PROMPT #1: The Egg, Part 2 (Fantasy)

Part One

Vetta lay before the fire, stretched out with her great head on her huge paws, looking every bit the house cat, if she weren’t ten times larger. Shadows flickered across her black and orange stripes, as Kas held up the egg.

Eggs liked heat. So they kept this one as close to it as possible.

The house was small, barely big enough for two people, let alone a man and tiger, but for now it would do. They never stayed long in one place anyway. Too many other places, too many jobs. A lord here needing someone to track down a wayward child, a lady there needing someone to put fear into those who tried to take her land. Rogue vampires who couldn’t seem to remember the agreements, and feral werewolves without a pack.

Dragons.

Nasty creatures with more smarts than Kas liked. But he’d seen plenty of dragon eggs, nests of them at Lyrana’s sanctuary, and this wasn’t one of them. It was too bumpy. Dragon eggs were smooth, and glistened. This…didn’t.

Kas sighed, lowered the egg to the ground and nestled it against Vette. With the fire and Vette’s fur, the egg would be safe enough. He ambled to the back of the small house, to the bed against the back wall, and fell into it. His eyes closed, and he fell asleep quicker than he was used to.

* * *

“Kas! Kas, wake up, you stupid oaf!”

He woke, emerging from a dream in which a child dragon roared and spat fire at him, crying all the while. “You killed my mama!” And, indeed, he had, before taking the boy to the sanctuary and leaving him with Lyrana, despite the boy’s claim he would come back and kill Kas one day. Perhaps when the boy did come, Kas would be ready for death.

Vette tugged on his sleeve. “Kas! You awake?”

“I’m awake. Was going on?” He reaching for the drawers, and his sword on top, fingers clasping around the hilt.

“It’s hatching!” The tiger grinned, turned and bounded back through the door, Kas scrambling out of bed, forgetting the sword, and following.

Vette had gathered a few sticks, placing them around the egg to stop it rolling too far. It sat, nestled before the fireplace, trembling. Kas knelt before it, reached out, and placed his finger against the shell. He drew it back quickly; the shell was not just warm, but hot, hotter than it should have been, considering the distance between fire and egg.

Dragon-egg hot.

Perhaps, really, that was all it was. A misshapen dragon egg, about to reveal the small lizard-like creature curled up inside. They should have taken it to the sanctuary, at least there it would have been properly cared for, and they could have contained the first fire bursts to come from the creature.

Vette padded forward, and Kas grabbed the scruff of her neck, pulling her back.

“Don’t,” he said. “We have no clue what’s inside.”

“It’s a child,” Vette replied, “whatever it is. It’s going to need-”

“It could be a dangerous child, Vette! A dragon, maybe.”

“That’s no dragon egg, you can tell, it’s-”

She fell silent, as a crack appeared in the top of the egg. It shook again, this time so hard it knocked in the makeshift nest. Sticks scattered across the floor and the egg went down, smashing against wood.

“No!” Vette cried, eyes widening. She had never been the maternal sort, but protective? Always. And her tiger form, the form the witch had trapped her in, brought that out even more. She skidded forward, then stopped, looking first at the egg, then at Kas.

He knelt, looking at the crack running along the shell, and gently poked it, before putting his hand over one half, and lifting it up.

“It’s okay,” he said. “It’s okay. I think…” He removed the half-shell, and stared at the stunned, dazed figure lying against the other side. The size of his hand, a humanoid body, arms spread and wings stretching out from a tiny back. They fluttered, and the figure sighed, opened her eyes, and grinned.

“Mummy!”

Kas staggered back, as the small creature threw herself into the air, tumbled, and came straight at him. Vette watched, gaze following the darting, dancing thing as it came after Kas. He knocked into one of the chairs, almost fell, but managed to keep himself upright, as the small, flying girl hit his chest and stuck there, arms stretched out.

“Hello, Mummy!”

Kas sighed, closing his eyes as he exhaled. He’d seen them, before; tricky, nasty, mischievous little beasts, never had a single pleasant experience with one of them. But they’d found the egg, they’d taken care of it, and he’d been the first thing she’d seen when hatching.

She snuggled against him for a moment, before climbing onto his shoulder and settling there, small wings fluttering, a contended smile on her face as Vette bit her lip, suppressing the urge to laugh.

“Well,” Vette said, “go on, Kas. Name your daughter.”

Kas rolled his eyes. Fairies. Of all possible things that could have been waiting in the egg, it had to be a damn fairy.

“Kas,” Vette urged.

On his shoulder, a small voice squeaked, “Kas! Mummy!”

Vette burst out laughing, and Kas sat on the nearest chair, the fairy giggling, like a child who didn’t understand what they were laughing at, but who found the whole thing hilarious, all the same.

END

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Writing Prompts

I have a stack of books and booklets with writing prompts in. I love them – always have. It’s great to mull on an idea, have a scene sparked off by just a line or image. A good writing prompt can lead to a great story. In a way, it’s always why I sometimes like themed competitions or submissions. Writing to a prompt or theme really gives me a chance to exercise my writing muscles.

Problem is, sometimes the story ends up being a little…long. Which in some cases is fine. But I used to be able to write shorter short stories quite a lot, and I need to try that more, need to try to pin it down.

So, here’s the plan. Now and then, I am going to pick out a prompt, and post it here as a small extract. They might contain characters from current WIPs, or even ‘lore’ relating to those worlds. We’ll see. And if a prompt intrigues you, too, please feel free to use it and let me know how you got on. Once I’ve got a few posted, I’ll  add a page to list them all. And please remember, these will be unedited, rough pieces, but I always welcome constructive criticism! Every post will be prefaced by PROMPT #. Let’s see how this goes. Like my own mini-writing challenge!

Why My Current Favourite Book Is A Twitter Thread

I love Twitter, I really do. Some of my favourite books in recent years were ones I picked up because people were raving about them, or I followed the author on Twitter and became interested in their writing. If you’re looking for a community, guarantee you’ll find one on there, just by looking at hashtags like #amreading, #amwriting, #WritingCommunity, etc. Twitter, I think, can be one of the most useful tools for an author who wants to connect with their audience, and Susan Dennard has done this in a really interesting, unique way.

For those unfamiliar, Susan Dennard is the author of two series, Witchlands and Something Strange and Deadly, and of course more information can be found on her website. Recently, she posted something intriguing on Twitter, something that read like the opening to a novel told in second person, including a poll at the end, indicating it would be down to followers to choose what the MC did next.

Choices were made and the story has advanced. With every step, the options get more difficult, with consequences becoming more, well, dire, and potentially disastrous. But take a quick look at the replies and it’s easy to see how invested people – including me – have become in Winnie’s story, and the world of The Luminaries.

And a whole fandom has built up around this. Susan does an excellent job of drip-feeding information to people hungry to find out more, leaving people speculating. What is the locket? Which family would I belong to? Why did this thing happen?

What choice is least likely to get me killed?

There is a fandom and community, people sharing theories and trying to persuade others to pick the right choice, lest we end up dead. And avoiding death seems to grow more and more difficult.

Thanks to the brilliant Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style thread, there is now a hungry, waiting audience, ready for when Susan Dennard decides to release a book about these characters. There are teams, there is speculation, there is a love interest that has a fanbase completely divided. To me, seeing this story unfold feels like being part of e-mail groups as the Harry Potter books were being released, but even better thanks to us, the fans, being able to control the story. And I think many people are going to feel worse now about screaming at characters for making ‘stupid choices’, after seeing what sort of trouble a character can get into when a collective group is making the decisions.

Overall, I am thoroughly loving The Luminaries, and eagerly await every daily installment (usually when I’ve just finished work – it feels like a reward for a hard day!), wondering what sort of mess we’ll be in now, hoping it’s something we can recover from. And if you haven’t joined us yet, it’s not too late! Go check out the thread, catch up, and cast your vote.

We could seriously do with all the help we could get.

Damn Fine Story – Chuck Wendig [Books]

damn fine storyI love books about writing. I love reading about the craft, seeing different ways of doing the same thing, taking notes so I can look back over them later. Stephen King’s On Writing is probably the most well known, with good reason. It should have pride of place on any writer’s bookshelf. But so should Chuck Wendig’s Damn Fine Story.

There’s a definite wit and charm to this,  with asides and jokes guaranteed to make you smile. Concepts are explained easily, with examples mainly from film, including Die Hard, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Hunger Games. The book isn’t a massive tome detailing the technical aspects of writing. It’s fairly small (my copy is 226 pages), but goes more into the actual storytelling side, as indicated by the title and subtitle.

The ideas explored in the book focus on plot and character, examining how a writer can make things more exciting for the reader, less boring, while also giving them time to breathe between scenes. Wendig is honest with the reader, outlining exactly what we, as writers, need to keep in mind as we work on a project. And the tips inside aren’t just relevant to prose, but to scripts, comics, and any other story-driven medium one can think of.

If I find myself struggling with my WIP, I’m definitely going to refer to this book. It’s a great collection of advice, written in a friendly, easy-going style, and I’d highly suggest anyone interested in writing picks this up. It will, without a doubt, help next time you’re struck by the dreaded Writer’s Block.

You can find out more about Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds.

Are there any particular books about writing you enjoy, you’ve liked, that you’ve referred to over and over again?

To Plot or To Pants [Writing]

plot or pantsFor a long time, writers have referred to themselves in one of two ways. As a plotter, or a pantser. The discussion around both appears in interviews, articles, on social media…anywhere you get writers talking, the question comes up.

Are you a plotter, or are you a pantser?

Personally, I’ve always been more of a pantser (the term comes from ‘flying by the seat of your pants’). I rarely plan things out, though I do ruminate on a current WIP, picture scenes and work through the story in my mind (usually before going to sleep). But as for fully plotting it? Nah, not for me.

See, I tried plotting. A long time ago, when I was still in secondary (high) school. It was coming up to NaNoWriMo, and I had an amazing fantasy idea that was going to blow everyone’s minds. Because I was 17 and of course it was. I plotted and planned and wrote up character sketches and when November hit I just…lost…interest.

It was like, because I knew the story, I no longer wanted to discover it. That was the excuse I told myself at 17, anyway, and ever since. I don’t plot. I just write. And sometimes it works. But more recently, I’ve started plotting a little more. I still pants, for short stories mainly, but even then, I at least have some idea of how I want it to start and end.

But the ideas I’ve had recently require more. They require more research, more careful consideration, more solid ideas of where and when A, B, C and D are going to happen.

In doing this, however, I will also give the story – and characters – room to breathe. I might have a particular scene planned for a certain chapter, but I know sometimes the story takes a turn even I might not expect. Ideas arrive in the shower, characters whispering in your ear, and sometimes, you just have to go with the flow.

So maybe I’m moving away from pantsing? At least a little. The WIP is currently in research stages, so we’ll see how it goes, but I’m interested in how this turns out, if plotting will work properly, or if it’ll end up in the air, and I’ll return to pantsing. Though maybe for me, the trick is to find the sweet spot between the two. We’ll see.

What about you? Are you a plotter, a pantser, or a bit of both?

 

Images

Rose & Book -Image by Daria Głodowska from Pixabay

Pencil & Notebook – Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Post It Notes -Image by Pexels from Pixabay

No Killer, No Filler

writing doesn't need fillers or killers

Ah, writing. It comes so easily, doesn’t it? The words just flowing from your fingertips, the wonderful sound of keyboard keys clanking, being hit, one after the other, over and over until you have a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter…a book…

Full of the same words.

Just. Very. That.

Suddenly. Started. Then.

There are certain words, known as filler and killer words, likely to drag your writing to a grinding halt. Not to say they should be avoided entirely, but if you have the word ‘that’ multiple times in the same sentence, it’s going to make the reader cringe. Writing flows much more smoothly without filler and killer words.

Consider the following sentences –

Just then, the doorbell rang suddenly. She started to walk towards the door, her heart beating so hard that it felt like it would burst from her chest. In order to collect herself, she paused, staring through the obscure glass and picking out the tell-tale blue uniform of a policeman. Then, she opened the door.

Clunky, isn’t it? The prose reads stilted and too lengthy, words jammed in and draining the paragraph of any tension it could create. So, amending it –

The doorbell rang. She walked towards the door, heart about to burst from her chest. Pausing, she collected herself. On the other side of the obscure glass stood a man, in the tell-tale blue uniform of a policeman. She opened the door.

Filler words tend to be exactly that, words which fill the prose without actually contributing anything. Killer words slow it down, make it seem stilted. The best rule of thumb, if you find yourself using them, is to read the sentence with and without a particular word. If it makes sense without, drop it.

Filler words: Just. Quite. Rather. Very. perhaps. Stuff. Really. In order. Had. Literally. Actually. That.

Killer words: Suddenly. In order to. Started. Sort of. Used to. So. Kind of. As. A lot. Out of. You. Then.

Remember, these words can be used, and can, on occasion, prove to be useful. But make sure if they are used, they’re not over-used, and they’re put in sentences only when necessary.

 

Images Used 

Serial Killer – Image by Republica from Pixabay

Notepad – Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

Books – Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay

Publication Updates

So seeing as this blog is supposed to be as much about my writing as it is about other’s, I thought I’d just drop a quick note to confirm my latest publication updates. Details of my short stories can always be found on the About & Publications page, but I know maybe not everyone visits that when they come to the site.

So, since the start of the year, I’ve had three short stories published. Two in anthologies, and one as a digital standalone in Alban Lake’s Infinite Realms bookstore.

January saw the publication of the final Seven Deadly Sins YA anthology, LUST.  The fact this anthology has come to an end makes me feel sad – the WRATH volume was my first ever in print story, Dying of the Light, and I feel really proud of the story itself. Ashworth Manor was in the AVARICE volume, and actually got me the number one spot in the competition run on Scrib to find stories for the anthology. And, finally, in LUST, there’s Nina and the Raging Hormone Buffet. The fact I found a place among a group of talented writers is always a reason to smile, even if there won’t be any more of the series. You can check out LUST on Amazon US here, and the UK site here. The profits for SDS do go to First Book, so please check out any of the seven volumes!

Also realised in January was CURSE OF THE GODS, from Fantasia Divinity. My short story The Most Valuable Possession appeared in their previous anthology, OUT OF YOUR SHADOW, and will be my first paid story. Worshipped, appearing in this anthology, will be my first contributor’s copy. Worshipped shows Aphrodite, trying to navigate a modern world, and the perils that come with it. The Fantasia Divinity site (linked above) is worth checking if you want to get a copy, as they often have discounts.

And lastly, through Alban Lake’s wonderful Infinite Realms bookstore, there’s Night of the Loving Dead, published in February. I had so much fun writing this story, and hopefully that comes through in the fiction. It’s flash, coming in at little under 1000 words, and follows a zombie as he tries to navigate his new living deadness. It’s also a zombie love story. Another great publisher definitely worth checking out, and there’s plenty in the bookstore to keep you entertained.

Feel The Anger

Wrath Front Cover with text.jpgFear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

We all know Yoda’s famous quote, even if you’ve never seen Star Wars. Anger is a dangerous, tricky beast, uncontrollable once unleashed, and if allowed to roam for too long, devastating for any involved.

Each of the seven deadly sins would make an interesting topic to explore in writing, which is why the Seven Deadly Sins YA anthology is such a great idea. So far, they have 5 volumes out, covering Pride, Sloth, Envy, Gluttony and now, Wrath. And, lucky me, I’m one of the writers in the volume dedicated to Wrath.

I’m very, very honoured to be included in the anthology with my story Dying of the Light, alongside some very talented writers. This marks my first in-print publication, and I’ve already ordered my copy so I can hold it in my hands and squeal at seeing my name on the front cover.

Proceeds from the anthology go to First Book, which makes me even more happy to be a part of this.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading a few of these stories already, and cannot wait to settle down with my copy and read them all.

Dying of the Light

Eliza and Chloe were born into a culture that relished powers. As twins, one was destined to be stronger, and with that strength came the possibility of uncontrolled rage. When others sought to steal the strong twins’ power, they chose the wrong girl. After Chloe’s funeral, Eliza makes her way to the place where her sister died, determined to find those responsible and enact her revenge.

UK Kindle

UK Paperback

US Kindle

US Paperback

How Not To Introduce Characters

girl and tree.jpg

Readers and writers, I think, all have their own little pet peeves when it comes to something they read. For the most part, these all come down to personal taste. Some readers might dislike reading something involving the supernatural. Personally, I really don’t like ‘direct thoughts’ unless they are handled extremely well. Otherwise, they feel jarring and too much telling, rather than showing.

Another thing that tends to annoy me involves, more specifically, the introduction of characters.

Introducing characters can be hard. You want readers to feel a certain way towards them, but don’t want to drone on and on. There’s a point when it becomes boring to read lengthy descriptions about their clothes and the way they enter a room. Actually, when it comes to clothes, I don’t always think it’s necessary, unless it says something particular about a character. But it’s not clothes here I’m talking about. The thing that really, really gets me, is when a character waltzes into a story and we’re told, outright, every little detail about their personality.

So, in a third person narrative with a main character, say the girl in the photo above, we might have the following –

“Jenny, a beautiful girl, was sad. She wore a white dress, and a crown made of twigs. She sat under the tree. Jenny was usually a happy, kind girl, with hopes and dreams. She loved hard. Now, the sadness was so overwhelming she didn’t feel as if she could go on. Jenny had been due to get married, but her handsome, wonderful finance, Robert, had run off with a bridesmaid.”

Bit boring, isn’t it? We’re told a lot about her, but that’s the problem. We’re told. Every writer knows the old ‘show, don’t tell’ rule, and though there are instances where this can be broken, usually it’s still better to stick to it, for the most part. Plus, when we’re told something – especially positive things, like they’re gorgeous, or kind, or plain wonderful – it sometimes makes it harder to believe. We need to see things. Plus, being shown something means, if they act against that description later, we’re not rolling our eyes, wondering, well, we were told she was kind, so why is she now acting like that? Show us her kindness, because it then leaves room for her to be not-so-kind in another situation.

So, the above could be changed to –

“Jenny reached the tree where she’d shared her first kiss with Robert. The crown, formed of twigs, circled her dark hair, and dug into her skin. She sank to the ground, drew her knees to her chest, and rested her head on them, allowing the tears to fall. Everything she’d wanted from that day was now ruined. Her bridesmaid, who’d she’d babysat for, who she’d helped out when her own husband left her, had betrayed her. The thought brought a deep, aching pang to her chest. How could she possibly go on?”

Still not perfect, but it is just an example. It gives the same information as above, but, hopefully, in a much more engaging way. Showing, rather than telling.

Keep in mind, the words of a great man: “Any man who must say I am the king, is no true king.” Similarly, if you need to state your character’s traits, it makes the reader doubt if they actually have them. I’ve always taken that quote to mean that actions speak louder than words. You show people who you are by what you do, not by saying ‘I am…’. So give your characters the chance to do the same.

tywin king quote.jpg

What about you? As readers or writers, what are the things that particularly annoy you when reading?

It’s Okay To Take A Break

One thing that’s hammered into writers, over and over, is ‘write every day.’ The idea being that the only way you’re going to get better is to produce words every day, whether it’s 100, 500, 1000 or more. We’re told, as writers, that it doesn’t matter what you write, even if it’s completely rubbish, because you can always go back and edit. This is true – first drafts are rarely going to be shining gems. But in regards to writing every day, it’s one piece of advice that can be thrown out the window.

If it does work for you, great! Keep doing it. Honestly, I prefer write when you can, when you want to. Whether that’s one day a week, or every day for a few weeks with breaks in-between. To be honest, convincing myself I had to write every day has caused me more guilt than anything else. The days when I don’t write, I used to question myself on whether it meant my writing wasn’t as good, or I wasn’t as much a writer as other people, etc. I used to beat myself up over it.

Truth is, sometimes when I get home, I can barely focus. Words on screens start to swim after a day of, well, looking at words on screens. And I know, if I were to write then, it just wouldn’t be good. I wouldn’t enjoy it, I’d struggle, and get annoyed. And honestly, what’s the point of writing if you’re not enjoying it? Normally, I do. Enjoy it, I mean. But I can’t just sit and write when I don’t feel like it.

Every so often, I come home from work, and just play video games. This might be for a day or two, or a whole week. Usually only a week if I know I’ll have plenty of writing time coming up. And on the weekends, I’m with my boyfriend; we don’t live together, so it’s the only time we get to spend decent amounts of time together. We play games, we watch things – I don’t write. And you know what? That’s okay.

It’s okay to take a break now and then. To be a writer – even a good one – you don’t have to write every day, when you least feel like it. It took me a while to realise that and to stop beating myself up for not slaving over the keyboard for another few hours in the evenings, or to not feel guilty for enjoying time with my boyfriend rather than locking down into what is, essentially, a solitary activity. Besides that, as writers we still need things outside of writing; it can’t become our whole lives, otherwise, what would we write about?

So, if you take occasional days off from writing, for whatever reason, just know it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world, and those characters will still be waiting for you when you come back. A little break never harmed anyone. You don’t have to write every day; just write whenever you feel best to do so.