Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Soul Chaser - Chapter Six - Trial of Water

Soul Chaser - Chapter 6 – Trial of Water – Draft one

I awoke to the world from dreams of starry skies, full moons and mountain tops. I regretted it with a loud groan, rubbing my eyes clear of the dreams still lingering in my mind like the fog of dawn. My entire body ached like I had done a four hundred kilometre run over and over again throughout the night. I was a good runner when I was mortal and lived as a human. It was my means of escape from the worries and troubles of everyday life. I wish my new life was so simple I could go for a jog and be care-free afterwards but my legs at that moment were protesting at the very thought of moving. Looking slowly around me I realised I was on a basic bed in a large roofed tent of leather and cloth. A table on the opposite side had a wax candle flickering its light over a wooden bowl of what smelled like stew. A smaller dish of bread was beside it.
    I lifted myself up on my arms, grimacing on clenched teeth at the tightness of my shoulder muscles. I knew they didn’t get this sore from a run. I staggered a few steps on my feet towards the table, snatching the bowl and plate and roughly sitting back onto the bed, before me and food landed on the floor. The food was as delicious as the mead of poetry and song in my mouth, I ate like a pig I admit, tearing huge chunks from the bread dunking it and my fingers into the warm stew and shoving it into my mouth. I groaned with the delight of it all for I was unexplainably ravenous. The meat was delicious pork just flaking away in my mouth, the gravy was proper meat gravy full of the tasty juices of the cooked flesh and the vegetables were soft and equally tasty.
The meal was gone in less than five minutes. It had given me new strength and awareness though but all I could remember was being taken from my duties at Odin’s hall. I stopped, the thought of poison clenching tight my stomach but in another breath I dismissed it. Surely if they wanted to kill me they would have done so by now? No, my kidnappers had other plans for me, they at least wanted me alive judging by the conditions of my capture. I heard voices and footsteps outside the tent so I urged my feet, one after the other, to lead me to the entrance and outside into the warmth of the morning sunshine.
    Before me gathered in a small circle around a dying fire were the nine Elder Valkyries and Freya herself. All looked up at me. Some with surprise, shock, curiosity, worry. The only smile I saw was from Freya herself.
    “Good morning Jennifer, did you enjoy your breakfast?”
    I stretched my arms as a yawn came upon me and as I did so I saw something large and white move at my left. I stopped. I saw feathers. White feathers yet the tips were dappled with gold and brown. I lowered my arm slowly wondering what creature was behind me and as I did so, so did the wings of the beast.
    “You can touch them, they won’t hurt you.” She said stepping forward a little, Mist rising to be beside her, a look of concern still on her face.
    I looked back from my leader to the mass of feathers. I leaned my right arm across and turned my head to identify this new friendly creature and did not like what I saw. There was no creature, no beast with its wings attempting to envelope me. There was only me. For that was where the wings ended, joined on my back between my shoulder blades. It was then that I noticed that the other wing had leaned over in parallel with my arm. My fingers touched the feathers. My feathers. My wings. I threw my gaze back at the Elders before me, Freya still stood smiling softly. Mist came closer, hands out in a beseeching manner.
    “But...but how?” Was all I could ask my mind struggling to explain what my I saw and touched.
    “Last night, your Ascension ceremony? Do you not remember?” She pleaded her worried voice making me even more alarmed.
    “Last night...last night...I don’t...” I didn’t get chance to add the word remember because in its place the memories did return. Of the kidnapping, the dark seas, the burning flames, the chill wind, the wet sand and the pain. The pain of feathers stabbed into my back like needles. My hot blood dripping down my back. I remembered the words I had spoken, the oath of allegiance and loyalty I had made to the gods and other spiritual forces beyond me, the names of each of the Valkyries before me spoke in full. I remembered Freya speaking beyond comprehension, a slash made into my already pierced and ruptured back and the full moon. I remembered my gaze forever fixed on the moon. I remembered my own voice, screaming into the night as if my voice itself was leaving my body to escape the burning pain. I remembered it all and fell once more into the blackness of my mind.

When I woke up again I was back on the bed in the tent but I was no longer alone. Mist, Hildr and Freya were in attendance. The latter stood leaning back on the desk, Mist was mopping a damp cloth on my forehead and Hildr was examining the mass of feathers I was lying on. Yet now I knew they weren’t there for the purposes of the bed. They were a part of me. I was a part of them. They were my wings.
    “How do you feel?” Mist asked, placing the cloth back into the bowl of sea water by her feet.
    “Numb,” Was all I could say for despite knowing the truth, like learning the event of my death and all the afterlife existed after it, this new truth was equally hard to swallow.
    “You will feel more yourself once you have moved around and gotten used to your wings. It’s like wearing new shoes; they just need a bit of use to be worn in.”
    I couldn’t not chuckle at such a modern phrase coming from a woman who had lived long before the idea of fashion had been conceived. “Feels more like they’ve worn me in.”
    “Your body will take a few days to regenerate from your transformation. It will adapt.”
    “Hummm.” I murmured sitting up with assistance from Mist at my arm. I glanced once more over my shoulder and saw the mass of white feathers neatly folded behind my back, like a pair of feathery arms overlapping each other. “Don’t know how I didn’t notice them earlier.”
    “The bones in your wings are light enough not to be cumbersome and as of yet you have yet to build strong flight muscles but once you are at your best again your new training will begin.”
    “Mist will teach you how to use them. Be proud of yourself for now, it takes a strong soul to survive the ceremony. You now have a fine pair of wings.” Hildr complimented me making me notice the unusual pattern on the tips of all my feathers, as if the entire edge of my wings had been dipped in molten gold and amber.
    “How come they are not totally white like your own?” I searched their faces for answers but Hildr looked at Mist, Mist looked at Hildr, both unsure what the answer was if any.
    “We cannot say. The Ascension ceremony you passed was performed no differently than what your Elders went through before you. Perhaps the Sun’s blessings came through a bit stronger to add colour to your wings.” Freya replied kneeling down beside me and admiring my back, she gave me a pleased smile. “Now come join us, enjoy the fresh morning breeze amongst your feathers.” With that she strode out of the tent.
    Mist helped me slowly walk out once again into the sunshine, dazzling me with its brightness. I had fainted for a few hours at least as it was slowly making its way above us again. I was lead gently to a space on an old weather beaten log by the fire. Some of the Elders shuffling silently without complaint to make room for me and my tender mood.
    As no one was forth right in creating a new conversation and some were still consuming their own stew breakfast I found I had opportunity to observe my mystery location. What I saw confirmed it was a beach, in a remarkably small cove, probably no more than a twenty minute sprint in either direction from where we sat before you met the rocks and white limestone cliffs tainted grey from the lashing sea. The sea had receded far back from where we were camped.
    “Where are we?”
    “South of Scarborough and east of Gristhorpe.” Göll answered blunt and simple.
    “Not Norway or Denmark then?” I was surprised such an important ceremony that required my kidnap wasn’t occurring in the ancestral lands of this divinity.
    “This is the land of your beginning; it had to be held here.”
    I gave her a quizzical look at the omission of the term ‘birth’ with ‘beginning’ which did make some sense as I am now aware of no ultimate end of life. On further thought I guess she was possibly referring to the beginning of my new life and not my old one.
    I felt a tickle up my back as the wind blew around us. It was unusually nice, like a cold shower after a tiring run. I stretched out my arms to flex my muscles and received some cries of surprise from the Elders to my left and right ducking or scrambling out of the way. I had unleashed my wings upon them unaware.
    “Ooops. Sorry.” I got a few angry glares but all faded upon the sight of my wings shining and glowing in the sunlight. I too couldn’t help but stare at them in wonder and amazement that they were actually mine. Judging what I saw each wing was just a forearm longer than my actual arm when outstretched so they would completely wrap me up if I tried. Subconsciously I lay my arms across myself and in doing so my wings came to rest one over the other before, an exact parallel with my usual limbs. “Nice.” I smiled to myself, lost in the wonder of what I possessed. I rested my hand onto the feathers that met my chin and murmured at the pleasure found in their softness.
    “They’re perfect on cold nights when you don’t have a place to rest your head.” Geirölul commented, prodding the embers of the fire beneath the cooking pot.
    “But most importantly they’re as strong as Thor’s hammer. Once you’re at full strength and have built up substantial muscle in them they can send an enemy flying through a brick wall if you hit them hard enough.” Freya added with a sense of pride in her voice as if she herself had crafted the very wings I bore. In a way I guess she had but there was more magic added to these wings then from her divine blood.
    “Much better than that flimsy swan cloak you had before, eh?”
    “Yes Hildr, much better. Will I have to give it back?” I looked up at Freya suddenly realising I’d be losing my favourite handbag.
    “No, you can keep it Jennifer, for despite learning to fly which will be its own challenge you must now become a master of guarding this secret. For none of your friends back at Shield Maiden Halls must learn of your new status and guardians. You are one of a chosen few and it must remain this way. Even wise old Odin doesn’t know the full extent of my powers and I would very much like to keep it that way.” Again her gaze had become that of a hawk upon its prey but it was down to me if I became prey or ally.
    “Won’t he have missed you all last night though? You were meant to be serving him and the other gods.”
    Freya’s gaze lingered on me before she turned to face the sea and the sun. “There is a matter of business I and Odin are dealing with at the present and it is that which I used to excuse me and the Elders from the feast.” Her voice was strong and serious but I sensed some sadness in it. Whatever this other business was it was causing her some great concern. I wondered if it was anything to do with why Skögull had gone off on her own that night I first saw the enemy I would be defending the twins from. “But think no more on it for the time being, as of this morning you are on leave from your duties at Asgard so your flight training can begin as soon as possible. You will be staying here, with Mist, until she has deemed your training complete.”
    “What will I tell my friends when I get back? They’ll ask why I would leave without saying goodbye or any notice.”
    “We will put the message out that you have been selected by Mist for advanced Runic Arts training which is partly true as she will teach you a few more tricks to add to your skills of defence and attack.”
    “Oh. OK.” Mist gave me a smile, seemingly not bothered about staying from the lights of Asgard with me. “Seems you have everything covered.”
    “You’re forgetting that you’re not the first person to undergo such training. We have our ways of acquiring the time and privacy needed for such things. Although it has been many centuries since anyone has joined our number as officially as you have.” Freya added ominously, surveying me with her eagle gaze.
    “It will be good to have some young blood to test ourselves against. You can only fight Hildr so many times before even she gets boring.” Göll received a tap on the back of the head from the offended party.
    “We shall see, come my battle maidens, let us leave our new recruit to her rest and trainer. We have other duties to perform before the Sun lies low for the rise of the Moon.” And as if to further show what a low rank I still was amongst these fine women or maybe to show what I had to look forward to, each unfurled their wings from behind their large purple cloaks once more. The effect was equally as awesome as it was in the darkness of the previous night. “I recommend discovering her power word first Mist; keep me up to date on progress. You have four weeks at the most before Odin demands further answers to our absence at his table.” Mist acknowledged her instructions with a nod. “We shall see you soon Jennifer, good luck.”
    And that was all Freya said before she lead her elite team at full sprint down the beach, cloaks and wings stretched out into the wind. I watched with interest and anticipation as those wings began to beat faster than their legs could run. Once more leading, Freya jumped high into the air and her wings carried her up, past the top of the cliffs bordering this small cove, the eight Elder Valkyries following her as a single flock. Nine large winged birds of the paranormal kind flying away up high and vanishing behind the wisps of cloud that sunny morning.
    “Did I ever tell you she was a show off?” Mist smirked with light laughter resting her arm around my shoulder as her companions for the past thousands of years left her alone with me.
    “I can see why you think that.”
    “Come on, we have a pot of morning stew to eat up and then I’ll start you with a few simple exercises to help your back and shoulder muscles gain strength for the new burden you carry.”
    “Burden?” I asked surprised at such an ill fitting word for what I could perceive as a genuine blessing.
    Mist just laughed harder at my reaction handing me another bowl full of steaming juices, meat and vegetables.

The simple exercises were in fact remarkably simple, just rolling each shoulder for cycles of thirty every half an hour or so. At first it was painful but once I focused on just getting one number higher my concentration blocked out most of the pain. Whilst I did this and ate the rest of the breakfast from the cooking pot Mist had gone foraging into the rock pools further down the northern side of the cove coming back with a handful of seaweed. She then ground it into a gritty green paste with pastel and mortar.
    “That’s not lunch is it?”
    “No, this to ease the pain in your back and reduce the swelling around your wing joints. Then by tomorrow you won’t look like a hunchback.” She stood up and came behind me before I could finish my mouthful to complain but humour twinkled in her eye. I was beginning to believe this was more of a holiday for Mist than a serious undertaking. “Just sit still whilst I rub some in.”
    My skin crawled with unpleasantness as its slimy, rough texture was spread with her fingers on my back.
    “Hey, don’t suppose Freya thought to bring any of my clothes to this camp did she? I can’t stay in this ripped and bloodied robe for a month.”
    “Yes our great and wise leader did indeed think of that occurring. You will find a selection in the large wooden chest at the back of your tent.” Even I couldn’t mistake the sarcasm woven in her tone.
    “Good, will that include wash stuff? I’m going to have a bath in the sea before I get changed.”
    “Fair enough, but you might as well change into some clothes you don’t mind getting a bit wet. The sea is a good place to begin some more exercises now that your back and shoulder are warmed up a bit. Plus the cold temperature will further aid your recovery.”
    “Thought Freya said I was meant to rest?”
    “She also wants you on the job as soon as possible so the sooner the better and you’re not dying are you?” She patted me on the back with her green fingers.
    I nearly threw my breakfast at her for such a bad joke but her gruesomely green fingers kept me at bay.
    Finding a set of rough everyday clothes was easy but putting them on was not, each time I stretched out my arms my wings did so in unison. After struggling for half an hour I managed to get a simple strap top down my arms to my shoulders but I had no idea how to fit them over my wings. Mist announced her presence by her laughter at my predicament.
    “Not as easy as it looks is it, getting dressed?”
    “Trying to but these wings won’t stay still.”
    “Adjustments will have to be made for the time being but it will get easier once we discover your power word so they are only out when needed. Give me your top.” I tossed it at her not liking the idea of adjustments which proved correct for she took a basic knife from her belt and slashed down the back of my top. “Here, it should wrap around you now. Put it on and I’ll fix it in place beneath your wings.”
    I held the top at my front across my chest with my arms and wings reaching forward whilst Mist rejoined the fabric with a few flashes of runic magic. “What’s the power word you and Freya speak of?”
    “It is a special word with special meaning and is unique to each individual soul. You heard Freya whisper hers when at the meeting.”
    “Hildr-watsit?”
    “Hildrhrafn is what she said and you pronounce it hild-her-raf-en. It means Battle-Raven.”
    “What’s yours?” I asked tentatively.
    “Mine is ... Vardrún it means Secret-Keeper.” As she said that special word I sensed a powerful burst of runic energy behind me as her wings were summoned but shielded by her long purple cloak. I knew if I said my special word then my wings would just burst out outstretched knocking something or someone over. Mist clearly had a lot of control over her wings.
    “How come my wings keep mimicking my arms?”
    “Because they are new and your mind still perceives them as one with your arms. Your wings have two major bone components just like your arms and the tip flexes as much as your fingers do. The majority of your training is teaching your mind to liberate its sub-conscious control over them so they can become an independent set of feathered arms. After all, you can’t fly well if you have to keep flapping your arms?”
    “No, I guess not.” I answered imagining myself flying over York flapping my arms continuously just to stay in the air.
    “There, it won’t fall off now. Time for a swim, are you ready?”
    “As I’ll ever be.” And followed her out into the September sunshine towards the distant surf of the North Sea. “Erm, Mist? How can I swim if my wings mimic my arms?”
    “Ah yes, well that is why we’re only going to be exercising in the shallow part of the tide today. So you’ll be sitting no more than a foot in the actual sea. You won’t be swimming for proper for a while yet. For today you’ll just be getting a bit wet.” She added picking up two large towels that were warming by the embers of the fire.
    I walked with her up towards the distant sea as it receded from the beach. Once we our feet were getting wet she told me to stop. The cold waters were already making my legs shiver and I wasn’t looking forward to getting any wetter than I already was.
    Mist laid out a towel upon the waterlogged sand. “Kneel down and then lay yourself face down upon it. Keep your arms straight by your sides as you do so.”
    I did with a bit of an unbalanced wobble and met the cold water seeping through the towel fabric. At least the sand wasn’t getting in between my bra. “Now what?” I mumbled turning my head a bit on the ground to see where she had gone and then I felt her kneel over my straight legs.
    “Don’t panic, I’m here to position and balance your body better. What I’m going to ask you to do will make your body wriggle a bit as we try to loosen your sub-conscience. Now here’s what I need you to do. Continue to keep your arms straight, they must not move, they must not lift up an inch. I want you to keep your entire body rigid and just focus on your wings and the new muscles you have. I want you to focus on them and try to get them to stretch out slowly and then collapse back on your back. It’s all about rewiring your mind and creating new nerve connections to these new limbs.”
    Now that sounded fairly simple but believe me your sub-conscience may be easy to trick when hypnotised but when it’s hypnotised itself into believing my two white limbs are the same as my arms, well, it’s like breaking the most unbreakable safe in the world and all you have is a hammer. I followed Mist’s instructions as best I could as I lay there cold and wet but all I could managed to shrugging shoulders a lot, tensing my shoulders, arching my back, upon thinking of outstretching my arms tried to move and Mist had to pin them down many times. I kept writhing about trying to do this simplest of actions for what felt like ages.
    “Aaaaaah! I give in! I can’t do it!” I had had enough salt water in my mouth during the struggle and I was getting more and more frustrated.
    “You’re not moving until you’ve stretched out one wing Jennifer. You can do this. It only seems hard because you’re trying to override an internal communication. You just need to focus more. Your mind and body act as if your wings are attached to your shoulders like your arms are but they’re not. Your wings are joined here. In the space of muscle between your shoulders and where your bra strap is.” She dug some fingers in to the small gap between my wing joints to emphasis the point. “Roll your shoulder backwards, slowly and you’ll see.”
     I lean in on m right so I could rotate my left shoulder and as I did so I felt something different, large, tense on my back.
    Mist must have seen the puzzlement on my face because she confirmed my suspicion. “Did you feel it? That’s your normal muscles tightening around the wing joint bone and the muscle anchoring it to your spine. That’s the joint you need to focus on and control.”
    “How come I didn’t feel it by the fire?”
    “You were doing the exercise fairly briskly and so were unaware of the contact between your back muscles and the wing joint. Do it slowly and you will notice the change in tension and where it occurs. Now you have to focus hard on that area, try and ignore all the other limbs of your body and try and move that joint, flex those muscles and stretch that wing. Once you’ve done one wing it will all become easier quickly.”
     “Ok.” I took a deep breath and let my body lay still. I relaxed my arms, my legs, trying to disconnect them from the will of my mind. Keeping my breathing steady and slow I let my mind wander through the feelings of muscle on my back, recalling the rough area where I felt something new in my body structure. I felt tension begin to build in the area I just had to unlock it into movement. I tried to imagine that tense areas of muscle on my back were my shoulders and the limb attached to it was my arm. I nearly lost the control when I became aware of the wind rustling the feathers on my back.
    “That’s it. Keep focusing.” Mist encouraged seeing that I had managed to keep my body entirely still.
    “Now that I was aware of joint and of the limb as separate from my arms I had to move it before I lost all control for it was starting to give me a headache. The wind in my feathers awoke my mind to how the wings were folded on my back and I began to imagine slowly unfolding those limbs, bringing the tip out away from my body then slowly pushing it further away taking the rest of the limb in its wake.
    “Open your eyes Jenny.” Mist said startling me out of my deep concentration and I gasped with delight at what I saw before it vanished. For a small part of time I had done it. I had outstretched my right wing independent of my arms. “That’s one small step towards flying but one big step for you, Miss Jennifer Wallace.” 
    “Great, can I get up now? All I can taste is salt.”
    “No, we strike whilst the iron is still hot. I want to see you stretch the left wing now and in half the time.”
    I groaned with a proud smile at the challenge, my dreams of starry skies and mountain tops set in my mind as the ultimate prize for my efforts.        

Click here to go on to read Soul Chaser - Chapter Seven - Secrets of Runes

Monday, 30 August 2010

Becky Bookworm Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman - a touch of the Norse across the Atlantic

American GodsAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is a saga as complex, thrilling, scary, mysterious, challenging and exciting as being Alice and going through the rabbit hole into an entirely different world.

Neil Gaiman introduces the reader to a wide cast of characters each with their own historical story and meaning and each with their own unique suffering for existing in the large landscape of America.

The plot is so full of turns, twists, backtracks that it is hard even to sum up.

But the over all story does touch on something that I have a good feeling about as it is a point of view that I apply in my own writing.

What is important about our spiritual beliefs? What happens when those beliefs fade? What happens to those stories and heroes and gods who live off our belief? How do they survive such a secular world?

Those questions are explored through a quite foreign mythical person of Mr Wednesday (I won't reveal his true name) and the normal human he's brought into his employment Shadow a man who has his own problems and soon learns he is meant to help with many supernatural problems around America.

It is a long and deep read but each chapter has its own significance and each character has its own appeal and in the end all questions created are answered and it left me with the answer that our beliefs are important because we choose to believe in them.



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Thursday, 26 August 2010

What ever happened to Cinderella and Prince Charming? - Michelle Argyle knows - Cinders Review



CindersCinders by Michelle Davidson Argyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Rewriting classic tales or legends is as tricky as a cubix cube. I should know because I write a modern twist on norse mythology. The risk is changing it beyond its former self. And Michelle Davidson Argyle has managed to just about stay within that boundary of familiarity and change. She does breath some new life into characters such as the fairy godmother *warning - forget the classic old lady from disney) as she gives her a history and her own magic secrets. She introduces us to the reality of being a princess instead of having Cinderella's happy ever after being simple happiness - which there is but there are also many real human difficulties such as overly powerful parent inlaws, the conflict created by being a simple hard working girl thrust into a world of court politics and royal responsibility. But thats where things kind of stand for plausability as a genuine future of Cinderella as Michelle then introduces the stranger - both to us and the main character - whose presence many years ago still haunts her. It leads Cinderella to do a lot of thinking over her decisions and where she has got in life and more importantly how. Without giving too much away new characters soon become especially important in order for Cinderella to try and gain true happiness but she must suffer to reach it. There are secrets kept, fresh magic cast, even blood is spilt. The ending however I feel is a bit of a flat conclusion, I won't say if Cinderella got the ending she deserved but that's one thing Michelle makes you think about after you've finished reading. It is definitely an original and more adult depiction of the fairy tale where everything is well once the girl has her prince. It will test your belief and faith of the happy ever after theme.



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If you'd like to buy Cinders and discover this unique take on a classic fairy tale please visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1453629955?ie=UTF8&tag=thelitlab-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1453629955 
It is also available as an E-book for Kindle on Amazon.co.uk - just search author name.

To find out more about Michelle Davidson Argyle please visit her blog at http://www.michelledavidsonargyle.com/

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

My Viking Saga of adventures in the Anglo-Saxon land of Wessex (aka holiday in Dorset)

I have returned! I have travelled to the heart of Anglo-Saxon terrirtory and survived to tell the tale. Sadly no great plunder or heads brought back but many fine tales and memories instead.
There were however quite a few interesting and suprising norse occurances.
Firstly there was my beautiful birthday gift from my anglo-saxon relatives:
A special runic gift for my 23rd. A rune of creativity on Twitpic
It is a special bind rune bought on my aunt and uncle's cruise to Iceland and Norway. It is meant to inspire creativity in those who understand the creative forces of life. Perfect for my writing!

Secondly is a special talisman I treated myself to in the witch town of Burely in the New Forset:
My holiday treat. A bronze travellers charm with runes on the... on Twitpic
Very beautiful and suprisingly light to wear - the runes engraved on the back as 'Venture forth and fear no harm'.

Thirdly was an unusual momument, in what it was standing as a memorial for, that I discovered in Swanage beach.
Who'd have thought the Victorians (it was erected in 1862) would have even remembered this battle occuring. I certainly didn't! And from what I've read in books about vikings in Dorset apparently a fleet was shipwrecked outside the harbour and survivors were attacked as they crawled up Swanage beach. But I will definitely research this event more.

Fourthly was a special drink beloved of the Vikings:
That's right! PROPER MEAD! I did try some of it myself but sadly although sweet at first the strength of the alcohol I didn't like. I'm beginning to think I just don't like any drink that contains alcohol lol. So sadly I do not have a viking stomach despite my viking obsessed heart.

Other than that it was the typical family holiday, visited the zoo, went on a steam engine to Corfe Castle and Swanage, had a barbeque, went shopping in Poole (which I was delighted to learn upon reading in local history books was run by vikings during their earliest attacks. Poole Harbour being a prime spot for launching more attacks.) And of course relaxing by my relatives outdoor pool on Monday when we had the best sunshine and hottest temperatures reading 'American Gods' by Neil Gaiman. Still haven't finished it because were so busy I was always tired when we got back to the holiday cottage so I just hit the sack each night. Only managed to read on the long car journey up and down the country. Thus I didn't do any writing or editing either although I had it all with me. Still got a backlog of writing magazines to read through!

So now I'm back and due to hit working full time again tomorrow in preparation for masses of teenagers entering our college for the first time. Will have to start practicing my adult voice again. Hopefully though I can return to the writing habit I managed to start before my long absence of writing 1k of words a night.

*Fingers crossed*

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

My birthday dream of a being a viking - almost come true.....

Now everyone who knows me knows I love anything to do with vikings and their mythology or history or culture. So where perfect to celebrate my 23rd birthday but in my home city of York aka Jorvik, where I was born 23 years ago and what better to do on such a special day then dress up as a viking. Me and my boyfriend visited the Past Images photography shop in York where you can dress up from many periods in history. I wanted to be a viking warrior with sword and shield but alas costume cut backs meants I lost my chance but she offered me the next best thing - to be a sword maiden. I thought, well, its not totally vikingy in costume but at least it would be valkyrie-esque in nature. So I picked a lovely galadriel style dress, got a fancy sword and posed for about ten shots. Then I chose a background of worthy warriors and what you find beneat is the result of my special birthday picture shoot:

"On the day she became twenty years and three of age, the power of all her female descendants passed into her and so she emerged the new day transformed - A Valkyrie! With a legion of undead warriors always protecting her from the shadows of the unseeing eye, ready to fulfill their oath at her call."
Aren't I cool or what! I hope I do my valkyries proud.

Last post until I'm back on holiday so I hope you all have as much fun as I do! May the sun shine for all of us. See you in a weeks time with more adventures and photos to show and tell.

Monday, 9 August 2010

A lone Viking warrior travels to Jorvik and then onto Wessex - home of the Anglo-Saxons (aka Holiday)

Right this is my final blog post for two weeks and here are the reasons why:

1) It is my 23rd birthday tomorrow (10th Aug) so I'm heading back to celebrate with family and BF. My 23rd is going to be particularly unique to me as I am making a day trip to good old Jorvik (aka York) to visit this fantastic Past Images photography shop where you can dress up in a range of time periods and have a professional photograph taken. Can you guess which time period I'm going to choose................... VIKINGS! Yep! I'm going to be for a small fraction of time a female viking warrior for my 23rd birthday. Hopefully I'll do my Valkyries proud and not look to ridiculous. Will try and get finished photo up on FB and my Twitpic if old laptop behaves itself.


2) My family and I are on holiday to the ancient realms of the Anglo-Saxons - Wessex (aka Dorset) from this coming Saturday so I'm spending the rest of this week at home until we travel down and then I won't be back until the 23rd. huh? Isn't that a funny number to crop up again....

But do not fear my followers, with a mother and sister as fiesty as can celt no Anglo-Saxon will be taking me hostage. Unless they offer me something vikingy hehehehe.

So my blog won't be kept up to date with my holiday and birthday adventures until I return two weeks hence but I will notify when I can via Twitter (@valkyrie1008) so do keep a look out for my tweets during the time of my absence.

Rest assured that I will have many sagas to tell and many pictures of my adventures to show you all upon my return. Plus I may even have a few new chapters to add from Soul Chaser as I do intend to try and get some writing done whilst I'm away using the traditional method of pen and paper.

So until I return - may Frigg guide you and Freya guard you.

Friday, 6 August 2010

'I Am No Angel' Short Story - New version rewritten

Now some of you may remember most of this story from when I wrote it for the Writers Carnival organised by a blogging/twitter friend of mine but I set myself to improving and lengthening it for the purpose of entering it into the Aesthetica Creatvie Works contest which closes on 31st August (see http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/submission_guide.htm for more details). I have just finished it. I feel it is a lot better and the character of Mr Garret now is more developed so the reader should feel a bit more for him. So please spare no more than ten minutes to read it below and give as much feedback as you can. All help and support is encouraged and appreciated.

I Am No Angel                                   Word Count: 1965


“Isn’t it a beautiful day?” Kate asked finally joining me at Starbucks for our lunch break.

            “It’s pleasant. Have you started filling your quota yet?”

            “Yes, half way through already, how about you?”

            I nodded, draining the last of my coffee and took out my list of fifty names. “I have a few to visit at the hospital and an old people’s home.”

            “Ugh old people. We weren’t created to watch their inglorious death. We need warriors. Men of honour, courage and strength. Men who died by the sword. Not killed by disease, old age and accidents.”

            “If we didn’t make exceptions you know our numbers would dwindle into non-existence. There are too many faiths and so few believers.”

            “Oh I do miss the old days and our old ways.” She sighed. “Well I have a child to visit in the hospital so why don’t we go together?”

            “Fine by me.” We left our seats in the shade and made our way through the throbbing streets of York.



Once at the hospital car park, we casually walked to a quiet corner, away from curious eyes, where we prepared and equipped ourselves for the job.

            “Mine is on the second floor where is yours?” Kate asked, checking her own quota.

            “Fourth floor. Wait for me here when you are done.”

            With a final nod to each other we strode purposefully back round the corner across the car park and into the building. No one gave us a glance and no one got in our way.

***

I found the man I sought in a room at the 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.

            “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.

            “I’m afraid you are, Mr. Garret. But if you are alive, give your daughter a hug. Prove me wrong.”

            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, landing on all fours on the floor. Panic in his eyes, his breath quickening with fear, disbelief freezing his heart. 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.”

            “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, but you know of them as Vikings. 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.” I gave a comforting smile, opening up a 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. “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 his 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 that 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 a 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?”

            “No, but the scenario had to take place to allow you to acknowledge what you had done and accept the responsibility of betraying your Mum and 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.”

            “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.”

            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 in his voice as he stumbled around beneath me.

            “You were until a minute ago when you clearly didn’t genuinely accept the fact that you betrayed a loved one’s trust in the vain pursuit of material happiness. 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 away.

            “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, leading 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. Don’t you have others to visit?”

            “Yeah, but I enjoy a good story as much as you. Besides, a Valkyries work is never done.”

The End

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Coming Down the Mountain: From Reclusive Writer to Published Author: Lettuce WRITE (and get your chapters reviewed by a...

Follow this link to take this fab contest for new writers to have the first 3 chapters of their developing novel reviewed by editors at WiDo publishing! They're looking for new talent and the winner gets chance to submitt MS in full for further review and assistance.

Don't miss! Deadline 21st August so you got 2 weeks to run over your work till it shines! Good luck to all who enter!

Coming Down the Mountain: From Reclusive Writer to Published Author: Lettuce WRITE (and get your chapters reviewed by a...: "Contest time again! Here's where we are so far with the Let-tuce Be Writers Summer Contest Countdown: LETTUCE WRITE Submit sample cha..."

Monday, 2 August 2010

Becky Bookworm Book Review: All Together Dead and A Big Little Life

  All Together Dead (Sookie Stackhouse, #7)All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


As always Charlaine Harris knows how to upt the anti with each and every book. Just when you think poor Sookie might get to lead a calm life with the her secret supernatural friends when another complication small or big turns everything into a spiral of trouble she has to survive.
In this book all seems well with her brother Jason marrying his were-panther girlfriend, her relationship with Quinn although distant due to his event work is going well and Aemilia the witch is proving a worthy housemate. But then the vampires make another demand of her - they want her to work for the Queen of Louisiana at the ultimate vampire summit. First Eric wanted her services but then the Queen herself upsurps his orders and wants Sookie by her side personally. Sookie actually looks forward to it all as they are all staying at the ritz of vampire hotels. But after a doomful warning by her fairy godmother trouble doesn't take long to kick in, first a few vampire threats, vampire murders, bomb plot, trials to attend, Eric and Bill constantly fighting for her attention. Well it all comes to a dramatic and ever so slightly explosive end where Sookie becomes a saviour to all vampires alike.

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  A Big Little LifeA Big Little Life by Dean Koontz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This tale is isn't as full of hilarious anecdotes as other Dog Books such as Marley and Me but it is none the less a very good book for dog lovers to fall in love with. It tells the life of Trixie, a golden retriever Dean and Gerda Koontz (yes he's the writer and the author) adopted many years ago. And the very first chapter will have you hooked not because it is funny or sad but eye opening to the depth of the connection humans forge with dogs. In it though Dean discusses very interesting theories on Dogs such as their intelligence, emotions, awareness of things etc and provides evidence in Trixie to the contradiction. It is very enjoyable and each chapter comes with delightful photos proving the character he describes is genuinely true in his dog Trixie.

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