Free Write Friday: Balanced On A Blade’s Edge

Things rarely ended how Bellris intended. He’d kept his hood pulled low and his face in the shadows, but somehow they had noticed him.

He hit the wall at the end of the alley and scrambled for purchase. The stone was wet with rain and too smooth for climbing. The crates stacked next to him were soft with rot and half collapsing into themselves, with little to offer anyone hoping to scale the sheer wall.

He glanced back the way he’d come and the crowds still surging past the entranceway.

Hallows’ Night. The same explosion of revelry every year and every year he found himself in the same position.

‘Bellris…’

Edget’s voice crawled inside his ear as the three shadows from the tavern emerged from the crowd, the rain shimmering in front of them.

They came down the alley single file, their bodies too wide to fit them any other way.

‘Oh Bellris…’ The two behind Edget cackled and Bellris threw himself against the wall again, the skin on his fingers tearing as he fumbled for a way to pull himself up. ‘Now, now. None of that.’

Edget’s hand came down on his shoulder and Bellris spun. His spine slammed into the wall and his skull bounced off the stone sending sparks of lighting crackling across his vision.

Hallows’ Night, let it be dammed by the Nine Lords of Chaos  and every single one of their insane followers.

He felt the air leave his lungs as he double up, Edget’s fist lodged in his gut.

Edget should not have been the problem that he was. Granted, he was twice Belris’ size, almost three times Belris’ size in fact, but the brute was slow and cruel. Instead of taking out his opponent quickly, he liked to play, dragging the torture out until he grew board. Belris was different. Belris knew how to take the ending shot when required and preferred to finish things before they started. While Edget was all rolls and weight, Belris was corded muscle and sharp reflex, the perfect fighter, trained to be deadly.

Edget’s fist came in for a second below and Belris thought about the way he could pop the boy’s spine at his neck, or cut off his air with one well aimed blow to the throat. He mapped out the various pressure points and joints he could break along Edget’s arms and legs as his own knees buckled beneath him and he hit the cobbles with a dull splash of muddy water.

Just before his vision turned black he wondered if he could ever work out how to win a fight without killing his opponent first.

~~~~

The light came back slowly. Belris blinked against it resentfully, his hand coming up to drag away the hair tickling his eyes as he rolled away from the brightness. He was aware that the rain had stopped, he was dry and warm, it was no longer Hallows’ Night and he was not lying bleeding in an alleyway behind the tavern.

‘Did you fight him?’

Belris felt his skin tighten at the voice that wasn’t his father’s. He loosened his grip on the blankets and realised that they weren’t his and the bed was wrong in comparison to the small sleeping cot beside the fire in his father’s hut. Carefully he uncurled himself, ignoring the way his muscles protested as he sat up.

‘I said, did you fight him?’

She was younger than him by a few months, one of the girls he’d seen hanging around on market day when the whole town congregated in the main square. She was pretty with blue eyes and tanned features. She wore her blonde hair mostly loose, with two braids twisted along the sides of her head to form a small crown, while the rest lifted slightly in the breeze from the open window.

The window. Belris noticed it for the first time, the glass and the lead piping.

‘Where am I?’ He already knew the answer but he wanted to be sure.

‘The Upper Quarter,’ she answered. Jill he remembered, she was called Jill. ‘Now answer my question please, did you fight him?’

‘Fight who?’ asked Belris.

‘The boy who beat you, or do you not remember that bit of last night?’ She glanced him over. ‘He did knock you about the head a fair bit.’

‘You were watching?’

‘No, but others did and they told me what I wanted to know when I asked, unlike you that is.’

Belris belt his cheeks flush.

‘No,’ he said ‘I didn’t fight him.’

‘Good. I think we both know what would have happened if you had.’ She leant forward, resting her arms against her knees. ‘Tell me, do you know who you are or are you just another fool who’s never considered the prospect of anything other than life in this decrepit little town?’

Belris kept his mouth closed. His father’s warnings were hammering in his skull, each one an echo to a blow that he was supposed to be defending against.

NO TRUSTING

NO TALKING

NO FRIENDS

NO TIES

‘I think you have me mistaken with someone else,’ said Belris. He made to stand but the moment he left the bed felt his head began to slid from his shoulders, the world tilting rapidly to one side. He sat down again quickly. ‘What was that?’ He clutched his head between his hands. ‘Did you drug me?’

‘Poppy milk. Even you can’t go around with broken ribs and a fractured ankle, no matter how little of it you feel.’

The dizziness had receded slightly and Belris turned his ankle experimentally to see the damage. It throbbed but that was the worst of it. It was healing.

‘I need to leave,’ he said. ‘My father’s waiting for me.’

‘No he’s not.’ The girl was frowning at him. ‘He’s been gone three years with no signs of returning. No one is waiting for you. No one cares about you.’

‘Says you.’

‘Says everyone in this town.’

She patted her trouser pocket and pulled a slip of paper free. ‘Here, take this.’

It was a map, folded over and over until it was the size of the pad on Belris’ thumb. Nervous about tearing the frail parchment he teased the map open, smoothing the wrinkles with his fingertips when he was done.

‘It’s the town,’ he said, looking down at Felmouth laid out on the paper.

‘Yes,’ said the girl. ‘For now it is. Tomorrow it might change, or the next day, but for now it is Felmouth, and that-‘ she reached over to tap a small green spot on the map, ‘that is you.’

Belris squinted at the tiny dot.

‘No,’ he said. ‘It can’t be.’

‘Yes, it can. If you have the right map.’ She plucked it from his lap and folded it up. It vanished as quickly as it had come about and she returned to resting her arms against her knees.

‘The question is,’ she said. ‘ Why did it lead me to one of your kind?’

‘One of my kind?’

‘A Kellrath, a killer. You do know what you are right?’

Belris could hear the blood pounding in his ears.

‘This is what we are son. They call us Killers, some call us Kellrath. They don’t know for certain though, all the know is that they’re scared of us.’

‘I don’t-‘

‘Ah, ah,’ she cut him off. ‘I don’t care. I don’t care about why you are hiding in this town, or why you would rather take a beating than get into a fight, or why you happen to be the thing this map wants me to find first, what I care about is how you’re going to help me find the next thing it lands on.’ She tugged a dagger from her boot. ‘If you’re not going to help me however, things can end here and now.’

Belris studied the blade pointed at him and wondered how soon after breaking her wrist could he tear out her throat or her heart. He squashed the thought.

‘I’m listening,’ he said. ‘What is it you want?’


Hour Glass

Combining #freewritefriday with Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Two birds, one stone and a whole can of worms now ready to wriggle round in my brain while I’m trying to write Dawn Shadows.

The Terrifying Life Of Henry Granger: Making Of Monsters

Granger Manor, England – 23rd June 1924

The 1920s Royals Royce Ghost exploded impressively. One moment it was whole and beautiful, the next- boom! Lying on the grass face up, Henry could still hear the echo in his ears, the shock-waves in his bones. He groaned and rolled, ignoring the sharp bits of metalwork burning and biting into his skin as he crawled onto his knees and tried to lift his head high enough to see what was left of the house.

The front of it was a mess. The windows were bare, the glass shattered, the walls pockmarked with debris and the doors to the mansion blown inwards off their hinges. His arms trembled beneath his weight and gave out. He coughed and felt something move in his chest and then pain, all consuming pain, and suddenly he was coughing red onto the grass.

He saw the shadow fall across him and there was a hand beneath his chin, another on his shoulder and he was looking up at a face he thought he’d escaped.

‘Hello Henry.’ Philip crouched on his heels. He moved his hands so that they rested either side of Henry’s face and his features creased into something that almost resembled concern. He looked just as he had done in New York six months earlier when they had met, suit untouched by the chaos, eyes the same mahogany, auburn hair and a sculpture’s jawline. You could not help but fall in love with Philip Hardgraves, it was an inevitable outcome upon meeting him, and he knew this. He used his looks to get everything he wanted and used his cruelty to crush everything he left behind.

‘You’re here,’ Henry gasped, blood mixed with saliva as it down his chin. Philip swiped his thumb along Henry’s jaw and wiped it away, the touch tender.

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I’m here. You knew I would have to be.’ He eased Henry over onto his back and let the young man’s head rest against his thigh. ‘You knew I would come for you.’

Henry’s vision was greying out and the weight in his chest made it difficult to draw breath.

‘Don’t fight it,’ said Philip. He threaded his fingers in Henry’s hair. ‘Fighting it always make it so much worse, I learnt that the first few times I died.’

‘What- what-‘ Henry’s words dissolved into coughing as his ribcage seemed to collapse in on itself. He wheezed in breaths but his limbs had turned to lead and lungs were refusing to co-operated.

He should have been safe at the manor, the village should have afforded him some sort of protection against Philip and his kind, Evangeline had promised him that. He could see her still, mouth and throat open, red spilling across the marble entrance hall of her parents’ home. There had still been flowers in her hair from the party the previous evening, the party where she had laughed and chattered like anyone else. The party where she had told him she was a witch and he was in terrible, terrible danger.

‘You’re a murderer.’ Henry’s voice was thready but he managed the accusation. ‘You killed her.’

Philip nodded. ‘Yes, I killed her. I’ve killed her before and I’ll kill her again no doubt, that is the way of it.’ He pressed his lips to Henry’s temple, they were dry. ‘You will learn it all in time, you will have all of time to learn.’

The pain was gone and Henry could feel himself slipping away.

‘Why?’ he whispered.

‘Why?’ Philip chuckled. ‘You think I chose this? You think I wanted to share? No. This is just as much of a shock to me as it will be to you but I believe in making the best out of a bad situation.’ Henry’s chest had stilled and the young man lay limp in Philip’s arms. ‘I’ve been alone for a very long time Henry. Our kind have so few we can speak to, I’m not even sure there is an ‘our kind’ so to speak, we are freaks, abnormalities, a mistake in the great scheme of things.’ Philip lowered Henry’s head onto the grass and brushed the dirt from his clothes as he stood. He turned back to the house and watched as the remains of the car continued to burn. It seemed a shame but it would serve a purpose.

‘Why did this all start though?’ He looked down at the corpse. ‘It started because I was in love with a girl who loved me back. It started because she would not let me go when death came hammering at the door. It started because a witch messed around with life and death and made a score so deep in the reality of things that everything dark, vulgar and wicked had a doorway in.’

He bent down and fumbled until he found Henry’s wrists. He gripped them and pulled them above Henry’s head.

‘You can blame this all on my wife,’ Philip sighed. ‘She’s the one who decided to make you too.’

Philip Hardgraves - Colour Pencil by Antonia Brennan
Philip Hardgraves by Antonia Brennan

 

Confessions Of A Bookworm March 2016

img_1384-0

I know, I know, I know. This post was meant to go up on Wednesday and now it’s Saturday instead. I also managed to miss February all together so this post will include some of the books that I read over that month as well.

What Am I Reading

So there are a couple of books that have been lurking around on the ‘Currently Reading’ list for a while. As a compulsive book hopper I tend to put a book down for a few weeks and then return to it later if it hasn’t completely got my attention or if a new book turns up that I’m desperate to read. So for the purpose of this post I’ll focus on the newbies on the list.

‘Glass Sword’ and ‘After You’ are both sequels and both books have only just turned up on this list. I’m most of the way through ‘After You’ already as I really love Jojo Moyes’ writing style. It’s a very easy read despite tackling tough topics. I fell in love with the main character Lou in the first book ‘Me Before You’ and the ‘After You’ is just as engaging. It helps that the world Jojo writes in is very human and familiar. While I love fantasy and scifi, sometimes a break is good.

‘Glass Sword’ is the follow up to ‘Red Queen’ and is another dystopia world with significant social divides and a trodden down heroine desperate to save her family. It’s not by any means the only book of its kind but I’m enjoying it all the same. I’m not very far in so I won’t say very much about it.

‘Blackbirds’ is the last book I’m going to talk about in this section and that’s because once this post goes up I’m going downstairs, cooking a bacon sandwich, and sitting down with that flipping book and getting it read. My aim for the end of April is to have finished all these books lurking around on my currently reading list and get some fresh blood on there. ‘Blackbirds’ will be the first one I tackle.

 

Recently Finish

I’m aiming to read fifty books this year and currently I’m two books behind target so this section will have to start getting a bit bigger each month if I want to stay on track.

I’ll start with ‘The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe’. I have Douglas Adams’ whole series sat on my bookshelves. They are the sort of books that I keep telling myself I should read, but never seem to get around to. ‘The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe’ was me doing such that. Despite being set in space, it has the same familiar feel to it in places as ‘Me Before You.’ Arthur Dent’s obsession with a decent cup of tea wins me over almost immediately and it’s a fun book. I’m not sure I’d go back to it, but I enjoyed it all the same.

I’ll cover ‘The Fire Prince’ and ‘The Blood Curse’ in one. For starters, I did not expect Emily Gee to rival George R R Martin on the bloodthirsty scale! I have never read a series quicker, terrified on every page that the characters I’d really come to invest in were about to get a throwing star to the temple. The whole series was engaging and by the end of it I wished she had written more books.

‘Me Before You’ will make you cry, there is no two ways about this. The trailer for the movie came out a couple of months back and Lou’s character leapt out at me then. I ordered the book and thought I might read it before going to see the film, it turns out that I couldn’t put it down once I’d picked it up. Within two days I had finished ‘Me Before You’, had a good cry and ordered ‘After You.’ As I said earlier, Jojo’s writing has a wonderfully familiar tone to it. Lou’s home town reminds me a lot of the town near to my childhood home and the whole book has this English quirkiness about it that I loved from page one. Lou’s mother who is so house proud it’s insane, her father who makes endless bad jokes, and her grandfather who’s just muddling along in the background. It felt real and the romance in the story was so beautifully heartbreaking. Check out the trailer for the film here.

‘Night Study’ and ‘Daughter Of The Blood’ were two books that I pre-ordered and couldn’t wait to get my hands on. Both are fantasy fiction, both have strong female characters and both are books that I get way too excited about.

One of the things I like most about The Wall of Night series is that while love and relationships take place in the book, they are never the main plot-line. The focus is always on saving Harth and the people in it. Friendship in some ways replaces romance in these books, playing its part among duty and honour.

This instalment of the series doesn’t feature Mailin as much as the previous two, looking more at Kalan and his part in the storyline instead. This is another strength in Helen Lowe’s writing as she managed to write both female and male story lines while building up this great sea of flesh out, full bodied characters. The names can sometimes be a little confusing as some are very similar but other than that I find it hard to criticize her work. I enjoy reading it too much.

‘Night Study’ is the fifth book in the ‘Poison Study’ series. I’m going to admit that ‘Night Study’ isn’t my favourite book in the series however. It’s very much a set up for the sixth book and reading it I could see that very little would be resolved before the book ended. All the characters I love were still there and it was a great read by an author I greatly admire, but it just wasn’t as good as it’s counterparts.

Finally, ‘Red Queen’ by Victoria Aveyard. My Amazon account has been recommending this book to me for months but it never really caught my attention that much. As I said about ‘Glass Sword’, the plot-line itself isn’t that original, but it’s still pretty well written and I enjoyed reading it. I was a little disappointed in Mare. Throughout the book she is fighting to control her own destiny but it’s quite clear she’s being pulled along by everyone else. I’m hoping that she will come into her own in ‘Glass Sword’ but at the moment I’m finding her somewhat lacking. She doesn’t demand respect like Celaena or Mailin. She doesn’t invoke any real change, stuff just happens to her. Once again though, it’s still a pretty readable book. Victoria Aveyard writes it well and I didn’t get bored reading it or want to put it down. All in all I was pretty happy with my choice to read it.

 

What I’m Reading Next

 

‘Desolation’ will be in my hands by Thursday which I’m pretty excited about. Other than that I’m not sure what I’ll be reading next. I’m mainly focusing on clearing out my currently reading list and getting on with the books already on my bedside table. I have six hundred books in my house and great chunks of them are only half read. I doubt that will stop me buying more though. I picked ‘The God of Small Things’ up from an Oxfam shop in Nantwich and the woman at the till recommend as I was paying which is always a good sign so I want to read that soon as well.

So there you have it. February and March’s books. Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts on the books and what you’re reading at the moment. Are you a book hopper too or do you stick to one book and see it through to the end? Perhaps you take part in WWW Wednesdays too!

Confessions Of A Bookworm January 2016

img_1384-0

So far this year I’ve managed to get through four of the books on my last list of do here is this month’s update on what I’ve been reading, what I’m about to read and what I thought of the books I actually finished.

What Am I Reading

I’ve knocked some books off my ‘currently reading’ list this month. I wanted to try and focus on the books that I want to finish during February. I’m a few chapters into ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ ‘Magician’, ‘Blackbirds’ and ‘America Gods’ but the other two are pretty much untouched. If I’m honest, ‘Go Set A Watchman’ is the lowest down on the list at the moment, but that’s just because I’m enjoying the others too much. I keep finding myself debating over which one to pick up.

Recently Finished

I’m trying to focus in on the books I’m reading and reduce the number of ones that I have lurking around half-read.

While I liked ‘Dodger’ well enough, I felt that it lacked any real motivation behind the story. While ‘The Colour of Magic’ is whimsical and fun, ‘Dodger’ is a weird mixture of history and imagination. While Dodger amused me, I never felt any real connection with Simplicity. The ending seemed rather convenient as well and the final chapter, well let’s not even go there. It was very much a ‘meh’ book. ‘The Colour of Magic’ on the other hand was everything I’d expected from a Pratchett book. It was an utter joy to read. I’ve managed to hold off buying the next book in the Diskworld series just because I’m trying not to divert too much off my current reading list, but I’m not sure how long that resolution will last.

‘A Dance of Chaos’ was brilliant. It was the perfect ending for David Dalglish’s series and it had all the same face pace, break neck action as the rest of his books. I won’t say any more for fear of spoiling the earlier ones but if you like action, sword fights and criminal underworlds then you have to read this series.

Finally we get to ‘The Sentinel Mage’. I’ll admit that I got a few chapters into this book and put it down. I thought the Prince was a prat, the main characters while nice enough seemed to innocent, and I lost interest. It turns out that this is another one of those books that grows on you as you get further. At ten past twelve this morning I was busy telling myself, just one more chapter, just one more chapter. The book does end with a conclusion of sorts, but it also left a lot of questions to be answered in the next book. I went from being two chapters in to finishing it in three days.

‘The Sentinel Mage’ has a really interesting chapter structure as well. Lots of short chapters, interspersed with some longer ones. It made me think about my own writing and how I’m structuring it. I felt less inclined to put the book down mid chapter and I’d defiantly say that this was an enjoyable read. For those who like the fantasy genre, I would recommend it.

What I’m Reading Next

Both of these books are released next month with ‘Daughter of Blood’ set to land on my doorstep TOMORROW! I’m so happy and I can’t wait to read it. I raved about ‘The Gathering of The Lost’ in my last Confessions of a Bookworm post. Both the series and the writer have me under the spell.

‘Night Study’ is set to be out the end of February but I’m also super excited to have that winging it’s way towards me. The first half of 2016 is filled with released from writers that I adore so you’ll be seeing them pop up now and again, knocking some of the older ‘currently reading’ books out of the way as those pre-ordered copies zoom through the letterbox. ‘Poison Study’ which was the first book in this series became on of my favourite books in the fantasy genre from the moment I read it. The fact that Maria V Snyder has returned to these characters is wonderful and the ending of ‘Shadow Study’ has me practically scrabbling for the opening chapters to ‘Night Study.’ Luckily I won’t have to wait much longer.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do. This list won’t get any shorter by itself.

Earworm – The Daily Post Daily Prompt

Write. Just write.

That’s the quote that’s been stuck in my head this week and pretty much every week since I heard it. I’m not even sure where I heard it to begin with, it’s just there now, bouncing around in the dusty corners of my brain like a demented bouncy ball that won’t leave me alone.

I’ve been working on Darkened Daughter in its many forms since secondary school. I’ve been trying to write it for roughly eight years and it has only been in the last six months that I’ve managed to sit down and hammer out an actual draft and an actual plot-line.

I suppose in some ways Darkened Daughter became an Earworm for me. It burrowed into my brain and stayed there. Characters decided to pop out of the synapses and jitterbug across my frontal lobe until I paid them attention and put them onto the page instead. No matter what other story ideas came my way, Darkened Daughter was always there, lurking in the grey matter.

In the last six months I’ve been telling myself to ‘just bloody well write it and get the dam thing down on paper.’

If I don’t write then it has nothing to do with any lack of creative spark or inspiration, it has everything to do with me being lazy.

I suppose that is the most important thing I’ve learnt so far when it comes to writing. Actually sitting down and trying to write on a regular basis as I did in September got me to the 52,000 word mark. I felt good about myself. I was proud that I managed to achieve a beginning, a middle and an end.

But then I stopped.

I let myself fall back on the old habits of sitting in front of my computer and trawling through everything and anything other than my actual novel. I didn’t sit down and write.

I’ve been doing the same thing all of today. Every time I’ve got close to writing the next chapter I’ve magically found something else to do instead. I’ve pulled myself away from Microsoft Word and wasted time on something else.

I’ve been lazy.

So I’m going to hit publish on this post, turn of my computer, open my laptop and write until I hit the 1,000 word mark. It won’t be a full chapter but it will be some of the way towards one and even if I write utter nonsense it will be something. There will be words on a page and a little bit more of the world I’m trying to create will have substance.

The only way I get to be an author is if I get writing. So that’s what I’m going to do.

Wish me luck.