Sunday, 19 December 2010

A literary gift for christmas - featuring some rather naughty norse gods.....dare you read it?

It is complete! It is finished! It is now winging its way to my contact in a competition who will pass it on to the judges. And who knows 2011 may be the year where my writing finally makes an impression.
So here it is, the reason behind my blogging absence, the story that has kept me busy all these past few weeks and the first tale where I show a bit of a naughtier side to my imagination. You have been warned! Enjoy this christmas treat from me and I shall blog you all in the new year! Have a good one!

The Trickster and the Tease

Kelly peels back the plastic, tears out a moist wipe and drags it around her neck. The coolness of it not dampening her burning frustration at another night of work. Slinging the used wipe into the bin, she cringes at the memory of how many common things have been able to touch her body, feel her skin, and admire her curves. Opening up her rainbow collection of eye shadows, she selects a glittering violet, dabs the eye pad into it and then pulls one eyelid down, ready for application.
She pauses; the structure of her face awakens old memories of an old man with one eye. A father who she hasn’t seen or heard from for over five years. Swallowing back the surge of emotions, she paints her eyelids, gives colour to her fading lips and coats her cheeks in foundation.
    Recognising the sound of tapping on her dressing room door she says, “Come in.” Her attention remaining focused on her reflection, running a fine brush through her long dark hair.
    The young man enters, hair as black as hers but in tight, little curls. He shuts the door and takes up his usual place on her leopard print sofa.
    “Looking fabulous as always.” He smiles at her back.
    “Thanks.”
    “Just a small group tonight. Usual rules again, after all we’re not a brothel.”
    “Yeah, I know.”
    Standing up he inspects her outfit hanging on the wardrobe door. Playing with the large purple feathers on her head cap, he asks with a grin, “Being a Las Vegas showgirl tonight are we?”
    Not responding, she focuses on the delicate art of painting her nails.
    Striding forwards he leans over her shoulder, their eyes finally connect within the mirror.
    “Remember all I’ve done for you.”
    With a horrid taste in her mouth she whispers “I haven’t forgotten, Luke.”
    “Who looked out for you when everyone else was gone, sis? Who was it?” He snarls into her ear, his liquor laced breath on her neck makes her body tauten.
    “You did.”
    “Yeah, me. Father knew the end was coming, but did he think of how we would survive afterwards? How we would live?”
    “No.” Mascara trickles down her cheeks, washing away her foundation, tear by tear.
    “That’s right.” He hisses. “He left us alone and weak. Family shouldn’t abandon each other when trouble comes, should they? Should they, Kelly?” He articulates her name slow and harsh.
    Revolted by the sound of her name, she struggles to contain the anguish he stabs her with. “Family should stay together.”
    “That’s right. So I stand by you because you are my sister. I look after you don’t I? I provide a home, work and safety, don’t I?”
    Kelly nods rapidly, showing weakening nerves and frayed emotions.
    He looks down on her wet face and ruined make-up and gently moves her hair behind her back, letting his finger tips linger on the nape of her neck. “But nothing comes freely to us anymore, sis. We have to earn our living. Think how many nights I have had to spend with drunks. All I ask in return is that you dance for them, sis. That’s all. That’s not too much to ask is it? To help your brother?”
    “No.”
    “Then show me a bit of god damn gratitude!” He hits the table with a thunderous bang which scatters her makeup palettes on to the mauve carpet. His silver snake torque band releases a brutal clang as the metal clashed against the wood. “Stop acting like a common slut. I want you at your best tonight. Don’t let me down.”
    Whirling out of the room he slams the door as his exits, the impact quakes through the wall to her mirror, rattling the glass causing it to fracture across her reflection. For a moment she sits there in silence, tears dribble through the remainder of her make-up. She wraps her arms around her stomach and mutters a world-forgotten name over and over again. Her tears add shame to her soul drip by drip. The shame is her fear of this unfamiliar, new world in which she is trapped; reliant on Luke to provide a foundation in their new life, far away from all they once had and those they once knew.

The ‘Ruby Lotus’ is busy, loud and dark. Men with prowling eyes linger in the shadows around the room, sipping their drink alone or leering with comrades, at the waitresses wearing their revealing Japanese red dresses. The noisiest group of men are at the bar, gathered close around Luke.
    Filling ten shot glasses, each one with an embossed symbol, he arranges them before the huddle of friends.
    “So gentlemen, shall we begin your evening with a drinking game?”
    “Jack’ll do it!
    “Yeah, Jack, mate, it’s your stag-night.” The gathered chant.
    The young man with ginger hair gives a bold laugh and accepts this drinking challenge.
    “There is a story to this game; do you want to hear it?” Luke shuffles the shot glasses on the damp bar surface.
    “Go on then, give us the story.”
    “I once went on holiday to Denmark and at this club I met this beautiful woman and her name was...”
    Luke tells his tale of lies, each rune marked glass being given the life and attributes of a woman. He explains how each woman was the other’s cousin and describes his many sexual encounters with each on his travels around Denmark. He lays a finger upon each glass when spoken of and caresses its rim.
    “All you have to do my friend is taste each of my women and correctly give me their names.” His grin deepens as he observes Jack trying to repeat the names of the runes over and over again in his head. Luke glances down at the shot glasses and gets shivers with excitement and magic, seeing the various powers of the runes infuse with the liquid. This hidden power makes each drink different, weak or strong, sweet or bitter. Yet to the unknowing eyes, this liquid is the same and comes from the same bottle. It always surprises Luke how no one ever questions the contents of the bottle, they always put the failure down to their memory and not the strength of the drinks they were taking.
    The game begins, each shot makes Jack distort his face with each new flavour hitting his tongue, burning down his throat and making his eyes water, allowing Luke to relish his trick at work. At the fifth glass Jack can drink nor recall the names no more, his voice weak from the intense alcohol.
    Luke extends out his hand, “That will be ten quid if you please.” Keeping his eyes level and his gaze fixed on the disappointed customer.
    “Ok, you win.” Amongst disappointed mutterings the ten pound note is given. “I’ll try it, before I have had a drink, next time.” Jack comments trying to recover some of his pride before his mates.
    “Perhaps! Next time!” Luke then drinks each of the remaining shots in turn and slides the glasses back under the counter. “Now gentlemen, if you would kindly make your way into the Show Room, my girls will see to your every need.”

Kelly and the other colourful, delicately clad women wait back stage; the corridor is full of sequins, feathers and the smell of cheap perfume mixed with the bitter tang of hairspray. She doesn’t look at the painted faces, all mirages of youthful looks, all painful reminders of how far she has fallen.
The glitter in her nail varnish catches her eye, she lets her gaze drift out of focus, allowing the sparkle to grow and overwhelm everything else. Beautiful, pretty things always enchant her, it’s the greatest of her flaws and her father knew it well. He called her, his ‘little dragon,’ for the way she would horde such treasures like the mythical beasts.
    “Gentlemen, thank you for attending our show. I promise you won’t be disappointed.” Luke’s confident voice echoes through the plywood screens.
    The women begin moving into their positions, large feather fans of blue, purple and white shift together and each woman’s face fixes into a smile.
    “These beauties are gathered here tonight, not just for your entertainment, but to bring to life, your every need and desire and make tonight, a night that Jack will remember through the many years of his marriage to come.”
    A rabble of noise, cheering and laughter erupts beyond the screen.
    “Men, I proudly present to you the finest selection of breasts, legs and arse you will find anywhere in this town. And they are all a hundred per cent yours, for this evening of pleasure. I give you, the Lotus Ladies!”
    Smirking with pleasure and his eyes sparkling with mischief, Luke emerges through the gathering stage smoke and music from Chicago begins to play.
    “I’ve worked my magic, now let’s see yours.” He whispers giving Kelly a hug before turning to the enchanted eyes of the other dancers. “Have fun with them ladies.” He slaps one woman’s backside as he exits, returning to the bar and his games.
    As he leaves Kelly lets out a long, steady sigh, checks her hair one final time, whilst the other women start the performance. She counts to ten and walks out onto the stage, to stand behind the already in place shield of feathered fans. The stage lights twirl around the room in a whirlwind before they stop and illuminate the star of tonight’s show. The intense attention stuns her for only a second before she focuses on what is required. She dances, blows kisses, caresses her legs and chest and loiters along the stage front. She dismisses each man who attempts to gain physical contact with a swift change of direction. With each brief meeting Kelly glimpses their dreams and desires, adapting her behaviour flawlessly to please them. Sampling urges and needs she applies them to her form, subtly enlarging her breasts, making her butt firmer, lengthening her legs, fulfilling their dreams in pieces, she twirls and stretches between their isolated seats. She brushes her jet black hair across their faces as she moves, continuously evading their reach at the last second. She begins to feel the power of their lust swell within the centre of the room, throbbing waves of hot energy towards her body. The sensation gropes up her legs, creeps around her waist and crawls on her breasts and neck. She submits to the raw magic, allowing it to weave itself into her hair, glow in her skin, enhance her voice when she laughs and gleam in her gaze when she looks each man in the eye. She senses her way around the men, inspecting their minds for one that is open to divinity. Circling Jack, she runs her hand through his short ginger hair, feeling sparks of longing shoot up her arms. During this touch a voice intrudes her head and whispers a name.
“~Freya~”
 Kelly pulls her hand back in surprise and tries to cover her turbulent emotions by whirling to the back of the Show Room into the shadows; she signals the other women to entertain the men. A surge of feathers and female laughter swarms around the audience. Stomach tight with panic and a growing sense of fear Kelly tries to ignore the name that echoes in her mind.
She struts back, swaying her seductive curves and begins to perform a dance of twists, leg kicks and poses with the pole in the middle of the stage. She spins and searches through Jack’s thoughts for his intentions towards her. He responds to her mental contact, pushing forward a picture that paralyzes Kelly’s core. It is an image of an old symbol from a time-forgotten legend, an image of three triangles locked together. This image of her past, of her family and of her secret, causes her to falter to a stop. Her hands fidget under her breasts and feels relief when she comes across the familiar shape, of the VIP room key inside her bra.
    “We are now completely, at your service, gentlemen. My girls can serve you drinks from the bar if you want one, please remember to tip. Jack and I are off to the VIP room, we’ll be back in a while. Don’t wait up.” Kelly announces with a fragile smile, walking towards Jack and takes his hand to lead him away.
    His mates call and snigger as the pair walk towards a door set on the opposite side of the stage. She unlocks the door and guides him in, winking at his mates who stare after them in hysterics before she closes it and turns the key.

Inside the VIP room Jack seats himself upon the one cushioned black chair before a single circular stage, a ribbon wrapped pole stands in its centre. Kelly by habit walks up onto the stage but does not dance, just stands, arms wrapped across her chest for a sense of strength as well as comfort. Jack smiles up at her.
    “Who are you and how do you know me?”
    “I’m your brother.”
The answer is so simply given that Kelly isn’t sure whether to laugh at his audacity or slap him. “Brother? Most of my family died many years ago. How can you possibly be my brother?” Kelly questions in immediate denial. “I certainly never had one called Jack.”
    “It doesn’t change the fact that you are my sister, regardless of what you call yourself these days. He said you would need more proof, to remind you of who you really are.” Jack smirks and reaches into his pockets and brings out a silver chain with a feather embossed in gold. “Do you recognise this, Freya?”
    The sight of her pendant, thought lost for so long, isn’t what stuns her, but the way Jack says her true name. She looks him straight in the eyes, searching his mind and feelings for what she daren’t hope for. He gives a loud joyful laugh and drops his glamour, allowing her to see the truth.
    “Thor?” New tears begin to ruin her make-up for the second time this evening.
    He laughs louder and harder confirming his identity. She wails out her happiness in a rush to kneel at his feet and cling to his legs. Thor strokes her hair away from her face, gently kisses her forehead and wraps one arm around her.
    “Old One-Eye’s done a good job on me hasn’t he? Even the ever so clever Loki didn’t sense who I was. Although Father wouldn’t approve of the drinking game Loki’s got going on. Not a sensible use of runes at all.”
    “Father? He’s alive too?” Freya wipes away her tears with her hands but Thor intervenes with the sleeve of his shirt. He can feel her entire body tremble and holds her even closer.
    “We’re all alive, just didn’t expect Loki to run off with you. Father was convinced he had taken you to safety when Asgard fell, but when he never made contact we all thought...”
    “Loki? Run away with me? No, he did rescue me but it was you who never got in contact with us.” Freya retorts adamantly.
    Thor’s face goes grim and he lets go of her. “That’s what he wants you to think. Father summoned him many times, using what little power he has left. Without your pendant we had no connection to you. We even caught up with you both in Edinburgh, but when we found where you were kept, you’d both escaped. Amongst all these mortals and with our powers so diminished it was like looking for a speck of gold in a desert.”
    Freya feels a deep chill; her trembles turn to vigorous shakes as memories of her time in Scotland scuttle up her back and storm into her mind. She remembers the many hands and mouths that have touched her rare beauty, felt her fine form; but also the grin on her brother’s face when he announced he’s bought a new club down near London. She recalls the surprise she felt at the fast pace of events and the rush of packing their few belongings, before he had her whisked away on a fast train south, to search for their new home. Could it simply be coincidence she asks herself; jumping as Thor’s hand on her shoulder breaks her thoughts.
    “I am sorry Freya, he treated us all like fools and we failed you. What matters now is that we’ve found you and you can come home, back to us, back to your family.”
    Her body stills as a new emotion is added to her turbulent mix, a feeling that overwhelms her past hope and fear in a tidal wave of heat and rage. She looks down upon her newly found necklace and clenches the metal deep into her palm, bruising and indenting her skin. The magic stored within it for so many centuries pulsates hard into her body, restoring strength to her core which has been bruised and battered by years of lies.
    “I think it’s about time we have a family reunion, don’t you?” She suggests her eyes dark with anger.
    Thor kisses her forehead before restoring his enchanted disguise. “We’ll come for you when the bar is closed. I promise, we won’t let him keep us apart any longer.”

Luke is counting and bagging the night’s takings when there is a series of thuds on the locked bar door.
    “We’re closed!” Luke shakes his head and begins to fiddle with the silver snake torque on his wrist.
    The bangs occur again.
    “I’ll call the police if you don’t go away!”
    “Oh don’t do that, they’re friends of mine, they’re here to walk me home.” Kelly explains with a pleased smile, appearing from the staff only area at the back, wrapped up in her long fur lined coat.
    “I’ve told you before, I walk you home. There are things out there that are more dangerous than me, for a woman of your abilities.” Luke complains, slinging the bags of coins hard into his banking box.
    “Well in that case you won’t mind if they come in and wait a while? They’ve come all this way to meet me.” Before Luke has got around the table Kelly is already at the door, she unlocks and opens it. A large group of men and women stride in. Each gives Kelly a hug and lingers in the entrance, casting disapproving gazes around the premises, which reach a throbbing intensity when their eyes land upon Luke.
    Luke moves towards them about to protest about their knocking, but he stops short, his body goes cold as he hears whispers of a name and familiar faces flash in his memory. His suspicions reaches heights of terror when a man with white hair, wearing darkened glasses and dressed in a fine tailored suit steps forward.
    “I am very, very, disappointed in you Loki.” The old man speaks.
    Freya saunters up to him and gives him a kiss on his wrinkled lips. “Hello, father.” Her greeting is almost a whisper; her hand wanders across his face and plays through his fine, wispy hair.
    He takes off his glasses to reveal his left eye, a ball of white marble, and smiles broad and warm. “Hello, my dragon. I am glad to see you are safe at last.”
    “Now come on, she was always...” Loki interrupts the reunion.
    “Silence!” Odin’s blind eye glows magma red. “You lying snake! I was warned about you when I welcomed you into my family.” Frigg stands by her godly husband, smirking proud upon Loki’s pale face. “Your crime is of such a magnitude that no punishment seems to come even near correcting your dishonour.” The last word is a snarl of disgust.
    “Freya should decide his punishment. She knows the full extent of his crimes. He wouldn’t necessarily confess all to us.” Frigg suggests, resting her arm over her husband’s shoulder.
    “Yes, that is wise advice.” Odin turns to Freya, whose hawk like gaze is already upon the trembling Loki. “What is your wish, my daughter?”
    “Remember all I’ve done for you, sis. It’s not like I left you on the streets.” Loki pleads and takes a few rushed steps forwards.
    “Restrain the liar!” Frigg shrieks and the boulder muscled figure of Thor comes through the crowd, with the lean and athletic form of Heimdall close behind. The two brothers approach Loki from either side and herd him back to the cushioned seats against the wall. He submits cautiously, his helpless look never leaving Freya’s stern face.
    “Loki not only kept me apart from my family but he also abused my body and looks to entertain the weak minds of men. I think Loki should suffer the same so no woman will ever have him in her bed again.”
    “What are you going to do, sister? Make me have spots? Give me rotten teeth? I don’t think you’re powers are strong enough.” Loki cackles with mock fear.
    “Oh no, nothing that simple but something where my powers are still strong.” She looks up to her two brothers. “Hold him still and turn away, as men you won’t be able to stomach what I am about to do.”
    Thor and Heimdall grasp Loki’s arms and hold them tight against the wall and push their knees firm upon his thighs. Freya walks towards him unzipping her coat to reveal a black silk dress caressing her curves and highlighting the silver and gold pendant swinging delicately between her breasts. Dropping the coat to the floor she kneels down at Loki’s feet and begins to unbutton his trousers.
    “I think I may like this punishment.” Loki grins, defiant against the stone faces of his family around him.
    “There is such a thin line between pleasure and pain, brother.” Freya kisses her pendant, inducing the golden wing to glow; it starts to throb like a beating heart. She slips her hand down into the musty depths of his pants to the hot flesh beneath. “Let me show you.” When she grasps him the pulsating light travels down her arm, along her fingers and penetrates deep into his skin.
    Loki’s cries of agony that night are loud and long enough to match the mournful howls of Odin’s wolves that still hunt in under each full moon.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Becky Bookworm Book Review - Wolf Cry by Julia Golding - Fantastic viking tale for younger readers (and adults)

Wolf CryWolf Cry by Julia Golding

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although this book is aimed at young teenagers I was hooked from the start. The characters are so strong and she introduces a side to the Viking's I've never seen before in historical fiction and that is the many feuds they have between each other as individual raiders and leaders, the cost of family blood feuds over generations and also the little known impact Norse raiders had on the natives of Africa and the beginnings of the slave trade in black people.

The over all tale is truly captivating and thrilling, you fall in love with the good people and grow to hate the bad ones. The ending is a bit of a shock and to be honest very sad but it is a good climax to the themes of belonging, family love and fate woven throughout.

I would definitely recommend it to any young teenager to read to get a good first taste of the life of vikings without too much gore and violence.



View all my reviews

Friday, 3 December 2010

The person you are calling can not answer the phone at the moment BECAUSE SHE IS BUSY WRITING A MODERN NORDIC TALE!

Wow it's been a long time since I've been on here - not because I have nothing to blog about I DO I just can't put it up yet....

You see for once in a long, long time since my writing engine stalled at the end of draft chapter seven  in Soul Chaser I've been trying to kick start it again by attempting to write a bedazzling norse short story for my favourite competition and I have until the christmas holidays to do it. I did manage to write one short story but it over all didn't satisfy me so I've been busy this past week (especially since I had 3 days of due to snow YAY) rewriting it and getting to know my characters more and their wants, needs and desires etc. Resulting in another version with a bit more of a climactic ending and I do believe one that satisfys the characters too.

I have also been busy fueling my writing engine by continuing (my also stalled reading list) with Blood of the Vikings by Julian Richards (non-fiction) and Wolf Cry by Julia Golding (viking historical fiction). Both of which I am enjoying and would enjoy more if work would only continue to be closed due to snow but that would be going a step too far I feel as eventually Britain would sink due to the wieght of this white stuff.

Another thing has begun to influence my life again and that is my evening hours on World of Warcraft and no I'm not addicted and I don't have many high level characters (one's only just hit the dizzy heights of 75! after 5 years playing the game) but I do enjoy the fun I have with my friends, one in particular is very dear to my heart despite being all the way in Denmark and it is him whom I have to thank for this blog for I have kind of nicked our old guild name which founded (when we were both horde - we've since turned alliance) and used it for my humble space on the vast expanse which is the internet. The added bonus of this dear friend is he is truly Danish, from the good old viking motherland and he is a genuine pagan viking. So he is of course a star in my viking loving crown because I can ask him anything on norse mythology and viking pagan ways and he will kindly take the time to explain it all to me.

So to the 57 (wow that was a nice suprise) of my followers whom I do hope read any of my viking and book-a-holic rants when possible I owe you an apology from disappearing from your blogger vision for so long. And although I may not be able to give you the whole story I've written so far (I must point out that the first part is in the post previous to this because I was that excited by it all) I can at least treat you with another sampling of my nordic flavoured contemporary tale. 

Any feedback is more than welcome - it is part of a fourth draft - hence why I'm sharing my draft WIP Soul Chaser with the world. Enjoy and I promise I will be back to my regular blogging soon.

Kelly fiddles with her shoe strap as she and the other colourful, thin clad women wait back stage. The corridor is full of sequins, feathers and the smell of cheap perfume mixed with the bitter tang of hairspray. She doesn’t look at the painted faces, all mirages of youthful looks, all painful reminders of how far she has fallen.
The glitter in her nail varnish catches her eye and she lets her gaze drift out of focus, allowing the sparkle to grow and overwhelm everything else. Beautiful pretty things always enchanted her, it was one of her strongest flaws and her father knew it very well. He used to nickname her his little magpie for the way she coveted such objects in nature and man-made, for the way she would horde them like the dragons of legend and how at any special occasion would wear as many of the precious and rare jewellery she kept in her secret stash.
    “Gentlemen, thank you for attending our show. I promise you won’t be disappointed.” Luke’s confident voice echoes through the plywood screens.
    The women begin moving into their positions, large feather fans of blue, purple and white shift together and each woman’s face begins to smile.
    “These beauties are gathered here tonight, not just for your entertainment, but to bring to life, you’re every need and desire and make tonight, a night that Jack will remember through the many years of his marriage to come.”
    A rabble of noise, cheering and laughter erupts beyond the screen.
    “Men, I proudly present to you the finest selection of breasts, legs and arse you will find anywhere in this town. And they are all a hundred per cent yours, for this evening of pleasure. I give you, the Lotus Ladies!”
    Luke emerges through the gathering stage smoke and music from Chicago begins to play. He is smirking with pleasure and his eyes sparkle with mischief.
    “I’ve worked my magic, now let’s see yours.” He whispers as he gives Kelly what appears to be a supportive hug. She gives a weak smile and a faint chuckle, tensing at his touch. “Have fun with them ladies.” He slaps one woman’s backside on his way out. She releases a delighted shriek and blows him a kiss. He returns with a wink as he exits through the side stage door and goes back to the bar and his games.
    With his presence now gone Kelly lets out a long, steady sigh, checks her hair and make-up one final time whilst the other women are on stage starting the performance. She counts to ten and walks out onto the stage behind the already in place shield of feathered fans. The stage lights twirl around the room in a whirlwind of flickering shade before they stop and glare down upon the star of tonight’s show. The intense attention stuns her for only a second before she too focuses on what is required of her.
She dances, poses, blows kisses, flutters her eyes, caresses her legs and chest and lingers along the stage front. She encourages, teases, flirts and ultimately dismisses each man who attempts to gain some physical contact. With each brief meeting, with each member of her male audience, Kelly glimpses their thoughts, their mood, their dreams and desires, adapting her behaviour flawlessly to please them.
    She takes samples of urges and needs and applies them to her form, fulfilling their dreams in pieces as she begins to twirl and stretch between their separated seats. She whips her long, jet black hair across their faces as she dances continuously out of reach at the last second. She feels their hunger for her crawl up her legs, creep around her waist and tickle around her breasts. She lets herself fall into the magic of these moments, allowing it to weave itself into her skin, her hair, her voice when she laughs and her gaze when she looks each man in the eye. She feels her way around the men, inspecting their minds for one that is open enough to divinity. While she circles Jack, she runs her hands through his short ginger hair feeling sparks of longing shoot up her arms. It is during this touch that a voice in her head whispers a word.
“~Freya~”

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Another One Bites The Dust - a Norse piece of Flash Fiction

The piece you are about to read is actually the introduction part of a short story I am currently writing but I am so happy with it already I thought I simply must share it with you all. Sorry to any Freya fans by the way hehehe Enjoy!

Another One Bites The Dust

She peeled back the plastic, tore out a moist wipe and dragged it around her neck. The coolness of it not dampening the burning frustration of another night of work. Another evening doing a performance she once did to the select few who had paid the ultimate price to see her, only her. She slung the used wipe into the bin beside her dressing table and cringed at the thought of how many common things and people have been able to touch her body, feel her fine skin, and admire her curves. All that desire was now as useless as the moist wipes, only satisfactory for an hour or so, an evening if they were especially good. She winced inside her heart at the memories of the years where lust and sexual dreams would have kept her beauty radiant for decades.
    She opened up her rainbow collection of eye shadows, mascaras and lipsticks. She selected a glittering violet, dabbed the eye pad into it and then pulled one eyelid down ready for application. She paused, the structure of her face awakening old memories of an old man. A man who had been the father she hadn’t been given at birth but filled the position so well. A father who understood her strengths as well as her weaknesses. A man who she hadn’t seen for so many long, lonely years. Just one member of the large family she once belonged to that lay as far apart as the stars. Swallowing back the surge of emotions she painted her eyelids, gave colour to her fading lips and coated the now frequent blemishes on her cheeks in foundation and concealer.
    There was a tapping on her dressing room door.
    “Enter.” She said without looking, eyes focused on the woman in the mirror, her hands running a fine brush through her long dark hair.
    A young man entered, hair as black as hers but in tight, little curls. He shut the door gently and then took up his usual place on her leopard print sofa.
    “Looking fabulous as always.” He said.
    “Thanks.”
    “Just a small stag group tonight. If any take your fancy let me know and of course the girls won’t mark him.”
    “Thanks.”
    He stood up and began looking at her outfits hung on the open wardrobe door. “Being a Las Vegas showgirl tonight are we?” He asked with a grin, playing with the large purple feathers on her head dress.
    She didn’t respond, just kept focusing on the delicate art of painting her nails.
    “Well I’ll let the girls know,”
    “Do that.” She muttered now fiddling with her jewellery, adorning her neck line and ears.
    “Well we wouldn’t want the group to be out of synch in costumes now would we?”
    She replied in silence.
    He strode forwards and leaned directly over her shoulder, meeting her eyes in the mirror. His glazed with anger. Hers gleamed with a hidden strength yet she could not hide the taint of fear at his presence.
    “Remember all I’ve done for you Freya, I’ve given you shelter, wealth and provided admirers for you more or less each night of the week. Without me you would be nothing, just like the others.”
    “I haven’t forgotten.” She whispered her voice breaking.
    “Who looked out for you when everyone else had abandoned or forgotten you, Freya? Who was it?” He snarled quietly into her ear, his smile dissolved into a threatening glare.
    “You, Loki.”
    “Yeah, me, even beloved Father didn’t do this much for you, did he?”
    “No, he didn’t.” Her mascara had begun to trickle down her cheeks, washing away her foundation tear by tear.
    “That’s right. All I ask in return is that you dance for me, Freya. That’s all. Is that too much to ask?”
    “No.”
    “Than for Hel’s sake show me a bit of god damn gratitude!” He banged the table with a thunderous bang, knocking some of her makeup palettes to the mauve carpet floor. “Stop acting like a common prostitute. Be the goddess you used to be. Because I want you at your best and on that stage in fifteen minutes.”
    He whirled out of the room, slamming the door making the few photo frames on her wall shake and tremble. For a moment she sat there in silence, tears slowly dripping through her make-up, a deep pressure threatening to fracture her heart and then the mirror cracked. That was all it took to shatter her will to survive into pieces.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Becky Bookworm Book Review: A spiritually special 'Like Bees to Honey' by Caroline Smailes

Like Bees to HoneyLike Bees to Honey by Caroline Smailes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Caroline Smailes creates a fascinating and fantastic world where the reader is shown the importance of life, love and family through the grieving eyes of Nina, a Maltese woman returning to her home island after many years away in England and rejected from her family. She doesn't travel entirely alone, at least not to the normal human eye. She takes with her, her young and sadly deceased son Christopher.
Upon their arrival in Malta Nina comes to see that there are other lost souls like Christopher, each wanting a pleasant resolution to the life they've left behind and it's as she listens to their stories, their histories that she not only comes to understand the suble beauty created in the loss and pain of death but also the immense joy and pleasures she still has in her mortal life. A life she sadly nearly destroys in her deepest and darkest guilt in her involvement over Christophers young death.

For such an amazing story with some very enchanting characters Caroline has pulled out all the stops in writing this remarkable novel. For once she has actually crafted the words to paint the story in our imaginations palet of colours. She uses sounds skillfully, she uses colour and font to bring to light each characters individual personality. The little titbits of life and history in Malta at the start of each chapter quickly grab and reinforce the readers attention, like breadcrumbs dropped throughout the narrative, leading you as a reader on a wonderful literary adventure.

I myself have used such narrative techniques in one short story during my time at University when I did a course involving Creative Writing and Caroline Smailes has shown she is the Mistress of modern narrative, master wordsmith of a great tale of classic human emotions and problems but cast in a way that will captivate todays modern reader.



View all my reviews

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Spread the love - of Vikings! My Norse Fantasy Book Recommendations and more on YA Fantasy Guide.com!

I have teamed up with my latest Twitter friend Stacey @YAFantasyGuide to bring a bit of nordic influence to her website packed with articles, book reviews and recommendations for young fantasy writers and readers.
After discovering how much she loved my humble viking obsessive blog and being a fan of mythology herself we got talking and decided it would be great if I could do a little article on my interest and passion for vikings as well as recommend any YA viking/norse fantasy books.
So here it is! http://www.yafantasyguide.com/mythical-creatures/vikings.htm 

Do check it out and spread the viking love! Even try a few of the books - Runemarks and Wolfsangel are my particular favourites. Let me know if there any others you think should be recommended and try submitting them to the website yourself!

Monday, 1 November 2010

A Valkyrian Sanctum First Author Blog Interview -MD Lachlan on Old Gods, vikings and writing

MD Lachlan, author of 'Wolfsangel' - Blog Interview:
We discuss writing and reading about vikings and norse mythology
  1. When did the idea of Wolfsangel first come to your mind?
    As I was writing. I began writing a scene about the Blitz in London and I realised that someone was watching it. That person turned out to be an immortal werewolf. The events of Wolsangel are part of his back story. I’m not really an ‘ideas’ writer. That is, I write and I see what emerges. I don’t really try to control things at all tightly.

    2.    What interested you first - Vikings or Norse Mythology or both and why?
    They’re interdependent. I fell in love with Norse mythology doing a project on the days of the week at school – Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday being derived from the names of Norse gods. That was continued through Marvel’s Thor and Dungeons and Dragons. Reading about the mythology makes you read about the people. I played a lot of berserkers in D&D.

    3.    Did you have to do a lot of research into the life and times of Vikings as well as Norse myths? Can you recommend any sources?
    I knew a lot already but I still did quite a bit and I’m still doing it. The Edda – the 14th century source of the myths is a good starting point. The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings is good too. I’ve found Viking Answer Lady webpage useful.http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/
    I have a huge bibliography behind Wolfsangel and one day I’ll write it all out!

    4.    Wolfsangel could be described as a mix of Viking historical fiction with mythological fantasy - is that what you intended it to become?
    I didn’t intend it to become anything other than a good story. I don’t really think that clearly about genre or anything like that when I write. I watch the story unfold, and don’t plan very much. That said, I knew the story had fantastic elements because it contained a werewolf.

    5.    Have you read any Viking historical fiction novels? And if so can you recommend one?
    Yes, I’ve read Frans G Bengtsson’s The Long Ships. It’s great and really contains that earthy Viking humour. The story meanders a bit and may seem a little unfocussed to modern readers but I really enjoyed it.

    6.    Have you read any Norse mythology fantasy novels before? And if so can you recommend one?
    The Weirdstone of Brisingamen is the nearest thing to that – and only in that it contains the name of Freya’s necklace in the title. I certainly recommend it, though – particularly to younger readers.
    I steer clear of anything similar to my work because I don’t want to be influenced by it – either trying to be like it or trying not to be like it!

    7.    The presence of Loki in Wolfsangel is a new take on this God of Mischief and Chaos, does it suggest he's your favourite or you have another favourite Norse God and if so who and why?
    I like Loki because he’s the only Norse god who isn’t a god of war. All the rest – even the women – are. He’s also only really mischievous towards the gods. He tends to help humans in the myths. He’d be my favourite. Odin, in the way I interpret him, is fascinating too but he’s very dark and odd. Mad, really.

    8.    How long did it take you to write Wolfsangel?
    Well the first draft was set in WWII.  When I decided to focus it on the Viking period, about 6 months. I’d been messing about with it for two years before that.

    9.    Do you prefer writing by hand or on a PC/Laptop?
    PC – well, Mac now. I’m a journalist so I can type much quicker than I can write. I also can’t think when writing by hand. There’s a link between your thoughts and the physical process of writing. It’s why writers like Bruce Robinson (Withnail and I) still bang away on old Remingtons. Their creative process is linked to the physical act of typing on a manual. That’s what they’ve learned to do. They can’t be creative on a PC. My creative process is linked to a computer.

    10.    Did you make lots of notes before writing?
    Hardly any. I read and what I need to remember comes out in the writing.

    11.    Do you structure your writing at all, say scene by scene? Plan each chapter? Write detailed character profiles?
    I start at word one and keep plugging away until it’s done on word 150,000 or so. Writing a character profile would to me seem like an admission of writer’s block. By the time you’ve written a chapter plan you could have written the chapter. My best characters – Saitada for instance – arrive as complete surprises. I wrote the two baby boys and suddenly realised they’d need to be fed on a three week longship voyage. So I gave them a mother. I thought she’d be killed on the boat by Authun. But – and I’m aware of how pretentious this sounds – she started talking to me and telling me she was equally as important as Authun or anyone else to the story. I’ve had a similar thing in Fenrir – the sequel to Wolfsangel.  There, the third Viking of a raiding party suddenly spoke up and said ‘you do realise I’m a major player in this story, don’t you?’ He was only meant to have one line in the book and now it’s his story as much as anyone’s.
    This is the approach that works for me. Everyone’s different, though, and some people swear by writing plans.

    12.    Have you always wanted to be a writer? If so when did you first begin writing?

    Always. I can remember wanting to do it as early as nine years old and that’s when I started. I always wrote diaries of holidays and parties and things just for my own amusement. I started writing novels when I was about 34 – which I think is a good age to begin.

    13.    What is your writing style? Do you have set times during the day/week to write?
    I write full time. When I’m into a book I write from 9 when the kids go into nursery to 5 when I pick them up. They go to bed at 7, I’ll spend a couple of hours with my wife and then write until the early hours of the morning. I do that five days a week and I write on Saturday and Sunday nights too.

    14.    Can you offer any advice or recommendations of any kind for budding writers?
    Write – set yourself a word target and stick to it at all costs. 1000 words a day minimum. It might take you 6 hours at first. Eventually you’ll amaze yourself when you knock them out much, much quicker.
    Don’t bother about quality, just get it down. Really, never, ever think ‘is this any good?’ – Don’t get it right, get it written.
    Then, in the edit, really bother about quality. Read Stephen King’s On Writing and do what it says, particularly about adverbs.
    And read. Read a lot outside of your chosen field. A major inspiration for Wolfsangel – though I don’t think it would be apparent – is Jean Rhys’s prequel to Jane Eyre Wide Sargasso Sea. I was really impressed by the simmering menace of that book and the air of grim inevitability about the heroine’s fate.

    15.    What have your experiences been like on your journey to becoming a published author?
    I was very lucky in that I got asked to write a novel by a literary agent who’d read my journalism and that book sold straight away. I wrote five mainstream books before going over to fantasy.

    16.    Has being published fulfilled your expectations?
    No, it hasn’t. I haven’t become ridiculously cool and I haven’t been chased by Gitanes smoking arty girls on the left bank of the Seine.
    The only lesson I’ve learned is that there’s no such thing as ‘making it’ as an author – not for most of us. It can all end tomorrow. Or today.
    I have  been lucky enough to make a living as a writer for 12 years now and I didn’t expect that. I’ve also re-invented myself twice and I didn’t expect that either. I thought I’d be writing modern comedies for my entire career.

    18.    How many times did you try to get Wolfsangel published? Was it alone or with an agent?
    It was with my agent. It went out on general submission in its form as a WWII fantasy novel. Everyone loved it and no one could work out how to publish it. I had four meetings with publishers who wanted to publish it but couldn’t quite work out how it was going to fit into their schedules. One publisher said it was the best novel he’d read in 20 years but his marketing department couldn’t work out how to publish it – what genre to fit it into – so he didn’t bid on it. After about a month Gollancz offered on it – on the condition that I split the novel into a series, starting in the Viking period and – in about 20 years if I’m lucky – arriving in WWII.
    I didn’t want to break up the book but it was the only deal I had. In retrospect it was a great idea and the book’s been much improved by it.

    19.    There has been a good but small surge in Viking themed novels in historical fiction and yours has added to the fantasy side of the genre - do you think there may yet be a chance of Vikings, in the fantasy side of things, dominating the way vampires have of late in the book market?
    No. A vampire is a powerful mythic figure easily converted to a symbol of sexual fascination. The vampire’s mode of operation is that of seduction. Really he’s a version of the tall dark hero who sweeps you off your feet.
    Vikings aren’t really as fundamentally sexy. That’s not to say they’re not interesting but they don’t stand on the same terrain of fascination, danger and repulsion that a vampire can be made to inhabit for teenage girls. At least in the Twilight form. Not sure where Nosferatu fits in to all that.

    22.    How much do you think English people should value our Viking heritage as it is often tainted by the images of horned helmets and raids?
    Well, the Vikings did raid so nothing wrong with that. They did a lot else too but, if you asked the Vikings if they would rather be remembered as traders and farmers or great warriors, they’d have gone for the latter. The horned helmets don’t really bug me all that much. If people want to believe in them, that’s up to them. In fact, the fact that the Vikings have this larger than life image might encourage some people to look into them a little more closely.
    I think we should value our heritage – and there are those who would argue that our heritage is more Viking than it is Anglo Saxon. I have heard it said that in the Domesday book Norse derived names outnumber Anglo Saxon ones.
    However, even though we do have a Viking heritage I don’t think we should use it as an excuse to think we’re better than anyone else or to prop up some far right wing ideology. I think we should see how enthusiastic the Vikings were to assimilate with the people they came into contact with and how curious they were about other cultures.
    There’s a  lot we can learn from the Vikings. The Sayings of the High One – Odin’s lore from the Edda – make a good guide to how to live your life.  I like the way they stress the value of the great deed and how much important it is to have lived heroically – in whatever form you take that – than to have lift comfortably and richly.
    ‘Cattle die, kindred die, 
Every man is mortal: 
But the good name never dies 
Of one who has done well
    Cattle die, kindred die, 
Every man is mortal: 
But I know one thing that never dies, 
The glory of the great dead

    20. Wolfsangel was a huge and amazing saga of epic proportions, I am curious as to how you can possible rival it with its sequel due out next year? Are you having to bring in new characters, locations, threats and challenges to entice the old gods back to meddling with human affairs?
    The sequel is written, it’s called Fenrir and it’s set about 60 years after the events of Wolfsangel – starting in Francia in 885. It’s a complete cast of new characters but attentive readers of Wolfsangel will know it’s not quite that simple!
    I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written and I’m very grateful that the book worked so well. The people who have read it so far – my publisher and one expert reader – have also said they think it’s the best thing I’ve done.
    It’s much longer than Wolfsangel – the famous second novel bloat – and it has many more characters. I found it exciting to write and I hope people will find it exciting to read!
Thank you very much for MD Lachlan's kind time and advice during this interview, I'm sure it will illuminate many minds of those who are interested in writing about vikings and mythology and I can't recommend reading Wolfsangel strongly enough to all fans of everything vikingy.
 
You can follow MD Lachlan on Twitter @MDLachlan, visit his website http://www.mdlachlan.com/
Here is my review of this fantastic norse fantasy epic, you can also buy it off Amazon.co.uk

WolfsangelWolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


MD Lachlan has become one of only three authors I can name who have magically blended the historical world of vikings with that of norse mythology. He now joins the ranks of my favourite norse fantasy authors being Betsy Tobin with her fantastic Ice Land and Joanne Harris with Runemarks.

He grasps the reader by the hand in a firm yet gentle grip of storytelling that enchants the reader as much as the characters of Vali, Fealig and Adilsa are bound by fates, magic and the gods of war and mischief.
It is a norse saga of kings, princes, beserkers, fair maidens, long ship battles, raids, kidnap, sorcery, runes, witches and of course wolves. Yet it is as fine a saga tale as Shakespeares with all its twists, turns, plots, subplots, mysteries and magical mayhem.

The story is so full of suprises both exciting and shocking that nothing is ever as certain as it appears until you reach the final page and even then MD Lachlan leaves a nice twist which will be the build up to his next book.

It is as it says no the front cover a DEFINITE MUST READ for all fans of VIKINGS and NORSE MYTHOLOGY. You won't be disappointed and you'll be left hungering for more like the wolves of chaos in the story.

If I could give this book 10 stars I would. It is that goood!



View all my reviews

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Halloween 2010 - some runic magic occuring in the kitchen

HALLOWEEN 2010

Now firstly I would like to say this, there is actually something viking norse mythology related to Halloween. The end of October is meant to mark not only the onset of winter and the long dark, stormy days and nights ahead but also when Odin, his godly family and his loyal valkyries set forth from Asgard each night to keep at bay the creatures for darkness who come out into the world as it gets darker. 
So if you're lucky enough to experience a heavy rain storm this winter don't feel scared at the howling winds, it's just the Valkyries shrieking with battle joy as they hunt down fel beasts, not the crashing thunder and Thor has probably just hit something dead with his might hammer Mjollnir.

This Halloween has seen me take my first steps into using flour in more than just pancakes and trying to control an electric whisk for the first time. It was a suprisingly none messy experience but a very creative one.

I decided to make some buns for the first time and decorate them to celebrate Halloween. And to show that I'm not entirely commercialised I've gone against the design on the ready to bake mix packet and created my own rune stone buns as well as a few halloween ones for my boyfriend.

Can you gues what the runes say?

"SOUL CHASER"

So may you all have a spook free Halloween, whether your hosting a fancy dress party or trick n treating with your children.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

A third author takes his place amongst the few who write superb Norse Fantasy - Special Becky Bookworm Book review: Wolfsangel by M D Lachlan

WolfsangelWolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


MD Lachlan has become one of only three authors I can name who have magically blended the historical world of vikings with that of norse mythology. He now joins the ranks of my favourite norse fantasy authors being Betsy Tobin with her fantastic Ice Land and Joanne Harris with Runemarks.

He grasps the reader by the hand in a firm yet gentle grip of storytelling that enchants the reader as much as the characters of Vali, Fealig and Adilsa are bound by fates, magic and the gods of war and mischief.
It is a norse saga of kings, princes, beserkers, fair maidens, long ship battles, raids, kidnap, sorcery, runes, witches and of course wolves. Yet it is as fine a saga tale as Shakespeares with all its twists, turns, plots, subplots, mysteries and magical mayhem.

The story is so full of suprises both exciting and shocking that nothing is ever as certain as it appears until you reach the final page and even then MD Lachlan leaves a nice twist which will be the build up to his next book.

It is as it says no the front cover a DEFINITE MUST READ for all fans of VIKINGS and NORSE MYTHOLOGY. You won't be disappointed and you'll be left hungering for more like the wolves of chaos in the story.

If I could give this book 10 stars I would. It is that goood!



View all my reviews

Monday, 18 October 2010

Me and my valkyries will be making a literary appearance in order to celebrate the Huddersfield Authors Circle's 75 years!

Huddersfield Author's Circle - October 28

Budding authors and those who enjoy poetry and prose are invited to join in the celebrations of one of the oldest running writer’s circles in the UK, the Huddersfield Author’s Circle, on Thursday October 28 from 5-7pm.
The Huddersfield Author’s Circle will be celebrating with an evening of poetry and prose at Huddersfield Library, as well as launching a competition which will be open ‘world wide.’
  
***Featuring a performance by me, Rebecca Wilson, reading a specially selected short story or extract from my many Valkyrie tales of adventure in the norse afterlife. I will be proudly displaying my handmade Valkyrie Soul Chaser T-shirt so if you do come along, spot the t-shirt and you've found me! ***

Guests will have the chance to ask about the group and learn how to join. Copies of poetry books and novels written by members of the group will be available to buy during the evening.

Refreshments will also be provided.

Huddersfield Library, Princess Alexandra Walk, Huddersfield. FREE, no need to book!

This is going to be a fantastic evening full of poetry and great tales from current members of the Circle hoping to entire fresh blood and raw talent into our collective group. And even if you're not keen on writing groups why not come along, share some company with friendly writers and learn about our great Creative Writing competition we've organised to celebrate the Circle's existence for three quarters of a century!

So please do spread the word about this great event - all writers of any ability or age are welcome. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Famous Favourite Author Meeting No: 3 in 2010 - An evening with Bernard Cornwell at Manchester Literature Festival

Me  and my No:1 Favourite Viking Historical Author - BERNARD CORNWELL!

This delightful meeting occured at 'An evening with' event as part of the Manchester Literature Festival this year. I only heard about his mighty appearence thanks to the information sharing of Twitter. And so of course I had to book tickets asap in order to meet and thank the guy who truly captured my heart and mind on the subject of Vikings.
I only ever came across his Uhtred Anglo-Saxon/Viking series many years ago when I was watching an evening long re-run of the BBC documentary Blood of the Vikings on what used to be known as the History Channel. In between all the usual adverts was a book advert displaying his first Uhtred book 'The Last Kingdom'. Of course I got it and was hooked! He created such a fantastically amazing world and so began my long lover affair with any historical fiction that featured Vikings. Which later introduced me to Tim Severin's Viking trilogy, Robert Low's Oathsworn series (whom I also saw at my first Huddersfield Literature Festival event - didn't get my book signed though silly me) and my newest favourite Giles Kristian with his Raven trilogy.
The over all evening with Bernard was very exciting even though I never got to ask him a question my hand was pounding hard with excitement and nerves as I kept going over in my heard all the questions I wanted to ask. Sadly no one spotted my hand waving frantically in the air but I did get some answers when others asked similar questions.
Turns out the the very character of Uhtred is closely and personally linked to Bernard who it turns out didn't meet his true biological father until the age of 57 (didn't know he had been adopted) and apparently it is from that side of the family that a family tree is shown to have relatives going back to being near enough Lords of Mercia at the time the story is set.
He also answered a suprising number of questions on writing - first he said "always write your story the way you want and the way that suits the story best. If a creative writing tutor says there are rules to writing don't pay him, he's already duped you. Always write the story you want to read first. Writing is a solitary process, there is only ever you doing it when you begin so just do what you think is right, not what other people tell you what they think is right"
Which we all agreed with and this was in response from an american asking whether's its ever ok to write in first person as his writing tutor has told him first person stories never make it. Bernard added "I would simply say, call me Ishmail, Moby Dick was written in first person and it's still a classic literature success. It's always ok to write in first person if you feel it suits the story you're trying to write."
There were many questions and many long and often hilarious answers to them but these two snippets that truly highlighted what a great and understanding guy he is.
When it came to getting my book signed I immediatly wished I had brougth my entire Uhtred series as there quite a few with nice piles of his collection. But he made up for it when he said "I like your t-shirt"  I quickly gabbled out that I had made it, he said "I thought you might have done." Which I wasn't sure if that was a good remark or not so I mumbled "It's a valkyrie from my own writing." At that point we posed for a photo and my fifteen seconds of famous company was over.
It was a fantastic night and I went home on a high. Meeting him has only further made me feel guilty for not writing Soul Chaser as much as I should be doing so I'm going to try really hard to get back into the habit of doing 1k in words at least a day and then who knows I might actually hit the half way point by christmas.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

A weekend not to be missed in Malton, North Yorkshire - My hometown's 1st Literature Festival 22-24th October 2010

Literature Festival

Programme
An Introduction To The Malton
Literature Festival
It gives us great pleasure to introduce the first Malton Literature Festival. Over the course of three days in October, we will be throwing open the doors of Malton and Norton to a host of writers, playwrights, poets, lyricists and lovers of the spoken and written word. We have readings, performances and workshops from established authors and newcomers to the literary scene. There's storytelling for families, a Dickens extravaganza for those who love the classics, an irreverent musical re-imagining of the Faust legend, and even an erotic poetry night for that frisson of something seductive and sexy.
Workshops of all kinds will be taking place for those who want to give their creativity a boost. Experienced workshop leaders will be bringing the craft of poetry and storytelling alive for first-time writers and seasoned enthusiasts alike. Whether it's expressing words through dance or writing your own rom-com, there'll be something for you!
We're especially proud to be hosting the Malton and Norton Town Crier Competition and to welcome contestants in our first ever Open Creative Writing Competitions. The winning writers' work will be showcased at our closing event on the afternoon of Sunday 24th at the King's Head. Our guest judge, award winning local poet Andy Humphrey, will be performing some of his own work there too.
What makes Malton unique among the regional literature festivals is the wholehearted support we've received from local businesses. We would like to thank all those hosts who have provided venues, ambience, and some exceptional food and drink with premium local produce to the fore. Above all, thank you for your enthusiasm. The Festival really couldn't happen without you!
Zoe Plummer. Wendy Loveday. Nick Thompson. Gemma Magson. Sarah Lally Marley. David Jackson (Town Crier Contest).
Friday 22nd October
  • 10am – 4pm Dickens’ Open Day at Scrooge’s Office
  • 7pm Dinner at Hope Central with Andy Seed as Guest Speaker. Tickets £5 inc. dinner.
  • 7pm-8pm Festival Launch with Music by Rob Nightingale - Upstairs in The Kings Head.
  • 8.30pm Erotic Poetry Road Show – Upstairs in The Kings Head. Tickets £5 inc. a drink.
Book Fair in the Milton Rooms (Fitzwilliam Rooms) 10am -4pm
Exhibition of Bibles Through The Ages – Baptist Church
An Exhibition Celebrating the Work of Herbert Read, Local Poet,
Writer, Academic & Anarchist. Malton Library.
Saturday 23rd October
  • 10am-3pm Dickens’ Open Day at Scrooge’s Office
  • 10am-4pm Contest for Loyal Company of Town Crier Members – Norton (am) & Malton (pm), incorporating a Junior Town Crier Contest open to all under 16s.
  • 10.30am Miles Caine & Oz Hardwick in Norton Library – Music & Prose for a Teenage Audience
  • 10am-12pm Poetry Workshop with Alan & Rose, Poets In Residence, in Ambiente. Tickets £7 inc. light lunch at 12.15pm*
  • 10.30am-11.30am Poetry & Performance for 7-11 year olds. Hope Central. Tickets £1.
  • 11am-12pm Musical Children’s Story Telling by Pied Piper in Malton Library.
  • 12pm-1pm Readings from African Children’s Stories - Insignia
  • 12.30pm Creative Writing Workshop & Reading by Kate Lock in Malton Library.
  • 1pm – 3pm Performance Workshop with Alan & Rose, Poets In Residence, in Ambiente. Tickets £7 inc. light lunch at 12.15pm*
  • 2pm-3pm WW1 Poetry & Open Mic Session with David Hughes. Bar 13. Tickets £2 inc. tea & biscuits.
  • 2.30pm Cooking Up A Storm with Sophie Legard. Cookery Demonstration & Foodie Literature in Malton Relish.
  • 3pm -5pm. Drop In Centre – Book Collecting. Tips on building up a book collection & book valuation with Richard Todd. Ambiente.
  • 3pm ‘Inspiration’ – Learn about music, moments & methods that have stimulated the writings of Harriet Vyner with readings from Groovy Bob performed by Quadrophenia star Garry Cooper in Duckett & Jeffreys.
  • 3pm Performing with Confidence with Jude Simpson. Malton Tourist Information Centre. Tickets £5.
  • 3pm Creative Writing Workshop with Ruth Hardy. Next Steps, Norton. Tickets £5 inc. tea & scones.
  • 5pm-6pm – Faust The Musical in Suddaby’s Festival Hall. Tickets £5 inc. a drink.
  • 7pm Dinner with Jude Simpson in Hope Central. Ticket £5 inc. dinner.
Book Signings in Hoppers including Emma Martin, Charlie Charters & Suzanne Marshall Book Fair in the Milton Rooms (Fitzwilliam Rooms) 10am -4pm An Exhibition Celebrating the Work of Herbert Read, Local Poet, Writer, Academic & Anarchist. Malton Library
*Tickets for both workshops are available for the reduced price of £10.
Sunday 24th October
  • 9.30am -1pm Rural Arts – Expressing Words Through Dance. Workshops for 3-6yrs (9.30am -11am) & 7-11yrs (11.30am-1pm)
  • 10am – 4pm Dickens’ Open Day at Scrooge’s Office
  • 11am Brunch with Nick David in Ambiente. Be entertained by Flamenco guitar & readings from Nick’s latest book – Feria. Tickets £6 inc. brunch.
  • 12 -4pm Drop In Centre - Writing & Publishing Your Own Book – Christine Bulmer & Paul Andrews. Ambiente
  • 12-4pm Drop In Centre – Book Collecting. Tips on building up a book collection & book valuation with Richard Todd. Ambiente.
  • 12 -1.30pm or 2.30-4pm Dickensian Lunch with an Abridged Performance of A Christmas Carol. The Counting House CafĂ©. Tickets £7.50 inc. food & drink
  • 1pm-3pm Lyric Writing Workshop with Sharon from Two – Upstairs at The Kings Head. Tickets £5 inc. a drink.
  • 1pm-3pm Allie Spencer. Readings & Romantic Comedy Workshop. Tuis. Tickets £5 inc. a Cosmo Cocktail
  • 2pm Creative Writing Workshop with Ruth Hardy. Next Steps, Norton. Tickets £5 inc. tea & scones
  • 2pm ‘From Lives to Literature’ – The principles of researching & writing biographies based around Harriet Vyner’s Groovy Bob & her biography of Jools Holland – Bare Faced Lies. Duckett & Jeffreys.
  • 2.30pm-3.30pm Whales & Snails & Windmill Sails. Stories of young eco heros from around the world for adults & children of all ages read by Nettlefoot Kate. Tickets £4/adult & £2.50/child inc. a drink & biscuits.
  • 2.30pm-4pm Readings & Talks by The Herbert Read of Ryedale Group. Malton Library
  • 3pm Romcom readings from Jane Lovering. Readings & Chocolate Afternoon Tea. The Hidden Monkey. Tickets £5 including afternoon tea.
  • 3pm Andrew McMillan – Unpretentious, engaging & moving poetry from one of Britain’s risng stars. Wills Bar. Tickets £5 inc. a drink.
  • 4pm – The Grand Finale Event. Prize Giving & Performances by The Exhibitionists, Andy Humphrey & The Scarborough Poets Group followed by an open mic session for all. – Upstairs in The Kings Head
  • 4.30pm What The Dickens – The Milton Rooms. Tickets £8 including afternoon tea. Click here for poster and more information.
  • 8pm “Cold Blood, Cold Heart” – From Book to Play – A Gothic Horror Farce – with the audience as participants! The Milton Rooms (in The Fitzwilliam Bar). Tickets £5 inc. a drink.
Herbert Read Exhibition & Readings. Malton Library. For more information on Herbert Read, click here.
Book Fair in the Milton Rooms (Fitzwilliam Rooms) 10am -4pm
Exhibition of Bibles Through The Ages – Baptist Church
An Exhibition Celebrating the Work of Herbert Read, Local Poet,
Writer, Academic & Anarchist. Malton Library

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Becky Bookworm Book Review - The Savage Garden by Mark Mills

The Savage GardenThe Savage Garden by Mark Mills

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The majority of the plot is a mysterious garden in Tuscany which a young English student is sent over to investigate for a potential thesis at university. It almost reads a bit like a mini mystery of symbols like a David Langdon adventure of Dan Brown style. Yet it is interrupted occasionally by the history of world war two and the influence of warfare and german soldiers on the family and household of Villa Docci. Simmering beneath the mystery of the garden is the mystery of the top floor of the villa which was sealed shut and has been since the death of a son from German occupying soldiers many years ago. It is this that turns out to be the most crucial mystery by the end although it doesn't take presidence until the garden mystery is solved just over half way through the book.
Over all the plot is smooth despite the jump between mysteries and the range of characters involved in each plot but you definitely grow to like and admire the three main characters which for me are Signora Docci, Antonella and Andrew Strickland. Yet at the end the mysteries now solved make the story seem a bit dry as there is no hint at all what the characters plans are next or if they all have a happy ending.



View all my reviews

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Business of Life and Death - a new and improved Valkyrie short story

***Please note this short story is a mix of two different short stories involving the same characters, same setting but a different plot. So if you have read/reviewed my first short story titled 'The Old Ways Never Die' then the first half is more or less the same with a few more additions but it is the second half which is different to the aforementioned short story. On the whole this an entirely original version so please do not think you will be reading the same thing. Thank you. ***

The Business of Life and Death

My work took me to the old Viking city of the north, York. I had been there many times before and each time I always struggled to decide whether it was better or worse. I sipped my hot cappuccino in Starbucks and crossed off another name on my quota. I heard the radio in the corner announce that a serious car crash had occurred on the A64, east of York, and the road would be closed for at least four hours. I wondered which of my colleagues had performed well this time.
    I gazed out through the open door and into the street. I observed tourists, teenagers and families, who passed by going left, carried no bags but the necessaries. The rest of the crowd, going right, held several bags from a variety of stores. York was always good at selling. It was a renowned trading centre in the old days and I am pleased it still is.
    A shadow came over me as Kate joined me for our first coffee break of the day. A silver torque bracelet, the trade mark of our group, dangled around her slender right wrist. She took off her large, yet oddly stylish hat, as she sat down, revealing her always shimmering corn blonde hair.
    “Just like the weather back home isn’t it?” She placed hat and bag under the table. She noticed my quota out before me and clearly struggled with the temptation to look closer. Her eyes switching from me and the list until she sat down and finally met my gaze.
    “It is indeed. How many have you got left to visit today?” I always found it funny at how competitive we all were, to finish our work and return home first. In our line of business we had to be competitive, otherwise the few clients we can catch would be absorbed into the massive giant corporations we constantly struggle against.
    “Have about, ten, maybe eight left. How about you?”
    “Same, more or less. Would you like a coffee?” My hand already reaching into my bag for my purse and also putting my quota away.
    “Oh no thanks, Jenny, perhaps once today is done. I don’t feel I’ve worked hard enough for one yet.” She fiddled with the drinks menu, looking around the coffee shop and watching the other customers’ que up for their hit of hot caffeine or sweet overdose of sugar from the cakes and pastries.
    The radio’s voice just about dominating the mix of conversations informed any who were listening about the sixth soldier to die in Iraq in as many days.
    “I can’t believe the Boss chose Alison and Joanne to go to Iraq, of all places.” She complained suddenly to my surprise, her hands folding the menu into even more tighter squares.
    “Are you saying you would have liked to go there?” This was the first sign of any interest in the jobs in Iraq she had shown, at least before me.
    She looked at me with a small, sheepish smile. “Well, it would be nice to do a job abroad for a change. I’m getting bored of Europe that’s all. I’ve been working this area for too long.”
    “You should have nominated yourself if you’re that bored of this place.”   
“So, where is your next visit of the day?” She opted to change the subject avoiding my rather accurate comment, refusing to blame anyone or anything but herself for this missed opportunity. I let her do so with a sly smirk.
    “The hospital.”
    “Great, I have a child to visit there as well.” It would mean one more child to add to her vast flock of orphans that she brings to our fold.
    I glanced through the windows, turning in my chair so I could see the now familiar towers of York Minster. My mind changed focus, from the present to the past. I could remember when the Minster’s great towers didn’t dominate the sky. Even when Clifford’s Tower was made of wood.
Landmarks, structures and even town names always reminded me about how much time has truly passed. In each case I remember how I came to be in the position I am now, and all I’ve done since. All the women on the team, like me, live a torn existence between what was, what is and what can never be.
“That night in March, I think it was, when all those Jews were trapped inside and the tower was set alight. That was my first job with you and the girls.” My voice became distant as memories drifted around me. I found my gaze had returned to my half empty cappuccino. I didn’t see the warm liquid but all the faces of those I had saved and lost, swirling in the froth and rising in the steam.
    “We had a challenge that night. What with the children and women crying and the men, well they weren’t being much help to anyone.”
    “Oh Kate, have you forgotten how you felt when you discovered the truth?”
    She paused, I could see the answer in her eyes. The endless battle to control the memories, the sights, the sounds, the faces, the emotions. She couldn’t have forgotten, no one ever does. The truth is the truth, unavoidable and undeniable. It is now a part of us we can never escape nor forget.
“OK, I admit it; if you weren’t there we wouldn’t have been able to escort so many to Valhalla safely. It was unfortunate that we had to lose so many of the men, but Hel must always claim some, we can never save everyone. Besides it’s not our fault that the powers that be took so long arguing over who should be allocated where. Lucky for them we don’t turn away suicides. We weren’t the Angels they were all hoping for but, after more than a century in purgatory they wanted peace with anyone.”
I chose to allow this change of subject. She was my elder in more ways than would appear in this light of day. She has seen and witnessed far greater change in the world than I had during my time with the team. I owed her a lot of respect for the way she aided my own conversion to this new life.
    “Our methods have changed a lot since then. Now we have to copy what the Angels do. It is not the most effective way of selecting worthy warriors.”
    “I agree. Things worked better the way they used to be. I miss the old days when it was all decided by the way you died, not by the way you lived. If you died bravely or by the sword you go up, if you die of old age or illness you go down. It was so much simpler back then.” She sighed, finally releasing the bent and worn menu to slowly unfold from the creases Kate had inflicted upon it.
The Bitfrost test is a method we now use to determine what afterlife a soul deserves. It is a method my Elders hate using but the traditional methods can only ever be applied in areas of war and civil conflict. I realised then that was the reason why Kate was jealous of Alice and Joanne. She missed the old days and its old ways. To go to Iraq would be to relive their glorious memories of centuries gone by. To perform their role in life the way they were mean tot, not the way human development and technological advances have forced them to. So many things had been twisted besides our method of selecting clients in order to survive such a secular world that the twentieth century was creating. We all feared the day where our original values would be so diluted that our society would be barely recognisable, to the strong, proud and wealthy society we were over ten centuries ago. As Kate once described to me, we were a small pebble in the river of time, trying not to be swept away with the ever changing current, struggling for our values not to be worn away into the dust of the river bed.
She glanced at her watch. “Anyway, as much as I would enjoy chatting all day, we have still got work to do.”
    “Ok, let’s go.”
With that we left Starbucks and made our way through the throbbing streets towards the York District hospital.

At the York District hospital car park we walked to a shaded corner away from curious eyes. Upon Kate’s nod we both took out a handful of crushed leaves from our sacred Ash tree. Once we had a good handful we blew them into the air. The fragments immediately glided out in a large radius on a powerful and silent wind. We had evoked the spiritual plane of the earth around us. Only spiritual beings, such as ourselves and those that have passed from the physical plane into this would exist, everything else became a background of statues. We both unfolded our bags into our luscious white swan feather cloaks. The contents of which were kept in special pockets so in either form nothing was lost. We strapped around our waists a leather belt with several sheathed daggers hanging from it. Every job has its dangers.
    “Mine is on the second floor, where is yours?” Kate asked after checking her own quota.
    “On the fourth floor. Wait for me here when you are done, I don’t know how long I am going to be with this one.”
    With a final nod to each other we strode back round the corner, across the car park and into the building. No one gave us a glance as we walked around the motionless people inside.
***
I found the man I sought in a room at the far end of the ward. He lay still in his bed, his drips and monitor leads hung loose on the floor. The woman who sat beside him was milk white with red eyes from tears.
    “Mr. Garret?” I said softly, sitting at the end of his bed, watching his eyes flutter open.
    “Huh? Yes?” He became wary once he noticed me. “Who are you? What do you want?”
    “There’s, no easy way of saying this, Mr. Garret, but you have, just died.” It was inevitable that he wouldn’t believe me. After all, a woman in a white feathered cloak, against a skirt and blouse, and holding a tall spear, promote the signs of a deluded mind.  “Welcome to the next life!”
    “Preposterous! I’m sat here talking to you aren’t I? Tell her Laura, you can see I’m quite alive can’t you?” He turned to the pale faced woman sat beside him. She didn’t blink. She didn’t say a word.
    “If you are alive, give your daughter a hug. Prove me wrong.” The only way for the deceased to believe me was if they discovered it the hard way.
    He shot me an angry glare and got out of his bed, unaware yet that his pain had vanished and leaned in towards his daughter. He passed straight through her and her chair, landing on all fours on the floor. Panic in his eyes, his breath quickening with fear, disbelief freezing his senses. I stepped towards him and offered him my hand.
    “It’s ok, you can touch me. You can even hit me if it makes you feel any better.”
    “But how? Why? I...I...was sleeping...only sleeping...I felt so tired...I...”
    “I know it’s hard to accept. I went through the same thing. Now can I talk to you about what happens next?”
    “Next?” The puzzlement and possible curiosity seemed to calm him down a bit as I walked him slowly towards the window.
    “Yes, the small matter of life after death.”
    “Oh, I never really believed in that kind of thing.” He reflected quite openly.
    “Yes, I know that Mr. Garret. Now, as you are not a follower of any faith for that matter, my Boss has decided to lay claim on your soul.”
    “Your boss?”
    “Yes, the deity I work for.”
    “Are you an Angel?”
    I laughed. “My job is similar to that of Angels but I am not one of them. My Boss is of an older faith. He has many names but you may refer to him as Odin. His followers once ruled this place when it was known as Jorvik. You will know them as Vikings.” We stopped at the window. “Before you begin your afterlife there is a test you must do first.”
    “Am I being judged?”
“In a way, it tests the person you have become, not the way you lived. We don’t judge everyone by their mistakes, only by the way they atone for them.” I gave a comforting smile, opening the window that looked out across a still and silent city. I pointed my spear downwards and engraved runes onto the floor with its silver tip. A rainbow bridge appeared linking our window to the ground below.
    “What do I have to do?” he asked, staring suspiciously at my runes and the rainbow.
    “You must simply walk along this bridge. If you are worthy you will reach the other end and live happily in Asgard, if not, well....”
    He knew what my silence meant. Even in death he knew that there was always a deep, dark and dangerous place to any heavenly abode. “Will it hold me?” he asked, shaking as I urged him forward.
    “It’s perfectly safe. Trust me, that’s it... steady ...see its fine.” Watching him stand for the first time on his own upon the colours. “Now face forward and walk, reach the end and all will be well. I hope to see you at the other side.”
    He was doing well at first, five steps in and it seemed he might make it, but then the true test of his soul began. Visions of those he had wronged in life appeared before him asking for answers, explanations and apologies. All asking for one thing before he departed. David was too set on self preservation to care about appeasing these spirits. He waved them away, pushed past their pleading faces and ignored their words. Then he came face to face with the vision of his wife. It certainly made him pause. Her lips moved silently with her spiritual plea to him and whatever she said he didn’t like.
    “It wasn’t exactly stealing Margery.” He mumbled thrusting his hands into his hospital gown pockets. “It paid for your new car didn’t it?”
    The vision of Margery paled and began to sob and yell at him.
    “Yes, yes I should have told you the bank was a bit tight but didn’t want you to worry. And my Mum was never going to use all she had whilst in a care home now was she? I mean, she had dementia Margery, she wasn’t aware of anything anymore.”
    His wife asked him something.
    “No, we won’t get done by the police, whose going to report us? I’m the person who has legal rights to sign over her money. If I didn’t do it then who knows what mess my Mum would get into. We might find out she has signed away her savings to some scam if I didn’t take control of it all.” He stepped a bit closer to his wife. “Look, I know it may seem what I’ve done is morally wrong but the way I see it is this. My Mum would want us to use her money to make us happy. We’d get it all when she passes on anyway.”
    At that remark the vision of Margery sobbed even harder, turning her back on her deceased husband.
    “Oh, Margery, don’t get so upset. It was only a few grand. Nothing more. I haven’t touched it for the past few months.”
    The vision of Margery spun back round on him with an angry glare and spat something at him.
    “What about the golf weekend? No, no that was paid for as a collective, I and the lads all chipped in for that. None of Mum’s money funded it at all, Margery.”
    That seemed to appease the vision a bit.
    “Come now, Margery, can we get past this if I promise not to touch Mum’s account again?”
    The vision made another claim on him.
    “The children? Yes, I guess we can save the lot for them, it would please Mum to help fund their education and the grandchildren. And yes, we have already had our fair share but I wouldn’t say I’ve robbed her before she’s in the grave. Now can you please forgive me? I am sorry that you had to find out this way.”
    The vision of Margery gave him a smile and opened her arms for a hug. Upon their embrace all the spirits vanished, leaving Mr. Garret alone on the rainbow bridge.
    I gathered my cloak and glided down to join him.
    “Success Mr. Garrett, you have proved yourself worthy.”
    “That was all a test? Does Margery truly know what I did?” The runic magic of the test fading from this vision, awakening him to the truth of the scene.
    “No, but the scenario had to take place to allow you to acknowledge what you had done and accept the responsibility of betraying both your Mum and your wife’s trust.”
    “What? So that was all unreal? That wasn’t really Margery?”
    “It was her essence…”
    “So I’m off the hook. She doesn’t know.” He smiled with visible relief.
    “Oh Mr. Garret that isn’t how you’re meant to react to this experience. You’re meant to join us enlightened, not relieved at avoiding such an opportunity for understanding.”
    “How enlightened can I get? I’m dead and I discover there are more than Angels in this world.” His sarcasm and frustration at the test revealing his true qualities.
    I sighed wearily, jumping up to hover a few feet above him and the bridge. “And now there are a lot more than Angels after your soul Mr. Garret. I must say I’m not disappointed, your life credentials didn’t bode well for you.”
    “Huh? What do you mean after my soul? Thought I was going somewhere with you. I passed didn’t I?” Panic trembled his voice as he stumbled around beneath me.
    “You were until a minute ago. You clearly didn’t genuinely accept the fact that you betrayed a loved one’s trust. Goodbye Mr. Garret, it’s been nice doing business with you.”
    The rainbow bridge had begun to shake, cracks fracturing the colours beneath his feet. A vivid red light glowed through the cracks as they crumbled away and opened up. Mr. Garret tried his best by running back up the bridge to the Hospital floor but within a few steps that end was already receding towards him in pieces. He turned to go the opposite way but that was also falling towards him. Screams began to echo from the blotch of magma red pulsating on the piece he was left standing on.
    “Wait! Please! Help me? I don’t deserve this! I want to live!”
    “The afterlife has no place for those that deceive. No matter the reason.” I replied to him just before he fell into the gathering abyss and the rainbow bridge promptly faded in shattered pieces.
    “Awwwww no demons in the show!” A voice called up from far beneath me. It was Kate, leaning against a tree in the odd piece of vegetation in the large car park surrounding the hospital building.
    I laughed as I flew down to join her. “No, not this time, he wasn’t that bad but he had the potential to be.”
    “What did he do?”
    “Not accept when he did wrong. He’d rather live whatever life he can get without ever confessing up to it. Even to himself.”
    “He should count himself lucky he’s only going to be a snack for Hel then. I hear the Angels cut out liar’s tongues and make them pronounce ‘Thou Shalt Not Lie’ until the Apocalypse.”
    “Who have you got to visit next?”  I asked shrugging away that gruesome image of eternal punishment.
    She took out her list from her bag. “A Lieutenant Matthews, a World War Two veteran.”
    “He’ll get the special treatment then?”
    “Yep, the whole silver jar and youth restoration treatment. I might even throw in an old flame to escort him over the bridge if he tells us a good battle story.”
    “Can I join you?”
    “Sure. But you have others to visit?”
    “Yeah, but I enjoy a good story as much as you. Besides, you know as well as I, a Valkyries work is never done.”

The End

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