New year, new writing.

This year will be one of creativity and forward movement. I have a novel to get published, another one to start writing and I’m also going to be starting my career in gaming journalism (there will be a new blog for that soon, so keep an eye out if that’s your thing!).

 

But it’s time for the new stuff. Here’s my latest short story, which began as an experiment with a new writing style and ended as a new idea for one of my existing characters.

It’s a bit darker than my usual material, with more swearing and violence than you might normally see, but I hope that doesn’t offend you enough to stop you having a read!

Please feel free to give feedback (in fact, I actively encourage it) though I will apologise now for the formatting – I’ve had no end of trouble trying to format it for WordPress, but this is the best I could do for the moment…

 

 

Fire In Her Eyes

“Goddamn it!” Jorl was complaining about something again. He was always annoyed about something. Give him a world filled with beautiful women wanted fucking, he’d find something wrong with it.

He had a point this time, though.

Our target was down at the bottom of the valley, where the snaking dirt road met a small village. Rocks and loose stones would make the trip down dicey, but the worst part was the dozen mercenaries camped within the mass of log structures.

Thade’s men.

“Goddamn it,” Jorl complained again.

Not many people realised it, but Jorl was no regular warrior. No regular man, as it happens. He had spent many years as an elite soldier for the previous King of the Northlands, only no records would ever tell of Jorl’s exploits. Only myth and legend remained.
His massive hand covered my shoulder – and then some – as he drew up behind me. “Stay here,” was all he said. After that business in the Drift, I knew to listen when he said that.

Jorl was almost a caricature of a man, his size would be comical if he weren’t so damn fearsome. He stood a good couple of feet taller than any normal man, with shoulders broader than a man is tall, arms like tree trunks and hands that could reach fully around the waist of many a serving wench – and had, time and again. With fingers thick as his, it’s no wonder women loved him.

His caricatured looks weren’t solely confined to his torso, neither. His mouth was hidden behind so much beard that when he spoke, you’d swear there was an echo off the cavernous hair. His legs were amusingly stumpy too, or would be if he wasn’t so unnaturally fast on them. I’ve seen him outrun deer, leaping on them like a ravenous lion, though at least he used a blade to kill them quickly rather than sinking his teeth into them.

His size belied his stealth, however, as the mercenaries below would soon discover.

Jorl had trained me to see like he did, like the fabled cat people of Athrine, seeing in the dark almost as easily as in daylight. It was the only reason I could see him stalking his prey.

The sun had left the world in gloom, ghostlight taking its place and leaving the village a grey mass of shacks, the odd burning ball of orange signifying the torches illuminating the dirt roads between.

Dressed in his darkest browns and greys, Jorl was a shadow moving through the trees to my left, down the treacherous slope toward the village. He pulled the bow from around his chest, lifting it over his head and knocking an arrow in one smooth motion.

The man was an artist with a bow. He just knew the strength of the wind, its direction, the precise distance of his target, the exact downward curve of the arrow’s trajectory. He called it training. I called it magic.

The first merc met his maker silently. The shaft protruding from his eye socket had killed him instantly as the steel bit into his brain. He fell into shadow, his companions oblivious to his demise. The second fell just as silently, left sitting against the dark timber of the nearest shack.

The third one was the problem.

Some people are just born lucky. The third mercenary definitely was, although luck eventually runs out. Jorl’s arrow would have pierced the man’s skull if it weren’t for the drunken sickness causing him to double over, splashing vomit over his boots. The arrow clattered noisily off the rocks behind.

Then all hell broke loose.

The village exploded with life. New mercenaries, clad in mismatched armour of leather, iron and plate, poured from inside what must have been the tavern, their comrade’s panicked shouts alerting them to the presence of the as-yet-unseen archer.

Jorl calmly looped the bow back over his shoulder, letting it rest on his back as he hunkered down in the brush and unsheathed his knife. I held that knife once, felt like a longsword to me.

I honestly pitied those men. They never stood a chance.

In no more than a minute, the colossal assassin had made his way soundlessly down into the valley and looped his way behind the group of six mercs. He cut the first one almost in half, the knife cutting from waist to shoulder and spraying gore all over his companions and killer alike. Curses and cries of vengeance filled the next few seconds as the other five men moved to surround Jorl.

Gods, I pitied them.

Three of them attacked at once, blades coming in at all angles. Jorl swatted one of them away like a fly, sending him sprawling into the dirt, as he ducked under another. That one went careening into one of his friends, the two of them tumbling to the floor with a shriek – the swiper had been skewered on his friend’s spear. The final blade in the opening salvo came at an awkward angle but Jorl easily grabbed the attacker’s arm in his massive fist, twisted it violently and threw the screaming merc away like he was nothing.

The two left standing gave each other a look, unsure of what to do against such reckless ferocity. That look was about a second longer than Jorl needed to stick his knife through the windpipe of one and twist the other’s head so hard that his neck may have shattered. I’ll carry that sound to my grave. Just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine.

“That’s far enough, old man.” Two more of Thade’s men had emerged from a building down the road, dragging an unconscious teenage girl between them.

Jorl shot a look at the prone survivors of his massacre and, knowing they didn’t dare get up, turned to the new arrivals. “Son,” he sighed, “don’t be stupid.”

Oh shit, this was gonna get ugly.

“Way I see it,” the biggest of the two mercs, still only as tall as Jorl’s chest, began, “you move, she dies.” He put the point of a dagger to her throat.

“You have no idea who that is, do you?” Jorl took a step back, a strange mixture of fear and amusement in his voice.

“Oh fuck,” I whispered to myself in the darkness. If Jorl’s afraid, you better believe you’re in the shit.

Jorl’s gaze was fixed on the girl now, mine followed suit. She was skinny, probably around fifteen years on this godforsaken world, dressed in battered rags that might once have been a dress of some description. Her brown hair had been shaved on one side, exposing some kind of inked marking that ran over her ear, but long locks tumbled freely down the other side. More inked symbols ran down her left arm, visible even through the dried blood and bruising, and there was a hint of something similar through the tears in the back of what used to be her corset.

The two bumbling kidnappers were paying too much attention to Jorl, not noticing the girl stirring in their grip. Not noticing the inked runes beginning to glow about her skin.

Until it was too late.

The mouthy one got it the worst, his hand literally melting away as the girl’s flesh turned to flame. His screams bubbled as she seized his throat, his eyes lighting up like lanterns as he expired in several kinds of agony.

The silent one tried to run. The teenager turned to him and I finally saw her face clearly, saw the fire in her eyes. No wonder Jorl was afraid, I’d never seen a rage like it. Her hand shot out and fire burst forth from her palm as if it were a dragon’s maw, leaving behind a charred skeleton that crumbled to ash on the breeze.

“Move.” The girl stalked past Jorl, leaving a trail of smouldering footprints in her wake. The big man stepped aside immediately, not even daring to look into the girl’s eyes. The remaining men were scrambling to their feet and trying desperately to get away from this fiery incarnation of Death. In a brilliant blaze of light, wings of light spread at the teenager’s back, spitting sparks onto nearby huts.

An inferno ravaging most of the village, she floated toward the mercs and whispered something to them, allowing them to flee in absolute terror. I still have no notion of what she had said, or why she had let those few in particular escape, but there was obviously some control to her chaos.

“You can come out now.” Those burning eyes fell on me, glowing bright in the fire-limned silhouette against a backdrop of hell.

For an eternity I couldn’t move. I’m ashamed to admit that I almost wet myself in fear as the girl started toward the base of the hill.

“It’s okay, girl,” Jorl’s reassurance brought me back to my senses.

As I stepped from the brush, I once again saw the teenager as I’d first seen her: skinny and bruised, covered in tattoos. Not a revenant of malice or rage, but a fragile girl of flesh and blood. Jorl unravelled the cape he’d wrapped around his face and draped it over the naked girl, her clothing burned away in the inferno.

He seemed to relax as she smiled and nodded her thanks. She was obviously weakened, resting heavily against the big man’s open palm, holding her upright.

“Lizza,” Jorl said, “meet Kyra.”

He sat on the grass, looking out over the shallow valley before him. Left arm resting on one bent knee, he looked the picture of calm. The gentle swishing of Stacey’s bare feet on the grass announced her arrival, even before her legs appeared in his periphery.

    “Out here again?” She sat beside him as she spoke.

    He rubbed wearily at his stubbly jaw, thumb and forefinger worrying at his tired eyes. Then, “you ever wonder what your next step is?”

    “I find it’s easier not to think about it. If there’s sand under my feet, I go barefoot. If it’s snow, I put on boots.”

    “And if there’s no ground left to walk?”

    “What’s this about?” Stacey’s concerned eyes were fixed on him.

 

    He had no answer.

 

*  *  *

 

Hello all.

 

Well, those who are left, I guess.

 

I’m in the process of trying to edit my novel, design its cover and even think of a name for the darned thing, but I’ve also found time/inspiration for other works. This is technically the second (the first one isn’t finished yet) but it’s the first one to make it to completion, though that shouldn’t be a surprise since this is flash fiction and about 130 words.

 

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading my return to flash fiction writing. Let me know what you think. 🙂

 

Gaz

Hello all!

 

I’ve been away from my blog for quite a while now, initially to take a few weeks to finish writing my novel. Turns out that took a lot longer than intended!

I’m very happy to announce that I have finished the first draft. It took quite a while and even took a few surprising turns, even for me, but it stands at 123 pages (though that’s A4 pages within a word processor, so that may change with time) and a healthy 72,224 words.

There’s still a lot of work left to do – the first draft is only the beginning, after all – as there’s editing and whatnot, plus I haven’t even settled on a title yet. Anyway, I’ve just got to look into printing off a copy to read through with a red pen at hand, then I’ll start looking into getting it published. I know the odds of that happening are reasonably slim, but I also have self-publishing on the table as a back-up.

 

I’ll apologise for waffling on, but it’s a milestone I wanted to share as I’m pretty proud of myself. A short break is in order now, possibly with a return to Friday Fictioneers on the cards if I can figure out the change in format these days! If anyone wants to help with that, please feel free to let me know in the comments section below.

 

Time to sign off, but keep your eyes peeled for some new short stories appearing here at some point soon. Also, I’ve been considering a move into games journalism, so look out for a possible new blog appearing for reviews and other articles – if you’re interested in that kind of thing, of course…

 

 

Gaz

Well, this is my last story for a few weeks as I really, REALLY need to push myself to write the end of my book.

It was a difficult one this time, as I wanted to write something humorous and cynical (should have been easy to write cynical stuff, that’s who I am!) but it completely changed as I wrote it, turning into something massively different.

Anyway, Madison’s story is here and I’d like to thank her once more for starting this wonderful group.

Mine is here…

Rainbow Memorial

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Kel said to Yri, taking in the emerald fields and deep blue skies.

    The sisters wandered down the rainbow bridge hand-in-hand, their bare feet tingling with every step and their plum-coloured hair floating on the breeze. The bridge was a small leak from their own bright world, the colours emerging through the clouds over Earth.

    They came to the same spot every year, to where their mother was buried. She had been one of the first to come to Earth, falling in love with their mortal father, and she’d always wanted to be buried here.

    They knelt at the base of the sole cherry blossom tree at the edge of the clearing, the name “Gia” carved into its slim trunk.

    Through tears, the sisters shared memories of their mother until nightfall.

This week’s prompt could so easily have been my chance to showcase my (in development) novel’s characters again, but I decided that it was another chance to continue using my newly-born character from both last week and, initially, the barbed wire prompt from the week before!

Thanks as always go to Madison Woods, without whom this (fast-growing) group wouldn’t even exist. Please visit the link there for her story and many other wonderful tales of varying genres.

 

My story this week…

 

Moonlight Sonata

 

 

The moon always brings out the crazies.

 

    He grinned in the moonlight, breathing in the smell of dead things and gorging himself on the sweet music of screaming creatures.

    He had decided the barbed whip wasn’t enough tonight. He cracked his knuckles, now sticky with blood. It didn’t matter which creatures had stained his fists, all that mattered was the freak’s face he was currently turning to pulp.

    He stood, shaking the blood off his hands, crimson spattering his long white coat. He didn’t care.

    A giant stood before him all tooth and claw, saliva pouring from its maw. He beckoned the colossus with one hand, relishing the chance for a real fight at last.

 

    After all, the moon did bring out the crazies.

In a bit of a new twist this week, the photo prompt Madison gave us is via Mary Shipman. I really struggled getting anything from it, but ended up finding something in the end – something longer than the usual #FridayFictioneers stories I write, coming in at a hefty 191 words! I cut it down from over 200 words but really didn’t want to cut it any further as it wouldn’t tell the story that I wanted to tell.

Anyway, for more excellent stories based on the prompt below, visit Madison’s story.

And once again, another warning that the following story of mine is almost twice the normal 100-word guideline, coming in at 191 words…

Trapped

    Naomi awoke in the gloom of an unknown house. The windows were boarded up, only a few thin shafts of hazy sunlight dappled the bed she sat upon. The musty smell of damp filled the thick air, mixing with an acrid odour she couldn’t place – and it scared her.

    Boards creaked above, mingling with the unmistakeable sound of heavy footfalls. A metallic scraping joined in the spine-chilling chorus that dragged its way across the ceiling.

    She dashed for the door but the handle rattled uselessly. She shouldered and kicked to no avail.

    She was trapped.

    Gravelly laughter scythed through the house, freezing Naomi’s blood. Where’s it coming from?

    She felt the unnatural presence behind her and lost her breath as blades wrapped around her throat. Fighting the agony, she turned to see her attacker but saw only the barbed whip of blades reaching from the shadows.

    Gritty cackling seemed to come from all around as her strength faded and the blades bit deeper into her neck.

    “Even she-devils can’t hide from me.” The hoarse voice was the last thing she heard as the whip pulled taut, yanking her unlife away.

This week could have ended with two stories again, like last week. My original idea was another horror piece, another Silent Hill-inspired tale of darkness – being a big fan of the videogames, the barbed wire fence brings with it a completely different imagery than I imagine it would with others!

Anyway, on my way home yesterday, the idea took on a completely new tone and setting. Again I must thank Madison Woods for her wonderful photo prompts, without which this whole idea wouldn’t be here. To that end, here’s her story this week: http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/barbed-wire-and-bulls/

As for mine, complete with photo prompt, it’s here:

Hunter/Hunted

 

The rain refreshed him. Rivulets of cooling water ran down his cheeks, shining softly even in the darkening evening.

     His whip of barbed metal, forged in both fire and magic generations ago, was coiled like a jagged snake of blades in his fist, ready to strike.

     The city lay empty before him, traffic lights blinking randomly in the darkness, when the shrieking and howling began. Angular shadows, teeth and claws glistening in the encroaching moonlight, scrambled from rooftops and alleyways.

     The whip sang its metallic deathsong as it uncoiled to the floor.

     He smiled.

 

     Tonight would be a good night.

Once again it’s a Friday and Madison Woods has given us this wonderful photo prompt to work from:

Her story is here: http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/dynamite/drip-100-words/

And here is my effort this week…

Death Will Be Our Saviour

Drip…drip…drip…

    The crystal clear droplets soon turned to rubies as my blood mingled with the waters.

    I am dying.

    I go to my brothers and sisters in the Watchtowers, knowing that the world will be left a better place. My blood will wash away the corruption that has spread throughout the roots of this wretched planet.

    The riders will sniff out my life-essence as it cleanses nature, and they will cleanse the rest of the world that I am now dissolving from, floating away on the ether.

    Drip…

    Drip…

    Drip…

    The riders are coming.

*

*

*

As I was reading some of today’s stories, I got a second idea based on the prompt and couldn’t leave it alone. Hopefully y’all won’t mind reading a second story today!

Ebb and Flow

The pool swelled with life, waves tumbling over one another and lapping gently at the edge of the great marble bath.

Asrin, the Spirit of Life watched over the waters, counting the droplets that fell from the Soul Tree. “A productive cycle, this lot,” she remarked with a knowing smile.

Her sister, Nirsa, the Spirit of Death and her literal opposite, stepped up beside her. “Shit,” she cursed, “looks like I’m gonna be busy this generation.”

Nirsa shed her silk shift before securing the dagger’s blade between her teeth and diving into the pool.

Friday is here again and with it comes the Fictioneers!

Once again, thanks go to Madison Woods for setting this whole thing up, and her wonderful addition this week is here:

http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/expectations/

The photo prompt this week was a rare one, with the story hitting me instantly.

So, without further ado, here’s my story this week:

Shattered Memories

Michael sat alone on the bench, listening to the cars passing on the road above. A melancholy smile played across his lips as he remembered the summers spent here with Sarah. Her midnight blue eyes used to look up at him as she nuzzled her head into his chest. Her smile would light up even the darkest night beneath the old country road.

     It had been two years since she passed, but she would always be alive at this spot.

     The hideous screeching of metal on stone startled Michael as it echoed from the dark tunnel beside the bench, the sparks within illuminating the angular shadow scuttling toward him.

Here we are again, that wonderful time of the week where we get to flex our writing muscles, courtesy of Madison Woods.

Madison’s flash fiction site is here: http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/

The photo prompt this week spoke to my fantasy side, so I decided to once again delve back into my own fictional world created for the novel I’m writing (apologies for the shameless plug). Though the actual #FF story has nothing to do with the novel itself, I just decided to have a little play with one of my characters.

CatFishing

Harlan sat by the river, twirling the short blade in one paw as he watched the rising sun’s light dance on the water’s surface. His tail twitched in the breeze, his soft brown-and-black fur rustling like a field of long grass.

     He purred as the fish weaved through the currents beneath the rushing water, the knife between his claws targeting its prey.

     Amber light glinted off the blade as it flashed through the air, cutting into water and fish flesh in the blink of an eye as the rope went taut.

     “One less fish for the dead,” Harlan purred as he pulled in his catch.

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