Monday, 26 August 2013

Art for Art’s Sake

I am an artist. Zones of conflict are my most profitable canvasses. In such states of flux, confusion invariably reigns, even without my intervention.

Those of the ethereal persuasion, or Angels, to use their own preferred nomenclature, have their place in the scheme of things; but guarding and salvation are such uninspiring avocations. My colleagues and I, who chose the other, atramentous path, have another, more stimulating, diametrically opposed calling. We are individual connoisseurs of damnation.

They seek out those from a compendium of virtues, or at least innocence, to shelter; but these qualities also make their wards attractive to us. 
It's in the ultimate disposition of target souls that differs and the... style with which we operate. We each have our personal modus operandi. My choices are predicated on very specific and peculiar gustatory preferences. Now, here’s a potential saint who will be exulted by suffering for my art.

Over Achiever Challenger

150 words


This story was written for Jeff Hollar's Monday Mixer Flash Fiction Challenge and won 'Best Prompt User' Prompts for this challenge are shown at the end of this post...

Jeff said
" Nick Johns for his story Art For Art's Sake. I loved the matter-of-fact, straightforward manner in which Nick's agent of the dark side made his case. This tale had an excellent ebb and flow to it that led me patiently along to a conclusion that was not at all expected. It is always the hallmark of a Best Prompt entry when the words are so expertly woven in that I am forced to go line by line to ensure what prompt words are even there. Additional kudos goes to Nick for forcing me to double-check the definition of "atramentous" to make sure it fit in context. Really well done!  

Things:          1) flux              2) luminary         3) compendium

Verbs:           1) predicate     2) actuate           3) chirrup
Adjectives:   1) slapdash      2) gustatory       3) ethereal

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Fowler's Wife

When my Mother disappeared, Father did his best, but it was just too much. He could only spend a short time below, even when he was young and fit. Without his love to catch bubbles for him he had to return above every two minutes. He brought food, but the diving drained him. One day, as the neap tide ebbed grey and swirling, he tangled in a cut drift net and, when I found him, his feathers waving farewell in the stormy swell, he was dead.

My Mother’s family, still angry with her over my Father, shunned me. I drifted on the currents, hunting in the shallows, riding the breakers, rending unsuspecting fish. I haunted the night skies, flitting across the water meadows, soaring and stooping on voles and mice in twilit hedgerows.

One sere cold moonlit night, flying the salt pan margins, I swooped towards a storm struck tree, to rest my wings (dragging a scaled tail was never particularly aerodynamic). I was snatched from the air, caught like a fly in an invisible web. I flapped and screeched but could not escape. I pecked and thrashed my tail but, when watery light from the rising sun stole sleepily across the hoar frosted land, I hung, exhausted, in a fowler’s net.

A wiry, nut brown windblown man, wool-shrouded against the cruel East wind, freed me, muttering in puzzlement, before thrusting me deep in a dank hessian sack and tying the neck with clever practiced fingers.

Peat smoke and spitting kippers announced my arrival at the Fowler’s hut.

Gnarled, knobbly fingers snatched me from the sack. I blinked in the smoke of flickering fish oil lamps.

“Woman! Come see what new freak of nature I’ve snared down by the Blasted Oak.” His voice rasped and he hawked and spat in the fire.

Gliding from the shadows, ragged linen shift wafting around her legs, her pale, fine fingers took me, gently smoothing ruffled feathers, aligning bent wing pinions with  fey, sinuous grace.

She pulled me towards her face. Short cropped hair, shining and dark like otter pelt framed sea grey eyes that sparked bright as midday sun through wave foam in Summer.

“Hello little one. Where are your parents?” She mused, voice smooth as a freshwater pearl.

She lifted me up, whispering in my ear.

With a sudden jump, she threw open the door and cast me to freedom.

I flapped furiously for height, the Fowler’s furious howl whipped away by the freshening offshore wind.

I knew my quarry. Banking and dipping I quartered the foreshore, before hovering over a half concealed, moss strewn cairn, shrieking raucously.

The woman skimmed across the wet sand, skipping and scrambling towards me.

She pulled out a tightly wrapped seal skin, flicked it out straight and sprinted toward the water, draping it around her shoulders in the last stride before plunging into the boiling surf. I dived after her, as, with a flashing flick of her silvery tail, my Mother swept towards the enfolding deep.

500 words


This story was written for Jessica Maybury's 'Merowl' flash fiction challenge

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Mum's the Word

Mum’s the Word

I shudder when I think of what could have happened...

That women might still have her. Hush now little one. You’re safe now. I know, shhh, you miss teddy Edward. We had to run; leave him.

Here, take Pog, I knitted him for you.

You’re safe with me now. Some Mothers shouldn’t be allowed children.

55 words


This story was written for Lisa McCourt-Hollar’s 55word challenge

In a somewhat erratic blogging journey - this is my 100th post!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

A-Z Book Survey

A number of my scribbly buddies have completed this survey, so here is my version.

Author(s) You’ve Read The Most Books From:
When I was a small boy I bought ‘The Camels are Coming’ in a second-hand shop, solely because the writer & I shared a name. It was a Biggles book by Capt. W E Johns. I then relentlessly hunted down and bought every Biggles book I could find. At one time I owned all but three or four of the almost one hundred in the series. By today’s standards they are almost unreadable.
My most read ‘proper’ writer (for those who acknowledge SF as proper writing) is probably Robert A Heinlein. 

Best Sequel Ever:
I hate waiting for sequels. I now often tend to wait until a series is finished to buy the first book. That way, if I really enjoy it, I can buy the remainder. This explains why I haven’t started the Song of Ice and Fire series!

Currently Reading:
Moonheart by Charles De Lint, A Wanted Man by Lee Child, The Flashing Type 2 (Flash Fiction Anthology), Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie. I always have a number of books on the go at the same time. I keep them in different places & generally only read them there.

Drink of Choice While Reading:
Tea (without milk) during the day, lager in the evening.

E-reader or Physical Book?
I have a Kindle that travels with me for convenience. Much as I appreciate this aspect, there is something curiously uninvolving about the experience. I have found myself close to buying the same book twice on Kindle, something I never did with all the thousands of physical books I have bought and read. I have a theory that the e-reader engages less of your senses, and to a lower level that the pulped wood version does.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated at University:
Star from Heinlein’s Glory Road – (in your dreams, Johns!)

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:
Purfume by Patrick Suskind. This was the selection of a library reading group I belonged to. My heart sank. I read it and, despite being a sometimes uncomfortable read, was (sort of) pleased that I persevered. 

Hidden Gem Book:
The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper. A series that is, I suppose YA fiction, (certainly the first book is), but it works with some of the old British myths and legends ina a way that made Moorcock famous. I find that the way the books grow up with the character very appealing. and I still return to it every now and then. The film (of one of the books only) was an execrable Americanised failure in a way that only Hollywood can manage.

Important Moment In Your Reading Life:
The Lord of the Rings, age 11.

Just Finished:
Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman. A interesting new fantasy, from a new British writer, with a firmly rooted British setting (in both realms).

Kind of Books You Won’t Read:
Hard core horror. I did the Stephen King, Clive Barker, James Herbert thing as a teenager, but found many of the mainstream writing in this genre vaguely derivative and lacking either the thought provoking qualities of SF or the epic sweep of the fantasy that I read in the same period.

Longest Book You’ve Read:
Lord of the Rings I guess counts; even though I was lucky enough to own three wonderful hardback volumes published by Unwin that my Grandmother bought for me. To my lasting regret, I no longer have them when the wrong box went into a skip during a house move.

Major Book Hangover Because Of:
As an 11 year old with the aforementioned Lord of the Rings. Fortunately my Mother, also a voracious reader, understood completely and went easy on me the following day!

Number Of Bookcases You Own:
Six, but I also own an eight feet high, fifteen feet long built-in custom made bookcase the whole length of my hallway. This was commissioned (and paid for) by my wonderful wife as a wedding present! It also meant that the piles of books on every flat surface in the house disappeared – for a while!

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:
I am a great re-reader. Among the volumes that I have returned to most often:- Lord of the Rings & The Hobbi., Ray Feist’s Riftwar and Serpentwar cycles. Heinlein’s ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’, ‘Glory Road’, and various short story collections, notably ‘The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag’ and ‘Waldo & Magic Inc’. Robert Silverberg’s ‘Lord Valentine’s Castle’. Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’....OK, OK enough already!

Preferred Place To Read:
Anywhere except in bed.

Quote That Inspires You/Gives You All The Feels From A Book You’ve Read:
I prefer notable ‘people’ quotes to literary ones. Many of them remind me of various books – ‘The covers of this book are too far apart’. - Ambrose Bierce or There are worse crimes than burning books.  One of them is not reading them.  - Joseph Brodsky

Reading Regret:
A very recent one. That I’ll never have enough time to read all the books I want to.

Series You Started And Need To Finish:
See answer B

Three Of Your All-time Favorite Books:
Three? Only Three? Are you mad?
OK, OK  I’ll try. But I’ll only include ones that I haven’t mentioned yet
Roger Zelazny’s Amber Cycle (the original family) Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (for all the revisionist, post modern critiques of it). Any of Christopher Brookmyre’s Jack Parlabane or Angelique de Xavia novels – Oh all right - The Sacred Art of Stealing

Unapologetic Fanboy For:
Bob Shaw. A now sadly often overlooked British SF writer (1931-1996), who wrote some especially good short stories. Check out ‘A Little Night Flying’ and Hugo nominated ‘Light of other Days’ (and the related novel ‘Other Days, Other Eyes’. But most of his anthologies contain something good – ‘The Kingdom of O’Ryan’ in ‘A Better Mantrap’.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:
My capacity to be excited about new books (or even old ones I’ve just found) knows no bounds!

Worst Bookish Habit:
Reading to the isolation of those around me!

X Marks The Spot: Start At The Top Left Of Your Shelf & Pick the 27th Book:
Ray Feist’s Magician

Your Latest Book Purchase:
Charles de Lint’s Moonheart

Zzzzz… Last Book That Kept You Up Way Too Late:
Most of them. So many books, so little....