. The game is not the same as chess, although it is played on a chequered board. Henefatafl involves two unequal sides: the smaller ‘kings’ side of 12, initially positioned in the centre of the board, and the opposing 24 knights set out against the four sides.

The object of the game is for the king to escape. If he reaches one of the four corners he wins the game. If the attackers manage to capture him – by the strategic movement of players – the attackers win.

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This is the first time I’ve been on my blog for almost four weeks. We’ve had a lot of family issues to deal with, including serious ill health of a family member. Consequently my blogging, and writing in general, has been ‘on hold’. I hope to back again soon

A Lesson Learned – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a piece of fiction from the given photo prompt in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with the challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Maria at Doodles and Scribbles. Thank you, Maria!

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And this is my story:

A Lesson Learned

Maisie scuttled down the back stairs towards the Hall’s large kitchens, her heart thumping. To be late on her first day could lose her the job before it even started.

The kitchen went quiet as she entered. Mrs Bridges glowered, pointing at the clock that registered nine minutes past six. ‘I’m sorry I’m late,’ Maisie croaked, ‘but my alarm–’

‘Hold your tongue, girl, or you’ll be out that door!’ Cook’s ample bosom heaved. ‘Start making amends by scrubbing down the shelves and restacking them.’

Maisie gazed at the huge shelves along two of the walls, all packed solid with foodstuffs, condiments and spices. It would take hours to do what Cook ordered…

The smell of the Middleton family breakfast cooking, followed by listening to the domestic staff enjoying theirs, was agony. But Maisie continued to scrub and stack until satisfied everything was done.

Mrs Bridges grinned as she inspected Maisie’s work. ‘You’re not short on elbow grease, I’ll give you that, girl. Lesson learned?’

Maise nodded.

‘Good. Now… bacon and eggs do for you?’

 Word Count: 175

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